#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.

#DearDonald

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Dear Donald,

Five years ago, I was walking towards Lennox Hill on my way to interview a source when I passed your building. I was impressed with its unique exterior design and when I peeked my head in, the I noted that the interior lobby was warm and inviting.

Unlike the lobby of your Upper East Side building, many don’t find you warm and inviting. They call you cold, callous and a racist. You’ve compared Mexican immigrants to criminals and rapists, proposed registering all Muslims and said of a Black Lives Matter protester, “maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” (You telling the Black community to vote for you because well, what else do we have to lose was tacky- in my opinion).

You mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for his disability. You attacked John McCain for being a POW, saying “he’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

You were so eager for President Obama to show his birth certificate but you still haven’t released your tax returns.

Your wife, Melania Trump, allegedly lied about her college credentials in her biography at the Republican National Convention’s site and on her  personal website.  When she pulled the inaccurate biography down from her website, her team said “has been removed because it does not accurately reflect [her] current business and professional interests.” Not to mention her choice of words during the her RNC speech(thanks, Michelle Obama!). People comment that your staff is a joke.

Others claim that your outbursts and demeanor doesn’t fit the bill when dealing with domestic and international crisis., and you will continue to stick up only for the wealthy (not even the middle class) in this country.

Needless to say, I’m not your biggest fan. But I do appreciate all the entertaining television you’re providing. This coverage certainly better than your last couple seasons of the Apprentice– I’m excited to see what Arnold will do with the show when he takes it over. Andrea

#DearHillary

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Dear Hillary,

First off, I wish you a speedy recovery. Pneumonia is awful but you showed the world the power of women- we are always hustling. Even when we’re sick, we hustle- we take care of business and the people that we love. I want you to know that I’ve been a supporter since day one. But I do have some comments and a few questions for you…

Many people say you are untrustworthy. Many think you lied to the American people about your email server; that you broke the law and deserve to go to jail. They say that’s you’re responsible for the Benghazi attacks. Allegedly, when you were Secretary of State, over 600 requests were made for more security for that facility. Nevertheless, in the end, the building was attacked and  four men died.

There are those who branded you as a liar and a crook, saying that large amounts of money went directly into yours and your husband’s pockets for doing speeches and guest appearances as you claimed the money went to the Clinton Foundation. That money influenced the State Department into doing favors for those deep-pocket donors.

On a more personal level, people have questioned your morals, saying that you don’t follow your convictions. Why be with a husband who’s (allegedly) banging everyone in town, they ask. Does it benefit you in any way?

Is any of this true?

Despite all of these allegations, your personal life is none of my business- it’s not anyone’s business- and I think you’re more than qualified to run the country. I understand why you seem cold and get right to the point (not everyone is as smooth as President Obama). Sure, people will have their doubts but you still have my vote this November. Andrea

#BodyTalk

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What a happy, little tampon!

Most things don’t gross me out. Perhaps it’s because I’m the daughter of a nurse- I remember one time my dad showed my sisters and I cell phone pictures of a little boy’s bowel movements. When I lived with my old roommate then in med school (now a doctor), I was delighted when she shared stories of her carving up a cadaver. To me, bodies and what they do are fascinating, not unmentionable. So, why don’t we talk about natural occurrences like menstrual cycles?

Earlier this week, Chinese swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, made headlines when she announced that she was on her period, breaking the  silence about menstruation. While China is becoming more accepting of the natural occurrence, one would think that the US of A would be a little bit more progressive, especially since half of our population has or will experience their period. But as I read comments on multiple sites about Yuanhui’s post -wim interview, I realized that wasn’t the case. Especially with men.

Even in relationships, I found that talking about menstruation was taboo. In the past, I’ve had boyfriends who promised the world to me but still refused to buy me tampons. Female lawmakers in multiple states are trying to lift the tax on tampons but are being struck down by their male counterparts. Allegedly when Yuanhui was in the pool, several male critics claimed that swimming while menstruating was unhygienic and unhealthy.

I’ve been trying to figure out why talking about menstruation is so shameful even when sex runs rampid throughout our media. Sex is what we see and talk about every day. Society oogles breasts, whose primary function is for feeding. We cracked jokes about both male and female anatomy without a second thought. We need to stop looking at our bodies and our sexual behavior as something embarrassing and scandalous., when our bodies are as natural as water and air.

I hope to see the day where women, all around the world, aren’t shunned for having a period. Women’s bodies deserve more respect and appreciation- your mom, your sister, your friend, your significant other- all deserve better. And you, male reader, will totally get points with me if you purchase me some Tampax.

#BlackLivesMatter (How to Keep the Movement Moving Forward)

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Protesters take to the streets on July 17, 2013 in Beverly Hills, CA.

Protesters take to the streets in California July 2013.

It’s been about a month since the multiple shootings that sparks protests, vigils and questions about race, law enforcement and gun violence in our country. My city and the surrounding municipalities hosted various rallies where individuals held signs, cried and spoke in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). But now, as the media focuses its attention else where, I feel like the thought of BLM and the racism some Americans experience is fading from everyone’s minds.

And this depresses me.

A colleague asked me how to start a conversation about racism. I honestly had no idea how to answer him. It’s one thing, talking about the frustrations of dating in my town when you’re a person of color (something that I talk about with my girl friends often). But it’s another thing trying to explain racism and BLM with people who aren’t so open. After some thought, I told him that I believe people need to be more bolder and simply stop avoiding the subject in every day conversation. We shouldn’t wait for national headlines to bring to a harsh reality to light.

Even so, I feel that my answer is a cop out. I don’t know how to address racism to people other than my friends or those who read this blog. And I don’t know how to keep the movement moving. The one thing I know is that I can’t do this alone. The greatest thing I saw when I was at the Reno BLM rally was the amount of community members coming together for the common good. We still stood together, hand-in-hand spreading the word and the love. I believe if we’re going to change minds about the misconceptions of BLM and racism in general, we need to be physically present together– step out from behind our computers, meet (and meet often!) with certain shared goals and outcomes in mind and show the world that we mean positive business. We need to have more rallies, host lectures, volunteer in our communities and speak to our local government and advocacy groups- together. We need to slam down the negative stereotypes about our races and the Black Lives Matter movement. So… who’s with me?

How are you going to keep the movement moving, dear reader?

#AChangeIsGoingToCome

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I spent the last couple of days trying to mentally sort through the tragedies that occurred this week, feeling utterly hopeless. Thursday night, I read the status updates from a former co-worker who was at the Dallas Black Lives Matter peace rally when shots were fired (thankfully, she’s safe). I reflected on the multiple times I’ve been racially discriminated against. I stayed glued to my phone, listening and reading various platforms, getting the facts and hearing other’s stories. I deleted friends on social media who had negative things to say and write. But in the end, I know that my actions alone are not enough.

A serious conversation needs to happen. A conversation about racism in the United States, police brutality and gun control, spoken about all in one breath- and it needs to happen between everyone: politicians, law enforcement, community leaders, families, friends and neighbors. I hate that people are trying to make this an either/or. We can support the good cops who serve our communities and mourn for their loss while still demanding justice be served to the bad cops who kill people of color and steal lives for no good reason. We can be anti-violence across the board.

I don’t have the answers even though I desperately wish that I did. In the meanwhile, I encourage everyone to stay 1) kind to one another and 2) informed while supporting the following organizations and charities:

(And if you need some happiness to help lift spirits, I highly recommend this hashtag on Twitter.)

Stay safe, dear reader. Peace and love.

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

#ThisIs30

T-minus two days until the big 3-0.

Yes, I am terrified. Last night, I broke down my fears to one of my best friends- “I don’t like a grown-up and 30 seems so adult, so finite. I have reached the age where you need to have your shit together. But I just keep fumbling. People younger than me are buying houses and I’m still looking for a job.” I must admit that I’m not proud of the place I’m in and a lot of the choices I made in my twenties. I always thought when I reached this milestone, I’d be an editor at a magazine, well-traveled, married, possibly pregnant… well, I’m just not the person I thought I would be.

I’ve been trying to tell myself that 30 is going to be awesome but I needed more justification. Over the night, I’ve read multiple essays from celebrities, writers and businesswomen about the joys of this new decade of life. I needed to hear that things would be better (even though my body will undergo some serious changes. Just no more gray hair, please)- in the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.”

Listed below are some of my favorite quotes:

“Thirty was always the age I wanted to be. I didn’t look forward to 16 or 21 or even 25. I was like: 30. I assumed by then I would be fully formed and comfortable in my skin and in my body, and I’d know who I was. My twenties were great, but they were hard. You want to get past the learning curve and then have fun.” –America Ferrera

“Your twenties come with a lot of self-doubt and anxiety around big life questions: What are you going to do with your career? Who are you going to end up with? Where are you going to live? In your thirties, you just know yourself better.” –Lauren Bush Lauren

“Your twenties were for ‘ducking up,’ as my auto-correct would say, and learning from those mistakes. Now, you get to live with that knowledge under your belt. I’m hitting a major milestone: 30, or as I like to call it, the Cut the Bullshit and Go Be Awesome stage.” –Olivia Wilde

“(Turning 30) made me want to look at myself and see what behavior I want to bring into my 30s, and what I want to leave in my 20s. I’m such a people pleaser and from an unstable background. I translate too many things into guilt. I’m ready to let go of that.” –Drew Barrymore

“The body is at its best between the ages of thirty and thirty-five…” -Aristotle

“My friends reassured me that 30 was secretly the best, most important birthday a woman could have. Like a reverse Cinderella, my life would magically improve on the dot of midnight. My brain would mysteriously expand, and somehow all the things that didn’t make sense in my twenties—how and why people behaved the way they did, how to play the game—would all be made clear. I’d be smarter. I wouldn’t get fooled like I did in my twenties. And you know what? All those friends were right. –Candace Bushnell

What are your thoughts on turning 30, dear reader? Any advice?

 

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!)

Love, Millennial Style* 

*Today post was inspired by this article, from Mens XP.

I don’t like most of the articles that I read about millennials. Writers pen about us being lazy and indecisive, with our heads buried in our phones, being obsessed with material wealth. All the people I know who are my age are incredibly hard working. We have jobs that we’re passionate about and spend our free time creating and contributing to our communities in a positive way. We are smart and self-aware. We may enjoy and rely more on technology than our parents but we are smart enough to know when certain moments really matter. Moments like being in love.

We millennials love failing in love. We’re always thinking about love- how to achieve it and how being in it improves our lives. And we are determine to make that love last. We work hard. We pour ourselves into everything we do. Our careers. Our friendships. Our hobbies. We know that love takes hard work and we put in the effort. We noticed our parents’ mistakes and avoid them by making rational, timely decisions. We choose our partners carefully. We’re hungry for that romance and want the best for ourselves. Sometimes, it may take years to find the perfect person. We just don’t want to walk into a store and purchase the first pair of shoes we see without trying them on. Sure, we hook up. This generation is more comfortable with our bodies and sexuality, and we know that we need to explore that physicality without limitations. Hooking up is now how we learn about each other- hooking up is how we date.

Marriage, though, is still on our minds and in our hearts. We are still secretly traditionalists. We take our time getting to know the ins and outs of our partners before making that final commitment. Millennials talk openly about divorce and the negativity that lead up to it. We have figured out the desire for children earlier in our lives and plan for them properly. We still want that American dream- coming home to a loving partner and family at the end of day, watching the sun go down as we play Scrabble on our front porch or our fire escape.

Technology has brought us closer together. We meet our partners online now, people would have never met in the outside world (hi, Steve!) and fall in love over the wires. Technology inspires us and moves us. We’re able to display massive tokens of affections over the internet (often times, for free- millennials are thrifty); filming engagements on YouTube and posting happy couple photos on Instagram. We are able to tell our partners how much we adore each other in so many different ways, sending loving texts and Facebook messages. We’re excited to show off our amazing partners on these platforms (we’re proud of them!) and document our love- our parents did the same with Polaroids and other processed films.

Millennials are not the decline of dating nor the relapse of romance. We are ready for true, real love with our arms wide open. We are ready to take love seriously and most of us do. We know how to love- it’s our kind of love. We want our happily ever afters and will stop at nothing to get them, iPhones, Twitter and all.