#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?)

#HowAreYou

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***

“How are you?”

“Fine.”

I know you’re not fine.

On our first date, my partner and I talked for hours about things couples usually don’t discuss when they first meet: religion, politics, what we don’t like about ourselves. He told me his insecurities about his physical appearance while I explained to him how I never feel good enough. It was that level of honesty that connected us to each other instantly; one of the many qualities we both share and fell in love with. Since our first date, I have been thinking about the amount of honesty and openness I use in daily communication.

In the span of 24 hours, I was asked “How are you” eight times (I counted this past Monday). Most days, I usually smile and say that I’m “good” or “okay” even though sometimes I’m not (Monday was one of those days). We all do it. We’re feeling like utter crap but we don’t reveal our truths when we’re asked. We don’t want the attention on us. We don’t want to look like “drama kings/queens.” We don’t want to have to explain our problems to people who might not understand.

“How are you” lost its meaning. It has become an official unofficial rhetorical question.

But what would happen if we were honest and responded with how we really felt?

During that special date, I was asked what is the one quality that I liked the most about myself. I thought hard, thinking about the things I was good at and enjoyed doing. A few months earlier, I was having cocktails with a friend at a bar and I asked her how she was holding up. She broke down into tears, explaining that she was depressed and she didn’t know what to do about it. So, I comforted her and was grateful that she was honest with me… I told Stephen that I was a good friend. I’m happy to be the person people feel comfortable opening up to.

It’s that level of vulnerability. I think that is missing from every day conversations. Sure, superficial conversation has its place but I want to learn. I want to know. I want to share. I want people to know that I’m truly interested in their well-being and that I’m listening.

In this year, the year that I seek out more meaning in my life, I want the BIG talk. Small talk is now and forever out. When we share, we bond. We get closer. We understand better. Our worlds open up. For me, it helps me get out of my head. I remind myself that we all have problems, great and small, worries and aren’t living in these perfect little bubbles.

So, when I ask, how are you, don’t hide your response. I want to hear it. The truth. And I want to be asked the same. This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to explain to a stranger how painful my menstrual cramps are or try to have a conversation while in the public bathroom (although I have been doing that lately- sorry to those who I’ve spoken to while sitting on the pot). When I ask, I simply want to know how you are doing.

Now dear reader… How are you?

#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).

***

Stay tuned for Part II.

#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?

#TouchMe

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I’m a sucker for cuddling. Holding hands. Giving long hugs. Sitting close on the couch. Kissing. Scientists figured out that human beings need at least five different touch interactions during the day and the lack of that comforting touch can lead to depression and anxiety. Touch gives us humans the sensory input that we crave.

The power of touch is pretty incredible. It’s our primary language of compassion and care. Even when it is non-sexual.Touch instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. It lifts serotonin levels, elevating your mood. Touch builds trust and a sense of safety. It’s one of the most simple of ways that we continually renew our bonds with those we love- holding our children, caressing our partners. It relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body.

It is possible to be touch deprived (something that I have been experiencing lately). “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting,” said psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University. “Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.”

In the 1960s, psychologist Sidney Jourard observed friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. Sometimes, they hugged. Sometimes, they gave each other a simple high five. Sometimes, something more. In England, Jourard noted that the two friends touched each other zero times within the hour. In the United States, we touched each other twice. In France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour- no wonder the French are considered so sensual, engaging in their sense of touch.

Why are Americans so afraid to touch one another?

We live in such a busy, crowded world. Yet, it’s so easy for many of us to go days, weeks, even months without touching and/or being touched by others. Ask yourself, dear reader, if you are deprived and why you are. I’m not saying to tackle the next random person you see on the street. But maybe the emerging cuddling businesses might be the way to go. Perhaps I should become a professional snuggler…

#FightingFOMO

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Fear Of Missing Out

It was rough missing out on Burning Man this year (I know, I know. First world problems). I’ll admit that I am incredibly jealous of those who adventured on the playa and well, in general- others who get to venture out for their jobs or have multiple PTO days (or those who don’t have to work) to travel, exploring beautiful places, the world’s darkest corners and experiencing fun, life changing events. My FOMO is real.

‘‘The uneasy and sometimes all consuming feeling that you’re missing out– that your peers are doing, in the know about or in possession of more or something better than you. Under this framing of FOMO, nearly three quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon.”

I can’t speak for others but in my life, the rise of social media has increased my FOMO. I see other people having these great experiences and then, feel the envy rush through my body, this strong mix of inferiority and resentment. Instagram is my killer, stabbing me time and time again. I think, “I making the wrong decisions with my life.” “Other people are having a better time than me.” “I wasn’t invited; I didn’t know about it; I couldn’t make it.” “I suck.” “My life sucks.” My FOMO steamed from my unhappiness with my own life and lack of doing cool stuff. Author Erica Jong once said, “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” I chose not remember that most people only post their highlights online. People don’t broadcast their troubles and problems to the world on Facebook. I believed that others are happier than they actually are. The thing to remember is social media is fake. It’s not real life. Only real life is real life. When we experience FOMO, we neglect the present (or live only in our memories- this is what happen when I start to miss NYC and want to move back). We end up disconnecting and being distracted from the most important social experience of the moment: the one we’re actually in.

Forget the fake perfect lives of Facebook that lead to FOMO. Instead, try JOMO: the joy of missing out on all those illusions. It’s your life you’re missing out on. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But remember that your grass is a vibrant emerald, too. And if you’re like me, use your FOMO as inspiration to get out of your rut- maybe make a change, stop embracing your comfort zone and go out and live in this moment.

***

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#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.

Thank You, Love 20Something

As the last moments of my twenties come to a close, I want to thank everyone who has read and commented on 20Something. I started this blog when I was 22. I remember the day exactly; I felt the need to write- this primal urge to get everything out. Hence, this blog started. I sat in the basement of the campus library and wrote my first post, feeling confused about what I was going to do after college. I wrote down a life plan but little did I know at that moment, I was about to stray from everything I planned… which was the best thing that ever happened to me. After all, all those moments led me to where I’m at today.

To all you twenty-somethings out there, you all are incredibly brave indivisuals. Your twenties are insanely scary but they are also fun- drinking officially at 21 (yay)! Falling in love for the first time (double yay!). Stumbling along a career path (yay!/nay?).  This time is for intense self-discovery and making mistakes, both big ones and tiny ones; creating a life for yourself outside your family and home life and learning what it means to be on your own. It’s about learning how to take risks and becoming a better risk taker with each passing year. This is the time to risk it all in the name of love, friendship, education and career. Eh, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, am I right?

So, I bid adieu to my roaring twenties… and am saying hello to my flirty, dirty thirties, greeting this decade with my arms open wide.

I’m about to go party like a rock star.

Thanks again, dear reader. Love, Andrea

Year of Kindness

Two days ago, I sat on the curb in my former office’s parking lot and cried. I was just laid off. My head spun with frantic thoughts of what I could have done better- I should have done this. I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that? But I wasn’t laid off for performance issues. The company is going under and I was “the last one hired, first one fired.” During my exit interview, I was given stellar reviews. My bosses told me that I was rehire-able (if they ever decided to venture into advertising again) and they promised to give golden recommendations as I apply for a new job. Despite knowing all this, I sat in the parking lot, beating myself up, thinking about everything single, little thing that I did wrong.

I’m hard on myself. I know that I am I. Just a couple of weeks ago, my supervisor reminded me: “You’re too hard on yourself.” Every boyfriend I’ve had told me that I am. Most of my friends have. My parents. Even this sweet woman I broke down to at Burning Man last year said that I needed to ease up. I know that I’m hard on myself- I ignore the fact that I am human and I demand absolute perfection from myself. Thus, I dig myself deeper and deeper into the pit of despair and feeling never go enough.

I believe that kindness plays a big role in happiness. I also believe that kindness starts with the way you. I was telling a friend about my drama at work, “I could have done that better.” She turned to me and said, “If you had a friend saying what you’re saying to yourself, would you still be friends with them?” I thought about- “No, I wouldn’t.” “Then why do you treat yourself that way?” she asked.

I’ve been trying to change that mind set around. It hasn’t been easy. I’m used to waking up every morning with the first thought in my head leaning towards the negative. I feel fat. I’m not going to do well at work. I am a crappy girlfriend. My cat, Hova, follows me around until I serve her breakfast. She looks at me with her big green eyes and winds her lanky body around my legs after eating, thanking me for feeding her. She thinks I’m the best. I once read that you need to treat yourself how your pets treat you. Animals know what’s up- they know good, kind people vs. bad ones. All the animals I’ve encountered in my life have given me love and sweetness. I need to give myself some love, too.

Friends, like pets, are a good resource. I replay all the negative conversations I’ve had in my head daily- from arguments I had with my parents in high school to the one I had on Monday with my boss when I was let go. I let myself wallow and sink until I’m mentally drowning. My boyfriend reminds me every day of how great I am. He does a really great job of doing it- there was one day he complimented me 19 times in the span of a couple hours. I usually let each compliment slide in one ear and out the other but now, I’m trying to let his words resonate and find a permanent home in my brain. I canceled plans with friends this week (because honestly, I feel like shit) but they refuse to take my “no” for answer and insisted on coming over with goodies and sappy movies. They reminded me that I’m awesome and this crappy situation will soon pass (if that isn’t kindness, I don’t know what is…).

I’m off to a slow start with my Year of Kindness and am feeling like an emotional Sisyphus. But I know that baby steps are key even if the mean boulder is pushed back to its original spot the next day. I need to eventually stop buying into the myth of perfection (especially with my appearance and where I’m “supposed to be” in this moment of my life) and focus on the things that make me happy, like being proactive- get out of bed every morning with a purpose, even if it’s only to clean the bathroom. And showing kindness to others; that helps, too- I’m teaching an art class this weekend at the Boys and Girls Club. Treating yourself well when you’re not used to it is not easy but it is totally worth it.

Treat yourself how your pet treats you... (Yay for kitty cuddles!)

Treat yourself how your pet treats you… (Yay for kitty cuddles!)

(And dear reader, if you know of any full-time positions in advertising, editorial or non-profit within the Reno city limits, pass the information my way. Thanks!)