Unpacking After a Trip In Your Thirties

I just red eyed home after a thirty day work stint in New Orleans, LA, and San Francisco. I feel like the great warm state of California and the incredible city of New Orleans should have left me feeling refreshed but instead I feel in need of a break. A home break, not a travel break.

When I get back to New York after a work trip, I always feel excited and relieved. But I feel especially excited and relieved during the holidays, in December, when my little studio apartment feels like a box of love and light.

This morning, my body kind of ached to stay in my apartment and do nothing. The want was strong for money to just flow to me so I don’t need to travel for it anymore. My unpacked suitcase looked so neat in the corner of my home- I usually unpack right away, but this time I left my bag and slept.

I lit a candle tonight as I unpacked. I removed my items slowly and mechanically from their balled up state. I moved slowly through the evening, my body heavy. I wasted a lot of time attempting to bake a lone sweet potato that didn’t cook through. So I made a mess of things attempting to mash it. This sums up my time in my little bachelorette apartment. The remains of my laundry stayed on the floor as I shoveled sweet potato in my mouth and rushed out the door to see a play.

The evening is cold and bright. Holiday lights sparkle on balconies. My winter boots and puffy jacket are wrinkled from summer storage but they’re so warm and feel so good. I wonder where I put my winter hats.

There’s a lot to do and I need a break. There’s a lot of work ahead. Some good work. And a lot of people ahead. All good. A lot of holidays ahead. And I feel relieved. I feel overwhelmed. I feel dazzled. I feel distinctly New York.

And I have unpacked. I am home. This is what melancholy is to me. And I’m filled with surrender. Im filled with joy.

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The Solstice and Acknowledging the Harder Parts of the Holidays

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and thus the darkest time of the year. In the United States, that day is either December 21st or 22nd of each year.

What I love about this Winter Solstice is this idea that it’s a time to reflect on our lives before we move into a new year. It’s a time of rebirth.

Many cultures/religions/spiritualities throughout history have celebrated the Winter Solstice. In Christianity, there’s actually services on December 21st called “Blue Christmas” or “Longest Night” services. They are services for those who aren’t feeling all the “joy” of the holidays – people who have experienced loss and trauma in the past year. Those who have dealt with a death, divorce, injury, or any kind of grief/loss may find relief in these services.

I love this idea – because so often, we’re force fed this concept of everything being immensely joyful during the holidays. But there’s great healing when you can also acknowledge the darker/sadder parts of life before you move on.

This reminds me of a quote my yoga teacher said years ago during class:  “What you resist, persists.” So, just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean you can’t let in a little sadness or melancholy. By allowing yourself to feel those feelings, you open yourself up to a fresh start in the New Year.

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Happy Holidays! And Where Is Your ‘Heart Home’?

Happy Holidays, wherever you are! Hope you’re staying in festive spirits and spending time with family and friends.

I’ve just arrived back home in NYC after two airplane flights and two bus rides. And I have to say, there’s something about traveling for me – as in, the actual act of commuting, that puts me in a hyper reflective state of mind. Do you feel that way, too?

In the past few years, plane rides have become evaluation periods – time to look back on how I feel about my life. And today, perhaps because it was the holidays, I was thinking about the idea of home. I felt a weird sense of not knowing if home was LA or if home was NY. I’ve lived in LA now for almost two and a half years, and while it’s increasingly feeling like “my city,” it’s still foreign to me. And yet, I don’t feel as though NY is my home either. People I love are here, but there’s no professional tie for me.

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In my travels today, I started wondering the percentage of people who live where they grew up. And thanks to the power of Google and diligent researchers around the world, we can find that information pretty easily.

Apparently, according to a Pew Social trends report (from 2008), 37% of American adults have never left their hometown.

I was very surprised by this. And I got a small swell of pride for having the courage to try living in a new place.

But, this was even more shocking to me: 57% of Americans have not lived out of the current home state in the US. 

I also loved this part of the study: the idea of a “heart home;” a place where you feel most deeply connected. According to their research, more than one-in-five-U.S.-born adults say they don’t feel they are currently living in their “heart home.”

Are you?

Personally, I’m really not sure. But maybe I can have two “heart homes.” Or do you have to be monogamous to a place for it to be your “heart home”?

Interesting food for thought.

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, “heart home” or not, try and appreciate whatever ways, however small, that it feels like home to you.

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 

Knowing the Difference Between Labor Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day by Your Thirties

Happy Labor Day! Today’s post is a repost from this past Memorial Day, but I thought it was timely. Hope you had some good barbecue and are enjoying every last bit of the summer!

Last year on Labor Day, a friend of mine was wondering whether or not to thank the military. (Short answer- sure, thank the military- but not because of Labor Day. Labor day has nothing to do with the military- it’s about American workers.)

Last Memorial Day, I overheard someone asking the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This was not a child asking- it was someone in their fifties

So in case you’re not sure of the differences between the holidays, but are too embarrassed to ask, lets clear up the confusion right now, anonymously 😉

Memorial Day: Memorial Day is for honoring and remembering military personnel who died serving their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of battle wounds. The holiday originated right after the Civil War and is always celebrated the last Monday in May because that’s when flowers are blooming to decorate the graves of the dead. Read more about Memorial Day here.

Veterans Day: Veterans Day is a day to thank EVERYONE who’s served in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime. The day is especially to thank living veterans for their service, and to really show that all those who served, and not just those who died, have done their duty. Veterans Day was created after World War I and is always celebrated on November 11. Read more about Veterans Day here

Labor Day: Labor Day is dedicated to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created in 1887 by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor. It’s always celebrated the first Monday in September. Read more about Labor Day here.

Hope your fantastic Labor Day weekend carries you into the fall and beyond!

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Knowing the Difference Between Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Labor Day by Your Thirties

Today I overheard someone asking the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This was not a child asking- it was someone in their fifties

Last year on Labor Day, a friend of mine was wondering whether or not to thank the military. (Short answer- sure, thank the military- but not because of Labor Day. Labor day has nothing to do with the military- it’s about American workers.)

So in case you’re not sure of the differences between the holidays, but are too embarrassed to ask, lets clear up the confusion right now, anonymously 😉

Memorial Day: Memorial Day is for honoring and remembering military personnel who died serving their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of battle wounds. The holiday originated right after the Civil War and is always celebrated the last Monday in May because that’s when flowers are blooming to decorate the graves of the dead. Read more about Memorial Day here.

Veterans Day: Veterans Day is a day to thank EVERYONE who’s served in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime. The day is especially to thank living veterans for their service, and to really show that all those who served, and not just those who died, have done their duty. Veterans Day was created after World War I and is always celebrated on November 11. Read more about Veterans Day here

Labor Day: Labor Day is dedicated to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created in 1887 by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor. It’s always celebrated the first Monday in September. Read more about Labor Day here.

Hope you had a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

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How Do You Really Want To Feel?

I just want to start this off by saying Happy New Years Eve! Thanks so much for reading and being part of this! We appreciate it immensely and we can’t wait to hang out here with all you guys in 2015!!

So, I’ve been thinking about resolutions for awhile and what they really mean. I covered my financial ones in the last post, but I have some different resolutions I want to share with you here.

Two weeks ago, my workload finally started to lighten up and my holiday time off began. This should have been a time for celebration, but instead it provoked a time of anxiety. This always happens to me- I somehow thought my thirties would start off differently, but they didn’t. My to do list filled up quickly with all the items I hadn’t been able to do because I’d been working out of town. All the major projects (write my one woman show, learn to code HTML, take 6 new classes, find new sources of income, see every friend I’ve been wanting to see plus family, etc) I’d been thinking about came to the forefront and made their way onto my to do list. Plus, there were all the little to-do items like clean the apartment, get laundry done, make more to-do lists, and other small things that still take up time.

At the peak of my anxiety, my roommate casually asked me how I was doing. I told her that I should be doing great, because I have all this time off, but instead I was just worrying more about all the random things I “have” to do. My nerves were fraying when they should be resting.

My roommate told me that she used to get anxious about things like that, but a few years ago, she started concentrating on how she wanted to feel instead. She picked four feelings that she was really after, including feeling alive and abundant. When she started getting anxious or obsessed with to do lists, she went back to her feeling list. Was she feeling alive? If she wasn’t, she simply concentrated on her breathing. When you’re really concentrating on your breathing, you truly have to begin feeling alive- breathing is the literal definition of being alive! It’s at least a great start.

When she was feeling down, she remembered how she wanted to feel abundant. So she made lists of thing she was grateful for and good things that had happened during the day- they could be as small as ‘my apartment is warm. I’m so happy to have my coffee today.’ There’s always something that can make you feel abundant. Most of us live in first world countries- true abundance!

So I’ve stolen her idea (well, she generously gave it to me.) She even said I could use the feelings she chose. So I took ‘abundant’ for myself and you can too if you like. This year, my goal is to go back to the feelings I want to feel even if I’m feeling blah or anxious. Even when I haven’t done it for awhile. Even when I’ve forgotten for weeks. I don’t have to stay down- I can choose to feel differently.

For 2015 I’ve chosen to feel present, abundant, joyous, and radiant. It’s a lot to bite off at once, I know. But I will concentrate on one at a time.

I know it’s hard. I know it doesn’t always work- sometimes sad and anxious feelings take over, and that’s okay. It’s good even. Let them in! But you don’t have to make them permanent guests. Go ahead and choose abundance!

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Giving Advice In Your Thirties

Hope you’ve all had a restful Boxing day! Boxing Day doesn’t exist in the US, but is officially a day after Christmas bank holiday in the UK, Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa, and many other places around the world- and I know we have some awesome readers from these places who know all about this 🙂 Random trivia- the name ‘boxing day’ comes from when servants and tradesman would get their boxed Christmas gifts from their employers and managers the day after Christmas.

Anyway, this post started out as a short note about socks.

I was remembering when I was a child and would get upset about getting socks as a gift. Then adults would say to me: “when you’re older, you’ll appreciate getting socks!

Of course, I was positive they were wrong. But on my 30th Christmas, I received not one, but 6 pairs of socks. And I was overjoyed! I needed them! And I appreciated the pajamas I got too! And the scarf! Which I definitely could have cared less about earlier in life.

Which I guess means I’m a real adult now. 😉

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But anyway, as you may know, sometimes even though you’re officially an adult, you may not feel like an adult- especially when it comes to giving advice.

In the past, I’ve shied away from giving advice about money, even while I’ve been in the thick of paying off my student loans. I’m quite good at paying down debt (as evidenced by my major decline in student loan money owed, thank god) and I’ve spent hours and hours researching best ways to pay them down. However I’ve felt like there were people better qualified than me to give financial assistance.

And there are. But that doesn’t mean that people are going to find them. And that doesn’t mean I’m not at all qualified to give any advice- after all, I’m an adult. So I’ve tried my best to help people when they ask.

During Christmas, my younger brother Scott and my little cousin Justin were sitting together at one point, both playing on their phones and Nintendo 3DS’. My cousin (a junior in high school) suddenly started opening up about how he felt slightly pressured into choosing a certain major and how he wasn’t sure where he really wanted to go to college.

My brother, who’s 26, put down his game and gave Justin some advice. First, he asked Justin a bunch of questions. He inquired where Justin really wanted to go to school and what he was actually interested in studying. Then he told Justin to follow his heart but also to research everything. He said to be conscious of the money involved (my brother also knows all about student loans), but not to base the decision solely on money. It was a sweet moment.

I have no idea if my brother’s advice will have any influence on my cousin’s decision. But it made me think about how advice in general doesn’t have to come from an expert. And it doesn’t have to come at special scheduled times. Sometimes you’ll be asked for advice during holidays or at totally random moments. Feel confident that you’re adult enough to share whatever you’ve learned so far in life. You never know how much you’ll help someone.

The Holidays and the Cult of Busy-ness

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying your respite (and hopefully you do get one) with family and friends. I’m back home in NYC and enjoying time with loved ones. While all of this is wonderful and happy-making and I am truly grateful for this time of year…

…Do you ever feel like the holidays can bring some sense of angst? Or that somehow you’re not “doing the holidays right”? I do. There’s this expectation that because it’s holiday time, you must be so incredibly dizzyingly busy that you’re close to burn out. We’re bombarded by that message on TV, in magazines, online, etc. But, I find that I am not exceedingly “busy” and I feel worried that somehow I’m missing out on something great because I’m not so busy. Do I not have enough friends to entertain, not enough invites to holiday parties, not enough presents to buy? Am I missing out on something? Specifically, I think there’s this idea that women in particular must be exceptionally busy to be considered successful – that a woman must be balancing a thousand relationships and obligations at once. But, I’m an introvert and I treasure doing things slowly, savoring time with friends where I’m not distracted and not overextending myself.

Is this “cult of busy-ness” something that begins to happen in your thirties? I’ve found that this idea of being superwoman – managing a career, relationships, children, a home – seems to have become more omnipresent in my thirties.

As a dramatic writer, I often think about the silence in between moments between characters – that space where much is expressed without words. Silence does not mean inaction in a screenplay or stage play. I think this is true in life as well. Being busy and running around fulfilling to-do list check-off items isn’t necessarily more fulfilling than quiet moments of reflection.

So, I wish to you a holiday full of family, friends, and good food – but also, moments of quiet gratitude where you can take in all around you and rejoice.

How to Be Away From Home For The Holidays

I was away from my family this Thanksgiving…and the last one too.

Then last Christmas was spent at an airport, watching people with large wrapped gifts excitedly take the cheapest flight to see their families, while I headed away from mine. And last Valentines Day night consisted of 2000 miles between me and my boyfriend at the time- he spent the night with cocktails in New York, I spent it with a rather large plate of Mexican food in Spokane, Washington. New Years Eve went down working a tradeshow in Indianapolis.

Valentines Day with some Spokane Washington style Mexican rice

Valentines Day with some Spokane Washington style Mexican rice

My brother’s birthday, my dad’s birthday, my own birthday, my best friend’s birthday- I was away for them all. I had to turn down work a year in advance in order to make it to a friend’s wedding.

My job takes me all over the United States, and I love it. But more and more, the work falls on holidays. It can be isolating to be away from family during Thanksgiving or Christmas or both….these are holidays all about family and it’s sad to shake the tradition. Holidays break up the year into familiar pieces… Christmas spent at grandma’s, Thanksgiving spent with parents, New Years Eve with friends. It’s jarring to realize that I can’t rely on that anymore.

Last year, I cried when I realized I’d be working away from home on Christmas and Thanksgiving. My family was really upset. My friends and boyfriend at the time were disappointed. I felt like I’d let all my favorite people down.

But I couldn’t let myself down. I needed to work. So I got through the holidays as best I could. I had a mock Thanksgiving with friends days before I left for Phoenix, Arizona. I took the latest flight out on Christmas day in order to have Christmas ‘brunch’ at my parents house before having to run. I celebrated New Years Eve back in New York weeks after the actual day. There was a lot of rescheduling, shifting of holiday dates, and apologies…a lot of celebrations with coworkers in cities far away from home.

Does it get easier to be away from home for the holidays? Yes and no. I feel more comfortable with it this year, but it’s still trying. If you end up being away from family for the holidays due to work, financial obligations, scheduling, or otherwise, here are some strategies I’ve used to help get through it:

  • Reschedule the holiday for when you can be with your family, don’t skip it if you can- you’d be surprised how Thanksgiving can still be fun in December.
  • Celebrate the holiday twice- if you’re away from home with friends, roommates, or coworkers, celebrate with them as best you can the day of. Try not to be alone on the holiday- it can be depressing. Ask around- there are lots of other people who can’t make it home and celebrate the holidays with friends and/or coworkers
  • Know you’re not alone- even though it seems like everyone’s with family for the holidays, lots of people can’t make it home.

The holidays can become even more important to you when you don’t take them for granted. Being away from home for the holidays really makes me appreciate the time I have with my family, and makes me love the holiday season even more.

New Years Eve in Indianapolis with my coworkers ended up being pretty awesome.

New Years Eve in Indianapolis with my coworkers ended up being pretty fun after all.

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