Can You Ever Be Too Old To Celebrate Halloween?

Can you ever be too old to celebrate Halloween?

Have you looked at your Facebook feed today?? Obviously you can never be too old for Halloween. Just look at all your friends dressed as cats and soccer players. Wait, is that grandma dressed as Rosie the Riveter?

I was never a big Halloween fan in my twenties. But what I’m realizing about the holiday is that it unites all ages in a ‘be a kid again’ style of bonding that’s actually pretty cool. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you dress up for Halloween and head out to a party or a bar. It’s one of those weird holidays where if you’re dying to be younger, you can dress up as someone younger… or you can just hide your face.

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You can even hide your whole body if you like…

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Anyway, Halloween is an ageless holiday that some people love because they can be young again- free to be anybody at any age, but some people hate because it can get wild and kind of annoying when others are being anybody at any age. I used to be the latter- the person annoyed at Halloween- but mainly because I was always too frugal to buy a costume, and never came up with anything to make on my own. And sometimes people are crazy and rowdy and noisy and frustratingly drunk as all hell when they’re being themselves.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m also usually out of town for work on Halloween, so I can have an excuse to pretend I’m too old for it. Which isn’t true, and can’t be true anyway, because as we’ve established, you’re never too old for Halloween.

So this year, I’m in New York and I’m finally embracing Halloween after spending my twenties avoiding it. I’m even going to a friend’s Halloween party later tonight. I figured out a costume I can make myself (perhaps I’ll even put up photos in the next post), and am getting into the fun of the day.

Most holidays other than Halloween come with so much more stress than making a costume. Valentines day comes to mind, as do the December holidays…between spending lots of money and/or worrying about where to go and/or worrying about upsetting someone’s family and/or worrying about being lonely, the December and February holidays make Halloween seem positively carefree.

And I guess Halloween is a pretty equalizing, carefree holiday, if you’re able to kick back and let yourself go. It’s one of those times where who you are right now and how old you are right now doesn’t have to matter. On Halloween, you can simply choose who you want to be today.

One of the last Halloweens I celebrated before this one! Devil in a Blue Dress. I was in college!

One of the last Halloweens I celebrated before this one! Devil in a Blue Dress. I was in college!

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Origin of the Expression “Dirty Thirty”

When you turned 30, did you or people you know make reference to “dirty thirty”? Maybe you hosted or attended a ‘dirty thirty’ birthday party, or maybe someone just said “Ooooh, the dirty thirty” when you told them you were turning 30. I always wondered the origin of the expression. Is it a time when people let loose and go wild? I assumed it involved drinking and questionable behavior. Kind of like bachelorette party style fun.

I never bothered to look it up – until yesterday, when I saw that a comedy film titled “Dirty Thirty” was green lit (the film industry term for a film getting made), and that it would star YouTube celebrities Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, and Hannah Hart. I was immediately intrigued and decided it was finally time I researched this expression.

So, I did a little googling and found out that the origin of the expression is far more upsetting than I suspected.images

The top definition on Urban Dictionary is:

The age at which single women without children realise that their biological clock is ticking, As a consequence they may lower their standards and increase their willingness to perform sexual acts as a matter of desperation in order to find a mate/sexual partner. They may also attempt to hook up with younger males as an attempt to elongate their youth.

AAH! That is not what I thought it would be at all. Yuck. I hate it.

I’ve decided that I will officially ban myself from using that expression. Granted, that’s only the Urban Dictionary definition, but still. I don’t like it one bit.

Thankfully, the film “Dirty Thirty” doesn’t sound like it’s anything about women lowering their standards, so that’s good.

Budgeting in Your 30’s When You Hate Budgeting

For all the writing I do about finance and money goals, I really hate to budget. I just can’t stand it.

Perhaps this is because I’m already a big saver, so when I want something, I usually REALLY want it, and not much is going to stand in my way. I hate not listening to my own written budget, but I wouldn’t listen if I really wanted something badly, so I feel like I’d probably go over budget lot of the time, and then I’d kick myself. Ok, so this is actually a self-control issue. :/

I walked around forever with budget hatred burning a hole in the pit of my stomach until recently, when I read an article and realized I’d been kind of following an unofficial budget strategy all along. I googled the info in that article and came upon even more articles that outlined alternative budgeting strategies. Turns out, I naturally follow a common budget strategy called the 80/20 budget, though my version is actually a 70/30 budget.

The 80/20 budget is basically the simplest and least detailed way to budget ever. And I love it, because the details of budgeting make me nuts. Here’s how it works: when you get a paycheck, 20 percent goes to savings. The rest is fair game to divide between needs and wants. That’s it.

This is kind of amazing if you’re never sure how much you’re going to spend in any given month- no matter what, you’ll still be saving. I do a 70/30 budget, or actually a 70/10/10/10 budget, which is only slightly different than the 80/20. The way it works is:

  1. I get a paycheck
  2. I put 10 percent in my retirement account immediately
  3. I put 10 percent in my savings account immediately
  4. I put 10 percent towards my student loan immediately (this is always in addition to the minimum monthly fee I pay)
  5. Then the other 70 percent is divided as best I can among EVERYTHING else without making a budget.
  6. Within the 70 percent, my NEEDS include: Rent, utilities, and student loan minimums (definite needs), as well as food, metrocards (transit), laundry money, and toiletries.
  7. Also within the 70 percent are WANTS including: eating out and or/drinking with friends, food and coffee and green juice splurges, new shoes or clothes, tickets to theater, subscriptions to Spotify and Hulu.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s probably best to actually budget everything out little by little with a food budget, a clothing budget, and an eating out with friends budget. But I’ve never done this, and I don’t know if I’d stick to it if I did. So I think it’s better to at least have SOME sort of budget! And with the 80/20 (or 70/30, or even 60/40) budget, you’re at least still saving. If you don’t have students loans, I’d recommend putting at least 10-15 percent of your paycheck immediately into your retirement account, and then 10-15 percent immediately into a savings account.

What’s funny about taking a certain percentage out of your paycheck right away and paying down a debt and/or putting it into savings is how little you notice that the money is gone. It’s a strange phenomenon! Try it if you don’t believe me. Take 10 percent out of your paycheck immediately each month and put it into savings…you probably won’t even miss it! And if you do, you can always take it back. I wouldn’t recommend it…but the whole point is that your savings account belongs to you! 🙂

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Evolving Friendships in Our 30s

How have your friendships changed in your 30s? Because I’m certain they have. I’m sure lots of your friends have settled down, gotten married and had children. Many of mine have. Or, maybe your friends aren’t married but they’re spending most of their time with their serious significant other. Which means they don’t have as much time for friends. Friends are compartmentalized in a different way. And look, I get it. That was me. For six years, I wanted to be with my boyfriend most of the time. I relished our nights of take-out and Netflix, and while I did see friends, I didn’t make as much of an effort to make new friends when I moved to LA – because I already had a close confidante to spend most nights with.

And that plan worked. Until it didn’t work anymore. Because we broke up. And I realized that I was alone in a city where I didn’t have a strong enough support system to sustain me. I am lucky because I did go to graduate school here, and did make a few wonderful friends (thank you!), but the geography of the city, me not being a driver, and the newness of my friendships has made it challenging. I don’t want to burden my new friends with my depression and heartache. In fact, most of the people I talk regularly are from home…NYC. Be it via phone, text or on g-chat. I don’t know if that’s entirely healthy, but it works. Friends are friends, right?

I’m kind of obsessed with friendship (being an only child and all) and this recent article in The Atlantic resonated with me, How Friendships Change In Adulthood. The article is fascinating and worth the read. Here are some fun factoids I took away from the read:

There are three main expectations of a close friend that most of us have:

  • Somebody to talk to
  • Someone to depend on
  • Someone to enjoy

The author writes that by middle age, we have three different types of friendships.

These friendships fall into three categories: active, dormant, and commemorative. Friendships are active if you are in touch regularly, you could call on them for emotional support and it wouldn’t be weird, if you pretty much know what’s going on with their lives at this moment. A dormant friendship has history, maybe you haven’t talked in a while, but you still think of that person as a friend. You’d be happy to hear from them and if you were in their city, you’d definitely meet up. A commemorative friend is not someone you expect to hear from, or see, maybe ever again. But they were important to you at an earlier time in your life, and you think of them fondly for that reason, and still consider them a friend.

-Julie Beck

It’s an interesting way to characterize friendships. Do you feel these are accurate buckets for friendships? I think there’s a lot of overlap between active and dormant friendships.

Personally, I know I need to work to gain more active friendships. A lot of that is on me.  I get nervous initiating plans, and over-think asking someone to hang out. But it’s something I’m aware of and can work on.

How do you feel your friendships have changed in your 30s?

Is Dating In Your Thirties A Zero Sum Game?

It’s funny- I didn’t even know what a zero sum game was until recently…and now I’m obsessed with the term and how it can apply to life.

The definition of a zero sum game can be found all over the internet, but it took me awhile to really GET the phrase. I put a definition link above and you can also find official and very thorough definitions here and here and here.

But if you don’t feel like clicking those links, here’s my definition: A zero sum game basically means that in order for one person to win, the other MUST lose. Tennis is a great example of a zero sum game. If Federer won a match against Djokovoch, Djokovich HAS TO lose. If Djokovich won a game against Federer, Federer MUST lose.

But can the zero sum game definition be used in the dating world? If I’m dating you, and I really like you, and you decide not to date me anymore and ghost after 4 dates (remind me to one day write another post all about ghosting), it seems possible that I have lost this round of dating you, and you have won. If I start dating a new person and he falls for me, but I suddenly feel that he and I are not working well together, so I stop seeing him and make him sad, then it seems I have won this dating round, and he has lost.

In a zero sum game, there are a finite number of prizes. So if there is only one prize and two players, only one person can win the prize. The other person, therefore loses the prize. My prize win (+1) plus your prize loss (-1) equals zero.

+1 + -1 = 0  And that is where the phrase ZERO sum game comes from.

If dating was a zero sum game, we can maybe define the winner’s prize as walking away with an uncracked heart, plus a moderately peaceful (perhaps even relieved), mental state. The loser, therefore,  CANNOT get the uncracked heart and peaceful outlook- the winner already took that. In a zero sum dating game, the loser ends up with no prize, or a negative prize: broken heart and saddened mental state.

I think dating CAN be zero sum, but it actually never has to be.Interestingly enough, though I’ve gone on what seems like an inordinate amount of dates in the past few months, with possibly enough material for my own comedy show, I don’t think that dating has to ever be a zero sum game. And the trick to stopping that loser/winner zero sum game from playing out in the dating world is simple:

  1. Change the prize

Perhaps your prizes from dating are:

a) Getting a relationship  ….or

b) Meeting someone who will fulfill your every dream    ….or

c) Getting out of dating someone you don’t like in the most peaceful, easy way possible, YAY!

I think the prizes can instead be something like

a) Getting to know and understand a new person better  ….or

b) Getting to know and understand yourself better  …..or

c) Getting to know about new things and places you never knew about before

…and you will always automatically win.

In this way, even if and when you stop dating someone, and even if your heart is breaking and you can’t stop eating ice cream iand crying in front of your television, you still win. Even if you just ran away and hope to never see your date again as long as you live, you still win. You learned about yourself, you learned about another person (good or bad, it still counts as knowledge). Hopefully you even discovered a new place.

And if the other person had the same prizes, defined above, as you, they will also win! That means there will suddenly be more than one prize to go around in the dating game, thus turning dating into a positive sum game!

Much of life isn’t a zero sum game. We don’t need others to lose in order for us to win. In dating, as in finding happiness, as in friendship, as in love, multiple people can win at the same time. It can all become a multiplier game instead.

Just make sure you choose the right prizes.

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Wanting to Settle Down vs. Wanting to Explore

I’m a big reader, and escaping into other worlds is one of my favorite ways to relax and disengage my brain from the pressures of daily life. Despite the fact that I’m often looking to escape, I’m drawn to books about people struggling with the same things I am. The latest book I’m reading is no different. It’s Sarah Butler’s “Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love,” and it’s about a woman who is about to turn 30, and all the various things she’s struggling with, including where her “home” really is.

The Amazon synopsis reads:

“About to turn thirty, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and the black sheep of her family. Drawn to traveling in far-flung and often dangerous countries, she has never enjoyed the closeness with her father that her two older sisters have and has eschewed their more conventional career paths. She has left behind a failed relationship in London with the man she thought she might marry and is late to hear the news that her father is dying. She returns to the family home only just in time to say good-bye.”

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I’ve just started the book, but already I’m captivated by the world Butler has drawn. I can relate to Alice already, especially her conflicting desires to explore the world and also settle down. That seems to be a huge question looming over a lot of thirtysomethings I know, especially the artists among us. We want to create – be it writing, filmmaking, acting, etc. but we also feel the internal tug to settle down and create more of a home base. It’s hard to merge the two, especially because having a creative career can mean financial instability and uncertainty for a long time. It’s hard to imagine having a family when you’re working a day job where you’re barely saving money. On top of that, I think a lot of us are afraid of giving up our own personal time to create and explore our passions, when we barely have enough time as it is. It’s hard to imagine carving out time to write if I had a job, children and a husband. It’s an interesting dilemma I know a lot of us are facing these days.

So, I’m excited to keep reading this book, and see how a fictional character handles all the challenges thrown her way as she creates her own definition of home.

I’ll keep you posted on how it is!

What’s a “Real” Job In Your Thirties?

Continuing along Jane’s career topic from the last post, I have a “what the heck is a “real” job anyway?” story from this weekend.

So I was working in Vegas for the past few days- doing my “real job” of being a self-employed presenter and product specialist at tradeshows, conventions, events and autoshows. For the past three years or so, I’ve thought of this as my ‘real job.’ There are three reasons for this:

  1. I do this job full time.
  2. I enjoy doing this job
  3. I make money from doing this job- in fact, I make just about all of my full time income from this job.

The reason I’ve only considered this my real job prior to the last 3 years, even though I’ve been doing the same thing for more than 9 years, is because I used to consider my real job:

1.PASSIONATE THEATRE DIRECTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE. OCCASIONAL VERY PASSIONATE ACTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE.

I stopped considering theater jobs as my “real job” for one very simple reason:

  1. I don’t make money from doing those jobs.

*At least not close to enough money to support myself and my formerly six figure student loan (now down to an impressive 5 figures! Woot!)

However, while working the convention this weekend, an attendee said to me in a confidential whisper, “so, what’s your ‘real’ job?

I informed him that this was, in fact, my real job. That I do this full time in differing aspects.

He wouldn’t accept my answer. He kept pushing for what my ‘real job’ really was. I attempted to explain to him that I’m building up my current job to do even more in the field of presenting. He wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t believe me. He was sure I was holding back.

I mentioned that I’m entrepreneurial and have multiple side projects, some of which are online. I even attempted to explain some of the side projects. None of this information satisfied him.

Now, at this point, I was looking for an escape route, or at least a way to get back to work and end the conversation.

Finally, I said, “Ok, I direct theater. I’m an actor. I have a theater company”

THIS answer he accepted. “I ‘KNEW IT!” he shouted. “You have a real job after all!”

And after talking my ear off for a few more minutes, and attempting to get my card, he finally went on his merry way, leaving me slightly more annoyed than before he arrived.

I guess some people just have an idea in their head of what a ‘real’ job is.  Being an ‘Actor,’ whether it makes you any money or not, is a ‘job’ that people understand. I always thought acting was the thing people kind of made fun of because a lot of the time ‘actors ‘ end up serving you in restaurants. But I guess the “real job” title of “Actor” is glamorous in it’s own way, even when it’s not.

I could’ve said “pursuing acting left me in abject poverty. Directing theater took up so much of my time that I couldn’t make money working other jobs that actually paid. I made such little money as a theater director that there was no way I could buy a weekly Metrocard, never mind pay my rent from the sad stipends I received. This “real job” that you don’t consider a real job saved my financial life.”

But I feel like he would’ve just said some platitude like, “Keep smiling, kid. Live your dreams. ”

So I simply let him walk away in ignorant bliss. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

Escaping the Cubicle Life

For about the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in graduate school for something I love. And I get to do it FULL-TIME.  Yes, I’ve had a part-time job throughout my time at school, and this summer I worked two FT jobs. But overall, my lifestyle has been free of 9-5 office jobs. That means no wasted hours of the day when I’m surfing the internet looking for ways to ‘change my life’ and get out of the situation I’m in.

I was talking to Laura on the phone tonight and I realized just how lucky we both were to have the lifestyles we do. Laura is a brand presenter and gets to travel around the country on behalf of major companies, and like me, we don’t have set schedules. It’s kind of incredible, really. I didn’t realize how grateful I was for this lifestyle until the past few weeks. My time is my own; I can work when I’m personally most productive, not just during the set hours of 9-5pm.

But, for me, unless I can find a way to make this continue, my lifestyle will look a lot different come 2016. I’ll have to find a way to support myself and have health insurance, which most likely means a FT job. Maybe not – maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to get one of the writing fellowships I’m applying for, or maybe I’ll find a few teaching jobs and cobble together a living. That’s the ultimate goal, I think. I’ve realized how much I value working at my own pace and on my schedule.

Apparently so do a lot of other Americans. Did you know that one in five Americans works from home? That’s no shabby figure. The other 80% of us spend about 8.7 hours a day in the office, according to the American Time Use Study (what an amazing name for a study, BTW). That’s a heck of a lot of time! Not only that, but most of us don’t actually work that full 8.7 hours. Many studies have shown that the average person spends 1.5 –  3 hours per day on personal activities at work.

Here’s my thing. I feel like when I work at my pace, in my own way, I get work done efficiently and to the best of my abilities rather than when I’m forced to work set times in a set place. What I’m saying probably resonates with a lot of people out there, and the question becomes – how can we escape the cubicle life?

Well, I’m still working on it. But I think becoming a master of your personal brand and owning your skill set is definitely a start. And saving and investing your money wisely.

The Joyful Paradox of Saving and Spending In Your Thirties

Today, I was at the airport, sitting next to a woman who was having an extremely loud phone conversation. She had a strong Irish accent and was discussing hotels with her friend/relative on the other end of the line.

“But is it a 4 and a half star?” she exclaimed,  “I don’t want to be in another one of those low category hotels like before.” Her companion apparently told her something disagreeable…not about stars, but about price. “It’s $1500 now? Last time it was $1000. It’s going up!”

It’s possible that this woman was referencing a total cost of stay for a weeklong trip. Who knows? But in my head I thought she was referencing a daily rate.

And hotels really can run into the thousands for daily rates! They can actually get much pricier, especially when suites are involved! Those kinds of crazy high hotel prices don’t even require that great a stretch of the imagination! A friend of mine works at a hotel and she’s seen rooms multiple times that price.

How dare hotels charge those kinds of wild rates? That’s easy- because people will pay them.

Cost is relative. The woman on the phone at the airport seemed okay paying $1000 as long as the hotel was 4.5 stars or higher. Since the hotel had gone up to $1500, the woman was put off, but she didn’t seem totally averse to the new exorbitant price..because she cared more about the quality of the hotel than about the price.

And so it is with saving and spending…and a lot of life. Pick your battles.

There’s a great quote from the CEO and founder of the amazing home website, Apartment Therapy, Maxwell Ryan: ‘Save more than you spend in a way that keeps you happy and comfortable. You can be comfortable or uncomfortable on any level.’

Yesssss!! Even if you made 500K a year and furnished your Park Avenue mansion with the finest handmade furniture imported direct from Italy, you can easily find a way to want more and more… and still be uncomfortable. And if you made 30K a year and live with 4 roommates in a house in the far out suburbs with no car, you can still find ways to be extremely comfortable (well, you can try your darndest). The key to spending/saving comfort takes both knowing yourself and carefully planning.

As you go through life, you become more familiar with your wants and needs. What’s important enough to you that you’ll budget more money to get it? What can you forsake in order to save? Can you live without staying in a 4.5 star hotel? Are you more into spending most of your budget on dinners with friends? Do you want to shop only organic? Is living in the most popular, convenient (and expensive) neighborhood important to you? Do you value fancy cars? Once again- pick your battles. And sometimes it helps to throw money at problems you’d rather not deal with…

In planning your budget, and saving money, it really helps to know the difference between what you care about, and what you only think you care about. In this way, you won’t be a miserable wreck while saving. Don’t deny yourself your absolute very favorite things! Just find the things you can live without and go without them for awhile as you save. You can do it!

Yep, this is a real underwater hotel in  Pemba Island, Zanzibar. It's called the Manta Resort. And for a cool $1,500 a night, it can be yours!

Yep, this is a real underwater hotel in Pemba Island, Zanzibar. It’s called the Manta Resort. And for a cool $1,500 a night, it can be yours!

Nancy Meyers and Thirtysomethings

I’ve been reading a few interviews with the female film director Nancy Meyers lately, mainly because her new film, The Intern with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, has been getting a lot of publicity. She has some very interesting thoughts on being a thirtysomething in today’s world.

If you’ve seen a Nancy Meyers movie (Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, The Intern, to name a few), chances are you’ve drooled over the lush interiors of her characters’ homes. They’re always so cozy, well-appointed, and warmly lit, that you just want to plop down on one of those beautiful couches with a glass of wine and a thick novel. See below. I mean, WHO wouldn’t want to live in these worlds?

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I aspire to get to a point in my financial life where I can live in a home and environment like these when I’m in my 60s. Apparently, there’s a lot of young women in their 20s and 30s who feel the same way. So much so that a group of women recently had a Nancy Meyers themed bachelorette party – complete with turtlenecks, glasses and roast chicken. In a recent NY Magazine article, Meyers talked about that bachelorette party and why she thinks her work resonates with younger women in our generation:

I think it’s because they see a really super-functioning, confident woman who’s made a life for herself, who bought herself this house. And they’re all starting their careers, and I think they must look ahead and say, “Yeah, I like that for my future.” And she’s a divorced woman, but she’s not an unhappy divorced woman. The women in my movies are not seeking romance. It happens when they’re not looking for it.

I really liked that quote, especially that last part. Romance seems to be a by-product of going after and living the life you want. In the article, Meyers also had some interesting thoughts about thirtysomething men in this day and age. She was talking about the difference between Robert DeNiro’s character in The Intern, a 70-somethign year old man who goes back to intern for Anne Hathaway’s company, and millennial men today. She says:

Well, the difference between this man and the millennials. I’ve seen it in my own life. I see guys in their mid-30s with their little boys, and they’re wearing the exact same outfit. They’ll wear like the same T-shirt, same kind of shorts, same sneakers, and I just remember when men didn’t dress like their 4-year-olds.

When my kids were growing up, they had Take Your Daughter to Work Day. It didn’t cross my mind that there was no Take Your Son to Work Day, because it was expected the men will grow up and go to work. I think my generation, brought up by Oprah Winfrey, really got behind girls in a great way, and I think the boys … the line in the movie is “Well, maybe they didn’t get left behind, but you know, there’s definitely some kind of gap.” I’m not talking about all men, of course. But I don’t think the Peter Pan quality is something women want in their men, that’s for sure.

What do you think? I definitely have noticed that a lot of men have that Peter Pan quality. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but I do agree with Meyers in that many women don’t want that in their men. I haven’t seen The Intern yet, but I hope to check it out this weekend.

The more interviews I read with Meyers, the more she’s becoming my role model in this industry.

First Thing in the Morning in Your Thirties

For most of my life, I never really had a morning ritual. Well- I never had a morning ritual that went much beyond putting on my makeup and getting my hair into some sort of acceptable outside-world style.

Then, as I went through my twenties, I started adding new parts to my morning ritual. I got into making green juices in the morning, and then- even better- I got into making green smoothies. I purchased a french press and started making my own coffee every day as well. Lots of liquids. And then I figured out a way to style my hair even quicker than before (by forsaking straightening my crazy waves into heat-damaging oblivion every single day).

Yet even when I had a handle on my morning routine, it always felt like a means to an end. I got nothing super important done in the morning. I usually saved that stuff until the afternoon, when something more pressing usually came up and interrupted it anyway (like lunchtime. Or drinks out. Or a new bunch of emails to return. You know, the important stuff…)

This summer, I hit a wall. I was sick of the days passing me by while some of the most important things I wanted to do daily remained undone. So I started a ‘most important things on my list are the first ones’ habit. And it really started to work.

I’d get up, start some coffee, eat an apple, and meditate (which is very important to me). Then I’d put on my gym clothes and go running or to the gym (also very important). Then I’d come back, make a smoothie, and tackle my to do list or go to work. In this way, I was meditating daily and also getting to the gym before interruptions took over. The first thing in the morning habit really worked. Even though I’m a night owl.

The hardest part has been expanding my morning ritual into other important tasks. It was easy to meditate and run and then get through a to-do list of smaller items like ‘wash dishes. email so-and-so. send invoice.’ It was much harder to meditate and run and   then tackle larger and more important to dos like ‘rewrite resume. practice presentations. watch videos and research new job prospects.’ I was just talking to my friend Janna about this; For whatever reason, the reallly important tasks that could further our lives and careers have been getting pushed by the wayside and out of our days entirely. And this has been happening for a while… kind of sort of like always. Especially on work days where there’s not much time left in the day to tackle tasks other than getting to work.

Our new idea has been to start using the ‘first thing in the morning’ ritual to include these big important tasks right away…and I think it’s best to only focus on one Very Important Task daily.

So to recap, instead of trying to kill a whole to-do list, I’m going to prioritize one big important task a day and only try to do that, starting in the morning. First, I’m still going to start my coffee and have an apple and meditate. Then I’m going to work on the chosen task for an allotted period of time. Only THEN will I tackle the other items.

I think choosing only one large item a day to work on first thing in the morning is helpful. When there’s only one thing to think about, it’s easier to stay focused and not accomplish absolutely zero big important tasks in a day.

What do you think? Do morning rituals help you? How do you accomplish the really big important tasks and not let the days pass you by?

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When You’re Far From Where You Want to Be

Oh guys, I’ve been in a funk the past couple of days. Over a lot of things, but the overall feeling is that I’m so far from where I want to be at this age (33). I know we’ve talked a lot about this on the blog, and most days I can buoy my spirits by telling myself “You can’t compare yourself to others!” and “Everyone walks their own journey” or a new, personal favorite “Trust the timing of your life.” But some days, those mantras just don’t work. Some days, you just feel down and you can’t help it. That’s been my week.

Why? Well, it’s a lot of things. But the main thing is that ever since I was a little kid, I wanted a big family. I’m an only child without a large extended family, so it makes sense that I would desire that connection. I thought I was on my way to possibly starting my own family – I was engaged, and I figured I’d have children within the next few years. But then we broke up. And man, it’s hard to go through a breakup at this age, because if you want kids and don’t have them already, that ticking clock only gets louder and louder. I’ve been reassured that I have until I’m 37, but that doesn’t provide me much reassurance at all.

I was feeling okay that my career was moving slowly – because A) I chose something incredibly challenging, screenwriting and dramatic writing, and B) I had found my partner with whom I could have children, so that provided some relief. But when the floor fell out from B), it affected how I felt about my slow-moving career. Because now I have this other huge life goal I want to accomplish: having a family. Which distracts me from my writing, and has in fact caused me some legitimate writer’s block. I’ve never really believed in the concept of writers block, but lately, I do feel like my creative well has been parched.

I didn’t realize the extent of my frustration until I reached a tipping point last night while catching up on Season 4 of Homeland. I found myself getting jealous and angry of Carrie (Claire Danes’ character) for having a baby when she doesn’t even want one! It sent me down a spiral of frustration at all those people, err…TV characters…(how about Mindy on The Mindy Project!) who have children who never really wanted them to begin with. Again, I have to bring myself back down with all those mantras and reminding myself “my time is coming.” And also, laugh at myself, of course, because umm…when you’re jealous of TV characters, well…enough said.

So how do you begin to change your life when all your goals seem so far away? I don’t know. For now, I’m trying to take everything hour by hour, day by day, and hope I get to a place someday that feels like home.

Turning 31

How does it feel to be thirty? I wrote about my experience here– on the day I turned thirty.

Now that I’m thirty one (and 5 days) do I feel any different? Today I was thinking about it, in a moment of meditation at my job, and I think that the biggest difference is simply taking things for granted and letting things get stale. When I turned thirty, everything felt new and different and now that I’m thirty one, my biggest fear is that things won’t be exciting anymore.

At thirty, even the “bad” things were new and something to explore. These “bad” things included:

Now that I’m thirty one and am still dealing with most of these things, there’s a new stigma- it’s not just not exactly knowing what to do in my thirties, it’s STILL not knowing what to do in my thirties. But I think the biggest lesson and new part of thirty one so far is that everything that feels old is actually new. The challenges and exciting things about thirty one…and the continuing thirties years, are to get even more involved in “old” feelings and occurrences and to know that everything is new.

Even though my biggest fears are to not move forward and discover new things as the thirties continue, I know that’s actually not physically possible. We’re always moving forward and every day we are different people with different cells- our body has almost entirely replaced itself in new cells within 7-10 years. Our skin takes about 2-4 weeks to be completely new. Our stomach and intestines take only about 5 days to have completely different cells. We can’t actually stay in one place or go backwards or repeat.

So I must have faith that as thirty one begins, what feels stale is actually never-before-seen. Let the year begin.

How to Be a Better Friend (Part 1)

Who do you call when you have an experience that makes you feel ashamed or dirty inside? I bet there’s only one or two people you call when you have those moments, despite having lots of close friends. Because sometimes it’s not about how “close” you feel to someone, but how they can handle certain types of emotions.

Have you ever had a bad experience and relayed it to a friend and gotten a reaction like this? “Awh, honey”  or “you poor thing.” That’s someone replying to you with more sympathy than empathy. And while your friend is probably well-meaning in their intentions, it can sometimes feel passive-aggressive.

What if we switched our reactions from sympathy (which can sometimes border on pity) to empathy? An empathetic reaction would be more like, “Oh, I remember when that same thing happened to me! I get it.” Or, what if we could try to feel what that experience was like for them? I know I would love it – it would re-fill me and make me feel as though I wasn’t alone in the world. And who doesn’t want that? A small change like that can mean the world to your friend.

Another small change you can make when reacting to a friend is not being the person who says, “Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t so bad,” or “You must be exaggerating.” It takes away from our friend feeling like her experience was authentic and real, when we should support him/her for being so vulnerable.

I know that when I call a friend after a particularly bad time, and they are able to love and support me through both my successes and my struggles, that’s when I know I’ve found a keeper.

Small changes can make for much deeper friendships.

Happy Birthday OMG I’m Thirty! And thank you to our amazing readers!!

We’re sending so much love to you, our wonderful friends and readers and are so thankful to you always and especially on this special day! It’s our birthday and we’re extremely excited to be one year old!

Remember when you were one year old? Nope neither do I. That was more than thirty plus years ago 🙂

It’s my actual birthday today as well, and it’s extra wonderful to remember that last year we launched this blog for the first time this day last year- the day I turned thirty! I’m psyched to see what thirty one will bring, and I’m really grateful to still be writing for OMG I’m Thirty!

We’ve published over 250 blog posts this year!!! OMG!!!! That’s a lot of thirties info!

We’re so happy and grateful that you’ve come along with us for the thirties ride, and the blog ride, and we’re thrilled for many more exciting years to come!

Thank you so much for reading! We love you so much!!

-Laura and Jane

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Is Your Phone Ruining Your Friendships?

When you’re out with your friends, do you use your cell phone? Is it sitting on the table as you have your monthly catch-up dinner? Well, I used to be very cognizant of not using my phone around my friends, but I’ve noticed that in the last year, I’ve gotten worse. I’ve actually texted while having a conversation with someone (without having to look down at my phone), and texted during my graduate level classes while discreetly holding the phone under the table. I feel embarrassed even writing that, because I pride myself on giving all of my attention to anyone I’m talking to and really being present during school lectures.

This opinion piece in the NY Times is a beautifully written wake-up call to all of us; Stop Googling. Let’s Talk. The author, MIT Professor Sherry Turkle makes the case that it’s time for us to start connecting with others in a face-to-face way and to be okay with solitude sans our digital devices. It’s a beautifully written article and worth a read.

She brings up some fascinating statistics about phone usage and connection. This one in particular blew me away:

Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.

-Sherry Turkle

I thought that was fascinating! That even just having a phone in the vicinity of your interaction with a friend can affect the depth of that conversation. It sure does for me. For example, I have a close friend who lives out of town, and I go to dinner with her when she’s in town for a film shoot (she’s a producer) and because of the nature of her job, she’s always got to have her phone on the table. Invariably, at least once during a meal together, she stops to check her email, reply to someone, and then reply to another text that’s come through during dinner. Now look, I’m not complaining, because I relish any time I spend with her,  however little or distracted it may be,  but I miss the days when we were totally focused on each other, diving deep into  funny, odd and more vulnerable conversation territory.

Attention is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your loved ones. And, at the end of the day, we can’t forget that we’re animals – we connect via our eyes and body language. We need to keep that an integral part of our “connecting”  to other people.

Turkle’s suggestion to us all was simple and optimistic:

It is not about giving up our phones but about using them with greater intention. Conversation is there for us to reclaim. For the failing connections of our digital world, it is the talking cure.

So let’s reclaim conversation. With friends. Family. Strangers.

I’ve made a pact with myself to put away my phone when talking to my friends. What will you do?

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