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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Choose Me



Would you trade places with any of your friends? What about an acquaintance or someone you’ve seen on television?

I recently attended my 15th high school reunion. As the festivities were coming to an end, after the “hellos”, “how have you beens”, and “what are you doing nows,” a couple of us were left at a bar, nursing the last few sips of local wine and frosty microbrews and reflecting on the encounters of the previous few days.

One of the men at the table asked if we would change places with any of the people we’d reconnected with at the reunion. It’s an interesting question. Doctors, lawyers, business owners, humanitarians, teachers, and mothers abounded. If you could wave a magic wand and swap places with someone, would you do it?

Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to answer. Without missing a beat, balancing on our barstools and pondering our life choices, we each countered with a resounding “no.”

This response, surely, was not born out of a sense of superiority or an over inflated sense of our own accomplishments. Many of our former classmates lead fulfilling lives and have had amazing adventures and a great deal of success in the years since high school. Yet, even though I don’t have many of the things I yearn for, like a husband to take to the reunion, a baby to coo over, or “ooh and ah worthy” professional achievements, the question made me realize that I’m actually pretty happy just being me. I think it was the same for the others at the table that night.

When the tears flow freely when I wonder what the heck I’ve done with my life and how in the world I’m going to get where I want to be, I try to remind myself that I don’t actually want to be in anyone else’s shoes. Sure, there are certain aspects of others’ lives that I desire for myself but not enough to trade places.

Life is full of compromise and balance. A close friend from college has many of the things that I want in life. From the outside, it seems like she’s “got it made,” but there have been many challenges—both physical and emotional—along the way. As much as I would like to have some of what she has, the stress that she deals with on a daily basis is not worth it to me. No matter how seemingly perfect, we each have obstacles of some sort.

Provided that swapping places with another were even possible, opting for the supposed “perfect” life of a friend, colleague, or former classmate could also mean accepting a strained relationship with a mother, a work environment that sucks you dry, a lack of self-esteem, or any number of other challenges. After closer inspection, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer my own problems.


Given that trading places isn’t yet a reality—contrary to many a Hollywood plot—imaging living the life of someone else can be a valuable tool to accepting the reality of your own. Think of the people you know who lead a life similar to the one you aspire to. What is it that they have that is so enviable? Would you be willing to trade your current circumstances for theirs? Remember, life is about balance. Their triumphs would be yours but so would their challenges. When examined from the inside out, is their life as picture-perfect as you had originally imagined? It might be, but maybe not. Then, I encourage you to think about your own life. Would you be willing to give it all up (the good and the bad) to be in someone else’s shoes? I certainly wouldn’t. I feel happier and more invigorated knowing that I CHOOSE me. I choose to be where I am. I want it all, the triumphs and the challenges. 

Do you choose you?

Spiced Nuts with Chinese 5-Spice

When sitting at a bar, with drink in hand, and contemplating deep questions about life, I like to have a little something to nibble. These spiced nuts are so easy to make and they will make a huge splash at your next cocktail party. Or, put them on a fruit and cheese platter or toss them in a spinach salad with fresh berries and slivers of red onion. Yum! This is one of my most asked for recipes.

 2 Tbs. sweet cream salted butter (I use Kerrygold)
¼ C. maple syrup
¼ tsp. Chinese 5-Spice powder
1½ C. walnut/pecan halves

In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the maple syrup and simmer—while constantly stirring—until the mixture is a rich, golden color and slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in the Chinese 5-spice powder and add the nuts. Toss the nuts with the syrup mixture until evenly coated. Continue to push them around the pan for another 2-4 minutes. As soon as the sugars in the maple syrup start to crystalize, remove from the heat. There is a fine line between “candied” and “burned.” Watch closely, and if in doubt, remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.