A Love Letter to the Passing Year

Dear 2013,

I want to say that you have been one of the easiest years of my life. I finally know- at least, I think I know- who I am as person and what I truly want with my life. Sure, dealing with the loss a job sucks. Fighting with friends is awful. So is ending things multiple times with the same guy. But I made it through to the other side pretty much unscathed.

Thinking about everything this past year, I think the biggest lesson I learned is not to settle. Even though I respected (and still do respect) the work members of the AmeriCorps do, I couldn’t be stuck behind a desk all day, waiting for ambiguous instructions. I hated that job. Being let go was such a godsend. Now, I’m employed at the Sparks Tribune and I have to say that I love working there. I look forward to going into work every day. I’m learning a lot and grateful to be surrounded with kind co-workers and management. But even though I admire my position, I’m hungry for more and I hope that the skills and knowledge that I’ve learned at the Tribune will help me succeed in finding a job in the future in something bigger (watch out, TIME Magazine). You always have to stay hungry.

Men. Men. Men. Well, that one man. Was he ever a learning experience. I never thought I would meet anyone off OKCupid and fall madly in love, especially in such short time. We had good times. We had terrible ones. I’m grateful for every single moment and memory I have of us together. Being with Nathan taught me how to speak up more, for the things I really want; how to relax and enjoy spending time simply, even if it’s just watching television on a Friday night; how to turn down my emotional thermostat when it came to a significant other’s feelings. But as abovementioned, our relationship taught me not to settle- not settle for the mundane and for someone I’m not compatible with, who doesn’t want the same things I want in life. Nathan and I didn’t work out but I appreciate the things he taught me. My next relationship will appreciate those things, too. Thank you for your love, Nate. You will always take up a big chunk of my heart.

I’ve met some great people this year. I live with the greatest roommate in the world and am beyond thankful that she answered my Craigslist ad (her cat could be annoying at times but when she wants to be, Petrie is a terrific snuggler). There are some phenomenal women in the AmeriCorps program who will really change the world one day. I cherish them and their maddening love of nature (thanks for getting me out to hike, you guys. My mom’s been trying to get me to do that for years). My newest best friend- we bonded over throwing colored powder at each other during the Run or Dye 5K and she makes me laugh like no other. It feels wonderful to laugh so hard you have beer squirting out of your nose. There is this incredible group of people who organize events at Valley Arts. I’m excited to work with you guys more in the upcoming year. Even my co-workers (yeah, Garrett. I’m talking to you. I was touched when you told me that you thought of me as your family). I’ve gotten closer with old friends- even with the people I never would consider to be close with, like my younger sisters. We bonded during our grandfather’s funeral back in  February and have kept up a daily communication about our lives. I feel like I know my sisters better (that’s always a good thing, yeah?). There were old friendship rekindled and some friendships lost but we all know that’s life. That’s how things go sometimes and it’s okay. Things may turn sour but you can always cheer someone up with chicken and waffles for Sunday brunch.

With turning 27 this year, I think it finally crossed my mind that I’m really an adult. I have a grown-up relationship with my mom and both respect each other as independent women now. I’m finally paying back my student loans and actually have a decent amount of money in my savings account. I’m finally doing what I moved back to Reno to do- I’m excited to be back in a college classroom this January. I’ve always dreamed about direction my life would take but now, I have a solid plan. Sure, plans change all the time but I can clearly see myself becoming the person I always wanted to be.

I really can’t wait for 2014. There’s school and work that I’m excited about but also, for the many adventures that I know I will dive into. I hope to finally get my driver’s license and more tattoos (and maybe re-pierce my nostril). There’s a marathon I’m thinking about running and I’m eager to train for. I’m thrilled to start my pole dancing classes and perhaps forming a contemporary dance troupe. I’m excited for all the volunteer work that I’m going to do. Reno is a great place to live and I hope that I can contribute to its greatness, making the city a little better for everyone. I’m looking forward to spending sometime out in the Nevada sunshine, reading in my bikini by the river; to seeing Dolly Parton live in concert; to visiting friends in Los Angeles and New York City; to walking across the Lawlor Event Center stage during winter graduation; to endless bike rides (some out in the bitter cold); to the hugs I will receive from friends, old and new, and quite possibly strangers, too; to working hard and seeing success; to the moments when I’m so happy that I feel like my heart is going to burst. 2014- you’re going to rock!

As I close this letter to you, year 2013, I want to thank you for all the memories you blessed me with, all the insight you’ve provided and all the terrific music that my ears loved (here’s looking at you, Beyonce). Really, thanks for everything.

Lots of love,
Andrea

Ned Vizzini: It’s Not Really a Funny Story

Ned Vizzini

Ned Vizzini, author of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” died Thursday night after a committing suicide. He was 32. He wrote “It’s Kind of…” in 2004 after his stay in mental facility when he was hospitalized for depression. This book was a lifeline for many who read it- they’ve credited Vizzini’s words in helping save their lives. Soon, a movie based on the book was released (it’s a terrific, starring the hilarious Zach Galfianakis). Once the success of the both the book and movie versions of “It’s Kind of…” blew up,  Vizzini wrote for teen dramas such as MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and nationally published magazines and newspapers like the New York Times. He is survived by his wife and two-year-old son. Vizzini is from Brooklyn, NY.

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is one of my favorite books (when the movie came out, I watched it three times along in the theatre). I picked up the book after my own stint in a mental hospital when I committed myself for self-mutilation, severe depression and extreme anxiety. I identified with the main character, Craig, and his thoughts about life and ending it.  I read a lot of books about a character’s stay in a mental facility. Most of those books were written by people who were using only their imagination to describe the situation- they didn’t actually experience what it is like to be in a hospital. But “It’s Kind of…” was different. Vizzini described MY experience; from the racing thoughts to rooming with a narcoleptic to drawing time with the arts therapist. He knew how I felt. The book’s comforting and I still have my copy on my bedside nightstand. When I read the headline last night about his death, my heart broke and I cried a little bit. I’m not so sure why Vizzini decided to take his life but I hope that he knew that he positively affected so many. My thoughts are with his family.

Depression hurts. It stings. It’s something I deal with on a daily basis. Everything in my life reminds me of this chemical imbalance in my brain. But I fight it with the love I have for myself and my future and with the support I get from others. Even though depression and other mental health issues are still considered taboo and so many hate discussing it, we need to start talking about it. Suicide should not happen, especially with people who are so talented and have so much more to contribute to the world. I think about the holidays and how they can be rough on some people- I know. I’ve spent plenty of Christmases and New Year’s Eves blue and alone. I hope you, dear reader, will never experience the boughs of depression and if you have, my heart and soul go out to you. Do me and the rest of the the world a favor- grab the closest person to you and give them a big hug and tell them that you’re there for them. They might just need to hear it and feel your warmth.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I appreciate you taking the time to read 20Something this year. I love you all.

Read "It's Kind of a Funny Story" NOW.

Read “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” NOW.

No Means NO

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We all learn the word, “no” at an early age and for a good chunk of us, it becomes our favorite word by the age of two. When I nannied in Manhattan, Gray, the toddler I used to watch, knew when I was thinking about the word “no” even before it escaped my lips. He learned quickly- if I wanted him to do something, like pick up his toys, he would scream “NO” before throwing himself on the floor in a grand tantrum. So, if we are all learn with the word and its meaning by such a young age and are far familiar with it even as we grow older, why do some people still think “no” means “yes?”

Last night was the Santa Crawl, a yearly event where thousands upon thousands dress up as Santa, elves and other holiday minions and walk to participating Reno bars for dancing and some stellar drink specials. This was the first time I did the crawl and I had a blast- other than what happened when at one of my favorite watering holes. Celebrating my recent single-hood, I was out with my girl friends, catching each other up over cocktails and wild moves on the dance floor. I went to the bar to pay my tab when I began talking with a man. The conversation was light, as we talked about our evenings and plans for the holidays. He offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted, and we chatted some more. He asked if I was single and I replied that I was. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that my friends were putting on their coats, ready to leave. So, I thanked the man for the drink and told him to have a good night. He asked me what I was doing later. I said that I was going to home as I had an early start the next day, a brunch date with an old friend. He told that I should stay with him and he’ll take me home in the morning. I smiled, and said he was sweet but I had to be going. Then, he replied that he bought me a drink and that he at least deserved a kiss. I said, no again and he pleaded. When I said no for the last time, he said, “Man, you’re a bitch.” I left him, sitting at the bar.

Last night might have seemed harmless. That happens to women all the time. But it shouldn’t.

Just because I tell you that I’m single doesn’t mean I want to go home with you. I am not desperate or looking for a one-night stand. My unattachment isn’t an invitation. Neither is buying me a drink. I did appreciate the kind gesture. But buying me that drink doesn’t mean that I’m supposed to go home with you. It’s not a requirement.

That doesn’t mean that you can ask me again (chances are that I say “no” again). When I tell you that I’m not interested, I’m not interested. You won’t be able to sway me by begging. I know that I’m being brutally honest but I’m doing so with kindness and respect to you. Don’t fight me on this. Listen.

And I’m not a bitch for rejecting you. I’m sorry that you didn’t get your way but that’s life, sugar. I wish that I got my way all the time- but I’m not a princess (I don’t even think princesses even get their way all the time). If there is anything I learned about rejection, count your losses and move on. Relax. Think of people like busses. Don’t get upset because you missed one when there is another right around the corner.

I hope that you, dear reader, never find yourself at the wrong end of this conversation. Don’t be afraid to speak and let your choice be heard. And if you’re the one doing the asking, please remember that “no” means “no.”

A Gentleman’s (and Lady’s) Guide to the Holidays

I have blogs that I read religiously. From Krystal Bick’s online look book, This Time Tomorrow, to Nerve.com’s sexual musings, I spend most nights on my laptop, eating up the author’s words. MakeItMAD is one of those blogs I’m always hungry for. It is manned by the thoughtful and talented, Max Dubsinky. I highly recommend MakeItMAD to everyone, including his lists on how to be a gentleman. The man knows his stuff, especially on how to grateful and charming during the holiday season. I posted his list of a gentleman’s guide to the holidays below, adding my thoughts to the mix (because you and I both know that kissing under the mistletoe is a holiday must)…

I’m finding it harder to be a gentleman today.  Every time I hold the door open, I’m afraid she doesn’t know the gentleman still exists.  I could throw my jacket in the mud for a woman, and I don’t think it would ever make her day.  Now the holidays are fast approaching, and I’m wondering if today’s woman needs or even wants an arm to hold going down those icy stairs in her heels.  Are we still kissing under mistletoe? And when is it appropriate to wear an ugly Christmas sweater? Never, that’s when. We can do all our Christmas shopping from home so we’re certainly not helping any old ladies carry their bags to the car anymore.  Are we attending candlelight church services out of habit or out of guilt? And “It’s A Wonderful Life” will forever be a classic, but if I have to choose between that and watching John McClane trapped at the top of a skyscraper on Christmas Eve killing terrorists, well, I’m locked and loaded.

… Here’s your guide to the holidays.

        • Welcome to the digital age.  Avoid the over-crowded malls and shopping centers this year, and loosen up the gridlock by keeping your car in the garage.  There’s enough snow and teenagers texting and driving on the road today to cause a seven-car-pile-up at every major intersection.  A gentleman can get all his shopping done in just a few clicks at Amazon, Target and Best Buy without losing a moment of sleep. (Andrea’s note: Although I agree with Max, I stress to everyone the importance of shopping local. Purchasing locally-made goodies from local shops helps create jobs and lets your money stay in your community. If your town is lacking that buy local movement, check out Esty.com, where vendors sell their handmade good for reasonable prices.)
        • Spike the eggnog.  Leave the punch to the kids. (Andrea’s note: I’ve never been a fan of the nog. Instead, I drink a hot toddy- whiskey or brandy mixed with hot water- or put some peppermint Schnapps into a cup of hot chocolate.)
        • Telling anyone under the age of nine that Santa Clause doesn’t exist is never a gentlemanly thing to do.  Leave this world-wrecking task up to those fourth grade punk-asses on the back of the bus.
        • A kiss on the cheek beneath mistletoe in the doorway is always appropriate.

          Go for that kiss!

          Go for that kiss!

        • Holding mistletoe over your head at the office holiday party is not only entirely inappropriate, it’s also borderline desperate, and the only thing you’ll be getting under your tree this year is a restraining order.  ‘Tis the season.
        • Kissing your boss’s wife on the cheek when the mistletoe is across the room is frowned upon.  Kissing the wives of your brothers, fathers, or friends is never appropriate no matter what time of the year it is, or where the mistletoe is located.
        • It’s still protocol to kiss for luck at midnight.  So sweep the single woman next to you off her feet on New Years Eve. Kiss her at midnight whether she’s your best friend or a perfect stranger. (Andrea’s note: I am a firm supporter of this, all you single men and women out there. I know of relationships that stemmed out of a simple New Year’s kiss. Those types of kisses are magically and one-in-a-million).
        • A gentleman never expects to receive.
        • Give.  Give extravagantly.
        • Buy a Christmas gift for the person in your life who you believe would least expect a present from you.  Someone recently did this for me, and the gesture was simple: a pack of fine-point black pens, which no writer should ever be without.  I was elated.  I lose pens faster than a seven-year-old loses teeth.  The gift made my day.  I never expected it.  And I look forward to passing that feeling on to someone else.
        • Unless it’s for Starbucks, gift cards are old news.  It’s time to get personal, again. (Andrea’s note: Starbucks or coffee, in general. Support your local coffee houses and tea shops.)
        • Hand-write the messages on your annual Christmas cards this year. (Andrea’s note: I’m a big fan of Christmas cards. I wish that I could buy all my friends gifts but if I did so, I’d grow broke. Christmas cards make up for that. It’s a treat to receive in the mail and inside each card, I can let everyone know how much they mean to me.)
        • At least one of the following holiday movies should be on every gentleman’s Netflix list: “Elf,” “Gremlins,” “Scrooged” and/or “Die Hard” because nothing says Merry Christmas like Yippie-Ki-Ya Mother Fu—. (Andrea’s note: Add “Love Actually” to that list. The movie is good anytime of the year but it is always playing in my DVD player during December.)
Hello, nurse!

Yes, guys- scarves are a plus. Hello, nurse!

      • Professional fashion consultant and close friend of mine, Jason Walker says, “Men need to take more risks with accessories this holiday season: scarves and hats are in, and rings are not just for married men anymore.” (Andrea’s note: Winter is my favorite time of year simply for this reason. Men, you look amazing in heavy trench coats and a pair of lace-up dress boots. Add a scarf this the mix- and now you know why I’m desperate to move back to New York City- the men there wear terrific pieces in the wintertime. I know that I’m not the only girl who feels this way.)
      • I miss the days of Christmas Carols.  The only Fa-la-la-la-la-ing we seem to be doing these days is in the bedroom.  Don’t be afraid to take those Christmas songs back to the streets with your close friends or family.
      • A gentleman stands up for what he believes.  Ditch the Happy Holidays.  Wish someone a Merry Christmas.
      • Socks are never a bad gift.  Give those with a pair of TOMS  (an organization which donates a pair of shoes to children in third world countries with every pair purchased).
      • Even if you don’t believe in that little eight-pound guy in the manger who saved all mankind, a gentleman should consider a Christmas Eve church service because you might just find the true meaning of Christmas has been inside you all along.   Did you know they have electric guitars in church now?
      • A gentleman (and a lady) starts his/her own traditions.
      • My father often writes letters to us, or his grandson, Jack, recapping the year full of painfully hilarious truths that have us laughing well into the night.  Over the last three years I hear my status within those letters hasn’t been updated: “Your Uncle Max is still in Hollywood, broke, and starving, but he remains a gentleman about it.”

Merry Christmas. (Stay warm, dear reader.)

You can read more of Max Dubinsky’s work at MakeItMAD.

Today is World AIDS Day

There are approximately 33 million people in the world living with AIDS or HIV today. In the United States, about 1 million people have one of the two diseases, with one out of five people unaware that they been infected. World AIDS Day was created in 1987, six years after the Center for Disease Control classified their findings, giving the name, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (however, reported cases of AIDS first appeared in the United States beginning in the 1960s).

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. I never met anyone with AIDS or HIV (or maybe I have but wasn’t aware of it) but this cause has always been close to my heart. I wore a red ribbon today for the men, women and children all over our planet who lost their lives to both HIV and AIDS, and as a reminder to myself and others to get tested.

December 1st shouldn’t be the only day in the year that we go to the clinic or our physician to get test for AIDS and HIV (or for any other disease or infections, for that matter). Please be safe and get tested, if not today but sometime later in the week. I know my status. Do you know yours?