Monday, April 25, 2016

You Should See Me Now

I had this wonderful epiphany as I was on the train to work this morning. I thought out all of the nuances of the particular post I would make, highlighting specific instances in my life and noting the ways that I'm continuing to be brave in my own special way. But now, I can't think of anything. The thoughts departed, I filled my day with other semi-productive tasks and assignments, and I'm left blank in the space that I really wanted to explore. How frustrating.

I know it had something to do with how conservative I used to be. If you knew me in high school, there's probably no way that you'd predict that I would end up where I am, holding the world views that I have and befriending the people who are very near and dear to my heart. I'm sure I don't give myself enough credit for always being like this. Somewhere, deep down. But, in my reflective, critical hindsight, I see myself as a naive, judgmental weirdo, with too many opinions and not enough facts. I'm glad that that has shifted a bit in the past 11 years, but I'm sure I still have far to go with many more ideas to challenge and mindsets to shift over the course of my life.

I voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential Election.

I don't know if my 18 year old self would have believed that someone so forward-thinking, so progressive, so liberal existed inside my narrow, limited world view. If she would have known of this RENT-singing, Bernie-loving, pride-flag-waving 29-year-old, not only would she have steered clear of her, but she probably would have written in her journal about how she used the spirit to overcome the temptations of the world and the negative influences of others. Yikes.

I do think that it takes a lot of bravery and self reflection to recognize the ways that I am different from how I used to be, but I'm also learning to be kinder to my past self. Sure, she wasn't quick enough to love, but she did other great things, and slowly but surely she developed into a pretty unique, able, and confident adult. Instead of telling people, "You wouldn't believe how I was in high school; I was one of those religious freaks who didn't listen to music with lyrics and thought that anyone who swore was going straight to Hell," I should be more accepting of the ways I've changed and grown in the past 10 years. And, in some ways, I need to acknowledge the ways I'm still the same. I do love instrumental music, and I do think that people who swear are going to Hell--haha, and I'll be with them.

As I negotiate the challenges and opportunities on my horizon, I am faced with accepting the girl I was in high school and realizing that I still have more to learn from her. I need her to teach me the optimism and beauty of things that I have long-since rejected as too Utah. It's true that I will never be like her again, but I can still accept that I was like her once upon a time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Forever Frizzy, Or How I Learned to Accept What I Cannot Change

When I first arrived in New York City three-and-a-half years ago, I underwent huge adjustments from my prior life in suburban/rural Utah. Fortunately, I found that I adapted pretty easily, and I didn't mind things like carrying groceries home on the subway or paying an exorbitant amount for rent.

However, there was one thing that I never ever thought I'd get used to.


I had lived my entire life in arid Utah, and up until August 2012, I didn't know what it was like to sweat. And sweat. And sweat. In dry climates, heat is often described as "comfortable," and I definitely felt uncomfortable, sticky, and all around disgusting for pretty much the rest of that summer. Add to that a tiny apartment with three other roommates, a window A/C unit that would short out if I tried to use my blow dryer at the same time, and my cowlick-y bangs. It was a definite low point for Emily.

I can distinctly recall googling "do people ever get used to humidity?" because I was certain that the Internet knew and understood my pain. How could I survive in New York City with such frizzy, nasty hair? I struggled long and hard, fighting with my previously pin-straight locks, and realizing that such a thing would never be in a place like NYC.

The next year, I broke down and bought an expensive keratin treatment at the beginning of July, and I spent the subsequent months loving my smooth hair and the beauty and freedom of a frizz-free summer.

But then, slowly, things started to change. Maybe it was age, maybe it was my increased status as a "true" New Yorker, and maybe it was the fact that I started noticing all the other frizzy hair around me:

I embraced my curls. I stopped trying to force my hair to behave how I thought it should. And I was happier. 

I've realized that the thing I once hated most about New York City is now something that I don't mind for the most part. In fact, I love not having to put on gallons of lotion every day to keep my skin from cracking off. I love freak rainstorms. And, I love my curly hair. More than that, though, I love seeing the diverse frizzy, curly, wavy, straight, and everything-in-between hair that comes with the 8 million people around me.

Before I moved here, I wanted to fit the mold designed for pretty much every white girl in Utah. If this meant hours of flat irons and styling cream, failed attempts at up-dos and messy buns, and frustration beyond belief, I was going to try it. I have never been particularly talented or successful at doing hair (and I refused to take part in the "Utah Poof"), but I wanted straight hair like all my other friends, and I did everything necessary to ensure that a stray curl or un-managed frizz didn't give me away.

Now, I acknowledge that every bad hair day I have comes with at least 7 other people who have it as bad or worse than I do. That may sound harsh, but it was so liberating for me to glance around a subway car and see the way that other people embraced their frizz and went on with the more important aspects of their day. By accepting the fact that I have naturally curly hair, I am free to walk through Manhattan's wind-tunnel streets focusing on the more pressing matters at hand--like trying not to step in poop.

Let the frizz out, and open yourself to a world of possibilities. 

Monday, January 25, 2016


I've spent a lot of time recently analyzing what really makes me happy and figuring out how to adjust the sails in my life to get where I really want to go. Whether this happiness lies in new relationships, new adventures, or new things, I feel like I've exhausted plenty of options and come up frustrated many, many times before things finally start to work out.

I'm the kind of person who makes life plans on a repeat basis. On any given day, I can be found perusing the catalog requirements for a degree in xx, a house in yy, a job in zz. I research, think, tell a few people, think some more, and then ultimately decide that stagnancy is much more comfortable than change.

Unfortunately, stagnancy doesn't lead to happiness.

It takes moments/days/months out of your comfort zone to feel really grateful, happy, and alive. It takes being vulnerable and unsure in order to realize the things, adventures, and relationships that really matter and deserve our time and effort.

Like that time almost four years ago when I decided with everything inside of me that I wanted, needed, had to live in New York City. No amount of dissuasion could convince me otherwise. No rejection or fear or setback could steer me off of the course of my ultimate goal.

So, I got here. I got the job. I found the apartment. I made the friends and had the adventures. Months and years passed, and I now find myself asking that question again: What am I meant to be doing? Is this it for me, and what's next?

This time, I don't think that the changes entail moving 2,000 miles and starting anew (sorry to all my West Coasters, I'm here for a little while longer). But, the fact that I've spent the past three days at work blogging about being brave means that maybe this is the part of my life that needs to change. Maybe I need to find a new outlet for my talents and apply myself in areas that really make me passionate. In fact, it was after writing the email to that sixth grade teacher of mine that I realized the direction I need to chart my course.

As a forum for accountability and a place to recollect during the process, I'm using this blog to let myself/the world know that there are going to be changes this year.

I'm re-calibrating, gathering supplies and wisdom, and stepping out into the wide unknown. I can't wait to experience the bravery and challenges that will lead me toward happiness.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

“Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation.” 
-W.H. Sheldon

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sometimes I Email People I Haven't Seen in Twenty Years

As one of my first forays into the world of brave encounters, I wanted to find people who inspire me and write them a message letting them know, "Hey, I think you're great." The standard relative/friend/colleague list didn't make the cut, and I decided to go to people whom I had not seen or spoken to in a number of years to remind them that a) I exist (haha. but seriously.) and that b) I still consider them to be influential in my life.

This list included:

A high school English teacher.
A childhood best friend.
And a 6th grade teacher.

I searched social media, past school websites, and my first Hotmail account for ways that I could contact these individuals--putting my e-stalking talent to real use right there. And I started each email with a very formal salutation, since I'm basically as awkward as I was at 17 and can't imagine calling a teacher by their first name. #adulting

After crossing that "what would I say if I saw this person in the grocery store?" hurdle, the remainder of the message was surprisingly easy to compose. I'm lucky to have had extremely influential teachers, and--maybe indicative of my kiss-up status as a child--I found it both inspiring and cathartic to remember the amazing lessons, books, and experiences I had so many years ago.

Nostalgia is one of my favorite drugs.

With slight trepidation and a few seconds hovering over the "send" button, I felt that rush of bravery. Sending something into an unknowable void is quite terrifying,
and--like this blog here--I had no clue if these recipients would read, remember, roll their eyes, or have any range of emotions. That wasn't the point, though. I did this for the sake of being brave, and any positive or negative reactions were out of my control.

But I did get responses:
I am so glad you emailed. It is great to hear from you!
You will never know how much your letter means to me.

Those two lines alone make every ounce of bravery worth it. 

Go do it. Tell someone why you love them. Remind an individual from your past that you still feel their influence in your life. I hope it becomes as addictive and as amazing to you as it has been for me.

Valentines. Or anytimes. Let someone know you love them. (Card courtesy of my knack for literal interpretations and crafternoon yesterday at work.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Want to See You Be Brave

I'm not one who typically lives by some sort of mantra. Aside from that whole "eat more cake" thing that I have ingrained into my very soul, I don't have a life motto or catch phrase that comes up to remind me how I want to live my life. However, as people of the internets and friends around me talk about New Years Resolutions and "30 before 30" lists and all that kind of stuff, I've felt a little left out due to my lack of such plans.

Instead of making a whole list of things that I want to accomplish before the year's out--and realizing that 365 days isn't nearly enough time to get done all that I add to some list, I've decided to do more things that fall under one broad word.

That word is brave.

I want to live this year unafraid of what is to come, accepting challenges, making changes, and forging relationships that are brave and strong and true. I want to leave my comfort zone of home and career, using bravery to form connections and uncover bits of myself that have been hidden by insecurity, doubt, and time.

"The ultimate definition of bravery is not being afraid of who you are." - Chogyam Trungpa

I hope to document some of my bravest moments on this blog, resurrecting a forum that has long been dormant and uncovering a piece of myself that makes itself known when I sit down and write out my thoughts. Thank you in advance for connecting with me in this space, and know that I cherish your words, your thoughts, and your own attempts to live bravely.

Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says "I'll try again tomorrow." - Mary Anne Radmacher