One Valuable Lesson of My 30s

In my thirties, I’ve come to greatly appreciate my interaction with strangers. When I say ‘strangers,’ I mean people you meet out in your community, in your daily life – at the grocery store for instance, or on the bus or train.

I think we sometimes discount these moments as just part of the fabric and niceties of life, but I’ve come to discover these interactions can affect one’s day in a big way.

Thirty seconds or a minute of interaction between strangers can be day-altering. You can feel appreciated and ‘seen’ by people you’ve never met before. That’s powerful and has the ability to change the course and mood of someone’s day.

I did a comedy show last week, and while it wasn’t a disaster, it also wasn’t the best I could do. Right after I had begun my set, the mic fell out of the cord connecting it to power, and for a few seconds, my voice went from crisp and loud to inaudible. I started making corny jokes that no one could hear and looked like a crazy woman mumbling to herself. The host had to come on stage during my set and fix the situation. But I was off my game at that point. I kept on going, but I had lost some of my initial momentum.

I walked off the stage and into the crowd feeling disappointed in my performance. I spent the rest of the show watching the other comics, but beating myself up internally. I thought about possibly giving up on stand-up. Maybe this wasn’t a medium for me.

When the night was over, a man came up to me to talk about the show. He told me that I was one of his favorites because I seemed so real and authentic, that I wasn’t putting on a persona. He seemed genuine and thoughtful. He told me to keep going with this whole stand-up thing.

That minute of interaction with the man pushed me to continue on with stand-up. So for one minute of stranger interaction, I will end up spending hours and hours continuing to pursue stand-up.

This article by Elizabeth Crisci speaks to the benefits of talking to strangers quite beautifully. I love what she wrote below:

Giving the gift of our attention to people that we know, and those we don’t, is not only generous, it empowers us as well as the person we are talking with.

 

The Connection Between Scary Movies and Credit Cards

Let me just start by saying that I actually really like credit cards and that they don’t scare me. But horror movies do- and even scary, or semi-scary, TV shows can keep me up at night. Hell, just a trailer for a scary movie makes me immediately plug my ears and avert my eyes.

People may laugh at me when I scream in fear during the first episode of Stranger Things, or The Walking Dead, and turn away from the shows for good, deciding to probably never watch them again. But I know myself. I know how scary movies and books and TV shows might seem fun to me at first but can give me terrible nightmares, especially when I’m alone at an old hotel in the middle of Oklahoma City.

And since I know myself, I also know that I’m as good with money as I am bad with horror films. I was that kid who would look for money hidden in the coin returns at arcades and collect it, as opposed to using the coins to actually play the games. I know that credit cards will never tempt me into spending more than I have because I’m just a cautious type of person.

 

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Yikes!

However this isn’t true for lots of people- and if you’re one of them, don’t be ashamed. Be glad that you know yourself. The amazing finance blogger J. Money, on his fantastic blog Budgets Are Sexy (I only very recently discovered this extremely relatable and super fun-to-read blog, and I highly recommend it), writes about how he was solicited by TD Bank to create a credit card article targeted to millennials. Instead he describes how millennials are actually doing great things for themselves by avoiding getting into credit card debt. The reason TD Bank, and many other banks, are especially targeting millennials for credit cards is because millennials have been shying away from the cards due to worries about ending up in debt. According to the Budgets are Sexy article, almost half of all millenials- 44% – aren’t using credit cards at all. After all, many millennials-including myself- grew up and/or spent their early twenties during the recession of 2008 and are already saddled with insanely high student loan debt and a degree of worry about incurring any more bills.

TD Bank was trying to get Budgets Are Sexy to write about the benefits of credit cards and how millennials should establish credit so that they could borrow money later to acquire a car or a house. Yet J. Money, although he likes credit cards for their various perks and benefits, thinks that avoiding debt is way more important than your credit score. And I completely agree. Although I love credit cards personally because they’ve enabled me to take many a free flight somewhere, and to pass the credit check to rent my apartment, I disagree with telling millennials they should establish credit in order to take on lots of debt down the line… especially when millenials are already worried they’ll take advantage of “free money” credit cards and take on debt from unnecessary things!

I think it’s important to know yourself, and if you know you can’t handle the temptation of credit cards, stay away from them! I’ve cut scary movies out of my life because I know I can’t handle them, and I’ll never look back!

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This creepy image scares me a lot. It’s actually from a protest against credit card debt, that I found in a How Stuff Works article

Dammit Oatmeal, How Did You Trick Me For So Long?

Random short story about how it can possibly take you thirty years to learn the most obvious thing ever:

So, I’ve been making oatmeal forever, and I even have a favorite brand: Old Wessex Ltd Scottish-Style Porridge Oats. I’m not an instant oatmeal fan, so I even take ziplocs of my favorite Scottish Oats on the road when I travel.

Although I like oatmeal, and especially Scottish-Style Porridge Oats, a ton, I don’t always love it when I make it. It’s hit or miss- sometimes it’s too watery, sometimes it’s too chewy. Even with the best brand, which I’ve been buying for at least 4 years now, I’m not usually all that impressed with my oatmeal. I eat it anyway, because I love oatmeal…. yet sometimes I get oatmeal at a restaurant- one of those quick places where there’s oatmeal in the morning and soup during the day- and the consistency is just so absolutely perfect. And I always thought ‘my god, how do they do it?’ Is there tons of heavy cream in this?

Then one day, earlier this summer, I lazily scanned the directions on my tube of Scottish Oats. And for whatever reason, on that random day, I decided to FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS EXACTLY. I never did this before. I got out my measuring cup and measured out exactly half a cup of oats. Then I put in exactly one cup of water. Then I put the oats in the microwave for exactly three minutes (I’d never microwaved my oatmeal for more than two minutes in the past). And lo and behold- perfect textured oatmeal.

The consistency was creamy and thick. The oats had the perfect chewiness. Everything was even more filling somehow because of the way the oats had absorbed the water.

A crazy and perfectionistic lesson? Maybe. But it worked. And even crazier- I realized I’d wasted  years of feeling it out and NEVER getting it right, even by accident.

There may be a lesson in here beyond the simple ‘read the directions’ one. Sometimes you can try your darndest to do something your own way, but the simple answer is actually right in front of you, tried and true and perfect.

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Sometimes You Don’t Realize Your Confidence Is Low Until You See Someone With a High Level of Confidence

Today I read an article by the comedian and author Sara Benincasa, who was responding to a very pointed question from a fan. The question was: Why did you gain so much weight?

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It’s a question that would’ve destroyed my confidence if I was already feeling bad about myself- as I think it would have secretly destroyed many women. And I’m not fat by any standards. I’m actually pretty small if you’re going by some kind of American average. But it doesn’t matter- I always knew from society and all the magazines I’ve ever read that I was kind of worthless unless I was losing weight or thin.

What’s crazy about the thought pattern of ‘I’m only worth something if I’m thin’ is how built into my belief system it is- and I know that I’m not the only one. I work in an industry where being thin is prized, but I also live in a society that’s weight loss crazed…and always has been.

The article today shocked me with the confidence and bravado it presented- the woman who wrote it is successful and funny and talented and also bigger than what Hollywood, or society at large (whatever that means), deems ‘acceptable,’ but she’s confident anyway. How is this possible? Are you allowed to be confident if you’re a woman who’s not ‘acceptably’ thin or striving to lose weight? I ask this question as sort of a joke, but it’s not a joke. I truly care about healthy food and about being healthy, but there’s definitely a major part of me that cares only about being thin, so that I can feel good about myself and move on. This weight pressure is not something that only hits women in their teens and twenties and goes away…it continues well into our thirties and likely until the day we die. Weight pressure is built into the fabric of how women live. Every woman is pressured to be ‘acceptably thin’ and can’t feel good about herself unless she is so. Or so I thought.

“…here’s the shocker: in addition to my family and real friends still loving me, I kept getting work! Comedy, acting, and publishing 5 books from February 2012 to July 2016! It’s almost like I still had worth and value beyond the number on the scale…!”

She did? Women can? Especially in entertainment..or fashion…or hell, just being a respected woman? How can you respect yourself if you’re not ‘acceptably thin?’ How can anyone respect you? You should use all your time and energy to get onto a weight loss plan, right? But the successful comedian and author who had ‘gained some weight’ confidently continued:

“Let me tell you about some of the things that I did between when I started gaining weight (2011) and now (2016). I published that first book, “Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom.”I adapted it as a TV pilot. Diablo Cody is the executive producer. Have you heard of her? She’s very talented… Anyway, she wanted to work with me and never brought up the fact that I wasn’t skinny. Can you imagine? It’s so strange. I talked to her yesterday and she still did not say anything about me being so fucking fat. Is she just being nice? She’s from the Midwest and those people are sweet. And Ben Stiller’s company, Red Hour, worked with me too. None of them told me I was fat. Ben Stiller didn’t tell me I was fat!”

And this breathtaking woman didn’t even feel unlovable when she was fat! It’s crazy:

“Now during this time I began to think about weight. Not mine! I saw how women were criticized on the Internet and elsewhere for gaining weight. This intrigued me. I didn’t feel fat or unlovable. Should I? Hmm. I considered this and decided instead to make fantastic art instead, because I’m amazing at it.”

Wow, how dare she make art instead of getting her weight under control?! How could she even do that? Isn’t it better to spend your entire life getting your weight under control before you do anything else? I don’t understand it!

I gained all that weight because I was so busy working and growing as a person, a writer, an actor, a comedian, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, an activist (hi Emily’s List and Humanity for Hillary and Los Angeles LGBT Center!), a thinker, and a cook (ironic, right?!?) that I didn’t have time to pursue what I really, really want to do: spend my precious spare moments making anonymous comments on the blogs of successful, beautiful, hardworking women in a failed attempt to undermine them in order to give me some sense of power as I marinate in my own inadequacy, stuck in the knowledge that no one will ever pay me to write my poorly-crafted thoughts down on paper, to be translated into book or film or television form, and that beyond money (which of course doesn’t lend my thoughts any inherent value) or any degree of fame (which is pointless and wholly unnecessary to a happy and fulfilling existence) no one will ever really want to hear what I have to say at all, because I am essentially worthless and of no value to the world at large. That’s what I really want to do.

Wow. What a response. Read Sara Benincasa’s full, beautiful response here.

I’m truly moved and shaken by Sara’s amazing statement because I feel like I not only wouldn’t have the confidence to respond that way, but I wouldn’t have the confidence to FEEL that way.

Imagine if we could actually, truly feel so confident no matter what?

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Friendship in Your 30s (And in a New City!)

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that Los Angeles is a new city for me, but it feels like one though I’ve moved here nearly three years ago. I like it a TON more than I did before, and I finally feel like I have a bit of a life groove going, so that is good. But I still don’t have many close friends here. I have a lot of social friends and acquaintances, but not many deep friendships. I do think that’s because deep friendships take time, but I also think being in my 30s and living in LA have affected it as well.

I wasn’t thinking too much about my friends here until I signed up to do more stand-up comedy shows. If you’re a new comic, you generally do either open mics or “bringer” shows. They are called “bringer” shows, because you have to bring 3-5 friends to come support you. Now this seems like a do-able task, because most people have 3 friends who would be down to come out to a show you’re performing in, right? Yes. But here’s the thing. When I had my stand-up debut, I invited everyone I knew in LA, and had a pretty nice turnout. But now, I’m going to be performing the SAME material for probably 6-7 minutes AND whoever comes is going to have to pay the cover fee plus a two drink minimum (comedy club standards).

But will acquaintances/new friends/colleagues come to see you perform more than one in a span of two weeks? As I’ve been pondering how to promote this show, it’s made me wish that I had deeper ties here so that I could have those friends to whom I could say (err…beg?) “Pleaaaaase come see my show! I need you here. And you know I’ve got your back for anything you need.”

I’ve been telling myself that it takes time to make deep roots. And sometimes, it’s okay to have acquaintances and early friendships. That’s exciting too, because you never know which one of those new friends will end up being one of your best friends in five years.

And for any readers in LA, come see my show this Thursday! I’ll buy ya a drink?

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What You Know in Your Thirties That You Wish You’d Known Earlier

I just came across a Buzzfeed meme article about 22 things you learn in your thirties that you wish you’d known earlier, and unlike most Buzzfeed meme articles, I shook my head in agreement for most of them. If you haven’t read my previous post kind of trashing a 30’s Buzzfeed meme article, see Best Things About Being In Your Thirties- The Lists.

So let’s go over a few of the best learned things from Buzzfeed’s 22 Things You Know In Your Thirties That You Wish You’d Known In Your Twenties.  In no order:

  1. “There are other ways to communicate with your friends than social media. Like speaking on the phone. Or even meeting them in person.”

    Yes, yes and yes! YESSSSSS!!! But do other thirty-somethings know this too? Wait, am I not alone?

keep-calm-and-snapchat-me-41-12. “Your love for cheese will only grow stronger.”

Damn. I really didn’t think my love of cheese could actually grow much stronger. But dammit Buzzfeed, why do you have to be so right?? And my damn allergy to cheese makes me want it even more. Whyyyy, cruel world???

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3. “Being so drunk you don’t know your own name is not attractive to the opposite sex.”

Really? Damn it again. Good thing I don’t drink as much anymore because in my thirties, after 3-5 drinks, I wake up in the middle of the night with my heart racing, not able to go back to sleep again for 2 hours anyway. Come on liver, get it together!

4. “It makes sense to spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine.”

Okay, I disagree with this one. Maybe it can be done, but how does it “make sense”? Priorities, people!

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5. “Weddings cost a FUCKING fortune.”

It would seem so. I have never had one of these weddings, but legend has it they suck up all your wine-buying money for the remainder of your adult life.

6. You will not find your true love on the dance floor at 2 a.m.

Yep, hopefully by your thirties you’ve discovered the computer as a better place to go when you’re single at 2 am. Pajamas and Tinder can actually start trumping dancefloor as early as 10 or 11 pm…

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