Reassess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, therapy it is.

 

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.

 

The Best Years

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

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

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

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

 

 

WTF

Dear Universe,

WTF is going on?

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

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

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

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

On Anxiety + One World Trade

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

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

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

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

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

What Do You Bring To the Table?

Let me start this post off by saying I am all about people striving for the best in all aspects of their lives from personal to professional. I do not ever want to see people settling for less than they deserve in love or in life. With the exception of becoming president, I believe that most of our dreams are not outlandish and can be achieved with the right amount of confidence, dedication, and a strong work ethic.

Something I have noticed recently, specifically within my age group, is that most people have a whole lot of confidence, which is great, but low levels of authentic dedication and an even weaker work ethic. Somehow we have come to believe that simply by going through the motions we can be “great” when really we are on the road to being average at best. Every day I go online and see countless posts about “making it”, and while everyone has a different measure of success, the ideas pretty much remain the same. I probably read about 10 “I’m going to make a million by the time I’m 30 #dontbelievemejustwatch” tweets before noon on any given day, but most of these people are folks I know in real life who spend more time online than anything else. What are YOU doing to make your dreams a tangible reality? You want to be a millionaire? What are you doing to make that happen? Your friends say you’re pretty and that you should model? Instagram is great but separate yourself, get some professional photos taken and put yourself out there. You want to be an activist or motivational speaker? Use social media, of course, but get out there and make a difference in your community too. You want to be a rapper? Great. Nobody is going to discover your greatness while you put minimal effort into your craft (production, image, promotion, etc.)

Many of my peers are seniors, and are furiously on the job hunt. Many times I hear these students complaining about how they have not gotten hired yet. News flash: just because you are “nice”, “work hard”, and have a high GPA does not mean shit. Recognize that in the job search YOU are not doing the company a favor by applying, and unless you literally shit gold there is a chance that you will lsoe out on job opportunities to one of the thousands of candidates they are looking at. In this competitive job climate, being a “recent grad” is not enough: the employer has to see why they should do you a favor and hire YOU.

The same basic outlook on achievement transfers over to relationships as well. From a young age we are told to “reach for the stars” and women in particularly are told to find the one who treats them like a “princess”. I do not want to blow up anyone’s fantasy right now but none of us are princesses, and as much as we deserve to be respected and cherished, the men in our lives should be receiving that same respect in full…not coming to “save us” and put in all of the work. We all want a loving, sexy, smart, successful, and respectful man but what are we doing to attract them? I have heard people say that if they meet a man who is not fully established by 25, he is no longer in the running as a potential partner. But the question you should ask yourself is where will you be when you are 25, and if you will be deserving of a fully mature man who has his shit together by then (which is only a couple years from now, by the way). Many men are guilty of this too: she has to be a 10 but you’re a strong 6 at best, she has to have her own but you can barely provide for yourself, and she must be loyal but you are out here pretending to be single. I really need to know, aside from mediocre sex and having a car, what do you bring to the table? 

For me personally, I know that I am in no place for a relationship because I am not at my best. I know my strengths: I am giving, compassionate, a good communicator, positive, smart, and driven. But I am about to move to NYC with no concrete plan whatsoever except for where I am going to live. Do I want to jump into a career right away? Do I want to travel? Do I want to go to grad school next year? I don’t know the answers to these yet, but I do know that I want to be more established and make choices on my own before I bring somebody else into my world. Right now it is chaotic and the only thing that I am certain about is that I want to explore and find out things for myself. While eventually I will want a partner who stimulates me on all levels and makes me want to set my solo status aside, I want to be at a certain level of success and maturity so that I am ready to elevate that person with me.

This post is not to knock anyone’s dreams, but simply to shine light on the fact that for most, success does not come easy. Not everyone gets “discovered” and not everyone makes $100,000 a year by doing the bare minimum. Not everyone’s first job is their dream job, and not all of us are going to become famous writers or video vixens who get to make their living off of writing tell-all novels (do we really want that life anyway?) I want us all to be great, and in turn attract and achieve what we truly deserve at work, at home, or wherever we choose to go. While we all deserve the best, but we need to make sure that we are our best selves first.