What I Learned From Having 8 Roommates in 2 Years

I know what you’re thinking, “Eight roommates in two years? This girl must be a terrible roommate!” Whether due to a change in marital status, job location or just irreconcilable differences, changing roommates has become a part of my vernacular in my first few years in Los Angeles. After the dust has settled and each roommate has come and gone, I am left standing with lessons learned, an ample amount of room to grow and an untarnished, much-needed sense of humor.

To give you a little more context, I moved from Oklahoma to California two years ago to pursue my passion for journalism and a writing career. As I hunted to secure a job and an apartment, I reached out to a few friends I knew in Los Angeles. After months of digging, one of them connected me with a girl she loosely knew through her church. This girl found two other young women from the same church who were looking for an apartment, and the rest was history. We were moving in, signing the dotted line and making deposits within days.

While being in your mid-twenties and living with three other women is not ideal, it is often the name of the game in the City of Angels. The housing market in big cities like L.A. isn’t cheap and it takes time, effort, connections and a little bit of luck to find a good spot. When I first moved here, I had that hunger in my eyes and the willingness to do whatever was necessary in order to make it on my own. This attitude would come in handy in the months and years to come with a number of outlandish and absurd roommate situations to come.

When I look back at my roommate experiences in L.A., it is one of those “it’ll be funny once it’s over” type of scenarios. I tell roommate stories to friends all the time for a good cathartic laugh. I swear if I had a stand-up show, this would regularly be a part of my act.

I have names for each of my roommates to help me keep the stories in order. (It also adds a little bit of comedic flair I think.) There was the roommate who took a job cross-country. There was the unhygienic, emotionally unstable roommate who we had to ask to leave.There were two roommates who got married. There was the prideful roommate who never paid bills on time and, whether she was right or wrong, always had to have things her way. There was the sheepishly shy and socially awkward roommate. There was the dramatic roommate who only talked about her problems. There were the BFF roommates who couldn’t afford toilet tissue (they used our kitchen paper towel instead) but somehow managed to buy alcohol. There was the roommate who had a dog she walked about once a day and left her to pee in the apartment. (This is just the quick synopsis. I could give stories for days.)

Needless to say, my search for a solid, stable roommate has been an uphill battle. There have been moments of stress, frustration, tears, laughter and a lot of lessons learned. Each of these people have probably given me a gray hair or two, but with each of them, they have brought their own strengths and weaknesses, both good and bad. They have brought their own unique perspectives and stories. They have brought differences, similarities and learning opportunities.

Prior to moving to L.A., I was a passive aggressive, ambivert, who only spoke up when she had to. Living with so many different people in such a short period of time has taught me how to set boundaries with people. It has taught me to care less about being liked and getting along with everyone all the time (which is not even realistic) and to speak up for myself.

For example, say something when someone makes an entire meal with your food (which has happened), but maybe let it go when you know your roommate tells white lies that don’t affect you. Moreover, speak up when someone is parking behind you and making you late for work or not paying bills on time. However, let it go when a roommate thinks she bought an inexpensive kitchen item (that you know is yours).

I have learned that sometimes it is worth standing your ground and speaking up. I should never choose to not use my voice for fear of not being liked. Yet, every battle isn’t worth going to war over. I have learned to choose carefully.

Of all the lessons the revolving door of L.A. roommates has taught me, the most important lesson is to show people grace. I can speak up and set boundaries with people, and then, choose to let it go. I have learned the importance of forgiving often and quickly. Otherwise, it’ll eat you up inside, and you will walk around cold and bitter. You’ll live in an apartment with closed bedroom doors, little conversation and no laughter, which is no place to call home.

I have reflected on my own behavior, and the ways in which I can improve. I am definitely not perfect. (It wouldn’t be fair to out my former roommates without sharing some of my flaws too.) I struggle with perfectionism and communication in conflict. I stifle my emotions. I have passive aggressive tendencies.

I am definitely not perfect, and living with other people has shown me, everyone, myself included, has room to grow. In the end, it hasn’t been perfect, but with laughter, forgiveness, grace, communication and a good drink from time to time, I have learned to cope with crazy and found the laughter in it all.

This post originally appeared on Hello Giggles.

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How a Blast From the Past Taught Me About Self-Love

I nervously packed my bags for my Portland weekend trip. Should I pack heels? What about a dress? I need a hot dress. Maybe I should straighten my hair? My mom always said I looked better with straight hair. If I keep it curly, maybe I should wash my hair tonight so my curls look extra nice for the trip.

My stomach fluttered with butterflies, the kind you only get when feelings are involved. I was headed to Portland for the first time ever, for both business and pleasure. For business, I was covering a women’s soccer game for a news outlet. For pleasure, I was taking a weekend girls’ trip with a friend from L.A.

Then, in a momentous, destiny-calling kind of way, an opportunity presented itself to connect with an old friend who lived in Portland. This old friend, to be exact, was my 8th grade crush who saw me in glasses, pigtails and all the awkward phases that a kindergarten through 8th grade school entails.

We’ll call him Austin. Rumor had it, Austin had a crush on me too. (His best friend told my best friend. You know? The usual means of communication in middle school.) Austin also happened to be one of my cousin’s best friends, and his dad lived in the same suburban neighborhood as my cousin’s family throughout our entire childhood. While I hadn’t seen Austin in 10 years, I occasionally would hear tales about his adult life from my cousin or my aunt whenever I came home.

A few days before my trip, my cousin text me his number. I sent a nervous yet bold text asking Austin for the best places to go to and sights to see in Portland, and the deed was done. Austin was gracious and agreed to meet my friend and I for lunch and show us around. I ended up spending every day of my trip with Austin, every single day. I was enamored with the idea of him yet and still, and I spent the weekend hoping for something more than friendship.

To my inner child’s dismay, I realized Austin had not really changed, for both the good and the bad. Between the long talks, laughter, jokes and insults we exchanged, I realized it wasn’t so much him who I had admired all these years but the idea of him. I romanticized who I thought he was or who I wanted him to be. I made the middle school crush who I cried over at the end of 8th grade (yes, I was an emotional kid) out to be more than he actually was.

He was still the good-looking, funny and sweet guy I remember. Unfortunately, he was aware of all these things, his good looks, his charm, his confidence with the ladies. The same guy who every girl liked in middle school was now sitting across from me at a restaurant over drinks checking out women and asking me to be his wing-woman to pick up ladies. Some habits die hard, and I think being the popular, athlete who all the ladies want is one of them. He was still the same person, not ready to grow up or settle down.

The real struggle from that weekend wasn’t about Austin at all though. It was an internal battle within myself. A battle of whether or not I would allow the popular guy in school to unearth me the way he did when I was a kid. The nervousness. The shaky hands. The fast heart beat. It all came back to me.

As Austin scanned the bar for women, I began to look at myself and question if I was enough. What about me? I wondered. Am I not good enough? Why don’t you see me? Why not me? I stopped, gathered my thoughts and began to counteract the insecurities trying to surface.

You see, I am not the little, straight- A, shy girl from middle school anymore. That girl has transformed into a twenty-someting woman who has scars from heartbreak that have healed with time. She has wisdom lines on her brow from the mistakes she has made and the lessons she has learned. She has miles under her belt from the states she has lived and the countries she has visited. She has laugh lines on her face from times spent with friends who have become more like family. She has muscle from the hours she has spent serving others and learning to enjoy the moment.

Eighth grade me is gone. Although parts of her make up the mosaic of the woman I am now, that little girl grew up and is now a woman who knows she is. She is confident, strong and knows her value, and no guy, not even the hot middle school jock, gets to challenge that knowledge.

Everyone gets older but not everyone grows up. Growing up requires doing the work to learn, to change, to better yourself. Austin hasn’t grown up and reconnecting with him taught me that trying to force someone from your past into your present doesn’t work. The pieces won’t fit.

Sometimes, oftentimes, you can’t go back to the past. You might be able to revisit it momentarily or for a weekend trip to Portland, but you can’t stay there. You aren’t meant to. Life is about moving forward, letting go and accepting the now. Austin and I got older and went our separate ways, and I really believe it was for the best.

My blast from the past brought laughter, moments of self-doubt and most importantly a revelation that I am good enough, who I am now, present day me. Our last day in Portland, Austin dropped my friend and I off at the airport, and I haven’t heard from him since. I walked away from the experience knowing it’s OK to grow up and not look back. You simply have to trust the process and let go of what you thought life would look like and accept it for what it is.

This post originally appeared on Hello Giggles.

The Problem With Reducing ‘Best Friend’ to a Hashtag

In today’s social media driven world, there seems to be a hashtag for everything, including the oh-so coveted best friend relationship. There are countless hashtags for denoting who holds the glorious title of “bestie” in your life including but not limited to: #bestfriend #bestie #bff #partnerincrime #bestfriendgoals #friends4life #bffl #bestfriendstatus #bestfriendsbelike #bestfriendagirlcouldaskfor #myperson

You get my point. It’s everywhere. On social media, in pop culture websites, in daily conversation and even in Buzzfeed quizzes. (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t just take that quiz. Your girl loves a good Buzzfeed quiz!) It’s also on your favorite TV shows. Meredith had Christina. Cory had Shawn. Lorelai had Rory. Blair had Serena.

I, too, have had my share of best friends, some friendships where it was more so me wanting the best friend title, some scenarios where the other person led the charge and others where it was a natural, two-way street. In kindergarten, there was Lisa, who I just thought was so pretty, smart and kind. 5-year-old me thought Lisa was the ish, and I knew we just had to be friends.

Flash forward to seventh grade, and there was a new girl. (In middle school, everyone notices a new kid.) I remember her trying to navigate the halls of Bates Academy, a place I had called home for the past six years and knew all too well. I wanted to help her find her classes and make sure she had someone to sit with at lunch. We were best friends for a solid two years, and then, high school happened.

Regardless of our well intentions, we were growing up and changing. With that came changes in our friendship. At the time, I remember being sad at the distance between us even though I saw her every day at school. Looking back, I realize it was growing pains, new school, new classes, new clubs, new friends. We were naturally growing apart, and it was no fault of hers nor mine. Today, she is still one of my oldest and truest friends.

Later on, I made a best friend in high school, a friendship so genuine and pure. My dear friend Felicia and I met freshman year of high school and gradually we reached best friend status. Beginning of junior year of high school, my parents moved my brother and I to Oklahoma. I was devastated (cue dramatic teen angst), not only because I was moving cross-country half-way through high school but because my best friend was sick.

Felicia was in cancer remission when I met her freshman year. She wore scarves around her head and had the biggest smile you can imagine. Sophomore year, she opted for a short, curly fro, but the contagious smile stayed the same. That first year when I moved to Oklahoma, Felicia and I talked all the time. She sent me a voicemail singing Happy Birthday, and how I wished to this day that I still had it. She had the most beautiful voice.

The summer before senior year of high school, I came home to visit, and Felicia was in the hospital. She was sick again. Yet, she didn’t want to show it when I was there. She tried to be strong when I visited, but the chemo made her so tired.

16-year-old me didn’t know what to do. I sat quietly in the hospital room watching my friend rest. My mind flash backed to sophomore year when Felicia came and found me in the girls’ locker room to tell me the cancer had come back. We stood there, and I held her as we both cried. I didn’t know what to do for my friend but be there.

In the fall of my senior year of high school, Felicia passed away. Although I knew she wasn’t hurting anymore, my heart ached with the thought that I wished there was something I could have done to help her. I still imagine her singing sometimes. Her voice is so comforting.

Losing Felicia changed something in me when it came to friendship. I felt a little more guarded, like I couldn’t use that word lightly. At my new high school in Oklahoma, I made a lot of really good friends, many of whom gave me their “best friend” trophy title. I couldn’t reciprocate it though. I never refuted when they called me their best friend. I smiled and accepted it, not wanting to hurt their feelings.

Yet, in my head, I would ruminate with questions: Is this person my best friend? What does that mean exactly? Do we know each other well enough (I’m talking the good, the bad and the ugly) to use that title? Is this just another fleeting friendship that won’t last? If someone calls me their best friend, am I obligated to reciprocate?

College happened and again it was a new place, new people and new friends. I have never been the type of person to gravitate toward cliques. I look for individuals, the people who stand on their own two feet, the people who know who they are and who aren’t afraid to be that person. I made a friend who was exactly that freshman year of college, and we became inseparable.

We were one in the same, fiery, smart, independent girls with the “sweet, girl-next-door” persona invisibly tatted across our foreheads. We laughed together, cried together, prayed together, traveled together, refused to shop together (because we both hated spending money on things), saw movies together and talked about guys, career aspirations and our faith together.

This friendship meant so much to me. This was the first friend I ever shared with about my mom’s illness, the friend who saw me through some of my hardest and scariest days. The friend who I ran to when I needed to feel safe. This friend checked every box on my list. We were by all means the best kind of best friends.

But then life. Oh, how life and time can change things. We grew apart, and I had to learn to let go and trust the process. I had to learn to forgive myself for the things I did wrong and to forgive her. We recently spoke for the first time in six years, and even though it’s been so much time, it’s funny how some people leave such a deep imprint on our lives.

She just graduated from med school. I remember her and I stressing in undergrad, me about getting a big girl magazine job in NYC and her about pre-med classes and whether or not she would be a doctor. It’s been six years. Yet and still, my heart was elated to see she had accomplished her dream. Talking to her felt like coming home after a long trip away.

Two weeks ago on June 8, it was National Best Friend’s Day. (Another Hallmark created holiday to make us spend money.) It and recent friendship growing pains have left me wondering what a best friend truly is and if it is OK, in fact, if you do not have one. One of my friends always makes me laugh with her disbelief in the idea of having a best friend. I used to label her a cynic, but lately, I’ve been starting to think if maybe she is right, if maybe the “best friend” label is something so pressured and pushed upon us that we often feel incomplete if we don’t have it.

So I started thinking about the people I’ve called best friend throughout the years. I think back on the names and faces of past and present friends who have made such an impact on my life. Some who have left scars and others who have helped heal them.

Twenty-Something Advice (for anyone): “Your value does not depend on your #bff status. A best friend is a rare and special gift, not to be taken lightly. It is not a one-size-fits-all prototype.”

There are the friends who have called me out on my crap and pushed me higher. There are the friends who have helped brushed my hair back on tipsy nights and others who have held me as I wept, heartbroken about some guy. There have been the friends who have helped me hold onto hope during some really hopeless times. There are the friends who I have had so much fun laughing with that we never ever remember to take photos. There are have been the friends who’ve exchanged music with me and helped me expand my own collection. There have been the friends who have been there through breakups, job losses and the pains of adulting.

I believe in best friends. 100 percent. I have seen it exemplified by other people’s friendships and have felt it myself. People crave companionship, in the form of family, love and most importantly, friendship. I believe it is a rare and special thing.

I also believe that sometimes we crave best friendship so much that we hastily throw the phrase around without understanding what it really means to be a best friend. Sometimes, we use those words without truly taking the time to get to know a person, the good and the bad. Sometimes, we shuffle through best friends as if they are disposable. Sometimes, we get caught up in the cultural phenomenon of having a “bff” because we want to feel included. We want to belong.

I jokingly tell my closest friends, “You know this friendship is real because I get on your nerves at times and you get on my nerves. You know my bad parts, and I know yours but we still love each other.”

Friendship is not something to be feigned nor is it something to be taken lightly. When we reduce a best friend to a hashtag, cute Instagram captions or a photo on Facebook, we in essence minimize the value of what a true friend is. They are someone who loves you at your worst, who isn’t afraid to be honest with you even when it’s hard, someone who forgives you, someone who shows up for your biggest accomplishments and on your hardest days. They are your biggest, most loyal supporter. A best friend is so much more than just words. It is action.

If you don’t have a best friend, then that is perfectly OK. In no way does not having a best friend make you less valuable or worthy. Perhaps, you had a best friend, and the friendship is no longer working. If you have done all you know to do, then it is, in fact, OK to let a best friendship go. You can value the friendship for what it was and yet hold it with open hands. A friendship ending or growing apart doesn’t have to break you. You can choose to learn from it.

Out all of life’s treasures, I believe true friendship is the best gift you can ever give someone. (After all, it is free, and I love free things.)

-Stephkt

 

The Adventures of Unemployment

In my last post, I mentioned how the past four months of unemployment have been an adventure. The old adage rings in my ears, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It hasn’t been easy, but I am reminded to take each day as it comes and to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

I wanted to share with you some of the ups I have found in unemployment. Gasp! Dare, I say it. There is a lot of good that comes with life’s unexpected, seemingly terrible situations:

  1. I get to sleep until 9 o’clock.
    I cannot explain to you how magical this has been. I used to wake up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to workout before heading to work. On weekends, I would wake up between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. for church, to run errands or, to be completely honest, just out of habit. These days, I start my freelance work in the mornings between 9:30 and 10:00, and I workout at night. Since my desk is just in the next room from my bed, I can literally roll out of bed, make some coffee and get to work. It is a beautiful thing to get some extra Zzz’s.
  2. Afternoon coffee dates have become a reality.
    When I was working full-time, I remember friends asking if I could meet for lunch or an afternoon coffee. The answer was always a quick no. Distance, traffic and time kept me sanctioned to the area surrounding my job. I never left that area except for an hour at lunch. Nowadays, I can get a noon coffee or go for a 3 p.m. Chic-fil-A run with a friend. It’s such a great feeling to get up and go as I please.
  3. Travel is possible.
    At my previous job, we had unlimited time off, which was great, but anytime I asked off for a long weekend or for a wedding, I felt an endless amount of guilt. So much so, I usually would work while traveling. Nowadays, if I want to take a weekend trip to Portland, go home to see family in Michigan or go to a friend’s wedding in Texas, I can! I take my work with me, or I pause on taking freelance assignments. The luxury of flexibility is something not to be taken for granted.
  4. I have become more confident in my abilities.
    The freelance life is not for the faint of heart. Freelancing takes hustle, determination, grit and an entrepreneurial mind. If I am going to pay bills, then I have to write, period. There is no option. My ability to pitch stories, turn over copy in a timely manner and maintain working relationships has grown stronger.  I have grown exponentially as a writer, and I am more confident than ever in my skills. Through all the fears of unemployment, I have learned to believe in myself.
  5. My day-to-day is in my control.
    The coolest thing about working as a freelance journalist is that I set my hours. I come and go as I please. I determine how much work I take on and the type of work I get. It is up to me. I like being in control of what my days and weeks look like.
  6. I am free to use my time and energy on passion projects.
    Back in April, I ran my first half marathon, which has been a long time coming. I know if I was working full-time, I would have had less time to devote to it. Also, this month in June, a friend and I are hosting a benefit concert to raise money for Syrian refugees. Like many people, when I heard about the U.S. travel ban in March, I was angry. My friend and I wanted to do something. We put our heads together, asked some friends for help and Songs for Syria: A Benefit Concert was birthed. If you’d like to donate, check out our fundraising page here.
  7. I get to serve.
    Volunteering has been therapeutic for me. It has helped me get out of my own head and remember that there is a big world out there full of people. Since my lay-off, I have spent my time volunteering with kids and teenagers in L.A., and let me tell you. It has stretched me in a good way. The fourth Tuesday of each month, I have gotten to spend my days at in-school program where I help mentor high school girls by teaching them writing skills. Once a month on Saturdays, I read to elementary age kids in the LAUSD school district. On Sundays, I meet one-on-one with my mentee, and we work on writing exercises.

Life is all about perspective. I am so grateful for the new vantage point my time in unemployment has given me to learn about myself and to grow.

-Stephkt

Plan B Isn’t an Option

My life post lay-off has been a hustle. It has been nothing like the steady, consistent work flow of my previous 9 to 5 life. It has been unpredictable, uncertain and unsteady at times, but it most certainly has been an adventure.

When I got laid off,  I told myself I would look for jobs for a month, enjoy the free time and reevaluate my pocket book and my job status then. Well, a month came and went, February was fading into March, and I still didn’t have a job. Then, another month went by and April was knocking at the door. What did I do? I had a breakdown, ugly tears, worry lines and fear in my eyes.

It’d be two months and no job? What was going on? I had told myself I could manage a month of unemployment and make it. The second month, I told myself, “Okay, just a little bit longer.” Yet, when the end of the second month was closing, I freaked out. All my worries started to unfold and the dam to my fears was unleashed.

I started doubting. I started to worry. My tax return and unemployment benefits would only last so long. I started thinking maybe I should go back to working part-time job as a barista or perhaps go back to retail. I did it in college. So why not?

My gut gave me a firm but solid answer: No. No, what do you mean no? I have to eat and pay bills. If I can’t get an editor gig, then it’d be practical of me to at least have a back-up plan to keep myself afloat while I look.

But my gut instinct gave me a clear and precise no. No to going backward. No to settling. No to going for what seemed “practical.” No to what would provide a quick, easy resolution. No to easy. No to a back-up plan. No to Plan B.

Let me clear something up. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a side job in the pursuit of your dreams. When I first moved out to L.A., I worked at Starbucks as a barista my first few months here to earn money for bills, gas, food (ya know, the basics) while I looked for a writing job. In college and post-grad, I was a part-time manager at a little girl’s clothing store. All of it was a means to an end.

I am not knocking anyone for taking a job that isn’t in their desired field as an “in-between” gig, a starter job or for extra money. I have done it, but here’s my point: It was for a season of time in my life. It was a necessary building block to get where I was going.

Yet, there has to be a line between being practical and settling for less. Some people take an “in-between” job at a cafe or retail store, and they look up 20 years later and are still there. They give up on their dreams and the path they set out for to be “practical.” The bills won’t pay themselves, right?

Twenty-something advice for anyone:
“If you want to succeed in your dream field, then you can’t have a backup plan.”

I am 26 now, and I know I am not getting any younger. Being laid off at any age truly sucks, but I have resolved that if I want to succeed in the media industry, I can’t have a backup plan. I can’t go back to what is easy. If I want to make the lofty dreams in my head a reality. I have to give it all I’ve got. I have to be practical and idealistic, realistic and optimistic, a doer and a dreamer.

Living in L.A., arguably one of the biggest media cities in the U.S., there are ample opportunities in the journalism and media industry. It would be haphazard of me to not pursue that with everything I’ve got and to use my time wisely. If I am working 20 to 30 hours at Starbucks or another part-time job, the amount of time I am able to use to pursue my career path dwindles exponentially. I would be spending my energy waking up for the job, training and learning new skills, energy I could be using building my writing portfolio, pitching freelance stories and applying for writing jobs.

My resolve to not go backward has worked out in my favor so far. I have been freelance writing and editing the last four months, and I am making it work! It has required a lot of hard work and persistence. I look back over the time since my lay-off, at all the tears and the worry, and I know I am doing well. Losing my job, something I thought would break me, has made me stronger, smarter, more assertive, more persistent, more earnest.

Cheers to all the people who are persistently pursuing their dreams with no fall back. To the ones who are both dreamers and doers, I salute you.

Best,
Stephanie

My Biggest Fear Became a Reality, but It Didn’t Destroy Me

Sometimes, I worry about my condition as a human being. I wonder if I’m a bad specimen of person because I struggle to express emotions, or rather the emotions that I deem as difficult.

I know people who are extremely expressive and in tune with their emotions. If they’re having a bad day, then guaranteed everyone knows. If they’re mad, then all hell is about to be unleashed. If they’re in love, then it’s literally all. you. hear. about.

Me, on the other hand, I am a bit more of a peculiar breed of human. When situations occur that elicit stress, anger or fear in most people, I often show no outward signs of alarm.

A recent example was a few months ago when myself and two of my roommates were home and the carbon monoxide warning went off. Everyone was freaking out! Fanning the alarms. Opening windows. Calling parents for help. Normal stuff. I was….well pretty chill. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not that I don’t care about a possible carbon monoxide leak. Yet, my response was simply to open the windows and check the alarms. No worrying necessary. My roommates were both amused and confused by my lack of reaction.

Weird, right? Sometimes, I think it is a good thing. Life happens, and for the most part, I am able to keep a really calm head in tough times. My motto has always been to push through. Lately, I wonder if my lack of emotional response also has to do with something else.

Last year, I had a moment where I had to come clean with some emotions that I buried deep down. Long story short, I realized that I had feelings for my best guy friend. To be frank, after three years of a great friendship, I realized I was in love with this person.

Pause. Yes, you read that correctly. It took me three years to realize I was in love with someone. So yea, a really long time. I wonder why sometimes I have delayed responses or have trouble processing emotions more quickly? I wonder sometimes what keeps me from owning fear, anxiety or in this case, love? What about those things makes me want to push them back? What makes me want to run away from them?

Vulnerability.

Perhaps, it boils down to wanting to avoid vulnerability at all costs. Honesty with emotions, whether it be fear, anger, stress, anxiety or love, requires a willingness to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable, it leaves room for you to get hurt or disappointed, and nobody wants that.

If I express my anger or frustration at someone, then it means laying my cards out on the table. But what if they don’t respond well? If I allow myself to show fear, then I feel like I lose all control. What if things don’t go the way I hoped? If I allow myself to express genuine and true love for a person, then they could reject me. What if I get hurt?

Update on my love life: The love that I expressed turned out to be unrequited. It was my biggest fear coming true in real time. Falling in love with someone only for it not to be reciprocated. I felt embarrassed. I felt confused. I felt exposed. I felt stupid. I was hurt.

So what did I do? Oh girl, I hard core stuffed those emotions, deep, deep down in a dark tunnel that no one could find.  I worked out to avoid feeling emotions. I worked more hours to avoid emotions. I slept to avoid emotions. I shopped to avoid emotions. And guess what? Six months later the emotions are still here. They didn’t go anywhere.

A friend recently gave me some words of wisdom that really pushed me to do better. She told that perhaps the first step is to acknowledge what it was. I had been running, stuffing and avoiding for so long that coming to terms with how I felt seemed impossible. As we sat, talked and sipped coffee, my heart began to ease and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.

Twenty Something Advice (for anyone):
“Being honest about your emotions and being vulnerable won’t destroy you. In fact, it’ll only make you stronger.”

Guess, what? I’m still here. Being honest about my emotions and being vulnerable didn’t destroy me. It didn’t kill me. While awfully uncomfortable, I think it actually made me stronger. I am still here. To be honest, it was relieving to just be honest. It was like releasing pressure from a balloon. Once it was pierced, it all just came out.

I fell in love with someone and that love was not reciprocated. OK. That’s what it is, but knowing that fact doesn’t destroy me. Oh, most certainly it hurts like all hell, but if it was love, of course the loss of it is going to hurt.

Days later since that conversation, I am starting to slowly feel better. I surely don’t have all the answers, but I am finding that part of being an adult and an overall emotionally healthy human being means allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable.

Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes it means relinquishing your control over a situation. But it is truly the only way to live an authentic and happy life. Vulnerability is strength.

And hey, now that I know what love feels like and that I am capable of it, the sky is the limit, right? I believe love will come again in time. In the meantime, I am going to work on being a normal human being. I am determined to own my emotions and not let them own or control me. Because that is what being an adult looks like.

Cheers to everyone going through growing pains! I’m right there with you.

-Stephkt

If You Do What You Love

A wise person once said, “If you do what you love, then you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I heard this saying so much as a kid. I understood it. I rehearsed it in my brain. I understood it. Or so I thought…

Recently, I had the pleasure of going home to Michigan for a high school friend’s graduation from the University of Michigan. She received her master’s degree in nursing and is now a certified midwife! It’s so crazy, yet fulfilling to watch old friends walk out the dreams that you once talked about in your teenage years. I’m so profoundly happy and proud of my friend.

While I was at her graduation and waiting for her to take what felt like a million pictures with her college friends and sorority sisters after the ceremony, a guy who I know from (wait for it) elementary, middle and high school in Michigan walks up to me to say hello. We start catching up and talking about how weird it is to be adults (so weird!)

He tells me about his corporate based job in Cincinnati, and I tell him about life in Los Angeles, the hustle to make rent, the fast-paced city life and the unique, quirky people. Then, he asks me the most simplistic yet real question, “Do you love what you’re doing?”

My response, “Yea, I really do.”

“Well, that’s all that matters,” he says with a smile.

Contemplating that conversation a week later, I now see a meaning I didn’t notice at first glance. My old classmate is so very right. Life in L.A. sometimes is so hard that life’s difficulties become my focus. Rent is crazy expensive. Traffic can be a headache. Finding and keeping true friends is an uphill battle in the city. Yet and still, I am here, and I am doing what I love. I am writing, and for that, I couldn’t more grateful.

You see, adulthood is hard no matter what city you live in. Life isn’t always fair or pretty, and when you’re an adult, you are responsible for every overdue assignment, every speeding ticket, every health bill and every dent in your fender. It’s all you, but if you are lucky enough to wake up every day and do what you love, well, my friend, you are living a real-life fairy tale.  Sure, it has it’s imperfections, but Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage was first a pumpkin and her ball gown was first a hand maiden’s rags.

Twenty-Something Lessons:
“If you are lucky enough to wake up every day and do what you love, then you are living a real-life fairy tale.”

There is so much joy and fulfillment in doing what you love, whether it’s writing, creating, directing, singing, acting or what have you. Pursuing your dreams and sticking to them is hard, I know. Yet, you have the courage to go after what you want whole heartedly. So many people are in unfulfilling jobs because work is, well, just work. Work is just a means of paying the bills. They wake up with that Sunday night dread every weekday.

You are pursuing your passions. The things you love. The things that make you so angry you want to change them. The things you are talented at. The dreams you had as a small kid? Hold tight and don’t let go.

If you are doing what you love, then that’s all that matters.

-Stephkt