The Day My Starbucks Life Paid Off

Friday, August 30, 2013

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Today hasn't been great. It started out kind of crappy, if I'm being honest. Work is hectic, & I got into a really hurtful argument on Twitter, & everything's just been a little... much, you know?

Nathan got out of work early & asked if I wanted to get lunch together, so I took a break from work & we went to The Chowda House, a new seafood place that just opened up a few blocks from our place. I brought my laptop with me so that afterward, I could camp out at the downtown Starbucks for the rest of the work day.

There was some commotion happening across the street from Starbucks, but it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary. In fact, there's frequently a commotion happening across the street from Starbucks, where Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash is located. It's a comic book shop owned by Kevin Smith (he of Clerks & Mallrats fame, among others), & it serves as the set of AMC's reality show Comic Book Men, which means there are often film crews & large-ish crowds gathered outside. In fact, I was recently reprimanded by a film crewmenber for daring to - gasp! - stop on the sidewalk to take a photo of filming. Not wanting to receive another slap on the wrist this afternoon, I thought nothing of today's gathering & went in for my coffee.

But then the crowd started moving down the street, away from the comic book store, & I heard someone in the coffee shop say, "Yeah, some mayor is in town. Newark? I don't know why, though, or why anyone cares."

Ignoring the fact that such a statement hurts my heart - learn your local politics, people - I went on high alert: CORY BOOKER IS HERE? I walked outside, phone in hand, & joined the small fray walking slowly down the street with him as he greeted citizens of my fair town.

A woman turned to me right away: "Do you want to meet Mr. Booker?" she asked. "You've got to get in there! Come on, I'll take your photo."

And that's how I ended up shaking the hand of my future senator, despite a little bit of verbal bumbling on my part because I was, let's face it, slightly starstruck. Cory Booker, y'all.

"I met you once," I told him, "when you spoke to the Union for Reform Judaism."

The mayor looked surprised, in a good. "Ah, the URJ!" he responded with a smile. "Great people."

Of course, it's possible that a seasoned politician like Cory Booker is an expert bullshitter & that he does not, actually, remember speaking to the great people of the URJ way back in 2007. But hey, he made me feel like he did, & that was nice.

And I was even having a good hair day!
Still smiling like a buffoon, I made my way back into Starbucks & settled in to work - for real this time. Except...

"Does anyone ever tell you that you look like Jay from the Jay & Silent Bob movies?" I heard a female voice ask. I turned to see a grungy, pink-haired teenager behind me addressing a grungy, long-haired dude picking up a cup of coffee.

Oh, you know where this is going.

I started laughing to myself. The Jay "lookalike" turned to me & winked.

"Yeah, sometimes people tell me that."

"You look a lot like him."

"You don't say?"

"Wait. ARE YOU HIM?"

And that's how I accidentally met Cory Booker & Jason Mewes within a span of 10 minutes.

Needless to say, my day got better. And sometimes, man, it's like the universe knows I wish I lived in a city, where quirky stuff like this happens all the time. Thanks for throwing me a bone, life.
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30 Things Ohioans Really Love, Buzzfeed Be Damned

Thursday, August 29, 2013

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This morning, I got a text:

With apologies for my language (I didn't know at the time that I was about to make our convo public), Lindsey then pointed out that the Buzzfeed piece in question, 30 Things Ohioans Love, begins with this note:
As told by a New Yorker who is currently dating one, is friends with countless others, and spent four years voluntarily living in this great (yet, at times, very odd) state during my glory days of college.
Come on, Buzzfeed! You couldn't even find a real Ohioan to assemble this piece? Don't worry, I've got it covered for you. Some of the things on your list - nine of them, to be exactly - are spot-on, & for the sake of giving credit where credit is due, I have left them on mine, denoted by an asterisk. The rest come from this Ohioan brain of mine; addled with East Coast life though it may have become, my roots are in tact.
  1. Ohio State football*
  1. Being a swing state*
  1. Insisting that Ohio is not the boonies
  1. Hating Lebron*

  1. Great Lakes beer
  1. Telling other people that Cleveland is actually cool
  1. Having four seasons
  1. Drive-thru alcohol & snack "stores"
  1. Going to college in Ohio
  1. Defending the Cleveland Browns*
  1. Mentions of Ohio in pop culture
  1. Driving to West Virginia to buy Everclear
  1. Cedar Point*
  1. Referring to soda strictly as “pop”*
  1. Waxing poetic about the days of Sea World & Geauga Lake
  1. Hating winter but bragging about how good we are at enduring it
  1. Illegal fireworks
  1. Saying “you’re fine” instead of “no problem” or “no worries”*
  1.  Doing the "O-H!" "I-O!" cheer, anywhere & everywhere
  1. Cornhole*
  1. Fairs & festivals & fried foods
  1. Country music, even though we are really far north
  1. Omitting "to be" from sentences where they belong ("This papers needs edited," "The lawn needs mowed," etc.)
  1. Referring to sneakers strictly as “tennis shoes”*
  1. Candy buckeyes
  1. Spending summer weekends at Put-in-Bay
  1. Hating "rival" sports teams as much as or more than we love our own
  1. Reminding others that we have the accent newscasters strive toward
  1. Being “the heart of it all”
  1. Leaving Ohio
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I Don't Wanna Wait for My Life To Be Over

Monday, August 26, 2013

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It's been on my to-do list since 2003, which is a long time to plan to do something without following through. It was in 2003 when TV-shows-on-DVD first became A Thing, & as soon as I learned that my all-time favorite show was available for a second round of viewing, I committed to a full-scale rewatch. As the years went on, I acquired all six seasons on DVD, plus the free-standing series finale disc. And yet, they've sat, for years, dusty & unwatched on a shelf.

Dawson's Creek, the love of my life.

It's been a decade & a half since the show first aired, the 15th anniversary of its debut this past January. I remember it well because I knew I'd love Dawson's Creek before the show even began. At age 13, I was a big fan of the WB, but I'd yet to latch on to "my" show, the one I'd obsess over. I wasn't supposed to watch Buffy because, you know, monsters & stuff, & Seventh Heaven was a little bit too implicitly Jesusy for me - so when the previews starting airing for the show by the creek, I committed to it. "I think this is going to be our new favorite show," I told my best friend, Christina.

And it was. It was "the end of something simple, & the beginning of everything else," as the show's marketing promised. For the next three years, we didn't miss a single episode. We tuned in every Tuesday night, usually together, to watch Dawson, Joey, Pacey, Jen, & the gang represent late-'90s teen angst in the most verbose way possible, relating their issues to our own & finding comfort in their wisdom. We never slept with our high school English teachers or sailed the Atlantic with our sophomore sweethearts or even experienced a Breakfast Club-esque Saturday in detention, but I'll be damned if we didn't feel - nay, know - that this show was meant to speak to us.

There was also the little matter of "The Shrine." It started out on my wall, I think, & expanded over time, & soon Christina began her own: Whenever a star of the show made it onto the cover of a magazine or even just appeared with its pages, I'd rip them out & tape them together into a massive collage, one I hung in my bedroom like wallpaper. When TV Guide put out four covers, each featuring a different star, we rode our bikes to the local grocery store & bought eight copies, four apiece. The shrines were massive, & we were so very proud:

As the years went on, extracurriculars beckoned, & we started missing episodes. We taped as many as we could, caught each other up on all the drama we were missing, & though we couldn't guarantee that we'd get to take our weekly visits to Capeside, our love for the show remained - strong, obsessive, you know. And when we went off to college, I kept watching & taped it for Christina because her college dorm didn't carry the WB (?!?). I watched the two-hour series finale alone in my dorm room, sitting in a beanbag chair, sobbing, feeling like my childhood was ending along with the show. I was dramatic, OK? Dawson's Creek let me be dramatic.

I own the entire series on DVD, but I've been too afraid to rewatch it all. Yes, afraid. Part of me worried that rewatching the show in its entirey would ruin the magic for me. Hear me out: At ages 13 through 18, I never dreamed the technology would exist to allow me to see the whole series again, so I took it in & lapped it up & loved it all & bid it adieu, fully expecting that I could never experience it again. Crazy, right? Well, sometimes I'm crazy.

But the time has come. In fact, you could even say that when I watched that series finale from my dorm room in Athens, Ohio, I just said goodnight, not goodbye. Thanks to the glory that is Netflix, I recently started watching the series from the beginning. I recently started with Season 1, Episode 1, & within seconds, all the nostalgia returned. I'm keeping a running running list of Times This Show Has Made Me Cry, so I think it's safe to say that even 15 years after first falling in love, the magic is alive & well. 

Capeside, I sure did miss you - but lucky for me, I can always go home again. Thanks for having me back, old friend.
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10 DC Guys We’ve All Dated, Seriously

Friday, August 23, 2013

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The DC blog Cloture Club (sweet Lord, is there a more DC name for a blog?) recently posted a piece called "10 DC Guys We've All Dated." Though I only lived in the District for three years & haven't lived there for nearly three years (oh my God), this piece gave me a laugh. I never felt like I dated much while I was living in the capital, but... 10 DC guys we've all dated, for real, including me.

I blogged last spring about "my now-defunct little black book," giving you an overview of what my DC dating life looked like pre-Nathan. All five guys profiled in that post will make an appearance in this one, so go check out that prequel if you want more backstory.

Without further ado:

  1. The Chill Republican Dude: At a birthday party at Vegas Lounge, I met Alex, a vaguely yacht-clubby Harvard grad who asked me to dinner. Over Thai food, he revealed he worked for the McCain campaign but was "mostly just a fiscal conservative" - who seemed appalled that I worked on LGBT issues & gun control. He also qualifies as #10, Really Important Guy, or so I know he thought, because name-dropping abounded. A close liberal friend later told me he knew Alex from college but didn't warn me away because he wanted to let me make my own decisions. Thanks?
  1. Gone-Every-Weekend Guy: Curiously, I didn't know any Gone-Every-Weekend Guys. Is it because everyone I know was really committed to livin' the wild & crazy D.C. life? Probably that.    
  1. Closeted Type-A Guy: The Non-Boyfriend was absolutely Closeted Type-A Guy. He was so laid-back! One time we made out on a dance floor! How Type-B of us! But also, he was more than a little OCD about everything (maybe in a clinical way) & often made me feel crappy about not being OCD about everything (or, well, anything). Basically, the Non-Boyfriend was far too intense to be a non-boyfriend but also far too intense to ever be my real boyfriend. And he worked on the Hill, so he definitely thought he was #10, Really Important Guy, too.
  1. Enigma Guy: Oh, I have two of these, does that count for double? The Bike-Riding Hipster & the Stoner-Turned-Soldier were both Enigma Guy! The former owned a house & had a great job but also had a tattoo of his home state & possessed a touch of wanderlust (in the middle of our possible interest in one another, he went to, like, Turkey or Hungary for a month). I'm pretty sure the latter, Stoner-Turned-Soldier, had a girlfriend the entire time we were hanging out, which would explain why he was a bit of an enigma. He was also the only one who was legitimately #10, Really Important Guy, because it's possible that he works for the FBI now? I sure dodged that weird life bullet!
  1. Outside-the-Beltway Guy: I wouldn't say I "dated" this guy, per se, but we were, uh, friends. He lived in Alexandria, came into the District on weekends, & repeatedly insisted that Old Town Alexandria was "cool" & worth visiting. To this day, I've never set foot in Alexandria, though I'm happy to report that this guy, now happily married, lives in Columbia Heights. Upgrade!
  1. From-Here Guy: The Wise Man was a From-Here Guy, though he was legitimately from there, not from some nearbyish part of Virginia. He, too, is now happily married & still lives in the District & still likes to rage about people who aren't from there & is still my friend, so I can't accuse him of (m)any of the shenanigans Cloture Club says should apply, but still. He's from there. 
  1. Lost Southern Guy: Johnny Fajitas, the boat-shoes-wearing Alabama grad with the perfect hair, has dual citizenship as Lost Southern Guy but also as From-Here Guy because, though he loved his adopted home in the Deep Douth, he was originally from Maryland. He was also a Chill Republican Dude, as he, too, was horrified by my chosen field (& by the fact that I'd once shaved my head - which told me plenty about him). His identity as Lost Southern Guy prevails, though, I believe he has since re-relocated back to the Heart of Dixie. 
  1. Clarendon Guy: I don't understand how Clarendon Guy & Outside-the-Beltway Guy are any different. This is the exact same person, at least in my book. 
  1. Organic Kale Guy: Come to think of it, Organic Kale Guy has definitely never been my type. Whew.
  1. Really Important Guy: I've mentioned at least three of these already, but let me simplify this one for you: Every single guy in the District of Columbia believes he is Really Important Guy. Nearly all of them, except for one, are wrong.
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Strangers Like Me, in Places We don't Know

Monday, August 19, 2013

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Earlier this summer, I spent three days in Florida for work. I didn't travel with any of my coworkers, & upon arrival, I knew only two people, sort of. I was a speaker at a convention for Jewish men, so for most of the event, I was the only woman in the room, & the youngest, to boot. I traveled alone, I stayed alone, I ate alone. Except I wasn't really alone at all.

I shared a cab from the hotel to the airport with an older gentleman named Harvey, a pediatrician from California. The conversation was surprisingly easy as we talked about social media, generational divides, & the future of Reform Judaism, & when our taxi pulled up to his gate, he tried to hand me $12 for the ride & wished me safe travels & a happy day.

My flight delayed, I shared a seat on the floor outside the airport bathrooms with a middle-aged guy named Scott, both of us clamoring for the electrical outlets that were prime real estate in our crowded terminal. We laughed about having no shame when it comes to technology, & when he made a call to a flight attendant friend, he asked her about the timing of my flight, too. He showed me pictures of his kids & told me a bit about his business & his penchant for befriending strangers. Me, too, Scott, me, too. As his flight began to board, he wished me good luck in the hopes that mine would take off soon.

Hours later, my flight was still grounded, & when my phone's battery ran low, I sought another outlet. I found one near a table in the food court, sitting next to a tanned young man about my age. He asked, "Are you on the Newark flight, too?" & together we lamented the general unreliability of air travel. Still, we both admitted, we were lucky to be coming home from such beautiful destinations - him from Puerto Rio & me from Fort Lauderdale. We talked about traveling alone, taking the next day off work, & needing a vacation to recover from our vacations, & when we thought our flight was boarding, we abandoned our post & accepted our partially charged phones in exchange for excitement about a flight that might take off. When it turned out to be a false alarm, we'd lost our spots to other travelers desperate for a charge. Displaced, we parted ways with a wave as he got in line for a burger & I opted for Chinese.

When our plane finally boarded, then took off, then landed, I began to feel hopeful that I'd catch the 9:30 train home from the airport. But when a flight attendant came on over the loudspeaker to tell us we'd be taxiing near the gate for 15 minutes, everyone on board let out a collective groan of frustration. The man sitting next to me, traveling with a painted canvas as his piece of carry-on "luggage," announced loudly that his flight out of Newark was delayed by three hours, too; I told him of my own recent travel debacle, & when other passengers overheard our conversation, they chimed in to express their horror - & their gratitude that as annoying as our current situation might have been, it still wasn't that bad. As we deplaned, he turned back to me: "Thanks for the perspective. Enjoy being home."

Strangers, man.

Look, things aren't always good. In fact, sometimes, things are total shit. Sometimes you break down in tears on the dirty airport carpet & do a full-scale messy cry because it feels like you're never going to get home or change out of your sweaty airport clothes or sleep in a bed instead of on a patch of threadbare carpet festering with other people's shoe-germs. Sometimes you contemplate flying sans luggage to Boston just so you can take an hours-long Amtrak back to New Jersey, simply because the idea of spending the night in an airport is too much to bear & you just want to keep moving, to anywhere. Sometimes traveling chips away at your faith in humanity because, man, it kind of sucks.

But sometimes people surprise you, & sometimes you find that if you calm down & stop being an asshole & try to roll with it, it just... doesn't suck that much, really.

When we're kids, we're taught that strangers are bad & scary - & of course certainly they sometimes are - but when you're all alone, miles from the place you want to be with no idea when or how you'll get back, who else are you going to rely on? In times like these, it's the little interactions with total strangers that pick you back up & put you back together & make everything feel bearable. These fleeting interactions with people we know nothing about, people we'll never see again, people who have no idea they had any impact on you - they matter.

Be nice to strangers. You never know whose day you've made - or who's blogging about you!
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11 Ways My Friend's Death Has Changed Me

Thursday, August 15, 2013

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You may recall that a close friend of mine passed away in March after a long bout of cancer & related illnesses. I feel weird saying she was a "close friend" because, like, am I allowed to say that? Elissa had a thousand & one friends, & all of them loved her more than the next. I've been struggling a lot with whether it's "OK" for me to feel the way I do, but... you know what? It's OK. I think of Elissa every day, & her death is guiding my life in a lot of ways I didn't foresee.

In remembering her, I want to share with you some of these lessons I'm learning, even - & perhaps, sadly, especially - in her absence. Here are just a few of the identifiable ways I'm living my life differently post-Elissa:
  1. I'm saying "yes" more. The day after Elissa's funeral, I went through all of my texts & emails to & from her. Some of what I found was comforting, & even more of it was distressing: There were repeated instances of Elissa inviting me to hang out... & me saying no. I'm sure that sometimes I had legitimate conflicts - & that many times, I was just too tired/anxious/busy working/whatever to make the effort. I don't remember the reasons I bailed on Elissa, but I sure as hell remember the fun times with her - & I don't want to be a person who misses the good times for the relaxing times. I've started making plans & following through with them, even when I don't feel like it.
  1. I'm making memories. As a result of saying "yes" more often, I've been doing things. I went out to eat with a stranger. I went to a friend's sister's house for a Jewish holiday dinner. I took an impromptu visit to D.C. spend the weekend with my best friends. Even though I was initially inclined to say no to every single one of these things, doing them has been awesome. Way more awesome - & more memorable - than sitting home & watching Criminal Minds reruns. (Matthew Gray Gubler, sorry, I love you, call me.)
  1. I'm prioritizing the people who matter most. After Elissa died, I went sort of crazy, defriending from Facebook anyone who I wasn't, like, real-life BFFs with. This was actually a mistake that I regret, but my intentions were good: silencing some of the noise so I can pay more attention to the people I love most. I don't ever again want to look back on texts from a dead friend & think, "If only I'd made more time for this person." Strangers & acquaintances are deserving of time & love, too, but not at the expense of the really important people.
  1. I'm paying more attention to the news. When you live in D.C., it's pretty easy to be "into politics," even if you're not, well, into politics. I've never been a person who understands the inner workings of government, but while I was surrounded by people who did, it was easier to keep up. Now that I'm removed from that environment, I sometimes forget to educate myself. Elissa was an activist in every sense of the word, & I'm trying to keep her spirit alive by staying better informed about issues I care about - which happen to be issues she cared about, too.
  1. I'm trying to be more understanding. I'm, uh, not generally known for being understanding of those whose socio-political views differ from mine, & to be honest, I don't have a ton of interest in being more understanding of people who are, say, anti-equality or anti-choice because those things offend me deeply & sorry I'm not sorry. Still, Elissa was a proponent of working with those with whom we might otherwise disagree in order to make progress on the issues we can agree upon. Recognizing the value in this, I'm trying to just... chill, you know? People have different beliefs than I do, & even though I may find those beliefs abhorrent, it doesn't necessarily mean those people are.
  1. I'm being nicer. This is, in some ways, related to the above point: I'm just making an effort to be less of an asshole. I know I'm a nice person underneath, but sometimes snark prevails, & I'm not... as nice as I could be. Elissa had a solid snarky streak, too, but she was not typically one to find humor in jokes with people at the butt of them. Whenever I've considered tweeting a funny picture of bad fashion or saying something rude to someone who wishes harm upon me, I'm making a more concerted effort to suck it up, smile, & stop being a jerk. (Except for that hair photo I shared with you on Sunday.)
  1. I'm telling people what they mean to me. It doesn't always go that well, & sometimes it's really awkward, but I think it's worth it. Because if I die, I want people who I like to know how much I liked them. Like, in my own words, not just in action or assumption.
  1. I'm realizing that... YOLO, seriously. Most of this, so far, is related to travel. Have the opportunity to go to London? Meet up with 68 bloggers in Vegas? Go to D.C. for a spontaneous weekend? Hey, let's do it. I also have a number of adventure-focused plans in the works - skydiving, parasailing, glass-blowing, new tattoo? Workin' on 'em.
  1. And I'm letting go of FOMO. I'd been hating New Jersey, right? Kind of a lot. I wished I were anywhere else, to the point that I stopped going into NYC because every time I visited, I fell into a mini-depression, wishing I lived there. Now, I'm trying to just appreciate where I am & what's happening in my life right now & not waste my timing wishing I were someplace else. Because I'm not. I'm here, & I may as well love it. 
  1. But I'm trying to figure out what I want. Even though I just said it, I don't want "may as well" to be a part of my vocabulary or my mindset. I want to do things because I want to do them, because they're important to me, because I chose them. Elissa tried her damnedest to be happy, to actively seek a lifestyle that contributed to her happiness. I want to find what it is that makes me truly happy & make it my reality.
  1. Our family friends have two daughters, & a long time ago, when one was having behavioral issues, the other yelled at her, "I only have one life, & I want it to be a happy one!" That's the gist of this, really, of all the things I've learned from Elissa's death, & I wish I'd realized it sooner, but you know what they say about late versus never: I only have one life, & I want it to be a happy one. And finally, finally, finally, I see that that's on me to pursue.
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On the Brink of Disaster or Triumph or Someplace in Between

Monday, August 12, 2013

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What's it like to be on the edge of something big? I wish I knew, & sometimes I even think that I do, that that time might be now. I can feel it in my bones, swelling up against the skin; I can feel it in my blood, bubbling up & pushing at my insides. It feels close, just out of reach, just beyond understanding, too far to be tangible, too close to be denied. What is it, & how do I get it out of me?

And then I think there's no such thing as "the edge of something big." You're either working on something big, making it happen, or you're not, & the truth is that I'm not.

I don't write anyplace except this blog because I don't know where to go. I learned how to craft story pitches to magazines while in college for, hey, magazine journalism - but I've long since forgotten how to do it, & even if I remembered, I don't know what I'd be qualified to write about anymore. My style has evolved, too, & I'm no longer a reporter, far from the days of being a cut-&-dry, nothing-but-the-facts-ma'am editor-type. I don't know what I'd write or if it would work or who would take it, & the thought of taking on all of that? Seems exhausting before I've gotten any further than just the thought of it.

There are other problems, too, other traditional excuses that became cliche only because they're all too true for far too many people. The big one is that I spend so much time working - so much time - & I spend the rest of the time trying to relax, trying to unwind, trying to walk away from the computer because all I ever do for work is sit in front of it & type, & type, & type. And type. When I'm not doing all that typing, I want to be traveling or spending time with my boyfriend or, hell, just watching some crappy reality TV - anything that doesn't involve a computer screen, furthering a continually worsening case of tendonitis &/or carpal tunnel.

And, of course, there's the biggest problem: that I'm scared. That one trumps them all, I suppose, because if I weren't scared, maybe I'd make the time or put in the effort to figure out how & what to write. But I'm scared, & it's paralyzing. I'm scared of rejection, I'm scared of working really hard & having no victories to show for it. I'm scared of revving up my forever-lurking anxiety issues, of having to send emails that sound needy or making phone calls to people I don't know to try to plead my case in a way that sounds professional & trustworthy instead of just desperate & full of "pick me!" undertones. I'm scared of hearing "no," scared of being told I suck, scared of being turned down by every editor under the sun, over & over & over, forever.

I'm scared of writing things that upset people, of telling the truth in the only way I'm really comfortable speaking, & of those I love responding negatively to the things it turns out that I have to say. I'm scared of being vulnerable, scared of "putting myself out there," as they say, simultaneously scared of too much rejection & too much success, because, hey, are they mutually exclusive? What if I actually do really well, & people hate me for it? That's worse, in some ways, than failing really hard, because everyone secretly sort of hates a person who goes for what she wants & actually, God forbid, achieves it. And if you think that statement is untrue, you're a better person than I am - but maybe I'm just jealous of all the people who are doing what I have thus far found myself unable to.

"Do one thing every day that scares you," Eleanor Roosevelt once said, & I do. I do things that scare me every single day, but the truth is that I'm always scared, so it's sort of a low bar. The problem is that I'm not doing things that are scary enough. I'm doing the scary little things, & I settle there, & these days, that's started to feel like it's just not enough for me. It's time to do more, dream bigger, live scarier.

But when you're scared of everything, where do you even begin?
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The 29 Best Things About My 29th Birthday

Sunday, August 11, 2013

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Last Monday, I turned 29. I thought there would be a lot of anxiety associated with beginning the official countdown to 30, but I have a pre-birthday habit of spending a couple weeks referring to myself by my almost-age, which means that when the time comes, I'm already comfortable with the new number. It worked like a charm this year, & instead of anxious, I found myself more laid back than ever - which is, perhaps, a sign that I'm becoming an adult after all!

Here, in no particular order aside from pseudo-chronological, are the 29 best things about my 29th birthday.
  1. The Acer Aspire M laptop Nathan got me for my birthday, which he gave to me on Friday so I could use it over the weekend
  2. The note he included in the box, which made me cry & is now tacked up on the bulletin board above my new desk (see #)
  3. Sleeping in just little bit, but not enough to impede the day (10:00), & waking up gently on my own, rather than to my mother's annoyed insistence
  4. Waking up to a small spread of gifts, from both my boyfriend & my mom, framed by an adorable felt birthday banner & a bunch of colorful balloons

  5. Also waiting for me when I awoke: Homemade brunch of cinnamon French toast, crispy bacon, fruit salad, & mimosas
  6. Opening my gifts: a pretty mixed-metal necklace from Ten Thousand Villages from my mom, & from Nathan, some practical post-laptop things, like an umbrella, a wireless mouse, & Men in Black on BluRay. OK, so they weren't all practical!
  7. The weather, which was gorgeous, sunny, & not too hot. Being born in August, I am accustomed to not wanting to leave the air conditioned house on my birthday. Every year.
  8. Because the weather was so nice, this year found me pleasantly surprised to be able to wear shorts & a sweater, my ideal combo. I have never worn a sweater on my birthday ever.
  9. Drinking a superb, just-sweet-enough iced latte from America's Cup, my favorite coffee shop in Asbury Park
  10. Checking out my favorite antique store in the area, the Antique Emporium - 20,000 square feet of antiques jewelry, furniture, clothes, decor, electronics, & truly absurd knick-knacks, like this Jimmy Buffet bird statue, which was my favorite find of the day.
  11. Finding a pair of bright red, real leather boat shoes for just $15 - in my size! Bought them, obviously, though they were my second favorite find of the day, because that bird is just too good.
  12. Walking the not-at-all-crowded boardwalk at Asbury Park on aforementioned gorgeous, sunny, not-too-hot day
  13. Wandering into some of the little shops along the boardwalk, where I bought an Asbury Park tee & discovered a bowl of wooden bottle openers carved into the shape of penises. 
  14. Exploring some of the abandoned & Sandy-struck buildings at either end of the boardwalk, including an old casino that now bears this awesome octo-flapper graffiti inside.
  15. Taking black & white photos with Nathan in an old-timey(ish) photo booth. They turned out so cute I can hardly stand it & are now on display in the corner of our bedroom mirror. 
  16. Spotting this fantastically terrible hairstyle at the beach. What is this???
  17. Discovering that Mogo was open! We've twice tried to eat from this Korean taco stand, which was closed both times. It's the highest-rated "restaurant" on Yelp in Asbury Park. I went with the bulgogi tacos, but it was a tough choice.
  18. Eating our (delicious) tacos on a bench facing the Atlantic Ocean - feet up, sunglasses on, just hangin' out & talking about life.
  19. Witnessing my mother's enthusiasm for being at the beach. She didn't want to leave!
  20. Making a quick stop at the mall that turned into a not-that-quick shopping trip that yielded a sweatshirt, two sweaters, a gingham button-up, & a small Sephora haul. Score!
  21. Eating dinner at Muang Thai, which has become arguably my favorite restaurant in Red Bank. Their chicken basil has officially surpassed the same dish at my favorite D.C. places - which is saying a lot, considering I once made it my mission to find the best ka prow in the District.
  22.  Enjoying a bottle of Cupcake prosecco while we ate. Like most restaurants in the area, Muang Thai is BYOB, which means we can bring whatever we please.
  23. Moving my grandmother's old, wooden desk into my office. She passed away in 2011, & my mom has been hanging onto the desk for me ever since. I feel closer to her, having that familiar piece of furniture in my apartment, to be used every single day. 
  24. Catching up on MasterChef, my current favorite reality TV obsession.
  25. Filming my YouTube video for VEDA, Vlog Every Day in August, & watching other people's videos. Watch my birthday video below, & check out the rest, if you're so inclined.
  26. Spending this excellent birthday with my two favorite people. Nathan & I both took the day off work, & it was a treat to have my mom in town for a few days.
  27. Being on the receiving end of what felt like a million kind text messages, cards, voicemails, tweets, Facebook posts, & Instagram comments wishing me a happy birthday. I felt so loved! I think everyone should treat everyone like it's their birthday every day, don't you?
  28. Finally getting my little bit o' birthday cake (a chocolate & peanut butter-stuffed cupcake with peanut butter buttercream icing from Sugarush) the next day, just to extend the celebration a bit.
  29. Ending the whole thing happy & satisfied - & not at all too scared of 30!
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