Lessons in Adulting: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

As I am typing this, I am sitting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The weather forecast says 100 percent chance of snow, and boy, was The Weather Channel right. Looking across the airport monitors, it reads “CANCELLED” in big bold, red letters numerous times. Luckily, my flight is not cancelled. It’s just delayed 30 minutes right now.

Today, marks the next chapter of a new adventure. I am headed to Italy for three months to teach English. (Che magnifico!) Before then, I am traveling east from Los Angeles throughout the country. ( I miss the City of Angeles already, especially the sun. Oh, the bright, beautiful, relentless sun.) I’ve been in the Twin Cities for a few weeks visiting a friend, and next, I’m off to NYC/Vermont to see friends there.

Today’s travels are hectic. The schedule looks like flying from Minneapolis, MN to Charlotte, NC, and then, I have a connecting flight from Charlotte to NYC. (Fingers crossed that the snow doesn’t make me miss my connecting flight. I’ve already had to be rebooked once.) Once I arrive at La Guardia airport, I am off to Vermont via bus. So like I said….a lot.

I am nervous, excited, eager and sleep-deprived. (I woke up at midnight, then 2:00 a.m., then 3:00, 4:30, 4:45 and at this point I just stayed up until my alarm went off at 5:15.) As I tossed and turned, wrestling with getting enough sleep last night, the day’s plans ran through my head as I figured out Ubers, planes, buses, subway rides, etc. Basically, I kind of, sort of freaked out a little.

Nervousness turned to worry. Worry turned to anxiety. Anxiety turned into nearly freaking out (which can show itself in a number of ways.)

Then, I took a breath. I remembered why I am doing this. Adventure. Opportunity. Experience. Fun. Change. Growth. I reminded myself that I am brave and that I am stronger and more capable than I often give myself credit. I told myself that I can do this. Basically, I gave myself an inner pep talk.

When it comes to life and career, I have a motto I live by. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Whenever I dream of doing something, big or small, I repeat this phrase in my head. This is what I told myself when I went to New York City for the first time at 20 and took an internship at Time Inc. This is what I told myself when I moved to Los Angeles. This is what I told myself when I ran a half marathon last year.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

I think it is perfectly OK to feel fear. In fact, it’s natural. Like a point blank, non-negotiable, gonna happen, fact of life type of thing. Fear will come and go just like any emotion, but it’s up to each of us what we will choose to do in the face of fear. Will we let it conquer us and have the final say so? Or will we stare it in the eye, like a bully on the playground, and choose to get back up when it knocks us down?

So many of my friends and family think I am this brave, adventurous girl who isn’t afraid of anything. I’d hate to ever disparage this lofty idea of me, but I feel fear all the time. I just choose to not let it stop me. I never want to look back and live a life of what-ifs.

Here’s the thing, if you wait until it doesn’t feel scary, you’ll be waiting your whole life. So don’t wait. It might seem crazy to others looking on from the outside, but you will never regret actively pursuing your dreams in the face of fear. A life of passion is never something you regret.

I’ll leave you with a quote I overheard last week from the show Master of None (which by the way I have never watched), “Our time to do crazy shit is winding down.” So feel the fear and do it now. Living brightly, richly and passionately.

Adventure

-Stephkt

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When I Was Almost the Girl Who Didn’t Go to Paris

Everyone has their guilty pleasure. For me, classic, early 2000’s MTV reality television is my jam. More specifically, Laguna Beach and The Hills have been my go-to’s since my early teens.

What can I say? It’s my “not so guilty” guilty pleasure. I have most of the seasons of The Hills on DVD, and I go through phases where I will randomly watch them. I am a huge Lauren Conrad fan. I still follow her fashion career today. (Girl-next-door types have to stick together.) I’m pretty sure watching The Hills for so long is subconsciously why I decided to move to Los Angeles in my 20s.

If you were ever a fan of the show, then you know there’s a crucial moment at the end of season 1, where our leading lady, Conrad, is offered a summer internship at Paris’ Teen Vogue office. She turns down the offer to instead spend the summer with her then on-again, off-again boyfriend from her home town, Jason Wahler. The two had big plans: a summer of love and a rented condo in Malibu.

In the second season, fans learn that Conrad and Wahler broke up before the summer’s end. When we see Conrad for the first time in the Los Angeles Teen Vogue office, she is with friend and fellow intern, Whitney Port, who ended up going to Paris for the summer instead (gotta love her!), and their boss, editor Lisa Love.

It is this next moment that is frozen in reality TV show history. Love’s words for Lauren echoed across the homes of MTV viewers nationwide. She looked straight at Lauren (who you can tell seems down) and said, “Lauren didn’t go to Paris. She’s going to always be known as the girl who didn’t go to Paris. Do you regret that decision?”

Ouch.

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It literally became one of the most quoted moments in The Hills history. Years later, ET Online released the backstory on Lauren’s decision not to go to Paris.

“We had a big disagreement, [creator] Adam DiVello and I, over Lauren’s decision not to go to Paris,” executive producer Liz Gateley tells ET. “I said, this is the perfect ending, because every girl makes this decision. She thinks she’s in love, and she’s going to spend the rest of her life with this person, and that was the relatable choice, and Adam was so upset!”

“He really wanted to try to convince her to go, and she was adamant that she was not going to pursue an internship in Paris,” Gateley continues.

“We tried to convince her, but at the end of the day, she wasn’t going,” Gateley recalls. “That was an authentic moment to that [theme of] coming of age. It’s like, who doesn’t look back and wish they had gone to Europe for the summer? Or taken that internship in D.C.? Or whatever it was, because they stayed behind for a boy or a girl. I mean, everybody does that. It was perfect.”

When I was 14 or 15 and I first watched this episode, I didn’t quite understand. She picked a guy over Paris? Say whaaat? While I love my girl Lauren, Love’s words hold a lot of truth. “She always going to be known at the girl who didn’t go to Paris.” (It kinda hurts my heart every time I type it.) Although Love was a tough, no-holds-barred type of woman, I really believe she was trying to impart a bit of wisdom in young Conrad’s ears. That is….to never put your dreams on hold for a guy.

Twenty Something Advice (for anyone): “Never put your dreams on hold for that guy, girl or relationship. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”

In Lauren’s defense, she was in her early twenties at the time she made this decision. Also, she eventually did get to go to Paris for Teen Vogue. Today, she is kicking butt in her fashion career and married with her first son. Overall, she definitely came out on the other side winning. Perhaps, this was something that she, and all of us, have to go through to learn from.

If we’re being completely honest, we have all had our “the girl who didn’t go to Paris” moments. I know I have. I have made many a dumb decision or two in my early and even mid-twenties for love or what I thought was love.

Recently, I made a huge, life-altering decision. To travel throughout the U.S. for a month before heading to Italy to teach English for three months. Exciting. Life-altering. Exhilarating. Nerve-wracking. Wildly beautiful and gloriously unknown. All of the above. Then, right before I left Los Angeles, I met a guy. Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong. He was great. Smart. Accomplished. Attractive. Funny. Physically fit. Cultured. Kinda dreamy. I was intrigued. My interest was sparked, and I wanted to get to know him more. Rarely does it seem like we find people who are both physically and mentally appealing? (Or maybe that’s just me?)

Any who, in my last day before leaving Los Angeles, I started to have these thoughts. Like why? Why now do I meet a guy I actually like? Will my chance be gone once I’m back? Will he find someone else?

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Then, I had to come back to reality. Yea, this guy might actually be great. The jury is out on that one. How much can you know after a few interactions? (He could easily still be a serial killer. It’s LA people.)

Yet, he could be the great guy he seems to be. So what? Does that mean my dreams and plans should be put on hold? Does that mean my life stops? Would it be possible for me to dream big, to dare, to chase after those dreams, to travel, to see the world and not settle? Would it be possible to have career and love? I think so.

I am a big believer in the saying, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” (Gotta love that Bebe Rexha song with Florida Georgia Line….If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be. Baby, just let it be.“) While I wasn’t going to cancel my travel plans for a guy, I was definitely bummed. Then, I reminded myself… if it’s meant to be.

If a guy or relationship isn’t there when you return or the person decides not to wait for you, well OK then. It just wasn’t the right one. Have the confidence to be OK with that. (Besides, in the history of our patriarchal culture how often do men leave and go off to war or to pursue a career or a dream only to leave women waiting. I think it’s high time we were OK with doing the same.)

I don’t want to ever not go to Paris, Italy or anywhere else I dream of or put my life on hold for a relationship. I am going to put my metaphorical high heels on, pack my bags, grab my passport and keep living. My wide-eyed, dreamer self believes I can have both love and life of passion and that the right one will compliment and not compromise my dreams.

Keep dreaming readers! And for goodness sake, go to Paris!

-Stephkt

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.

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.

So You’re Twenty Something and You Don’t Have it Figured Out

mistakesI sat done at a wobbly, wooden table decorated in festive red, green and yellow paint. The chips, queso and pico de gallo were neatly placed and quietly awaiting my arrival. I walked up and connected eyes with my high school mentor/ journalism teacher, something like an old friend. We had years to catch up over an hour’s lunch. The conversation was jam packed but well worth it.

As my former teacher and I sat there catching up, I began rehashing the many blunders I have made since he knew me at the ripe age of 17. It would’ve been easy to feel like in a lot of ways I have messed up, failed in more areas than not. Dating mishaps, friendship changes, job failures, family issues, you name it, the 24-year-old version of me has probably seen it.

The cool thing about my high school journalism teacher is that, for lack of a better word, he is cool. As I sat talking about the many mishaps, the twenties has brought so far, he reminded me of something important: “It’s okay to not have it all figured out.” What??!? My thoughts came to a screeching halt. What do you mean it’s okay to not have it all figured out? Do you mean it’s just fine that I do not have it all together? Music to my ears!

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”  John Wooden

Talking to someone who has known me for so long and has seen my progression over the years took a big load off my shoulders. Because I know that he believes in me and sees what I can be. I think the trick is not getting so caught up in the mistakes I have made or will make in my twenties and to continue to see the potential that others so readily see in me in myself.

Of course, making mistakes as you grow, learn and stumble is not an excuse to act crazy, but it does mean, “Hey, you! That twenty something over there! Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I think being in your twenties is a beautiful place to be because it’s in between. There is so much room to grow, to learn, to reinvent yourself, to start over, to pursue a childhood dream. The possibilities are endless.

If you’re anything like me, a twenty something whose life doesn’t look exactly like what you thought it would in high school or college, well here’s some news: You don’t have to have it all figured out. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to stumble. It’s okay to make mistakes. The point of it all is to teach you to keep going.

My high school teacher reminded me of the optimism that the 17-year-old me he once knew possessed. The 24-year-old me could learn a lesson or two from her. Keep your eyes wide open. Keep chasing those dreams. If you make a mistake or two and get off course, then that means you’re right on track.

– Stephkt

Don’t Give Your Power Away

confidenceI have always been a “wear your heart on your sleeves” type of gal. I am still deciding if that’s a good or bad thing. This trait has been a strength at times and my achilles heel at others. Most recently, it has served as the latter.

So here’s the scoop: I recently spotted my ex-boyfriend at the mall. Not just an ex, but the ex, the one that broke my heart and left the pieces scattered on the ocean floor for me to reassemble. The ex that was my first love. The ex that, at one point, I never thought I’d be able to get over. To keep the story short, I did one day, with much time and effort, heal from the wounds of that relationship. I have moved on. So what’s the big deal?

I am a very honest person, i.e. the description “a girl who wears her heart on sleeves” in the opener. So when I saw not only the ex that I haven’t spoken to in three years, but his little sister, his little brother, his best friend, and to top it all off, his new girlfriend, all at the mall where I work a part time job, I inwardly and outwardly was FREAKING out. My heart not only dropped to the ground, but before my brain could even comprehend, my entire body dipped down to hide behind a fixture of clothing. A few expletives were definitely said.

I take wearing your heart on your sleeves to a whole new level. My first instinct was to go into defense mode. Yea, I am over this guy, but so what?! Do I really want to run into him, his family, friends and girlfriend at my job, a job that I am not all that proud of? The answer to that is a sure fired no. Then, I started thinking and questioning myself: Why am I acting this way? Why am I allowing someone and something from my past to affect me? How can I cower and cringe at the sight of one person? How can I allow another human being to have that much power over me?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

No one has power over you unless you give it to them.

It probably took me a good thirty minutes to recover and get my act together. Yea, I was shaking in my boots, but I gave myself a little kick in the rear, reminded myself that no person, past or present, defines me and I decided that only I determine who and what has power over me. I’m pretty sure my ex and his group of friends and family didn’t even notice me, but maybe one day we will cross paths again. The next time, I would only hope that my response would be better.

Here’s what a lot of bumps and bruises in my twenties have taught me: Nobody has power over you, unless you give it to them. So guess, what? Don’t give it away. I can laugh about my recent mall debacle and about how ridiculous I acted. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to breathe and remind myself not to let other people affect me so much. I have just as much the right to breathe and walk this Earth as the next person. Never should I let another human being make me want to go into hiding.

I know the twenties can be rough, but I hope you can take some encouragement from the fiasco that I call my everyday life and be reminded to not cringe, cower or hide for anyone. Don’t allow people to have power over you. You are not just a twenty something at the bottom of the totem pole. You are a twenty something with endless possibility. Keep your head held high.

-Stephkt

Say Yes

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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