Phrases to Push You Forward

Each day I come closer to better understanding myself. Every day, I get a better idea as to what truly motivates me, what truly peeves me, and most of all how to cope with these realizations and apply them to being a better version of myself. I’ve found that self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

I mean, Sheryl Crow says it best, “Everyday Is a Winding Road”

Most recently, I’ve grasped that niceties, frequent compliments, telling me, “Awe it’s going to be okay” – none of that motivates me, none of that means anything to me. It will go in one ear and out the other, the same as when someone apologizes to me. When someone apologizes to me, just the simple word, “sorry” has me shut down. I’m not listening to you anymore, I’m taking your words with a grain of salt, they mean nothing. You’re sorry? Cool story, bro.

I’ve understood that I’m very actions-based (my love language is acts of service obvi), and the only time words motivate me are when they’re unexpected or blunt. But nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do it.

Some phrases in particular, mantras if you will, that I’ve found myself saying on a loop in my head, that push me forward:

Pick your pain.

This phrase comes from Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I read this book in January and this is the phrase that has stuck with me since. When I’m having an exceptionally terrible day, thinking about quitting everything and shipping off to live off the land as a hermit… I remind myself that pain, hinderance, it’s everywhere. It’s the biggest sign of life. You can’t get away from it, but you can pick the pain you want, choose which pain is most manageable.

I usually follow up this mantra with, “The devil you know.”

Cheat death.

This came from graffiti I saw on my way to work one day. I was having a super rough morning, one of those, “I need to take a mental health week…” type of days, and there was something about seeing this phrase that just gave me the kick in the ass I needed that day. Like hell yeah, let’s cheat death today, gurl.

I’m doing it for me.

There are times when someone takes ages to complete a task, and I’ll find myself annoyed AF and just do it for them. I’m pissed the whole time, adolescently slamming things and huffing as I do it, “Why am I doing this for them, they don’t do it for me.” Then one day it just clicked: They’re not doing it for me, and I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing the damn thing for me. In order to make myself more at peace, this task needs done ‘now’ – so I will do it just to bring myself some peace.

Sometimes I need to make a selfless situation feel selfish in order to boost my mood, it is what it is.

No one’s coming.

I recently came across this video about parenting yourself and it hit hard, because it’s true. As an adult, no one is going to come and force you to go on a walk, force you to go to bed at a certain time, and no one is going to tell you that microwavable mac and cheese is not dinner. No one is going to just automatically come and help you. And I’m not telling you that you’re alone in life, but if you do need help you have to ask for it.

It’s not personal.

I’ve typically always taken everything personally. If someone says an idea I have is stupid, I think that they’re telling me I’m stupid. If someone yells at me on the phone, because of something I can’t control, 8 times out of 10 I’ll start crying because they’re yelling at me. But it’s taken a long time, and I’m still working on it, to just not take things personally. Almost everything that anyone does, isn’t personal to you but it is personal to them – so leave it that way.

Not everything is about you. You aren’t stupid, but maybe your idea isn’t as well thought out as you envisioned (and that’s okay.) The person screaming at you on the phone is definitely just mad at the situation it puts them in – it has nothing to do with you (they don’t even really know you.)


What’s important is to understand what type of communication is most effective for you, the above phrases may be completely toxic to you and get you in a negative headspace. You have to sort that out for yourself. I’ll say it again: self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

Immortalizing the Days: March

So March is over?

As mentioned in my January article, for 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gives me a little thing to look forward to each day and is the little push on certain days to just do. Then it becomes fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what March looked like for me, I’d title it, “Moody March” beware those ides, am I right?

. . .

The next fun adventure on my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday.

You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough.

Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm, maybe a new song that struck a chord with me, or a perhaps there was a day so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day. March starts with Shut Me Up by Mindless Self Indulgence (LOL)

. . .

Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 4/1/21:

So, uh, my playlist got SUPER weird this month – so if you’re following the music journey with me… I have no explanation other than it was a moody, angsty month.

The video? Vibes. This month was so busy, there was a lot of times I nearly forgot to take a video (which maybe is a fun sign of life.) Either way, there’s been a lot of learning curves I’ve taken at full speed, I got a title change (aye-oh), and honestly – I feel like I’ve been in a constant state of yikes. Sum of March: I need a vacaaaaaaaaaaay.

Five things learned in March:

  • If you can’t handle the heat, there is no shame in leaving the kitchen
  • Early birds are not better people than night owls. Just because someone is a morning person, it doesn’t automatically make them better at life or adulting than you, my dear night owl. If anything, it just means their freak outs start hours earlier 😉
  • Stop trying to make flourless banana bread happen. You remembered the banking soda and it’s still weird, but not in a good way.
  • If you don’t take yourself seriously, how do you expect others to?
  • You always have more people rooting for you than you think. It’s easy to think the world is out to get you, but don’t forget about your secret cheerleaders, prayer warriors, and vibe senders – they got you.

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Run For Your Life

It’s Friday evening and as I sit in my bed, sans pants, I realize how long it’s been since I’ve taken a moment to reflect.

I’m at a place in my life where I feel stagnant, settled, but for the first time ever I can say that I’ve been content with my daily routine. This truly is a new version of myself.

I used to consistently be slapped in the face with the need for CHANGE– some kind of adventure to get my adrenaline going. Once, I was so overwhelmed by this feeling that I got a new tattoo and changed my hair all in one weekend. My past was full of on-a-whim plane ticket purchases and impromptu trips. I’d come to think that this desire for MORE only occurred because I wasn’t grateful for what I already had.

No one is perfect at practicing gratitude, but I think that past-me had it all wrong (as I’ve been realizing is usually the case).

You know how they always say that people “give up” on working hard in their relationships once they get married? Well, my situation is similar. I found a job, city and apartment that I liked, then I just went through the motions of my day-to-day life. Why push myself to grow when I’m already satisfied at my current size?

I think this is a common way to live for many adults. However, if we’re not actively trying to make our lives more enjoyable each day, we will eventually begin to regress. And my friends, I’m now having a revelation that I’ve been on a slow and steady decline since the day I decided to “give up” chasing more.

I used to have a tendency to always want more: a better apartment, a significant other, more friends, a better job, another degree. I thought those things would make me happy.

Those things, though, would never satisfy me. Even when I would get “more,” I’d be reminiscent of the times before I got it or I’d simply think, “this isn’t enough.” So I found a way of life that was acceptable and I planted my roots. I thought I’d never be able to make myself “happy,” so there was no point in chasing highs.

The crazy thing is, GETTING the high was obviously not making me happy, but CHASING that high? The chase was the exciting part. The chase was what got me out of bed in the morning. The chase is what made me feel productive and useful. Now I’m regressing instead of growing and I’m blaming the world for dealing me with a shit hand of cards after all I’ve been doing is “trying my best.” Face the music, Zoë, you haven’t been trying at all.

The problem is not the world; it is me.

Without those far away dreams to run after and work toward, what are we even doing with our lives? And once we attain those seemingly-impossible goals, it doesn’t mean that the chase is over. It means that it’s time to set a new goal. We SHOULD be looking to get better and better and better everyday.

To quote my favorite fictional bachelor, Ted Mosby, “If you’re not scared, then you’re not taking a chance. And if you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing anyway?” UGH, Ted would be so upset with me if he knew how I’ve been living for the past few years!

Hate feeling scared? Good news! Almost everyone else does too. That doesn’t mean we should all just quit trying new things or trying to achieve greatness, just because it’s scary.

Think about the most influential people in the world. Don’t you think it was terrifying for them to get to where they are now? They didn’t shrink from their fear; they ran toward their fears.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of shrinking. It’s time to climb out of our ruts, shake off the dust, and run toward our fears. Let’s run for our lives.

Evolution: Embrace It

“People don’t change,” whispers a scornful, bitter friend.

We’ve all been told vehemently that people don’t change, “If they sucked then, they’ll suck now,” and all that yada yada. Which in all fairness is true for some people – some people really do just suck (forever), but for the vast majority of the population: we are not doomed to suck forever.

To be the same forever goes against the grain; we aren’t meant to rinse and repeat our entire lives. This isn’t to denounce routine by any means, but it is to embrace growth. You shouldn’t be the same person you were at 17, or even the same person you were last year. Every day lessons should be learned, every day we should be striving to be better than yesterday.

When you move to New York, the first thing that people will tell you is to remember that there is always someone better.

This is meant as a warning that the dating scene is hard because in the back of your mind (and your date’s mind) is the lingering thought, “Hmmm… is there someone better? Is this investment worth it?” Not to mention the whole competitive job scene has an underlying tone that you are replaceable (which isn’t necessarily a lie.) But it’s true, in life there is always someone better, but there is always someone worse too. It’s a double-edged sword.

So let’s take that knowledge introspectively: there is always a worse version of myself and a better version, and it’s in the power of the present version of myself to decide how I pan out.

To break that down, lately before I do something mildly destructive I audibly tell myself, “Girl, don’t do that to future you. Don’t put her through that. Don’t give her chores for later.”

The tendency to coddle our present self is in and of itself: self-destructive.

Present you is already having a bad day, case closed. Done. Past you already wasn’t equipped to deal with it, so what are you going to do for future you? How are you going to try to set her up better, make her more equipped to handle a similar mess in the future? How are you going to e v o l v e from this?

If you don’t evolve, if you reject the universe telling you that your current state of being is not sustainable – you are doomed to rinse and repeat. If you don’t learn from the bad day, that bad behavior, or that explosive encounter with someone more woke than you – then these things will always happen to you like groundhog day. You will get stuck.

Change is an old friend that comes when you least expect it.

Sometimes we get to embrace the change with open arms, but other times… the change is too much and not our cup of tea. That being said, we all change way more than we give ourselves credit for. Just last week I was able to talk myself out of hitting snooze everyday simply by asking myself, “Will the ten extra minutes change your day? Is it worth it?” Each day it was a clear answer, the snooze was not hit and I got out of bed earlier than usual.

But this week, I’ve not seen the same rationale and argued that yes, ten more minutes will actually make or break my day. Yet instead of that extra ten minutes domino-effecting my morning, I cling to the beneficial mindset I made last week and make compromises. Meaning if I sleep longer then this is how my routine will get altered, etc. Really, I’m refusing to allow myself to ‘sleep in’ without holding myself accountable for the effect it will have on the rest of my morning.

So you see, the person I was last week, I’m not her today, not completely. The person I was last year? Don’t know her. This is to say, if you knew me in high school or even college, and our friendship didn’t withstand the test of time: you don’t know me, nor I, you.

“You’ve changed,” whispers a scorned, bitter friend.

“Funny how that happens, isn’t it?” I say with a smile.


Dropping this Affirmations playlist as a reminder to embrace your evolution, but also don’t be too hard on yourself today ❤


The Universe Screams Perception

Perception. Life is all about perception.

You know that weird thing that happens where the universe starts to send you the same message over and over again, but it takes the third, fourth, or millionth time for the message to actually come through? The message finally hits home hard enough, reverberating in your mind, and you finally say to yourself and the universe, “Okay, okay – I get it…

Lately the universe has been screaming out one word to me: Perception.

Where it started:

Late at night, as I’m trying to go to sleep, my brain loves to torture me with embarrassing things I’ve done throughout my life, dangle the tasteless words I’ve spouted at others, and really just hammer in that I’m a terrible, heartless person. After I hear a dizzying bout of my own words, I then take a deep dive into a vicious wave pool of the hurtful things friends and family have said to me (or about me) throughout my life, “Nobody really knows who you are,” “You don’t have much of a personality,” “You’re a two-faced bitch,” “You’re soulless,” all of which effectively drive the point home.

Yet, as I flail about the torrent of self-loathing, I take a minute to refocus – to reel it back in. None of that matters, what matters is where I am now. Not the big picture macro-now, I mean the micro-now. I focus on the task at hand: relaxing and getting some rest. I remind myself that the past is done, those people probably don’t remember these moments anyway. In this precise moment the past doesn’t matter, only the micro-now matters.

Where it went:

Nobody really knows who you are.” This is the late night phrase that has been sticking to me like static-y cellophane throughout even the daylight hours. I’ve just had a hard time shaking it lately. This was something casually said to me in high school by an incredibly close friend. They said it offhand, and I remember being completely jarred by it.

I always felt a tad out of place in high school, all of those kids had grown up together, I randomly showed up freshman year and most people assumed I was older because they didn’t know me. But a little over halfway into my high school career, I had become involved enough to genuinely feel like I was leaving some kind of footprint with my classmates, and like I was becoming a part of this general air of familiarity carried between these hundreds of kids.

Then my friend made that statement and it completely altered the perception I had of myself. My gut reaction to their statement was that they were wrong. But my audible response to them was, “Well, I still don’t really know most people anyway, so that’s fine.”

But it wasn’t fine. That one offhand, careless statement made by a friend… I gave those words so much power that they still have a hold over how I see myself in the eyes of others. Consistently throughout my life, well since sophomore or junior year of high school, I have always assumed people don’t know me. All because a trusted friend, an ally in life, told me so.

Where it’s going:

What has been most difficult lately is trying to understand why that memory decided to resurface so fiercely and persistently. Why has it been the ringing in my ears? Is the universe trying to communicate something to me?

Then today, the universe screamed its violent message at me, using my cousin as a catalyst. My cousin posted a video and somewhere in there she said, “Everyone in the world has a different perception, even if they’re seeing the exact same thing.” What’s comical is that this message from the universe landed like an edible – aka an hour later.

An hour after watching my cousin’s video, I sat up in a stark realization: I let the perception of another impact my own perception of myself. Which is incredibly unfortunate, I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed due to this lack of clarity in myself? So within the time I’ve been writing this article, I’ve been tumbling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of realizations. Most importantly, I’ve come to understand that I stopped believing that friend’s statement long ago, their words have not been my truth for quite sometime now.

Since moving to New York and starting my career nearly four years ago, I’ve slowly been coming into my own power and understanding the impact that my voice can have. I have come to understand that I am incredibly capable of commanding a room, that I have an infallible confidence if I so call upon it, and that I have the power to decide whether I am noticed or whether I hide. I am in charge of the perception I project – whether it’s yours or mine.

. . .

5 Lessons that I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

I’m 27 years old and I’m still constantly learning things that I thought I’d never need to learn. Sometimes we are hit in the face with realizations that make us think, “I should have known that!” I’ve recently learned 5 life lessons that seem like common-sense and could have been extremely helpful if I’d known these things sooner.

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1. Your coworkers are not your friends.

All human beings have a need for companionship. Even the most introverted people out there have the desire to make friends. It’s who we are.

As adults, it’s much more difficult to make new friends. You don’t have school to meet people in class, there aren’t many grown-up “extra curricular activities” where you can meet like-minded individuals (and if there are, you don’t have as much time to attend them), and friend-making apps are just awkward. I kind of think this is why people get married– for a 24/7 bestie.

Anyway, the only place you see people and spend most of your time is at work. Unfortunately though, your coworkers are not people you should see as your friends. Why? Well, the work environment is, with all due respect, a place of constant competition. Although humans are wired to find companionship, we are also wired to survive. Therefore, everyone you work with is looking out for one person–and one person only–themselves.

You may think you can trust your coworkers and maybe you generally can. However, if there comes a time where you stand in a coworker’s path to success, you’ll be under the bus before you even get to the stop. In other words, “Don’t f*ck with my paycheck.”

Ever wonder why you’re the only one who puts forth effort to maintain a “friendship” with your coworker outside of the workplace? It’s simple: Your coworkers are not your friends.

2. Just because you are comfortable with something, doesn’t mean that everyone else is comfortable with it.

Maybe to the more “woke” of us or even to those who are simply more aware of their surroundings, this is a big no-brainer. I, on the other hand, apparently have been existing in my own imaginary bubble where everyone agrees all the time for 27 years. So something I have learned about the hard way is: *NEWS FLASH!* not everyone is lax about most things.

Look, I’m not saying that I’m a go-with-the-flow type of person at all. I’m actually the opposite most of the time. However, I’ve realized recently that I see MANY things as “no big deal” that the majority of other people identify as important or even personal! Here are some of my experiences:

a) I’m not saying that I’m unprofessional, but…I’m not very professional: I’ve been in the workforce for almost 4 years now (yikes) and I’m still trying to getting a grasp on what it means to represent yourself professionally. There are obvious things that I understand, like “don’t wear a crop top to work” or “don’t flip off your boss,” but damn, there are way more rules that I actually didn’t realize were important. For example, when I worked at The United Nations (don’t get too starry-eyed; it was a mouse infested basement), I wore heels everyday because it made me feel like an adult for some reason. However, I’d forget everyday how much heels actually hurt your feet, so I’d take off my shoes under my desk. No harm, no foul, right? Right…until one day I didn’t even think about it and got up to give my boss something across the office in my bare feet. Halfway to her desk I realized I was shoe-less, but instead of turning around I just thought to myself “oh well, it’s no big deal.” BOY WAS I WRONG THOUGH because as soon as my boss saw my feet she chewed me out for being unprofessional. Okay…so wearing shoes is a big deal. Got it.

Unfortunately, I’ve been caught off-guard by breaking other professional norms too though: putting my feet on another chair (apparently showing the bottom of your shoes to someone is an insult in some cultures, by the way, eeeeek), chewing gum while teaching, wearing a beanie to work EVEN THOUGH I was having a bad hair day, being 30 seconds late to literally every meeting ever, not replying to e-mails in a timely fashion, accidentally calling my boss “dude” or the lovely few times I’ve accidentally let a curse word slip out when talking to my boss (no kidding– one time I overslept for work and woke up confused by a call from my D.O.O. and my first word of the day was a very loud “FUUUUUUUU**).

b) I’m an open book; one could argue that I’m too open: To put it bluntly, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about secrecy. Oh, we just met? Here’s all of my daddy issues. Let me tell you about how I’m an alcoholic, and maybe even read you a long list of my flaws. Look at all the different medications I’m on to try and keep me stable!! Incredibly embarrassing stories? Happy to entertain you. What else do you not really want to know about me?

The funny thing is that I’m only exaggerating A LITTLE BIT, and my shameless approach to life has gotten me into some trouble (shocker). Some of my actual friends have gotten upset with me because I’ve assumed that they also had no shame. One time a friend of mine (btw, at this time we’d been friends for over 2 years) was talking about how she was living with her boyfriend at his parents’ house, and I laughed and asked “how in the world are you guys able to have sex with his parents next door!?” Seems like a harmless and humorous question to me, but it offended her that I’d even ask about her sex life. I genuinely couldn’t wrap my head around why she was so uncomfortable with my question, but that’s because if she had asked me that, I’d probably have given her more details than she asked for. Who cares?! Well, she cares, and I’m sure there are many other people who feel the same way she does.

I have lots of other stories about times where I’ve assumed that my friends or even acquaintances or coworkers think exactly the same way I do, when in fact they do not, and I’ve triggered something unknowingly. I’ve gotta’ stop assuming shit, dude.

3. Saying “I’m sorry” too much actually makes the phrase lose its value.

I won’t go super into detail on this one since Emily wrote a whole article about why saying sorry kind of sucks, which I’ll shamelessly plug right here. But in short, I’m constantly apologizing for things that don’t need to be apologized for. It’s mostly stuff like, “sorry I suck” or “sorry for crying,” but am I actually sorry for feeling the way that I feel? Maybe I’m sorry for myself, but apologizing to someone else only makes me look weak, and then when I apologize for something REAL, it doesn’t seem significant. Learn when to say sorry and when to just be confident.

4. It’s not all about you.

I’m not a pre-teen in a graphic t-shirt that reads “It’s all about me” in big bold lettering. I also don’t explicitly say or think that the world revolves around me. No one does! However, I know that I’m not the only one who thinks that everyone is out to get me. This is what what I mean when I say that it’s not all about you.

For example, say that you’re walking down the street and decide to look down at your phone to check your e-mails. As your eyes are down, you accidentally bump into a woman, making her iced coffee fall out of her hand, spill onto her blouse and all over the ground. The woman immediately curses you out and calls you “ignorant” or “careless.” This sets you into either anger, irritability or negative self-talk. Maybe you were checking your e-mail because your boss just chewed you out for not replying to e-mails in a timely manner. The woman calling you “careless” and “ignorant” now triggered your own fears of being just that, even though you were only trying your best to fix a problem that originally made you feel that way! You think to yourself, “This b*tch doesn’t know what I’m going through! She can buy another coffee, but I won’t be able to buy anything when I lose my job!” or “I guess I can’t do anything right!!”

This is an example of making this negative interaction about yourself. We’re all guilty of this! Instead, trying asking yourself why this woman reacted the way she did. Maybe the blouse you ruined was a gift she got from a friend who just passed away. Maybe her bank account only had enough money to buy that coffee and she used it on that because it made her happy and helped her forget her financial troubles. Maybe SHE was running late to work where she was ALSO just chewed out by her boss for timeliness and now you’ve slowed her down and made her look even more of a mess. The point here is that we don’t really know what other people are going through. We also need to evaluate our own part in things. If you hadn’t been looking at your phone, you wouldn’t have spilled her coffee in the first place. This is a small example, but it can be applied to anything.

Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own problems that we assume everything bad happening to us is directed toward us personally. This is not always true! Think about how much you think about yourself: your position at work, your relationship, how others might view you, your depression/anxiety, your family, your goals, etc. Something I never thought of was this– everyone else is also thinking about themselves most of the time.

I used to walk around worried that everyone hated me or that they were all plotting my demise (sometimes I still do). What was incredibly liberating is realizing that in reality, no one is thinking about me. Everyone is thinking about their own stuff, just like I’m thinking about mine.

On the same note, how many times have you hurt or wronged someone else because you were wrapped up in your own bullsh*t? The iced coffee example applies here too. We are not the center of the universe; it’s crazy to me that I never fully understood this simple fact, especially because I’ve never thought of myself as a selfish person.

5. Sometimes when you think that the universe is out to get you, it might actually be you sabotaging yourself.

This connects a bit to the previous lesson about how the bad things that happen to you aren’t always about you. However, this one is more about self-loathing when we see negative things happening in our lives over and over again and not seeing our own actions as the common denominator.

When it rains, it pours, right? There is so much validity in this statement. I’ve personally been in this situation myself for several months. For this one, I’m going to get personal so I can very clearly explain how I learned this lesson:

About 7 months ago, I was in a financial predicament due to my own excessive spending along with paying way too much for rent to live in my own one-bedroom apartment. My lease was coming to an end, so I was looking for 3-bedroom apartments with my now roommates so I could spend less money each month on living expenses. We finally found a place, but my credit score wasn’t high enough to get it without a co-signer or paying a $4,500 EXTRA down payment. I somehow figured it out, but I knew I was about to be very broke for a very long time after moving. In the midst of packing and moving, the first day of school with all online classes was quickly approaching, so I had to learn how to teach over Zoom correctly and prepare a million things for that. I was stressed, but keeping my head above water. 3 days before classes began, I was hit with a horrible shock: my uncle passed away unexpectedly.

My uncle’s death was something I could not control, but my negative spiral afterward was not the universe’s fault. I unknowingly sabotaged myself.

When my uncle passed, I had to miss the first week of school to go home for funeral services. I don’t regret missing that week of work, because I needed to be there for my family. When I got back to work, I was completely out of the loop. This school year was a totally new experience; we had to relearn how to teach effectively, our duties had been shifted to more useful tasks while teaching online, and the expectations of teachers and students were very different. I had to play catch-up while also moving into my new apartment and dealing with the sudden waves of crippling grief over the loss of my uncle. For about 2 months after returning to work, I felt like a complete failure, dropping the ball over and over and never being able to pick it back up. Every time I messed up at work, I frantically apologized and swore it would never happen again (this connects to lesson #3), but I continued to mess up.

I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get out of this hole I was in. I thought that the world was out to get me and everyone was watching and waiting for me to fail. Eventually it all caught up with me and I thought that life was treating me unfairly.

My psychiatrist brought to my attention that my troubles were caused by self-sabotage. I was constantly continuing to mess up because I was subconsciously telling myself “I’m only going to fail, so why bother?” I was not being abused by the universe, but actually digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole that was only initiated by things I couldn’t control. He told me the only way to fix this is to consciously take any and all opposite action– do things you don’t want to do. Clearly what I’ve been doing recently isn’t working, so I’m trying to take his advice. We’ll see what happens!

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What’s surprising to me about these life lessons is the fact that they seem so obvious. But it’s these seemingly common-sense ideas that we almost always learn the hard way, leaving us dumbfounded and confused. Remember though, humans are inherently flawed, so next time you find yourself thinking, “I should have known that already,” remind yourself that no one knows everything and that life is all a learning process.

Immortalizing the Days: February

Well you guys, February is a wrap… which means I’ve got a video & some lessons learned to share with y’all.

As mentioned in my January article, for 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gives me a little thing to look forward to each day and is the little push on certain days to just do. Then it becomes fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what February looked like for me, I’d title it, “The Wintry Month of Growth”

. . .

The next fun adventure on my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday.

You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough.

Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm that day, or a new song that struck a chord with me, or a day that was so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day. February starts with Ready Now by Dodie 🙂

. . .

Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 2/28/21:

So, I’m still smitten with my playlist. Now if you remember from my January article, that video had me feeling lame and dejected. Well when watching this video, I found that I actually felt quite impressed with myself this month. As I mentioned in this article, February is when my seasonal depression is always at its peak and only travel can really dull the SAD. So I’ll be incredibly honest, since I didn’t travel anywhere this month, I’ve been struggling to the max and feeding the depressive beast. Which is why looking back and watching my February moments, I’m impressed with myself. Through the despair I’ve felt, I still managed to hardcore create and cleanse – which that SAD beast typically doesn’t allow for.

Five things learned in February:

  • Adapt to the directness of others.
    • It’s so easy to shut down when someone is painfully direct with you about problems or things that you do that are bugging them. But don’t shut down, just listen and return the directness. Whether it’s with a, “Woah man you’re coming in a bit hot here, can you tone it down? Your aggression is actually kind of upsetting me…” or something like, “Wow, yeah okay I hear you. Thanks for being direct, this sets the tone and now I feel I can be more open with you as well.”
  • If you want something, just ask for it. It’s better to be annoyed by rejection than beating yourself up for years to come and have regrets about never asking.
  • Flourless banana bread is weird, but easy to make. Don’t forget the baking soda next time… maybe it will taste better.
  • Don’t impose the standards you hold yourself to onto others.
  • Some people will never understand, and that’s fine. Don’t take it personally nor judge them for it.

. . .

. . .

Somewhere in Rainbows

My parents met in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University in the mid 90’s. My mom was in a sorority, my dad a fraternity and they hit it off at a Greek mixer. I came into existence in 1995, they subsequently dropped out of university and moved to Louisville to raise little ol’ me. Two and a half years after I was born, my sister came into the picture, and a year or so after that my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Kentucky, but my mom needed to move to Indiana to be closer to my aunt and nana.

Every other weekend, every summer, and alternating holidays would be spent at my dad’s in Kentucky (this schedule not strictly followed as I got older) and all schooling would take place in Indiana. The driving distance between my parents was a lengthy three hours; which is short enough to be doable, but long enough to be slightly painful. The divorce wasn’t easy on anyone. It was never a smooth, simple thing. It was uncomfortable and it always felt like someone was deeply hurting more than the other, no one ever on the same wavelengths, and everyone seemingly took turns over-vocalizing the pain in what was usually not the most constructive way. Essentially, none of us made it through unscathed.

When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my mom soon found the Catholic elementary school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson, that seemed like the best fit. Quickly upon starting school, I was also signed up for this afterschool program called Rainbows which took place every Tuesday. A few other kids and myself would all get a ride over to the slightly larger Catholic school in town, we’d dash out of the car for bomb milk and cookies, then talk about our feelings for an hour or so in small groups.

Pretty quickly, all of us kids realized the common denominator between us was that we all lacked a nuclear household.

Rainbows created this community of kids and a safe space that essentially validated our feelings. All of them, every single emotion we felt… we were told it was normal.

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember nearly any of the particulars in those little lessons we had within the small group talks. I was in Rainbows for years, yet I genuinely don’t remember what we talked about each week. I just vaguely remember the constant undertone of reassurance that nothing was our fault, which I understand is a common thing for kids with divorced parents to feel. Though I did (and do) feel responsible for my parents marriage, never in my life have I ever felt to blame for my parents divorce.

The primary memories that stick out from Rainbows are the relationships that it created. There were so many adults that felt (and still feel) like an extension of family, and the best friends I had in that lifetime have transcended into adulthood. All of the friendships, even the ones that didn’t quite withstand the test of time, were/are priceless and heavily impacted my life. They’re the people who just got it. It’s always felt like yes, we’re all in our own boats, but we’re still in the same ocean weathering similar storms.

Rainbows encouraged a deep level of empathy.

We were this group of mismatched kids, varying in age, personality types, and all with different stories: some kids lost a parent, some lived with grandparents, some parents were divorced but still lived close to each other (these were the ones I was most jealous of), some kids didn’t know one of their parents at all – the list goes on. Yet throughout the lessons, we were made to feel that yes, our situation sucks and our story may seem harder than the person’s next to us, but that doesn’t invalidate that person’s pain.

All pain is valid, we are not here on this Earth to decide who gets to feel and what it is they feel.

. . .

In deciding to write this article, I googled Rainbows for the first time ever. Finding out that Rainbows was founded by a woman was not surprising, but it did bring a smile to my face (#girlpower). Rainbows, actually fully named Rainbows for All Children, was founded in the mid 70’s by Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys. She was devastated when her marriage ended and found solace in a support group. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her sons could also greatly benefit from such a group, but her search for this came up empty. Thus, Rainbows for All Children was born.

“Working with other concerned parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for the children in single parent homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. Suzy knew more needed to be done. She started working on a curriculum, the foundation of Rainbows for All Children, for children who experienced loss. The curriculum was designed to provide grieving elementary school children with an understanding of their new family unit, to help build a sense of self-esteem and to give them the tools to properly cope with their loss.”

Rainbows for All Children

. . .

Ultimately, it seems Suzy understood that relying on a child’s resiliency isn’t always the best or only answer. Just because kids have the ability to quickly bounce back on their own, doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices to do so. I mean, think about it: why do adults go to therapy? Typically to finally unpack all of that compartmentalized childhood trauma. So when you think your kid is “getting over it” and “bouncing back” – it’s possible that they’re really just saving that pain for later.

Rainbows is very much still operating today – head to their website to learn more!

Workplace Abuse: Calling Out My First Boss

I’ve always been a hardworking individual. Most of my self-esteem comes from knowing that I’ve done a “good job” at work, or that I’ve somehow helped to make someone else’s life easier by going above and beyond with my workplace duties. Unfortunately, my self-esteem is also adversely affected by things I do at work.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my own thinking while searching for ways to improve my self-esteem. When I find myself spiraling into negative self-talk, it’s almost ALWAYS set off by not feeling good enough at my job. I have numerous pieces of evidence to prove that I’m a great teacher: thank you notes and drawings from students, noticeable academic growth in my classes, obvious feelings of mutual trust and love between myself and the kids I teach. However, I’m never able to see those beautiful and positive things as they are. Instead, I find dozens of reasons every week why I think I’m doing terribly and will most definitely be fired.

Why do I think this way? I’ve found a connection from my past that seems to explain it: My first boss ever was incredibly abusive.

*–*–*–*–*–*

I’m from a small town in southern Indiana, of around 17,000 people. That seems like a large number, but in reality, everyone knows everyone. In middle school, I went to the very small Catholic school in town, Rivet. This school was so small, that they allowed off-campus lunch for kids who were legally able to drive. Most kids, though, chose to walk to some of the cafes on Main Street for lunch. One of those nearby lunch-spots was a little cafe and caterer, owned by one of the Rivet families.

When I was fourteen, one morning at Rivet I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker saying that this cafe was looking to hire a dishwasher. Being the hard-worker that I am, I was incredibly excited by this opportunity. I’m not even 16 yet and I can get a job! I was ready to pounce. However, also being the socially anxious human that I am, I was too scared to go out for the job on my own. I asked my best friend at the time to apply for it with me, and she did. Luckily, my friend’s brother’s girlfriend was a waitress there at the time, so we got the job. I was SO excited to start. A couple of weeks later, on a Saturday at 10:30AM, my heart pounded out of my chest as I walked into the cafe with my friend in our green polos. My new boss, my first boss ever (who I’ll call “Patty”), introduced herself with a clearly fake smile and overly-chipper demeanor. I didn’t realize what I’d gotten myself into.

What it Was Like

My first day on the job was spent washing dishes from 10:30 to 4:00, being scolded for spraying the dishes with too much water or asking too many times for help putting away dishes that were stored in high places. My friend got to be trained that day as “waitress helper.” I eventually got to be trained as “waitress helper” too, but I didn’t get to work as one very much until my friend eventually quit. I knew I was hired on as a dishwasher, so I had no issue washing dishes…but my friend was hired for the same position as me and didn’t have to! Luckily, it didn’t take my friend very long to quit, so I was out of the kitchen and into the front of house. Everything seemed to be looking up, but unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.

#1: I was never appreciated.

The title of “waitress helper” was the name my boss came up with, because the role was honestly so many jobs in one that nothing else fit. After a few years of being a “waitress helper,” I came up with my own job title: “Patty’s bitch.” The waitress helpers were hosts, greeters, food-runners, baristas, decorators, table-bussers, phone-answerers, delivery drivers, organizers, errand-runners and anything else that Patty may have needed us to do. I legitimately picked up and dropped off her kids somewhere once and even wrapped her Christmas presents a few times.

I like to be busy, so having a million things on my plate actually keeps me motivated to work. What I don’t like so much is doing a million things for someone and getting zero appreciation for it. Here’s one small example: As a waitress helper, as soon as you can drive and get your own car, you are made the delivery driver. The cafe delivered lunch to hospitals and doctors’ offices as well as to some apartments. However, deliveries were always HUGE. A typical delivery to the hospital would be at least one large box full of meals in paper bags, sometimes a couple plastic quart containers of soup, and a few full drink carriers in another box. My petite self would have to carry these giant boxes through the hospital (with literally no one offering to help me, by the way) and set up all the food in a lounge. Then I’d rush back to the restaurant to grab another delivery, and the cycle would continue. Another messed up part about deliveries, was that I often had to deliver to old men in this gross apartment complex. These apartments smelled like cat pee and stale cigarettes and all of the lighting was similar to that of a horror film. I’d grab my giant box of soup and sandwiches, then I’d have to walk directly into a man’s apartment, find his kitchen table, place all the food there (with the old man watching me from his recliner) and leave. After a full day of deliveries, which I was not allowed to take tips for, I got my “delivery payment” of a whopping $5. They gave me five dollars for gas compensation. Doing deliveries made me feel SO unappreciated, uncomfortable and frankly, unsafe. I had no choice but to do it, though. If I didn’t ask “how high” every time Patty told me to jump, she’d make it very clear to me that I was replaceable, which leads me to my next point.

#2: I was constantly reminded that I was insignificant.

This was a part-time job at a local cafe. It was also my first job. I had zero expectations and nothing to compare my treatment to. I didn’t realize that I was facing daily abuse from my boss until I went to college and picked up a waitressing gig at Applebee’s. On my first week of waiting tables at Applebee’s, I made a mistake when I input someone’s order and forgot to mark that a man wanted his salad to come out before his meal. When I brought out his steak and salad at the same time, the man threw the salad across the table, and with lettuce and Ranch dressing flying everywhere, he shouted “F*** YOU! I don’t want this f***ing salad anymore! It’s too late!” I picked everything up and ran to my manager crying, apologizing profusely for messing up and assuming I’d be fired on the spot. To my surprise, my boss went over to the table with a to-go box and told the man to get out and not come back. She said his meal today was free, but she would not tolerate his treatment toward one of her waitresses. I’m still blown away by the fact that my boss stood up for me. She trusted me and cared about me, and I’d only been working for her for a little over a week! This experience opened my eyes to how unacceptable my treatment was by Patty at the local cafe in my hometown.

The reason I started this section with an anecdote from my time working at Applebee’s was so I could really juxtapose the way those 2 bosses treated me. Keep that Applebee’s story in mind as you read the following very true stories of what I endured with Patty as my boss.

Exhibit A) Remember, I started working for Patty at age 14. One summer when I was 16, she told me I needed to clean and re-organize all of the catering stuff they had stored on shelves in the basement. I was actually PUMPED for this task, because I love to re-organize and de-clutter spaces. It also meant I could hide away in the basement with my headphones in everyday for a week and I didn’t have to listen to anyone telling me what to do all day. When that week was over, I felt rejuvenated! The basement looked incredible; Patty even said so herself!

The next week, Patty hired on a new waitress helper and even hinted that I might get to be a waitress soon (which absolutely did not happen, but I think she purposely gave me that hope every once in awhile just so I’d work even harder). Since I’d been a waitress helper there longer than anyone else, Patty wanted me to train the newbie. She welcomed the new girl with that same artificially bubbly smile and had me walk around the restaurant with them to show her where everything was. We brought the new-hire to the basement to show her the freezer, laundry and catering supplies and Patty gave a fake smile and said, “Zoë just re-organized this basement! Doesn’t it look great? Zoë is our superstar, she’s been here awhile and knows how to do it all!” Her praise made me feel so special and loved, but only for a short moment. Before I could even thank her for the kind words, she turned to me inquisitively, with her fake smile starting to fade and said, “tell me, superstar, what are the soups of the day?” My stomach dropped into my shoes. I was whisked away with Patty and the new hire as soon as I got into the building. I didn’t have time to even look at the soups yet. Luckily the first three were always the same. I replied, “Um…cheese broccoli, tomato basil, potato…I’m not sure about the others. I haven’t gotten to look yet.” Patty turned her head to the new hire with a fresh fake smile and said, “Forget everything good I said about Zoë.” Then, while still facing the new hire, she said to me, “Get upstairs and learn the soups, Zoë.”

These are the exact words she used. The experience is so etched into my memory, because I was terrified of losing my job and I had never felt so small. I’m sure that Patty has no memory of this conversation. The immediate flip from telling me that I’m amazing to saying there’s nothing good about me was consistent throughout my time at this cafe; that story is just one example of it happening at a moment’s notice. Usually it would be more like one or two days of praise followed by several days of making me question why she hadn’t fired me yet. What’s messed up is that eventually, I truly believed that I deserved to be fired. Those were Patty’s mind games.

Exhibit B) After that moment in the basement, I recognized more and more that Patty was a cruel person to work for. However, I was still afraid of losing that job. Mama didn’t raise no quitter, but mama didn’t say I had to love every minute of everything I start. So later that same summer, I was at my best friend’s house for a sleepover on a Friday night. I always had to work on Saturdays from 11-4. My friend’s big sister brought up the idea of going to Patoka Lake on Saturday. All of my friends could go except for me. I wanted to go so badly. I didn’t want to miss out on lake adventures for 5 hours of torture that would leave me with only 33 more dollars on my paycheck. I was 16. I deserved to be 16 for one Saturday, so at 10:00AM I called in sick. I spoke to the front manager and all seemed to be okay. I was good to go to Patoka Lake! Then about 15 minutes later, I got a call from Patty.

Patty verbally attacked me for calling in sick. She said I probably felt well enough to work. I told her I didn’t and even added in that I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled. She retorted “Which doctor? Because most doctors’ offices aren’t open on Saturdays.” I stuttered around but stuck to my lie. She called me a liar and said if I ever called in sick again that I’d be fired. So I never called in sick again, and I worked there for 4 and a half more years.

I was lying…but honestly, who cares? Looking back on this moment as an adult, I realize that she had no right to accuse me of lying in the first place. She had no right to even ask questions. If I say that I’m too sick to come to work, ONE TIME in 2 years of waiting on you hand and foot, you should just say, “We really need you, but I understand and I hope you feel better.” But then again, Patty would never tell an employee that she needs them. She likes to bully her employees so think they’re worthless so they try harder to impress her.

I have countless other examples of mistreatment, but in order to stop this article from becoming a novel, I won’t list more. I think that a clear picture of “Patty” has been painted.

*–*–*–*–*–*

How this Abuse Affected Me

I consider Patty to have been my abuser. I trusted this adult, as a 14-year-old child, to respect me, care about me and help me grow. Instead, she used my desire to please others and manipulated my already low self-esteem to make me think she was doing me a favor by giving me the job. She constantly built me up just to quickly break me down until I no longer felt worthy to be an employee. Her abuse affected me in more ways than one.

#1: Physical Effects

In high school, one of my best friends needed a job, so I put in a good word and Patty hired her on as a waitress helper. My friend, being older than I was when she was hired, saw through Patty’s fake-nice façade almost immediately. On one of her first days of work, Patty sat down for a “free” lunch with us at the cafe. The whole time we ate, our boss spoke almost explicitly about herself. She’d say, “My life is hard, ladies, because no matter how busy I am, EVERYONE wants to talk to Patty.” She then somehow got on a tangent about how if we ever were caught smoking pot that we’d be fired and that she believed that smoking pot one time would give your future children birth defects. I was used to hearing her nonsense, but I could feel my friend’s eyes rolling into the back of her head.

My friend worked there for about a year. Before she quit she told me that every morning before work, she got a horrible stomach ache from anxiety. I never thought about it that way, but I had a stomach ache every morning that I had to work too. It was like clockwork. I didn’t think about it until my friend told me about that, but this job I had was causing me so much anxiety that it started to show up as physical symptoms. To further validate this, after I quit working for Patty, I never had another pre-work stomach ache until I worked at a terrible elementary school. By then, I knew my body was telling me to quit working there, so I got out. That’s why I teach middle school now.

#2: Subconscious Effects

I worked at Patty’s family cafe for a total of 6 years. It’s now been 7 years since I’ve worn that green polo and I’m completely serious when I say that I still have regular nightmares about working there. They usually have to do with me being scheduled to work and not knowing about it and them threatening to fire me if I don’t get to the restaurant NOW. Most of these dreams take place in present-day, by the way. They tell me I’ll be fired if I don’t get to work even though I live in NYC, and dream me is still in panic mode, racing back to my hometown and trying to find my polo so I won’t get fired (even though I have a whole career in NYC that is undoubtedly more important). How can Patty still be torturing me in my subconscious today?

#3: Effects on my Self-Esteem

As aforementioned in the introduction of this article, the 6-year cycle of workplace abuse I endured has made a real impact on my psyche. After walking on eggshells from age 14 to 20, I’ve internalized the idea that I’m insignificant at work, that I’m 100% replaceable and that for each of my accomplishments, there are 5 more mistakes I’m doomed to make.

*–*–*–*–*–*

Today, I have a career that I can be proud of. I’m able to see my accomplishments, but I’m still struggling to not let my “failures” overshadow them. I’ve even explained the issues I have with workplace confidence to the principal at the middle school I teach for, and fortunately she is the most caring and understanding leader that I’ve ever followed who hears me, sees me and wants to help me grow.

It’s through remembering my positive experiences of other places I’ve worked that I can realize my worth. My current principal believes in me. My boss at CAMPUS English Language School supported me. My boss at Infinity English College trusted me. My bosses at the other part-time waitressing jobs (Applebee’s and Red Lobster) cared about me as a person.

Last summer, I went to lunch at that cafe. Patty saw me, but pretended she didn’t. I decided to stop her to say hello and she acted like she didn’t know who I was. Patty always loved to make me feel insignificant.

In reality, Patty is insignificant in my life. I only hope that something changes at that restaurant, if it hasn’t already. She will probably never change though. At least I know that I’m growing and changing everyday, and I will no longer let my first boss have power over me.

Literary Wellness To Pass The Time

For those aspiring toward self-betterment, or those simply looking to cope with mental illness: keep reading. When I moved to the ‘big’ city, I left my therapist behind. After switching companies twice and health insurance three times, I never found a new one. Maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s laziness. Who knows. Instead, during an especially desperate, depression-spiral induced shopping trip to Barnes & Noble two years ago, I started buying self-help books. These are the ones I’ve found and what I’ve learned from them.


First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson

This was the first self-help book that I purchased in my shopping trip of desperation and it’s also the one that’s been the most impactful. This book helped me reframe my depression and anxiety – my beast – into something that wasn’t so intense and scary. Wilson uses her own life for the spine of the story, sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t in her experience. But most importantly, anxiety and depression isn’t showcased as some supernatural horrific, plague-like thing. It’s just a part of you, something that can be made livable, or even beautiful.



Unf*ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN

This book was a secondary purchase just in case the FWMTBB:ANJTA didn’t work out. Unf*ck Your Brain looks at what causes our brains to go ‘chemically batshit’ which results in anxiety, depression, you name it. If you prefer hard facts, straight to the point, no bullshit formatting over personal storytelling, then you should try this book out. I felt like this book gave me a good foundational knowledge on the ‘why’ behind the feelings, which is just as necessary as knowing how to work through them.


Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle

I purchased this book on a whim without reading the back – I thought the front cover looked interesting enough. I only started reading it after realizing that a friends’ emotions were causing sleepless nights and emotional stress for myself. This quick read is packed with useful information as well as a C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method for working through your emotions. Boyle, the author, was in an extremely emotional and traumatic point in her life when she began writing the book which made it easier to relate to. I think that it’s never too late to learn how to cope or deal with emotions.


Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

This book is a part of the design-thinking phenomena created by Burnett and Evans at Stanford. Formatted around the idea of ‘reframing’ your thinking to create a life you enjoy and like, it’s a good tool for those who may be more apt towards ‘workbook’ type learning. There are small prompts, check-in dashboards and more to help you stay on track towards creating a better life. While I’m ultimately not a fan of ‘feel good’ books like this, it was an interesting read and did help reframe some destructive thought patterns. I think that creating physical dashboards for love, health, play and work can help to keep you focused on your goals.


What’s your favorite feel good book?

From the Diary of a 29-Year-Old Millennial Mess

Twenty-nine is my weirdest birthday to date. It’s the age I used to daydream about when I thought about the future. It’s the age you expect to have it all together. It’s an age that you feel old, and can finally see it in your face, but are also still young enough to claim being in your twenties. It’s an age you never expect to come, and when it does it blindsides you.

Society’s expectations of a 29-year-old woman are hard to cope with. It is expected that you’re already settled down. Have children. Have a significant other bound by marriage. Own a house. Have a career. Ultimately, it’s expected to have your “life together.” Aren’t we supposed to be living the dream that would make our childhood-selves proud by now? For me, this isn’t the case.

I am still a student working on my undergraduate degree, a feat I started at the ripe age of 18. I failed and dropped out 2 times until this time stuck. Third times the charm, right? I’m in classes with 19 to 21-year-olds and I feel envious about how well they have their lives together. Generation Z seems to have it all figured out. They have approached the world with a steadfast passion. They don’t seem to deter off the beaten path despite their cringe-worthy Tik Tok and influencer obsession. Many graduated high school with associate degrees. And when they meet me, they assume I’m one of them until the dreaded conversation of disclosing my age occurs, and when it does, I typically get the questions, “How many kids do you have?” and “Are you married?” I know they only ask these questions out of naivety and innocence. They’ve followed the societal path of excellence their entire lives, so to meet someone who didn’t, means they must have put a familial life first. But the irony is, I did not. I don’t have any notable “accomplishments” that fit into society’s expectations of me.

All I have are stories of abuse, free-spiritedness, depression, tragedy, fun adventures, and rebellion. Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret my twenties being a steadfast learning process. I personally had to fail over and over to learn how to get back up. My twenties have not been a story of notable accomplishments and successes that led to a life of pure success and happiness, on the contrary, they have been years that taught me who I was and who I want to be someday.

Art by Haviland Cardinal

Another downside of this age when one is a single woman is the biological clock. Many women my age have chosen that they do not want children, that they’re happy with a life sans family, and although I do resonate with that a lot, I haven’t come to terms with it. I still want a family, a husband, AND a successful career. It seems impossible with the amount of time I have before my biological clock is up. I will not be finished with my law degree until I am 33, and the idea of dating and choosing the future father of my children during a time of learning seems daunting and quite simply impossible. Should I freeze my eggs? How much does that cost? Should I adopt when I’m 45? Or do I just accept a life dedicated to the law alone? Who do I think I am to assume I can have it all?  These are questions that bog down my mind every day of my life, and simply, I don’t have the answers because the expectation of familial bliss isn’t something you can accomplish, it is just something that happens to you, if you get lucky. The biological clock is nature’s ultimate cruel joke that holds up and supports the patriarchy.

Turning 29 is hard for me because of these expectations. I’m not where I expected to be by this age, but I certainly am on the path to be there someday, maybe. I’m so thankful for my formative years of being a twenty something, but I’m also at a cross-roads of wondering if I messed up. Only the future holds the answers, and I’m sure when I am 39 I will still be saying the same thing because we can never have the answers, and we can never actually be where we are “supposed” to be. The expectations that society puts on us are an impossible golden standard that only jaded boomers think exist. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that our twenties are the greatest time of our lives. To think you must hit certain mile markers at certain times. That settling down and having a family while also having a successful career are 100% attainable during this time period. We have been told that success can be measured by money, how many children you have, and where on the map you choose to reside. But honestly, success cannot be measured by these fake idyllic standards. Success comes from within. It comes from understanding who you are, how you face adversity, what you choose to dedicate your time to, and who you surround yourself with.

Is twenty-nine a terrifying age? Yes. But it only is for all of the wrong reasons. Once we can shed the expectations that we put onto ourselves then we can finally sit with our age and accept that trials and tribulations are normal. That walking on the road less traveled gives us character; it makes us unique and creates a perspective that can ultimately make the world better. Vivre les vingt-neufs! Bring it on.

Immortalizing the Days: January

2020 was such a whirlwind of a year… so much loss and growth, the change nearly incomprehensible in a year that felt stagnant and stuck in a limbo of, “When we go back to normal…” and “What is normal anyway?”

New Year’s Eve 2020, I found myself scrolling through social media, looking at everyone’s video compilations from the year, or declarations of how 2020 was somehow still their year. I found myself wishing I had some kind of visual diary that I could share with the world. I wanted a way to immortalize the days and remind myself that while each day seemingly blurred together with only a microscopic amount sticking out… I more than likely accomplished something, be it big or small, each day and that’s worth noting.

For 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gave me a little thing to look forward to each day and was the little push on certain days to just do. Then it became fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what January looked like for me, I’d title it, “The Month of Chill Baby Steps.”

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The next fun adventure in my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday. You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough. Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm that day, or a new song that struck a chord with me, or a day that was so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day.

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Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 1/31/21:

Playlist? LOVE. But I’ll be honest, when watching my January video, I felt a bit dejected. It felt so… boring and kind of sad to watch back through at the very end of the month. I didn’t travel anywhere, I didn’t really socialize much, why the heck did I want to immortalize the days again?! But as I re-watched several more times I picked up on the little things, the little accomplishments, the mini self adventures.

Five things learned in January:

  • Baby steps forward are better than no steps at all.
  • Avocados and bananas take ages to get ripe, but just seconds to go bad.
  • Invest in organization.
  • The saying, “Never dull your light to make someone else feel comfortable,” isn’t just for loud girls with big personalities – it’s also for women labeled bossy, introverted, stand-offish, etc… It means be who you are and when someone tells you to smile more or be less bossy, you literally don’t have to do that. Your bossiness, your steadfast nature, is you and that’s fine, great even. Block out the haters and be you, be comfortable.
  • Voicing an idea that gets rejected is better in the long run than withholding an idea in fear of rejection. It sucks when someone else thinks of that very same idea later down the road and poof, you lost an opportunity to shine.

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