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.

. . .

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!

Finding Claire(ity)

I normally hate talking about myself but I’m on a path of self-love and acceptance, so I suppose writing about myself in a positive light is a step forward in the right direction. 

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Typically when one reads about someone’s journey to discovering their love for photography, you see a small child being gifted a camera by one of the grandparents who lived in the countryside, where the scenery and the love for the family just really inspired them to pursue their passion for photography.

This is not that story. But truthfully, I don’t think every story has to be packaged with a pretty bow on top: it just has to be real.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

While my interest in photography did start at a young age, it wasn’t that whole, “I held a camera for the first time and I knew this was my passion” moment.

I grew up in the time of disposable cameras and, for those lucky enough, reusable film cameras. Growing up my mom, like I’m sure most moms in the 90’s, was the one always trying to capture every moment of her children’s life. Whether that be a fun family vacation at the beach or simply playing outside with the dogs, she was always there following us around with a camera.

Seeing her in action definitely inspired me to pick up the disposable cameras and capture moments; granted my moments were less significant than hers.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

I took the same energy for photography when I was given my first Polaroid camera; the old school ones that were bulky and printed out square photos. I almost understood the concept that Polaroid film was more expensive to buy, but that didn’t stop me from taking a picture of every cat we owned – and trust me, this was a lot of photos as we had a ton of cats at the time.

When that camera finally ran out, it seemed like my interest ran out too. My mom never gifted me a fancy expensive camera since I accidentally dropped her old film camera in the toilet (don’t ask).

So my passion, along with her fancy camera, went down the toilet. 

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Fast forward a few years to 2014, the summer before sophomore year of college, fatefully my passion was reignited thanks to a former friend and her camera. This friend of mine was always taking photos and coming up with interesting concepts for photo shoots and I wanted to do that!

In an artistic sense, photography was one of the only ways I could express myself. I can’t draw, paint, or write very well, but capturing moments in time and editing them to fit the picture inside my mind seemed like second nature to me.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Although it wasn’t until the following summer when I had finally saved enough money to buy my own professional camera.

And, believe it or not, that’s the very same camera I still use today!

It can paint a picture of every self portrait, all the amazing friends that have allowed me to take photos of them, all the animals that have been my practice models and all my European adventures – which includes breaking my lens in Barcelona and hiding my camera on the plane ride to the French Riviera because I couldn’t fit everything into one bag.

Instagram @claire.marie.photo

Every time I hold that camera up, it’s been like an escape for me, a way to push myself to go outside my comfort zone. And let me tell you, outside of the comfort zone can be a beautiful place; it’s helped me create amazing pieces of myself, my friends, and the landscapes around me.

So, you see, young Claire had an air of simplicity about her, if she wanted to take a picture of something she did. Whether that be a polaroid of her foot or a plate of fries – not lying, I really did take pictures starring plates of fries lol – young Claire was just reflexively taking pictures of whatever caught her eye. I’d like to think that I still have that simplicity now as an adult.

Photography doesn’t need to be overly complicated as a lot of people make it out to be, myself included. Sometimes the best photos are the ones that you take on a whim or by accident. I’ve found that sometimes all you gotta do is just take the picture. So while this isn’t the perfect little story about a girl who grew up with a camera permanently in her hands, it is about a girl who learned that the simplicity in the art of photography is the most beautiful story.

. . .

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Duck

Recently I read Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I practically inhaled the book in just a few short days, and honestly I’m shook. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I read, because I devoured it like a bomb burrito – so quickly I didn’t even really comprehend what parts of the burrito were actually the game changers, what I should factor in to my next burrito creations.

(I’ve been on a burrito making kick recently, so bare with me on this analogy.)

But alas, some things clearly stick subconsciously. For example, when trying to recreate my bomb burrito, my hand reached for garlic powder out of reflex, and it was in that moment it clicked that I had put garlic powder in that burrito last time on accident… but it was bomb. And then today, I was scrolling on my Facebook timeline and some people from high school were getting too personal (again). It was so annoying, I was two seconds from sending screenshots to one of my friends so that we could essentially poke fun at these people… but then I took a pause and thought, “Who gives a duck. They want to post this, that’s their business – no need to make it mine.” I then went about my business, sans screenshots, sans gossip, sans ducks.

Hehehe GIF by memecandy - Find & Share on GIPHY

Here is when it clicked – the book did something! I’m actually listening to Mark Manson’s advice, whether I realized it or not – yay! Cheers to growth, motherduckers!

Ultimately, Mark’s book wasn’t about not giving a duck about anything and living a carefree life, it was quite the opposite. It centered around the fact that you have to give a duck about things, but you should be selective and thoughtful with your ducks. In turn, this thinking then enables you to think about problem solving differently – what do you truly give a duck about? Why do you give a duck? Does it make sense to give a duck?

Question every problem you have like you’re a child aka – “But why?” yourself into oblivion.

It’s stripping down a problem to such bare bones, that you can then face the root of the issue, the true reason why you’re giving a duck. Nine times out of ten, when you strip down a problem like that, you’ll realize how dumb it actually is and how you’re probably responsible for the problem itself. Actually, Mark will tell you that you are responsible for your problems – every single one of them… but that’s a whole other topic.

Anyway… when you start stripping down problems, a realignment of priorities and values can take place. This enables you to shift your outlook and erase pointless problems. Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself actively withholding your ducks from things that no longer align with you. And trust me when I say you will feel really good about that.

Overall, if you’re looking for a read that will give you a bit of a wakeup call, something that will challenge your comfortable way of thinking… You’ve gotta get your hands on this book ASAP.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

. . .

What I Learned Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for 300+ Hours

A true gift from this shithole year was Animal Crossing. Originally released in 2001, AC has been popular amongst audiences for almost two decades; releasing in the US in 2002. With over 40 million units sold worldwide and five spinoff games, there is clearly something for everyone to love and learn from Animal Crossing. 

The newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released worldwide in the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, eight years after the previous AC game release. A perfect storm of social distancing and much needed entertainment brought AC:NH to new heights, with over 5 million downloads in the first month alone. So what’s so great about this game?

First and foremost, I am not an avid video game player nor am I a good video game player. I typically get bored after a few gaming sessions, having only completed two games prior (s/o We Happy Few and BioShock!). But I love AC:NH and have spent 310 hours playing over the last six months. This is what I learned while playing AC:NH. 

Game Premise 

You embark on a deserted island getaway and are able to create, morph and design your perfect island over time. You have residents that move to your island, along with shops, seasonal events and more to experience. Thanks to your raccoon overlord, Tom Nook, you start the getaway in debt, but don’t worry, you’re able to pay it off quickly. 

What I Learned

First Homesite; Island 1

Daily tasks are necessary – in the game and life.

As a person who’s struggled with heavy depression on and off for a decade, sometimes the essential tasks like cleaning, laundry or eating can be a burden. In AC:NH, your character is rewarded for doing simple things like picking up sticks, clearing weeds or chopping down trees. Being able to make a character push through mundane tasks made it a little easier to force myself to get out of bed and do laundry.


If you’re unhappy, restart.

New Campsite; Island 1

I spent almost 275 hours building an island which is roughly 12 full days. I received the coveted 5-star rating on accident at around 180 hours and was seriously unhappy. I really didn’t like my island – I started playing without knowing the purpose, creating a mismatched, haphazardly built island that I really wasn’t enjoying. So I restarted. Erased all that work and started over. That same principle can be applied to each of us every single day. If we’re unhappy with something – our attitude, mindset, exercise level, whatever – we can change that. Hit the restart button until you’re at ease and at peace with yourself. 


Everything changes and that’s okay.

Celebrating Summer; Island 1

You can build a perfect utopia from top to bottom, but inevitably something will change that you have no control over – like the seasons. AC:NH is set to recreate the seasons of your hemisphere, changing the available DIY crafts, ingredients and overall landscape of your island. This is not something that can be fought, but merely accepted. I do not enjoy change as a person, but playing this game has surprisingly made it a little easier to accept. (An overexaggerated reaction, but a good example nonetheless). 


Sometimes, people you love leave.

5-Star Status; Island 1

When you start your island, there are two other islanders who spawn with you. You’re able to interact with your islanders and swap gifts, etc. throughout the game. However, sometimes your islander will decide that it’s time for them to move on to another island. At first, I hated when islanders would want to leave – because I wanted them to stay with me. But just like in real life, sometimes you have to let people go so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Or alternatively, you need to let them go because they’re not good for you anymore (cough*Curlos*cough).


Just because my island looked different than others, doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Yoga by some trees; Island 2

A fun perk in AC:NH is that you’re able to visit other islands, deserted or inhabited, to trade or simply see a friend’s design. After watching a few of those 5-star island tours on Youtube though, I was feeling pretty dejected about my shabby island. Who cares? As long as I like my island and it functions for me, then it doesn’t matter. The same principle should apply to regular life too. Who cares if I’m not the same size, personality or type as someone else? It shouldn’t matter as long as I’m happy with myself. 


People can be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it.

Turkey Day; Island 2

AC:NH contains over 400 characters that you could randomly meet or interact with. The characters are grouped by a personality trait: normal, peppy, sisterly, snooty, cranky, jock, lazy and smug. Snooty and smug villagers can be annoying to deal with, especially when they’re being rude towards other characters. You do have limited control of kicking people off the island if you so choose. There’s no reason to keep villagers or people in your life if they bring you down. Surround yourself with those who bring happiness. 


For anyone that’s looking to kill some time as we move towards another potential lockdown, maybe give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a chance. With bright colors, cute characters and a mostly stress-free gameplay, this can be a great escape for anyone experiencing heightened anxiety from lockdowns, COVID-19 or just the day to day stress of life. Spend your time fishing in lakes or growing flowers or diving for sea creatures.

Tips From A Serial Wanderer

Long-time traveler and friend, Agnieszka, sat down with me to discuss everything she’s learned from a life of traveling. Currently residing and studying in Germany, she splits her time with her family in California. Agnieszka has traveled to roughly 45 countries since childhood including: Canada, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Monaco, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania , Kenya, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic


Tanzania, 2012

Where did your desire/love of travel come from?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by a father with an insatiable passion and love for traveling. Since I can remember, he was constantly trying to find any opportunity for an adventure and almost always trying to bring his family along. Traveling with him were and still are the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. 

So where did your dad’s love of travel come from?
It was really his inability to travel. My parents grew up in Poland – which was then a communist country under (official/unofficial?) control of the Soviet Union. Traveling to another country was heavily restricted… people could essentially only travel to other communist/soviet eastern European countries. And when something is forbidden from you, usually that’s something you then really want. Growing up my father actually thought about becoming a sailer because that was then one of the very few opportunities to actually travel and see the world. Instead he immigrated at 23 years old to the US and as soon as he was able to afford it, his (and our) world adventures began.

Nepal, 2017

Do you prefer traveling alone or with others?
That’s a difficult question for me. There is a lot of good in both and I’ve enjoyed both tremendously. Traveling alone is – at least for me – a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to positively develop as a person. I’m self-conscious and antisocial and really quite nervous around people and so I had a lot of difficulty opening up to incredible people I was meeting during my travels alone and probably missed out on a lot of amazing experiences. But the occasions when someone was brave enough to push through my barriers and invite me along on their adventures or show me kindness and love are memories I will always always always cherish – and I would have probably also never experienced those had I been traveling with others. 

So I am grateful for the times I traveled alone and hope to travel alone again in the future… I had freedom to do and see what I pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted but I then also had the freedom to meet and spend time with whatever wonderful person I meant along the way and experience so many other awesome things beyond just visiting the next famous site. Traveling with others is wonderful because I then have someone to share not only the incredible moments with but also the difficult times. It is not as lonely and therefore is not as mentally challenging.

Machu Picchu, 2012

Stereotypically, society says that women should not travel alone. Have you also experienced that stigma? Or do you feel that it is equally as safe as long as you’re smart about it?
Of course. As a women I’ve experienced sexism and many kinds of sexual harassment. There are countries I probably would not have traveled to had I been alone and don’t have the desire to visit in the future without a male companion. It is not as equally safe for women to travel in several parts of the world. But that has not and will not prevent me from traveling alone – and I don’t think it should prevent any other woman from doing so. Horrible things happen to people everywhere – even of course in the most “modern” and “safe” countries. In the end, it’s important to be as cautious as possible, avoid any possibly dangerous situations as much as humanly possible, and to always try to plan how to keep yourself safe in any given situation. Also I find that one should also try to respect the culture and customs of whatever place they’re visiting… if you’re visiting a country in which women generally cover their bodies in loose clothing, or cover their hair, or avoid doing a certain thing then I think it’s not only respectful to try to do the same, it also avoids more attention on you and hopefully then keeps you a little more safe.

Do you have any tips for staying in hostels?
I am not particularly easy-going about where or how I sleep, so I spend quite a lot of time and effort in choosing which hostels I will stay at – I proably spend more time on that than on actually planning what I will do outside the hostel once I’m there. I’ve only ever stayed in hostels in Europe and I would find and reserve them on “hostelworld.com.” I would base my decision on reviews, whether they provided breakfast, whether it was located close to the places I wanted to visit but also in a safe area, and of course on price. If you are like me and have a deep dislike of sleeping in dirty beds and showering in disgusting showers, these are my suggestions:

France, 2018
  • Book the hostel in advance. Give yourself time to do research and find the best one… This may however unfortunately require you to not take the cheapest bed in the cheapest hostel. 
  • Try to stay in a hostel in or at least near the areas you’d really like to visit or at least in an area that is said to be safe. I’ve stayed in hostels that fulfilled neither requirement and it made my time in that city/area much less enjoyable. 
  • Unless you can sleep through literally everything, bring earplugs and something to cover your eyes!
  • Bring a bedsheet or a sleeping bag! I am very sensitive about sleeping in unclean sheets and so bringing my own definitely allowed me to sleep much better. (I always brought a thin bedsheet with me which took up very little space in my backpack and which I used to wrap around me while I slept, serving as a mattress & pillow cover and as a blanket.
  • Bring flip flops to wear in the shower and a fast-drying towel!
  • Bring a lock! Oftentimes the hostels would provide lockers or similar to store your baggage but they would rarely come with locks and were of course always in public areas so a lock is great for additional security and sense of peace.
Dubai, 2016

What are 5 must-have essentials when traveling? (Besides the obvious)
I don’t really know if there are essentials other than the obvious. I find more people overpack and worry about bringing so much unnecessary things… unless you plan to go deep into no-man’s-land, you will be able to find and buy soap and other basic essentials. I’ve also never been one to travel and actually try to look attractive so I have no suggestions on essentials for when that is a goal of yours… But I suppose some things that I do try to always bring with me are: a comfortable day backpack/bag that closes all the way, medication for the basic pains and aches that you know works well for you, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket, and some secure way to keep my passport and money on me at all times.

Where is the favorite place/places that you’ve traveled?
I have never had nor will I ever have an answer to this question. I truly have difficulty trying to think of one place that I enjoyed more than the others. I have loved and appreciated every single place I’ve ever been to – even the places where I had unpleasant experiences and the places I’d never want to visit again. From every single adventure I learned something and experienced something good and I am grateful for them all. 

India, 2015

Where’s the most underrated or surprising place you’ve been?
Hmmm… this is also difficult. I suppose I am particularly grateful for my experiences in the economically/systematically “poorer” parts of the world. I am often thinking about my experiences in Tanzania where my father and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will never forget how kind the people were to us and how many huge, happy, beautiful smiles I saw and how much laughter I heard. This memory is something I always try to protect in my heart to remind myself to be grateful, to smile, and to just be freaking kind.

How important is the planning before a trip?
Well… I guess that depends on how easy-going you are, what is important for you to achieve from this trip and what you know you want to see or do. I do always try to plan enough in advance so that I can at least book where I will be sleeping and know what I can do the next day, but I have never planned all details of an entire trip. So it’s not necessarily important… I’ve learned that it is much easier and more enjoyable if you allow yourself to “go with the flow”.

Argentina, 2014

How do you find the less touristy places?
I google and read through a lot of blogs and travel websites, I always ask hotel/hostel staff for recommendations, I ask anyone and everyone I meet along the way for their suggestions, and I always try to get a map of the area from the hotel/hostel and I go through all the sites that are usually marked on them. But… I don’t purposely try to avoid the “touristy” places… they’re often touristy for a reason and I think they are worth seeing if it is indeed something you’re interested in. 

Where’s the next place you’re traveling?
I am deeply saddened to say that I have no idea when or where I will be able to travel next. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because my studies allow me to have very little life or time outside of it and when I do have any time free, I am utilizing it to visit my parents in California. I have lots of ideas and dreams and I hope I’ll be able to make one of them a reality sometime soon. With my boyfriend perhaps Norway or South Africa. My father’s next ambitions are exploring Bhutan and Madagascar, snowboarding in Japan and in the Andes, and kitesurfing in Zanzibar.I also would like to try to find an opportunity to travel a little bit alone again.


Travel Tips for First Time Travelers:

  • Be open-minded. Be open to new experiences (foods, languages, customs, behavior, people) and try to find the good in them all.
  • Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling often includes stressful, frustrating, uncomfortable situations. Breathe through them. It will be OK and it really is all worth it in the end. Either way, it’s a story to tell for later.
  • Be respectful of other cultures. Do your research about what is illegal and what is considered disrepectful in the area you plan to explore. That is also perhaps involves adapting your behavior/appearance. 
  • Please don’t assume everyone speaks english. I find it more respectful to ask if the person speaks english before beginning to speak to them in it. Perhaps even try to at least pick up some basic words – especially the word “thank you” or “please”. And if you’re American, please do try to speak more quietly… we are really generally quite loud and it really can be quite annoying.
  • Don’t pack too much. You can always wash your clothes while traveling or buy essentials like shampoo at a store.
  • Look into local transport – some cities have apps available for subway lines, buses, etc. And it’s good to know a little bit about what is available in an area so you can always try to find the best and cheapest traveling solution. Find a map of the local area and embrace it! And most importantly – try to walk a little! Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered in a city have just been things I’ve walked past on my way to somewhere else.
  • Go with the flow and be flexible. It will make life much easier for you and you’ll discover incredible things. I promise.
  • Don’t keep important or expensive items in the back pocket of your pants or in the front pockets or the very bottom of a backpack. I’ve met so many people who have had things stolen from them and I’ve seen it in action as well. 
  • Try to be cautious and attentive about everything around you. Be aware of your surroundings so you can try to better protect yourself from possible dangerous situations. Err on the side of safety.
  • Traveling doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Try to be flexible with where and when you travel. Spend time looking at multiple websites for flights and hotels/hostels and try out every single date/location combination you can think of and you’ll be surprised what kind of possibilities you’ll find.

As my father always says, “traveling is the best teacher.” You’ll not only learn about other people and ways of life, but also about yourself and how you can be a better you. You’ll find so much gratitude and love for yourself, for others, and for this planet. Don’t be afraid – be open to the challenges that come with traveling and adventuring and embrace what you learn from them. Follow your heart, find what you want from your life, and just go for it. All in. 

What is Home?

I’ve never really stayed in one house for a long time. It partially comes with the territory of coming from a divorced family, not only the loads of back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s, but also when one parent moves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other parent won’t move in the same time frame. By that I mean, separately parents may not move a lot, but when you combine it for the kids… it stacks up.

Looking to my mom, who coincidentally has moved a lot, with her I grew up in seven different houses, and with my dad I grew up in three different houses. Then when they were married, there is one house in my active memory. So we’re looking at eleven different houses I lived in from the time I was born until I graduated college. Speaking of college, you could even increase the places I’ve lived since I lived in the dorms throughout that time, and then my senior year a friend and I got an apartment off campus. I also did a semester in France which was a whole other type of living situation!

After reflecting on my adolescence, and now looking towards my adulthood – almost the minute I graduated college, I shipped up to NYC for an internship that turned permanent. Upon first moving to the city, I lived in a small sublet in Harlem and my room was literally the size of a twin size mattress. Two months later, my sublet was up and I moved to Chinatown for a little over a year and that was an experience! After that downtown escapade, I booked it back uptown to Spanish Harlem for a little over a year.

All sounds complicated and all over the place, right? Am I done yet? Am I getting to the whole purpose of this overshare yet?

Thanks to Miss Rona, things only get more complicated.

My lease was up in Spanish Harlem July 31st and the friend I planned to live with, Zoe, couldn’t move until October. So we were faced with two options:

  1. We find a place for August 1st and sublet until Zoe can move in.
  2. I go home – I’m working from home anyway, so why not spend some time at home, save some money, and move back to the city in the fall?

Two was the obvious option, but the not so obvious is the thing I had to ask myself – “Where is home?”

My nomadic mom is currently posted up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t too far from my uncle and papa along with many other family members. My dad is where he’s always been, in Kentucky, along with many family members. But then I have my nana and aunt and nearly all of my friends who are tucked away in Indiana.

So, again, where is home? Where do I go?

I essentially did what I always do, and that was split up my time and touch ground everywhere. Which definitely isn’t COVID Kosher, but I was essentially homeless, so sue me.

I did some time with all of my family and some friends – sprinkling my sass and two-cents along the way, lending an ear to those who needed it, and offering support when the situation called for it. It was nice to be “home” for a little while. But honestly, I couldn’t help but be hyper-focused on the term, “home“… what is it? Where is it? Do I have one, do I have many, or do I not have one at all?

My mom always says, “Home is where your mom is.”

But I don’t think home is that simple, or maybe it is.

I think home is a feeling. It’s something that comes natural, but it’s also something that can be manifested. For instance, both my grandparents houses always feel like home, the Catholic church I grew up in feels like home… but everywhere I’ve ever had my own room I’ve seamlessly created a notable “cozy-homey vibe” that gets riddled with compliments on how comfy it is.

It’s as if I’ve always understood that with a few adjustments, you can make anywhere feel like home. I have some things I always do, nearly as a reflex, whenever I settle in somewhere in order to make that place more comfortable – to make it mine.

1. Your bed is a sanctuary, treat it as such.

Make sure you have a bedspread that you like to look at, and honestly – the more pillows the better. Even if you only use one pillow to sleep – during the day have your bed coated in pillows. Those decorative sacks of fluff and feathers are so inviting, there’s no such thing as too much, I promise.

Once you like your bed – make it every single day. There was a time not too long ago where I didn’t make my bed everyday; I found I didn’t have time, what’s it matter, etc… I was full of excuses. But what was funny were the days that I didn’t make my bed in the mornings, I would almost instantly make it the minute I got home – because there’s nothing better than slipping into a freshly made bed.

Just respect yourself enough to make your bed in the mornings – respect the evening version of you who just spent a hard day at work and deserves a freshly made bed.

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2. You look at each wall more than you think, hang things that bring you joy and peace.

Think of every wall in your space as a mood board.

Fill each wall with pieces of art, photos, or shelves of knickknacks that evoke positive emotions. This is where you can put plants, real or fake, to encourage growth in your space and to feel grounded and connected with the earth. Fill your walls with whatever brings you peace and happiness.

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3. If it smells great, you’ll feel great.

I adore candles. I love them not only for the smell, but I enjoy even the simple flame. The sense of warmth I feel when I see the lit candle and then the scents that beginning coating the room, it brings so much instant peace. I love fall scents the most, like vanilla and hazelnut, but sometimes these scents don’t translate well in the summer. I found that my safe-ground is finding earthy candles that smell of amber and oud.

Go find your scent – be it floral, fruity, earthy, or fresh… find it and do what you gotta do to maintain that smell in your room. Be it candles, incense, oil diffusers, or wax warmers – just give your room a scent that you associate with comfort.

. . .

I’ll be honest, sometimes doing all of the above isn’t enough. You can go the whole nine yards on your space and still feel like a fish in the wrong bowl. Like you’re a pretty fish in a decked out aquarium, but you kind of miss your old bowl for some reason.

AKA -> homesickness.

All I’ve gotta say to that is to think long and hard on what you’re homesick for, what’s missing. Would you be happier back where you were? Or do you find you’re actually missing specific moments and feelings expressed in the old space?

I find that most of the time, my homesickness is for a time and not a place.

Once I realized this, it clicked that going home won’t fix anything, it won’t fix my homesickness. The only type of “going back” that will erase my homesickness is “going back in time” but that’s not possible, obviously. This type of homesickness can really only be healed by some intense self-reflection, maybe even some therapy, in order to dig up what the real root of the problem is and to truly understand what you’re missing. In realizing this, in understanding what it is exactly that you’re homesick for, you can then move forward and adjust what you must in order to find that mental balance and manifest your “home vibe”.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are deserving of feeling at home wherever you’re living.

From Lies to Love: International Overdose Awareness Day 2020

My mom died in 2005 from a drug and alcohol overdose. I was in middle school at the time, and for many years after I felt humiliated when people asked me how she passed.

“I don’t know.”

“What? How do you not know?”

“I… I just don’t know.”

I lied about it often.

My entire life I’ve craved acceptance. Yes, even as a child I was a people-person and performed incredibly well in large groups — but you never really know what goes on behind the scenes. I felt I’d be judged for my mother’s actions, when in reality, the way she chose to live her life had absolutely nothing to do with how I was perceived by others; ESPECIALLY as a middle school child! But I was 12 years old and wouldn’t have believed you. I wanted to fit in and not be known as the girl whose mom died from drugs.

I hated that she overdosed. I still do. My mom was fucking awesome aside from her addiction and I still find myself resentful that I didn’t get to spend more time with her. I want to know her more, especially now in my adulthood. I 100% know she would have been by absolute best friend and as I write this I feel furious.

But through the anger I can feel her. Through my unprocessed grief I see her every time I look in the mirror. I laugh with her each time I laugh with my baby sister. And I thank all the higher beings that I can celebrate her life with my loving grandparents.

It just sucks. But I’m working through it and I know I’m not the only one who feels this pain.


According to the CDC, 67,367 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2018. Even though the number of drug overdose deaths decreased 4% from 2017 to 2018, the overall number of drug overdose deaths was still four times higher in 2018 compared to 1999.

SOURCE: cdc.gov

I know my mom meddled in a variety of different drugs, and I also know her drug of choice was Lortabs… washed down with vodka. It’s something no child should ever have to see — but I saw and heard a lot of things you shouldn’t as a child. Oh well, I guess I learned what not to do for my future children, right?

Lortab is a form of opioid, and opioid addictions run rampant in America. Americanaddictioncenters.org report that 91 people die every day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose. The numbers seem to vary from one state to the next for a variety of reasons: low income, ability to take time off from work, ability to travel to a clinic, and more. Kentucky, where my family is from, seems to be one of the hardest-hit states.

Opioid death rates state-by-state, 2016. Source: Fair Health

So, what is International Overdose Awareness Day?

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) started in Melbourne, Australia in 2001. It is now recognized globally on August 31st, with 874 IOAD events happening in 39 countries in 2019. In 2020, their 20th anniversary year, the campaign is set to break their own record again.

IOAD was created to raise awareness to overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. The IOAD website lists other wonderful reasons for the day:

  • To provide an opportunity for people to publicly mourn loved ones in a safe environment, some for the first time without feeling guilt or shame.
  • To include the greatest number of people in International Overdose Awareness Day events, and encourage non-denominational involvement.
  • To give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose.
  • To send a strong message to current and former people who use drugs that they are valued.
  • To stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy.
  • To provide basic information on the range of support services that are available.
  • To prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice.
  • To inform people around the world about the risk of overdose.

You can read their 32-page partners’ report for 2019 here.


How you can help:

You can donate to their campaign here so they can continue to drive awareness, confront stigma, and provide education. They also have an Activities Page to find events happening near you.

If you want to make an impact in your own community, do a little research! A quick google search of “International Overdose Awareness Day + your city/state/country” should provide you with some sort of organization, events, or donations you can be involved with.

Have the tough talks with loved ones struggling with drug addiction. Do it now while they’re still with us, and please, have patience with them. Change can only happen once they realize it needs to happen, but you can be that helping hand. You can be the one to open that door to a better life for them.


I eventually grew out of lying about my mother’s death because I knew that’s not what she would have wanted. She’d want me to be strong, truthful, loving. She’d want me to be a woman who raises awareness where she couldn’t. I will hold strong in that to honor her name.

Remembering you, mom.

Joy Yvette Ford

February 23, 1967 – November 17, 2005

Love, Linds

When to Let Go & Let Karma

People usually aren’t that surprised to learn I’m an older sister. I tend to give off Type A vibes and even if I’m the drunkest person in the room, I’m still the quickest to sober up and help someone who’s in a worse state of mind than I am. What does surprise people is the amount of siblings I have – a whopping five. I have three not-so-little brothers and two not-so-little sisters and we’re all stair-stacked in age – 25, 23, 20, 18, 14, and 12. We all have severely different personalities, but within the differences obviously there are some defining traits that unify us as siblings. We all have a sharp tongue, zero patience for stupid questions, and we’re all incredibly selective about who we let get close to us.

So with us having severely different personalities yet a similar approach to people in terms of being guarded and slightly aggressive, you can imagine how intense some conversations can get within the Smith Clan.

Most recently I had a crazy theological discussion/debate with my 20 year old brother, Jackson. Now, as some background, Jack has a photographic memory, his head is full of the most random knowledge of the most intricate of things, we joke that a conversation with him is “Jack Jeopardy“. He’s an actor who’s been on stage since he was in elementary, which has empowered him to have a great speaking voice and everything he says is laced with such a projected conviction that you feel no need to dispute him half of the time as he seems as reputable as Wikipedia.

Jack has always had a rampant imagination that has him questioning every basic level thing most take for granted, which somehow transcended through age into him being able to have long conversations with anyone about anything – even on topics he genuinely knows nothing about. He knows how to ask those thought provoking questions that push the conversations along through twists and turns you hadn’t originally intended.

It was the other day when Jack and I somehow had a conversation about beliefs and Christianity that morphed into the power of karma. I am a firm believer that what goes around comes around, karma is real and you can’t convince me otherwise. Jack on the other hand, strongly argues that karma is interpreted completely wrong this day and age. He insists that karma isn’t about instant just consequences, the idea of karma transcends lifetimes and what you do in this life, affects your next life, and what you experience now is a product of your past life. So with Jack’s definition of karma, he doesn’t think that karma is enough in terms of punishment, because if someone does something bad in this lifetime, they won’t reap the effects of it until their next lifetime, and what’s the good in that?

These two ideologies of karma, one with rapid consequences and one with not so rapid consequences, is what lead to the big debate: Let go and let karma?

Jack will tell you…

Heck, no. Karma isn’t real, and if it is how could you possibly trust karma to take care of someone that has done serious wrongs, like Henry Kissinger? He is a man who should be charged with war crimes, but he won’t ever get punished for them. He should pay for the terrible things he has done, how can someone be as rich as him and also walk away unscathed from the bad he has done if karma is real? If karma is truly real, he would pay for these crimes, since what goes around comes around. Furthermore, if karma is real, it is not enough of a punishment, karma is nothing more than an excuse for societal inaction. Individuals need to take onus, for we are responsible for our own reality, delivering justice where justice is due, and we should not leave the fate of terrible people up to the universe.

To that I say…

It’s complicated. While I am a firm believer in karma, I fullheartedly agree that we are responsible for our own reality. These two things, karma and onus, coincide for me in that I don’t believe in always handing the reigns over to karma. Not at all. If you are presented with a situation where there is an obvious bad party involved, follow the below procedure:

Made on Canva by Peachy Keen Collective

The are two very different endings to the above, you’re either letting go or you’re actively trying to correct the situation. For the sake of the conversation, Jack heavily focused on Henry Kissinger being a prime example of how karma isn’t real or isn’t enough. But if you’re a believer in karma you’ll understand the following:

Karma is not always obvious.

It is very easy to think that wealthy people couldn’t possibly ever reap the effects of karma because they have so much money to ward it off. But karma wouldn’t get to someone in a way that isn’t right for them, karma isn’t going to come at the rich by attempting to drain their bank account dry with broken down car after broken down car.

Karma comes at each individual appropriately.

Maybe Henry Kissinger will never know true happiness, maybe none of his friends are real, maybe most people in his closest circle hate his guts. You can’t tell me little things like that aren’t micro acts of karma coming to play. So if you can sit back and let karma do its thing, then it’s better to think in this mentality, that karma is not in the big things, it’s in in the little things. Just as the little things can bring you happiness, the little things can also pile up and crush you down.

Sometimes, karma needs a hand.

Back to Henry Kissinger, I know, I know, it’s random but so is my brother so this is where the conversation went. Jack says karma is an excuse for societal inaction – if this is the case, then honestly, be the change you wish to see. What can you do to make Henry Kissinger uncomfortable? Email him, send him letters of everything he’s done wrong and that which makes him a war criminal in your eyes. Batter him with reminders of his wrongdoings. Be the bell constantly ringing in his ear.

There’s always something you can do.

So this translates into other areas of life, if someone in your work or personal life has done something that’s simply wrong – think about your options and how you can right the wrong, whether it’s a direct conversation with them calling them out, or maybe the wrong is deeper than that and a higher entity needs to get involved – do what is right. This is also where karma becomes a bit self-serving, when you’re righting the wrongs of others for a greater purpose, you are also bringing good karma upon yourself. What goes around comes around, remember?

. . .

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you let go and let karma. While I personally believe in the power of karma, and have very much seen it rear its head and kick dirt into the face of those most deserving, some people haven’t seen it and/or simply don’t believe in it – like my brother. While, him and I were able to have this insane discussion on karma, the funny thing is… he really doesn’t believe in it at all. Not one bit – even what he described karma to be, he doesn’t believe in that either. But he is able to see how others can believe, and is able to have a conducive conversation about it in order to better understand the world and those that live in it.

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 😉

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