A Conversation with Clarissa

I met Clarissa on my first day of college. 11 years ago, we sat together in Deidre Pike’s Journalism 101 class, trying to peer over other’s heads. Over the last decade, we’ve seen each other through major life milestones and personal victories: writing for our college paper, trying to come up with witty jokes for UNR’s first (and last) semester of “The Daily Show,” first boyfriends and difficult break ups, spontaneous dance parties by the river, moving across country to New York City, getting lost together in Brooklyn on route to the Botanical Gardens…
I believe that everyone needs someone like Clarissa in their life. She has been that one friend who always keeps it real with me and tells it to me straight. She knows when I’m being a dumbass and keeps me in check. Last week, we had good chat over Gmail. I wasn’t having the best day- I was feeling rather depressed- and Clarissa talked me through it, giving me the “tough it out, you got this” advice I needed. Below was a snippet of our conversation- I’m keeping it on file to read when I get stressed about turning 30… Do you, dear reader, have a friend like this?
Clarissa: …Better to have that busyness than not.
Andrea: Is it sad if I say I just want to lay in bed all day and watch “Dexter?”
Clarissa: Not really sad but I think you might be trying to hide from something and you might be depressed…
Andrea: That is true.
Clarissa: So, it is not sad but you might be sad.
Andrea: Both. I don’t want to be an adult.
 Clarissa: Oh really, why not? Why do you think that?
Andrea: I’m just tired of trying to the best thing and the right thing all the time…
Clarissa: Yeah, it’s an uphill battle being on your own but it does sound as if you’re putting unnecessary pressures on yourself. Your idea of being an adult doesn’t have to be a checklist of milestones from society’s standards. You can do what you want – that’s also being an adult. And you can also make sure you have fun, too.
Andrea: I don’t have a lot of fun. My fun is sleeping…
Clarissa: I think you need to take some time out for yourself -you know – go grab a cup of coffee for 15. It’s tough right now but I think you’re doing the things that will lead to greater happiness in the end.
Andrea: It’s not even that things are tough. My life isn’t particularly difficult right now. I’m just feeling lazy. Plus, I keep on thinking about all this other stuff I want to be doing with my time…
Clarissa: So you’re preoccupied with not experiencing something that isn’t even happening… and it’s bumming you out? I mean, I see that. But, you can’t focus on what’s NOT happening. You’ll drive yourself crazy – miserable – you got to enjoy what’s happening NOW and then make sure you are taking steps to get to that point later. External factors won’t really get you motivated – or happy – just internal ones because you control the internal.
Andrea: I just feel like being so close 30 without accomplishing much is such a let down.
Clarissa: Yeah, well, just get up and realize that the worst thing you can do right now is make yourself unhappy for something that’s not about to change. It is what it is, so fuck it – just get over yourself and see that you have another few decades to get what you want.
Andrea: You don’t think 30 feels/seems too old?
Clarissa: Um, of course I do but I’m not going to get myself all upset about it. Shit happened. I didn’t quite get what I wanted, oh well, try again.. took me a while to figure out that it’s only me that’s making me upset – not everybody else. Plus, we’re not 30 YET. Put on some happy music. And stop watching “Dexter.”

Birthday Blues… and the Dude

Remember when you were a kid and you thought your birthday was the best day on the planet? It was filled with candles and presents and special treatment. Well, birthdays can suck it. I don’t want to turn 29- I really don’t. Birthdays are the sad reminder that I haven’t accomplished much. I haven’t graduated from college. Still don’t know how to drive. I thought I’d be married by now, or have at least made some poor romantic choices and would be running after a kid now.

I get that everyone has their own path to follow and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others’ journeys. But I know I have strayed on my path, not taking opportunities I should have and being completely lazy about others. I regret a lot of things in my short life and I’m finding that the older I get, the harder it is to find change and be gifted with such opportunities, like driving lessons and advances in my career.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my boyfriend and some friends to watch “The Big Lebowski.” I fell asleep within the first twenty minutes. This week, I’m nursing a cold and wanted something a little slow to watch to help me fall asleep. I ended up putting “Lebowski” but I stayed up, watching the entire film. If you’re not familiar with the movie, Jeff Bridges stars as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a simple but cool-headed man who finds himself in the middle of a scandal. My fellow swears by “the Dude,” and his easygoingness. This guy is the epitome of keep calm and carry on. He is just happy to hang out in his slippers, while drinking his White Russians. The Dude abides– The Dude will take it easy. The Dude lives on.

While I’m not a fan of vodka and cream, I really admire The Dude and his attitude towards life. Last night, I thought about how The Dude would feel about turning 29… He would probably shrugged and help himself to another alcoholic beverage. He would tell himself that you still have time to accomplish things, whether its getting a license, graduating from school, becoming an editor or a mom or a professional bowler…

Bring it on, 29. Bring it on.

You Got the Love

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Named after Saint Valentine of Rome who was imprisoned for performing weddings for Christian soldiers in the Roman Empire, February celebrates all things mushy and gushy- true feelings of the heart.

Before you get all “Valentine’s Day sucks- it’s just Singles Awareness Day,” a day created by Hallmark and the candy companies; I want to remind you that you are loved. For a long time- even if I was in a relationship- V-Day was just blah to me. I didn’t understand why there was only one day a year we go out of our ways to express our love for someone. There was always this pressure to be perfect on V-Day, to give the perfect gift or have the perfect date planned out (and with being a perfectionist, everything needed to go right or else). If you’re with someone who loves you, why go through the excess stress? I now understand why.

As a media junkie, I watch/listen to the news every day. I hear about shootings, sick babies and other sadness. Last night as I walked to dinner, I walked by a group of homeless men, asking for handout. These things hurt my heart. I try to fill this balance of bad things vs good things with special moments between my friends and my boyfriend, making them smile. I know that I have a lot of love to share and Valentine’s Day is that universally-recognized day to share that love. If there is any day a year, I drop my anger and hate for a person and try my hardest to treat them well. I remind them all that they are loved and cherished. Sure, I should live by that mindset always but there is something about Valentine’s Day that especially brings it out of me. Whether that love is from your family, your significant other, your friends, your cat, YOURSELF – I want you recognize that you are lovable and that you’re worthy of love. You got the love.

Sending lots of love to you, dear reader- have a great Valentine’s day.

My Health and Taking Action

Health? What is that?

I weigh 185 pounds. I’m overweight, I know. I don’t have the healthiest eating habits. I have a gym membership but I only go once a week to work out with my trainer. Sure, I think about going and hitting the treadmill all the time but by the time I get off work, I’m exhausted and want to sleep. I take vitamins but I admittedly eat my feelings, especially when I’m bored. I do bike around but not that often. Yesterday morning, I found out that I need several cavities filled and a root canal. That’s because I don’t floss. Not flossing means an extra three minutes snuggling under covers. Eating and dining are my third favorite activity  to do with my boyfriend. I gained a lot of weight since dating Steve- almost 20 pounds. I choose to eat like him; Steve is 6’3. I’m a foot shorter than him but I chose to consume as much food as he does. I avoid healthy options (I really don’t like vegetables). I think about loading up my plate with more asparagus but instead, I grab another slice of bread with lots of butter.

I know that I don’t take care of myself. For me, good health means not getting sick (which I don’t get often) and making sure my face is zit-free (and has been for a while). It’s easy to be lazy even if it means the death of my teeth. I know the steps I have to take in order to live a healthier life. I just choose not to take them. Why, I asked myself. Do you not care about your future? Your body? Not about the things you can’t see?

Change is about make the right decisions. Flossing in the morning. Choosing healthier things to eat. Saying “no” when I’m not hungry. Hitting up the gym more. Now that I have insurance, I should go to the doctor more often and get checked out. Change is also about holding yourself accountable. I’m not sure who will read this blog post but I’m announcing to the world about my change. I haven’t decided my final goals (especially when it comes to weight loss) but I’m ready to start taking care of myself. I’m ready to be healthy.

Change happens slowly but it does happen. What do you do to motivate yourself, dear reader, and what are your health tips and goals?

We both got this, SpongeBob! Keep it up!


When Things are Crappy…

This is me- yup, I eat while I sob.

Today was one of those days. I woke up feeling like garbage, falling off the wrong side of the bed.  After a morning staff meeting, I became overwhelmed with all the things I have to accomplish in a short amount of time. A weekend at the lake I was really looking forward to was canceled. I embarrassed myself in class later in the afternoon and after a chat with my advisor and even though I’m in my last class of my college career, my GPA isn’t high enough to graduate this Spring and won’t be unless I ace an additional two classes.

I have a lot of days like today, days that feel like the world is ending even though I know it isn’t. My depression and anxiety intensify everything and I will admit- most things in life get me down. But then I remember that I’m just having a moment. I give myself a few minutes to cry (and call my mom) and I pick myself back up. I remind myself that I’m okay and then, try to come up with solutions or tasks that make me feel better- how do I flip that switch?

So… Today was one of those days. I woke up feeling like garbage, falling off the wrong side of the bed. But I still got ready for the day. I curled my hair, giving it cute beach waves and felt pretty. After a morning staff meeting, I became overwhelmed with all the things I have to accomplish in a short amount of time. I took a deep breath, cranked up some Becky G and got to work, pumping myself up with thoughts of accomplishment. A weekend at the lake I was really looking forward to was canceled. Now, I have more time for myself. I’m going to make myself a lasagna and curl up in bed with lots of  blankets and the fourth season of “Buffy.” I embarrassed myself in class later in the afternoon and after a chat with my advisor and even though I’m in my last class of my college career, my GPA isn’t high enough to graduate this spring and won’t be unless I ace an additional two classes. I made an appointment with the General Studies advisor about switching my major/degree so I can graduate with a GS degree in May (not every big editor has a journalism degree). And I’m going to end this shitty day on a high note- I’m going to go to the  gym to kickbox my problems away (yay endorphins!) and grab Pho for dinner with a good friend. And then, I’ll shake it out to Pharrell in the comfort of my bedroom… sans pants.

I hope YOU had a good day, dear reader… And remembered to boogie.

Things sometimes suck- you just have to dance it out!

Things sometimes suck- you just have to dance it out!

Girlfriends, Husbands, BFFs, Whatever… Relationships and Important Questions

My handsome Steve and I

My handsome Steve and I

I’m going to brag for a moment: I have the best boyfriend in the world. While others may disagree, my fellow is a multifaceted, all-encompassing hunk, filled with kindness, adventure, hilarious jokes and intellect. I am incredibly lucky and grateful to have him in my life, not just for his delightful company but because he teaches me a lot of things. Not only have I learned a lot of Black culture from Steve, I also learned more about my feelings and how to connect them with being not just a better girlfriend, but being a better person. We work together as a team and we communicate well with each other.

Last week, I made this list of things I wanted to talk about with him. It was a list of questions that was eating at me for a while and it asked the both of us questions I believe every couple needs to think about every couple of month. Think of this as a kind of check up list. The questions will all have different answers per person, of course, but it’s a good tool to have. It doesn’t matter if you have the “perfect” relationship- these questions and answers matter. Even good things could be better.

Ask your partner and yourself…

1) What do you need in our relationship? A person’s needs are constantly changing and its important to recognize them in each and every state. These needs can range from spending enough time together to adding some fun into the mix. Its important to address them every once in a while.

2) Am I giving you what you need? With those needs, if your partner isn’t giving the things you want, speak up! A good relationship is a little bit of give, a little bit of take. It’s all about the compromise and negotiation. Be willing to work through the tough stuff (a positive attitude helps here- no hard feelings). If you need time alone, say that you do and come up with a better day to hang out. Just make sure to support and respect all decisions made.

3) What feelings and concerns do you have? I have to admit- my relationships are usually the Andrea Show, where I’m the star and no else is. I’m still learning that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that other’s feelings get hurt all the time. So with Steve, I’m asking myself more what he feels. I try my best to listen and respond appropriately. I also take a look at my own feelings and concerns and address them. I do still feel awkward talking about certain things with Steve but I know that I’m being heard and feel better after we chat.

4) Are you truly happy with me? I read an interview with Channing Tatum and how he and his wife developed a number system to measure the happiness in their marriage. They rate their happiness on a 1-to10 scale, with one being horrible and sad and 10 being perfectly blissful. They ask each other during random times what their happiness number is and when things dip below good, they work on it. I think happiness is one of the most important characteristics of a good relationship- duh, of course you want to have and be a happy partner. So, if one of you isn’t happy, what can you do to make things better? Remember, happiness is the key and is the thing both of you deserve.

A Slice of Courage: StoryCorps

I couldn’t get through work without NPR podcasts and one of my favorites to listen to is StoryCorps. StoryCorps collects personal accounts of those who highlight certain events and people in their lives- a man fondly recollected on how he met his father for the first time; other about how he was robbed and then took his attacker out to dinner. The website started in 2003 and has collected over 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. The stories are archived in the Library of Congress and are shared all over the globe.

I once heard that stories made up the universe, not atoms and molecules. Without the tales we share, we don’t have much. Stories are how we pass down history and learn lessons. Those told in StoryCorps inspire us, make us cry and give us something to cheer on.

What’s your story, dear reader?

Loving Your Body Just the Way It Is

Since the middle of last year, I’ve been hitting the gym. It has taken a long time to like that I see in the mirror but I’m just about there. So when I was asked why I go to the gym so often, I say that I just want to be stronger. No need to tone- I like being curvy with soft hips. It’d just be cool to lift really heavy stuff with ease, like a 200 barbell.

Even though I feel better about my body and self image every day, I still get down on myself sometimes for not looking “ideal.” In trying to morph this negative thinking into something positive, I’ve been reading other women’s tips on how to reverse their thoughts. Spark People asked a group of women of all shapes and ages, ”What is one body part you can feel grateful for, love and appreciate, no matter what size and shape it is right now, and why?” This got me thinking about appreciation rather obessession. What if we were thankful for what we have rather than obsessed over what we wanted and didn’t have. Below are some comments from Sparks People women about what they love most about their bodies…

1. ”I love my legs because although they don’t look like anything special, they carry me through my days without fail.”

2. ”I love my smile. People tell me I light up a room with it, and it makes others feel welcome and cared for.”

3. “I love and am grateful for my ears because they allow me to enjoy my greatest passion, which is music and sound!”

4. “I love my stomach. It kept my twin babies warm and secure until they were ready to enter this world.”

5. ”I love my arms. Even at 65 years old, I still wear sleeveless shirts without feeling self-conscious.”

As for me, I’m particularity fond of my nose (it looks especially cute with a stud it in) and smile (I finally like my jagged rows of teeth), my breasts (because boobs are just AWESOME) and fingers (they allow me to type and grip my bicycle handlebars), and my small waist (Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote a song about me) and muscular calves (even though I can’t fit them into tall boots, my legs look damn good in heels and low top Chuck Taylors). I know I don’t look perfect but hey, I’m healthy and pretty happy. And that’s something to be grateful for.

What do you love about your body, dear reader, and how to you celebrate it?

What is YOUR Dawn Wall?

A few couple days ago, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed what some say is the most difficult climb in the world. They were the first people to free climb the 3,000 feet Dawn Wall, a side of the El Capitan monolith in Yosemite National Park (free climbing is when one uses only their hands and feet to pull themselves up. Ropes are only used to break a fall). The climb took three weeks and the men’s hands were worn and bloody as they clung on the stone. But when they reached the top, their families and the feeling of accomplishment were there waiting for them- what a reward.

Their climb got me thinking about the things I’m climbing over in my life. What is my Dawn Wall? With the start of school this week, my schedule is going to be overloaded with commitments. I freak out when I have more than a lot to do and I usually set important things like studying aside, until the last minute. So, how am I going to conquer this challenge? I don’t need shoes and climbing powder- I just need a planner and patience. I look at last semester and how much I dreaded studying and how I rather hang out with friends instead. This time, I’m holding myself accountable and letting everyone know it- everyone said it was fine if they saw me less this semester (plus, it helps that most of my friends are taking classes, too). I’m blocking out time to studying during the week and am leaving my weekends for fun. And I will be letting that feeling of accomplishment be my motivation- that and maybe some graduation presents in May (hint, hint).

What is your Dawn Wall, dear reader? What difficulties do you need to climb and how will you conquer them?

Hate and Free Speech

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

On Wednesday, gunmen entered the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and shot 12 dead. Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed. Paris and the rest of the world are shocked and in mourning. The journalism community is completely flabbergasted- yes, plenty of newspapers and magazines have received death threats before but no one has stormed into a publication office with guns, killing people who are only expressing their right to free speech.

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A little less than a month ago, the film company, Sony, pulled the theatrical release of its movie, “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a television crew assigned to kill the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. After the North Korean government threatened theatre goers who watched the film and hacked the movie company, Sony made the pull. Fans roared. Hollywood tweeted (my favorite tweet was written by Steve Carrell: Sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul). Sony released the movie anyway, on YouTube (I paid for it and watched it- the movie is hilarious. That James Franco…), and has reported that it has nearly made all its money back (good job, Sony).

By Dave Brown, The Independent

By Dave Brown, The Independent

We, Americans (as well as the French), have the right of free speech. But what happened when that right is threatened? Are we supposed to keep our mouths closed? Online today, I’ve seen cartoonists from all over the world pay their respects to the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It’s comforting to see people who are giving their middle finger to the gunman- they are doing what they love to do and they’re not letting the negative bring them down. I hope that more cartoonists contribute their respects to Charlie Hebdo and the gunman will see that their hate is counteracted with messages of love and recognition.

Long live to Charlie Hebdo and I look forward to reading you in the future.