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.

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 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

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.