Categories
authenticity

Forever Five Stars: My Thoughts as a Former Yelp Elite

An Elite event in San Francisco, 2010

Over the weekend I watched Billion Dollar Bully, the Yelp documentary by Kaylie Milliken, for the first time.

I was a Yelp employee in 2008 (but couldn’t stomach the cold calling), an “Elite” from 2010-2014, and am still friends with some of the first upper-level employees, former community managers, and fellow Elite Squad members. There’s a lot of truth, but also a lot of misunderstandings in the film. It broke my heart to hear the stories of people who suffered from their treatment of the company, but I want to reflect on the good it has done, too.

Everyone has their own feelings about Yelp, especially business owners, but I can say that of my 492 reviews and 837 local photos, I write to share positive or constructive feedback to help small businesses grow- not to hurt them. I met some wonderful people at Elite events in SF and NYC, ate a lot of amazing food, and had tons of laughs. I learned about places I never would have been before, and was able to share my experience with the community.

I left San Francisco in 2011, a year before the company IPOed– so I can’t say how the culture changed after it went from a startup to a public company. Nevertheless, I still see a huge value in real people writing real reviews. What I don’t believe in is pressuring businesses owners to spend money that simply isn’t in their budget, not giving them the ability to remove their listing, or living in so much fear they feel the need to buy fake reviews from people who hardly know their business.

I definitely don’t think most Yelpers are out to get people- it’s usually the faceless reviewers with 0 friends (I have 850) who cause the trouble. It’s a shame some people ruined it for the rest of us.

So why do I still write on Yelp, you ask? Although I am no longer incentivized to write reviews as there’s no Yelp Elite community in Northern Michigan (plus my status was dropped my second year in New York City), I think it’s important to share my positive experiences, show potential customers what my own experience looked like, and to engage with new businesses. It always makes me smile when a business owner writes to thank me for my review, or recognizes me when I come back into their establishment.

Whether people still use Yelp to find a new restaurant here or not, I always am sure to take a photo of my meal, share my thoughts, and help others find my favorite hidden gems, too.

Yelpers in the East Bay, 2010
Categories
conscious living minimalism

A Car-Free Life: Reducing My Own Carbon Footprint

One of the things that deterred me from moving back to Michigan from the East Coast was the need for a car. It seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, one of the reasons I specifically chose to move to Boston back in 2016 because of its walkability, T system, and ease of a daily commute.

I became extremely attached to the concept of not being attached to my material possessions back in 2016 as well, especially after spending over two years in New York City.

While talking to a friend who worked for an automotive company, he told me something pretty disheartening- that it is “strongly implied” at work that “only poor people” take BATA Transit Official (and they don’t count). 😳

BATA is our public transit system, and I was surprised to learn how helpful and nice it was when I came back to Michigan. The drivers were friendly, the schedules were consistent, and it took you pretty much anywhere you needed to go.

But hold up.

Yes, all walks of life take public transportation. I’ve taken the bus here and I’ve seen all kinds of people- tourists, storytellers, students, and sweet elderly people.

As a person who exclusively took the bus and train while living in San Francisco, NYC, Chicago, and Boston, it’s hard for me to go back to the pain of a car- especially going six years without one. Don’t get me wrong, I adored my Mini Cooper (my mother still has two, depending on the season), but every time something went wrong, I felt sick. With every check engine alert or knick on the door, I felt trapped by my material item.

Since selling Mini and moving to New York City in 2014, I’ve chosen not to drive.

I have walked over five miles a day for as long as I can remember (usually 10 or more on many days!), utilized a bike, and used my time in Uber or public transportation to write. After becoming much more conscious and mindful, I’ve embraced the time I can simply sit still and relax while going from point A to point B.

The “poor people” statement makes me sick to my stomach. Really. Could we please focus more on love and understanding instead of labels and judgment in this new decade?

That said, I don’t have a use for a car at the moment. I may in the future, but not now- and it’s somewhat of a political statement to avoid driving with the current state of our environment. I understand it’s necessary for many people to drive- to get to work, take their kids to school, or to travel on weekends. I’m fortunate to live in town and have the option to walk everywhere I need to go, use the bus, or take Uber if I can’t get there. My cat’s food and litter is delivered. I can even order groceries if I want to.

After six years in the city, it’s not easy to transition to a small town with a very limited view of the world. I can only hope to continue to connect with likeminded individuals who aren’t so quick to judge.

More love in 2020, please. For now, I’m grateful Traverse City has BATA- and good friends who don’t value others based on what they own.

Categories
authenticity empowerment self discovery

Balancing the Light with the Dark: What Grit Means to Me

A couple of weeks ago I had a few thoughts about toxic positivity and the “good vibes only” culture. I do love good vibes- but I’ve also learned how to navigate the bad ones.

When the name “Mindful in Style” popped into my head back in 2016, it was created with a vision of living consciously and embracing whatever style was yours- work style, writing style, and overall lifestyle. As a former fashion blogger, a lot of people related my choice of the word “style” to “fashion.” Yes, clothing is a type of style, but my play on words with the blog name was so much more than that.

It’s about being true and aware of your own way of life.

I have my own style of living mindfully, and it isn’t about wearing mala beads, sitting on a meditation cushion, or exclusively focusing on the light. It’s about embracing the grit while shining in your own unique way.

To me, grit isn’t a catchy term CEOs and “thought leaders” use to motivate employees to work harder. Grit is accepting your dark side. It’s knowing how your past shaped the person you are today. It’s accepting your mistakes, your flaws, and facing your problems.

Grit is vulnerability.

If I had an easy childhood, I probably wouldn’t have the same sense of humor as I do. I wouldn’t be called to write, and I certainly wouldn’t have as many experiences from my attempts at geographical cures.

I didn’t have a father at home to tell me I was doing a good job. I didn’t have siblings to watch out for me when I was followed and harassed on the playground. I didn’t hang out with the popular girls in school who played tennis (oh, I tried, and played terribly). Instead, people constantly bullied me, told me what was wrong with me, and laughed about my misfortune behind my back.

I mainly kept to myself and continued doing what I was doing- until I could run away for over a decade.

Today, I want to talk about it. I finally took my power back.

In October I moved back to Traverse City, a town where mean girls were a dime a dozen, with a brand new view of the world through my oversized sunglasses. I began seeing people for who they were- humans- who were simply trying to do the best they could. Perhaps those people have their own grit beneath the surface. Maybe highlighting my problems made them feel better about theirs.

Grit is taking back your narrative.

Do you have grit if you made 20 more phone calls at work than the guy sitting next to you in your cubicle? Probably not. Nevertheless, perseverance and a sense of humor through life’s biggest challenges is true success to me- whether you’re a surgeon or are serving burgers with a smile.

Enthusiasm for life and being fully present is what I treasure the most these days. Instead of focusing on the things I don’t like or didn’t work for me, I consciously fill my thoughts and energy on the things I love. I revisit stories of my past and use the grit to help others. My darkness fuels my creativity today- mostly because I am proud of myself for learning to heal the pain and insecurities that once crippled me.

Sometimes I still cry when I think about things that once happened to me- but I can embrace those feelings today. I can embrace how far I have come. I don’t have to hold onto resentments- I can forgive, move on, and share stories.

To me, that’s grit.

Here’s another post I wrote about “grit” back in 2018.

Good vibes with a dash of darkness.
Categories
inspirational people sobriety

Booze-Free Bliss: A Conversation with Sober Girl Society’s Millie Gooch

Photo: Sober Girl Society

With 2020 around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about New Year’s Eve plans, resolutions, and goals for what’s around the corner.

As I reflect on 2019, one of the major themes is how many amazing people I’ve connected with and gained inspiration from- especially other sober women.

One of those people is Millie Gooch, founder of Sober Girl Society. From her cheeky Instagram posts to those adorable enamel pins, Millie inspires other people to embrace their sobriety, one post, event, or booze-free beverage at a time.

I got the opportunity to ask her a few questions, from her own New Year’s Eve plans to how she decided to start Sober Girl Society (and yes, I am a proud member!).

When and why did you decide to put down the booze?

I’ve always had a very all-or-nothing relationship with alcohol. Blackout binge-drinking was my specialty because I never really saw the point in just having a couple. I could happily turn down a glass of wine at dinner but on a night out I’d be buying two triple-vodka Red Bulls and then mixing them into a pint glass.

Towards my mid-twenties I started to suffer with horrific anxiety (intensified by hangovers) and I began to realise that my one woman missions to get completey annihilated were becoming less about the party and more about a deep sense of self-loathing and unhappiness.

When I came out of a 6-year relationship at the start of 2018, my drinking escalated quickly in an attempt to patch up my heartbreak and in Feb 2018 on a particularly nasty hangover, something inside me snapped and I realised I could either continue in self-destruct mode or strap on my big girl pants and rebuild myself. To do this, I knew something had to seriously change and for me, that was my drinking.

I can completely relate to the “all or nothing” drinking. What tools did you use to help you stay sober when you first put down alcohol?

The first thing I did was listen to The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray on Audible and that was the motivational kick up the butt I needed. After that it was podcasts, finding new ways to relax (yoga, dancing, writing) and travelling.

How did you think of SGS?

I think it’s actually something I was trying to find for my own journey and just couldn’t so I decided to create it myself. Sobriety has made me a ‘see a problem, fix it’ kind of gal.

I was 7 months sober when I started SGS so I’d kind of already got past those initial stages and wanted something for the ‘what next’ to keep me motivated, hold me accountable and remind me why I stopped in the first place.

I always say SGS isn’t really about how to get sober because I’m not an expert but it’s more about staying sober and all the wonderful things that can happen when you are.

Millie Gooch

New Year’s Eve is coming up- what are your plans?

I’m actually at a wedding – 2 of the most difficult things in sobriety are weddings and New Year’s Eve – so I’m combining them because I do love a challenge.

How do you recommend other people stay sober on NYE?

Do things you actually like doing with people you actually like and if that means sitting at home alone watching season two of YOU on Netflix then do exactly that. More often than not I drank because I was anxious, unhappy, bored or because I thought it would make whatever I was doing, wherever I was or whoever I was with more fun.

I honestly believe it’s easier to say no to drinking when you’re happy and relaxed in your activity, company and surroundings.

Photo: Sober Girl Society

I’m really interested in these “booze free bars” and pop ups I am seeing in London. What can you tell me about them?

We are very lucky in London at the moment, pubs and bars are really recognising the demand for good alcohol-free drinks and some bars like Redemption (three venues across London) are completely alcohol-free. We also had Sainsbury’s (one of the biggest UK supermarkets) open a pop-up non-alcoholic pub called the Clean Vic (a pun on The Queen Vic from TV Programme Eastenders) in the summer and it was packed!

I’ve got my SGS pin to represent in the US! How can other women get involved?

Come follow us! At the moment we’re expanding our meet-ups across the UK but for those we can’t reach in other countries, we have threads where you can find your sober sisters.

There’s like countless friendships, a 30 strong group of women in Phoenix, meet-ups in Australia and a sober events company founded in Manchester because of those threads.

~

You connect with the Sober Girl Society community on Instagram and shop the goods on Etsy.

Photo: Sober Girl Society
Categories
mindfulness

Home for Christmas

For the first time since 2015, I was able to spend Christmas with my family.

I am so grateful to be home in Michigan, but most of all, to realize my family only wants one thing for me:

To be happy.

It’s pretty amazing that it took me 35 years to actually believe this- but it’s better late than never.

It’s fair to say I am. 🥰

Merry Christmas to all from my family to yours. I hope you had a beautiful day.