one year recap.

Exactly one year ago today, I posted this:

One of my favorite things about social media is the way that (when used correctly) it can serve as an incredible real-time journal. In all the times I’ve tried to establish a consistent routine with keeping a written diary, I’ve never been able to figure out how to capture moments from my life quite the way Instagram does. There’s nothing like a photo to bring you back to a special moment, and when I look at this one, the way I felt on September 15, 2016 comes right back to me.

My wedding ring was brand spankin’ new. It had been on my finger for less than three months. My nails were freshly painted from celebrating my friend’s wedding the weekend before. I was reading a book called The KnockoffIt was a perfectly gorgeous day, one of the first of the season that was cool enough that I could whip out my favorite denim jacket again. I walked out of my office building downtown for the last time around noon. That moment felt like any scene of a revolving door you’ve ever seen in a movie — a little disorienting, a little upside down. When I got out onto the street, I stared at the sky for a few seconds before making my way to the subway. In my time as a New Yorker, I don’t think I’ve ever walked slower. I sat silently on the train, too antsy to read or listen to a podcast. I remember looking around me at the subway car, empty in the middle of the day, wondering if I’d find myself right back there several months later, sitting alone in an abandoned car at noon, ferrying myself back and forth to Manhattan begging for a new job because I’d failed as a writer. When I got home, I wrote this:

It’s the most beautiful day here in New York, and the first day that really feels like fall– my favorite season. In that moment, it felt like a small gift from the universe just for me– as if this first day of my new journey was meant to also be completely gorgeous so that I would walk outside and know that I’d made the right decision.

When I started at my job almost five years ago, I was twenty-one years old and making a two-hour commute to New York City from my hometown in Pennsylvania. I remember so clearly a very dramatic, suburban, wide-eyed thought that I had as I walked up Eighth Avenue on my first day. “Here I am, in New York! This is where I’ll make a name for myself. I’m here to make my fortune!”

There have been moments over the last few weeks since I gave my notice that I wondered if, in doing so, I’d thrown away the opportunity to fulfill that naive twenty-one year old’s city ambitions. I know that it’s not. I am entering a transition, and it’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable, and it might stretch me to some of my previous limits, but it will lead me to a place where I can call my own shots as to how I make that name for myself. I don’t think it’s ever too late to figure out how you really want to live your life. Circumstances aren’t always right for making massive life changes, and I am grateful that the stars have aligned in my own circumstances to make this possible for me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six years old. Now, the trick is to let myself feel each and every stage of this transition, so I can get to the other side ready to chase success in my own right and as my best self.

For now, I am going to take myself out to my favorite little French spot on the corner to sit outside on this perfect day with a book, an order of French fries, and a glass of champagne. Because if there’s any better way to mark such a major milestone, then I don’t know what it is.

I did just that. I ate all of the French fries, and I think I ordered a second glass of champagne, too. And now, a year later, I’m even more grateful that I’ve chosen the path of becoming a writer, because it gives me a chance to uncover musings like this one and to think back on the self that walked out into the world with only a vague plan and absolutely nothing on her agenda a year ago and to say to her, “You survived. You did what you said you would do and you did it well, and you survived.”

It’s unfathomable to me now that I can reflect back on that day with a year’s worth of wisdom and experience. There have been a lot highs and plenty of lows. And as much as I usually like to wrap up these monthly recaps with a clear lesson or specific takeaway, I’m not sure that I can do that today. I’ve realized that this journey and the career path that I’ve chosen are constantly changing, so maybe what I’ve learned these past twelve months is simply to buckle up, hold your head up high, and try your very best to make things happen. In spite of the challenges and setbacks, I get up every. single. day and work — hard, and only occasionally in my PJs. It doesn’t always pay off the way I expect, and I often find that I have an entirely different set of goals 24 hours later, but this formerly uptight, cautious girl has embraced the uncertainty and seen the benefits of letting go. When you put in the consistent, back-breaking effort and trust the timing of the world around you, magical things happen. All that I’ve wanted throughout this process was to be true to myself and to set a good example for my four younger sisters, and I hope I’ve done that. I want my sisters to know that you have it within your power to build something that’s all your own.

When I shared that photo a year ago, I intentionally stayed quiet about the specifics of my transition. In the end, it wasn’t about leaving a job or starting a new job. It wasn’t about being dissatisfied at my former company or telling the world that I’d had the guts to quit. It’s still not about that. While leaving was the right choice for me at that time, I still have nothing but gratitude for that first chapter in my career, and I look back at it now with even better perspective on all that it taught me. What I wanted people to know that day was that I was about to launch myself into a crazy new adventure. Getting into the specifics was pointless, because I hardly knew what the specifics would look like myself. I’m so glad I didn’t limit myself with some “official announcement” of what I was doing, because the adventure is ongoing. I’m still not quite sure what exactly I’ll be doing next week or next month — let alone a year from now — but I do know that I’ve carved out a niche for myself where I get to do what I love, make a living doing it, and learn a hell of a lot about myself along the way. With that said, I feel like I can confidently call this first year a success.

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Today, I’m celebrating this personal milestone by slowing down work and taking some time for myself. I might get a manicure. I might finish the book I’m reading. I might take a walk around the neighborhood. I might go back to that little French spot on the corner and enjoy another order of French fries and a glass (or two) of champagne. I’ll figure it out as I go — after all, I’ve gotten pretty good at that lately. I have a feeling that whatever I decided to do will be really fun : )

Thanks to all of you for supporting me over this past year. It’s been more special than I can say to share this experience with you! Let’s keep it going, shall we?

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on saying yes.

On Wednesday, we had a girls’ night at one of my new favorite events here in New York City — Changemaker Chats. I learned about this awesome organization from a sorority sister a few months ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few of the Chats since then. The Changemakers are active in eight cities, and if you have a chapter where you live, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Once a month, they bring a butt-kicking female leader, influencer, or entrepreneur to speak casually about her experiences in work and life, and it’s just a really cool opportunity to listen to a successful person share their insights. I absolutely love these events, and it’s been fun sharing it with my friends, too. Even my mom has gotten in on the fun! She took the bus in for just a few hours on Wednesday so she could join us for the Chat. This month’s event was hosted at HBO HQ, so there were obviously photos involved.

One of the best things about Changemaker Chats is that the conversations are off the record, which makes them all the more honest and comfortable. Because of this rule, I’m not going to share the details of Wednesday’s event (you’ll just have to come check out the next Chat to see what it’s about!), but the amazing speaker did get my wheels turning with one simple thing she said, and I wanted to tell you about it.

JUST SAY YES.

It’s a philosophy I’ve heard from several inspirational writers and speakers over the years (as a diehard Housewives and Bethenny Frankel fan, I devoured A Place of Yes when it came out a few years ago), and each time I’m reminded of it, I realize how important it is. It’s taken on a whole new meaning in the adventure I’ve been on this past year.

I’ve been pretty honest with you lately about the moments of doubt I’ve had, the growing pains I’ve been experiencing as a person working out on my own, and the many questions I’ve been asking myself about whether or not I’m using my time wisely and pursuing the right things. Last night’s words of wisdom felt like just the advice I needed, and I’m going to try to keep them front of mind as I move into my second year of writing.

Saying yes to opportunities that come my way instead of overthinking whether or not they’re the “right” opportunities. Saying yes to meeting new people and hearing what they have to say. Saying yes to sharing my story with people who are interested. Saying yes to jumping headfirst into whatever work is on my plate each day. Saying yes to meetings and coffee dates. Saying yes to new projects and opportunities, even if they feel overwhelming or out of my comfort zone. Saying yes, yes, YES. It’s an easy philosophy to remember, and one that I think is going to lead me in the right direction with my writing. And if it leads me to a wrong turn now and then, at least I’ll have tried a lot of things. Right?

JUST SAY YES.

It’s my new motto, an easy-to-remember little mantra.

Say YES to a great weekend, everyone. You all are awesome, and I can’t wait to see you back here next week : )

 

things i’m working on.

It’s a busy week over here, and when I’m struggling to keep up with my to-do list, I can never decide if it’s a blessing or a curse. On one hand, I feel extremely lucky to have a personal life that’s full of events and a job that keeps my brain working for so many hours of the day, but at the same time, I can’t help but think… how am I supposed to keep up with all of this? You’ve been there, too, right? Grateful to wake up with purpose and structure (well, maybe that love for structure is just me hah!), but also wondering how you can get off the ride, even temporarily? It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless!

It’s the problem facing me this week, and I have to tell you that yesterday, I seriously questioned whether or not I was going to get a blog post up by noon today. By the end of the day, my creative juices were just not flowing, and (sadly) it seemed like this post might have to be the thing that fell to the wayside. But you know I love you, and I hate to leave this little space unattended for more than a few days at a time.

Sooooo, instead of jumping on here and pretending that I have it all figured out (I don’t) and know exactly how to be the blogger-at-the-ready at all times (I definitely don’t), I decided instead to jump on here and share with you a candid list of things in this life that I’m still. just. kind of. working on. We all have things like that, no? Things that aren’t the super serious obstacles holding us back from making progress in our lives, but that just kind of nag at us because we’d really like to get a little bit better at them every day?

It has to be about progress over perfection, though. And as my own worst critic, I need to remind myself of that more often. Because perfection doesn’t happen, but progress can happen. Shouldn’t we set ourselves up for little baby victories along the way?

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For me, feeling totally confident here in this space — confident enough to always make it a leading priority on my to-do list — is one of those things I am working on. And here are a few more…

I’m working on nighttime snacking, because I know it’s not the best thing for me, but it’s a hard habit to kill.

I’m working on being more proactive with my friends, because it’s easy to fall into too-familiar patterns.

I’m working on being more direct, because sometimes, I’m a lot better at writing than I am at talking.

I’m working on liking better TV shows, because a girl can only watch so many episodes of The Real Housewives.

I’m working on refining my natural response to the question “how are you?” because I think we’re all too quick to simply respond with “fine!” or “busy!” (I’m so guilty of that.)

I’m working on figuring out a better way to read and watch the news, because it’s hard to stay both informed and sane at the same time.

I’m working on being a little bit friendlier to people on the street, because sometimes I catch myself doing the fast New Yorker walk and I know I have a tendency toward the RBF.

I’m working on finding new recipes, because I can definitely get in a rut in the kitchen. (Suggestions are welcome!)

I’m working on being less of a crazy person about keeping our apartment clean, because I know that life is definitely too short.

I’m working on taking more walks during the day, because fresh air is important and that short walking commute I had as an 8-to-5 girl always made me really happy.

I’m working on being more patient with Matt’s study schedule, because that’s what a reasonable wife would do, and transitions are hard for everyone.

I’m working on staying up a little later to read, because it bums me out when I crash after just a few pages (even though I’m grateful for the sleep). I’m also still working on sleep, in general.

I’m working on eating more greens, because aren’t we all?

What are you working on these days?

monthly goals recap -> august + september.

Happy (long weekend) Friday, beautiful people — and happy September, too! September is my birthday month (woo!), and it also kicks off an especially magical time in this city of mine. It’s cliché, I know, but there’s really nothing like fall in New York City. I already feel things shifting as my fellow New Yorkers wind down their summer travels and start reconnecting with their favorite friends and neighborhood spots. The city will probably empty out for the long weekend (which means we can go to great restaurants without having to wait for seats!), and then everyone will settle in to wait for the leaves to change and the pumpkin spice-flavored everything to become available.

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As I always do at the end of the month, I sat down yesterday with my Passion Planner (and my friend’s pup Sherman, who spent the day at my apartment instead of doggie day care) to recap August and make a list of goals for September.

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One of my favorite things about these calendar pages is the spot where you can fill in a more general personal and work focus for the month. In September, I’m prioritizing journaling on the personal side of things. For the last two weeks, before I even get out of bed, I’ve been setting a timer for ten minutes and using that time for writing in my journal. It’s never been easy for me to establish a regular journaling practice, but doing it every day before I do anything else has really helped me get into a rhythm with it, and I want to keep that up! I know meditation is supposed to be where it’s at, but I prefer this kind of mindfulness. It helps me keep my cool! I also snuck a little (27) in under my monthly personal focus, because I want to enjoy my birthday : ) Work-wise, my focus is simply new opportunities: pursuing them, embracing them, and rising to the occasion to do my best for them when I have the chance to do so.

Time to get more specific, though. Here’s how I did in August:

  • Create master list of story-worthy female professionals. I didn’t make this happen in August, but the good news is that there was no real deadline here. Since this master list is going to need to be updated on a rolling basis, anyway, I’m trying to grant myself a little extra grace. Moving it right over to the September list!
  • Brainstorm new blog content.√ YES! Stay tuned! There are lots of fun things to come as we approach year two (WHAT?) of Finding Plan A.  
  • Break into one new outlet.√ YES! I’m working on a really fun project for a new Web site. I’m excited to share it with you when it’s finished.
  • Finish first chapter of book.√ YES! Finished the first chapter and started the second.
  • Research writing classes and possible graduate programs. This task fell to the wayside this month, and instead of feeling guilty about it, I’m going to take it as a sign that this is probably not the right time for me to be applying to any kind of higher stakes graduate program. I’m going to shift my focus to writing classes that are slightly lower pressure so I can test out being a student again, and if I’m still itching to go back for a more structured grad program in a few months, I can pull my application together for next year’s deadline instead of this year’s.
  • Read three books.√ YES! Between a week at the beach and Matt’s study schedule, I really turned up my reading game this month. In August, I finished The Nix, Hunger, Lilac Girls, Startup: A Novel, and The Glass Castle. I would especially recommend Lilac Girls and The Glass Castle.
  • Higher quality “me” time. This is a tougher one to quantify, but I would say yes! I’ve definitely cut back on my binge watching time, and it’s made me a lot more creative and productive, while also giving me a chance to read and wind down in a more meaningful way.

Looking ahead to September, I’ve been taking a cue from the girls over at Cultivate What Matters (an awesome community of women focused on making meaningful things happen and supporting progress on each other’s goals) and thinking about the idea of margin. In the world of goal setting and planners, this idea of margin is all about knowing when it’s OK to leave yourself a little more physical white space as you organize your monthly outlook or to-do list. Creating this margin doesn’t mean that you’re not working toward a productive month or chasing big goals — it just means that you’re looking at a more focused set of items and being realistic about what’s achievable, which frees up your mental energy to actually achieve it, because you’re not worrying as much about whether or not you have enough time! I’m excited to see if playing with this margin helps me stay even more motivated next month. Here’s what I’m targeting for September:

  • Create master list of story worthy female professionals. Moving this from August!
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. As I mentioned in my recap of last month, I’m going to shift my focus from full-on grad programs to online classes or local workshops.
  • Successfully complete project for new outlet. The story I’m working on for the new Web site is a pretty heavily reported piece, and I really want to impress this new editor!
  • Finish second chapter of book. Onward and upward!
  • Break into one new outlet. You know the drill, people. I have pitches in with a lot of new contacts and plan to keep up that momentum going forward.
  • Read four books. With Matt’s new study schedule (I wrote about that here), I have a lot more down time at night. I’m hoping to put it to work doing even more reading than usual.
  • Celebrate my one-year “anniversary” well. September 15 marks one year since I left my corporate job to start this journey. I’m planning to take the day off from work and really soak in all that these last 365 days has meant.

What are you hoping to achieve in September? Feel free to share in the comments!

august giveaway winner announced!

Hello, everyone — and thanks to all who entered this month’s giveaway! Really, nothing makes me happier than reading the comments in all of your entries, and I just love waking up the morning I get to announce the winner. Who knew a random drawing could be so fun when you’re not even eligible to get a prize yourself???

Our winner this month is ALEX! Alex, I’ll reach out via email with your BaubleBar gift card. Congrats!

I’ll meet everyone back here on Friday : ) happy hump day!

the perfect chocolate chip banana bread.

Good morning, sunshines! First of all, I want to say a big, huge THANK YOU to all of you who reached out with love and encouragement after my last post. It’s empowering to be able to share difficult pieces of my story so honestly and to have others recognize and share in my experience. I try to keep in mind as much as possible that I’m never alone in my frustrations and insecurities, but it’s always nice to be reminded — so, thank you thank you THANK YOU.

After the weekend (plus all of your kindness), I’m reset and ready for what the next few days have in store. Matt and I were so happy to have some downtime here in Brooklyn. We spent a lot of hours holed up in our apartment napping and reading good books, and I decided to cap off the weekend by whipping up some banana bread. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, and since we had a few bananas turning brown in the kitchen, banana bread seemed like the obvious thing.

I’ve been perfecting my banana bread recipe since my senior year in college. It’s based loosely on this recipe from Rachael Ray, but over the years, I’ve made several adjustments both to make it a bit healthier and to make it taste better : ) This banana bread has quite a history. When I started making it in college, my friends and roommates became pretty obsessed. They would deliberately over-buy bananas to give us (well, me) an opportunity to make it, and this very recipe got us through many breakups and tough study sessions. To this day, I rarely go visit a college friend without a batch in my bag! I still think it’s the perfect kinda, sorta healthy treat when I’m in need of a pick-me-up in my grown-up life, and after last week’s scaries, I’m happy to have it in my apartment to help kick off what I’m sure will be a much better week.

I can’t believe I’m releasing the full recipe into the world (I hope my friends still need me after this!), but here it is. You’re going to love it.

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The Perfect Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour — it’s the best gluten-free flour I’ve found!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (<– this is my secret!)
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.

Prepare a baking pan with non-stick spray (I use coconut oil spray). If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can use a shorter baking pan, instead! Back in college, we used to cut this up like brownies : )

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In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt (you really only need a quick shake of salt, do don’t bother measuring it out!).

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Mix in the oil, bananas, vanilla, and eggs.

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Stir in the chocolate chips (add nuts, if you’d like!).

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Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean, between 60 and 80 minutes. In my oven, 65-68 minutes is usually the sweet spot.

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Cool the loaf in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely before you indulge!

I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this recipe as much as my loved ones and I do! Let me know what you think in the comments below if you decide to give it a try.

Remember to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a $25 gift card to BaubleBar! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Wednesday 8/30, so get those entries in ASAP!

 

real talk #3

We’re getting real this morning, friends, so let’s start with a real photo. Like, really real.

That’s what I looked like when I woke up today. My eyebrows look crazy. My forehead’s a little shiny. I’m wearing the same outfit I wore to work in the coffeeshop for all of yesterday afternoon (because even though I’m changing out of my pajamas the minute I wake up as part of my new-ish morning routine, there’s no rules yet about what happens when you’re so tired from a writing marathon that you just can’t bring yourself to change into a new athleisure look). My eyes are a little red and puffy because — and we’re getting real here — last night was an emotional one.

I said an official “see ya later!” to my sister Katie, who’s on her way to move in for her freshman year of college this morning. I’m so crazy proud of her. Look out, guys, because she’s really going to change lives as a music therapist one day.

Matt and I are dealing with a lot of change here in our home. He’s started studying for a few big tests for work, so our new nightly routine basically consists of having an hour together for dinner, then moving into separate rooms so he can stay totally focused while he works for the rest of the night. I’m so crazy proud of him, too. It’s not easy to become a student again. But since Matt’s not legally allowed to have his phone out at work (he works on the trading floor of a bank, so there are a lot of rules in place to prevent anything shady or illegal going on) and is out the door every morning at 6:30 when I am starting my workday, too, losing the precious time I usually have with him at night has been a rude awakening. Working from home is great, but it can feel isolating sometimes, which is just a little more difficult now that my nights are also more isolated.

Add all this to the fact that I’m experiencing what I can only believe are typical “I’ve-been-working-for-myself-for-almost-a-full-year-now-and-I’m-just-now-stopping-to-catch-my-breath” growing pains, and you wake up with a puffy face like the one you see above.

This week, I’ve been questioning myself more than I have in a long, long time. Not questioning the decision I made last year to take on this whole writing journey, but questioning the little decisions I make each and every day. As my fellow WFH-ers, freelancers, and other boss ladies know, there’s no rulebook for this. There’s no one here to tell me whether or not I’m doing things “right” or to tell me that I’m doing a good job. And as I transition out of the summer chaos into a calmer season that allows me a lot more time to work and grow my business, I’m finding myself feeling a lot more anxious about these things. Am I working at the right times? Am I working too much? Am I working enough? Am I spending the right amount of time developing new relationships versus writing for the clients I already have? Am I doing a good job with my book? Will I ever be able to get an agent? Am I giving myself the time I need to recharge? Do I even need that time? Do I deserve it? Am I where I should be? Are people taking what I do seriously? If not, why not?

Friends, was this my first self-employed meltdown? I don’t know. Maybe.

The good news is that I think I’m through the worst of it. All of these insecurities had been bubbling beneath the surface this week, and last night I finally got the chance to talk to Matt about it. He took the night off from studying (because he’s brilliant and the nicest), and listened to me ask myself all of those questions as I went through no less than nine soggy, disgusting tissues. He reminded me of how far I’ve come from when I started all of this last September. He told me it’s OK to take a step back every once in a while instead of always feeling like I have to hustle, hustle, hustle and move forward, forward, forward. The guy knows what he’s talking about, and he understands me so well that it scares me sometimes.

If you’re feeling insecure or anxious or just totally freaked out, remember that you’re not the only one. Life and work are not always easy, no matter how you choose to do them. Change and growth, in particular, are really. stinkin’. hard. So if you’ve had a week like mine (can we just blame it on mercury in retrograde?), you better go out and get yourself a glass of wine or an ice cream sundae (or both!) tonight. We’ll regroup after the weekend.

***AND FOR AN ADDED PICK-ME-UP…

…don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a $25 gift card to BaubleBar! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Wednesday 8/30, so get those entries in ASAP!