My One Piece of Advice for Younger Folks

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

I think about this question sometimes, but I’ve never nailed down a very clear answer for myself. But a few nights ago, I was at dinner with a group of new friends of mine, who all knew each other (for the most part) from high school. I was talking to two of the guys, one in his mid-30s, and the other in his early 40s. We started talking about how hard it is to make new friends at this age. By ‘this’ age, I think the unspoken assumption was that this was your 30s and above.

It was interesting to hear men talk about this problem too. One of the guys mentioned that  the last good friend he made was a worker at his local Dunkin Donuts. They realized they shared a similar sense of humor and started hanging out. I love that story!

Our most fertile time for making friendships seems to be when we’re young and in school. There seems to be something especially fertile about the high school environment for making new friends. We’re so vulnerable and open to the world.

Anyway. Back to my one piece of advice. I’d tell myself to hold on tight to those friendships. I mean, I did and that’s the best thing I ever did, but I would have tried even harder. I had one best friend in high school who felt as close to a soulmate as I had experienced, and who I kept up a very close friendship with until our early-mid 20s. But we had a devastating falling out. Probably the biggest regret of my life was not trying harder to make that work.

But the point is – you’ll never get the chance to make friends like the friends you’ll make from when you’re pre-18. You can’t know at that age that those are the people who will be the emotional backbone of your adult life. They will be your memory keepers. So I would say to my teen self – make friends – as many as you can – and hold on tight.

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Missing Out by Not Having a Wedding

The other night I watched the first episode of the Netflix documentary series, Chelsea Does. It’s a non-fiction show by comedian Chelsea Handler where she explores one topic in-depth each episode, including topics like racism, silicon valley and marriage.

The first episode is about marriage. Chelsea says she’s never been one to fantasize about weddings. And quite frankly, neither have I.  The idea of walking down the aisle and being the center of attention sounds very unappealing to me.

But you know what does sound appealing? The celebration of friendship that weddings offer. Think about it – your closest pals give speeches, they throw you a bridesmaid party, and they write sweet, sentimental things about you in scrapbooks. Also, sometimes your bachelorette or bridal shower is the one time in your life that all of your female friends will be together. How awesome is that? It’s pretty amazing. I love going to bridal events and meeting all of the other friends my friends have from different periods of their lives.

So when I think about not yet being married or having a wedding, I think about missing out on those friend bonding experiences.

Maybe there should be an alternate event for those non-married folks? Like a mandatory all-close-friend birthday getaway?

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Are You Still A Good Friend In Your Thirties?

I just got back from visiting Jane in LA and it was fantastic. I’d been working in LA for two weeks, so I took the opportunity to extend my stay for 7 days at Jane’s apartment in Santa Monica. It was the best decision I could’ve made.

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Jane and I managed to spend 7 days with almost every hour together, and we still felt like we could’ve easily used more time. We went to all kinds of delicious restaurants, from brunch cafes to vegetarian taco places to incredible italian (we’re ridiculously happy foodies), while also managing to find a mac and cheese festival (9 different mac and cheeses in 2 hours), and quite a few great drink deals and happy hours.

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We also managed to both get quite a bit of work done together- between writing and blogging and marketing and other job-related things. We also got in quite a few physical activities such as biking for quite a few hours and running and walking all over the place. We met up with friends and coworkers and I even got to go to her weekly writers workshop.

In short, it was a successful trip. However, one of the things we talked about and have had quite a few serious discussions about in the past is maintaining our friendship even when we’re in relationships.

We’ve both found that it can be easier to maintain friendships when single. I’ve seen this happen time and time again with acquaintances who fall off the face of the earth when they find a significant other.

I know it has happened to me in the past, especially in my early 20s, where I expected all my friends to understand that I didn’t have as much time to spend hanging out with them. Some of my friends then drifted away- probably angry at me for being so stupidly unaware that I was pushing them away. Luckily, I realized what I’d done and now heavily prioritize spending time with my friends and family.

I feel terrible even thinking about those days, but I think you have to go through the relationship/friendship vortex to understand. At first, when you’re in a relationship, it can just seem like you don’t have nearly as much time to hang out with your friends. However, if you let that feeling lead you, and you stop appreciating and tending to your awesome friendships, you’ll pay a heavy price.

You don’t want your significant other to be your only friend. Even if you’re married, I think it’s a very bad idea to only hang out with your significant other, or only give minor thought to your friends. Worst case scenario, you break up or get divorced, and then you realize your good friends are gone because you’ve been pushing them away for years.

Jane and I always promise each other that we’ll tend to our friendship no matter what, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons we’ve been friends for so long. During this trip we made a point to talk once again about prioritizing our friendship whether or not we’re in relationships. It’s actually a manual thing- you need to put friends right up there with career and relationships, especially during the busy, hectic years of your thirties. Good friends are strengthening and amazing- never take them for granted.

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The Trouble With Thankfulness In Your Thirties

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we’re still here, facing the possible Black Friday carnage, and the insane cyber Monday heading directly our way.

We may have felt sincerely grateful on Thanksgiving for our situations and our families and our friends, but now holiday shopping is upon us, and work is crazier than ever, and it’s hard to remember the peace we may have felt for a second or two last Thursday.

I was talking to a friend about this the other day- how gratefulness slips through our fingers so easily, especially with years of built up stress and to-do-list habits. I can be grateful for a moment for one second, and then suddenly my mind will be racing with worry about something I don’t have or what I have yet to get done.

It’s extremely difficult to let go of the sometimes very painful old-feeling moments in life- those moments where we’re hit with a sad situation, or when we screw something up or feel guilty about something, or someone hurts us, and those same-old-feelings come up once again. It’s very hard to be thankful for all we have, when seemingly large problems are hitting us with 30-plus years of habitual worry once again.

However, I feel like it’s possible and actually quite necessary to feel thankful in my thirties way more than I have before. Every day I try to start again. It’s like brushing your teeth- you have to keep doing it- it doesn’t just last.

There have been some stressful work situations going on in my life lately where I’ve been angry and feeling wronged and hurt. Sometimes I’ve stewed in those emotions and sometimes I’ve expressed them and tried to be clear about what was wrong. All of that action had its place, and I think that it was good to express the problems and my feelings about them. However, after awhile, it became impossible to stew in the negative feelings anymore. I was causing myself unhappiness and grief. There was nothing to do but to concentrate on things that were still good- and there were many things to be thankful for.

I started feeling thankful for people who smiled at me when they walked by. For children who were adorable and quiet and sweet. For the cool breeze I felt as I walked to work. For the beautiful park I was able to run around in the morning. For coworkers who made funny jokes. For hot showers. For beautiful texts from my family and friends. For delicious hummus. For my Spotify playlist.

And I started to feel better.

We have so much and we forget. I think that forgetting is normal and natural. The habit of not thinking about the small stuff has been a survival tool that’s gotten us through more than thirty years of life. We want more and more- which can be great. We’re in our thirties- we have big dreams. We want an amazing career and an amazing marriage and maybe a family and a creative empire and a wonderful home and creative control and financial freedom.

And those big dreams are extremely important. Huge, in fact.

But we’ll never appreciate them if we can’t be thankful for what we have today.

Each moment is a win. Each day is jam packed with small and beautiful things. Don’t be afraid to appreciate them again and again and again- Thanksgiving is every day.

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Beautiful terrace view on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles 

What Do You Value Most In A Friendship?

Is is loyalty? Acceptance? Similar interests? Kindness? Ability to make you laugh?

Has what you valued in your friendships changed as you’ve gotten older?

Loyalty is pretty high up there for me, but I would say I’m most drawn to open minded people who are free-spirited. Also, the word wild keeps coming up for me when I think of characteristics I value in a friend. I don’t mean “wild” in a  party-all-the-time type of way (though I do love a good drinking buddy), but rather, up for adventures, new projects, and a general open-mindedness to how we, as human beings, can exist in the world. I’m often attracted to people who march (happily) to the beat of their own drummer. Friends like that encourage me to do the same.

As I’ve moved into my 30s, I’ve found it more difficult to make friends, so one quality that I now always look for is someone who prioritizes friendships. People who don’t call me to hang out only when their boyfriend is out of town, or when they want some specific information from me. I want friends who value friendship – and see that it has an equally important place in one’s life as romantic partners and even family.

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“I define friendship as a bond that transcends all barriers. When you are ready to expect anything and everything from friends, good, bad or ugly… that’s what I call true friendship.”
– Harbhajan Singh

“What do you most value in your friends?
Their continued existence.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

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The Beauty of Following in Your Thirties

I’m concluding my last night in Miami and it’s been a great trip. Tomorrow’s gonna hurt because I have an 8am flight to my next job in LA, so I’ll try to keep this short.

I’ve been to Miami before, and I’ve had both good times and bad here. The bad times consisted of blurry clubbing alcoholic nights that I felt forced to partake in. I had one trip here where I was dragged out to a club practically every night, and I had to buy a whole new clubbing wardrobe at the Miami H&M. If you know me, you’ll know I’m not a clubber- so I was following the crowd because I wanted to make friends and not function in complete isolation.

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This is the first time the city was really amazing for me, and it’s because I followed through with what I really wanted to do. The show that I worked was late-shifted, so there were days I started work at 4pm and got out at 11pm. This allowed me to go to sleep at 2 am and wake up at 10am, still getting 8 hours sleep while remaining a night owl. I was able to enjoy my free hotel breakfast outside in the heat of a sunny outdoor patio, and then meditate and then go running on the beach afterwards. I was able to rent bikes and swim and see the city and walk for hours by myself. I was also able to go out to nice dinners with close friends, and see some family I have nearby. I also didn’t end up drinking a drop of alcohol during this particular trip in Miami, for no other reason than I wasn’t around other drinkers. Instead, I had one of the best slices of carrot cake I’ve ever had in my life. In short, this trip was the anti-party. My visit had quite the goody two shoes, squeaky clean feel for a Miami trip…but it was exactly what I needed right now.

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And I loved this Miami. I loved it because it’s here that I really feel like I’ve gotten a small percentage of the feel of giving zero fucks about what people think (something to strive for always, but especially in your thirties). I hung out with the people I loved and enjoyed and was nice to the acquaintances, but didn’t go out of my way to follow what they were doing. Instead I followed my yearning for being with myself and the beach and talking to my closest friends. I fell into a nice healthy rhythm and felt amazingly self-sufficient, yet socially happy for a long stretch of time. It was an amazing balance.

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It gives me hope that you can follow what you really want to do and not have to be swept along by others….and even by the scary, uncertain parts of yourself. Sometimes my own feelings get in my way and I feel like I can’t trust myself or find balance. But here I just followed what I really wanted to do, while staying in touch with the people I cared about, and things fell into place. Maybe it’s the warm weather or the beach or the movement. Or maybe it’s something else.

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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?

The Stones Are Talking To Me (or What The Heck Are Those Things??) in My Thirties

The other day my theater company, Mission to (dit)Mars, ran a meditative writing workshop called Poetry in Stone. We do Meditative Writing workshops every summer with a wonderful mindfulness meditation guide named Emily Herzlin. She’s fantastic and always extremely calming.

Now, I meditate, and really like it- but I’m pretty new to meditation– I’ve only been practicing for about a year. The way I usually practice is at home alone with a guided meditation and/or or some music. It’s fairly rare that I practice in the outside world (read: not in my bedroom), but our meditation workshop got me doing just that.

One issue that arises while in a meditation workshop that’s both outdoors and with other people -plus involves writing -is that there are a lot of distractions. I was even distracted walking to the workshop. Thoughts kept crossing my mind like “I don’t know how to do this. I’m really scattered today. Where am I? I don’t feel peaceful. Oh no, I don’t feel peaceful! It’s ok! It’s not ok! No, feel how you feel! No, feel peaceful, goddammit!!” Those were all thoughts I had before I even got to the workshop.

This particular workshop was at the Noguchi Museum in Astoria, Queens. I’d never been there before and amazingly, neither had anyone else attending our workshop, other than Emily herself.

The Noguchi Museum is kind of like being inside one of those rock gardens where you scrape around sand with a tiny rake. Only there was no sand. There were only rocks. And us. And trees. And stairs. Stairs that led up to many rooms… of more rocks.  Huge rocks seemed to grow out of the ground.

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After all of us introduced ourselves, we spent some time in the outside (yet inside) part of the museum. Emily told us to put our phones away and attempt to not look at them throughout the 3 hour duration of the workshop. I felt both relieved and afraid.

We did a standing meditation. I rarely meditate standing up (by rarely I mean never). I became very aware of how much my feet ached. I became very aware of how my necklace kept hitting my collarbone. Then we finished our standing meditation and walked through the museum in silence, guided by Emily.

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The museum is puzzling because some of it is outside, some is inside, and part of it seems to float completely in an in-between world of inside out. There’s a room that is walled-off yet open ceiling. There’s a room that’s simply an outside garden. There’s a room that seems like a concrete garage. There are rooms that are very hot. There’s a room that is very cold. And then there are middle rooms…dare I say they’re more like ‘typical’ museum rooms…whatever that means.

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The stones confused me. They’re everywhere. I went into the museum with no preconceived notions about what the stone sculptures meant or why there were big abstract rocks all over the place. I didn’t know who Noguchi was or even that he was a person (he’s a person. But I thought Noguchi might be a place that birthed a collection of different sculptures). My mind wandered. I brought it back. My mind wandered. I brought it back. I felt myself walking. I felt myself breathing. I looked at the stones. They reminded me of people. They reminded me of old memories. They reminded me of nothing.

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We went off on our own. I sat for awhile, in the very cold room, by one medium size stone…the only one I found recognizable. It was in the shape of a foot. I stared. People took dumb selfies with the foot stone. My mind wandered. I brought it back. My mind wandered. I brought it back.

I wrote. Stream of consciousness.

Spaceship stone
Foot Stone
Surface of Mars
Music
Tin
Rhinestone
Granite
Music
Metal
Lead
Cold
Music
Whispers
Metal pieces in my hair
Tin in my ear.
Breath. Air. Foootsteps. Nerves.

photo 3I stared out the window behind the foot stone. My mind wandered. I felt proud of myself for coming to the workshop. I was amazed at my meditative skills. I felt mad at myself for thinking about meditation instead of being meditative. I brought my thoughts back. People took more dumb selfies with the foot rock. I became aware of a yearning to check my phone. I didn’t. Instead I wrote.

I don’t want to move
I want to rest my stone feet
Still with the air
Frozen over with warmth inside
There’s a foot rock
Bandaged over
Stopped
Dead
But behind the glass in front of it
and me
The warm tree world waves outside

Everyone loves the foot rock
After it worked so hard
and is now dead
It’s a funny corpse
Huge and lolling

I lost my inner battle and checked my phone. There were no important messages and I felt angry at myself for lack of willpower. I stalked to a different part of the museum and sat in a warm corner by an abstract desk sculpture. I stared. The desk sculpture was the only other sculpture in the museum that had a recognizable shape. People took photos of the desk and kept asking me to move my outstretched legs. I shifted and fumed at them..then I fumed at myself. I felt like I’d lost the peacefulness I had gained during the hour without my phone. I brought my thoughts back. I felt my breath go in and out. I wrote.

My warm living skin against the preserved wood floor
I am only a small corner
The desk just a piece
Sparkled metal, dusty
I am not home
Nobody’s home
The desk is empty
And I watch- close from afar
How it stands without me

I feel better here
Open space
Square window
Living flesh against wood

Phone’s warmth disappears
As my eyes open
A sickness comes from my bag
In my corner
Others come and go
Bending, filling, waving, capturing

By the end of the workshop I felt calm and in my body. I felt this way for a long time afterwards…even now I feel the calming sensation of that workshop. Of course, my phone still distracts me. My feet still ache. I still feel tense. I still chide myself for texting while walking.

But overall, the stones stay with me. Their solid masses remain mysterious, yet somehow familiar. I feel the strange relaxation of stones growing out of the earth. I feel the strange relaxation of writing about stones growing out of the earth. I bring myself back. I feel their presence. And then I feel my own presence once again.

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Is the Saturn Return in Your Thirties a Real Thing?

I wasn’t going to write this post. You’ll see why below. I’ve decided I’d rather not live in secret hardship, so I’m sharing a very private experience with you guys.

Remember the post I wrote about the Saturn Return that happens in your late twenties and early thirties? If you want to know more about it, click the link above. I basically said that Saturn is the planet of difficult and important life lessons, and when he returns to the same place he was at at the time of your birth (about every 28-31 years), you end up going through a LOT. (We’re going to call Saturn a ‘he’ because I’ve anthropomorphisized ‘him’ into this strict, male professor-like character. Just go with it.)

Well, I thought my Saturn Return was over, plus I thought I didn’t even believe in anything astrological. But if the Saturn Return is real, Saturn hit me hard last year with a terrible, dragged-out and heartbreaking breakup to someone I’d been with for five years who I thought I was going to marry. And then Saturn hit me again with a major, harrowing move out of the apartment I shared with my ex.

I felt some peace this year and thought Saturn had come and gone, but he just tapped me on the shoulder for one last laugh (perhaps I didn’t learn some lesson the first time?) and turned my world completely upside down once again. I don’t think I’ve ever been as stressed as I’ve been for the past few months. So stressed that I’m afraid to even write this now, because I keep thinking ‘oh my god, what if things aren’t over? What if the hardships keep coming like they have been? Please no!’

Do you ever feel this way? Afraid to even talk about the bad things, because you’re afraid there will be even MORE bad things? And then you’ll be like ‘I wish I was grateful for THOSE bad things, because these NEW bad things are oh so much worse!’

Ugh. I usually try to be so positive and so grateful. But I’ll admit to you finally- it’s been hard. I feel completely burnt out.

I can barely write about what happened, because it’s too fresh, but I don’t want to leave you guys hanging. So in a nutshell I’ll say it involved a major betrayal by someone I thought was my good friend, a terrible and destroyed living environment, complete paranoia, exposure to amazing cruelty, and a very difficult and dragged out move…once again. And I think this was all extra hard because of my first bad experience with the ex before. I just kept thinking ‘why is all this stress happening AGAIN??!

I’m trying to be more positive and grateful for all that I have. And also let myself feel the sadness and the stress because it’s healthy.

Yet I’m still living in post-traumatic fear, and I just keep thinking these terrible words ‘please don’t let anyone get sick or die. That would be worse. So much worse.’

Ugh. Ok, I wrote it. So now you know: if you’re going through some secret hell, you’re not alone. Please don’t think you’re alone. I’m here. We’re here. Reach out 🙂

And last night I even slept for almost 13 hours. Which was very helpful. And probably very necessary.

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I’d Give Up Being Happy To Be Happy

Tonight a friend of mine drunkenly called me after hitting up a bar too many (or maybe it was the perfect number of bars).

We were having a pretty funny and awesome one-sided drunk conversation for awhile (I was unfortunately just sitting soberly at my desk), when the tone turned slightly negative. It was a still pretty awesome conversation, the way one sided drunk and negative conversations can often be (admit it), and things were said such as ‘sometimes people can just suck! Why?? Why do they suck??’ Rambling rants commenced.

Then my friend suddenly said “I just want to be happy. I’d give up being happy to be happy.”

I laughed and asked what in the world that meant.

“I don’t know,” was the reply, “I’m drunk. I’m rambling.”

“Haha, I see.”

“But I just want to be happy now. Not just later.”

My friend made an offhand drunk comment, but it got me thinking about long term happiness vs short term happiness- or long term happiness vs short term pleasure.  Right now, I’m kind of down and I just want everything to be okay. When I’m feeling upset,  sometimes I just want the shortest road to feeling better. Even though I know what will lead to happiness in the long term, there are times I just want things to satisfy me now.

Wanting pleasurable experience after pleasurable experience without sacrificing for the long term is called the hedonistic treadmill. Some people spend their whole lives on it. That short term patchwork feel-better “happiness” is actually just pleasure, whereas deeper and true lasting happiness is something far different. A good example is eating platters of nachos on the couch instead of exercising, when your goal is to get fit. The platters of nachos may be delicious and give you short term “happiness” (pleasure), but seeing results from your workout regime would give you way more long term happiness.

Right now I find myself grappling with this a lot, in much less obvious ways than the nacho example. I see the hedonistic treadmill issue pop up when I’d rather stay in a non-ideal situation rather than go through the discomfort of demanding better things in my life. Or when I want to feel peaceful all the time and can’t face occasionally upsetting but natural feelings in order to work through them.

Do you recognize a pleasure-addiction syndrome in your life- even a subtle one? What can you do to better face occasional unpleasantness and sometimes very scary feelings in order to have greater happiness in the long run?

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You Kinda Just Had To Be There. (or- The Bats Fly At Sundown)

I used to have a boyfriend who didn’t understand travel. He had no idea why I liked traveling so much or why I felt the need to personally go and see so many different places.

“You can see them online,” he said, (he was a major techie), “you can see photos and videos and you can read about any place you want on the internet with some googling. There are so many travel blogs and there’s Wikipedia. Why do you need to go there?”

It always made me sad that some people (especially ones close to me) don’t understand how the internet can’t capture the feeling of a place. Photos and video and even the most beautiful words aren’t the same as actually being somewhere.

In my thirties I travel more than ever. I travel for work most of the time, but I’d love to travel more for pleasure (Soon! Right now, I usually stay put in New York when I’m off from work..this is because of financial reasons mainly (darn you, student loan!)), but soon I shall whip out my international bucket list once again.

I advise everyone to travel because it exposes you to all types of details and feelings you may miss where you are. Changing your location can really change your mindset- and your preconceived notions of the way other places (and other people) are.

This weekend I’ve been working in Austin, Texas. I went here once before with Jane, just for fun. We had the best time, and discovered that Austin was nothing like our preconceived ideas of Texas…even though we’d never been to Texas before. Austin’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” and the whole place reminds me more of the hipsterville that is Williamsburg, Brooklyn than the cowboytown that I thought Texas would be.

Jane and I circa 2009 having a blast in Austin with the Longhorns!

Jane and I circa 2009 having a blast in Austin with the Longhorns!

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Yum!

Jane and I Yelping the best Mexican food in Austin...all cheesy goodness!

We Yelped all the best Mexican food in Austin…lots of cheesy goodness!

This time Austin brought a completely different feeling…though also very good. Firstly, I’m here with different people (my coworkers) and at a completely different time in my life. Austin feels almost like a totally different place – even though it’s still as fun as I remember.

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Something I missed last time in Austin with Jane was the fact that there’s a bridge downtown where 1.5 million bats live. They stay under the bridge until sundown when they all fly out to feed.

My coworkers and I were told we needed to see these bats fly out from underneath the bridge, so we arrived at 8pm and waited together. It was pretty exciting. We expected to see this sight:

Photo we saw online.

Photo of what the internet told us we would see.

But instead we saw this:

Nice view. But no bats.

Nice view. But no bats.

And then this:

It got dark. We could kind of see some bats, but not the way we thought we would (they were quickly flying out from under the bridge and then back in. Not doing a mass exodus like we saw in the photos.) Alas, it was too dark and they could not be captured with our cameras anymore.

Darkness. The bats were late. Then we could kind of see lots of bats, but not the way we thought we would (they were quickly flying out from under the bridge and then back in. Not doing a mass exodus like we saw in the photos.) Alas, it was too dark and they could not be captured with our cameras anymore.

But we had a good time anyway because we got to hang out together in Austin and watch for bats. And we did eventually see bats. And heard bats. Even though it was different than we thought it would be.

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And I can’t imagine getting the all the feelings I get from Austin just from googling it online. Because I felt this:

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And those pictures and my description can’t capture it.

Austin is weird. And young. And hipster. And Southern. And party. And foodie. And wild. And sunset. And morning. And healthy. And unhealthy. And night time. And yoga. And whisky. And bikes. And dancing. And all. And none.

It will be different for you.

You just have to go there.

Was that a gorilla I just saw on my run?

Was that a gorilla I just saw on my run?

Elvis? Is that you?

Elvis? Is that you? Are you in Austin?

The trash cans are solar powered? For reals?

The trash cans are solar powered here? For real?

Ladybird Lake

Ladybird Lake- I had no idea there was a running trail here.

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Wait, what’s this natural pool?

Wait, they made a pool out of LadyBird lake!

They made a pool out of LadyBird lake! Awesome!

You never know what you'll find once you're here

And who knows what you’ll find once you’re here…

Playing Dress-Up In Your Thirties

My good friend and coworker, Natasha, is checking on the status of her new dresses as I type. But these aren’t just any pretty  dresses- they are Lolita. And, at 32 years old, Natasha rocks out Lolita fashion.

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This is Natasha as a Lolita.

Playing dress up isn’t just for kids. It never has been. But I never understood just how much dressing up is for adults too… until now.

Natasha is in her thirties and works tradeshows and autoshows with me. She’s always been great with makeup. She puts on false eyelashes perfectly before work in barely a minute- I’ve watched her in awe. She’s an amazing make-up artist- brilliant with shadows and all sorts of contouring.

Natasha sans special makeup:

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Natasha travels to a tradeshow

Natasha’s makeup masterpieces:

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Halloween

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Way too real latex makeup work…

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Natasha is top right

I knew Natasha had recently gotten into Lolita dresses, but I never understood what that meant until very recently.

Lolita is a Japanese street fashion–  an alternative fashion subculture that originated in Japan and is now all over the world. The original Lolita shaped dress is knee length or slightly above the knee and is A-Line, cupcake or bell shaped with petticoats. These dresses are usually worn with OTKS (Over The Knee Socks) or tights. The dresses are extremely modest and the whole Lolita culture is actually based around femininity and modesty.

Since Natasha has always enjoyed playing with really fun make-up, I just thought she’d gotten into playing with fun dresses as well. I didn’t understand that there’s a whole Lolita culture actually based around rebellion. Yes, these cute little dresses are actually a Japanese fashion trend that says ‘screw the way I’m expected to dress. I wear what I want.’ It’s about wearing a pretty dress because you feel like it. Lolita culture doesn’t care what other people think.

Natasha says that sometimes she wears the dresses out to Lolita meetups and on the way people ask her what the special occasion is. Her sweet reply is basically that she felt like wearing a really pretty dress. Because why not? It’s awesome! And she’s awesome!

Lolita fashion says you don’t have to dress to attract anyone. So many times I’ve felt I need to dress the way I feel a man will like…whether I’m single or in a relationship. A lot of my women friends agree- we end up feeling the need to dress for men all the time. With Lolita, you dress to impress yourself. It’s freeing and powerful. One Lolita said:

“We certainly do not do this for the attention of men. Frequently, female sexuality is portrayed in a way that is palatable and accessible to men, and anything outside of that is intimidating. Something so unabashedly female is ultimately kind of scary – in fact, I consider it to be pretty confrontational. Dressing this way takes a certain kind of ownership of one’s own sexuality that wearing expected or regular things just does not.”

Lolita is about having fun and feeling pretty – not for others, but for you.

Lolita is creative and wild and it gives zero fucks. Kind of like the thirties, right? 🙂

So thanks, Natasha, for introducing me to the fascinating world of Lolita. And for being amazing, bold, passionate and just so very YOU!

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1669808_890319297656593_6854195036141353387_oYou’re awesome!

Would You Live In A Cave Far Away From Everyone?

A lot of people have asked me if I would ever leave New York. My answer is usually ‘no’ but that’s a lie.

My family is here. My friends are here. My stories are here. I travel away from the city all the time, and I only truly feel at home once I’m back in NYC. Because New York City is and has always been my home.

And yet…what if…

I feel like I could possibly be happy living somewhere else. Who knows? Perhaps I just don’t know yet because I haven’t experienced it. Not once in my thirty years have I ever moved anywhere but New York permanently. I’ve studied abroad, and travel more than half of the year, but it’s not the same as truly living in another location.

My really good friend is going through a breakup right now. We’ve been talking about it a lot. We’ve also been talking about being single and all types of challenging experiences that have happened recently. Yesterday, he texted me saying: ” The biggest takeaway for me from this week is that we should go live in a cave far away from everyone.”

It’s a humorous thing to say, and somewhat melancholy, but I think the best humor has both truth and melancholy in it.

“A place to call home” has been a recurring conversation topic for me in the past few weeks. Jane, my amazing co-blogger, has been debating leaving LA for months (years?) and only now has decided that she’s likely going to return to New York this summer. Another one of my friends just moved to San Diego, and is quickly moving back to New York again. I wrote an article on this blog a few months back about my coworker who paid off her whole condo by the time she turned 30! And I recently read an article about a woman in China who has lived in a cave for 3 years surviving on rainwater and rice! (That last article is very strange and also quite melancholy- just a warning.)

And then there’s the just as bizarre tiny home… Have you heard of these? Lately they’ve come up a lot in conversations I’ve had. And I recently read an article about Dee Williams, who lives in a tiny gingerbread house on wheels  (really!) and pays only $8 a month for a single propane heater. She only paid $10,000 for the initial construction of the place. Her mini home is 84 square feet and no larger than a parking spot!

Are you guys happy with where you live? Have you lived in the same city/state/country your whole life or have you moved a lot? Do you feel like the thirties are more of a time to settle down …or is this perhaps a time to spice it up and try somewhere new?

Strangely enough, both Dee Williams with her tiny house and the cave dwelling woman in China say that even with their bizarre living situations, they actually rely on their communities more than ever. Finding a home that’s not in a big city truly doesn’t necessarily equate to being isolated. The cave dweller’s neighbors from local villages frequently bring her offerings to help her out- such as rice to eat, as well as their used coats. Dee Williams said about her tiny home, “”I thought I would be so contained in this little house with no running water. The big surprise, of course, is the smaller you go, the more you absolutely have to lean into your community. It gets smaller and bigger. It gets to be this big, tiny thing, you know?”

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Rereading Your Twenties

Today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how he reread the work of a writer he used to think was brilliant. However, while rereading her work this time, he realized that she was actually quite insane and likely a sociopath in need of heavy medication.

He was rereading the complete works of Sarah Kane– a playwright that me and all my drama major friends had been completely obsessed with in college and afterwards. We worked on novel ways to stage her plays and bring her genius to life.

Her writing is littered with violent, heart-stopping moments such as the gouging out of eyeballs, urinating on beds, rape, and dead baby eating. My friends and I all loved her and thought she was misunderstood and amazing. She had committed suicide at the age of 28.

When I saw the Facebook post about rereading Kane’s work, I realized that there are a ton of things I used to love that feel different to me now. It’s almost like I have to go back and rewatch my favorite movies (which used to include Moulin Rouge but I’m pretty sure that needs updating) and reread my favorite novels (which used to include A Prayer For Owen Meany, but I haven’t read that in years).

When I used to love Sarah Kane plays in college, I was surrounded by people who wanted to ‘push the limits of theater’ and do ‘groundbreaking work’ which seemed to mandate plays that were shocking and possibly offensive. Nowadays I have different standards for groundbreaking work. And from my twenties to my thirties, I also have different standards for my relationships, friends, and work environments. A lot has changed.

Have you checked on what you’re still holding onto from your twenties that might not represent who you are anymore?

sarah kane

Portrait of a Thirtysomething- Kari Bentley-Quinn

We’re so happy to have Kari Bentley-Quinn as our next featured guest in our new Portrait of a Thirtysomething series! Portrait of a Thirtysomething asks our invited guests (in their 30s) questions about their lives and what this decade means to them.

Kari Bentley Quinn is an absolutely amazing playwright and we co-founded the theater company, Mission to (dit)Mars together along with two other wonderful cofounders. Kari and I met a few years ago through another theater group, Packawallop Productions, and have been friends ever since! Jane and I are thrilled to have her here!

Enjoy her beautiful interview below, and be sure to check out her website and say hi!  http://www.karibentleyquinn.com/

Kari Bentley Quinn

“The challenge is “how do I live as happy and fulfilled a life as possible?” At the end of the day, the person I most have to answer to is myself. I can’t live for anyone else – my husband, my family, my friends – I have to be a whole person. And I think that’s hard sometimes, but it becomes more necessary.”

Name/Age/Location:
 
Kari Bentley-Quinn/ 33/ Astoria/Woodside border, in the amazing borough of Queens (Woodstoria?)
 
Occupation: 
Playwright/Executive Assistant (proud hybrid for ten years strong!)
 
What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of in your 30s so far? 
It has to be the fact that I went back to grad school after nearly ten years out of undergrad. I am getting my MFA in Playwriting from Hunter College, and I graduate in May, which I can hardly believe. It was an absolutely terrifying thing to do, but I did it! Well, almost. Still have a few things left to do. But I am 90% of the way there. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done – mentally, physically, emotionally, creatively. I did it while working a full time job. I don’t know if I would have been able to do this in my 20s when I was less sure of myself. I also got an agent last year, so that was really nice. And I’ve had two productions!
What do you NOT miss about your 20s? 
I think just the crushing uncertainty and working so hard to have people take you seriously. The 20s are the time you’re supposed to be making a lot of mistakes, but is also the time when you become a full blown adult. Trying to reconcile the fact that you’re still young and inexperienced with making good enough decisions that your future won’t be a wreck is tough. There were a lot of wonderful things about my 20s. But there were a lot of scary and bad things, too. I would say that my early 20s were actually quite awful. My mid to late 20s, less so.
 
Looking back, what shouldn’t you haven’t been afraid of in your 20s? 
Being a failure. Not making everyone happy. Money stuff. What people thought of me. Being fat. Not working hard enough. Getting older in general. What my future was going to be like. I spent a lot of my 20s freaking out about stuff that 1. was impossible to know the end result of and 2. didn’t matter one bit. I am a huge Type A perfectionist and I think it held me back more than it moved me forward!
Any surprises about what your 30s are like? 
Yes – which is that I kind of love being in my 30s! I feel much more confident and assured in professional situations. I think I’m a way better writer and just more capable in basically every aspect of my life. I have a strong marriage and absolutely amazing friends. I also like that its totally okay to stay home on Friday night when you’re in your thirties. I have learned to value my downtime, to fiercely protect it, and to say no. Learning to say no has been super important.
 
What do you find most challenging about this decade? 
While in some ways I am much better than my 20s, I find that I have less stamina and way less bullshit tolerance. I also found a WHITE hair on my head (thanks grad school!), and while I don’t like to think of myself as a vain person, seeing the fine lines start to appear is a little humbling. I also think its tough for women to age. Youth and attractiveness are so overemphasized for young women, and as much as we all like to think we’re above it, the messaging we have received is really damaging. I really hope that we stop that in future generations.
I also am just more aware of my mortality in general. I don’t know if that’s bad – but the challenge is “how do I live as happy and fulfilled a life as possible?” At the end of the day, the person I most have to answer to is myself. I can’t live for anyone else – my husband, my family, my friends – I have to be a whole person. And I think that’s hard sometimes, but it becomes more necessary.
 
What are you most looking forward to? Be it tonight, next month or ten years from now.
 
More travel, more love, more laughter, more time off, less giving of fucks about dumb stuff. I think I’ve made good choices. At least I hope I have!
 
What would you like to hear more about regarding the thirties. What articles would you like to read?
 
I’d love to read more about the challenges women face professionally as they get older. I think these struggles change and continue as we age and as our lives change.

New Feature: Portrait of a Thirtysomething

We’re thrilled to announce that today we’re launching a new weekly interview series: Portrait of a Thirtysomething. We will ask our invited guest (who will be in her/his 30s, obviously!) questions about their life and what the decade means to them.

Our first interview is Eljon Wardally, an incredible playwright/screenwriter, who is good friends with both Laura and I. We all met at youth theater company, Downtown Art, while we were in high school. Over the years, we’ve all collaborated on projects together. Eljon’s got one of the sunniest and brightest outlooks of life of anyone I know, is an incredible artistic talent and an amazing friend to boot.

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Photo courtesy of Champion Eye Media

 

Name/Age/Location:
Eljon Wardally/on the cusp of 34/New York

Occupation:
Playwright/Screenwriter

What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of in your 30s so far?
I’m most proud of my MFA in Playwriting from Fordham University/Primary Stages! Not only did I go back to school after being out for 10 years, I am part of the Inaugural Playwriting class for this type of MFA. You only get to make that kind of history once!

What do you NOT miss about your 20s?
I don’t miss the people I left behind in that decade.

Looking back, what shouldn’t you haven’t been afraid of in your 20s?
I shouldn’t have been so concerned about where I was going to end up. I think that being in my 30s has grounded me in a big way. I’ve learned to just be kinder to myself. I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason. Stress only gives us wrinkles. Don’t be afraid, be still and listen. I promise, it will work out.

Any surprises about what your 30s are like?
I have to say that there are no surprises. Is that bad? Everything just feels more comfortable. My skin feels more lived in and I feel like I know myself better.

What do you find most challenging about this decade?
When you’re in your 30s, people expect you to be married with kids or with one on the way. It’s challenging to feel like you have to justify why you may not be at this stage of your life in your 30s. In a way, this generation is at a crossroads. Things are changing and what was conventional isn’t anymore. More people are focused on their careers and other aspects of their lives and getting married later and having children later. There’s nothing wrong with this but it’s hard to constantly hear about grandkids from the elders!

What are you most looking forward to? Be it tonight, next month or ten years from now!
Tonight I’m looking forward to curling up with my dog and a cup of tea.
Next month I’m looking forward to having a new draft of a play I’m working on.
Ten years from now I’m looking forward to being happy and healthy.

Thanks so much, Eljon! Here’s a link to Eljon’s award-winning web series Docket.  And here’s her personal website, say hi!

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