#EveryoneHasAStory

For the last couple of years, I’ve sat on the idea of creating a web series, gathering snippets of people’s lives and telling their story. Honestly, I’ve wanted to do this since my early 20s- I just never really believed in myself and thought I could create quality and compelling work. But a switch recently happened and I realized that this is something I really want to do.

Skyping with Saffeya

Saffeya is a jill-of-all-trades. An official Brooklynite, she’s worked in various positions ranging from healthcare to real estate to software coding. Saffeya explains how a certain career setback brought her closer to her mother.

“I was working two jobs. I started to notice very quickly that I was burning out. I was working about 60 hours a week, to the point where one day, I just missed work. I lost my job. I felt bad. I felt dirty. It was the first time I failed at something. I started to lose my way and I gave up on myself; I just gave up. I sat down with my mom and told her that I didn’t want to try anymore. She gave me money to cover my bills. I don’t know what I would have done without a supportive mother. I love my mom.

It took someone else believing in me. We all go through similar life cycles. I’m glad I had those experiences because I learned a lot about myself. We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. We need hardships; we need to make mistakes.”

As I figure out software and find people to interview (volunteers, please!), stayed tune, dear reader, for future video posts.

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#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?

#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!

#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?

#FightingFOMO

rsz_american-boxing-glove

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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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!)

Year of Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Like, absolutely happy- your face hurts so much from smiling, there’s fluffy golden retriever puppies everywhere, your heart is about to burst like you’re in middle school with a huge crush on the adorable guy from geography class kind of happy? Truly happy?

Is this the face of a happiness skeptic (or of a dog-napper)?

Is this the face of a happiness skeptic (or of a dog-napper)

For the last month, I’ve been examining the things that make me happy. Almost like Scully of “The X Files” (which, by the way, season 10 is fantastic), I’ve been a big skeptic. For a long time, I didn’t believe that true happiness existed. I know that you can’t be happy all the time (or maybe you can- who knows?) but for some people, happiness just came easy to them. I think about my best friend, Melissa who is undoubtedly the happiest person I know. She is always smiling and radiating energy. Yes, I know that she has her moments but she always manages to bounce back into Happyland quickly. That’s who I want to emulate.

I used to think that my life would be happier if something would happen- I’d be happier if I had a boyfriend; I’d be happier if lost weight, if I had a good job, etc. Even when I had a great boyfriend or was feeling fit, I didn’t feel happy. Perhaps grateful, especially for that paycheck but at the end of the day, I want to cry into the wee hours of the morning.

 I started researching happiness. What is happiness? True happiness? What does it feel like? What does it look like? Does it taste differently? How do you achieve it? Surely, a person can’t just think about being happy and then be happy. Actually, you can.

Studies show that when you smile, endorphins are released causing you to feel relaxed and well, happy. Your brain essentially tricks you into being happy. Each morning during my shower, I smile as wide as I can and think about good thoughts. I envision having a great day- what that would feel like, what would happen- and I let the happy feelings rain over me. I finish getting ready listening to positive music or a funny podcast that pumps me up.

Throughout the day, I check in on myself, asking myself how I’m doing. With my job, I find myself frustrated and stressed throughout most of the day. I try to funnel that energy into completing my work but I’m not especially good at transferring that negativity. Instead, I write. I received a beautiful journal from a friend as graduation gift; and in moments of pressure, I write one thing I’m thankful for, one nice thing I did for myself and one nice thing I’ve done for someone else. If I haven’t done anything kind for anyone that particular day, I think of a way to make myself or a loved one happy and put that thought into action. Just thinking about making someone else happy makes me happy- and I thrive on that anticipation. I write in my journal every day and I am seeing a small boost.

One of the books I’m currently reading suggests to write down what your ideal happy life looks like, what it feels like. My happy life feels rewarding (in my professional life and with my relationships and community service endeavors), and is filled with devotion and a little too much laughter. I reread this list every morning and when I need a happiness boost. The visual of this list’s words help steer me in the direction towards absolute bliss.

Happiness is more like a muscle that feeling. I know if you work on your happiness, strengthen it every day, that emotion grows stronger. It is a difficult emotion to hold on to but it is achievable. And I am determine to live every day basking in its warmth, snuggling with a fluffy animal.

Happy 2016, 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

What Is Making Me Happy This Week

Earlier in the week, I was laid off. My employer finally realized his financial errors and decided to shut down his company. I still haven’t received paychecks, though. I don’t know if I will ever seen the money but it did feel good to drop a wage claim in the mail to the Nevada Labor Commission. I’m hoping that justice will be served soon.

In the meantime I am studying for my last final, job hunting and enjoying decorating my home for Christmas. Only 13 more days until Christmas, y’all…

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.