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.

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.

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.

 

 

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

Introvert Problems

I am an introvert. Somehow writing it down feels like a confession; all at once I feel lighter as though I am revealing some magnificent secret, lifting its weight off of my chest. There are certainly shades of grey in between the timid introvert and its counterpart: the emboldened, unabashedly prominent extrovert. Personalities, after all, are capable of spanning across the many labels we place on them. While I enjoy interacting with others and highly value interpersonal connections, there is no doubt of where my true self lies, despite years of trying to fool myself and the rest of the world into thinking otherwise.

I have always been an introvert, but terribly ashamed and scared to admit this as I irrationally attached so much negativity to it. In all honestly, I resented myself: for not being more outgoing, for not being able to enter a room of strangers and feel completely at ease. I envied the social butterflies who could flitter around through a crowd initiating conversations and introductions, completely uninhibited by fear of rejection or judgement. Meanwhile, I would assume my self-assigned role of the wallflower, finding comfort in my solitude (and in turn, as you may have guessed, was perceived by many as standoffish/a huge bitch). As a result, the self-deprecation persisted, as did this vicious, victim-based mentality. This went on for years, and yes it was fucking exhausting.

Luckily for me (and the world) I decided to get over myself and accept that I am not to be understood by the masses. My introversion throughout my teens and early adulthood was based in fear, but I have since reclaimed it, recognizing the true extent of its power. I now take pride in my boundaries, in letting people in slowly, in not investing emotionally in every single person I meet. I don’t beat myself up for not being the life of a party or for having a million and one friends or followers. Naturally, I am drawn to those who are on the other side of spectrum, amazed by their outgoing superpowers.

Most of my closest friends are extraverts, but now instead of breaking my back trying to compete with them I choose to yield, allowing them to take center stage and glow in their unashamed, and incredibly loud selves. On occasion I step into the spotlight going off on a tangent about my newest interests or dancing on a bar after one too many margaritas. In general, however, I find intimacy in silence – the most cherished moments with people for me are just listening, not thinking about some witty rebuttal or any of that shit, actually listening and getting into the core of another human. Intimacy is in doing nothing, in reading side by side or bodies intertwined with music blaring and neither of us saying a word. Alone, together.

For what its worth I know that I am imperfect: I am not the most eloquent, despite my username. I don’t always speak, and when do it is often fraught with emotion and mysterious riddles that require some serious deciphering as I jump from one thought to the next. I am intuitive and I feel extremely deeply though I don’t always verbalize these feelings. I don’t often speak without thinking first, unless margaritas are involved. I don’t give myself fully to everyone I meet, but I constantly strive to make sure that those close to me feel the depth of my love and gratitude, even when I don’t say it. I prefer to express myself through writing, or let a song say the things that I sometimes can’t. And I realize that these things aren’t problems after all.

 

On Ghosting

Modern dating is akin to surviving The Hunger Games – it is not for the faint of heart. It requires confidence, patience, trial and error. Dating is an investment – when playing the game one must be all in, emotionally exposed and unafraid of rejection. We put ourselves out there in hopes of connecting with someone who can satiate our innate desire to love and be loved (or at least laid.) A true journey is nothing without a few challenges along the way  – managing expectations, following “rules”, navigating societal practices/norms, breakups, the dreaded “what are we” conversation, dodging f*ckboys, and most recently ghosting – which for those unfamiliar is exactly as scary as it sounds.

Ghosting is the act of literally leaving a dating prospect hanging. One party (the ghost) decides that they are no longer interested in moving forward and proceeds to eliminate contact with the other (the ghostee). The ghost is the decider: he/she is in charge of making the executive decision to cut communication via a method of their choosing, be it a slow fade – a steady and mysterious decline of interaction – or an abrupt, unprecedented end to all communication (rude!) The ghostee, often blindsided, is subsequently left to sit and wonder many things, the main one being “what the actual f*ck just happened.” There is no closure, except for the closure you create to get through such times – I personally recommend journaling and hitting a punching bag or two, while others may prefer drinking a liter of Yellowtail and venting on Twitter. In this sensitive time, you are encouraged to do you.

Being ghosted could actually be quite funny if it wasn’t so maddening. There is something particularly cruel about being forced to acknowledged that while there are a million and one ways to get in touch with someone, you are being ignored on single one of them. This level of rejection is enough to drive even the most laid-back person to absolute insanity. Rejection stings no matter when it occurs – be it after one date, several months of seeing each other or perhaps at some point in a long-term relationship (yes, this does happen!) For the weeks following said ghosting there is often a full-blown period that spans the full five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).  How long this mourning lasts depends on the ghostee – more experienced daters may appear to bounce back quickly, licking their wounds and chalking it up to part of the game. The first cut is definitely the deepest, so one’s first ghosting experience will definitely warrant a few weeks of wallowing in self-pity and talking lots of shit about how big of a douche said ghostee is, regardless of whether or not its based in fact (screw facts, this is about you!)

In reality, having someone ghost you is for the best as it frees you up to explore other, more compatible prospects – you know, those people who actually like you. Yes, you  will move on. But in the mind of a millenial, being ghosted leaves an interminable sting of rejection, a painful reminder of a near-fatal blow to the ego – which, for many of us, is worse than death. More often than not, the pain comes from the loss of potential of a relationship that was never actualized, of not being someone’s type. It triggers our deep-seated insecurities, ranging from body image issues, our level of intelligence, to our personalities – as if a flat ass or a penchant for profanity are legitimate reasons why someone disappears. All of this blinds us to the fact that there was nothing that could have been done differently to change this outcome – so no, do not go back and retrace every text, call or interaction to see where you messed up. The only closure that brings any satisfaction cannot be given by anyone else but us, and more often than not the reasons for said disappearance has little to do with you. However difficult it may be to believe it, your ghost is likely not an evil person, just an extremely cowardly one. Refrain from angrily throwing darts at their photo or wishing them a lifetime of unhappiness. You are, however, welcome to rip them a new one via text, as my friend Jess* did in the recent past:

“I had a few great dates with this guy, and after one night I left my portable charger at his apartment. I shot him a text letting him know, and he said he would get it back to me. A week later, I hadn’t heard from him so I reached out again – letting him know that if he doesn’t want to see me again and no hard feelings but that I really wanted my charger back. He immediately answers – saying he’s sorry, he’s getting back with his ex, of COURSE he will send me my phone charger. Three weeks pass and still nothing – I message again. No response. At this point, I’m LIVID. I go full on crazy – send him a novel cursing him out and shaming him for not being truthful.

In reality, I just wanted him to be honest with me. Needless to say, he never answered my crazy message, but I got my phone charger in the mail shortly after, so it was a win for me!”

Lesson here: If venting to your ghost feels good, do it but make it a one and done type of thing . Do not expect a response – Remember that a ghost is trying to avoid any and all confrontation via cutting contact with you, so the best move after getting things off your chest is ghosting them right back. Also, for the love of god give back people’s stuff in a timely manner. A girl needs her portable charger!

I had to ask some of my eligible lady friends – is there any time when ghosting is okay? It was generally agreed upon that if you have been on less than 5 dates you are allowed to ghost, noting that “it is especially hurtful to tell someone you don’t want to date them anymore when you don’t know them very well.” In this case the ghostee will likely be pissed, but not wounded. Ghosting is also acceptable after a particularly awful first date or when dodging a creep/stage-5-level stalker who is giving you serious vibes (the bad kind) or anyone who comments negatively on your appearance (#boyBYE). As for someone you’ve been seeing consistently for a month or longer, out of courtesy you need to bite the bullet and tell them its a wrap. “Not that it’s ever easy to end things with someone, nor is it ever easy to hear,” one friend said, “but I think after you’ve been dating for a while – like a month or 5+ dates – it’s just good manners to tell them you want to end it.”

My friend Natalie, who has a strict “no ghosting” policy regardless of how many dates she has been on with a guy, takes the high road and has had positive results. “You’re not always to mesh with people – especially when you meet them on social media it can take a couple of dates to really decide if you are into them.” She continued with, “early on some guys fall faster than I do (within 1-2 dates) and I don’t want to deal with the fallout, but its mortifying to reach out to someone and not get a response, so instead of ghosting I tell them ‘hey, I don’t feel the romantic chemistry I’m looking for. No hard feelings.'” She says the men in question have responded well, despite being a bit disappointed (rightfully so, she’s a catch!) But being truthful is key, so do not say that you will reach out again when you know you won’t and for the love of god do not set up a next date and then disappear. Also, eliminate “I’m just not looking for a relationship right now” from your vocabulary – because everyone knows that is B.S.

And there you have it – ghosting is pretty much never okay, unless its very early on in the process or after a painfully awful Tinder date with a creep or asshole. While ghosting may seem like the best strategy to temporarily avoid emotions and confrontation, be considerate of the person on the other side – however painful this may be for you, being ghosted is much worse on the recipient’s end. If you are ghosted, ride out your feels however you see fit and then keep it moving to someone that fully reciprocates your affections – this is an infinitely superior and rewarding use of your energy. If you feel the need to ghost, let them down easy. I recommend this one-liner from my friend Carly: “I enjoyed getting to know you, but I don’t see this working out. Good luck, and I wish you the best.” Telling someone they are not for you is never easy, but completely disappearing is a surefire way to become haunted by ghosts-of-dating past – or at least deserving of some bad dating karma. Who wants that?