#SoThisIsTheNewYear (Finding Purpose and Happiness)

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This is about to get real, deal reader.

I think about death often. My death.

I want to preface this blog entry by writing that I’m not suicidal. If I am anything, I am reflective (although I do think about my funeral and what share of blue my body would turn without oxygen and bloody flow quite often). This death fascination has been especially strong the last couple of weeks, even during my happier moments.

Perhaps I have post-holiday depression. Maybe I need to have my antidepressant increased. I just feel nothing. Two days ago, I sat on the beach in Venice, CA- one of my most favorite places in the world- and I felt nothing. I had a great weekend, exploring, partying and meeting new people. But on that beach, even in moments before, I felt empty. On the plane ride home from Christmas, I sat with my seat leaning back, wishing that the plane would explode during midair. L’appel du vide– I’ve always had that feeling but as each day passes by, the feeling intensifies. I would never kill myself- it would kill my mom- but lately, I don’t feel like my life is worth it. I think about my cousin, Josh, who died two years ago in a terrible accident. He was a really good guy, extremely kind and grateful for his life- why couldn’t have God taken me instead of him?

I have a hard time feeling joy- that lasting moment of happiness that I feel like everyone around me has. They are happy all the time despite whatever they’re going through- they express that happiness physically and emotionally. Their lives aren’t perfect but they love them anyway.  For as long as I can remember, I thought it was my mental illness that kept that feeling away from me. I could never sustain that feeling. Even as a tween, I felt that overall sense of sadness all the time. I slept a lot- good chunks of my day- because of it. In college, one of my professors told me that I’m lazy. I replay that moment over and over in my head. I will never forget Paul’s words. Over Christmas, my father and step-mother called me a narcissist. My previous ex-boyfriend said the same thing. They all said that I don’t think about others and I don’t know my identity; that I chose to be miserable and have had a negative influencer in my life. What they all said they been weighing on my mind, as well as this song which features the lyric, “But people don’t really change.” I think about the times in the past when I tried to change my mindset into thinking happier thoughts or break bad habits. I would do really well for a week or two but then slip back into old ways. I don’t think in a sustainable way. All I do is want to sleep and be sad.

I don’t want to set a New Year’s resolution. Last year, I came up with a simple on: be happy. I was miserable most of it. Right now, I’m on deadline for one of the publications that I write for. I’m writing about spring cleaning your being- getting rid of life’s dead weight. I want to be able to push through this dead weight of my life and be a kinder, more empathetic, happier person by the year’s end. But I’m scared of fucking things up, scared of disappointing others and disappointing myself. I’ve been this way for most of my life- I don’t know what it feels like to be happy most of the time, how to be kinder to myself and others. I’m terrified to step out of my comfort zone. What if I can’t break these bad habits?

I feel like I can be happy when I figure out my purpose in my life. That is something that has been weighing me down. Despite my friends tell me to enjoy being single, I hate it. I’m eager to jump into something when I know that I shouldn’t. I love that feeling of being a girlfriend, though. However, I know that you shouldn’t base your happiness on your title or through another person. I think of how being a girlfriend, and then eventually a wife and a mother (especially being a mom) will give my life meaning. But why do I have to wait for someone to come in my life? Why can’t I find that purpose now? I do good things for my community. I have a great circle of friends who support me. So, how do I let the feeling of lappel du vide morph into something happier?

I’m writing this today with no intentions for you, dear reader, to feel sorry for me. I already feel enough pity for myself. I just want to be real with you and ultimately, myself.  I haven’t been great with being honest about myself and the way that I live my life. Most people read this and think that I’m pretty carefree. I’m not. But I want to be. I really do. So, this is my 2017 journey- to 1) find a reason- a good, solid reason to live, 2) ) figure out exactly who I am and 3) be a better person to others and put myself and their shoes.

Happy 2017, dear reader. Maybe your year be filled with all the good stuff you want and need in your life right now. Join me on this journey, won’t you?

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 24 through March 1 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

For a very long time, I thought men were only attracted to thin women (unfortunately, there are still times that I think this even though I know better). We women are constantly bombarded with images of thin and fit women on magazine covers and television (so of course, I thought “thin = beautiful.” It doesn’t). Sure, some publishers and TV shows have listened to the public outcry and added a female character with a few extra pounds but she is often the secondary character, the best friend. You would think, as a society, that we’d know better. On campus, I see girls going in and out of the campus rec center, complaining about the pinch of skin around their waist. Growing up, I always thought I was fat because I didn’t compare to my more slender girl friends and sisters. When I was in middle school, my stepmom questioned why I’d brought home half-eaten sandwiches. That began my regiment of dieting and binging which only got worse when I came to college. I was that college girl at the gym who thought she looked like a whale even though I looked fine.

This week is National Eating Disorder Week. Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. 40% of female college students have eating disorders. Out of this 40%, a little more than half of these women don’t realize that they have an eating or body image disorder and they will not to get help. Let’s talk about the other side of the spectrum. As I watch women walk out of the campus gym, complaining, I see an equal amount of guys doing the same thing,  The rate of eating disorders among college men ranges from 4-10%. A recent study found that the female-to-male ratio of positive screens for eating disorder symptoms was 3-to-1. That study concluded that male body image concerns have dramatically increased over the past three decades from 15% to 43% of men being dissatisfied with their bodies, wanting an unobtainable physique. Women do feel like the pressure to look a certain way but men do, as well (if you haven’t listened to it, check out Silverchair’s song “Ana’s Song.” The band’s lead singer, Daniel Johns, wrote the song about his battle with anorexia. It’s incredible).

What can we do to end eating disorders? Well, there is the first step of recognizing what you’re going through and getting help. But as a friend or a significant other of one who might be feeling the pressure to look a certain way, remind that person that they are beautiful the way they are. Sure, working out to maintain health and wellness is one thing but one doesn’t shouldn’t spend all day at the gym, dieting and denying themselves just to attract someone’s eye (and if you’re with someone who doesn’t accept your body and the way it looks, drop them). Lately, I’ve been telling myself this line that Julia Robert’s character uses to comfort a friend in the movie, “Eat Pray Love:” “I have no desire to be obese. I’m just through with the guilt.” And I am so, with the guilt with all the calorie counting I used to do; with the way I beat myself for not going to the gym every day or for not going an insane 15-mile jog on an empty stomach. It’s okay if you want to treat yourself to a sugary iced coffee or a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. We’re only human and those things taste delicious.

Yesterday, I went on a run through the park after work. I felt some parts of my body jiggle as I sprinted along the dirt path. My stomach. My glutes. But for some reason, that jiggle didn’t bother me. My legs felt strong. My body was in motion. I was grateful that I could run- who knows how long I can do that? I run because for the rush of endorphins, which make me happy. It’s my stress relief. I maybe be overweight or “curvy” or whatever adjective (seriously, though, these labels need to be banned). I know I don’t look perfect with my cellulite, stretch marks, “fat rolls” and all. But I have this one body and I respect it and its purpose- I have arms for hugging and lifting; hands for high-fiving and typing. My torso will someday carry a baby. My legs help me pedal a bike, my most favorite activity in the world. I hope you respect your body, dear reader, and appreciate all that it does for you.

You Vs. Society (Keep Calm and Carry On)

My best friend and me, in Santa Monica last winter

Me and my best friend, in Santa Monica, last winter

I received a letter in the mail last week from my best friend who is living out in Los Angeles. She’s a young 20something, extremely bright and beyond beautiful. We first met in New York, where I admired her bravery for talking to cute strangers and her determination for finding the correct path toward happiness. I love her dearly and know her well. As I read her words, I can sense the distress in her tone, the tears she was trying to hold back. She’s at the ripe age when the world is telling you to find a career, a life partner, a place to settle down and lay your roots, and she was concerned that she didn’t have it all figured out.

It’s hard when your mom wonders why you don’t have a boyfriend. “But you’re such a pretty girl!” I haven’t stepped in a classroom yet and people are already asking me what I’m going to do after I graduate. “Have you started looking for a job yet?” We all get this big push from society to be someone, to label ourselves, to pick one group we can’t escape from. Why?  Why can’t we just say that we don’t know what we’re doing with our lives other than simply living it. I understand the importance of security in the form of jobs and having a future family but why is there such a heavy weight attached to it? We shouldn’t have to justify why we’re still trying to figure things out. Some of us take longer than others. I know that I’m one of the lucky few who knew what she wanted to pursue career-wise. I never second guessed about journalism (even though social work was calling my name for a brief while). Relationship-wise, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. I know that I want to get married and adopt children one day but I’m riding that train out. You shouldn’t have to follow anyone’s expectations but your own. Though, it’s easier said than done. How do you build that expectation for yourself- I say, just follow your heart. That should give you enough of a drive in creating a life that you love and are proud of.

One of my favorite rappers right now is Childish Gambino (a.k.a. the hilarious and very handsome Donald Glover). In his song V. 3005, he raps, “Man, nobody out here’s got it figured out/ So therefore, I’ve lost all hope of a happy ending/ Depending on whether or not it’s worth it.”  His lyrics have some truth (I’m a fan of happy endings and think that they can happen). Most people have no idea what they’re doing. They either fake it until they make it or just say ‘fuck it’ and dive right in. We can think about it for years and years and we will never have the answers to those great life questions. So, the best thing to do is just enjoy the ride. That doesn’t mean drop everything and stop working hard. That’s when we find lovers and our dream jobs. But don’t strain yourself. Seriously- take some to smell the roses. Their scent is sweet.
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Dear reader, I know that life is painful. Things don’t happen the way you expect them to. There’s heartbreak and doubt (a ton of both). We wentleft when we should have turned right. But keep your chin up. Keep calm and carry on.  The British government used that slogan before the start of World War Two in order to keep its citizens strong as the German began dropping bombs on the country. If you’re feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, feeling like bombs are about to drop on your pretty head, take a step back. Breathe deeply and remind yourself that you’re going to be fine, whether or not you have everything figured out (and if you do, please tell me your secrets!). You will find your happy ending sooner than later- I promise. (And Baby Bird, you got this.)

Advice from Geneva of A Pair & A Spare

I’ve been working on this start-up site for the past few months, planning out and designing a website that I hope that Reno locals will love and find useful. Too many times during this creating process, I’ve become discouraged about my idea and whether or not it would work out. I’m pretty passionate about it and hope it will turn out to be something great one day. I’m pretty passionate about fashion, too. I’m a fan of A Pair & A Spare, a charming fashion blog by the adorable Geneva Vanderzeil. Not only does she offer great Do-It-Yourself tips (I love her Alexander Wang- inspired bralette) but Geneva also dishes out wise words. I love her recent advice on doing what you love and her ideas on how to make things happen. I posted her thoughts below- I hope you, dear reader, will succeed in whatever you accomplish but at the same time, life is about learning the lessons whether we fall and fail or stand tall. With whatever project you’re working on or a future that you’re dreaming about living, work hard but don’t be too hard on yourself.

“I’m always interested in the stories of people who’ve built a career from scratch that they love doing, and that they don’t drag their feet every day to go to. I guess that’s why I love meeting creatives and small business owners here in Hong Kong, to hear about their experiences, the trials and the tribulations of doing what the love and going out on their own. These days I get quite a few emails from people asking me how I went about a career change, people that perhaps feel unhappy or unfulfilled in their current role and need some guidance. For that reason, I’m introducing ‘Do What You Love’, a series where I’ll be chatting with inspiring business owners and creatives from all over the world, sharing their insights with you on what makes them tick and lessons they’ve learnt (usually the hard way) along the way.

As an intro, I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on the matter of doing what you love, bearing in mind that a. I’m probably  at the beginning of a very long journey and have probably only learnt 1/6204794th of the lessons out there to learn b. regardless of what you do, work is work, and if it’s not hard/painful at times you’re probably not doing it right. As a bit of background, up until last year I worked as a Town Planner, and had done for 5 years since studying Town Planning at university. It was a profession I enjoyed (most of the time) but in many ways I often felt I was missing out on something a little more creative. I had always shied away from working in fashion because it felt quite foreign to me (I loved clothes and craft but didn’t know a thing about ‘fashun’), and the only (pre-internet) options appeared to be being a designer/magazine writer or stylist. I guess that’s probably why I started this blog, as a fun outlet where I could channel some of my interests in DIY and my own take on fashion. And yes I never knew it could be anything at all let alone a career (if that’s what you even call the pile of emails and rhinestones that is my day to day), but honestly getting started was the biggest hurdle and most important part. Here are a few thoughts!

Just start: When it comes to doing what you love, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be getting some enjoyment out of it (and maybe even making a living off it!). I’ve met lots of people who aspire to do something different but are paralysed by the thought of starting. Maybe they don’t know where to begin or it seems like a giant mountain to climb, but as my mum always says ‘the first five minutes are the worst’. As true for your new career as it is for Monday’s spin class.

– Start small: Scared to begin? Seriously, you’re not alone. When in doubt, just take it slowly. Every little step takes you that much closer to doing what you love. And relax in the fact that you don’t have to know everything about what you’re doing in that first step – things evolve over time so just put your oar in and start paddling!

Don’t be afraid to fail: Nobody likes to fail, right? On the same token nobody likes to put themselves in a position where they could fail, particularly if there is any chance people might find out they failed  (we’re shallow and socially aware creatures). But (and sorry to sound like every Pinterest quote board ever) if you live your life afraid of failing you’ll never do anything. So just begin! And when given a chance, think carefully before you decide not to take it. I lost loads of sleep trying to decide whether to write a book or not, it meant having to take time off my work and leave the comfort and security of my profession. And yes there are things I would probably do differently next time (writing a book in three months was one of the most intense experiences of my life) but as just about everybody says – anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And if I had given up that chance I would spend forever wondering, which would, like, totally suck.

The adorable Geneva Vanderzeil, the author of the DIY blog, A Pair & A Spare

The adorable Geneva Vanderzeil, the author of the DIY blog, A Pair & A Spare

Lower your expectations: I know some of you may think this is counter productive, but honestly, shit takes time. It really does. Unless you’re one of those 0.001% of people that are overnight successes, chances are you’ll have to work hard for a long time (or at least a while) before you’ll start feeling good at it. This is part of the journey. As an example, for the first year of writing my blog every day I think like 30 people were reading it, and chances are that was just the combined page views of myself and my housemate who worked in an equally uninspiring job. If I had super high expectations I probably would have been put off, but luckily I took it day by day and celebrated each small success as it came (or didn’t). Have high expectations for what you you produce rather than your success, knowing that it will come in time (oh, and don’t forget to market yourself! But more on that next time…).

– Don’t analyze your success: The internet has made it so much easier for the little guy to reach out to their niche and market (who knew there was a world full of DIY addicts – yay for the internet!), but is has also made it possible to compare where you’re at and how well you are doing at all times. Coming from experience, comparisons (while sometimes useful for helping you lift your game) can make you depressed and stunt your creativity (i.e. make you want to get under the covers and stay there). The sooner you stop analyzing how you the measure up, the better you’ll feel. To get through any tendencies I have to compare (we all have them!), I focus on collaborating with others, if you think about things in a collaborative way you can begin to see everyone’s success as your own. Just a thought!

Prepare to multitask: My last thought would be, in your quest for doing what you love, be prepared to do lots of things to supplement your income, whether it be staying in your day job and juggling the demands of a side project, or doing projects you don’t love in order to pay the bills. Above all else, girls gotta eat. Oh and one more thing, doing what you love is often harder than doing something you’re used to, but pays off a million times. You’ve been warned!”

For more from Geneva, visit apairandasparediy.com.

Learning to Respect Others

When you disarm people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence.” -Machiavelli

In my last 20Something post, I wrote about volunteering and the lack of other’s community service I’ve seen recently. Maybe it my high hopes that I could inspire people’s thoughts to rise above and voices to speak up; everyone gathering in mass herds to the nearest non-profit to fill up volunteers sign-up sheets and commit to their written word. Ha, Andrea. That didn’t happen. I do salute you readers that go out and spend your free time volunteering (you really are making your small corner of the world a better place). A part of me wants to scream at everyone sitting at home, bored in front of their television or their gaming console. But then again, why should I give a fuck? Maybe I just need to be apathetic about people.

A few nights ago, I was hanging out with a friend and he introduced me to, “the Wire.” The only thing I knew about it was it’s President Obama’s favorite television program (and I can see why. I’m only half a season in but I’m in complete awe with the acting and subject matter). I watched a couple of episodes, in which one, a cop was trying to influence a drug mule to come clean in exchange for court-order protection. The deal sounded brilliant and if I was that character, experiencing the same situation, I would have taken it.

After watching that dialogue, I started thinking about trying to convince people with conflicting views to change their opinion. I’m stubborn, more than stubborn- and when I’m being criticized, I become defensive and put up my fists to block blows to my face. I’m sure others are the same- no one wants to hear that they are being lazy or heartless. I realized that these commands I was writing, these “suggestions” I was pushing, just made me sound like a whiny bitch. Sure, it’s my blog and I can write about whatever the hell I want to but still. People have to want to change. Sure, I can encourage people all I want but my words and actions can only do so much. You can lead a horse to the water bucket but you can’t make him drink out of it. So then, I wonder if it meaningful to write, to try to inspire, after all.

Everyone is entitled to their own options, their own actions, their own lifestyles. I need to learn to respect that. The judgments I made upon others are there, strong and true. I maybe be hinting at people’s mistakes indirectly but these faults I find in others just reflect in the negative ones I find in myself. The only thing I can do is just being the best person I can be and wish for the best in others and for them to only do good.