More Yes? More No? Lets Call the Whole Thing Off

^^ My friend Elizabeth and I at KCon 2018. ^^

It all started during a recent quest to discover the secret to peak productivity mode. While I figured a month into this journey I’d transform into that person who wakes up at 6am to go running, in reality, I instead spent an embarrassing amount of time watching YouTube videos. One of the conundrums these videos continued to present was the idea of saying yes more versus saying no more.

This summer, the New York Times published a piece about the importance of saying no to things you’re not full-bodied, head of heels excited about. As someone who is ridiculously bad at saying no, this article struck a cord in me because it highlighted the fact that by trying to do everything all the time, I never have enough energy to hunker down and focus on the things I’m most passionate about. On the flip side, Shonda Rhimes champions in her best selling book “The Year of Yes” the power of saying yes to all things outside of your comfort zone. This also speaks strongly to me. If I had stayed in my comfort zone I would have never moved to New York, never become a journalist, never climbed Half Dome or built relationships with some of my closets friends. I’d be lost without the power of yes and yet, saying yes all the time exhausts me. So which is it — more yes or more no?

In an attempt to answer this question for myself over the last month, here’s what I’ve learned.

Comfort Zones, Like Me, Are Always Changing

New things can be hard. Events where I don’t know a lot of people, walking into parties where I don’t know if my friends are already there, planning my own birthday party, going on blind dates, joining new groups where I don’t know anyone, giving presentations at work — what these things all have in common is they are completely out of my comfort zone and can often leave me feeling incredibly anxious beforehand. Then again, not all new things or people leave me feeling this way.

On the flip side, like all great Gemini’s, I also love taking new adventures! I love traveling with friends, or by myself, to somewhere I’ve never been before. I love sharing my work with coworkers or trying a new hobby or restaurant or workout. I love planning events for friends or hosting dinner parties. I love talking to people and making them feel comfortable and learning their stories. Before becoming a journalist I would never have imagined myself cold calling people for interviews and now I don’t even think twice.

In remembering the ways I’ve evolved over the years, I’ve realized that comfort zones aren’t permanent. True, things might be outside of your comfort zone right now that doesn’t mean you can’t do them anyways. Many of the most worthwhile things are the scariest, that’s how we know they mean something to us. But it’s also okay to know when something just isn’t for you and your comfort zone. That leaves more room for you to say yes to something that does.

This summer I’m flexing my yes muscles in different directions (hello public pool visits!), but also really enjoying the sensation of saying no to things that just don’t fit me.

Yes Cannot Exist Without No

I used to believe that to step outside of my comfort zone was to say yes to everything. “Perhaps I’m just being too much of a homebody,” I’d think when friends would invite me to concerts at midnight. “Everyone in New York seems to be using dating apps so that must be the only way to meet people,” I’d tell myself. For a long time, the idea of saying no translated in my mind to missed opportunities and missed connections. I’d say yes until, like a pendulum, I’d find myself swinging into the no camp and striking out everything on my calendar. Overtime it tallied up to me feeling like I was doing too much and too little at the same time.

The fact of the matter is, yes cannot exist without no. I cannot say yes to everything and I don’t want to say no to everything either. It’s a partner dance. This year, my 2018 resolution was to simplify in order to find balance within opposites. Instead of swinging so far into the yes camp and then catapulting back into no territory over and over again, how do I make these opposites into compliments? How do I stop feeling guilty when I have to — or even just want to — say no to something? And how do I encourage myself to say more yes to things that are nerve racking but exciting?

For me, it’s been learning to give my gut some credit and trust the fact that it’s probably not lying. The gut always knows the right answer but often, I choose to ignore it and over plan. I can’t do everything at once and thus, no is necessary in order to make space for more yes’s that are right for me.

Case in point, the weekend where I went to KCON with my friend Elizabeth.

Cue the KCON Storytime

What is KCON you might be asking yourself? Well, it’s a conference that celebrates all the ways Korean music, television, and media has influenced American culture. A huge focus of it is on Kpop — which my friend and coworker Elizabeth specializes in. With Kpop fans being some of the most dedicated fanbases in the world, I wanted to observe how the fandom interacts in real life and more about this genre that has taken over YouTube.

^^ This was my excitement level after two days of KCon. I was LIVING! ^^

I didn’t know much going into KCon but that almost turned out to be a blessing. I spent the entire weekend learning something new and from people so passionate about Kpop. There is something very humbling and exciting about learning something from scratch and this feeling I had at KCon was the same excitement when I first started pottery. I watched people jump in and out of dance circles singing every Korean lyric in time. I saw fans comforting one another as they discussed mental health in the community and listened to some bomb Kpop performances at night.

The same weekend of KCon, the YouTube conference VidCon was taking place in California and this was the first time in four years I wouldn’t be attending. Even though I knew I needed a break, it was still hard to say no to VidCon. I knew I would miss seeing people I’d previously worked with and I didn’t want my coworkers to think I was a slacker, but I just couldn’t do another consecutive year of VidCon. I’m now even more grateful that I said no because this no allowed me to say yes to KCon and have an amazing new experience that taught me about a new online community.

At the end of the day, all we can do is fill our lives with the things that serve us best; an outcome achieved with an unknown cocktail recipe of “yes” and “no” decisions. If you’re like me, it’s often hard  to break from routine, including habits like saying yes to everything or putting in extra time planning something new. But the more I’ve learned to say no, the more present I’ve become within the activities I’ve excitedly said yes to! Now, when I look back at KCon, I feel most grateful to have had a friend willing to shepherd me along and also, to myself for diving into something new.

So should I be saying yes more? No more? I vote we just call the whole thing off.

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Two Broadway Babies Meet Harry Potter

 

About a month ago Imali called me at 9am to ask if I wanted to go see “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” on Broadway. Ever since the play touched down in New York it’s been sold out. If we wanted to spend 10 hours watching the “Harry Potter” legacy continue we needed to act fast!

Needless to say I gave her all my savings and we bought tickets for a Wednesday afternoon in May. My boss jokingly told me last month I should take more vacations and who am I to argue when Harry Potter could potentially be in my future?

Now I knew very little about this play beforehand. When the book first came out I was so psyched to read it but then life — and 115 other books — got in the way and I told myself I’d pick it up in paperback one the moment was right.

For a bit of background this play is actually two plays broken up into a part one and two. Because we went on Wednesday, both parts were on the same day with one starting at 2:00pm and the other at 7:30pm. By the time we finished the last show we had been absorbed in the world of Harry Potter for nine hours — with an hour ramen break in between.

The play begins 22 years after we last saw Harry Potter. Now he’s a father and his middle son, Albus Severus Potter, is heading into his first year at Hogwarts where, following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Albus doesn’t quite fit. But, befriending Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpious on the train, the two set out to write their own story and make a little change in the world their father’s feud helped define.

I won’t reveal any more because it wouldn’t do the play justice. Plus I promised the ushers I would keep the secret, they even gave me a button that says exactly that. But I am not exaggerating when I say this play was the most incredible experience of my entire life.

For nine hours we watched magic happen on stage, magic that swirled around the entire theater and brought to life this world I’d grown up enamored with. When the play wasn’t blowing me away with its special effects, it’s exploration of friendship and fatherhood and grief and love was knocking the wind out of me. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, this play is worth every single penny. It’s proof that magic is real and proof that imagination can never be contained.

In part one, Moaning Myrtle was just *blows kisses into the air* and Scorpious’ monologue about his mother had me crying in my seat. Plus don’t even get me started on the exchange between Harry Potter and Dumbledore about fatherhood. This play is marvelous in its special effects but it’s the heart of the characters — the unconditional friendship and chemistry of Albus and Scorpious — that drives this play. Every person in the theater — who was a huge HP fan to begin with — was just losing their minds by the end. When those dementors flew around the theater, just game over!

^^ I almost got hit by a car trying to take this picture but totally worth it. ^^

But perhaps my favorite part of this entire experience was getting to do it with Imali, my person and the greatest “Harry Potter” fan I know. Numerous times during our nine hours of Potter binging, Imali would lean over to me and whisper, “Aren’t you so glad to be alive right now?” It was the same wonder she held in her eyes all those years ago when she’d pull all nighters to read the latest “Harry Potter” from Barnes and Noble.

For me, Imali’s sweet sentiment best captured that entire Wednesday. Just me and my best friend inside a world that inspired and shaped us growing up. I’ve had a Harry Potter hangover ever since and every time someone asks me about the play, all I can do is say, “It made me so very glad to be alive.”

Dear Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

On the walk home today from the subway I tried to image what you look like. I think you must volley between two forms.

The first is the purple minion from “Despicable Me.” Yes, the one that just makes everything worse by yelling at the top of its lungs no matter the circumstance. Spending a day with you is like spending a day with an uncontrollable fire alarm that blares every time a social situation borders on anything other than ideal. Yes, I hear you! Stop ringing! You’re the anxiety whose vocabulary consists entirely of always and never statements and your favorite phrases include:

I’ve peaked as a writer and will never write anything good again. 

I’m always going to feel this frustrated and upset. 

I’ll never have it together.

I’ll never find the right person to date. 

I’ll always be bad with deadlines. 

Going into new situations will always be terrifying. 

While you, the purple minion-anxiety, is rash and loud and always on fire, your anxiety alter-ego — personified as a cartoon Dracula — is cunning, quietly waiting around corners, and always knows where my weak spots are.

Dracula-anxiety you’re the type that takes on the role of devil’s advocate. For every new idea I try and propose, you’ve already worked out 11 reasons why it won’t work. You thrive on midnight conversations and digging up long filed away memories just for shits and giggles. Like, “Remember that time you drank one too many beers at a happy hour and told your coworker he had a perfectly symmetrical face? Wasn’t that fun? Lets really think about that as we lay here in the dark.”

Yes Anxiety! I REMEMBER! I WAS THERE!

Together, you two can be a real team — and I don’t mean that as a compliment. You’re real pains in the ass at least once a day.

Last week I wrote in my planner all the things I considered brave that I did that week. Reading back through, I was struck by how little they looked on paper compared to how big they felt in real life.

Brave things Carly did this week

Ask cute coworker to lunch.

Call best friend and talk on the phone for two hours.

Commandeer a desk downstairs at work and hope nobody comes to claim it.

Start planning a fall trip.

Talk candidly with my manager about missing deadlines.

Make plans with a friend I don’t know very well.

Walk into a new restaurant and ask for a table for one.

I know, these things are dinky in the big scheme of things! When I compare them to packing up my life and moving to New York in two weeks I’m often like, wait …. what? Going to a graphic novel bookclub is the thing that’s making you shake in your boots? Really?

But that’s how my brain works and that’s how my anxiety manifests. Instead of trying to shove it into a box under the bed it seems time I learn how to cope with it, starting with the little things first.

So that’s where I am. The majority of the time I can negotiate with this Dracula and calm down the purple minion who is one fire, but somedays they’re just a little more persistent, a little more nasty than normal. On those days, I simply give myself a mental hug and recognize with pride that even though a tiny interaction can give me anxiety, I know I’m going to do it anyway.

Then I go home and make myself some lemon bars.

So Anxiety, whenever you want to breakup just let me know! Until then, could you at least do the dishes?

Cheers,

Carly

 

 

Spring Things I Can’t Wait to Do in NYC

^^ Work view. ^^

At the beginning of the year I set a goal for myself to publish one blog post a week. My hope was that: A)I’d begin to push myself more creativity by trying out new writing styles, post ideas and increasing the number of photos I take, and B) Establish a stronger habit of writing everyday. As you’ve probably already gathered, I’ve missed this goal by a long shot because, well, life? I’ve been perfecting my lemon bar recipe and catching up on “Death in Paradise” reruns?

But there seemed no better time than today, while basking in 70 degree sunshine, to reaffirm my commitment to my new year’s resolutions — including my promise to this here website.

Today was one of the most perfect spring days. Those days where everyone is outside and happy, kids racing by on scooters and dogs smiling at their owners. Those days when you choose to walk the extra blocks because the idea of going underground and taking the subway seems impossible. I had a rather long Saturday to do list all ready for myself but once I started walking, I couldn’t convince myself to head back home. I walked until I hit the Brooklyn promenade, set up shop on a bench in the sun and read for about two hours, sandwiched in between the locals who’d come out with their newspapers to read from their incredible backyard view.

^^ This was where I received a reading sun burn, a very specific tan line on one arm. ^^

It’s a weird thing to say, “I LOVE walking,” but it’s true. Taking long meandering walks through Brooklyn is hands down my favorite thing to do in the city. I often write my articles in my head while on long walks or make up stories for the lives that occupy some of my most favorite brownstones. It’s my time to solve or discard problems from the week before, a time to check in with my brain and see what is happening up there. And most importantly, it’s how I’ve found a lot of hidden gems, including a recent favorite, Powerhouse Bookstore in Park Slope. It’s like someone curated a bookstore specifically for me and then opened it in my neighborhood. I just gave them all my money.

^^ Because I don’t have 115 other unread books in my apartment. Just kidding, TOTALLY WORTH IT! ^^

Also the world’s largest ice tea can be purchased at a bagel shop on Smith and President Street. It was 32 ounces and three dollars, I literally can’t get over it. Hence this picture to commemorate the moment!

Should you be thinking of stopping by the neighborhood anytime soon — which really you should pronto, this humidity-free sunshine isn’t going to last forever! — here are a few things I’m especially excited to check out this spring in NYC:

  • The David Bowie Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum: Everyone keeps telling me how amazing and interactive this exhibit is. I just can’t wait to check it out before it leaves in July!
  • Meeting the Muppets at the Museum of the Moving Image: I mean, need I say more than KERMIT WILL BE THERE! Fun fact: I love the Muppets, so much so that when I get stressed out (especially when taking my cats to the vet) I sing “Rainbow Connection” to myself. It really does wonders. The museum also has a neat exhibit about the history of digital video and not to brag, but my coworker was featured in it!
  • Traveling to Governors Island for the day. It opens May 1!
  • Lots of delicious Chinese food? Yes please! The interactive exhibit Chow: Making of the American Chinese Restaurant follows the history of American Chinese food and yes, provides free samples.
  • Having a picnic in Central Park because sun and lots of dogs.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — which Imali and I are going to see this week! — and Once on the Island which people are raving about. Plus Boy’s in the Band which is on Broadway until August 15th.
  •  Grabbing a beer at Greenwood Park, a pub that has an enormous outdoor area next to Greenwood Cemetery.
  • Checking out the Mirror Tea House two blocks from my apartment. And should I be hungry, walking up the street to test out the meatballs at the new Italian restaurant (with patio!) named LBK on Union and 4th.
  • Searching for the perfect pair of pottery overalls at the vintage haven L Train Vintage.
  • After I’ve knocked a couple more books off my TBR list, taking a trip to Books Are Magic to pick up “Am I There Yet?”
  • Seeing Misty Copeland in “Giselle” with the American Ballet Theatre.
  • Getting a homemade ice cream cookie sandwich at Farmacy Soda Shop in Cobble Hill.
  • Taking a book down the street for a beer at the tiny little pub called The Sackett.

Looking at this list, I better get out there because it will probably be October by the time I get through all of these! Any suggestions? Let me know!

Happy Wednesday y’all!

 

An Ode to Wednesdays

Wednesdays always tend to be a bit of a blue day for me.

I can’t exactly put my finger on what inspires the weekly reoccurrence of  sluggishness, but like clockwork, by 3pm on Wednesday I am clawing at the walls to go take a walk. When it comes to Wednesday, it’s usually the day when I’m most likely to spill tea down the front of my shirt and get stuck on a broken subway train. The day when the perceived coolness of the teams that sit around me at work feel a little more intimidating than normal and the day I’m more likely to get dressed without my glasses and realize at 6pm I’ve been wearing my underwear inside out all day long. It’s the day my brain is full to the brim with queries, video stats, trends, and writing and the thought of two more days of learning seems slightly impossible.

On this particular Wednesday perhaps the blues began when I ripped by pants and then discovered a cockroach in my kitchen all before 9am. It was like all the waves of productivity that have nearly floored me at the beginning of the week had packed up and left overnight, without a wave goodbye or a note saying when they’d be back. Even a bag of funfetti cookies couldn’t quite shift the flood of tiny thoughts swirling in between bites.

With my friends starting to leave New York City, how am I going to make new friends? Are there clubs at work I should join? Am I friendly enough? Will going to something new by myself always be so terrifying? No I resolved, cookie in mouth, I was going to do it! I was going to join a hiking club and say yes to happy hour invitations! Even if the nerves almost killed me!

Despite my gumption, it was a moment when the world just felt exceptionally big and I, exceptionally small.

Running down the stairs to catch the train, I looked up and there was my best friend Imali on the platform. I swear there might even have been a special spotlight shining down on her at that moment. She doesn’t work anywhere near me and yet, there she was, just when I needed a little reminder to stop trying to control all the little details and simply enjoy the things that matter most.

We didn’t dig deep into our days — how much can you really catch up on in-between one subway stop? — but as I got off the train, I couldn’t help but wondered if the universe had pulled some strings to get Imali onto my subway track that Wednesday in the hopes of reminding me that all great, wonderful things in my life (friendships, writing, hobbies, trips) all started with a single step. A tiny bite of the elephant.

So maybe a new club won’t rock my world off its hinges and these coworkers who sit around me won’t someday be giving speeches at my wedding. But then again, maybe they will? Crazier things have happened — like seeing my best friend on the New York City subway platform.

And if they don’t, I can always give Imali a call while waiting for my subway and simply say, “Damn what a Wednesday, am I right?”