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.

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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. 

 

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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?

six month recap.

Six months ago today, I walked out of my office building for the last time. I remember thinking that I should have been carrying so. much. stuff, but I’d managed to condense the whole of my five years in corporate life into one tote bag. It was the middle of the day, so the subway felt pretty empty compared to my usual commute back to Brooklyn. For once, I wished there were more people with me on the train. Sitting there on my own, none of it felt real. Instead, I sat there on the subway bench, literally not knowing what to do with my hands, smiling like an idiot at no one but myself.

When I got back to Brooklyn, I took myself out for the most Sex and the City-style lunch I could imagine — french fries and rosé at an outdoor café around the corner from our apartment.

To mark the half birthday of this new little life of mine, I made myself a batch of gluten-free brownies at lunchtime today. As I still do so often these days, I had a moment while I was sneaking a taste of the batter where I couldn’t quite believe where I’ve landed: in this weird, amazing place where I get to live in a cross-section of an immensely rewarding and challenging career and a personal life that I never quite imagined.

Instead of one of my usual, more in-depth monthly recaps (you can check out the five-month recap here), I’ve decided to keep my thoughts today a bit simpler. Half a year of going “all in on myself” (as a wise self-employed friend called it last summer when I reached out to her for advice) is worth celebrating.

I’ve sacrificed manicures and free weekends, but I’ve gained the freedom to take a walk in the middle of the day if I need a break.

I’ve learned how intensely personal it feels to have my work rejected, but I’ve also felt the satisfaction of finding success based entirely on my own hustle.

I’ve decided how little it matters for other people to “understand” what I’m doing, because I’ve gained in the past six months a quiet confidence that I’ve never had.

I’ve left behind what feels traditional, but am working hard doing what feels natural and meaningful and difficult to me… which is what (I think) work should be.

I’m humbled, proud, tired, happy, and grateful. I’m excited to see what the second half of this first year will bring, and all the other halves of all the other years ahead : )

Cheers to brownies and bold moves!

 

 

a mini thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone!

Based on the responses from last week’s survey (it’s not too late to take it…I’d love to hear from you!), there’s interest in a little more talk about my personal life here on the blog.  Given that feedback, I’m happy that I have such a fun activity from this past weekend to share with you!

Matt and I are very different in a lot of ways, but one of the things we do share in common is a love for Thanksgiving.  We both get pretty excited about the holiday season in general, but Thanksgiving is definitely the favorite in our house.  Thanksgiving was the first holiday we spent together when we started dating almost eight years ago (!!!!!), so if I loved it before, it definitely grabbed an extra special place in my heart after that.

We’ll be traveling home to Pennsylvania to celebrate the “official” holiday feast with my family later this week.  One of the best things about Thanksgiving for me has always been the way the schedule allows me to be part of most of the celebrations on both sides of my family.  My dad traditionally works on Thanksgiving day, so my stepmom usually waits to cook the full turkey dinner until Friday.  This means that I get to spend Thanksgiving itself (and most of the long weekend, too) with my mom’s family — but I don’t have to miss out on the fun at my dad’s house.  It means a lot to me to be able to attend both.

Since this is our first married Thanksgiving, Matt and I decided that we wanted to start some traditions of our own, too, so we put together a smaller version of the turkey feast for just the two of us on Saturday.  We planned the menu together, went on a date to the fancy supermarket, and did most of the cooking as a team.  Like most New York City apartments, ours is tiny.  I was surprised at how well our reliable little kitchen held up, because we had it working HARD.  Here’s what we made:

  • Kale salad with pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds, and balsamic dressing.  We try to keep things pretty healthy around here day-to-day, and even though I’m all about indulging in my favorite foods, it was important to me that we have a really delicious green option as part of our meal.  Toasted pumpkin seeds might be my new favorite salad topping!
  • Turkey — duh!  Since it was just the two of us, we stuck to a big turkey breast instead of a full bird, but I’m still amazed by how much we ended up with!  We’re now on day three of our leftovers (and I have a husband that eats a lot of turkey in one sitting).
  • Stuffing made based on one of my family’s recipes, but with some of our own variations.  We added in mushrooms and apples, which I would TOTALLY recommend.
  • Brussel sprouts au gratin, which I made for the first time last year using this recipe.  This is a cheesy indulgence, but is still a slightly better alternative health-wise to the version made with potatoes.  When I made it last year, I threw in bits of prosciutto, which was a big hit with the Friendsgiving crowd.
  • (Canned) cranberry sauce, because as much as I wish I liked the homemade variety, I just love the kind that comes from a can so much better.
  • Gravy, made from scratch!  It was really important to Matt that we make our own turkey gravy, instead of buying it pre-made.  The process of making it was longer than I expected, and I was skeptical, but it was definitely worth it.
  • Apple cider mimosas made with equal parts store-bought cider and prosecco.  If you’re looking for a seasonal cocktail that won’t add a lot of extra work to your Thanksgiving menu, this is a great one!
  • Chocolate cream pie, because YUM!  We’re not huge fans of the traditional Thanksgiving desserts in our house, but I figured a fun twist on pie could be a great new tradition for us.

We dressed up the table with as many pretty things as we could make fit, and even though my beautiful china settings from our registry are still being stored at my parents’ house until we have space for them, it was fun to be able to use so many of our wedding gifts for our first Thanksgiving.  We also got a little dressed up ourselves before sitting down to dinner.  I’m usually a stickler for the “no holiday music until Thanksgiving” rule, but given the fact that the mood of the world is so icky lately, I decided we could budge a little bit with the James Taylor Christmas album while we ate.  We also went back and forth throughout the meal sharing things we are grateful for, which, as you know, is one of my favorite things.

If you’re looking for opportunities to start your own traditions without cutting ties to your larger family celebrations, I think this is a great idea.  Matt and I had so much fun being in the kitchen together, and it was really special for us to have quality time celebrating one of our favorite occasions.  In case I haven’t said it enough lately, I REALLY love my husband, and I can’t get enough of hanging out with him.

Check out some of our photos below!

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Blurry, but so proud of what we made!  Also, I’m breaking out my fall lip colors again and it makes me all kinds of happy.

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Matt gets tasked with taking a lot of our selfies because his arms are so much longer than mine…and this time it really paid off because you can see our table, too!

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

working from PA

When I decided to become my own boss, one of the things that most excited me was — no surprise! — the ability to work anywhere.  Given how easy it is these days to work remotely, it always fascinated me that my corporate gig didn’t offer any of this flexibility.  When you’re working on a more traditional team, it’s obviously important to spend plenty of face time at the office, but many of my friends have been able to work from home or traveling offices for years (even in more corporate organizations!), so I often felt frustrated that my company wasn’t on board.

As I’ve written about before, I like to take my little show on the road to a coffee shop in the neighborhood every once in a while, but this week, I’m experimenting for the first time with working from my parents’ house in Pennsylvania.  On Saturday, we had family visiting in New York to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday and see Waitress on Broadway, and Matt and I followed them out of the city that night.  Matt had to head back to Brooklyn on Sunday, but I decided to stick around for a few extra days to see how productive I can be out here in the ‘burbs.

I am incredibly close with my family, so having the chance to spend some bonus time with them while still getting a lot of work done is more rewarding than I can describe.  It all ties into those reflections I had last week about high school, and it makes me feel a lot more like myself  🙂

Yesterday, I spent nine hours with my mom at her office, making myself comfortable in her workspace and knocking out a ton of the work I currently have on my plate.  My mom recently started working for a new company, and their offices are in an old farmhouse that is all kinds of cozy.  They even have a feline mascot named Enzo!  I’m a pretty serious animal lover, so it was fun to have Enzo nearby.

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Just another day at the office for Enzo the CFO.

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Yesterday’s office view — Mom hard at work!

Last night, I drove to the opposite end of our town to my dad’s house, and today I have the chance to work from my other home!  As I write this post, I am sitting in our TV room with a PB&J next to me and a fleece blanket at my feet, waiting for my little sisters to get home from school.  PLUS, I get to work with my dog bestie Jake in the next room.  (All in all, life would be a lot better if our workplaces ALWAYS included pets.)

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Jake, our golden oldie.

One particularly sweet part of my time in PA this week is that I got to celebrate my first official piece of published work with my family!  I can’t tell you how much it meant to FINALLY see my byline and bio posted after six weeks of hard work lining up freelance gigs.  I’m so excited to be working as a contributor for Brit + Co, and there will be a lot more content ready to share with you just around the corner!  If you want to keep track of all of my published work, you can check out my CLIPS page right here on the blog anytime.  Thanks again to all of you for your continued support.  This is a huge milestone for me in this journey and it has been fantastic to have you cheering for me!

 

Thanks also to all of the new blog subscribers from last week!  The giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified via e-mail, but don’t worry — there will be plenty of other chances in the future  🙂

 

26.

Today is my 26th birthday!

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My favorite birthday card from an old friend who knows me all too well.

With our June wedding, we threw the biggest celebration of my life just a few months ago, so when I started thinking about this birthday recently, it honestly felt pretty insignificant.  I’m a sucker for any opportunity to be a little extra festive, so I usually go crazy for my birthday, but this one felt a little different.  After feeling so much attention and generosity in June when we got married, I was ready to flow in and out of September 20th with little to no fanfare (at least for this year).

But now, having initiated another major life shift last week, 26 feels worthy of a bit more excitement!

When I resigned at my corporate job three weeks ago, I intentionally scheduled my last day at the office so it would land a few days in advance of my birthday.  I wanted to walk confidently into the next year of my life, head held high and heart ready to embrace this wildly new chapter.  I am now on Day Two of the “transition week” that I granted between wrapping up at my old gig and diving in 200% to my new routine, so my schedule has been a mix of enjoying time for myself and laying additional groundwork for my writing career.  I’m grateful that I allowed for this reflective time, and that it also fell during the week that I am turning another year older.  As I sit here at my new desk in my home workspace, I can quietly absorb all that’s happened over the last twelve months, and pat myself on the back just a little bit for having the courage to jump into the next twelve months the way I have.

25 was undoubtedly the biggest year of my life yet.  I sunk my roots deeper into this Brooklyn neighborhood that I love so much.  I prioritized meaningful, gratifying friendships and invested time and energy into my one-of-a-kind family.  I planned a wedding that was both visually beautiful and intensely sentimental, and walked away married to the man who has been my partner in all things for over seven years.  I did a lot of soul-searching, and granted myself some grace when it came to questioning where I had landed professionally.  After all of that, I declared myself ready to walk away from a safe and secure work environment to protect my health and happiness, and to pursue my dreams.  It was a year of brutal honesty, authenticity, and not being afraid to “put myself out there.”

I feel a little exhausted thinking about all of it!  But, most of all, I am excited to see what happens next, and to figure out how I can continue to build on all of the goodness that has manifested in my life recently.  It hasn’t been easy, and it may not get any easier, but I’m ready!  26, bring it on!

the last day.

The morning started like this:

me, sitting at my desk, half-dressed, listening to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles on loop, drinking a smoothie, and sobbing as I received encouraging text messages from my parents, all before 7 AM

Four and a half hours later, at 11:30, I packed the last of my things, handed in my company ID badge, and walked out of my office building for the last time.  The tears had started again as I walked toward the subway, and then I looked up and saw this:

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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.