Why Going Home for the Holidays is Humbling

It’s the third time I’m having to say this today, and it’s not getting any easier, but yesterday on my flight back to NYC, I read the most recent Cosmo. I subscribe, I get it every month, and I hardly ever read it. I read the Zooey Dechanel issue in October, because I love her, and I was blown away (for the hundredth time) by how guy-centric it all is. 10 Love Moves to Turn Him to Mush, Make  His 4 Sex Wishes Come True, Scents No Guy Can Resist (these are all real). Now yes, I agree it’s good to smell nice. And it’s even nicer when your guy thinks you smell nice. But come on.

But as I was skimming through the December Cosmo, a few of the pieces actually caught my eye. One in particular was about going home for the holidays, and how it can effect your psyche. I don’t have the article in front of me, but to paraphrase: When people go home, back to their parents house, and into their childhood room, they often revert back to who they were when they existed in that place. Part of this is based on location, but the other is based on people’s roles within the family. Growing up, my parents would remind me to stop thinking the best of people all the time (it was one of my biggest problems). That sometimes, it’s smart to keep your guard up. To always re-evaluate situations over and over to ensure that people aren’t taking advantage of you. This may sound a little dreary, but it’s true. And their advice kept me from getting trampled (at least most of the time). I took their words to heart, and kept them at the forefront of my mind during my teenage/early adult years. And from what I can see, it has helped me a in a lot of ways. And I feel stronger, more steadfast, and more equipped to deal with all sorts of people. But my parents, God bless them, still think of me as the naive, malleable little girl I was when I lived at home. Sometimes. Even though I’m not. Or at least I think I’m not.

Or am I?

Every time I go home, I am reminded of who I was. The events, places, people who made me the person I am today. My high school extracurriculars, which showed me that I can create something big and bring it to life. Volunteer work, which introduced me to a much harsher world that one I’d ever known. The friend whose intolerance made me incredibly sensitive to people in all situations. The co-worker who opened my eyes to the importance of a college education – and the fact that many people would never get one. The teacher who told me I could go anywhere in the world. The boy who taught me what it was to love. And I realize how lucky I was, and I am, to have experienced all of this. How lucky the current me is to have a full, happy, close-knit family. To have a boy that loves me to call when I feel lonely at night.

But what I realized on the plane ride back last night, is that I’m also very lucky I remember who I was (and to have people to remind me in case I forget). And keep that littler, sillier, dreamier girl safe and sound inside me. To allow a bit of naiveté and idealism to peek out from behind my “hardened” (hyperbole, obvs) “adult” exterior, and still believe that people are wonderful, often victims of circumstance, and that hundreds of beautiful opportunities lie ahead.

This is why I love going home. Because everyone should be able to step away from the current, and go back to their roots (or in this case, rooms). It really is humbling.

XO,

AG

Things I Learned At My Birthday Party

I’m just coming off the (figurative) high from my birthday weekend. I still feel like my sister will be waiting for me on the couch when I get home, ready to go shopping (again), or eat something junky, or just talk. I still feel warm and (literally) fuzzy from having  all of my friends around. From smiling, and cheers-ing, and boozing, and eating sweets. Birthdays are so incredibly wonderful. Everyone deserves to feel that loved, even if it’s for one day a year (though the more the better, of course! Half birthdays, perhaps?).

But birthdays also always provide a huge moment of clarity. A yearly reality check, if you will. A good glimpse into the condition of your life, relationships, yourself. Here are 5 things I learn, every year, on my birthday.

1. Who my real friends are.

This year, I ended the night surrounded by my closest friends (minus a few who had to make early departures (or were forced to) & were out of town), outside Katz Deli, and then a Chicken & Rice cart. Laughing hysterically, snapping photographs, eating fries suggestively (why are there so many references to food already!?), and taking the occasional sip of Qui tequila (PLUG!) from the bottle I was cradling in my arms for the entirety of the late night. I also had a dance party with my sister as my poor poor roommate watched at approximately 4am. In the kitchen. Yes. It was that kind of night.

But these things change from year to year. Last year some people showed and others didn’t. Some people called and others didn’t. A Facebook message is never the same as a text which is never the same as a call. An e-card will never replace one that’s been handwritten. But some effort is always better than none! Even if it’s belated.

2. What my expectations of people are.

For some reason, people think that the world should stop, turn, and focus on them and them only, on their birthday. I can’t say I’ve never felt this way. In fact, on Saturday I found myself asking my sister to table a conversation because she was ” here for one night and it’s my birthday and I just want to have fun!” That’s not cool. The best way to have a good birthday is not to have expectations. Don’t let one person’s absence ruin your night. If someone wants to leave, let them. If you’re too sober, buy yourself a drink (for God’s sake!). I’m not saying you shouldn’t think your night will be fabulous – of course it will be – but fabulousness should be based on things you can control. Namely, not people. People have their own minds and their own lives and their own stories. You never know what happened to them before they arrived at your party. And that’s just it. It’s YOUR party, not theirs.

But if you really love someone, stay at their shindig as long as you can (or as long as you feel comfortable), don’t stand silently in a corner, even if you know no one, and smile to show them you’ve having a good time. Everyone’s biggest concern is that people won’t have fun at their birthday party. So all of these go a long way (a longer way than buying them a drink, I would say! Especially once they’ve had more than they can keep track of…). If you can’t make it, just let them know. They’ll understand! It’s likely that they’ve missed a birthday party in their day, too.

3. How I’ve evolved.

In college, I wanted my parties to be EPIC. And thanks to my amazing friends, they almost always were. Blue lighting, fishbowls, wall decals, speciality playlists, themes (Court, I’m talking to you!). They were quite literally the bomb.

This year, I didn’t want to do anything. Now this is almost equally bad. I didn’t want to be a Debby Downer (as you know from my last post, I love my birthday, and can’t wait to be 25), but I just wanted something small, intimate, cozy, comfortable. Namely, I didn’t want the pressure of inviting people, not having them show up, and then being sad – re how i’ve learned fabulousness must be based on things you can control. In the end, I was convinced otherwise. A smart friend told me that when the day came around, I would want it to be memorable and wonderful and at least marginally epic. So I invited friends to a bar. Not a club. A bar, where I knew people could sit if they wanted to, chat if that was their drunken thing, and still dance their butt off if they so desired. This “bar” ended up being sort of party-tastic (dark, crowded, bumpin’), but everyone had a great time. And it may not have been as massively epic as my college birthdays (none of the aforementioned lighting, etc…. Though I could probably argue that it was), but for me, it was memorable and wonderful and frankly, just what I wanted! That’s so much more than I could have asked for.

4. How much people actually love me / How lucky I am.

Isn’t it astonishing? The amount of love you feel on your birthday? The people who will go buck wild, jumping on and off the crazy train, just to celebrate you? Good Lord. It’s amazing.

This is why birthdays are the shit. Seriously.

5. How much I love certain people.

This should be relatively self explanatory. It’s a case of “IF YOU LOVE [IT/THEM] SO MUCH WHY DON’T YOU MARRY [IT/THEM]!?!” Well, I will. I will marry them. And I will use Blakey Lively’s perfect engagement ring to propose. To show them this is true love.

I also learned one more thing. I can’t quite mentally justify it needing its own paragraph, so I’ll just put it out there here. 6. How important it is to wear a really great outfit. And maybe get a good manicure.

Happy birthday to me!

AG

The Maturation of Heartbreaks

When people think about heartbreak, they almost immediately fall into the realm of romance. Having their stomach drop when they see their freshly estranged lover in an embrace, even if it’s casual and brought on by a few drinks, with a relatively attractive new friend. Passionately consuming old emails, unblinking, trying to re-imagine, for the hundredth time, what it felt like to be with them. Digging through dresser drawers and shelves with stacked clothes for something that may have retained the slightest scent. Or at least a strong memory that hadn’t been unearthed yet.

One should never undermine this sort of heartbreak, of course. For it’s the sharpest, and most enduring sort.

But there are other heartbreaks, too. And as life chugs along, they become more and more prevalent, and sometimes, comparably gut-wrenching.

Because it’s only appropriate that once one’s love life starts to settle down, the world finds other ways to keep them on their (now blue and battered) toes.

My number one cause for heartbreak of late has been friendships. It’s my own fault. I always approach things with the highest of high expectations, always believing that everyone will go above and beyond, pick me up when I’m down, and generally look out for me. This is ridiculous of course, because everyone has to look after themselves, first and foremost. And I, as an adult woman, should have realized that quite some time ago.

And so I find myself frequently burned. And heartbroken. And taken advantage of. And seriously confused.

The same way I felt when I was 13 and the boy I liked didn’t like me back. A lingering feeling of crushed.

I’ve realized that friendships change as people grow. I’ll never have those quixotic-type friendships again.  I’ll never feel that symbiotic, mutual reliance that makes friendships flourish. I’ll never trust in the same way. I’ll never put anyone before myself (with the exception of family). I’ve learned my lessons and know that while walls are a bit too opaque, a translucent glass shield should always exist. And I should always be prepared to retreat behind it, if only for a bit.

That way, next time, at least I’ll have preserved myself from the get-go. And I can sit back and say I knew it was coming. Because a blindsided heartbreak is the absolute worst sort.

But no big deal. This will be better for all of us.

(Shield up.)

AG

My First New York-iversary

Considering that this year has been so inspired, I feel ironically uninspired while setting out to write this.

Maybe it’s because New York has now become my life. The novelty of living here has worn off, and although there are still moments when I stop in my tracks, and look up at the skyline in awe, most days I’m still tired in the morning. I don’t always have a hop in a step. I don’t always feel like spending 30 minutes choosing an outfit to look like a fashionable New Yorker. I gawk every time I receive my rent bill. And I’m still disappointed that my life, somehow, hasn’t ended up like an episode of Friends.

Living in New York is nothing like I had imagined. Of course, I’ve always been the idealistic type, imagining the figurative next step as something grand, idyllic, romantic, literary. Built up and written down through expectations set through the media, New Yorkers, and society in general. The Greatest City in the World, they all say.

And sometimes it is. It is the greatest city. The greatest city with the greatest food, the smartest people, the prettiest places, the toughest days. A city in which challenges abound.

I don’t love New York for New York’s sake. I don’t love it because of the cool places, or the museums, or the cocktails, or the shopping, or the Jake Gyllenhaal sightings, or the macaroons, or the pizza, or the rooftop bars  (though these are all seriously wonderful).

I love it because of what it’s done for me. It has tested my limits, taught me the importance of good people, and helped me understand the value of a real career — one that brings passion & excitement back into every day. It has made my relationships stronger, my confidence steadier, and my skin thicker. It’s helped me realize that when you find someone you love, you stick with them, because they really are one in a million.

And although I miss being closer to my family, my cozy (and unrealistically large) Chicago apartment, and the lovely feeling of the Midwest, I am pretty damn proud of myself for making it here (especially without getting kicked to the curb at work or going broke).

Here are some of my favorite memories from the last year.

Attending the US Open with BF

Bike Rides and Picnics in Central Park

Mornings at BBH New York

Afternoon Viewings at BBH New York

Birthdays Experiencing Sleep No More

Christmas-time Walks (and SantaCon HA)

Pizza Party Birthdays

Eating Macaroons with K

Soaking up the view form my first NYC apartment

Highline Funs with the Sis

St Patty’s Day with the Cuz

New York Art Crawl

Tribeca Film Festival

Boat rides on the Hudson with favorites

Rekindling Best Friendships

It’s been a doozy of a year.

XO,

AG

 

When Your Little Sister Is Cooler.

I remember when I was the cool sister. My little sis would always want to sit with my friends and I in the basement of our house on Winston Lane. We would all play Dance Dance Revolution, watch scary movies, or talk about those outside our crew, and even though Sis couldn’t wrap her head around half of our conversations, she was always there.

My parents used her as a chaperone. Anytime I was alone with a boy, there she’d be. Right around the corner. Striking up conversation, or claiming that we were listening to her favorite song; watching her favorite movie. What she never knew, though, is I always wanted her there. In fact, once I asked her, directly, to meet her friend for dinner at the same place I had a “date” – just in case I needed to glance over and make eye contact for a bit of reassurance.

Even though she was five years younger, I spilled my heart and soul to her every night. We sat awake in my full size bed and I told her about my crushes, my heartbreaks, my classes, my blogs (yup, had them back then too – Xanga anyone?). We used to cut pictures from dated Bollywood magazines that our family had brought over from India during their last visit, and make huge collages on that 25 cent poster board you could get around the corner. We made customized shorts (PHS, MYH), had photo-shoots, ate like the world’s biggest famine was about to hit any day, and were inseparable.

Her new version of the good old Bollywood collage

And, even though I now have my doubts, at the time I definitely thought I was the cool one.

Now, I know better. She’s the one that can pull of the straw bowler hats, the hot pink tattered jeans, studs, those dresses with the stomach cut outs (I would have to wear a poncho over it to ever feel comfortable in one of those). She’s the one that used Crackle nail polish before anyone else (I never used it once). She has the attitude, the strength, and the wit to whip any situation in her favor. And although I’m still her big sister, and may maintain a strong sense of big-sister-rationality, the ability to think practically, and the skills to help tame the occasional emotional hurricane, sometimes I can’t believe how much I have learned and continue to learn from her.

We’ve had a very blessed life, as a family (knock on wood). But my mom’s one complaint with her life is that she never had a sister. She sees the relationship between my sis & I and can’t believe what she’s missed out on. Luckily as we’ve gotten older, we’ve developed an amazingly close relationship with mom, too, but nothing (seriously, nothing) can beat having a sister.

Love you, sis!

AG

On Finding Balance: Joanna Goddard

Do you read A Cup of Jo?

I’ve been reading Joanna’s blog for years. It was one of the first blogs I ever really took to, and now, it’s one of the first sites I visit every morning over my cup of coffee (even before Facebook!). Although Joanna and I are in very different stages of our lives, I love the honesty and ease with which she writes. And a lot of her topics are really relevant to women of all ages. One, in particular, really struck a chord with me.

Finding Balance.

Over one week, Joanna interviewed 7 moms on how they strike a balance in their lives. All of these women are high performing, career-driven, boss-lady-types with successful marriages and cute little kiddies. Being a woman in my mid-twenties, this is something I’ve started thinking about. Balancing a career, a marriage, a few kids (is that weird to say?) – how do people do it?! I can barely handle my job and cooking dinner… When will I go back to school? How do you know it’s the right time to get married? To have kids?

My Mom + Dad at 24 (with three-year-old me!) – Forgive the blur, it’s a camera-phone shot taken from an old family album.

It’s strange and overwhelming… eep… college!

But these women. These women make it seem so do-able. They aren’t shy about the concessions they make. They don’t sit there any tell you that it’s easy, or that they don’t miss their kids, or don’t feel guilty, but they do make you believe that a woman doesn’t have to be either a mom or a professional.

Here are a few of my favorite bits.

“‘Take gentle care of yourself'” […] is a surprisingly profound thing to remember. Of course, it’s true for everyone, not just mothers. Everybody feels overwhelmed sometimes, and it’s really easy to beat yourself up or put too much pressure on yourself or assume everyone around you has a perfect life. That’s not true, and we should be kind to ourselves and treat ourselves like the sweet souls we are.”

Don’t lose yourself in your identity as a mother. You were a woman before you met your husband/partner. You were a woman before you had your children. Don’t lose sight of who that person is.”

I’ve linked to Joanna’s posts so you can read them for yourselves. Really inspirational (and good to put on your mental shelf for somewhere down the road :)).

Happy Friday,

AG

Bad AG

I’m really bad. I’m really truly, honestly and audaciously bad. And not in the cool, rocker chick, secretly awesome (because outwardly awesome is just obnoxious), badass kind of way. In the lame, I-can’t-sustain-anything-in-my-life-outside-of-work, kind.

Not only have I not updated this blog in about month, I’ve fallen short on a lot of my promises lately. These aren’t promises to friends, or family, or colleagues, these are promises to myself. Which almost makes this situation worse.

I began this year with a so much promise. A massive and uncontrollable fire under my butt. I told myself I would write for 30 minutes each morning, I would exercise (HELLO last post all about Yoga?!), I would eat well, I would lose myself in everything and anything that I loved. Instead, I’ve lost sight.

I can’t write. I’m not reading much. I can’t even find a song that makes my soul sing. Imagine that. I have $60 of iTunes credit sitting on my quickly deteriorating, 2008 MacBook Pro, that I can’t figure out how to spend. This is frightening.

But in my defense, because we all deserve redemption, even if it’s from ourselves, a lot has happened in this month. A very loved friend, and a very loved pet were both diagnosed with cancer. One very serious, and one less so. For a cancer novice, this is all-consuming. Hours pass without me allocating a single thought elsewhere. I’d like to think most of these sad thoughts are actually masked vibes of positive energy, and that in some way, they’re constructive.

My guy met the last of my grandparents. This is big. I am a lucky gal with four, healthy, engaged, vibrant, and loving grandparents. And now, the love they have for me, for the first time, extends outside our immediate blood line. This is really special, and poignantly reassuring. When the people who love you, love the one you love, it’s crazy amazing. Hello, world of happy adult relationships! I’m so glad to make your acquaintance!

I am now in search of my second New York apartment. This experience was completely and utterly hellish the first time around, so imagine my dismay. But this time, I have some experience under my belt. It helps. I’m excited for more space, and one more friend at home :)

I’ve been keeping busy with these little bits. But I do, I do I do, want to get back to doing more things for me.

And the first of these things is going to be a long awaited vacation. In this case, to St. Lucia, later this year. It’s all booked and waiting for my (upcoming) bikini body!

The second is going to be writing more. And not just blog writing, because I wouldn’t really ever write a piece of fiction in this ridiculous, ultra girly, whiny, didactic, frequently self-pitying tone. Or would I? :) I need a way to keep myself accountable. How do people motivate themselves?!? I’m determined to figure it out. Anyone had an epiphany they care to share?

Until then, I may be in and out, and here and there on Whole Creativity. Maybe I’m in a phase that’s more about absorbing than sharing. Who knows.

Guess I’ll have to figure it out as I go.

Talk soon(er than you probably expect at this point).

Kisses.

AG