Grace.

Sometime between graduating from college and starting my first real life adult job, I  became overwhelmed by the idea that I had to “adult” immediately. I was, in many senses, not a girl, not yet a woman. Every part of me felt like I was still a college kid, but the world saw a grown up with a salary who was supposed to be able to keep it together. Or so I thought. Turns out, most recent graduates have all the same concerns I did during that time; What Now?

I had a degree, I had a job, I had my student loans on Auto-Pay. But, I still didn’t feel like I was doing it right. Everyone around me was coupling off and I’d been warned that the avalanche of engagements was on the horizon. Soon, all my friends would be getting married and I hadn’t even had a relationship last a full calendar year. So I did what every desperate 22 year old does in any given scenario: turn to the internet.

2012-2014, I went on a lot of Tinder dates. Like, a lot. Most of them were average. None of them went anywhere past date 1. My favorite story is about an Air Force pilot that got embarrassingly drunk on a Tuesday while I sat at the bar and quietly (and soberly) watched the Hockey game. But, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because of a story I’ve only really told a handful of people. In fact, maybe only one.

I told a good friend, but mostly kept this story private because it was embarrassing and it made me feel weak and not in control: the two things I work hardest not to ever be. But, the other day I read a story of a girl who had an encounter with a celebrity that reminded me a lot of these evening. In fact, it reminded me so much so of my story and it struck such a chord with the Twitterverse and all my fellow Feminsists, that it made me a little anxious. Ok, a lot anxious. I started wondering had I dealt with what happened to me appropriately? Was I assaulted? Where are the lines between aggressive, creepy and assault? Was I wrong to be embarrassed?

I wasn’t and still am not sure of the answers to most of those questions, but I do know that I’d like to share the story to let  “Grace” and other people who might be struggling the same way I am know that I get what she feels and I’m sorry she now has a story that will live in the back of her mind for a long time like mine does.

In early spring of 2014, I was 23 and, honestly, lonely and scared of facing the adult world alone forever. I had been talking to several men on various dating sites – all of which might as well have been tinder. None of them seemed especially remarkable but one had passed all of my pre-date tests. He grew up on Long Island, went to school for TV, was a diehard Mets fan and we seemed to have a lot in common so I agreed to move on to an in-person date. He asked me immediately if I’d like to go to a Mets game. I was unsure because Baseball games are long and first dates are typically uncomfortable. But when he said he’d be taking the LIRR and I knew I’d have my car, coming straight from work, I acquiesced against my better judgement and against the advice of my coworkers – more than one of whom volunteered to go to the game in my place thinking this guy would enjoy a date with Dennis or Brandon much less than with me.

I truly don’t remember this man’s name, but for the sake of argument let’s call him Brian. I met Brian at the stadium and everything was fine. He seemed polite and had paid for our tickets in advance. We sat up the left field line in a section that was mostly empty. It was a night game fairly early in the season and was cold. Also, it’s the Mets so attendance on a weeknight is unimpressive in general.

True to who I am, I was not dressed for the weather. I tried my best to hide the signs of how cold I was, but the goosebumps on my arms gave me up. Brian moved in closer to put his arm around me. I was wary, but he seemed nice enough so I let it happen. And soon after, Brian had kissed me.

This was an aggressive first move for someone who seemed so shy and polite on the surface, I remember thinking.  But, of all the guys I’d gone out with recently, he had the best chance at a date 2 so far. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and he was nice enough so I let it happen, regularly going out of my way to turn my head back to the game.

It finally became evident that I was too cold to make it to the 9th inning so he suggested we get out of there: He, to the LIRR. Me, to my car. I agreed I was ready to go.

He continued trying to aggressively kiss me in the stairwells at CitiField leading out to the parking lot. In general, I’m not a super huge fan of PDA (Ask my fiance) so this was an immediate turn off. But again, not wanting to hurt his feelings, I gave in and allowed myself to be kissed and then would continue down another few flights until it happened again.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we reached the parking lot and I went to say my goodbyes. He hemmed and hawed about how long he’d have to wait for a train since the game wasn’t over yet and how cold it was getting. He lived further out on the Island, but it became abundantly clear he was looking for a ride. I told him I had work early in the morning and couldn’t make a drive so far East, but could at least drive him to a train station on the proper line so he wouldn’t have to wait for connections.

Driving to the train station, he was all hands. He kept trying to hold my hand on the gear shifter. Hand on my leg, hand on my shoulder. The likelihood of a second date was declining rapidly.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot at the train station, I was fairly disgusted. I wanted nothing more to do with this guy and I wanted him out of my car.

When we finally reached the station, I parked the car and waited for him to leave. He unbuckled his seatbelt and grabbed my arm, attempting to move my hand to his pants. A bold move. When I resisted, he again began aggressively kissing me. I moved my hand back to the gear shifter. I was not enthusiastic but I didn’t know how to tactfully withdraw consent and clearly, my rigidity wasn’t slowing him down.

I immediately became very aware of the fact that we were the only ones in this parking lot. While my physical frame is less than delicate – standing 5’8″ weighing, at the time, around 170lbs – I still would’ve been no match for this guy who was easily 6’3″. He was kissing my neck while I looked around the empty parking lot, growing more anxious by the second.

“Hey um, maybe we should slow down. I like you and I don’t want to rush things”

I was never calling him again.

He took a beat and within minutes, was at it again, hunched over me. I was literally cornered. I needed to get him out

“We need to chill out.”

I was now officially afraid. This time he didn’t take pause.

“Ok, get out of my car.”

This stopped him.

“Sorry, I just really like you. I’m having a hard time controlling myself.” he replied.

“That’s fine. I need to go. I have work early and this is getting carried away.”

He apologized again and let himself out and I breathed a deep, deep sigh of relief. And, when I got home, I cried.

The next day he messaged me on Facebook and asked to get together that night. I tried several times to say I couldn’t hang out without flatly rejecting him, still not wanting to hurt his feelings. When he wasn’t catching my hints and even offered to come grocery shopping with me if it meant spending time with me, I decided I had to be an adult and just tell him I wasn’t interested.

“Look, you’re a nice guy but I don’t really see anything happening between us. I’m sorry. I wish you all the best, though!”

He messaged me multiple times a day for a week asking what he did wrong until I finally blocked him at the suggestion of a coworker.

Still, after all of this, I felt bad for letting him down. I had led him on, allowing him to kiss me. I was sending mixed signals. After that whole ordeal, the person I was most upset with was myself. I was deeply embarrassed of my naiveté, that I’d allowed myself to be put in that position and so I told one other living soul the entire story until right now.

When I read Grace’s story about her encounter with Aziz Ansari, it hit me in the gut. I felt defensive because what I had chalked up to a bad date but never felt 100% at peace with was being painted as assault and I wasn’t a victim. I stood my ground. She should’ve done the same. But, if I wasn’t a victim, why was I keeping this story in the shadows and avoiding it? Why was I still embarrassed?

I was embarrassed because, in retrospect, I should’ve spoken up for myself earlier. As soon as I was uncomfortable I should’ve walked away. But whose fault is that? Mine? Society’s? Brian’s?

Grace’s story and the ones like it are important ones, I think. They’re not a story of assault the same way the Weinstein files are. Aziz never leveraged his celebrity the same way Louis CK did. He was aggressive and creepy and disrespectful, though, the same way Regular-Guy-Brian was to me that night in that parking lot. Until I clearly said no. And, that’s why this story is so important.

Consent isn’t always a clear verbal yes or no and that’s confusing in a world where men are conditioned to chase sex like a prize and women are conditioned to put men’s pride ahead of their own sense of self worth and safety. This isn’t my fault, it’s not my parents’ fault. It’s the way the things work and #MeToo and #TheResistance are changing those things for the better, I think. Culture is shifting in a positive direction. I am confident that if this ever happened to me again, I would feel more empowered to put an end to it. Maybe that comes with age, or maybe these movements are really helping. Maybe a combination. I certainly am not an authority.

If I could tell Grace anything it would be that her feelings are valid and I believe her. She’ has the absolute right to feel violated and disrespected. He acted like a total creepshow and truthfully, I can see how easily that whole scenario could’ve escalated. And that’s terrifying. But, the fact that it didn’t escalate is what ultimately separates Ansari from Weinstein and Louis CK and all these other monsters, in my opinion. It didn’t get there. He called her a car and allowed her to go with some dignity still intact.  I would tell her that she’s more than this and she’s more than one man’s approval – whether he’s a celebrity or a random Brian. And I hope the next time she finds herself in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, she walks away and finds her voice to tell him to get out of her car (or the appropriate equivalent).  I understand the female impulse to do the “nice” thing and be considerate of your date’s feelings. I have literally been in her shoes, but at some point you cross a line from “I don’t want to hurt his feelings” to “I’m in a situation that is potentially dangerous”. And as soon as she crosses that line, I hope she can speak up and not rely solely on nonverbal cues to help herself. And, I hope that for myself and all the other young women out there as well.

While writing this, knowing my Dad will read it kind of stings a bit, but I no longer feel responsible or embarrassed by that night and that story. I also still don’t consider myself a victim of assault. It was a really shitty night, but not the worst night of my life by a long shot. What was taken from me that night was nothing in comparison to what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown as a result.  In learning what I don’t like and what I find unacceptable, I learned what I value in a relationship and about myself.

Shortly after this incident, I swore to stop focusing so much on meeting someone and spend more time feeling better about myself. I had no reason to be sorry for that night and I no longer wanted to feel like I had to chase men. I didn’t want to have to settle or put myself second anymore. Shortly after I stopped dating, I met a wonderful man outside of the interwebz who is so respectful of me and my body that when we started dating, I was unsure if he was even attracted to me. He asked me to marry him and I hope we get to raise kids in a more enlightened world where these things won’t be so difficult to navigate. I hope to teach my sons that they’re owed nothing and women are their equal peers. I hope I raise my daughters to have voices they aren’t afraid to use and to never put their date’s pride ahead of their joy or safety for politeness’ sake.

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What I’ve Gained From Completing My First Whole30 and Quitting My Second

For basically my entire life, I’d had all of these  seemingly unrelated, semi-chronic medical issues – migraines, anxiety and depression, constipation, acne, heartburn, a constant tiredness, an inability to maintain a healthy weight no matter how hard I worked. A doctor could never tell me why any of these things were going on in my body; some even denied I was experiencing the symptoms I claimed to have. As a kid (12 or 13), my parents rushed me to the ER for unbearable stomach pain. I was terrified. The doctor quickly returned with the results of my sonogram and let me know that I was “literally full of shit”. He asked me when my last bowel movement was and I couldn’t tell him.  After that day, I started on a steady diet of Mirolax every morning in my orange juice. With its help, I went  to the bathroom ‘regularly’ one time every 2-3 days. I was told at least once that it was “bullshit” that I only experienced bad heartburn after drinking beer or eating pizza and bagels – it had to be all alcohol and acidic foods and coffee, and I had to give up all three forever. After one [miserable] month, I quickly decided a life without tomato sauce and beer is a life not worth living. I started regularly taking Nexium to combat my symptoms and eating whatever I wanted.

I took on my first round of Whole30 in October 2015 after reading an article that caught my attention in the NYT health section about the dangers and risks of taking medications like Nexium (Proton pump inhibitors) long term. To be frank, it scared the shit out of me (not literally, I wish though). I had to deal with this problem at the root rather than fight off the symptoms – what was happening in my body to give an otherwise healthy 24 year old unbearable heartburn? I also noticed that lately the symptoms of my anxiety were getting worse and weirder than ever before. I’d always been a chronic worrier, but now I found that I was scared of social situations, which was a first. My best friend from college had recently finished her first round of Whole30 and was singing its praises. And, while it seemed extreme, it sounded like the only “fad diet” I’d ever heard of that really truly made sense and was backed by science and not just caloric deprivation. And I didn’t have to count or weigh anything. Win.  I’d proven to myself time and time again that I don’t do well when I have to eat less. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. It was only 30 days. The first two weeks were horrible and more mentally taxing than I ever would’ve guessed, and then on day 16,  I’d never felt better. I finished my 30 days and was down 24lbs, mostly free of acne, had boundless energy during the day, was sleeping better than I ever had before,  was going to the bathroom once a day, and hadn’t had heartburn for weeks.

Before I started my first whole30, my best friend convinced me to try what I sincerely believed to be another fad-diet-challenge-thing that I secretly thought I would fall off of after a few days. After reading the book (at her insistence) I thought maybe this was different. By day 6, I thought I had taken on something insurmountable. Now, at day 31 I know the last 30 days are only my beginning. What you can [kind of] see here is a person who's down 24 lbs (!!!) and overall 14 inches but what you can't see here is what I've gained: more energy, a better night's sleep, clearer skin, digestive health, stronger mental health and knowledge of how much what I put in my body really matters. My relationship with food has started to change and I couldn't be more grateful for what @whole30 has helped me achieve. Extra shout outs to my parents, @jessdegonzz @djrep1022 and @crossfitjetty for being constant sources of support and motivation. #whole30 #day31 #whole30results #paleo #nowgivemepeanutbutter

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During my reintroduction period, my worst fear was realized: my body hates gluten. After extensive research (mostly because I was hellbent on proving science wrong in the name of Bagels everywhere) I realized all of my symptoms pointed directly to a gluten intolerance, something I had been shamelessly mocking as a farce for years. Karma is cruel. I wouldn’t ever get beer back, but cider and wines are OK. There’s definitely a learning curve to living Gluten Free, but I’m getting there.

The Whole30 changed the way I thought about food and it’s relationship with my body for sure. My favorite line from the book is “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options”. That’s how I approach every meal, now. I make conscious choices to sometimes eat things I know my body won’t necessarily appreciate, but I mentally just really want. However, after my first Whole30 ended, the holidays were upon us. I basically ate whatever I wanted and my symptoms came back as quickly as they left. And, I was craving bread like a drug addict. After Christmas, I felt a little bit out of control so I planned to embark on another round in January with my boyfriend but more so for the moral support of my bestie who decided she needed to reset, but was terrified.

About a third of the way through round 2, I was literally crying because I just wanted to put ketchup on my eggs and have a Caesar salad for lunch. I already knew ketchup didn’t send my sugar monster screaming and cheese (in limited quantities) was ok for me. I tested this already, and I knew it. It felt stupid that I was depriving myself of food I knew my body was ok with. I was moody and sad and dreaded eating or preparing meals. I haven’t had the best emotional or mental relationship with food in the past, so feeling this way scared me. I didn’t feel like it was good for me mentally. Treading the line of depravation like that is a scary thing. I was becoming disordered again, after I’d just spent so much time and work organizing my brain.

I decided my second round of Whole30 was not the best thing for me at that moment in time. I definitely needed a reset and to revisit the rules following the holidays, but 30 days was too long. It was hurting my new, great relationship with food. I was no longer making good choices for me, I was following arbitrary rules and depriving myself and craving foods that I wouldn’t have wanted otherwise. The first time around, I never felt deprived. I knew I was making choices to serve a greater good. And, I’m not talking about depriving myself of cake or ice cream here – literally a tablespoon of Ketchup on my eggs. I felt crazy again. I knew I needed to stop.

After I ate that afternoon (a Caesar salad, sans croutons), I felt satiated but I also felt ashamed that I couldn’t follow through on a commitment I made to myself. But after some reflection, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t truly in this for me this time. I didn’t feel like I needed it. After 9 days, I felt totally in control again. I was doing this for my friend and to support my boyfriend. By quitting, I did what was right for me at the time, and that’s what the Whole30 is all about – learning to make the right choices for you. I had to be in this for me, not for Nicole and not for DJ. I support them wholeheartedly and I’m so excited to see the changes they’re making in their lives but I can’t cry over cheese related stress on their behalf. I’ve been there and it’s not a place I want to be again.

I am the biggest advocate of this program. I can’t thank Melissa and Dallas enough for what I’ve gained since I read their books. And, I’m happy to know the rules are there for me when I feel like I need them. But more so, I’m glad to find steady ground where I feel good and in control independently of the rules and like I’m making choices and not sliding out of control into a bag of cookies.

 

If you’re curious about The Whole30 check it out here!

My Birthday Watershed Moment

I am not a big birthday person, due in part to the time of year I was brought into the world. As an adult, I feel horribly guilty asking my friends to spend time and money on my birthday so close to the holidays when money and free time are sparse for everyone. I do not have the same caliber birthday celebrations my summer-baby friends enjoy and I’ve never minded that. I enjoy my birthday dinner with my family and usually a low key celebration with a few friends, or sometimes when I luck out, a Rangers game or a concert that’s in town.

All of my birthdays have one thing in common, though. I, like most girls, always shop for an outfit intended to make me look  extra fabulous on my special day. However, my long term memory and a lack of photographic evidence says I am rarely successful in this endeavor. This is because my body is not built to fit in the “going out” clothes that are carried at trendy mall stores. They are cut small and skimpy and I try my damnedest to fit into them every single year and they make me feel big and weird and uncomfortable. I also attribute this to why I do not like clubs – I have nothing to wear that looks like what everyone else is wearing. This is obviously the very worst thing can happen as a teenage-to-early-20’s woman.

This year, though, I’m turning 25  which is a big one, so I made some plans. Not super fancy plans, but plans that at least require my friends to get on the LIRR and hike to Manhattan 5 days before Christmas.

So today, I went out in search of my enigmatic outfit.

Alone in the Express fitting room, after a lot of failures, I found a top I didn’t hate. Success!  I  then pulled on a pair of skinny jeans. They fit, but they looked bad. Real bad. My thighs have never looked more like sausages.

I didn’t get it. The pants were supposed to fit. I just finished my first Whole30. My body feels strong and healthy. My skin looks great. I’m not tired. I lost 24 lbs without ever feeling hungry or deprived; without associating food with a sense of guilt or shame. I’m working out regularly. I’m in better control of my health than ever before. My naked thighs don’t even make me feel this bad. Thanks to lifting, they’re muscular and leaner than they’ve ever been.  I am self-confident. I am self-efficacious. I won. Why don’t the pants fit? That’s supposed to be part of this deal.

I stared at myself for a long 30 seconds, expecting to feel bad. Expecting to mentally punish myself for everything I’ve eaten the last two weeks, just like every year when I accept that I am not good enough for these clothes and walk away with reluctant acceptance of feeling too big and too awkward, trying to feel fabulous in clothes that make me feel like a giant in the munchkin parade. Except, the mental conversation took a surprising turn. Instead of shame it went more like this:

“These jeans cost $70. You have jeans at home that are not that different that make you feel a lot better about yourself. If you wear these out, you’ll spend the whole night self-conscious of your thighs. You’ve been looking forward to this night, you don’t need feeling lumpy to ruin it”

…Wait. What?

Shocked at myself, I wrestled the jeans off, put my own pants back on, paid for the top and some well coordinated accessories and left.

On the drive home, still very confused by what just happened, I realized I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to fit into clothes instead of looking for clothes that fit me. I once (this really happened) looked for calf slimming workouts to fit into boots that I loved instead of just buying wide-calf boots. Nothing says I need to just complacently accept feeling less than spectacular because these jeans make me feel lumpy. There are other jeans in the world. This moment in this fitting room was the first time I actively rejected the clothes instead of letting the clothes reject me.

I liked this idea.

The truth is, there are cute clothes out there that fit me. I am not plus sized by realistic standards, ask anyone who has ever seen me. I am on the upper end of standard retail store sizes and there’s no shame in that. I’d rather wear a bigger size and work a little harder to find great clothes and feel amazing than try and cram myself into something that anybody else could wear that makes me feel like a balloon animal. My mom has always said to me “nobody can see the size on the tag, but everyone can see you spilling out of your clothes” and it has never made as much sense to me as it does today. Today was the first time I didn’t let a $40 piece of fabric determine my self-worth.

I guess this is growing up.

Moral of the story is, if you have to wear pants, find a size that fits you. Nobody else cares about the number on the tag and you’ll be happier for it.

 

 

2015 New Years Resolutions

sarahmarshall

I don’t like resolutions. I don’t like people who talk about their resolutions. I don’t understand why people wait til the first of the year to try and make changes. If you’re unhappy at any point, do something about it and stop talking about it. Nonetheless, I’ve got a bunch of goals to work toward this year. I finished off 2014 really strong and happy.  I think I’m in the best place I’ve been in a while but anyway, here are the short list of my goals to build on that progress and make 2015 even better and stronger.  NOTE: none of these resolutions have to do with a number on a scale because I’m done with that garbage and I’ve never been happier.

1. Handstands 

This staple in CrossFit is one on which I have a lot of work to do but I’m seeing progress gradually so to be able to do one unassisted in the next year isn’t too far off from possible.

2. Unassisted Strict Pull-ups 

Again, I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

3. Complete and Rx “the Murph” on Memorial day 2015 in a respectable time. 

I’d say above the rest of them, this is the real resolution this year; the one that’ll be measured and pushed for. The Murph is the benchmark workout that really cemented for me how much I love CrossFit. Lt. Michael Murphy is an American hero and a personal hero of mine and any sport that pays tribute to him is one worth paying attention to, in my opinion.  This workout is tough but nowhere even remotely close to what he endured for our country and to be able to pay homage to him in any way possible and be included in a group of like-minded athletes celebrating Memorial day for all the right reasons would undoubtedly make my entire year.  That being said, I’ll spend the next 140-ish days building up the necessary strength and endurance to complete this workout and if Dennis doesn’t program it, I will never, ever forgive him.

4. Clean up my diet 

Less for weight loss and more for just general health. I’d like to be here for a while and it’s time I started behaving accordingly and paying attention to what it is that I’m putting in my mouth. Also, the garbage I eat impedes my progress in the gym which is frustrating to no extent.

5. Back squat 115% of my bodyweight. 

This is just so I can say I can do it. I’m all about the story.

That’s about it. If you’re looking for me, you’ll most likely find me in the gym.

The Day I Realized I’m More of a Grownup Than I Give Myself Credit For

I may have mentioned once that my childhood fantasies – and we’re talking way back here – involved me, traveling all the way to Manhattan to buy bed linen. As I stopped toddling and more firmly walking and more frequently than walking, dancing, my idea of adulthood and my anxiousness to get here still had a lot to do with the ability to do whatever the hell I wanted.

I didn’t have it hard growing up by any means. I’m not sure what I was in such a rush to get away from. My parents weren’t sticklers for curfew, as long as they knew where I was and approximately when I’d be returning home. I had very few chores to help with around the house and forgetting to do them never resulted in anything more than a little bit of yelling and probably more eye-rolling than I should’ve ever been allowed. The only real hard and fast rule I can think of is that I wasn’t allowed boys who weren’t family upstairs and honestly, that probably helped me more than hindered. But still, I longed to be a grownup so I could do whatever I wanted.

Now – here I am: 23 and shakily standing in some pretty grownup shoes. I still live at home, rent free, but I’m employed full time and get paid vacation time and  I pay bills and have my health insurance and stuff. I anticipate some pretty exciting car payments starting in the next few months! I’m barely a grownup and I certainly don’t feel like one next to my friends who are sporting engagement rings and saying things like “We sat down with our realtor today…”, but by societal standards, I totally am. It’s all a lot less exciting than I ever imagined, though. I can’t do things like stay out all night and eat cheese fries for lunch every day. And this is what I’ve found to be key: it’s because those things have consequences and being a grownup means sometimes [usually] doing things you don’t want to even though you totally have the freedom to not do them.

Let’s face it, if I never went to the gym and slept in instead of going to work every day, I’d probably be the happiest camper around for the short term. I love eating and sleeping more than I love most things except my pets. But I also like buying things and traveling and those things require money. I’ve grown the ability to see the forest from the trees, I guess.

I started down the road to this realization in college. At some point, I was running around kicking and screaming that Hofstra was making me take Japanese Politics in my second to final semester to complete my degree in Film Studies. (Wtf, right?) I looked for every loophole. This was because I was failing that class. At first, registering for it was only a minor annoyance. When I realized it was going to take actual work I was angry and then when I couldn’t get higher than a ‘C’ on an assignment, I was furious. I didn’t get C’s. This class was dragging down my GPA and stressing me out to no end. I couldn’t understand (and still don’t, totally) Hofstra’s requirement for me to take a “cross cultural” class when I had every intention of studying abroad the following summer. “I’m already registered to go to Ireland” I pleaded with my advisor. “Why does it have to be an African or Asian culture? This is absurd.” I cried.

I still had to take it. Just like every other undergrad.

And that was the first time in my life I ever had to suck it up and do it for the greater good when I was truly, truly miserable. Were three credits going to stand between me and three-and-a-half years of hard work? Which would ultimately prevent me from graduating and potentially being employed? No. I had to pick my battles. So I did. And I got a C. And It was horrible. But I graduated. And now I have a job.

Now, I do things I’d prefer to not do every day. The little things don’t really count – you know, the basic human things like waking up and dragging myself to the gym and eventually inside the gym and onto the treadmill. But I also do other things like go to birthday parties I don’t want to go to and not drink all of the beers when I know I have work in the morning. Striking a good balance between absolute freedom and obligation is super cool.

Can I go out on a Wednesday? Sure
Should I stay out past 2AM? Absolutely not.
Which would I prefer? All of the beer!

Do I want to go to so-and-so’s second cousin’s boyfriend’s birthday party? No. It’s snowing.
Will I go? I’ll make an appearance.
Why? Because so-and-so is my good friend and putting in effort in your relationships and friendships matters  in the long run.

The easy thing and the right thing aren’t always the same thing, my friend. [To paraphrase the great Albus Dumbledore].

The coolest thing, though, is that lurking in the background at all times is the idea that if I wanted to pick it all up and go, I could. I really and honestly could do anything I want. It’s totally up to me to weigh the consequences versus the risk and at this point, at 23 with a steady income, the risk will never be lower. There are days when I find myself googling apartments and jobs in Tennessee and Florida, just because I can go if I want to. Sometimes I eat cookies for breakfast and sometimes I sleep right through kickboxing or call out of work because it’s literally 6 degrees out. I will never be freer than I am today to do literally whatever I want with my life. And I love that.

This sounds all like common sense, you say? You’d think that to be true. I certainly did. Until I realized I knew a person who truly, truly only did exactly what he wanted as long as it wasn’t too scary or hard. And at first, I was really envious of it. I wish I gave so few shits about things that everyone else gives lots of  shits about. Except I really, really care about things. A lot. So I could never be that cool. But I wish I could be.

But, then I took a step back. If you’re not challenging yourself and taking yourself out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself for a greater good, then what’s the point and where do you stand to go from here? Apathy appears to be cool, but it’s not. It’s lazy and ugly. Do I really grow as a human every time I drag myself to a friend’s stupid birthday outing? No. But it does matter to me to keep that friend around. If you can let just a little bit of work get between you and your dream/future and be unwilling to make even the smallest sacrifices or take small risks for other people or even for the long term benefit of yourself, honestly, what are you doing? What’s the point?

So, I’m only 23 and my parents still pay a big part of my way in life and I’m endlessly thankful for them allowing me some time to get my feet wet, but today I sat back and thought about my unfettered ability to make a decision for my own good.  And that’s when I realized that maybe I’m not just playing grownup anymore. Maybe I’ve arrived. (Or at the very least I’ve RSVP’d yes.)

And Then, Life Got Awesome For A While

So, I’ve apparently arrived safely in the Real World.

I’m a little afraid to jinx myself because I’m just overwhelmingly content with how things are going right now, but I am so I’m gonna tell ya about it. Very early in 2013, shortly after I made a promise to leave 2012 in the dust and never discuss it again, something incredible happened: the NHL and the NHLPA struck a deal and saved my hockey season. This sounds pretty trivial, but it’s not. This deal kicked my first few months of post-college-real-world-life into high gear (assuming there’s a scale ranging from low to high, judging excitement and pace of life).

Back track with me real quick. I honestly don’t remember if I even mentioned this, but sometime last fall when I was hopeless and was pretty sure I was going to be forced to go to grad school against my will or face a life of failure and return to my job at the tanning salon, I applied, as a last ditch effort to procure a future, for an internship in the NHL Tech Ops Center (TOC) which is located in my building at work and run by my supervisors and managers. Let me be clear. I’m pretty sure I was not qualified for this position at all. I call support for basically every technical problem I have. I am a regular Genius Bar attendee. I was pretty positive no one was going to allow me to troubleshoot things related to the NHL situation room in Toronto. But I guess I made an impression or my degree in communications is worth something or whatever, because I got the internship pending the start of the NHL season.

Fast forward back to now. This internship was the best thing I ever decided to do out of desperation and maybe ever period. The TOC stuff is so challenging and fast and really frustrating and awesome. I’ve learned so much and if nothing else, it’s a brand new skill set for my resume and I basically watch Hockey for a living. I also really like the people I’m working with so going to work every night, usually for no pay, doesn’t make me want to die inside. This is all very new to me. I was a little bummed when I was passed over for the full time position that recently became available but I was also crazy thankful that I was even considered since I’ve only been working there a few months.

I always pictured myself as having to struggle to accept rejection in the work place cause I’m not so great with it in regular life. I’m very used to getting what I want. However, when my boss told me that I didn’t get the position (which was news to me since I hadn’t even realized my name was in the pool for people to be promoted) there was no holding back of tears necessary. I was genuinely just thankful that I’m valued enough to be thought of in any management capacity so quickly. I understood why they promoted the person they did and I was happy for her. (I know right. What?! Who even am I?!) I’ve worked most of my life in retail for minimum wage. Feeling like I matter and that people realize I’m pretty smart and capable is basically the best feeling ever bar none. A couple weeks before I graduated a professor who I really trust told me I should stay at this company as long as I can and try and make it work because he really sees it going someplace and to get in on the ground floor would be a really smart move on my part. I love this. I love that I’m happy there and that it has potential and I’m working my ass off and people are noticing and it is what it is, but it’s so great for now and so great for a first year’s experience in the real world. It’s still  a very new company in a lot of ways and constantly changing but I’m going to do my best to stick it out for a while cause ya never know, right?

To say I’ve thrown myself into work since starting my internship is a bit of an understatement. When I’m not interning, I work on a special NHL project in the company (which, if you’re keeping track, allows me to list ‘NHL’ on my resume two separate times in multiple positions less than ten weeks out of college. Thank you, Relevant Work Experience/Hockey Gods) that only a few editors get to be a part of and is pretty awesome. But I’m basically there every night from between 11AM and 3PM to between 10PM and 1AM. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen my friends. I’m alright with this though. I can remember saying on record a lot before I graduated that I’d work whatever hours I had to if it meant I had a job with potential that I liked and that seems to be the pile I’ve accidentally stepped into. I work crazy hours and have basically kissed my social life goodbye until the Stanley Cup Finals in June and I’m so, so okay with it because I really, really like what I do. How many people get to say that two months after they graduate? Probably not many is my informed guess. (Eternal Optimism prevails!)

I’m not seeing/dating anyone despite my aunts’ best efforts, mostly because I don’t have time to, which is a legitimate reason for the first time in my life. I really liked pretending I was crazy busy when I was still in college. Now I really know the meaning of the word. I go full days without seeing my family because we often keep opposite hours. It’s totally cool though, because I have an awesome job that I’m kicking ass at and I’m really great. (I don’t know if anyone’s caught on to that yet. Let me say it again. I really like my job a lot.)

Also, I promise I’m not trying to be one of those people who say they’re overly optimistic and content with their life to keep up with appearances on the internet. I really, really am this happy and, sorry not sorry, I kind of feel like I deserve it a little after the cluster fuck of a year I had. Blam.

New Year, New Me?

Nope.

How about New Year, new everything else.

I’m pretty okay with “me” aside from the extra pounds put on since October – Thank you, Graduation stress, Finals Stress and Holidays! I’ll start off 2013 just like I start off every year: with a solem vow to return to the gym, no more Tacos, and to have my 15 year old abs and thighs again by May. I’ll end up dropping the extra few LB’s I didn’t have last summer and make no further progress, but other than that, I pretty much plan to stay exactly who I am and have been. My New Years resolution is simple and realistic this year: I want to run a 5k in under 40 minutes. This is something I could’ve easily accomplished in High School and my only desire is to be physically fit again. Cass and I will hopefully be running the color run in March and I’d prefer she didn’t embarrass me.

What I do absolutely intend to leave at the door is all of the dead weight and bad vibes I’ve been carrying around for the better part of 2012. Have you done me wrong in the past year? You might notice more distance between us, such as no communication at all from here on out.

It’s not a secret that 2012 has been my own personal version of hell. After losing both my grandparents within months, it’s been pretty difficult for me to keep my spirits up about anything. BUT, 2012 did a couple incredible things for me as well. (Eternal optimism prevails!)

1. I got the opportunity to live in Europe for a month.
The chance to spend an entire month in Ireland is a pretty awesome thing in and of itself. Ireland has been top 10 on my “places to travel” list for as long as I’ve had a list. I wish I could’ve been in a better mindset when I set sail, but it is what it is. For anyone who’s known me for any extended period of time, though, it’s clear that this trip was way more than just a chance to travel.  It’s the most I’ve ever removed myself from my comfort zone and ever really, truly been on my own. I wasn’t alone by any means, in fact I had the best surrogate Mom and family overseas that I could’ve asked for, but nonetheless they weren’t my mom and family.  My Nonni used to tell me pretty often that it was “time to cut the cord” and that’s exactly what that trip did for me. I suffered only mild homesickness, which is a huge feat for me. This month abroad taught me above all that I’ll be okay on my own no matter where the world takes me as long as I surround myself with good people. I am endlessly thankful I had this opportunity. (Also, those Irish men can talk to me whenever they want for as long as they want. Ohboy.)

2. My new job
Thinking about it recently, part of my mini-mental-breakdown/quarter life crisis this year was probably partially due to how much I really hated my old job and how scared I was about working there after two years with graduation looming.  Finding my first editing job in September was a literal God send. My job is not difficult and it’s not high pressure. It’s far from what you’d picture if I only said that I work in live sports. Nonetheless, I love it there. I love that I’m doing something I care about and is more than sitting at a desk and dusting, occasionally. I like the people I work with, in all their ‘colorful’ glory, and I love love love that I no longer work in retail. It’s just part time work for a lot of people, but for me it was an escape from Tanning hell and a boost of confidence when one was desperately needed. Who knows where I’ll be in another year (hopefully still at NeuLion…c’mon NHL) but whichever way it goes, I’m not at Hollywood Tans anymore.

3.

There’s really no way to convey this better. Above all, 2012 taught me that I can handle it. Alone. Just me. I am good. Me, with the support of my family and friends, can do whatever Me wants to do.  Mid-crisis, when I literally thought I might be done living (Love that melodrama) my aunt said to me “Jess. You’ve done everything in your life up until this point by yourself – you took all those APs, you got into college, you got through your freshman year, you studied abroad alone, you found an internship and a job – you can do whatever you want, by yourself.” Obviously, I am and will forever be an outstanding student. But Aunt B wasn’t wrong. I was never the kid whose hand needed to be held. My homework never had to be double checked by anyone because I did it and my parents never so much as looked at a college application.  2012 was a cruel and harsh reminder of just how awesomely independent I am. So Hey, Prince charming. You’re really cute and all and I appreciate the free dinners and drinks but – I’m good for right now.

How awful 2012 was overall will definitely make ringing in 2013 just a little bit sweeter, despite having to do it without my grandparents. That’s just something that I’ll get used to with time, I’m sure.  I’m already excited about all that’s to come in 2013: (prays) a Hockey season and thus full time employment, a much-needed vacation for my family, all of whom 2012 beat the crap out of,  my triumphant return to Disney World, a couple road trips in the works, HARRY POTTER WORLD, my first trip to Atlantic City, and whatever else.  It can only get better.

Happy New Year, everyone! May it be happy and healthy. Thanks for reading and all the support over the past few months. I never thought I’d have half the traffic I do here. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.