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 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

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.

How the Job Hunt Is a Lot Like Dating (and How to Deal)

Dating is rough — especially in today’s millennial, app-driven, and instant-gratification society. The game of going to countless dinners with different people, having numerous awkward first dates, and swiping left and right based on a cursory glance, is not an easy process. And the job hunt is no different.

Both dating and job searching is so much alike, in fact, that you can’t help but laugh at the similarities.

It’s always a waiting game. You send in your resume, cover letter, and references. Then, you wait. HR emails you to set up a phone call and you respond right away. Then, you wait. You nail the phone call, they ask you to come in for an in-person interview and you agree. Then, you wait. You interview and follow-up with a thank you. Then, you wait. It sounds a lot like waiting for a guy to text back, waiting to see if a guy will you ask you out again, and waiting to see when he might call.

There’s a lot of uncertainty. With job searching, there aren’t any guarantees. So often in the job search, a person will walk away feeling like they’ve landed the position, only to not receive a job offer. Same goes for the dating world. Those who date are in on-again, off-again relationships or are in relationships they thought were for the long haul but suddenly ended. However, with all the uncertainty, comes a chance for adventure and an opportunity for something great.

You want the best fit for both parties involved. The older you get, the more you understand this rule of thumb in job searching and dating. You want a career and relationship with a person who is the best fit for you and for you to be the best fit for them. There’s no room for settling. If the pieces don’t truly fit, then you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice in the long run.

The initial interview (or date) is nerve-wracking. The first date butterflies are all too familiar. They’re similar to the experience of going on an interview for a job. You want your hair, your outfit, and your makeup to be just right. Whether you’re meeting your future partner or your future employer, you want to impress the other person sitting in front of you.

Confidence is key. You have to know who you are, what you want, and what you bring to the table. If you’re not confident, then the job recruiter or potential boo will see right through you. Know your worth, and you’ll find the right job and person for you.

This post originally appeared on FabFitFun.

How a Layoff in My Mid-Twenties Gave Me the Jumpstart I Needed

“You are good enough.”

I sat across the table from a friend in a dainty coffee shop on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Her words reverberated across the room, bouncing off the table, clanging across the window chimes, spinning around the revolving door back to slap me in the middle of the face.

Good enough? Am I really?

In that moment and in the weeks leading up to it, questioning my worth had become the norm. I sat there, hair in a messy ponytail, wearing oversized sweatpants, clearly too underdressed for the swanky shop, pondering her words, the simplicity of which left me befuddled. A true moment of authenticity and profundity on a cool, February evening.

Two weeks prior I had been laid off from job, abruptly, unexpectedly and painfully. It was my first big girl job in L.A., an editor job at that. I was pursuing my passion of writing while living in the City of Angels. My dreams were coming true, until suddenly my train was derailed from the track. The dream I had been holding so dearly had been swept out from under me.

I was at a loss.

In the weeks and months post job layoff, I would learn enough lessons to write a book. Lessons about rejection, bouncing back, how a “no” isn’t always a bad thing, the importance of an emergency fund and the value of authentic friendships during hard times. In these lessons, there are some universal truths I have found that apply to any rejection, whether it be a job loss, a breakup, a “no” from a college or university or a friendship ending. Sometimes, the most painful events that seem like endings to a story are often the beginning of a new, better story.

1- Rejection forces you to reevaluate what’s important.

Prior to my job loss, I made a list of things I was passionate about as a part of my New Year’s resolutions. I wanted to focus on the areas and subject matters that deeply mattered to me, things that excited me to wake up each morning, things I wanted so desperately to help change and make better, things that I would work on even if there was no income. I came back to this list after my layoff, and I quickly realized that perhaps losing my job was a chance to pursue a career path that was more authentic to my own passions. This season of my life has helped me to become reacquainted with the woman staring back at me in the mirror, what matters most to her and the kind of work she is most passionate about.

2- An unexpected turn can lead to unexpected opportunities.

In my time without a full-time job, I have decided to say “yes” more often. I say yes to things that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do with a full-time job like going to museums, volunteering, taking on freelance work, trying out morning and afternoon workout classes and going on coffee dates with friends. Sometimes a closed door redirects you and opens you up to other opportunities and doors that may not have been available before.

3- Life’s hard realities not only act as teachers but help you to help others.

So many people have been where I have been before. So many people will be where I am standing once this is all a memory to me. At first I felt so much shame about losing my job. I told friends that I felt like I had gotten all A’s in adulthood and then all the sudden had been handed a D. However, I realize now that a job loss doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me human, and if anything, it gives me empathy to understand other people struggling with rejection of any kind.

4- You realize where your value lies.

Sometimes, we hold onto things so tightly that they start to define us. When we lose them, we lose sight of who we are. We all desire love and success, but it is life’s greatest balancing act to not allow those things, what we do, the passions we have and the people we love, to define us.

What’s for me will be mine. I won’t have to beg, plead, bend or break for it. What and who is for me, will be, pure and simple. I have learned and am still learning to hold the things and people in my life with a loose grip. To embrace them but to not be defined by them. To not allow the absence of a thing or person to break me.

5- During life’s storm, your roots grow deeper.

I hate cliches, but they are typically accurate. As the saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.” I am learning, though, that the rain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rain helps you grow, and when you are faced with adversity, it really shows you how strong you can be. I have been reminded of my own inner strength to keep pushing forward and to get back up.

Life is hard sometimes. I don’t think there any other way to put it. Sometimes, life just sucks. It deals you an unexpected hand, and it is up to you to make the most out of it. As I sit in this season of rain in my life, I am reminded that I am not defined by the things that I lose. I look out with hope, knowing the sun will come again.

This post originally appeared on Darling Magazine.