goals and dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence — specifically, the confidence that makes you successful, in whatever way you define “successful.” (Because let’s face it, it’s different for everyone. At least, I feel like the way I define success is 100% different than the way my husband would, or the way my best friend would.)

Since the start of the new year, I’ve been doing some hard thinking (and a lot of serious hand-wringing) about stuff in my life — I’ve written about it a bit on here. Part of that hard thinking has to do with what I want to put my passions towards, what new things I want to accomplish for myself, and how I can use my foray into the author world (what has become a platform and networking of sorts) as a means to further my interests and goals. I have my dreams tucked away in my pocket, written on a folded square of paper, and a renewed sense of feeling like I can do these things — hell, I want to jump up and start now, slam the gas pedal and speed towards all these projects!

Hilariously, this all came about from watching the new Carmen Sandiego series (which, oh my god, I’m so glad I finally got to sit down and watch it. Some of my favorite people get to play with their voices in it.) While delighting in Gina Rodriguez’s character, I was hit with a memory of my intern days at EW. It was Upfronts week — the week that networks trot out their talent/promotions for the new television season in flashy New York presentations for ad buyers and the like — and it was the year the CW decided to greenlight some new superhero shows (hello, Flash) as well as a show called Jane The Virgin. A few cast members from the network, including Gina, came to the EW office for a quick meet-and-greet with staff and I remember her talking specifically about how she didn’t think she’d get the role, and being charmed by her honesty.

I wasn’t familiar with her work — I didn’t even expect I would watch the show. (Spoiler alert, it’s my favorite show currently airing and never ceases to make my happy AND it’s become meaningful to me because Jane’s author journey has basically mirrored my own.) But deservedly, the show blew up in the months its debut, winning awards and putting Gina on a pedestal that included her taking on new projects and gigs.

(Bear with me here, I’m going to detour and I swear this whole entry has a point.)

Recently, I realized that one of the things I’d love to try to do is write a graphic novel. I’ve got ideas for a second book that I’m currently working on that’s similar in genre to my first one, and I’d love to attempt to get an actual fiction book out there at some point — but I’ve also got a story that I think just works for a graphic novel. It’s queer, it’s fun, it’s something that WORKS, and even though I don’t have an artist (and am not an artist) I know it’s at least worth putting down on paper.

Here’s where it gets funny, though: for all my work in comics and working so closely WITH comics (and also because I work primarily in marketing and not in editorial; I only sell the sausage, I don’t participate in getting it made), I didn’t realize until I started researching that I’m not familiar with what it takes to actually script a story. It’s not exactly hard, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of (or so I’ve read.) But it’s something that I have to definitely adjust my mindset to because the process is different from the way I’m used to writing when I churn out a book manuscript. And once I realized what the undertaking would be and how it would essentially be learning a new skill, I found myself feeling totally freaked out. I messaged a friend who is an artist, and she kindly talked me down and tried to put things in perspective.

So how does “omg I want to write a graphic novel and pursue new projects but I’ve never done it before and I don’t know if I can do it/I’m too scared/overwhelmed HELP” and “aw, I love that Gina Rodriguez voices an animated character for the first time” go together? It’s the idea that somewhere, at some point, people started to take notice of someone’s talent. They offered opportunities like directing projects and movies and voice acting. Someone said, “hey, we think you’re perfect for this project. You’re getting a lot of acclaim. Why don’t you do it?”

But I guess in a broader sense, what I’m trying to get it is that when you really think about it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between someone influential reading my work and coming to me (or my agent) and saying “you’ve got talent. You can sell. I want you to do this thing” and me saying “I want to do this thing.” And if there is a difference, it’s that you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — if someone says “I want you to do this” and gives you an incentive (ie. a deadline and a paycheck) well, you’re probably going to be a little more motivated than if you tell yourself “I’m gonna do this!” at the vague promise of maybe selling something. Granted, I understand that’s a pretty big difference. I work well under pressure, and I’m more motivated if I have deadlines and know that there’s something to work towards. But I also know I can be just as motivated about something if I’m passionate about it, if I feel good about my work and the work I’m doing. And that’s a mindset I have to get myself into.

Because I want to get myself OUT of the mindset that just because I’ve never done something before, I’m not sure if I CAN do it. I mean, that’s ultimately silly. I’d never written a book before, but I still wrote a book! (And a proposal.) I’d never done serious journalism before I went to grad school, but I learned how to transition into journalism from working in non-profit — and then transitioned into PR after that! I’ve done many other scary things in my life that I had NO IDEA how to do, but I decided I could do it or learn it. (This also applies to DMing, but that’s a whole other discussion for a later time.) But I’ve always been someone who forges ahead even if there’s no particular path…I’ve always been someone who pushed forward because she believed that there was opportunity for her when other people would probably hold back. So in 2019, as I try to take hold of my dreams, I’m going to be better about pushing forward even if things scare me. I’ve got a lot of things I wanna do, and dammit, nothing is keeping me from doing them except for me.

here’s to you, 2018

I’m pretty sure I’m getting this “end of the year” post in literally under the wire (it’s still 2018 in America for a few more hours, oKAY), though as I write, I’m thinking of something I read this morning in the weekly Smarter Living digest emails I get from the New York Times — a question about why we seem to set goals/re-set around this time or feel a need to, and an answer:

“It’s an arbitrary resetting date. From a practical sense, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s kind of silly, but I think any time that gives us a convenient excuse to re-evaluate where we are in life is great.”

In some sense, I feel a little cliche at how strongly I take to the fact that January 1 has to be a “new start.” I relish in it, I feel excited by the chance to put a new foot forward — new goals, new ideals, new attitudes. But in another sense, I’m glad that I have such a strong will and desire to re-set. I always get reflective at the end of the year, and this year, I seem to be more reflective than usual.

It was a good year. In fact, 2018 was a really good year, a better year than a lot of years in recent memory. For the entire year, I was employed full-time, a first since I left EW in 2016 and was stuck between freelancing and job searching. I was (mostly) healthy, mental health stuff aside, but nothing was as bad as it’s been in previous years. I got married and I wrote and sold my first book, which I get to see published in April! I made new friends and created a new found family that I adore and that I am so grateful for. I saw a lot of friends who I don’t usually get to see thanks to vacations and life events, and each time I hugged them, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have people who care about me so much. On the whole, I’m hesitant to be too self-congratulatory, but I like to think that I ended the year stronger, happier, and a little more confident. Dungeons and Dragons gave me amazing strength in so many ways, from friendships to my career, my friends were my rock, I worked in my dream job even if there were things about it that sometimes drove me insane (no job is perfect, and mine certainly isn’t)…heck, I finished an entire manuscript! (And copyedits. Trust me, until you’re an author, don’t underestimate how big of a deal it is to get through copyedits. Even though I loved my copyeditor.)

So 2018 was really great, but then…something happened. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It was just that in the last 2-3 weeks of the year, I faltered. My roadblock hit. Best laid plans went off the map, and while I know that’s partially my fault for being so cocksure about a future that was never set in stone, I also don’t know any other way to think. A lot of things in my life have happened because I wanted them and went after them and I’m not saying I’m lucky (though luck has certainly played a role in everything, I won’t lie) but I did work hard. I put in the effort to study, network, connect, write. I wanted a professional degree in journalism, and I got into the best graduate program in the country. I wanted to work at EW and I got the coveted internship right out of school. I wanted to work at EW NOT as an intern and it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. I wanted to work at Marvel, and again, it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. For most of my life, I’ve I latched onto the things I knew I wanted and knew I was passionate about and said “I’m going to make this happen.” And…I made them happen. So when I decided I knew exactly what I wanted for my next big step, it was only logical that I felt things should naturally work out. After all, I was already on a path that seemed like everything was meant to be.

I know that’s a bad way of thinking. You can’t control life — if you had asked me years ago, I would have never told you that I’d leave New York to go to Chicago, work at two of my dream jobs, or marry at 36 instead of 30 like I always planned. There are things I want for myself next year — a house, a baby — that I know I can’t pin on a job or a career or a dream, and who knows how those things (if they happen) will intersect and affect where the path of my life curves. Logically, I know that, but because I was too caught up in my own confidence, I went from knowing exactly what made me happy, knowing exactly what I wanted for myself and my future, to feeling completely lost and upended thanks to something out of my control.

And that was hard.

I spent a lot of days leading up to the end of 2018 looking at inspirational/self-help books, searching different websites, getting off social media to distance myself from too much noise, and searching for some sort of sign. I so badly wanted someone to come tell me that it would be okay — that this is what you were meant to do and this is how you’re going to get it, and don’t worry, everything will work out. I told some of my close friends what I was going through and I knew they weren’t going to magically fix anything for me, but I wanted them to, because I didn’t want to do it alone. I didn’t think I knew how to do it without help.

And that’s partly true. I’m a firm believer in that we don’t get anywhere in life without supportive, real people we can lean on, people who push us when we feel like we can’t move forward and motivate us to be better. I know I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have a support system and I don’t intend on losing that. But as we move into 2019, I’m realizing that I need to also take steps for myself.

I need to make the decisions that make me happy, even if they’re hard.

I need to take care of myself the best way I can, even if that means making changes.

I need to have the conversations that move my life forward, even if I’m scared of where they might end up.

I might not know how it do it on my own, but hell, if I fail, at least I’ve failed trying, right? (Also, let 2019 be the year I push myself to fail, because failing is actually good. You’d think I would’ve learned that with over a year of job searching and rejections and close calls, but apparently, I still get hung up on being scared of it.)

A colleague posted recently about how she doesn’t do resolutions because she can’t keep them, but she does do tangible goals. She takes things she wants to accomplish for herself and gives them monthly deadlines, breaking them up into things she can accomplish in smaller doses, one by one. And even though Passion Planner has tried to instill that in me and I’ve tried to write out certain monthly goals, I’ve never been able to make myself follow through. Maybe I was never doing it correctly. Maybe I was using it the wrong way, making my goals too big and too lofty and then putting my planner away and only looking at it and reminding myself of things when I needed to. But so many of the goals I make for myself are overwhelming; there are big goals and small goals and goals I could accomplish in a day and goals I could accomplish in six months. And so, on January 1st, once I wake up and actually get myself into a headspace where I feel like I can concentrate, I’m going to write down a list of everything I want in 2019. And then I’m going to write down what I want to accomplish for this month. And the next one. And then next one.

And I’m going to do that while hoping that sometimes, when you stop looking, the answers appear right in front of you and come at the time they’re supposed to.

Here’s to 2019.

this is about life humps

In less than a week, it will be my birthday.

I hate admitting my age to people. I hate it because I always seem to be surrounded by people who are younger and doing better, and I hate that I can’t be content and happy with where I am because I constantly feel like I’m too old to be here, or do this, or have that. I hate that this feeling has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I hate that I obsess over my age because I still cling to goals I haven’t achieved so I feel like I just failed at life. (You were supposed to be married by now! For like, two years! And have three kids! Come on!)

My therapist is a big fan of getting me to recognize what are “negative thoughts” and what is “anxiety talking” as opposed to real, true variables. So, I know it’s all psychological. I often get yelled at by my mom and my sister for being so morose when it comes to turning another year older, and why can’t I be happy? What’s wrong with me? I’ve got good things going on, and I’ve done a lot in my life. I’m certainly not sitting at home wasting away with no social life and no dreams and no goals and no money, watching the clock tick forward as the years fall away while I do nothing to take advantage of them. In other words, from a logical standpoint, I’ve got absolutely no reason to sit here once a year and freak out about how old I’m getting when I realize my birthday is suddenly on the horizon. (It always seems like I forget how close it us until I look at a calendar and realize, oh right, THIS is the end of July.)

Over the years, I’ve tried to become better about accepting my age, but the flip side of that is that accepting my age has just gotten harder as I’ve grown older. There are certain milestones that are for sure fun and celebratory, but once you pass them, reality sets in and you just feel – well – old. It’s a maddening cycle: you turn 21 and feel awesome and immediately realize the next big birthday is 25, and, oh god, QUARTER LIFE CRISIS. HALFWAY TO THIRTY. You turn 25 and feel good and immediately realize the next big birthday is 30 and, oh god, THIRTY. OUT OF YOUR 20’s. NO MORE ADULT MISTAKES. You turn 30 and are pretty happy and immediately realize the next big birthday is 35, and, oh god. THIRTY-FIVE. HALFWAY TO FORTY. Etc, etc. I call these milestone things “life humps” – speed bumps that come at you out of nowhere, and leave you feeling shaken and freaked out. But once you DO get over them, you leave them behind as you drive away. I’ll freak out about turning a certain age and become fixated on what’s ahead and how scary it is to think of the next big milestone, even if it’s five years away. But then after my birthday, I more or less forget about how old I am and what age means because I’m, well, I’m not really thinking about it. I’m living my life.

Last year, when I turned a certain age, I made a list of things I had done up until this point in my life that I was proud of. 35 things I’d done in my life, to celebrate turning 35. This year, as I mark passing another life hump, I decided to see if I could look back and reflect on how much I’ve changed – and hopefully be proud of what I saw at the end of the tunnel. I started to do this on my own in my journal, and then realized that maybe it was worth putting out to the world. Even though I often think I’m alone, maybe I’m not alone. Maybe someone else needs to read this. Maybe it’ll help them in some small way.

As much as I still want to hide behind my age since, let’s face it, I look like a 20 year old anyway (except for that place I need botox between my eyes, ugh), maybe it’s time for me to, in the words of my favorite druid, grow up and be a regular adult.


 

I am 15.

I am 15 and Titanic is the most important thing in the world to me and goddamn, Leonardo DiCaprio is HOT. I ice skate competitively. I go to high school and act in musicals and have fun with friends and hang out at the mall in places like Sam Goody. I am a burgeoning little nerd who is pretty content with life.

In between 15 and 20, the following things happen: my mom hires a limo as a surprise for my Sweet 16. Everyone gets me Titanic gifts, OBVIOUSLY. I try out for volleyball because I really want to play volleyball and am the only one cut from the team. But I become more involved in drama and perform in two musicals, so it all works out. I drive to New Hampshire and pierce my bellybutton in secret when I turn 18 – my one rebellious move. I take the SATs and apply to 18 colleges. I get into 6 pretty good ones. I write my college essay on my experience of dissecting a cadaver during science camp at a prestigious Boston college, because I am just like my role model and idol Dana Katherine Scully and I AM GOING TO BE A MEDICAL DOCTOR, DAMMIT. I’m on the waitlist for George Washington University and my mom insists we make an on-campus interview when we go down to visit American, where I’ve been accepted. I don’t prepare and essentially BS my way through the interview thanks to my improv skills and get a call after the weekend is over that I’ve been accepted.

In between 15 and 20, the following things happen: I graduate high school, I go to GW, and 9/11 happens less than one month into my college career. I am living in downtown DC, three blocks from the White House and near the State House, and I have no idea what’s going on but it’s terrifying. (I have to fly home to Boston of all places three weeks after this, and I have a full-on panic attack flying into a tiny airport in New Hampshire because Logan is obviously closed still.)

At GW, I go to exactly one informational session about pre-med before I hightail it out of the room due to all the math and science requirements that The X-Files failed to mention. I decide I’d rather major in something totally useful, like English. I meet the person who will be my roommate for four years, my eventual bridesmaid, and my forever best friend. I join a sorority, I learn new things. I get lost, get confused, make mistakes, and have fun. The X-Files ends (for the first time, apparently) after 9 years. I see Rent for the first time on Broadway thanks to my roommate, and immediately decide I need to keep going back to New York to see more Broadway shows. I fall in love with Manhattan and Times Square (I know, I know), make friends through the Rent message boards, and discover my independence by taking a Greyhound to the city as many weekends as I can, without telling my parents what I’m doing or where I’m going. I go through a year of feeling like I don’t belong in DC and want to transfer to NYU. I don’t get accepted as a transfer and THANK GOD FOR THAT, because once I get over my dumb impulses, the rest of my college life is fucking great. I will not understand how very much it hurts to hear the Avenue Q song “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” until years later when I realize, shit, I really do want to go back to college.

I am 20.

I am 20 and all I want to do is live and work in New York City.

I turn 21 earlier than my friends because of how my birthday falls and since my birthday is over the summer and no one is around, I don’t get a huge 21st celebration. So instead I make my parents take me to New York to see Rent. I achieve my dream of living and working in Manhattan when I get an internship at a talent agency the summer between my junior and senior year of college. The internship is pretty terrible: I get stuck in a back room where everyone forgets about me because they don’t have enough desks, I don’t get any work, and all I do is make Starbucks runs. But I see all my friends, and I go to Broadway shows all the time, and I see Kristin Chenoweth and Norbert Leo Butz’s last show of Wicked, and my best friend has a job down the block from me, so life is pretty good. These are basically at the best 3 months of my life at this point in time.

In between 20 and 25, the following things happen: I graduate college, I job search for over a year, and I finally move to New York for good at 23. My job is at a media company coincidentally located on Astor Place – the same area where I spent all my time when I visited the city, because all my friends went to NYU. Clearly, I feel like this is fate. I know this Starbucks! I know this subway line! I know the dumpling place on St. Marks, and the bars, and the yoga studio, and the Barnes and Noble on the corner! I live in Greenpoint with a friend who I’ve now grown apart from, and I know nothing about the neighborhood (otherwise I would not have chosen to live there.) I also live off the G train, which is fucking TERRIBLE – but then again, have you really lived in New York if you’ve never had an experience with the G train? My job isn’t sustainable – a sales assistant role that pays somewhere in the low 20’s. I stupidly think that’s a hell of a lot of money and my parents smartly remind me that it’s really not. But they’re supportive because this is my dream and they believe in giving your child dreams and opportunities. I spend a lot of time seeing Broadway shows like I’ve always dreamed of, and I go to birthday parties at my favorite bars, and I karaoke at night, and I hang out with friends, because these are my young 20’s and I want to have fun.

I am 25.

I am 25 and on top of the world, as they say. I am fucking INVINCIBLE.

I leave my first job after a little more than a year and get a job at a financial company that plans investment conferences, because I think conference planning is what I want to do. Maybe it is, but the job itself and the environment and the people are so absolutely horrible that my mental health takes a significant nosedive. I let the shininess of the job (weekend trip to the Hamptons! Five star hotels! International travel to places I’d never afford to get to!) control me until we’ve both had enough. They let me go after 8 months and it’s probably the best feeling in the world, especially since I’ve been on my way out anyway. But hey, I get to visit Monaco and Monte Carlo before I leave, and that’s pretty damn cool.

I turn my life around in a big way. I get a new job as a Development Associate at a religious nonprofit, I get the hell out of my crappy Greenpoint apartment, I decide I’m done living with people, and I fall into a really amazing studio sublet in Queens. I feel like I’ve started my life all over again; I love this apartment and this neighborhood and my new landlord. For the first time in my life, I have a decent salary, a good job where I will stay for 4 years, a good apartment where I will live for almost 5 years, helpful mentors, my own office, and stability. I also feel like I’m realizing why Judaism is important again thanks to my work.

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: Rent closes after 12 years on Broadway and I’m at the final performance with all the friends and cast members I’ve met through the years. LOST ends after 6 years and I hold a finale party for my favorite show and I cry all night. I have never cared about American Idol before and on a whim, I randomly decide to watch the 7th season from the beginning, auditions and all. I somehow become utterly obsessed with all the performers. David Cook wins the show and my ex-best friend and I spend the summer following the American Idol tour around to different states, sometimes getting lucky enough to go backstage because we’ve figured out who to talk to at security. Sometime after those summer shows are over, David Cook announces his new album, a release show, and then a tour with his band. I spend A LOT of money and one year traveling the United States, flying to different cities on weekends, yelling at Ticketmaster, learning how to stomach PBR at dive bars in places like Nashville and West Virginia and Tulsa, driving overnight, sleeping in crappy motels, eating Sonic, taking photos, touring ridiculous landmarks like gaudy casinos and corn palaces…and I have the time of my life while doing it. (No pun intended.)

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: I start dating. I find a great guy and then break up with him because despite wanting a boyfriend, I’m still in the “single” mindset and am also influenced by controlling friends who cloud my judgement by telling me how bad he is and how unhappy I am. (This is untrue, and I will regret this choice forever.) I date another guy. I date LOTS of guys. I find a guy who seems really great in every single way and we become serious. I think he’s going to be the one – I even go to his med school graduation in Iowa. He turns out to be crazy and controlling for real, and he emotionally abuses me for months before he dumps me via Facebook. Thankfully, I have amazing friends who have my back. I try to date again. I have one more serious relationship that I think is going to work out, but this one drops me when he realizes I’m going to leave New York for at least a year to get my Master’s degree.

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: I dye my hair blonde for a long period of time. I give myself bangs and try to change myself (it doesn’t stick). I attempt to figure out where I’m going to go next in my life, and my mom bugs me about going back to school. I try looking up graduate programs for business administration, which is what I think I want to do, but I never get anywhere. I finally take the GREs because I’ve waited too long to apply and my SAT scores are no longer viable; I do okay on the verbal section but absolutely horrible on the math portion, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Because of the fallout of the terrible aforementioned relationship, I turn to entertainment to make me happy, and start writing about television. I start my own entertainment blog and network and go on set visits and meet other blogger/journalist friends and do interviews with celebrities and go to San Diego Comic Con as press for the first time. I realize that THIS is what I want to do albeit on a bigger, more important scale. My dream is to work at Entertainment Weekly, the magazine I grew up reading and loving, so I make a decision that I want to go back to school for journalism. I apply to three schools, including one I think I will never, ever get into. I get into the top program for my career – Medill at Northwestern University in Chicago.

This is February. They want me to start the January of the following year, which means I’ve got exactly one year to figure out how to leave New York. My second-to-last remaining grandparent dies. I have my 30th birthday at a LOST bar in Manhattan surrounded by some of my closest friends, and my parents take our family on a cruise to Bermuda. I give my notice at work after almost five years, right before I go to Disney World for 2 weeks and drink my way around the world. When I’m not looking, New York changes, and the bars and restaurants that my friends and I used to frequent shut down and move, and I realize just how freaking long I’ve been living here.

And also, damn. I’m getting old.

I am 30.

I am 30 and in 5 months, I am going to leave New York behind to start a new life. I have no idea what comes after, but I am finally realizing how important it is to get away from a certain way of life and take chances and have opportunities, even if it seems scary. I will not realize how important this change is for awhile, but that’s okay. I WILL eventually realize it.

I start my year-long graduate program at Medill. It’s hard and it’s tough and the workload is insane, but at least I’m not doing it alone. I make amazing friends and I have the best time – a better time than I had in college, even. My last grandparent passes away and I can’t come home for the funeral because I’m in Chicago. I apply for an internship at Entertainment Weekly, which I know from talking to enough people is basically the only gateway into a job there. Somehow, I manage to make my dreams come true. I join the ranks of EW’s “Medill Mafia.” I work at my dream company and do things like interview people from my favorite shows, write about Marvel movies, go to Broadway show press days, attend opening nights, and interview Stan Lee in person. I don’t get hired full-time after my internship ends and it’s disappointing, and I spend some time in limbo until I find a way back into the company for good. I write about comics, and I find my niche and build up my career.

In between 30 and 35, the following things happen: I finally come out to the world as bisexual. I start medication for anxiety. I decide to start dating again and am sick of not finding anyone on the “traditional” websites, so I try different ones. I find my nerd-loving fiancé, try not to get turned off by his last name, and we become serious and move in together after 2 years. We get engaged after 3 years – I am 3 months past 35 when I finally get engaged. We set a wedding date and talk about our future – I will be 3 months past 36 when I finally get married. I am back in Brooklyn but this time, the place is nicer and the neighborhood is nicer, and at least there’s talk of a house somewhere down the line so I know this is not where I’ll end up for good.

In between 30 and 35, the following things happen: EW restructures. I call on my connections and friends for freelance work and go on a lot of interviews because the New York journalism world is small, but it takes me almost a year to find another steady job. I get fed up with being depressed, write a lot of fanfic, and start seriously working on a book. I get a literary agent and make my dreams happen. I start sending the book I’m working on to publishers through my agent. I take a job writing at a financial start-up that offers me a lot of money, even though I have no interest in what they do, because I need money and I need employment. I last three months there before I realize that this isn’t working and I am just as miserable as I was sitting at home every day not getting any job leads. The same day I make that decision, I have an impromptu interview for my dream job. I finally see my connections and networking and career building pay off as I start work at Marvel. I run two half-marathons two years in a row at Disneyland. (I spend a lot of time at Disney World and Disneyland.) I get obsessed with a group of voice actors who play D&D for 4+ hours at a time every week and my life changes, even if I won’t realize it for a bit. I play D&D. I strengthen friendships and I lose friendships.

In less than a week, it will be my birthday. I’ve changed a hell of a lot over each of the years that I’ve been alive and I like to think that even though there’s some stuff I regret and some things I could have done differently, I’ve done a lot of good things and learned a lot. These are, more or less, my life humps, and I like to think that I know how I can make the next life humps even better. I’ve got big plans and goals, I’ve got new dreams in terms of where I want to be for a job and a career, I have a family that I’m slowly building out of New York, and I’m trying to be patient about how my future will play out.

In less than a week, I will be 36. I will celebrate with a smile (and a big drink in a dragon mug at the Renaissance Faire) – because the future is bright, and honestly, it looks pretty fucking awesome – even if I’m getting old.

some thoughts on living, dying, and telling your story

A work friend died suddenly over the weekend.

The strangest part about these kind of things happening is that before we got the news on Monday, I don’t know if I would’ve even thought to call her a friend. We were friendly, she was someone who I knew of and followed on Tumblr for years, who knew my mutual friends. (Fandom is strange like that.) About a year ago, she ended up getting a job in my company. I laughed at the time at the randomness of someone else from “the fandom world” joining me in this professional space of work (I don’t know, I feel like it’s special little club – like, you can be IN fandom but there’s a difference between the Tumblr/AO3/vids fandom and just reading fic. People know you. Or you know people.)

We worked together, but we really didn’t see each other that often. She worked for the video team, my job is in publishing. She moved to a different floor a few months ago with her department and I was barely up there except to visit other coworkers every once in awhile. But we emailed regularly because of some comic book videos that we produced, and I was often in contact with her throughout the day, depending on schedules. We saw each other at work social events when we went out for happy hours and it was at the first one she attended, back in March, where (a few drinks in) I finally just blurted out that even though she didn’t know me, I had actually known her for awhile thanks to mutual friends. Then we bonded over X-Files.

The last time I saw her was a week ago; we did a small Women of Marvel photoshoot with the new Marvel Vans and spent about 20 minutes of our work day outside goofing around and taking random pictures outside of the office.

It feels silly to write this, because we weren’t really close. I’ve been seeing tributes and grief online from people who were close to her, and it feels like I don’t have a right to be sad about losing someone I didn’t know very well. But she was also more than a name in an email at work; she wasn’t just another person, she was a person. And I can’t remember the last time I knew someone who died so young, so close to my age, and who I knew. There have been people in my life who have passed away unexpectedly, but I had lost touch with them or I knew them vaguely through a friend – realizing they were gone was sad, but it didn’t shake me. Losing grandparents is hard, and there’s been a lot of that in mine and my fiancé’s life, but even if it was unexpected, they were older. That, to me, seems to make a little more sense than the fact that a 32 year old is working on SDCC video feeds one day and is gone the next day.

Maybe I’m just more sensitive than usual due to my mental state. I’ve got a lot of stress going on in my head, coupled with the ever-present feeling of “will I ever be enough?” I’m thinking a lot about my future and my birthday is in two weeks; my birthday is ALWAYS the time of year when I get more depressed than usual because even if I try not to, I can’t help but focus on my age and where I am in life compared to other people. I hate getting older. I hate that age is a number I care about. But suddenly, something like this happens – and you start to think. You think about that trip you’re not taking because you really can’t afford it, or that friend you’re not seeing because you’re too tired to go out and you’ve been out every night this week, or that best friend who you know is having a hard time but you don’t text often because, well, you KNOW they’re not doing well but life is busy and you’re in different states. And suddenly, things that are stressful or worrisome of freaking you out don’t seem that important anymore.

Like the fact you have 3 credit cards at balances that are too high for you to pay down ever.

Or the knowledge of being in student loan hell until you’re about 90, if that.

Or that lingering raincloud of overdue rent hanging above your head, even if your fiancé never asks you for it because he doesn’t want to upset you.

Or the fact that you have 9 dollars to your name in your checking account until your next payday.

When I was in my 20’s, I had the opportunity and time and (kind of) had the money (it wasn’t the best and most responsible decision, but oh well) to travel all over the U.S. with my then best friend to go see a favorite band. We’d book flights that had us visiting cities for 48 hours, rent cars to drive from one state to the next to save money, sleep on the street, and spend way too much money on tolls and fast food. It’s easy for me to regret some of that experience because I did a lot of it at the expense of a romantic relationship I still regret giving up, even though I believe that was less about how I spent my time and more the influence of who I spent it with. (There’s a reason that friend is not in my life anymore but ANYWAY). But it’s still an experience I had, that I’ll never have again, for various reasons. It’s easy to get caught up in “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” when it comes to how I spent my time, but that year was a celebration of ME, of life, of something I’ll never get again and that’s special, no matter how you look at it.

I think a lot about Hamilton – who lives, who dies, who tells your story? It can be cliché, but then things like this happen and you really do wonder – who will tell your story? Who will people remember you as? What will they say about you? What have you brought to the lives of your friends and family that make you loved and appreciated? Did you live your life to the fullest? Did you have that glass of wine because, fuck it, it’s nice out and you want a nice lunch outside? Did you splurge on that new dress you wanted because it made you feel amazing? Did you look at your bank account and shrug and book a flight that you know you probably shouldn’t have paid money for but who cares, because you get to see your friends?

There’s a lot that could be said about dying young and loss and grief and the shock of losing someone you actually knew. And I don’t know what to say about it all except that maybe Hamilton is right. You don’t know when your time is up. So you should never throw away your shot.

And I’m sure as hell not.

wait for it

This is a post about many things, but the subject title can apply to all of them.

Wait for it.

Roughly a week ago, I got engaged. Yes, I kind of expected it, but I was wary of believing my suspicions, so I was still really surprised when it happened. I’m just not used to things actually working out the way I envision them. It’s strange when you spend so long thinking of things associated with huge life moments and then they happen and you’re forced to confront the fact that suddenly, all your thoughts are REAL – your daydreams of your dance with your dad, how you’ll feel when you’re wedding dress shopping, the things you’ll buy for your bridal party. The next few months are going to be a whirlwind of stress and money anxiety and things happening really fast, but it’s HAPPENING, and I finally feel like my life is slotting into place in some way.

Wait for it.

2016 was one of the hardest years of my life. I was the lowest I’ve ever been in terms of my mental health. I was miserable, even after I got on medication to help my depression. Freelancing was only taking me so far, and I was the only person I seemed to know who had left my current job and couldn’t get snapped up by a new one (even after interviews where I came so close, but not close enough.) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or what  I was supposed to do. I was broke, in my mid-30’s, and yeah, I had a serious boyfriend and great friends but I had no job, no savings, no ring, no kids, and no hope that any of that would happen in the immediate future. There was a point where I couldn’t see any kind of way my life would improve, and I spent a lot of time angry about decisions I had made in my past, where I had let people control my life in some way.

I was really, really down. I started looking for any kind of job, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and I felt like I was out of college all over again — just trying to find someone who wanted me. I finally took a job that made more money than I had ever seen, but I was absolutely miserable and hated everything about it. Two weeks after leaving that job, I lucked out with my dream job, through a series of events that can only be described as serendipitous. Sometimes I think about how long it took to get here – the long hard waits of being patient while other people got their due, working all my connections, never giving up on pursuing what I truly wanted. I still have issues with the fact I’m here later than I was supposed to be — an obsession with my age will forever be a cog in the wheel of anxiety that slows down my mental health — but I recognize how lucky I am to be where I am. After a long time, I’m finally where I’m meant to be. I’m happy. I love most of my coworkers. I love what I do and I feel like I can work towards a brand and a career.

I’m also a girl working professionally in comics who is being taken seriously. And that’s pretty rad.

Wait for it.

When I started my journey to get published, I got some luck in a way most people don’t – I had immediate interest from a publisher and got an agent pretty quickly, despite not having any experience selling a proposal or a manuscript. After months of working and revising, I was excited to hopefully have some bites…and got rejected by all publishers that looked at my project, including the one who initially seemed interested. Going back to the drawing board and feeling like I had nothing to offer sucked, and getting back on track took longer than I wanted it to. But I hit the ground running, revised, and months later, I have revisions that my agent praised as the strongest so far. My proposal is currently on its second round of final edits, and hopefully will be sent off again soon. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I can’t predict if I’ll be any more successful, but I do feel more confident about putting it out into the world.

Wait for it.

Last year, I went through a period where I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be. I wanted a life that I saw reflected in other people, religiously and otherwise. I still want that life — I still want things that are harder for me to have because they won’t come naturally — but I think I’m getting better at realizing I don’t want to be the person I thought I wanted to be in certain ways. I don’t need to be like other people who I think have it all together. I like my life the way it is. And yeah, I wish there were things that were different about it. But it’s my life and what I know. I can accept that. Or try to.

Wait for it.

Reflecting and looking at my life as it was a year ago, it’s amazing to realize how different things are. Nothing is perfect — there are a lot of things that aren’t perfect, and there are things that still aren’t great. But there’s also a lot of stuff that’s good. And yeah, it took awhile for things to swing up, but they did. I’m glad I kept fighting, even when it was hard. I’m glad I kept going, even though I know it’s going to continue to be hard.

I’m glad I waited for it.

 

this is the story of a poster and a dream

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged (my fault) and I’ve realized that with a few exceptions, most of my blogging lately has been — though positive and optimistic — not quite “upbeat” in terms of subject matter. So, today I’m going to talk about something that’s both personal and fun, because with Spider-Man: Homecoming on the horizon and press junkets circulating, I’ve been having a lot of feelings about Robert Downey Jr.’s career trajectory as Iron Man and what that means to me, personally.

I’m going to talk about this poster.

This poster used to hang on the walls of Entertainment Weekly. It now hangs in my living room, but that’s not where the story starts. The story starts a few years earlier, at Northwestern, when I was in graduate school. Going back to school was something I had wanted to do for awhile, but it took some time, because I hadn’t known what I wanted to do. By the time I settled on journalism — having gotten some cred as a freelance entertainment writer/blogger and realizing I wanted to pursue the career full-time at someplace like Vanity Fair (or, my dream publication, EW) — I was old.

To be fair, there was a good range of age in my cohort, and some of my best friends are people who are my younger sister’s age. But I had just turned 30 when I went back to school, and while I tried to embrace the good things that came with age (experience in work and life, having lived on my own and made mistakes with my independence), it sometimes felt like a setback. Here I was, restarting my career all over again — I had worked in publishing and spent five years in non-profit — and most people who entered the publishing industry did so right out of college, becoming senior editors by the time they were 27/28 years old. I was doing things so late, and I couldn’t help but feel anxious about that, even though I was proud of myself for being in one of the top-rated programs for my career.

My Master’s program started in January of 2013 and lasted for a full year. In May of 2013, Marvel released Iron Man 3. I was a fan of comics and a fan of the Marvel franchise, having seen other films throughout the years. The difference is that aside from The Avengers, which at the time warranted a long analytical Tumblr post about my favorite parts/actors, I watched and enjoyed and that was it.

I’m still not sure what it was about Iron Man 3 that made a difference. Maybe it was just that it was a really good film. Maybe it was the fact that it made me feel so good, and forget everything I was stressing over, and gave me enjoyment the way a superhero movie should. Maybe it was because that movie demonstrated Tony’s very human vulnerabilities, including anxiety and depression and PTSD, at least one of which was lingering in my body at the time when I didn’t fully realize it. Whatever the reason ultimately was, it made me walk out of the theatre, snap a reaction picture for Twitter, and then return over the weekend — for a double feature, when my roommates asked me to go with them, unaware that I had gone to an earlier showing. (I lived directly down the street from the movie theatre, which was pretty sweet. Also, Midwest prices as so much nicer than NYC prices. Also, STUDENT DISCOUNTS FOR MATINEES. Bless.)

I saw the movie at least twice more while it was still in theatres. When I needed a distraction from my work or stress at school, I loaded up on press tours and interviews I had missed because I hadn’t been paying attention. I knew RDJ as an actor, I had seen dozens of his films, and I was aware of his “less than savory” background. But somehow, thanks to timing and feelings, RDJ and Tony and RDJ’s journey to becoming Tony became my greatest motivation and biggest influence.

As my obsession with Iron Man 3 grew, so did my renewed interest in the MCU. I re-watched all the films I hadn’t seen since they came out in theatres with a new appreciation for the characters and the actors that played them. Throughout it all, RDJ was a constant inspiration, especially the more I learned about his rise to the top of the industry, and how he became confident despite his age and despite coming back into the game so long after everyone had considered him done.

I entered graduate school with one long-standing goal that had been in my mind for years, since I started receiving the magazine as a young teen: to work at Entertainment Weekly. I knew that involved getting an internship, so I kept a close eye on Ed2010 for internship openings. When applications opened in October for a January 2014 start, I set my sights on applying. I walked to the post office to mail my application with Sam Jones’ Off Camera podcast playing in my ears. As I dropped off my envelope, personally handing it over to ensure it arrived in one piece, RDJ talked about anxiety and perseverance and taking risks despite your fear.

A few months later, I got an email asking me to come in for an interview. Never content to do things halfway when it came to getting things I REALLY wanted, I flew to NYC for the weekend to be there in person (hey, I got to see my friends as well.) Nervous as all hell about interviewing for my dream job, I stepped off the elevator and was greeted with a foyer/hallway that housed an array of oversized covers from years past…including this particular poster.

I like to believe in signs. I like to think that after all that, getting off the elevator and seeing RDJ’s face on that poster — when it could have been any cover poster on that wall — meant something. In any case, I got the internship, and then a few months later, I got a permanent job at EW. When it was announced that we were moving at the end of the year, and that due to a new and smaller office space everything had to go, I didn’t entertain the idea any of the posters would be up for grabs. It seemed too unlikely that the art department would want to part with things that had been around for so many years. But the week of moving, my friend walked by my desk with a large framed photo of Heath Ledger, her favorite celebrity. I jokingly said that I didn’t want any posters except the RDJ one, which they probably wouldn’t let anyone take. My friend then said everything was up for grabs.

Yes, everything.

I ran as quickly as I could, like someone running through one of those supermarket sweeps programs. I was terrified someone had realized this before me and taken it. But it was still there, and I grabbed that poster off the wall, even though it was twice my size and heavier than I could manage. I propped it up by my desk and somehow, thanks to a very nice cabbie who took pity on me hauling a huge oversized framed piece of art down 50th Street during rush hour, I managed to get it home. I felt like I couldn’t explain to anyone what bringing this poster home meant to me, and how much it meant to have it. It didn’t just represent the fact I was a part of a company I dreamed of working at. It represented so much more, and it had been with me for longer than anyone would be able to understand.

I love looking at this poster and reminding myself of how far I’ve come. I love reflecting on the fact that in a way, RDJ got me to where I am. And I’ll never forget that.

the struggles of adjusting

Since the beginning of April, my entire life has been in a constant tumultuous state of adjustment.

I’ve had to adjust to a new lifestyle, being unemployed but constantly playing a waiting game of wondering whether opportunities I’ve gone out for are coming to fruition (and then forcing myself to be productive and not get down on myself when they don’t). I’ve had to adjust to a new neighborhood, a new apartment and a new home and a new commute. I’ve had to adjust to a new routine and a shift in mental state. I’ve had to adjust to living with someone who I love while also learning to appreciate and understand their particular habits and my own needs for space. It’s the most adjustment I’ve had since moving to Chicago for graduate school three years ago but at least that change was rooted in a bit of stability: I had built-in friendships and work, I knew I was there for a set amount of time, and I knew what I was there to accomplish.

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Sad last day in my apartment selfie. I miss this view already.

Moving day part one...my old apartment looks so sad and empty

Moving day part one…my old apartment looks so sad and empty

There’s a sense of stability here, too, in our new place. We’re slowly (very slowly) setting up what will become our home, and every day it gets a little more lived-in. But there’s still a long way to go before I feel comfortable, worn creaking farmhouse style, and I think that’s part of what I’ve had trouble with. I feel at home making coffee and getting up each morning and sitting out on my balcony. But aside from the fact that we still need a bunch of furniture, there are still boxes everywhere, and there’s clutter, and nothing is on the walls, and one bedroom is completely filled with boxes and stray items. In some ways, not working steadily has been helpful because it’s allowed me to settle in and take time for myself. But things take time, and there are still moments when I feel like I’m far from satisfied or content. It’s a hard thing to accept, feeling like you’re wobbling on two feet and can’t quite catch your balance.

I was in Manhattan the other day and ended up walking along a stretch of 42nd Street to take the subway home, and suddenly got an intense longing for my old apartment. (That’s what happens when you literally lived in the center of everything…it’s a lot easier to miss Queens when you never go an hour outside the city). I missed being able to be in the center of everything, I missed my cozy space, however expensive it was, and living by myself and feeling like I was in control of everything. I missed my doormen and my small apartment in the sky and feeling content, and then I felt guilty, as if I was second-guessing my intent to move, as if I had made a mistake. I hated feeling like that and it took an entire subway ride home and then some additional reflection to make myself realize that the uncertainty of feeling unsettled is something that is a very real hinderance, since I’m a person who always likes to find at least one thing I can control.

And so, little by little, I’m trying to take advantage of things I can control and make those smaller moments count. Putting the few personal things I can away, organizing the kitchen, cleaning up and taking out the trash. Sitting on my balcony and enjoying being able to write or read outside with an iced coffee. Trying to find what makes me feel comfortable, inside my home and out. Settling into a routine. I know it’ll come together eventually, but for now, I’m trying to breathe and let my adjustment level out so I can focus on being productive and get my mind back to being present.

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Sometimes all you need is relaxation and coffee and a beautiful day. And a balcony.

One of my favorite book is Lord of the Rings, and one of the quotes I would always come back to when I had to do something scary and something is the speech Frodo gets when he leaves his cozy hobbit hole to take a journey that he has no idea will change his life: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

It’s scary to look ahead and know there’s adventure but not see what’s coming. It’s scary to take the leap and trust that you’ll be okay. But the best thing you can come to realize is that no matter how out of sorts you feel, you’re never alone.

embracing the terrifying change

I hate change. I hate change so very much. I go to great lengths to avoid it, even if it’s detrimental to me.

To my great dismay, I will have a lot of change in my life very soon, because I have a new apartment.

It’s real, now — not that it wasn’t real before, but closing in on a move date, getting keys, signing a lease and talking about furniture purchasing make it more tangible than just knowing you chose not to re-sign your lease. And don’t get me wrong — knowing that I have a place to live and that I won’t be homeless certainly helps with my stress and anxiety. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of ancillary worry, most of which comes from the fact that, well…I hate change.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel so damn scared, and why I feel so depressed and upset when I think about having to leave my current apartment, given that I’ve only been in the space for two years. Admittedly, there’s a part of it that comes from living in a very (very) nice luxury building: short commutes due to being in the middle of Manhattan. Laundry in my apartment which means I can wash whatever I want, whenever I want. A dishwasher when I get too lazy to hand wash things (which is a lot.) A view I will miss terribly. Doormen. A coffee shop downstairs. A crosstown bus. But when I moved out of my former apartment in Queens to go to grad school, I had lived there for over five years. My landlord was like my second mom, my friends came to stay over all the time. I knew the neighborhood. I had my nail salon and coffee shop and grocery store and Chinese take-out place and I had dentists and doctors. As it happened, I got that apartment at the same time that I got a new job that would also become semi-permanent. As a result, it was the most stable life I had since coming to New York as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, excited twenty-four year old.

And I felt incredibly sad when I left. Making the decision to leave New York, however temporarily, was something that gutted me and caused me anxiety for weeks on end. Like leaving my little studio in the middle of Manhattan to move in with my boyfriend, I knew that going back to school was something that I had to do in order to achieve the kind of life I wanted. But it was hard to quantify the fact that not only was I leaving my apartment and everything I knew (not to mention all my friends and family), but I was also uprooting myself to a new state, not knowing if I could ever really return to New York and be self-sufficient at an age where most people are married and financially independent and starting families. And I was sad, and I cried, and my last night in New York also happened to be my good friend’s birthday. It was the end of December, and I helped my parents finish packing up my apartment. They got in the car to drive back to Boston with my stuff, and I spent the night drinking in a bar in Chelsea overlooking the Empire State Building, toasting to my future and my past. It was a fitting way to close a certain chapter of my life.

Most of my life has felt like a series of “one door closes, another opens.” When I moved from my first apartment in Brooklyn to my apartment in Queens, it was on the heels of starting a new job; when I moved back to New York after being away in Chicago for year; it was on the heels of starting a new career. I don’t know if I’m going to get to close this chapter of my life in some way — as far as I can tell, my job won’t change and my friends won’t change. There’s not going to be some big “milestone.” I’m lucky that I’m going to be able to have the luxury of having an easy and relaxing moving process rather than trying to cram everything into a few days time. But it’s going to be less “let’s process this” and more “well, now your keys have been returned, and you have a new apartment. Get up and go to work.” I wish I could be more excited and proud of myself for taking these steps towards a future I want, but instead, all I feel is anxiety

And maybe it’s too much to ask to have those closures. Maybe I’m being too selfish for wanting it. My therapist correctly helped me deduce there’s a lot going on that I don’t have control over, and that it’s not so much leaving a nice space as it is realizing I’m losing a lot of things that are concrete. My commute times, my “go-to” coffee shops and stores, my routines, my sleep schedule, and especially my personal time, that’s all going to change. And it’s less about not being able to sit on Tumblr when I get home from work, and more about the fact that if I want to stay in on a weekend, I now have to remember to answer to someone besides myself when it comes to why. In that sense, feeling like I’m leaving something very secure (my cozy little solitary space) and also very comfortable (location-wise) is hitting me hard.

I’ve been trying to do things that will help ease me into the process, which has the potential to be messy and stressful and unpredictable. Things that are simple, like buying a huge bottle of wine and sitting on my bed and drinking while curled up in a blanket, or ordering a pizza for dinner just because I feel like it, or watching my favorite movie, or walking around in a bathrobe for no reason, or taking a bubble bath when I get home from work without cooking. Just small moments that allow me to take advantage of MY time in this place as long as I have it, rather than always being focused on what’s ahead. Because believe me, I am excited for things. I’m excited to live with someone I love. I’m excited to live in something bigger than a one bedroom or a studio. I’m excited to decorate with all my nerd stuff, which thankfully, my boyfriend approves of. I’m excited to buy furniture. I’m excited to know I can sit on a couch with a glass of wine, or in the guest bedroom with my laptop, or at the kitchen table with dinner. Yes, there are cons that come with living in this new space (hello laundromats and having no dishwasher or closet space) but I’m excited to have the opportunity to make this new space somewhat of a real home, even if it might not feel like home for awhile.

And so on night’s like tonight, as each day gets closer and closer to change, I sit and I look at this view and I think “how lucky we are to be alive right now” and I drink my wine and try to live in the now and focus on this, rather than what will always be an uncertain future, wherever I live.

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that would be enough

Along with a number of other resolutions (some of which I didn’t include in my recent posts), one thing I made a promise to do in 2016 is to blog more — at least once a week, if not twice. I didn’t have specific things in mind that I wanted to write about other than a few entries pegged to certain events or end-of-the-month reflections, but the point was, I wanted to make an effort to write something somewhat regularly.

All that to say I didn’t really have a precise topic to blog about today, and then I went to work and found out that the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list came out (obviously important because I had to write up all the Hollywood people on it. YAY DAISY RIDLEY AND JOHN BOYEGA.)

I hate that damn list. I really hate that damn list.

Look, it’s great that there are so many cool people who have done so many cool things at a young age. But when you’re constantly filled with anxiety like I am — and when your main instigator for said anxiety is centered on “I will never be good enough / there will always be someone more popular or better” in all aspects of your life (work, relationships, writing, whatever) — it’s literally the worst list you can look at. Because you’re basically looking something that’s saying, “hey! Here’s a great reminder of the fact you’re definitely not where you want to be, because you’re definitely over 30 and still struggling. But here are people who have made better choices in life or who have been luckier and are doing GREAT things, and everyone is probably so proud of them!”

(I know that is absolutely not what this list means, but that’s what my brain tells me.)

And that’s not really logical at all. These are a teeny, tiny handful of randomly chosen people in each field that have been spotlighted. There are people who are more successful. There are people who are less successful. There are people who are just in the middle and who are happy no matter what they do with their lives, or what they’ve accomplished. Not everyone’s boyfriend is a wealthy financial banker. Not everyone’s best friend is the CEO of their own company.

I’ve been struggling a lot with how to be happy by just being, which has never been easy for me. One of my goals in 2016 is to regret less and focus on my happiness rather than what the world thinks I need in order to be happy. Unfortunately, then you realize things like the simple fact that you NEED money to be well off and have any semblance of a good life, even if that doesn’t involve jetting overseas every year. (Hell, you need money just to have a child. Or a dog.) And having that knowledge makes it hard for me to convince myself that I can be satisfied with not being the best, the most successful, the most accomplished.

Going back to graduate school represented something huge for me. I knew journalism was the right thing for me to do, because I waffled for at least three years on filling out applications/pursuing options when I was looking at business or non profit administration programs. Journalism was what made me push myself to write essays, look at schools, take the GREs. I’m lucky enough to be able to say that by going back for my Master’s, I’ve accomplished a dream I’ve had for years because my job is working for a huge publication that I grew up idolizing. And I know I’m not where I need to be in the company, and that’s something I’m dealing with on my own — figuring out what my next steps are. Believing everything happens for a reason.

I’m happy with where I ended up, but I still find myself wondering what’s enough. I’m working at my dream job, but I’m not exactly where I want to be in the industry. I have a wonderful boyfriend who would give me the world, but he doesn’t have a graduate degree, or a job that will make a lot of money. I live in the greatest city in the world, the place I’ve wanted to live since college, but I’m still not financially stable enough to really live here without help. I have amazing and wonderfully supportive parents, but they’re not as understanding as I’d like them to be about some important things in my life. I’ve realized that so much of my life is, “I have this, but I don’t have THIS.” Whether that’s not having a published novel, enough hits on a piece of writing, a lawyer boyfriend, a house and a kid…it doesn’t matter. The thought is still something I deal with.

But I guess this is something everyone deals with, even the people who seem to have set lives and love what they do and seem happy. Am I enough? My goal for 2016 is to spend a lot of time asking myself this question — to myself, in therapy, with friends — and figuring out how to say yes.