Howdy, fellow Internet traveler. I’m Lillian. And, as you may have gathered from the title of this blog, I’m renovating my life.

Why is that, you ask? What needs to be renovated? Hang on to your hats, y’all: this is going to get long. You know what? Let’s do this as a list of bullet points. It’s proof, after all, that I’ve spent entirely too much time in D.C. — but hey, at least you’re not getting this in PowerPoint. So, to make a super long story short…

  • In 2013 I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It was caught early enough that I was able to go on hormone therapy to treat the cancer and preserve my fertility.  (Since it involved steroidal levels of progesterone, it made me gain 30 pounds and induced a state of perpetual PMS for over a year, so I basically felt like an extremely emotional manatee.) Once I was given the all-clear, I tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant, but it didn’t happen — and then the cancer came back.
  • I wound up having to have a total hysterectomy — uterus, ovaries, cervix, the whole enchilada — in August 2015, and it’s been a long road to recovery. The emotional fallout has been its own special kind of fun, but the physical effects have been even more difficult (which is really saying something, considering how desperately I want to be a mom).
  • Being thrown into menopause was brutal, with 15-20 full-body hot flashes per day, even more weight gain (OH JOY), the distinct sense that my brain had taken leave of my body, and basically every negative effect of menopause that comes up when you Google it. Trying to manage the symptoms was becoming a full-time job, and thankfully, my oncologist cleared me to go on hormone replacement therapy in December. It makes such a huge difference that I’ve informed my doctors, in writing, that they’ll have to pry the estrogen pills out of my cold, dead hands.
  • Because that hasn’t been enough fun, last summer I started having unexplained chronic pain in my legs. I could feel every layer of tissue — skin, fascia, muscles, tendons — aching for no apparent reason, and it often left me lying on the couch with a bottle of Advil as my sidekick. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia, even though I don’t completely fit the diagnostic criteria, because there’s no other diagnosable cause of the pain. So, it’s been a series of trial and error experiments to see what helps prevent and control things — but I’m gradually learning how to manage it.
  • There’s also the smaaaaall issue of the fact that I’m in entirely the wrong line of work. I’ve lived in D.C. and worked in foreign policy/national security on and off since 2004 (with a three-year hiatus for living overseas and going to grad school in Denver), but I’ve been back since 2009 and I can say, definitively, that this is not the place or the career for moi. I’m an ENFJ in an ESTP world. A square peg in a round hole. A fish out of water. You get the idea. I’m working on turning this ship around, but as you can imagine, these things take a while.
  • One small, totally insignificant factor in the whole “unf*cking my bad career choices” motif is that I have, like, a metric tonne of student loans. Grad school wasn’t cheap, and, what I didn’t realize at the time, was that my loans came along with absurdly high interest rates. I’ve been making huge payments for seven years, but the interest rates have been so high that the balance has barely budged, which makes me feel like I’ve basically been lighting my money on fire. So, that’s a thing I’m trying to untangle and aggressively address — I signed those papers, I’m an adult (grudgingly), and they’re my responsibility, so it’s my job to turn this mangled pile of financial fuckery into a neatly managed stack of payments that will actually reduce my total balance. Oh, and a brief PSA: Sallie Mae is the actual spawn of Satan. Just an FYI.
  • Oh, and did I mention that I’ve had depression and anxiety all my life? Add those to the party! I’ve always had to work hard to manage my mental health, but it’s become much harder in light of everything else listed here. Thankfully I have a team of good doctors and therapists (yes, friends, that’s plural: I figure that a multi-pronged approach/having multiple therapists for multiple issues is probably the way to go at this point) who are helping me get all this sorted out.

So, allllll that is to say: I have a veritable mountain of things I need to fix. My hope is that by writing about it, I can both give myself a creative outlet and a sense of accountability, because it would be entirely to easy to curl up into a ball and pretend none of this exists.

With that in mind, my goal here is to write about my efforts to fix the problems that I listed here, while also redesigning and rebuilding my life into something I enjoy, not just something I feel like I’m slogging through. The health crises of the last four years, combined with the long-simmering issue of my unhappiness with my career, have made me realize that I can’t just spend my life sitting around being miserable. Instead, I want to do something positive, generative, and meaningful with my life. After all, I can’t change what happened to me — but I can change how I move forward with my time on this here planet.

So, my goal is to renovate my life on a handful of fronts:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Career
  • Finances + student loans
  • Doing more things that bring me joy, meaning, and fulfillment

Feel free to come along for the ride — if you’re so inclined, you can also follow via email or social media, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Thank you for being here!