What Are Some of the Smallest Baby Step Lifestyle Changes You’ve Made in Your Thirties?

It’s amazing how habits take shape and slowly, incrementally change the structure of our lives. I feel like it’s usually not the big, sweeping ‘grand decisions’ made in bold statements that change our lives (ie most New Years Resolutions, most “I’ll never drink again!” statements, most “no more sugar for life” proclamations, etc), but actually the small changes made in private moments and repeated again and again that actually make a major long term impact.

In the past year, I’ve made a few changes- most of them arbitrarily or unpremeditated. But these particular changes have slowly but surely changed my everyday patterns of thinking and feeling. Here’s a list of the ones the made the biggest impact.

1. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone- I did this in a moment of pain and anguish on election night back in November. I mean, you get it. But I never put the app back, and that in turn has me going on Facebook a whole lot less. Which in turn frees up a lot of my time. Which also in turn really tones down a bad habit I have of comparing myself to others. I still go onto Facebook and read stuff and post things, but the amount of time I spend on the site has decreased immeasurably. Results of deleting Facebook app on my phone: I feel happier and have more time. And I still have Facebook so I don’t even feel any weird “I deleted my profile feel sorry for me” stress or Fear Of Missing Out.

2. Starting to make green smoothies full of vegetables – I’ve made green smoothies on and off for a few years now, but it’s only recently that I followed nutritionist Kimberly Snyder’s basic recipe for her diet staple: the Glowing Green Smoothie. This smoothie is made up of all vegetables with the inclusion of an apple, almond milk or water, and some stevia. She includes a bit more fruit but I’d rather eat that fruit separately. This smoothie is the equivalent of having something like three or four salads before lunch, without all that annoying chewing. The ingredients of my smoothie, if you want to try it, are a head of romaine, either a bunch of celery or a large cucumber, a handful or two of spinach leaves, a handful of cilantro, an apple, half a lemon, stevia to taste, ice, and a bunch of almond milk or water. Results: I put a TON of nutrients in my body before I have time to think about anything or eat a bunch of nonsense food. Therefore my mind feels clearer and my body feels happy.

3. Tracking my spending- I wrote about this in the post How Tracking Money is Like Weighing Yourself and then again in The Anti-Budget Budget In Your Thirties. I began using the app Goodbudget to track each and every dollar I’ve spent. I started this back in June, and it was very painful. I didn’t want to track every dollar because I felt like I knew where every dollar went already, and the whole thing felt tedious and filled me with guilt whenever I spent a penny. However, after about a month and a half it all got a lot smoother and easier. I realized exactly where my money was going each month and that small purchases really add up to way more than I thought. I swear I’ve saved a ton of money simply by writing down my expenditures- because I think about where my money’s going every time I spend it. And I feel more accountable for a purchase if I know I have to write it down and it goes into my monthly total.

All of these small activities have added up to big change in my life. Are there any small changes you’d like to start or have recently begun? Don’t worry about those big, scary changes- concentrate on a little tiny change every day, or even every other day. Don’t underestimate what seem like small tweaks- they add up.

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Rebooting Old Friendships

As an only child, I’ve been fascinated by friendship since pre-school, when I had the opportunity to make my very first real friend.  Whose name I don’t remember…oops!

On my birthday two weeks ago, an old college friend who I haven’t spoken to in maybe 5 years reached out to me. There was never a falling-out between us. Rather, she mysteriously disappeared. She stopping returned emails, texts, calls and just vanished. A group of her friends from med school and I tried to figure out what was going on, but we couldn’t track her down. Because we knew she had disappeared on other people at an earlier stage in her life, and that there had been recent drama in her life, we didn’t think she was kidnapped or anything crazy like that. We knew she must have chosen to leave of her own volition. Also, one friend heard from her and passed along the information that she was safe but not looking to be contacted.

Back to my birthday. I got an email from this old friend who disappeared. It was a very simple message – she wished me a happy birthday and apologized for missing so much of my live/events in my life, etc. and asked if I’d be willing to open up a friendship again. She didn’t mention why she disappeared or what happened.

While some people might have been hurt to have been left by a friend, I was excited to hear from her. She was someone who I didn’t depend on completely for emotional support, and I something I loved about her was her independence and free spirited nature. While we never had that much in common, I always enjoyed spending time with her and loved her intellect and passion for life. She inspired me because she gave 100% to everything she did – becoming a neurosurgeon, going to residency, and then deciding to quit it all to write. She’s now got a book published. It’s pretty amazing. She’s already accomplished so many big deal things in her life.

We’ve been emailing back and forth a few times, but we haven’t gotten to meaty subjects yet, though I’m sure that is coming in time.

I read an article this week about how to deal with re-building these sorts of friendships – ones that disappear and then re-emerge: A Psychologist Explains How to Revive a Dead Friendship.

The most important take-away from the article for me was this: when re-building an old friendship, you need to be willing to see that person with a completely fresh set of eyes. Easier said than done, but I think it’s the only way to have an authentically honest new friendship.

It’s like if an artist were to paint another painting on top of an already used canvas. Like, when art historians discover than underneath a Picasso was an older Picasso painting he painted years prior.

I’m not sure what will happen with my new/old friend, especially because we don’t live in the same city, but I’m curious to find out.

Have We Become the Slash Generation to Compensate for an Economy that’s Failing Us?

Jane wrote an article about the Slash Generation over a year ago- Are We the Slash Generation?– and it’s one of our most read articles. Why? Well, beside’s Jane’s captivating writing skills, I’m convinced this interest in the slash generation prevails because the slash generation is ubiquitous and is already bleeding into future generations.

What is the slash generation? It’s a generation of 20 and 30 somethings that have multiple jobs and even multiple full time careers. For example: Actor/Yoga Teacher/Nutritionist/Graphic Designer, or DJ/Cafe Owner/Artist/programmer. We all have hobbies, such as occasional running or painting, but the slash generation has multiple JOBS. I’m a prime example of slash generation- my job title is presenter/product specialist/ demonstrator/ marketer/ writer/ actor/ director/ producer. I’m probably forgetting something.

Why is the slash generation on the rise? Well, the economic landscape is changing for millennials in their twenties and thirties- and the changes are affecting younger and older generations as well. Jobs that include pensions are now few and far between and companies don’t necessarily encourage employees to stick around. Changing jobs has become as frequent as changing your socks.

And there are good reasons to change jobs: minimum wage salaries don’t nearly keep up with inflation, most employers don’t reward you for sticking around, benefits are few and far between. So instead of sticking with one company, millennials are going wide and both starting their own companies and working with multiple employers on both a freelance and employee basis. Honestly, we sometimes need to do all these things to pay our bills.

The slash generation is a double edged sword: it can be very helpful to have multiple jobs and skills and to ‘go wide’ so that you have security if certain jobs don’t work out. But the slash generation is also sign of unfair economic times in America- where you can work very hard within companies and still not see anywhere near the kind of money you deserve. This is an era where companies can have spectacular financial success with their employees barely seeing a dime of that growth.

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In America, there has been a 72.2% rise in productivity since 1973 and only an 8.7% rise in pay rate

 

 

Should We Care about the Minimum Wage Problems in Our Thirties?

Hopefully, though not necessarily, we’re making more than minimum wage in our thirties. Whether you are or not, though, I hope you’d be interested in the statistic saying that the Federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is worth less than it was 50 years ago. I find that to be an extremely sad statistic.

Someone asked on Quora (my absolute favor online pleasure site where I can get lost in questions and answers for hours) the other day: “How could 1950’s families afford to have only a working father, but a stay at home mother?” A bunch of people provided answers about eating out less and saving more, but one answerer got right to the point: Basically, when there was more productivity at a company in the 1950’s, the workers made more money. When there’s more productivity at a company now, the top 1% keep excess money, and the workers never see it.

In 1950, the average income per year was $3,210. Since the minimum wage was $0.75 an hour (on January 25, 1950), people working the minimum wage the average number of hours a week (43) made $1,677 a year. So, by working the average number of hours and making the federal minimum wage, you could make 52% of the average wage. In 1950, a new house cost $8,450. So, if you never spent a penny of the money you earned, it would take roughly 5 years at the federal minimum wage to save the amount equal to that of a new house.

In 2015, the average income per year was $55,775. Since the minimum wage in 2015 was $7.25 an hour, people working the minimum wage the average number of hours a week (34) made $12,818 a year. So, by working the average number of hours and making the federal minimum wage, you could make 23% of the average wage. The average sale price for a new house in January 2016 was $365,600. So, if you never spent a penny of the money you earned, it would take 29 years at the federal minimum wage to save the amount equal to that of a new house. Do those seem equal to you?

Also, according to the EPI: “Between 1973 and 2014 productivity grew 72.2 percent…while the typical worker’s compensation was nearly stagnant…9.2 percent over the entire 1973–2014 period. This allowed a huge concentration of wealth at the highest 1% of people.”

So what can we do about this? Well, California and New York have increased their minimum wages (with the exclusion of certain small businesses) to $15/hr and that will go into effect by 2022 and 2018, respectively. This is great progress. Because, according to a study by the Center for American Federal minimum wage: “the minimum wage should have hit $21.72 an hour if it kept up with worker productivity.” Even if minimum wage kept up with inflation alone, the study goes on to say, federal minimum wage should at least be $10.52 an hour.

Even if you’re not politically active, and don’t want to get into debates about the minimum wage, you might feel some anger over this the same way I do. People can’t live on the federal minimum wage as it stands…and even if they can live a scraped together life, it doesn’t help the economy anyway that people living on an ‘unlivable’ federal minimum wage have barely any buying power.

What can we do? At the very least, it’s good to be aware of this issue, and spread the word when we can. It’s not true that people in the 1950’s simply “saved more.” I’m a huge fan of saving but don’t let yourself get gaslighted by minimum wage excuses like that one. There are americans who work the maximum number of hours allowed a week, and save as much as they can, who are still simply unable to make enough money to live on. This is a problem for us all.

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What Can I Deduct On My Taxes?

Ah, it’s tax season again! One of my favorite times of the year! Just kidding- I hate tax season. But it definitely helps to know what I’m doing before I file- and I have an accountant. But accountants can only do so much if I’m completely disorganized. So hopefully you have all your w2s/1099s in order and are ready to go. But are you taking the tax deductions you deserve?

Deductions are basically items you’ve paid for that somehow relate to the job you do. So if you’re self-employed and have a modeling business and you’ve bought a bunch of make up and hair products for shoots, those are deductions. But there are countless other deductions for every profession- and you don’t have to be self-employed to take them. Before I list them all,just a quick reminder about the standard deduction- that’s the amount you’ll get to deduct from your income if you don’t itemize deductions separately. So you’ll always get to deduct something.

For example, if you made $40,000 this year and are filing as a single person or are married filing separately, the standard deduction for 2016 is $6,300. So it’s as if you only made $33,700 this year- and will only be taxed on that $33,700. So if you don’t have itemized deductions totaling more than $6,300, then you should take the standard deduction and that’s that. The standard deduction if you’re married and filing jointly is $12,600, and if you’re filing as head of household (meaning you have a dependent), your deduction is $9,300 this year. 

So if you think you can possibly itemize deductions adding up to more than that, here are a few deductions you can try:

-Do you own a home? There are deductions you can take that relate to your home including what you’ve paid in property taxes, interest on a home equity loan, and possibly any home improvements made for medical care.

Were you in school or paying off a student loan in 2016? You can deduct some of your tuition and loan interest!

-Did you have a child in 2016? You’re eligible for tax deductions!

Are you self-employed and have a home office? You can deduct a portion of your rent and utilities! If you’re self-employed you can deduct a lot more though. See Mashable’s article on deductions for the self-employed. I’m too tired to write a whole new article on this, even though I’m self-employed- theirs is quite good.

Did you move for a job? You can potentially write off your moving expenses EVEN IF YOU DON’T ITEMIZE DEDUCTIONS!

Also, if you had large healthcare bills (even dental bills) in 2016, or donated to charity, you can potentially write off a portion of these expenses as well!

So don’t leave money on the table this tax season- no matter how nice you aren’t you don’t need to pay Uncle Sam extra money you don’t actually owe!

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You Don’t Have to Go Far to Go Far

Going to Japan last year was one of the best trips of my life. I wrote about Japan a bunch in the posts Must Do’s for a Two Week Japan Trip as well as Working Easy In Your Thirties and  You Can Actually Do That Crazy Thing In Your Thirties. This year everyone asked me where I was going to go next – like I don’t travel enough for work… but they meant travel for fun. I’d love to go on another insane (good insane) major international trip like Japan, but this year I’ve decided to stay in my home city. This is mainly because I travel so much for work and I feel like I need a thorough spring and summer in New york this year. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t have some of the same sensational experiences I had in Japan.

I went to Japan solo, and that was part of the magic of the trip- I really got to spend time with myself and explore all the places I wanted to see. Walking for 12 hours a day? I have no problem with that- but other people might. Skipping lunch and eating a beautiful, fancy vegan dinner every night? That wouldn’t fly for everyone but that’s how I scheduled almost every day of my Japan trip. Meeting cool strangers at Airbnbs in Tokyo and Kyoto? I excitedly researched each place I stayed at and ended up loving all of my hosts.

So when I booked work in Boston this week, I decided to make the work trip more fun by applying a bit of my Japan attitude to a city I’m extremely familiar with. I’d never been to Japan before my last trip but I’ve been to Boston countless times. So I decided to go somewhere in Boston that I’d never been before- The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s the site of the most famous art heist in the world.

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The Gardner museum is also a simply gorgeous museum. I had no idea how incredible it was until I saw it for myself.

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Wondering the halls of the museum solo, I felt the same wonderment and solitude that I felt in Japan. I remembered the Edo Museum I’d gone to in Tokyo, as well as multiple temples in Kyoto and Koyasan I’d been inside that filled me with reverence and awe. I came into Boston extra early the day before work in order to have this time to myself and it was time well spent.

And both nights I was in Boston I took myself out to luxurious vegan meals (extra opulent for me because I really only eat dinner out alone on special occasions – like when I’m traveling for fun. Neither of the meals were very expensive- they were at traditional Indian and modern Chinese food restaurants- but to me they were indulgent and lovely. I could have been traveling solo in an unexplored asian country and I might have had similar moments of solitary contemplation.

I also stayed at a fantastic Boston Airbnb with a wonderful Ukranian host who had spent the last 8 months in India, living in an ashram and teaching autistic children yoga. She practiced hour-plus-long meditations, and told me incredible stories about her last 10 day vows of silence, the guru (teacher) she had in India, and various meditation retreats she’d been to and wanted to go to. She taught me some breath work she learned in India that helped with her meditations, and shared her vegan yogurt with me (she’s a vegetarian as well). I really feel like I met a kindred!

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The gorgeous cat, Lunca, at my Boston Airbnb

So although I’m obviously a big fan of travel, I don’t think it’s necessary to go very far to experience the intoxicating high of traveling. You don’t have to spend much money or even leave your neighborhood to travel away from your normal routine. If you can’t travel right now, try something new you haven’t tried before instead. Take yourself to a new place for dinner or explore a different area. Talk to someone you’ve never talked to before. Investigate a new museum and see how you feel when you’re alone with just your thoughts and your spirit.

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Lessons From a Fever in Your Thirties

I was traveling for work for the last 25 days, and for most of that time I was well- physically at least. Mentally, I was exhausted at times, from both the amount of travel and the sheer magnitude of people and bustle and noise constantly surrounding me at most shows.

But the mental and the physical are intertwined, and during the last week of my travel, I developed a fever while working in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s funny how illnesses sometimes sneak up on you, and my weakening muscles deceived me into thinking that I had always felt so unsteady. I tried to furtively stretch while still on the work floor, but every tendon in my body ached, and it felt more agonizing by the minute to simply stand up, never mind give infinite presentations and answer the slew of questions coming at me. Plus, my stomach was wrestling with my mind as well- telling me it was utterly starving one minute and then agonizingly full the next- right after I’d eaten only 3 bites of something.

My coworkers said I had The Cleve- a mythological disease known to strike first-timers to the Cleveland area we were in: the airport area of despair. You see, almost everyone who’d worked this particular show fell deathly ill at some point at least one of the years they’d worked it. Why? Who knows. The lighting is yellow and dim- sort of despairing. The convention center used to be a military facility, if that adds anything. I googled whether there was something up with the water supply in the area but my search returned nothing. No offense to any of you who may be from/live in Cleveland. The downtown area seemed awesome, but alas we weren’t ever near there.

Somehow I made it to the end of the work day that day, and with the help of lots of zinc and rest that night was able to make it back to work the next day (sick days are unheard of in my field during a show). Even though my muscles ached less and my stomach was slowly starting to unclench, I ended up taking it extra easy on myself for the remainder of the show…and even into this week. I probably should always be taking care of myself so thoroughly, if not more so.

This week -and last- I put myself to bed earlier and sleep in when I can. I eat and chew extra slowly in case my stomach turns on me. I lie in bed and bask in the sheer bliss of a few moments of extra meditation. Sometimes I’m not even meditating- just staring at the ceiling, feeling smooth sheets underneath me. I drink less- well, I drank less last week anyway. We had a Cleveland bowling onesie costume party one night, and somehow I got through that without touching a sip of alcohol. I allowed myself to go very slow as I packed for the next trip. I ran outside extra carefully this week. I spent a few lovely  moments staring out of the airplane window or watching a movie as opposed to trying to accomplish tasks. I let myself breathe. I give myself room.

And as I do, I feel healthier, but I also feel more loved. I’m taking care of myself as if I love myself and as if I’m treasured. And as I do that, all of those things are true to me.

But you don’t need to be sick to treat yourself with love.

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Turning 35 and A Great Relationship Analogy

Today I’m turning 35. I can hardly believe it. There’s something substantial about this age. It feels like I’m a real adult in the prime of my life. And the government must think so too, because, guys, I’m eligible to run for President now. Ha!

Anyway, birthday aside- I wanted to share something my co-worker told me yesterday that resonated.

I work in the film industry as a website editor, and my passion is screenwriting and television writing. Yesterday, my co-worker made an amazing analogy between what makes a successful film and what makes a successful relationship. Here goes the gist of what she said…

A film is ultimately art, right? The end goal is to make the audience feel something, touch their hearts in some way (even if it’s terrifying someone, as in the case of a horror movie). When I write, it’s to make people laugh and understand our shared humanity and maybe make them feel less alone. That’s what a good movie or TV show does for me.

But making films is also a business. You need to make money to be able to continue making films. The whole art and commerce thing…

So my co-worker’s analogy was this – the relationship between art and film is similar to the one between your heart and your head in a romantic partnership. Your heart may love the person you’re with, but your head may say that person is unhealthy for you. Ultimately, you want to find someone that you both love and is logically right for you.

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