Lessons Learned 2 Years in LA: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

I have said it a million times, and I will say it again. Making it in Los Angeles is hard.

There’s the gas prices. The traffic. Rent. And the people, oh the people.

I joke that living in LA is like being in high school all over again. There are the super popular kids clad in their designer shades with their puppies in tow. (Just to give you a taste of my personality, growing up, I always thought the popular kids were stupid because they didn’t think for themselves. Not cute, boo boo. Not cute.) Short anecdote: Freshman year of high school, a girl who would go on to be the queen bee of the popular girls invited me into the clique, but I avoided them at lunch simply because I knew they disliked one of my middle school friends. (Even at 13, I wasn’t about that “follow the leader” life.)

Then, there’s the ultra artsy Los Angeles people who take weird to a whole new level. I thought I was weird, and then, I met people here. Let’s just say everything goes in the City of Angels. Nothing I see shocks me at this point. There will always be something in 10 minutes that will out-weird what just happened.

If you let it, Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it. It can also make you a stronger, and, dare I say it, better person. In my second year in my dream city, with every turn, it seems I have faced a new set of obstacles. There were some moments when things were so bad I simply had to laugh to keep from crying. My friend Jade and I became masters at the “laughing at your pain” mantra.

“Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it.”

There was the job lay-off at 26. The roommate remiss of caring for her dog  (i.e. a regularly pee- and poop-stained carpet. You’re welcome for that imagery.) There was the vandalized car window. The getting rear-ended by an uninsured driver at a red light that nearly totaled my car. The five hundred plus dollars spent to get my Jeep fixed in order to pass the California smog test, just to spend nearly the same amount to get my California tags and plates. (Yay, me!) Then, there was the hurdle of getting over the three-year friendlationship that I thought just might be “the one.” Oh, and just this week, there was the moment where I nearly flooded my friend’s kitchen (sorry, Jade) and had my things attacked by ants in the bedroom the next day. (Shower, please?)

Like I said, rough year. But with every rainy cloud, there was a silver lining. There was crossing the finish line of my first half marathon. (I literally could not feel my legs but have never felt more proud in my life.) There was the benefit concert that an old roommate, myself and few loyal friends teamed up to create. I stepped out of my comfort zone and played MC/hostess for the night, and we raised more than $1,000 for Syrian refugees.

There was getting to go back home to Michigan, Oklahoma and Georgia (yes, I have a lot of homes) to see family and friends and get so much quality time, hugs and kisses to fill my heart up. There was the starting my freelance journalism career (more like stumbling into it) that pressed me to be more confident than ever in my writing, editing and negotiating skills. There was stepping out of my comfort zone, auditioning for my church’s music team and making it!

There were also some laughs. (Well, actually lots of those.) There was the time I ran through a fountain on Hollywood Boulevard and ran into a huge sign in front of hundreds of people. There were the awkward dates that made for lots of witty banter with friends later on. (A Mercedes-Benz will not compensate for bad grammar folks.) There was the guy I met at a party who told me I look like someone who has money. (Apparently, I look like I make money moves.) There was reconnecting with my middle school crush and realizing I can do so much better. (His loss.)

With every turn of the page this year, there has seemed to be a hurdle. Clearly, I must be on to something good. As one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist says in her book Cold Tangerines, “Nothing good comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

“The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

2017 has shown me that I am stronger, tougher and more resilient than I realized. There have been a number of times when I’ve told my friend Sam that I was quitting, packing up and moving back to Oklahoma. I never once meant it. You see, what I have learned through of all this adversity is that I am no quitter.

While I may get knocked down, I always, always get back up. Oftentimes, I have sold myself short, in friendship, in love, in career, but not anymore. If I want the best, if I want more, then I have to ask for it. No one will believe in me unless I do. LA has taught me that people will walk right over me until I say, “Enough.” Living here has taught me that a “no” isn’t a bad thing, but it just leads you to the right “yes.” It has taught me that rejection does not equate to failure but can be information to redirect you where you need to go.

If there’s any words of wisdom I can share to you as you wrap up your 2017 and start your 2018, I’d say this: Sometimes, you have to be your own best friend, your own cheerleader, your own advocate, your own defense, your own believer. If you’re going to bet on anyone, bet on yourself.

I’ve been backed in a corner a number of times this year, but I haven’t given up. And I’ll keep not giving up, dusting myself off, holding fast to hope while encouraging yours. Yet and still, I am hopeful, yet and still.

Happy New Years friends! And thank you to all my beautiful family and friends who made 2017 sweet.

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This post later appeared on Hello Giggles.

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Say Yes

say yes

My closest friend has on more than one occasion accused me of being a man hater. Her exact words….. “Stephanie is skeptical of men.” No matter how much I try to refute this, my friend is in fact right. When it comes to my friends and guys, I am the mother hen, waiting to swoop in and save the day from any man whore, liar, Mr. Here Today and Gone tomorrow. I stand ready and on guard to help my friends avoid having their hearts broken by guys who do not see their value and worth.

I can tell you for 100% fact (and yes, I may indeed be biased), but my friends (most of whom are single) are AWESOME! They are gorgeous, educated, independent, well-traveled, witty, adventurous and fun. What more can a guy ask for, right?!

Not only am I defensive when it comes to guys whom my friends show potential interest in, but I am also defensive regarding myself. What I realized as of late is that in all my strong, independent and vivacious nature, I have also been afraid. Afraid of what you may ask? Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of going back to a place I have known all too well before: heartache. If you’ve never been there, trust me. It is not the most fun place to be.

My light bulb moment about my fear came recently when I was asked out on a date and gasp! I actually said yes. However, very quickly my fears manifested. I couldn’t allow myself to be open very long without the fear creeping up in the back of my mind. There were those nagging questions, “What if this guy hurts me? What if I start to fall for him and he leaves?”

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Say yes, more than you say no. Even if you turn out to be wrong. Because every mistake, every heartache and every blunder is just another step on the journey of where you are ultimately meant to be.”

What I realized is that by allowing my fears to dominate my thoughts, I’m doing myself a disservice. Often times, the thing we fear the most manifests in our lives. It’s almost as if we attract the very thing we fear. Yes, there’s a possibility that I and my friends may date Mr. Not So Rights, but there’s also a chance that we might each find really, great guys. Sometimes you have to stumble along the way in life and love until finally you get it right!

My recent dating situation did not turn out the way I had hoped it would. But you know what? I am proud of myself because I said yes. I said yes to a first date, and a second and a third. I took a risk. I took a chance. So what that it didn’t turn out to be happily ever after! In all honesty, it hurt. I got hurt, but I know I will be okay. Every mistake, every heartache and every blunder is just another step on my journey of where I am ultimately meant to be.

You know what I also learned from this situation: I can trust myself. There’s this still, small voice on the inside of me (some may call it a woman’s intuition, others’ a gut feeling, others’ the voice of God) that I can trust not to lead me astray. I can feel free to say yes to a date without fear. In this last dating situation, that still, small voice told me this guy wasn’t best for me and that is completely okay. Saying yes to a date is not the same as saying yes to an engagement proposal. It does not mean forever and always. It simply means: Yes, I will be brave enough to take a chance on something new.

So say yes. When a decent guy who you potentially could be interested in and are attracted to asks you out, say yes. Of course if you notice big red flags about the guy (like approaching you in a creepy or disrespectful way), feel free to say no. Just don’t be afraid to take chances. Yes, you may get hurt and you may mess up, but there’s grace for that. In this very moment, I am choosing to show myself some much needed grace. It’s not the end of the world. This guy just wasn’t best for me, but I won’t allow it to make me afraid. I’ll keep going and only be stronger because of it. There’s grace for you too. You will learn from it and only be stronger in the end.

-Stephkt

Even Superwoman Needs a Day Off

13 Going on 30 is my all time favorite movie. As I am sitting here letting Billy Joel serenade me to the tune of Vienna, I am reminded of the power of a four letter word, rest. What comes to mind is the scene in 13 Going on 30, when Jennifer Gardner has to return home to New Jersey. After a few bumps and bruises in the “real world”, she ran to her safe place, the place where she knew she would always belong, home. She ran to her parents, the people she knew loved her regardless of the mistakes she had made. She found the thing she needed most, peace of mind.

If your life is anything like mine, the twenties are not a straight path. I am 23 and so far this journey I am on has had its share of detours, bumps and hills. The last few months I have had a lot on my plate. It seems like there have been a lot more bumps than smooth sailing. I am not sure how some women are able to work forty hours a week, get in a workout three to five days a week and put food on the table for other little mouths. I struggle to be able to do all of that just for myself.

If I could describe my life as of late, I would say exhausting. There is always somewhere to be. Something to get done. A meal to be made. An assignment to work on. Someone to meet. Someone to take care of. There’s always something. On top of that, I have had a lot of work and friend tensions the past few months. So much so that it has left my head spinning.

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Earlier this week, I was sick and off from work. So I made the decision to allow myself some much needed rest. I decided to take care of myself, body, mind and spirit. I know that the season I am in right now will eventually pass. So it is important that I take from it the lessons it has come to teach me and remember to nurture myself along the way. Just like Jennifer Gardner in 13 Going on 30, I needed my own time of respite, rest and quiet. I didn’t get the smiley face pancakes or the chance to sleep in my parents’ bed the way she did in the movie, but I did get to go for a walk, have brunch with a friend, take a nap in the daytime, read before bedtime and cook a nice, warm meal.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?

Vienna, as sung by Billy Joel

The thing that I have learned so far as a twenty something is that seasons come and go. Learn from each season what it has come to teach you about yourself. This season has taught me the importance of showing myself and others some much needed grace. It has taught me the importance of rest and solitude. So maybe, you’re like me and have had it rough lately. Maybe you have had so much on your plate with family, friends and work that it has left you feeling overwhelmed. My advice: rest. Take some time to yourself. If you’re exhausted, rest my friend. If you’re sad, cry. If you’re lonely, reach out to someone who you feel safe sharing with.

It’s completely okay to not have it all together all the time. A friend had to remind me of this the other day. Exhausted, she allowed me to fall apart in her arms. I was quite surprised and embarrassed by my tears. Life had taken its toll and my spirit was drained, but my friend reassured me that it was okay. She told me that while my go getter attitude is great, the tears I cried were even more beautiful. It was the first time I had allowed myself to be that vulnerable in a long time. After recovering from the initial shock of it, it actually felt pretty darn good. So often I try to be everything for everyone and wear a smile while doing it. Even super woman needs a day off to take care of herself. Even superwoman needs help sometimes. I am so glad a friend reminded me of this.

To all you twenty somethings, I ask, are you taking care of yourself? What does your situation look like? Are you at a new job or trying to adjust to a new city? Is work a little stressful? Are you having trouble getting along with someone at the office?  Are you stressed looking for a job? Are you finding as you get older that you are growing apart from childhood friends? Are you going through a breakup? Are you stressed from having to take care of family members? Whatever is on your plate today, I encourage you to rest. Take care of you. It’s okay if you’re not feeling strong today. This season will pass friend, and I guarantee you will be stronger for it.

-Stephkt

 

Momma Knows Best

I would cringe at the thought of these words when I was a kid. “Momma knows best.” You’re kidding me, right? Now I have come to understand the value of a mother’s wisdom and insight. We often feel that our parents are clueless about whatever stage of life we may find ourselves in. The truth is, they’ve been there. They have walked in our shoes before, which makes the weight of their advice that much more substantial.

MommaKnowsBest4Big hair and beautiful smile, my mom in the 80s

This didn’t quite click for me until a few years ago when I was going through a phase of rejection. I was applying to job after job and not hearing back or I was getting the call for a first interview and never hearing a resounding yes at the end of it. I like to think of myself as a go getter. I work hard for what I want in career, physical fitness, relationships, etc. I go after it. So what’s a go getter like me do when she hears no? I kept trying……and trying and trying and trying.

Now, lets be clear, there’s nothing wrong with refusing to quit. It is actually quiet rare that you meet people, who after much adversity and let downs, have continued to pursue a dream. Those people are rare. However, with the “never quit” mentality, I have learned there comes a balancing act, as well.

After what seemed like dozens of doors slamming in my face, I felt defeated. So what did I do? I felt sorry for myself. I turned on He’s Just that Not Into You and grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s (actually Blue Bell because I am from the mid-west) and moped. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like rejection just kept calling my name.

Luckily, my pity party was interrupted by the words of MY MOTHER. I do not believe in luck or chance. So I will call this a moment of grace. When I reached a low point in my post-grad job search, I remembered an incidence as a child when I had faced rejection and the words my mom once spoke to me rang in my ears.

MommaKnowsBest5My mom helping me blow out the candles at my third birthday party

Here’s the story: I was in middle school, and a friend of mine had a birthday coming soon. In middle school, a girl’s birthday translates into one word, sleepover! As a kid, I was a pretty outgoing girl. I always had a lot of friends and I loved making new ones. Getting invited to a sleepover in middle school is essentially the same thing as an actor or actress being nominated for an Oscar. It’s a a big deal.

I remember all the girls were talking about the upcoming festivities. Everything from the location, to the theme, to the food, to the little invites…….but wait, I didn’t get an invite. This had to be some sort of mistake. This girl and I were friends. We may have grown apart that year because we had different homerooms but we were still good friends. I was in her group, her circle of people. How could she not invite me? Plus, she had kind of made it seem like I was invited by telling me about it. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

So I went home and cried to my mom. I felt left out. Did these girls not like me anymore? Why wasn’t I included? Why wasn’t my name on the elite list of birthday party attendees? I dried my eyes and went to school the next day, still confused and feeling left out. A few days later, the birthday girl handed me the golden ticket, an invite! I was so excited! She told me that one of the girls wasn’t going to be able to make it. She said she had wanted to invite me in the first place, but her mom only allowed her to invite a certain number of people. Now that one girl couldn’t come, I was invited!

Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I ran home and took the invite to my mom, telling her all the details. I just knew she would be just as excited as I was because she knew how disappointed I had been earlier that week. Excitement was far from her reaction. I will never forget. My mom turned to me and politely said, “Stephanie, you’re not going.” What??!! I shouted. I screamed. I whined. I cried. (So maybe I was a little bit dramatic as a child?) Why couldn’t I go? I had the invite. I remember trying to reason with my mom as a ten-year-old, explaining to her the only reason I hadn’t been invited is because there was a limit on how many girls could sleep over due to space. My friend wanted me there, but she just couldn’t add another person, but now a spot was open. Why couldn’t I take it?

My mom gently sat met down and explained to me that if “my friend” had wanted me at her party, she would have invited me. I would have been included from the beginning. She told me that I shouldn’t have to cry or beg to be included on someone’s elite list. By going to her party, I was essentially settling for being someone’s second choice, and no daughter of her’s was going to settle for being second rate.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“If a pair of shoes doesn’t fit today, they won’t fit tomorrow. Neither will that guy or that job. Don’t settle.”

I do not believe I ever really understood my mom’s reasoning until I reached adulthood and again was faced with rejection. Life is hard and it takes a lot of work. So yes, go after what you want. Do your best and give it your all, but if you find that one door simply isn’t opening, find another one. Do not give up on your dream, but understand that just because one job, relationship or city didn’t quite fit you, doesn’t mean there isn’t another one out there that is perfect for you.

If you’re anything like me, rejection hurts. I have faced it in dating, in friendships and in the career hunt, but I am learning that what looks like rejection is really a mix of protection and redirection. If you apply for a job, take all the necessary steps and still get a no, don’t keep emailing the HR person pleading your case. If a guy breaks up with you for someone else, let him go. If a friend walks out on you, let them leave.

Like I said, I am a hard working kind of person, but what I am learning is not to confuse persistence with desperation. Never be so desperate for a relationship or job that you cannot see yourself without it. Believe in yourself and know that you deserve the best in life. When you have this confidence, you will surely attract the best and you won’t have to beg for it. Value yourself enough to know when to walk away. You are too good to be desperate for anything or anyone. As my mom once told me, “Never settle for being someone’s second choice.”

MommaKnowsBest1Mommy and me

-Stephkt