A New Moon

Despite it having been one of those perfect fall days in New York, bright and crisp and full of promise, I spent most of today in a strange mood. It was as if I had a bad dream and woke up in the middle of it, a pit in my stomach, not quite of dread but of unease. I felt off kilter. Off center. As I walked to work, I wished I could skip out on my responsibilities, spend a day completely unaccounted for and read or people watch in the park. But a long to-do list awaited me and I knew playing hooky wasn’t an option. The feeling of imbalance persisted throughout the day—until I thought that maybe these feelings of “offness” were not imbalance but symptomatic of a larger shift away from my tendency of overthinking toward a certain kind of compartmentalization. The part of me that will always wish for a bit of magic in the world can’t help but notice that this all comes with tonight’s new moon.

It’s Scorpio season, my own season, and traditionally this new moon is a time to set goals, start again, reexamine what works and what doesn’t. I’ve said before I’m neither a devoutly spiritual person, nor someone that takes astrology at face value— but I like the way certain moments can encourage examination and spur growth . And for me at least, I’ve already done all the examining I need to up to this new moon—now is just time to accept the shift I felt earlier, rather than resist.


I’ve always taken pride in being an introspective person, in being someone that doesn’t shy away from exploring my emotions, even when they are painful. But lately a handful of stressors, from work to my personal life, have felt heavier than ever and under that weight I’ve had to reexamine how I process my emotions, how I manage sources of stress, and, really, how I go through my day to day.

I’ve lived under the mistaken notion that if I can trace back what’s bothering me to its initial root, to the seed of it buried deep within my brain, it won’t bother me any longer. I conflated the practice of introspection with the idea of release, with the idea that I was searching for something—some answer—within myself. And when I couldn’t find it, couldn’t locate the magical nugget of information that would free me from the binds of anxiety, I would try and dig deeper, falling into the caverns of my own brain. But there isn’t always an answer, and there is rarely the kind of answer that will offer immediate relief. So, I’m trying to recognize when introspection becomes unproductive, when it saps energy from me instead of imbibing me with clarity, and then not thinking on the source any longer.

This weekend, when my friend and I were walking to meet up with others, she said to me, “I love being in my 20s. Everything feels so crazy because things are moving so quickly and every year is full of these big changes.” As a historically change-averse person, I deeply admired that she loved our current whirlwind years. And it’s true—things are moving so quickly, whether we want them to or not. There’s no need for me to rush anything along, or add any extra pressure when there is already enough.

So I want to live a little more slowly, take things as they come, and put things away when they begin to take up too much space in my brain. I’m not sure I’ll ever be someone that doesn’t think about their own emotions a lot—it’s my natural inclination—but I’m no longer going to give time or room in my brain to those things that aren’t worth either. And this isn’t just about blocking out, or putting thoughts in boxes—it’s about letting the right things in, and giving more room in my mind for other thoughts and people and things. It’s about freeing up space to breathe after all this time feeling under pressure. And, it’s about giving myself permission to be a little selfish, to chase my ambitions, and to just live day by day on my own terms—whatever that looks like.

how i know what i want, even as an indecisive person

How do you know what you want? This question has been ringing in my ears since yesterday. Someone asked me this in the context of making a decision, and as I thought about it, I was almost surprised at what I realized—in many ways, I have become someone who knows what they want.

I realize knowing what you want does not necessarily beget making a decision. But often, when presented with a choice you have to examine what you want. If you Google how to make a decision, there are just under one trillion results. In short, there is already plenty of discourse around both deep psychological viewpoints and small tricks to figure out what to do (like the cliche tossing a coin, and knowing what you’ll want midair). Some say you should always go with your gut; others, to never trust yourself. Some say to take as much time as you can to make a decision; others, to give yourself a strict deadline.

You don’t need me to tell you there’s an overload of choices, affecting our collective ability to choose not only what we are getting for dinner but also whom we will spend a week, months, or even years of our lives with. Freedom is often looked at as irrevocably good, but it can also be debilitating. It’s hard not to think of the character Chidi from The Good Place. (Teensy spoiler ahead). Chidi is a professor of ethics who dies because of his own inability to make a decision. Until this reveal, the character flaw had been amusing. But in the end, his indecision is his choice, and ultimately leads to his death.

Often we don’t know what we should do but we still have to act, even with an indeterminate timeline. Chidi is an example that, while fictional, at some point you must decide. The common discourse is to never settle; and yet, psychologically we tend to be happier if, in a way, we do. Would our decision-making agony be alleviated if we can just alter the connotation of settling? It is often looked at as a passivity; perhaps it’s time to start looking at it as an active choice. And maybe, like an old boss once told me while I was agonizing over the woes of romance in your 20s: if a decision is very difficult, there probably isn’t a wrong choice.

I’ve historically been an indecisive person—who also likes to plan. It’s almost as if I know the big picture of what I want, but am not quite sure how to get there. And so, I often seek advice. Lately, I’ve wondered if this tendency points to a weakness in my character. Do I fundamentally distrust my decision-making abilities? Can I consume so much—even too much—advice that I lose track of my own thoughts in a convoluted tangle of advice columns, opinions from well-meaning friends, and the occasional self-help book?

I suppose in the end I look at advice in the same way I look at things like horoscopes and tarot cards: as tools, but not irreversible truths. They can help you look at something through a different lens, or think of solutions from a new perspective. Like with advice, these tools don’t necessarily give you answers, but they can help you ask the questions you need to find your way to some semblance of an answer. And while I might look to external sources for wisdom, I have to trust that I can always find my way through the knotted mess in my brain to the thread of my own thoughts.

So, I suppose my answer to my friend is layered. From the romantic context of what I was being asked, I know that I’m looking for a partner. Not someone who is perfect, not a Prince Charming, but someone I can just be with. And I think I’ve reached a place where if I find that person, I can recognize it. From a broader perspective, I don’t always know if I’m making the very best decision (if that even exists). Nor can I be sure the advice I seek will be what I’m hoping to hear. But I do know at a certain point indecision is itself a choice. And that even if I don’t always know exactly what I want, I’ve reached a point where I can figure out almost exactly what I want—and maybe, for now, that is enough.


back to square one

Despite my grand proclamations of late (read: blog posts) that forego any kind of planning, I recently had one sneak its way into my brain and latch on with sharp, spindly fingers. What began as a whisper was soon a fully formed idea: I was going to go back to school, where I had always felt at home. I was going to start down a slow, but steady, path of academia that I could turn to when my “day job” didn’t feel like enough. I dreamt of being a professor years down the line, discussing with students in the same way my professors had discussed with me, and spurred to think in ways I hadn’t yet before. It felt like a smart move, and more than that, it felt right. It felt like I figured out what seemed off and I had a way to fix it, straighten it out, and smooth any ragged edges. 

A couple weeks ago, I met with my thesis advisor seeking advice once again, as I had done so many moons before while in the midst of my undergraduate thesis. As I walked from my office to and through NYU’s campus, I felt nervous. I kept asking myself why I was nervous. I wasn’t meeting with a stranger; I was meeting with a favorite professor, someone who has always given me the wisdom I’d sought. 

In that meeting I learned the slow and steady path I was imagining had all but disappeared, eroded by the batterings of a world that doesn’t value humanities like it used to, damaged, perhaps, beyond repair. Going into the meeting, my thoughts of higher education had seemed fleeting; but upon hearing what I wished for was, while not impossible, like winning a lottery, I realized somewhere along the way those thoughts had solidified into a hope. And that hope had become a plan that would likely not come to fruition. 

Needless to say, I was bummed. 

Going back to school now, without the same career options as there were years before, would be a way of staving off making a choice. Up until that meeting, grad school had felt like its own choice, not the absence of one. But the more she explained, the more I knew she was right, and I just had to admit it to myself. 

When we stood up to hug, I was struck by how much taller I was. I had forgotten, in the months of not seeing her, how I towered over by about a foot, how she tilted her head to say bye to me when really it was I that looked up to her. 

“I wish the world were better for people like you,” she said. 

Those words stayed with me as I walked to Washington Square Park to think over our discussion. I spent a few moments feeling bummed, listening to the piano man in the park, and watching the students pass me by while wishing I could still be one. 

And I reminded myself: Sometimes you don’t get what you want; the future does not come about in the way you expected. Not because you didn’t deserve it, or you didn’t work hard enough, or the fates were conspiring against you. But because life doesn’t always work out in the way you imagine. And to think otherwise is a dangerously entitled mindset. Even if there was nothing I could do to prevent this outcome, it still sucked. 

And it still sucks letting go of that nearby future.

But it was advice I had gone looking for—and it was advice she gave me. As I try and figure out, albeit roughly, what is next, I keep what she said in mind: think of people I admire, and how they got to their positions; think of jobs that balance intellectual stimulation and doing something to make the world a better place; find something small towards what you want to do, set yourself goals, make appointments with, and for, yourself; remember there is no pressure to go from A to B to C to D; be creative. And perhaps what stuck with me most, was when me discussed my long-standing dream of being a fiction writer. I expressed my self-doubt and hesitation, but beneath that an everpresent drive. She, an academic writer, understood. 

“I’m going to do this, and if it sucks, and people don’t like it, it will crush me. And I have to acknowledge that that is on the line—and I still have to do the thing anyway.” 

In retrospect, I know why I was nervous going to that meeting. They were like the nerves, but even more exacerbated, that I felt a while back when I brought up exclusivity to a boy I had been dating: the nerves in anticipation of asking questions from which there is no going back. 

So here I am, once again, with no major life plans. A few small goals and projects, and a broader big picture—but no clear roadmap yet on how to get there. Back to square one. 

things making me happy

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A more accurate title: things, and reminders, through which I am at the least content and that often make me happy.

  • Walking to work as the weather cools down

  • Writing in all its forms: working on my novel, editing short stories, rambling in blog posts, and attempting thoughtful essays (so, hopefully, not just unedited drafts)

  • Rereading Harry Potter, rewatching Harry Potter, and listening to Binge Mode Harry Potter (yes — all of those)

  • Listening to the Dear Hank & John podcast

  • Getting up early and having slow mornings

  • Enjoying the company of friends, and prioritizing being a better friend to all those I am grateful to have in my life

  • Spending time in my teeny, tiny studio apartment while living alone for the first time

  • Reading classic, canonical fiction and nonfiction to challenge myself intellectually, in addition to my usual contemporary fiction reads

  • Remembering that I’m living the life 13-year-old me only dreamed of (well, almost; I have yet to publish something of fiction but hopefully that is coming)

  • Owning wholeheartedly what I enjoy and whose company I enjoy, without self-judgment or worrying about the judgment of others

  • Taking time to just live, figure out what I want as an individual, and realize that certainty is a fallacy: there is no reason to rush coming to decisions

  • Being present and taking all things — good, bad, and undecided — as they come, moment by moment

It’s starting to feel like fall in New York and I’m looking forward to all the new season will bring, from the smallest of encounters to trips I’ll always remember.

one year

A year ago, while in the haze of post-graduation adjustments, I decided I wanted to start blogging again, and The Last Day in August was born. Though I was working full time, I felt like something was missing — and I thought blogging, something I’d done on and off for the past five years, might fill that gap. 

A lot changed in my transition from student to (mostly) self-sufficient adult. Not everything survived. Friendships changed. Some dissolved, some evloved. My three-year relationship came to an end.  Other things grew — like my blog. I can’t help but wonder (I say in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice), would the latter still be here if the former had carried on? I’m not so sure.

I started this blog thinking it would be a mix of lifestyle and living in New York, with the occasional outfit and makeup post thrown into the mix. And in the beginning it was. I even shared this blog, publicly, on Instagram and Facebook — something I had never done before for fear of judgment and ridicule. (It’s worth noting that I’ve endured neither of these things — only support). I’ll admit, I had the occasional visions of grandeur, imagining myself deep in the blogging world, writing about fashion and life as a twenty-something in the city. 

And then I realized, I didn’t want to put in the social media work necessary to grow an audience and build a following. 

I just wanted to write. 

Maybe I’d share photos on occasion, and document memories, but from an innate desire within myself and not for a particular audience. 

Admitting that to myself was strange at first after thinking I could build my blog into something bigger. And then, it was a relief. Yes, it meant that not many people read this blog. But it also meant that the only impetus to post was my own interest in sharing, or desire to write. I began to explore the personal essay branch of blogging in a way I never had in the past. (This might not align with the mysterious nature I should carry as a Scorpio, but it does align with the emotional side of me I’ve come to embrace). I began writing about heartbreak and change and the city I loved. I never imagined I would write about my ex in a public place, albeit in broad strokes, or be so vulnerable on the internet. But in the way it so often does, addressing insecurities and times of difficulty has actually made me more confident as I’ve gone through them. I’ve grown as a person, and, I believe, too as a writer. 

Going through these transitions in subject matter made me question what was the point of a blog when I often journaled about the same topics. For me, at least, my blog is where I attempt to make sense of both the specific occasions and broader themes I journal about. The public nature of a website keeps me honest, and holds me accountable. At the very least, if the content of my conclusions are lacking, I can at least put forth the best craft I am capable of.  

Now that I’ve reached a year of this little corner of the internet, I’ve been questioning what’s next for my blog. Will I ever return to my beauty-loving roots? Will I continue on navel-gazing even when the personal essay has been decreed dead several times over? Will I post about my favorite places in the city? Will I take the meta route and write more about writing? I don’t know the answers to all of these questions yet. Only that for now, I’ll continue writing here. I’d like to start bringing my individual experiences into larger conversations, pushing myself to think more critically and write more thoughtfully. As much as I’ve grown and changed in the last year, as an individual and a writer, my blog has too. And I imagine, another year down the line, that will continue to be the case. 

why i write

Perhaps it's ironic, perhaps it's appropriate, or perhaps it’s somewhere in between, but I'm writing this on a night when my motivation to write is low. And yet, here I am, doing the one thing that somehow or other I always come back to. 

At the elementary school I went to from 5 to 11, you could "publish" a story you wrote  — meaning a nice volunteer parent would print, cut, and roughly bind the pages. I had stacks of these, including my very first masterpiece "The Magical Bug" (written at the tender age of 6). When I was in high school, I documented my angst through horrifically embarrassing journals and iterations of teenage romance only found on TV. When I was in college and my mom was packing up my childhood room to move, she texted me that she was at her wit's end because of all the half-finished and barely-started notebooks she'd found. Throughout and since college, I've completed and abandoned countless projects, one of which I have come back to once again hoping to finally finish writing my first novel. (I still often help edit my friends' work and enjoy doing so; a friend actually reached out today for eyes on his law school personal statement).

All of this to say, I have always written. 

Since I was a child, I have always wanted to be a writer. Over the past year, I have taken to calling myself one, rather than saying I want to be one, even if the "validation" comes in the form of this self-published blog. 

Even if my words never travel farther than the half-full journals I still scribble in or the blogs I've written over the years or the novel that never sees the light of day, I know I will continue to write. 

It would be remiss to say I write only for myself. What I write, whether fiction or nonfiction — and recently I've had quite the proclivity for the latter — does originate from the desire to tell a story I am interested in, it also comes from a place of wanting to connect. Once I've written my way through that catalyst to something coherent, I have the desire to share it. Maybe someday in someway my words will resonate with another in the same way so many novels, poems, and personal essays have impacted me. And to me, that is worth something. There is something so specific about feeling a kinship with someone you’ve never met; it is disorienting as much as it is hopeful to know that someone else gets it, whatever it is. 

The last few months have been particularly difficult, and throughout it all I’ve written. I’ve taken to carrying a notebook around that I can quickly jot thoughts down into. And writing has helped, even if much of it seems straightforward, even if some of it goes in circles, and even if most of it will never be read by another person.

I write because I do. Because it helps me make some sense of how I feel in a way that nothing else has. 

Whether it’s writing my way through a break up with blog posts and letters I never intend to send; or, imagining a world in which mermaids exist; or, exploring what identity looks like during transformative periods; or considering prevalent cultural trends in an attempt at an essay; or, capturing in 3,000 words how heartbreak can be a slow pain rather than a dramatic end; or, finally, embracing that fleeting feeling of a summer friendship through another short story — through all of this, I will continue to write. 

And maybe one day, my words will mean something to someone other than me. 

some fall goals

I love summer in New York. It's both too hot and too humid, and the streets occasionally smell like garbage. And yet, the days are long, the nights start off bright, and there's the hope of boundless spontaneity. 

 But this summer has, among other things, worn me out, and I am looking forward to the end of August as we head into fall. When I feel a little anxious or stressed and would rather not do anything, I've found that doing something, even something as simple as going for a walk, is actually the best cure. So, I've made myself a little list of goals, of small changes to make, projects I've been meaning to work on, and things that will make me happy. 

a small list for fall 

  • continue writing on my blog, for myself, with no pressure

  • start working on my novel

  • submit some short stories for publication

  • read: Kitchen Confidential, the rest of Harry Potter (in English)(again) & other books from my list

  • cook 1 recipe a week from my new cookbook (& cook for my friends!)

  • read 1/3 of Harry Potter in French

  • paint or draw once a week

  • workout 3x a week (lol)

  • Learn my tarot cards (also lol)

  • Hang artwork in my apartment

So here's to a new season, lower temperatures, and the simple things that can make all the difference. 

climbing up from a low point

or, no longer feeling sorry for myself

The last five months have not been easy. It feels like every other corner I turn, there is some kind of unwanted change or rejection. Yes, I’m being dramatic; and yet, each time I feel like I’ve caught my breath, I’m hit with another wave and tumbled underwater once again.

Yesterday, I got some news at work that wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. One person I want to talk to about it, (the ex that will be referred to as “he” later on in this post), I can't; two parts of my life where I am shaken to the core.

Over the past week, and culminating yesterday, self-pity has tugged at me like a nasty hangnail. I can’t stop picking at it and yet to do so causes more pain. If I let myself, I could spiral, asking myself why I was not good enough, in so many ways; but that would be both false and unproductive. The only thing I can do is address how I feel, and move forward. And for me, that takes the form of writing.

Writing is a way for me to cope, to make sense of the various thoughts in my brain, to calm my anxieties before they get out of control. And so, in what likely won’t be the last time but will be for now, I put words to my thoughts in order to move forward — contributing to thousands of words I’ve written over the past few weeks. I have not yet decided how much of those, if any, I’ll share; they’re deeply personal, and often rambling, but through them you can see an arc of understanding, many arriving at similar points. So for now we’ll focus on that endpoint: how I’ve decided to let go, and live my life.

TL;DR: So what?

I let myself wallow in self-pity, in personal problems and work difficulties — but only to a point. And then, I stopped. After a certain point, it's not worth it. I know work has been a bit stressful, and a bit difficult but that hard work will always pay off. I know I can't take his indecisiveness as hope any longer; I have to take it as rejection. There's nothing else to say; there's nothing else to think about. At a certain point, I’ve thought all I can think.

And it all kinda sucks. But it's okay.

I’m being kind to myself, letting myself be sad when it hits me, reminding myself that I would rather be someone that feels this kind of pain than none at all (a blog post for another time); But I’m also not wallowing any longer. This will not consume me, and it is hardly a defining factor of who I am as an individual. I may not be to blame for how I feel now but I am responsible for how I feel moving forward. Happiness is a constant work in progress, as they say, and moments of difficulty are part of that, counterintuitive as that might seem.

I’m sad now — but so what?

Recognizing I don’t want to feel bad for myself any longer was instrumental in taking that first step up from this low point I’ve found myself in. Action is the way forward. Feeling bad does not actually hinder life; it is a part of life. ( 🧀🧀🧀) These things I was looking at don’t have to be rejections — they can be challenges. Other opportunities to prove myself. There’s so much else to focus on, and so much else to look forward to. I'm not going to spend any more time vying for the affection of someone that has no interest in returning it. I'm going to surround myself with people who know they want me in their lives, and who I want in mine. And I know when I come out of this on the other side, I’ll be a much stronger person.

As I told a friend yesterday, "I'll feel shitty until one day I don't, and it’ll all be fine." She said she was going to embroider a pillow for me with that on it. And that's not to say there are days where I won't feel shitty; the whole point, really, is I can only take it day by day. 

taking some time for myself

The past few months have been formative, full of change, and largely unpredictable. I anticipate the next month will be no different. It feels like the perfect opportunity to take a step back from focusing on things I can't control, from being quite so connected (mostly through social media), and instead turning the focus on myself. Why spend time worrying about what is out of my hands, or tempting myself to comparison, when instead I can use that time on things I enjoy, or on things I've been meaning to do for myself? 

Sometimes I think about all the time, in hours and thoughts, I've spent on things that either cannot be changed by thinking about them or, ultimately, that don't matter. I don't do this to make myself feel guilty but instead as a reminder that while I can't control the actions of others, I can control how I respond. And I can control how much — or how little — thought I give something. Just a few days ago, I wrote a slightly rambling post on letting go, and I meant every word of it: I'm done holding on so tightly. 

I don't know when things like how fast someone answers in a group chat, or who follows who on Instagram became so important. But somewhere along the way, they did, and they became much too important to me: displaced priorities. Instagram has become a kind of habit, particularly in the way I interact with it, just as comparing myself to others is a habit. I know I can break the former, so I'm not sure why it's taken so long to realize I can also break the latter. It's as simple as stopping; just as it's as simple as giving myself permission to focus on me and do what I want. 

I decided over the weekend that sometime soon I was going to take a break from Instagram and delete it from my phone; I decided last night there was no point in waiting. At first, I was (of course) going to post a picture to let people know of my decision, but my friend Gaby disagreed. It only took me a minute to realize how right her reaction was, how silly my initial thought to do such a post had been (almost counterintuitive in its search for external validation), and how desperately I needed to unplug. And after all, this is a decision I am making for myself and only for myself. (On the other hand, posting about this on my blog feels natural. I started this purely for myself, to hone my voice and write consistently. And besides — so few people read it, that this is hardly some overt declaration). 

So, I'm taking a step back: from social media, especially Instagram; from things that are doing me more harm than good; from relationships where I am the party putting in significantly more effort; and, from whatever makes me unhappy.

And instead here are those things I'm looking forward to with my freed up time, and freed up mentality: 

reading (gotta catch up on my 50 books in 2018 goal) // writing, writing, and more writing (I'll never be a writer if I don't actually do it) // finding a workout routine that makes me feel strong again // staying in when I don't feel like going out // going out as a last minute decision // putting time into the relationships that are worth it // putting time into my relationship with myself (cringe! and yet, it's true) 

letting go

It takes a certain kind of person to let go, to brush things off like so much dust off your shoulders. While I believe this trait comes innately with certain personalities, I also believe you can learn to let go. And I'm trying.

I've made it no secret that I overthink. I'm also a romantic and prone to nostalgia. None of these dispositions have made it easy to learn to let go. But at the same time, they have shown me why it's necessary: if I let go, there's no reason to overthink; if I let go I can still be romantic and nostalgic while avoiding the pain that can come with holding on too tightly to the past.

There are all kinds of advice on learning to let go. One of my favorites is the rule of 7. I ask myself, will this matter in 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, 7 years? I think I picked this up from some random Forbes article but it's been around for quite some time. Basically — life is long, time is relative, and some things are not as serious as they seem. An old manager said something similar to me, when I was agonizing over a decision. The popular saying goes that life is short. And in many respects, it is. But also, life is long. You can only make what you think is the right decision in that time. Sometimes that means walking away. 

Not long ago I wrote about looking back on one year post-college, and how difficult — mostly emotionally — the transition had been for me. Though it seems paradoxical, something that has helped in looking back is actually letting go. Holding on too tightly had made revisiting past experiences painful, when they should have just been the most poignant kind of bittersweet. 

Last weekend, I watched a rom com on Netflix called Set It Up. There was one part in particular that stuck out to me. It was silly but also true, in a displaced sort of way. The main guy was explaining how when you have three salamanders as a kid, you'll spread your love between them; but if you only have one, you'll squeeze it too tight and kill it. While I don't necessarily agree with this in the context the character said it (basically, love), I do think there is something to be said for holding on too tightly to things external to yourself. Sometimes you have to let go. 

When I say "letting go," I'm referring to several senses of the phrase: letting go of things that bother us, letting go of assumptions that were made too soon, letting go of a past that can no longer be the present — and letting go of a too-tight grip on a sense of control. And while there are nuances and differences between all of these, there is also something innate that ties them all together: a sense of relief upon release. 

It's hard to let go. It's hard to acknowledge that most of life is out of your control, that you can only make the best decision you can in the moment, that it's never going to go exactly to plan. Ultimately you can't force someone or something else into a decision; nor can you make them feel one way or the other. You can only do what is right for you. Sometimes risks don't pay off. It's hard to acknowledge all of this. 

And yet, once you decide that there's no point over-agonizing on things that are out of control, on someone else's decision, that at the end of the day you can only do you — there's relief. 

And to finish with some dialogue from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which I just began watching. It feels, oddly, appropriate: 

"I don't know what to do." 

"Well, it's morning. Go have breakfast." 

Maybe it's just that simple. 

can people ever truly change?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about change, specifically about how it manifests in individuals. By and large, there are two camps: those that think people can change — and those that think they can't. Young me would have easily fallen into the former group, hoping that my awkward, insecure, teenage-self could change into a confident, just-fundamentally-better version. As I've grown, in all senses of the word, I've realized I've naturally gravitated towards a belief that falls somewhere in the middle: I believe people can grow — but I'm not sure they fundamentally change. 

And yet, I make that claim knowing I am not the same person I was in high school; nor am I the same naive college freshman; nor am I even the slightly wiser just graduated version. Am I different because I've grown or because I have changed? And are they ultimately that dissimilar?

***

Last summer, not long after college graduation, I was getting drinks with a friend I hadn't seen in months. We went to high school together but went to college separately, only seeing each other in brief interactions. 

"Have I changed?" I asked.

He considered it, for a moment.

"I don't think you've changed, exactly. It's like, the Amber before would have seemed on the verge of saying something and now you always say what you want. It's like you've just become more yourself."

I was, quietly, pleased with the answer. It was partially true: I was more myself — but I still had areas in which to grow in. At the time, I was struggling with the post-grad transition and would often slip back into anxiety-induced spirals; and, I still struggled with not taking these feelings out on loved ones. But, I had been sensing glimmers of the person I was growing into, someone who was still very much me, but with the sharp edges sanded down and the natural glows beginning to shine brighter.  

 

Three months ago, I wrote a blog post while very much in the midst of several life changes. Being on the other side of them, it felt natural to explore how they've affected me. And so it would feel remiss of me not to address the obvious: change often begets change. A change in life will naturally result in a response, whether there is resistance up front, or complete acceptance, or something in between.

I realize this sentiment seems contradictory to what I wrote earlier; but changing behavior as a result of a life change seem to me a part of personal growth. I was talking to a friend of mine, whom I often turn to for life advice because she is on of those people that seems wise beyond her years, and I asked her if she thought people were capable of change. What she said touches on the nuanced differences between changing behaviors, and changing who you are:

"I think who a person is at their core stays the same. Their experiences, environment, and nature make up their essential being. But I’ve seen behaviors change—from something as simple as waking up earlier all the way to reaching out to an estranged relative after many years. When a behavior changes for a long period of time, it’s fair to say that that person is capable of change. Not changing who they are, but changing the course of action they choose."

So basically, yes and no.

I for example will always be a competitive — sometimes an overly-competitive — person. But as I've gotten older, it has become easier recognize how much of that particular trait to have on display. Is growth therefore dependent on self-awareness and a certain level of control? Once again — yes, and no. 

***

For so long, I have been a change-resistant person. And so there seems to me a certain kind of irony that for so many years, there was so much about myself I wanted to change, and so much I convinced myself that I could. But somewhere along the way in the last few years, those preferences have largely switched: I welcome healthy doses of life change, more able to recognize the benefits and positives than before; and, I've embraced who I am by focusing on growing the qualities I love, and keeping the others in check - but not trying to eradicate them completely. The desire to change lessened as my confidence grew, an inverse relationship I wish I had been aware of many years ago.

Change, for better or worse, seems partially reliant on an external party's acknowledgment, and rooted in perception and perspective: you can see the same person, but have the way that you see them shift. I've been learning that when others want to grow, and are trying to grow, it as much our responsibility to be open-minded and give them that opportunity without boxing them into our own assumptions, as it is for them to make an effort. 

I was at a bar recently and the person I was with pointed out something behind me, but I struggled to see what they saw. I just saw an empty table and bench. After a while, I realized they were pointing out what made up the back to the bench — it was a door, turned sideways. I felt silly that it took me so long to notice. This is a complete oversimplification of the point I'm trying to make, but it does show the influence of assumptions and perception. I saw what I assumed was there. The door might no longer be utilized as such, but that doesn't change that it still is — or was — a door, at the same time that it is also the back to a bench. (Who would have thought I could philosophize about a bar bench?)

I am not sure that I am right about anyyyy of this. In fact, I could completely see the argument that people can change. It seems to me those that think they are capable of change will often find others to be capable as well. Similarly, while I don't think people can fundamentally change, I think they can grow.

Is this all a bunch of overwrought, slightly rambling thoughts? Basically — yes, and no. 

what i'm looking forward to this summer

early morning sunlight,

long summer evenings,

and the dawn that always shows up too soon.

☀️

weekends of plans that pass quickly,

weekends without plans that trickle by, 

and watching the sun sink behind the city's rooftops.

☀️

days reading books,

nights watching movies,

and wandering streets with nowhere to go.

☀️

trying new places,

revisiting old favorites.

and spontaneous weeknights that bleed into weekends. 

☀️

decisions that are both good and bad,

decisions that end as stories only growing better with time,

and decisions that turn into memories bright as the pictures they're captured in.

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in the midst of change

After several long months, winter is finally, almost gone. And, as the seasons start to transition to longer days and higher temperatures, I'm going through several changes of my own. 

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The past three weeks of my life have gone by slowly, and quickly: a paradox, I’ve been told, that often accompanies big life changes. Through it all I’ve been writing — but not much else other than emotionally overwrought journal entries and, embarrassingly, one poem that will remain unread until the end of my days. 

Change, big or small, wanted or unwanted, can be difficult. And while I’ve never considered myself someone that was keen on public emotion, something about being honest with those around me while going through a difficult time has been a source of comfort. And with that comfort, also advice: the first heartbreak is always the worst, but no break up is a mistake; changes at work don’t have to be sad, but instead can be opportunities; I am stronger than I think and, most impactful of all: change affords the most striking kind of clarity and perspective. 

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I suppose there’s something to be said for writing about change while in the midst of it. I’m not at a point where I have any answers — in fact, I probably have more questions than anything. And it’s those that I’ve been taking time to explore. 

Surprisingly, something that has been helping is more change. I’m brunette for the first time in my life, after being blonde literally forever and platinum blonde for the last eight months. I acknowledge that hair color is absolutely arbitrary. You can cut it and dye it and it always grows back. But there was something right in deciding to change a thing — my blonde hair — that has been a part of my identity for so long. How I look, who I am, is completely in my control — and that is an empowering reminder. 

Somewhere between college graduation and now, I’ve come to the realization that change is similar to nostalgia — fundamentally bittersweet. Acknowledging change requires acknowledging time that has passed. And behind the sadness that almost always comes first, is a happiness or fondness for what has come before. I suppose it’s serendipitous, if cheesy, that the seasons are (supposedly) changing. I’m doing my best to ignore the last remnants of snow in anticipation of the warmth that’s to come. And there is so much more fun and so many more happy memories to come, a small piece of excitement I remind myself about when the scales tip slightly more in the way of sadness than fondness. 

I recently learnt that the older you get, the shorter the years seem because each year that passes makes up a smaller and smaller percentage of your life. At first, that thought terrified me. But in a way, it was comforting. I wondered if we treat change in the same fashion. When people say “in the scheme of things”, the “things” encompass more and more over time — acknowledgment of a life being lived. Does change seem smaller the more of it you encounter? I’m starting to think it must. And yet that doesn’t make it any easier. 

So for now, I’m letting myself feel — the good, the bad, and everything in between. I’m letting myself fall apart just a little bit, and I’ll see who I become once I put myself back together. 

 

reconsidering my resolutions

I have always been a goal-setting type of person. When I was 11-years old, I made a chart for how many seconds I would need to drop per year in my best swimming events to get Olympic trials cuts. And though my Olympic swimming career did not quite pan out, I've still always believed in marking those specific things that I want to achieve.

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But, as we make our way well into the second month of the new year (I wonder, is it new anymore?), I'm feeling overwhelmed. I think this is largely in part to some of the goals and resolutions I set out for myself. Back when I was a swimmer, my goals were always time-boxed, mostly because of the nature of the swimming season. I had to achieve my goal by a specific time — and if I didn't it was, in short, a failure. So, setting timeline-based goals became a habit. 

While having an earmarked deadline is hardly a bad thing, it can also lead to doing something for the sake of doing something or, like in the case of swimming, a complete sense of failure if that goal isn't completed by the set time. Quite a few of my goals for 2018 had a numeric value attached, whether it was a per-week minimum, or an end-date. And I believe it is this rigidity that is making me anxious about already failing what I set out to achieve for the year. 

So, I'm taking a moment to reconsider my 2018 goals and resolutions. I don't want to be less ambitious, nor do I want to forgo setting intentions — but I do want to find a way to lessen some of the pressure I've been putting on myself. And as I evaluate my list now, this has a lot more to do with the goals section than the resolutions. In fact, I believe making these changes will better affect how I approach my resolutions.

a new-ish list of goals for 2018: 

  • read 50 books -> Ok, this one can stay. It has yet to cause me stress, I'm just about on track and I tend to be a happier person when reading.

  • declutter: physically, mentally, & digitally -> pick up the clothes in my room on a semi-regular basis, and realize that I'm not just a Marie Kondo kinda gal when it comes to my wardrobe.

  • journal 3x a week -> journal when I'm anxious and want to move on, or when I'm happy and want to remember. journal when I hear a snippet on the subway, or have a thought I don't want to forget.

  • stick to my budget -> this one needs to stay as is, but on a month by month basis. Things fluctuate, and that's ok.

  • cook more & eat healthier -> 80/20 rule it is for me! And also...I just don't really cook.

  • practice French 4x a week -> Practice French more and maybe try and finish Le Petit Prince.

  • find a consistent fitness routine -> find a fitness routine that I actually love, one where I don't dread waking up in the morning to get after it, and one where I can love my body for what it's capable of, and what it can be capable of.

  • blog 2x a week -> Blog as often as I want, and blog for me. It's why I started blogging again last August, and it's why I continue to blog today. Similarly, shamelessly post on Instagram if it's what I want to do — even if others find the platform frivolous.

  • finish writing & editing my first novel -> I still would love to achieve this goal but I think seeing just the end, as opposed to creating smaller deadlines, has halted me before I gave myself the chance to start.

  • and a new goal...enjoy New York!

Maybe those changes seem insignificant. But even a small shift can affect great change, as I hope these will for me.

My resolutions will stay as I wrote them leading into 2018, with an added one at the end: 

ABOVE ALL, ENJOY WHAT MATTERS & FORGET WHAT DOESN'T. 

BE KIND, TO MYSELF AND OTHERS.

BE GRATEFUL AND RECOGNIZE WHAT I HAVE. 

KEEP LEARNING, ALWAYS. 

*PUT MYSELF OUT THERE. 

I've actively been putting myself out there, as they say, more than ever before, and this somehow came about completely naturally. (You might call my last sentence a paradox: how could someone actively put themselves out there naturally? But, my choice to do so came about from my larger blogging goals which led me to putting myself out there as a kind of lovely side effect. And for an introvert like me, I am definitely going to keep up with this as much as possible). Sometimes the act pays off — and sometimes it doesn't. But either way, each time I put myself out there I learn more and more not to give a fuck and in the end, that's worth it for me. 

This is the first time I've ever actively reevaluated my resolutions and new year goals. Before, I would immediately see a few mishaps as a failure, instead of trying to learn and move forward with what I've learned. In a way, some of these goals have transformed more into intentions. The main distinction for me is a timeline — or, as with intentions, a lack thereof. 

It's a little scary to let go of some of those markers. And maybe in a few months, I'll realize I do need to implement a few more. But for now I'll look at this revamp as freeing. I don't know if I'm on that anti-resolution train yet but, to be completely honest, I can't wait to see where this freedom takes me.