Life Notes

I Joined the Pure Barre 100 Club

Last week I joined the Pure Barre 100 Club!

(Which means I’ve taken 100 classes!)

When I first tried out Pure Barre back in December it was honestly only because I forced myself to. I was really sad and overwhelmed, and had found myself at my lowest point fitness-wise, AGAIN. The Arlington Pure Barre studio is only two blocks from my office, so I had walked by it hundreds of times before. I had other people tell me before that because of my dance background, that it might be something I’d be interested in, so without dwelling on it too much I just walked in and signed up.

I am so, so happy that I did.

At first I liked it because it gave me something regular in my schedule that I could control and that was in a positive environment. If you miss a class or don’t drop a class enough hours in advance you get charged a fee, and that was just enough to hold me accountable. But as time went on and I kept forcing myself to go, I eventually fell in love with it.

The instructors and staff are always welcoming and encouraging – and that really does make a impact. The pace of the class moves along quickly and fluidly so I’ve never felt uncomfortable. I know that if I am having to focus so much, then others probably are too. Now I might be a bit biased because there are elements of Pure Barre that do align with dance training, and since I grew up dancing (tap, jazz and a teeny tiny bit of ballet), it certainly helped build my confidence that I picked things up quickly. But regardless, I also love Pure Barre because it is easy to make it your own. There are ways to both modify moves and push yourself.

Signing the 100 Club barre

I like that it is low impact and great for injury recovery. I played sports (including dance) growing up, so I have a knee that hates too much impact and ankles that roll on command. Last fall, I sprained an ankle, and unlike before, I did not bounce back quickly like all the times before (probably the first time that I’ve ever felt “old” lol). And after I moved to DC three years ago and because a regular pedestrian, I single-handedly gave myself plantar fasciitis by walking everywhere in poor shoes. (My ultimate advice… invest in shoes that are cute AND supportive). I definitely notice a difference in my strength overall, but most all in these areas that need a bit more help.

Back in March, I completed the March Madness Challenge (taking 20 classes in the month) and was pretty pumped that I earned this coffee mug!

Pure Barre really has brought me back to a place where I feel good and want to tackle other exercise again (like cardio) because I am stronger, more flexible and motivated. But most of all, this studio and structure has strengthened my mental game. Previously, I almost always worked through my lunch hour and honestly really didn’t mind it. But now I commit almost every lunch hour to class, and I think the balance and mental break everyday has helped sharpen my focus back at work.

On a more personal note, I said above that back in December when I first started, I was not feeling so great. I’m not saying that taking a fitness class everyday over lunch just solves all of the world’s problems, but a welcoming and encouraging environment that helps you do something positive for yourself does make a huge difference. I’m not sure that I can express enough gratitude for the women at Pure Barre Arlington that have helped give me that.

I thought about trying to explain what exactly Pure Barre is, but they have an awesome intro video that does a much better job than I can!

I was really pumped to reach the 100 club mark and I am looking forward to joining 250 club next!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 31

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my not-so-glam 20-something life. See past posts HERE}

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London

I just returned from a long girls weekend in London with one of my best friends Brandi! Stay tuned later this week or next for a few blog posts all about our adventures!

In Case You Missed It On the Blog in March

  1. Favorite Things I Need to Tell You About Right Now – Vol. 2
  2. Friday Jam Session: Post Break Up
  3. Third Work Anniversary and 10 Things I’ve Learned
  4. So There’s That Vol. 30
  5. Friday Jam Session: 90’s Country
  6. Guest Feature on Whimsical September’s Saturday Sit-Down

Mom and Dad Visit DC

My parents visited me in DC at the end of March. We had a wonderful time and I wrote all about it on the blog here.

Sawyer June

This sassy girl just turned 9 months a few days ago and her personality is really starting to show. Snapchat videos and FaceTiming with her is my favorite! This particular round of pictures is EXTRA ADORABLE.

I mean SERIOUSLY!!!

Guest Blogger Saturday Sit-Down

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger for Whimsical September. Since I discovered her last summer, Erica has become one of my favorite bloggers to regularly keep up with, so I was thrilled to be featured in her Saturday Sit-Down series. She did a fabulous job at doing her research and personalizing questions for me to really showcase what my blog and I are all about. You can read it here (and check out the rest of her blog while you are there)!

Wild Love

Having been a dancer growing up, I could watch dance routine and choreography videos ALL DAY LONG. Kyle Hanagami has become one of my favorites to follow on Instagram. This is video is one of his most recent choreographed routines, which also features one of my favorite dancers, Julianne Hough, and music by another favorite, James Bay.

Winter Sunrise

Mark Alan Andre Photography

I can never get enough of beautiful DC photography. And even though I am hating this eternal winter we seem to be having, I was practically drooling over this photo and the full series.  The photographer is a fellow K-State grad too 🙂 Great work Mark!

Life is Too Short for Fake Cheese and Fake Friends

This article was technically written for moms, but even though I am not at that stage of life yet, I can still relate on many levels. More and more, I am seeing and experiencing the equal difficulty, stages and crucial importance of adult friendships.

“I want friendships that fill me up, because no one is ever satisfied after eating fake cheese.”

Amen, girl. Read the full article here.

National Ag Day

National Ag Day was March 20, and in DC that means a series of special events and guests in town. I spent one evening speaking with college students attending the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Policy Institute, and shared a bit about my job and path to living and working in DC. AFA also invited me to join them for an event at USDA, where Vice President Pence spoke and signed an official proclamation for National Ag Day. I had never heard Pence formally speak before, and was happy to hear most of his comments. There continues to be a lot of uncertainty right now regarding trade, so personally I think that part of his speech was a bit sugar coated.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Instagram stories) of life lately.

Going on my resume: Winning the office March Madness bracket 2 of the 3 years I’ve been working here.

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

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So, There’s That.

Family, Washington D.C.

Mom and Dad Visit DC

Hey friends! I’ve been a little MIA lately, but March was a bit of a monster, and there were many times where I opted to go to bed earlier instead of staying up to blog 🙂

But the month also rounded out in the best kind of way — with a visit from my parents from Oregon.

This was my Dad’s first time visiting DC, and my Mom’s second. Though her first visit was centered around helping me move apartments so she didn’t get to experience or see much. I have been looking forward to them visiting for a long time, so I had a pretty packed schedule planned for them. It was actually kind of unique… I’m the oldest child, so I don’t really know that I’ve spent this much quality time with them together just one-on-one since I was little. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either way, because that’s probably pretty normal, but it just stood out to me. I am really close with my parents, so living so far away from them for almost 10 years now is much harder than I think most people think it is for me. I was so excited to finally share my current home and life with them!

I picked them up late from the airport on a Wednesday night, and then turned around and hit the ground running by making Mom take a Pure Barre class with me at 7 AM. But she was a trooper! We picked up Dad, who was at a diner nearby working on his laptop, got ourselves ready for the day and then swung by my office so they could see it and meet a few people.

Our first stop after we trekked into DC was actually probably my favorite of the whole visit. My Dad is a mason, so I did a little research on things to do in the area related to that, since freemasonry is such a huge part of U.S. history. We went to the House of the Temple, which is headquarters for the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction (there are three types or branches of masons I learned).  I had no idea this beautiful building was in DC and considering there are few things that I haven’t already done here, it was fun to experience something new with my parents — especially something that is so important to my Dad. I’ll admit, I still don’t understand a lot about freemasonry, but I did learn quite a bit, AND GUYS… I was beside myself over their library!

After the House of the Temple, we headed toward the National Mall to see the Monuments. We made the full trek from the Washington Monument, down past WWII and Vietnam, to the Lincoln and from the Korean and FDR, and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson. Yes, my feet were basically goners by the end of day one.

(Nevada is my Dad’s home state.)

We wrapped up the day by finishing the short walk down to the new Wharf area and had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar, which is their newest location.

On Friday, day two, we officially made our picture stop at the White House, though we walked passed it several times during their visit. My Dad’s younger brother, who passed a few years ago, and was in the Army EOD, had spent some time protecting the White House that we didn’t know much about, so my Dad walked up and asked two of the on-duty Secret Service, a few questions about what my uncle’s role and experience would have involved.

Next, we headed to the nearby Renwick Gallery, which is an art museum that features temporary exhibits and is a part of the Smithsonian system. That day was actually the opening day for its newest exhibit, “The Art of Burning Man.” I mentioned above that Nevada is my Dad’s home state, but the other part of that is that he actually grew up on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, near where Burning Man is held every year. Growing up, my sister, cousins and I spent part of our summers visiting our grandparents there (who have since moved). To be honest, we probably have a bit of a different opinion on the event, but nonetheless the artwork it inspires is stunning, and its more amazing to think that all of these pieces have previously been built out on that desert, and in many cases, at a larger scale.

These ones changed colors and also expanded and contracted.

This is all carved wood.

Next, we went up on the Hill and visited the Library of Congress, before making our way to Congressman Walden’s office (my parent’s home district) for a Capitol tour. Walden’s Chief of Staff is also from my hometown and when to high school with my Mom, so they enjoyed catching up a bit.

For an early dinner we head to The Carving Room, which was featured on one of my Dad’s favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. We wrapped up the day by stopping at the National Portrait Gallery for the last 45 minutes it was open. We chose to walk through the U.S. Presidents exhibit.

On Saturday, the third day, we headed out to my favorite tourist stop in the area: Mount Vernon! I’m actually kind of sad, because I’m running out of expected visitors to take here. Not that I can’t go on my own or with other locals, which I did for the 4th of July last year, but it is just not the same. At heart, George was a farmer first, and has always been my favorite president, so I genuinely love sharing his home and life with my guests. #nerdalert

It needs to be noted here (at the request of my Dad) that he is smiling. Everyone always gives him a hard time that he doesn’t smile that much, but that behind him is the OUTHOUSE and he just thought that it was “so cool” and needed his picture with it. #facepalm

We spent a good chunk of the day at Mount Vernon, so to wrap up we visited the Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), walked across the river from Arlington into Georgetown for dinner at Pizzeria Paradiso (I’d never been — SO GOOD!) and then went back to my neighborhood to watch the NCAA Final Four at a sports bar.

On Sunday, the fourth and final day, we started out with breakfast at the famous Old Ebbitt Grill and then peeked into the Trump International Hotel (it is really pretty inside and out).

Next, we spent a good chunk of the day at my favorite museum, the Newseum. It is one of the few non-Smithsonian museums here and one of the few that you have to pay for. I actually love it so much I became a member, which gets me in free, discounts and invites to special events. I’ve been there a few times for multiple hours and still have never made it all the way through. It is a bit spendy in a city with so many free options, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

Our last stop of the day was to Arlington National Cemetery. I’ve now visited here at least once during every season (which isn’t hard, I live 2-3 miles away), and I can attest that they are all pretty, but I think spring might be my favorite. We made sure to catch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also saw the end of the day flag lowering.

We wrapped up with a great dinner at Circa and then home early because they had an early flight home the next morning and I had to return back to a busy work week.

Thanks for visiting me Mom and Dad! I loved our one-on-one time and getting to share my current home with you.

I love you.

Mandy.

Life Notes

Day in the Life – February 14, 2018

With social media it is really easy to get caught up in people’s “life highlight reels” and whether its subconscious or not, we make comparisons. I think there are a lot of great things about social media  (hello, its a part of my job), but that pitfall is not one of them. When it comes to bloggers, I usually follow new ones I’ve found for a little while, but if I don’t relate to them or just get too much of the highlight reel, instead of everyday real life, then I tend to let them drop off my list of those I follow.

“Day in the Life” posts from other bloggers are always some of the most simple posts they do, but they are always interesting to me. It’s fun to get a peek into how someone else, who has a different job, location and life circumstances does their everyday life. I finally decided to do one myself because also liked the idea that it captures my life right in the moment and season of life that I’m in. Someday I might look back and think, wow, how different things were then.

In order for it to be somewhat spontaneous, at the beginning of February I decided that I wanted to do a day that was mid-month and then I asked one of my friends, without giving her the context, to pick a number from a range of dates. I laughed that she ended up selecting Valentine’s Day, but I decided to stick to it, so here we go!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

That’s my sweet baby cousin Sawyer June by the way 🙂

My alarm went off at 5:20 am. In all honesty, this was a bit early for me. Most mornings I usually wake up between 6 and 6:30, but this particular morning I had signed up for a 7 am Pure Barre class and I had to account for a 30 minute walk. The barre studio is two blocks from my office, which is just about a mile from my apartment. I walk most days because I don’t have a permanent parking spot at the office, so days that I drive mean that someone that is a regular driver is away from the office that day, or when its super cold or bad weather I can use the visitors spot from time to time.

Anyway, when I first wake up, I always quickly check my work email on my phone to see if any emails from our overseas offices came in overnight and breeze through a few news headlines. After I pried myself out of bed, the rest of my early morning consisted of packing my outfit for the day, makeup bag and lunch in my backpack. (I switch between a backpack and a large purse, based on my mode of getting to work and what I need that day.)

I always need something small to eat before I workout, especially if it is in the morning so I grabbed a cereal bar and also downed a small can of cold brew coffee mixed with a little almond milk to take my vitamins. The cold brew is my favorite go-to if I don’t have time to brew hot coffee for my to to-go cup, or days like today, where it made less sense to bring it and then have it sit while I was in class.

I left my apartment about 6:20 or so and arrived at 6:42, which was great because that meant when the class before me got out at 6:50, I was first into the studio and got to snag my favorite spot. Pure Barre is something new I started right before Christmas and I am really loving it so far!

Class lasted 50 minutes. So at 7:50 I was out the door and immediately walked right around the corner to Peet’s Coffee. Like I said before, most days I make coffee at home, so I try to stick to making Peet’s a treat maybe 3 to 5 times a month. So I got my usual small dirty chai latte and also grabbed a bowl of apple spice overnight oats.

My office building has a small locker room which is SO convenient. I keep a towel, small body wash, deodorant, dry shampoo and body spray in my locker. It took me about 30 minutes to rinse off, dress and put on my makeup. My hair is naturally curly and doesn’t get very oily, so I only wash my hair every 3 to 4 days, even when I’ve straightened it, like I had done earlier in the week. So with a little dry shampoo and some bobby pins I was good to go.

I walked into my office at 8:39. We are allowed to choose our arrival and leave within some guidelines, which is nice. I typically get to work between 8:30 and 8:45 and leave between 5 and 5:15. Others in the office who have longer commutes and/or kids, typically start and leave earlier.

There wasn’t really much to take unique pictures of throughout my work day. My morning was filled with planning and scheduling out some social media posts and responding to various emails (and eating my overnight oats.) The last few weeks were busy focusing primarily on our board meeting that wrapped up last Saturday, so I also had a few random tasks on my to-do list that I needed to circle around to again.

At lunch, I walked two blocks to the Walgreens to pick up a prescription and then came back to the office and ate a small plate of the leftover spaghetti that I brought with me from home. After lunch, I turned my attention to our website redesign which is set to launch in late spring or early summer. I met with two other staff members to work through the plans for the pages that require their attention and made some really good progress on a few decisions that need to be made. For the rest of the day I worked on website content and planning, snacked on a orange and wrapped up the afternoon with a catch up with my boss on a meeting he went to earlier in the day and what we need from each other for the remainder of the week. I also eventually moved from sitting to standing. I got my adjustable table top desk back in December and absolutely LOVE it!

I left the office at 5:13 and was home by 5:41. I was excited to see that I had a sweet Valentine’s card in my mailbox from my best friend Megan. I needed to be out the door again in about an hour so I relaxed on the couch to unwind and flip through my personal social media and put on an episode of NCIS on Netflix, which is the show that I am currently slowing working through. I like other types of shows, but crime serial shows are my favorite, partially because I can half watch/half do something else and still feel like I enjoyed it.

At 6:40 or so, I got ready to leave again and my friend Lance called to catch up, which was great timing because I had a 30 minute walk ahead of me again and it was a great way to fill that time.

At 7:20 I met up with my friend Carley at the Clarendon Grille, which is also really close to my office. Carley just moved here after the new year, and works for an organization that essentially does the same thing as mine does, just for other grain commodities. I am friends with one of her colleagues who connected us. Anyway, Carley is in an intramural league for cornhole (how awesome is that?!), so I tagged along for the evening to hangout, which included a dinner of a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a Yuengling. We wrapped up a little after 9 so I justified getting an Uber for a quick ride home.

Once at home, I made some decaf lemon tea, watched the rest of the NCIS episode that I had started earlier and did some work on this blog post. I also put on a face mask, which I do maybe once or twice a week, especially in the winter, when my dry skin can use all the help it can get! Around 10:30 I called it quits and headed to bed.

Nothing too exciting, but overall it was a good day!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Elizabeth

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Hey friends! As always, I am excited to share my next guest with you and the first for the series in 2018. I met Elizabeth only a little over a year ago in a young adults small group we were both in, but she gained so much my respect in that short amount time. I was bummed that she moved at the end of last summer, but of course happy for her since it was a move that she had been patiently working toward. Plus, the move was to the Pacific Northwest, so can I really blame her?!

Anyway, Elizabeth has one of those personalities that make you feel at ease. She’s both quirky and an old soul, has such a big heart for others and is a great listener. Although we are really close in age, I often almost felt as if she took on the role of a big sister. Below she says, “I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be,” which is a sentiment that I really appreciate and can relate to. I thought her guest post was both comical and insightful, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Plus, if you are fan of The Bachelor franchise, you’ll be happy to know that you aren’t the only one who lists being a fan as one of your hobbies 🙂

-Amanda 

Name: Elizabeth Grimes
Age: 28
Hometown: Southern California
College: Bachelors: University of California San Diego (UCSD) // Masters: California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB)
Degree(s): Bachelors: Political Science – International Relations // Masters: Public Administration – Information Assurance and Security Management
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Job: IT Specialist – Information Security

Background Story:
Right away it is probably best to explain that as an adolescent I never really thought I would live this long, which means that all of my decisions have come out of a place of “Wait, I have to decide where to go to college? … Four years later, I am still here; now I have to do something when I graduate college? … All right well I have a master’s now, and I guess I am here for a while, so let’s adventure!!” And no, I am not terminally ill; I think I just watched Little Women too much growing up and it gave me this weird sense that I was going to have the same demise as the character Beth. Or maybe it just became such a good explanation for why I hated making decisions that I morphed it into an actual memory. We may never know. But here I still am! I do not believe everything happens for a reason (that is a deeper discussion for another time) but I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be. And for me, right now, that is the greater Seattle area working for the Navy in Cybersecurity – a career I never knew existed until five years ago.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
In high school, I was more interested in history and yearbook than I was in science and math, so choosing to major in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations was pretty straightforward. I thought I may want to be a teacher, or after watching the movie The Interpreter, some sort of international diplomat. In the last couple years of high school, I was able to go to Morocco for a couple weeks with a team from my church to teach an English camp for kids, and spent two weeks in New York and DC with Lead America – a leadership forum with an emphasis in diplomacy. Along with being a Christian and having the ideals of impacting the world with love, these opportunities and an interest in service landed me at UCSD to major in Poli Sci IR. I could give the long explanation of all the schools I applied to and how it all whittled down, but ultimately I chose UCSD because it was affordable and lauded a good study abroad program — which I never took advantage of, but hey, it got me to go there. My one piece of advice to a student in their senior year of high school: Choosing a college because of affordability is the BEST reason to choose a college, and I think everyone should do it. I know that I speak from a place of privilege that UCSD was affordable for my family, but if community college or a trade school is someone’s best option, I would recommend doing that. College is 100% what you put into it.

Jumping ahead to what got me to CSUSB to study Cybersecurity for my master’s, well that’s where God really went to work. You couldn’t get me out of undergrad fast enough; I was so done always have an assignment due, a paper to write, or a test to take. I could write a book on how in the world I then ended up in graduate school, but the short run-on sentence version is: I got restless at my post-grad job as an administrative assistant and decided I wanted to work for the government, but that I didn’t know enough and should get my master’s in something, but that I didn’t want to pay for said master’s because I didn’t know exactly how to then get a job in the government. Notice a theme of making a decision on education out of affordability? It is the best. Through crazy kismet, God-driven, serendipitous, coincidental, life happenstance, I got into the Scholarship for Service (SFS) CyberCorps program at CSUSB having no technical background but a simple logic that: If the government needs people in cybersecurity, and I want to do something that the government needs, then I will do cybersecurity!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I will go with organizations for my undergrad and internships for my masters. I was on executive leadership in Sigma Kappa Sorority and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I cannot say enough good things about Greek life. It is the primary reason I stuck it out and finished college; It gave me social and leadership skills that you cannot get anywhere else (what other organization teaches you how to speed date with other women once a year for recruitment?); and I met the most incredible women that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Intervarsity kept me grounded in the faith I grew up in, while expanding my understanding of cultural diversity and making some of my best friends to this day. Together, they kept me incredibly busy and made college an experience instead of a degree. Over the summers, I worked at different non-profits from my hometown in telefundraising and food service, and the summer before my senior year, I served with Children of the Nations for 8 weeks in Uganda. THAT was my version of study abroad, and is also a story for another time (see my blog post titled He Stays the Same on elizgrimes.wordpress.com if you want to know more about it.)

Part of my scholarship program was to do a ten week internship with a government agency in Cybersecurity. I lived in DC for the summer and interned with the Department of Homeland Security in their Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Branch. Interning was the best way to learn what it is to be a public servant within the federal government. If I had known it at the time, I would have made more of an effort to intern during my undergrad, but like I said — life gets you exactly where you need to be.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
Probably best to explain that my job according to the government for my internship and the last two years of my career is an Information Technology Specialist (IT Specialist) in Information Security (InfoSec). But that is just the formal title and what does that even mean? After grad school, I moved to DC and worked as an IT Security Auditor in the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Commerce. I was there for two years, thus completing my scholarship for service commitment to the government. I really enjoyed the work and people I worked with, but the east coast, metropolis, long distance relationship life just isn’t for me. Through the experience I gained in the OIG at Commerce and connections I had from my master’s program, I was able to get a job with the Navy in the Pacific Northwest. This was also a completely God-driven, fell in my lap, couldn’t be more perfect for me adventure. I have been in this job working as an information system security engineer on Naval submarine projects for three months now, and I have never been more challenged or more proud of myself in my worklife.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Remember when I talked about how awesome Greek life is? Well interviewing for a job and working on a team are some of the things that being in Sigma Kappa set me up for success in my career. I loved my sisters, but were some of them as different from me as night and day, and were we all better humans because of it? Yes. And is that what you encounter in your career and post grad life? Yes. I also think that the nature of my scholarship program, in a field that I was completely new to, set me up for a fake it ‘til you make it, problem solving, and work hard attitude that has gained me a lot of respect in the workplace. It can be hard being the youngest one in a group, or in my case sometimes the only female, but coming from CSUSB’s cyber program’s atmosphere that encouraged and challenged me didn’t just set me up for success but truly catapulted me into it. Along with God and life getting me where I need to be, I am also a firm believer in sharing the credit for any of my success with the incredible humans who walked ahead of me, alongside me, and behind me in every element of my life. They are the ones who set me up for success, and I feel like I am just along for the ride!

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I have already talked a bit to the challenge that comes from being in a field where I may be younger or a minority gender, but those were expected and I was sufficiently prepared for them. My first year out of college I remember not being prepared for the “this is it” aspect of life. Prior to graduating, my entire life had been a set of structure and milestones laid out before me: elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Society has fine-tuned this process for us, with pretty minor decision making necessary on our part. (Because like I said, college is what you make of it, not where you make it.) But after I graduated, there was this life in front of me that I had near absolute control of where its phases began and ended. It was daunting and a little depressing at first. We just do this until we die? For some, the natural inclination is that marriage is the next milestone or children or buying a house, but that was too ambiguous and at the time, unattainable for me. I still don’t even want kids and a house only seems cool now because it’s more economical. Additionally, even now that I have found who I want to partner in life with, getting married doesn’t feel like the next milestone I can structure my life by in the way graduating from college did, nor, I would argue, should it. While my scholarship program gave me a structure of two years for a degree and at least two years working for the government after, the year I had between my undergrad and grad school alerted me that “this is it” was coming again soon. It made such a difference to be prepared for it by the time I finished my masters, because then life was about living in the now and not the what’s next. Let me tell you there is nothing more freeing in life than living now; than recognizing that life got you here, so here must be where you are supposed to be, so why not stay awhile and enjoy it for what it is? (As I mentioned before that I must share credit where it is due, I should call attention to the fact that I cannot take full credit for coming to terms with this post-grad challenge. I am so lucky that an incredible man came into my life and continues to love me into this mindset of living in the present.)

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
See previous question; I am just so happy to be here! Although, I do desperately want a dog, so maybe we’ll count that as the next path I am looking to take. And I guess maybe a house to give the dog the most freedom possible 🙂

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Someone at my new job asked me what my hobbies were, and after stressfully scrambling in my brain for “what in the world am I doing with my life?!” I landed on: The Bachelor. Laugh all you want, because I am laughing too. Now what makes a television show a hobby? Well when you watch all the shows in the franchise: Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, (and let’s not forget Winter Games coming soon!), sometimes blog about it, keep up with all the most interesting contestants from the last few years on social media, have group texts and instagram DM chats about it, investigate all the scandals down to every correlating detail you’ve deduced from said social media you follow, THEN I think it becomes a hobby. I think it is one of the most fascinating social experiments ever, and I am so here for it.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Breakfast. Breakfast is essential. I don’t mean a granola bar on the way out the door; granola bars are for mid-morning snack a few hours later. I mean sitting down at a table and eating a bowl of cereal or a couple eggs or a bowl of fruit and yogurt.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I wouldn’t call this a must-have, but I have photos of my loved ones on my desk and it gives me life. It is also a great conversation piece if you update them to keep them current.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
A flight attendant. That is actually what I decided I wanted to be as I was finishing college. You don’t even need a college degree for that, so you can imagine why those last few months of school were difficult. I love traveling, and I am pretty even tempered when people get ridiculous about a situation. But it just so happens that in yet another one of life’s ways of getting me where I need to be — my boyfriend is a pilot. So looks like I have the best of all worlds after all and can stick to my day job.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
My friends! In college your network all live in the same city and have relatively similar frivolous schedules and financial commitments. It is a plus to now have friends all over the world to visit, but man was it convenient when so many of them just lived with you.

*****

Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking the time to be my guest and share your story. We miss you so much here in DC, but hopefully we can catch up when I am in Seattle this summer!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Brian

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I love that living in DC has brought such a wide variety of people into my life. One of those people is Brian, who I met through a young adult’s small group at church. As he elaborates below, Brian has a really unique sense of optimism and an attitude toward life that is really refreshing.  He is an avid traveler/adventurer, a genuinely fun person to be around and maybe its because he’s a fellow writer, but I’ve always noticed and appreciated how intentional he is in his conversations with others. With all that and what I knew of his journey post-college so far, I was really looking forward to reading Brian’s answers to my questions and now I am equally excited to share his story with you.  As his friend, I also really enjoy living vicariously through his Snapchat as he chases Congressmen around the Capitol on the daily.

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Brian Cheung
Age: 24
Hometown: Rockaway, NJ
College: Syracuse University
Degree(s): Broadcast & Digital Journalism, Finance
Current Location: Washington, DC area
Current Job: Financial Journalist

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
When I was a kid, I went to a birthday party at a venue called “Imagination Station.” It was basically a big play place where you could pretend to be in different jobs (farmer, firefighter, chef). One of those booths had a make shift broadcast news set, which I ended up loving. That’s how I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

Syracuse was one of my top schools because of its journalism program. I applied, got a scholarship, and headed up to the winter tundra for four years of journalism school, where I also picked up another degree in finance.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was in a fraternity, hosted some news programs on our on-campus news station, started a community service organization with some friends called Circle K (collegiate version of Kiwanis), was part of the Cru Christian fellowship, lead campus tours, and wrote for the college newspaper.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
As you can see from the answer above it was mostly time management. By senior year I was pretty spent.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Don’t feel bad to ease up on some of your extracurricular obligations if it means spending more time to develop relationships with your professors and your friends. Some of the best people I’ve ever met were people I crossed paths with during college. With the uncertainty of where people move post grad, it’s important to cherish the time you have on campus with those people.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
After I graduated, I moved to Arlington, Va. to start a job as an analyst at the Federal Reserve. One year in, I decided I wanted to go back into journalism and accepted an opportunity to become a reporter covering banking at S&P Global Market Intelligence, an industry news organization.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
The best lessons from college came outside of the lecture halls. Through class projects, campus activities, and other experiences on campus, I had to learn how to problem solve on the fly and work with people to put together an assignment, organize a fundraiser, or broadcast a news segment. Strong communication skills, critical thinking, and leadership qualities are all intangible things that can boost your professional stock in basically any career.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
The mundane but necessary functions of being an adult: feeding yourself, not forgetting to pay your bills and/or rent, and filing taxes.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I put a lot of things on the digital calendar (Outlook, iCal).

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is my unwavering optimism. It takes a lot to break me, and I’d like to think that I can overcome any challenge I face.

My weakness is probably taking on so many challenges that I end up breaking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I like to remind myself that not only is there a purpose for doing all of these things – there’s a reason for why I’m the one doing them.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I don’t think much about work-life so much as I think about the fitness of mind-body-soul. Work and school keep the mind sharp, exercise keeps the body fit and church keeps the soul filled.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud that I’ve managed to juggle full-time work and part-time school (pursuing an M.S. in Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University) without forgetting to feed myself.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
During the weekdays, life is basically the following: sleep, work, study, exercise. They don’t always need to follow that order but I try to touch all four of those activities in a given day.

On the weekends, I really enjoy being outside: basketball, running, hiking. As someone who gets cabin fever very easily, I love to get out of the apartment and explore new places, which is easy to do in the sprawling D.C. metro area. My favorite thing to do: pick a new neighborhood I haven’t been to, hide in a local coffee shop or restaurant and study.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Stay tuned!

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
A few days a week I’ll go to the gym or run before I head to work. For me that’s a great way to get your mind and body in full working mode by 9am.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I jokingly describe myself as a “social coffee drinker” because I never really drank coffee before I started working. But as a journalist I’m always meeting with people over coffee, so I’ve been drinking coffee a lot as of late (particularly the Dunkin Donuts coffee in the Longworth House Office Building).

…but normally I drink green tea. Another must-have vice: a snack for 10am (can rarely make it between breakfast and lunch without getting hungry).

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
No limitations aside, I would be a travel journalist with a television show. My favorite things are travel and food, so naturally I would want to do exactly what Anthony Bourdain does.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the Syracuse basketball games at the Carrier Dome where I often lost my voice. I miss the late night munchies along Marshall Street and I really miss singing along to Americana jams at the college bar, Chucks. But most of all, I miss the people I used to do all those things with.

*****

Brian, thank you for taking the time out of your busy career and student double life to be a guest on this series!

Cheers!

Family, Washington D.C.

My Favorite Traveling Duo Visit D.C.

Today I am backtracking to a couple of weeks ago to when my grandparents made the trek out to visit me here in  Washington DC! If you know me, or have been reading along here long enough, then these two should be far from strangers. They dropped everything, (seriously they switched their flight to cut a vacation short) to fly to Kansas to help me move here about 2.5 years ago, when I decided to uproot my life in a manner of weeks. I call them my favorite traveling duo because they are either always on a trip somewhere or planning out their next one (more like multiple at a time.)

Earlier this year they met up with me Thailand for a vacation after I finished up with a work trip there, and it is hands down one of my favorite memories and experiences to date. If you are thinking that traveling with grandparents is boring or slow, trust me, that couldn’t be further from the truth with these two. They have SO MUCH ENERGY and a natural curiosity for adventure. Without a doubt, I was always the most worn out person at the end of everyday.

Other than the move, this was my Grammy’s first visit to DC and my Grampy’s second (he came in the early 2000’s for work). My pictures from their visit are sort of random… I only carried around my nice camera to Mount Vernon (because I was hoping to catch the fall colors but it was still a bit early) and because I’ve taken and posted lots of pictures of the DC area before, I more just focused on my time and experience with them. However, I laugh now because looking at the pictures that I do have, it looks like I took on the role of the parent. Every so often I’d say, “here, let me take your guys’ picture,” so most of what I have is just the two of them.

They flew in late on a Thursday afternoon and I met up with them at the hotel after I got off of work. They were able to get a hotel just two blocks from the White House, which is pretty centrally located to everything, so I ended up staying with them throughout the trip. We had a quick dinner and then we went on a night walk to the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial.

On Friday, we had a Capitol tour scheduled at 2pm, so we started out the day at the popular Old Ebbitt Grill and then walked along to the Mall to the U.S. Botanical Gardens, which sits just below the West Lawn of the Capitol. I knew from when I brought my mom here that my grandparents would also need ample to walk through. (Fun fact: My family’s flower shop, which my Grammy started, is celebrating 30 years this year!) Afterward we stopped for a quick break at a nearby pub to kill some time before our appointment. I scheduled our tour through Congressman Walden’s office, which is my home district in Oregon. Our tour was probably one of the better ones that I have been on at the Capitol (please don’t ask me how many times I’ve done one) and I know that was one of the highlights of their trip. At the end, we were also able to catch up with Walden’s Chief of Staff, who is from our hometown and actually graduated high school with my mom.  After wandering about the Capitol a bit more, we quickly went over to the Library of Congress nearby to check it out for the last 30 minutes it was open. The Library is actually one of the few places in DC that I have never been too yet… and now I am kicking myself for taking so long! For dinner I took them to my FAVORITE restaurant in DC, Cafe Berlin. Afterward we walked back down to the West Lawn of the Capitol to see it at night and then I insisted that we take an Uber back to the hotel because my feet were DONE.


At the Library of Congress.

On Saturday, we got up a bit earlier to go get my car in Arlington and head out to Mount Vernon. You should all know that this is my FAVORITE tourist place to visit in the area and I never get tired of taking people there. We did the typical house tour and then I also signed us up for the extra “Gardens and Groves” tour. If you ever visit Mount Vernon I would really recommend adding on this tour. It was only an extra $6 (approx.) per person, and SO worth it. It was a little over an hour and a half, but it really gave us a different in depth perspective of the history, past just the gardening. We spent a large part of our day here, before returning back to DC. Once back in the District we visited Eastern Market and Capitol Hill Books (I was so excited to take my Grammy here!) and enjoyed some gelato while we waited for the K-State football game to start at our designated bar nearby. The game was a bit of a heartbreaker and left us exhausted by going into double overtime, but regardless, I always love when I get the chance to watch a game with my Grampy. (And kudos to Grammy for hanging in there past midnight with us!)

At Mount Vernon.

On Sunday, we slept in a bit and woke up to an expected day of rain, so we headed over to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History for a few hours. The rain started to lift so we took the chance to walk to the rest of the memorials, including the Vietnam War, Lincoln, Korean War, Roosevelt, MLK and Jefferson.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Vietnam War Memorial, because we took the time to look up a few names of their classmates and a relative of my great uncle Joe (their brother-in-law). I’ve been past the wall a few times, but this was the first time I had names to lookup and find, which made it a bit more real to me.

If you’ve been to DC then you know the walk I just laid out for you is a bit of a trek so once again I insisted that we Uber to our Italian dinner in Chinatown.

At the Lincoln Memorial.
In the President’s exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

Our final full day was Monday and also the day I forgot to take any pictures. It was still a bit overcast and raining, but we headed across the river to visit Arlington National Cemetery for most of the day. I have been to the cemetery many times, but it never ceases to amaze me just how big it is. Afterward we headed back into DC and over to the National Gallery of Art, which was my Grammy’s last request to fit in on this trip. We rounded out the day with a great dinner at Founding Farmers, where we were joined by a certain guy named Sam… which up to that point I’m pretty sure my family really thought I might be making him up 🙂

On Tuesday, I had to head back to work, but their flight wasn’t until the late afternoon, so they spent the morning at the Holocaust Museum and then visited me at work for a quick lunch before heading home.

I am so happy that I finally got to share my home with them, and now that they’ve been here once, we already have much of the itinerary for next time all planned out after they realized just how much there is to see and do. I certainly don’t take for granted that we have such a great relationship and the chance to experience so many things together… even if my Grampy does drive me near crazy with all of his constant questions about every single building and random fact that I couldn’t possible know 🙂

Thank you so much for visiting!