monthly goals recap -> september + october.

Matt and I are a few days into our two-week California adventure, and I have to say that nothing is better for my soul than getting a change of scenery, some fresh air, and some serious quality time with my one and only. So far, we’ve been in San Francisco and Monterey. I’ll share more details of the trip in an official travel update later this week, but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite photos from our drive around Pebble Beach’s famous 17-mile loop. It’s a few miles away from Monterey and looks exactly like the opening titles from Big Little Lies. No filters or editing on these babies!

IMG_5417

IMG_2474

IMG_1117

IMG_8581

More pictures and stories from our travels to come! In the meantime, work is still in progress while we’re on the road (for me, at least), which means my monthly goals are definitely not taking two weeks off…

One of the biggest lessons I learned this past month was about adaptability. Even with the extra “margin” I allowed for myself in September (you can read more about that here, but it’s a concept I borrowed from the girls over at Cultivate What Matters), I didn’t accomplish a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish. Thanks to some changes in my schedule for September (namely, a regular contributor gig at Bustle that I’m really excited about), I had no choice but to revisit my priorities and find peace in not crossing things off the list. Plenty of items have been pushed off until October, and others? Others may just have to wait even longer.

Here are the details on my September goals:

  • Create master list of story-worthy female professionals.√ YES! This task had been on my radar for most of the summer, so I focused on working on it within the first few days of the month.
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. I ended up with a lot less unstructured work time this month than I expected (don’t forget that I was hoping to give myself that extra margin!), so this just didn’t happen. I’ll be working on this in October (hopefully).
  • Successfully complete project for new outlet. √ YES! My editor signed off on a second draft of this story at the end of last week, so I’ll be able to share this with all of you soon. I’m really proud of this one, guys!
  • Finish second chapter of book. Let’s get real here, shall we? This month was downright dismal as far as working on my passion project. Between learning to balance hours for my new Bustle gig, finishing some more heavily reported pieces, keeping up with my typical workload, and managing some personal things that came up, I really struggled to find time for creative writing — and when I did find that time, it was hard for me to channel the creativity and emotional energy I needed. I have some specific ideas for getting back on track with this project that I’m hoping to put into place in October.
  • Break into one new outlet.√ YES! Bustle, baby!
  • Read four books. I got a little extra ambitious this month with my reading goal — which, of course, means that September was also the time I got in a reading rut. (Doesn’t it always happen that way?) I finished three books in September: Fitness Junkie (fun, frothy social commentary on our often-scary obsession with weight and the health industry), Small Admissions (the story of a mid-quarter life crisis twenty-something who gets back on her feet working in the admissions office of a fancy New York City private school), and Made for Love (quite possibly the weirdest book I’ve ever read, which I can only endorse to the extent that it was incredibly imaginative, inventive, and well-written).
  • Celebrate my one-year “anniversary” well.√ YES! I really savored this moment, and it felt great.

It’s also worth sharing that there are always a few monthly goals that I don’t post here on the blog, and in September, I barely accomplished any of the goals I kept private. The schedule changes I mentioned really threw me for a loop this month, but they were also a symptom of growth and new opportunities. I’m learning to accept that it’s OK to adjust the expectations I have for myself, especially if it means that I can say “YES!” to trying new things and taking on new challenges.

On deck for October is a mix of totally new goals, some specific habits that I think will help refine how I approach more familiar goals, and (of course) a few old standbys.

  • Complete a successful first month at Bustle. I’m just two weeks into being a regular contributor for this awesome site (you can check out what I’ve written so far here), and I hope to continue proving myself in October.
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. Moving this one over from September.
  • Break into new outlet (or two!). This one should come as no surprise to you. I’m happy to report, though, that I’ve already gotten some good news from a new editor in the first few days of this month about a story I pitched in September, so I’m setting my sights on growing even more in October.
  • Pitch to a new editor every week. This is a more specific goal that should help get me closer to breaking into more new outlets.
  • Implement new schedule for working on my book. As I mentioned, September was not a great month for working on my novel, so it’s time to whip myself into shape. I’m playing with the idea of building some regular time for this project into my schedule every. single. Monday, which I think will allow for more momentum throughout the week.
  • Finish second chapter of book. (see above!)
  • Stick to new blog calendar. I’m changing up the way I organize things behind the scenes here on the site, so I’m excited to see how that plays out in October.
  • Read four books. With our time in California in the first half of this month, it should be a lot easier for me to reach a four-book goal. I’m a major travel reader. I’m planning to include one “self improvement” kind of title (either personal or professional) in that list. Any suggestions would be welcome in the comments below!
  • Stick to journaling habit. I always just feel better when I make time to journal every few days. I started doing this more consistently in September, and I want to keep it up moving forward.
  • Celebrate Matt’s birthday well. Because I have the world’s best husband and he deserves some serious celebrations : )

What are you hoping to achieve in October? Let me know in the comments below!

 

2 Comments

september giveaway winner announced!

Happy Friday, friends! I don’t know about you, but over here, it feels like this week has somehow managed to both drag on and onnnnn AND fly by so quickly that it seemed impossible to get anything done. Time is such a weird thing sometimes.

I’m so excited (as always!) to announce the winner of the September giveaway. Congratulations, DREW! You’re the winner of the Beautycounter Adaptive Moisturizer, and I just know you’re going to love it : ) I’ll reach out via email to make arrangements for you to get your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered this month! Beautycounter is an awesome brand, and I would definitely encourage you to check them out for all things skin care and beauty. Shop this link to learn more about all the products and to support our friend Alexa’s growing business.

Tomorrow morning, Matt and I are getting on a plane to kick off a two-week (!!!!!) working vacation on the west coast. Matt’s job requires him to take two consecutive weeks away from the office each year (it’s a regulatory rule in the finance industry), so we’re making the most of it this time around. I’m so grateful to be able to take my work with me so we can spend some real QT together. I’ll be keeping you posted on all of our travels right here starting next week.

Have a great weekend, friends!

0 comment

the new normal.

How did we already get to Tuesday? Birthday celebrations rolled on into the weekend (thanks to everyone for all of the well wishes!), and I feel like I’m just now coming down from all of the excitement…

My family came in on Saturday and I got to do one of my favorite things — show them around Brooklyn! Our borough is so chock full of amazing little corners and things to see, and I can’t help but feel like it’s a personal victory when I have a chance to let out-of-towners in on some local secrets. Saturday, we caught up over coffee on the patio at the bakery across the street from our apartment (which also happens to be my favorite work spot of late), then jumped in the car and went to Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood located right on the water that’s off the beaten path of the subway. Red Hook is known for its awesome views and yummy seafood, so we had a photo shoot (the barge in the photo below says LEHIGH VALLEY, which happens to be the area of Pennsylvania where we’re from!) and then celebrated my birthday at Brooklyn Crab over crab rolls and margaritas. No birthday is complete without dessert, of course, so we finished the day at Ample Hills Creamery with a scoop of cotton candy ice cream (for me, at least).

IMG_7891

fullsizeoutput_938

Before the weekend, Matt won the Husband Of The Year award (as if he doesn’t do that practically every day, anyway!) and gifted me tickets to Hamilton for my birthday. I still can’t quite put into words what it meant to me. We are ob-sessed with the show and its soundtrack in our house, and I’ve been dreaming of going to see it for months. Sunday, we capped off my birthday weekend with a matinee, and it was even better than I expected. This show is quite literally the best thing I’ve ever seen (yes, generally the best thing), and I still can’t believe I got the chance to share it with this special guy. I’ll never forget it, and it was a great way to kick off my twenty-eighth (eek!) year.

fullsizeoutput_93c

Something I’ve been thinking about over the last few weeks as I’ve rounded the corner on some big milestones — yes, my birthday, but also the one-year anniversary of launching this blog last September — is the concept of “the new normal.” It’s a phrase that we all hear pretty often, and one that I can personally cop to using maybe a little too much. Heading into year two of Finding Plan A, I’ve been imagining what the next chapter is going to look like for the space, and I just thought I’d share some of that with you.

When I started blogging last year, I was mostly focused on flexing my writing muscles again as I prepared to transition out of my corporate job into full-time freelancing. I thought it would be a good way to keep my friends and family in the loop about what was going on in my new life, and I hoped I might be able to help people understand why I’d decided to go my own way and what it had taken to get there (if I got there at all, because at that point, I had no idea what was going to happen!). While this space has definitely served those purposes, it’s also turned into a community that’s kind and gracious and vibrant and supportive — and one that I’m excited to continue growing moving forward.

I would never claim to be “done” with the transition just because I have a full calendar year under my belt now. I haven’t “found Plan A” (LOL). I’m not starting an entirely new chapter here on the blog simply because a certain period of time has passed. This journey is still in progress, and I would never pretend to be an expert or to give up on learning and reflecting.

You will, however, notice some changes around here now that I have 365 days in the books. While I’ll still be doing goal recaps (like this one), you’ll notice that I’m going to be phasing out more general monthly progress updates (like this one). I’ll take a moment to call out major milestones, but I’ve graduated beyond those more regular recaps, and I don’t want to bore you with the details of the constant inner monologue that happens in this overanalyzing brain of mine : ) Moving forward (not including this month), I’ll also be making changes to the procedures for giveaways — so be on the lookout for that!

In the meantime, I’ve mapped out what’s happening on the blog for the full month of October, and I’m really excited about the content you’re going to see in this newly normal phase. I’m itching to get started! We’re stepping it up over here, friends, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

… some things never change, though. Giveaways, for example, are always awesome.

Remember to enter for this month! September’s prize is my favorite skin care product EVER — Beautycounter‘s Adaptive Moisturizer. All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Friday 9/29, so get those entries in ASAP!

Image (2)

1 Comment

september giveaway.

It’s that time again… GIVEAWAY TIME! And it falls on a Friday, which makes it even better, in my book. This weekend, we have some extended celebrations for my birthday on the schedule, which should be really fun. In the meantime, though, let’s get to the giveaway…

My friend Alexa was kind enough to partner with me again this month to gift one lucky winner one of our favorite products from Beautycounter. As you may remember from the last Beautycounter giveaway, Alexa and I were close friends in elementary school and reconnected through social media. In the last few months, she’s introduced me to the natural skin care and beauty line, and I’ve gradually been converting to all of the products. I loovvveeee them. As a reminder, here’s what Alexa says sets this brand apart from the rest:

I was introduced to Beautycounter in 2015 and loved the concept behind the company. It has an amazing mission; as an education based company, it seeks to inform people of the deregulated personal care industry and strives for reform through updated litigation. I was astounded to learn that the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938! While this is extremely scary, the great news is that we as consumers do have safe options. Beautycounter takes the guess work out of deciphering ingredient lists. I am passionate about sharing safer beauty with friends, family, and everyone who is interested in protecting themselves from harmful chemicals. To me, Beautycounter is truly the third pillar to a healthy lifestyle, along with eating well/safe and working out. The best part is I don’t have to sacrifice amazingly effective skin care and gorgeous makeup for safety – Beautycounter provides it all in one!

Image (2)

For September, we’ll be giving away the Adaptive Moisturizer, which is probably the best skin care product I’ve ever used. No joke! I use it every morning and it’s really helped brighten and balance out my face to the point where I rarely need to wear makeup. It’s lightweight, adapts to adjust hydration levels in your skin throughout the full day, and has a really light and beautiful scent. The fact that it’s so adaptive means that you can even wear it to the gym or to yoga class!

One of the best parts about the Beautycounter line, of course, is that it’s safe and natural. The Adaptive Moisturizer’s main ingredients are squalane from green olives, arginine from beetroot, and phytic acid from green rice. I love the product even more because its elements sound almost delicious!

All you have to do to enter to win a Beautycounter Adaptive Moisturizer of your own is COMMENT on this post! That’s it! As always, I’d love to see you share this link with friends so that more people have a chance to win (and to check out the blog!) — I run a giveaway every month, so there are plenty of chances!

I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Friday 9/29. The winner will be announced right here on the blog. Good luck!

(Unfortunately, you’re not eligible to win this contest if you live outside of North America, due to shipping concerns. I’m sorry about that!)

You can check out the rest of Beautycounter’s offerings right here! Please be sure to shop that link so that we can support Alexa and the awesome business she’s building.

**As always, please note that I am giving my honest recommendations for this product. I’m receiving no compensation, and simply want to share items that have offered positive experiences for me!**

14 Comments

27.

Today is my 27th birthday. (And thanks to a nasty sleep cycle I have going on right now, I got an extra early start on celebrations hah!)

Honestly, I’m not so sure how I feel about this birthday. 27 feels so much more decidedly late twenties than 26, and even though many people who are much smarter than I am have told me that there’s absolutely no point in sweating the passage of time, I’m just having a little trouble wrapping my head around it.

That being said, I don’t plan on turning down any cupcakes or champagne : ) After all, it’s still a reason to celebrate — and I am nothing if not always ready for a celebration.

1918467_134861196675_7985625_n

It’s been a big year over here. Since my last birthday, I launched this blog and became a professional writer. But you already knew that.

I also celebrated a wedding anniversary for the first time (and it was awesome). I started a book club. I got hooked on podcasts and Dancing With the Stars. I drank a little too much rum punch on a catamaran in the Caribbean. I somehow managed to pull off big surprises for all four of my little sisters. I watched two of them graduate and go on to the next step in achieving their goals (and, yes, I cried both times). I lost one very special dog, and stopped about a million unsuspecting fellow New Yorkers to love on their dogs in the middle of the street. I met a lot of incredible women. I ran my fifth half marathon. I threw a cookie swap party. Matt and I turned our apartment into a full-on winter wonderland for the holidays. I wore makeup a lot less often, but tried to learn to do it better on the days I did. I took better care of my skin. I danced at two of my best friends’ weddings (and, yes, I cried both times). I got back into yoga. I became a workaholic again and loved every minute of it. I started reading The New York Times every week, and struggled just as often with the crossword puzzle. I got new glasses for the first time in five years. I had a love affair with my planner. I watched a lot of episodes of the Real Housewives, but successfully boycotted a full season of The Bachelor (and if you know me, you know this is a big deal). I jumped into the ocean in the middle of January. I visited friends at their new homes in Philadelphia and D.C. I got love attacks from a puppy that looks like a teddy bear. I fell even more in love with my husband, and we started a new Valentine’s Day ice cream sundae tradition.

Along the way, there were plenty of moments of uncertainty, and even more sleepless nights. I spent a lot of hours sitting in traffic, and just as many overanalyzing things that I know now were silly to worry about. I stressed — a lot — about the state of the world around me. I was really hard on myself, and too hard on other people sometimes, too.

I may not be thrilled about the number 27 right now, but when I think back on the moments big and small that made me smile this past year, I have to believe that things only get better and more fun with time. So here’s to another year of adventures (and here’s to champagne and cupcakes, too)!

…and one more cheers to GIVEAWAY DAY! Come back on Friday for all the details on this month’s prize. 

 

3 Comments

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.

fullsizeoutput_92c

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?

4 Comments

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 : )

 

3 Comments