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Pep Talk: Take a F***ing Risk

                                  Photo Credit: Genevieve Rosengren  

Throughout my 25 years on earth I have endured the ebbs and flows of kickass-ness and timidness. I have had moments of great boldness and fearlessness almost as often as I have had moments of complete and total self-doubt, where all I can do is hide under the covers and hope for a better day tomorrow.

As a child, I was not much of a risk taker. I was scared and timid and way too cautious for my own good. I would sit on the side of the sandbox while my friends would fly high on the swings. I would opt out of sleepovers because I was a homebody and the thought of leaving my family for the night was more than I could bare. I would kick back in the shallow end of the pool, with my floaties on, while my friends were doing back flips into the deep end. None of it really seemed to phase me, I was perfectly content playing it safe.

As I have grown older I realized that I don’t want to live my life “playing it safe”.  I started having these moments. Maybe they were lapses in judgement or maybe they were moments when I remember that I am more audacious than I give myself credit, that I am not that timid little girl anymore. They were the moments when I step out of my comfort zone, look the world in square in the eye and just go for it, whatever “it” may be. 

Traveling and volunteering abroad as a teenager in the throes of my “homebody years”, doing a year of service with AmeriCorps instead of defaulting to college, exposing my vulnerability by oversharing personal information on my blog, and letting myself fall in love are just some of the risks I have taken as a young adult that have had incalculable payouts. As a result of taking those risks I learned my strengths. I felt empowered and brave and like nothing could ever possibly bring me down.

While reveling in the aftermath of my successes, I would always try to store away that feeling for a rainy day because I knew that feeling wouldn’t always last.

Unfortunately not all of my risks have had happy endings. This is bound to happen. My moments of boldness have been matched almost equally by moments of complete and total fear. The moments when I was wrong, when things seemed impossible, when all I can do is throw myself a pity party. 

This is not my favorite place to be and so my challenge recently has been to pull myself out of the deep, dark, sad, pity-party place and remember that I am infact kind of kickass. I have to remember that even if risks don’t end in successes, they are still worth it. I will have days when I try my hardest and still fail.  On those days, I have to pull from whatever bit of awesome I have stored away in my “rainy day fund” and I have to let that awesome shine. On those days I have to remember not to be held back by the doubt or the fear and I have to remember that in the big scheme of things, everything will be okay. I open the windows, take off my PJ’s, eat a breakfast bagel, and go do something great.

I know risk taking can be a luxury that not everyone is afforded and I am beyond grateful that I come from circumstances which have allowed me to take the occasional risk. I don’t have children, I am not married, I have family and friends who are probably a little too supportive, I have every excuse to take the occasional risk. It is for these reasons that I have been able to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and keep moving forward.

So friends, if you can take risks, and it is more likely than not that you can, take them. Be bold. Be brave. Be great. Take a fucking risk. It’ll be worth it.

To My Sister On Her 40th Birthday


                                                       Anna and I, circa 1995

These are just a few things I wanted to tell you on your birthday, as you enter your 40’s:

I will always look up to you, even though I now tower over you at whopping 5’10”.

I forgive you for when we were younger and you would pin me down and tickle me until I was on the brink of peeing my pants.

With 15 years between us, our time at home didn’t always overlap but I am grateful for the times when it did. Even through the worst of it, I still would look to you to learn about how to be an adult.

I really appreciate that you were the first one to push the limits with mom and dad and blaze the trail for the rest of the Schmidt kids. It made my life a lot easier growing up.

I am so thankful  for you bringing two beautiful boys into the world. I know it hasn’t always been easy but those two little guys have been such a gift to all of us.

You’re one of the toughest people I know. And even though most of my friends find you slightly intimidating, your strength and your ability to stand up for yourself and the people you love are qualities I so admire.

I know that right beneath your tough exterior is a giant, generous heart. The compassion and love you have for not only your family and friends but also for total strangers, the patients you care for everyday, is just one of the things that makes you so amazing.

Despite what some might say, I think your sarcasm and your sense of humor are such outstanding gifts. You always remember to laugh. To laugh at yourself.  To laugh through all of the joys and through all the heartbreaks that life throws at us. It’s one of my favorite things that I have learned from you.

When people say that they think we are twins and I act like I am horribly offended because you are 15 years my senior, I’m not really. I secretly think it is a wonderful compliment because I think you’re a wonderful, beautiful, intelligent woman.

So my dear sister, my wish for you as you embark on this new decade is that you keep doing all the things that make you so uniquely you, all the things that have made you one of my favorite people. Keep laughing. Keep loving. Keep dancing. Keep making art. You have brought so many wonderful gifts to the world in the last 40 years and I hope you continue to do so for at least another 40.

I love you sister, happy birthday!


A lot of the time I feel like I’m still 17 years old. But then I have these moments where I find myself roasting the organic butternut squash that I got from the farmer’s market to add to my salad. I’m drinking a glass of wine while listening to Miriam Makeba.

It is in these moments when I realize that I am definitely not 17 anymore and quite frankly…I’m probably not 25 either.

A Love Letter to San Francisco’s Health Plan

Healthy San Francisco, I love you.

I love you because when all the big insurance companies turned their back on me, you were there. While the rest of the country was waiting for the federal overhaul on health care you were here welcoming me, unconditionally, with open arms.

When we first met, you didn’t judge me because of my past. You were willing to give our friendship a chance even though one of my ovaries use to have a tumor living it in. You weren’t put off by the big scar down the center of my stomach. You didn’t mind that I had to go on in and get blood work done every couple of months because you knew it was what I needed and you knew and it was a much better alternative than chemotherapy. You didn’t care about any of this, all you cared about is that I was healthy and happy.

And it’s not just me that you care about, you have a huge heart. You care about everyone in this city. You look after some of this city’s most vulnerable populations. You know that there are people who need a little extra help sometimes. There are people in this city who, for one reason or another, can’t get access to health insurance. You are always there to lend a hand and make sure everyone is OK. You’re good like that.

I love you because you introduced me to some incredible doctors. Thoughtful, caring, compassionate doctors and nurses who are happy to spend time with and invest in their patients.

I love you because you never asked more from me then you knew I could give. Even when money was a little tight, you never turned me away. 

I wanted to thank you for giving me peace of mind. I am forever grateful for the ability to see a doctor when I feel like something is wrong with my health. I don’t think there is anything scarier than being sick and feeling like you don’t have anywhere to turn. Even more than that, I am grateful that I can go see a doctor and not have to worry about going bankrupt because of medical costs.  

The rest of the country has finally caught up with you and so in just a few short weeks I will be able to start shopping around for my very own health insurance policy. The premiums will undoubtedly be higher and I am already dreading the piles of bureaucratic bullshit I will have to wade through. Even though the services might be more comprehensive, the systems might be more technologically advanced, and the facilities might be fancier, I want you to know I will never forget about you. You were there for me when I needed you the most and for that I am so grateful.  

A Letter to Representative Pelosi Regarding Syria


Dear Representative Pelosi,

My nephew started 8th grade this year. He is a good kid. He is funny and smart and despite his teenage angst, he still has a lot of his youthful innocence. He is also the same age I was when terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

It was the day that changed this country and the world and even though I was very far removed from what was going on, it was the day that changed me. It was the day that the word “terrorist” entered my vocabulary. It was the day that made me realize that the world can be a really scary place.

I didn’t understand why men on the other side of the world would harbor so much animosity towards the United States. I had no idea about our country’s long and complicated history in the Middle East. I could not fully understand the implications of our leaders’ choices. I was only 13 years old and I just didn’t understand.

I did, however, understand that I was scared. I was scared for my own safety. I was scared for the innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was scared for soldiers we were sending to fight in a war in far off countries. I was scared for the future.

There is no doubt in my mind that the “War on Terror” influenced my decision to go on and study international relations in college. I wanted to learn about the root causes of terrorism and our country’s complicated history in the Middle East. I wanted to learn about international law and security.

I wanted to learn about all of these things so I could join the conversation. I wanted to be able to thoughtfully speak out against acts of terror. I wanted to be able to add my voice to the conversation when elected officials were deciding whether or not to go to war. I wanted to make sure that what happened on that sunny September morning in 2001 and all the military action that followed would never happen again. I didn’t want children, like my nephew, to have to live in a world where war and terrorism were part of their reality.

Today President Obama said, “We cannot raise our children in a world where we do not follow through on things we say.” This might  be true, but we also cannot raise our children in a world where we are constantly at war. We can’t raise our children in a world where our military budget takes precedence over our education budget. We want to raise our children—all of our children, including the children in Syria, to feel safe, to feel cared for and to feel protected.

I know what is happening in Syria is complicated. I know there is not an easy solution. The actions of President Bashar al-Assad are deplorable and inexcusable. I also know that as a country, we can do better than taking “targeted” military action against another country just to send a message to their corrupt and morally bankrupt leader. We have taken that route before and we know how it will end.  Lets be better this time. Lets learn from our mistakes.

Today the President put the ball in your court and I do not envy you. You have tough choices to make and even though there is not an easy solution I know you will make the right decision. So on behalf of children all over the world, my nephew included, who will not have to be witness to or experience another war, I just wanted to to say thank you for your leadership on this issue.



Mary Schmidt