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

 

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.

When I Felt Like Jennifer Aniston in the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie Debacle

The echo resounded around the world. The ripple effect could be felt seemingly everywhere. It was like a pen dropping in a starkly, silent room. Unfortunately, I am not talking about important world events like the hurricane in Haiti or the Syrian civil war. I am talking about the breakup of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Shocking.

Everyone seemed to have their two cents to give. Their names were sprawled across headlines everywhere. Daytime talk show hosts had a field day picking apart the history of this relationship and how it was doomed for chaos from the start.

The one unsuspecting player in this game of love and war was Jennifer Aniston. If you aren’t aware, Jennifer is the former wife of Brad Pitt, pre- Angelina Jolie. It is largely speculated that the end of their five-year marriage (2000-2005) was due to an affair with Angelina Jolie that began on the set of “Mr & Mrs. Smith.”

What I found most interesting about the whole scenario was how Jennifer was brought into the commotion of her ex’s divorce. It seemed a bit unfair to bring Jennifer, who has been divorced from this man for 11 years and is also remarried, into the conversation.

Let’s be real…..she has absolutely nothing to do with it. She is her own person, as is he. She was Jennifer Aniston before she met Brad Pitt and will be long after. She is not him.

Saying all this to say, I can relate. (Not that I can understand the celebrity life that Jennifer lives by any means.) Recently, someone from college reached out to me via text. We exchanged the regular, “How are you’s?” and “I’m doing wells.” And then she asked me the question I wasn’t expecting….”How are you doing about (insert my ex’s name here)?”

To properly set the scene here, I was at work, swamped with a stack of stories to edit and probably shouldn’t have been checking my phone (since it is distracting, but I did anyway.) So when I got this message, to say I was caught off-guard would be a huge understatement. The ex I was being questioned about was someone I dated in college, five years ago. (I laughed just typing that because it still gets me.)

My ex is engaged. So on one hand, I suppose I get it….I lie. No, I don’t. I don’t understand why anyone would ask me about someone I dated more than half a decade ago. Because here’s the thing, that was a long time ago. I’ve moved on. He’s moved on. I’ll tell you something else…I did the work (back then) that I needed to do to move on. I did the whole “unfollowing” on all social media accounts thing. (And I stopped any and all creeping.) I deleted his number. I moved away after graduating college. I worked on myself. I spent time on my knees praying and talking to God more than I had ever done. I looked in the mirror and worked on myself. I got knocked down, but then I got back up. I took time, and guess what? I healed. Like 100 percent healed. My heart is OK. In fact, it is wonderful.

Twenty-Something Advice (for anybody):
“There is so much freedom and beauty in moving on, in setting something and someone free when it’s time.”

The optimistic side of me would like to think this friend from college reached out to me out of genuine concern, which I’m sure is partially true. I just wonder how often we do this to other people and to ourselves. How often do we attach people to a person or thing from their past? How often do we bring up things that we’ve put to rest and need to stay there?

When I heard all the comments about Jennifer Aniston in the news lately, my first thought was, “Let her live her life.” She moved on from Brad Pitt. I am guessing it hurt, a lot, at the time, but that was 11 years ago. For me, it was more than five years ago (almost six). I’ve moved on. I’m good. I’m genuinely happy. I did the work I needed to do to learn from that situation and that relationship. It was a teacher. I’d like to think that my name won’t forever be attached to an ex’s. I am, in fact, my own person. I was before that relationship, and I still am now.

With all sincerity, I wish my ex well. I am not angry, bitter, mad or heartbroken. I hope he is happy. Once upon a time, he and I were friends. Before the breakup, before dating, we were friends. So that part of me, the part that saw him as my friend, still has good will toward him. I have nothing but good thoughts to send his way. Five years ago, when we first broke up, I probably couldn’t have said that. But now, today, I’m good. We’ve all moved on, and I am happy that he is happy. He deserves that. He deserves to move on and live his life, as do I.

I think that’s the lesson here, learning to (genuinely) let go of people and things when it’s time. I think it’s important to not hold on when it’s time to turn the page. I know social media makes it so easy to peer into the past and creep (as the millennial generation so fondly calls it), but I’d advocate that there is so much freedom and beauty in moving on, in setting something and someone free when it’s time.

So here’s to hoping 11 years from now, someone isn’t texting you about your ex from high school or college. Here’s to hoping who you once were won’t define how you see yourself now. It’s time to let it go.

-Stephkt