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.

Perfection

9:35am On the 5 train heading downtown. Unsurprisingly, we are temporarily stopped in the tunnel somewhere between 14th and City Hall. Everyone is tethered to their phones, feverishly and unsuccessfully refreshing their tabs, angrily awaiting the return of their 4G.

9:50am Treating myself to a store-bought matcha – I’m going to need it today.

I didn’t sleep well last night, and it shows – the remnants of last night’s mascara clinging to my lashes, the puffiness of my eyes from one too many cocktails this week. I’ve been indulging, but actively trying not to self-deprecate and simply enjoy the highly social and extravagant nature of the holiday season. There is so much to be grateful for.

10:30am I’ve settled into the lounge area we have here at the office, which is essentially the home decor section of Anthropologie, the embodiment of a chic urban dwelling (with succulents and all.) Naturally, this is typically where I live during the work day – its tranquility affords me the solitude and comfort needed to focus on the dynamic nature of my new position.

But I can’t focus today – my mind is racing, still reeling from a conversation with my boyfriend that led to my sleepless night. I try not to overthink things, but somehow I’ve worked myself into an awful state of worry about my relationship as it progresses into a new, unfamiliar state. I could definitely use a blunt, but I know that’s not the correct emotional response to feeling blue.

I am currently in the longest, most serious relationship of my life. Similar to most couples, we have evolved – from the initial infatuation stage into something deeper, more nurturing, more mature. This person has become my best friend, yet I am still learning how to balance the needs of my individual self to those of a partner. At a year and a half, we have certainly surpassed past the superficial niceties and frenetic natures of casual dating. Those feelings of constant affection and adoration replaced by perfectly natural ebbs and flows.

Admittedly, I still struggle with having difficult (but necessary) conversations, with conflict, with tension, with criticism, with the less-than-perfect moments. I am getting better at navigating these things: not feeling personally attacked by his criticism, resisting the urge to get defensive or angry or worse shut down – all tactics that rarely serve me well and I’m trying to completely remove from my emotional arsenal.

I know my faults: I can be stubborn, I am naturally conflict-averse. I have this innate, irrational desire to be the perfect partner – a fruitless goal not at all based reality but in fantasy wherein my future self lives:

I want to be everything all at once: hot, smart, fun, sexy, wild, successful, alluring, insatiable.

I want to be a forward-thinking and people-focused manager, a leader, a creator by day and a hospitality scouring, highly health-conscious, well-read French enthusiast by night.

I want to travel, becoming a citizen of the world, continuously expanding my mindset through new experiences and encounters.

I want to be independent and comfortable, able to indulge in the things I love: music, food, travel, wellness.

I want to host dinner parties with interesting people from diverse backgrounds with varying perspectives – becoming fully immersed in storytelling the human experience.

I consistently want to be encircled with boundless love, knowledge, and pure good.

Most importantly, I want a partner, with their own dreams and complexities, to join me for the ride.

I hope it’s you.

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.

 

 

On Words

Those that know me well that I take words very seriously. This is particularly true as a quieter soul, as I fully recognize that words are weapons – ones that can be wielded to praise and persuade, to deceive or destroy, to heal and to harm. Too often we underestimate their value, forgetting that choosing instead to move on our own, stealthily, in silence.

I don’t understand why people choose to withhold, to save special words for certain occasions, or say things they don’t mean. Words that should be shared are so often contained by those who fear a negative response, preferring to hide in the safety of reticence. Others have no problem say things as they come, throwing their words around haphazardly with complete disregard for any and all consequences or understanding of their permanence. If only people could truly be cognizant of just how impactful a single word can be in bettering any and all areas of our lives.

We are groomed to believe that that actions speak louder than words, but for me there has always been an equal importance in things both said and done. More meaning exists to me in a loving message from a family member or a well-worded compliment from a friend than from a tangible gift. In relationships, words are essential – a frequent whispers of affection and love from a partner is all it takes to fall. As a result, I have fallen in love with promises that were likely never meant to be kept or taken too seriously, harping on their presence and taking them as fact. While I’m no longer quick to hang on a word, instead focusing on follow-through and delivery on such promises, I don’t ever want to lose my faith in the magic of words and the power they hold.

Moving forward into the new year, I am working to practice what I preach: to express myself fully, knowing when to retreat but never shying away from speaking up out of fear. I want to tell people I love them, to voice my concerns, express annoyances and feelings both positive and negative, without concern about being overly emotional. I want to be kind to others and true to myself. More importantly, I want to be around people who support that mindset, understanding that our differences and the breadth of our human emotional ranges should not be suppressed, but instead acknowledged as strength – an intelligence that needs to be embraced, harnessed, and expressed.

So here’s to opening our mouths and using our words for good in 2018 and beyond.

#makeamericaemoagain