7 Things I’m Doing to Refresh for Spring

Ironically, when I first read Joy the Baker’s piece “10 Things I Do to Refresh for Spring,” Brooklyn was treating us all to its last snow storm of 2018 … hopefully. The first year I moved to New York, when the sun reappeared in early March, I ran my snow coat down to the dry cleaner thinking the white winds were behind us. A week later it was snowing and my pristine snow jacket had to be whisked out of storage to endure a cocktail of subway germs until spring officially did arrive in April.

This year I refused to be fooled by my own desire to dress for the weather I wanted rather than the reality of the situation. And dare I say, this weekend I belllliiiieeevvveeeee Spring has officially touched down on 5th Avenue. But last week, when I was dreaming of sun and obsessing over Joy the Baker’s latest manifesto (I just adore her and deeply want to be her friend), I started thinking about how I was going to celebrate spring if it ever did arrive. As of today, here are seven things I’ll be doing to refresh for the new season.

  1. Super clean all the things. Proud to say I’ve already checked this one off my list! I’ve been studying speed cleaning videos at work and after my family left on Saturday, I buckled down with a beer and started going through my closet, bookcase, and medicine cabinet with a fine tooth comb. Turns out, the floors of my apartment are breathing a lot lighter today because DAMN, I ended up clearing out a lot of old clothes that either didn’t fit or I just didn’t find myself wearing on the regular. Now I’ve got plenty of room for those cutout black oxfords I have my eye on.

2. Update my running playlist. Or as it’s more popularly known: My get-hyped-for-the-sweaty-crowded-subway-ride-home playlist.

3. Get some green! Well kind of. I don’t have much of a green thumb but I have managed to keep Myrtle, the only plant in my house, alive for a year and a half so I’ve decided to branch out (get it!). I’d like to buy, and hang, a mint plant in my kitchen to add to my ice tea as well as adopt one baby cactus to plant in a pottery piece.

Not super related but this is our designated tea room at work where you can brew your own loose leaf tea. It’s now become my new office and has made me appreciate even more the art of creating your own tea bags. My go to: A black tea with an extra peppermint tea bag thrown in. After three years studying YouTube, perfecting this ice tea recipe might actually be my most proud workplace accomplishment.

4. More books? Yes please. There are a handful of books coming out this year that I’m so excited for. Chief among them is Mari Andrew’s debut graphic novel “Am I There Yet?” I’m already looking forward to walking down to my local bookstore Books are Magic and picking up a copy at the end of the month. Other books I’m looking forward to meeting: “Sick: A Memoir,” “Ask Me About My Uterus,” “Super Boys,” “Eat Up: Food, Appetite, and Eating What You Want,” ” The Case for Jamie,” and “My Dead Parents: A Memoir” — to name a few.

5. I have a bit of a bad habit of putting off getting a haircut until the moment I look in the mirror and think, “Good God where did all those split ends come from?! Have I even been wearing my glasses lately?” But I’ve done it guys, I’m finally getting a haircut on Friday and I can’t wait for that golden head massage and to leave the chair feeling ten pounds lighter.

6. I’m currently on a mission to do something new once a week. It doesn’t have to be big — try a new tea store, plan a brunch date with friends somewhere new, try out a new baking recipe. The point is simply to do something rather than sit entirely cemented in my regular routine. Last week, my parents and I went to Tavern on the Green in Central Park for the first time and it was the loveliest way to pass an afternoon. Next stop, the Muppet Exhibit at the Museum of Moving Picture in Greenpoint!

7. Get my nails painted something bright. It’s amazing how a little thing like looking down at my brightly painted red toes during yoga can give me an extra dose of energy when my thighs are crying out in chair pose.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to know how are you celebrating the arrival of spring?

 

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There Is Enough to Go Around

A big shoutout to Fran Meneses, a constant source of inspiration and pep talks, and the illustrator of this and many more amazing pieces.

Do you ever have those days where you’re standing in the stairwell — rolling a labeling sticker over your black, cat hair-covered sweater — and thinking, why is everyone so much better at adulting than me?

Last week, one of my coworkers gave an amazing presentation on ASMR. If I could have, I would have given her a raise right on the spot. Her slides were organized, her speech was articulate, and her data was levels beyond what I’m capable of doing. In essence, she inspired and intimidated me all at the same time and just like every normal 27-year-old, I left that meeting a bundle of self-reflective nerves.

I could hear my insecurities ringing the doorbell of my consciousness. You could never do anything like that, they whispered, unpacking their overstuffed baggage. Sometimes you’re not even sure what your job is, or how to pull data, or which questions are the right ones to ask. Sometimes people don’t even know what your new job is! Your coworkers are so much more capable than you. What are YOU bringing to the team? 

But unlike when I was 25, I’ve now learned how to answer these Insecurity house calls with a swift, “PISS OFF!” Rooted deep in those mean voices is the truth that I’m simply a little insecure or doubtful about aspects of myself. There is this common misconception that there are only so many seats at the successful table. Social media makes us feel like if we haven’t been published in the New Yorker, named on a Forbes 30 list, or started a non-profit, we’re pretty much shit and should just give up now. The boat sailed, you weren’t on it, SORRY!

This feeling makes us unnecessary competitive, instead collaborative, and unintentionally makes us lock arms and defend our seats like a professional game of musical chairs.

But the truth is, if there was only a finite amount of success available, it would have run out a looooonnnnngggggg time ago. Far before any of us hit the scene.

So lets all stop pretending that when someone we love or admire does something amazing it means we can’t do something amazing as well. Yes, my coworker’s presentation reminded me of how much I have to learn, but walking away from that solely focused on myself would be doing her (and me) a disservice. It would be keeping things how they are for the sheer fact that I was selfishly nervous I couldn’t keep up with my team’s growing capabilities. Over the last eight months in my new role, my growth has been messy and hard and humbling. But it was worth it.

Now, being lucky enough to be surrounded by people who inspire me to grow, who are willing to sit down and answer my questions despite working long hours, that’s something I’m embracing with both hands.

So to all of you who receive house calls from your Insecurities, you’re not alone. Ask for help, talk to people who intimidate you. Chances are, they are simply trying to figure things out too. But most of all, remember that your peers are not you, you are not your peers, and at the end of the day we’re all just trying to get cat hair off our clothes.

Staying Inspired in Winter

Staying inspired when it’s warm outside is one thing. There are few things a bouquet of sun rays can’t fix even when you’re layered up in a snow jacket and beanie. But staying inspired when it’s 25 degrees and overcast? That’s a whole new ball game this Californian is still learning to play. As Tessa Violet shared in her video on creativity, some creative seasons are for creation and some are for consumption, both are equally valuable. If you’re looking for some winter inspiration — or just some new books, channels, or writers to spirit away an afternoon with — these are things I recently can’t get enough of.

Books:

This winter, I’ve started prioritizing reading as my form of meditation and in turn, have been binging on literature to fight away the stress demons. If you’re a detective junkie, I highly recommend “A Study in Charlotte”  — which follows the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s great-grandchildren — and “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” — a nonfiction book on Ms. Grace Quakenbos Humiston, the world’s first and most famous female detective. “Into Thin Air” now sits as one of my favorite books of all time as Jon Krakauer details his ascent to Everest during one of the most treacherous seasons on the mountain. “Furiously Happy” is a hilarious, yet powerful, look at how mental illness impacts a person’s daily life, as told from Bloggess founder Jenny Lawson. “A Tale for the Time Being” is a haunting, beautiful narrative — chalk full of magic realism! — of a teenage girl attempting to adjust to her new life in Japan and the woman who finds her diary years later.

Articles:

Lindy West’s columns in the New York Times — that collide feminism and pop culture — always have me yelling “YES! YES! YES!” into the air and pumping my fists at the ceiling.

Memoir Monday on Narratively is a collision of beautiful prose and true stories that leave me in awe and even more intrigued by the diversity of human experiences.

These three articles were my must reads this week. These two Ask Polly columns (one, two) on being single were so thoughtfully and honestly articulated that I printed them out to read again on a rainy day. They are the pep talks we all need to hear when our single armor feels heavy and unchangeable. Also from The Cut, this piece on the power of cringe attacks. This hit home for me as I’ve always had a hard time letting go of embarrassing moments — no matter how far in the past they might be. This piece was a reminder that the brain is a finicky thing. Now, whenever I sense my brain drifting towards the wrong side of memory lane, I yell “CRINGE ATTACK” like I’m casting a Harry Potter spell and it just makes me laugh.

These Ladies:

This year my friend group celebrated our fourth Galentine’s Day and as per tradition, we went around the room to share a little about our Sheroes. It took us three hours to go around the entire circle as one conversation easily lead to another. It was a safe space where conversations about social movements, body image, dating, and feminism ran freely, and I left feeling immensely grateful to have a tribe of passionate women so eager to learn and support one another.

And finally, YouTube.

Since this list wouldn’t be complete without some YouTube recs, I’ve got a few (or 50). I’ve been digging the travel vlogs of Damon & Jo and the readathons of Peruse Project. I love Ariel Bissett‘s book discussions (my favorite being around how social media changed the way we read) and find Jen Campbell’s book reviews to be little works of art. Anna Akana‘s life advice videos are only getting between with time and her recent one on overthinking was exactly the pep talk I needed.

When I’m looking for fashion inspiration, I look no further than Megan Ellaby whose colorful combinations have me rethinking my closet’s potential. And when I want to window shop fashion I can’t afford, I watch Inthefrow and Amelia Liana‘s vlogs. As a long-time Hannah Witton fan, I’m looking forward to her videos documenting her recovery and new life with a stoma, and this month, was inspired by Fran Meneses personal painting challenge.

***

PS. I’m brainstorming starting a newsletter that would highlight videos made for or by women on YouTube. If you have a minute, I’m curious, how do you use YouTube? And what are you most interested in searching?

 

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.

 

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.