One Track Mind: Embrace Complexity

You know, I’m getting incredibly confused with the world lately. I’m confused how for every cause, there is someone with a counter cause. You know, the people who go, “Mask on?! What about SEX TRAFFICKING, huh?! DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT THAT?!” or “Black Lives Matter?! What about ALL LIVES MATTER, huh?! I MEAN, DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT THE STARVING CHILDREN IN AFRICA?!

It’s so crazy to me, like homeboy of course we care about all of these things… did you know you can care about multiple things all at the same time? And please, someone stop me here if I’m spoutin’ crazy… but I have more than one passion, I have more than one cause that matters to me… I am proudly a complex human over here.

For example: I think you should really wear a damn mask, you bet your ass Black Lives Matter, sex trafficking is undoubtedly something that needs more media attention, teachers that have in-person classes this fall should be titled as essential workers (hazard pay?!), and we really need to SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!

Oof, maybe got a tad excited at the end.

But do you see what I’m saying? It’s so incredibly ignorant to think that someone only has a one track mind and that they are only capable of caring about one thing at a time. Just because you see them blasting one cause on social media, or photos of them only doing the same two things all the time – a person’s social media is not the sum total of that person. It’s just what you’re currently seeing, it’s their “highlight reel” if you will.

I’ve personally been struggling a lot lately with how people see me, and I have this fear that I’m being pigeonholed into a set personality. Yes, I very much enjoy going out and can probably drink half you readers under the table, but I don’t go out for the soul purpose of getting trashed. I go out because I enjoy the atmosphere, the socializing, the people watching, the dancing, the music, to put it simply – the vibrant hum of nightlife makes me feel alive.

But you know what else makes me feel alive?

Getting so absorbed in a book I accidentally stay up until 5:00 am just to finish it, hot summer days spent in the middle of lake, the minute the plane wheels hit the ground of the tarmac and that reality hits of “I’m here.” I feel alive the first snow of every winter and the turn of the first leaves every fall. I feel alive every time I get to make ricolis with my Papa, and I feel alive that moment of every family gathering when I find my siblings’ hiding spots and we all evade the bulk of the fam and randos together. I feel alive when I’m in a monster vehicle, windows down, flying down backroads, music blaring. I feel alive every time I return to Manhattan.

I am more than what you see, I am more than what you think you know about me – and I always feel the same towards others. I always believe, and at times desperately hope, that they are more than what I see being posted online. People are complex, and it’s time everyone understands this.

“It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the sum total of what you see.”

Jonathan Tropper

Emily’s Roommate Guide

In all my 25 years of life, I’ve never had my own apartment (excluding my brief semester abroad, but let’s be real I was hardly in that little dorm.) I’ve always had one or multiple roommates; and there’s not one place I’ve lived where I don’t have a crazy story to share – both good crazy and bad crazy. Just to name a few, I’ve had roommates hide under the bed for days at a time, I’ve had roommates accuse the entire apartment of tackling their 5-gallon jar of pickles (gag), I’ve had roommates with no sense of pride in the space we both call home, and I’ve had roommates where we don’t even remotely speak the same language.

Each and every one of my living situations could not only have their own blog post, but I could write a whole series of books, accurately titled: “Emily’s Series of Unfortunate Roommates:The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

But this post isn’t a tell-all on past roommates – sorry to disappoint you, you gossip ready scoundrels. Instead, I’m roaming the higher ground here. I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned through these good and bad situations, and most importantly: questions you should ask yourself when in the market for roommate.

Blanket Question: What is important to you?

This may seem like an obvious question, but clearly not since at 25 – 7 years into the roommate game – I’ve only just learned how to properly answer this when on a roommate search. Let’s breakdown what could be important to you, you just don’t realize it yet:

  • Which spaces always have to be tidy or you’ll have an aneurysm?
    • Even if you think you’re pretty chill, not too much of a neat freak, I’m sure there’s actually one or two things that get under your skin. For me, I’ve realized I need the toilet to always be pearly white, uncluttered kitchen counters, and absolutely nothing permanently (or even semi-permanently) planted on the stove – excluding a kettle – I also cannot cope with dishes overflowing the sink for more than like 3-4 days. So if you get roped in with someone who ends up being more on the messy side, voice the spaces that matter most to you.
  • How do you feel about entertaining guests?
    • Granted, in Covid-Culture, this question is answered way differently now then it would be if all was right in the world – or for some of you, maybe not! Either way, it’s important to sort if you’re content with guests frequently coming and going, staying for short or long periods of time. Especially if you live in a major city, it’s common for friends and family to want to come visit often and for longer than just a weekend. So figure out how you feel about this, if you’re content with strangers coming and going – potentially running up utility bills during their stay 😉
  • Speaking of utility bills, how do you feel if it seems your roommate may be causing spikes in bills?
    • If I’m being honest, I never even realized that this was a thing until very recently. In my books, you’re in a contract with your roommates to go half on everything. If there’s a spike in the bill, it sucks but that’s just it – it sucks. Even if the other person may have caused it, you couldn’t possibly confirm that, so you have to buck up and pay your half and everyone aim together to be more conscientious for the next bill cycle. Trying to pin a spike in a bill on someone is a slippery slope, because what about the months you had several guests staying for a week or two at a time? Or how about there’s a month where you’re using the washer and dryer more? Do you see what I’m getting at? It opens a door that you probably don’t want to open. But either way… if this is your little psycho tick… sort it out now before trying to screw someone over. Have fun with that future conversation! Side note, if you don’t bring this up and try to con a roommate into paying more of a bill – shame on you.
  • Your sleep schedule?
    • Most of the time, you know if this is important to you – so voice it! Make it known that you’re a night owl, or make it known you go to bed at 8, grandma 😉

Blanket Question: What are you looking for in a roommate?

This is not just finding a cool person to live with, nor the same as simply finding a friend. While the above questions definitely facilitate sorting this question out, below is a breakdown of how to sort out the type of person you’re looking for:

  • Do you want someone with the same daily schedule as you?
    • Having the same schedule as someone is great, in theory. It opens doors to be able to hang out together after work and sleep schedules should be fairly similar. But also, it means they are always home the same time you are. For me, I’m not into that. I need alone time, I need the space to myself, and I hate fighting over the freaking bathroom. I’ve realized my ideal roommate’s schedule is someone who wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn and leaves the apartment before I wake up. Then I get to have a quiet morning to myself and get in the right head space for the day.
  • Are you looking to become best friends with your roommate?
    • This is fine! Moving to a new city and seeking to befriend whoever you live with is a smart way to get established and such an easy way to make friends. So think about what characteristics you like in a friend, but also think about how that translates into a roommate. Party people are fun, but do you want a party apartment? Bubbly, outgoing people are great, but are you someone who needs alone time to recharge? Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into!
  • What’s the ideal vibe?
    • It’s super important to me that my apartment is cozy, decorated, and smells heavenly with candles frequently lit. Maybe you’re wondering why this didn’t go in the first blanket question, but this is totally a personality thing. I’ve had roommates who just emit comfort from their very being and it translates into the apartment setup, I also have had roommates who see the apartment as just the place they sleep and aren’t into the whole decorating thing, or they have a minimalist vibe and aren’t into knickknacks and decorations. So while it’s important to understand your vibe, it’s equally important to sort out your roommates vibe – then you can create a conducive atmosphere that makes your space more than just an apartment, it makes it a home.

Blanket Statement: Know your boundaries.

If you understand what your boundaries are, what you are comfortable with and what you’re not, the roommate search will be more fruitful. If you’re not that clean, there’s no point in lying about it just to get the dream apartment with someone. If you need alone time, voice that and most people will respect it.

One thing I casually began doing to better understand what gets under my skin, is starting a “When People…” note on my iPhone. Whenever someone does something that rubs me the wrong way, even slightly, I write it down – just the action, not the person’s name, this isn’t a list of grudges! It has things like “When people interrupt others when they’re speaking,” which equates to the fact that basic manners are incredibly important to me, and another one is “When people flake on responsibilities,” and that one I don’t think I need to explain 😉

Creating a simple list of pet peeves is a great way to understand not only what you don’t like, but also what you do. Ultimately, it’s important to know yourself in order to know what you need from others so that you can flourish.

DISCLAIMER: While I hope this guide helps you, I think shit roommates are major character building experiences 😉

…..

PS: the featured photo is that of me and one of my best friends that’s survived many roommate horrors with me ❤

Déjà Vu

Those moments, you know the ones, where you’re doing something as simple as laughing in the car with friends or reaching for the same can of soup as someone else in the grocery – and you’re hit with a feeling of, “Woah this has happened before, I’ve lived this precise moment once before.

This is déjà vu, the already seen moments.

I always had believed these moments to be striking and perhaps that I’d simply dreamed them before, but it was a friend in college that enlightened me with a different idea. They told me that these moments are actually when the universe is reinforcing that you are exactly where you’re meant to be right then and there. It’s reaffirming that all of the choices you’ve made, up until that moment, have been the correct moves and you’re still heading the ‘right way,’ or the way the universe has intended for you.

If anyone else’s friend had told them this, I could imagine most folks would blow them off with a “Pft, yeah right, okay.” But I’m not most people. I’ve always had a striking intuition, a curiosity of the unknown, and I’ve always believed the earth is constantly speaking to you – and you could hear it if only you’re listening close enough. Also, to put it simply, I thought my friend’s take on déjà vu was so beautiful I didn’t even want to question it!

But here I am, a few years later, just now wondering if my friend was truly onto something or full of shit.

And after a very brief round of research, the worlds of science and psychology are divided.

Power of Positivity, which solely based on the name, you’d think would embrace my friend’s take on déjà vu – but nope. Their article actually references a study completed by Akira O’Connor and his team at the University of St. Andrews, UK; this study had shown that déjà vu is actually just a ‘healthy memory checking system’. It’s your brain basically trying to trick you by telling you, “Bro you’ve been here before, doing this exact thing…”

You hesitate before thinking, “No, no I haven’t? I totally haven’t but you’d know better than me… right??

To which your brain laughs, “Totally got you man, you’ve deffo not been here before – just trying to keep you on your toes!

This is also why people most frequently have déjà vu between the ages of 15 – 25, it’s when memory is the sharpest and your brain is constantly checking for memory gaps or errors.

On another note, an article by Judith Orloff M.D. in Psychology Today, aligns incredibly close to what my friend described déjà vu to be – yay!

“[Déjà vu is] a memory of a dream, a precognition, a coincidental overlapping of events or even a past life experience in which we rekindle ancient alliances. What matters is that it draws us closer to the mystical. It is an offering, an opportunity for additional knowledge about ourselves and others.”

Judith Orloff M.D.

Now this is the fun meaning behind déjà vu that I signed up for – a mystical connection with deep significance. It’s something to be paid attention to and not brushed off as a simple brain-self-check mechanism. This is not only the earth communicating with you, it’s your higher self reaching out and guiding you.

Déjà vu moments are meant to be questioned and observed: Where are you? Who are you with? What are you feeling?

This all being said:

You can essentially interpret déjà vu to mean whatever makes the most sense in your world. I know what I choose to believe – but how about you?

How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart

My fiancé left me a week before our wedding day. On a Saturday night last fall, with no apparent reason after nearly 8 years together. (Not to mention a house with a mortgage, two pets and a few thousand dollars in wedding expenses.) I was told, “I need space,” and he left. It’s safe to say my life felt like it was in complete shambles, decimated in the course of three words. Never did I think I’d find myself at a Starbucks at 5 am on a Sunday sending out cancellation emails and texts. Personally, I was wrecked; but professionally, I was in the midst of the busiest and most important weeks of my life.

This is what I learned on this wild healing journey.

  • You can’t heal where you were hurt. I didn’t feel comfortable in my house anymore, it just reminded me of the years of memories and time spent there. I went on my honeymoon to Paris with my mom (begrudgingly); thankfully she was able to get off work at last minute to come with me to the City of Lights or Love or for me – the City of What Could Have Been. The trip itself was fairly miserable, with many days spent lying in my hotel bed or walking endlessly through the city so I could try to feign sleep. However the physical distance allowed me to detach. (Note: This is a phrase that I would tattoo on my forehead just because of how perfectly true it is).
  • Support may come in surprising ways. I’m a fairly private person naturally, so when my private life was catapulted into everyone’s eyes, I was mortified. I would go to work and be met with sad, wondering eyes which only made it that much harder. Not to mention the endless embarrassment. Some people in my life, who had once been just on the periphery came forward to help support me; including a long-extinguished old flame, a casual coworker and even someone I’d known for only two weeks. These people without reason or explanation, stepped up and took care of me at my worst.
  • Sometimes there’s no real reason and that’s okay. As a long-time sufferer of high-functioning anxiety and depression, it’s hard for me to accept something that is gray. I need to have a black and white world. Right and wrong; good and bad; yes and no. Not ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I can’t explain it’. But sometimes, things are truly murky. Sometimes, there’s no good answer or reason. It was a tough pill to swallow. But every day I had to remind myself of what was true; actions.
  • Take your time. There is no perfect path to healing, or a one-size fits all plan. I tend to keep myself occupied when I’m anxious – but that prolongs the healing because you’re not actually confronting what happened. Sometimes you need to feel it – even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time in a safe environment. I spent a whole day of my honeymoon, cooped up in our hotel room, watching shitty French murder documentaries and purging myself of everything I’d been avoiding. I made myself confront what happened in its entirety, piece by piece before neatly letting it go. My one-time old flame was the one who really brought me to my senses. He told me, “he doesn’t care right now. I know it hurts, but you need to hear that.” Which was 100% true. As much as it hurt, I was wasting a perfectly nice vacation and being sad about someone who clearly did not care in that same moment. That mindset really helped me to take that first step.
  • Get it out of your system. Holding on to something from the past that is beyond your control is just draining. There will be no good ending. Having spent a solid two years in therapy during college, I consider myself to be fairly familiar with coping mechanisms. I chose to write a letter (technically an email while wine drunk in the bathtub, but hey, it still counts). I wrote to physically manifest my thoughts and feelings into something that could be set free, therefore releasing its toxic hold on me. I wrote to let go of all of the questions, thoughts and feelings that I’d been drowning in. The local radio show I listen to in the Midwest set a standard – “for however many years you’ve been together, take one day to mourn.” By that logic, I had 8 days to mourn. It was closer to 15 but giving yourself a deadline can help. I was determined to not spend an ounce more energy or time on this.
  • Only talk when you’re ready. After such a public catastrophe, everyone is bound to have questions. Even those with the best intentions will still want to ask questions that will feel like nails being driven into your always shattering heart. It took me months to fully open up to friends and family about what happened. On the other hand, you may have to ask close friends and families to stop mentioning it – stop treating you differently. It drove me nuts when people would look at me with sadness or remorse or embarrassment – no matter how well intended it was. I wasn’t some broken puppy in a cast or a bird with a broken wing so don’t treat me as such.
  • Healing isn’t linear. You will have good days and bad days. Maybe even good weeks with a few bad days sprinkled in. You will have nights of crying so hard, you’re sure the walls are about to cave in. But there will be joy. Remember that just because there’s a few slips on the journey, doesn’t mean you’re done moving forward.
  • Get out of bed. Physically. Metaphorically. While yes, those blankets and pillows may feel like your only comfort right now, but you’re not helping yourself by staying there. It may be painful and annoying, but you must get up and move a little. Don’t get me wrong, you need time to feel and process (see previous point) but know that there is a point where enough is enough. Even if it’s just to get a drink of water, get out of bed. I continued going to work (albeit at a heavily modified schedule) just to not be in my house. Was it easy? No. Was it comfortable? No. Did I want to accost every person who looked at me with sadness? Absolutely. But it helped give me space and to see that everything is still moving.
  • Heartbreak is temporary. While in the moment and for weeks or even months and years later, it hurts; little by little it will fade. You will rebuild – yourself, your life and your heart. You will become a stronger version of yourself. During this journey you will learn endlessly about yourself, your expectations and those around you. It may not ever be the same as before, but you’ll be better for it.

While everyone will surely have their own experiences, these were the few ways that I was able to move through my situation a little easier. Rely on those close to you and reach out when you’re feeling down; you are not a burden.

I Needed Saving

Many of us grew up with like-minded aspirations of falling in love, getting married, starting a family, and making memories with them. This is the story of my first love.

I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 21 and divorced at 24. I lived a life of domestic violence that was somehow disguised as happiness and common place struggles. I spent 9 years of my life dedicated to pleasing him, caring for him, nurturing him, and ultimately enabling him. We had the best times and we had the worst times. I never saw the damage being done to me and my soul until I hit a breaking point. I found myself exhausted from just waking up every morning. It was to a point where I just didn’t want to wake up anymore. I share my story with the hopes that other people that were in my shoes will not wait until it’s too late to see the warning signs of an abusive and toxic relationship.

We met in high school, 2009. We were honestly smitten with each other. We just clicked. We would talk about everything and anything together. We found ourselves spending an incredible amount of time at our local park, as that was the only thing really to do at the age of 13 with no means of transportation. We had so much in common: Passion for music, love for animals, the outdoors, video games — just to name a few. We had all the right ingredients to have and build a solid relationship. And that is what we did.

In the beginning, he made it clear he liked to smoke marijuana. I made it clear I was not okay with it. Him choosing me over the drugs was the best case scenario. Well, I found out later the first year of our relationship, he was lying to me and he was still doing drugs behind my back. We came to an agreement and I caved in and continued my relationship with him because he meant more to me than a “harmless” joint. With that behind us, he continued to show me love and kindness. He respected me and listened to me. We gave each other a reason to keep pushing in life. We were living the dream. Little did I know, he would be the reason why I wanted to stop pushing in life and what made me want to give up.

Fresh out of high school, we both went to college. We had dreams and goals that we shared together and set forth to make happen. Well, life happened instead and we both wound up dropping out and moving in together and took on full time jobs. Things were rocky, but I saw that as typical issues couples go through. I never understood the severity of the yelling, cursing, and occasional abandonment. He always came back and apologized and cried and said he would never do it again. I believed him. Every. Single. Time.

We got married in 2016. The wedding was not ideal. But it wasn’t what mattered to us. We loved each other and we wanted to share it with people who loved us too. This is when the verbal abuse escalated to mental and psychological abuse. There would be days where he would twist stories around and I believed them to be true. I was the perpetrator. I broke him. I never loved him. I used him for his money. I believed I was this monster because he was the one with chronic depression and I was not. At some point, I asked myself, “Then why doesn’t he leave me if I am this way?” I reached out to my good friends who honestly never knew anything behind closed doors; from an outsider’s view, we were the perfect couple. This is when my friends and family started getting concerned. Well, I sometimes listened to them but explained they will never know what it’s like living and loving a person with mental illness. They won’t get it.

I felt alone. I felt isolated. I felt like I was fighting a battle that was never going to end. The days of him attempting suicide were escalating and it seemed to be his shield or defense against me speaking out or retaliating. He was slowly losing his control over me because there was something in my head that clicked one day. I decided enough was enough. I sat him down and had a very deep conversation about respecting me and how he needed to do better and I was no longer tolerating his abuse. He acknowledged his wrongs, like always, and we went about our life together.

In 2018, we split up. We needed space, I needed space really. He did not take it well. He kept blowing up my phone, trying to force himself back into my life. He would get super understanding and be peaceful but then the next day, he was calling me a crazy bitch and that he fucking hated me. When we did see each other, that was the first time he got physically abusive. Sure he’s put holes in our walls and wrecked cars out of anger but never once laid a hand on me. It was the first and last time that happened. It was over. The police were involved and he was gone. That was my wake up call.

My rope was at its end and I was either going to hang from it or swing and jump from it. I chose to jump and take my life back. And boy, I have never looked back, only to reflect on the signs I chose to ignore.

I want people, especially women, who find themselves in my shoes to know lying, cannot be tolerated. Name calling, cannot be tolerated. Using suicide and mental illness as a crutch to manipulate you, cannot be tolerated. Punching holes in walls or destroying property, cannot be tolerated. All these are signs that lead to domestic violence of every variation. We wind up being the enablers but that is what happens when we are THE VICTIMS. However, we aren’t victims forever. We are survivors and there is life after all the chaos. It’s not easy. We will have our fair shares of struggles. Best advice: use the resources given to you: your friends, family, work place, hobbies. Do not deny help as we want to, it’s necessary and will only make the process easier.

My divorce was finalized on a summer day in 2019. This is known as the day I was finally free. I no longer needed saving.

If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

Nice vs. Good

In high school I was big on young adult novels about love and coming of age – some of my favorite authors being Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Jennifer Donnelly.

It was one of the novels by Deb Caletti, I don’t remember which novel as I was reading a book a day back then, where a character said something that still sticks with me to this day. It was something along the lines of “There’s a difference between being good and being nice, and what’s important to remember is that not all nice people are good people.

Even in high school, I understood that this line held depth and that I needed to remember this. And as the years go by, I recognize each and every day that just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they are good and have my best interest at heart, and just because someone is mean doesn’t mean they are bad and terrible.

It’s important to be able to see through to people’s true intentions in order to shield yourself from potential ruin.

If you think that sounds dramatic, then you haven’t met nice, bad people.

Or maybe you’re nice, bad people.

I make it a point to be friendly to everyone I meet and to show kindness, but in conjunction, I’m honest and will bluntly call situations as I see them. Generally speaking, I also prefer to surround myself with similar people. One of my close friends and I had a conversation where he exasperatedly told me, “Emily, I’m not mean or cruel, and it’s annoying when people see me that way.

Of course I know he isn’t mean or cruel, he just has a blunt way of dealing with people that I can appreciate and relate to.

I think it’s incredibly important to surround yourself with people who gas you up, sure, but also with people who will bring you down to earth – who will tell you when you’re wrong and not let you get away with shitty behavior.

When you surround yourself with people who only gas you up, all that’s happening is you are being lifted high onto a pedestal of sand that is a mix foundation of mock niceties and a fallacious sense of self-righteousness.

All it will take is one thunderstorm of a human to dissolve your pedestal of sand and leave you lying there helpless, clueless, and looking stupid.

Ultimately, what I’m getting at here, is that it’s important to understand that nice and good are not synonymous. Just because you held the door open for an old lady and then smiled kindly at the waiter who took your order – you aren’t guaranteed a sticker labeling you as good people.

Being good is standing up for what’s right, honoring agreements, not always searching for loopholes that screw people over but lift you up, and lastly not using anecdotes of the nice things you’ve done as justification as to why you’re a better person than Joe Shmoe.

Being good is more than a one off deed.

Another way to look at it, is nice people are always looking at situations as win/lose – good people are always looking to create a win/win situation. Even if the win/win entails conflict or uncomfortable conversations along the way, a good person will choose to face that in order for a mutually better outcome.

Good people tend to go that extra mile in a situation which nice people could interpret as “complicating things.”

Being nice is easy, being good is genuine.