nine month recap.

I’m back from my mini-getaway to the shore, and even though I’m already missing that sunshine and beachy air, it’s always refreshing to get back to my home base and get organized. (Do you get sick of hearing how much I love my little routine? Feel free to ask me to shut up about it at any time.) We have another road trip to PA this weekend, too, so even though I would have loved to stick around in Ocean City for another day or two, I know I’ll be grateful to have taken the time to reset before our next round of travel. (Do you get sick of hearing about our trips back and forth to Pennsylvania? Again, feel free to ask me to shut up about it at any time.)

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My typical weekend view

As of today, it’s been nine months since my last day in my corporate job. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been figuring out this new life for myself for as long as it takes to have a baby! As I inch closer and closer to the one-year mark, I feel increasingly humbled by this whole experience. How did all of this happen? Earlier today, I went back to the neighborhood near my old office to have lunch with my former cubicle buddy (yes, that’s the official term). To this day, every time I take that particular subway route, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s not my daily commute anymore.

Last week, I grabbed coffee with a fellow freelancer who started her own journey in full-time writing at about the same time I did. Back in September, when we caught up for the first time, we both had a few connections, a healthy dose of optimism, and an attitude of “Hope this works!” Now, nine months later, we both described our days in one word: SWAMPED. This wild discrepancy between those two conversations pretty much sums up how I’m feeling for this recap (you can check out my eight month recap here.)

I apologize if this is coming off as a humble brag — “I’m in such high demand!” — because I promise that’s not what I’m trying to do here! If anything, I’m finding that I need to do a better job of tempering my workload so that I’m not constantly telling people how busy I am (which, as you may remember from one of my earliest monthly recaps, is something I am desperately training myself to avoid). This feeling of being swamped is a shortcoming — not an accomplishment. My plate is filled with long-term projects these days, and while I’m focusing on creating systems that will make it easier for me to manage it all, it’s an ongoing process, and I’m anxious for these deadlines to pass so I can start thinking more creatively, trying new things with my writing, and not leading with busy-ness.

Since the shift in seasons, I’ve also been trying to remind myself that it’s still SUMMER! The pace of the working world changes at this time of year, and even though I want to keep hustling so I don’t miss out on any opportunities over these next few months, it’s OK for my pace to change a little, too. I want to be proactive about planning for July and August so that I can make mental space to feel some summer vibes once these major assignments are behind me. I’m dreaming of long writing sessions outside, lots of hours spent working on my book, and catching up on my long list of books to read, which I know will ultimately make me a better writer, too. It sounds like a pretty good light at the end of the tunnel to me!

How do you make it feel like summer, even when you’re hard at work? I’d love to peek your insights in the comments below!

 

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love rules.

How was your weekend? Ours was pretty magical. As I mentioned in my last post, Matt and I road tripped up to Mystic, Connecticut to celebrate the wedding of two of our very best friends. Taryn was a college friend of Matt’s when he and I started dating in our sophomore year, and she and I quickly bonded — and not just because I was desperate to make some girl friends among his group!

Over the years, Taryn and I have become super close, and when she met Steve the summer after graduation, it was almost like a match had been made in heaven between the two couples. We’ve loved hanging out with these two over the past few years, and I was so excited to be a bridesmaid in their wedding!

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The setting couldn’t have been more beautiful (seriously, did someone order that gorgeous sunset?), the live band had all of the guests singing and dancing like crazy, and the whole weekend was an amazing reunion with friends who we love and don’t get to see nearly enough. As if the festivities couldn’t get any more perfect, Taryn and Steve got a quadruple rainbow during their rehearsal dinner. These two don’t need any luck, but if that’s not a good omen, then I don’t know what is. We’re sending the new Mr. + Mrs. so many good wishes for may years of health and happiness ahead. YAY! You did it!

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Recently, a reader responded to my latest blog survey (it’s not too late to share your input here!) with some questions about my family, and how I maintain positive relationships with them. First of all, thank you so much, wherever you are, for sharing your own story so openly, and for all of your kind words. In the interest of privacy, I don’t want to get too specific here about my amazing family and how me make all of our craziness work, but I am happy to share some general “love rules” for how I approach relationships with all of my loved ones — friends, family, and husband.

1. Take people from where they are. You know your loved ones better than anyone, so you should know that the ways in which they communicate and show love — as well as their capacity to openly do either of those things — is unique and specific to them. I try not to hold my friends and family members to equal standards, because each one of them is different! It’s unfair to expect everyone to build their relationship with you in the same way, and if you do, you’re in for a lot of disappointment. Take people for who they are and love them just like that.

2. Figure out your special “thing.” love having elements to each of my relationships that feel really specific and personal to “us” — an inside joke, a shared love for a certain type of food, a standing date to do the same thing together every month, or even just a weird facial expression that we flash to each other across the room if a situation gets weird. I think that finding this “thing” is really helpful, especially when you’re struggling to find common ground with someone you care about at any given time.

3. Communicate. Ohhhh, if Matt had a penny for every time I’ve dropped this word over the past eight years, we’d probably own this apartment (and maybe even a house in the suburbs, too) by now. I don’t communicate with all of my loved ones in the same way (see #1), but I do try to keep open lines of communication open with everyone as much as possible — and I’ve learned that the ways that I interact with people evolve, too. Maybe it’s time, or maybe I’m just getting wiser as I get older (yeesh!), but I find that — in most of my relationships — communication improves over the years. That brings me to my last suggestion…

4. Relationships evolve! You and your friends and family members probably don’t interact with each other now the same way you did five years ago, which means your relationship still probably has a lot of changing to do over the next five — or ten, or twenty! — years. If you’re not totally comfortable with how things are going with a specific person in your life, don’t be hard on yourself… and try not to be hard on them, either. Relationships aren’t static, and as long as you’re actively working to figure out how you and that person can treat each other more lovingly and respectfully in the future, you will get there — even if it’s a process.

I hope that’s helpful! I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below, too.

eight month recap.

Hi, everyone! I hope you all had an amazing weekend and that you showered the mamas in your life with all of the love and rainbow sprinkles-covered ice cream sundaes they deserve. My heart also always goes out at this time of year to anyone missing their mom. Along with so many others, I usually share thoughts about my own loved ones on social media on occasions like Mother’s Day — and as much as I enjoy doing that, I imagine that it’s not easy to scroll through Facebook or Instagram on a day like yesterday when you are mourning someone special in your own life. If that situation sounds like your own, please know that I am sending you a hug : )

Matt and I were on the road again this weekend, celebrating my sister Juli’s college graduation in Pittsburgh! We are so proud of the amazing things she’s done over the last four years, and I just know that she is going to do even more amazing things in the future. I hope some of you are lucky enough to have her as your kids’ teacher! It was really fun to be part of the weekend — and to pretend (for a few hours on Saturday night, at least) that we were back in college ourselves.

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We’ve been doing so. much. weekend. travel. recently (mostly for really fun stuff, so I don’t mean to complain!), and my eighth month of freelance life (eight months?! can you believe it?) has had a different kind of rhythm. I’m finding that what’s been most difficult and overwhelming for me these past four weeks has been managing my ongoing to-do list. We’re so all over the place with our travels that it’s hard to get into a consistent routine where I can jump into the swing of things every Monday and accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished.

In my “old life” — and for the first few months of freelancing — I really prided myself on always having 100% of my to-do list finished. My boss and I would communicate about the tasks needing to be completed, I would organize them daily or weekly, and a few check marks later, I’d be all set! Lately, I’m realizing that I’m carrying over a lot of tasks or goals from one week to the next (and sometimes to the next week after that). Let me tell you — for a perfectionist like me, this can feel a little bit like failure.

I thought more about this over the weekend, though, and I’ve realized that — far from failure — this eighth month has just been a transition. My to-do list feels a little long and unmanageable now because, in addition to the shorter term assignments that I can more easily accomplish on shorter deadlines, I’m keeping track of bigger picture tasks — longer-term stories that I want to find homes for, contacts that I want to make at new outlets, and ideas on how to grow my writing career and this blog. These projects can’t happen overnight, and they don’t have firm deadlines, so it’s natural to tackle them more more slowly. I need to keep reminding myself that all to-do list items are not created equal. In this busy season of travel, those bigger items may take longer to complete, but they will be completed — as long as I can take control of my perfectionist tendencies and resist the urge to freak out each time I carry over a project to the next week!

This realization has given me even more respect for all managers and bosses out there, especially the ones I was lucky enough to work under during my time in corporate America. Successfully staying on top of daily tasks while also maintaining a bigger picture view of a team’s goals and next steps is no joke, friends! I’m managing a team of one (myself!) and it’s still a little overwhelming sometimes. If any of you have any suggestions about the best way to keep track of these multiple “levels” of projects/to-do list items, I’d love to hear them! As you all know, I’m a little obsessed with anything that involves my paper planner or getting things organized into a system : )

Month number eight has definitely been full of some growing pains! You can check out my last monthly recap here.

a random throwback memory.

Have you ever had a ridiculously vivid memory hit you out of nowhere? I’m not talking about a casual passing thought: “Oh, it was really nice when <<insert great memory here>> happened.” I mean that intense kind of nostalgia, where it feels like all five of your senses are right back in a specific time and place that you haven’t even thought about in years. Has this happened to you?

Well, it happened to me last night. I was sitting on the couch reading a book, and for no real reason that I can think of, I suddenly had this crazy clear mental image of the library at my elementary school. And when I tell you I could picture every single part of it, I really mean it.

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My (seriously renovated) elementary school in Doylestown, PA.

I could visualize the library’s two entrances — the one that my class shuffled into, and the one that we were escorted out of at the end of library time — and when I recalled the long, asymmetrical room, I remembered exactly where I used to go to find the Redwall series (I know, I was a total nerd), and where I used to hunt for books about puppy care when I was trying to convince my parents that I really needed a dog of my own (I mean, I still do, obviously). I could pick out the exact banks of shelves where I spent most of my time: they were right across from the front entrance, and they were filled with historical fiction books that were ahead of my reading level for most of my elementary school career. I spent so much time crouched in those shelves that by the time I was the “right” age for them, I had almost run out of books to read. I could see in my head the rows of “nice” computers — much nicer and newer than the ones in the school’s dark computer lab, which is hilarious to think about when you realize that they still used giant floppy disks. We were so excited when we got to use those computers instead of the weird gray ones in the lab. (Does anyone have computer labs anymore?) There were big windows that faced the courtyard, and sometimes you could see other kids running back and forth during recess while you were supposed to be taking a reading test.

I haven’t been in that library in over 15 years, and I haven’t thought about it for almost as long, but it felt really good to go back — and even better to know that I hadn’t forgotten about it. It probably will come as no surprise to you that the library was one of my favorite places as a kid, so I kind of love that it’s embedded itself into my brain in such detail all these years later. I hope it comes back to me again in weirdly vivid flashes like that, because it brought back so many memories, and reminded me why I love what I do. Stories have always been my thing, and it’s such a privilege — even on the tougher days — to be able to tell them in all kinds of ways… as my job. And even on the tougher days, I have to ask myself: how did I get so lucky? I needed that little reminder this week!

Are there any places from your childhood that you can still picture in vivid detail? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below! Happy Throwback Thursday!

seventh month recap.

Happy Monday, friends! Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you got to enjoy some quality time with loved ones over the last week. Matt and I were traveling to see family for the weekend, but just like that, it’s back to the grind today! Saturday marked seven months since I left my job in corporate America, and since I was busy watching my sister’s college team kick butt on the lacrosse field, I’m sharing my monthly recap today instead (you can check out the last recap here).

Check out some of this month’s developments below. The spring weather (and blooms!) has really given me a new outlook on work, life, and everything in between. I’m loving it!

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  • I’ve been switching up my routine. Initially, I was more or less sticking to my old 9-to-5 schedule: get up and out of the apartment early, get to the gym, then switch into office mode for the rest of the day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sort of naturally changed things around, and I’m really liking the way it’s flowed. I’m still up and moving by 6:30 or 7 at the latest (I’ve always been an early riser, plus Matt is out the door by 6:30, so I’m usually awake, anyway!), but instead of getting right into my workout, I’ve been doing an intense hour-ish of work — and usually in bed. I know, I know… I was pretty high and mighty early on about “never working from bed,” but I find that if I can get the bulk of my administrative work and emails out of the way first thing, it gets my day started on a really productive foot, and if bringing my laptop under the blankets with me from 6:30 to 8 makes that easier, then why not? Lately, I’ve been getting to the gym for a workout (usually a run, since the Brooklyn Half is just a few weeks away!) sometime between 11 and 1, which is a nice way to break up the day.
  • I’m feeling healthy again. After the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a rut with my exercise and nutrition. I was struggling to control my sweet tooth, having trouble finding ways to eat healthy during the day, and generally feeling icky about myself — and the lack of Vitamin D certainly didn’t help things. Over the last week or two, I’m finally starting to feel back on my game, and I think that changing up my schedule has had a lot to do with it. As much as I love to stick to one consistent ritual, I’m realizing that making small adjustments can totally change my outlook and state of mind.
  • I’ve started taking advantage of outdoor workspaces. I can definitely admit that this is a luxury of working from home, but I’m happy to say that in the first week of spring weather, I indulged in it — enthusiastically. Who knew that so many of the city’s outdoor spaces have WiFi? Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot to figure out if NYC is the right place for me, and I’ve been finding that when I have more opportunities to explore it in the fresh air, I feel a lot more at peace with being a New Yorker. Pretty soon it will probably be too hot to bring my laptop outside, so in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this fun little season of afternoons working on rooftops and in Bryant Park!
  • I’m having to say “no” to things. It’s hard to believe that seven months ago, I was practically begging for any gig I could get my hands on. I still have a long way to go in building out my writing career, but there have definitely been periods lately when I’ve had to force myself to politely turn down new projects, or press pause on hustling for new opportunities. It’s a delicate balance between stalling the growth of my business and letting things get too out of control, and figuring out that balance seems to be an ongoing process!
  • Money is finally feeling less stressful. My natural state is to be frugal, so I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable financially, but seven months in, it feels like my income is now reliable (knock on wood, right?). In the beginning, I often thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to earn money like this again next month,” and I’m finally starting to believe that my work is paying off in the form of consistent paychecks. It’s important not to get complacent, but it does feel good to be able to take a deep breath and relax about money… and to treat myself to a new pair of shoes every once in a while : )

On to month eight! Thanks, as always, for being the best cheerleaders out there!

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!

 

 

five month recap

Happy day-after-Valentine’s Day! I know it can be a tricky and emotionally challenging holiday for so many, but it’s always been one of my favorites. There’s nothing better than having an excuse to celebrate LOVE in all of its forms — especially these days, when there’s so much to be scared and upset about in the world around us.

Matt and I went on an early Valentine’s Day date over the weekend (so much amazing sushi!), so we decided to keep last night low-key, but we also started a new tradition. On our first Valentine’s Day together in 2010, Matt surprised me by bringing all of the fixings for ice cream sundaes to his college dorm room. To this day, it was my very favorite February 14, and as a nod to that, we’ve decided to indulge in homemade sundaes to mark the occasion every year. Last night, we had a little date to the grocery store to pick out all the ingredients, then skipped dinner and went right to dessert. As adults, how often do we actually eat a real ice cream sundae? If you ask me, the answer is “not enough,” so Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect opportunity to fix that (especially if you’re ice cream lovers like Matt and I!).

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Anyway, now that it’s the 15th of the month, it’s time for a recap (you can check out my last two recaps here and here)! It’s now been five months since I left my job to become a freelancer. Here are some of the things I’ve learned and have been thinking about over the last few weeks:

  • I’m gaining credibility. A few months into this journey, it finally feels like people are starting to “get” what I’m doing, and I can’t tell you how satisfying that is. When I first left my stable job, I know there were people who questioned if I would actually be working in this next chapter of my life. There was a sense that I’d just gotten married and was throwing this “freelancing” word around as an excuse to get out of my career and be taken care of by my husband. In the last few weeks (and with my last few bylines), it seems that I’ve finally proven to the doubters that I’m working, working hard, and even starting to become successful!
  • I’m becoming more business-minded. As I continue taking on new projects and clients, I’m realizing more and more that my time and talent is worth something. I’ll be honest — when you start as a freelancer, you’re happy to accept any job that comes your way, and you don’t ask a lot of questions. These days, I’m having to juggle so many exciting gigs, and it’s forced me to become more strategic about the way I work and the way I collaborate. I never expected that being a writer would also force me to switch on my entrepreneurial instincts, but it has!
  • I’m being really hard on myself again. In the first month or two of my freelance transition, I did a lot of negative self-talk. I worried if I would ever get the jobs I wanted, if clients would ever take me seriously, if I would ever be able to make money as a writer, and if I’d made the right decision. Ironically, that negative self-talk is starting to come back — this time, because now that I’ve started to gain some momentum, I’m terrified that I won’t be able to sustain it. In my writing life, I have off-days and even off-weeks, just like I did in my corporate life, and I find that I’ve been very hard on myself during those periods lately. I’ve been doing a lot of “should” thinking — “I should do this,” “I should do that” — and I’ve forgotten that trusting my gut and my intuition has gotten me this far in the past five months!
  • I’ve had some amazing experiences. Even with the growing pains I’ve been working through, I am so humbled by the writing opportunities I’ve had lately. It’s been such a treat to continue growing my relationship with Brit + Co, to share some of my personal stories (like this one) with The Kitchn‘s community, and to have my very first print byline (in the March issue of Marie Claire). As always, I’m so grateful to all of you for your love and support of my work!
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This was a pretty special moment. You can find my article on page 136 : )