Confessions of a High Maintenance Person

highmaintenance

I went to college at a school that had the most low-maintenance people. Like very low-maintenance. Like showing up to class required nothing more than a pair of sweats and a headband for most, and weekend going out attire consisted of flannels and maybe one coat of mascara. Sure, I could roll with the low-key vibes and pretend I didn’t miss spending a full hour playing with makeup on a Friday night, but I did. So, please enjoy the confessions of a high-maintenance person coming from yours truly.

Continue reading “Confessions of a High Maintenance Person”

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How to Look Your Best in Pictures!

How to look your best in pictures!

There unfortunately is no step-by-step manual on how to be photogenic, but being “unphotogenic” does not mean that you are not physically attractive. The most gorgeous person in the world could look like an absolute toad in pictures. There is a certain art to taking a good picture. Sometimes it is random, someone just catches you at the right time in the right place. But there are some tricks of the trade that can help you to make every picture a good one. Continue reading “How to Look Your Best in Pictures!”

Your First Time: Buying a House

Your First Time: Buying a House

When my husband and I started looking for a house, it was an exciting venture. It was going to be a place for us to just make a life together, but we had no idea how to even start that process. Other than stalking Trulia and making a wish list, we weren’t really sure where to go first. Beyond it being a fun time in your life, it can be stressful if you’re doing it alone or never had to handle a transaction as large as this.

So, here’s what I learned after going through the process, and what I wish someone had told me when we started looking to buy a house:

Know what you need in a house.

This is important and something that I think might be overlooked. What you need is different than what you want. You might want lots of land, a pool and an in-home movie theater, but you don’t necessarily need that, especially in a first home. Think of how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need to be comfortable, the style of house, the location, what kind of amenities you want near by. These are the things that you need to keep in mind, and if you decide you want a pool you can always add that later.

Know your financial limits.

Just because you can afford a $1200 mortgage payment doesn’t mean you should. Many websites will have calculators that will max you out or tell you that you can afford half of what you make towards a mortgage payment. But I think we all know that’s crazy, and you need to remember that life happens. If you max out your budget or give half of it to the mortgage, you’ll be in a pinch when you need some extra funds. Lay out a budget and see how much money you could comfortably handle without feeling paycheck to paycheck. So to sum it up, if the calculators say you can afford $1400, look for something at the $900-$1100 range to ensure you have enough of a financial buffer for “life happens” moments.

Interview your real estate agent.

There are hundreds of agents out in the world looking to help you find your house, but not all of them are going to have your best interests at heart. Don’t be afraid to go in and interview your agent. If you don’t like them, try someone else. The right agent will make the process seem stress free and fun, instead of a stressful nightmare. Our agent was wonderful, and always said what she would do if she was in our place, rather than giving us the typical jargon.

Shop around for loans.

There are so many types of loans, and many banks will offer them. Every bank will have different interest rates, some better than others, so make sure you don’t just choose a rate because you don’t want to research. There are loans made specifically for people in the military, people looking to buy in rural communities, and even no-money-down loans. One word of caution though: any loan that says you don’t have to put down money for a house sounds great but the reality is you’ll be paying no-money-down mortgages.

Have a solid down payment.

This might seem like a “duh” moment, but it’s very important. Most places will recommend that you have about 20%, and that’s a very smart thing to do. Not only will that help reduce your mortgage payment, but it also avoids having to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI is basically insurance that the loan office takes out to ensure you don’t skip out on payments and leave them with a huge debt. This happens when you pay anything under 20% of a down payment. My husband and I put down a little under 15%, but we were fortunate to have our PMI paid off at closing. The more you can save, the better you’ll be when you go to buy a house.
But the biggest tip is just to have fun. You only buy your first house once – duh – so make these moments the best you can. Do your research, understand what you need for a house, and enjoy your new home.

No Boyfriend. No Girlfriend. No Problem!

No Boyfriend. No Girlfriend. No Problem!

No Boyfriend. No Girlfriend. No Problem!

Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve been single for a fairly long time now and I’m okay with that. Of course there have been those moments at 2 A.M. where I can’t sleep and think too much and have cried for no reason at all, but 99% of the time, I haven’t been bothered by it. I haven’t lived these past several years thinking “Oh no! I’m single!”. Instead I’ve been focused on a thousand other things. Being single didn’t define me, it was only one of several hundred words that could be used to vaguely describe me.

However, 24 was a turning point for everyone having something to say about my singledom. Apparently, 23 had been the last year I could be single without it being an area of concern. When I turned 24, that age brought with it a heightened interest in my love life. Too many friends and family members had something to say. “You’re too picky!” “There’s someone, don’t worry.” “Aren’t you lonely?” “Don’t settle, my niece didn’t meet someone until she was 45.” “Let me go through all of my friends to see if there’s someone who might be interested!” What the hell? Each new and uninvited comment from some friend or stranger about me being single led to a type of thought process I had never had before.

Everyone’s opinions started swaying the way I viewed my own love life. For a few months, I was in panic mode. I downloaded a dating app. I tried to work out why I was single with whoever was willing to listen. Maybe I had been single for too long, maybe I was too picky. Worst of all, I was starting to feel bad for myself. However, I wasn’t actively working on trying to change my relationship status. There was still that little inner voice screaming at me that I really did like being single and that I wasn’t looking for a relationship right now. When I started to write this article, it was supposed to be about the important benefits of dating yourself. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn’t sitting right with me. This piece would have come out as yet another article trying to provide validation as to why it is ok to be single. Being single is a choice, not something forced upon you. That right there is the catch to society’s view of singleness. It’s treated like a disease that needs to be cured. I’m writing this for all my fellow single people in the hopes that you will realize this is not the case, and you shouldn’t have to justify why you’re single to other people.

Like I’ve already said, being single is an active choice. If I really wanted to be in a relationship, chances are pretty high that I could be. But I don’t want to be. People write that off as me being picky. I call it going with my instinct. I don’t decide to hang out with someone based on some list of factors I’m trying to check off, I go with what my gut is telling me. If something doesn’t feel right to me, I say no. And I’m sure this is the way for many other single people who are being told they’re too picky. You’re not being picky, and you don’t have to defend why you are being picky. You know you better than anyone else, and you know what is best for you better than anyone else.

There’s also the slight chance that people just aren’t actively seeking out a partner. On my current list of priorities, finding a guy is not near the top, and I’m even less interested in trying to make something happen by force. People are all about organic these days. Eat organic, use organic soap, wear organic clothing, take organic medicine, blah, blah, blah. We’re a society that is so focused on organic products, yet when it comes to relationships, we’re so quick to turn to apps and asking for set ups in order to find some type of relationship instant gratification. What happened to the organic relationship? One that occurs naturally without the assistance of a distance locator and the option to swipe right or left? A better question, why should you have to tell people that’s what you’d prefer to happen? An even better question, why is everyone so focused on other people’s lives and relationships?

Here’s the thing, the people who are focused on you being single are solely focused on what you might be lacking as a single person. Please, dear concerned friends and family members, ease up on the concern. We singles do not want your pity, or sympathy. In fact, it’s almost insulting. You may see your intentions as helpful. You may think that finding me the perfect setup could be a top notch good deed to add to your list. But here’s the thing, unless we’re asking for your help, do not assume we need your help. Stop focusing on the empty space next to us when we walk into a room. Again, that’s an elected empty space. It doesn’t mean we are sad or lonely. It just means we’re doing our own thing.

And that’s a good thing! Being single means really getting to discover who we are. It may sound cliche, but it’s true. In my case, I see my twenties as a precious and valuable time of life. They’re a time to begin a career, nurture your hobbies, discover what types of people excite you, find out who you are and aren’t compatible with. Yes, you can do this with a partner, but you can also do it on your own. The friends I seek out and enjoy spending time with definitely have the qualities that I’ll probably hope to find in someone someday. Because I’m single, I have the time to invest in all of these areas. But again, I’m not here to provide validation for someone else, we’re only validating it for ourselves.

I’ve come back to a point where the only person I listen to when the topic of me being single comes up is myself. I appreciate the people who want to find someone special for me, but if I’m not worried about it, they shouldn’t be either. I’m embracing this time for what it is: a time to explore, to create, to dream, and to do whatever the heck it is thatI want to do. I’m selfish, but I’m ok with that! There will come a day when I’m ready to stop flying the single flag and I’ll readily give up my time for the sake of someone else, but  for right now, I’m enjoying it for all it’s worth. I hope all my fellow singles are as well. Don’t worry about what others say or think- they were all single at one point too, and as I’ve said, that was anything but a bad thing.

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I learned from… ‘Clueless’

CLUELESS (Image Credit: Paramount)
CLUELESS (Image Credit: Paramount)

All my ‘90s girls out there know that, before the Mean Girls wave crashed in, there came Clueless, brought to you by the most loveable fictional character of all time, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), duh. Continue reading “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I learned from… ‘Clueless’”

Summer Is Not My Season – And That’s Okay

SFD_111

I lived in California for two years, and the number one thing I complained about was the weather. Always sunny and a constant 80-90 degrees; no one understood why I disliked it so much, and they weren’t afraid to tell me so. The same thing happens whenever I talk about why I don’t like summer.

People are always agog and aghast if I mention I’m not a summer person. They’ll ask things like “do you not like going outside?” or “why do you hate the sun?” First of all, neither of those things is true, and even if they were, so what? Why is it okay to hate winter and the cold but the minute anyone says anything remotely negative about summer, everyone is up in arms?

Well, I’m here to say that I am not a summer person. Summer is not my season. It just isn’t for me. And you know what? That’s okay.

Summer is not the constant rollicking party that movies and television make it out to be. Real summer is hot and sweaty and like most things, sometimes gross. Not everyone can – or wants to – handle that heat for long periods of time, particularly when it’s accompanied by all kinds of humidity. People who like summer will not believe that you don’t want to be hot, but if you can’t handle the heat for whatever reason, you don’t have to endure it.

Summer also means spending more time outside. That’s not always a bad thing, but unlike in other months, it requires paying attention to bugs and as mentioned above, the constant heat. For me, going outside during the summer can be an exhausting experience. I have to decide what to wear, if I need sunscreen or not, and how much water I should drink before leaving. In non-summer seasons, I might need a jacket, but it’s much easier to just leave. Unfortunately, most people will force you to go outside often during the summer and won’t understand if you don’t want to, but stand your ground. You’re not required to go outside.

But summer is also not built for staying inside. If you do avoid the heat and stay inside in the summer, you don’t really have much to do. There’s no good TV, after all, and most activities are held outside. It also costs money and time to travel, something that not all people have. After a summer of doing nothing, even summer people are desperate to go back to school after two months. Wanting summer to end even earlier than that so you don’t get bored is totally okay.

Summer is all about showing skin, and consequently, it’s not a kind time for fat people. As someone who’s overweight, I know that finding the right summer clothes is incredibly hard. If you wear something that shows too much of your body, people might shame you, but if you cover up, it’s going to be too hot. There’s not one way to “win” in this scenario, so you just have to pick what you feel most comfortable in and hope it’s not the wrong choice. If this kind of thing ruins summer for you, I completely get it, and it’s okay.

Whatever your reason for not liking summer, I stand by you. Enjoy your fall, winter or spring weather, even if the people around you don’t understand why you like it. It’s enough that you don’t like the summer. You don’t have to justify your likes and dislikes to anyone else. Like me, summer may just not be your season, and if it isn’t, that’s perfectly 100% okay.

Your First Time: Getting a Bikini Wax

Your First Time... Getting a Bikini Wax

Ladies, let’s face it. We all hate taking the time to shave and still not being able to get every spot we wanted! If you’re looking to spend some extra time on the beach this summer and want to look fresh and clean, a bikini wax might just be the best option for you! I just got my first-ever bikini wax at the start of the summer, and I’ve got some tips to share with you about how to handle your first time!

Make sure you’re comfortable with whomever is doing the wax.

Being comfortable with the person makes the whole situation a little easier. My woman was super awesome and made me feel very comfortable with her so I didn’t have much of a problem baring it all. This is not to say that it wasn’t awkward, because anytime someone is heading toward your area with a pan of hot wax is by no means normal. But what is normal when it comes to our beauty routines anyway?

Test a spot first!

I had to turn to threading my eyebrows because I had such bad reactions to wax so I was nervous about waxing down there. I went about a week before my scheduled appointment and had her do a test patch. I felt way more comfortable with the process knowing that she had already tested a small area and I had no reaction!

Just to be clear: it will hurt.

It will f***ing hurt. The pain really sucks but goes away almost instantly and really doesn’t seem too bad in the grand scheme of things. I had no problems walking around, sitting, or using the bathroom immediately afterwards. If possible, wear loose clothing like a maxi dress or skirt so you don’t have tight pants to put on after.

RELAX.

The anticipation of the pain plus the awkwardness may be worse than the actual waxing itself. I know when someone is coming at your vajayjay with some hot wax the natural reaction is to tense up, but that will only make it worse! Breathe. You’ll get through it.

Baby oil is your savior!

Make sure you ask for baby oil before you get dressed! The oil gets rid of any residual wax that may be left over. Even if you don’t see wax there, rub it down with baby oil anyway because it hurts so much worse when your undies or pants get stuck to it when you’re trying to change later!

Moral of the story: if you are sick of shaving constantly and don’t want anymore hair down there, waxing is definitely a good choice. It hurts, but the pain subsides very quickly and it’s well worth the pain for weeks of being hair-free!

Prioritize Your Smile: Learn From My Mistakes

(Image Credit: Aleksandr Doodko)
(Image Credit: Aleksandr Doodko)

These days, it’s common for the majority of pre-teens and teenagers to have braces or some kind of orthodontia to straighten their teeth. I’d wager there are many more young adults who have had braces than who haven’t, especially in countries like the US where straight teeth are clearly the ideal, and dentists are eager to refer kids to orthodontists if their teeth are even the tiniest bit out of whack, even if it’s not medically necessary.

I am one of those teenagers who had braces, but my experience with them was different than most. I had a bit of crowding in my top middle teeth, but rather than referring me to an orthodontist, my dentist offered to give me braces at a discount if he did them for me. My parents were eager to save some cash on the expensive procedure, and they trusted my longtime, smallish-town dentist to get the job done right.

Rather than giving me a full mouth of braces, my dentist placed braces only on the teeth he thought needed it – the eight teeth in the top middle part of my mouth. Because of this, I dealt with wires snagging the insides of my lips constantly, but hey, like anything else, you get used to it. My dentist seemed to know what he was doing, and he gave me bright colored rubber bands, which is important to a 16-year-old. I wore my braces for about a year, then was fitted with a retainer.

At first, my teeth were straighter. I wore my retainer faithfully for a few months, then sporadically for a few more, before I stopped wearing it entirely. Yes, you know where this story is going. My teeth eventually shifted back to their original uneven position. Here’s the thing, though – my dentist never explained to teenage me how important wearing my retainer was. It seems obvious now, but I didn’t understand that the effect of the braces wasn’t permanent if I didn’t keep wearing my retainer.  So there’s problem #1.

Problem #2? Well, since my teeth have shifted back to being uneven, I’ve had additional orthodontic consultations. Turns out there isn’t just a problem with my top middle teeth – my entire bite is off. There’s no way my eight braces could have truly fixed my issues fully, even if it did make my front teeth appear straighter. Even if I had been diligent with my retainer, there would still be problems that need fixing. I should point out here that my dentist was successfully sued for malpractice just a few years after he did my braces. It was major vindication, but small comfort.

So here I am, an adult with crooked teeth. And, as much as I try to ignore it, I can’t help but feel extremely insecure about it. There is a stigma with having crooked teeth, whether we openly acknowledge it or not. I’m always self conscious about smiling for photos, and I worry that my first impression on people is skewed by my teeth. I hate to be so hung up on a superficial thing, but it’s hard when I so rarely encounter other people with crooked teeth like mine. It’d be one thing if they were just a little crooked…crooked in that slightly imperfect and endearing way. But sadly that is not the case, and I can’t seem to get over it.

As I mentioned, I’ve looked into additional orthodontic treatment to fix the issues. I’d love to try something like Invisalign, but braces and Invisalign are comparable in price, and both are quite expensive, especially if you’re an adult. Insurance companies are much more likely to cover a significant chunk of the cost for braces or Invisalign on kids, but you’re lucky to get even a couple hundred dollars toward them if you’re over 18. Even if I use a provider with a generous payment plan option, I’m still looking at $200+ a month. It feels selfish to add $200 to monthly costs for what is ultimately a superficial procedure, especially when there are more pressing things like rent and student loans to pay.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will probably never get my teeth fixed, but that doesn’t make it easier to live with. So here’s my point: if you’ve been recommended orthodontic treatment, or maybe have had braces but are slacking with your retainer usage, take action. Visit an orthodontist for a treatment plan. Make a point to pop in that retainer at night. If you’re an adult who has considered orthodontia and can afford it, make an appointment and get the process rolling. Trust me when I say it will be worth it and you will regret it if you don’t. It is no fun to be self-conscious about your smile.

Confessions of a Habitually Late Person

CHLP

I will happily admit I’m typically always a late person to any function. Without a doubt, I’ll find a way to be late. Why? Because, I hate being the first one to anything. Bear with me on this one. Tell me it’s not awkward when you happen to be the very first person to any sort of event, whether it be a birthday party or some random celebration. It’s totally easy if it’s your best friend’s function or if you arrive with a group of people but when you plan on attending by yourself? That’s a whole different story. Continue reading “Confessions of a Habitually Late Person”

30 (Image Credit: Colin Milligan)

30 Things You Should Be Able to Do By 30!

30 (Image Credit: Colin Milligan)
30 (Image Credit: Colin Milligan)

There comes a time in everyone’s life where we come to realize that we are either on our way to becoming or have already become full fledged adults. While we all may reach this point at different ages, one thing is for sure: there are certain things we should be able to do on our own by the age of 30. Consult this list to see if you are on track or at least on your way to getting there!

1. Fix a flat tire (or in my case fight a flat)

If you ever find yourself alone with a flat tire and no one around to help you fix it, you could always call AAA, but just imagine how satisfying it would be changing it yourself. Besides it is a useful skill to have (Check out Your First Time Changing a Tire to learn how!).

2. Buy/own/ or have your own means of transportation

3. Learn how to say NO and stand by it

Say no to choices that you know are bad for you, or friends who want to borrow clothes but are notorious for never returning them, or to your friends who try to set you up on another blind date, after the other ones were clearly not right for you making you wonder: Do they know you at all?

4. Learn how to save and be responsible with your money

By the time you reach 30, if you have not already started saving for retirement, you are in a bit of pickle. You want to set yourself up for the future. You also want to maybe not overextend your wallet because you had to have that new jacket/watch/iPad, whatever it may be.

5. Know what a 401k is…and how to use it.

This kind of goes along with #4, but in order to set yourself up for the future, you should have some sort of 401k or Roth IRA, or at least a savings account that you don’t touch. It may not seem like much now, but continuous contributions now equals a happier you in the future.

6. Know proper table manners

You know…no elbows on the table, know which fork to use with which course, which fork to use as a weapon when someone tries to steal off your plate…common sense mostly.

7. Have one signature meal you can whip up

Whether it is cider-glazed ham with a ginger-lime glaze, or a bacon and guacamole grilled cheese sandwich, it’s always good to have one signature meal to impress your friends. Whether or not it is edible remains in question.

8. Get a real bed (not a futon, or your friends couch)

9. Make a bed

It doesn’t have to be hotel quality, but at least pull up your sheets neatly and fluff your pillows. Trust me, there is nothing more inviting after a long day than a freshly made bed.

10. Set up a home

Have a place you can call your own. Whether you decide to share this place with someone is your own decision, but you should at least know what it is like to have your own place and your own space.

11. Own a piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone in your family

Unless it is vintage, a family heirloom, or holds some kind of sentimental value, it is time to get rid of that old couch you have had since college.

12. Be alone for a while…

Learn to be comfortable with being alone. Embrace the silence. Listen to your thoughts. Clear your mind for a while.

13. Stop apologizing for things that aren’t your fault

14. Take a compliment

Don’t fight it, or deny it or list the reasons why you are not worthy Just simply say “thank you.”

15. Fall in love without losing yourself

16. Do your laundry…

On your own…without dropping it off at your parents house.

17. Load a dishwasher

Now there is no one way to do this, but doing it correctly can extend the life of your dishes.

18. Grow some plants

Learn how to keep something alive before you have kids. Learn how to nurture it,watch it grow and protect it from harm.

19. Have a mentor

Find a mentor in somebody. Look up to them, discuss choices they made, paths they have taken and mistakes they have made. Do your best not to make the same mistakes.

20. Be a mentor

Then, when the time is right, be that person for someone else.

21. Stop following fad diets

22. Know that the only real way to lose weight is through healthy eating and regular exercise.

23. Get into crazy good shape

Do it for yourself and then take lots of pictures to prove that you were once in crazy good shape. Then try to maintain it for as long as you can so that you don’t have to say “Once upon a time I was in crazy good shape, but then…”

24. Know what works for your body type

Accept what your body type is and know what styles and colors work for you. Try to avoid the trendy items and stick with what works for you.

25. Properly format a resume…without padding it

26. Tie a bow/necktie

27. Learn how to take a good photograph…and not just a selfie

Photos capture moments in time and help us capture great memories. You should learn to take a good photograph that showcases these memories and all the people in them…and not just to fill up your Instagram feed.

28. Drink like a grown-up…

Meaning for every alcoholic beverage you consume, you must drink one glass of water. Also no getting “black-out” wasted and dancing on tables…unless you had a really rough week.

29. Know how to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next

30. Discover yourself…

Not in that way! Tsk tsks…get your mind out of the gutter! But do know your strengths and weaknesses. Admit to your weaknesses and play up your strengths and you will be on your way to global domination…or at least domination in the workplace.

Whether 30 is around the corner for you, a few years away or already in your past, these are a few of the things that you should be able to do by the time you reach this glorious age.

Originally posted March 10, 2014.

How to Deal with Difficult Roommates

(Image Credit: Wave Break Media)
(Image Credit: Wave Break Media)

Roommates are always a kind of scary prospect most of us face in life. Maybe you’ve never had roommates or have had bad experiences in the past, but moving into a new place is a fresh start with different people. Here are a few pieces of advice to follow when you begin your new journey as a great roommate.

Come up with some rules

When you first move in, have a meeting with your roommate(s) and set some ground rules. Establish that you don’t want to take the trash out every day and you’d like a rotation or something that helps you all work together. If you want to come up with a chore chart, bring it up and see how the other person feels about it. Don’t do too much, though; no one wants a lazy, messy roommate, but no one wants an overbearing one either.

Don’t be afraid to confront them

If they’re not keeping up their end of the agreement, don’t be scared to talk to them. If you’re nervous to speak to them in person, texting or posting notes somewhere is an alternative. But confronting them is absolutely necessary. If you try to ignore the issue and hope it solves itself, you’ll end up angry and resenting the other person. Communication is key to successful living conditions!

Get management involved

If your new roommate is just absolutely crazy or dirty or anything in between and you’ve tried communicating the issues, your next option is to get the staff of the apartment/dorm involved. Go to the office and ask to speak to the manager or someone that can help you. Explain the situation and see what options they can give you. If anything, they can move you to a different room or help you sublease your apartment to someone else.

When you’re faced with completely new people, things can be great or insane. It just depends on the person. So be forgiving and patient as you and your new roommate(s) get to know each other’s habits and preferences. But if your living situation is causing you a ridiculous amount of stress, confront the issue and do whatever you can to solve it. Be a great roommate, but don’t be a doormat! Now go forth into your new living arrangements and may the odds be forever in your favor.

My First Time Moving to a New City (and Then Moving Back Home)

(Image Credit: milangonda)
(Image Credit: milangonda)

Out of excitement and the need to ensure that it was actually happening, I packed my bags a month early. I was moving to Oxford, England after a lifetime of he-said-she-said over frozen yogurt in sunny, suburban California. Steeped in four generations of local history, my big dreams transcended the railroad town limits.

Don’t get me wrong; I have traveled all over the U.S. I have seen a polar vortex in NYC, jazz musicians on every street corner orchestrating a choreographed New Orleans dance, bikini-clad bodies sweating on the January beaches in San Diego, the Vegas strip (I didn’t say I remembered it, but yes, I saw it). I have seen a lot of my country, and I love it for all its complexities—the contradictions Walt Whitman explores in “Song of Myself” ring true when you subject yourself to the cultures available in the home of the free, land of the brave.

Still, I wanted more. What a greedy girl, I know. I wanted more travel, more experiences, more exposure to varieties not available in my home.

Packed and ready to hit the skies, I wanted to make a change and to change. I had never been outside of the country before, so here we go… Here is my journey as it unfolded:

Challenge one: getting there.

Unable to sleep on the plane, I arrived, haggard, tired, hungry, and smelling like 100 different kinds of foul. To the bottomless pit of wretched airplane food-induced farts of a man sitting next to me, you are the stuff of nightmares and my nose hair has yet to grow back. I walked up to the currency exchange with my neck kinked and my head throbbing. After losing $40 in the currency exchange from my $100, I went to collect my baggage.

Challenge two: getting to my new home.

I waited four hours—FOUR HOURS—for my luggage, which turns out was lost. LOST?! What do you mean lost?! I had no phone (I had shut it off and decided to go the route of using wifi to FaceTime friends and family), which became a scary reality at this point. Sooo… No calling for help. No spare clothes. No understanding of the bus system. I looked at the airline woman, eyes thickly webbed with deep pink lines signaling exhaustion, as she calmly explained my luggage was lost… Oh, hell no.

I cried because that is obviously the most logical and proactive thing to do, but after five minutes of sobbing, I pulled myself together enough to ask for a phone to call my destination. Just then, the airline man from behind the scenes ran out yelling, “There’re here! They were logged under the wrong load. I found them!”

A quarter relieved, a quarter exhausted, a quarter delusional, a quarter intoxicated by the surrounding force of British accents, and 100% ready to settle into my temporary life, I set out for the bus stop in the pitch dark, freezing cold London air that feels nothing like my California Januaries.

The Bald Eagle has Landed

My American ass landed in Oxford at 8 p.m. The only lighting streamed from a building a block away, but look, there is a strange man about 20 years of age walking out towards me. I gulped loud, swallowed my pride (and all of the nightmare stories of European abductions I had been fed before I left), and I asked if he knew where my flat was located. I’m not normally insane, but I needed help. Januaries in England are COLD for a California girl, and a night wandering the street did not appeal to me, oddly enough.

He looked confused when I gave him the address, but he eventually said he knew where to go and even offered to drag one of my heavy luggage cases along. How nice! Just don’t kidnap me, sir. I took self-defense classes for these kind of situations, and I don’t want to have to use my mad skills.

Well, surprise, surprise, I made it out alive. He walked me to my door and said a nervous good-bye with an awkward, “I’ll see you later” which of course never happened.

After a restless, cold night of sleep without proper bedding or any understanding of how to use the heater in my flat, I woke famished. Underneath those dark circles was an eager smile. I met the biting air with enthusiasm, and after five steps… Nope. Nopenopenope… I all but ran back to my room for five more layers. THERE, I thought. Now, I’m ready.

Leather gloves shielding my fingertips as they slid across the chilly, stone church walls—Feet still rocking my oxblood cowboy boots as I trekked all over town (because they’re cute and I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous)—Hair tucked under a beanie and into a wool scarf that wrapped tightly around my neck… I strolled through those streets and avenues every day, so much so that the stone statues became my friends, watching over me as I stumbled home from pubs and waiting with me at the bus stop.

Half of the time I had no idea which stone statue was what saint, so I named them all myself. There was the Patron Saint of too Much Pub Food who stood alongside the Patron Saint of too Much Cider, both centrally located in town, surrounded by their buddies on the neighboring stone slab. There was also the Patron Saint of American Humor, a fat baby with a disproportionately huge head. Then there was the Patron Saint of Bus Stops because we were always running after a bus… Oh yeah, and the Patron Saint of Mexican Food because my California-grown taste buds were in heaven when I found a local burrito spot—ahhh, jalapenos.

Thanks to them, I collected four months’ worth of late nights and hearty laughs in Oxford and throughout my travels in Europe, as they always watched over all of my adventures.

I also met these incredible people—these brilliant, beautiful, funny-as-hell, crazy-awesome people who quickly became some of my most treasured friends because of our interests and shared experiences in travel and displacement. I sat beside book-reading folks on the bus and had intellectually stimulating conversations with strangers and new friends alike. The mind expands in the company of greatness. You can almost feel yourself grow and that is a pretty cool thing, ya know?

You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the Thoreau out of the American, as I thought: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

I loved every minute of my experience, but all things must come to a close, and as my journey home drew near, I prepped with angst and delight.

I’m Going, Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my travels throughout Europe. I love Oxford, my City of Dreaming Spires, but the trek home was much welcomed. I missed my bed, my dog, my books, my library, my routine—I now miss the spontaneity of my travels, but the grass is always greener, right?

The readjustment period was just as hard. I literally got the flu the week I returned home (in June), which I like to think was my body’s way of saying I never would have gotten sick had I not come home, though it was probably just getting used to U.S. germs again.

That first night I slept more soundly than I had in all four and a half months I spent abroad. I collapsed into myself, finally feeling the weight of my journey.

I gradually moved into a routine. Spending time with friends and family helped to ground me, though there is always this thing—this stamp on my life that is a composite of all that I collected in my passport. It marks the page in my life’s passport signaling my openness to travel, welcoming all that is new and diverse within my railroad town foundation. It marks where I have been and where I am going.

Out-of-the-Box Resolutions for the New Year

(Image Credit: BartPhoto)
(Image Credit: BartPhoto)

Each December 31st, millions of people put themselves through the stale process that is resolution making. They can’t help it; they’re pretty much brainwashed into it by the dozens of ads for gyms sporting their new exclusive new membership deals, magazines with headlines screaming “A NEW YEAR, A NEW YOU,” cooking shows trying to undo the damage of their holiday specials with lighter menu options, and Pinterest telling you to create a resolution bored.

In years past, I’ve always made resolutions, and by March, I was always disappointed in myself for failing to meet the standards I had set for myself. Last year was the first year I successfully met my resolution -sort of. I had planned to complete one piece of art I was proud of a month. The monthly plan hadn’t happened, but by December I had finished 12 pieces I was extremely happy with. What made keeping that resolution so much easier than the hundreds I had come up with in that past was that it was already something I loved to do – not something I disliked that I was trying to force myself to do because the new year dictated I do so (eh hem, going to the gym).

It wasn’t until the second day of 2016 that I realized I had failed to make a resolution this year. I had gotten back on the band wagon of exercising regularly in the first few weeks of December and had started eating better (ok, slightly better) after Christmas, so the pressures of finding a healthy routine to follow once the New Year started weren’t really there. With that in mind (and please know I am not knocking those of you who made health related resolutions!!) I decided to come up with a few out-of-the-box resolutions those of us who are tired of the same old might enjoy too.

Visit at least three states I’ve never been to before

While I would have loved to have said countries, I don’t really have the money or time this year. (Here’s hoping for a pleasant surprise!) Instead, the idea of hitting up a few more states is both more doable and wallet friendly. There are several surrounding states I’ve yet to visit, and at least one (Louisiana) that I’ll definitely be hitting up in April. States work well because, depending on your location, a trip could require as little time as one day. It’s easy to forget the U.S. is a huge country with ample travel opportunities.

Try at least TWO new recipes a month

Some of us love to cook, and some of us just need to add a bit more variety to our standard menus of pasta, eggs, and sandwiches. With the ample amounts of materials available to us (cooking channels, Pinterest, food blogs, tutorial videos, etc.) there’s really no excuse not to test the waters a bit. You don’t have to go for the recipes that takes hours to make either – try one of Rachel Ray’s half hour meals! Or if you’re feeling up for a challenge, learn how to make macarons. Something a bit more exotic? I recently tried this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe from Aarti Sequeira and it is seriously amazing.

Make space

Putting away my gifts from Christmas this year made me realize how much extra stuff I have lying around my house. My goal is to start with my room and to fill at least two boxes with stuff I no longer need/like/want. It’s amazing how quickly collections of things can build and take up our space. If you’re feeling a bit cluttered, go through your stuff and play the “Does this make me happy? Does it have a special memory? Does it fit? Would I miss it if it were gone?” game and clean out your closet, drawers, and space beneath your bed. Either sell your stuff to thrift shops or donate it to a local charitable organization.

Take at least one class in an area of interest

I know, time is valuable. But is there one thing you’ve always said you would like to learn, but have never had the time to actually do so? Well, pick one random day and carpe the diem out of it. For me, it’s salsa dancing. I’ve always wanted to learn the basics, and I am vowing to take at least one class this year. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw clay or improve your singing voice. Maybe you’d like to shoot a bow and arrow, or learn how to make your own lip balm. There are a ton of options out there! And for all of you who would like to take an actual class on a topic like religion or nutrition, there’s no time for the present! For flexible scheduling and FREE tuition, check out all the great things EdX has to offer.

Put the technology away more often

Recently, I caught my father talking about me to my mother right in front of me after trying to talk to me. “She’s always on her phone!” he shouted. Shoot. He was right. I’m so guilty of an unhealthy connection to the damn thing. So. I’m going try to do something about it and put it down way more often than I do. Challenge yourself to sleep your phone away from your bed, leave it in your purse or pocket when you’re out with friends, leave it in a safe spot for a few hours each day while you focus on other stuff full-heartedly, etc. I know our phones are supposed to help us to be more tapped in, but what are they causing us to be tapped out of? Distance, my friends, let’s try to distance.

Instead of signing up for that $1 deal at the gym, these are the resolutions I’ll be trying to keep this year –  I’ll let you know it went in 2017. In the meantime, let us know what you think of them and what your personal resolutions for the New Year are. Cheers!

Accepting that Not Everyone is Going to Like You

As a woman navigating life in my late twenties, I find myself constantly excited by new experiences and relationships. I haven’t quite settled into any monotonous routine. My weeks are governed by school and work, I still have a fair share of freedom to roam wild at my leisure, and my weekends are still open to spontaneity. However, the unique challenge is that so much open space gives rise to opportunities for meeting new people and having relationships that often times leave you baffled or even heartbroken.

So, how do we come to accept that not everyone is going to like us? It’s a tough task that might dumbfound even the most meditative of minds.

There are so many different kinds of relationships, so I listed two major types to dissect in the hopes that we can attack issue at hand: accepting that we are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Romantic Relationships: It’s all in the Science of it

This is probably the relationship most folks think of when they think of someone not liking them, and while it might be the most personally painful, it also might be the least damaging in the long run.

I come from the perspective that independence is crucial to my happiness within a romantic relationship, but eventually vulnerability creeps in and the walls come crashing down. So how do we move forward from love that’s lost? What happens after you realize that your partner no longer cares for you?

Many of us have been in several relationships that have ended on these terms, but while the result is inevitably a breakup, the cause of the split varies dramatically. This takes me back to high school chemistry, as I find people and relationships as functioning formulas. Sometimes the elements combine and run smooth as water, but sometimes they combust, burning down a house filled with love within their licking flames.

The important thing to remember is that we all love differently. While my Romeos loved me to their capacity, our goals and values didn’t add up to what either of us wanted. These partnerships are no judgment of these people, but rather an assessment of the danger when our elements combined.

Relationships ultimately teach us something about ourselves: that high school chemistry does come in handy in the real world, that we are valuable as an independent source outside of that association, and that we can survive and thrive when relocated amongst other elements.

It’s also OK for your previous partners to move forward. Jealousy is natural, but just remember that one man’s fire is another man’s water, both necessary for life, so share the warmth and quench your thirst.

Friendships: Sticking with the Pack

It can be argued that this category is the umbrella term for many different kinds of relationships, but I personally find the term “friendship” much more intimate that that. It is the only term that combines two interpersonal statuses. Both “friend” and “relationship” work to create a new experience that differs from other connections. This becomes a pack interested in the well-being of the whole.

I am such a girlfriend girl. I love dinner dates with my girlfriends because I don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing or nervously sweating through my dress. I would always prefer a night in watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s and binge eating ice cream with a cheap bottle of wine to free drinks from scheming creeps in the club. I crave the laughter that accompanies their validation of my emotions when a date goes awry and the comfort they offer when life gets hard.

Nothing compares to a tried-and-true friendship. So, how do we reconcile the devastation that occurs when a friendship is lost? People are constantly changing, and sometimes the bond breaks. How do we move forward from a friendship that ends because the two of you have grown in different directions, and your friend ceases to like you?

I have found that life is unpredictable. It has taken me down paths and introduced me to people that I never thought I would care about, and more strangely, enlightened me to the importance of my ability to occasionally stop caring for them.

As someone who puts great stock in my friendships, there have been times when I have had to decide if I was going to let a person continue to damage my self-esteem or move forward in life to pursue my dreams and aspirations without them as a confidant.

People throw punches because of their personal unhappiness. They find ways to make others feel poorly so they can feel like they’re better than someone else. That’s simply human nature. It’s a power game, and once I was awakened to the strategy of confidence, I realized that it is fine with me if someone doesn’t like me, because the truth was that they might not even like themselves.

If someone chooses to not like me for other reasons, like the fact that we grew apart, share different interests, or don’t talk as much, then their friendship is conditional and not worth being upset over.

In this respect, accepting someone isn’t going to like you as a friend is like harvesting a pack of dogs down to the strongest few. I have a group of friends that, regardless of how long it has been, are my true loves. I tell them that all the time because it’s true! Friendship, much like a partnership, is a relationship that you enter unconditionally, otherwise we’re all stray dogs fending for ourselves in a sometimes harsh world. I find I survive much better in my small but adversity-tested pack.

And They Lived Happily Ever After:

That’s the point here, right? The ability to like ourselves becomes paramount because it helps or hinders our relationships with others. At the end of the day, we have ourselves to thank for the life we live. By losing the unproductive relationships that weigh us down, both romantic and friendly, and instead focusing on the relationships that enrich our lives, we are able to travel so much further.

I hope I have explored the ways different relationships lead to disappointment, while others infinitely benefit our lives and ourselves. By knowing the difference, we progress in new and exciting ways. It’s OK that not everyone is going to like us, because focusing on those that do, those who celebrate our successes and prove push us to be better, life gets so much more interesting and happier. Leave a comment below on a time you accepted that not everyone was going to like you.