one decade, one hundred things


Earlier this summer, I spent a couple weeks traveling through Europe with two of my closest pals.  It was a time to reset my soul and return to New York feeling refreshed and ready for the final months of this decade.

While sitting on the train from Paris to London, a song came on my shuffle that brought back a flood of memories from my freshman year of college.  It was a Dave Matthews song, one of the many that filled my dorm room blasting from my iHome lamp in 2009.  It filled me with nostalgia and an odd sense of reflection to follow.  I used to credit DMB to being my favorite band at the beginning of this decade and it got me wondering where exactly the artist’s appeal came into view for me.  I started listening to DMB because some guy I dated my freshman year of high school really liked him, so I liked him too.  My date to the senior prom three years later also liked him, so I used the knowledge I had from the last guy to resurrect my liking him again.  That bled into the guy I started dating my freshman year of college, who loved him – in fact, that’s what made his head turn to me – and I continued to date him for eight years after that.  So, Dave Matthews was essentially the soundtrack to most of my dating life from 2006 to 2017.  But, as I sat on the train from Paris to London, with this song blaring into my AirPods, I had to pose the question of whether or not I actually like Dave Matthews Band, or did I just like a band because, for most of my adolescent and young adult life, I affiliated their music with the people I liked?

It seems so benign to deeply dive into self-reflection from hearing one little song, but it really posed many questions for me: How much of who we are has been inspired by others?  How much of who we are is temporarily inspired by others, then shed once we inevitably shed those people from our lives? How often do we say “yes” to liking something or trying something or contort ourselves into being something just to appease others?  How much of who we are are, at our core, comes from us and how much of it comes from what we see or hear or watch others do?

I realize that, when you’re young, you’re more apt to become a chameleon and blend in with the crowd for fear of being left out or going against the grain.  However, sometimes we can do it so often and for so long that it becomes enough of a pattern to carry with us into adulthood.  I’m about to turn twenty-eight-years-old and I sometimes still catch myself agreeing with people for fear of being different.  But I also recognize that certain people are ushered into our lives to introduce us to things we otherwise wouldn’t have known we liked until they showed us.  My eight-year relationship also introduced me to The Office before it self-imploded (the relationship, not The Office – that will be stand in its own light forever).  The guy I dated after him introduced me to John Mulaney’s stand-up, who I believe to be one of the most brilliant comedians of our generation.  The list goes on and on and on.

So, on that train from Paris to London, I decided that I wanted to take the remaining months of the decade to ask myself who I am and, to that end, who I’ve become over the last ten years.  At the beginning of this decade, when I was a freshman in college – seventeen, a face full of acne, my hair bleached to the nines – my friends and I decided to do this challenge on our Facebook Notes (remember notes? What a time) where we had to write one-hundred things about ourselves.  It was really challenging, but also really fun.  So I wanted to do it again, without looking at what I wrote ten years ago, and to also fill it with personal qualities and tidbits about myself that aren’t necessarily facts you could find out about me from just anywhere outside my day-to-day life or my very busy mind.  So since that day in July, whenever I noticed something about myself that I felt was worthy enough of being deemed a part of who I am or deeply-archived fun-facts, I wrote them down until I got to 100.  Bless you on this forth-coming journey:

  1. My name is Tara Jean Llewellyn. Tara from my mother’s favorite film Gone With The Wind.  Jean is my mother and grandmother’s name.  Llewellyn is Welsh and also my dad’s last name which should be obvious, but I don’t know the intellectual level of those reading along.
  2. I’m Long Island-born, Connecticut-raised.
  3. I live in a studio apartment in Manhattan with my cat Luna and an overstuffed closet filled with clothes I do not wear.
  4. I do, however, wear many hats; as an actress, a vocalist, a writer, a dresser, and a designer, among others that I have yet to discover.
  5. I don’t, however, look good in most hats.
  6. I drink a latte every single morning, sometimes two, from anywhere that’s not a chain unless I’m desperate.  It’s almost always iced, and almost always from The Chipped Cup on 149th and Broadway.
  7. I love puzzle games; Sudoku, solitaire, crossword puzzles, puzzles themselves.
  8. I get irrationally angry and anxious over certain sounds, a condition more commonly referred to as “misophonia.”  I also have very sensitive ears.
  9. I’m a Sagittarius. I don’t really know what that means about me other than the fact that I was born in December.
  10. I love Autumn, along with every other basic white woman.  Especially in New York.
  11. My favorite television series of all time is Gilmore Girls. Honorable mentions include Friends, The Office, and Sex and the City because I am predictable.
  12. I am a faithful Apple girl.  iPhone, iPad, Macbook, AirPods – though I have not hopped on the Apple Watch train, nor do I think I ever will.  I think they’re ugly.
  13. I’ve learned in my six years of living in a city that I love driving and will take any and all opportunities to drive when I can.
  14. I’m very bad at putting things away.  Most things typically sit anywhere in my apartment where they don’t belong until company comes over and then I put them away.  Or in a drawer.  Or in a bag.  Or in a box.
  15. My current alcoholic beverage of choice is a Moscow Mule.
  16. I’m an extroverted introvert.  I love being alone, but I must have social interactions to look forward to.
  17. I’m a touchy-feely person, but I don’t like when people invade my personal space.  If we’re sitting next to each other, please do not press yourself up against me unless you plan on taking me home later.
  18. I don’t like going to the beach.  I don’t enjoy basking in the sun for hours only to risk suffering from an inevitable sunburn for the duration of the days following.
  19. To that end, underwater life has always freaked me out; including, but not limited to, many of the scenes in the motion picture Titanic.
  20. You know what else freaks me out?  Space.  Space films.  Anything related to the abyss that is space.  Except Star Wars.  That’s way different.
  21. I love prequels.  They thrill me.  I love someone telling me how we got to where we are today.  That is why Wicked always spoke to me growing up.
  22. Back To The Future is my all time favorite movie.  Honorable mentions include When Harry Met Sally, Grease, Frequency, and I guess the rest of the Back to the Future trilogy, though the first one is the best.
  23. I don’t do horror movies but I love thriller movies until I hate them for thrilling me when I’m alone.
  24. Speaking of movies, I can’t go to the movies anymore because people eat popcorn like barbarians and I can’t concentrate on what I’m there to do, so, good luck dating me.
  25. Watching other people bite their nails gives me anxiety.  But it’s also like a car crash – I can’t look away.
  26. My mother told me my entire life that “we can’t pull off yellow” as if we’re conjoined twins or something.  So I never wore yellow.  But you know what? I rock the hell out of yellow, so expect a lot more of that in the 20’s.
  27. I loathe subway performers.  Also people who play games or their music without headphones.  That’s basically the same.
  28. I don’t like pickles or anything that’s been pickled.
  29. No matter how hard I try to be a morning person, I am forever a night owl.  Always have been, always will be.
  30. I cringe when people call me “ma’am.” Like, I’m in my twenties, please let me be young while I still am.
  31. I still sleep with the same stuffed penguin my mother bought me in 2002 for Christmas.  His name is Pangie.  He is very dirty.
  32. I’ve been to six foreign countries; almost all of which are European except for the time I crossed the border to Canada with my mom just to say we did it.
  33. I love taking and sharing pictures.  Even before social media exploded, I took tons of photos.  I get it from my mother, the photo queen.
  34. Cilantro tastes like soap.  Do not put it on my taco.
  35. I’m extremely indecisive which is why I will never get a tattoo.
  36. I have always had unfathomably long nails – even as a kid – so I never really got into nail polish.  But now, I have to have a gel manicure or my nails will break when I work.
  37. I’m a very expressive over-sharer.
  38. I’m also a pack-rat no matter how many times I try to be a minimalist.  I should watch that Marie Kondo woman sometime.
  39. In addition to doing any play and musical I could get my hands on, I was an Irish step-dancer as a child, as well as a Pop Warner cheerleader from the ages of nine to fourteen.
  40. And you know what?  After all that, I still do not understand the game of football.  What’s a down?
  41. I would list my favorite music artists, but my music taste has a wide range and changes with the seasons, so we’d be here for hours.  I like almost anything.
  42. I’m perpetually five minutes late to everything.
  43. I don’t like having a digital calendar.  I need a planner where I can write everything down.
  44. Do not ask me to sight-read music.  I will not be able to.  I learn everything with my ears, even if I’m looking at the music.
  45. I seldom eat leftovers.  I have always had a weird aversion to non-fresh food.
  46. Subsequently, I do not like going to the grocery store and buying in bulk.  I would much rather go more frequently to get things I know won’t go to waste.
  47. I would rather take classes than go to the gym – pilates, zumba, barre before I tore my meniscus.
  48. I’ve never been a big reader, but when I find a book that I like, I will read it in a day.
  49. I have never broken a bone.
  50. Stephen Sondheim is my favorite musical theater composer.
  51. If I had to pick a cake flavor, it would be red velvet.  Though, I prefer cupcakes over cake and I need the cake to frosting ratio to be appropriate.  Also buttermilk frosting over cream-cheese frosting.  But in all seriousness, ice cream cake is probably the best of the cakes.
  52. I have never read a Harry Potter book.
  53. I don’t consider myself to be very religious, but I do consider myself to be spiritual.  I believe in higher-power and the universe and fate and all that garbage.
  54. I do not care for dating apps.  Not one bit.  No judgment, but also no thank you.
  55. I have absolutely zero idea how to use a sewing machine. You should find that hilarious given what I do.
  56. I love fresh flowers – specifically peonies and eucalyptus.  I do not, however, have a green thumb.  Do not give me a plant to take care of because I will inevitably and inadvertently kill it.
  57. I only wear high-rise jeans.
  58. I have veneers over my four front teeth because I believe in shameless in self-improvement.
  59. I always write thank you cards.  I also always keep cards that are given to me.
  60. I walk very, very quickly.  You are signing up for a cardio class when you choose to walk next to me.
  61. I don’t like toppings on my pizza.
  62. My entire family is a fine group of die-hard New York Mets fans. My mama used to walk the players out onto the field on Old-Timer’s Day in the 70’s at Shea Stadium.
  63. My first real job was as a copy associate at an Office Max followed by a three-year-stint as a hostess at The Cheesecake Factory when I was fired from Office Max because they thought that I made copies of sheet music for free with their machines.  Honestly, I probably accidentally did.  And you know what? I regret nothing as they only paid me, like, $8 an hour before taxes, so I feel like I earned it.
  64. I must swab my ears when I see a q-tip which is typically once a day.
  65. When I was in high school, people used to ask me to forge their parents’ signatures on notes because I have nice handwriting and I would absolutely do it. For free. Really missed an opportunity there.
  66. I do not like showing up empty handed to parties. I will bring chips and salsa or wine, sometimes both.
  67. I will take any and all opportunities to cross the street even if a car is approaching and I don’t have a walk sign. It really scares the people I’m with.
  68. I love surprising people — surprise parties, surprise presents, surprising them with my presence.
  69. I almost always prefer salty over sweet. Pretzels and popcorn are my Achilles heel.
  70. I have completed the Whole30 challenge seven times over the last two and a half years. It taught me a lot about my aversion to dairy.
  71. I’m a grazer. I don’t eat three big meals a day, I tend to just eat here and there and hope for the best.
  72. I’m not a fish-eater. Exceptions include any and all shrimp and the imitation crab that comes in a California roll.
  73. My body has almost always conformed to a size 8 – pants, dress, tops, and shoes. 8’s all around.
  74. I’m really good at card games, specifically poker.  I get that from my dad.
  75. I cannot roll my “r”’s, even after taking five years of Spanish.
  76. If I see a lucky penny on the street I have to pick it up.
  77. My grandmother on my mom’s side is one of fifteen children; gifting me over one- hundred second cousins and really big family reunions twice a year that I typically can’t attend.
  78. I am the oldest of two siblings – people are oddly shocked to learn I have a brother.  I think it’s because he doesn’t allow me to post pictures of or with him cause he’s not a photo-nazi like I am.  I also have an older half-sister who I did not grow up with, but who is really wonderful.
  79. I tried a PB&J for the very first time this year. My mom would never make them for us when I was a kid. I always just got a plain ol’ peanut butter sandwich.  PB&J’s rule.
  80. I was not allowed to watch the television show Rugrats as a kid per my mother’s fear that I would turn into Angelica. I’m still not sure if it worked or not.
  81. One time, when I was little, I didn’t want to eat my peas (still don’t, peas are gross) so I stuck one up my nose and it took a lot of time and effort from both my parents as well as a pair of tweezers to get it out.  That’s different from the time that I stuck a really tiny bead from a necklace inside my ear, around the same time as the pea incident, where my parents actually had to take me to the hospital to get it out.  Not sure what I was going through at the time.
  82. I will always get the dressing on the side.
  83. I don’t like big bugs, they completely freak me out.  I’m talking cockroaches, very large spiders, things with lots of legs.  Ants and little spiders are fine though.  Mice and rats also freak me out – something to do with their tails.  It’s a good thing I live in New York City.
  84. My biggest vocal inspirations come from the likes of Carole King and Sara Bareilles. My biggest theatrical inspirations come from the likes of Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason.
  85. I don’t like beans, unless they’re in my chili.  Don’t give me rice and beans next to my taco.
  86. I could eat chips and salsa for every meal every day of the week, just name the time and place.
  87. I don’t like wearing open-front sweaters.  They get in the way.
  88. I have one hole in each of my ears after getting them pierced when I was ten-years-old and hating on every person who told me it wouldn’t hurt.  It absolutely did, and it was traumatic.  No more holes for this chick.
  89. I have a very challenging time delegating things to others.  I like to do everything myself and then get really stressed out because I’m doing everything myself.
  90. To that end, I’m a big DIY person.  Always have been, even as a kid.  I will almost always opt for making something or re-purposing something myself before resorting to buying it.  Same goes for hanging things, painting things, and fixing things that are broken.
  91. I’m getting better at it, but I can almost never get through a joke or a funny story without laughing before the punchline.
  92. I am very sarcastic.  I am also very sassy.  Typically, if I’m both of these things to you, it means I like you as a human.
  93. I hate Apple Cider Vinegar.  Even when I take it in a shot mixed in with juices that are supposed to mask the taste, it’s still there.  Don’t put that near my taco either.
  94. I did not get my driver’s license until I was almost eighteen years old because my parents did not want me to.  If you ask my mom, she’ll say it’s because I didn’t want to, but that is bullshit.  I did not want to take the bus to school as a senior, I would have much rather driven my first car, Norman – even if he was a beat-up 1990 Toyota Camry painted three different shades of red, with no mirror on the passenger’s side or the ability to open the passenger’s side door, forcing people to either sit in the back or climb in through the window.  He was the freaking best.
  95. I’m not a big museum person.  I’ll go, I’ll listen, I’ll watch.  But I can’t be there very long before my attention span wears thin.
  96. I can french braid my own hair better than I can french braid someone else’s hair.
  97. I’m almost always one step behind everyone else with the newest music or show.  I will also avoid listening to something from a musical until I can see it live as to avoid preconceived notions of any kind.
  98. I am an over-analyzer.  I will dissect the crap out of anything.
  99. I have never lived in a borough outside of Manhattan since moving to New York almost six years ago.
  100. I do, in fact, genuinely like Dave Matthews Band.  They’re not my favorite band as once described by a very young, impressionable Tara, but I do love listening to their music; not only to hear some favorite songs, but to also remind myself that we can, in fact, allow things that were once introduced to us by others to stand alone in our own proximity to how we feel about them.  Also, I like the saxophone.

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