#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?

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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?

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.

30 Things Every Woman Should Know by her 30th Birthday

With the new year quickly approaching, I can’t help but think about 2015 and all the great things it will bring. I’ll turn 29 and I hope that the last year of my twenties will bring nothing but excitement and joy. I know that some hardships will be on the horizon (each year, my body acts more and more like it wants me dead) but I’m thrilled about my 30s. From what I hear, the 30s are the best time of one’s life- you finally know who you are and life finally sets into place.

I read Glamour magazine often (especially when Lupita Nyong’o is on the cover) and came across this list of thirty things every woman should know by her 30th birthday. I read over the list and thought it through- despite this being a list for a straight woman in her 30s, I think this list could apply to everyone (fellows included, minus the black lacy bra, unless you’re into that kind of thing. No judgement here)…

By 30, you should have:

  1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come (Andrea’s noteoh man, I have several of the later…)
  2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family
  3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour
  4. A purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying
  5. A youth you’re content to move beyond
  6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age. (Andrea’s note: I can’t wait to tell my future grandchild all the stories of Granny Andi living it up in New York City)
  7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it. (Andrea’s note: Hello 401K! Seriously, if you haven’t set one up, do it NOW!)
  8. An e-mail address, a voice mailbox and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you
  9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded (Andrea’s note: Hell yes- because I’m a bad, hard-working bitch)
  10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry
  11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra (Andrea’s note: I DO! I DO! I do have all of those things!)
  12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it
  13. The belief that you deserve it
  14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30
  15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship and all those other facets of life that do get better

By 30, you should know:

  1. How to fall in love without losing yourself (Andrea’s note: it took a while but I know how to now… finally)
  2. How you feel about having kids
  3. How to quit a job, break up with a man and confront a friend without ruining the friendship
  4. When to try harder and when to walk away
  5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next
  6. The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town (Andrea’s note: This is the only one I’m iffy on- sorry, Mom and Dad… I don’t know your grandmas’ names. But I do know of a good tailor in Reno!)
  7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to
  8. How to take control of your own birthday (Andrea’s note: All I need is tequila and chocolate cake)
  9. That you can’t change the length of your calves, the width of your hips or the nature of your parents
  10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over (Andrea’s note: Thank you, Jesus)
  11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love
  12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long
  13. Who you can trust, who you can’t and why you shouldn’t take it personally
  14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault
  15. Why they say life begins at 30 (Andrea’s note: I CAN’T WAIT!)

Unplugged

I did it. I deactivated my Facebook page for three days. Yes, it is a small feat but I’m still incredibly proud of myself.  I am a child of social media. Sad to say, it’s one of my best friends. I visit Facebook more than my friends. I’m more involved in the conversations found on Reddit than I am with the ones people around me are having. It was about time that I quit, if even just for a moment. After a particular rough Monday, I unplugged from Facebook, deleted my Tumblr account, put a block on Reddit and fell asleep, not reading status updates but a book. My week consisted of lots of reading, especially when it came to homework. I worked on my Christmas cards, went running out in the rain and took proper care of my (still, unfortunately) infected eye. At work, I seemed more focused, getting more tasks done. In all seriousness, I can get use to not having social media in my life.

But at the same time, social media is great and I won’t lie- I missed Facebook a little bit. I wasn’t able to connect with different groups and people who I don’t have phone numbers for. I get more readers to this blog by posting on social media. I love Facebook for the event invites and the trending topics (it was from Facebook where I learned about all the Ferguson protesting). I know that my mom loves seeing photos of me on FB. It’s beneficial to have, yet I felt such joy being away from it for a bit.

I know that parting with social media won’t end all the problems in the world nor all the ones in my life. I have to admit that not looking at Facebook made me a bit happier-I didn’t feel the need to one up on everything nor compare myself to any other person (yes, I am that person who suffers from social media jealous despite knowing that most people post their highlight reel and hide their severe drama). Plus, I so was productive! Now, my dilemma: to keep Facebook or delete it for good?

I think the thing to do is limit yourself. It’s like ice cream- you maybe want the entire carton but you only dish yourself out a small serving- it’s healthier for you that way. I can be on Facebook/Reddit/whatever site during my breaks at work but once I get home and on the weekends, it’s all about my world and what I’m experiencing in the present. I don’t like to ruin key, beautiful moments by stopping to take a picture- I need to treat my social media the same way. I don’t need to disturb me time (especially since I get so little of it) by checking a status update.

So, dear reader, what are your thought on social media (Facebook, to be exact)? How do you balance your use of social media?

Disappointed…

I don’t like writing about race. It’s my least favorite subject to write about and honestly, it’s something that I try to ignore every day despite what I see when I look in the mirror. With my mixed background and my recently dyed hair, I’ve had some people come up and ask me what ethnicity I am- it’s easy to lie and hide, telling them that I’m not this. At the same time, I can be bundled up, riding my bike to school and someone in a passing by car shouts out “hey, nigger” from their window- that person knows my truth. Race is unfortunately a part of my life- as well as many other lives.

I didn’t want to write about the events from last night- Darren Wilson, the white officer many accused with the killing of the unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was not indicted with any criminal charges. A St. Louis County grand jury, consisting of nine whites and three blacks individuals, made the decision last night, stating there was little evidence to press charges on the officer. This announcement sparked outcry all across the United States, with protests springing up in nearly every major city– including my own. If people in my city are upsetting, crying out about this, how could I not write about this and not let my own voice be heard?

I didn’t hear the announcement until a few hours later. My heart sank in disappointment and but in all actuality, I wasn’t surprised. It is not the first time a man was able to walk away. I don’t know much about our justice system other than what I learned about in school. I never served on a jury and I never studied a murder case before. But I still question the jury’s decision and wonder if any form of justice will ever be held. At the end of the day, a man was killed.

Last night as we drove home from dinner, my boyfriend and I talked about the rioting and looting in Missouri after the verdict was announced. I explained to him that I don’t necessarily support the rioting but I understand and sympathize with the reason why the people in Ferguson are doing so. Martin Luther King, Jr. said moments before his assassination, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” As disheartening it is to admit, sometimes one needs to see and experience violence in order to change. Yes, change can happen without guns and bullets and fire starters but in the end, years from now, will we remember the peaceful protests or the vandalism? After the fires smolder out and those who were arrested last night are freed, I wonder if the protestors will look at what they did and plan on doing something better- perhaps running for a position in their local government where they will be able to make a lasting change to their community.

One of the things I keep thinking about is how this will affect the future of Black America. My boyfriend and I talk about one day, adopting a family. I want to adopt sons- growing up in a house filled with sisters, I wanted sons since the moment I decided that I wanted kids. I can imagine a beautiful little boy- my son- with dark smooth skin holding my hand at the market. I don’t want that child to be afraid– to be afraid that people who are supposed to serve and protect him will end up hurting him; to be afraid of being accused doing something negative and violent just because he looks a certain way; to be afraid of being stopped for no reason. No child should grow up afraid. No one should walk out of their house afraid, terrified of words and other’s wrong actions.

As I look to the future, I hope… I hope that we can all learn what happened and make some serious change. I hope people will hold themselves accountable for their actions, both right and wrong, instead of hiding in the shadows or proudly boasting about it. I hope those who deserve both justice and punishment receive it. I hope more people will respond to their government politics and vote for those who actually represent them and their beliefs, so that everyone’s voice could be heard. I hope that people won’t turn a blind eye and an ignorant heart watching an event in a place that’s not in their backyard. I hope that people will start respecting each other regardless of their profession and their race.

One can hope…

A Slice of Courage: Amy Poehler

Do you ever see a woman out on the street or on the television and wish that she was your best friend? I feel this way about Amy Poehler. With my lady crush aside, Poehler is someone I wish that I could be- not for her celebrity, but her humor, confidence and (okay) her platinum blond hair. I loved watching her on “SNL” and on her current show, “Parks and Recreation,” and I frequently visit her website, Smart Girls, where Amy and her famous friends (like my other lady crush, Tina Fey) present inspiring stories and advice to young women.

If you look at my computer, you’ll notice my rotating desktop is dedicated to Ms. Poehler. During the times I need a pick-me-up or the motivation to keep going, I look at her quotes floating around on my screen and imagine that she is sitting next to me, sharing her guidance. Below are some of my favorite things she said- maybe they will become your favorites, too…

 quotes-all-day-13-11-0653

When the world feels tough and cold, I sit down for a moment and think of something that recently made me laugh- sometimes, it’s Poehler’s work. That good memory allows me to get back on my feet and keep moving. I throw my fist up in the air, woo hoo to myself and think, yeah, Amy would totally approve.

(And Santa, I would really like her autobiography for Christmas. Thanks.)

Dear reader- who is your role model? Who are you looking up to today? 

Nobody is Coming

I hate it when people tell me to snap out of it. When deep in a depression cavity, it’s the last thing I want to do. It feels like the hardest thing to do. But lately, I’ve been thinking that snapping out of it is the best thing to do.
 
Nobody is coming. This thought has snapped at me.
 
Young girls grow up on fairy tales of beautiful princesses waiting for their prince charmings as they clean houses and chat up with dwarves. Life isn’t like that. You can look for the next big thing that will fix you. A person with severely good looks and a shoulder to cry on. Books and blogs posts (including my own). Money and wealth. A job. A new city. Yes, some articles, books, products and people will give you support and insights that resonate deeply with you and that you can put into practice. But in the end, you are it.
 
No one is coming. No one is coming to save you. Nothing will save you but YOURSELF. You have to take responsibility for your own life and what happens in it. Other things and people can certainly aid you quite a bit. But you are responsible.
 
You can go around blaming society or certain people for your problems in your social life. Or your finances. Or your health. You can always find scapegoats to judge to feel better about yourself. You can look for people that will “fix you.” You can do this for the rest of your life if you like. It won’t change much and life will continue to suck. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result. Are you a insane- mostly likely you’re not. Whatever has to be done, it’s you who have to take responsibility and do it.
 
Things might always not go your way. You’ll fall and stumble and you will probably have bad luck from time to time (perhaps all the time- that does happen). You will see that life is easier for some other people- and you will hate that it is. You just have to focus on yourself and keep that focus on doing what you can do with what you have in whatever situation you’re in. Life is about living; enduring stressful times and appreciating the great times is all a part of it. It’s about the ups and downs. Otherwise, it’d be flat and you’d be dead.
 
At the end of the day, you are the only person in charge of you and your happiness– not your parents nor your family; not your friends; not your boyfriend (no matter how adorable he may be). Snap back and try to live your life each day the best that you can.
 
Make today great, dear reader. Make life great.

Naked Thoughts

There was this debate online earlier last week about sex and murder. Maroon 5 came out with a music video for their latest song, “Animal.” In the video, the band’s leader singer stalks a young woman and ominously spies on her during intimate moments. The film ended in a blood bath… literally- the couple has a bucket of blood poured over them. I watched the video (thinking it was similar to another video I once had on rotation) and read some of the comments below. One person started a thread of how this particular video was better than another certain female rapper’s video. That got me thinking…

A New Scientist study says by the time the average U.S. child starts elementary school, they will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on TV. How is it that we’re okay with seeing blood and gore every night on television but we still freak out when a woman flashes a nipple or someone mentions the word, “penis?” Why are dance moves criticized more than bloody knife fights? Why is violence the norm and tolerable while sex is still considered taboo? I would think that our bodies would be natural to see on a screen than violence- the majority of the world has or will have sex (not to mention, we all have a sexual organ); only a handful of people commit violent, injurious crimes.

A little while ago, Olivia Wilde graced the pages of Glamour, breast feeding her infant son. The pictures were beautiful but caused a stir, with people questioning whether or not it’s appropriate for women to breastfeed their children in public. “Breastfeeding is the most natural thing,” Wilde told the magazine. If “the breast is the best,” why do people get in a tizzy when a mother pulls out her nipple to feed her hungry child?

I’ll be honest- the lyrics to Minaj’s “Anaconda” aren’t the best but I do love the video. As a woman who always worries about her size (especially as I just gained a pants size), it’s wonderful to see women shaking their rounded bottoms on screen. I love how Minaj celebrates her shape and is body positive. I hope other women watch the “Anaconda” video and will love their shapely butts, ample thighs, chubby bellies, anything and everything. That celebration is what I rather see on television. Leave the guts and gore to the cheesy B-horror movies and the world news.

 

 

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Shut Your Damn Mouth

A few years ago, I got my septum pierced and it quickly became my favorite piercing. I felt this beautiful/bad-ass combo feeling, something I never felt before and I wore the ring in my nose proudly. Some former friends decided to speak their mind about my new look. But instead addressing their “concerns” to my face, they hid behind their computer screen. They sent me messages on Facebook, saying that my septum ring looked hideous- one friend said that I looked like a bull. Needless to say, I was crushed and stopped talking to these people.

I was taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Saying mean things are just mean. I carried this belief with me throughout my adulthood- most of the time, I find it’s easy to stay quiet. Sure, if someone severely pisses me off, I will let them know. If I’m talking with someone about another’s appearance or an opinion I disagree with, I leave the comment alone and shut up. For example, I don’t believe in god. Having many religious friends and family in my life isn’t a problem because I keep my opinions about religion and spirituality to myself. I don’t tell my friends that they’re “wrong” for believing in what they chose to believe in- I don’t diss praying (I know it just doesn’t work for me). I don’t hate on gospel music (musically, some songs are gorgeous). Even on Christmas, when I attend church with my friends, I participate despite my beliefs. Who am I to say that their beliefs are wrong? And vice-versa? I silently respect what they chose to believe in- and I expect them to respect me in the same way. No one is stupid for having a thought of their own.

After the SlutWalk this past weekend, I posted some photos of the event on Facebook. These were pictures I was extremely proud of- that event meant so much me as both the event organizer and a protestor trying to get her voice heard. Some pictures apparently struck a nerve with people and they left some pretty rude comments on some photos. Of course, I was hurt. If people respected my opinion and knew how much time and effort I put into the event, I think they wouldn’t have said anything so awful and nasty.

Before you tell me that I’m being too sensitive- shut it- I believe there is a lack of consideration and dignity in the world. We are cruel to each other. We constantly hear about the kids who are bullied every day, pick on for being different and thinking differently. Those comments on my SlutWalk pictures? They were typed by bullies­- cowards hiding behind their computer screens.

Can you imagine if all the online trolls and offline bullies decided to give up hating others? What would the world look like if they practiced tolerance instead? It’s all about respect and acceptance- you can’t control what others chose to believe so accept it and respect it. I remember vividly another life lesson my parents taught me- treat others how you want to be treated. So, keep your bitterness to yourself.

To me, it comes down to this: if I’m looking for your opinion, I will ask for it. Have some damn respect.