Sunday, July 13, 2014

My 30 Under 30 List

My closest friends, family and colleagues know that I was really not looking forward to my 30th birthday.  I have made a habit of celebrating big almost every year until now.  The reason for my downtrodden mood is that my "life plan" had me so much further ahead than I am now.  There are many reasons why I'm not where I wanted to be at 30, the housing bubble and subsequent recession having a large part in it, but also my pursuit of other priorities in lieu of focusing on my career, and such.  I have many things to be thankful for and do not want to seem unappreciative; I just wasn't ready to be done with my twenties.  I aspired to be one of those great prodigies listed in the 30 Under 30 lists of 20-somethings doing amazing, world-changing things.  On the other hand, I am told that many people enjoyed their 30's more than their 20's, which is a little reassuring.  Since I can't change the past, I wanted to put my best foot forward as I head into this decade, so I've decided to make my own 30 Under 30 list, but this is a list of the 30 amazing things I accomplished, participated in or experienced before turning 30.  My hope is that this list can inspire, in me and in others, a hope for what can (still) be accomplished! 

30.  I followed my dream of moving back to Arizona
I never expected my family to follow, although I'm thrilled to have them living so close now. When I was in junior high, I decided that I would move back to Arizona as soon as I could.  I was accepted at both UA and ASU, and picked ASU for a number of reasons (including eh hem, my UA alumni parents recommending that the program was better at ASU).  Although it was scary and sad to leave all of my friends and family behind, half a country away, it was a big step in my independence and I started a new and wonderful life here.  I love Arizona, and although I talk about moving elsewhere all the time, I always intend it to be a temporary situation until I move back to Arizona again.  This is home, and I'm glad I made the leap to settle out here. 

29.  I have made an incredibly ambitious Life List, and have knocked off a number of those items every year since
As a planner by nature, I am always thinking of what else I could do to be awesome!  So a 150-item Life List seems like a must to me, and I have enjoyed knocking those things off from time to time.  Sometimes they are planned, like signing up for surf lessons, and some of them just happen to me (although I certainly always try to put myself in the best spot possible to make things happen), like when I rode the cable cars in San Fran, forgetting they were on my list.  As long as I continue knocking things off my list, I feel like my life will never be boring or routine.  

 28.  I have my name up on walls in public places 
There's a very strong ego in me that likes to see my name immortalized.  I love supporting projects on Kickstarter, there are some fantastic ideas out there and great people behind them!  One of my favorite things to do is to back Kickstarter projects for breweries, especially when the reward involves putting my name up on the brewery wall or somewhere in the tasting room.  If you're thirsty in Tucson, I highly recommend Sentinel Peak Brewing Company, not just because my name is up on the wall there, but because the food and beer are unbelievably good!  One of my favorites in Arizona already, and they're just getting started.  Up in more northern Arizona, there's a little brewery serving beer in Camp Verde at an awesome foodie spot called The Horn.  The Camp Verde Brewing Company is right next to The Horn, and I peaked in through the window to find my name on the wall there, too.  Other breweries are opening up around the US all the time, and a select few will have my name on them as well, and I think that's swell. 

27.  I have seen some awesome Broadway musicals, including Wicked actually
on Broadway
Rent, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Chicago, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Lion King, Fiddler on the Roof, Shrek the Musical, Porgy and Bess are all shows I've had the honor and privilege of seeing live on Broadway tours.  Most of them I watched at Gammage, with a few in Chicago and elsewhere.  Wicked is the only musical I've seen actually in New York on Broadway, and I've seen it there twice as luck would have it.  There's something very special about seeing one of these musicals on Broadway, and I can't wait to go back and see some more!

26.  I have earned multiple professional certifications, including a Six Sigma Black Belt, and an MBA
As someone who was not big on homework or studying or school in general when I was younger, I certainly have changed my tune since graduating with my IE degree.  I earned my Six Sigma Green Belt while interning before my senior year of college, and after a year of working professionally, I got fidgety and wanted more.  So I immediately dived into both the APICS CPIM and a Six Sigma Black Belt program.  One of the most "executive"-like activities of my career thus far was when I was flown out to California for a final Black Belt presentation in front of dozens of Presidents and VPs.  The CEO of the host company, my supplier at the time, was even in my class and I had helped him as an informal tutor throughout the Black Belt training.  My VP recognized my accomplishment by promptly sending me to Texas to fix some warehouse operations, which I did before leaving the company less than a year later.  My Dad and I studied for the APICS CSCP together, which was interesting to say the least, and we both passed the exam and earned that certification at the same time.  I had my Black Belt recognized at Honeywell, which is a major accomplishment in and of itself because of the rigorous requirements of Honeywell Black Belts. 

25.  I composed and arranged music to be performed in a musical
With a theater major as a roommate, it was probably inevitable that I would be pulled into a musical audition in college, especially after she learned that I had been in musicals in high school and junior high.  What I didn't expect was the possibility of writing and arranging the music for said musical.  But shortly after practices started, our director asked if anyone knew a music composition major or other student who would be willing to tackle such a project.  I didn't know any music composition majors, but I had taken a music theory class my senior year of high school, and I was pretty good at it.  I attribute my math skills to that.  I raised my hand timidly (yes, there was a time I wasn't so cocky and bold as I am today), and said so.  My director, looking at mostly theater major and minors and then measuring up the industrial engineering major in the group, certainly had reservations of my musical writing ability, but gave me a shot anyways.  That's all I've ever needed, I find, is a shot.  In writing, in painting, in martial arts, and in dance.  Give me a shot and a reason to succeed, and I can do it.  I came back within a day or two with a full piano and vocal arrangement with three part harmony on the song he gave me to try out, and he was impressed, if not a bit overwhelmed at the complexity of vocal harmonies.  I toned down the harmony at his request, and continued working on the full soundtrack for the musical.  It was a bit of an unconventional theater group, as we didn't have parts assigned to us yet, so I had no idea who would be singing the parts even as I was writing them.  Once the music was complete, I ended up getting the part with the coolest solo in my opinion - an eerie scene where the music goes from minor to major and back again.  I don't think I've met anyone who has written music and performed it in a musical in front of an audience, and certainly nobody with an engineering degree. 

24.  I have hiked "The Wave"... twice!

And I would do it again next chance I get!  "The Wave" is one of the most stunning best kept secrets in the area.  It's right on the border of Utah
and Arizona, and it's restricted to a very difficult permitting process in order to preserve its beauty as best as possible.  It is one of the most photographed areas of Arizona, and yet, few people are in the know about it.  I have had the honor and privilege of hiking there twice, and its beauty never ceases to amaze me! 

23.  I put $100 down on red in Las Vegas, and won! 
A hundred green may not be a fortune, but I'm not a big gambler.  It would have been a little depressing if I had lost, but I hit it at the right time and it was just a neat little bet that turned into a fun little story. 

22.  I inherited the bar my Grandpa built

I'm a pretty modern style girl, and I have very little patience for antique shopping and hand-me-down clothes.  But my late Grandfather was a skilled hobbyist carpenter, and made some beautiful pieces.  I am so glad I had the audacity and insight to ask for the bar, because that piece, now situated happily in my home, is a fantastic memorial to him and my Grandma, who always celebrated life with friends, love and good times.  It was a big part of my childhood, when I would pull myself up on a bar stool and say, "Shirley Temple, please!"  And it is a reminder of their lives and an inspiration to always celebrate and enjoy even the littlest things. 

21.  I have sold commissioned paintings
I mostly paint for myself, but I have made a number of paintings for my family members and friends, and it thrills me to think of my paintings hanging in the homes of the people I love.  I'll reiterate that I don't think I'm an overly creative or talented painter, I'm a hack.  But I can hack some pretty cool stuff, I think, and it confirms it for me when others want it.  One of my sisters' friends liked the painting I did for my sister, so she asked me to make a similar but different one for her, and paid me for my trouble.  That, to me, is a secondary measure of success! 

20.  I *did* Spring Break in Cancun
Before I graduated college, I realized I hadn't yet played the part of the drunkass college kid on spring break in Mexico.  So I would, naturally, not be satisfied with my college career without this opportunity.  Senior year I made it happen.  A couple friends and I booked a trip that lived up to its expectations.  We had very little plans, we were total amateurs, really, when it came to partying for Spring Break.  But luckily, we met up with a threesome from Kentucky who were much better at this, and we piggy backed on many of their excursions and adventures.  It was such a fantastic time, that when we were supposed to be at the airport to go home, we were sitting on the beach relaxing.  Quite a mess we got ourselves into, and such a perfectly typical Spring Break story that everybody just laughed at our stupidity. 

19.  I have tutored and taught classes effectively
I started teaching for APICS as a way to get over my fear of public speaking.  But so much more than that, I always aspired to some day be a teacher of some sort, not for kids, but for adults.  Since I started teaching, I have taught a number of supply chain classes, including my own curriculum for an Excel course geared towards supply chain professionals.  Nothing makes a teacher happier than to hear that her students, who have taken Excel classes before and got little to nothing out of them, finally got it.  While I may also not make a career out of teaching any time soon, I feel empowered to speak in public and to teach, and I have passion for sharing my insights and expertise in all sorts of ways. 

18.  I have made money with my writing
I never expected writing to make me rich, but I have always enjoyed writing.  So to be employed as a freelance writer, and actually make decent money doing it, was a big deal to me for a little while. Now I am mostly blogging and writing articles for various venues on a volunteer basis, but I know I could always do more freelance writing if I ever wanted to go back to it.  I really enjoyed seeing what was popular and what fell on deaf ears, what got reactions (good and bad) and what got the attention of large corporations.  Being able to write is a powerful skill, and I wish everyone would take it seriously in school and in life. 

17.  I have skiied some tough slopes in Arizona
It's been a while since I've gone skiing, and I definitely moved to Arizona because I don't like the cold, but it is pretty awesome that a four hour road trip takes us to some pretty wild ski slopes.  I'm not the best skiier, either, I usually complete a big hill by throwing myself onto the ground and toppling to a stop.  But the thrill of skiing is something that not everyone has or gets to experience in their lifetimes, and I am glad I have had a number of experiences on the slopes. 

16.  I partied hard at Mardi Gras
Not only did I return from Mardi Gras with a black eye and a stitched up eyebrow, I had the stories to back it up!  The very last night I was there, most of my girlfriends were ready to call it a night, but one girl and I wanted to stay out.  The only problem was, we were out of money and the dance club we wanted to go to had a cover charge.  We figured that if we went back to the hotel now (which was in walking distance), we probably wouldn't come back out.  So I told her, very matter-of-factly, okay, we'll find two guys to pay our cover and buy us drinks, and we'll dance with them for the rest of the night and then ditch them.  She trusted me, and not a minute later, a guy approached me admiring one of the white bead necklaces I had on.  I told him he could trade it with me if he could find a Jameson necklace for me.  He found a girl with a Jameson necklace and persuaded her to give it to him, and then came back to me to make the trade.  I may have made him work a little more for it, but you know how it goes.  After talking with him for a few minutes, he told us that he was going to get his buddy over here to meet us, and they would take us somewhere.  The two guys returned and triumphantly announced that they were going to get some more money at the ATM, and then they would take us to the dance club - the same one we had wanted to go to.  We hadn't even told them we wanted to go there, nor did we mention we were out of money.  Just like that, they whisked us away, got us into the club, bought us drinks, and we danced with them until we were just too tired to stand.  Then we hugged them good bye and headed back to the hotel.  When we were out of sight, my friend grabbed my hand and told me in amazement, "It was just like you said!  We'll find two guys, they'll get us in and buy us drinks, we'll dance with them and then we'll ditch them!  How did you do that?"  I was really amazed too, it was quite lucky really, but I had no problem taking the credit.  Then, still holding hands, we skipped back to the hotel joyously!

15.  I (barely) conquered Flat Iron
Only the most advanced hikers in the area have tackled and successfully completed this monstrously difficult hike, and I am neither advanced nor overly athletic.  Needless to say, it was the most physically demanding thing I think I've ever done.  But I never officially gave up, although I wanted to a number of times along the way.  The worst part was, unlike most hikes which are harder on me going up because of my asthma, this hike is severely more difficult coming down and I felt like it nearly killed me after I had already been to the top!  Every step was a huge vertical distance, so it took great leg strength and solid knees and ankles to get down.  My asthma wasn't bothering me on the way down, but I was shaky and weak, and nervous about slipping and falling the rest of the way down.  I do not intend to tackle this hike again anytime soon, but I know what it takes and I will be better prepared for it if I ever decide to head up there again.  The plus side: the view was very rewarding, and I wear that memory as a badge of honor and perseverance.  It's definitely bragging rights among hikers here. 

14.  I have designed something and brought it to life via 3D printer
Programming and writing are both nice, but there is nothing like the experience of seeing something from your mind's imagination become an object you can hold, touch and use!  Even though I am just starting my adventure in 3D printing, already I have made some pretty neat things, and started to understand both the limitations and the awesome power of this new technology that is promising to transform business, space travel, health care, and the culinary arts as we know them.

13.  I painted a bad-ass mural
In fact, I painted a couple pretty cool murals, but the one I'm most proud of is the vibrantly colored circuit design in my project room.  Every wall is a different color, and the pattern changes colors as it moves to the different walls.  It is a huge-scale, large graphic design that just makes me happy.  I was never overly gifted in creating physical art, so I learned how to hack the talent instead.  Guests to my house think I'm a bit of an odd ball in my design style, but I think most people appreciate the artist value and apparent talent. 

12.  I became a "serious" swing dancer 

Its strange how some things evolve throughout your life, even if you don't recognize it until you look back.  Artistic movement seems to have been a part of my life since I was very little and starting in gymnastics (actually I think I had some toddler dance classes before that even).  While I was discouraged to pursue gymnastics due to my height, I found other outlets in show choir and school and church musicals.  In high school, I took gymnastics back up briefly, and then pursued jazz and ballet classes.  In college, I took a swing dance class and that seemed to hit the spot.  But I soon found myself without a dedicated partner, and no friends interested in dancing, and the passion faded.  I got back into it though in my late 20's, and that is where I met my boyfriend, and we have been dancing ever since.  I would say the last two years have been the most dramatic growth for me as a dancer, and I consider myself a real swing dancer now.  Having recently joined and performed with a dance troupe, I feel like my position has been solidified.

11.  I survived a pick pocket alone in the middle of Shanghai
In a world where an American woman could disappear without a trace, I was having a great time until I found myself without friends and colleagues nearby, without money, without an ID, without my hotel key, without a phone, and without a credit card (my phone and ID weren't stolen, I didn't take them out with me that night, but the rest was stolen).  It really killed the mood of an otherwise fantastic evening mingling with the locals while traveling through China with my MBA class.  I quickly used what asset I did still have in tact, my flirtatious personality.  I found a well off local (actually I discovered I had been pick pocketed when I was hanging out with him, so I started out by accusing him), and eventually persuaded him to give me a ride back to my hotel (he had a driver), threatening him the entire time that I knew kung fu and I would kill him if he tried to take me anywhere else but my hotel, and then I used his phone to call my credit card company in America and cancel my card. All in all, it may not have been the smartest move, but it worked out and I came away with a great story to tell.  I ultimately wasn't, going for the pun here, Shanghai'd.

10.  I have programmed some amazing macros and pieces of software
I never wanted to be a programmer, absolutely never.  But, much like how artistic movement has always found a place in my life, programming has cropped up again and again.  It's not a passion that drives me to program; quite the opposite, I despise it sometimes and I rarely want others to know I'm any good at all.  It's the sheer power of it; the possibilities programming unlocks are nearly endless.  And as the gap between the virtual and physical closes with CNC, CAD and 3D printing technologies, I think programming will become all the more important.  Programming hit me early, before I really understood what I was doing.  Since this article is about turning 30, I feel comfortable revealing my age a bit here: the first computer my Dad brought into our home was a Windows 3.1 machine with DOS.  I didn't do much creative work in Windows, but I had some games that ran in DOS that broke.  So at the age of maybe 4 or 5 at the most, I finagled my way into the code of these DOS programs and somehow intuitively identified the bugs.  I poured through probably thousands of lines of code, fixing what I saw was the bug (I have no recollection of how I figured it out, I only remember implementing the fix), and actually got the game to work again.  Once I accomplished that, I figured there was no reason I couldn't just write my own game, so I started on a dog-chases-cat game which never got completed because, well, I was five and had no idea what I was really doing.  But it had the starting essence of a program, i.e., it ran and did some stuff.  I found myself programming again when I was in high school, taking math classes with a programmable calculator.  I got bored and started writing programs for it (some legit and some for cheating purposes, but in the process of programming something to cheat, I actually learned the dang material and didn't end up needing it).  In my freshman year of college, I took two java classes which were required for my major, and also programmed in Basic X for our robot class.  I was the only person in the freshman robot class to create a "learning" robot which had an intelligent decision matrix instead of the general repetitive one.  I would later become a whiz and tutor for programming simulation of stochastic systems in Fortran 77.  My internship at Honeywell is where my programming really took off for the first time, when I challenged myself to create a stand-alone application in Visual Basic to help solve a problem in quality.  Since then, all of my jobs have put me in a position where programming in VBA to make my job easier just makes sense, and I've become known as the Macro Queen.  But again, I'm not a programmer.  I wish I had paid better attention and tried harder in my java classes, and I hope everyone who reads this sees the value of learning programming for themselves.  It's a talent that sets anyone ahead of their peers. 

9.  I created a sanctuary in my bathroom
Working with a fairly tight space due to my house being an older house, I managed to create a bathing sanctuary that few five-star hotels could match.  In so many ways, this shows the perfect duality of my being spoiled and me working hard to get what I want.  With the help of friends, I removed the old tub and all the hideous 70's tile surrounding it, installed a deep tub with water jets, routed the plumbing to the side of the tub to equally distribute the hot water (I always hated it when the water was hot by my feet and cold by my back), and installed a waterfall faucet.  When I decided that the water got too cold in the winter, I installed a heater on the jets.  And when I decided the water then got too hot in the summer, my friend and I rigged a thermostat to turn the heater off at a certain temperature, and turn it back on when it got cooler again.  Princess and Engineer all in one!

 8.  I got to travel to Alaska with my entire immediate family
As my sisters and I entered adulthood, we all became very different people.  So it is unlikely that we will all ever agree on another trip like we did for the Alaskan cruise and roadtrip.  It was a magnificent time, seeing whales, singing karaoke, playing trivia, seeing our Grandma's childhood island, driving around Alaska and seeing wildlife from mooses to bears and bald eagles!  That was probably the trip of a lifetime as far as my family goes.  It had been in planning for many years, and when it finally came to fruition, it lived up to its high expectations and so much more!

7.  I got one of the first 500 Chevrolet Volts
I had been watching the Chevy Volt since early in its inception, and was part of the forum which has now become my go-to resource for all things Volt and EV.  So when GM finally announced which dealers it was going to release the first Volts too, I got to work contacting my closest dealers in California and got myself a number 3 spot on the waiting list!  When I picked my beautiful red Volt up in January 2011, I fell in love with it immediately; it was everything Chevy promised it would be and so much more!  My Volt was the first to be registered in the state of Arizona, and has been put through its paces with the summer heat of Phoenix and my constant road trips and excessive driving. 

6.  I studied kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in China with the warrior monks  
I make it sound way more intense than perhaps it deserves, but really, how many people can say the phrase above?  I worked really hard in my kenpo class to be able to test for my purple belt in China, and I succeeded.  The test was intense and had some great moments (like when I knocked my male opponent into the red wall of the temple, so he looked like he was bloody even though he really wasn't, and when I got foot prints all over my opponent's black gii while being evaluated by the 10th degree black belt leader).  Afterwards, even though I was completely drained, physically and emotionally, I allowed myself to be interviewed by a Chinese newscaster via translator, posed in lots of pictures with Chinese tourists (and especially with their babies, they loved that), and was awarded a very special gold Buddha pin by the Abbot of the temple himself - a really big deal! 

5.  I studied abroad in Japan
Looking back, it felt like I was there for a year or more, but it was only about 6 weeks.  But every day felt like a month of learning and new experiences, and I made some incredible memories I will never forget.  If anyone ever has the glimpse of an opportunity to study abroad, I say take it!  That summer made a lasting impression on me that working a summer job or taking classes at home would have paled in comparison to. 

4.  I transformed from a spoiled, finicky eater to an adventurous foodie
I credit my travels to Japan and China for really breaking me of my inability to swallow unfamiliar foods.  My poor Mother coped with 18 years of me requiring separate meals or simple foods like pizza, burgers, and chicken nuggets.  For several years after I had gone out on my own, I astounded her with the foods I had seemingly magically learned to enjoy: potatoes, rice, vegetables.  I still don't like fish or egg, although my director at work makes a quiche that's too good not to have piece. 

3.  I bought my own house
After only a few years suffering through apartment living during college, and greatly as a result of seeing HGTV at my parents' house while visiting, I yearned for a fixer-upper of my own that I could tear down and rebuild and make amazing.  So about two months after graduating college, I had found a house (and inspected it on my 22nd birthday) in Mesa, Arizona, and made the leap into home ownership.  It has definitely been an adventure learning electrical and plumbing, and getting my own tools and a massive tool chest to store and organize it all in.  Early on, every project required a new tool to be purchased.  I felt victorious at the first project for which I had every tool needed to do the job right. 

2.  I earned an Industrial Engineering degree (and in four years)
Perhaps one of the most astonishing feats of my life was the four exhausting and incredible years I spent studying IE at Arizona State University.  I will never forget an advisor telling me how I couldn't possibly take 17 credit hours in one semester, and how I should give up hope on graduating in four years, citing that "nobody gets an engineering degree in four years".  Well, it would certainly be hard without taking enough credit hours per semester, I agreed, but I did both!  I took between 16 and 21 credit hours per semester, plus some summer school and a summer internship, and graduated in four years with an Industrial Engineering degree.  I learned then that the best motivation for me is being told I can't do something!

1.  I started my own company
I knew it wasn't a million dollar idea, but I set out a few years back to start my own company, and I did!  I thought I had reasonable expectations going into it, but it was even harder than I anticipated. Still, it was a fantastic experience, I learned some great business lessons, and I made lifelong friends in the process.  I have considered and pursued additional business ventures to varying degrees, and I do hope to start and run another company again in the near future, but having done it once (and before I was 30) is really quite amazing!

I will make a note here that I had a hard time numbering the "top 10" of this list, because those are the experiences that I've drawn from most in my life, and they are all valuable in different ways.  I thought I might be challenged to come up with 30 experiences and accomplishments that I'm proud of, but it turned out to be pretty darn easy, and that in and of itself makes me feel a lot better.  So, the next time you or someone you know is down about aging, I would definitely recommend this exercise as a way to feel good about getting old!  

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