How to Have a Day Job

Everybody’s Free (To Freak Out in Their Twenties)

One of my favorite things to listen to when I was high school was “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen).” Not only did I find the voice of Lee Perry extremely soothing, and not only did it sample music from Romeo + Juliet, which I thought was the pinnacle of artistic cinema, BUT even at that young age I found myself nodding and going, “Yeah, man, you get it.”

I listened to it before I sat down to write this post. I realized that even though I liked to think at that age that I was an “old soul” who had life, love, and the world figured out…I understood the lines of that song about as much as I understood things like feminism and Ethiopian food. In an extremely distant, contextual way. Which is to say…not at all.

Why is it that right around that age – and for the next ten years – there is a chronic, infectious case of control freakatitis? Even if you were a perfectly chill teenager (haha, yeah, okay, I know) it’s like as soon as you get out on your own, you immediately hit this second, major puberty. Only this time, instead of facial hair and boobs, you get persistent anxiety and crippling inferiority!

So, in the style of Baz Luhrmann’s EF(TWS), I am going to give you my advice in 5 minutes. Everything I can write, the timer is on, I shall dispense that advice…now.

Bad jobs build character. When you get out of college, there is a good chance you may have to take a job that is not your dream (but never stop trying), that is not what you envisioned in yesteryear, and you will deal with it for a while. Maybe it will get better. Maybe not. But you’ll have the story. The experience.

Know your rights. Never let anybody tell you that you have to give more than your best. Don’t allow people – employers, friends, lovers – decide your schedule. You are your own time wizard.

Take care of your body. Floss. Take advantage of your health insurance, vision, whatever you have. Spend every penny of it. Make it count.

Never stop. Even in the face of failure and defeat and even when it feels like you are talking into an empty room, eventually people will find you. It takes years to build a fanbase/platform/forum/voice – your own personal voice – and if you just stop talking because you think nobody is listening, you’re just going to flatline.

Somewhere between sleepless nights and restful days is nirvana.

Reclaim every second of your free time. At the end of the day, when you leave that office, leave all the mess of the last 9 hours there. Envision it as a torch, and when you clock out, that torch goes in a bucket of water. It’s gone. Don’t let any of those bastards eat into your life when you’re not getting paid for it.

Get hobbies. Try everything at least once. Twice if it’s fun.

Make friends. In the office, on the street, on the way to work. Get used to talking to people. Leave your phone at home, and if you have it, call someone. Make that connection, even if it’s really really hard and not fun.

There you go. In closing, your twenties are going to be really confusing. They won’t always be as fun as they should be, and only half as much as they deserve, because it’s going to feel like you don’t have things figured out the way you thought you would. That is okay. You are okay. Relax. Meditate. Give yourself 60 seconds to get really worked up and then go read a book. Take a walk. Pet a puppy.

But trust me on the hobbies.

If you enjoyed this post and want to find out more ways to live life while getting a pay check, you should sign up for my newsletter, How to Have a Day Job.

5 Things

5 Ways to Get Stuff Done

In 2015, I’m really focusing in on finishing things. Sounds simple, right? You start something. It begins. It comes into formation. Obviously…you need to bring it to an end.

I started a number of things last year: a few different crafting projects, some pieces of writing, a couple of classes. I would pick at them a little bit, then move on to something else. Then, I would remember them again. And freak out. Pick, pick, pick, put down, forget, remember, freak out. Rinse. Repeat.

Now, I’m trying to get stuff done. Here are a few habits I’m using to work on it.

1. Keep a list of projects somewhere close and where you can see them often. I’ve been using an Excel sheet as well as a file in Evernote to keep track of what I have been working on. This way, I can make notes about the last update I made, when I did it, and what is outstanding. It feels good to start crossing stuff out.

2. Ask the hard question: keep it or kick it? Once the To Do List gets long enough, it’s time to take a long look at what you’ve been working on. Why is it there? What is it adding to your life? What will come after it? Will it be there later when you have more time?

3. A little bit goes a long way. Okay, you don’t have time to sit down and finish the whole rough draft of your 300-page novel. However, I bet you have time to write a few sentences. Even the tiniest baby steps will make you feel more accomplished than procrastinating on it.

4. Set a date. Tired of seeing that unfinished craft project? Sure, nobody is waiting for it, so it’s up to you to pick a date to have it done by. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Even if it’s not for a few weeks (or even a few months), commit to having it finished by a deadline. Ask people to keep you accountable.

5. Don’t overthink it. Take a deep breath. Get to work. Don’t spend time stewing in your own brain, mulling over the, “Oh God, why didn’t I finish this before now” or “I can’t believe I put this off” or “There’s so much to do”…stop. Focus on the present. You can do it now. Just start.

Monday Doing

What I’m Doing Monday: 01/26/2015

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Watching: Steven Universe – This is one of the best shows on television right now. General plot: Steven is a part of the Crystal Gems, a magical (otherwise) female fighting team who defends Earth against nasty creatures. As he tries to figure out his own super powers, they learn about being a family, dealing with the otherwise normal people of their city, and have adventures. It’s a lot of fun, and it is surprisingly mature for how it may look coming in.

Loving: Buddhify – Buddhify is a meditation app for the iPhone and Android. You have the option of selecting a given scenario and then picking one of several audio options based on the amount of time you have. So, for example, the other day when I was feeling extremely anxious at work, I listened to a 10 minute guided meditation from the Feeling Stressed section. It helped immediately.

Reading: Burnt Tongues edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas and Dennis Widmyer – This is a collection of strange and bizarre short stories by a variety of authors. They can be pretty disturbing, but they are very well-written. Reminds me a lot of Haunted.

Hearing: Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman – I’m sorry, dear subscribers. I’ve cheated, and there’s no turning back now. Recently, I have been listening to more audiobooks than music, and as a result, my go-to ear snacking has been this fun, manly book by “the NBC guy with the mustache.” Pair it with his Netflix special “American Ham” and you’re in for a treat.

Doing: Slam poetry – (Author’s note here. I originally was going to look for an image that would encapsulate “Overtime” because that is actually what I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing as of late but then decided that that was really, really fucking depression. Pardon my language.) The last two Tuesdays have been spent being part of Pittsburgh’s slam poetry scene. I have now performed four pieces, and they have been pretty well-received. For those of you who have not attended a slam, it’s a competition in which poets perform a piece of writing no longer than 3 minutes and are then scored by a panel of judges. There can several rounds until a winner is found. I made it to the second round both times I attended, which I think is pretty solid for a beginner.

5 Things, My Favorite Things, Personal

5 Best Things from 2014

It’s still January. I’m allowed to do this. 2014 was a hell of a year, right? Here are the most awesome things that came out of it.

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1. Izmee the Hippo: after 5 years of waiting for someone to give me a hippo, I took matters into my own hands. Since then, Izmee has become a constant companion in my adventures. She’s there at new restaurants, she gets to check out the digs at hotels, and she reminds me not to be so serious.

2. Rats: in December, we welcomed into our home three fuzzy brothers who have grown into delightful additions to our family. Chip, Moby and Oreo are like tiny puppies: they lick our faces, they want to interact with us, and they are constantly playful. I’m 100% converted to the way of the rat.

3. The Jane Hotel (NYC): this one is very specific. When I booked my room at the Jane, I was mostly intrigued because it came off as an affordable, private hostel. Now, though, as I reflect on it, the Jane was one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been. It captures the Manhattan feel of old movies, with its boat cabin rooms and distant view of the Statue of Liberty. I can’t imagine going back to New York and not staying there.

4. Food: 2014’s food was amazing. No kidding. My husband and I did a lot in 2014 to expand our culinary horizons. I baked bread from scratch for the first time. Instead of going out for Valentine’s Day, we had a 5-course dinner at home, including duck confit (pictured here). Looking at cooking as a creative endeavor has changed the way I look at food everyday.

5. Travel: I can’t express how pleased I am with how much traveling I managed to do in 2014. I chose pictures from only a few of my outings, including DC for the annual cherry blossoms, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Virginia Beach (local to where I grew up but my first time at a beachfront hotel). I also visited New York City twice – once by train! – Columbus, Cleveland, Baltimore, and several cities around Pittsburgh during my summer staycation. And I am ready for more!

What were your favorite parts of 2014? I’d love to hear about them!

Poetry

Sitting at the Bottom

How long has it been since I allowed myself a satisfying sit in one of Barnes and Noble’s giant comfy chairs?
When I get there or anywhere
I’m moving, on my feet,
Like a shark
If I stop, I’m going to drown in the murky suspended animation of my mind
That whirls loud and humming in my ears
Stuck underwater
And I don’t realize that it’s a constant sound until
I come up for air
In a chair.

Why am I always thinking
I need a very specific set of surroundings?
Just to turn down?
Tune out?
Especially when all I need to get from the ocean to the beach is
Five minutes
A notebook
A pen
And a chair.

5 Things, Personal

5 Motivational, Encouraging Phrases (from me to you!)

I don’t know what 2015 has been like for you, but for me? It’s been busy. And that’s putting it lightly. I feel like every day is a stir fry that’s made up the stuff I want to do and the things I have to do. I just take a bowl and whatever I get is what I get.

So I was thinking to myself how I could reach out to you, because I love you and I want to make sure that you are doing okay, but time has been limited. And I decided that instead of doing 5 things I had going on, I would write 5 things that I hope make you feel good about whatever it is you’re doing.

Let’s do this.

1. Any little thing you can do is a tiny step towards something awesome. Don’t have time to squeeze in reading a whole chapter of a book? Read a paragraph. Love that paragraph.

2. You are amazing, good-looking, smart, and talented. Define those things as you will but know that they are true in some form and fashion.

3. Nothing is permanent. And while that can be sad, keep in mind that it applies to all the crappy stuff too. Like bad days. And headaches. And stinky farts.

4. It’s gray outside and that sucks. But you can improve your mood with a blanket, a cup of something warm, music, and a magazine. Or book. Or video game. Whatever. Cozy up and get your chill on.

5. Pamper yourself. One little thing every day. Maybe it’s just a warm pair of socks. Maybe it’s a long shower. Maybe you just let yourself go to bed a little early. You deserve it.

Personal

2014 was a Year to be Brave…2015 is a Journey!

So last year, I created a word for 2014, and that was Brave.

And I was. I tried taxidermy for the first time. I lost my wallet in NYC. I took my first bus and train trips (trains are better). I hit all the zombie hotspots in Western PA, and I drove from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in the middle of the night.

I made bread from scratch. I created a chapbook of poems. I laughed a lot, cried a bit, and made some new friends. When I would start getting anxious or, worse, bored…I said, “What can I do now?” It was a great year, which is contrary to what I’ve heard from a lot of people.

This year, as I sat on my couch re-watching season 2 of Hannibal on New Years Eve, I doodled trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this next year. I have a few goals – to visit Canada, to get comfortable playing the ukulele, among others – but I wanted another word. I wanted a theme.

I messed around with several words, including:

  • Adventure (too broad)
  • Dream (too abstract)
  • Finishing (too narrow)
  • Content (too slow)

Then, as I was writing about who I wanted to be by the end of 2015, I wrote a note about how I wanted to “document the JOURNEY.” And that’s what stuck.

I want this year to be a Journey. I want to ride through it and stop at the places that appeal to me. I want to try new foods and see new people and live so presently that all I’m thinking about is this moment, second, instant. I want to turn off regret and nagging and stuff that bothers me and drive.

And I definitely won’t stop believin.’ Or holding on to that feelin.’

Did you really think we’d get through this without a Journey reference?

How about you? Do you have a theme for this year? Any spiffy goals or ideas? Resolutions? Tell me!

How To Make Stuff

Wait, What Just Happened? (Plus, a Recipe!)

Holy moley, you guys! Hi! How are you? Life got super crazy there for a second, didn’t it? Suddenly, I was making Christmas gifts, then I was in Virginia, and then I was back for a few days and BAM. 2015.

Here we are.

Obviously, I have more important things to talk about – which will be forthcoming – but today, I wanted to share with you an awesome habit I’ve picked up.

Smoothies.

Smoothies were always this strange, unattainable thing that I knew people were into but always figured just wasn’t for me. Kind of like…mornings. And pilates. The only smoothie I have ever loved was the Blimey Limey, sold at Tropical Smoothie (of which there are none in Western PA). But then, I had a moment, walking through the mall on the Sunday after Christmas (note: not the best idea — such busy, very packed). I went to Smoothie King and ordered…a smoothie with the same things in it that my beloved Blimey Limey had.

I know what you’re thinking: “You really could have done this sooner.”

And you would be right.

But I didn’t. So there.

As I sipped my smoothie, I thought to myself how great I felt and how good it tasted. I considered all the great things I could put in smoothies at home and how good those would taste. I might have also teared up a little because I was convinced “No Tropical Smoothie = no Blimey Limey ever.”

So during this past week, I have been starting out the day with my own concoction, which I am sharing with you below. And let me tell you…my productivity went up so high after taking in all these vitamins. I found myself snacking less, being more awake and just feeling overall pretty awesome. I write so much more after getting all this in my system. I’m drinking one now! Woo!

Enjoy!

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The Morning Word Count Smoothie

  • 10 whole strawberries
  • 10 chunks pineapple
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water

A few notes on these “measurements”: I hate making dirty dishes. My biggest aim with this has been to make as few extra dishes for my husband to wash as possible. I use frozen fruit and bagged veggies (my brand is Dole but follow your heart) and one measuring cup. You can use fresh fruit if you want, but you’ll have to add ice (which I also hate dealing with).

Put it all in the blender and mix until completely…blended. Insert smoothie into your favorite cup. Sippy sippy. Boom. Get some writing done.