I’m moving out.

It’s been close to seven years. I started in Florida, then Chicago, then Austin, then middle-of-nowhere Illinois, and now glorious SoCal.

Over the last seven years I’ve learned a lot about myself. This is a story I’ve told a bazillion times, but if you’re new here, I’ll get you caught up.

Let’s talk labels: in the past seven years, I’ve been a bartender, event coordinator, intern, college student, college grad, conference-goer, intern again, hired into the PR agency world, baby skydiver, analytics gal, corporate-turned-skydiving bum marketing/event coordinator, and small business owner.

In the past seven years I’ve written about PR/new media, dating in the city (what a glorious chapter that was), promotions, skydiving (another all-consuming chapter), relocation, post-grad life, resume editing, LOVE, quitting my corporate job, more skydiving, pursuing skydiving full time, RADIO SILENCE, a bit of travel, and most recently, starting my own business.

In the past seven years, I’ve spent a few years being married to my career, then met the man that I would actually marry. For the past five years, I’ve had the most incredible times with the most supportive man I’ve ever met. A dreamboat of a marriage. A ridiculously hilarious and awesome life.

I’ve seen some shit, too. I’ve lost friends, changed careers, and started my own business. I dove head-first into a little program called Boss School, and had my whole world turned upside down in the most beautiful way possible.

For the past seven years I’ve been writing at here sydneyowen.com. For the past (almost) three years, I’ve been writing, signing checks, paying bar tabs, and traveling as Sydney Williams. Name changes and marital status aside, the one thing that is constant, is that I’m still writing as Sydney: Unfiltered.

I’m about to embark on the next chapter of this insane journey of self discovery that I’ve been on. It started with losing friends last year, continued when I quit my job to start Planet Green Socks, and really kicked into high gear with Boss School. This time next week, I’ll be up in the mountains at the house I toured for the women’s skydiving retreat that I wanted to host, in a huge cuddle puddle with 20+ women from Boss School for the Unleash Your Fearless retreat. A week after that retreat wraps up, I’m headed to Europe for two weeks to cover a 12-day sailing with Azamara Club Cruises alongside my father for some serious international family time while I dip my toe in a new industry.

As soon as I get back, I’m moving out.

And by moving out, I mean I’m starting a new chapter over at SydneyUnfiltered.com.

I shared the Unfiltered manifesto earlier this week, and when I get back from Europe, we’re diving head first into the rebuild of Sydney: Unfiltered.

You can count on more of the Unfiltered writing you’ve been seeing here for the last seven years. Gone are the days of writing, editing to censor myself, and (maybe) publishing. I’m tired of worrying about what people will think and I’m fully stepping into Sydney Owen Williams. Period. Without a tagline, without a label. I have some other stuff in store as well. More on that in a bit.

Between everything that happened last year, and all of the growth I’ve experienced through the Boss School program, we’ve been planting A LOT of seeds as to what this next chapter of my life looks like. As in, we’ve taken all of the Garden section at Home Depot AND Lowe’s and just swished all of that up in a bucket and that bucket is my brain.

I’ve learned to “trust the process” – much to my resistance. That phrase, in general, makes me want to vomit. I’m down with personal growth, but some of the lingo and jargon and phrasing in the industry makes my skin crawl. Through Boss School (and all of the subsequent reading, coaching, jam sessions, and conversations I’ve had since we started), I’m learning to love the results that come with the woo-woo shit, but I’ve been resisting the woo-woo shit for a long time. I’ve finally found a tribe that can break down the woo-woo shit into things my analytical brain can comprehend, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t all up in that world of personal growth. I’m so fucking into it, it’s ridiculous.

That said, I don’t know what the next chapter looks like yet, tactically. I have some HUGE ideas that I’ve been fumbling with for the past year, beyond skydiving, beyond planning events, beyond ONLY marketing, and I’m starting to see the light. There is a common thread. There is a mission that is bigger than what I’m doing now. The seeds have been planted, the dots are there, and with the Boss School retreat and the trip to Europe, I anticipate a lot of those dots connecting.

Starting now, until SydneyUnfiltered.com is fully realized and ready to launch, I’ll be writing. I’ll be sharing everything I’m doing to prep for this chapter, the things that come to light at the retreat, the dots I connect while I’m in other countries, and all of the stuff inbetween that inspires me to get my fingers on a keyboard.

I invite you to come along on this journey. Maybe you’re on the same page. Maybe you’re enjoying the entertainment as I figure out this thing we call life. Maybe you’re where I was five years ago, completely rocking it in your career, discovering a few things about yourself, and knowing that there’s something HUGE coming, but you’re not sure what. Either way, come on over.

Grab a seat, grab a glass of wine (or your favorite beverage), kick up your feet, and get ready to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and join the conversation about all of the weird, hilarious, painful, and beautiful things I’m sure to experience in the next six weeks. If you’re down with it, I invite you to head over to the construction site that is SydneyUnfiltered.com and get your updates there.

It’s been a good run here at sydneyowen.com. I’ll keep this as-is while I’m on this journey, but once SydneyUnfiltered.com is ready to rock and roll, this little corner of the internet will be moving across the street. The next post you see here will be the final one, full of reflection, hitting on what’s next, and the final redirect to my new house.

You don’t even have to bring a housewarming present. Your presence is present enough.

Hearts, sparkles, rainbows & unicorns, 

For the sake of those who might skip through all of this stuff above, we’re still in SoCal. Barry and I are awesome, Puggles are great. The website is moving. I’m not moving. :) Sweet. 

Life is not a straight line. And the Unfiltered Manifesto.

Last week, I posted a little diddy inspired by Hector and the Search for Happiness, a sweet flick on Netflix that I’m kind of obsessed with. Shortly after posting it, I got a comment from “Concerned Friend.”

First reaction: “Concerned Friend” – this can’t be good.

Keep reading. Gasp audibly. Kind of shocked.

Here’s the deal about writing on the internet. If it weren’t for Google analytics and the other fun tools I have at my fingertips, I’d think that the only people who read this are my family, Barry, and the handful of people who “like” the post I make on Facebook when I write something new. Some days I’ll get a text message, a phone call, or a lengthy email about what I’ve written. At that point, the post is more than words on a screen, it becomes a conversation.

I love those days.

But, when nobody comments, it’s a vacuum. Page visits are numbers without a face.

When I first started writing here in 2008, some posts wouldn’t get any comments, some posts would get 40+. Blogging in 2008-2010 was a different animal, for sure, but the idea of commenting on something on the internet isn’t new, and it certainly hasn’t gone away.

So when I got a notification from “Concerned Friend” – content of that comment aside – I was excited, nervous, and THRILLED that someone took time out of their day, albeit anonymously, to read what I put up and take it one step further by commenting.

The comment itself, back in the day, probably would have wrecked me. Back before I found my voice again. Back before I was (slowly but surely) becoming comfortable in my own skin. I probably would have been sad about it, and worse, I probably would have stopped writing for a minute.

But, this comment did the exact opposite. Concerned Friend, if you’re reading, THANK YOU.

The comment, if you haven’t already seen it, said the following:

Concerned Friend Comment

And it got me thinking.

Life is not a straight line. Especially when you’re creating something. Whether that’s in the form of a painting, music, written word, acting, telling jokes, making babies, or creating a life you’re insanely obsessed with, if you’re creating, you know the ups and downs and the rollercoaster.

Of course, after reading and responding to the comment, I saw a post from my friend Jamie (she’s fucking brilliant, if you didn’t already know this):

Seriously though, check out facebook.com/jamievaron - she's got SO MANY of these pictures/quotes, etc and she's the one who provided the "live your dash" part of my tattoo
Seriously though, check out facebook.com/jamievaron – she’s got SO MANY of these pictures/quotes, etc and she’s the one who designed the “live your dash” text part of my tattoo

I received a handful of messages about “Concerned Friend” and their comment, most of which said they’d probably lose their shit if someone said that to them.

The part about how this blog is “an endless rant on change and self discovery” is what really inspired me though. When I think about “what is unfiltered?” I think of a lot of things. I think about how I was just writing about PR/Marketing/Social Media back in the day, and that niche quickly became saturated. I wanted to write about whatever I wanted to write about, and that is when Unfiltered was born.

Over the years, Unfiltered has covered a bunch of different topics. College almost-grad to intern. Intern to full-on corporate ladder climber. Ladder climber discovers skydiving (a good chunk of posts were ONLY about skydiving). Corporate gal turned entrepreneur slash skydiving bum. And now, I’m transitioning out of working in the skydiving industry and on to the next chapter of my life.

More than just providing a nice umbrella under which I can write about whatever inspires me, I think of Unfiltered as more of a movement. It’s been my battle cry. I strayed far, far away from the voice I had in 2010, and lost my way a bit as I got shushed, silenced, and told “you’re not _____ enough” over the years.

There are a lot of changes coming up here in this little corner of the internet. Between the Hello Fearless retreat at the end of the month and my two week journey through Europe in August, I anticipate a lot of the dots connecting, and I know there will be a lot of clarity on what comes next.

Inspired by the comment, and thinking maybe people who have popped in here from time to time might not know what they’re getting themselves into, I wrote an Unfiltered manifesto of sorts.

Sydney: Unfiltered is a bullshit-free zone, and it is definitely more than the highlight reel. It’s about living your best life and YOUR version of the dream. Unfiltered is all about being aware of the fact that the dream can (and probably will) change, and if/when it does, THAT IS OKAY AWESOME. I’m a firm believer that we’re all in this together, you’re not alone, and repeat after me: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY. Unfiltered is about finding your voice, getting comfortable in your own skin, and then using that newfound sense of self to shout from the rooftops about shit that actually matters to you. This is a safe place to have uncomfortable conversations. Comment on what resonates with you. If it pisses you off, speak up. More than anything, show your face. I can take it. And I’ll probably high five you for doing so.

If you want to get comfortable being uncomfortable, I invite you to take a seat, kick up your feet, and stay awhile. If you’re not pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, I’m cool with it. There are a bazillion pages of content on the internet, and if this rollercoaster isn’t your jam, that’s completely okay. No harm, no foul. But this is my living room, and it’s a judgement-free zone, so you gotta respect the house rules. Cool? Cool.

Otherwise, if you’re into it, let’s keep talking about the shit that nobody really wants to talk about. I’ve got plenty more where that came from.

Tomorrow I’ve got some ridiculously awesome news to share with you, if you’re into that kind of thing.

If you’re a creator of a thing, can you relate to Jamie’s creative process? STORY OF MY LIFE, YOU GUYS.

Sweet sunrise captured by my dad (Chris Owen) on his sailing with Azamara earlier this month. Click the picture to get the full scoop on his 12-Night Isles of Croatia journey.

Europe, here we come!

Fun fact about Sydney: My dad is a travel writer. He has been writing about the cruise industry since I was a kid. As kids, we didn’t really “do” holidays or birthdays, in that we didn’t do gifts, but we went on trips. By the time I graduated college, I had been on 18 cruises, all of which were in the Caribbean or making stops in Mexico. Being in the middle of the ocean on a boat became my happy place, and growing up in Kansas, we couldn’t wait to get back on a cruise ship. In 2005, my family moved to Florida and, surprise surprise, the cruise business was better in Florida than it was in Kansas.

When I was a senior at USF, my senior project was a self-taught discovery on social media for business. It wasn’t part of the curriculum yet, and I focused my internship time on introducing the organizations to the glory of social media to build community and add a new tool to the toolbox when it came to PR/marketing. That’s about when this blog started, in 2008 (creeping up on Sydney: Unfiltered’s 7th birthday!). I was telling my dad about Twitter, and explaining how that was how I got the interview for the internship in Chicago. I got him on the computer, showed him around, and at some point, he started an account.

Every once in awhile, he’ll ask me to help him cover a cruise if the internet connection is spotty. We tag team pictures and posts and it’s a fun way for us to stay in touch while he’s overseas. So when he asked me if I was free in August to help with an event, of course I said yes. This is usually done from the comfort of my couch, and it’s fun to see what he’s experiencing on a daily basis.

Except he didn’t want me to help from the couch. He wanted me to go with him.


So for two weeks in August, Dad and I will be sailing with Azamara Club Cruises on the Azamara Quest. It’s a 12-day tour of a handful of the countries on my I NEED TO GO HERE list, including Sweden, Finland (my mom’s side of the family is Finnish), Russia, Estonia, Denmark, Amsterdam, Belgium, and England.

I’ve always been a fan of cruising, mostly because that was how we travelled when I was growing up, but also because you get to hit a lot of different destinations in one fell swoop. Of course there are several ways to get variety on a trip, but I love having a consistent place to sleep without having to unpack and repack every couple of days. This itinerary is unique because it offers three overnight stays in Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Amsterdam, giving us more time to explore the destinations.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my experiences as I get ready for international travel. This is my first time flying internationally, my first time traveling to Europe, and my first trip that’s longer than 10 days. Since I’m helping my dad cover this cruise, I’ll share all of the links where you can follow along on the actual journey, and you know I’ll sneak in a few Unfiltered bits as well. More on that soon.

Have you been to any of the destinations listed above? I’m a sucker for good food and a nice cocktail – are there any staples I should seek out while we’re on land? If you’ve travelled internationally, what is your one tip for a newbie like myself?

Sweet sunrise captured by my dad on his sailing with Azamara earlier this month. Click the picture to get the full scoop on his 12-Night Isles of Croatia journey.
Sweet sunrise captured by my dad on his sailing with Azamara earlier this month. Click the picture to get the full scoop on his 12-Night Isles of Croatia journey.
hector happiness

Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.

Last weekend, Barry and I watched “Hector and the Search for Happiness” on Netflix. The premise is as such:

Hector is a psychiatrist and he hasn’t changed one damn thing about himself in YEARS. He sets off on an adventure to find out what makes people happy. The movie goes through his journey and he has a journal where he makes key points about what happiness is to people around the world.

Real talk: I’m usually on the phone or computer while we watch stuff. Because I CONSUME ALL THE THINGS and I’ll admit, I have the attention span of a gnat sometimes. My phone remained on the kitchen counter for the duration of this movie, and I was furiously scribbling notes in my journal as we watched.

One of the points that he makes that really stuck out was this: Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness. 

It’s so simple, but that little scribble in my journal packed a punch.

“Avoiding” could be several things. I think my friend Jamie put it perfectly:
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 8.55.39 AM
Two weeks ago I had a jam session with Sara, the founder of Hello Fearless. I told her about some ideas I have for what I want this next chapter of my life to look like, and we stormed brains for 90 minutes about where I’m at, where I’ve been, and where I want to go. I got off of that call feeling on top of the world. There has been so much change, just in the last three months, let alone the last year and a half, that it was really nice to start seeing some of the dots connecting on what comes next. I felt unstoppable.

The next morning I woke up and I was like “oh shit, who am I to think I could actually do that? I’m not experienced (insert other words here) enough to make that happen. Nobody would be interested. This is a bad idea. What if this gets HUGE and I can’t handle growth and scaling and all the systems that need to be in place?” and then watched all five seasons of Suits on Amazon Prime over the course of the next four days.

For me, at the time, I was like “HELL YES I NEED THIS SHOW IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW” and I’d stay up late watching just “one more episode” and had no problem being an extension of the couch for hours at a time. Once I was caught up on all of the episodes, I realized that I had just avoided working on these ideas that WILL bring me happiness, because I didn’t want to deal with the unhappy thoughts I had the morning after my jam session.

I’m so good at avoiding, it’s ridiculous.

But, I saw that in myself, I didn’t beat myself up about it, and I got to work last week on what I want to do.

Another example of how I’m classically trained at avoiding unhappiness: I build websites. I don’t do this for money, and they aren’t very good, but sometimes when I need to distract myself from the actual hard work that is going to come with getting through a tough patch, I find something to build a website about. I don’t know how to code, I know nothing about design, I just take a theme, change some colors, drag and drop some elements and call it good.

Shortly after Adam died, I built a website about how we want to build a tiny house. I still want a tiny house. That’s still in the plan. But taking too many hours to build a website about how we want to live in a tiny house was the perfect distraction from feeling unhappy about the fact that Adam was no longer on this planet. I started pinning Tiny House things on Pinterest, joined a group on Facebook all about Tiny Houses, and watched EVERY SINGLE Tiny House tour on YouTube that I could find.

I couldn’t change the fact that Adam wasn’t here. I couldn’t turn back time. What I COULD do, however, is make a website and constantly refresh the page to see the tiny changes that took me an hour to make. It was glorious. I was in complete control. Click a button, hit refresh, see the change.

I was only delaying the inevitable.

At least now I KNOW when I’m avoiding unhappiness and I can snap out of it in a timely fashion. Or not. Because while avoiding unhappiness might not be the road to happiness, sometimes you need to binge-watch Netflix, turn off your brain for a bit, and give yourself a break. It comes back to what Jamie said above, knowing the purpose behind the action can make all the difference.

Have you ever avoided unhappiness, thinking it would make you happy? What are some of the ways you avoid unhappiness?



hector happiness

He sees the best in me.


June 11th is the day I met Barry. July 10th is the day I consider our dating anniversary, since that was the first day we could actually be together. The part that has ruled the story I’ve always told was that July 10th was also the day I earned my USPA A-License for skydiving, but that part of the story doesn’t seem as important this year.

I mean, it is.

For those who don’t know, Barry and I shared our first kiss in freefall on my A-License graduation jump five years ago. If you aren’t a skydiver, this is significant because, as a general rule, skydiving instructors are supposed to wait until their students have an A-License before they pursue any kind or relationship with them. I usually post a picture from the skydive, share some sentiments about how badass that jump was, how cool it is to be so madly in love with such an incredible man, and leave it at that.

This year is different. I feel like we’re growing into this new chapter of what it is to be Barry + Sydney, in our friendship, in our marriage, and as two badass people who share a life together.

Last year kicked my ass. Physically, emotionally, mentally – all of it. I was run down, exhausted, burned out, and a shell of a version of my best self. Barry held me together.

When we lost Chris, my uncle Mike, and Adam, Barry held me together.

When I was crying in the bathroom after a particularly difficult weekend at work last summer, wondering if this “dream life” was really what I wanted, Barry held me together.

When I started connecting the dots of how things were falling into place (at the time they were totally falling apart, but hindsight is 20/20) in October, Barry held me together.

It’s not all sadness and despair, don’t get me wrong. We have more than our fair share of fun – catching ALL of the live music, traveling together (and we travel WELL together!), scouting out the best tiki bars (and expanding our collection of tiki mugs), seeking out unique/fun/delicious dining experiences, hanging out on sweet boats with friends, and just generally taking advantage of everything there is to do in southern California.

But as I sit here on the couch at home with the dogs, writing this post, the things that stand out to me the most about Barry and our relationship are the times where anyone else would have bolted – scared out of their minds or just not feeling like being strong – and he stayed. It’s all fun and games when we’re galavanting around Vegas, or sipping cocktails on the ocean, or just hanging out at home chilling out after a long day. It’s quite another to keep two feet planted firmly on the ground and be all-in on my particular brand of crazy.

This year has been a challenge in itself. I started my own company. I was self-aware enough to realize that the company I started wasn’t aligned with what I really want to do. It was a nice transition out of my previous chapter, but it isn’t the rest of the story.

Barry has been by my side, cheering me on, holding me up, joining me in shenanigans, and keeping me in check (repeat after me: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY) for the last five years. The big, scary decisions I’ve made since we met were mine to make, but they were backed by his confidence in whatever I wanted to pursue at the time. He said in his vows that he wouldn’t judge me. And he hasn’t. Ever.

This post doesn’t even begin to do our relationship justice, but today, after spending half a decade with this man (sounds like FOREVER but it’s totally a blip on the radar), I needed more than a recycled picture and a quick blurb about how awesome he is.

Barry, I love you. Thank you for being my best friend, my rock, my coach, my last first kiss, and my partner in crime. More than all of that, thank you for believing in me and for seeing the best in me when I can’t see it in myself.