A few weeks ago, Brian and I ventured out to the North Fork of Long Island for a day.
A day to chill.
A day to celebrate 30.
A day to actually hang out together in a non-cramped, stress-free, “no To-Do lists allowed,” laptop-less environment.
A day in my very happiest place.
The drive out east Thursday night was long, but when we woke up at the blissfully late hour of 8:00 Friday morning, all was right with the world.
Since it was still technically the off-season, we were the only people at the entire resort. I could hear the ocean from our “condo,” which not only had a kitchen and a deck overlooking the water (and grass where bunnies hopped around), but also had two bathrooms.
It was pure bliss. I was more relaxed than I could remember being in a long time.
Eventually we got out of bed, ate bacon egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, and bopped around Greenport. By the time we rolled back to our hotel, it was mid-afternoon and there were still so many things I wanted to do.
I wanted to go to the wineries!
I wanted to ride my bike! (I hadn’t brought it with me, but still…)
I wanted to lay on the beach!
I wanted to learn to properly skip a rock!
I wanted to go to more wineries!
And my training plan — because this was during the pre-Brooklyn Half era — said I was supposed to run 7 miles.
I didn’t get up and run in the morning because I chose to sleep in, and by this time it was midday and it was hot and I wasn’t motivated.
But the training plan! I was supposed to run!
So of course I started to morph into the girl Brian non-affectionately calls “Stressy Ali,” and I was shot down immediately.
“Ali, if you want to run, run. But if you don’t want to run, don’t run. It’s not that complicated. What do you want to do? Do what’s going to make you happy.”
Ding ding ding. (And also flashes of that scene from The Notebook: “What do you want, Ali? What do you want?!” Classic. Girls named Ali are so high-maintenance.)
So you can forget the whole story I just told you, but just remember this one thing: Do what makes you happy. Do what you want to do, not necessarily what you’re supposed to do or think you should do or a spreadsheet tells you to do.
I don’t know why that was such a lightbulb moment for me. But it was. It was a turning point that pretty quickly snapped me out of “routine mode” and got me into a more conscious way of living.
I did end up going for a short run that day — not my training plan’s 7 miles, but instead a very pleasant run by the water. I took a nap on the beach, went to not one but two wineries, and then went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.
I did what I wanted to do instead of what I thought I “had” to do, and it was a perfect day.
But, of course, this whole mantra goes beyond choosing whether or not to go for a stupid run.
Another thing I did very intentionally that weekend was keep my laptop closed and my social media accounts mostly logged out.
There are a lot of elements in this world we cannot control. We can’t always just say, “F it, I’m going to do what makes me happy! I’m not going to work today! I’m not paying rent! I’m gonna let this cockroach live in my living room and make it a breeding site because vacuuming doesn’t make me happy! Yeah!”
But oftentimes, we can, actually and very simply, just do what we want.
Social media is a prime and relevant example.
We can stop reading things that stress us out or bug us or upset us or have a negative impact on us. It really is that easy.
We can stop reading blogs that make us feel like we’re not running enough miles in the week or marathons in the year.
We can stop subscribing to magazines that make us feel too fat, too skinny, too poor.
We can stop following Instagram accounts that make us feel like our houses are too messy, our closets too small, our clothes are too “last season.”
We can stop registering for longer, harder, more intense races because the internet makes us feel like “Ironmans are the new marathons and marathons are the new half-marathons and half-marathons are the new 5Ks.”
Seriously. We can just stop. Cut that shit out if it doesn’t make you feel awesome.
I have a long history with hate-reading and hate-following (hate is a strong word, but I don’t really have another mainstream one) and getting sucked into the “what I feel like I should be doing” vortex, and I’ve finally completely given it up.
Thank god. Who has time for that?
I try very intently to surround myself with only things and people that bring me joy now, both online and in real life. People who lift me up and make me feel good about myself and my life choices. My new favorite phrase is, “I’m 30, I don’t have time for this shit.” (Courtesy of soon-to-be-30-year-old Anna Kendrick.)
Some days that will mean choosing to click that little X on my internet browser to avoid reading something upsetting or irritating (it’s totally OK if you just clicked the X on me here — I get it). Other days it will mean “liking” every single post I see. Some days it will mean running more than I should, and other days it means skipping my run altogether.
Most recently it meant taking a big step back, gaining some perspective, luxuriating in real indulgent rest days (three of ’em last week alone, ohhhh baby), and giving myself a 10-day running break. All my friends were still running, racing, and crushing many miles while I neglected my beloved HOKAs for a bit.
Before that it meant quitting a job that wasn’t fulfilling to pursue something a little risky and a lot scary. It’s been hard and I’ve redefined the word “hustle” and what it actually means for me, but every day now is fulfilling and challenging and exciting. I haven’t regretted my decision for a single second.
It might mean something as simple as eating a Snickers for lunch or sleeping in or reading a trashy magazine, or it could be something as monumental as quitting your job to pursue your dreams of biking across the country, or breaking away from a bad relationship.
It could mean calling a friend, or it could mean ignoring all incoming calls for a day. Or two. (No voicemails, please. Text.)
All this rambling to say, just do what makes you happy. Create your own joy. Ditch the drama.
Today. Tomorrow. Every day. Namaste.