A Few Thoughts on Big Decisions

We make decisions all day, every day. We make big decisions often too. Sometimes, we have to make big, life-changing decisions – and those are a different beast. Decisions about your health, about switching jobs or careers, about friends and family are what I am talking about. Ones that actually are going to forever change your life. Decisions that if you choose wrong, you may never get a do-over.

I am fortunate that I haven’t had too many of these. A life changing decision done wrong, could have major consequences, you may hurt someone who loves you, you could never get back to what you had. On the other hand, you may choose right and reap the benefits of a new path in life.

I unfortunately had to make one of the hardest personal decisions of my life this week*. I won’t know if I made the right decision for awhile but a decision had to be made. I hope none of you are ever in the position I was in this week.

Over the last few days, I have thought a lot about not only my decision but decisions in general. Although I am not willing to discuss my decision this week because it was my own, I do want to talk about making large decisions.

Here are some of my thoughts on making life-changing decisions

  • You don’t know what you would do, until you are actually there – We do it all the time, I know I do – we project what we would do if we were in someone else’s situation.
    “I don’t have children, but if I did I wouldn’t let them do that.”
    “I know I don’t have her job, but I would totally ask for that promotion.”
    But we are not in that person’s shoes and we don’t have all the information on why they choose a decision. It feels like each time I am faced with a big decision, I seem to do the opposite (or some version of) than what I thought I would do. You just don’t know what you are going to do sometimes, until you are there.
  • You need family – Family is important and if you don’t have a close family you can make a close family with your nearest and dearest friends. ‘Family’ always want what is best for you, family doesn’t care what you look like or if you haven’t showered for days. They bring you food when you didn’t even realize you hadn’t been eating and you can call them and just cry and they will listen. They may project their opinions, it is only because they care but they will support you in whatever your final call is.
  • Saving is so important – When life throws a road block up and a fork in the road, you want to be able to make a decision that is right for you, not the decision that you can afford. If you need to leave your job, that is easier to do when you have a savings to catch you when you fall. If someone gets hurt, or needs something it is much easier to have a net to catch you than to have to make the decision based solely on money.
  • Social Media might not be ready for big decisions – I live and breathe the internet, quite literally, it is what I do for work. I work with businesses on how to use the internet, social media and blogs to market their businesses. I think things like social media and blogging are so interesting and watching how it has changed how we communicate is crazy. I don’t think it is ready for life changing decisions. I think that is related to my first point. Our major decisions will change our lives and I don’t know if you need the input from your friends, people you went to high school with, work friends you met at conferences etc. Someone may have been through something similar but what they did and what you should do may not be the same. You don’t want to put your future in someone else’s hands.
  • The faster your brain goes, the slower times goes – Anyone who has gone through a big breakup** or been near to someone who passed knows this. When you think so fast about all the ‘what ifs’ and what you would do differently, time goes by so slowly. What feels like hours has been twenty minutes. You can also multiply that if you are waiting for calls for news. Waiting for an update or a call can be the worst wait there is. You don’t even know if what you hear will be good news or bad news and each minute feels like an eternity.
  • Writing helps you process your thoughts – As I am writing this sentence, I am still not sure if I am going to post this but it feels good to write it. I was never into journaling, but the times I tried were times I felt down about something. Just the act of getting some emotion out of you and onto a piece of paper (or a computer screen) is empowering.
  • Once you have made that decisions you should own it – You might have to explain it for the rest of your life so once you are there and you have made a decision you better back it.

So those are a few thoughts on making life changing decisions. They are usually never easy and often there isn’t a right or wrong, just what you choose. The worst thing you can do is not make a choice so you need to make one, own it and live on with it. Hope (if I post this) it helps someone, somewhere process something.


* No, I am not pregnant, I really wish everyone would stop asking me that. I think that is very personal and it is shocking how many people feel they have the right to ask if you are pregnant. It is ok to be married and not get pregnant right away. That is a whole other blog post though right?

** Please note I am not going through a big breakup. Adam and I are healthy and happy. I love him very much. I love being married to him and I couldn’t get through any of my big decisions without him.

Happy Boston Marathon Day and How My Race Went in NYC

Happy Patriot’s Day, a special little holiday just for Massachusetts and Maine. The holiday is also most notably, Boston Marathon Day. Some of the best runners in the world drop in to our little section of the planet and run their guts out.

I watched the elite men’s and women’s finishes via the live stream and both were so close. It was emotional watching them push past their bodies and minds, farther than most of us could ever imagine to break personal and world records.

The men’s winner from Kenya finished in 2:03:02, which is technically a world record but the Boston marathon isn’t classified as a ‘flat course’ so it won’t be recognized by the Guinness World Records.

The women’s race was a back and forth battle up to the last second (or two) and the US almost had their first women’s victory since 1985 but Desiree Davila was beat out by two seconds. She did break a record for an American woman on the course though. Also, American runner Kara Goucher came in fifth – she had a baby 7 months ago, ain’t no thing.

Congrats to all who ran, who are still running, who had family and friends in the race or who were there to cheer people on!

More Half Marathon in NYC

Two weeks ago now I ran the MORE/Fitness Half Marathon in NYC and I haven’t gotten to write about it yet. I think with the Boston Marathon still wrapping up, now may be a good time.

Adam and I headed to New York City for my third attempt at this race. I like this race for three big reasons:

  1. It is large – There is something really cool about being part of a huge event. This event reaches capacity earlier and earlier every year. There are 10,000 entrants.
  2. It is all women – I am not usually a huge ‘women only’ event person but there is a unique spirit about this race and I think that it is the thousands of powerful women, cheering each other on while their husbands, boyfriends and family scour the crowds for them.
  3. It is in New York in April – I like New York. We have some great friends in New York. Mostly though, by April, I am pretty ready to get out of Maine. You want it to be Spring so bad and it isn’t. Head a few states south and it is warmer, greener and Spring-ier.

This year’s race

Amanda O'Brien More Fitness Womens Half MarathonThe past two times doing this race I had a posse of women doing it with me. This year I was flying solo but I didn’t feel like backing out just because I had no one to play with, or panic with, or puke on.

The race went well. I beat my time at this race last year by over 20 minutes and I beat my Disney Half Marathon time by 10 minutes. My official time was 2:26:06.

The weather was 40s and sunny, which is much better than the two years prior. The first year we did the race it was a freak 93 degree day and last year it was 40s and 50s and down pouring rain the whole time.

The whole race went fine. We had so much snow this winter that training and doing all my long runs was really tough. I don’t think a long run on a treadmill even compares to a long run outside. So I felt like I didn’t train as much as I wanted but I felt stronger than I have the past few years. I also knew I had picked up a little muscle and gotten a little faster from participating in the Nor’Easter Running Group this winter and spring.

It wasn’t fun but I never thought I would walk or that I couldn’t do it. I did have one really low point for the 9th mile. I don’t run with a watch so I depend on the clocks at the event to keep an eye on how I am doing time-wise. I take the time on the clock as I pass it, subtract the minute that was on the clock when I crossed the start and then divide by however many miles I have done at this point. Yes, a watch may be easier but at least this gives me something to think about.

Adam Half Marathon FinishI must have done some very bad math at mile 9 because my calculations told me I was at the same pace as last year but I knew I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to go any faster for the next 4 miles. So I beat myself up pretty good in my head until about mile 10 when I did the math again and realized I was almost 20 minutes ahead of where I thought I was. From there on in it was not quite as sad.

Adam had a good spectating race, for those of you who were worried after the bagel incident of ’09. New York was great to us. We got to see lots of friends and eat some amazing food and I was proud of how my race turned out.

Next?

From here I plan on doing some local 5Ks, the Beach to Beacon and ending with the Disney Wine Dine Half Marathon in October. After that? Not sure. I still don’t have an itch to do a full marathon. I think I will just work on strength and time and get batter at these halfs. I like doing two a year, I think it has to keep me in check all year round.

Thanks for all your encouragement and support during my training and my race! The best reward so far hasn’t been weight loss, or strength or some weird love of running but it has been seeing how many of my friends and people I know start taking up running because they said I encouraged them to.

What We Did Before Cell Phones

… and what it should teach us about how we use them now.

Zack Morris Cell PhoneI have had a cell phone since 1999 or 2000. As new features are added, I upgrade. I was one of the first people I knew that texted, I had to be one of the first to have a picture phone, then an iPhone (and each iPhone upgrade).

I have my cell phone with me almost all the time. My iPhone is my calendar, my most used camera (and photo album), my most used video camera (and video player), my email, my social networks, my place to track my running distance and my entertainment (Angry Birds much?)… oh AND it is my phone, not that I use it for that often.

I will give myself a break on my phone though… I use it for me. I don’t answer personal calls at work, I don’t answer any calls when I am having dinner with my husband and I usually don’t text or take a call at all when I am in the company of other people. But I am very dependent on my phone.

Cell phones don’t work in Aruba

Last week, Adam and I had the pleasure of going to Aruba to celebrate a dear friend’s wedding. Not only was it a dear friend’s wedding but my closest group of friends were also in attendance. How fun is that?!

Know what didn’t work in Aruba? Our cell phone (unless we wanted to pay a lot for it). How did we do it? How did we possibly survive? Well we did and it made me think a lot about how I use my phone, when I use my phone and who exactly is in control here.

Here is what we did without cell phones:

  • We made plans and stuck to them – We had to plan ahead. We decided who was going to meet where and around when. Once that plan was made, you had to stick to it. If you said that you were meeting a person or a group in the lobby around Noon, you did. You didn’t text them and say ‘actually I got hungry so we just stopped at a restaurant to grab lunch’. You went to the lobby, waited and then possibly you ate lunch after you met up.
  • We had to remember numbers – God forbid something happens and I need to make a phone call to anyone other than Adam. For serious… I don’t think I could tell you my mother’s cell phone number. The phone numbers in my brain are Adam’s, my parents land line, my mother’s work (she has been there for 25 years), my grandparent’s land line (they are now answering phones in heaven but thank goodness my uncle moved in that house so I don’t have to feel like knowing that number is a waste of space in my brain) and my own cell phone number (sometimes I slip and can’t get that right and spit out my NH cell number). That is it, that is all the phone numbers I think I know.

    In Aruba, each hotel room did have a phone in it. So you know what we had to do? Remember people’s numbers! They weren’t in a directory, I couldn’t Google it and they weren’t in my address book. We had to learn them. We did and we got pretty good at it. What is that area of my brain doing now? The part I used until I was 19 or 20 to remember friend’s phone numbers… it is apparently still there. I just must be using it for different things.
  • We left notes – Remember notes? Remember the excitement of passing notes in school, hoping a boy would circle ‘yes’ that he liked you, or a note on your whiteboard on your college dorm, or how about just notes left around the house from roommates or family? One step further – what about letters, cards and notes we receive in the mail. There is something so much more exciting about finding a note than receiving a text or an email.
  • We banded together and pulled through awkward moments – This one is huge at conferences or networking events; you are talking to someone and the conversation gets a wee bit lagged. A semi-uncomfortable pause, a break in the conversation and you both pull out your phones. The conversation picks back up commenting on what someone just tweeted, a video on Facebook or by checking in on Foursquare. What would happen if you just muscled through that little pause? I bet you would have come up with something to say, maybe even gotten to know who you were talking to better.

    There were a few times in Aruba that I would be talking to someone and a story would end, one of us would get distracted and forget what you were going to say or whatever else happens to cause those pauses. For those, we couldn’t distract ourselves with our phones, we had to muscle through. Needless to say, the conversation would sputter back up and I think I had more in depth talks with many of these people that I have known for years this week alone.
  • We told stories not status’ – Yes, sites like Facebook and Twitter or email are a great way to keep in touch, to tell people what you are up to, where you have been, where you are going or to make them laugh. In person though you don’t tell 140 character stories. You tell long stories with grand hand gestures and voices and maybe a little dancing here and there (depending on the story).

    In Aruba no one said ‘Crazy night out last night with the guys. Boy am I tired.’ They said ‘…did you hear about what Simon* did last night? No? Well we were all out at this club and the guys decided it would be a better decision to get bottle service than to just keep buying drinks. Everyone was acting ridiculous…‘ twenty minutes later ‘and that is how we found him sleeping on a roof‘.

Six days after getting to Aruba we touched back down in the US, Philadelphia specifically. While we were preparing to land I told Adam I was excited to turn my phone back on. Then when we were taxing on the ground, I was a little apprehensive on turning my phone back on. It was the end of that silence, that stillness of not checking something or listening for a beep or a vibrate. I did turn it on and I am still going though emails, tweets, texts and Words With Friend’s moves even today.

I have tried to maintain a little bit more control over my phone, we will see how long that lasts. I have my ringer to silent and the vibrate off. When I look at my phone is when I want to, not when it summons me. I don’t know how long that will last, probably until I miss something important.

I do want to remember how that felt though. How we had to be creative, make plans, leave notes and trust our friends to communicate well with them for almost a whole week. It somehow made me feel more in control than perhaps if each person was just a text away.

How about you? Is your phone for you to keep in touch? or do you think it controls too much of you and your relationships?

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.