How To Never Get Bored In Your Thirties

I’m almost never bored. I feel like there’s always something new to do, and a multitude of things that I’ve been wanting to get to. Sometimes I think I might be bored for a second, but then I realize I’m just not thinking about all the activities and projects and entertainment I want to play around with. Boredom is likely a symptom of poor planning. If you set yourself up to catch boredom in it’s tracks, you can either use the extra time for easygoing, contemplative moments, or put the time towards something you’ve been wanting to do anyway.

Start a list and write down a bunch of things you’d really like to do but never seem to have time for. My list includes:

  • Watch YouTube Videos on new hairstyle/makeup ideas
  • Practice singing (the word practice can easily be replaced by the word ‘start’)
  • Get out that dusty paint set and finally paint!
  • Organize Retirement Account
  • Rush a Broadway show
  • Study Turbo Tax for self-employed individuals so you can fire accountant and do your taxes yourself (hopefully my accountant does not read this blog).
  • Relearn Italian
  • Journal (I have many prompts for this, though freestyle works too)
  • Cook a new recipe from my huge and glorious vegan cookbook
  • Watch tutorials on basic Photoshop techniques

There are many more items on this list. When I’m done with my original To Do list (I’m somewhat of a to do list-aholic) I can look at my long term list and there’s always something big and/or interesting I can be doing that doesn’t include browsing Facebook or Instagram for hours (which does happen and is almost never happy-making).

Here are some other suggestions for stopping listless boredom in its tracks, effortlessly:

  • Start a list of tv shows/movies you want to watch that are currently streaming. When you’re bored, begin!
  • Make a list of people you’ve been wanting to call more regularly and finally call them! You have time!
  • Make a list of books you want to read…and finally start reading them!
  • Start a list of pampering moments you can give to yourself (face masks, hair masks, bath time, anything goes!)

I use and am obsessed with Wunderlist for all my to do list needs… this blog isn’t specifically affiliated with them in any way although I wish it was.

Here’s to never being bored again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Reason Being In Your Thirties Can Feel So Lonely

I’m 35, and most of my oldest friends are married without kids or with kids and/or have successful careers, or simply are content being single with a forward moving career. Most of them are pretty settled in one way or another, feeling good and grateful for where they are in their lives. They know it’s damn tough and they’ve come a long ass way to be where they are. And their lives are certainly not without struggle, be it infertility, health issues, etc. But, they’re happy to have made inroads into whatever they set out to do. And that’s awesome. It’s really inspiring seeing your friends raise kids, embark on new, challenging career goals or start a business. I’m not jealous; I know we all have unique paths to follow.

Once there was a broader path we were all on. But now the path is narrowing and more lonely than ever. Here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been depressed lately, and I have been remembering that I felt this same combination of ‘lost and scared’ intermittently throughout high school and college – this bleak feeling of dissociation. But what ALWAYS made it better was having friends with whom I could relate. Because in high school and college, we all felt similarly. At least I think we did.

Some of my favorite moments of high school were spent sprawled in the aisles of Barnes & Noble (which some called Barnes & Nobles – which always made me feel silly and happy), with a stack of career books and an assortment of US Weeklies and random crap, talking about our futures and all the possibilities ahead. We were blank slates, eager and excited, and all the nervousness of uncertainty was mitigated by each other’s company. When you realize you’re not alone, a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders.

At 35, I don’t have lots of friends to sit with in B & N and kvetch about life and how uncertain everything seems. I have about 2 of those friends, and they’re back home in NYC. I’m grateful for them, because we can email and talk about life and how we feel (and sometimes I can’t even email them back because I am feeling too low). But still — the number of us who are uncertain and scared, keeps dwindling. I guess that’s good, right? That’s a phase we should be past, perhaps? But…

It can make you feel alone. To feel like everyone has got at least one anchor in their life at this point, and you don’t. It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful to be alive and striving but still.

Sometimes I wish I was back in high school, in those aisles of Barnes & Nobles, with my vanilla steamer and my best friend, uncertain but hopeful about where our lives would take us, but pretty damn confident it would be somewhere awesome.

Rebirth! How Beginning Something Can Feel Like Labor Pain

When I first start something uncomfortably new, I have major resistance to it. And not just slight, nervous resistance. Sometimes my body wages an all out down and dirty guns blazing battle to stay the way it was before.

This can manifest as anything from a mild depression to serious nausea or absolute panic. When these kinds of intense feelings arise, I’m easily sidetracked by the feelings and may not even realize they’re arising from the new activity or habit. I simply start dedicating all my mental space to “solving” the bad feeling(s),  instead of working on the new habit- which is precisely what my fear is trying to trick me into doing.

A bunch of alarm bells go off in my mind. When I finally trace the uncomfortable feelings to the new habit, I of course want to quit my new habit and go back to the old way I was doing things. Sometimes quitting a new thing is the right choice- the new habit may not be right for you, or it may not be the right time in your life for that challenge. Other times, staying the course just a little longer allows the feelings to pass and enables you to grow more than you ever thought possible. The hardest trick of all is to know when to continue and when to quit.

When I first started tracking every dollar I spent, using the app Goodbudget (Which I talk about in detail here, I felt vaguely nauseous every day. I felt this unreasonable, irrational panic for what I thought was no reason. I couldn’t figure it out. I’m not the type of person to get panicked or anxious for no reason, so I tried to track down the source of these feelings, and would you believe it took me more than a week to figure out it was my little money app??

So I’m walking around with these unreasonable feelings of depression and nausea and I can’t figure out where they’re coming from until one day I realize they’re stemming from fear and guilt as I write down where I’m spending my money! Once I realized that the panic was coming from my new money habit, I was able to actually relax a bit, the feelings slowly subsided, and now I have zero panic about using Goodbudget to track my spending. Instead, tracking my spending makes me feel empowered, and I’ve been tracking money for over a year now.

There’s a huge range of new habits that can trigger what I called “Labor pains” in the title -since you’re birthing what’s essentially a new version of you into the world. I’ve never been in labor personally so for the sake of experience, I’m going to call these pains growing pains from here on out. Some likely candidates for growing pains (and what have triggered them for me) include a change in exercise habits, dietary habits, spending habits, a relationship or a relationship status, a job or within a job. Also, tracking or attempting to become aware of any personal habits can possibly trigger new growing pains- so journaling or meditating or getting a Fitbit or going to therapy or seeing a new doctor or opening up to someone for the first time may cause strange new feelings to arise- and these feelings can occasionally be confusing or painful or uncomfortable.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want or need to push through these feelings and find out if there’s growth on the other side. It’s a hard call and I respect you immensely whether you take on the challenge or make the conscious decision that it’s not the right new step for you right now.  These kinds of growth challenges in our thirties aren’t at all simple.

I guess that’s why they call this adulthood, kids.

 

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Are you satisfied?

One of my friends from film school was recently telling me about having lunch with one of our esteemed professors from UCLA. This professor is an amazing, kind-hearted man who’s beloved by his community. He turned 80 years old last year and still teaches two classes in the Masters film program. I’d say his name here, but I feel weird about it, since I haven’t asked him if I can talk about him on this blog. (Though, I am sure he would be happy for me to share this.)

I took two classes with him while I was in school, and he talked a lot about what success and satisfaction look like for his students – aspiring directors, writers, and producers in the MFA program.

The other day, my friend reminded me of something this professor said about life satisfaction that I wanted to share here. Basically, the level of your satisfaction in life equals reality over expectations. So, essentially, you’ll be more satisfied with your life if you’re happy with your reality and don’t have expectations that you have no control over.

This equation reminds me of a fortune cookie quote I got in college –  “Expectations reduce joy.” It’s hard not to have expectations because as human beings, I think we’re hard-wired to go into most situations with a desired outcome. But if we can just focus on the actual process of doing things and being in the present with the people around us, maybe we won’t think about our expectations of outcomes so much.

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Would You Hire a Life Coach?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories from friends who hired life coaches or executive coaches to either get out of a rut or find a new perspective on moving forward in their career/personal life. In fact, I just hired a screenwriting coach to help me push my career forward. I was on the fence about it for awhile before I actually pulled the trigger – I kept asking myself, “Can’t I just motivate myself?” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had nothing to lose but money, and even if I gained just a little bit of new knowledge about the industry I’m trying to break into, then it would be worth it.

Also, when I asked my dad for advice on whether I should pay for the coaching services or not, he gave me some great advice. He said that an investment in myself is always money well spent.

I’ve met with the coach twice so far, and it’s been pretty great. She re-energizes and focuses me. She keeps me accountable to my goals. (Granted, we’re only two weeks in and I’ve had no real deliverables, so we will see what happens going forward. But I’m confident that I won’t want to let her down.)

I think what’s great about coaching is that your coach allows you to see the big picture. They give you the Grand Canyon vantage point. Are the small issues you’re fretting about or spending time on really adding value to your life or getting you closer to your goals?

If you’re interested in coaching, the first step is figuring out what kind of coach you would want. They are usually bucketed into two categories: 1) Personal or life coaches, or 2) Business or professional.

Next, you want to make sure your coach is highly vetted. Recommendations from family or friends seem to be best. And you should make sure your coach is certified by the International Coach Federation.

If you don’t know someone who can give you a personal recommendation, a thoughtful Google search may direct you to the websites of coaches who deal in issues you might want to tackle (like, transitioning careers, new motherhood, etc.). These websites will give you a good feel of the coach and their methodology. They will often have free reading material which is also helpful.

Here’s a couple of life coaches websites, so you can get a feel for the different styles out there:

http://yourkickasslife.com/coaching/

http://erikadolnackova.com/life-coaching-for-women/

 

A Somewhat Rambling Post On Turning 35

In March, I’ll turn 35 years old. Kinda crazy to think about. I still feel like I just entered my thirties, the decade so many people told me would be the best of my life. So far, that’s been true for me. All those cliches about getting older were validated – you’re more confident in your own skin and you give less sh**s about what other people think. I’m still working on the comparison game however; it’s hard for me not to look at folks my age who have high-powered careers and families, and wonder why I’m eating frozen burritos in my apartment with no kitchen.

But the thing is, while I can compare myself to other people my age, I also realize I made the choice to be a writer – to follow this path where nothing is predictable and quality work doesn’t always correlate with dollar bills. I knew full well that making solid money from this wasn’t the primary goal. And the truth is, knowing I have this deep passion for storytelling and that I’m trying to pursue it as a career is way more valuable to me than a six-figure paycheck. (Though I eventually want that, too!). I like to think that the longer and harder the journey, the sweeter the success will feel when I get there.

I feel excited about turning 35. It feels substantial. I feel substantial.

So, I find it somewhat hilarious that in an interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump talked about women’s ages and said: “What is it at 35, Howard?” Trump wondered aloud. “It’s called checkout time.”

I can’t formulate a better reply to this than writer Michelle Ruiz’s in her Vogue article, On Turning 35, the Age at Which Donald Trump Dumps His Girlfriends.

Here’s how she reacted:

But, upon further consideration, I think Trump is exactly right. Women at 35 are “too experienced.” Too experienced to see themselves as a man’s possession to be “checked out” on. Too experienced to constantly second-guess themselves and whether or not they deserve their compliments, their jobs, or their promotions. Too experienced, for sure, to sell their souls to Oompa Loompa–color sugar daddies with penchants for pussy grabbing. Today, at 35, I’m largely out of fucks to give, and, to borrow a phrase from Trump, as “nasty” as I want to be. I’m more willing to speak my mind than ever, and I care significantly less than I did 10 years ago about what other people think. And, as a bonus, I like my body and my bank account balance better now, too.

A little life experience will do that for you. Many 35-year-old women, myself included, have been around the block, or even the whole neighborhood. We’ve been dumped, disregarded, laid off, and underestimated; made mistakes, taken chances; failed miserably; in some cases, even hit rock bottom. We’ve lost friends and parents and found a little more of our ourselves. (Lose a friend in his 20s, or see a college classmate lose her toddler son to cancer, and suddenly, complaining about a 35th birthday loses its fun). We’ve gone from assistants to bosses, gotten married, birthed babies, or done none of the above, and discovered our own resilience all the same. If this makes women of 35 undesirable to Trump, or anyone else, then, as fellow 35-year-old Beyoncé would say: Boy, bye.

That’s one of the great things about being in your 30s – you don’t have time for people who find you undesirable or unworthy. You know to never settle for people who don’t fully support you. As our first President so wisely said:

“Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”

-George Washington

When Self-Care Doesn’t Work

Last week for about the whole week, I had really, really bad anxiety. Like ‘a bubble bath and bottle of wine’ isn’t gonna help this kind of anxiety. It was strong and I didn’t feel like myself – this icky feeling possessed my brain (not Exorcist style in my body though, thank God!) in what felt like an unshakeable way. I’m not sure exactly what sparked it, but probably lots of little things that kind of exploded into a ball of overwhelm.

I tried everything. Watching my shows on Netflix, eating ridiculous amounts of pizza, drinking wine, reading cheesy magazines and books, taking walks – but nothing worked. My brain kept circling the same thoughts over and over again. Why didn’t I have more plans on Labor Day weekend? Am I going to live in this tiny studio apartment my whole life? Will I get get married and have kids? 

Those thoughts just kept repeating and repeating in my head, and I couldn’t shut them down.

I started getting angry at the idea of ‘self-care’ because it sure didn’t seem to be working for me.

So what do you do in these situations? Obviously, there’s medication, which I believe can be very helpful if you need it. But aside from that, what’s the biggest way to deal with moments like this? Now that I’m a little out of the anxiety fugue state, there’s one thing I know that works.

Riding it out. Accept that your (anxiety/loneliness/depression/fear/anger) may be PART of your life experience, but it’s not ALL of your life experience. It will pass.

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Sage Words of Wisdom

This past weekend, I went on a weekend ‘retreat’ with my writer’s group in a small town a little bit inward from the SoCal coast. It was a group of seven of us, and we all know each other from our MFA graduate school writing program. They are my core friends here in Los Angeles, a city which can feel very isolating, so I am very grateful for them.

We had no set goals for our retreat, but I think the hope was that we would write a bit on our personal projects but also socialize and enjoy each other’s company.

We ended up getting no writing done, but it was well worth it. We played Cards Against Humanity, watched cheesy movies on VHS (like the classic Kevin Costner gem ‘Message in a Bottle’), drank wine, and told ghost stories. Basically it was a sleepover for adults.

One of the best activities was organized by my friend (who shall remain nameless in case she wants to stay humble about her amazingness), but basically, we took thirty minutes and each filled out a set of questions about everyone else in the writer’s group. They were questions like “What are this writer’s greatest strengths?” “If this writer was down, what would you say to him/her?” and “Which literary/film/TV character does this writer most remind you of?.” Suffice to say, it was awesome. Imagine getting feedback like that from 7 of your peers who truly care about you and are genuinely filling out these papers in a spirit of love. It’s great and fills your heart bucket.

It was such a cool exercise that not only brought us together, but helped us compare how we saw ourselves with how our friends viewed us.

The same friend who organized the activity told me something that has resonated strongly with me ever since the retreat. She said, “Bloom where you are planted.”

How beautiful is that?

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It was the perfect time for me to hear that. Because lately, I’ve been wondering how I got to where I am. I am working a job that doesn’t utilize my skill sets or passion, and I sometimes find myself wondering if I should be further along by now. When I see pictures of friends’ babies and growing families on Facebook and Instagram, I can’t help but feel a tinge of fear. Perhaps I won’t be lucky enough to have a family of my own, when it’s something I so desperately want.

But I remind myself that you must work to love the life you have. So I guess the gist of this all is – we may not be where we want to be in our 30s. But I believe we’re always exactly where need to be to absorb whatever lesson we are meant to learn. So why not learn to be the flower that blooms out of hardscrabble soil?

 

The Best Part of Being in Your 30s

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I’m 34 now, and I feel that in the last four years, I’m more myself than ever before. I remember when I used to feel like I had to be someone else – especially on dates. Now, I realize what a time waster it is to be anyone other than who you are. Eventually, “you’re” going to surface.

The phrase “self-possession” comes to mind. It seems a perfect way to describe what you emotionally acquire in your thirties. The Merriam-Webster definition is:

a state of mind or a manner marked by easy coolness and freedom from uncertainty, diffidence, or embarrassment. confidence stresses faith in oneself and one’s powers without any suggestion of conceit or arrogance, self-possession implies an ease or coolness under stress that reflects perfect self-control and command of one’s powers

I love that self-possession “implies an ease or coolness under stress that reflects perfect self-control and command of one’s powers.” Maybe that’s what getting older is about – learning how to harness your personal gifts. I only regret that I didn’t get here sooner. What if I had the self-possession that I have now in my 20s?

When People Ask “How Are You?”

Lately, when people ask how I’m doing or what my plans are when I’m officially done with graduate school in five weeks, I tell them some variation of this: “I’m just trying to take it day by day.” Because truthfully, that is what I’m doing. While I know I’ll need to get a job, and I know I’ll never stop writing, that’s the extent of my plan.

But today, as I wrote my stock “taking it day by day” reply in an email to a friend, I started doubting myself. Maybe I should have more of a plan. Because in our 30s, shouldn’t we be planning more? Creating a roadmap of where we want to be in a few years? Doesn’t it feel solid and stable to have a plan?

I mulled over that today, and have been thinking about this for awhile, and I came to the conclusion that for me, it’s less about having a plan and more about having guiding principles. Values. Those guide me more than my “plan.” While I don’t know what exact job I will have in six months, I know that I will try and live kindly and simply, spend time with those people I love, and make the world a better place for people whenever I can.

I also know my “target feeling.” It’s a weird phrase that I know I’m stealing from somewhere that I don’t remember (I think it was a social anxiety blog), but the idea is that you should consider how you ideally want to feel in a given situation. So, in an ideal world, what would you want your target feeling to be for most of your days? I know I’d want to feel exuberant, generous, and in-flow with something bigger than myself. And so, I must let my choices in how I spend my time be made by what will help me achieve this “target feeling”?

I was reading quotes on writing today, and I came across this one below, that is quite appropriate to this post today.

And P.S. – If you aren’t familiar with Anne Lamott, I highly recommend you check out her work. She’s got an amazing book for writers titled Bird by Bird.

E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.
– Anne Lamott, Writer

What Big Changes Did You Make In Your 30s?

Transitioning out of your 20s into your 30s feels somewhat like a spring cleaning. You identify habits that aren’t working for you and you actively work on changing them.

Here some of the changes I’ve made in my own life as I moved into being a thirtysomething.

Ditch the Energy Vampires 

You know those people who, after you spend time with them, make you feel exhausted or unhappy? In my twenties, I had a few people in my life who made me feel like that. That was because I… A) Kept making excuses for reasons why they were in my life, B) Was afraid to be alone and felt like I wouldn’t make other, new friends who were better fits for me. Once I realized that my time was better spent with people who made me feel excited about the world, I slowly moved on from the other people who didn’t. It doesn’t mean they were bad people, but their energy just wasn’t the right fit for me. You will find your tribe if you keep looking for them. And being alone can often be incredibly satisfying.

“It is better to be alone than in bad company.”
-George Washington

Take At Least One Step Each Day Towards Achieving Your Dream

Yes, most of us have day jobs and aren’t actually pursuing our life dreams for 8 hours a day. We’re in jobs that pay the bills but don’t make us incredibly happy and fulfilled. So we have to use our ‘down time’ wisely. Even 10 minutes a day spent going after your dream is something, that time is better than doing nothing at all. It starts the momentum going.

For me, that can be as small a step as writing for a half hour or submitting my work to a screenplay contest.

Invest in Yourself 

And I mean, literally. As in, spend some of your earned income on your education and self-improvement. I started graduated school when I was thirty-one years old and it was one of the the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I read somewhere that you should invest 3% of your income in your self-improvement. Whether that means a graphic design or photoshop class, or investing in an online continuing education class – there’s always something you can do to increase your knowledge and your hire-ability.

Once you have identified a passion, invest in yourself. Figure out what you need to know, what kind of experience and expertise you need to develop to do the things that you feel in your heart you will enjoy, and that will sustain you both mentally and economically.                              –Martha Stewart

What habits/mindsets did you change in your 30s?

 

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