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?

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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?

 

Home(s) is Where the Heart Is

^^ West Village during the first big snowstorm of December. ^^

Well will you look at that, 2017 is over! We’ve done it! English breakfast tea for everyone!

The end of the year always tends to fly right by. From Thanksgiving onward it’s a mad dash of putting up a few Christmas lights for the two weeks I’m home, getting presents to the right zip codes, saying goodbye to NYC friends and trying to plan catchups with my California loves. Before I know it, I’m home in Valencia and the chaos of getting there just seeps away. This year, I spent two weeks being spoiled with home cooked meals and card games accompanied with delicious margaritas. I saw family and friends and EVEN Mickey Mouse. For those two weeks it was a little paradise away from the real world where I could simply hang my hat and rest.

The longer I find myself staying on the east coast, the more I consider both California AND Brooklyn to be home. I love the relaxed, laid back attitude of Southern California, and the culture’s focus on building a meaningful life outside of the office. But I also love the hustle and ambition of New York City as well. There is always something to do here and as a writer, I’m forever inspired by the endless creativity I encounter on a daily basis. I’ve come to love them both for the different sides they bring out in me and the balance I try to strike between the two of them. I’m curious if one will become a bigger draw over time, but perhaps for now, I’ll find a comfortable seat somewhere in between — keeping my California attitude, and forever trying to adopt some New York City gumption.

Now before the cold erases all the warm memories of the holidays, will you indulge me in a photo extravaganza below? You’re the best, thank you!

Not documented, the back to back 6am flights I thought were a good idea to book. Never again.

One of my biggest highlights this holiday was getting to meet little baby Hudson in-person. I wrote about him a bit here but he’s the rainbow baby of my dear friends Zabie and GMoney (not his real name, but if I keep using it maybe one day it will be 🙂 ). It was literal love at first sight … for me. I think he was a little quizzical of my existence but nevertheless he let me hold him for a good hour and sway around the room. Watching my Zabie bear be a mum to this little nugget made me incredibly emotional as well, but I blamed it on the jetlag so Hudson wouldn’t think I was an uncool aunt who cries in her sushi bowl when she’s overwhelmed with emotion.

After getting to see a “Star Wars” double feature with my coworkers, I made my way to Valencia on the 15th to finally meet my family’s new rescue cat, Batman. Oh yeah and to see my parents! Batman is pretty much a typical cat. He likes to sit by himself and not cuddle and will wake you up at 5am so you can walk him downstairs to his food bowl. He just likes the accompany we assume. But by the end of the trip, Batman would let me sleep nose-to-nose with him and every once in a while, sit on my lap. It was probably compensation for him losing his mind on the way to the vet. By next time I’m sure we’ll have matching tattoos.

Is there anything sweeter than someone asking: “You want to go to Disneyland today?” Oh Churro Patino, you’re a poet of words!

Now the mayor of Disney, Churro took me for a day of catchups and Disney adventures right before the holiday craziness began. Unfortunately, a guy behind us in line said HE was the mayor of Disney so Churro and that dude are trying to sort that out, but needless to say, the trip was magical. I saw Frozen for the first time which I found oddly emotional. By the end I was clapping and muttering, “You’re right puppet Olfa, I must go accomplish all my dreams. Yes, yes.” I went on Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time and was so motion sick by the end I don’t actually remember what the ride was about. But the best part is always Churro, he’s just my guy.

And in honor of our almost 10 year friendship (WHAT!) here is a photoshoot I made him take because he always makes me wait to eat my food so he can take a photo.

He’s so versatile, a real star. Speaking of stars, look at this MVP below! Our family game night took a little bit of a turn this year in which everyone took a spin of wearing the antlers. Well everyone but me since I was afraid of being hit in the face so Melinda gallantly offered to fight for me.

And last but not least, these wonderful humans. Thank you for always knowing the right thing to say, having time for endless life talks and long walks, and for all your delicious meals. I am in awe of you both and grateful to be your kid.

 

PS. Because you made it this far, here’s the holiday picture outtake.

 

 

Thoughts I Have During Yoga

^^ Art by Gemma Correll.^^

Sometimes the biggest challenge of taking a yoga class is staying present. I move into my first sun salutation and suddenly my mind is running laps as if in the next hour it’s responsible for solving all of the world’s great problems.

For instance, how many times a year does Zara have a big sale?

Despite practicing yoga for ten years now, I still have classes where my mind is anywhere but with my yoga mat Alfred (named after the butler in Batman). Suddenly, with a little time to myself, I begin to process every thought/feeling/ponderment that has ever crossed my path. Health insurance packages, to do lists, awkward social interactions, philosophical debates, the meaning of last night’s nightmare (seriously, can ukelele music  be sinister?), Anna Farris and Chris Pratt splitting up, the last time I took a vitamin — the list is endless.

On one hand, yoga is a very emotional activity. By moving through its familiar poses, I’m often surprised by the waves of emotion that wash up. Old regrets, insecurities, long buried grudges or cringeworthy memories. I let them wash in and out like waves before giving myself permission to set them down. They’re just unnecessary to keep carrying around.

On the other hand, the practice of yoga is quite mental. Yes, you’re working to build a strong body, but more importantly, you’re training yourself to be present within a given moment. But in the age of hyperconnectivity, it’s a hard one to shake off. It’s something I’m actively working on in class because when my mind starts to wander, it’s hard to reign back in.

And while I haven’t yet mastered the art of meditation, I thought I might as well share the random yoga thoughts I’ve had over the years. Because no matter how many crow poses you accomplish, you’re still never above the worry of crotch sweat stains. 

^^ Art by Sarah Andersen. ^^

How does my yoga teacher make it here at 7am with such pep? I can barely drag myself across the street. Oh shoot, did I brush my teeth?

Did I put on deodorant?

I should run a 5K. Wait, it’s winter, so maybe after that? Do people still run in the winter? That’s kind of overachieving of them. I bet they also match their underwear and their bras everyday AND get weekly manicures. Yeah, that’s too much, I’ll wait till spring to reevaluate this.

I am a warrior.

Am I on Instagram too much?

You know what would solve all the “Riverdale’s” problems? Better communication! Christ, I’m not getting on this Betty and Jughead breakup train yet again when all this could have been avoided if the pair had just talked about Betty joining the serpents.

Wait, wait, back to my intention. What was it again? Being present? No, maybe something about opening my heart. Yeah, yeah, open that heart!

Am I a good cat mum?

Am I doing enough? Writing enough? Everyone else seems so much more accomplished.

I wonder what Muppet I’d be … (haven’t solved this one yet).

If I have over 100 unread books in my house and I make the goal of reading 50 per year, then I should be through them in three years. But do I get more books in between then? Maybe I should just quit my job and become a professional reader.

Am I pitching enough stories? And why aren’t any getting picked up? This might be worse than asking people on dates and getting rejected.

Am I dripping sweat on my yoga mat or is the person next to me? When did they take their shirt off? Unnecessary yoga nudity! Flag! Penalty!

Are soul mates a real thing?

How long can you keep a pair of socks for? What if they’re cool socks, can you keep those longer?

Do I have enough ice tea at home?

Wow, toes are so weird.

If the teacher rubs oil on everyones’ heads during savasana, is that hygienic? What am I saying, I ride the subway everyday, if I’m going to get viral meningitis it’s totally from there.

Who will be the next James Bond? Please let it be Idris Elba.

I should really do more sit ups. I should also really get a donut after this.

Where do people buy nice looking wool coats? There are so many requirements for winter, seriously, boots, jackets, scarves, mittens, beanies — people don’t have to live like this!

What would I do if I was in Mia’s shoes in the book “Little Fires Everywhere”? Sweet muffins that was a good book.

Is the fact that my backpack and my snow jacket match a little … too much? Or the fact I now own two pairs of metallic books? I vote nay and since I’m the only one taking this poll, looks like I win.

I don’t love the sock boot trend no matter how many beauty vloggers try and shovel it down my throat.

What is my great life purpose?

Are there llama rescues? If so, when I grow old, I want to have a small cabin where I have lots of animals and foster dogs, cats, and llamas. Maybe even the occasional raccoon. I should probably buy more plaid in preparation.

Wasn’t I supposed to write a blog post about yoga yesterday?

Wow, that woman next to me just did a spontaneous head stand. How is that possible? She’s probably found her center. Oh yeah, stay centered.

^^ I found so many amazing yoga cartoons, I couldn’t pick just ONE for this post. Obviously this is Fitz and me everyday. Except neither of us is this flexible or own leg warmers. ^^

 

 

The Moments That Matter

Last summer, I published a piece about loss and healing. I had just heard about the loss of my friend Zabie’s baby and in the wake of that sadness, I couldn’t help but reflect about the loss of my uncle. Over the years, my loss has evolved from an elephant superglued to my back to a bag of marbles I carry around in my pocket. It’s always around but like me, it too has changed over time.

Tonight, while walking down 7th Avenue, under the weight of my overstuffed raspberry pink backpack, I wanted nothing more than to be at home curled up with my cats. This week has felt endless, with my to do list piling up and all the little details of life jostling for top stress position. Many months ago, Zabie quietly shared that she was pregnant again, and following her announcement, we — the world who adored her — held our breath for the arrival of this rainbow baby. Standing on 7th and Morton, I opened Instagram to find the first pictures of Hudson Yamasaki surrounded by his family. He’s perfect — a seven pound beacon of love. I was starstruck, crying silently with happiness and relief and awe at this little human, my Zabie’s little human. It was a moment to top all moments and while I can’t scientifically prove it, I think time might have stopped just for a second as I stood there.

As someone so constantly stressed by their own to do list, I frequently find myself nose to the ground, sacrificing tiny joys for another pitch letter. But it’s moments like these that make me step back and see what’s really important. It’s not the endless details I pile on my plate, it’s not the stress to be published, or the pressure to be doing more. It’s these simple, contagious moments of love.

It’s moment like Hudson that are so big even the noise of New York City fades away. It’s my best friend getting the dream job he worked his ass off for the last six years (Churro bear — love you 🙂 ) and the laughfests I have with my friends late into a school night. Those are the ones that put everything else in their place. So to everyone carrying marbles (or elephants) of loss, I promise, someday it will get easier. Someday, you too will be dumbstruck by a moment so blindingly miraculous that all you can do is stand back and appreciate its beauty.