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.

 

 

Life Lately According to My iPhone

^^ Last day at my power desk before moving to the 6th floor with this beautiful masterpiece. ^^

Life lately has been a lot of changes and a lot of growing. Some, the graceful kind of growing that you write about in letters to your loved ones as you drink tea and cheers yourself. But mostly the kind of growing that keeps you up late at night stuffing your face with popcorn and asking all of life’s big questions. You know, the usual.

Somewhere in between catching the world’s ugliest fish in June Lake and learning to make cinnamon scones, Summer has grabbed its hat and coat and is seeing itself out the door. Soon I’ll be trading my slogan tshirts for animal sweaters and having to argue with baristas about why they should be serving ice tea all year round. But at the moment, my apartment smells of freshly baked scones, the kittens are asleep in the other room, and Billie Holiday is serenading me into my day off tomorrow. All is well.

Above is really the story of my life lately. I’ve been devouring book after book after book like they’re about to go extinct. I  had a craving for Agatha Christie and like any dedicated bibliophile couldn’t settle on just one book, bringing three home instead. Then onto Ann Patchett’s memoir “The Story of a Happy Marriage” and Ian McEwan’s “Nutshell” — both of which I would recommend to everyone, I couldn’t put them down. Those two might be my favorite books I’ve read in 2017 and if nothing else, fueled my literally crush even more for both authors. I’ve taken every little moment — on the subway, after interviews in Central Park, on the walk home from work — to pull up a seat and read. Even 15 minutes does a wonder to be away from the computer screen and relaxing within the world of someone else’s imagination.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my neighborhood this summer especially as my work schedule is beginning to change. Two and a half years later, I’m still so thankful to live here. I now have my muffin place, my walking routes through the park and off to overlook the water. I find myself falling into a routine of visiting the local bookstores or grabbing an ice tea especially out of the way in order to just have more time outside. When walking past this fountain at Grand Army Plaza, I almost always find a bride and groom taking wedding pictures. Though a passing ship, I get to spend a tiny moment observing their monumental day before slipping back into the hustle of the traffic circle. That’s the thing about New York, you’re always weaving in and out of the lives around you.

I also had the fanciest day of my New York life a couple weeks ago. My sweet friend Jillian and her husband invited me along on their adventure to the rooftop pool of the 1 Brooklyn Hotel. It’s bragged to be one of the best views of the city and from the 12th floor, I couldn’t disagree. It quick surreal drinking champagne and binge eating guacamole with people who clearly did not take the subway to get there. Comically, the pool was only three feet deep so it was more of a standing situation where everyone claimed a bit of wall to ogle the view and try not to stare at the rich and famous spread out (in some cases, not gracefully) along the chaise lounges lining the pool. Jillian and I spent the majority of our five hour stay making up back stories for everyone around us — deciding who we’d hang out with, whose jewelry we’d borrow. Jillian is also a chief multitasker, interrupting our musing with frequent reminders for me to put on more sunscreen. Bless her.

Since coming back down to earth, I’ve been working on greeting cards for my mum’s birthday and checking bakeries and BBQ joints off my bucket list. I used a recent interview on the Upper East Side as an excuse to finally try out Two Little Red Hens bakery. Their Brooklyn Blackout Cupcake is the best piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And I’ve eaten a lotttt of cupcakes in my time so trust me on this one.

I’m also now a big fan of Pig Beach in Gowanus. It’s a big backyard where groups can binge eat BBQ smoked on site, grab a beer, and if you’re lucky, get in a game of corn hole. I was also lucky enough to enjoy “Moonrise Kingdom” at Prospect Park’s last movie night of the summer. Even better, my friend Charles packed an entire picnic for the occasion so I left five pounds heavier and happier. There was also a rare moment last week when all the stars aligned and Bree, Maria, Imali, and I were all able to catch up over french fries and nightcaps in the East Village. With everyone’s busy schedule and frequent travels, this has become a rare occasion and one I don’t take for granted. Alas, it never feels like we have enough time to properly discuss and joke and debate about everything we’ve had to tell each other, but then again, we just pick right back up the next time.

For better or worse, I spent most of this weekend scheduled to work but in the midst of spreadsheets and video watching, got to see these two shining faces from halfway across the world. It’s always funny to me how I won’t chat face-to-face with Howard or Joe for months and the minute Facetime turns on, it’s like nothing has changed. Same jokes, same closeness, same support, and mostly, same mutual decision by Joe and I to make fun of Howard — who’s usually quite a good sport about it. But both boys are doing excellent and blowing me away with the lives they’re crafting for themselves. They even so patiently let me show them my pottery pieces and obliged me with conversations about the cats. They really are gems.

And of course, it would not be a proper life update without a note about my cats. These last couple weeks, I’ve been going through a transition at work (all exciting things to be announced!) which has meant my brain is essentially mush at the end of the day. I did learn to make my first pie chart last week and while it took me over 25 minutes to create, I was deeply proud of it. But through all the long hours and even working this weekend, the kittens and yoga have kept my brain level. I’ve spent almost every night cuddled up with a cat reading. I’ll look up from writing and find them a foot away, constantly keeping an eye on where I’m going and if we can all cram on the couch together.

In the photo above, you can barely see Albert my red yoga mat in the front there as the Saturday morning classes fills up quick! This was also the class where a centipede feel on me during Shavasana which is not ideal for relaxation.

All in all, life lately has been good, food-filled, and content. Could I really ask for more?

72 Hours in Nashville

^^ Let it be known that it was my mum’s request that we visit Nudie’s Bar! This dive bar did not disappoint with its live music, red ales, and tri tip quesadillas. ^^

Lately I’ve been trying to make more of a concerted effort to break from routine. To plan trips that take more than five minutes to organize and possibly involve a plane, train, automobile, and cat sitter. Sometimes life in the city can feel so unnecessarily draining and between running (literally!) errands around the city, working full-time, freelancing, and still trying to (kind of) be a social human being, I lose sight of planning trips in the future. Sometimes I just look at my bucket list and think… damn, this is a lot.

So when my parents asked if I wanted to join them during the first portion of their Tennessee adventure, I thought what better time to flex my new habit than now! We all met at the Nashville airport where I got to pick them up at their gate, and off we went to eat our body weight in BBQ-ed meats and hash brown casserole for the next 72 hours.

I’ve always been really curious about the lifestyle of Nashville after accidentally getting hooked on the soap opera-ish show “Nashville.” Turns out, much like “Sex and the City,” the show didn’t prepare me in any way for my visit — though it did teach me that you should never keep papers identifying the real father of your daughter in a box in your closet. And that Connie Britton is defying all the rules of aging.

During our first day, we ran all around the city, but not before consuming about 1700 calories at Cracker Barrel. I hate to admit it, but we ate there three times during our three day vacation because you cannot deny the deliciousness of those homemade biscuits. We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and then hopped on a bus to tour Studio B — the most famous recording studio in Nashville. If you have the time and the means, this tour is absolutely amazing.

I couldn’t help but get a little chill walking through the recording studios where Dolly Parton, Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and hundreds more made history. The studio is tiny and personal, and with each recording having been done live, the talent of these “A-list” musicians and country artists is so abundantly clear.

I’ve never been a huge country music lover. But listening to the works of so many aspiring and talented artists — not only at the museum but on Honky Tonk row — I love how the genre has become a melting pot of blue grass, jazz, gospel, rock, and even hints of pop. It’s such a fusion but still carries such old school messages of courtship, heartbreak, and love.

Also a lot of references to fishing which, having fished my entire life, is a very unromantic sport. I think of it like I think of building Ikea furniture, it will either make or break your relationship, but there is absolutely nothing in between.

^^ Downtown Nashville from the Cumberland River Bridge. ^^

After listening to an amazing rock band at Nudie’s and walking the couple downtown blocks, my family indulged me and visited author Ann Patchett’s bookstore. As a book nerd, this was the coolest! Patchett is not only phenomenal author (she wrote “Bel Canto” and “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”) but believed so much in the communities that form around local, home run bookstores that she opened her own in the height of Barnes & Noble and Amazon taking over. It’s a really quiet, sweet place full of handwritten book recommendations, a shop dog, and has a calendar stock full of author events. Should this sound up your bibliophilic alley, I HIGHLY recommend it.

^^ My dad was taking in the beauty of the Jackson’s smokehouse. ^^

On our second and last day, we decided to ignore the humidity and head to the Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s house. In these situations, my dad has an especially good knack for giving me the giggles. The quieter the museum, usually the worst they get, and this trip was no exception. If only there hadn’t been a sign sharing all the things President Jackson was the first president to do (Ex. Get his photograph taken, ride a train) then maybe my dad and I wouldn’t have started a 45 minute joke marathon. That and finding out President Jackson preferred to be called General Jackson by his family. Just saying, Pop Pop Jackson rolls right off the tongue. Then we filled ourselves with brisket tacos before cleaning up for the Grand Ole Opry. There were six acts before Chris Young came on and moms from around the country starting throwing their bras on stage. My family and I were blown away by how good he was and endeared by his awkward stories and nervousness.

Despite its brevity, this trip was perfect. July was a bit of a rough one for me, and getting to take an adventure with my family in a new place left me lighter and more content. I mean not physically, obviously, I ate mac and cheese or a potato of some type with literally every single meal. I’ve since downloaded a bit of country music and am enjoying wading through the pools of love and devotion. It’s even inspired an article I’m pitching right now.

Nashville you were a blast, thank you for filling our ears with music and stomachs with all the delicious food. Until next time!

^^ On the way to the airport in, yes, Batman Detective comic book pants. HEYO! ^^