Dear 18 Year Old Me, Things Aren’t Going to Work Out

Last week was my 29th birthday. A few days before it, I wrote this letter to myself. I’d like to get into this habit each year around my birthday. A letter to my 18 year old self.

Dear 18 year old me,  

Things aren’t going to work out for you.

Life is going to be harder than you thought. And by harder, I mean you’ll have to work harder every year to get the things in life you once believed you deserved and would be handed to you.

If you never learn to work hard, things aren’t going to work out for you.

Going after your dreams is a privilege. That you have time to consider what your “dreams” are means you are very, very fortunate.

If you don’t realize this, things aren’t going to work out for you.

You will experience the anxiety of too many choices. You can be anything. Believing this is true is so wonderful that it will paralyze you for several years. For the rest of your life, if you let it.

In your twenties, you’ll travel. You’ll learn so much and feel so alive. You’ll come home alone, empty-handed and very broke and with a very sad-looking LinkedIn account. You’ll wonder if it was worth it.

It was worth it.

Repeat this to yourself. I am one of the lucky ones.

And yes sometimes things are difficult. Even for you, lucky one. Let that be okay too.

If you try and guilt-trip yourself for not being grateful enough, or not doing yoga (honestly, you find it annoying), or not volunteering at every charity event, you’ll lose your everfrackin’ mind.

Try not to lose your everfrackin’ mind. And when you get close, call a friend. Eventually, before it’s too late, go to therapy. This will change your life more than you could ever have guessed.

And yes, little snowflake butterfly, you’ll be unlucky sometimes too.

Like how, on your very last day of living abroad, a man on the metro presses himself up behind you and sticks his hand between your legs and doesn’t let go. You won’t know how to talk about this, and very few people will know how to listen. Your first instinct will be to blame yourself.

Pay attention to this instinct. It will come back to haunt you again and again.

It’s not your fault. It’s actually frightening how ordinary it is, this thing that happened to you. Learning how ordinary it is makes you less innocent. There’s nothing redeeming in this loss of innocence. It just is.

Some things just are.

Some shit just happens. You don’t have to let it make you kinder or more compassionate, though that might happen anyway. You don’t have to “work through it” on anyone else’s timeline.

You’ll watch your friends and family go through some serious stuff: cancer, death, divorce, the loss of a parent, the loss of a child. This will either distance you or bring you closer. There’s no right answer here. Remember that you’re all just trying.

Oh, right, and you’ll be totally, desperately, hopelessly lost in your career. And so will most of your friends. This feeling will get worse every year as you approach your 30’s and you can only hope it will eventually subside. You’ll wonder if some of this is the fault of having spent so many years traveling and wandering.

It’s not.

Try not to blame yourself. Remember?

Traveling and wandering is so a part of who you are that it would have been absurd to have denied it. Who you are is not someone who was ever meant to be a lawyer or a dentist. You aren’t the person who buys a house at 24 and lives in it forever.

There’s nothing you could have done to fit yourself into that mold. You wouldn’t have wanted to.

You may never make a lot of money. But you might. And if you don’t, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You may never write the book you wanted to write. But you’ll keep writing. Even when you think it’s over, even when you think that you’ll never write again, trust me – you’ll keep finding your way back to it.

This is who you are.

You may never have children. But by 29, let’s be honest, it’s starting to seem likely.

But first you’ll have whirlwind romances. They will be both beautiful and sad. You’ll be dumped in a cafe and cry in front of strangers. You’ll dump a man in a park and he’ll cry in front of different strangers. 

You’ll be dumped the day you find out your father has cancer.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents gave away your dog the same day that a boy broke up with you?

It will be kind of like that.

But not really.

You’ll fall for someone who may or may not love you. You’ll make yourself vulnerable to him and be unbelievably embarrassed about it later on. Still, you won’t be able to tell how he felt. Seriously. You’ll maybe go your entire life never knowing how he felt. Is that okay with you? Can you learn to be okay with that?

You will learn to be okay with so many things.

But not yet.

For now you’ll still foolishly believe you’ll be married by 25. You’ll even think you want to be married by 25, a notion that will be laughable in just a few years when you’re actually getting married closer to 30.

So you see, it won’t work out for you, getting married at 25.

Because at 25, you’ll be living in another country. You’d never be able to guess where. Don’t even try.

Dear girl, the man who is going to truly love you isn’t anywhere in this country. You may think he is, you may want him to be, but he’s not. Your future husband will be living in the very state in which you’ll someday make a life together. Can you guess where that is?

You live there now.

On your first date with him, you’ll sit in a restaurant, sip iced tea, and talk about travel. It will be a love for travel and a feeling of always searching for home that first bonds you.

Isn’t that funny?

You’ll tell him you’re sick of travel. That you’re tired of making friends and then leaving them behind.

The truth is your biggest fear is being left behind. But you don’t say this. You’re smart enough, or afraid enough, to know not to say this anymore.

Two years later, the doctor will tell you there’s a very small chance you have cancer. He’ll want you to get an MRI just in case.

The night before your MRI, your future husband will call you over to his computer to look at pictures of engagement rings. He’ll say “I want you to know that whatever happens tomorrow doesn’t matter.” He’s been secretly saving these pictures for months.

Life isn’t what you expected. And it’s all going to be okay.

Sure, your career still feels hopeless, but whatever. You’ll figure it out. You always do.

You try your best to stay in touch with the people you care about. It gets hard over the years. Every year, you realize more and more how important this is. Sometimes you fail. But you hope they know.

Oh, and guess what?

You’re still writing.

Happy birthday.

Love,

Beth

 

 

 

 

 

How Gentle Inter-Vaginal Massage Helped Me Find My Tribe

The other day I was researching gynecologists in Portland when I came across this:

Vaginas. Yup.

Vagina. Yup.

I’m sure this is legit and totally makes sense. Right? Right?!

“The primary technique, gentle inter-vaginal massage…” That was enough.

I sent this picture to my sister, who quickly replied:

Hahahaha pervs.

And I was glad.

Because it meant I was right.

My sister is part of my humor tribe.

How to Find Your Tribe

I’ve found my tribe and then lost them again.

I’ve found my tribe and then left them behind.

I’ve found my tribe and been left behind.

I think a lot about finding my tribe because I’ve often felt outside of any tribe. Now I know that my tribe is a little twisted. Kind people with strange senses of humor. Adventurers. People who quit their jobs to travel. Weirdos with no agenda.

People who laugh at inter-vaginal massage.

I love them.

You find your tribe by being 100% yourself. You don’t fake it. I hesitated to post this because I wondered if “inter-vaginal massage” was something I shouldn’t be laughing about. But it’s something I find funny. So I own that.

You find your tribe by recognizing the tribe you already have. You honor that tribe.

You search for other tribes, if you want them.

You get out in the cold, crazy world and you do what you truly want to do. You don’t have to know where you’re going. Just start.

Soon you’ll be led to where you were always meant to go – whether you already knew what that looked like, or not.

Be so real they can’t not see you. I’ve spent too long being nice. Pretending in order to make everyone like me. But my tribe doesn’t care for pretending. They love me for my quirks, for being real.

They’ll love you too.

Trust me.

What to Do Once You’ve Found Your Tribe

I don’t want to surround myself with people who take inter-vaginal massage too seriously.

Maybe that’s just me.

But once I’ve found those people, I hang on to them.

Once you’ve found your tribe, make time for them. Tend to those relationships. It’s easy to get comfortable and complacent. But a tribe requires work and care. Almost anything good in life requires work and care.

Like vaginas.

Don’t be afraid of work and care.

And yes, it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone. To consider new viewpoints. To hang with people who aren’t in your tribe. I’ve learned a lot from doing this too.

Expand the definition your tribe. Don’t make your tribe a clique. Don’t be an asshole.

Do call your best friend and tell her you love her.

Laugh more.

Let me know how it goes.

Love,

Beth

Why I Ran 5 Miles Today: Part 1

Today, I ran 5 miles. Why did I do this? Am I stupid or a criminal? Why would anyone run for pleasure? “I’m running for pleasure” sounds like something someone would say shortly before I punched them in the face* or gave them a wedgie.**

And yet today I finished work, feeling low, and laced up my running shoes even though it sounded like the crappiest thing in the world to do. Even worse than traffic and clogged sinks.

An ordinary crappy thing. But still crappy.

And yet I made a decision. I decided that going on my run wasn’t as bad as feeling lethargic and unaccomplished.

I’m convinced some of the long-lived sadness I carry around with me is a result of swinging from the branches of anxiety to the hammock of lethargy.

This is often how it goes for me: I’m anxious, rushing around getting everything done for a few months until I inevitably crash. Next, I curl up in bed, rest, and then – oops – I give in to that impulse for too long. I rest until I’ve seen everything (AHHH!) there is to see on the internet (can you imagine?) There’s no balance. Anxiety and lethargy.

I’m seeking balance. Let me just put that out there.

Does anyone have balance? Do you have balance? This is a real question. I’d like to talk to you if you do, mystical guru balanced person who likely runs for pleasure.

Today, 5 miles was a lot for me. I’m not fast. But I do it.

Last October, I ran 13.1 miles. It was my first half marathon. A distance I didn’t think I would ever finish until I did. For the last 3 miles I shuffled along like a pathetic penguin, but I made it. It felt so good and I felt so good about myself. In those moments you think that feeling will last forever.

Not long after, I was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. My doctor said to stop running until I could have surgery. I stopped. I haven’t felt as good since then. In fact, I’ve felt pretty crappy.

But now I’m back at it. I started with 2 miles. Then 3 and now 5. Will I push myself too hard and quit? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that I feel better than I felt before.

Why do I run?

Why did I start and why do I continue?

Some of this I’ll answer later. But for now I’ll say this. It’s the best answer I’ve come up with so far.

Running is one thing in my adult life that makes me feel proud of myself. When everything else is complicated and fuzzy, running is clear. I know what I need to do. I put one foot in front of the other. I breathe. I swing my arms.

I ran 5 miles today. Next week I’ll up my mileage. 6 miles. Then 7. By May, I’ll be running another half marathon.

That I even think I can do it gives me a feeling I’d like to run alongside forever.

 

 

* I’ve never actually punched anyone in the face. Will I? Stay tuned.
**Have definitely done this (to multiple people)

The You Suck Guide to Not Sucking

So you suck. You’re pretty much an asshole at least 49% of the time, which isn’t much but is more than it used to be. You were born perfect, whether or not your parents thought so.

I’ve been crap lately. Sick for the better part of the last month. Not pursuing anything I care about. I’m listening to a lot of Taylor Swift. I put 40% care toward the work I do.

Yesterday, I found what I can only surmise was a pubic hair in our microwave.

I don’t want to talk about it.

This is life. And yet I’m happier than I’ve ever been in so many ways. More stable and sane. J and I got engaged a month ago. We sit and look at each other and laugh at our good fortune.

This has nothing to do with the pubic hair.

And yet I’m ready for a change that has nothing to do with him. Always the change was in going somewhere new. But now I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. (What a thing to say!) Still, for me, being able to sit with that and decide what to do next is very, very scary. I’m 28 and less impulsive. Which, for me, is way scary.

So that’s step 1.

Be Afraid 

I’m not going to tell you to face the fear. Not here anyway. In the Guide to Sucking Less, the rule is only to feel that shit. To not numb it is the hardest part. Stop over thinking, consuming, food, drink. Knock that off. Sit and feel what you’ve been fearing. The rest, I trust you’ll figure out.

Work Hard

– toward something you care about. Ideally. But let’s not pretend that’s always possible in the best meant way. If you’re working at 7-Eleven to afford to feed your children that’s fucking noble. I’ve met people who think differently and I don’t care. They don’t know your story. Don’t stop writing it. It’s not over.

but don’t settle. Meaning strive. If you think you can give the world better than what you’ve been giving it, you can. So do.

Be a Friend. Also, Go to Therapy You Loon 

Making a friend is a simple and beautiful act of humanity. Be a friend to someone. We’ve tragically lost this – I almost said art but what I mean is necessity.

But also, dude, you don’t have to be friends with everyone, or please anyone, or make the world comfortable with your life decisions.

Just choose your friends carefully and then be a friend.

Also, you’ll eventually discover that you could use some therapy. This isn’t embarrassing and demoralizing but just one stop on the train to sucking less. Or maybe not. But consider it, the way you would consider taking up badminton, or knitting. Maybe you won’t ever do it but you know you always could.   

Be Nice to People, and You’re People

Do you freakin’ hear that? You’re an asshole but you’re also sort of okay too. In fact, you could be way worse. Look how far you’ve come, little flower.

Start with not being an asshole to yourself. Move on to not being an asshole to strangers. Like, you know, when you’re driving. The world could use this.

Or do it the other way around. What do I care? Be nice to strangers and in doing so slowly learn how to be nice to yourself.

Also, clean your microwave more often.

You asshole. I love you. xoxo,

Beth

Where the Everloving Hell Have I Been?

Where have I been?

In hiding. In pajamas. Outside your window. On your Facebook, probably.

In the last six months I’ve spent more time on Facebook, YouTube, and following the life of Gordon Ramsay (he’s eating in Dubai! he’s cycling freakin’ everywhere; what an asshole) than on my own creative work.

Do you do this too? These periods where television and the internet are more appealing than actually making shit?

Does it make you depressed, yet you keep doing it? I call it my zombie life.

Sure, I’ve done some stuff. Since I last wrote I went whitewater kayaking, ran the Portland Half Marathon (what an asshole), and was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst.

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There. So 3 interesting things happened in the last 6 months.

But then Doc said I needed an operation and to stop running. There was a small chance of cancer, so I had an MRI and a freaky week waiting for results. The results were: thankgodnocancer.

A week before my operation he said the cyst was shrinking. And now it’s entirely gone. Poof! My expensive disappearing problem.

So no operation and no clue why my pelvis still feels like a tiny lumberjack lives inside it. So that’s lovely.

Also, I got a little pudgy over the holidays from all that non-running I was doing and from overeating chocolate.

I got depressed. Because winter. And because I live in Oregon, where the sun hates you at least half the year and the sky looks like the underbelly of a whale.

And now, here I am. Attempting to pull myself out from under the enormous sky-whale. Is it springtime yet?

Quick. A story about a whale. I promise not to get all Moby Dick on you. It’ll be quick.

So when I was a child, my family went to the beach and we found a whale washed up on shore. It’s guts were hanging out. I remember the smell – so putrid you could hardly stand it. But I was so curious. So fascinated by this creature I’d never seen so close, or maybe not at all in real life. I had a disposable camera (Google it, kids) and I took pictures of the dead whale. Was it cruel, to document its death? I was a kid. I wanted to explore everything, every dark moment, to record and remember it all. But I lost the camera. Now all I have is my memory of it.

This is why I write, blog, document.

If I’m being really honest, in my darker moments, lately I’m afraid I’m losing this part of myself. That curious little girl who wanted to explore, to learn everything about the world.

I hope I’m on the path to getting it back, but I don’t know. What I do know is that writing is often my way forward. It’s why I’m here again.

So where have I been?

A bit lost. Stuck. Bored.

Yet here I am–poking, prodding, recording. Still standing. Maybe I haven’t lost that curious part of myself. Let’s see.

What Makes You Laugh? Also, Ouch.

So my neck was a little sore. Why not go clam digging? Why not muck stalls at horse stables?

Idiot.

So my choices are not always perfect. Days later I woke up in so much pain I could hardly move. 

Now my neck has been injured for a month. It’s getting better, but just a week ago it was so bad I couldn’t move without screaming a little. It goes without saying I couldn’t drive and couldn’t help out around the house. Jon did everything, aside from carrying me to bed like a toddler. 

I was broken.

You spend your whole life trying not to be broken. Look how whole and complete I am!

I’m now aware of how often I look left and right. A lifetime of looking sideways, trying to see what might be coming.

Now I can only look ahead. Literally.

Maybe I haven’t been broken all along. But I feel more broken than usual. And I thought of the people I know who are in constant pain–physical, emotional, whatever. How they’re not heroes but just people out their doing their best to get by and maybe even excel a little.

Good for them. But today I’m not them. Honestly I don’t even know that I’m trying my best today.

This morning I’m just happy I can laugh without pain. Because, for a week, it hurt like hell when I laughed. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll read Mark Twain. I’ll watch Family Guy–because yes, that show makes me guffaw like a nut. Or I’ll just listen to Jon making puns.

Today I’ll laugh out loud. Because I can. And maybe you will too.

What makes you laugh? I’m an easy laugher, I’ve been told. Lately I’ve been snort laughing. An embarrassing addition to my geekhood. But life is just so messed up and hilarious a person might go crazy if they don’t laugh. Ha. Snort.

I’m the Queen of Oatmeal

When you wake in the morning, how do you feel? Do you hate the day, are you blessed, are you tired?

I woke feeling sluggish, alive, messy. Sometimes I’m a morning lizard, scaly and bad-breathed. Fine. Let’s start with that.

It’s Thursday. This morning I crept out of bed, in underwear and bra, and made dark chocolate oatmeal. Because it makes you believe you deserve to be both rich and healthy. Like one of the celebrities. Cameron Diaz. A lizard too, but a Hollywood one.

Do it. Go make yourself a breakfast you enjoy. I dare you! Eat it in bed, as I did. Actually enjoy it.

You know, this is your life. You’re in it right now. Even before the coffee. So start appreciating it before you’re dead. Just sayin’.

For a few moments this morning I felt like the Queen. The Queen of Oatmeal.

Do I deserve to be the queen?

When was the last time you did something nice for yourself? Or allowed yourself to recognize that what you’re doing IS nice and not sluggish or wasteful or self-indulgent. Like, never. Amiright?

So maybe it’s self-indulgent. Sometimes that’s OK. If I could I would feed my dark chocolate oatmeal to everyone. I would spoon feed it to you, even. Open your mouths, my baby lizards.

But not this morning. This morning I’m taking a moment for myself.

Other mornings? Oh Lord don’t get me started. Other mornings, those assholes:

-Waking up at 6:00am, rushing, a whirlwind. Out the door. So many obligations. No food. A water bottle.

-Waking at 10:00am, hungover, a Saturday or–wait, what? A Tuesday! How did that happen? For shame. Orange juice. Greasy potatoes. Where’d my other sock go?

Pay attention to how you feel in the morning. Did the night before change the outcome of your morning? Was it worth it? Hopefully. Not every morning can be great, or even nice. Some mornings are jerks. I hate those guys.

But when you get a nice morning, a pleasant moment, remember it. The Queen of Oatmeal says so. And she knows. Or is trying. Which is often the best we can do.

Yes, even for a queen.

 

You’re OK. Your House is OK. Your Face is OK. Breathe.

I woke this morning and looked around. Guitar. Messy laundry. Sun shining in through the curtains. Even the dust on the nightstand is yelling at me, being abusive. DUST ME YOU LAZY SAD PERSON. And I had a thought.

This is it. Life.

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For years you wonder when you’ll become that better, happier, squeaky clean version of yourself. But the laundry never gets done fast enough. You’re always aging a little, your skin a little more tired than taut. Look at you, always saying you’re dieting and then buying Doritos, eating them in bed, orange stains on white sheets.

Shameful. And yet it’s kinda cute too. Maybe? You hope it’s a little cute.

It’s not. Nobody cares. That’s fine too.

But look at that guitar! The gleaming light of you wants to sing. Or write. Or garden. To make something with your hands, even if it’s just love. Just love! Imagine. No matter the age. No matter the messy house. Let it rest. Go toward the light of you.

I’ll dust. I’ll do my laundry. I don’t advocate for laziness. I advocate for not beating yourself up when the house looks likes a herd of wild guinea pigs came through it. And that’s just it, right? Creatures as small as that messing up your life, scurrying around like assholes (I’m not even talking children, but if you them, then woah).

I’m playing guitar first. I’m singing to the creatures. Fa la la and kumbaya.

And the creatures might not leave. The lazy sad part of you might just be a part of you. Can you accept that?

Accept it or work to change it. Big change doesn’t usually happen in one giant orgasmic easy AHA. It’s more plodding. Drama-less. Like watching a garden grow. Green. Green. TOMATO.

It will happen, if you give it light and water. But it takes time. Drink some water. You’ll feel better.

I’m living this. I checked my work email halfway through writing this. Because my spirit is not all peace and harmony (that would be gross anyway and would repel most of my friends). My spirit is often anxious. It wonders if I’m doing enough. Maybe my boss wrote to me. Did she? Does she need my help? Is there more I can do to prove my worth? Feed me, feed me! Hold on, let me get my cape and sword.

Oh, she didn’t. Okay, back to the page. Put a few more words down.

I’m a green, green garden. Beautiful, still growing.

So are you. What will you do about it?

We Live in Stuffy Rooms (And How to Breathe)

Sometimes we live in stuffy rooms. Places where the air is stale and old, where it feels hard to breathe but you try anyway. You end up wheezing. Heeee-hawww. Donkey breath. You have it.

But sometimes you get what you need. A good conversation with a friend. A change in circumstance. A piece of writing or music or art that changes the way you breathe, at least for a moment. It feels like new oxygen is being pumped into your room, your life, your lungs. It’s a gift. Remember that.

I felt like that reading this quote. Not like I’m out of the stuffy room entirely. Just like I can breathe a little easier:

“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” – Thomas Merton, “The Seven Storey Mountain”

Doesn’t that feel right? I think, for me, my anxiety is my stuffy room. It’s the place where I sit and try to breathe. But I can never really take a deep breath. Not really. It’s always choked.

Here’s one thing I know. Much of my anxiety stems from fear of suffering. And guess what? I suffer from it. Do you do this too? Try everything to avoid feeling even the smallest bit of pain? We do it in all sorts of ways. Numbing out is a popular choice. I do that too sometimes. But I mostly obsess over small details. I do that a lot. I put my mind on repeat until I can no longer hear my own clear thoughts.

And sometimes my thoughts sound just like this “PANIC PANIC PANIC.”

We can’t avoid suffering. That’s the damn truth. But we can have faith we’ll survive it. We can be in the moment, letting ourselves breathe. We can stop the PANIC PANIC and instead tell ourselves peace.

I mean that literally. It’s not any more complicated than that. Now when my mind goes PANIC PANIC I pay attention to it. I hear it. And then I tell it, calmly and sweetly, no mind, peace.  

I don’t think that solves everything. Sometimes I’m still trapped in my stuffy anxiety panic-ridden dungeon. But I know this too:

I’m breathing a little easier already.

How to Put Yourself Out There

Last week, when I found out I was being published my first thought was OMG YES. Approximately 1/3  of a second after that I thought OH HELL NO. Yes because it was a dream of mine to be published. Yes because I’ve worked hard. Yes because it meant people would finally read my stuff.

Oh no because…people would finally read my stuff! It freaked me out. I feared being judged. I feared, you know, my dad reading the essay. It’s very personal. It’s embarrassing. And now it’s out there. For the harsh, cold world to see.

Only it wasn’t so harsh. It was actually pretty warm and fuzzy.

I haven’t always been someone who puts myself out there. I can be shy and anxious. I can have a tendency to hide out. And yet this–this was worth it. It was important enough to me. Important enough for me to risk embarrassment and judgement.

So that’s my first piece of advice:

Find the thing that’s important enough to risk putting yourself out there.

Is it dancing? Is it blogging? Is it a sport? What really, really matters to you? Identify the thing that makes your insides dance (in a good way–not in a diarrhea sort of way) and pursue it. The first step is being brave enough to admit that you care.

When my dad read my essay, he called me and he cried. Not because he was upset and embarrassed but because he was so proud.

When I talked to my mom, I expressed my fears. I told her I was afraid of how other people would react.

“It’s your truth,” she said. “Never apologize for your truth.”

So that’s my second piece of advice:

Never apologize for your truth

Putting yourself out there is tough, sure. But it’s mostly tough because we’re freaked out by other people–you know, those other people with their big judgmental eyes and mean hearts.

Remember that most of the world is kind, though not everyone will be. Not everyone will get you. There will be rejection. There will be negative, shitty people who want to bring you down. But if it’s your truth, then it’s yours. And you need to own it.

*One addendum to this is if your truth hurts others in some way. I’ve accidentally hurt someone before. Yeah, it’s happened. And when it happens, I apologize like a grown-up. Don’t use “this is my truth” as an excuse to be selfish or to hurt others.

I’m still working on it. Every blog post is an opportunity to put myself out there. How much will I share? How deep will I go? I’m not sure. But I can tell you one thing.

I’m not going to apologize.