Seasons of Creativity

It’s been quite the blogging minute hasn’t it? This is actually my fifth attempt to write a post in the last month and for a hot minute I thought I’d just lean into the writer’s block, upload a photo album of cat pictures, and be done with it. But today while walking home from Starbucks, I started writing a post in my head — this post actually — which was my cue that it was time to get out of the dugout and swing.

Life lately has been the calm after a storm. A few weeks ago I got a feature pitch chosen for Psychology Today but with the condition that the first draft be done in a week. 13 interviews, 4,000 words later, I popped out of my apartment on a Tuesday morning in search of a caffeine IV and hoping for nothing else than to spend the rest of the week sleeping more than four hours a night. The feature dives into how YouTube is changing the way we understand and view mental illness, and is an idea I’ve been shopping around for about a year now. Upon turning in the final edits, I immediately started crying from a mixture of relief and pride. Five years ago when I first started freelance writing, I had no idea what I was getting into. It takes real stubbornness and heart to not let the stampede of rejection letters (or worst, never hearing back) damper your determination to continue. Having this opportunity was all built upon years of writing tiny pieces, each a brick laying a solid foundation to pitch to magazines I could only dream about. So should you have an interest in YouTube or mental illness or just want to put a magazine on your coffee table to impress your suitors, my piece will be on news stands in the May edition of Psychology Today. There even is a picture and quote in the front! I mean, what! It’s a pretty long way from the piece on limo lights and buses I published when I was 19.

^^ This is my family and I toasting the piece being officially done! Man, they were champs fielding many a late night phone panics and constantly checking in to make sure I hadn’t just decided to run away. Bless them. ^^

Post- Psych Today feature, it’s like the day after graduation where you go home, hang up your cap and gown, and realize the laundry and dishes still need to be done. Despite the fact that for 30 days I’ll be able to walk past the tiny Chelsea Market news stand to see this May edition, I still have to keep pitching. Keep enjoying those rejection letters and not taking it personally when people don’t call back (It’s them, not me! Right?). It’s taken a while to find my equilibrium again and though my list of ideas continues to grow, my desire to write has gone into hibernation.

In a video by musician Tessa Violet, she cautions viewers against placing their value in the things they produce as some seasons are for creating and some seasons are for enjoying other people’s creativity. One of the scariest things for me as a journalist is the fear I’ll forget everything. I know this is crazy but bear with me. Because writing is something I so deeply enjoy, it can be really hard when it suddenly stops motivating me. I fear I’ll become irrelevant, forgot how to put sentences together and ideas I want to pitch. Yes, this fear can propel me forward in the short term, but long term it can cause extreme stress and burn out.

I’m learning that it’s okay, and needed, to take a step back after long, hard projects; to trust that one day again, I will be walking home from Starbucks and start crafting stories in my head. But I have to enjoy all the moments in-between because when it comes to writing, this love affair isn’t going anywhere. If we can make it through underpaid profiles on fitness gurus and nail art, we can make it through just about anything. So cheers to the summer’s of creativity to come and an ever growing trust and enjoyment of the journey in-between.

To ‘Riverdale’ With Love

riverdale

When it comes to television shows, I would best be described as a British detective show junkie. Luther, Ripper Street, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Fall, Broadchurch, Bletchley Park Sherlock, that one random mini series where a murder mystery happens in Pride and Prejudice.  Throw in some Twin Peaks and Clue and it’s my perfect evening! So when I learned that Riverdale followed a murder mystery set inside of the modernized Archie universe, I was on this show like Hemingway on a muffin.

For reference, I’m talking about my cat, not the famous author. She really likes muffins, more specifically pushing them off tables. Well, the famous author might have loved them too … after a quick Google search I cannot confirm Ernest Hemingway’s preferred breakfast pastry but I can FOR SURE confirm he was an alcoholic.

Now, back to Riverdale, where I don’t doubt one of the characters will eventually be revealed as an alcoholic. Set in the present day, Riverdale follows Archie and the gang as they investigate the death of Jason Blossom. For Archie fans, this show delivers such fun and juicy take on the outdated characters and overplayed high school situations the comics suffered from.

I’m so into it. I’ve Googled cast interviews, rewatched trailers and clips. I’ve got the Riverdale fever bad and the only cure is more Riverdale.

And it’s just CRAZY!  In episode one, Archie and Jughead aren’t friends, Veronica and Betty form a power team, Moose is questioning his sexual identity with my favorite character Kevin, the Coopers are crazy, Archie’s mom left and moved to Chicago, AND Archie is sleeping with a teacher. SAY WHAT! Oh and Archie’s crazy good-looking. I’m talking abs of steel and a tribal tattoo. Plus, Barb from Stranger Things is in the third episode! All hail Barb!

giphy

Once I finally collected the fragments of my brain that had previously exploded, I set about analyzing my own sudden obsession with the show. A huge part is nostalgia. When I say I read Archie comics growing up, I mean I would buy them every time I went to the store, received them as a stocking stuffers until my hometown stopped selling them, and would even get to borrow my aunt’s copies from when she was growing up. I read hundreds of issues over the years and what I’m loving now is seeing the evolution of the characters into the modern age. In Riverdale, the writers have done an amazing job of replacing the outdated themes of the comics (two girls fighting over one guy) and replacing them with conversations about white privilege, slut shaming, sexuality, and mental health. It’s ridiculous, fun, and smart — something I rarely say about CW shows.

I currently have my theories about who Jason’s killer is but I will keep those to myself until you catch up. And to all the people I have cornered in real-life to rave about Riverdale, thank you for being such a nice audience. But seriously watch the show so I can stop live texting Earnest every Friday morning with my minute to minute reactions.

Book Club: My January Reads

I think we can probably all agree that this past week has been a heavy one. Each night after work I’ve felt capable of few things other than curling up with the kittens in order to recharge. Right now, little acts of self-care have been crucial in maintaining my hope and fire to fight back against the injustices being imposed against Americans and immigrants around the world. For me, that has been putting my phone away at night, writing cards to my loved ones, or watching an episode of “Call the Midwife.” I’ve binge watched A LOT of Estée Lalonde’s lifestyle videos and gotten in deep with the Disneyland vlogging community (Disney bounding, it’s the big new thing). But mostly, I’ve been reading as much as possible, even if just for a 15 minute before bed. Below are my HELL YES reads from January as well as some recommendations if your TBR list is looking a little light.

“Missoula” by Jon Krakauer. I’ll yell it from the rooftops if need be, but this is book is something everyone should read! Known for his nonfiction novels “Into Thin Air” and “Under the Banner of Heaven,” Krakauer spends two years investigating the growing epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses by looking at the experiences of five different survivors from Missoula, Montana. His novel shines a much needed light on the mishandling of rape cases and drives home the reality that survivors are often the ones blamed from the assaults inflicted against them. For all readers, this book shows how sexual assault can affect every aspect of a survivor’s life and the good vs. bad effect an ally’s language can have on a survivor’s healing.

PS. Sidenote. This week I launched Voices, my story project working to empower survivor narratives about sexual violence. HUZZAH! This has been four years in the making so it’s both exciting and nerve wracking. If you’re curious what it is or how to get involved, please follow these links.

***

“Giant Days” by John Allison and Whitney Cogar. Now three episodes in, “Giant Days” follows the misadventures of a group of college misfit floormates — mainly Daisy, Susan, and Esther. I don’t laugh out loud at books often but this one has left me in stitches. Each of the characters is just so earnest, awkward, and relatable making this a great read for new and veteran comic readers alike. It’s battling my heart for #1 comic but might be pulling into the lead.

***

“Bloom” by Estée Lalonde. As you may or may not know, I watch close to 500 YouTube videos a week as a part of my job. Yes, my real-life-pays-me-benefits job. So when it comes to my spare time, I’m very picky about what creators make the cut. It’s become a bit of a running joke that literally every YouTuber has a book, and I’ll be honest, most are nothing to write home about. But then there is the occasional gem that rises to the surface and for me, that is Lalonde’s lifestyle guide “Bloom.” In this memoir, Lalonde writes about her battles with depression, anxiety, and her decision to move across the world to be with her great love. It talks about how YouTube went from being a passion to a full-time career, and most importantly, it provides inspiration for readers about spaces and energies. Her letter to London and chapters on self-care had me organizing my space and hanging frames that same day. I finished the book in 24 hours and have been excited to share it with friends.

Very similar to this book “Hey Natalie Jean” which I wrote about a couple years ago.

***

And my most recent read, “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. This book received a ton of buzz last year after winning the National Book Award and I am here to say it’s all true. The novel follows the journey of Cora, a slave who escapes from a plantation in Georgia using the Underground Railroad. With each state presenting a different experience and “future,” Cora witnesses first hand how the travesties of slavery are sewn so intrinsically into the tapestry of America. This novel is heartbreaking and chilling as its incidents of racial violence and injustice are ones we continue to see in modern society. But it’s Cora as a character, who is beautifully captured in the chapter Cesar, who gives heart and hope to this novel. This year, do yourself a favor and read this book.

When It Comes to Picking Teams, Choose Yours

eb2814e2ed671ed590bdf0dd371d3eb6

“What are you doing tonight?”

My coworker probably didn’t even need to ask me. Despite my status as a millennial in the city that never sleeps, I’m a creature of habit. Writing late into the night, binging on BBC, grabbing a beer with friends, having a quarter-life crisis in pottery class, yoga — my routine is as similar to “Sex and the City” as it is to “Stranger Things.”

“Pottery and ‘Sherlock,’” I cooed, already dreaming of donning my avocado pajamas and putting my arms around a bowl of homemade popcorn. Extra butter.

Safe to say, this was not the answer they were hoping for. The second the words left my mouth, their eyebrows shot up with a look that said, “Don’t rub your habits off on me you single, cat loving weirdo!” You know the look. It’s the look that  transports you back into your junior high locker room, where the pressure to conform outweighs your desire to wear panda bear underwear and go makeup free. But unlike my 13-year-old, braces-clad, glasses-rocking younger self, I’m no longer in the business of hearing other people’s opinions about my life. There is only one opinion I can count on, and I’m looking right at her.

It isn’t easy to receive this look of judgement. The heart wants what the heart wants, and like a 56-year-old woman in beads and free flowing blouses, this chick loves herself some ceramics.

It takes real guts to be on one’s own team because in doing so, you’re looking at your menu of faults and bad decisions and saying, I accept them. The good, the bad, and the unanswered texts from crushes past. The accomplishments you write home to your family and the social anxieties you try to keep at bay every time you walk into a room of new people. It doesn’t help that there is an endless list of things working to ebb away at your self-confidence — Photoshopped images in the media, snide comments from strangers, criticisms from your loved ones, bad dates, undermining coworkers. But here’s the thing: If you’re not going to be on your own team, who will?

To me, the best kind of life is one that is lived authentically. It’s having courage enough to embrace the things you love, take stock in the things that make you different, and celebrate the victories of looking into another person’s eyes and thinking, “Wow, I really don’t care that I’m not your type.” As my own team captain, I’m lighter without the worry of what people will think or say about me. That’s on them and truth be told, they’re probably more focused on their own lives than taking the time to question my love of teaching sex education or my messy brown hair.

I still remember where I was when I decided to become a real fan of Carly Lanning. It’s funny now thinking that it was an active decision, when in hindsight it’s something I wish I had always carried. I was talking on the phone to a friend and

as they congratulated me about an article I’d just published, I volleyed back all the things I should be doing better. I was a broken record repeating phrases like “I should be farther in my career” and “My body is getting gross, I should be working out more!” After hanging up, I listened to the squeals of the Jewish home schooled children wafting in through my kitchen window and realized how tired I was of always beating myself up. It made me heavy and unhappy. By measuring myself against other people’s accomplishments or opinions, I’d convinced myself I wasn’t enough.

Right there in that dark-paneled Los Angeles kitchen, I discarded my self-sabotaging mindset because I was more than enough for me.

There will always be moments of self-doubt, that’s as common a human emotion as our craving for carne asada fries after a few beers. Thoughts like: What if that coworker is right and I can’t manage this project? What if that guy didn’t call back because I’m boring? What if, what if, what if.

In these moments I want you to pull yourself in for a huddle, regroup, and ask yourself two things: Does this thing make me happy? And do I think I can do this?

Don’t apologize if either answer is yes. You owe no one a justification as to why you like to spend Friday nights at home reading instead of out at bars or why you received a promotion. Grab your unique quirks by the lapels and embrace them! They’re the very things that make you you. And trust me, you’re just the person any weirdo would want as a teammate.

What I Know for Sure

536c2c41b91d0e396715f57b614f5080

I kid you not when I say I’ve been in the process of writing this post for the past two years. It all started when I first read Oprah’s book, “What I Know For Sure,” on a red eye flight to New York City. The next morning, I landed in Brooklyn with two cats, two parents, and two suitcases of my most precious belongings — which turned out to be mostly books. In the two years since, New York City has evolved from being a magical place I dreamed about to a real-life, frustrating, inspiring zip code I’m lucky enough to call home.

Now, I know a lot about a lot of rather useless things. I know what the week’s top trending YouTube videos are and the interworkings of YouTube’s creator drama. I know how to make a delicious bowl of buttered popcorn and which bakery has the best whoopie pies in my neighborhood. I know how to make exactly one shape in pottery class and which streets take you to overlook the Hudson River from my apartment. Cooking, plumbing, and general adult undertakings, these I’m still working on, but it’s all about finding joy in the process right?

This New Year’s Eve, I took time to reflect on what these past two years have meant to me. And while I’m not as eloquent or meditative as Oprah (seriously, is anyone?), these are the few things I personally know for sure.

***

Ice tea is the greatest drink of all time. Even in the winter when it’s snowing.

Eye lash curlers will never not be terrifying.

Even though I want to eat cheese and cheesecake constantly, it doesn’t mean my body CAN digest cheese or cheesecake easily.

I will always cry at the end of “Legally Blonde.” Yes, that is a real statement.

I can’t take full credit for this one. Technically it’s my dad’s golden piece of advice, but I’m here to confirm it’s all true! To help stay mentally balanced with the stress of work and freelance, I make sure to also do something 180 degrees different than my everyday life. For me, this has been exercising, pottery, and sex education because all three don’t requires the internet or writing. In the studio I can just unplug for two hours and focus on nothing but the project in front of me.

ae46bc18df007adaeb7a6d5ff01fb887

Learning to truly forgive someone is a hard but necessary undertaking.

To do lists will always be my preferred source of organization — even though I’m constantly losing or having to rewrite them.

The floor boards of my apartment will someday collapse due to the weight of my bookcases.

There is no reason to worry about how others perceive you, instead, focus on what you think of yourself. It’s much less work and much more satisfying.

“The Atonement” soundtrack is an emotional roller coaster.

This video and this interview with the Rock and Kevin Hart will never not make me laugh.

If I’m not realistic about the amount of work I can commit to, I will overdue it and burn out. And how sad would that be? To lose my passion for writing and advocacy! This is why it’s so important for me to stay active and social in order to stay balanced. As David Allen once said, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”

Yoga is a superpower. I don’t quite know what it does sometimes, but its influence has brought calm and enlightenment far beyond my mat.

The worst thing someone can say is no. Ask for that well-deserved raise, approach someone about a date, pitch your dream project! You have everything you need to succeed, it just comes down to having the guts to actually pursue it.

Communication is EVERYTHING! If you don’t know, just ask!

Some nights are for beers and dancing, other nights are for Netflix marathons and avocado pajamas.

It’s okay to say no to the things that don’t serve you. There is nothing unkind or selfish about taking care of yourself.

I will never understand how some people don’t eat breakfast. I’m hungry within 11 minutes of waking up every single day and so are my cats.

Learning to be on my own team is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. So even now, when the tendency to rail against my faults sets in, I take a break, go for a walk, and begin again. This is something yoga has taught me, that I can always begin again.

fdaf4c0349b3c6374ddbb5760ac622f5

Zabie Yamasaki told me: “If it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing that occupies your thoughts before you drift off to sleep, then it’s the thing you’re meant to spend your life pursuing.” I sometimes look back with nervousness and think, “What if I hadn’t randomly taken that one journalism class? I would have missed out on such a great love.” For seven years, writing has given me the space to create, rally against injustice, remember my loved ones, and heal. I am indebted to its influence on my life.

Death is an incredible motivator. I know, WOAH! What a turn! Hear me out. After losing my uncle, I realized just how precious time is. It’s made me stop fearing death (which is very liberating in itself) and see it as a motivator to live everyday bravely, passionately, and without regrets. If I can do something today, I will do it today! So that when I’m 75, I will look back on the endless albums of adventure I’ve curated rather than a list of things I wish I would have done.