A Little Musing… Cheers to Embracing Your Weird

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I wave and grin at the teenage boy playing basketball in his driveway. My feet beat an unsteady staccato on the pavement to the African-infused rhythms of Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble. The teen shuffles and nods in my direction, but avoids eye contact. Ever since he caught me run-dancing down the sidewalk last week we switched from an innocuous “we’re just jolly, friendly neighbors” wave to this bashful greeting instead. He is embarrassed for me.

With my first marathon just two weeks away, my runs have been like clockwork, always catching this teen in his driveway in the late afternoon as he shoots hoops. Running through my head as I run is the recent litany of questions from long-time friends soon following me into the next decade of our lives. How does it feel to hit a milestone birthday? Am I okay with turning 30?

It’s my birthday. Three days after Christmas and just before the New Year… a really crappy placement on the calendar, but then, I didn’t choose it. I woke up this morning and greeted 30 with little fanfare but much contemplation. The only thing on the schedule for the day was a run. My birthday gives me the odd convergence of aging with the new year, which I have talked about before. Each year, my personal goals float on the waves of resolutions circulating as the world blows kazoos to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.


my runs

My thoughts again drift to the teenage boy, the thumping of his basketball has long faded. It’s god-awful-terrible to be a teenager. High school was a painful experiment in conformity, humility, and perseverance for me, and I know why this boy is embarrassed on my behalf. Heck, I would have ridiculed the now-me, fearful of anyone confident enough to live their own brand of weird.

Fifteen years, though, changes a lot.

Progression is inevitable.

I double back toward home. Like many people, each year I make mini-goals and resolutions that march me forward into a New Year. Some I share here, others I hold tight, fearful if I tell someone they might hold me accountable. Then the year progresses with its daily dramas, mild successes, and hard-won happiness. A year later, I check back in on December 31st to take stock and see how much I have accomplished. Then I judge myself against that list. I lament over the little failures, and nit-pick any success, assuming anything good that happened was a fluke—never to replicated.

The boy’s driveway is now empty, and I think back to the 15-year-old me, full of insecurities and fears. I am not that person. Though any single year in the last 15 years netted many failures and losses, there were successes within those years I missed at the time. Fifteen years later, I am different. I am changed for the better. Travel did some of this for me, the decision to leave five years ago caused profound shifts in my perspective (and life). But I worked hard throughout too, and looking back now, those little successes I never celebrated have shaped the best parts of what I have now.

In the macro perspective, it’s easier to be kind to myself. And that’s worth thinking about. Worth honoring.

This boy is in his home now, I am a forgotten moment lost to his own daily dramas. But as I turn onto my street, I am thankful for this final lesson before the New Year. He reminded me to step back from the minutia of last year that seems so significant now—minutia often masks progress—and instead look at the fuller picture. Even in the years I felt unmoored, confused, or purposeless, even in those years I made progress.

I share this now because it gave me unexpected happiness to think of the progression a decade brings. I have faith that this year will see progress too.

And to the questions about my perspective on entering my thirties? Bring it!

As always, thank you for the support over the years. Many new readers joined the A Little Adrift community this year—welcome! I look forward to getting to know more of you through the comments, interactions on the Facebook page, and in reader meetups. If there’s ever any way I can help, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Cheers and happiness in 2014, I hope it’s a year filled with your own brand of weird and awesome. :-)


33 Responses to A Little Musing… Cheers to Embracing Your Weird

  1. Nicole March 14, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Oh my gosh, your blogs are amazing. I love it! Very well written, beautiful!

  2. MN Travelog January 21, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    It so good when you share what you feel. And on that when people around really acknowledge it… Belated Happy Birthday sweetheart

  3. Shereen January 14, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    What a personal post. Thanks for sharing. It’s enlightening to be able to look back on the last year, or 10 or 15 and be happy with the accomplishments we’ve had but not dwell and look forward into the future to set goals. Very inspirational!

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 14, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      Thank you Shereen, I hope you have a wonderful and happy 2014 and appreciate your support and reading the site! :)

  4. Stephen S. January 13, 2014 at 2:17 am #

    Wow so personal and touching. Well done Shannon, I enjoy seeing where the next years take you.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 13, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      Thank you Stephen, I hope your year is starting off well, and that it gets better from here :)

  5. Kat January 8, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    Hello Shannon – Happy New Year!!! Your website has been intrumental in helping me plan my RTW trip. I am so glad I found you! I got my self debt free last year (Whoop! – £16000 in 394 days to be precise) with a mind to having no ties left behind in the UK and so am now on the way to raising enough money to coincide with me leaving work for 5 years in October! I am already 30 and taking 2014 by the horns. Watch out for the weird Northern Irish chick who runs over to say hi and hug you when you are out and about..; – )..

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 11, 2014 at 12:32 am #

      Happy New Year to you as well Kat! I am so happy to hear that it has helped you plan your trip — and HUGE congrats on getting out of debt. If we cross paths I am looking forward to a beer and some great conversations. And, if there’s ever anything I can do to help as you get closer to leaving, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email!

      • Kat January 13, 2014 at 6:29 am #

        Wonderful thank you! I am just plotting an itinerary and getting an idea of where I will start so I might drop you an email soon. Thank you for the congrats, it hard but oh so worth it! Who’d have thought buying a new rucksack would be so fun!

  6. joanna_haugen January 7, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    We have two teenagers living with us right now, and it’s both shocking and saddening to see how self conscious they are to be themselves. I love this post. It speaks to me, and I’m sure it will speak to our girls in ten years as well.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 11, 2014 at 12:30 am #

      So saddening. With my niece, I see how each year with her peers, as she gets closer to high school, is heightening those insecurities. Their time with you though is as beneficial as any in their life as they explore who they are in a new place and gain more confidence from life experiences.

  7. travellingforfun January 7, 2014 at 5:23 am #

    Brilliantly written article

  8. Abdul Razzak January 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Great thoughts expressed in this article. I really enjoyed reading it :)

  9. Drew Meyers January 3, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Embracing your weird in 2014. Sign me up.

  10. Jimmy Dau January 3, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Happy dirty thirty Shannon :P Have enjoyed your stories in 2013 and looking forward to following your adventures this year

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 3, 2014 at 1:12 am #

      Ooo, nice, I haven’t heard it called that, but I like it! :)

  11. Charli & Ben January 2, 2014 at 5:36 am #

    I’ve resolved to be kinder to myself this year. Thanks for the reminder to take a step back. Happy Birthday too btw and all the best for your adventures in 2014!

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      It’s hard to remember that we’re our own worst critic. Hope you both have a wonderful 2014 ahead! :)

  12. Maria Galloway January 2, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    Thanks for sharing your awesomeness and weirdness with us! I greatly appreciate all the help you provided us as we set out for our own adventure. Can’t wait to see the next awesome chapters you will share with us!

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      I have so loved following your grand adventure over there and send you guys hugs and more adventures (and awesomeness) in 2014! :)

  13. Rebecca and the World January 2, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    Happy birthday!! (And Merry Christmas, Happy new year and all that…) 30 is great. I just turned 30 last year and was worried about how I’d take it. Turns out, it was business as usual. All the best for 2014 :-)

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 2, 2014 at 12:41 am #

      Happy-happy to you as well! I’m thinking 30s commands a little more respect now too, so I am liking that. Hope you have a fantastic 2014 Rebecca! :)

  14. Michael Hodson January 1, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    Congrats to hitting 30 with such a good life attitude. Well done and enjoy your best decade yet.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 1, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

      Thank you! It’s fun to enter a new stage, and who knew even five years ago that we would have such a great travel community in our lives now. Hope you have a wonderful 2014 Michael!

  15. Amy @WorldschoolAdventures January 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Happy New Year to you Shannon and welcome to your 30’s! Enjoy!

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 1, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

      Thank you Amy! I hope you have a wonderful 2014 as well, with many more worldschooling adventures! :)

  16. Lunaguava January 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    A life without weirdness is an empty one, or at least jejune. Kudos on making progress and not being afraid of looking back. As for the 30 milestone, I found it… actually, I have no idea. I have no recollection of turning 30, but distinctly recall turning 33 – because I was in the Serengeti. The point being, it’s not the age, it’s the extraordinary moments when you feel truly alive and stupidly lucky to be who you are. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading your posts, so thank you. Good luck in 2014! Forward we go, into the great wild wonder…

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 2, 2014 at 12:52 am #

      I agree so fully now, the odd, fun quirks we all have make life more fun. I just may find myself Serengeti soon! I’d love to pin that one to 30. I appreciate the support and hope you have a wonderful 2014 filled with memorable experiences :)

  17. Heather | Ferreting the Fun January 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    This made me smile! I’ve been learning to embrace my weirdness for years now, though it’s easier now that I’m solidly in my 30’s. There is a confidence that comes with age and life experience that is liberating. I shudder to think back on my insecure teenage self, and some years since. But you’re right in that every success, no matter how small, builds up like compound interest in a bank account until we are flush with self-awareness and self-assurance. So here’s to embracing our weird and being our authentic selves! :-D

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 2, 2014 at 1:47 am #

      Liberating is the right word — leaving highschool was the first step and it has been a long and slow journey to gain confidence in embrace weirdness. I’ll cheers to weird and authentic in the New Year and beyond! :)

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