Reassess

What do I really want? What am I actually after here? 

This is what my meditation prompts me to think about today.

9:30am I’m facing the window in my room, eyes closed, with my legs crossed gently and hands resting lightly on top of my thighs. Over the past few months I’ve built a consistent meditation habit, practicing 10-15 minutes each morning (thanks, Calm!) I follow it with a passage from The Daily Stoic, a book which provides an excerpt from the writings from ancient Stoic leaders, accompanied by an explanation of how the teaching can be applied to daily life. This was a gift from my boyfriend, and in truth it came at just the right time.

The first part of 2019 has been, for lack of a better word, hectic. Having left a position in the music industry in search of a new challenge, I was happy to start a new media/sales job in the fall – only to have it apart at the seams come February. While there were signs that this opportunity was not as it seemed, its inevitable end left me unsteady. Having discerned that this was simply a poor fit weeks prior to being let go, I continued to persist, showing up daily ready to prove to my manager that I was worthy of my position, and prove to myself – along with family and friends – that my decision in taking this job wasn’t for naught. You know when you date someone you are fairly excited about and try to make it work, only to be dumped a few months in? Well, it felt like that. Objectively I understand that this was just a job, and that I am imperfect, and that is okay. I took a risk, and it didn’t pan out. My ego, however, was not so easily unbruised.

10:15am Headed into the city to take The Class by Taryn Toomey. Did I knock it the first time I tried it? You bet. But the joke was on me, because now I’m absolutely obsessed. There is no other workout class wherein you can dance, move, scream, and shout at the top of your lungs without judgement. There is a mirror to check form, but the real focus is turned inward. I feel it is one of the few places I can go in this city to escape, to fully release, so I make sure I am in that studio 2x per week.

For the past couple of months, I’ve retreated into myself. I took the month of February to refresh and to ease the tension built up from months of emotional exhaustion. I went to California to visit a good friend to provide some perspective. After 4.5 years of hustling through various professional experiences ranging from turbulent to toxic, I realized was effectively burnt out. While I was happy to be out of an unhealthy work environment, I was simultaneously discouraged and lost, caught in a pattern of self shame and blame. However illogical I knew it was, there were times when I did not feel worthy of anything, namely committed relationships, unconditional love, or multiple chances. Why should my boyfriend, a person that has himself together professionally, stay with me, a work in progress? Why should my parents offer help after sending me to both private school and college? Why would my friends, all very high-achieving and wonderful individuals, deal with me while I figure this all out? With these thoughts becoming more regular and feeling less and less like myself, I started therapy again, and not a moment too soon. It is there that I reminded that I am not defined by my career, nor can my identity be minimized to my results. I am worthy, no matter my present situation, and to lean into the less glamorous parts of the process, however uncomfortable.

2:10pm Back in Brooklyn, thinking about this mornings meditation. What do I really want? What am I actually after here?

In the short term: increased knowledge and security, in both my job and finances. To admit that I want to make real money here and now is something I’ve been afraid to fully accept for years, fearing the abandonment of my creative roots.

Longer term: I want to be an impeccably strong communicator, create meaningful relationships/partnerships, mentor young women in business, empower communities through the arts, and help bring new voices to the surface. I want to continue to learn about philosophy, music, language, interpersonal theory and communications. I want to be financially free, making enough money to live well in the location of my choosing (and to travel regularly) and also enough to give comfortably to initiatives outside of myself. And I want to do it on my terms.

4:30pm As I spend another afternoon on the job hunt, scouring LinkedIn, Indeed and Vettery for new opps, I realize the abundance of choices that lay in front of me. After almost two months of unemployment, of feeling powerless to my circumstances, I feel both re-energized and excited to find something new, to change directions, to explore a new skill set. In knowing I can only focus on what I can control, and that each new opportunity will present a chance to learn and grow, I can only look forward to whatever is next for me.

Therapy

7:30am. I’ve been laying in bed for 20 mins, though not actually awake enough to get out of bed. I rarely wake up before my alarm, so I try to pinpoint where this restlessness is coming from – its not Christmas morning, nor do I have a big interview or a flight to catch – whats the deal?

Thats right – I’m starting therapy today. True to form, I’ve been repressing my underlying worry about the whole thing and its now coming to the surface in the form of poor sleep quality. I can acknowledge that my repressing of various emotions is one reason why I’m going to therapy on the first place. I’d argue that my level self-awareness is quite high, but self-awareness means nothing if you don’t use it as a catalyst for change. I make myself a hot cup of lemon water and sit out on my deck, enjoying this moment of solitude before heading out.

8:15am. Listening to Optimal Living Daily while waiting for the J. I’ve replaced music with podcasts for my daily commute, as I’ve read that you should incorporate positive, informative material in your morning routine to set the tone for your day. Admittedly, I’m only half-listening as I’m still a bit on edge about my appointment – there is something beautiful but equally terrifying about confiding in a stranger, disclosing the deepest parts of your fears, wants, and desires.

To be fair, I’ve done this before: I was 22, cursed with a proclivity for model fuckboys and stuck in a toxic work environment (surprise: they were linked!) At the only went for three sessions, but in that time I had multiple breakthroughs which facilitated my growth into the person I am now, and I’ve always been open to the idea of going back when the time came. At 26, my problems are different, but the sentiment remains the same: I need an objective person to talk to about my life, as it stands, and how to work through whatever is holding me back.

For all my trying to hold it together at all times, I can recognize that whatever I am doing right now – from meditation, to yoga, to affirmations – is just not enough to manage my insecurities about my career. Work – huge part of who I am – is very much a work in progress, and its all-consuming. Unfortunately since age 16 I’ve been possessed with an insatiable desire to succeed in entertainment and media, wherein people are  notoriously overworked, underpaid, under valued. After four and a half years and several great opportunities, I haven’t quite found my place, which leads me to wonder will I ever fit it in anywhere? Should I be worried? Am I living in a fantasy world in search of the perfect job? Does that exist? Should I go work at a fucking bank? Is my therapist going to think I’m ridiculous? These are the things I wonder as I walk into her office.

To be clear, I count my blessings daily: I have a job, a salary, and a roof over my head. I have a full life outside of work, a family, good health, and a wealth terribly cliched first world problems. These pure luxuries, for which I am grateful, cannot stop this innate feeling that I am floating through life, happy enough but barely scratching the surface of what I am capable of, wasting my tremendous privilege. No amount of “you’re doing amazing sweetie” from my ever-adoring mom, motivational memes, or words of affection from my boyfriend will help.

So, therapy it is.

 

The Best Years

As a young woman in my twenties, I am constantly told to cherish this particular decade of my life. From the moment we leave our teens, we twenty-somethings are bombarded with the notion that these are the best years of our lives – a belief heralded by parents, families, older siblings, and colleagues alike. Recently I’ve begun to question the validity of this trope, wondering if they actually believe one’s twenties to be the most sacred or are simply nostalgic for the freedom of their younger days – before babies, mortgages, marriage and the stereotypical trappings of adulthood.  There is no doubt that one’s twenties are a pivotal time: filled with endless growth and fuck-ups that are (more often than not) easily forgiven and written off as a consequence of being said twenty-something. But now, newly 26, complete with countless triumphs, missteps, victories and failures under my belt and only somewhat of an idea of where my life is going I have to wonder: are these truly the best years?

I have never wanted a typical life, nor did I ever expect to have everything figured out by 30. My mom says that I am just like her at 26 – adventurous, willful and relatively unfazed by the future. There is certainly privilege in this overtly positive mentality that things work out as they should and there is no need to fight it, and its with this mindset that I have so far lived. Despite the frequent occasional “wtf am I doing” moment, I believe I have lived as a twenty-something to almost a comical tee. I graduated after living out the American college girl fantasy, equipped with a solid education, relationships and experiences that I will never forget.

I have been able to call New York City home for four years, which in itself is insane, but also unbelievably awesome to the point where sometimes I don’t even believe it (though I quickly remember when I see a rat scurry across the platform.) Working has afforded me the opportunity to explore the beginnings of a career in the entertainment world, and to go to more shows and festivals and create more memories than I can count. With the freedom to pursue my interests, I have learned more about myself and what I want in life, which in itself is a gift. There have been countless drinks, dates, apartments, 6am cab rides home from Bushwick, several awkward interviews, tears, bad decisions, trips, mini-tragedies, rooftop sunrises, missteps and little miracles. It has been a ride, but to think I have peaked would be more depressing than anything.

The freedom of this time is something that I know will not last forever, especially if I take the decidedly normal approach to life and settle down at some point. That luxury of having only to worry about the self, of being able to act on a whim is sacred and perhaps limited in its capacity as we grow older, but I am of the belief that freedom is not a privilege reserved for the young. There is no reason why my 30s, 40s, and 50s can’t be equally as awesome, though perhaps in a different way than my roaring 20s. I do not want to look back on this time as the best years of my life, but more so a blank canvas wherein the foundation is being laid for an ever-amazing, badass life.

 

 

WTF

Dear Universe,

WTF is going on?

I like to think that I give pretty good advice – I derive pleasure from listening to people’s problems and offering my take on things, providing a (typically) unbiased perspective and hopefully offering comfort or serving as a catalyst for some type of resolution. As I see it, all of my friends are incredibly powerful beings deserving of unlimited love, sex, money, success, happiness and fulfillment. The advice I give, sometimes harsh and always honest, supports that theory.

The same things I champion in others – vulnerability, fearlessness, strength, tenacity – have recently been completely lost when it comes time to apply said advice to my own life when I need it most. Despite being surrounded by love and an especially strong support system, I feel this incessant need to do everything on my own – to always be strong, strategically work through my problems, shove any negative feelings to the back of my mind, and actively refrain from burdening those around me with my own needs. I want to be the best that I can be in every role I inhabit, from daughter and friend, to girlfriend or employee. It is important for me to be there for others, but when it comes time to call on support I am suddenly paralyzed, terrified of becoming a “nag” or the “needy girl.” Why the hell is it suddenly so difficult to be there for myself, to be so easily giving but simultaneously unable to receive?

At this moment, my life is somewhat in flux across the board: I am having a minor, unexpected and unwelcome quarter-life crisis as I try to navigate the best next steps for my career, wondering if there is ever a time to choose profit over passion (I shouldn’t have to choose…I want both!) I am dealing with an ailing family member, which will imminently bring a devastating loss in the near future. While uncertainty can undoubtedly be exciting I know I will inevitably persevere, I am admittedly overwhelmed and in need of someone to lean on – to remind me that is okay to not be okay, to feel, to cry, to be girly and imperfect before refocusing and moving forward.

In addition to everything going on, I am falling for someone. Wasn’t necessarily planning to, but as well all know, life rarely (if ever) goes as planned. But that is a topic for another day.

On Quitting

I quit my job two weeks ago. No, I did not have another offer lined up or a trust fund to fall back on. Was it a reckless move? Sure. But it was one of the best I’ve ever made.

One of the things I am most grateful for is my incredible support system. My parents taught me the value of working hard, but also of maintaining integrity and involving myself only in things and people that make me truly happy. While they may not always understand my choices (not going to grad school), my jobs (a career in the arts/music industry), or my path in general, their support never wavers. My friends have always been there to listen to the rants that inevitably come with a less-than-traditional career path. After weeks of bitching about my job, I told them I quit and was met with nothing but unending support. Yes, things may be uncertain I will undoubtedly have to hustle my ass off, but they never failed to remind me I will land on my feet. That right there is worth more than gold.

While positive thinking and pursuing happiness is important to our overall wellbeing, so is getting to the root of our problems and taking action. Issues at work, in life or love don’t just go away and sometimes you need to sit in your shit and find a solution. Some things – including jobs, people and relationships – are simply not for you and cannot be forced into being otherwise, despite your best efforts. Maybe something that was once working for you and brought you joy, such as a dream job, partner or environment, no longer does. Mental shifts and change are all inevitable parts of life, and being honest with yourself (though scary as hell) is integral to individual growth. We are conditioned to believe that outright suffering is a part of the process, and while not everything is perfect or glamorous in the pursuit of success, it is important to recognize when something just doesn’t feel right anymore and to be able to walk away.

Quitting is not always the answer, but can serve as a catalyst for change – and it should only be done when your problems in a current situation are no longer fixable. We are too often and too easily tempted to give up on things before we have truly assessed if our problems are solvable. If you’re feeling unmotivated at work, can you change your mindset to become more productive? If you’re feeling an emotional distance between you and your partner, have you thought of new ways to reconnect? One bad week at work is no reason to throw in the towel and one bad argument with your significant other isn’t reason to break up. Knowing when to walk away is a valuable skill that should only be applied when absolutely necessary.

There is a shame around the concept of quitting, but I urge you to change your perspective. No, you shouldn’t abandon things before putting in the necessary work, but if after all of your effort is exhausted things are still not progressing, know that walking is an option. Despite what society has told you for your entire life, you do not always need to wait for good things happen. Taking agency is one of the most rewarding things in this world, and while things may never be perfect, we have full control over making our time on earth as happy as possible. If you are at a college you hate, transfer to find a better environment. If you aren’t getting fulfilled by your friendships, make new ones. If you aren’t fulfilled at work and there is no change is sight, leave and take a temporary position to keep the bills paid till you land the next gig. Do what the hell you need to do. If that makes you a quitter, then so be it.

On Anxiety + One World Trade

Two weeks ago I started a new role at Conde Nast as assistant to the Editor in Chief of BRIDES. In a short amount of time I have learned the fundamental ins and outs of the leading wedding magazine and the editorial world – a realm that I always admired but did not think I could enter as I spent the bulk of my post-graduate life in the music industry. Though still new in this space I feel very much at home – with a boss that is inspiring and supportive and surrounded by women who create as easily as they breathe. Conde Nast is an international media powerhouse and BRIDES is the ultimate women’s magazine. Every day I wake up grateful to be involved in this space of endless creativity, and that is feeling is priceless.

Conde Nast is located at One World Trade – the main building of the former World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan. The building, also known as the “Freedom Tower,” was completed in 2013 and has become a symbol for the resilience of Americans and particularly New Yorkers in the wake of 9/11. While it has been 16 years since the tragedy, I know that the pain still lives with most New Yorkers regardless of their individual closeness to the attacks. The memory holds us together, and One World Trade – which at 1776 feet can be seen from anywhere as far as New Jersey and out to Long Island – stands as a reminder of our resiliency.

While I was anxious about starting a new career path, I did not anticipate the anxiety of working at One World Trade. I was nine on September 11, 2001 and living an hour from Manhattan. While I heard stories and saw video footage of the attacks, I did not lose any acquaintances, friends or family members.  From childhood through college I was notoriously laid back and rarely anxious about anything. This changed after moving to the city, though I never thought I was any different than other New Yorker – taking my regularly heightened sense of worry and paranoia that comes from living in post-9/11 America as normal. While I am not in a constant state of panic I have always kept my eyes and ears open for suspicious behavior, as I am constantly reminded to do by NYPD’s “if you see something, do something” campaign.

Until the recent attacks abroad in London, Paris and Germany I was not fearful for my life. Perhaps I have been coddled by a safe childhood, the privilege of living in a nice (re: painfully gentrified) Manhattan neighborhood and eight years of Obama (if you’re reading this – I miss you very much!) Now more than ever I feel on edge, with news outlets constantly churning out reports of extremely volatile international relations and the election of the reckless and dangerous new President man-child in the White House. There are police throughout the subways in full-body armor and machine guns. Military personnel line the surrounding area of One World Trade, consistently on high alert and ready for attack. All of this, combined with working in a building that was once targeted for representing our nation’s strength, is truly eating away at my own.

I have been working on combating these fears, mainly through seeking the highs of exercise-induced endorphins and detoxification of hot yoga. I practice conscious breathing daily and diligently take my adaptogens. I make sure to call my parents every day and visit my grandparents at least once a week. While I value my alone time and need solitude for at least an hour every day, I actively make time for friends and things I love, including writing and margaritas. Conversely, I have tried to remove toxic people from my orbit. I try to complain less, which is incredibly difficult because I like to talk shit.  All of this helps, though it takes determination to stick to such practices. I may seek out a group of people who are equally worried about the state of the world, but for now I am determined not to let fear take control of my life. I have found that it helps to give thanks daily, carving out a few minutes every morning before social media and starting my day to express gratitude for the life I have been given. And for being able to live in the greatest damn city in the world, which is not up for debate so don’t @ me. To anyone struggling with any type of anxiety in this day and age, I urge you to try and do the same because its one of the few things keeping me sane.