#36Questions

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I love listening to dating stories. I have quite a few of mine own floating around in my head- after a long weekend, my lady friends and I get together and gab about people with cute smiles, huge blue eyes and who made us laugh until we had charlie horse in our stomachs. We all agree that dating is difficult AF but we look for bright spots among the dating darkness. We encourage each other after we’re ghosted and exchange ideas to keep a conversation going.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of performing in a play with the greatest cast mates anyone could ask for. After one show, we ate lunch together and came across this list from a New York Times article.  We started asking each other and answering questions from the list. It’s a fond memory I think about often- I still think about that moment often. Now that I’m dating, I try to squeeze in those questions from the list into conversation.

This list of 36 questions (broken up into three sets) is supposed to build intimacy by exposing your vulnerability to the person you’re responding to. I have never gotten through the entire list with a perspective partner (I have tried!) but I have pondered these questions when alone. In this moment of my life when I heavily reevaluating my relationship with myself, I’ve asked myself these questions in order to figure out my values and deepen the bond with my inner me.

I am sharing these answers with you, dear reader. I hope that my answers can inspire you into asking yourself,  your partner, your friends, the random dude you’re seeing these questions. These questions are meant to help you fall in love (even if it’s just with yourself). They may not do that exactly but they will help create feelings of intimacy and trust—necessary conditions for love to thrive.

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? I would have dinner with my biological father. I’m curious to see if we share any personality traits and facials features.

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way? Truthfully, yes. I would want to be famous. I would be a well-known journalism like Lisa Ling or Diane Sawyer.

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why? The only times I rehearse are when I think I’ll cry during the call. I’ll usually write my thoughts down and repeat what I wrote.

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you? The perfect day would consist of spending it at the beach with a group of close friends, filled with sunbathing, swimming, music and laughter (maybe a nap). Then, we all get dressed up and go out to a nice dinner somewhere semi-fancy and barhop the night away.

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? I sang to myself this morning as I biked to get coffee. And does my cat count as someone else? If so, I sang to her this morning (she isn’t a fan of my singing and often runs away to hide under the bed).

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want? I rather have the body. There is too much to do in this world and I would want young legs to take me places.

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? Painfully. It will be a painful death.

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common. What I seem to have in common with my readers is that we seems to concerned with current events in the news. We all want to change the world, or at least our corners of it. We also appreciate semi-decent writing.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful? I’m the most thankful for my friends. They catch me when I fall, inspire me to the best version of Andrea I can be and bring so much joy to my life. I’m so grateful to have such a large and strong support system.

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? There would be more sincere hugs and words of praise and encouragement.

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible. I was born. I was in foster care. I was adopted. I had sisters. I went to school. I was an average student. I became the child of a divorce.  I continued to go to school. I got better grades. I was insecure. I played the drums. I ran for student body secretary. I discovered that I wanted to be a journalist. I graduated. I left home. I went to college. I struggled. I hated school. I dropped out. I moved to New York City. I fell in love for the first time. I went to a lot of concerts. I partied. I learned how to fix bicycles. I learned a lot about myself and life in a short time. I moved. I fell in love again- twice. I finished college. I graduated with a degree. I job hunted. I traveled. I lost friends. I met some cool people. I’m still figuring everything out (all this was written in four minutes, timed on my iPhone).

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? I would either be able to read minds or breathe underwater (my grown self still desperately wants to be a mermaid).

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Stay tuned for Part II.

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#FamilyValues

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I will always value pizza- the #1 priority in my life.

I will always value pizza- the #1 priority in my life.

In middle school, I was obsessed with Limp Bizkit. I really wanted to go to the Family Values tour (when I told my mom, she listened to their music and almost had a heart attack). That’s a terrible segway but I’ve been thinking about my value system a lot of the last couple of weeks. What do I value? What is a priority in my life? How do I determine my values?

Values shape the way we live our lives, how we interact with others and how we feel about ourselves and others. Even if we recognize them or not, values do naturally exist. They’re learned, passed down from generation to generation, by friends and discovered after certain life experiences, turning points and big decisions. When your actions and thoughts match your values, we’re satisfied and content. But when they don’t align, things feel wrong and life gets hard and confusing. This can be a real source of unhappiness.

Life is easier when you acknowledge your values and when you make plans and decisions that honor them. I think about the things that make me happiest in life, my zen (please keep in mind that this is a random sampling): Purpose. My friends. My mental health. Community service. Creativity and originality. Forgiveness. Achievement. Adventure and exploring things and experiences unknown to me. Tolerance. These things are what I’m currently and always seeking out in my life. What do I do every day that honors these values? I reach out to my friends and make time to spend time with them. I take my antidepressants daily and see my doctor regularly. I dedicate most of free time not spent with friends to volunteering…

There are negative values, too. Fear. Self-doubt. Embarrassment. Competitiveness. Selfish. Pessimism. Guilt. Laziness. These are some of the ones I deal with and think about on a daily basis. Once I recognize these negative values, I can change them into something positive- they are largely false beliefs. Almost all negative values are connected in a broad way with a feeling of little or no self worth. These values can set up a negative pattern that you will bond to and repeat throughout your life. Once these negative beliefs are recognized, you need to listen to your inner critic and stop thinking what you’re thinking- bad thoughts lead to bad actions; bad actions lead to bad habits; bad habits make up a stressful and miserable life.

After determining my values, I think about how am I applying them to my life. I start by writing a list of both my positive and negative values (don’t underestimate the power of a Post-It) and purposely view it every morning before I start my day. Checking in throughout the day helps, too- I listen to music that represents my values on constant rotation and focus on the words. Each day brings a new challenge and I reexamine if the value is that important to cling to. Through this process of consciously shifting and examining my values, I’m slowly (and hopefully) becoming a better person.

What are your positive and negative values, dear reader?

#FindingYourTribe

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I’m friends with a bunch of weirdos. But that’s okay- I’m quite strange, as well.

In my last relationship, I pushed a lot of friends away in favor of my ex. I now know this was the wrong thing to do, as I spent many nights during that relationship crying to him that I had no friends and how lonely I felt, missing companionship. When we broke up, I forced myself to reconnect with the people I pushed away, getting out of my comfort zone to apologize and hang out after months of no contact. I needed someone and really relied on them pre- and post- break up. In what happened seemingly overnight, my social circle- my tribe- grew and now, I don’t feel so alone anymore.

Over the last month or so, I applied to several jobs out of town, looking at moving to a big city like San Francisco, Chicago, even back to my beloved Brooklyn. But the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that I want to stay in my western mountain town. Sure, I may never write for “Vogue” nor “Vanity Fair” while living here but this is where my tribe is. I realize that I shouldn’t sacrifice my dream for people (if they love you here, they will love you anywhere). But these people are what give my life joy. I have met so different people in my life and I know once you find someone good, you don’t let them go. Perhaps I’m lacking something on my end- there are good people anywhere but the more I think about it, I have a good thing here. I don’t want to move and have to rebuild my social circle again.

I recently had two friends approach me, needing someone to talk about their depression and anxiety. I was beyond happy to listen to them, being there in their time of need. I’ve been open about my struggles with my mental health and for me to be the shoulder that they needed made me feel like I am worth something. To know that I’m valuable in their lives means the world to me. I imagine if I wasn’t there, what would have happened?

I don’t know what my future holds, especially as I’m making big change for the upcoming new year. It’s scary- extremely terrifying- but I know that I have a great group of people that I love rooting me on and holding me up. We all desire to have connect and I have these individuals who love and accept me just as I am even when I’m a complete jackass in a terrible funk. I found my tribe.

How did you find your tribe, dear reader?

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

RIP Beautiful Amanda…

May you rest with peace and comfort, beautiful girl

May you rest with peace and comfort, beautiful girl

Last week, my friend, Amanda, committed suicide. She was kind and insanely smart, funny and open. I met Amanda when I was apartment hunting in New York. We bonded over our struggles with depression and food and our equally-matched adoration for Brooklyn. Amanda introduced me to Selena Gomez and the Scene– I remember one night we spent hours dancing to their music before she walked me to the subway. It was a freezing night in February. It just started to snow. We were both wearing little dresses with thin tights but we laughed and talked about guys before bidding each other adieu.

I have to admit that I haven’t talked to Amanda since I moved back west, except for the occasional birthday wish on Facebook. I’m really sorry that I didn’t keep in touch with her… I know what it is like to feel alone all the time and how severe anxiety eats at your soul and can ruin many aspects of your life. Depression lies and torments. Anxiety steals and cheats. I’m so sorry that a woman like Amanda had to experience this terror…

I know now that Amanda’s painful struggle is finally over and she may finally find the peace she sought with such effort in life. Rest in peace, beautiful girl.

— 

This time of year can be especially rough. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, I encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Hang in there, dear reader. All my love to you.

One is Silver and the Other Gold…

Admitting defeat... Rami Malek plays Elliot, a lonely hacker on USA's "Mr. Robot"

Admitting defeat… Rami Malek plays Elliot, a lonely hacker on USA’s “Mr. Robot”

Have you seen “Mr. Robot?” It’s my favorite new show of 2015. Not only does it dive into hacker culture in a very real way, it also explores loneliness and social anxiety. I deeply identify with the lead character, Elliot, a lonely hacker. Despite being a fictional character, I’ve never identified with anyone- real or make believe- as much as I do with Elliot.

It takes a lot to admit that you’re lonely… which I am. Over the weekend, I sat in my boyfriend’s car and broke down to him, explaining to him how my circle had shrank over the past year and I constantly wonder why it’s harder to make and keep friends the older I get. I understand that people change- I’ve changed a lot over the last couple of months. With that change, friendships fade. There’s too much distance, too much time apart… I understand that people have complex lives, filled with careers and relationships and kids and family and bills. I have some of that, too, but I still have trouble finding someone to lean on who isn’t my partner nor my mother. (And let’s not forget the physical form that loneliness can take.)

I think about the last friend I did make. It was an easy task but mind you, this was three years ago. She just moved into town from California and we were volunteering together at a fun run. I asked her if she wanted to hang out after the race and she said, “yes.” Bam- friend date! YES! When I was a nanny in NYC, my charge would walk up to other little ones out on the playground and they would become instant buddies, if only for an hour. I wish it was still that simple… just walk up to someone and say “hey” (or like this).

Back in my early days of college, I thought making friends was pretty easy. I joined a couple of clubs and met some great people. We weren’t the smartest kids in the room, nor the prettiest or most popular. Perhaps that’s why we all got along. We all had that in common. We were similar in age, in similar points in our lives, just trying to get through school. I was an extrovert then- an X on the MyersBrigg- and still am one today. Now in school and a kiss away from 30, I’m the oldest student in my class. I know what the working world is like. I’ve made adult decisions. I’ve had serious talks about marriage and buying a house. A small part of me still enjoys partying hopping and drinking on a school night but that isn’t the connection I’m looking for in a friend. The same at my job. I’m the youngest employee at most of the jobs I’ve had recently. I’ve worked with a lot of moms who aren’t too keen to grab a quick after-work cocktail or go for a run around the lake near my home. As much as I love babies, I can’t find that connect with mothers either. I’ve tried Meet Up groups, which are great but the more I attend, the more I notice already established cliques that are difficult to break into. Being with established groups flares up my social anxiety, which does keep me at home most nights. Friends on social media don’t count either- you can’t hug them or share a special look.

So, my question for you, dear reader, is how do you make friends? I know that forming quality friendships take time and I’m trying not to be discouraged by the process (even though I’m admittedly extremely jealous of my boyfriend and all his invites to hang out). A new BFF is on the horizon. Until she/he comes, you can find me watching “Mr. Robot” at home with a hard cider in tow. Hopefully, it’s not another cat.

I think it’s really important to have a have a group of strong friends; that are always supportive and always there for you; that love you no matter what…” –Serena Williams (Amen, sister. Can we hang?)

What is Making Me Happy This Week

Halloween cocktails with my dear friend, Saffeya, at Hollow Nickel in Brooklyn

Halloween cocktails with my dear friend, Saffeya, at Hollow Nickel in Brooklyn

The last couple of weeks have been busy ones- I traveled to the East Coast, job hunted and interviewed and started prepping for the holidays. I’m grateful to have these exceptional moments of happiness in my life to reflect on when things weren’t easy…

Last week, I walked out my university’s bookstore with the biggest smile on my face and my graduation cap and gown in hand (I can’t wait to decorate!). 29 days until graduation!

STAR WARS! STAR WARS! STAR WARS! Let’s just declare December 18th a global holiday already. I’m excited to dress up in my Rey costume and line up for the midnight showing.

Despite my Nana’s death, I got to spend a few days with my mom, some extended family members and old friends, eating some classic Jersey fare (PIZZA!) and Puerto Rican staples, cheering on the Mets and walking around my beloved Brooklyn. 

Reno had a short autumn and we’re waiting patiently (or impatiently depending who you’re talking to) for the snow this El Nino season is supposed to dump on us. Although I’m not a fan of winter and the snow, I’m slowly getting pumped about the holidays. I already started purchasing gifts and planning dinner menus for Thanksgiving- I can’t wait for the cookies! I just bought these cookie cutters (grr)…

How have you been, dear reader? Happy, I hope.

Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.

December 18th can't come soon enough!

December 18th can’t come soon enough!

What is Making Me Happy This Week

There’s something enchanting about the rain. Maybe it’s the closeness it brings- you just want to cuddle up with your pet cat and a good book during a thrashing storm or with a close friend under a small umbrella (especially after a delicious gourmet dinner of scallops and watermelon salad). My employer thinks I’m crazy but I love biking in the rain. Yesterday, it poured as I biked the seven miles to my office. The lights from the streetlamps danced in the puddles and I felt Parisian as I watched their movements. The region I live in is in desperate need of moisture so I welcome the rain with open arms. I ignored the chill in the air and gathered up my umbrella, galoshes and plastic poncho- I’m not making a fashion statement but I’m enjoying the ride.

Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.

What is Making Me Happy This Week

With Burning Man still on my mind, I’ve been thinking of ways to incorporate the event’s ten principals into my daily life in the “default world.” Enter: Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a social media site where you invite travelers into your home to stay or show them around your town. I’ve hosted many surfers, who dip into Reno during long car trips and need a place to sleep and shower. It’s moment where I can share kindness, make a friend and explore the world around me (I’ve had surfers from as far as Australia and the Czech Republic).

Last night, I hosted this cool girl named Alex, who was driving up to the Oregon coast to visit her family. We drank on the patio at a bar around the corner, talking about our jobs, life in Vegas and of course, Burning Man, and she later gave me a great shoulder massage. This morning as the sun rose, I sent Alex off on her way, with a big hug and an invite to come back and stay in my home again.

Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.

Taxi Driver (How To Let Go and Get Over)

“Taxi driver/ It’s rush hour/ So take the streets if you wanna/ Just outrun the demons, could you?” -Frank Ocean

I chatted with a friend this morning about her recent break up. She and her ex-boyfriend ended on good terms and agreed to be friends. They went to another friend’s party over the weekend, where the ex brought the new girl he was dating. My friend realized that she wasn’t over him and was heartbroken (cue in the Frank Ocean lyrics). Getting over someone is the worst, isn’t it? Thoughts about that someone who hurt you so badly that they suck the breath out of your lungs and leaves you awake at night, wondering what did you do wrong? Did you say the wrong thing? Do the wrong thing? But somehow, in some way, you get over that person.

How do you get over something, whether it’s a person or a terrible moment in your life? Many say time is the answer but is that the true thing we need? I keep thinking about a previous position that I once held- I hated the work and the blah-sounding title but it paid me the largest paychecks of my life. I had phenomenal insurance. It was close to home and with the exception of my boss, I loved my co-workers. But I left it, looking for greener pastures. I’ve had good positions since then but there hasn’t been anything quite like it. There are some nights I lie awake in bed and think of what my life would be like if I stuck with the job, especially when I’m due for a dentist appointment and my Obamacare doesn’t pay for it. I’m not over that job. I still want that job. Sometimes, I want to email my old boss and beg for it back even though I know they found someone to replace me.

I know when I think thoughts like that, I’m only punishing myself. I’m stuck in the past, wandering through the land of what-ifs. I keep reliving the guilt and pain, like Sisyphus pushing the boulder uphill. Remembering to be in the present helps- it’s evidence of what we need right now; a here-and-now problem, not a past problem. I find if my mind wandering, I try to think about the positive affects- quitting that awful job has inspired me to create a more “Andrea-like” job path with dreams of consulting and independent research. Those “what if” generalizations are bull. They may be defense mechanisms but they are turning into my personal rock that I don’t want to lift anymore. No one should do heavy lifting (unless you want big biceps).

And some advice to my friend: you are brave and wonderful. It takes a lot of courage to be friends with your ex (I know, I’ve tried). Usually when a friend breaks up with their partner, I suggest going out and sleeping with the first person who messages them on Tinder. But you’re better than that- we both know it and both know that you deserve the best. Your healing will take some time- but that time now is all about you. After breaking-up with my second boyfriend, I got really into bicycle riding and trips to the library- some physical and mental brain activity. I implemented those habits of biking to get a new book every couple of days- now, those actions are my habits. My life really does revolve around my bicycle. Find that something and do it every day. Make that your happy thought; the thing that keeps you alive like air. That thing will help cure the heartache. I know you’re jealous and want to show off random hot dates at the next party- and I know that when you’re ready to date again, you will do that with confidence, not in spite. Just now- be easy on yourself and find your happiness. Take a break from talking to your ex and remember that you’re awesome- you’re the one who taught me how to be cool, remember?

How do you get over something, dear reader?