10 Things I’ve Learned: Cynthia
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I didn’t have to go far to track down today’s contributor for our 10 Things I’ve Learned series. This cool chick (along with her Spanish husband and Frenchie dog) actually lives just down the hall from me. Actually, she lives in my old loft!
Meet my neighbor, Cynthia.
Cynthia and I actually first met a little over a year ago at a Neighbor Nights progressive dinner in my loft building. She and her husband, Joan, lived in the neighborhood a few blocks away and were invited by some friends to join. And by the end of the night, they had fallen so in love with our building and group of friends that they decided to nab my apartment which was going up for rent the next week. And I’m so glad they did. Because Cynthia has turned into one of my favorite neighbors ever. And more importantly, one of my good friends. Why?
Well first off, this girl is absolutely hilarious, usually in the most understated takes-a-few-seconds-to-sink-in-and-then-you-get-it-and-laugh-until-the-tears-come-down sort of way. Which typically makes her the life of a party, and also makes her a terrific friend for someone like me who tends to take life a little too seriously. ;) But while she can have you rolling with laughter one moment, she can also “go there with you” in deep conversations in the next, offering that wonderful mix of honesty and encouragement and vulnerability and positivity that are so priceless in a friendship. I see this play out in her marriage with her husband as well, which many of our friends will note is one of the coolest and most inspiring relationships we know. The mutual respect, admiration, ease, and endless laughter that these two share makes them a delight to be around. Not to mention that they know how to cook some killer paella together. ;)
Cynthia is also the person I look to to when it comes to decisions with work/life balance. (My mantra is WWCD — “What would Cynthia do?) As she explains below, living for 6+ years in Spain pretty dramatically changed her perspective on what it means to live a balanced life. And even though she landed a job at a prestigious company when she moved back to Kansas City (that has a wide reputation for workaholism), Cynthia has refused to cave into the pressure and let work define her. Instead, she works very hard at work…and then comes home in time for dinner. And then she fills her evenings and time off with all sorts of good friends, great trips, delicious food, lots of time with her pup, and all of the other things that make life meaningful. And we all love her for it.
Anyway, I obviously won the double lottery getting to have Cynthia as a friend and my down-the-hall neighbor. So I’m excited to introduce you to her today, and have her share 10 things she has learned in life. Here she is…
1. Take care of yourself
Living in Spain taught me many things, but probably most important was learning how to value a truly good life and take care of yourself. Part of that was learning how not take work too seriously. It’s not that I (or the Spaniards) don’t work hard, it just means that I work differently. When I feel like I’m stressed or exhausted, I don’t fight it, I just take a break. It’s amazing what taking a break even just for a few minutes can do to re-energize you and help you do your best. You only have one life, so nurture it and take care of it.
2. Holding hands helps heaps
When my husband and I were still dating, we got into argument and one of us stormed off. It wasn’t a good feeling for the one left standing on the sidewalk. Ever since, we made a pact that we would, one, never walk away from each other. Needing space is one thing but that needs to be communicated before the door closes. And second, when we are discussing things that may be upsetting, we grab each others hands. It reminds us of our love and that this fight isn’t going to break us. It keeps us grounded, releases endorphins and usually helps us end our debate much quicker.
3. Brunch with friends can cure a troublesome week
I see my friends all week (mainly because many are also my neighbors) but Saturday and Sundays are special days when we often make time to take in a little brunch. I’ve learned that I’m the type of person who thrives on being social – a bit of a surprising realization for this introvert. After meeting with good friends, having great food and big laughs, I feel that no matter what comes my way, I can conquer it because I have these amazing people in my corner and that gives me the fuel to take on the week once again. That, and a good eggs benedict.
4. Spending time abroad IS meant for everyone
If people say that “it’s not for them”, that tends to mean they haven’t tried it yet. When I moved to Spain, I didn’t know if I would like Europe. I was just a baby at 20 who had never been out of the U.S, had hardly any money and was still in my ‘shy phase’, I didn’t speak the language and the only person in the whole country I knew was my (now husband) boyfriend who I hadn’t seen in person for more than 2 week stretches at a time. BUT, taking the risk to be there helped me come out of my shell, learn two new languages, meet lifelong friends from all over the world and find the love of my life. So much more than I would have imagined! I understand not everyone can live abroad for an extended period of time, but even a vacation can give you a slice of European life and a fresh perspective that may surprise you.
5. Make playlists
I listen to music all the time. And thanks to Spotify, I now have a playlist for every mood I’m in, and for every mood I might want or need to be in. Some of those playlists are ones I have created, but many are those I find (for free!) on Spotify or Pandora. Their names say it all. For example, during the day at work, I have my “Like A Boss” playlist. When I get back to my loft at the end of the day, it’s “Happy To Be Home”. When I’m cooking, it’s usually “The Perfect Candlelit Evening”. On a bad day, “Life Sucks” (if I want to wallow) or “The Happy Playlist” (to turn that frown upside down!). Music makes my heart happy and I am all about that. So find (or make) some good playlists and let them be the soundtrack to your life.
6. It’s ok to get mad at your friends
I used to (and still do at times) walk on eggshells around my friends if I was upset with them or afraid they would be upset with me. I wouldn’t say anything to them if they did things that hurt me, and I would end up getting even angrier that they didn’t acknowledge how I was feeling. But in the end, I realized that I must not be very confident about our friendship if I believe one argument will ruin it. So now, if something comes up that I feel is important to talk through, I will bring it up. And usually it’s a relief and my friends have been more than kind. And often they may even poke fun at me for not having wanted to say something!
7. Puppy cuddles are the best
I had a cat growing up and never a dog. That changed a year and a half ago when my husband got I my French bulldog, Walter. He has changed both of our lives for the better. He is the happiest, cutest, sweetest little guy who has made our neighborhood (and Instagram) fall in love with him. He always gives me cuddles and senses when I’m ill or have had a bad day. Even if you don’t own a dog, find a friend who does and ask them if you can borrow him for a cuddle!
8. Debit cards keep me debt free
There are no credit cards regularly used in our house. Just the one my husband uses to keep our credit in a good spot. We use it to pay for our gas and then pay it off right away. Only paying for what we can helps our budget and keeps it in a good place. It isn’t fun when we want to make a large purchase and we need to actually save all those dolla’ dolla’ bills to make it happen, but in the end it keeps us from buying more of what we need and less of what we don’t.
9. A simple home makes for a simpler life
Our home is a one bedroom apartment downtown. It is lovely and it reminds me of Kate Winslet’s cottage in the movie, The Holiday. With wooden beamed ceilings, brick walls and polished concrete floors, it is a cozy space. Because of this, and our preferred aesthetic, we keep our place simple. We don’t collect many knick-knacks or have things cluttering up our space, which in turn doesn’t clutter up our minds. What we do buy is meaningful and intentional, and everything has its place. Which means less time cleaning and organizing…and more time living! (Bonus: moving is a breeze!)
10. Find your favorite thing…
…and prioritize time for it. I learned that my absolute favorite thing to do is go to my local coffee shop with a good book (or two) in hand, order a warm latte and read. The smell of the beans roasting, the chatter of customers, the cozy feeling I have wrapped in my sweater cannot be beat. Luckily this is something my husband also enjoys, so when one of us suggests it the other is always on board, partly because we both know how much the other enjoys it. So whatever your favorite thing may be, find it and make time for it and soak up every second of it.