Category Archives: attitude

Letting Go: Building The Bridge to Moving On

Fire Island, NY

Fire Island, NY

Less than 12 months ago I wrote about moving on, leaving things behind to reach new horizons. I moved to Los Angeles in June, seduced by the promise of corporate success and the beautiful beaches of Malibu. But California turned out, for me, to be more allure than substance. Such is the art of seduction: an ebb and flow of unfulfilled desires. So, New York, here is your love letter: It’s been 10 months and I’m coming back home.

I don’t blame California for my bad experience out here. She was simply the stunning backdrop to my story of personal disappointment. It’s a timeless story, really: A person I trusted, someone I believed had my best interests at heart, let me down. It isn’t the first time someone or something has disappointed me, it’s just that the stakes were higher this time. My fiance and I put a lot on the line for a chance at success based on empty promises.

Yet if there’s one card I hate to play it’s the Victim. It’s a vulnerable state. A powerless condition. It requires admitting defeat and assuming a lack of control. The downside of holding onto this card, however, is internal criticism. It’s holding the gun in the wrong direction. So what are my options? I hold the gun to myself, I suffer. I hold the gun outward, I suffer.

In my armchair psychiatrist quest to find answers online, I came across a very interesting article from The Association of Psychological Science on the science of revenge. The piece explains the evolutionary benefits of anger and vengeful actions and it also reveals that when we get what we think we want — to see our transgressors suffer — we are dissatisfied. In fact, it’s the people who are able to let go, turn the other biblical cheek, who feel better. It’s quite a tall order, and one I’m not sure I can deliver on just yet. There’s a bridge that takes us from anger to forgiveness, which allows us to let go, but I can’t figure out how to build it.

I start with the bittersweet: Despite the exorbitant costs of moving back east, regardless that things did not go as expected or planned (isn’t that always the way?), I know in the long run I will cherish this experience, just as I’ve cherished loves lost. California is the one who got away, the one you weren’t with long enough to know what could have been, and so it will beat intensely in my memory; the “what ifs” always more powerful than the reality.

Next, the big picture: I’m happy to be going home to what and who I know. Logically it makes sense to replant my roots where I want to stay for the long haul. When all this stress is past us, we will look back on this year with fondness.*

*(Unless The Big One hits while we’re still here and/or we’re in desperate need for $10K now in the pockets of movers.) 

Next up, the painful: “And anytime you feel the pain/Hey Jude, refrain/Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders/For well you know it’s a fool who plays it cool/By making this world a little colder.” My feelings are hurt and they need to heal. Unfortunately, there is no Neosporin for infected emotions. I did the usual emotional eating, some smoking, some drinking, lots of venting, but the constant application of these salves does nothing for the cut; Pain killer, yes. Wound healer, no. I understand logically that forgiveness is healing, but what if your aggressor doesn’t ask for it? How are you to trade in anger for acceptance?

Next, the instructions for how to build: The Tiny Buddha recommends finding the lesson in any given situation. Accepting what happens in your life is easier when you find some meaning. The biggest lessons I’ve learned from my time in California:

1. Impulsivity has a price

2. I can survive without my family and friends nearby

3. Staying in touch with family and friends makes the world smaller and safer

4. I can make new friends anywhere

5. I can rely on my soon-to-be-husband for almost anything

6. I can grow to like people I once loathed

7. I can loathe people I once liked

8. Respecting the people I work with is immensely important to my well being

9. A person’s title and salary are not directly correlated to their intelligence or abilities

10. I don’t give myself enough credit

Ah, it’s number 10, that’s the cornerstone. I think many of us are guilty of this, which is why we take it so badly when someone hurts us or when we are disappointed. The person in question who hurt me did so by undermining and undervaluing me. For someone as deeply insecure as myself, that’s going for the jugular while chomping on the Achilles heel. Compound this with a natural tendency to find fault within myself when things don’t go according to plan.

With these truths exposed the building can begin. I know that I’m stronger than what life throws at me. I could play it safe and never take chances, never trust anyone, let my fears protect me, but that’s not the life I want. How do I know this?

Over 10 years ago, I went to Arizona with my dad and we had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. I really wanted to do it but my dad was too afraid. That’s when I made a decision I still regret. Though I could have taken that helicopter ride without him, I allowed his fears to become mine and I stayed on the ground. It seems to me today that taking the risk was worth the incredible experience in return. I vowed to myself after that incident to never again forgo experience for fear.

Had I listened only to my fears 10 months ago, I’d never learn the valuable lessons I came out here to learn. This is life. It’s both beautiful and nasty, cruel and merciful. And all of us are full of these same dualities found in nature. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

Californians fear earthquakes that threaten to strike at any given moment, but still they go about their lives keeping this knowledge at bay; there’s too much beauty to experience.

 

Someone's front door in Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, CA

 To see snapshots of our adventure, check out my tumblr page: A Year in LA.

 

 

 

 

 

On Bullying, Fat Kids, and Fighting Back: It Only Takes One

old school disney pic

Me around age 9 or 10, clearly not like other kids

Recently I was invited by Huffington Post Live to talk on the subject of overweight kids, having been one myself and written about it for Babble.

The word “overweight” is so delicate, clinical. It doesn’t even begin to describe the reality of a child who lives it. The better word is fat. It’s cruel, it’s mean, it’s in your face. You can hide behind overweight; you can’t escape fat.

It was easy for me to be on camera and talk about having been overweight as a kid because people looking at me now wouldn’t necessarily think I have a problem. I went on camera and smiled; I felt confident. But then there’s this picture with Mickey. I brought it to work to show my co-workers the same week. I posted it on Facebook. When presenting the photo, I felt insecure, scared, ready for the laughs. I knew what would happen when I shared the photo — the same thing that happened when I was a kid. This time no one physically beat me or called me names, but inside I became the scared little girl awaiting judgment; waiting to be rejected based on my looks, my size. I confronted the fear and the uncomfortable feelings because that’s how fear is mitigated. And for so many years of my life I felt ashamed of my “fat kid” pictures, never wanting to share them with friends or love interests. I was ashamed of myself for years because no matter the changes on the outside, inside I’ve always been the same person. That person does not change as rapidly.

“When I ask her if she likes how she looks now, if she’s proud of what she’s accomplished, she says yes…Even so, the person she used to be still weighs on her. Tears of pain fill her eyes as she reflects on her yearlong journey. “That’s still me,” she says of her former self. “I’m not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.” I protest that, indeed, she is different. At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past. A tear rolls down her beautiful cheek, past the glued-in feather. “Just because it’s in the past,” she says, “doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.””

This is an excerpt from a Vogue article about Dara-Lynn Weiss, who decided to put her 7-year-old on a diet and go public about it. Her memoir, The Heavy, came out in January, and she was also on the HuffPo Live panel with me. (Ironically I had already interviewed her for Babble about her experience with her daughter, which completely mirrored the situation between my mother and myself.

I empathize with Dara and Bea because my mother and I lived through the same thing, except without the glare of public criticism. I’m happy that we were given an outlet to talk about our experience. I’m proud that I shared this photo. I never fought back as a kid, so I’m doing it now. Plus, if I can’t embrace who I am, how can I expect the same of others?

Today I watched the documentary Bully and want to quote a girl named Kelby who refuses to leave her small town despite the threats and attacks made upon her for being a lesbian:

“All it takes is for one person to stand up. You’re not just standing up for you , you’re standing up for all the kids who go through this every single day.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 12.05.59 PM

Who Moved My Cheese?

who moved my cheese book cover I’ve never read the damn book but it poses an important question: Who the fuck moved my shit? My “shit” is not cheese, but it is a solid reason to get out of bed in the morning–job security, relationships, skinny jeans.

Anyone who told me my thirties are going to be the best years of my life deserves to be punched in the face. The day I turned 30, I went into a deep depressive state where the only thing that gave me solace was sitting on my bathroom floor listening to Billy Joel’s “Captain Jack” and “Allentown” on repeat. From there, I went on to break up with my boyfriend of two years–the one I thought was the one (we named our future children for christ’s sake)–and go back out into the dating world, which today consists of being “matched” by a computer with men by the names of Aruyn and LoveBoat69 and heights ranging from 5’4″ to 5’8″. I was 5’4″ in third grade!

But all of this was ok. Equipped with 50 milligrams of Prozac and a job that I loved going to each day, I was treading like an Olympian in the unknown tides of 30. I was so proud of myself (and thankful for a doc who realized after 30 minutes of meeting with me that my dosage needed to be upped); I was feeling happy despite the loss of a long-term relationship.  And then like Lot, who unlike me believed in a loving God, the universe decided to strike again. My boss at my beloved job decided to leave to pursue her next chapter. One loss is doable, but two? Is this supposed to make me believe in a loving God or in a god at all? Is Ashton Kutcher going to come out and say “you’ve been punked!”?

The one religion I’ve always been able to get down with is Buddhism and there’s a passage that always helps me get through transitional periods in my life: It’s about a man who uses a raft to cross a river–the foolish man carries the raft with him wherever he goes in case he needs to use it again. The wise man appreciates that the raft got him across the river but leaves it behind so as not to be burdened with it. After all, who says the same raft can get you across another river? I’m trying to use that quote right now but it’s not working. When change is sudden and unexpected it lets the air out of your tires. I’m driving around at half the speed I was a week ago. How do I fix that? I need more shit!

If I’m going to lose things like a boyfriend, a good boss, and jeans that I fit into, then I need to gain other things, good things. Right now I just feel like I’m being toyed with–just how much can I get through and still keep my head above water, stay away from the bottom?

I compare taking meds to being buoyed; I can see the beautiful sunny sky above and I can see the cold, dark depth below and stay in the middle of both. What I really want though, is to be anchored. I want a place where I can always dock, a place that will always be there–protection from the unpredictable sea that I know now is life.

The problem is, I can lose weight, I can run to the people I love and ask them never to leave, for things to never change and to stay good until I’m ready, but someone or something is always going to be moved.

*(I think today’s bookstore purchase will be Who Moved My Cheese?, after I finish Tina Fey’s Bossypants, of course.)

“Love lost, such a cost/Give me things that don’t get lost/Like a coin that won’t get tossed/Rolling home to you.”


30 Going on 13

“13 Going on 30” is one of my favorite girly movies. It’s a story about an awkward 13 year-old who wants nothing more than to be a grown up where everything is perfect. It’s kind of like the girl version of the movie “Big” in which Tom Hanks’ character makes a wish to be big and then has to figure out how to survive in the adult world when his wish comes true. Tomorrow, I turn 30 and I can’t help but feel like I’m still 13, trying to figure this all out.

The problem with turning 30 is that everyone, including myself, expects that you’ll have it all. In “13 Going on 30,” Jennifer Garner’s character hates being a kid so much that on her 13th birthday, she wishes she’ll turn 30 instead–the age when everything magically falls into place. At 30, she’ll have a man, a great job, cool friends, a wonderful closet and so on. And this is what I expected too.

My entire life I’ve always wanted to be older. I wanted the next big thing. As a kid, I, too looked up to women in their 20s and 30s thinking they had it all and I was bursting to get there. Then throughout my 20s, I worked my ass off to acquire all the must-haves: money, a good job, fashionable looks, and a man to get married to. Most of my 20s were so awful, I missed being a teenager.

Now, on the eve of my 30th birthday, I feel like I’m late for a very important deadline. My time to search for all the perfect puzzle pieces is up. At 30, I must already have the puzzle put together and ready for display. I look at other friends my age on Facebook–people I went to high school with, even grade school, and of course college, and a lot of them are married with children. I don’t have that. I hate nothing more than being behind. (Isn’t that why I always dreamt of being older?)

It doesn’t help that my job as a parenting editor reminds me every day of what I don’t have–optimum fertility and a family. These are the missing puzzle pieces and without them I feel like a failure. A few years ago, when I asked my sister-in-law what it felt like to be 30, she said, “well, I’m married and I have a baby, so I’m okay.” Thirty is the only birthday in which a woman goes down a mental checklist of a job accomplished. Christ, at 13, I was so freakin’ happy to finally be a teenager, I didn’t need to have met certain requirements to feel okay about it. (Well, other than accepting the hard truth that playing with dolls was no longer “cool.”)

So far, turning 30 has sucked. I threw a pricey party–the kind you send out expensive, handwritten invitations for–thinking that making a big deal about it would help me embrace it. Wrong. I just got mad at myself for spending so much money for a couple of hours with friends. I expected my boyfriend would make it all okay by getting down on one knee just so that I could enter 30 without feeling so bad. (And the more friends and family and associates push the expectation that he will, just makes it worse. So much worse.) The poor guy has been working around the clock and actually fell asleep toward the end of my fancy party. So many expectations unmet. Whether they’re fair or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m 30 and I can’t check off everything on the master list. If my sister-in-law asked me how I feel turning 30, I would say to her, “well, I’m not married and I don’t have a baby, so you tell me, how should I feel?”

Is it the fault of movies and pop culture? Why do women feel the need to have it all together by 30? I cannot be the only one who feels this impending doom and pressure. The pressure to deliver on things I have no control over is enough to make me snap. Luckily, I have an appointment with my therapist on my birthday. Part of me just wants to curl up in a ball, finish all the bottles of wine in my apartment and swallow a whole bunch of pills. I don’t want to die, but maybe a nice little overdose and a trip the hospital will make me feel like I’ve taken some action and act like some sort of public acknowledgment that I know I’ve missed my deadline and I’m not happy about it.

Those of you over 30 tell me: Where were you at 30? What did you wish you had had by then?

Those of you under 30, tell me: What do you hope you’ll have by then?

Life is Like Surfing

Every day I go to work and sit at my desk for at least 10 hours. I sit down at 9am and leave when the last person in the office starts locking up. I’m trying to prove something — to whom? I’m not exactly sure. During those hours of getting things done, I’m not alone. Sure, I’ve got coworkers, but I’ve also got something more important: a picture of a surfer riding an incredible wave.

The water in the picture is dark and the sky is cloudy, but the surfer stands in place focused and determined, grateful for the challenge.

As I knock on the door of 30, I look back and dissect a little bit and it seems throughout my life I’ve been up for a challenge. As soon as I feel comfortable somewhere, I decide it’s time to leave. Yet the minute I leave, I’m confused as to what the hell I was thinking. But I never quit.  I can tell you that I hated high school, but that I’m proud of the school I attended. I’d always wanted to go there and I got in. Would I have been happier someplace else? Maybe. But I was challenged and I struggled and I learned. And I survived. So when those quarterly donation requests come through the mail, I do something I swore I’d never do — I write a check to the school.

I’m not sure if I set myself up to fail or to get disappointed or if I truly believe I can do just about anything I want to. Three years ago, I left a secure job for another challenge (what we in business call a “better opportunity”). I was discontent at the status quo and it was time to shake things up. And boy did things get shaken. I lost my new job, I went back to freelancing and found myself at a place in my career I thought I’d never return — knocking on doors to get back in. But I kept going back out there.

Putting yourself out there is not unlike a surfer paddling beyond the shore to hunt for waves. The way I look at it, I got another new job (another challenge) and I’m going to ride this new wave whether I think I can make it or not. My 10+ hours per day is the equivalent of standing in place, focused and determined to ride it out.

Time to Make the Donuts

You know that feeling when you look at an up-escalator that isn’t working? Those silver metal stairs staring at you, mocking your laziness, leaving you with no choice but to climb them. Then you know how I’m feeling right now. I start (yet another) new job next week. (I write this with little more enthusiasm than that dude from the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial who says: “time to make the donuts.”) I swear to you I have more experience on my resume than someone who’s at a senior level in their career despite the fact that I don’t yet have a senior title or salary.

When I graduated from college, I was ready to take on the magazine world. It took me two to three years before I landed my first full-time editorial assistant position at a magazine–a coveted entry-level job for which there are as many openings in New York as there are UFO sightings. In that three-year span, I witnessed some friends get lucky and some friends change careers. I considered myself one of the strong who survived and had a career that matched my $500,000 diploma. The reason why I survived can be found on my resume–I took as many freelance assistant, writing and research magazine jobs as I could get. This journey included calling hotels in Zimbabwe to confirm that Angelina Jolie had stayed there and checking the spelling of luxury golf courses. I even interviewed the rapper Jadakiss in person. (“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”) My resume became a patchwork of one-year stints here and six-months there. It’s certainly not how I pictured it would be. (“I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living“…)

Despite the arduous climb, there was a moment in time ever so briefly when I felt like I was soaring. When that editorial assistant job led to my first ever promotion, I felt more than a tinge of confidence. Finally my ship had set sail. And it was wonderful. Another year later, I landed an even better job for more money at a new place. Enter Career Ladder Phase Two and we’re off. I felt like I imagine Celine Dion felt when Ceasars Palace gave her her own performance venue in Vegas, except, like, I was in a cubicle. This company wanted me for the long haul and I was game. My days calling Zimbabwe were definitely long gone.

WRONG.

After six months at Career Ladder Phase Two I was laid-off and it was back to square one. So I did what I know best–I freelanced. I took stints here and there all the while trying to get back to where I felt…important and talented. The star of my own show. A cubicle with my name on it, a business card–all without an expiration date.

Alas, after multiple edit tests–(for those of you not in publishing, an edit test is given to a job applicant by a publication to test the applicant’s editing, writing and creativity as it pertains to that publication’s needs)–and rounds of interviews (and lots of tears) I got a real job offer (a.k.a. a staff position). It took exactly a year and a half, but I climbed my way back. So I should be excited, right? Relieved? Well, not really. I have the same feeling about this new job as someone who’s been recently divorced–I’m in no rush to remarry and go down THAT road again.

The office manager at my most recent permalance (another word for full-time freelance) gig used to make fun of me for never ordering office supplies while I worked there. For a year, I got by on what I could borrow. I didn’t want to get comfortable ’cause I never knew when I’d have to leave. It’s like moving in with someone and not bringing any of your stuff except maybe a pillow and a toothbrush. Pens, paper clips and Post-Its–these are the things that make a cube a home. But hey, play it as it lays.

The people at my new job have made it clear that they trust in my ability to meet their expectations as much as they’ve made it clear I still have a lot to learn. I’m nervous about this learning part. I hope it entails becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be and staying there awhile.

Whenever I start a new job, I listen to this song:

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I been a runnin’ ever since
It’s been a long, a long time coming but I know
A change gon’ come oh yes it will
” – Sam Cooke

Don’t Try This at Home

(Wednesday afternoon. Two girls sit at their desks, avenues and offices apart. They strike up their usual conversation over AIM.)

Friend: “Do you have a minute to play arm-chair psychologist?”

Me: “Always.”

Friend: “I want to know why every time I watch Friday Night Lights, I cry.”

Me: “Probably because it touches you somehow. I cried the first time I saw Almost Famous and that movie ain’t sad. And then I became obsessed with working for Rolling Stone.”

(Conversation moves on to people and things we hate.)

How many people do you know chose their careers based on a movie? Seriously.

Up until junior year of high school I dreamt of becoming a lawyer. My mom would actually take me to courthouses just because I wanted to know what they were like inside. Then a few debate club losses later (among some other teenage disappointments), I gave up on that dream. In the midst of all the typical teenage drama, I discovered music. Not just any music–classic rock, my friends. Zeppelin, Dylan, Joni, the Stones, Greatful Dead, and most importantly, Fleetwood Mac. I honestly cannot say why or how lead singer, Ms. Stevie Nicks, reached me at the age of 16 (“Edge of 17” maybe?), but the bitch moved in and still won’t leave.

In my quest to learn everything possible about these bands that I loved from a time before I was born, I spent hours on the computer doing research. While the rest of my friends studied for AP classes and went to basement keggers, I sought out unreleased albums, out-of-print books and old articles. On one of these nights, I discovered a Rolling Stone article written by Tim White titled “Out There with Stevie Nicks.” It was the best piece of writing I’d come across in my life. I actually looked at the byline, something I never did. And then it all kind of came together. I wanted to go to there. I realized that yes, I had been in debate club, but I also wrote for the newspaper and was a die-hard member of poetry club. I wrote for fun as a kid. I even won awards for it. It was an early A-Ha! moment. I was born to be a journalist. And once I saw the film Almost Famous, I did indeed cry. I cried because what I saw on screen was what I wanted from life. I wanted to be with the band.

Fast forward to sophomore year in college. I scored an internship with none other than Tim White at Billboard magazine. I was writing reviews and listening to CDs all day and I was blissful. And then Tim died. He had a heart-attack in the lobby of the building. I hadn’t even really spoken with him yet. I was just waiting for the right moment, but it never came.

A couple of years later, I knocked down the doors of Rolling Stone and stayed there (for free) until they pretty much kicked me out. Even though I didn’t want to leave, it wasn’t the environment I was holding onto. It was my dream.

I learned an invaluable lesson in my pursuit to be a rockstar writer: Dreams can come true. You can get to where you’ve always wanted to go, but the catch is it’s nothing like you dreamt it would be. That’s some painful shit.

As one of the groupies in the film said (in reference to the new wave of girls hanging out backstage):

“I mean, they don’t even know what it is to be a fan. You know, to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band so much that it hurts.”

That’s just it. You can want something so badly it hurts. Just to get near it almost destroys you. You unwillingly change, whatever it takes, to stay there. But all the while you know something isn’t right.  See, the party is over and it ended before you even arrived.

Sometimes I think I should throw in the towel with my writing career and go to law school, and sometimes I think I’m the best music journalist that will never be. That’s the nature of dreams. They don’t die. They creep up on us in movies and music and in books. Something or someone can touch us so profoundly there are no words, there’s just that familiar feeling.

“And the days go by/Like a strand in the wind/In the web that is my own/I begin again/I went today/ Maybe I will go again tomorrow/The music there it was hauntingly familiar/On the edge of 17…”

When interviewers ask me where I want to be in five years or what my dream job is, I’m honest with them. I don’t believe in dream jobs and I don’t believe in destinations. For me, it’s what I’m doing at that job and who I’m doing it with. So while I’ll still fantasize about backstage press passes, I know I may never get them and I’m not gonna die trying. I don’t need to. Happiness can’t be sought–it’s discovered, and in the least expected places and people. There is no Hollywood script. There are no happily ever afters. It’s what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans (thank you, John Lennon).

“I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, and if ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” -Penny Lane

“I’ve Seen All Good People,” Yes. My favorite song on the Almost Famous soundtrack.