Sayonara 20s…

I recently turned  30.  To many females, this number equates with a coming-of-age.  A number that we’ve had in our heads since childhood as a benchmark by when we’d like to hit certain goals.  For many, those include getting married and having kids. For me, those were never the goals.  It’s always been things like becoming financially independent, finding and developing a career that utilizes my skills, learning to be present in the moment, accepting a compliment when given, and being there for the milestones of my loved ones.  So, as this day approached, I felt nothing but excitement about the fact that I got to start fresh with a new decade, one that I hope will exude the mantra I’ve chosen on which to focus: wholeness.

For me, my twenties felt frenzied.  Not at every moment, but certainly in many.  So much self-doubt, criticism, and yearning for definitiveness, meaning and answers.  While I know there will never be an extended stage of life that is “easy” and in which all things are working smoothly (when I say “things” I mean health, relationships (friends/family/romantic), housing, spirituality, work, money, etc), I do feel that I’ve created a strong enough foundation for myself during my 20s whereby I have the strength and self-awareness to better handle the inevitable challenges that will come.  I also feel that I’m better suited to now approach my day-to-day life from the perspective of wholeness.  To simply be less less hard on myself.  To be gentle in the moments where I was once so self-critical. To find time for things that often get pushed to the bottom of the priority list, but make me happy. That is my aim for wholeness.

Each year it’s become my tradition to use my birthday as a moment of reflection. To give myself this time to look back over the occurances of the year and pat myself on the back as well as count any battle scars.  It’s become a practice I love and would recommend to others because I’m learning that as we age, time feels as though it passes more rapidly (although clearly time passes at the same speed) and as I get busier, it’s more challenging to remember or take time to appreciate the progress, the moments that mold me, and the things that felt like hurdles at the time, but now are just another story to tell, or better yet, a vague memory.

I kicked off the year with the typical review of my previous year’s goals and was pleased to tweak them for the new year. I chose the following words to be my themes for the coming year: clarity, success, happiness, peace, love, abundance and positivity.  Soon thereafter, I jetted off to Davos, Switzerland to participate in the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rub elbows with the powerful, rich, famous, and genius, as well as was able to form relationships with 49 other young people (“Global Shapers”) from around the world. I felt inspired by the collaboration and innovation that is happening world-wide, reminded that we are a part of Global ecosystem.  I was also motivated by the level of energy, enthusiasm, and capacity of the other young people I met.

I flew to Baltimore to surprise my mom for her 65th birthday, drove to Charleston to celebrate my one year anniversary, headed to San Francisco to reconnect with my favorite US city, then stopped off in Austin to see my twin and his then girlfriend (now fiance’) and check out South x Southwest EDU and got to hear from Bill Gates.  Visited NYC, Sacramento and San Francisco again.  Went to the US Open in Philly, took a relaxing weekend in Pensacola, headed north to Chicago before the cold came in, at which point I migrated south to Ft. Lauderdale to celebrate the reigning in of the 30th birthdays of 10 of my best friends from high school, drove to South Carolina to celebrate a great example of true love at a friend’s wedding, then to Nashville to step out of my normal course of study at a digital marketing conference, then Charlotte for a baby shower, and lastly, closed out my 20s in Orlando with 12 wonderful friends. (Intended run-on sentences to make you feel as tired as I do.)

watched someone I love get hit by a moving vehicle and subsequently took my first ambulance ride. I saw a rainbow the next day. I remembered to be thankful and have hope.

I welcomed many “nieces and nephews” (not bloodline, but those of close friends) to the world.

29 required me to say some important goodbyes.  The first to my older brother, sister-in-law, and nieces as they departed Altanta to move to San Francisco. The second to my  boyfriend of almost two years.

At the start of 29, I faced a huge upset with one of my businesses, realizing that the trust I’d placed in our primary vendor partner had been broken. Yet, I also accepted the single-largest check I’ve ever deposited as a result of that. I had a byline in publications like Forbes and Little Pink Book, and was quoted in or written about in everything from Inc, to The Huffington Post, Mashable, and Amex Open Forum.  I even conducted a video interview with the BBC.  I vowed to better learn the ins-and-outs of my accounting. After a lot of headache, I am now proficient with Quickbooks and it’s enabled me to begin strategic planning for the ‘franchising’ of one of my companies.  I celebrated a 4 year business anniversary, now almost at 5!  Learned a lot about marketing, social media, and public relations.

I continued to follow the intersection of my skills and passions which center around people (primarily connecting them and bridging gaps), travel, efficiency, and creativity.  I often felt blessed (and continue to feel that way) that I’m able to independently work and make a living by utilizing and tapping into these skills and passions each day.

I read a lot. I even read a couple fiction books which is a divergence from my love of non-fiction. One of the books I read had my name on the cover. I read it to lots of kids from pre-K to 5th grade. I even signed them for 200 kids and once for some parents (in the rain).

I lost a roommate and for the first time as an adult, intentionally lived alone with no plans of getting a future roommate.  After years of banging my head against the wall with mortgage lenders, I finally refinanced my home and was pleased to find that I’m less up-side-down than I once was.

I reaffirmed the belief that people are people, regardless of title, wealth, or power.  This lesson was reenforced not only in Davos, but again this summer when I was invited to speak on a panel on behalf of Millennial entrepreneurs for Coke’s senior leadership and dine with them that evening.

I tried going gluten free for two weeks. I decided that I like gluten and gluten likes me. I continued to practice yoga and tried to take in the small moments, reflect on my gratitude for things big and small during the day, and learn to breathe. I  worked to focus on the things I can control, rather than focusing on the things out of my control like how others act or what others think of me. After years of saying that “therapy shouldn’t be stigmatized and everyone could benefit”, but never doing it myself, I finally took the leap and starting going. I also committed to visiting a holistic doctor.

I auditioned for Shark Tank.  And no, you won’t be seeing me on the show, at least this season… 

I attended my high school reunion…and had a blast!

I sought to find a female mentor and realized that the best way to find one was to organically let relationships develop.  Without even realizing it, I found an incredible female business mentor who has challenged me yet gently encouraged me. I made mistakes and failed. Some more publicly like expanding a business into other markets unsuccessfully (so far) and others more privately. I started going to church online. I worked on loving myself, inside and out, rather than pick myself apart. I helped several people find jobs, significant others, and customers for their companies. Did my first “mind-mapping retreat” and when I saw my brain on a whiteboard, understood why I’m always so tired.  I became more confident in the kitchen, actually being told I’m a good cook, which is a far cry from my early 20s when cooking consisted of heating up a can of soup. 

Did several home improvement projects which included a bedroom redecoration, garage organizational system install, and kitchen backsplash. Made an ‘old college try’ at gardening. Grew a couple baby tomatoes and some basil. Killed some thyme and cilantro.

Had a flattering article written about me by my alma matter’s magazine. Also sat my first full year on the board of said alma matter.

Perhaps saw my last Brave’s game since they decide to quit the city of Atlanta so I plan to quit them going forward.

Congratulated my parents on 44 years or marriage. Wished my nieces a happy 2nd and 4th birthday.

Was reminded that some people are takers in this world. Makes me grateful that most people I know are givers.

I’ve always said that my biological age felt decades behind my mental age, so as I’m getting older, I look forward to it (so far).  It’s really wonderful to have moments to reflect and remember. To see the changes over one year, but more so, over the last decade. 10 years ago, I was in college. I had no idea what my professional life would look like. No clue that “networking” was a skill, that entrepeneurship was a viable way to make a living, that I could own a home at 23, and make a name for myself in the professional community in Atlanta.  I also had no idea what lives my friends would lead or how great it would be to watch their growth and divergent paths.  To visit them around the world, celebrate their successes, and be there for each others challenges are all pieces of the memories that will mark my 20s.  It was a wild ride, one I won’t get to do again, but one of which I’m certain has set me up to be exactly where I need to be to enter into my 30s.  I truly believe we all take the courses in life which are necessary for each of us to learn the proper lessons that we need (and we each have different lessons). For that reason, I’m grateful for the turmoil of my 20s and in turn, anticipate the journey ahead. Thanks for taking the ride with me. 

Read More

Back In Forbes

When I was a kid, several teachers told me I’d be a writer. I didn’t pay it too much mind but now that I look back, I realize that while it’s not my profession, they were right!  I’ve shared some articles here in the past that I’ve written and I’m really proud of the latest published in Forbes yesterday.  I love connecting people and apparently that carries the name “networking” so I wrote this piece originally about my 8 networking pet peeves. Leave it to editors to change that, but we landed on “8 Signs You’re a Terrible Networker“. Very polite. Hope you enjoy it and don’t see yourself in any of them!

Read More

Reality Bites.

My guilty pleasure is reality tv.  It often comes as a surprise to people who either think I don’t have any free time so certainly couldn’t spend it watching reality shows, or that, like with my reading, I’d prefer educational topics. Nope. I love me a good brain-turn-off show, the more the merrier.

So, it may also not come as much of a surprise that over the years I’ve auditioned for 4 such shows myself.  The first was The Apprentice, back in 2008, I think.  It took some convincing to go, but ultimately, I was at a career low point then and figured why not? While I knew I wouldn’t be dramatic enough or be a big enough character, I went.  I spent about 7 hours in a hotel ballroom waiting for my turn with 8 other people in front of a producer.  We sat around a “boardroom” table and were told we’d be given a conversation topic to discuss.  We were reminded that this show is seeking truly talented people, but it is still tv, so it needs to be entertaining.  The topic was “Why are we in a recession?”. When the first woman spoke, her response left me dumbstruck.  While I am a registered Independent, she boldly stated, “The Republicans!”…and that was her entire remark.  It only got worse from there when others began to chime in. I couldn’t believe how quickly the conversation was spiraling downhill so I put my hand up and exclaimed, “NO!”.  Then I proceeded to talk about personal responsibility and education around financial literacy. (I’d yet to pen my kids book on these topics, but maybe this was a subconscious seed planting.)  The conversation shifted but still couldn’t stay on a rationale course. I ended up getting the last words and could tell that the group respected my opinion.

The producer told us she’d then point at us and ask whom we’d hire or fire and why.  One by one, I was hired, never fired.  Only one other guy was hired by anyone in the group. I knew that sealed my fate as someone they would not call back. As we exited, everyone congratulated me and said, “You’ll definitely make it to the next round” to which I replied, “Thank you but I doubt it. I didn’t cause any drama or say anything so off-the-wall that they’ll even remember me.” Whether I was right or that I created a self-fulfilling prophecy, I never heard back.

About two years later, one of my idols, Oprah, announced that she’d be casting for a reality show where the winner would get their own show on her network (OWN). Again I thought, I could do that! The ironic thing to note is that I’m pretty terrified of being on camera. I’m super self-conscious about my appearance so the idea of having cameras in my face at all times, especially when the purpose of most of these shows is to get you out of your comfort zone, doesn’t sit well with me.  But, like with most things in my life, I saw an opportunity to potentially get close to this person whom I greatly admire, so again I figured why not throw my hat in the ring? I’ll certainly not get it if I don’t try.

So, along with a friend who was equal parts courageous and naive as I was, we drove to the cattle call early on a Saturday morning about 45 minutes away. It was a hot summer morning in Atlanta, and we had to get in line and wait for our number.  Fortunately, we were assigned a time to come back after less than 2 hours of being there and got to come back at 6pm.  At that time, we were divided into groups of 10 and sat with a producer (this seemed to be a theme). We each got 30 seconds to pitch our idea of what our talk show would be if we won.  I talked about doing something like The View for a younger audience.  Apparently both I and my idea were not a hit because I never heard back. Neither did my friend. I watched that show and was surprised that neither of the winners ever had a show air.

(Please let me take this intermission to remind you that it has never explicitly been a goal of mine to be on a TV show. I simply continued to see opportunities and grabbed them.)

So, back to my normal life I went.  One show that has become a favorite of mine over the last couple years is Shark Tank. As someone who is always trying to learn more about running my businesses, I became addicted to this show and look forward to it every week.  So, when I was watching an episode this spring and saw an ad that they’d be coming to Atlanta in a few weeks for a casting call, I got nervous.  I knew that meant I had to consider it.  I went back and forth each day leading up to it. I had 2 attorneys review the 14 page contract. I talked in circles about why I wasn’t ready yet and the timing was wrong, but that if I didn’t give it a try, I’d never know.  So, I spent hours the night before the casting talking with a former ad exec to help hone in my pitch and writing out answers to the list of questions.

I went with a friend the next morning to wait in line.  They promised to see the first 500 people.  I was number 420.  They told us to come back later that day so we did.  After a couple hours of waiting in the holding area and getting tired of hearing potential contestants wanting to pitch their idea to the audience (us) or asking questions that were answered in the application packet, the highlight was hearing from the head casting director about how the process works and all the steps one goes through before hitting the air. Also interesting to learn how many people get filmed, but are not air-worthy and never make it although they may have cut a deal with the “Sharks”.  (Also a good time to note how hilarious it is to tell people you are auditioning for a show called “Shark Tank” who have never heard of it.  They immediately begin to think you’re auditioning for some crazy and dangerous show where you literally swim with sharks! ).

As my number drew nearer, we were placed in groups of 5 in a room where there were 5 tables, each with 1 producer. Each group was assigned a table and got “60” (really more like 20-30) seconds to pitch to the producer. I was fourth in my group and the ones before me seemed to bore the producer. She then locked eyes with me as I gave my condensed pitch. She smiled and nodded her head during it. Then asked me a question and said, “Great job!”. Hadn’t said that to the others so I suddenly felt encouraged.  Wasn’t nervous all day because I didn’t think I had anything to lose. Suddenly she gave me a glimmer of hope. Yet, I never heard back so thus, you will not be seeing my on Shark Tank, at least this season!

I really thought after that that my days of random reality show auditioning were over. Wrong I was. A Facebook “friend” of mine (a woman whom I’d met online through a mutual business contact) announced she had her own show that was a hybrid of The Apprentice and Shark Tank.  I wasn’t going to do it, but again thought, what is there to lose? So, I studied up on the people on her panel, her, and any information she sent around. I’d learned from my other experiences how unprepared people come to these things without any of the paperwork, finishing 14 page contracts and questionnaires in line.  To my luck, the questions on this application were identical to Shark Tank‘s so that was easy.  Also to my luck, the auditions were tiny since no one knew about this show.  There were no more than 20 people at the one I attended.  Probably to their benefit because it was so poorly run. The people behind the scenes arrived after those of us trying out.  It took a couple hours to get through which was ironic compared to the huge productions I’d seen and how much more efficient they were. This was the first one that filmed while you presented so that was unnerving a bit. Certainly not my best pitch but the panel of 13 judges all were engaged and I was told after that I got a lot of great feedback and yes’.  So, again, left feeling optimistic.  When I later saw the contact on Facebook post that they’d wrapped filming, I knew I’d also not been cast. I look forward to seeing this one on TV to see how it pans out and where it ends up airing. Will be interesting to be on the inside of something before it’s even a thing.

I share all of this in part because it’s fun to go back and remember and draw parallels to things that seemed so random at the time.  It would be even neater to tie it all up in a package if I’d been cast at some point. Maybe that’s in the future and maybe it’s not. I don’t really care either way. I look back and I’m proud that I went out of my comfort zone each time to try. That I never let my fears, insecurities, and doubts stop me.  That I was able to remember that if I don’t take chances on myself, who else will? And more importantly, if I don’t try, I will absolutely fail, so I lose nothing if I try and get nowhere further, but still have things I can learn along the way. I was more comfortable at each audition because I’d been there before and it was no longer completely unknown.  It’s a great takeaway for every area of my life and I hope for yours too.

 

 

 

Read More

That Billion Dollar Elixir…

Fun fact: The Coca-Cola company has 770,000 employees. If Coke were a country, it would be the 164th largest in the world, edging out Bhutan at roughly 735,000+ inhabitants. I recently learned said “fun fact” when spending a day with some of Coke’s executives along with a group of several other Global Shapers.

The reason I highlight this staggering headcount is because when you think about the heads of a country, you think of people who are inaccessible and not necessarily down-to-earth.  Since Coke (by headcount) is basically a country (albeit spread across the globe), I had similar assumptions clouding my expectations going into the day.  Yet, no matter who we met, the overarching theme that stood out to me from our conversations was what underpinned them: that each and every one of Coke’s top executives were entirely approachable and engaging. More so, had we not been educated on some of their titles and bio’s prior to meeting them,  we would have never known since none of them made a point to share their distinguished titles or accolades.  Rather, each made a concerted effort to get to know us (ie under 30-somethings) and felt that we had something to of importance to share with them.

Like my Global Shaper counterparts who were all selected because we share the commonality of being entrepreneurs, working day-to-day in a traditional corporate environment is either a thing of the past (for some of us) or something we’ve never experienced (for others). So, you can imagine, every part of the day during our interactions with Coke’s leaders was notable on many levels. When you arrive at headquarters you’re greeted by a security guard who checks your ID and permits your entrance. Upon entering the building, you do the same and create a photo name badge and sign in.  After passing through a metal detector, you wait in a beautiful lobby for your host to greet you.  Then you walk through a rotunda that resembles what I’d imagine the UN to look like (marble abounding, flanked with flags from around the world), and through great hallways to your elevator and corridor of your destination.  Large wood tables and big leather chairs are the decor of choice (or Coca-Cola red ones in certain areas).

This is a far cry from my home office out of which I work alone and run three companies with the help of technology to keep me connected to my business partner, contractors, and the like. Taking in these prestigious-feeling surroundings was a bit of a culture shock from my day-to-day.  I’m accustomed to needing to leave “the office” to go a meeting or event in order to get face-to-face human interaction whereas in a building of this size, you’d likely need to go to a lot of effort to get away from anyone else and find complete quiet.

We did everything that day from have closed door meetings with department heads who run the operations behind the things we see as consumers every day to sit on a panel in front of dozens of Coke’s top leaders to talk about what it’s like to be a young entrepreneur today.  A highlight was having dinner and drinks with all of these leaders and engaging in casual conversation, learning about things like their career trajectories, their kids, and their travels.

For anyone, to spend a day completely outside of your norm is eye-opening and exciting.  To go inside the world’s most popular brand, meet the people who help keep it such a success, and learn about their struggles and successes was fascinating.  More so, to be a part of dialogues as part of the brainstorming around how to facilitate some of those issues was equally a treat. I’m always amazed when “powerful” people showcase in 1 on 1 environments that they are approachable and haven’t gotten too full of themselves to relate to we “regular folk”.  It was a fun and encouraging day to meet everyone and see how open-minded they are and willing to share ideas.  I hope to have similar experiences with other great leaders in the future who share this sense of groundedness.  If you’ve ever read an issue of US Weekly you may be familiar with the “Celebrities are just like us” section where famous people are captured on camera going to Starbucks, the grocery store, or the dry cleaner.  This was the my business celebrity version of that 😉

Read More

I’m Gluten Tolerant.

Ever since I was in fifth grade and diagnosed with genetically high cholesterol, I’ve been very conscious of what I eat.  Even back then I knew exactly how many calories and grams of fat were in everything I ate.  Can you imagine the kid at the 5th grade lunch table saying, “Are you sure you want to eat that candy bar? It has over 20 grams of fat!”.  Whereas the other kids are thinking, “A. I don’t have the foggiest what a “fat gram” is and B. Quiet down you weirdo, I’m enjoying my candy bar!”.

Over the years I did things like cut out pork and beef from my diet and never looked back.  More recently, my boyfriend said he wanted to try going gluten free.  To support him (and because I figured it was worth a shot to see if I saw any  positive side-effects), I hopped on the bandwagon and gave it a go. For two whole weeks I had zero gluten. Even when I went to a work lunch at an Italian restaurant or ordered a salad that came with croutons (unbeknownst to me), I was able to go completely without for all of those 14 days.  I was actually shocked at how many things contain gluten that I’d not realized (like basically anything processed).  I also was made quickly aware of the inflated cost of eating gluten free products and wasn’t super happy about that either.

For the first few days I felt great! I had so much energy and was sleeping well (which is rare for me).  I didn’t want to give too much credit to the new diet though, as I recognized it could be 1 part placebo mixed with 1 part the fact that we were eating all fresh foods at that point.

As the days crept on and I began to miss bread and pasta made of grains (not rice…which was gross), I noticed that my energy levels all normalized and I felt the same as I had pre-gluten free (PGF).

After taking a trip and finding it that much harder to stay gluten free when I was trying to be polite and eat what was served to me by our hosts, combined with the fact that I knew I was not gluten intolerant, I ended that experiment and decided to diagnose myself as gluten tolerant.  To that I say:

Dear Gluten,

I missed you. I’m glad we’re back together.

It wasn’t you, it was me.

Love,

Darrah

Read More

An Unexpected Homecoming (aka Why I Hate Motorcycles)

I love to travel. I try to do it at least once a month in some form or fashion.  So, I was eager as usual to take my “June trip” to Philadelphia, my birthplace.  I’ve not been back in more years than I can remember (I moved before my 11th birthday and visited a few times after), and was primarily motivated to go by my boyfriend who is an avid golfer and got us tickets to the US Open.

While I am certainly not much of an athlete (I’ve been called “surprisingly athletic” by a friend who says that means that even though I don’t do much by way of physical activity, that I’m actually pretty good when I give sports a go), I do enjoy live sporting events for the energy they bring.  I’d never been to a golf tournament before (wasn’t even sure whether or not to call it a “match”, “game”, or “tournament” initially), so thought it would be great to make my first golf-watching adventure be at such a big event as the Open.  (And who am I kidding, I was excited to dress the part, too).

No need for too many details, but the day was great! Weather was perfect and it was a lot of fun to experience the event and develop an appreciation for the athleticism of those golfers.  It also re-confirmed to me that I don’t posses enough patience or endurance to play golf.

Day 2 in Philadelphia started off normally with a lazy morning around my boyfriend’s father’s home.  As I went upstairs to change for brunch, Joe (boyfriend) and his dad stayed outside to check out his motorcycle.  As I’m finishing up, I hear a loud crunching noise and the yell of his dad. I first assume that Joe hit his dad’s car while driving out of the garage. I looked out the window to confirm and instead I see a parked van at the end of the driveway and the motorcycle turned over on it’s side on the road.

My heart immediately began to race and I panicked. I ran downstairs, out the door, and down the driveway only to hear his dad screaming “Call 911!”.  This is no way helped me to stop panicking, but I raced back up to the house to find a phone. Through my fear and tears, I yelled to Joe’s dad’s wife (who is also a doctor) to call 911 because he has been hit by a car!  Once she complied, I speed back down the driveway.

Everything was a blur.  I couldn’t believe this was happening and how quickly things went from a causal Saturday morning to crouching on the road next to my boyfriend who was hit by a van and badly bleeding.  I was a wreck, but trying to hold it together to assure Joe that he’d be okay and was trying not to get in the way of the 3 doctors who happened to be neighbors and quickly made their way out to asses the situation.  

One of the doctors fashioned a splint for his badly injured leg out of a lawn sign.  Joe was talking and assured me he was OK. We all urged him not to move his head or his neck, but in that moment I felt a small sense of relief.  It took the ambulance about 10 minutes to get there.  When they did, they got him on a stretcher and into the vehicle and I asked them to let me go with them.   I’d never been in an ambulance before and I got a whole new appreciation for the necessity to move out of the way as a vehicle on the road when a siren is coming behind you (because no one in the fair city of Philadelphia seemed to understand this basic concept).

I was seated in the front and could hear Joe in the back talking with the EMTs.  I was glad to know he was fully conscious.  I was silently praying for Joe and texted my family and a couple friends whom we were supposed to meet that afternoon to do the same, all in my state of partial shock that this was even happening.

When we got to the hospital he was rushed in and I was rushed into the the ER waiting room…where I was told to stay…and did so for a couple hours.  The hospital’s chaplain came to meet me with a Bible in her hand. My greeting wasn’t “hello”, but rather, “Why do you have that Bible?”, afraid of what that might mean for Joe.  She assured me she was the Chaplain and “has Bible, will travel” and that Joe was OK.  They were running X-rays but so far so good.

After what was a long time working with the police back at the site of the accident, Joe’s family arrived and we all waited together (that’s one way to bond with your significant other’s family).  We were finally admitted back to see him and were all shaken up yet grateful to find out that he’d (only) broken his leg, gotten some deep lacerations, and road rash.  All in all, given what could have happened, we were grateful he had no permanent injuries and that we could take him home that day.

Joe recounted his memories of the situation and so did his dad who had to see it all happen, which I can’t even imagine.  Sparing the details, it was confirmed by the police that the driver was at fault and Joe was not.  It also re-affirmed to me why I hate motorcycles and think they are dangerous. He was on the road for no more than 20 seconds and 50 yards. In that short time, this happened.

The remainder of the weekend in Philadelphia really centered around our gratitude for Joe’s survival and that things turned out as best as they could given the situation.  It was also a strong reminder that things literally can change within moments.

What I don’t think any of us anticipated was the toll this type of accident takes emotionally and mentally on the victim and their loved ones. It’s been 9 days since and it’s been tough.  More visits to the doctors, ER, and lots of ups-and-downs.  We’re in the weeds, but optimistic that each day will get better.

I know that life gets hectic and things can seem like they are important in the moment even when we know they are of little weight long-term.  This incident helped me to put those things in perspective. I recognize that as time goes on, we will forget some of these lessons, but I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of terror I felt when I looked out that window and knew in my gut that something was wrong.  It’s a tough image to release but also, hopefully, a good one to remember to maintain that valuable perspective.

Give your loved ones an extra hug today, just because.

Read More

A Refi 4 Years in the Making

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s read the Betwixter with any regularity that I’ve become one of those people who is bitter at the system that extols the virtues of the “small business” as the backbone of our economy, yet makes it extra challenging for said “small business” owner to navigate said economy.

Years ago, I wrote about my excitement over becoming a home owner at the ripe old age of 23.  This was 1 part naivety (hoping to live the “American Dream”), meets 1 part desperation (insert restraining order against landlord).  I assumed, like most in 2007, that I could buy a starter home, be in it for 3-5 years, and get out with a little equity and move on as I pleased.
Well, we all know what happened after that.  My neighbors in my new community all bought for somewhere between $20-100k below my price and lucky me: I was first in and paying top of the market interest rates on my mortgage!  So, naturally, I contacted my lender and sought a refinance.  For the sake of your sanity as my beloved readers and so as not to rehash the gritty details and give myself a panic attack, I’ll just summarize it for you like this: I fought the banks for 4 years trying to get my interest rate down. I never missed a payment but wrestled with the implications of everything from walking away from the property to a short sale to envisioning myself as an old lady, still in this “starter home”.  The root of my issue was the mortgage industry’s strict standards towards those who are self-employed and their lack of ability to notice or care that unlike many of their customers, I was an upstanding (paying) client who was being gouged monthly on my rates verus the market rates.  Every time I’d go into my bank, they’d cheerfully point out that my rates were egregious and I should refinance.  It took all of my willpower not to lay them out verbally.

 

All of this is leading to a point…

 

After years of hard work, fighting with the bank, and patience that doing the right thing would eventually pay off (and hey-it’s just money right?!), I was finally able to close on a refinance last week.  It felt oddly anti-climactic, but also nice to feel a little sense of financial relief as well as to know that I may not be trapped in this home forever (partly assisted by my appraisal which told me that I am way less under water than I once was).   I feel like a sucker for still working with the same lender who, after almost 6 years of ripping me off, still gets to keep my business. But for better or for worse, they wore me down and were the first willing participant to give me a new loan!

After all of this I’m not entirely sure what I learned.  Perhaps not to inherently trust conventional wisdom (ex: that the market always goes up and that real estate is always a good investment).  And maybe that it’s best to factor in a plan C or D when making such a big decision (like not just assuming I could rent or sell if I ever needed to, because for some time, neither were an option). Mostly, I think I just learned that you can’t ‘know what you don’t know’. Meaning, I can’t and tried not to beat myself up over making a bad real estate choice.  I had no way of knowing I was buying at the top of the market. I had no way of knowing when I bought that I’d be self-employed when I sough to refi (nor what those rules would look like since the mortgage industry made an about-face on their policies).  But mostly, that you just have to take these annoyances as lessons and keep going.  On the plus side, I become known as the “cautionary tale” amongst my real estate buying friends in later years, so my lesson learned was their gain! You’re welcome…

Read More

Recent Posts

Archives