I might be ready for this particular fad to bite the dust.
I might be ready for this particular fad to bite the dust.
We closed on our Florida home on August 11, 2017 – just 3 days before the kids were set to start at their new schools. The flurry of madness that preceded that day has, as these things do, settled into a barely remembered blur. And while I do still usually use my navigation system to get around, while I do still have the odd unpacked box in our house, and while there are still very much (and probably always will be) 2 places that I casually refer to as “home” – it didn’t escape my notice that this past weekend marked the six month anniversary of our becoming Disney locals. And that there was a first dose of perspective that came with this little milestone.
None of these things have come as surprises, honestly. But there’s a certain depth of understanding that comes with really living it. And I know so, so many of us daydream about taking these very steps. So, without further ado, the handful and a half of things that I can offer after half a year of life just behind the castle.
1. This is still real life.
Again, worth noting, this wasn’t a surprise. But living it drives it home that much more. As the crow flies, our home is about 1.2 miles from Cinderella Castle. There are fireworks at my bedroom window every night. I wake up to the sound of the train whistle and TTC ferry horn and lie in bed with the lower notes of the Electrical Water Pageant streaming in through my usually open windows. Our local park isn’t a playground anymore – it’s Magic Kingdom. And it’s not rare that I take my kids to Epcot for an hour after school for nothing more than to watch the trains in Germany.
But it’s still real life. My kids still get sick. I still have to walk my dog. Most of my time is spent working and cleaning and folding laundry. Arguments and little tantrums still happen and groceries are purchased and budgets are made and life (and death) just otherwise continue as before. I am finishing this very post while simultaneously making dinner and helping my kids to mass produce valentines for school tomorrow. We are not on vacation. We are living our own reality – but we are living it in the place that is “home” for us as it always has been. The once dreamed of “lunch in Epcot” is a real thing. The train whistle still stirs my heart every morning and I am fully immersed in the world that I have always loved. My heart doesn’t have to ache for this place anymore. It is mine and we live our very real, mostly very normal, life with the honor of having it as our backdrop. I am not “living a dream”. I am living real life in the place that is right for us.
2. Parks and Fireworks.
Further to my above thoughts…I don’t go to the parks every day. Usually it’s once or twice a week – sometimes more, sometimes less, and often only for an hour or two. My days are more often spent working or running errands. But the parks are there. Even as I write this at my kitchen table, I’m aware of the train whistle blowing outside and grateful for its closeness. Even if today’s schedule doesn’t permit a ride on the Peoplemover – and it probably won’t – it could…and so could tomorrow’s. The “see ya real soon” note overhead as you exit Magic Kingdom used to make my heart ache on that last day of a trip. Now I simply know it’s true.
Similarly, I don’t run to the window every time the fireworks start. I watch them often. I take the 3 minute walk to the lake by the house when friends are visiting to watch them and their reflections on the water. When time permits, I pull my car over for a minute to take them in when they’re overhead as I’m driving home. But more nights than not their soft booms are just a comfort. A sort of clock chiming the known hour. A background din that’s become like the white noise of traffic when I lived in New York, or of frogs and crickets when we lived in Maryland. Fireworks and ferry horns and water pageants are the background noise of my day. I don’t necessarily run to them anymore. But they are there and I am happier for it.
3. It’s hot out but whatever.
As I type this we’re midway through February and high temps each day have been firmly in the upper 80s. Evenings have been breezy and beautiful. Days like this in February are the up side to half a year of extreme heat and humidity – not just the summer months but pigtailing into late spring and early autumn. I love heat and hate hate hate to be cold, so this works for me. Even my dog, a massive black Great Dane, has been known to lounge blissfully on our lanai in the August heat. We are a summer-loving family. But, while the season of heat and humidity are much longer here, the hottest days here are no worse or more humid than the ones in the DC area that we left. When you vacation here in August, you are running around outside all day in the sauna that is central Florida. When you live here, you’re more likely to be out for an hour or two on occasion and otherwise enjoying your AC like you would be anywhere else. So in short, for us this factor works and isn’t that big of a deal. We are happily trading ice and snow for February days by the pool. But if you hate the sun or something…you know….perhaps consider other locales.
4. Internet Friends and Friends in Real Life and the Madness that is Disney Social Media.
If you’re at all engaged in Disney-related social media, you know that the network is massive and at times almost overwhelming. Whether you interact on Facebook or Instagram or via blog or vlog or podcast, etc. etc., the Disney community is massive and oftentimes wonderful. Seeing how hundreds of online acquaintances have panned out in real life has been interesting. For the most part I’ve been incredibly impressed with the power of the community down here – even if it does need to be approached with as much common sense as anything else. If nothing else I’ve had to learn to draw boundaries for my own personal wellbeing, as I’m pretty introverted and just need time to myself to recharge for my own mental health. Not necessarily a point that will apply to everyone – but living in a place that is this social, where events are this constant, where the weather has you out and about constantly, and where friends and family that aren’t local are visiting frequently, it’s been an interesting thing to learn to handle day-to-day for an introvert like me in a way that doesn’t drain me empty.
5. Creating your own happiness each day isn’t easy.
Bear with me here because this gets a little deep. And it’s certainly not Disney or Florida life-specific. In fact it’s something that’s been with me since very soon after I walked away from corporate law well over a year ago.
Being tangibly responsible for your own happiness can be overwhelming – or at least something very new to get used to. It’s something that’s true for each of us no matter what our situation is – but having been effectively stuck in Big Law for well over a decade, unfulfilled by it but feeling that I didn’t have another viable choice that would be responsible to the people I loved, what was lacking in each day, and overall, was to some extent out of my hands. I did everything that I could to make the best of it and have talked about that ad nauseam, but all in all I justified it by knowing that I was providing for the people that depended on me.
When you decide to rewrite your life from scratch, those excuses go away. Your happiness and fulfillment – your feeling about the day when your head hits the pillow each night – are on you in a way that cannot be ignored. If I am not proactive in moving forward into something better, I am aware of it in a way that I can no longer deny. That is incredibly empowering. But it is also a bit intimidating. When your happiness and fulfillment depend on nothing but you, the excuses fall away.
And that brings me to my last sort of realization for the moment….
6. Life doesn’t have to be harder than it has to be.
Again – this isn’t Disney or Florida specific. And it definitely isn’t going to apply to everyone. But one of the big things that I’ve slowly learned to accept over the last year and change is that life doesn’t have to be a constant, self-imposed challenge to the extent that that challenge isn’t fulfilling you or moving you forward into the life that you want. This might all sound a little hokey – but as an extremely Type A person who lived most of her life up until fairly recently equating the “next step” with whatever was the next thing in line to conquer, it’s been an education to learn to be more deliberate and self aware in my choices. Growing up I chose the hardest classes and past times, chose an Ivy League college in New York, studied Japanese, went to Harvard Law, got a job at arguably the best corporate firm on Wall Street, did the biggest deals, tackled the hardest eating regimens. And on and on. I assure you that this isn’t a list of brags. It’s a list of the path that I wanted to conquer – and “conquering” has never been what’s hard for me.
Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty in there that I truly did love. At 18 years old, New York’s energy meshed beautifully with who I was. I adore Japanese culture. Harvard was an extraordinary experience. But so much of my larger choices were based more on what was objectively challenging than what was right for me. They say if you can’t make it in New York you can’t make it anywhere. And so I wanted to be in New York in my 20s – and make it. They say something very different about Florida. But I love it here. And I’ve been learning, slowly, that that’s alright. I’ve spent enough time proving myself to everyone else. I don’t need to be the most impressive person in your Facebook feed. Like I said above, my happiness (or, more appropriately, my fulfillment) is on me, and that’s where my focus is these days. Sometimes (and more) that’s much harder than meeting society’s predefined version of success.
So there it is in a nutshell. My perspective after the last 6 months as a Florida and Disney local. This is a little deeper and less about the fun of living here than might be expected – but it’s the honesty of what came to mind as I started to look back. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar for many others, because making a move like this usually comes with a list of reasons that aren’t as simple as loving Mickey Mouse.
But honestly. I really love Mickey Mouse too….. <3
The following is nothing more than a repost of my off-the-cuff thoughts leading into 2018 elsewhere on social media – for no other reason than that they are a part of the over story that I am gathering here….
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted and overwhelmed by the idea of putting together a recap/New Year’s message this New Year’s Eve. I’m used to tongue and cheek telling years not to let the door hit them in the ass on the way out. That wasn’t me being negative so much as just having honest reactions to a chain of truly difficult times. To say that 2017 was different would be a vast overstatement and a disservice to the last 365 days, myself, and everyone else on this wild ride with us.
2017 was the year of diving into life head first. Whether it was selling our beautiful home in Maryland, packing up, and relocating to the land of Disney locals. Or the very start of my little Etsy shop. Or letting myself just write again with the birth of the new blog. Or the growth of a wonderful community. Or registering for Dopey. Or, or, or….. It was the year of learning as we go and not knowing until we tried. It was the year of not fearlessness – but of facing fear head on and walking forward anyway. It was a year of growth and change and gratitude – all in the light of the acute knowledge of how short life is.
I’m not big on resolutions. I tackle goals every day and tomorrow won’t be any different. I have no weight I feel the need to lose in the new year. No languages I feel the need to learn. I’m good with how much I exercise and how well (or not) I eat. If 2017 was the year of not being afraid to go in dirty and learn as I went, 2018 will be the year of settling in. Of finessing these big changes. And, hell, who am I kidding, of picking a list of new things to jump into boldly and blindly.
New Year’s is one of those rare holidays that we don’t have to preface with “if you celebrate”. So celebrate – all of you. Be safe and stay warm and good luck opening the door to this new year and all of its possibilities. Looking through the 1000s of pictures I have from this last year, if anything was wildly apparent it was just how surrounded we are by wonderful people who love us.
Love each of you back and more and am so grateful to share this planet with you. Live big and live good.
“Mommy why don’t you sing Rockabye Baby to me at night anymore?”
“Honey, that’s actually not a song that I ever really sang to you….”
“Yes you did. Will you sing it to me one last time tonight?”
And like that I’m in tears. Over the end of a ritual that started at the same moment that it ended.
When I was in law, I had reoccurring nightmares about climbing. Well…perhaps “nightmare” is too strong a word. But the gist of my almost-nightly subconscious wandering was that I was, in some way, shape, or form, climbing upward on something that was shaky. Either a wobbly ladder or poorly connected platforms or a broken escalator…. Always upward, and always on unsteady ground. Taylor Swift’s proverbial tilted stage.
My mind is clearly terrible at subtlety in its metaphors. The ground was slipping out from under me in my steady march up the ladder of success.
But for all of its wobbling uncertainty, upward was – and is – delightfully measurable. What is above. What is below. Who is above. Who is below. ~Height~ is so very quantifiable. Whether you are higher than you were last year. Whether you are higher than anyone or everyone else.
But forward. What is forward? What is backward or stagnant or forward when the process is a cycle and there is no finish line? We are told that baby steps in the right direction without knowing the ultimate destination are the way to approach these things – and really the way to approach life in general. And I accept and believe that with all of my heart. But particularly after more momentous and tangibly “right” changes or events – moves, job changes, completed races, and on and on – when the steps are big and clear and the progress is unmistakable – it’s easy to lose sight of what little steps and decisions are right and to what the monotony of the typical day contributes. What place does a day of cleaning and laundry and sick kids and packing lunches have in a life that is moving in the right direction? How do we keep from falling into a rut when the big moments aren’t happening and we are so consumed by the typical day-to-day chores that the bigger picture feels 1000 miles away?
To what extent does moving forward sometimes require nothing but for us to learn to be still?
I’ll never forget reading Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase years ago and the “a-ha moment” that I had when she described how the nuns’ strictly regimented outer life was meant to free the mind for larger, contemplative pursuits. That the simplification of our outward lives allows for grander internal endeavors. My head goes there when the monotony of daily regimens begins to take over. Let the repetitive tasks happen. Let your mind go.
Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. That’s always seemed a little pompous to me, as some of the happiest people I know don’t seem to spend a ton of time waxing philosophical. But, to the extent that waxing philosophical is my lot in life (and let’s face it, it is), perhaps losing myself in the laundry isn’t the worst thing in the world.
I no longer have the OED at my fingertips, but a quick search defined “forward” as:
And on and on….
Here I think it’s less about that conclusion or finish line and more about the never ending process of progress that precedes it. For a goal junkie, that loss of tangible “finishing” is perhaps the hardest part of leaving society’s definition of success and attempting to rewrite it yourself. And those times that follow the big leaps, when the days settle back into quiet and normal, can be the hardest. Especially when you can start to doubt your little steps because the bigger goals are such black boxes.
But perhaps learning to be still is, for many of us, an enormous part of moving forward.
Perhaps when we are feeling most lost it’s important to trust that, for all of its definitions, much like the Supreme Court and obscenity – forward is just something that we know when we see it. And, in truth, much like running, the joy and fulfillment is so much less in the finish line and so much more in the process.
Preface: The response to my last post, wherein I start to share the story of my exit from law and move to Florida, has been extraordinary. The number of people who have read it, shared it, and reached out has filled my heart and, in its own way, bolstered my own move forward. If you have read it and it touched you please, PLEASE don’t hesitate to share it and to reach out. If you *have* reached out and I haven’t properly responded yet, please know that it’s because you were one of the messages that I wanted to give full time and attention and life hasn’t permitted that just yet. I have read every response, private message, and email, and every one has touched me.
So, all of that said, I have some processing to do before I revisit the heavier stuff and don’t want that to immobilize me in the meantime.
So let’s get very, very light and review some brilliantly Facebook advertised hair color.
Before I dig into this, I’ll acknowledge that I respect a smartly marketed product. I love my Squatty Potty and the rainbow pooping unicorn that talked me into trying it. So when Madison Reed got my attention with their clever time lapse videos, I knew I’d be giving it a whirl.
To be clear, short of the occasional highlights, I color my own hair – and I haven’t even been doing that much for long. My wedding hair stylist joked that I probably had the last head of virgin hair in Maryland’s tri-state area. Short of some experiments with black and strawberry blonde in my freshman year of college when I’d cut my hair boy-short and was messing around, my color has generally been au naturale.
Then I quit my corporate gig and had the freedom to put a little very temporary pink in it.
Then I went to D23 and cosplayed as Gamora. I #$%$ing love her. And her red hair.
Then back to brown…..but then I hit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and my 4 year old was dead set on Spider-Man. Which was awesome. So I went as Black Widow. Red again.
My hair was tiiiiired. And I didn’t really want to grab a box of light brownish off the shelf. And Facebook kept running these eye catching ads with time lapse videos and everyday people shaking out their shiny hair. So I hit up Ulta and had a text message convo in the aisle.
I had Lucca (Light Golden Brown) in my hand before I even noticed the text message thing so I was convinced enough..
After the kids went to bed (and before returning to my Stranger Things 2 binge) I broke the box open.
Around this time was when I acknowledged to myself that something was squicking me out. And then I realized that Madison Reed was sounding like Ashley Madison to me. So I acknowledged that and moved on – perhaps with the knowledge that Madison isn’t a great part of a brand name just yet. #toosoon
You’re supposed to divide your hair into sections and then apply the color one section at a time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I applied the barrier cream from the little packet and soldiered on. I should say, though, that it smelled AMAZING and had the loveliest consistency. I might have briefly wondered if it would work as a makeup primer.
After mixing the right chemicals and shaking them up, I started to work my way around my hair.There was no smell at all, which was nice. I managed to get everything well coated, though the formula was thick and I could see someone with a ton of hair needing two kits. In any event, I finished up and used the cleaning wipe to wipe around my hair line after donning the provided shower cap.
I then let it sit for 45ish minutes. This was the extended time for “stubborn greys”, which I don’t really have, but more is more so there you go. There was no smell at all, though over time my scalp did start to itch the tiniest bit under the hair cap.
At the end of the processing time, you’re supposed to throw on the second pair of provided gloves and hop in the shower to rinse completely. Then you wash and condition your hair with packets that were provided with the kit.
Then I got out and dried it.
I will say that in pictures the change is not overly dramatic (and I didn’t want dramatic), but overall the color is very vibrant and smoother – and my hair FEELS freaking AMAZING. I’m curious as to how that lasts, because I’m sure the provided shampoo and conditioner were intense treatments. Still, I just colored my hair like 30 minutes ago and it’s so freakishly soft and shiny and swingy that I can’t stop touching it.
So I’ll update. But in the meantime I really loved this stuff. And I needed to break the intensity for a minute. So I shared my shiny, swingy hair with you.
This is, of course, not endorsed. I just genuinely liked the stuff.
“Just put a date on the calendar. I don’t care if it’s two weeks from now or two years from now. Just put it down. And then spend whatever span of time exists between now and then wrapping your head around this. Because it’s going to be hard.”
It ended up being just about 6 months from that day. It also ended up being hard.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I graduated from Harvard Law in the spring of 2004, bright eyed and ready to throw my type A personality into a world of corporate law where I’d perhaps spend forever or perhaps spend a brief amount of time. I was looking forward to being still in one pursuit and actually didn’t choose one particular very prestigious law firm because they asked me, at the interview, what my plans were for after I’d leave them. (Of course the fact that an associate there cried during his interview of me didn’t help either….) I packed up my things in Cambridge, said lots of tearful farewells, and was moved by my chosen firm into my new apartment in NYC – which I shared with a dear law school friend whom I would almost never see because 99% of my time would be spent in the office.
Then life started to happen.
Truth be told, I loved aspects of what I did. Playing with the English language was always my jam. I dare someone to give me a mathematical formula that I can’t memorialize in contract-speak. The people were brilliant. The deals were bigger than my young self could wrap her head around. I worked so. damned. hard. and I was proud of the work that I was putting out and the respect that I was getting. But it didn’t fulfill me and when you’re billing 400 hour months, you’re screwed if it doesn’t fulfill you. I envied the people that were fulfilled. It would have all been so EASY if I was fulfilled.
But life kept happening.
I met a wonderful man. He had a lucrative trucking company but had regrets about never dedicating himself to academics. And we had the means! If we had anything, we had means. So we committed to each other and he enrolled to finish his degree. We got engaged. We left Wall Street for DC. I took the Virginia bar and started a new practice at a new Big Law firm. The people were still brilliant. I was still proud of the work that I was putting out. But it still didn’t fulfill me. I still envied the people that were fulfilled. I was mentored by a wonderful, powerful, brilliant woman who was killing it in partnership. She seemed to outsource everything else in her life and was okay with it. I wouldn’t have been. Because the work itself wasn’t enough.
I know that the idea of being “fulfilled” is eyeroll inducing. I was raised by a father who told me to be grateful that I had work. And he was right – in a way. And to the degree that he wasn’t it didn’t matter because he was my dad and that was how I was raised. I had gone to Columbia and Harvard. I had a “great job”. My qualms about it must have been wrong. I was lucky and my internal dialogue must have been wrong.
I wasn’t getting any younger and I didn’t want to hold up the rest of my life while I figured out this pink elephant in the room, all consuming detail. We bought a house and had two children that were (and still are) my world.
But then my dad got sick. Shortly after the birth of my second child, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and life as I knew it stopped. The nightmare started.
There were no down times in my father’s fight against cancer. There were no quiet moments of togetherness. Acute leukemia in a sixty-something man is not a gentle disease. Over the course of 10 months I mothered my two young children, supported my family financially in corporate law, tried to support my mother emotionally and mentally, and screamed alone in my car while beating the steering wheel. Those 10 months were the sort of time that people on the outside look in on and say they “don’t know how you survived”. Like anyone in that sort of situation, the answer was that survival was the only option. I worked. I cried. I took care of my kids. I tried to be a good wife. I answered calls from my delirious father at 3 a.m. yelling that I’d abandoned him in the hospital and “WHY WASN’T I COMING TO GET HIM???” You just survive. You wake up in the morning and you do whatever you need to do to haul yourself and the people that you love through the day.
I used every tool I knew to keep a clear head. I ran. I meditated. I ate well. I meditated more. I ran more. And more. I ran until the chaos went away. I had never been a runner. But I ran because it was all that worked.
On February 20, 2014 – incidentally my 36th birthday – I got a call from my mom and my father’s oncologist. They were together in his office on speakerphone. The oncologist didn’t mince words.
“We are no longer prolonging your father’s life. We are prolonging his death.”
I was an only child. I was the decisive one. I had written my father’s advance directive. I had not one shred of doubt.
We did the terminal extubation the next day.
They gave him morphine for hours. When they pulled out the tube the sound was horrible. Something inhuman came out of my vocal chords too. I remember it vaguely. I remember falling. Then I remember standing back up. It was a moment of falling apart I’d allowed myself. Then I stood back up.
We started picking up the pieces. I kept working. We waded through the death-related mass of paperwork.
I kept working. I also kept running.
We started going back to Disney with the kids. My heart sang when I was there and ached when I left. I found out about a half marathon there that was exactly 2 years after the date of my father’s death.
I kept working. But I was training for something symbolic. I billed 400 hour months. I spent my younger son’s 2nd birthday closing a deal in a hotel room while my husband celebrated with them in other parts of the resort. But I was training for something symbolic.
On February 21, 2016 I ran the Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. It was my f- you to the universe. I was still kicking. It was everything that I hoped it would be.
And then it was over and I went home. And I kept working. And I started to crumble inside.
My husband had finished his degree in mechanical engineering. No small feat for a man who’d reentered the academic world in his 40s, surrounded by kids who’d been raised on computers. He’d tried a responsible government job at the patent office. Then sales engineering. He could have made it work but none of it felt like him. He didn’t belong behind a desk. To an extent, trucking *had* been him. Now he had his degree and we knew what he was capable of but we also knew what felt right. The wheels started turning. Pun sort of intended.
Then I came home from that race and I kept working. And I crashed. I’d run the half. I’d said my f- you to the universe. But nothing had changed. I got on the phone with one of my best friends.
“We’re getting me out. Soon. We have to. I can’t take it anymore.”
“No. You’re not. You hate where you are but you’re not going to be able to change it like that.” No matter how much I hated it, it was still a huge part of my identity. It was also how I put food on the table.
What is that Law of Inertia? An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Crisis and my own brute strength desperate determination would become that unbalanced force.
I had the fateful conversation with my friend. Put a date on the calendar and spend the time between now and then coming to terms with it and preparing financially. I wrote August 11th on the calendar. I bought my husband an 80-foot long car hauler. He went on the road. I took care of the kids and kept working. I banked every penny.
On July 28, 2016, I gave notice. I fought for my decision with the partnership for hours. I turned down the idea of a sabbatical because I knew I wouldn’t start to heal without a clean break. They said I would be miserable. I didn’t want to admit to them that I already was.
Ultimately I stretched my remaining time with the firm out for a bit to try to ease the transition. My last day of work was August 22, 2016. I came home and packed and we went to Disney later that week.
The process of detoxing from a life in Big Law is a subject for another day. The months following my exit were, and still are, the sort of soul searching difficult that does not sum up tidily or easily. I had ups and downs. I purged my house. I kept running. I started to allow myself to daydream about what might be next.
Suffice to say that after 13+ years in Big Law and everything else that those years encompassed, and with a dear husband who is now more often than not on the road for work, we found ourselves fully portable from a work perspective, staged and sold our Maryland home, and built a house in Florida immediately north of the Magic Kingdom.
Because when you are forced to wake up to how short life is, following your joy starts to make a lot more sense.
If you’ve ever moved into a new-to-you house or condo or apartment or other space, you have at least an inkling of what this question means. How deep it runs. If you’ve ever moved to a place where you once vacationed (or just downright escaped to), you have probably also experienced the strange paths that this question can take. There is the excitement of living where you know you’re meant to be. In our case, the teary satisfaction of watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the bedroom window.
The joy of waking up to the train whistle. Of closing our eyes to the muffled sound of the Water Pageant rolling across Bay Lake on a cloudy night.
But as incredible as it is to watch the fireworks from your bedroom window at night, the real joy in this process is not the extraordinary details of living 2 miles from the place that I’ve longed for every day of my adult life. It is not the thing that people describe as “living your dream”. It is the much smaller and more subtle reality of living a real life in the right place. Of having lifted the mundane tasks of every day and dropped them into the place that clicks because it is right. It is sleeping in on a Saturday morning and eating a late breakfast with the kids around the kitchen table. Drinking coffee on the lanai as I type this very post. Walking the kids to school in the morning along lakes full of unfamiliar birds and baby alligators. Grocery shopping. Running. Walking my dog. In this wonderful-to-me place that is slowly becoming not the stuff of vacations but of home.
We talk about living our dreams. And that is good talk. That is symbolic stuff to strive for. But sometimes I think we should talk more about living our regular lives in a way that is right for us. Some of these moments are the stuff of dreams. But more of them are just the joy of making yourself a “local” in the place that has always been home.
Japan is my jam. I’ve been intrigued by this fascinating, dichotomous culture since high school and borderline obsessed since college. I studied the language from my freshman year of college through my first year of law school (running from Japanese to civil procedure several mornings a week, trying desperately to switch my head back into English before Elena Kagan started in on us with her uniquely brilliant approach to the Socratic method). I’d taken the language since college and hadn’t been able to envision an academic environment where I wasn’t *also* taking Japanese. It hadn’t crossed my mind that adding Japanese classes three mornings a week across campus to the load of a 1L at Harvard Law might not be a great idea. But I digress…
In college I’d delved into the language head first. Poured over the history of each Kanji. I spent an embarrassing number of my nights watching Neon Genesis Evangelion (“fly me to the moon…”), picked up onigiri and adzuki bean cakes from a spot near campus for too many meals, and watched as my political science major slowly morphed into comparative politics with a focus on the far east. That last snippet got me in with an incredible Japanese government specialist who got my foot in the door of a program that allowed me to spend about 6 months stationed in Bumblef$%# Japan working on my thesis, doing widespread community outreach. and eating copious amounts of the best sushi I’ve had in my life – made by an old woman in a hut by the river at 2 a.m.
So there’s your long winded way of learning that, while my hardcore Japan days have been been behind me for a decade or two, pushed aside by such excitement as merger agreements and laundry, I dig Japan and all things Japanese and would happily sit around a low table with friends and family eating Japanese food and drinking tea and sake for the rest of my days.
As such, I’m always excited to see what Japan has concocted for Epcot’s various festivals. It was one of the first booths that I hit at Food & Wine this year and I’ve been back a few times since.
This is without a doubt one of my biggest winners (and biggest surprises, since I’m not typically a huge fan of pork) of F&W this year. I cannot do this thing justice on paper. The meat is incredibly mild and falls off of the bone and the sauce is perfectly sweet and not overly spicy at all. To date I think I’ve had this more often than any other food item at F&W, perhaps only tied with China’s duck dish. At $8.25 it’s one of the pricier items that you’ll find on the promenade this year, but it’s worth it.
Tragically tiny like most F&W beverages, but so, so good. If sake and sangria had a baby, it would be this drink. Grab yourself one if you’re in the mood to spend more than $7 on a delicious little something to wash down your dumplings.
I’ve followed more strict eating regimens over the years than I could probably count. I’ve always loved good food. But I’ve also always loved my health, and control, and a good challenge – not to mention the more superficial effects of good eating. And control. Did I mention control? I’ve always been active, but as a friend of mine likes to say, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” Truer words….
During the most mentally and physically challenging of my years in both school and Big Law, I learned to manage and control what I could to get through the grueling hours of work, and later of deals and motherhood. I could teach classes in corporate survival (whether or not we accept the sad fact that it is necessary). Working 100+ hour weeks with two small children, you learn to do what you can to take back your health and your mind – and, oftentimes, just to get through it.
In short, keep a clean body and a clear mind. Five minutes of meditation was worth several more hours of productivity. Twenty minutes running got my blood moving enough for several more still.
But food. Food was my real trick. I was pescetarian for years. Then paleo pescetarian. Then I started consecutive rounds of pescetarian Whole30 that did wonderful things for my stamina and mental clarity. And my ability to choose in restaurants, since there *might* be one thing that I could eat. And my ass. 😉
I controlled what I could. Everything that I could.
But as life has begun to reorganize itself, to lighten, to allow for breathing and its own happiness and clarity and energy, I’ve had the luxury of breaking all of the rules and being a good old-fashioned foodie again. Which is my way of segueing from back story to the constant wonderful meals and noshes that I’ll be writing about here….
*The Wave of American Flavors at the Contemporary Resort, Signature Burger
Like this. This was really freaking good. I’ll write more about it later.