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 Story of the Green Beetle

A few days ago, I was walking to the bus stop to head home from my summer camp job, and my mind was in a thousand places. I was thinking of all the emails I had to return, the laundry that had piled up, and the buzzing phone in my pocket filled with group text messages from work, and if I should eat pizza for dinner for a second time this week (resounding yes). My mind was anywhere but the present.

As I was approaching my bus stop, two enthusiastic young men stopped me, their eyes lit up with a feverish intensity. Being a New Yorker, I know what that means. Comedy club tickets, anyone? Or how an all-inclusive ‘salon package’ for the low, low cost of $69.95 but worth $200? Spend a year in Manhattan and you’ll be propositioned for both of those offers.  But these looked like international college age students, and they didn’t seem remotely threatening. So I stopped. They pointed down at the ground to a large beetle with a black body and glowing green legs.

Bugs freak me out, so I recoiled a bit. But this was magical; I have never in my life seen a bug so gorgeous and so unusual looking. It looked like it belonged in the amazon rainforest. The first thought I had was that this bug must not be real. It looked like it could be a small, robotic animal. The young men remarked that they had never seen a creature like this in their lives, and asked if I had. I shook my head and said no. We all stared at it in awe, until it jumped up and started flying, to our collective surprise.

There is no exciting end to this story – the bug flew away and I ran to grab my bus. But I was left in a new headspace, feeling curious. I spent my bus ride home searching google on my phone, trying to identify this beetle. But nothing came up that looked like the beetle. They were lots of bugs with neon green bodies, but none with just neon green legs.

People sometimes say that when you’ve got stress or anxiety in your life, you should step back and “Look at the big picture.” And sure, it’s good advice. But sometimes I think the better advice is to narrow your focus. Take in the smallest of details around you. See how the tiny details expand and become worlds onto themselves.

The Happy Shuttle Driver

When I got on the FlyAway Shuttle to LAX this morning, I was greeted by an incredibly friendly, happy driver. He immediately started talking about growing up in LA, his love of driving, his nine uber-close siblings, and his passion for motorcycles.

There was a lot of talk of pranks played as children, precocious brothers and sisters, and flying home for the holidays. I laughed so hard I nearly cried as he told story after zany story.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the driver said, in the same even tone of voice he’d been using before, ‘My two best friends just died.’

I jerked my head hard as if I’d been slapped. The comment was completely out of nowhere. “Oh god- I’m so sorry!” I said. There was a silence. I squirmed. I didn’t want to pry.

He opened up without me asking. “We were all part of a motorcycle group. We did daredevil stunts and jumps and all kinds of tricks that most motorcyclists won’t do. Then one day we went to a motorcycle meet, and I was watching as my friend pulled his motorcycle out of the garage. A drunk driver came by and hit him then, and he was dead on the spot. He was just pulling out of the garage..”

“Oh my god,” I said. I didn’t know what to say. “That’s horrible.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t even the motorcycle that got him killed. It was a drunk driver.” He paused for a second, and then continued in the same even tone, “the other one too. My other best friend…hit by a drunk driver. I was actually working my shift at the time, driving the FlyAway Shuttle, and I looked over into the lane next to me. For his birthday, I’d given my friend a pair of sneakers he’d wanted, as a gift. And I looked over that day. And I saw a sneaker, the same sneaker…all alone, all by itself. And I wasn’t able to stop and see anything other than that sneaker, but I found out later. My friend had been cycling down the freeway, and a drunk driver started going the wrong direction. My friend swerved and was thrown from the bike. He still had one sneaker on. He died, and I just happened to drive by right then. It was too late. Both of them hit by drunk drivers.”

I was heartbroken. How was it that underneath this man’s happy exterior was the darkest, most earth-shattering sadness? And before we got to LAX, he continued his stories, telling me he’d been a shuttle driver for over 10 years and that he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. “It’s good,” he said, “It keeps my mind off the hard things. It’s very good to be distracted.” And he smiled.

We arrived at the airport and bid our farewells. I’m shaken by the deep pain hidden under his smiling stories. Shaken by his love of his job for the saddest of reasons…and if the shuttle ride had been just a bit shorter, I would never have known.

You never know what people have going on under their happy, smiling exteriors.

Laura comes to LA

It’s Laura’s final night visiting me in LA, and it’s been a really fun couple of days! We’ve been doing a lot of eating, talking and wandering. Since I moved to LA about fifteen months ago, she’s come to stay with me twice. BOTH times it has rained consecutively for several days straight. For those of you that don’t know SoCal weather, that’s odd for LA. One day of rain is somewhat normal, but not several days in a row.

We’ve made the best of the crappy weather though. I introduced Laura to my favorite TV show, Nathan For You on Comedy Central, and today we went to see the movie Wild, about the woman who hikes the Pacific Coast Trail to deal with her grief from the death of her mother. (FYI, it’s amazing and we left the theater sobbing, dying for a life-changing camping trip in the woods.)

While we were on the bus earlier this week, we started talking about our 30’s, and we agreed on one major thing. While this decade definitely has left us feeling uncertain about our futures, the truth is, that as we grow older, we keep feeling better about ourselves and our experiences in the world. This is not to say life somehow gets easier, in fact, it absolutely gets harder – we have more responsibilities and more challenges, but still, life feels better. You go through tough situations but discover that you’re still standing after each one, having grown into a more flexible person than before.

The key thing is that you don’t fear things as much. You’ve seen enough to let the fear dissipate a little. You can deal with it.

There’s a gorgeous quote from the Cheryl Strayed book Wild, on which the movie was based, that I feel like is appropriate to growing older in your thirties:

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Here’s to us all getting stronger every day in our thirty-something journey!

Here are some pictures from our public Transit experiences in LA. And yes, taking the bus is possible, if hard, in this city.

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The Secret Lives of Your Friends – Their Jobs

How much do you know about the nitty gritty of what your friends do at work? When you think about it, this is where your friends spend most of their waking hours. And it’s funny how we probably don’t know much about what compromises their days. Phone calls, meetings, emailing, all of that stuff, sure. But what aspect of their job do they love the most? What gets them excited to get through the day?

When we first graduated college, office jobs were something of a novelty, and I remember emailing my friends several times a day with updates from cubicle-land. “I just got inter-officed an envelope. Awesome.” “OMG, my boss is crazy.” “Ughhhh….so bored right now. Need a coffee.”

But as we inched into our late twenties and early 30’s, the emails stopped as we became more focused and dedicated to our work. Now, while I know my friends’ job titles, I don’t know the specifics of their day. I love specifics. Call me nosy, but I want to know what a typical hour of their day looks like.

Well today I got to visit Laura at work and see what her job is like. She was visiting Southern California, where she was working as a Product Specialist for Ford Motors at the LA Auto Show. Laura’s job is a mixture of marketing and sales and it was pretty fascinating to see her in action. She travels across the country, presenting the new products to consumers. She’s interacting with consumers all day and getting sales leads. It’s also exciting to see what a non-office job really looks like. I think it’s pretty great that she doesn’t have to sit tied to a computer screen all day.

Here’s some pictures from my visit today.

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Laura and I in the crazy big Ford truck. Not sure which one this was.

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My dude, Me and Laura in front of the underside of a Ford Mustang

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