#DifficultRealities (Part II)

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After reading my last post to my therapist, she recommended that I counteract all the negative things I wrote about myself with a love letter. I do have a lot of good truths in my life and about my personality that I choose to overlook. Even though I spend 24/7/365 with myself, I spend little time actually taking time to build that positive relationship with the  inner me- you have to make that attempt, she and everyone else say.

Well, here goes nothing…

Dearest Andrea,

I seldom tell you how much I love you. How much I admire you. How beautiful and caring, intelligent and strong you are. That you are my hero.

I took you for granted and dishonored you. I said you’re not enough. That you will never be enough. That if you were only a better student, a better daughter, a better friend, a better writer, a better lover- then, I would love you. If you were smarter, more confident, prettier, more social, skinnier, more assertive, nicer- then, I would respect you.

You are brave. You’re a babe. You are a badass. You just forget that some of the time.

I love your courage- courage to cry, to leap, to give, to receive. When your heart breaks, you allow it to open you. When you heal- and you always heal- your heart grows bigger and stronger.

Thank you for trusting your heart over your head even when it means taking a risk, stepping into the unknown and embracing uncertainty.

I catch you dreaming for hours about a better world. You’re always reading, always searching for more knowledge, always expanding your skills, always longing for more awareness. There’s always something going on in your mind: this mixture of hopes, dreams and ideas that no one knows about. It’s a secret garden only I know the entrance to and this garden is magical.

I love that you like to be funny and that nothing fulfills you more than making people laugh. You’re empathetic and feel people’s pain before they need to tell you anything. I love that you feel the world’s pain as your own and how hopeless it makes you feel sometimes.

I love that you’re an open book and share your fears and dreams with the world. I love you even when you shut down. You will sit with it, let yourself cry and just be there. You are beginning to be more conscious of your thoughts and your words, learning to fill them with kindness rather than hurt. You are taking the time to learn more about yourself and are recognizing the importance of it.

You know that you’re not perfect- you will never be and that’s okay. What you need to remember is that you’re loved and appreciated. Being so is far better than being perfect.

You have “Be Your Own Hero” written on a Post-It above your bed. Looking back at that, hell yes- you are your own hero. You are my hero.

No one will ever be as happy that you exist more than I do.

Keep fighting the good fight. You are worth it. Your life is worth it.

Love you for eternity,
Andrea

(And dear reader, when’s the last time that you wrote yourself a love letter?)

#WhoRunsTheWorld (Or #NowWhat)

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“Who runs the world?” -Beyonce (Women do, duh.)

Saturday’s global Women’s Marches scattered expectations, supporting various causes that included women’s rights, immigration reform, health care reform, environment protection, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, workers’ rights and to give Donald Trump the finger. A reported 673 marches took place worldwide, and in my hometown of Reno, over 10,000 men women and children took to the main street with signs and chants, positivity and hope.

So,now what?

My biggest fear is this movement will slowly fade as the year progresses. Where do we go from here? Despite my admiration for the high turn out of this weekend’s protests, what will be most impressive is what we do by putting our words and feelings into actions. Movements are not just about dramatic marches- they’re everyday acts of resistance, creating the positive change and seeing growth with issues we marched for.

First off, VOTE! Vote in your upcoming city, county and state elections! That is the biggest way to have your voice be heard. Support who and what what you believe in. Call, write and email your city’s and state’s representatives about the issues that you are concerned about the most.

Start by donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, the ACLU and the National Lawyer’s Guild. Also, support media outlets like NPR that provide the public with reliable journalism.

I also understand if you’re broke (you and I both!). One of the simplest thing you can do is not be a passive observer if you see someone being mistreated. Stand up when you see someone being teased or harassed. Tell the abuser that they are wrong. One of the best way to support women, people of color, the LGBTQ, etc, is to stand up for them and never be complacent on something you believe will advance their position in society, as well as their happiness and safety.

If you are more community orientated, volunteer at one your local non-profits. Organize a toiletry drive for a local women’s shelter (shelters often need sanitary napkins and tampons the most). Spend some time at your local animal shelter- kitties and puppies need love, too. Get involved with political and advocacy groups in your area. Get off your couch, step out of your comfort zone, meet some cool people and make plans to change the world!

Remember that the resistance doesn’t stop with the march- we need to keep the drumbeat going and the pressure on from all sides and state. There is no “right” way to get involved- you simply need to get out there. Figure out what works for you. Then do it. JUST DO IT. Fight on, dear reader!

#HowToBeHappy

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Mid-month, I joined this support group because, quite frankly, I wasn’t happy. After being unemployed for a good chunk of the year and having an incredibly stressful summer, I finally had enough of it. I’ve always struggled with my happiness, thinking why can I never be like the people around me. They must be living better lives. They have the ideal boyfriend or husband. They have the perfect jobs. They’re making vaults filled with money with such perfect jobs. They get to travel and experience amazing things and events. It wasn’t until now I realized that these thoughts of mine were bullshit.

I’ve read a decent amount of self-help books and blogs over the last several years, hoping that some magical answer would appear like a magician’s bunny getting pulled from its hat. What a load of crap and a big waste of my time. I used to believe that happiness was a light switch. Something flicks on. You get an overwhelming sensation. It hits you like a bag of bricks. Nope. WRONG. My therapist the other day told me this simple statement and I’ve let it resonate throughout thoughts:

Happiness is a choice.

You can choose to be happy. (You have to.)

She compared happiness to love. Like love, happiness is a series of choices. Love is about making a choice every single day, to either to be or not love. That’s it. It’s that simple. Either to continue the process or not. We don’t love our partners or our friends every day. They do thing that hurt and piss us off. I have done terrible things to my friends and my partner but despite all that, they continue to love me. We choose to forgive. We choose to love. We need to give ourselves that same love.

So, I’m choosing to be happy. Most of the days lately, I don’t know exactly what that choice looks or feels like. It can be fucking hard to do sometimes, making that choice. I want to crawl back into my cave of despair (some day, I want to so badly). The same things don’t make me happy all the time- even my darling cat (who I think is the best thing in the world- well, other than cheese) pisses me off from time to time. Even cheese, an inanimate object with no movement nor feelings, can upset me. I still fume at the world. And I do need help reminding myself to chose happiness (I believe in a great therapist and medication if you do need it. I even write on my hand so I can remember my choice throughout the day).

I know I’m making the right choice. I’ve spend the last couple years miserable out of my mind. I constantly compared myself to other and dreamed of a life that I felt like I could never have. Stress is my abusive spouse. When things weren’t absolutely perfect, I had a meltdown. I often thought about how others’ lives would be better if I was no longer around. But I chose to turn those miserable feelings around. I’m not saying that I wiped away all my jealousy- it’s still there. There are some days where my envy is the only light shining in the room- this bright green beam that burns your retinas. There are moments when I get depressed and just want to cry, sleep and repeat. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy. I’m learning that happiness isn’t feeling joyous every second of the day. I’m learning how to be okay with all of the good and bad in my life. I’m working on myself. I know that I deserve to be happy and I’m determine to reach its maximum potential.

I hope that you’re happy, dear reader. However, if you’re not, I hope that you will take the steps to get there. I don’t know what the right steps are for you but if I can get there (especially being so miserable for the longest time), you can get there, too.

All of my happiness to you.

A Love Letter to the Passing Year

Dear 2015,

The last year of my twenties. I mourned you more than I should have. I thought, nothing really happened to me this year. Blah blah blah.

But then I realized that I was wrong. A lot has happened.

First, I graduated from college. I never thought in a million years that would happen. One of my former professors hugged me during the ceremony and exclaimed, “Holy shit, you graduated!” Hey, you and I are both surprised, buddy. But it freaking happened. FINALLY. I think about all the times I struggled in school, with math and trying to complete the perfect essay. I constantly dreamed about reaching the finish line. This year, I did it. It took eleven years, blood, sweat, tears and the unwavering support of my loved ones but I DID IT. I can’t wait to receive my diploma in the mail and hang it on the wall.

My boyfriend and I moved in with each other. We moved into the third place we looked at and made it our home. We adopted our fur baby, Hova, in July- who fortunately likes me more than she likes Steve (sorry, baby). Our house filled with crazy art and we have the most obnoxious neighbor living next door but hey, it’s our place. Our home. I’m happy to being living with someone I can have random dance parties with while cooking dinner or brushing my teeth. I am lucky.

I helped my mom bury my grandmother. I made friends (hi, Ashley! His Idris! Hi Annikki!) and I lost friends. I quit a job that gave me no satifiscation. I acted in a play (which was the hardest thing I’ve done this year. I give the Hollywood elite so much more credit now). I saw my little sister get married. I started running. I learned to like whiskey. I went to Burning Man, crossing off yet another item off of my bucket list.

I keep on thinking about next year. I wonder if I’ll accomplish as much. I turn 30; will no longer be a twenty-something. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor an hour before my 29th birthday party sobbing, crying about getting older. I have no idea what 2016 hold and honestly, I’m terrified. But I also have faith. I read that your 30s are the best decade of your life. That is something that I’m hoping to be true. I will make it true. I will be braver, more loyal; make smarter decisions and love more ferociously.

2015- you taught me a lot. And I wouldn’t forget these lessons. I promise. Thanks for everything. I have loved you dearly.
Andrea

Just F**king Do It

Last night, the manfriend and I hiked in the mountains. We made a poor time keeping decision, starting our hike later than we should’ve and we ended up hiking our way back to the car in the dark (thank you, Apple, for putting flashlights on your iPhones). There’s nothing like walking through the wilderness in complete blackness. I was terrified- I saw five scorpions and then fell, opening up an old running wound- so I was fiercely determined to get back to the car. It was a slow climb back down the mountain but I used the thoughts of the Jeep’s safety and comfort to help me conquer the decent. When Steve and I reached the parking lot, I threw my hands up into the air. WE DID IT!

I woke up this morning thinking about last night’s hike. On the way up the mountain, my legs started to hurt. I could feel my runner’s knee coming back. I ran out of water. I got dusty and unbelievably sweaty. But I continued to push forward. At the end of six miles uphill, there was this beautiful waterfall. That was my goal. I wanted to see that damn waterfall. Sometimes, I wish all the goals in my life were that tangible and easy to obtain. For a while, I thought they were. But as my hike taught me yesterday, nothing great is achieved without a lot of hard work.

Me and the manfriend at the top of the Hunter Creek trail- WE MADE IT!

At the top of the Hunter Creek trail- WE MADE IT!

I have this list of all the things I want to accomplish- Get better at running. Play the violin beautifully. Finally start that investigative blog I wanted to start for years. Sing a band. Wear more poufy dresses. Get my driver’s license… I only started seriously asking myself why I haven’t started this projects. I came up with this list:

I haven’t started these fun, possibly life changing projects because:

  • I’m afraid of embarrassing myself and looking stupid.
  • I’m afraid of asking for help.
  • I’m DEATHLY afraid of failing.
  • Sometimes, there just isn’t enough hours in a day.
  • I’m lazy and rather spend my day avoiding hard work (procrastination, baby!)

So now, I know what is holding me back from accomplishing the things I really want to do and from living the life I always wanted to live. I think once you have such a list established, you can start breaking down each goal into accomplish-able pieces. Take my blog idea: I have already developed my webpage for it and created a domain name. For it, I have to search for local stories and interview people. Despite being social and a journalist, I’m still get incredibly nervous about interviewing people. I feel like I’m always going to ask the wrong question or receive an answer that I can’t use. Right there, I can see that I’m scared of embarrassing myself and scared of asking for help but these are hurdles that I need to jump over. I know that I conquer these stressors- I just need to try and don’t overthink about the fear and embarrassment.

Richard Branson of Virgin said, There’s no other way to find out whether or not you will be successful other than just doing it. In other words– screw it, let’s do it. You’ll never know what would have happened if you don’t give it a go. And he’s right. There is no better time than right now to make your life great and start something wonderful. We all have fears that we need to slay. If the promise of greatness and self-satisfactory is in the distance, why shouldn’t we risk everything and just go out there and do it?

What are you absolutely dying to do, dear reader? And why haven’t you done it yet?

You can do it! YOU CAN FUCKING DO IT!

A Slice of Courage: Anthony Bourdain

“People are telling you a story when they serve you food.” -Anthony Bourdain

Food, traveling, an over abundance of curse words… Man, do I love Anthony Bourdain. What do you say about a man who will always be far cooler than you’ll ever be, a person that you desperately want as your dining and adventure companion (seriously, how do you sign up to be his assistant?)? Over the long weekend, I binged on his CNN show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and savored the images and sound clips of the places he explored and the meals he ate. From the Congo to Myanmar to downtown LA, Bourdain shows his audiences that the world is really connected by food and the adoration people have for those who prepare it.

Being Financially Responsible

Note: If you know me, you know that I have a bad Ebay habit (I just love bidding). I’m not a banker nor a financial wiz kid. I just know what I know and have done my research.

moneyroll

I have a lot I need to save for this year. There’s Burning Man, a rental deposit for the new place my boyfriend and I haven’t picked out yet, my graduation party, wedding gifts and an autumn trip to NYC. For the longest time, I was that person living from paycheck to paycheck- I love buying new clothes and eating out often. But I do know the costs of not minding your money- you run out of it quick.

I started cooking at home (making a shopping list before I go to the SaveMart, not Whole Foods) and learned to not care about wearing the same pants twice a week. But that still doesn’t make a complete dent into the amount of saving that I wish to achieve. So, I came up with a small list to help me along my being financially smart and responsible journey. Below are some steps I took into to save money and get some funds into my savings account…

1.) I highly recommend meeting with a banker at your local bank. This is definitely the first step to saving. Your banker can explain your options and suggest new ones. I met with Wells Fargo financial planner who suggested a Roth IRA to my closed savings account and also recommended that I finally get a credit card in order to build credit (love her- my banker is a genius!). Also research, research, RESEARCH! There are a lot of great websites out there that will break down complicated banking options into manageable pieces that you can understand. I had no idea what an IRA- but now, I do. Once you explore, you can narrow down your options to fit what is best for you.

2.) Prioritizing your needs. Do you need this? Do you need that? I think about how chilly it has been this winter and how much I love heat. So, I have dedicated some of my paycheck towards that versus a new pair of heels.

3.) Picking cheap hobbies. Doing stuff can be expensive and as much as I love having an adventure or two every week, I know that I need to scale back and not spend a $100 on skydiving every weekend (wouldn’t that be great, though)? Instead, I read a lot- I still check out books from the library- and I sew. I’ve been working on a quilt for the last year made from worn shirts. It’s something cheap to do on nights where I’m especially bored and I have something beautiful when I’m done.

4.) Budget. Budget. Budget. Budgeting is something I’m still working on. I hate looking at my account on the Wells Fargo website every day but it is helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out trends in your spending.

5.) Looking for sales. If I absolutely need to have a new outfit, I research and try to find a deal. Example: All season, I wanted a pair of suede booties but could never find an inexpensive pair that I liked. When I found a pair on H&M, I noticed that you could get 25% off when you signed up for their email list. BAM- I signed up for their list, got the discount (I just made sure that all my H&M emails are marked as spam now).

6.) Piggy banks. Yes, that’s right. Piggy Banks. I put all my change into one. When I was a sweet treat, I don’t pull out my debit card. Instead, I use all that spare change. If I don’t have the money, I don’t buy the candy. Saves me on both the charge and the calories.

How do you save your money, dear reader? Any tips and tricks?

30 Things Every Woman Should Know by her 30th Birthday

With the new year quickly approaching, I can’t help but think about 2015 and all the great things it will bring. I’ll turn 29 and I hope that the last year of my twenties will bring nothing but excitement and joy. I know that some hardships will be on the horizon (each year, my body acts more and more like it wants me dead) but I’m thrilled about my 30s. From what I hear, the 30s are the best time of one’s life- you finally know who you are and life finally sets into place.

I read Glamour magazine often (especially when Lupita Nyong’o is on the cover) and came across this list of thirty things every woman should know by her 30th birthday. I read over the list and thought it through- despite this being a list for a straight woman in her 30s, I think this list could apply to everyone (fellows included, minus the black lacy bra, unless you’re into that kind of thing. No judgement here)…

By 30, you should have:

  1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come (Andrea’s noteoh man, I have several of the later…)
  2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family
  3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour
  4. A purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying
  5. A youth you’re content to move beyond
  6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age. (Andrea’s note: I can’t wait to tell my future grandchild all the stories of Granny Andi living it up in New York City)
  7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it. (Andrea’s note: Hello 401K! Seriously, if you haven’t set one up, do it NOW!)
  8. An e-mail address, a voice mailbox and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you
  9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded (Andrea’s note: Hell yes- because I’m a bad, hard-working bitch)
  10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry
  11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra (Andrea’s note: I DO! I DO! I do have all of those things!)
  12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it
  13. The belief that you deserve it
  14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30
  15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship and all those other facets of life that do get better

By 30, you should know:

  1. How to fall in love without losing yourself (Andrea’s note: it took a while but I know how to now… finally)
  2. How you feel about having kids
  3. How to quit a job, break up with a man and confront a friend without ruining the friendship
  4. When to try harder and when to walk away
  5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next
  6. The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town (Andrea’s note: This is the only one I’m iffy on- sorry, Mom and Dad… I don’t know your grandmas’ names. But I do know of a good tailor in Reno!)
  7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to
  8. How to take control of your own birthday (Andrea’s note: All I need is tequila and chocolate cake)
  9. That you can’t change the length of your calves, the width of your hips or the nature of your parents
  10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over (Andrea’s note: Thank you, Jesus)
  11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love
  12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long
  13. Who you can trust, who you can’t and why you shouldn’t take it personally
  14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault
  15. Why they say life begins at 30 (Andrea’s note: I CAN’T WAIT!)

Disappointed…

I don’t like writing about race. It’s my least favorite subject to write about and honestly, it’s something that I try to ignore every day despite what I see when I look in the mirror. With my mixed background and my recently dyed hair, I’ve had some people come up and ask me what ethnicity I am- it’s easy to lie and hide, telling them that I’m not this. At the same time, I can be bundled up, riding my bike to school and someone in a passing by car shouts out “hey, nigger” from their window- that person knows my truth. Race is unfortunately a part of my life- as well as many other lives.

I didn’t want to write about the events from last night- Darren Wilson, the white officer many accused with the killing of the unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was not indicted with any criminal charges. A St. Louis County grand jury, consisting of nine whites and three blacks individuals, made the decision last night, stating there was little evidence to press charges on the officer. This announcement sparked outcry all across the United States, with protests springing up in nearly every major city– including my own. If people in my city are upsetting, crying out about this, how could I not write about this and not let my own voice be heard?

I didn’t hear the announcement until a few hours later. My heart sank in disappointment and but in all actuality, I wasn’t surprised. It is not the first time a man was able to walk away. I don’t know much about our justice system other than what I learned about in school. I never served on a jury and I never studied a murder case before. But I still question the jury’s decision and wonder if any form of justice will ever be held. At the end of the day, a man was killed.

Last night as we drove home from dinner, my boyfriend and I talked about the rioting and looting in Missouri after the verdict was announced. I explained to him that I don’t necessarily support the rioting but I understand and sympathize with the reason why the people in Ferguson are doing so. Martin Luther King, Jr. said moments before his assassination, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” As disheartening it is to admit, sometimes one needs to see and experience violence in order to change. Yes, change can happen without guns and bullets and fire starters but in the end, years from now, will we remember the peaceful protests or the vandalism? After the fires smolder out and those who were arrested last night are freed, I wonder if the protestors will look at what they did and plan on doing something better- perhaps running for a position in their local government where they will be able to make a lasting change to their community.

One of the things I keep thinking about is how this will affect the future of Black America. My boyfriend and I talk about one day, adopting a family. I want to adopt sons- growing up in a house filled with sisters, I wanted sons since the moment I decided that I wanted kids. I can imagine a beautiful little boy- my son- with dark smooth skin holding my hand at the market. I don’t want that child to be afraid– to be afraid that people who are supposed to serve and protect him will end up hurting him; to be afraid of being accused doing something negative and violent just because he looks a certain way; to be afraid of being stopped for no reason. No child should grow up afraid. No one should walk out of their house afraid, terrified of words and other’s wrong actions.

As I look to the future, I hope… I hope that we can all learn what happened and make some serious change. I hope people will hold themselves accountable for their actions, both right and wrong, instead of hiding in the shadows or proudly boasting about it. I hope those who deserve both justice and punishment receive it. I hope more people will respond to their government politics and vote for those who actually represent them and their beliefs, so that everyone’s voice could be heard. I hope that people won’t turn a blind eye and an ignorant heart watching an event in a place that’s not in their backyard. I hope that people will start respecting each other regardless of their profession and their race.

One can hope…

A Balancing Act

Over this last year, there has been a lot of change in my life- going back to school, my new job at Artown, my new-ish boyfriend (we’ve been together for an amazing nine months), more social invites. With my new job, I’m determined to be the best I can be, pouring out most of my energy into my work. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. All I want to do is sleep. I haven’t worked a full-time, 9-to-5 job in a couple years so I’m not used to this schedule- sometimes I feel like I will never get used to it. Add to the mix my social circles, the freelance writing I do and school. Lately, I’ve been having a hard time balancing everything. Friends call to ask if I want to hang out and I cancel- all I want to do it fall asleep to an old episode of “Friends” and not wake up until the next week, but I decide to keep myself up until three in the morning to finish my Spanish homework.

I do so much because I want to be the best that I can be. People tell me that I stress out too much; that I need to be easier on myself. Although, I understand and agree with that they’re saying, my philosophy is that you only have this one life to live and it’s up to you to make it great- be a doer, not a dream. If you’re lazy in bed all day, you have stamped  yourself “lazy” – it’s right there in big, bright letters on your forehead. If you work hard, you are labeled a “hark worker.” I believe those with incredible goals have to work especially hard to make those dreams come true- AND they will come true if you put in the time and effort. This is why I’m always busy- I’m making my dreams come true.

In this process of making those dreams come true, I found myself so buried with things to accomplish (see what was listed above). I know that I need to look through my list and pick out the things that aren’t essential to my life- but I have tried and I can’t choose. I need my job because I need my paycheck in order to survive. I’m a class away from finishing school- I need to finish. Plus, having my degree will allow me to purse bigger and bright career opportunities, especially since I want to move to a bigger city in the near future (hello, 2015!). I love my boyfriend- and even though I know that I shouldn’t rely on him for my happiness- he is that one thing that makes me constantly happy and I want to build a future with him. I need my friends for obvious reasons. I already sacrificed my personal time (which is fine). I read that if you need to de-stress your life, you need to cut the non-essential out. So, what do I cut: my job, school, my boyfriend or my friends?

During this time of busy-ness, I want to stress the fact of taking care of yourself. Sleep and food may be the last things on your mind but they are essential (this is coming from a person who hasn’t eaten in the last couple of days). No one can rule the world on an empty stomach and an hour’s worth of sleep. Remember that your body can only do so much. Your mind may be pressing you on but if your frame is telling you to go to bed, go to sleep!

Dear reader, I ask you for your advice– how do you balance everything? How do you go about the craziness of your day and manage to eat a proper dinner and sleep at the end of the day?