You Don’t Need to Worry About That

^^ Dad’s birthday visit in February. ^^

The other weekend I was talking to my dad while he was driving home from North Hollywood when I mentioned I was starting to really worry about my final project for my Data Analytics course. The project is due March 20 and because I haven’t yet completed all the units, I have absolutely no idea what the project will entail.

Now, it should be noted, I’m a bit of a worrier and when overwhelmed, I’m a big stress-er. I think it goes hand-in-hand with being an ambitious dreamer. Every article or project I’ll excitedly map out in my head brings along a plus one (or plus two) of worry. Can I actually do this? What if this gets rejected everywhere? What if I’ve just gotten by on luck and people suddenly realize I don’t know what I’m doing?

While I was running through my typical, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO! WHAT IF I FAIL THIS CLASS?! AM I REALLY LEARNING ANYTHING!” speech, my dad sweetly stated — in the way only a 65-year-old with lots of life experience who is stuck in traffic and just wants to get home to plant some flowers could say — “You don’t need to worry about that.”

Don’t need to worry about that! Maybe he didn’t hear me correctly, I thought. I probably responded with something snarky like, “Well thanks retired man whose biggest worry is where he’ll eat fried potatoes for breakfast!”

Fun fact: I’m kind of a snarky smart ass when I’m worried. Or just sometimes to my parents in general. Bless them, they still keep inviting me home — though they took my house keys and replaced the family room couch with two armchairs. There are three of us, you do the math.

After we hung up, I got to really thinking about my dad’s point. I do worry a lot about things I have no control over in the present moment or even just things that might happen. I realized how often I use the words “worry” and “stress” in my daily conversations — even at times when I’m not stressed but just have a lot of my mind.

I always joke that one of the things I love most about my friend Churro is — like my dad — his ability to put things in perspective for me. He dials back the seriousness I place on unnecessary moments with a simple, “Carly, that’s not a thing.” But I think it’s time I started doing a little more of that for myself.

At the end of last year, after burning myself out working two jobs AND trying to write hundreds of pitch letters, I took a step back to re-evaluate why I write. I would work myself into such a state, feeling an invisible, self-imposed pressure to be doing more, that I lost sight of the joy I find in writing. I believed I needed to stress myself out in order to get things done and while this worked for a while, in the end it wasn’t healthy for my brain or body. This year, I’m retraining myself to better understand that relaxation and joy are integral parts to being productive and ambitious. I don’t need to do everything today or this month or even this year.

So my challenge to myself moving forward is to decrease the use of “stress” and “worry” in my vocabulary. Will it change anything? I’m excited to find out and while it might not alter my brain chemistry, I do think it will change how I inspire myself to positively approach new projects, articles, and putting dreams into action.

Because for me, a life without big dreams, that’s just not a thing.

 

 

PS. Thank you to my mum and dad for your unwavering sweetness and perspective. I love you and that big owl pillow you bought me to read on in our family room.

 

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Things to Know About Winter — From a Weather Inept CA Kid

Prospect Park

The biggest realization I’ve had since moving to the east coast is just how inept I am at understanding weather. Three years in, I still forget to check the weather app in the morning and just assume winter sunshine is the same as spring sunshine and I won’t be needing my snow jacket. FALSE! The winter sun means nothing! It’s just a lightbulb in the sky that has no effect on the weather whatsoever, keep up Lanning!

West Village

This winter is already starting off more intense than his predecessors, with one blizzard already in the books and more than enough days filled with ice wind (which is its own special kind of hell). In many ways, winter can be the pits. The weather prevents me from taking long meandering walks throughout the city, my toes freeze on the way to the subway, and any cute outfit is hidden under three layers of clothing. When you arrive on the subway platform you immediately start to sweat, a sweat which then freezes on your walk into the office reminding you of the fact that for the next three months you’ll always smell faintly of subway sweat, ice, and musty wool.

It’s the smell of hustle and bustle some might argue, I would argue it’s the smell of Vitamin D-deficiency.

Everything in winter becomes just a little bit harder. Keeping plans with friends in sub-freezing temperatures, carrying your groceries home, waking up for 7am yoga. I start to wonder if I’ll wear anything other than a snow jacket ever again in my life and look at my sandals fondly with their memories of sunshine and picnics. Remember picnics? Yeah, I don’t either.

But, the thing that probably keeps all of us going, despite our glasses fogging up at every restaurant/coffee shop/bar we walk into, is that winter can be incredibly beautiful and it gives you a small sense of pride to be braving it.

Battery Park
Home

It all starts with the snow jacket and snow boots, then the beanie, scarves, and waterproof gloves. Then the thick wool socks to keep your snow boots from tearing up your feet and 15 minutes later, you’re all set for the outdoors! Even if it’s just to walk down the street to pick up your dry cleaning.

In its defense, winter has become one of my favorite times to write. It feels like the perfect time to hunker down inside and get all those indoor activities done I’ve been putting off. On some Saturdays that means writing pitch letter after pitch letter, and some Sundays that means finally finishing “Ripper Street.” It’s hard to be energetic in winter so instead of beating myself up, I try to remind myself that it’s a time of rest before a period of growth. For people like me who have a hard time not piling their plates with every dream they’ve ever had, I’ve started to use winter has a time to recalibrate and practice healthier work/life balance habits. It’s a process.

I’m quizzical if anyone ever really masters winter living. It seems like instead this is nature’s humbling way of reminding us all we’re just little humans in the big game of Life. So if you’re wondering at any point during the next three months what I’m up to? It’s a lot of this —

And even more of this.

Can a California kid to ever get used to winter weather? The answer is, Yes? Used too might be a strong phrase but with enough sweaters, a space heater, and thick rehydrating face cream, it might just be possible.

Your “Single” Superpower

^^ When one family member is sick helping them feel better becomes a family affair. Taken at 11:30pm from the floor of my entry way. ^^

This weekend was spent in super cat mum mode after Hem and I found ourselves in Animal Urgent Care on Saturday night. She’s going to be absolutely fine but we’re still in the nerve wracking process of trying to figure out what’s going on/how to get this little nugget back on her feet (and jumping on top of doors).

Now, going to the vet with my cats I find to be a weird mental battle between calm nostalgia and stress. My first job at 16 was working at a local vet office and after three years there, I got a ton of experience working with sick and injured animals. But it’s always different when it’s your pet.

Especially when your pet is trying to scale the walls of the room and/or punch the vet in the face for looking at them the wrong way.

Sitting in the waiting room, I couldn’t help but notice everyone was in a couple except for me. Now, this happens a lot in New York City, especially during the winter cuffing season. Couples seem to sprout up out of nowhere and besides being in love, their singular mission seems to be blocking the sidewalk. I would be lying if I said I loved being single every minute of everyday. New York City is a hard city to live in and sometimes, all you want is to curl up inside of a hug from someone who loves you.

This week I’ve been reading “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, a hilarious book about trying your best in the face of mental illness. In it, she reminds the reader of how easy it is to be our own worst critics. Since we know everything about ourselves — the mistakes, the missed deadlines, the fights, the fails — we sometimes focus only on what we don’t have over the great little things we are.

But sitting in that waiting room, I realized that over the last three years, my singleness has been my superpower. By being single, I’ve learned to tackle things — from caring for my cats to resealing my windows — all on my own. I’ve rented my own apartment, paid for trips around the world, and learned to make pottery! I’ve fought back against condescending questions from engineers, shrugged off ignorant, hurtful comments on my articles, and built a home 2300 miles away from where I grew up. And I did this all on my own.

Yes, someday it will be amazing to be in a partnership but it won’t be out of necessity. It won’t be because I don’t enjoy my own company or I’m afraid of being alone. I think I’m great! And one of many reasons I believe this is because I know whatever comes my way, I can handle it. 

Someday I’ll be sitting on my rocker, holding the hand of my partner, and think back fondly and proudly of my single self, that scrappy girl who moved across the country with her cats and made it work. So when it feels like you’re are messing everything up or — as Jenny Lawson writes — “your behind-the-scenes self doesn’t match the highlight reels of people around you,” know that you are enough.

Then take yourself out for a beer because this type of introspection deserves a celebration.

2017: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

This year has been called a lot of things — a dumpster fire, the apocalypse, the year “House of Cards” was no longer fiction — but for me, 2017 was My Growing Year. Like all the times of great change before it (hello puberty!), my 2017 growth was full of lots of growing pains. Lots of steps forward, followed by twenty five steps backward. And while it’s easy for me to look back and cringe at all the stumbles, I refuse to give them more weight than they deserve. In an attempt to continue finding my balance, I want to share with you a little 2017 recap — the moments that made my year rather brilliant and that ushered me into 2018 as a more hopeful and more determined version of myself.

So without further ado, here’s what made 2017 most memorable — in a list! Because lets be honest, that’s just how we do it here at Curious Case.

I. Travel, travel, and more travel! 

This year I was lucky enough to not only travel home to California and June Lake a few times, but to also have the change to explore new cities around the United States. In April, I headed to Montauk for a week where I ran into my Psychology Today article for the first time on newsstands. Because it was off-season and very quiet, I spent hours walking along the beach and eating an absurd amount of burrito bowls. Then in August, I visited Nashville for the first time and ate like a queen! I surprised my mum for her birthday in September with a trip to Disneyland and then for New Years, my friend Jillian wrangled a group of us to celebrate in New Orleans. But one of the biggest highlights was meeting little Hudson for the first time. I’m a big fan.

This year wasn’t just about traveling away from home, but also adventuring around New York City. I finally made it to the Cloisters this year and hiked through Tryon Park. My girlfriends and I took a day trip to Sleepy Hollow right before Halloween and drank pumpkin ale, ate hotdogs (and veggies!), and visited the cemetery. I turned 27 with a big picnic in Prospect Park and later visited upstate to celebrate my friend’s wedding. Jillian took me along on her assignments which included a rooftop pool — it was the DREAM I never knew I had! — and a donut/champagne tasting. I saw Anastasia in the spring and then was treated to second row tickets later in the year by JJ. It was the most memorable musical experience I’ve ever had and the hype continued the rest of the weekend as JJ played the emotional ballad “Stay I Pray You” on repeat.

II. The books!

This year marked my biggest reading year yet as I exceeded my goal and finished 34 books! I credit this influx in book devouring both to my subway travel (it’s like being chauffeured … in a really smelly, gross car, but none the less!) and the fact that once again I’m prioritizing reading as my form of meditation. This year I became really intrigued by Ariel Bissett’s video on the relationship between social media changing the way we read. If you’re a bibliophile, I recommend giving it a listen. It inspired me to start going into bookstores and browsing more, which lead me to read one of my favorite books of 2017, “Life After Life”!

As for other favorites, I have to give it up for: “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer, “All We Shall Know” by Donal Ryan, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett, “A Fine Romance” by Susan Branch, “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, “”Nutshell” by Ian McEwan, “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff and “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng.

Sorry, tried to pick one buuuutttttttt…… you’re welcome!

III. The Writing

Another year of freelance journalism under my belt and I’m happy to say, I’m still so in love with writing. Even though 90 percent of my pitch letters never received a response and I frequently was on the phone with my mum lamenting, “Why won’t people let me write for them?!”

This year marked my first printed magazine article in Psychology Today which I am insanely proud of. But following its publication, I put so much pressure on myself that I had to do something else just as big. Then the best thing that could have happened happened: My editors at two new magazines left the publications and my pieces were thrown out. At the time, I was so upset and felt like a failure, but looking back, it made me realize that it doesn’t matter where you’re being published, it matters that you love what you’re publishing. By putting such pressure on myself to write everyday and produce more article than I could chew, I burned myself out. So this year, I’m taking the pitches more slowly and writing things I’m ecstatic.

While Pyschology Today was my most memorable article published this year, my other two favorites were actually my profile on “The Best We Could Do” author Thi Bui (I cried during this interview I was so inspired) and my feature on how detective shows changed my life (what I believe is the piece I’ve been training my whole life to write).

IV. My people. 

I have to say, I have some really really wonderful people in my life. My people, as I like to call them. I could go on and on about my lovely friends and family but instead, I’d like to take this time to write them a little note:

Dear Bears,

Thank you. These two words aren’t big enough to hold the full weight of my gratitude but for now, they’ll have to do. Thank you for helping me build a life in New York and for those who live on another coast, taking the time to visit and call and write. Thank you for always asking how writing is going, for completely taking my side and yelling loudly about people who wrong me, and for always having tea at your houses. Thank you for understanding when I can’t catch up on the phone and even having the patience to understand how long it takes me to psych myself up for a phone date. Simply, thank you for all you loving me as I am. I’m so so glad to know you.

All my love,

Carly

V. The Cats

Amongst all the highs and lows of this year, the late night freak outs and tears and big life questions, my cats have been two constant sources of joy. I don’t even care that this makes me sound like a crazy cat lady, for anyone who has a critter who greets them every night at the door, you get it. Hem and Fitz’s unconditional love has made my apartment feel like a home and somehow, in March, we’ll have been a family for four years! Where did all that time go?

It’s That Time Again, 2018 Resolutions BABY!

There is nothing I love more than a good list. It’s like poetry to my passion planner-obsessed heart. So every year, about three weeks before New Year’s Eve, I start to brainstorm my resolutions and hopes for the new year. It’s my little way of honoring the past year (even a hot mess one like 2017) while simultaneously, and excitedly, making goals for a new 365 days.

Now, everyone has different feelings about resolutions. Some people love them, some people find them unnecessary, and some people remain critical of waiting until the new year to try and accomplish a new goal. While talking to my dad during my last trip home, he brought up the excellent point that every moment is an opportunity to make a change. And while it’s great to aspire to be better, it’s also important to not forget all the amazing things that you already are.

He then quoted “Tombstone” so it all kind of balanced out.

For the last three years, I’ve shared my resolutions on this here blog as a way of holding myself accountable. It only felt right going into this year doing the same. Plus, at the end of the year it’s fun to look back and see what got checked off (published in a new publication!) or got lost along the way (am I EVER going to make it to that graphic novel book club?). So this year, here are my four resolutions:

Simplify. 

I have a tendency to majorly overthink, overlist, and overplan. It’s exhausting and stressful and tiring. I want to do everything at once which in theory is magnificent! But by wanting to do everything, I often find myself juggling too many things and not doing any of them well. Or I’ll be so intimidated by how much I have to get done that I’ll procrastinate my time away on tiny, easy things that don’t really matter. So this year, I’m working to cut back and relax more. To take the adventure and find a better balance between hustling and being present. Like the “Magical Art of Tidying Up,” if it doesn’t bring me joy, it’s out.

Love — in all of its forms. 

When thinking about my resolutions for this year, I wanted to push myself to approach life with more of an open heart — a phrase that varies day by day. I often overthink social interactions and lament what I should have done/said/why did I say that weird joke. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of comparisons between me and anyone else in the world writing more/traveling more/being more fit/falling in love/going to the Golden Globes. But no more! For the next 365 days (and onward!), I want to fill my days with love — in all its forms. My path and my happiness is different than yours — and that’s okay! It’s brilliant even! Right now, love for me means a lot of self-love — cooking for myself, working out, going to bed early, staying off social media– and finding ways to be there for my loved ones. Life is hard and it’s easy to stay in comfortable situations. But whether it’s making new friends or going on a date or giving a presentation at work, it’s almost always worth it.

Write everyday.

But also know when to give myself a break. Remember, creativity like everything else doesn’t grow all year long.

Read 40 books.

And when the doubts slip in and I want to give up, my 2018 guiding motto is:

Why not me?