Thirty Onederful

Remember that time I turned 30? I do. I could have sworn that was just a few weeks ago. I celebrated my entrance into the fourth decade of my life with vigor and anticipation, surrounding myself with family and friends for a celebration that basically went on for the entire month of October 2014. I ate, I drank, I danced, I sang; I partook in a bathroom photoshoot at a bar alongside a likeness of Lenny Kravitz (see Exhibit A). I also thought I was Britney Spears (see Exhibit B).

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Low and behold, I am one year older and analyzing my life like birthdays seem to make one do. So much has changed and also stayed the same. This time last year, I was working at my corporate job of 10 years but had announced my intent to resign; I was excited at the prospect of chasing my dreams but wracked with insecurity over the judgments of loved ones. I was single but longing, hopeful but restless. I was ready for change and nervous to enact it.

Today, I’m… well, to be absolutely candid: still trying to figure things out. I’m writing, slowly but surely. I had some great momentum in the beginning and now have slowed a bit. Little gigs have added up here and there but my craving isn’t quite satisfied. I want more, need more. The thing is, I got scared.

For one, I had a few very important voices in my head telling me I was crazy and saddling me repeatedly with questions. “Are you making enough money? What about insurance? Do you still have a retirement plan? Could you buy a house or have kids on your salary?” All valid questions, all posed from a place of love. Still, they ate at me.

So I started doing some temp work over the summer, mainly clerical stuff. One of the gigs, an admin position in property management, was actually a great fit: it boasted an excellent team of very dynamic personalities and required a skill set only too perfectly matched to my own. In August, a spot opened up at the property that I was encouraged to apply for by the property’s Community Manager. I accepted the position and am now that property’s Assistant Community Manager.

I confess that I was conflicted about taking this on. I love my team and am good at my job, and there’s plenty of potential for movement. Let’s not forget the money, which was a HUGE help recently when paying for all the expenses one incurs when two of one’s best friends and a few other assorted friends all get married in one year. Still, when I looked at myself in the mirror as I donned my stilettos and pencil skirt for the first time in months, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d too quickly betrayed my inner creative. Would I remain dedicated to my passion? Would I find that delicate balance?

The truth is, I’m working on it. Some days I’m better at it than others. Sometimes I wake up on my day off and spend the day writing furiously, or otherwise get home from work, shove a salad down my throat and do the same until the wee hours of the morning. On other occasions, I get sucked up in chores and errands and travel recovery (I have a serious addiction to being busy) and don’t get the chance to write more than a paragraph or two, if that. I feel remarkable pride on the days when I write and overwhelming guilt on the ones that I don’t. I fear that I’m not following up on new opportunities as religiously as I should be, not trying as hard to move in the direction I quit a long-time job to reach.

You know what though? It’s all going to be fine. Just like I made my peace with the unknown that came with quitting a job without another one quite lined up, I now am accepting of the fact that there’s more than one way to get from point A to point B. The type of freedom and creative expression that I said I wanted is still absolutely attainable, even if it will take some time and additional effort to fully possess them. I’ll have to take some more risks, lose a few more hours of sleep, learn to say no to a few dinner invites and airline sales, and above all: be thankful. I have a laptop, a brain, two hands, and a college degree in my pocket. I have a roof over my head, some cash to feed and clothe myself, friendships that soothe my soul, family that has my back. Looking at it that way, it seems silly to be so critical. Life is good and I’m thirty-onderful. More to come…


Word Vomit, and Lots of It.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that today's blog entry may find you choking down the vomit induced from what you might initially perceive to be a contrived and banal attempt at introspect on my part. I kindly ask that if you've gone so far as to click on the link to get here, that you keep on reading. I mean you're already here. Stay awhile.

Today is July 18th, 2013. It's been a day like any other. I woke up, I went to work. I worked at work. Came home from work. I checked Facebook, checked Instagram. Opened my mail, ate some cheese and crackers. I started a new book, I looked up from the book. And then it happened. I started to think.

About what? Life (swallow the vomit!). This happens to me from time to time. Well, a lot of the time, if I'm being honest- which is what I said I would do with this humble little blog of mine. I'm in my head a lot, as the people who really know me will tell you. Today it started when I put on my "Pensive" playlist. Yes, that's what its called- any of my Spotify peeps can attest to that. So I've got stuff like this blaring in my ears:

- Temper Trap, "Love Lost"
- Coldplay, "Trouble"
- Macklemore, "Same Love"
- Florence + the Machine, "Never Let Me Go" (unplugged)
- Bloc Party, "Day Four"
- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, "Stars"
- Carter Burwel, "A Nova Vida"
- John Mayer, "Belief"
- The Weeknd, "Wicked Games"
- Duffy, "Stepping Stone"
- Adele, "Hometown Glory"
- Bon Iver, "Roslyn"
- Lauryn Hill, "X Factor"
- Foo Fighters, "Everlong" (acoustic)

The list goes on, and there's no one topic or theme- it's not a sad, mopey playlist per se and it's not a list of heartbreak tracks (for that, you'll want to see to my "Ache" playlist). It's just music that makes me think, music that would play in the movie of my life in a scene where I'm staring out of a window while its raining and I have a glass of wine in my hand and am wearing a torn sweatshirt that falls loosely over one shoulder.

As for what I've been thinking about... like I said, about life. Specifically my life, and the people in it. It's the change all around me. A few people in my close-knit work family are leaving our team soon. One close friend just finished grad school, and one of my best friends is leaving for law school; 85% of my acquaintances and Facebook feed are either getting engaged, married or popping out their first born children. Everywhere I look, I see forks in roads and setting suns; revolving doors, new life chapters. Beginnings, endings. Choices, risks. Love, fear. Excitement, anticipation. Life.

So I look at mine. And I see... confusion. Not sadness, mind you. Let me be very clear in my assertion that this life I lead is rife with good fortune- family, friends, health, food, and a few bucks to spend on travel. But I'm not 100% sure that the pace, the inertia of my life is ... enough. When I get in these moods, I get restless and all I can do to assuage it is to write it all down. I decided that this time, instead of writing it in a journal, I'd put my thoughts in a more public place. It's a tad risky to put the contents of my overly actove brain where the world can see and scrutinize it, which is why I've been hesitant to write such a personal entry in the past. I fear being perceived as too self-indulgent, and you know, annoying. But I'm putting stock in the concept that there is catharsis in truly honest writing and that people respond well to genuine self-expression. So... here it is. Sheer and utter word vomit.

When I was younger, I was an obnoxious over-achiever. I had my hands in a little bit of everything because I knew there were places I wanted to be and being good at stuff was going to help me get there. I stayed up too late and studied too hard so I could set the curve and take home a college acceptance-worthy report card. If it was extra-curricular and looked good on a resume, I was there with bells on and likely got there 15 minutes early. I retook the SATs because my first score, which many envied, was not going to cut it in my mind. I took one more year of every subject in school than I needed to, which meant summer courses every year on top of my part-time job, and I practically lived in one of those AP testing booths my junior and senior years in high school. It all paid off when I landed a scholarship to my dream school, the University of Southern California. Everyone was so proud and so impressed with me, which I admit I loved. Everyone asked what my major would be and what I wanted to do with that, so I answered confidently.

Here's the thing, and I'm literally only being honest with myself about this at age 28- it was all a crock of absolute bullshit.

I wasn't lying- I meant it all the time. I really did want to be a physical therapist when I graduated high school; I'd volunteered for hundreds of hours at a local hospital and found the concept of improving and rehabilitating a life a heady one. I wanted to be a hero, wanted to make a difference like every sappy heroine you've even been annoyed with in a nauseating after-school special or Lifetime movie. Then I started taking those college courses and realized something: I was sooo hosed. I didn't really like science, it turns out. I'd apparently neglected to really think about the 24 letters of the alphabet between A and Z, the steps you take between getting accepted into college and teaching paraplegics how to walk again when no one thought they would. I freaked out, I talked to school counselors, and they all agreed I was in the wrong major. So what next?

I chose business school. It seemed like the next logical step. I could do whatever I wanted with business, right? When word got out that I'd changed my major, the "what are you going to be when you grow up?" questions resumed. Again, I had confident answers: I was going to open up my own restaurant, or possibly a dance studio. I might try to be a buyer for a major retailer or possibly go into the music business. Whatever I did, I was going to RUN THIS SH*T. And everyone seemed to agree.

But... I didn't. Not because I tried and failed- but because I didn't quite try to realize any of those pipe dreams at all. I claimed to have all these passions but couldn't seem to muster up quite enough passion to put all my eggs in one basket and give it hell. Instead I put just a few little eggs in the closest basket at hand took on a summer internship that led to a full time job in sales, which I was good at because I tend to find a way to be good at things on mere principle. I was promoted once, twice, and a few more times, changed departments a few times, got another pay bump here and there... and at the end of the day, I have nothing bad to say about any of that. I made some of my lifelong friends along the path I chose to pursue, created some amazing memories; I spent my early twenties gallavanting around the City of Angels, that giant ball of craziness everyone loves to hate but that stole a giant piece of my heart that it refuses to give back. I was happy to have a job that paid the bills and came with benefits and a 401K match. That I could also squeeze in weekend wine-tasting trips, nights at The Room and Zanzibar, USC football and the Getty made me more than content.

BUT. Where the hell did my passion go? I swear, I had it here somewhere. But wait, wait- more importantly- what the hell IS my passion? A few years ago I thought I was onto something when I made the bold move of leaving LA and moving back to my hometown in the name of all that "fresh start" stuff. I had one plan, then another, but again and again I found myself changing my mind. I've detected this pattern wherein I pick a goal, an activity, a path to pursue that I think sounds really cool, sounds impressive, sounds impactful and noble and worthwhile. But the passion, again, is lacking. Therein, my friends, lies the rub.

I've spent way too much time analyzing this "passion" shenanigans in the last several years, in particular because I've made a habit of surrounding myself with go-getters who are making moves, kicking ass and taking names at an alarming rate lately. In what I refer to (in my head) as my Fab Five of best friends, one is the executive director of a senior living residence in the greater Boston area, and she and her Harvard-graduate husband just scored themselves an apartment in my beloved Beacon Hill; one is off to law school next month after crushing the LSAT; one recently got her Masters in education and is teaching at a private school in Calabasas; one is really hitting her stride in the commercial real estate business and the last but not least of them is a counter manager and makeup artist for Chanel. Let me be clear- I feel no jealousy, only pride and appreciation of their formidable accomplishments. I am my friends' greatest champion, probably more so than some of them are comfortable with (yeah I'm looking at you, Batman). But all this movement inherently causes me to take a look at my own life's direction. I think after a lot of walks in the park and glasses of wine, I've honed in on what I think is my problem: I do not for the life of me know how to stop guessing, how to stop giving so much consideration to the concept of what I should want to do or accomplish, or what would be nice to say I achieved on paper. It only makes matters worse that I happen to work somewhere where I love the team I work with, where I have fun and have tons to keep me busy- it makes it so easy to stay where I am and keep doing what I'm doing. There is nothing wrong with where I am- it's just all very ordinary. For a kid who everyone expected to see sitting pretty as a CEO someday, this is a sobering fact.

Except for the fact that it isn't. Here's another big "aha" moment I stumbled upon in the last couple of years- I have zero desire for power or prestige. None. Itried to be that kind of person, and I pretended to be motivated by those factors for a long time. But the fact is, I don't want to be the one in charge and I don't care if I ever top (or even make it onto) the Forbes list. I just don't. Do you know how exhausting it is to fight that sensation? To constantly wonder where the abberation in your deoxyribonucleic acid is that makes you NOT want to be THAT chick? I do. But I'm done with all that. I've come to terms with the fact that my measure of success is not the same as yours, just as yours differs from the guy or girl sitting next to you. And what's more, there is nothing wrong with that. There really just isn't. I repeat that mantra daily, and it sinks in a little bit futher each day.

The other epiphany that I'm fairly certain NO one is surprised at but me is that I FREAKING LOVE BOOKS. 100%. I love to read, I love to write, I love to write about the things I love to read and love when people read (and enjoy?) the things that I write. The only thing surprising about that is that I've failed to explore these concepts further or really let the idea of them floursh in the light. I sit in bookstores constantly, and I have to touch the books. I find the smell of an old book comforting. I have the grand opening of the new library in downtown San Diego in my calendar with a pop-up reminder for the day before (you now, so I can pick out an outfit to be seen reading in). I carry my Kindle and iPad mini with me everywhere, because they're good for reading in different light and I'd die if I didn't have both within arms reach. I write in a journal that I also carry with me at all times- and yeah, my purse weighs about a thousand pounds. I light up when people want to talk about books. And this is not a new thing- I've explored my bibliophilia in this very blog. I've been this way since I was a child.

This is why I'm so annoyed at myself. I've spent all this time telling other people and myself that I've just never truly known what I was passionate about or what drove me, but deep down I kind of hate myself for knowing that it just ain't true. In so far as big life decisions, I've been afraid to take risks (well, in my career, anyway. In stuff like love and relationships, I go in hard and reckless!) I hate saying that out loud, because who wants to say they're a safe, boring person? But I really have been scared to admit that I want to write. I do write, actually. I just don't share it very often even though I tell myself all the time that *today* is the day I sit down and make progress towards becoming a published author. I'm not entirely sure why this is such a daunting subject for me, why the heck I find my passion a source of potential embarrasment or humiliation. Don't most people shout this type of stuff from the rooftops? Am I just wired wrong? Is it too late to rewire? I sure as heck hope not.

How appropriate: my "Pensive" list just played itself out so I hit the shuffle button on my "Hodepodge" mix. First song to come on? Beyonce's "Girls." Yeah. You can't make this stuff up.

That's all for now. Good night, world.


Sooo, someone near & dear to me is going through a breakup right now and maaaan, I feel for him. I remember those days when heartbreak was an unwelcome and unruly resident in my heart. A few years ago I was the absolute definition of a hot mess. I'd cry so hard that I'd give myself a migraine, then I'd cry because I had a migraine. My go-to iPod playlist was called "Hang Myself from the Shower Curtain" which I'd blast on high while going for angry tear-soaked runs. Wine & ice cream were my BFFs. Harry Potter and The Golden Girls were my sources of comfort. 

It was however my writing that became my most potent form of solace. Sometimes I'd write letters that I knew I'd never send, other times I wrote emails to friends or entires in a journal. I wrote and wrote and wrote just to try and get my sadness out of my body and out onto paper where I might perhaps set the words on fire and symbolically purge those gut-wrenching feelings once and for all. Alas, I decided against the whole pyro thing and kept a record of my musings. There is one piece in particular that I've always been proud of- not because its particularly profound or groundbreaking but because its very- me. It's real, it's quirky, it's honest, it's sarcastic. It seems appropriate to post now, because sometimes we all need a reminder that we aren't born knowing exactly how to love. I give you "OS101."


You know, when I first enrolled at USC and was browsing through the list of majors available through the College of Letters of Arts and Sciences, I came across several interesting selections: say, Multidisciplinary Activities, or Slavic languages. What does one do exactly with a degree in Slavic languages? I fully comprehend and acknowledge that in this day and age, an undergraduate major does not necessarily have any bearing whatsoever on one's career path. Scholars from both organic chemistry and comparative literature alike are our future neurosurgeons and college professors. But still: Slavic languages. Think about it. That one really narrows the scope, n'est-ce pas?

So I say to myself, as long as we're choosing random majors, I can think of a few useful ones that I have yet to see in any college catalogue. How about "OS101: The Opposite Sex?" And I don't mean gender studies; that discipline has more to do with actual gender roles in society and whatnot. Psychology and human development come closer, but they still don't get to the meat and potatoes of the interaction that for our purposes I'll refer to as "dating."  

Where are the classes on how to date? How to read mixed messages? How to know when to call and when to text, when to keep talking and when to shut the %*#$ up; when its OK to sleep with someone, when you can know for sure that a man likes you?  And I don't mean "like" as in "I like ultimate cheeseburgers." I mean LIKE, as in "I'm going to remain faithful, share the remote, tell my friends about you and be considerate of your feelings even if I don’t understand them.” How do I know when to pursue a romantic endeavor and when to keep it pushin’, when to bow out and accept the end of a love and when to fight tooth and nail to salvage it? 

I want to know if chicks in the caveman days were facing similar debacles to those that I am confronted with today: I mean yeah I have electricity, vaccines, a car, a cell phone, In'n' Out and Pinkberry, but did Cathy the Cavegirl much like yours truly have to wonder whether Tommy the Troglodyte's one grunt versus two meant he just wasn't that into her?!?! In the Elizabethan era, did women walk around with their asses wound up as tight as their teeny tiny corsets, frustration coursing through their veins because the Duke of Devonshire or some other mother!@%#er didn't send a letter with his manservant this week or signed his parchment "I loveth ya" versus "I loveth you?" Was the Spanish Inquisition really just a cover up for more wily intentions? Did Queen Isabel need a nice governmental way to pretend she wasn't just interrogating broads to see which one of those heffers was being knocked off by King Ferdinand??!?!

These are the things I want to know. This is the knowledge from which I feel I could reap true benefit. And I have PLENTY of ideas for curricula: I'm thinking lab practicals, group presentations, powerpoints, focus groups... the whole enchilada. And not the Taco Bell version, the grandma-made-it-from-scratch, this-tastes-so-good-its-got-to-be-sprinkled-with-crack kind. 

The truth is probably that no one, not Albert Einstein, not Marie Curie, not Bill Gates, not even Dr. Phil or Oprah or (gasp) Maury Povich would have been or ever will be able to figure out the opposite sex. None of them can with absolute certainty and unequivocal terms explain to me why women annoy the bejeezus out of men with their emotional outbursts and yet slay them with their passion and their kindness and the look they get in their eyes when he walks in a room. They can't map out for me why men have insensitivity programmed in their genetic code but then show moments of mind-blowing tenderness and comforting strength. Why someone's scent and giggle stay engrained in your memory like they were branded there with hot iron and why someone's kiss can so perfectly mimic the effect of a potent hallucinogenic. No one can tell me why fools fall in love, why unrequited love has to hurt SO much, why I'm so stupid over light eyes and full lips... and no one ever will.

I suppose that's part of the beauty, the magic, the illustrious, overwhelming, all-consuming and let's not forget downright sexy quality that love encapsulates. I think maybe it is because it is shrouded in mystery and so difficult to attain that love continues to be chased by millions with a consistence and fervor rivaling the pursuit of the Holy Grail. Maybe someday, whether with a man I presently know or with one waiting in the shadows, I'll get it. Maybe I will be so all consumed with a love that for once is felt in return that I'll finally believe my own assertion that the purpose off all the shitty relationships that went awry is to make The One truly stand out from the crowd. Maybe you really do have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince, as tacky and cliché as that sounds.

Maybe someday soon the male that continues to capture my heart and slay my senses will reach out and hold my hand. Maybe he's the one but doesn't know it yet. Maybe he's not and I don't know it yet. Maybe I'll meet a hottie at the bar scene tonight and he'll confess that I'm the most stunning woman he's ever seen, and he'll want me to bring my friend Jazzy along for a date with his homie who happens to be Chris Brown look-alike (side note- this was written pre-Rihanna beating. Chris Breezy can now pound sand). Maybe we'll have a dance-off atop the roof of the Bank of America building in Downtown and discover we've found our soulmates amid the wind blowing our hair while the bass of "Forever" pulses in our chests.

Or... maybe my life in its present state isn't so tragic, and with a few tweaks in a few select departments, happiness and self-possession might well be within reach. Maybe it's up to me to find validation within myself and not through an external source. Maybe the ball is in my court. Maybe it's time to make a move. Maybe.... juuuust maybe.

~ Broken-hearted Vanessa circa 2009