Vanilla

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Nine years ago, I worked at a software company in San Francisco.

I got the job through a temp agency and quickly converted to a full time role I probably didn’t deserve.  Being an office manager wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I did enjoy spending my time blogging, writing Yelp reviews (I had just become “Elite”), and gossiping with my friend Sonny about my dating and drinking life.

I lived for going out, meeting new people, networking, and documenting my adventures on the internet.  I used Blogspot at the time, and I thought my mishaps were of the genius variety.  I was certain there was more for me than a job at a front desk in SOMA, but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there.

So I went out.  A lot.

To fill the work day, I obviously needed a work crush.  When you’re 25, what job is complete without a work crush as a distraction?  I vividly remember the cottonmouth feeling of arriving on Bagel Wednesday after a long night out in the marina with my friend Mary, sweating out vodka and maybe even tacos, preparing the breakfast delivery for a team of data security engineers and executives.  I’d toast a bagel for myself, feeling partially sick as I swallowed my coffee, only to see him walk into the office kitchen.

I immediately became much too chatty, telling him all about my escapades and hinting at inviting him out with us.  He was a gentleman- a Kennedy type from Austin with an MBA- and I was certain he would see past my childish antics, realizing I was a serious writer and potential rising entrepreneur.  I mean, didn’t he see my Yelp reviews?

Nevertheless, I would go back to my desk, and Sonny would swing by and cheer me up.  He, on the other hand, adored my drunken tales of Chestnut and Fillmore Street, Taco Tuesday at the Bluelight, and which Ivy League school my latest conquest was from.

“You have special powers,” he would say.  “Men love you.”  I was extremely pleased to hear this from a 40-something gay man.

“So why doesn’t he come out with me?”  I asked Sonny.  He just smiled.

“He’s far too vanilla for you.”

I had never heard this before.

2010 was the last year I thought my reckless drinking and behavior was somewhat normal.  I was also in deep denial.  However, Sonny’s comment struck a chord.

I may have entered the decade thinking there was something wrong with me; and there was. Obviously, the Kennedy-esque work crush wasn’t interested in a hard partying 25 year old.  Nevertheless, thanks to Sonny, I discovered that maybe he wasn’t what I wanted, either.

I may not drink or go out looking for men these days, but I will never lose my quirks.  They’re what makes me me. 

I entered the decade thinking I needed to change for other people, but I’m leaving it knowing that the only person I needed to change for was myself- and no matter what I became, vanilla wasn’t meant for me.

I am definitely more of the Superman or Neapolitan variety.

Some of the Best Things About Turning 35

On December 22nd I turn 35.

Unlike most people, I enjoy getting older.  Just look at Jane Fonda!  While some women obsess over looking 21 again, spending thousands of dollars on Botox and anti-aging products, I wouldn’t trade anything to be in my 20s.  Sure, it’s important to moisturize, but why does society glamorize being young?

I’d rather have a few wrinkles than that 20-something soul of mine.

No, I wouldn’t trade years of experience, wisdom, and lessons to go back in time.  That girl was so lost and confused.  She had yet to discover her worth, her values, or how important it was to be herself.  She didn’t realize it was okay to just stay in on the weekend, or that being in a relationship wouldn’t complete her.  She didn’t know it was okay to simply be her.

~

As years go by, I feel I better embody the person I was always meant to be: an old soul.

No longer infatuated with nights out, chaos, and what other people are doing with their lives, 35 is a nice age to settle into who you are- and what your life will be.

Since moving back to Michigan, my external life is finally reflecting how I have felt for so long on the inside.  It’s peaceful, quiet, and full of love.  It’s authentic, and it’s meaningful. Although society wraps up the “American Dream” in a mortgage with two kids and a pet dog, mine looks a whole lot like this:

At 35, you realize the joys of simplicity.

One of the best things about turning 35 is people stop consistently saying things like, “don’t worry, you’ll meet him someday,” or “you’ll change your mind and decide you want kids!”  Yes, these statements are completely stereotypical and old fashioned, but until I hit my early 30s, I still listened.

I thought, maybe I’ll change my mind. Maybe I’ll be happier if I had a boyfriend.  Society says so, right?  Wrong.

These are simply toxic messages that are illusions into thinking a milestone or another person will make you complete.

First, you have to feel complete on your own.

Another great thing about turning 35 is being confident about the choices I have made.  After 12 years of post-grad experiences, living in many big cities, and having endless dating stories, I’m certain about what I want- and what I don’t.

At 35, I live by myself with my cat, have an extra bedroom, spend my time writing, and take public transportation, Uber, or walk instead of driving.  By New York City standards, this would be considered luxury.  By Michigan standards, I am probably considered unfortunate.  Nevertheless, this is me living my best life- and it’s the life I chose.  

At 23 I may have had the house, the fiance, and the two car garage in the suburbs, but I knew that life wasn’t for me.  Each night I felt empty inside, drinking wine until I fell asleep to “According to Jim.”  Today I no longer have to explain to anyone why I left and moved to San Francisco, why I bounced from New York to Boston, or what made me decide to get sober.  It was my journey to live.  Although I’m happy to write about these experiences, it’s not up for discussion or debate with anyone else- and today, I finally know that.

At 35, I know my life is meant for me to live- and no one else.

You Are Not Who You Once Were

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2020 is approaching and an entire decade is leaving us.  As we move into the next 10 years, it’s interesting to reflect on where we have been and where we want to go.

If my life were to be documented on a piece of paper, such as a resume, a lot of people would ask “what exactly do you do?  What do you want?”  The truth is, I can’t be defined by any of my past jobs or experiences- by trial and error, I have spent the past decade living in different cities, trying out different careers, and making a lot of mistakes along the way.  I have struggled with my anxiety, alcohol use, and my mental health- but those aren’t things you would put on a resume.

Yesterday I was asked in a meeting what I was doing in Boston, despite my resume stating I am a writer and marketing consultant.  I told him about some of the work I did, but I left out the part about moving to Boston after a 30 day trip to rehab.  I didn’t list my “get well jobs.”  I didn’t say Boston played an important role in my sobriety.

So, I continued to share my relevant experience with copywriting and boutique brands.

It’s a shame we can’t be transparent about who we are and what brought us to the point we’re at today.  Truth be told, a major reason for me moving home to Michigan was to lean into the person I truly am, not the person I thought I needed to be on the outside to get by.

Although I struggled with finding my place in the world for so long, today I am no longer that person.

I am a writer.  I am a survivor.  I am a spiritual being who believes wholeheartedly on living a life of passion and purpose.  I don’t define myself by what I have, or where I’ve been, but what I can contribute to the world.

As a creative, it’s often a challenge to live a conventional life.  I used to try- oh, believe me, I tried.  Repeatedly.  However, each and every time, I was called to do what was in my heart- to write, to inspire, and to help others.  Whether it’s in a big way or a small one, I know my struggles and my experiences can help other people.  I’m confident I have lived a non-linear path for a reason.

The person I was yesterday does not define the person I will be tomorrow- and that goes for you, too.

Keep on living what is in your heart- when you tap into your authentic nature, the path will be revealed.