‘There’s a small black hole in your Heart Chakra that no light can touch. It’s almost as if you were hurt very deeply, and will never let it happen again.’ My radiant friend and reiki healer Rachael was retelling me what she found when doing our healing session. Small black hole sounds rather ominous… Is this why I’ve been single for six years? A bit heavy handed with the metaphors, but it felt… well, true. I’ve always considered myself a pretty open-hearted and vulnerable person, and yet there is a subtle little guard up that few get to peek behind. I had spent some time in the last year working on myself and I was ready for a grown-up relationship. Unfortunately, I’d been perpetually single for my entire life in NYC. So awfully single that I even made a cabaret show about it. This reiki session happened a few years ago, just before I met my fiancé. Little did I know, what I learned at that session would spurn the closure I needed to be ready for the grownup relationship I’d always wanted.
I’ve only had one serious relationship in my life. It was intense, and all consuming, and it ended as abruptly as it began. I woke up one day, realized this man wasn’t the one, and couldn’t spend another night pretending he was. Ending a relationship before every ounce of love is dripped out of it is a challenge. It was as surprising for me as it was for him. I spent an entire month pretty shell-shocked. I couldn’t believe we were exchanging keys and returning stuff and never talking to each other again—we were big practitioners of Greg Behrendt’s ‘They Call it a Breakup Because it’s Broken,’ and thankfully made some healthy boundaries. I healed myself as best I could, and somehow managed to snag a rebound to ease the pain. For anyone who’s rebounded with a fellow rebounder, it is at the same time so soothing and so very depressing. We talked openly of our past relationships and openly processed why they didn’t work. All while trying to convince ourselves this was a real connection rather than a distraction from the new loneliness.
I went to do my summer gig with newly rebounded and newly labeled ‘boyfriend’ and felt myself finally moving on. And then, Facebook ruined everything. What were breakups like before Facebook? Did you find out your ex moved on from a wedding announcement in the paper? Or did they just disappear into the ether, only to be briefly brought back only when you thought of them? This is not the case anymore. If you want, you can track your ex’s every move. Even if you unfriend or unfollow or whatever, Facebook can torment you by adding them to the ‘suggested friends’ section. I was casually browsing my newsfeed one morning when a friend’s post sounded… familiar. And my ex had ‘liked’ this post. I groan at the fact that this story even occurs with the drama and importance of exes liking posts, but this is the world we live in. After some light Facebook stalking, my suspicions were confirmed. My ex was dating someone new. Someone I knew. Someone he only knew because of me. And the relationship that followed between them was very public, and for me, very painful. You can’t quantify how long it takes to get over someone, or tell someone how they ‘should’ feel. And no matter how much I knew he wasn’t right for me, and how much I cared deeply for his happiness, I also never ever wanted my ex to find love again. It’s completely selfish and totally unreasonable, but I just want any man who crosses my path to be left in a puddle of their own sadness, insisting that no woman will ever compare to the illustrious Katie Bland. If anyone was going to come out of this relationship the better for it, and now happily coupled, it would be me, by golly!
But the Universe is hilarious and also apparently needed to teach me the same lesson a million times. It’s safe to say that almost every guy I have dated has met and found their soulmate shortly after dating me. I was the marriage ‘fluffer.' They all sting a bit, seeing their engagement announcements as I’d still be wistfully swiping left and right on the hottest new dating app looking for the future Mr. Katie Bland. But the OG-ex was the hardest. I don’t think I even realized how deeply this relationship cut me until I was confronted with the happy couple head on.
My friend from college was getting married, which is great, because I love weddings. She did, however, warn me that my ex and his now wife would be there. And also, his wife was very very pregnant. Joy. I guess one can no longer be unhappy for the ex and his rebound if it turns out they were meant to be… Maybe I’m bitter I never got a thank you note? Regardless, the one that hurt the most was coming back into my plane of existence for one day.
To prepare, I did what any self respecting woman would do. I dieted, worked out, and bought the sexiest little black dress I could find. (It's the photo in this article, not bad right?!) Though I had absolutely zero desire to rekindle our love or even tempt him, I guess my logic was that however good I looked would show just how ‘fine’ I was. The wedding came, and the happy couple were two ominous orbs in the corner of my eye throughout the entire event. I couldn’t not think about them, or stare at them, or do everything to avoid them. And they respectfully avoided me, too. I used my flawless technique of speaking and laughing loudly, so in case either of them were watching, they could see me laugh and smile and have a grand old time in slow motion, just like the movies. But the reception was well underway, and no moves were made between us to talk to each other. I had spent months mentally and physically preparing myself for this day, and it was really going to end without even a single interaction? As much as I wanted to stay comfortable and not confront the ex-love of my life and his soulmate and future mother of his children, I knew I would not be satisfied if I didn’t say something to them. I grabbed my friend for moral support, and we walked over to say hi.
I had thought about seeing them many, many times. For years I had dreams of running into them and yelling at them for hurting me so much. But saying hi to them was not at all what I expected. As soon as we started talking, every inch of resentment and bitterness drained away. I was instead standing in front of a man I had loved, who was healed and happy. And truth be told, he was thriving in a way that he would never have thrived with me. It was a relief, to see them together, to know that was right and we were wrong. We caught up briefly and continued to enjoy the wedding in our separate friend circles. At the end of the night when everyone was saying their goodbyes, we found ourselves standing next to each other again, and I surprised myself by saying, ‘You know, I think of you often, and hope you’re doing well, and I just send that out into the ether and hope you get it.’ And he surprised me by saying, ‘I do, too.’
It startles me how much darkness can be built up in the unknown, in the silence. The years I spent not talking to him had created a black cloud of anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear. I was so afraid that he spoke terribly about our relationship, or about me. I worried he hated me for ending our relationship so suddenly. And this whole time, we were simply healing and wishing each other well from afar. Are there other relationships that can be mended in this way?
Since then we’ve exchanged emails here and there, and I recently caught up with him to ask permission to talk about this whole issue. We are now with our life partners, and because of that we can both look back on our time together with pure reverence. We were finally able to speak gratitude to each other. I could finally see what the good in our relationship was, and how it led me to the man I have now. It’s no surprise to me that I met my fiancé exactly a month after getting closure with my ex. I had no idea I was that hurt or that angry after all of those years. Simply by bringing light to the relationship, and courageously reaching out at a friend’s wedding, I was able to heal years of pain. I only wish I had found closure sooner. How would it have changed my relationships?
Now, I’m so dang happy, and literally every ex of mine is married, I could go down the line and do this with all of them! Or…maybe I won’t, because that’s awfully time consuming. But at least, I’ll keep sending well wishes out into the ether, and keep my heart open for their well wishes to me as well.
My dearest friend Melissa has no idea, but she’s a major influencer in my fitness journey. When I met her she was almost perpetually in athleisure and training for some big race. I thought she was one of those freaks of nature where fitness just came easy to them. Little did I know, up until recently, she had never really considered herself a runner. She told me that it was a story she had told herself, and she decided to change it and started running. Now she’s run a kajillion half marathons, and finished the New York Marathon for the first time last fall. She’s a badass. She inspired me with her story changing, and I started working my way up to a 5K because of her.
I love working out. I love lifting weights, I love yoga, I love cardio dance parties, the lot. I love basically any mode of fitness except barre (which can go die a slow and awful death in my opinion). But, until very recently, I did not love running. I had hay fever as a child, and running outside made me wheezy. I decided to forget that whole running thing and took dance classes instead. But thanks to Melissa, I was able to run a very slow, very fraught 5K. Then I found out she was doing a Spartan Race. For those who don’t know what a Spartan Race is, it’s like a 5K for super fit people who think just plain running on a flat surface is boooooring. This race would be 5 kilometers up and down ski trails at Tuxedo Ridge Ski Park. As if that weren’t enough, runners would also encounter 22 obstacles to overcome throughout the race. You wouldn’t know the obstacles until the day of, but they usually involve crawling under barbed wire, wading through mud, climbing ropes, and carrying some super heavy stuff. Melissa told me she couldn’t even do a pushup, but she was determined to train for this race. As someone who can totally do pushups, but would be hard pressed to run even one mile on an incline, I signed up with her.
Fitness journeys are the most material way to learn life’s greatest lessons. The metaphors are easily transferred to other ares of our life. This race was no different. Here are just a few lessons I learned in this context. I can’t wait to apply them to other areas of my life.
Incremental, consistent effort actually works
My usual experience with a step-by-step approach is a few weeks of dedication seeing very few results, and as soon as I see the tiniest improvement, I take a step back in awe of may handiwork, and take a 'well deserved' break. This break usually extends far beyond what is needed, and I eventually fall out of habit. Because consistent effort over a long period of time can be exhausting! I’m only half kidding. Even if the daily effort is merely fifteen minutes of work, we can reach exhaustion just from fighting the resistance to get our body and/or brain to do something new. But with Spartan I was armed with a deadline. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or hurt myself, so I trained at least three times a week. I followed the suggested training programs on their website, and at first I thought they were way too easy. I’m usually used to working myself to death and then having to take a break because of a small injury (sensing a pattern, friends?). My wonderfully astute fiancé reminded me that a slow training program would prevent injury and I stuck with it. Dang, did I get super strong! I’m still surprised with how much improvement started with such a seemingly easy workout. Of course the workouts got challenging eventually, but just by showing up day by day I was seeing and feeling a difference.
You usually need to stretch yourself to reach the next level
I’ve always been strong enough to do about a 30 second plank. It wasn’t until six weeks into training that I really had to stretch far beyond that. I saw the workout sheet and the ’60 second plank’ seared into my brain. One whole minute? I can barely do 30 seconds! The first few planks were not pretty. I had to take lots of breaks, and I was staring at my timer willing to hold on. I usually hold a plank and run a sonnet through my head—but sonnets do not last one minute long. After about a week of sad minute long planks, I’ll be damned if I couldn’t hold a 60 second plank with solid strength and what one might even call ‘ease.’ I told my body where we were headed, and for two weeks my body could barely get by, and then something clicked. The strength was gained, and I could hold that plank like a boss. Like, have tea on my back while I sit here and plank, kind of boss. It’s such a great example of creating a stretch goal and letting your brain, body, or whatever else rise to the occasion. Goals are meant to be missed. If you reach all your goals, you are not reaching far enough.
If you want to walk fast, go alone. If you want to walk far, go together
The day of the race I was running with Melissa and her 50 year old boss, Rob. We all had various levels of strength and/or endurance, and both of them were nursing injuries. We. were. terrified. As we jumped over the ‘starter wall’ to get to the starting line (yup, there’s an obstacle before the race even starts) my eyes started tearing up. I was totally overwhelmed. Not just from the mountain looming in front of me, but also the warning you’re given with your bib number that states you may die or be seriously injured. Gulp. We had agreed to do this race as a team. The main goal was to finish, not to win. I’ll admit there were times in the race when I totally wanted to run up ahead. I felt great! We were walking most of the steep inclines, and part of me wanted to bound up them with abandon. But there were also times on the course where I couldn’t have gone on without them. Melissa gave me a boost over a seven foot wall, we helped each other over terrifyingly tall structures. We cheered each other through burpees. Rob attempted to catch me when I completely bit it off of the monkey bars. It was so much better to experience this race with them than to have run along alone. I may have had a better finish time, but the value of the experience would have been severely diminished.
Surround yourself with positive people who have similar goals
We had this awesome guy in our group that played music on a bluetooth speaker through a lot of the race. We danced and sang with him and encouraged his teammates while they encouraged us. It was so fun. There is something so uplifting about a community that has collectively worked towards this one event. Whether it’s a warmup for an even bigger race, or their first race like me, we all worked and trained for this day. If Rob and Melissa weren’t in sight, someone else in the group was cheering me on. The volunteers were supportive. A fellow group of runners gave me a bit of a cookie from my favorite shop in Astoria along the way. Little kids cheered their parents along from the sidelines. It was so wonderfully positive, and so so fun. As much as you can, surround yourself with people who are reaching just as far and are working just as hard as you are.
Beware of the finish line
I finished the race, training is done, someone hand me a beer and chips. I’m kidding! But this is an important phenomenon to be aware of. Creating habits with a finish line in mind create urgency and a big reason to continue your efforts. However, once that goal is reached, it’s easy to lay back and relax for way too long, undoing all of your hard work. Before you’re reaching any finish line, I encourage you to have an ‘after’ plan. Do you have a new goal? A new challenge? Each new habit or new experience is hopefully a stepping stone to the next! I will definitely do a race again. I wasn’t able to do every challenge, and it would feel so good to be able to blow through all the obstacles int he course. So what’s next for me? I’m back to training! I have a goal to do one unassisted pull-up. That means almost doubling the strength I have now. I also want to get better at running/walking at an incline. Those two efforts combined will continue my training. And maybe I’ll run just a normal 5K and revel in how EASY it is!
How has your fitness journey surprised you? How have you translated those lessons into other areas of your life?
The other day I got a message from a friend asking for some more insight into one of my posts. I have been pretty open about my consumer debt, and they wanted some advice and/or tips to getting their own head above water. I was incredibly flattered to be approached at all, and decided I’d share more openly about my debt experience. Because debt is a lot like assholes, everybody has one. Or some. Or… anyway, let’s move on... Debt. I have it! I have student loan debt, and I have credit card debt. I think it’s high time we shout our debt and share with others. Too many people are suffering in silence without realizing they’re not alone. One in four Americans carry consumer debt with folks under the age of 35 carrying an average of $67,000. It can seem insurmountable, but as someone who’s looked at a number just as daunting, I can share how I’ve dealt with my debt-free plan.
First of all, forgive yourself
Debt can happen for various reasons. Sometimes, you’re starting a new business and investing more than you’re currently recouping. Sometimes you’re on lean financial times. Sometimes shopping is your anxiety relief. Whatever the reason, it’s all good. The key is, once you realize you’re in a hole, stop digging. Cursing yourself and the hole will not get you out of there any sooner. When my payments were a huge chunk of my income, I remember feeling like I was punishing myself. My self talk would be ‘Of course you can’t get that coffee, stupid, you’re in a ton of debt. You must suffer!’ So now, I’m tired, and mad at myself for being in debt. Nice, huh? I personally don’t believe in punishing your past financial indiscretions with years of ramen and socks with holes in them. There is absolutely a way to get out of debt without living like a monk for years and years. Numbers are just numbers, and money is a social construct anyway, so… forgive yourself, dangit!
Look at the Numbers
June 22, 2017. I will forever remember that as the day I was looking at four nearly maxed out cards, and a rejection for a personal loan to cover them. I had no buffer, no way out. I was completely humiliated. First I cried, then I looked at every credit card statement, wrote down every balance, and every interest rate. It was a big number, but now I had a better idea of what was going on. Some of us take the head in the sand approach to our debt, and to that I say… ‘Quit it!’ We are far too badass and brave to be scared by a bunch of numbers on the screen. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can better manage it. Once you have a plan as to how it pay off, you can work your budget around that. Decide how much of your income you’re willing to devote to debt repayment. As I said, I don’t think it’s great to force yourself to eat ramen to get out of debt faster. Find a time towards debt-free that is balanced with a monthly payment that you’re okay with, and commit to it. Understand that debt will not go away in a short amount of time. It’s okay. As long as you’re chipping away at the old block, you are making progress.
This year I had to make some financial decisions in regards to this. I wanted to be debt free by the end of the year. But I’m also saving for a wedding in January. Doing both of these things this year would mean I had very little left for myself in the year ahead. I made the decision to delay my debt repayment so that I could save for my wedding and still enjoy my year as an engaged lady. Deciding how aggressive you want to be with your debt plan is personal. Take your quality of life into account as you map your plan.
If there is any app I could force everyone to use it would be YNAB (You Need a Budget). Created by the debt master, Dave Ramsey, it is by far the most effective budgeter. The trick is, with this app you can’t budget for money you don’t have. So, while allocating $200 for groceries, and $1,000 for rent is all well and good, you may not make that much in a month. So with YNAB you can only budget with what you have. The app also has helpful videos like ‘How to Budget When You’re Broke’ which will walk you through making a budget when you literally have to choose between rent, gas, and food. It does cost money, but it’s WORTH IT. My favorite is how it handles debt. If you have credit card debt, you can set a goal for when you want your balance paid, say January 2020. It will tell you how much you need to pay each month to achieve your goal. Any interest or purchases are added on top of that. It’s a great way to ‘set it and forget it.’ Now, I know exactly how much I need to pay, and my debt will be gone by my decided time. The other great thing about YNAB, is that if you go over budget (which we inevitably do) you then have to pull your funds from somewhere else. So you know full well that dress at Anthroplogie is taking money from your travel budget. And if you’re cool with that, then go for it! It is wonderfully empowering. It also tracks the age of your money, so the more days your money stays in your account, the better off you are, the more cushion you have.
Whatever app (or spreadsheet) you wanna use, just track it. What gets measured gets managed. Just by tracking what you spend you can better control how you’re spending it. And again, you will go over budget. Don’t sweat it, just move some money around and keep going.
Earn More Money
Did that make you laugh? I hope so. I read that after googling ‘How to get out of credit card debt.’ I laughed and thought ‘Okay, but if I made more money, I wouldn’t be in this mess, would I?!’ Maybe not. But also, maybe so. The current income from my network marketing business is solely devoted to debt repayment, and savings for my wedding. My primary income covers everything else. That extra bit of cash a month releases a huge chokehold on my budget, and feels damn good. There are so many ways to earn a little side hustle money. Etsy, Fiverr, Lyft, Network Marketing Companies, whatever. If you want to pay off debt faster or feel like less of a slave to it, add another income stream, and make it your debt repayment plan. I can’t recommend this enough. Pay day is my favorite day. I immediately transfer all the money to my credit cards and wedding account. I love watching the numbers go down, and I love knowing my efforts with my online job are taking me one step closer to freedom. Find a side hustle you can fit into your life, and go for it. Or, if you’re in a position to negotiate a raise or add a shift to your schedule, do it. You can spend the whole extra brunch shift reminding yourself it is getting you out of debt. It feels good!
In all of my personal development readings, money is the most loaded issue. People have stories around money. Stories like ‘Rich people are evil’ or ‘People in debt are idiots’ or whatever fun stuff we may have. Take this journey out of debt as a chance to work on your relationship with money. Money is simply energy. If you have a negative energy around money, that will only perpetuate more of the same. It’s why a lot of lotto winners end up losing the money so quickly. Take a deep look at your relationship with money. It’s one of the best things you can do for your life. Two books I’ve loved for my financial journey are ‘The Law of Divine Compensation’ by Marianne Williamson, and ‘You Are a Badass at Making Money’ by Jen Sincero. Dave Ramsey, the YNAB creator also has great resources, but I haven’t read them yet. Figure out how you feel about money and heal that shit.
To prove just some of the fun ways the universe can help you out when you have a good energy surrounding money, here are just a few things that have happened to me in my debt journey. One of my credit card companies sent me an email with an advertisement for a balance transfer that said ‘0% interest for the life of the balance.' For the life of the balance?! Say what?! I called the bank to see if this email was real, and while it was in fact a typo they honored it. Most of my credit card debt today has 0% interest because of this email!!!! Also, I have been absentmindedly putting money into a mutual fund every month for the last 12 years. One day I decided to take a look at how much I had in there, and guess what—I had enough money to knock out my two worst credit card balances. I know not everyone has a windfall like that tucked away, but you’ll be surprised where money will turn up as you take a step towards financial freedom.
Share your Debt Experience
I can still remember my father looking at me when I was young and saying ‘Whatever you do, Katie, don’t get into credit card debt. Never spend more than you have.’ And for the first half of my twenties, I didn’t! I felt so smart and so virtuous and so ‘together.’ And then… Well, I quit my job before my business had replaced my income, and then ignored my rising credit card balances until that awful day where I finally realized the financial hole I was in. Entrepreneurs are bound to incur a little bit of debt while they build their business, but this was beyond a few big purchases here and there. I had lived in a deficit for a year in New York, and ignored it. The only person who knew how bad my debt was was my then boyfriend (now fiancé. Yay!) He had gotten himself into debt in his younger years and worked himself out of it. He was understanding and knew I’d get out of it. For about a year I didn’t tell anyone else how bad it was. I was certainly never going to tell my parents. I had made up in my mind that my lack of debt was the ultimate sign of my success. To tell my parents I had committed the cardinal sin of overspending would be to admit failure. Failure for myself and failure of themselves as parents. A bit dramatic, no? What I didn’t understand about my dad saying those words of wisdom to me, is that he said them with the gravitas of a man who had made that mistake himself, and didn’t want his child to suffer through it as well.
In true Katie Bland fashion, I didn’t tell my parents until I saw a light at the end of the tunnel and had it ‘handled’—almost two years later. They were not in any way disappointed. They were mostly sad that I had kept it to myself and didn’t feel comfortable sharing with them. They have been in debt, too! And not like they could have helped me out of it, but they could have understood and consoled me. Everyone, even the ‘smart’ or ‘rich’ people around you, have probably dealt with debt of some sort. There is zero shame in debt. It’s something you can get out of, and it’s something you can learn from. What a gift debt can be to learn how to budget better and fix your stories about money, right?
If you feel compelled to share your debt stories, I’d love to hear them. As of now, I am about halfway out of my debt hole. I have a totally doable plan, and I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have a long way to go, but I feel empowered and in control, and that is key. I hope this has helped you navigate your own financial journey. Now go out there and tackle that debt!
I haven’t always considered myself a very disciplined person. When I first moved to New York, I put my alarm on snooze and skipped a lot of auditions that would require me to wait outside at 5:30am. I skipped warming up and practicing because it was zero fun. (I later learned everyone hates practicing, but the professionals do it anyway…whoops) But once I was my own boss, I had to get super disciplined and super consistent if I wanted my business to succeed. And the secret sauce is and will always be… how you start your morning.
I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, and over the last few years have found the routine that works for me. It keeps me energized, focused, and checking off my to do list--which is so fun and satisfying that it’s almost embarrassing. Truly. Don’t worry, this article is not me telling you that you need to get up at 5AM to win the day. I just want to point out a few steps you can take to start your morning in an empowered place.
Keep your cellphone out of your bedroom
For anyone who argues that they don’t have time in the morning for meditation, or writing goals, or whatever I’m about to suggest, I want to see exactly how they spend their first fifteen minutes. (In a non-creepy way) My guess is, they’re on their phone checking emails or scrolling social media. I’m sure your correspondence is extremely important. I’m sure someone commented on a post and you just have to read it. But I’m also sure that it is a time and energy suck. Ever been in bed checking your phone without realizing 30 minutes have gone by? I thought so. Me too. Studies have also shown that people check their phone in the middle of the night. It’s even messing with your sleep! So quit it!
Also, everything coming at you from your phone involves someone else’s needs and someone else’s priorities. It does not involve you or your dreams. What if you took your first fifteen minutes of the day to quickly center yourself, remember what’s most important to you, and jot down your goals and/or to dos for the day? What if you waited to check email until after your morning coffee? Wouldn’t you be more centered, more intentional, and way less reactive? Also, imagine you get a rude email response or perhaps are just… reading the news. Are you really going to let that set the tone for the day? You have life changing dreams to think about and make possible! So please, I beg you to put your phone outside of your bedroom, and give yourself at least 15-30 minutes of ‘me’ time before letting the world in.
If you’re a parent or an on-call doctor and need your children and/or work to be available to you, I suggest doing what Mel Robbins does. She puts her phone in her bathroom on Do Not Disturb. If there’s an emergency, her kids’ numbers come through and her phone will ring. Ta-da! If your phone is your alarm, you can still keep it in the bathroom. If you don’t have an ensuite bathroom (yet) invest in a traditional alarm. Now they make these lovely alarms that mimic the sunrise to gently coax you awake. The extra fancy ones even have birds chirping as the alarm tone. Can you imagine the peacefulness of waking up to that? I love that my alarm is never startling me awake. With the light slowly brightening, my body is ready to get up by the time the alarm rings.
Quit hitting that snooze button
One of my dearest friends and former roommates is a chronic snoozer. It’s been a sore subject for us, as I passionately tried to convince her to stop, and she owned that crap out of snoozing, and still lives a fabulous life. (See? Own your morning routine!) That being said, it can really kill your productivity in the morning. If you hit the snooze and go back to sleep, your body actually starts another REM cycle, which can take 45-90 minutes to complete. If you’re woken up in the middle of that cycle, your body is startled awake, and you’re in a sort of ‘sleep fog.’ It can take hours to get your brain to fire on all cylinders, meaning the first few hours of the day are wasted on playing catch up. This is particularly dangerous, because your brain is most productive within a few hours of waking, so don’t miss out! The best trick to keep yourself from snoozing is to keep your alarm away from your bed (which hopefully you're doing anyway). It will force you immediately on your feet. Second, down a 16 oz. glass of water. Your body is dehydrated from not drinking for the last eight hours, and this can be surprisingly effective in restoring your energy.
Work on your big goal in the morning
My restaurant job has crazy long hours. I have to be at work sometimes as early as 6:30am, and I’m there sometimes as late as 5pm. Once I’m home and sitting down, I do not feel like working my online business. So for awhile… I didn’t. As you can imagine, that didn’t turn out well, and it also didn’t feel good. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, I decided to add just 15 minutes of work in my morning routine before heading to the restaurant. Whatever your lifelong goal/dream is, I bet you can boil it down to one small action you should be doing daily to move your life forward. For me, it’s ‘asks.’ For you, it may be writing a few pages, doing a quick workout, sending out your resume, whatever. What’s that thing you know you need to do every day that you never end up doing? That’s what those fifteen minutes are for. So, I started asking people to take a look at my business for fifteen minutes in the morning (don’t worry, I wasn’t calling them on the phone, I’m not a monster). And then I’d head off to work. And here’s the amazing thing: my entire mood changed. I had already gotten the most important thing done for the day! I would get responses from my reach outs, and have a quick scheduling session when I got home, and then I was done. If I wanted to spend the rest of the night having dinner and relaxing with my fiancé, I could! And because my business now felt in control, I felt empowered and was attracting a lot more business.
If you’re having trouble knowing what the one tiny thing for your goal is, work from the big thing to the tiniest thing. So you want to have a best-selling novel? Great, you’ll probably need a novel to be written in the first place. So what’s a daily action to complete that? Write a little bit every day. Voila. It’s that simple. Even doing 15 minutes of exercise every day can significantly change your health. Pick your thing, and stick with it.
Experiment with your routine
I’m so grateful to Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, because every three months, you write your morning and evening routines anew. It gives me a chance to reflect on what worked and what didn’t last quarter and adjust accordingly. I’m not saying you have to buy his planner, but I am saying map out what you want your morning routine to be. And then try it. Try it for at least a month. If it’s not working for you, then change it. Miracle Morning is a great jumping off point. It is a fantastic book that lays out the secret to becoming a superhero in your morning routine. It uses the acronym SAVERS to layout its suggested routine. Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing. All of these are incredible ways to start your morning. But this can also end up being a rather long morning routine that hasn't worked for my early work days… I’ve combined and condensed my routine to always include silence/visualization, and affirmations/scribing. The rest, I fit in when I can. It took a long time to find what works, and what works this season may not work the next, but it took experimentation. A great place to start is with some guided meditation, and writing down your current goals. From there, try something else, switch it up, and then own whatever you choose.
I’m so excited for all of you to start your day feeling more centered and empowered. As they say in Mulan “Once you find your center, you are sure to win.” I’d love to hear about your own morning routines and how the experimentation goes! (And yes, I did just quote Mulan.)
If you want to go deeper into what to have in your morning routine, or if you’re not sure where to start, check out these books:
Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (they have book specific to each industry as well, so check those out)
5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins (Most facts about phone use/morning brain come from this baby)
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
On September 10th, 2010, I moved to New York City to become a famous actress. To pay for this new thing in my life called ‘rent,’ I got my first serving gig. And luckily…or not so luckily… I was very good at it. For better or worse, serving has been my day job for the past 9 years. In a lot of ways, it’s great. It’s incredibly flexible, and offers one of the highest hourly rates of any ‘day job’ I know. Plus, you get to learn the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and flaunt that knowledge to your friends. But, is it fulfilling? Not for me.
I’ve noticed that in the US, particularly in large cities, Food Service and Hospitality is an industry of necessity, not necessarily a chosen career path. Most servers, even the ones making six figures at a fine dining establishment, have something else they do on the side. I’ve worked with the most fascinating people: poetry translators, authors, comedians, reiki healers, clothing designers, you name it. But because this job hasn’t been my passion, it has been very easy for me to despise it.
I’ve hated my job on and off for nine years. Serving is not that fun once the thrill of nightly cash tips wears off. It’s hard on your body, people are incredibly rude, and it’s not very mentally stimulating unless you have a table willing to nerd out about the various Beaujolais Appellations. On top of that, a lot of management has fallen into the job without any leadership training, which can change the nature of your day job for the worse very quickly. (I learned recently from a leadership coach friend of mine that this lack of leadership is a common problem in almost every industry, go figure!). Anyway… the money is great, and usually the colleagues are awesome. But frankly… the job sucks.
I first looked for an escape in 2015 when I started my network marketing business. I had found that secret job that could, with work and dedication, pay me more money than bartending! Huzzah! But I was impatient to leave. And I was miserable and mean. I was single during this period, and some men I’d been dating would say they might stop by the bar to say ‘hi’ while I was working. I’d beg them not to, for fear they’d take one look at ‘Katie Rage’ and run right out the door, justifiably ghosting me for life. Katie Rage is a legit term that has been coined for me by my coworkers in not one, but TWO restaurants. Y’all. I get grumpy.
My network marketing business was the beacon of hope carrying myself through these shifts. Knowing my days were numbered certainly helped. And finally, just under a year after launching my side hustle, I put my notice in at my restaurant. The last day of work I triumphantly threw away my Danskos, vowing never to return to food service. Some bar regulars bought me a bottle of Dom Pérignon and we drank it together while I had steak tartare on the other side of the bar for once.
I have a secret. My business had not replaced my income yet. I was doing a big, crazy leap hoping it would motivate me to work harder and reach my desired income. And unfortunately… motivate, it did not. To close that gap, I worked at a barre studio instead, making about half of what I made at the restaurant. It was even less mentally stimulating, and… it was barre. This is my least favorite workout. Isn’t the point of group fitness that it’s supposed to be fun? I remember being in the middle of class, white knuckling the ballet barre as we pulsed our thighs. I looked over at the women next to me, and we all had the exact same horribly miserable expression on our face. What happened to Jazzercise and Zumba?! This seemed like something pulled right out of Guantanamo Bay. I quickly realized I hated this job, too! And what’s worse, it didn’t even help me make rent.
Then guess what I did? In the fall of 2016, I also quit that job before my measly bit of income had been replaced. I had had two great months, and I thought surely my business would do nothing but keep growing. We’d elect our first woman president, and I would promote to Regional Vice President. A flashy title with a flashy Mercedes, and a flashy paycheck to boot. What a time to be alive! Well, we all know that didn’t happen… (yet). My business sadly did not grow.
I tried other odd jobs, like walking for Wag and catering. Both incredibly flexible, but again never really paying enough. I just kept hustling and kept ignoring my rising credit card statement. Finally, a year after leaving my first restaurant job, I realized I was close to the limit on my multiple credit cards, and I had gotten into ca-razy debt. Like, a number I’m too embarrassed to write here. I had basically lived in a deficit in New York and ignored that fact until I was crying in my room at the end of my financial rope. I was so far in the hole, it made me want to slap my friends crying over their $5,000 credit card problems. (I’ll just spoil it for everyone here, I find a way out of debt, so don’t worry about me!)
So, I went back to the only thing I knew could fix the problem quickly. I bought some new Danskos, and landed a job back in food service. Oh joy. This was super humbling and incredibly depressing at first. But here’s the thing I didn’t know until this time around. You can be grateful for a job you don’t like. You’re probably reading this going… ‘Wait, you seriously didn’t know this was an option, Katie?’ Nope! I thought you had to hate any job that wasn’t your passion or directly related to your dreams. You had to ooze from your very pores that this job was beneath you in every way, that you could be creating ART or making a DIFFERENCE, but you showed up ANYWAY because you’re not a MONSTER. (And because this serving job has given you a taste for expensive White Burgundy Wines…) I didn’t realize I could just clock in, do my work, kiss my paycheck gratefully each week, and go build my dreams once I clock out. It’s not taking time or energy away from my creativity, like I thought. It was providing the foundation and the stability for my creativity and passions to thrive.
Coming back to serving was a huge hit to the ego. But it was a necessary lesson in the fact that success is almost never linear. There are peaks and valleys. And in my new restaurant, there are lots of entrepreneurs, just like me! It’s awesome! I still totally hate it at the end of a long shift when my body is about to turn to actual dust, and I suddenly have to make a Ramos Fizz. Or five. But I am so so grateful for this job. I’m so grateful I only have to work three days a week and afford to live in New York City. I’m grateful it leaves me with enough mental energy to pursue everything else. Case in point, I’m writing this article at the end of a loooong day in a SweetGreen before I head to a networking event to pursue my passion. And you know what? There is absolutely no shame in working another job while you’re dream takes off. A lot of writers, artists, and entrepreneurs did it in their day. And when this day job finally gets fired forever, I’ll look back on this time with a bit of reverent nostalgia. So to all the servers folding napkins after a long and hard shift, I raise my glass of Chablis Premier Cru to you. Cheers.
If I’m being totally and completely honest, my main goal in life has always been to find ‘The One.’ This may come as a shock to some, because I know I come off as incredibly ambitious. But my ambitions were merely a distraction from my lonely reign of singledom for seven long years. Although, if my goal really was simply to meet the love of my life, perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen a career path like musical theatre… Anyway, I digress. Before my lovely fiancé Adam showed up, I focused a lot of time and energy on relationships. When I wasn’t in one, I was looking for one. When I was in one, I was trying my hardest to fit a square peg in a round hole of my ‘ideal man’ and prove this guy was the one. Anyone who’s been single as long as I have is privy to the experience of all of your coupled friends giving you sage advice on how to find the love of your life and be happy just like they are with their partner.
First off, let me address something very important. Finding yourself in a relationship in no way makes you suddenly an expert on relationships. It’s not a prize you earned because you somehow figured it out and your poor single friend didn’t. People jump into relationships for lots of reasons, and sometimes they aren’t the healthiest. But, it is so hard as a person in a relationship not to smugly smile at your single friend, pat them on the shoulder and say, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.’ I’m guilty of that one myself. For any friends I’ve done that to before, consider this my public apology. I thought since I spent the better part of my 20s perpetually single, and have in fact found myself with a lovely man I can confidently call ‘The One,’ it would be fun to go over the advice I got from friends and see how it all panned out… Let’s go!
‘You’ll find him when you’re not looking’
I remember me and my friend being puzzled by this one. Our lives were so full and busy, I remember her saying ‘How much busier do I need to get? Do I have to buy a chia pet?’ It’s so funny to think the one second you announce ‘FUCK MEN’ the love of your life is going to perk his ears up, interrupt the conversation he’s having with someone and run through an airport to find you and fall hopelessly in love with you. That’s how that romantic story goes, right? I don’t know if I can honestly say I ever stopped looking. Sure, the dating apps would come and go from my phone, but I think my little beacon was always sending a signal through the ether that I was looking. Even those rare moments where I wasn’t looking, I would immediately think, ‘Oh my god! I am totally not looking for a guy right now! I’m probably gonna meet him soon!’ and then immediately be looking all over again. So do you have to magically find yourself in such a state of perpetual bliss that you forget the existence of romantic partners altogether? I don’t think so. I do, however, think there is a benefit in your life to releasing the choke hold around any goal, dream, or ambition.
Trying to remember back to the day I met Adam, I wasn’t looking in maybe the ten seconds before I got a text from my friend wanting to set us up. But that’s it. Just two weeks before I was trying to convince myself this awful man who very clearly hated women was potentially the one. I’d imagine telling the story of how we met, ‘Well, the first night I stayed over he popped a Melatonin and put in ear plugs and immediately destroyed all opportunity for heartfelt pillow talk. But, oh, once he came around he was so considerate!’ So obviously I’d learned nothing and was still on the hunt.
Whatever happens, meeting the one will always surprise you. But it’s not the actual meeting that’s the surprise. The surprise is the ease with which you two get together. You suddenly try to see each other as often as possible, and text without worrying about scaring them off, and have sex when it feels right, and become exclusive when that feels right. It all happens so easily that us coupled folks may look back and think we weren’t looking at the time. Because frankly, we didn’t know what we were looking for. Until you’ve been in an equitable, loving relationship, it’s hard to know what that feels like.
‘You have to love yourself before loving someone else’
Y’all. I love myself. I’ve been feelin’ myself for a looooong time. I’m a generally centered, confident lady. Of course I still look in the mirror woefully poking my ‘stomach pooch,’ and I sometimes still worry what people think. But my insecurity has always been that I was the best and no one noticed. So, I loved myself the whooooole time I was single. And look where that got me?! What I would say would be valuable is the same thing I say for any goal, dream, or ambition. Get happy NOW. Thinking that a relationship, or that promotion, or that fancy pair of shoes is going to single handedly make you happy is, I’m sorry to say… not true. I met Adam, the love of my life, we very quickly fell in love, and suddenly all of my romantic anxieties vanished… and reappeared in other parts of my life! You can’t escape them! Nothing external will solve a problem. So, no, the secret isn’t loving yourself. The secret is enjoying your life now. Especially if you’re single. For all you know, you may fall in love with a man who hates dancing like I did. So enjoy it while you can! And have fun dancing alone because you might be doing it alone forever thanks to the wet blanket you just fell in love with. I kid, I kid. But truly, what do you do that excites you? What makes you happy? Not only will you magically be happier, but you’ll also be an interesting AF person to date. And in case your future love doesn’t have similar interests, you can enjoy them by yourself anyway. And if your life is already full and happy and you know you don’t need a relationship, it would just be a cherry on top of a beautiful life sundae… then let me say, I don’t know when this person is coming, but DANG they’re gonna love the crap out of you.
‘When you meet the love of your life, you’ll KNOW.’
This is half true. Like I’ve said before, dating ‘The One’ or a good partner for you is easy. It should be easy. I’m not referring to external obstacles like living in different cities or having opposite schedules. I’m saying it should feel easy in spite of that. When I met Adam, he told me that very night that he travels a lot and I’d have to be okay with that. He was leaving for a three week contract in nine days. We saw each other six out of those nine days, and by the end he had already initiated a conversation about exclusivity. He was on a cruise ship with terrible service for three weeks, and we still managed to stay in contact every day. That is the ‘easy’ I’m referring to. Any games or withholding from either of you as a way to ‘win’ the other person is a bad sign. I have never had any doubts in my relationship about how this man felt about me. He made it clear, and he still makes it clear every day. He’s not insane about it. We aren’t hopelessly addicted to each other. But each step of our relationship has felt easy and inevitable. And I personally think that should be the bar.
Now, for the part that isn’t true. Is meeting the love of your life like a lightning bolt into your heart, the music slows, a light shines down from above, and a chorus of angels sing ‘There they are!'? ...I don’t think so. And I think waiting for a lightning bolt to magically show you the way in any aspect of your life is dangerous. If anything, my ‘knowing’ about Adam started with a tiny tickle the night we met, followed by days of anxiety. Adam was so clear in his affection for me, and I was so used to having to decipher the tiniest of text messages and signs from other men that I was scared. I was terrified that this guy was falling for me and I may not feel the same way. I was afraid I was going to hurt this sweet guy who my friend set me up with. And then I had a conversation with our matchmaker friend that I remember clear as day, and everything changed. He asked how things were going, and I said ‘It’s good, but he plans everything out and he paid for everything on our date.’ My friend shrugged and said ‘That’s because he’s a man.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but he wrote down my birthday and my favorite flower.’ And he said, ‘That’s because he’ll forget.’ And for whatever reason, my friend’s nonchalance cured my fears. I had another date with Adam, asked more about his ideal day and what he wants out of life, and started to fall hard for him. Even then, it would take another month for me to truly know he was the one. But still, a month is preeeetty fast, and plenty of people have taken longer to acknowledge that. So you see? Lightning bolts do not equal love. They usually equal some pretty serious sexual attraction, and I would get on that if you can because life is short! But don’t confuse that with love.
‘Make sure they’re a good partner’
Okay, this is my advice. I know, I know, I’m doing that thing that couples do to single people that I absolutely hate. But if there was one thing I could say to all single friends, it would be this. The love of your life, your life partner, your husband, your wife, whatever. They won’t just be a relationship. They become an entity and a foundation in your life. What I love about Adam is we always refer to the life we are ‘building’ together. And I think that’s the best way to think about it. To take all romance away and be completely practical… How are they with money? How would they be if either of you lost a job? Would they be there for you if you’re terribly sick? What kind of parent will they be? (If you want kids…) How will they be if we have trouble having kids? How do we fight together? The happiest of couples can be stopped dead in the face of these questions. Because a life partner is different. It’s not very sexy, but knowing Adam is good with money is a huge plus for me. And knowing we would both be able to figure out life without a job or help each other through loss is a huge deal. The vows may be outdated but ‘in sickness and in health’ and ‘for richer or poorer’ are there for a reason. Life is a big MESS. And a lot of stuff will get thrown at you. Some you will see coming, like the loss of a parent. And some you’ll be completely blindsided by, like a loss of a job. Can you still stand the sight of your partner through all of this? Could you two not only build but rebuild together? Those I think are the key questions to keep in mind. And neither of you may be equipped for those right out of the gate, but take a good long look at your partner. Do they support you no matter what? Do they lift you up? Can you ask them for help or support? Can they ask you?
And if there’s any thing I can say on the other side of being in a relationship I could tell little ol’ single me, it would be to worry less. If I had just gone out, met people, enjoyed their company for as long as it was right, filled my days with fun and friends, it would have been so much better! Maybe you’re not as obsessed as I was with meeting someone, and I hope you’re not. The big question to ask yourself is, if you know that this relationship is for sure happening, what would you do today? Would you worry? Or go enjoy yourself? So go do a dance party for yourself today, listen to your favorite songs, and know that your partner is there. And guess what? They’re looking for you, too! Don’t worry, you’ll find each other (I smugly say as I put my hand condescendingly on your shoulder).
Apparently, you are supposed to announce and declare your WAGs (Wildly Audacious Goals). This is not only garners support from your friends and loved ones, but it also holds you accountable to ‘doing what you said you were going to do.’ I’ve repeatedly read in a number of self development books that declaration is step 1. So, what better time than my first blog post ever? I, Katie Bland, want to be a best-selling author, and a motivational speaker in the world of personal development. That’s a scary thing for me to admit, but ‘scary’ in this sense that I feel a tickle of excitement knowing it’s true and it’s right. It’s been quite a journey to get me to this conclusion.
Ever since I was eight years old, I’ve wanted to be an actress. Lucille Ball was my first inspiration and my hero. And my over-achieving ambitious self started that dream early by filling out an application to Yale Drama as a third grader. From that moment on, instead of spending my summers playing outside and my winters skiing like every other Coloradan, I was in an air-conditioned dome in the middle of Boulder putting on musicals with 100 other kids. And I was good. Eventually I earned the coveted status of ‘professional actress’ in the Peanut Butter Players’ Lunch Bunch. This company boasts prestigious alumni such as Sutton Foster and Celia Keenan Bolger. I thought I was clearly on that same path to stardom as well. I had it all mapped out. First, I’d perform at Boulder Dinner Theatre. Next, I would move to New York and perform on Broadway (an easy step between local dinner theatre and Broadway, I’m sure…) Then I’d naturally move into film, and win my first Oscar in what I dreamed would be a period piece so I could have the best costumes. I even had a little ‘bit’ planned for my acceptance speech. I’d wear a dress with a long slit, and during my thank yous my finely toned leg would coquettishly slip out as if it had a mind of its own. I practiced my interviews on the Rosie O’Donnell Show in the shower. I fantasized about who my first celebrity boyfriend would be (Luke Perry). I wanted to be a star and I had been preparing since childhood.
This is where my mom would say, “God laughs when you make a plan.” In the end I didn’t actually apply to Yale Drama when the time came. My heart had fallen into musical theatre, and I went to Webster’s Conservatory Program in Saint Louis. And I didn’t perform at Boulder Dinner Theatre, but my first gig was a children’s tour—which is the well-known rite of passage for recent BFA graduates. And I didn’t get to Broadway (yet) but I did make it to Off-Broadway in a show I both loved and loathed. And then, the craziest thing happened. My dream changed.
It is hard to admit, and I know a lot of people back in Boulder still think I’m a star, but I took a look at what it would actually mean to perform on Broadway and… it didn’t feel right. I didn’t want that lifestyle. As we get older, I’ve found my friends and I become more concerned with what our day to day looks like. When I had my first date with my fiancé I asked him about his ideal day. Both of us were similar and craved a peaceful day with yes, some work, but neither of us were competing in the olympics or winning an Oscar. We were reading and drinking tea in our dream home. Of course, I still want to accomplish wildly amazing things, but I quickly realized my drive to be a star was not going to cut through the hustle and grind that is required to become a successful actor. I didn’t want it enough. Changing dreams can be hard. If anyone is as ambitious as I am, leaving a pursuit behind for something that excites you more can feel an awful lot like ‘quitting’ or ‘failing.’ It took me two years to forgive myself for this change of heart (future blog post on this later). And who knows, I may want to perform again one day, but for now, we are on to my WAG.
Since leaving that dream behind, I’ve started looking at what other creative pursuits I may enjoy. I will always consider myself an artist and a creator, as I think all of us are, and I wanted to find something that could light me on fire again. And what’s something I love talking about, thinking about, and reading about as much as I love performing? Personal growth! Spiritual journeys! Dreaming big! Reading or listening to a personal development book has been a part of my daily routine for almost four years. Some I’ve loved, some I’ve hated. Some I’ve integrated, and some I haven’t. But boy am I passionate about it. And boy, would I love to help other people dream big and go on their own spiritual quests!
But Katie, why would I read and take advice from YOU?! Good question. On my journey to find what the hell else I was gonna do with my life, I looked at becoming a life coach. As far as I can understand it as a layman, it’s like being a therapist, but without the degree, and you get to tell people what to do a little more instead of that pesky ‘listening’ thing. Sounded like a dream job to me! As I dived into the various programs available, most came with the disclaimer ‘You’re going to have to work on yourself first before coaching others.’ Website after website was very subtly telling me to get my proverbial shit together. And some may think that I actually currently have said shit together. I’ve been able to financially support myself living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I have a successful network marketing business, I’ve found myself in a healthy romantic relationship, and I have enough energy and time to write a blog. I’m #adulting, everybody! But I’ve also gotten into an embarrassing amount of credit card debt, I’ve taken longer than I wanted to grow the aforementioned network marketing business, I’m writing this blog post in the time I had scheduled for ‘business admin,’ and I ate an entire box of Thin Mints last night. See? It’s all about perspective.
This blog will be a super honest look at my own spiritual journey. The successes and the failures. Hopefully, some of it will be funny, because I find humor the best form of healing. And hopefully, you can connect with it, too. This blog is a step towards a dream that one day this could transform into a book that Oprah loves so much that I’ll be interviewed in a Super Soul Conversation. Are you there, Universe? It’s me, Katie. Make it happen, please. But what would be even more exciting and fulfilling to know is that someone read this blog, totally related, and took one step towards positive change. If that’s my legacy, then I’m a happy lady. Enjoy, and I hope you take this journey with me. What is your WAG? Has it ever changed?