Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A lot can change in 10 days

Ten days ago I was thinking I'd have July off.

I pictured myself visiting Paris's sites and monuments with few tourists, dining at restaurants I'd been wanting to try, walking aimlessly through the city streets, and, of course, figuring out what I want to do with my life. I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of not having a job, but my three-month contract had come to an end and I'd been told it could not be extended. I was upset, felt like a failure, worried I hadn't done a good enough job, and cried. I felt my feelings, let them go, and figured I'd figure it out - it would all be OK. This was the right thing.

And in the meantime I'd have the chance to reflect, soul search, and enjoy the calm of a tourist-free Paris. I'd even booked a holiday to the beach in July, thinking it'd be ideal to escape the city and enjoy the ocean. All this, before possibly moving back to the US at the end of July or beginning of August, as I speculated in my previous post.

You know what they say about the best laid plans, though...

On Friday, my boss put a call on the diary, but her schedule got so busy that we didn't connect until Monday. She had found some projects for me to work on, and could I stay on into July if I hadn't accepted any other offers? Of course I told her I could, except for the dates I'm going away, and on July 15 (after my mini-break to the coast and France's Bastille Day holiday) I will work for another month with this team.

[Side note: You know what's funny? I haven't actually met any of my team members in person - except for my boss, whom I met at my last interview back in October, and another member I ran into on the street when I recognized his voice from the countless Zoom calls we've had. For me, it's been a bit strange and unsettling to work with people I've never met - though freelancers and WFH-ers have been doing this since...forever. And it's likely to be the new normal for at least the rest of the year. In fact, I may never work in my company's offices...!]

With this contract extension, I understood that I had worried and projected negative energy onto the situation and myself for absolutely no reason at all.

I'd taken something that wasn't personal, and made it personal.

But it's not about me. It was a business decision. At the time, it wasn't possible to keep me on. But we all know, things change. Things change hour to hour, minute to minute, second to second. Why wouldn't they change from one day to 10 days later, too?

I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with the team for another month, and hopefully make more of an impact. I am excited about the projects that I'm slated to work on - they will offer the chance to demonstrate my skills and also learn new skills. I'm glad to get to work with my colleagues for longer, as I feel I've only really scratched the surface of understanding their capabilities and what we can all achieve together.

One thing I've noticed in recent years is that I can tend to be quite structured. I like routine. I like having a plan. If the plan needs to change, usually I can be amenable to it, but sometimes I'm less flexible. I'd often thought of myself as flexible and adaptable, able to go with the flow, given that my family moved around all the time when my brother and I we were kids. But this latest change - which would usually be seen as a good thing: a contract extension, another month of a salary! - threw me for a loop. I didn't anticipate this outcome, and it threw off my plan for July. In fact, I'd grown attached to the outcome of a free and easy July where I figured out my next steps, and when this objectively good opportunity to extend the contract arose, it took a while for my brain to reboot and adjust the synapses. But letting go of outcomes is something I've been working on this year, and this situation is an example I'll come back to the next time I find myself attached to one thing, but something else happens.

In fact, that's exactly how some opportunities get missed. I can get so focused on one particular outcome that I fail to notice other opportunities around me. In some cases it's good to have a goal, a dream, an objective, something to strive for. I wouldn't have gotten London, then business school, then Paris without setting those objectives for myself. And I have to do the work - though I do believe that luck or timing is involved to a certain degree, dreams and opportunities are not just going to land in my lap. I have to go out and work toward them.

Coming back to my current situation and this new outcome for July, I wondered how it could be true that the right thing for me to do in July was to wander and reflect, and also that I work for the month of July?

Well, as I've seen in multiple examples recently, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. They can both be the right thing.

It's not an either/or, but an and.

In fact, when I think about it, I have managed to have the best of both worlds with this setup. I have two weeks to relax and reflect, AND a month to work on these projects.

What will happen after August 11? Who knows. But I am open to the possibilities. And while I do intend to set some goals, think about what could be next for me, and lay at least a few plans down, I also want to be sure that I accept everything, reject nothing, and enjoy every moment.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Typing out loud

Today I had the idea I might publish my brain's ramblings on a blog. I thought, maybe I'll make a new blog. What would I call it? Then thought, wait, I already have a blog, I'll just post there. I came to the site only to learn that my last post was June 20, 2015 - EXACTLY FIVE YEARS AGO. What's more is the post is about a 10k race I ran in Paris...which is where I now live. I can visualize that weekend so clearly - the little Airbnb I stayed in just a few blocks from my previous flat; enjoying a kir in the sun at Le Sancerre, a favorite bar of mine now; coffee in Palais Royal, one of my preferred places in Paris.

And I came back to today to write out thoughts about leaving Paris.

In August 2017 I moved to France to pursue an MBA, a goal I'd had for many years. I moved into a dorm on the HEC Paris campus with 100 fellow classmates and lived there for 8 months before I moved to Paris in July 2018. There, I had a teeny studio with all I needed in life (except a washing machine), plus a view of the Tuileries and a balcony. In July 2019 I moved to my current flat, a larger and more comfortable place with a couch, a faux fireplace, lots of storage AND a washing machine (honestly this flat is the perfect studio). I love it here. I love my neighborhood, the location, how much this place feels like home. It's all mine and I love that.

In January 2019, I started a role at a boutique agency for a big e-retail project for Mo√ęt Hennessy. I drastically improved my French, helped the agency win more business, and was able to walk to work (a major win in a city where transport strikes are frequent). The project ended in February 2020, which I took as a sign of perfect timing to pursue another goal of mine: to attend yoga teacher training, which I did in March 2020. Prior to leaving for Bali, I signed a contract at an IGO for a three-month stint, the idea being that in those three months the organization would raise funds for me to be able to be hired for a full-time role afterward.

While I was in Bali, COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

At the end of March, I returned to a very different Paris than the one I'd left a few weeks earlier. The airport was eerily empty. I could easily get a seat on the RER. I needed a form stating I'd just returned from abroad, which was why I was outside the 1km radius we were allowed. At work, I was onboarded to the team remotely, and have only worked from home in this role. To say it's been challenging would be an understatement.

And that funding they'd planned to raise? Needless to say, it did not come through. After June 30, I will no longer be employed.

At first, this prospect terrified me. Jobless in this economy, with four months left on my visa... What if I couldn't find a job? What if I ran out of money? What if I can't extend my lease?

I admit, it still does terrify me. The questions swirl in my head but I am learning to ride the waves. There are always waves in life. In times like this perhaps they become more obvious and look more like swells than waves, but I just have to keep my head above water and ride the ups and downs, remembering that every up has a down, and every down has an up.  Instead of being scared of losing something, I can look at it as an opportunity to gain everything.

It's all upside.

I am totally, utterly, completely free. Unfettered. Free to do just about anything I choose. I can try to find a contract here in France, I can set up my own business in France, I can move to the US or maybe get wild and look for jobs farther afield. There are pros and cons to everything, and there's where my head is right now...

Pros for staying in France:
- Affordable healthcare
- Cost of living (no gym, no metro, affordable rent and income coming the next couple months makes it easy for me to afford my lifestyle)
- Way of life (emphasis on life vs. work)

Cons of staying in France:
- Taxes will increase dramatically if I start my own business
- Bureaucracy (renewing visas, paperwork, did I mention taxes?)
- Far from home

And there's also the other side, pros and cons of leaving France...

Pros of leaving France (and moving to the US):
- Closer to family
- Free from this maddening bureaucracy
- Relocating to a place that's closer to nature, the's something I really miss

Cons of leaving France (and moving to the US):
- Healthcare
- Trump
- Cost of living

There are plenty more to add on both sides of the coin. I've been overseas for six years though, and it's been one of the best experiences of my life (maybe even the BEST experience of my life...!). The people I've met, the places I've visited, the experiences I've had, the things I've learned...the list goes on! I could not be more grateful for this experience, all starting with me asking Ketchum to move me to London, and them obliging me in July 2014. It's been such a rewarding experience. I feel like I came and did everything that I wanted to do. There's always more to do though, isn't there? There are more places I want to visit, things I want to do, people I want to meet!

But right now I have an idea of what's next: take July off, travel around France a bit, and head back to the US near my family at the end of July, when my lease ends. Hang out, start a company, buy a car, and drive to California.

I have some more reflecting to do - what do I want my life to look like five years from now, and what can I start to put into place now to get me there? - but this is a start.

It may be a tiny wave right now, but I have the feeling it has the potential to be so much more.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nike Women's 10k in Paris

When Nike posted their women's races around the world at the start of 2015, I thought about signing up for...all of them.

Stockholm June 27?! Yes please! Except I have Taylor Swift tickets for that day.

Berlin June 20?! Haven't been there in nearly 10 years! Except I had a trip planned for that weekend at the time.

Paris June 7?! MY FAVORITE CITY EVER??!! For only 30 euros?? I had no plans that weekend, so why not do a race in Paris? As they say, Paris is always a good idea. So in February I signed up, bought a Eurostar ticket, and booked an adorable Airbnb. I hadn't really been to Paris since the marathon in April 2014, and I was excited to go back! (I say "hadn't really" been there since I had spent about five hours in the city in April on my way to Istanbul...but I'm not sure that totally counts!)

I decided to turn the race into a long weekend, leaving very early Friday morning (aka 5:40am!) and returning late on Sunday (8pm train back). (The fact that those were also the cheapest Eurostar tickets had everything to do with the timing...) It meant I had three full days in Paris to do...whatever I wanted. The only commitment I had was the race!

Location: Nike shop in a mall in the 15th arrondissement. We got 15% off at the Nike shop, which was enough incentive for me to get new shorts and a couple new sports bras.

Ease: I went on Friday, and everything was quick and went smoothly. You have to bring a doctor's note for races in France (and elsewhere in Europe), so I handed that over and in return received my D-tag, a Nike T-shirt, and a little goody bag. Because I'd been fighting a summer cold, I decided to drop down from the 15k to the 10k, which was no problem. In fact, I learned I could have just changed my mind on race day and it would have been fine!

I slept terribly the night before (OK, and I'd had some wine...#wheninparis). The cold that I'd been fighting reared its ugly head and I woke up in the middle of the night with a super stuffy nose, a headache, and quite possibly a fever. In that time I gave myself permission to skip the race if I still felt terrible when I woke up. When my 7am alarm went off, I snoozed until 7:45. When that alarm went off, I actually felt pretty good (and a million times better than 3am!) so I decided to give it a shot!

Location: The race started at the Cite de la Mode et du Design near the Gare d'Austerlitz in the 13th arrondissement, which was an easy Metro ride from my flat in the 1st arrondissement. I think I had about 20 minutes to spare before the 9am start, which was fine since I wasn't checking a bag. After I got out of the Metro stop, I just followed all of the peach T-shirts to the start!

Course: The course took us around a corner of the left bank, and included Boulevard St. Michel and Boulevard St. Germain. Honestly, it was pretty crowded the whole time, so I was glad I didn't have a time goal - I didn't even wear my watch! There were a few gentle hills, but nothing too crazy.

There were kilometer markers so you always knew where you were, quite a few water stops and snacks along the way, and pretty decent crowd support in some areas! I didn't run with music, and had a giant smile on my face the whole way, just happy to be logging miles in my favorite city!

Finish: While there were no Tiffany medals to be had at the finish line, there were handsome (French) gentlemen handing out medals/necklaces, as well as tons of snacks (fruit and water, plus some bars and whatnot).

On top of the Cite de la Mode et du Design, they had a little party set up, where you could have a souvenir photo taken, get a massage, and hang out. I only went for the photo, but it would have been cool to hang out a little longer.

That night they had a party for all the finishers in the same spot, but I was on my way back to London by then!

I really enjoyed this race! It was laid back and fun, which is all I was going for. Just don't forget to bring the doctor's note!

It doesn't seem like the kind of race that is set up for PRing (unless you were at the very front?), but it was definitely a cool experience and I'm so happy I went - as evidenced by my sweaty face!

I finished in 54:44, which was great considering not feeling great, the sun/heat, and the crowds. I'll take it!

More to come on the non-race bits of Paris!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

On the sixth anniversary of my first race

Six years and two months ago, I joined New York Sports Club and started running (OK it was more like shuffling slightly faster than walking pace). I never thought I'd be a runner. I had never watched a race with much interest, except to cheer on a friend or two in college. The idea of running a mile had rarely crossed my mind. The idea of running a marathon had NEVER crossed my mind. Ever. I didn't think I was a runner, so I wasn't.

That changed when I ran my first race on April 26, 2009.

It was the GW Parkway Classic in Virginia. It was a 5k. My goal was to finish in under 30 minutes. Those 29 minutes and 25 seconds were HARD, man. If I had it handy, my bright red pain face would tell you all that you need to know. As tough as it was, it sparked something in me to push harder, go longer, go faster. That 5k led to a few of half marathons, a few injuries, a lot of lessons, and now four marathons under my belt.

Honestly, I haven't run a 5k race since that first one. Right now I am NOT in top running shape. Running kind of fell by the wayside and I haven't tried to get faster since the Paris Marathon in 2014.

Watching the London Marathon today, and the Boston Marathon last week, I saw human beings' innate tenacity, resilience, and strength right in front of me. I saw marathon World Record holder Paula Radcliffe run her last London Marathon with a massive smile on her face. I saw a friend from college CRUSH the marathon in 3:12. I saw people missing limbs storm past with fierce determination. I saw a man just sitting on the course, unable or unwilling to get up, while fellow runners encouraged him and two finally got him up and running toward the finish line.

The spark I felt back in 2009 is back. I'm ready to run again, get stronger and faster. I want to crush goals. I want to run for something bigger than myself, a purpose beyond just ME. I want to race the 5k again, the 10k again, the 15k for the first time (Paris in June!), obliterate my half PR, and run a marathon in 3:3X.

...I'm back.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I mustache you some questions!

Like some other blogs out there, you may have seen this quiz floating around. No one tagged me for it since I'm not cool enough, but I think it's fun and thought I'd share! :) Plus, I just ran the Mo Run for the end of Movember on Saturday!

Four names that people call me, other than my real name
  1. Bab
  2. Sweets
  3. Margo
  4. Margs

Four jobs I have had (not counting any current jobs)
  1. Sales assistant at J. Crew
  2. College tour guide
  3. Account executive
  4. Researcher

Four movies I’ve watched more than once
  1. 10 Things I Hate About You
  2. Atonement
  3. Edward Scissorhands
  4. Love Actually

Four books I’d recommend
  1. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  2. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  3. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Four places I have lived 
  1. Paris, France
  2. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  3. Bangalore, India
  4. San Diego, California

Four places I have been
  1. Australia
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Mexico
  4. Dubai

Four places I’d rather be right now
  1. Florence, Italy
  2. Morocco
  3. Home in Virginia
  4. On a beach somewhere warm

Four things I don’t eat/drink
  1. Fruity jam/sauce and chocolate together ( But chocolate covered strawberries are OK.)
  2. Pumpkin pie (despite my love of all things pumpkin and raging sweet tooth)
  3. Soda
  4. Decaf coffee

Four of my favorite foods
  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Green smoothies
  3. Almond butter
  4. Chocolate

Four TV shows that I watch
  1. The Affair
  2. Homeland
  3. Parks & Rec
  4. Currently plowing through Gilmore Girls...

Four things I am looking forward to this year (in the next 12 months)
  1. Going home to visit my family for Christmas
  2. Trip to California over New Year's
  3. Parents coming to visit the UK in the spring
  4. NYC trip in January

Four things I’m always saying
  1. Dude!
  2. I need coffee.
  3. I miss you!
  4. I really want to go to...[insert any city here]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

P90X3 - Block 1 Review

I'm officially 30 days in to P90X3 - one-third of the way there! The month has flown by so I imagine (/hope!) the next two will as well.

I know I touched on it in the last post, but I really enjoyed Block 1. I definitely feel like I got stronger. I didn't really lose any pounds, but I did decrease some measurements, which is a good feeling.

Here's how the first month went:

I loved them. I thought they were all great and I didn't really dread any of them. My favorites were probably CVX (weighted cardio) and Agility X. I only missed ONE workout the whole time, and I just replaced it with a 10k run instead. Let's hope I can keep that up for the next two months, too!

Because there are some new-to-me moves in every workout, it took me a while before I felt really comfortable with pushing it hard in all the moves. For example, I only did Accelerator twice, so I didn't feel super comfortable with it by the end. CVX, on the other hand, I knew SO well by the end since I did it four times. The weight even felt lighter in my last CVX workout!

In Block 2 I'm not going to worry so much about getting the moves RIGHT but just MOVING and getting the form as close to correct as I can. I already noticed in doing Triometrics this morning that I'm hesitant with new moves!

Improved balance
Increased strength
Better muscle definition
Better at getting up in the morning!
Runs are not faster, but not bad

Inches lost from Day 1 to Day 28:

Chest  -2"
Waist  -1"
Hips  -0.25"
R Thigh  -0.5"
L Thigh  -0.5"
R Arm  -0.5"
L Arm  -0.5"

Not too terribly different, but at least they weren't gains! And honestly not sure if I did the chest measurement correctly, because 2" is sort of insane.

Before and after pictures:
Just a caveat...I started Day 1 in the evening, after a full day of eating meals and following a gluttonous delicious week in NYC. And I didn't suck in because Tony said not to! ;) Day 28 was taking in the morning before I'd eaten anything. Also YIIIIKES I can't believe I'm putting these on the internet.

I think there are some noticeable improvements - shoulders and back, flatter tummy (some mornings I swear I even see a line down the middle), love handles more in check (OK and I wore my Oiselle Rogas with a flattering waistband for Day 28 instead of my Champion shorts with a band that digs in), arms better defined. More improvements to come!

What I want to keep doing:
Be aware of my sugar intake
Eat healthfully
Push hard in the workouts
Get in all the workouts!

How I want Block 2 to be different:
Add in running 2-3 times per week so I don't lose that fitness
Add in Ab Ripper X from P90X 2-3 times per week for better core strength
Eat more intuitively
Be better about post-workout meals to feed my muscles
Push harder earlier on

I'm definitely intrigued to see where things go from here. I do some some changes over the month, even from only working out once a day for 30 minutes at a time. I hope that adding in Ab Ripper X helps, and that running a couple times a week feels good. 

One month down, two months to go! BRING IT!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back to blogging?

Hello hello to anyone out there who still might get updates!

I've been getting used to a new life here in London. Different running routes,  fitness classes, weather patterns, brunch places, coffee options, pastries to try...the list goes on! I haven't been blogging but I think I should change that.

When I first moved here I wanted to try everything that was new to me - Sunday roasts, beers, wines, cakes, brownies, etc. I also baked because I missed home and it made me feel better. Because of that, my pants (/trousers to any of you Brits who might be reading) starting feeling a bit snug. I didn't own a scale at the time, but when I visited New York in October I learned I've been carrying around about 8 more pounds than I'd like to be.

Sure, I'd been running here and there, had joined a gym (which honestly, I just don't love), and had gone to Barry's every so often, but it wasn't enough to offset the crap I was eating (oh and it had also been my birthday, so I ate a LOT of cake). Now don't get me wrong, I totally enjoyed every bite, but it's not a healthy lifestyle and I decided to do something about it to get me back on track.

You may remember (eh probably not) my foray into P90X a while ago when I was coming back from a stress fracture. It kept me active and got me super strong - aka I could hold a 5 minute plank. But who has time to do an hourlong workout every single day?

Enter P90X3. It's 30 minutes, six days a week, doable in your living room if you are lucky enough to have one. It would have been almost impossible to do this workout in my studio in NYC, but luckily I have a nice-sized living room in my flat here in London, and can do some of the workouts in my own bedroom. It's 30 minutes so it's done before I'm even awake, and I can't ever think of a reason why I can't workout for 30 minutes.

With the change in workout, I've also changed my eating. I am trying really really hard to cut back on my sugar intake since that is where most of the empty calories come from. I did great the first two weeks, and have been a little bad this week, but week 4 is Transition Week before my first round of progress pictures, so I'm going to work on "being good" this week (just a couple squares of dark chocolate and some pb instead of a delicious cookie in a mug...).

So, how's it going so far?


30 minutes a day is doable. IT IS SO DOABLE. It's also something to keep me busy in the diminishing hours of daylight - it will be (/already has been) so nice to have an indoor workout option that kicks my butt.

And kick my butt it does. I get sweaty in every workout! (Though some more than others.) So what are the workouts? For weeks 1-3 we do:

Total Synergistics: Full body resistance workout that uses minimal equipment. Not my favorite workout, but gets the job done.

Agility X: Lots of jumping, quick movements. Reminds me of Plyometrics in P90X. You need some tape on the ground, but no equipment otherwise. I definitely cannot (and probably never will) do plyometric push ups, but it's a fun challenge and I really enjoy this workout and get super sweaty!

X3 Yoga: Flow style yoga with some balance. I don't really sweat during this workout, but it's a pretty good yoga practice. I'm really happy that I'm guaranteed one yoga workout a week!

The Challenge: Push ups and pull ups all day long. I use resistance bands since I don't own a pull up bar and my flatmate would probably kill me if I installed one. You do two rounds of two different types of push ups and pull ups - wide pull ups with standard pull ups, chin ups with military push ups, etc. It's hard, and can be made harder by increasing the resistance, which I did this week and my shoulders/back are still reeling.

CVX: Dude. This workout. Yes. I love it. It's WEIGHTED CARDIO. So hard, SO good, SO SO sweaty. Every move is a minute long and involves a dumbbell. You do two rounds of three moves and Tony varies the speed and/or intensity of the moves in round two. It's awesome.

The Warrior: Hard. It's an upper body move, a cardio move, a core move, and a lower body move nonstop for 30 minutes. It is intense and requires no equipment. I definitely let out a few curse words when I did this workout yesterday...

Dynamix: Haven't done it. I "rest" on the 7th day, but today I walked 21,000+ steps, and last Sunday I ran a 10k, so I can't say I've really been hardcore resting...

Three weeks down, 10 weeks to go! Considering how quickly every week has flown by so far, I expect the next 10 will follow suit. This week is Transition Week, which basically means I do different, less intense (I think?? but CVX is in there...!) workouts before I start Block 2, which is also different workouts - Eccentric Upper, Triometrics, Eccentric Lower, Incinerator, and MMX, plus X3 Yoga. Will report back on those!

Results so far? Well, I've lost a couple of pounds, but who knows, could be water weight... My pants (/trousers) do feel a bit looser, and I think I am looking more toned. I will have to be more mindful of my sugar intake, but I have been cooking with lots of veggies and protein. Last week I made a green protein smoothie every single day, and it was awesome - filled me up for the morning, replenished my muscles, and sneaked in some fruit and veggies first thing in the morning. Love it.

I'll be back soon with travel and London recaps, and will keep writing about my P90X3 journey! xx