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.

Forward

9:50am New Year’s Eve. Home alone. Still in bed. Nowhere to be, the day at my complete disposal. Happy.

Normal me would disapprove of staying in bed past 9am on a weekday, but not today. The week between Christmas and New Years is always a period of blurred, ignorant bliss: between traveling to see family, friends coming to town, and endless indulgences it is so easy to lose track of time, and I allow myself to get lost in it. My typically structured days are replaced by spontaneous whims, fully immersed in the abundance of love, gratitude and sugar.

11:00am Its hard for me to stay in one place for long, so I book myself a bike for 12:00pm HIIT in the city and finish my morning lemon water. Anderson Paak sets the tone for the rest of the day. Malibu, though, not Oxnard.

Cliched as it may be, one of my biggest accomplishments this year was making wellness a priority. In the past, I would work out either in advance of or right after a period of unhealthy eating, as a way to “offset the damage” I was about to do to myself, especially around the holidays. I now truly understand the connection between fitness and nutrition, how my body works, what it responds to, what it likes. I love that feeling of achievement after a particularly challenging burn, especially on days when I almost opted to go home and watch Game of Thrones instead. I am now one of those sick fucks who actually prefers to go to cycling over happy hour, and I am okay with that, because it has improved not just my physical health but my mental state. I want to get even better next year, and I want to inspire people to do the same.

1:00pm Sweaty, happy, hungry. As opposed to going and buying a green juice, I head back home and make myself a salad.

A 2018 goal of mine that didn’t end up manifesting until almost 365 days later: cut out the bullshit. This was the year of my financial awakening in that I realized how much of my money was spent on absolute bullshit non-essentials that were contributing only to my present happiness: $5 daily matchas and bi-monthly manicures, pricey nights out followed by Uber rides home, $14 lunches when I have fully-prepared meals in the fridge.

When I was living with less intention, not only I was content with my aimless spending, and I had come to think of it as simply a part of living in New York.  It took almost a year of podcasts, books, and looking at my bank statements to truly understand the gravity of this behavior. It is really fucking hard to break these habits that have been engrained since childhood, but it’s imperative that I do, because unless you have a trust fund or 6-figure salary, things do not just ~magically~ work out. Not to say that I am going full-on minimalist by any means (I have festivals to attend, restaurants to try, and French classes to buy!) but I am thinking ahead, now more than ever. One day, I want to buy a home. I want to travel. I want to work voluntarily, not to make ends meet. I want to have a solid financial cushion. I don’t want to be a slave to a company at 55. So, leftovers it is. Future me will thank me.

Here’s to a new year of living presently, but also thinking forward. To standing up for myself and saying no more often. To not letting my experiences of the past limit my future potential. To new experiences, more love, and even more growth.

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.

 

Hurdles

7:45am. I try not to look at my phone right when I wake up, but I am feigning optimism that today won’t be another bleak, overcast shithole of a day. We haven’t seen the sun since Saturday, and it has directly impacted my mood. Yoga always helps, so off I go.

I started practicing yoga four years ago, but became more serious about the whole thing within the past three. Truthfully, I used to shrug at the thought of it: in my mind, yoga was a luxury reserved for skinny, rich, Goop-reading white women – ultimately something I could never fit in with or be a part of. Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the whole thing is about in the first place. Thankfully, the movement in Western culture has become much more inclusive and accessible overall, especially in New York, so I try to go twice a week. Yogis often fall into the annoying category usually dominated by vegans and people who do crossfit, so I try not to be one of those people that talks about it incessantly. However, I do like the community that grows from yogic practice: especially with women of color. There’s something about the choice to use this specific practice as an escape, as therapy, as exercise that reflects a similar mindset and creates a certain bond. We tend to get on extremely well.

Walking in, I’m a bit nervous. I take roll out my mat and lay in savasana, trying to get in the right headspace for a successful practice. I’ve fallen off the wagon somewhat, and its now been two weeks since my last class. Suddenly all of the old insecurities sink in:  I oped for a sports bra today, so my love handles will inevitably make an appearance. I’m definitely fatter than I was last time I came, so why the fuck am I wearing a sports bra again?  I think about everything I’ve consumed in the past two weeks: croissants in Montreal, dim sum in Chinatown, drinks with friends, pizza at work. I know I can’t carry this into my practice, and have to “leave it all on the mat”, as my teacher always says. Admittedly, this only half works, and after an hour of a half-assed session I leave in a shitty mood due to my inability to control my negative thoughts. Leading to more negative thoughts, and so on.

The rest of the day is trash, consisting of the usual games: navigating the needs of my boss, managing varying stress levels and personalities, all while somehow avoiding the constant stream of junk food available in the office. Will they ever stop ordering Insomniac by the truckload? For someone with food issues, the office is a fucking minefield. Sometimes I miss working from home and wonder if an over-indulgent office culture is part of the problem. Or perhaps its the industry itself: the entertainment business isn’t exactly known for its interest in health, mental or otherwise. Then again, I worked at a magazine and the girls there were literally anorexic, so is there such a thing as a healthy work environment?

4:00pm. Friend invites me to happy hour. There’s always a happy hour, and I’ve learned to say no. Last year I said yes to everything and it left me with nothing but hangovers and cringe-worthy bank statements.

4:30pm. Now eating a cookie. So much for being good today.

These are the thoughts I deal with more often than I’d like to admit, though far less frequent than in years past. I know this sudden relapse is stemming from my recent vacation, where I had no structure and indulged more than usual – and didn’t immediately bounce back upon my return. I’ve again started to think of foods as “good” or “bad”, which I know is illogical and only leads to destructive habits. Two years ago, this would have sent me into a downward spiral – eating even one slice of pizza would lead me to eat several others, throwing away any progress I had made at the gym in the months prior. Subsequently, I would rid my body of it as quickly as possible, causing irreversible internal damage both mentally and physically. I was caught up in vicious cycle, one that plagued me for far too long and robbed me of my ability to enjoy food without guilt, to feel confident in my own skin. I don’t want to go down that road again, so I’ve recognized my need for structure, for routine. This is why I need yoga: its not trendy, its survival.

I won’t say that I have full on binge eating disorder or body dysmorphia, because that would be inaccurate and insensitive to those that do. The problem is my existence on the fringes of these issues, which makes it even harder to talk about or identify with other people. When I told my ex about these issues, he quickly dismissed it with “all women have this problem.” Issues are often not seen as such unless they exist on extremes: anorexia or bulimia, obesity or dysmorphia – but what about all of the in-betweens?

Yoga has helped me understand that the process starts and in my mind, in knowing that I have control, that food is nourishment, it is fuel. I remind myself of this during meditation each morning while looking in the mirror, repeating the following affirmations: I am beautiful. I am strong. I am worthy.  I am loved. Then I take these into my day.

Hopefully my roommates can’t hear me or think I’m a freak – though even if they do, who cares? This journey to wellness is mine, and mine alone.

 

Love

I woke up with the urge to write. This normally doesn’t happen before 9am, so I’ve decided to go with it. Previously, I wouldn’t write anything until I had what I perceived to be a great idea, but then 3 months would go by without a single journal entry. So, no, not the best strategy for a bourgeoning writer.

We have a deck just outside my room, so after a quick shower and meditation I make myself comfortable, notebook and pen in tow. I have this brief pang of anxiety about the usual things: going to work, the state of the country, my spending habits this past weekend. Nothing particularly riveting to see here – some of these things are first world problems that are fully in my control, others are not. I let it melt away with some deep breathing exercises and “La rua madureira” by Paulize Croze.

Also on my mind, my boyfriend. We didn’t start off traditionally by any means (met on Tinder, hooked up, didn’t define our situation until months later, etc.) It took some time to get to where we are now, and it was admittedly a slow burn. But now, I’m in deep. And while I’m not afraid, it can be a bit overwhelming at times when I realize how I’ve shifted from me to we. I find myself dropping him into miscellaneous conversations with friends, creating lists of restaurants for us to try and trips to take, asking about projects he’s working on out of genuine interest though I know absolutely nothing about coding (I am helplessly right-brained.) These feelings are fantastic, but admittedly slightly unnerving at times. Despite my Drake-level softness, I try not to be too annoying about it, lest I become that girl who won’t shut the fuck up about her boyfriend. Nobody likes that girl.

I don’t want to go to work. At all. I’ve been having a bit of a rough patch as there is not much creativity in my current role, but I am trying to adopt a more positive outlook on the present, working with the situation at hand and taking the steps necessary to improve it. It all starts with thoughts, so its crucial that I adjust my mindset accordingly.

On my way to work I thought about a conversation from last weekend at brunch with my roommates. Following some drinks, it wasn’t long before the conversation naturally turned to dating in New York – as most good conversations do. Kendre, who up until now hadn’t spoken much, said “I’ve never been in love in New York, but I imagine that its probably one the most incredible experiences that one can have.”

This resonated with me, ultimately because I recognized the truth in it. Love can take many forms, but the experience of being in love with someone in New York is rare. Every single aspect of life in this city is competitive, constantly shifting, and based in pride in our autonomy. Each day we interact with countless people, the depth of these encounters varying, and some leaving much to be desired. We are all seeking meaningful connections on a singular island inhabited by of millions of people – amidst full time jobs and endless social obligations – making dating notoriously cutthroat. Nobody has time to waste, which requires having multiple dates a week and experiencing different people in various capacities to find someone you both want to talk AND sleep with on a regular basis, which is harder than it sounds. Feelings aren’t reciprocated. Expectations don’t meet reality. People don’t make the final cut.

But then, you meet someone, and suddenly everything slows down. In connecting with someone else beneath the surface, you relinquish that sense of control that comes with being single, that emotional fortress you’ve built around yourself crumbling by the minute. In a city that is often harsh and divisive, love acts as a grounding and unifying antidote. It happened to me: I am now become a walking cliche of a woman in love. Just saying that makes me want to slap myself, but here is something about knowing there is at least one person that completely gets me is both beautiful and comforting; a rarity in a city that inspires chaos and discomfort at almost every turn.

Love in New York isn’t limited to romantic love: you can find love in family, friends, work, the rat outside of your apartment eating a dollar slice. But I have the opportunity to experience this love – in all its entirely beautiful, cliched, and ridiculous glory. I need to remember not to take it for granted.

 

The Real World

Its 7:15am. Somehow I’ve managed to wake up before my alarm, which pretty much never happens. I am shockingly awake, perky even. Its gross, but I’m actually sort of into it. Given that I don’t need to be at work for 3 hours, I make myself my daily cup of hot lemon water, meditate, and get dressed for the gym.

I’ve been waking up at 7:30am on the dot every day since I’ve moved, likely due to the fact that I now have windows – something I’ll never take for granted ever again. My last apartment move was made a bit out of desperation, and I ended up in a small, windowless room above Bagelsmith. So yes, I now admittedly wake up filled with this absurd contentment over having not one, not two, but three lovely windows, the gorgeous natural light pouring in each morning and welcoming to a new day. Silly, I know, but its the little things.

Late to class, of course. I just can’t seem to time my bike ride perfectly from my new apartment, even though its only 5 minutes away from my old place. The only spot left is in the front row, which I don’t mind, but it means I am going to be that late asshole that pushes her way through the group to get there. Owning it. Luckily everyone is too busy in their downward dogs, so I sneak in relatively undetected.

This is now my fifth apartment since I graduated college. I moved because I very much needed a change but was not ready follow the masses of 20-somethings looking for reasonably priced housing in Bushwick. I hate myself for saying it, but I love Williamsburg. Though only a few blocks south of Bedford Ave, my neighborhood is far less gentrified and much more interesting: the area is an interesting mix of Puerto Rican and Satmar, and on any given evening you’re likely to see people hanging out on the street, music blaring from tricked out cars and going to the butcher. I often want to wish them “good shabbos”, but I imagine they don’t give a shit that I’m Jewish too – to them I’m just another basic, upper-middle class gentrifier.

I think I have always been a bit restless, possessed by an innate need to keep things interesting, which is both a blessing and a curse because I am hardly ever satisfied (see: apartment + job history, dating life). For the first time, though, I feel fully content with my current situation and can actually see myself staying put. My boyfriend jokes that I’m living in a “Real World House”, but I promise its not nearly as wild as that, despite being a 6 bedroom – the roommates are all 9-5ers from around the world and seemingly have the same mindset in terms of relaxing and keeping a nice home, which is what I value right now. Considering I used to value how close I lived to the bars, I’d consider this growth.

 

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.