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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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

 

Why Rejection Is a Semicolon and Not a Period

Life is hard, plain and simple. It is a truth that will forever withstand the lengths of time. Rejection is by far one of the hardest realities in this life. Whether it comes in the form of a breakup, a friendship ending, not getting accepted into a school or a job loss, rejection of any kind is extremely painful.

If we allow it to, it can leave us paralyzed with fear, the fear that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not beautiful enough, simply not enough. We can allow rejection to set the trajectory of our thoughts, in turn our behaviours and ultimately our lives.

Rejection doesn’t have to get the final say though. We need to go back to the drawing board. Instead of seeing rejection as defeat or the end of our stories, why not see it as a new beginning, a chance to start again? I know it was probably a devastating blow. It may have caught you off guard and left you on your knees, but there is hope for you, yet and still, my friend.

What if what we really need is not the thing we think we lost but a perspective shift? What if rejection is simply a teacher? All rejection holds universal truths and lessons we can take with us for the road ahead. So grab your hiking shoes and let’s get to climbing out of this rut.

Don’t let rejection define you.

I know I am so guilty of this. Anytime a relationship didn’t work out, it meant there was something wrong with me. I am not pretty enough. I am not witty enough. I am not kind enough. I am too much. When I recently was laid off from my job, it was so easy to fall back into this trap of allowing the job loss to determine my value. I began to think: Maybe I am not a good writer. I suck as an editor. There are people who are better at this job than I could ever be. I’m not good enough.

Haven’t we all been there? When we lose something that is so important to us, a job, a marriage or a friendship, we begin to let the loss communicate to our minds a lack of value in and of ourselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our careers, our dreams, our passions and the things and people we love can easily start to define us once we lose them. I would challenge you to not let this be the case. I know it is hard, but remind yourself that no one person or thing determines your worth. You have intrinsic value that can’t be shaken.

Allow a “no” to serve as a confidence builder.

This might sound counterintuitive, but anytime you hear a, “No,” a “I’m sorry but we have to let you go” or a “It’s not you. It’s me,” be grateful. One door closing releases you from something that wasn’t the best fit for you. That’s all a no really means. Pick your head up and keep going.

This no will only make your skin tougher and your bounce back stronger. If things were always easy and all we ever heard was “yes,” then we would never know what resilience looks like. Rejection is the perfect time to see the stuff we are made of, perseverance, endurance, strength and grit. Confidence is built out of enduring hard times.

Surround yourself with positive voices.

When I lost my job earlier this year, I didn’t tell many people. I partially kept it to myself because I was in shock. I also didn’t tell many people because I was hurting and in a sensitive place. I knew the people I told would have to be people who would let me grieve the loss and then encourage me. I needed people who would sit in my pit with me and then help me climb out once I was ready to.

When you face rejection of any kind, it is painful, so very painful. The load of rejection gets lighter when we ask for help to carry it. Reach out to positive people who will be a voice of encouragement in your ear. Tell them about the rejection you are facing. Delve into all of your feelings of shock, sadness, hurt and fear. Be 100 percent real. This is your time to grieve. Be careful not to share with anyone who will cause you to worry or allow you to stay in a place of pity or bitterness. Positive voices are the key.

Determine that this is only temporary.

When we are faced with rejection, it is often unforeseen. We didn’t see it coming, and it can be difficult to know when it and the feelings that result from it will end. While there’s no definite answer, we have to remember this is just a drop in the bucket of time of our stories. It is only one chapter. Now is not your forever. Storms always come to an end. This is only temporary.

Get back in the game.

Dust yourself off and get back up. This is probably the most important truth to remember. Rejection can feel like a punch in the gut. It leaves you reeling and knocks you to the ground, but you don’t have to stay down. You can get back up. It’s a choice. It’ll more than likely hurt at first, but get back up any way.

Rejection is not the end of my story, nor yours, my beautiful friend.

This post originally appeared on Darling Magazine.

Learning the Dance of Making Friends in a New City

Moving to a new city is hard. Anyone who has lived in multiple cities, states or even countries  understands what it means to be the Jess in New Girl all too well (sans the apartment full of quirky, childlike men as roommates.)

If there is anything you desire most when moving to a new city, then it is friendships. Not those people who rarely call or text. Not those people who go out with you every once in awhile to capture an Instagram worthy pic. True, real, unadulterated friendship. You want it, but when moving to a new city, it can seem intimidating and overwhelming.

Here are some tips on how to make real friends:

1. Get involved in things you care about.

Moving to a new city is a great opportunity to get involved in causes and organizations you care about. Once you do, you’ll meet people with similar interests and passions. A guaranteed conversation starter and a road to meet like-minded people.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone.

In a new place, there will be ample opportunity to try new things. Do things you normally would never agree to. By taking a chance and adventuring into the unknown, you will expand your net and meet people along the way. Don’t forget to smile.

3. Say “yes” more than you say “no.”

After a long day of work, the last thing you want to go do is try that cardio kickboxing class your coworker invited you to or go to on coffee date your neighbor suggested. Do it! The more you are willing to be open to people, the more friends you will make.

4. Network, network, network.

The word “networking” can seem intimidating and nerve-wracking, but what it really boils down to is asking questions and listening. Find ways you can help other people and ask them for help when you need it. Networking means learning to connect and take an interest in people.

While we of course all want friends, we also don’t want to settle. Here are some bonus tips:

Don’t try to force anything that isn’t organic.

Making friends is a lot like dating. If the puzzle pieces don’t fit in a relationship, then you part ways. Same thing goes for making friends. If there is no real chemistry or you just don’t click, then it is perfectly OK to let it run its course.

Flaky or inconsistent behavior is a red flag.

Someone who says one thing and does another, someone who constantly cancels (of course unless they have a legitimate reason) or someone who only comes around when they need something, stop the friendship. Not only should you stop it, but you should actively move in the opposite direction.

Never beg.

Never beg anyone to be your friend. If you are always the one initiating or asking to hang out and their response is always delayed, they cancel, are indecisive or (worst of all) never respond at all, let it go. Never beg. You are too valuable for that.

This post originally appeared on FabFitFun.

Hold On to Let Go

LettingGo

If you’ve listened to the radio the last few months, you might guess that the title for today’s blog comes from the Top 40 hit, Lean On (by Major Lazer and DJ Snake). The song, with an eclectic mix of reggae, pop and electric, repeats the line “We would only hold on to let go.” This message has been etched into my head: That sometimes, even though all we want is security, the best thing we can do is hold on to the idea of letting go.

In the last few months, I have seen a lot of change in my life. From moving out of my parents’ home, to watching my closest friendship grow apart, to dating a guy to back to being single, change has been happening all around me.There have been a number of days where I wanted to stay in bed with the pillows over my head (and let’s be honest, I definitely had those days).

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“If you try to hold on to everything from seasons past, you’ll never see the beauty of today.”

Change will do that to the best of us. It’ll leave you scared, cringing in pain or running frantically in the opposite direction. I think what I have been realizing is that change, although painful at times, is necessary. If I try to hold on to everything and everyone from seasons past, I’ll never see the beauty of now, of today, of this moment. Everything and everyone isn’t meant to travel along with us into our futures. Although painful at times, letting go is a necessary part of life.

My godmom gave me a pep talk a few weeks ago, and she told me, “Stephanie, if someone is for you, they will be a part of your life.” What a relief that was to hear. I won’t have to beg, plead, force or finagle a person or a thing into my life. If it is meant to be, it will be. Sometimes you just have to let go. Whether it means forgiving someone, quitting a job, moving away, sometimes letting go takes more strength than holding on.

So for all my twenty something readers, maybe there are things that you can let go of. As fall steadily approaches and the new school year begins for so many, it may just be the perfect time to let go of something or someone. As you let go and release whatever you’ve been holding on to, it’ll be amazing to see what new things you make room for: adventure, growth, love, independence. The ball is in your court. Here’s to letting go!

-Stephkt

Right Now

Change

Change. That’s what my life has looked a lot like lately. Everywhere I turn, all I see is change and to be honest I haven’t always dealt with it the best.There’s been so much change lately I haven’t written in a month! That’s nuts!

Earlier this month, my parents left the house we have lived at for the last 9 years. I am crashing at a friend’s apartment for the next few months. My closest friendship ended recently. I am looking at moving out of state in a few months to pursue my writing career. Change.

The twenties are all about change. Around every corner, every turn, every side road, it seems there is a change awaiting. How do you keep your head together during the change? How do you manage to keep your footing when the ground beneath your seems to be shaking? When the life you’ve known for so long seems to be coming undone, what do you hold on to?

I cannot pretend that I have all the answers to this. As I am still very much figuring out the tumultuous twenties, I think I am starting to realize the best way to handle change is to focus on right now. Instead of worrying about what will happen or being afraid of letting go of what used to be, focus on now. Enjoy now because right now is all we’ve got.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“We’ll never be as young as we are right now. We’ll never see the world like we do right now. So take in what’s around you. Take a shot. Give it all you’ve got.”

Don’t get stuck looking back at what was. If you’re always looking forward or always looking back, how can you enjoy right now? Take in what’s around you. Let go a little. Enjoy the ride you are on now. You can navigate the change just ahead.

-Stephkt

Find Your Tribe: For Paul Walker

friendship

The twenties are all about finding yourself. You try some things. You make some choices. You take some chances. You fall. You bruise. You get back up and try again. What a roller coaster ride!

At 24, I am constantly becoming more aware of who I am, my likes, my dislikes, my passions, the things I value most, the things that can use some changing, the things that I hold valuable and other things that I can lighten my grip on. The twenties are one big decade of learning, and a big part of that journey to self discovery is finding the people who will make the journey with you.

I recently saw Furious 7, the seventh installment to the Fast and Furious franchise. I had read reviews that said there hasn’t been one dry in eye in theater after the movie’s ending, and I was no exception to that. Typically, when characters exit in a film, you can walk away knowing it was just acting, but this film leaves you with a gripping sense of finality. As most of the world knows, one of the lead characters, Paul Walker, died in a car crash November 30, 2013. The movie had not yet finished filming before Walker’s tragic death, which makes its message of brotherhood, friendship and solidarity ring all the more true.

The film franchise has been criticized at times for its sometimes predictable story lines and not so stellar acting. Even if fast cars, action and muscle aren’t you’re idea of a good time, there is a message we can all take from, not only the Fast and Furious films’ message, but the people behind it: the value of true friendship.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Life has little to do with the destination. The destination is but a mere, hazy mirage in the distance. Life is not all about the journey because even that can seem unbearable at times. Life is mostly about people, the ones who run along side you and make the journey ahead not as hard.”

Vin Diesel has been quoted recently as saying that the friendships seen in the movie are not just acting, but they are the real thing. Paul Walker was not just his co-star the last 15 years, but his best friend, a brother, not by blood but by choice. And that my dear readers is what life is all about, finding your tribe, finding the people who will take you good and bad, love you at your best and love you through your worst.

“This movie is more than a movie. You’ll feel it when you see it. Something emotional happens to you. When you walk out of this movie, you’ll appreciate everyone you love. You just never know when the last day is that you are going to see them,” says Diesel in a USA Today news story.

People. Life is all about people, they are what fill the pages of your life with beautiful colors, laughter, joy, tears. Though difficult and trying at times, people are what make life worth living. I have learned and am still learning that we are built for community. Friendship is a gift, a rarity. True friendship is a bond that can’t be contrived or forced.

If you haven’t found that true friendship yet, don’t worry. The best way to find it is just by being your most authentic self. So don’t bend and break in an effort to find it, but when you find authentic ones, ones where you are safe to be 100 percent yourself, yet dangerous enough that you are challenged to grow, hold onto them with all you’ve got. Because friends, authentic friends, are the family we choose. They’re what life is all about (and they make any journey, especially the twenties, worth the ride.)

Be sure to watch the video for the movie’s single, See You Again. It’ll be sure to get stuck in your heard.

-Stephkt