photos people take of your head

lifestyle, personal

Let’s talk about headshots because I just got them done for the third time in my adult life and it’s amazing to see what changes in our faces as time goes on. I briefly touched on this in my post about (my queen) Jenna Fischer’s recently-published book The Actors Life; but that was almost six months ago, and many facets of my world and body have since changed.

Prior to 2013, I had never gotten headshots taken by a true “headshot photographer” — believe me, there’s a difference. I had photos taken of me, and they were more than sufficient for youth community theatre productions, but they weren’t professional headshots. Let’s take a gander:

2005: The Pre-Highlight Days I will give a shout-out to Donna Korb for giving me a very professional-looking shot for a few years. But after my hair went super-blonde and I went through, ya know, puberty, I needed something more up-to-date.

Cut to 2009: The year of the freshman fifteen and when her teeth clearly became addicted to Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee Western Connecticut State University’s Theater Department forced us all to get headshots taken by the Western Connecticut State University’s Photography Department. It made sense in theory, and it was completely free, but I’m pretty positive I rolled out of bed ten minutes before these were taken and that the man taking my photo was standing six feet above the top of my head on a stool. I had to crop and edit the crap out of this (I will spare you the original).

2011: The Year of the Stacked Bob. I loved this haircut — it was $5, and I wish I was lying but it was the best haircut I’ve ever gotten.  This was clearly a far cry from my first round of free WCSU headshots in 2009. But even so, I couldn’t use this come senior year, when I needed to dive head-first into the real world.

Which brings us to the first round of professional headshots I ever shelled out money for. Most of my college senior class went to Taylor Hooper Photography in New York (who takes stunning headshots); I opted for Julia Gerace Photography in Shelton, Connecticut. She is a legitimate headshot photographer, extremely cost-effective, and also takes great shots. Though I did not choose to have this photo retouched, for comparison moving forward, this was one of my proofs:

2013: The Year of Strawberry Blonde. At the tail-end of 2012 into 2013, I was a redhead. I loved it just as much as my $5 2011 bob, but the upkeep was too much and, let’s face it, I’m a blonde. So, right before getting my headshots done with Julia, I started the journey back to blonde. You would never be able to tell, because here I look like little orphan Annie, but there are a whole lot of blonde highlights trying their hardest to peak out.  I used these headshots for about three years.  Three years before I decided they could no longer appropriately represent me; and not because of the photos themselves, but by Summer of 2014, I was fully blonde again, and these were not the same women:

2016: The Year I Finally Started Getting Callbacks January of 2016, I scheduled a shoot with Curtis & Cort Photography in New York (talk about a dream team).  Curtis Holbrook and Cortney Wolfson are a dynamic duo of Broadway performers who know what you need in a quality headshot (and know you shouldn’t need to offer up your first born child to get one).  Cortney does the hair and make up, Curtis takes the photos, and they make you feel like you feel, not only like a model, but like a friend they’ve welcomed into their home.  Shooting with them was a dream come true, and these new headshots got me so much further in my audition season…

I finally felt like I was representing and branding myself appropriately.  No more questions from casting directors about why the girl in the picture had red hair and the one standing in from was platinum blonde.  No more wondering how old I really was since I was using such a dated photo of myself.  Curtis & Cort captured me beautifully.

And here we are, two years later, and I felt I still looked pretty much the same as my gorgeous, two-year-old Curtis & Cort shots; and, in all fairness, at the beginning of this calendar year, I did.  But I kept getting typed-out of open calls based on my headshot and I could not figure out why.  So I decided to go to a casting seminar at Actor’s Connection that had a Q & A with one of the casting directors (who shall remain nameless, but is a genuine dream) who had been typing me out of calls for shows such as Kinky Boots, RENT, etc.  I handed her the same headshot I had thrown in the pile with hundreds of other girls, sang my song, and waited for her feedback.  The first thing she asked me was how old my headshots were and if I had lost weight since getting my them taken.  I was very surprised, since I thought this was a pretty fair representation of me:

Llewellyn_Headshot2

She said after seeing me, she can see my body in this photo, but the way I’m positioned and the cut of my top makes me look a lot bigger than I am.  She said she would call this girl in the photo in for a role like Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, and, after seeing me in person, knows that isn’t a part she would cast me in.

It was incredibly eye-opening.  I never would have seen that in this photo without her pointing it out to me.  So I decided it was time for new headshots; I felt due for them anyway.  My hair was longer, I wanted to bring more of my natural dark blonde out than my usual platinum blonde, and I needed something a little more vibrant.

2018: The Year of Whole30ing (Again) I scheduled a shoot with Sub/Urban Photography.  I felt like their shots were a more vibrant and cost-effective alternative to that of David Noles Photography, one of the top and most expensive headshot photographers in this business.  I fell in love with Sub/Urban’s vibe, and better yet, their team is also amazing.  Amanda and Jake, the photographers, are another dream team (much like Curtis and Cortney) and Alex, the hair and make up stylist, is literally a magician.

I had been on the Whole30 Challenge for the month of March prior to my shoot with Sub/Urban and, let me tell you, it was the best decision I ever made, not only looking at the outcome of this shoot, but the comparison between my face in 2016 and my face now.

*Photos are not edited by the photographers
*Photos are not edited by the photographers

I asked my friends who I had eaten in 2016, and, looking back, I don’t think my weight was that much different.  It’s my face.  I had probably been eating whatever I wanted before my shoot in 2016; but being on the Whole30 leading up to my headshot session made me less bloated, fresher, and cleaner-looking.  And while I will give credit where credit is due to the photographers, the shots I had done by Curtis & Cort were equally as beautiful as the shots I just got by Sub/Urban — I just wasn’t taking as great care of myself as I am now.

Yet another reason to try the Whole30 Challenge, friends!  I’m serious, it will rock your world.

xo,

T

week four

lifestyle, personal

Happy Easter everyone!

I’ve considered the last ten days of my Whole30 extravaganza one collective week (it sure feels like one – it was a blur).  The adventures I took were an incredible way to round out this thirty-day journey; in fact, I’m a little sad to see it come to an end.  Sure, I’m (kind of) happy to rejoin the social media world, and I ate a lot of bunny cake today, but it was nice to have a reason not to.  Admittedly, I started sparingly reincorporating “normal” foods (not cake) and drinks into my system this week to reacclimate myself a little earlier than usually so I could include it in my final blog post.

So let’s look at a little side-by-side selfie action, shall we?

March 1st:

March 30th:

My hair’s a little darker, my mind, body, and skin are a little clearer, my teeth are a lot…different, and my heart is a lot fuller. This month was refreshing and rejuvenating and I would do it again (I probably will, stay tuned).

Watch the video above for snippets of my final ten days and a little personal reflection at the end.  Thanks for following my journey!  It was fun to share it with y’all.

xo,

T

week three

lifestyle, personal

Three weeks into my Whole30 Challenge and this has been, by far, my most action-packed week of the month.  I have climbed mountains, walked over hot coals, and successfully saved a kitten from a burning building (actually I did none of those things, but it got your attention, didn’t it?).

My week consisted of multiple camera angles, starting new projects, celebrating friends, and anticipating yet another nor’easter (that ended up being a huge letdown, might I add).  It was filled with lots of laughs, making new friends, and a lot of iced lattes.  Feel free to watch and/or read below (or you can settle for the vague, Reader’s Digest version I just gave you and go about your day).

“Drag Night” celebrating RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars at At The Wallace in Harlem have become Tara’s unemployed Thursday evening ritual.  This week, that tradition, along with the season, came to an end; for my Thursday evenings will soon be filled with rehearsals (more on that later).  After the season finale, I walked home and called the wardrobe number for my background stint on Blue Bloods the following morning.  “Khaki pants.”  I was playing a nurse, and they wanted me to bring khaki pants.  Let me tell you something Blue Bloods, I am not at my mother’s house, nor do I have the arsenal of pants I was forced to wear when I worked at Office Max many moons ago.  Also, it’s 10 P.M. (do you know where your children are?) and I cannot go out and buy khaki pants that I will likely never wear again (unless you want me to be a reoccurring role, then it may be worth it).

I probably texted every woman I know within a one mile radius (it was 10 P.M., I was not traveling far).  But, shockingly (sarcasm), nobody seemed to have khaki pants at their disposal.  Luckily, my friend Ty told me that he had pants I could borrow and voila!  Khaki pants.

Of course, they had a full costume ready for me when I walked in on Friday morning, and I didn’t even need the khaki pants.

After our shoot wrapped in Brooklyn, I made it home with enough time to eat something (and change out of the khaki pants) before babysitting on the UWS. I took a car home around midnight. I earned that car home around midnight.

St. Patrick’s Day in New York City can be extremely hit or miss — especially on a Saturday. My mom told me about something called “Leprecon” (like Santacon, but a far better play on words) happening in New York, so I had braced myself to see thousands of grown men dressed like leprechauns throwing up on the side of a bus outside the nearest Starbucks. But, alas, I managed to miss those sightings.

I spent Saturday afternoon at the first rehearsal for a musical called Chess in Brooklyn. Each year on St. Patrick’s Day, I am grateful to say I am working on a show in some capacity — most years it’s been wardrobe. This year, it’s a musical I’m in, which is pretty snazzy. Saturday night was filled with Irish music and birthday celebrations for one of my best guys, Oliver. The bar he chose was super mellow and void of Leprecon-participants. Praise.

Sunday was marathon day. It started at morning daywork for Kinky Boots, took me down to Brooklyn in the afternoon for another Chess rehearsal, and rounded out at The Blue Note in the West Village celebrating my buddy Chris’s birthday; sitting front and center (actually, a little to the right) for Roy Haynes’ 93rd Birthday Celebration. I got to sing with him (you should really watch the video now) and Jon Batiste was there!

(Just another Manic) Monday began with an 8:30 A.M. call to a bar (yes, a bar) in Hell’s Kitchen where I shot an episodic called The So-So You Don’t Know for a few hours. It was a lot of fun; and the girl I was paired to play best friends with ended up being someone I could probably become best friends with. After some brief babysitting, Manic Monday ended with me laying on the floor of my apartment watching Gilmore Girls, eating plantain chips, and reflecting on the fact that I had just done two weeks’ worth of activities in four days.

Tuesday I had two goals: make my audition, make my train home. I accomplished both, in heels yet. Connecticut was expecting its fourth nor’easter of the month; which was perfectly timed, seeing as I was coming home to multiple appointments on Wednesday that I needed to take care of. But alas, all appointments were cancelled due to the impending storm, where most parts of New England were expected to get 12-18 inches of snow before Thursday morning.

By 3:30 P.M. on Wednesday, there was not an ounce of fresh snow to the name of Brookfield, Connecticut. So I went shopping. And the grand total of three inches of snow we received did not start falling until around 6:00 P.M.

Mama Llew made a delish Whole30 din for us, which is pretty self-explanatory in the video. But so much happened this week, I was fresh out of time to make any Whole30 food-making videos. You’re welcome.

My heart is full and I am ready for these last ten days!

xo,

T

week two

lifestyle, personal

It’s the end of week two on my Whole30 extravaganza (no grains, no added sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, no social media).  It’s getting increasingly easier to refrain from checking social media platforms, but I’ve realized how essential it’s become to our everyday lives — not just for the sake of putting ourselves out there, but the wealth of information that comes along with it.  I have had many moments this week where I’ve gone to recall something — a name, a photograph, etc. — and realized most of that information comes from a social media platform.  It’s tough.

But, alas, despite the fact that Facebook sent an email informing me that I have 91 notifications, they still remain unseen.  And they will continue to until April 1st.

This week, I went on many adventures, took on new challenges, and spent time with many people I adore.  Feel free to watch and/or read below!

 

Thursday I attempted my first pilates reformer class, but couldn’t find the entrance to the studio, so instead I stopped by the Neil Simon (my old CATS home) to visit with former colleagues and dear friends who are in the midst of previews for Angels in America (the newest Neil Simon occupant).  My Thursday evenings have been spent more recently with friends at “Drag Night,” an hour-long dedication to RuPaul’s Drag Race AllStars hosted by a local bar; which has been increasingly difficult to attend since starting the Whole30 last week.  They don’t have any Whole30-approved meals on their menu, so the club soda with lime has become a close pal as I watch my friends eat grilled cheeses and waffle fries.  I spent most of Friday at The Chipped Cup serendipitously sharing, creating, and collaborating on new ideas for films and web series and other projects with friends; and ended it wandering the new Marshalls uptown, then at iHop eating a Whole30-approved omelette (which was delish).

Saturday was the day for a new show!  I visited my old stomping grounds at 52nd street to see Mean Girls: The Musical on Broadway.  After dining at one of my fave restaurants in the area (Blue Dog Kitch, I missed you, old friend) I sat in a house filled to the brim with members of (and friends in) the Broadway community for the final dress rehearsal of the show.  The energy was palpable and the production was incredibly well-executed.

On Sunday, my beautiful mama turned another year wiser and I felt very lucky to celebrate it with her.  She picked my favorite Connecticut BBQ joint (The Cue Danbury) for her birthday lunch.  There was a roasted pig sitting at the communal brunch table named “Mr. Porky” who simultaneously broke our hearts and terrified us.  But the iced tea is top notch.

I found myself on a last-minute train back to New York Sunday evening after being asked to work at Kinky Boots The Musical the following afternoon.  Praise!  She’s back on Broadway for a couple days this week!  Lucky for me, I made it back in time to miss traveling through the snow on Tuesday (and finally to the entrance of my pilates class in the late afternoon).  And by the evening, the snow had melted and I was wandering the world of Margaritaville; the second feel-good Broadway musical of the week (and it was all fo’ free!).

And here we are.  Another Wednesday.  Day fourteen — also known as Pi Day.  I made a Whole30-Approved-Ingredients-But-Pie-Is-Not-Approved Pie (a creation I should absolutely send over to the writers at Waitress)  and spent some time with my best guy.

Week two has been filled with laughs, friends, a lot of Broadway and real good food; some of which I made, some I did not.  But the recipes I did make are below.  Enjoy!

T   H   E      R   E   C   I   P   E   S


“Breakfast Burrito Without the Burrito…or the Cheese…or the Sour Cream”

M  A  R  C  H    1  2

Ingredients

3 Eggs, Scrambled

Vegetables of Your Choosing (I picked mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions)

Salsa (*With No Added Sugar)

 1/2 an Avocado

Scallions (Garnish)

I love breakfast for dinner.  When I was younger, my fam jam would go nuts when my dad would tell us he was making pancakes for dinner.  Well, since pancakes are off-limits on the Whole30, I decided to make a savory breakfast for dinner.

Scramble those eggs, season then with salt and pepper, and add in as many vegetables as you please.  I chose mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.  Top with (or toss it on the side) salsa and avocado and garnish with scallions if you please.


“Whole30-Approved-Ingredients-But-Pie-Is-Not-Approved Pie”

M  A  R  C  H    1  4

Ingredients

Pie Crust Ingredients/Recipe Here

Filling Ingredients

1 Gala Apple

2 TSP Cinnamon

1 TSP Nutmeg

1/2 Pint Frozen Blueberries

The apple “pie” left much to be desired, but the blueberry “pie” rocked.  I baked mine in little pie forms, so if you’re using a standard size, these measurements may be off.

For the Apple “pie,” I chopped and sauteed one gala apple in coconut oil with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  This allowed the apples to soften before baking it within the crust.  For the Blueberry “pie” I just dumped the blueberries into the pie crust and let it work its magic.  There is a Pinterest recipe for a blueberry tart that includes chia seeds in the filling, but I didn’t have a chance to try that.  It seems like a nice option if you’re looking for something to congeal the blueberries!


xo,

T

week one

lifestyle, personal

I’ve been Whole30-ing for the past week alongside mastering the art of not checking my social media for the past seven days (I am far from a master, but I have successfully been off my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the last seven days — although I am checking Facebook messages, but that so does not count).  I’ve read Mindy Kaling books [more on that later] and have filled my days with friends, unexpected traveling, and (mostly) Whole30 approved food.

In lieu of wanting to try new things, I started filming a spattering of happenings in my world over the past seven days.  Nothing exciting, just a little vlog for the blog action.  Feel free to watch the video I put together below, or don’t, whatever tickles your fancy.  Recipes for some of the food I made this week is underneath the video you may or may not be watching.

T   H   E      R   E   C   I   P   E   S


“Whole30 Approved Breakfast of Champions”

M  A  R  C  H    0  4

Ingredients

Uncured Turkey Bacon (Make sure there’s no added sugar)

For the Potato Avocado “Toast”

2 Eggs

Shredded Potatoes (Pre-made or you can DIY)

1 Avocado

Scallions

For the Raspberry Smoothie Bowl

See “Whole Bowl” from last year’s Whole30 Challenge

Liz and I really wanted brunch on Sunday morning.  However, brunch is much less fun when you’re on the Whole30 and can’t have a cocktail.  So, instead of going to Harlem Public to indulge (and spend money we totally don’t have), I made us a very Whole30-Approved brunch at my apartment.

Inspired by this Pinterest recipe, I went in search of frozen shredded potatoes (you can totally get these at Trader Joe’s, but not at my grocery store down the street).  Instead, I shredded a blend of red potatoes and one sweet potato, forewent the flour called for in the Pinterest recipe, and made little potato patties in the skillet with coconut oil.  Top with mashed avocado, scrambled egg, and scallions.


“Vegan Corn Chowder That’s Totally Not Whole30”

M  A  R  C  H    0  5

Pinterest Recipe can be found and executed here!


“Sweet Pot Noodles”

M  A  R  C  H    0  6

See “Sweet Pot Noodles” from last year’s Whole30 Challenge


“Whole30 Approved Smoothie That Makes Me Feel Like I’m Eating Ice Cream”

M  A  R  C  H    0  7

Ingredients

2 Frozen Bananas

2 TBSP Almond Butter (No Sugar Added)

1/3 Cup Unsweetened Frozen Coconut Milk

1/3 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk

*Dates are also a real good additive, I just didn’t have any handy

Throw it in the blender and mix it all together.  It’s that simple.


xo,

T

twenty five carrie bradshaw quotes to get you through your week

lifestyle, new york

If you only get one great love, New York might just be mine.

-Carrie Bradshaw

It’s no surprise that as a twenty-something dreamer meandering the streets of Manhattan, one of my spirit animals is Carrie Bradshaw.  Her seemingly fictitious world accurately mirrors the reality we face as New Yorkers and confronts questions we didn’t know we had until we graduated from our adolescence and moved to the Big Apple.

The women she spends her life commiserating with represent many of our own friends we get to navigate through love, loss, and the pressure to fulfill societal standards with.  Yet despite the fact that they didn’t survive their dating days during the digital age of Tinder, Instagram and the social media garbage we begrudgingly swipe though today; these women still managed to experience many of the timeless struggles we inevitably face today.

As I recently re-binged the series (it’s available to stream on Amazon Prime — you’re welcome), I found Carrie’s words, lessons, and struggles hitting me differently than they have before.  Maybe because I’m getting older?  Wiser?  More cynical?  Regardless, I began writing down her questions, conclusions, and witty quips to share with the rest of my world; because I feel like the seemingly benign and “melodramatic” internal questioning we’re all afraid to own deserves to be met with a little reassurance that we’re not always alone in our thoughts.  Here are some of my favorite take-away moments, questions, and lessons penned by Carrie Bradshaw to get you through your week, your year, or your life when you’re in need of a little guidance, commiseration, or perspective.

*      *      *      *      * 

Carrie repeatedly revisits self-love throughout the series, specifically within relationships; on a constant quest for a healthy life balanced with love for herself, her friends, her partner…and her addiction to shoes. But how do we ever truly know if and when we’re balanced? As we bravely tiptoe along the tightrope of life, carrying our relationships in one arm, and our self-love in the other, will putting too much weight on one end throw us off balance and eventually be our downfall? To that effect, if leaning too much into our self-love starts to evolve into something unhealthy, is that just as detrimental to our balance as leaning on others to serve as the needle in our barometer for happiness?

I got to thinking about Narcissus – a man so consumed with his own image, he drowned in it.  Did he have no best friends to mirror back a healthy review of himself?  And why is it that we can see our friends perfectly, but when it comes to ourselves, no matter how hard we look, do we ever see ourselves clearly?

I often wonder what Carrie would have to say about the modern-day selfie; healthy or harmful? Brave or vain?

Is it possible to draw a clear line between confidence and narcissism on our own?  Or will we ever be able to impartially evaluate ourselves without the guidance and insight from those around us? And what about those who can’t seem to muster up any bit of self-confidence at all?  Can they only see themselves in the reviews that others give them?  At the end of the day, is the ability to accumulate compliments for ourselves and owning the best parts of us a blessing or a curse?

To that end, Carrie also weighs-in heavily on our inevitable self-reflection through the eyes of those around us.  We can feel so great about ourselves one moment, then defeated the next when someone else doesn’t see exactly what we do; which can quickly generate a laundry list of reasons to doubt our self-love.

Why is it that we only seem to believe the negative things people say about us?  No matter how much evidence there is to the contrary — a neighbor, a face, an ex-boyfriend can cancel out everything we thought was once true.  Odd, but when it comes to life and love, why do we believe our worst reviews?
Is it that innate fear of becoming narcissistic? Are we trying so desperately to keep ourselves in check that we would rather focus on the qualities we must improve than the ones we should savor? And who’s to say we should change at all when someone else’s perspective on us doesn’t quite mesh well with our own?
I realized that the critic I was most afraid of was me.  The truth is, at any given moment, someone, somewhere could be making a face about you.  But it’s the reviews you give yourself that matter.
While conquering the separation between our own opinions and others’ is easier said than done, the phrase “you are your own worst critic” holds more truth than we may want to admit.    At some point, even if our reflection gets blurred, the best we can do for our own clarity is to carry ourselves through each day with a little bit of grace and, in turn, remind those around us to love themselves and eliminate the idea that self-love must always translate to being self-absorbed.  For how we love ourselves will inevitably set the tone for how we love those around us.
I got to thinking about relationships.  There are those that open you up to something new and exotic.  Those that are old and familiar.  Those that bring up lots of questions.  The that bring you somewhere unexpected.  Those that bring you far from where you started.  And those that bring you back.  But the most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. 

*      *      *      *      *  

Because our self-love informs so much of the love we give to others, it inevitably becomes the precursor to a healthy relationship with, not only romantic partners (more on that later), but our friends.

Friendships don’t magically last 40 years. You have to invest in them. It’s like your savings: You don’t expect to wake up one day when you’re old and find a big bucket of money waiting there.

I recently had a long conversation with my mother about this generation of millennials and their tendencies towards friendships.  We’re all walking around in the modern world of social media, where everything is at our fingertips.  Subsequently, we’re always looking for the next best thing because it’s at our fingertips.  When the world is immediately at our disposal, we start to become flaky — waiting until the day-of to make plans in case something better comes along, pulling out our phone in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, or simply not responding to a message and pretending we didn’t get it in the first place.
Is it possible to minimize the investments we make on our social media pages and start devoting more of the same into our friendships?  Though investing in ourselves is equally as important, if we put half the energy we throw at our smartphones into our relationships, at the end of the day, isn’ that a better bang for your buck?  Give a call instead of a text.  Better yet, use the twenty-first century to your advantage and FaceTime your long-distance friends.  Write a card instead of sending a text.  A little more intimate communication can go a much longer way.

*      *      *      *      *  

In a town where everyone’s dying to couple up, sometimes there’s nothing better than being out of a relationship.  You have time to do your laundry, freedom to play your favorite bad music really loudly.  But the best part about being out of a relationship; plenty of time to catch up with your friends.  
So let’s talk about being single, because it’s just as important as the open discussion about our relationships with others and obviously goes hand-in-hand with self-love.
Is single life in New York such a constant flurry of fun and friends that settling down immediately fills us with the urge to shake things up again?  And why does becoming part of a couple imply settling down?  
To be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?
I think we can all admit to adapting to certain tendencies when we’re in a relationship that we wouldn’t have otherwise; I know I certainly have.  So let’s say you’ve finally taken your self-love off the shelf and you’ve ended a relationship with someone because it wasn’t right for you anymore.  The relief that accompanies coming back into your single self can feel so massively exhilarating that you wonder how you lasted so long without that feeling.  But when the relief starts to fade, how do you separate your self-worth from a relationship where your self-love started to become non-existent?
Relationships, no matter how good, are inevitably a series of compromises.  But how much of ourselves should we be willing to sacrifice for the other person before we stop being ourselves?  In a relationship, when does the art of compromise becoming compromising?
Do we chalk it up to experience?  Is it better to view the loss of a relationship as a blessing rather than a curse? Or have we put such a premium on companionship that the pain of a break up clouds our ability to prioritize self-love, leaving us feeling like less of who we are as we walk away?
People say everything happens for a reason.  These people are usually women.  And these women are usually sorting through a break up.  It seems that men can get out a relationships without even a goodbye.  But apparently women either have to get married or learn something.  Why are we in such a rush to move from confused to Confucius?  Do we search for lessons to lessen the pain?
Abso-fuckin-lutely.  If you’re anything like me, you’re always putting your trust into the universe through the good, the bad, the uncomfortable, and the joyous.  Every move we make is a stone in the road towards our future.  So at some point, we have to trust that when the moment and person are right, we won’t be adjusting who we are at our core to accommodate the relationship .  And so much of knowing what is right comes from being secure enough with ourselves to say “hell yes” or “hello no” to certain people and what they have to offer us.  That all starts and ends with the love we have for ourselves.

*      *      *      *      *  

I realized I had just entered an interesting chapter of my life.  I had outgrown the boys of my past and not quite grown into the men of my future.
Can you get to a future if your past is present?
I spent most of this past year reflecting on this concept a lot.  Especially when you move to a city as wild and wondrous as New York, you find yourself caught between letting go of certain parts of your life and hanging onto what you think should remain.  It’s a balancing act, much like that of our self-love and relationships — we find ourselves constantly torn between what we know and what we don’t.  Moving to New York will not only change your life, it will change everything you thought you knew about yourself before you arrived.
Every day you’re met with new faces.  Those you pass on the street, the cashier who rings you out at the grocery store, or even a new co-worker.  The connections you make in New York will be boundless and serendipitous. Subsequently, they’ll sometimes lead you to outgrow the relationships of your past or present.  Isn’t that a major part of growing up?  Looking back on what you thought was right for you at the time and, in retrospect, realizing why it wasn’t?
Some love stories aren’t epic novels – some are short stories.  
But that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.
Again, New York will change everything you thought you knew about yourself before you arrived and, without even realizing it, you will outgrow your past as you patiently grow into those who belong in your future.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just one of the most exhilaratingly terrifying and uncomfortable concepts of, not only living in New York, but growing out of our adolescence.
One of the great things about living in New York City is that you don’t have to sugar-coat your feelings.  But, have New York women settled for a sugar-free existence as well?  We accept Tasty-D-Lite instead of real ice cream, emails instead of love songs, jokes instead of poetry.  It’s no wonder that when faced with the real thing, we can’t stomach it.  Is it something we can learn to digest, or have we become romance-intolerant?
Ever since Woody Allen described waving to Mia Farrow across the park, single men in Manhattan yearn for that kind of separate togetherness.  I felt like the last dinosaur.  Was I the one that needed to adapt?  Was my view of a relationship extinct?  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  This is a city where gay men are so out, they’re in.  Where women are so chronically single, ovaries may be the next vestigial organ.  We can have anything delivered at any hour, we can have our dogs walked, our clothes cleaned, our food cooked.  Who needs a husband when you have a doorman?  
Are New Yorkers evolving past relationships?
Ironically, despite the hundreds of people you come into contact with every day, it can be really difficult to cultivate special connections with people in New York.  When the pool is bigger, finding your “people” becomes harder.  Furthermore, when it comes to romantic relationships, especially in the digital age of dating apps, settling down in this city is starting to become obscure.  Our generation wants the best of both worlds — we want our freedom, but we still want someone waiting for us when we come home each night.  But what happens when our accessibility to anything, at any hour, any day of the week starts interfering with our ability to spy the rarities?
Since birth, modern women have been told we can be anything we want; be an astronaut, the head of an internet company, a stay-at-home mom.  There aren’t any rules anymore the choices are endless, and apparently they can all be delivered right to your door.  But is it possible that we’ve gotten so spoiled by choices that we’ve become unable to make one?  That a part of us knows that once you choose something – one man, one great apartment, one amazing job – another option goes away.   Are we a generation of women who can’t choose just one from column A?  Can we have it all?
The millennial generation especially has morphed into a sea of individuals hesitant to commit.  Is Carrie right?  Can we really have it all, and, if we seemingly do, will we ever be satisfied?  Or are we really so commitment-phobic that we’re passing up and passing by opportunities, jobs, or people who would otherwise bring us joy if we weren’t so scared that we would be missing out on something or someone else?
In a city of great expectations, is it time to settle for what you can get?
So, along with sifting through what is meant for us or not, comes the tricky reality of settling — all the way from mediocre love to unfulfilling jobs to crappy cups of coffee.  They say “when you know, you know,” right?  Trust me, when it’s a crappy cup of coffee, you know.  But what about matters of the heart?  How do we know when something is right for the moment or right for a lifetime?  Sometimes, even when every neon sign is pointing to why something is wrong, we look for reasons to make it right; inadvertently settling under the fear that we won’t find anything else.  We get so caught up in waiting for another person to put a smile on our face that we grasp at any attention, lust, or affection we can get if it makes us feel good…enough.
In matters of love, how do you know when it’s right?  Sometimes the question is, how do you know when it’s not right?
I couldn’t help but wonder, has fear of being alone suddenly raised the bar on faking?  Are we faking more than orgasms?  Are we faking entire relationships?  
Is it better to fake it, than be alone?
The answer to her rhetorical question is an obvious and resounding “no,” but what’s worse is that not everyone shares the same sentiment.  Too often are we witness to relationships that only exist to ease the fear of being alone.  But why is being single deemed worse than being in a dead-end relationship?  Sure, we all love companionship, but what kind of damage is that doing to our individuality by being with someone who’s totally wrong for us?
In New York, they say you’re always looking for a job, a boyfriend, or an apartment.  So let’s say you have two out of three, and they’re fabulous.  Why do we let the one thing we don’t have affect all the other things we do have?  Why does one minus a plus one feel like it adds up to zero?
 
I wondered if “should” was another disease plaguing women.  Did we want babies and perfect honeymoons?  Or did we think we should have babies and perfect honeymoons.  How do we separate what we could do, from what we should do?  And here’s an alarming thought – it’s not just peer pressure.  It seems to be coming from within.  Why are we should-ing all over ourselves?
Societal standards have undoubtedly shaped the reality of what we think we want out of life. I can wholeheartedly admit to getting caught up in the minimization of what I do have in comparison to what I think I should have.  Especially as we cross into our mid-to-late twenties and beyond, does the check-list of what we “should” have at a certain age begin to stifle not only our self-love but our accomplishments?
Our own joy truly becomes stricken by the comparison we face with social media serving as an all-access pass to what others in our age bracket have.  But we must remember that those pictures of their lives are only painted with the colors they want us to see.  We have complete control over what we put out on the internet; most of it being the “sunshine and rainbows” parts of our lives.
There is going to be rain — all the way from sun showers to thunderstorms to hail falling from our skies.  So it’s pointless to compare ourselves to the masses; for we may never see their sadness or their turmoil even if it inevitably exists behind the selfies.  But if we stop dampening our successes to accommodate what we think we should have, we’ll be too distracted by our own joy to seize it by “should-ing” all over ourselves.

*      *      *      *      * 

Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate.  Without them, what would shape our lives?  Perhaps if we never veered off course, we would never fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are.  
Eventually all the pieces fall into place…until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason.
There is no rule book for navigating through life and love in New York.  I just wrote an entire blog post about lessons I think I’ve learned and still feel lost in this city most days.  I’ve lived in Manhattan for just over four years and I still expect to be piecing together life lessons and watching re-runs of Sex and the City when I’ve lived here for ten or twelve or forty years.
Even the wisest of the wise can’t tell us what to do or what’s right for us, but they can sure as hell share their knowledge, their stories, and their hearts with us so we can only hope to turn out half as cultured and kind as they are.

Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens.

So just love, make mistakes, and have wonderful times.  But never second-guess who you are, where you have been, and, most importantly, where it is you are going.

the year of patiently evolving

lifestyle, personal

As the air of a new year is saturated with fresh resolutions, I’ve been dwelling a lot on what I want to manifest itself the most in 2018.  I deemed this past year “The Year of Travel,” and, without really trying, it came to fruition (see The Year of Travel). Naturally, I want this year to manifest something truly special in the same way that 2017 did.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with an appropriate title; torn between “The Year of Practicing Patience” and “The Year of Total Transformation.”  Both are strong contenders to manifest — I am one of the most impatient people alive and could use as many Transformation Tuesdays as a girl can get.  But isn’t every year transformative?  Inevitably, something about us changes over the course of these 365 days and we leave the year a bit different than we were when it first arrived.

I shared this struggle yesterday afternoon with my dear friend Hailei, who coined concept of naming her year, as we sipped on macadamia milk lattes together in a little midtown coffeeshop.  I knew her advice would bring perspective and clarity.  She pondered on my two options for a moment, then offered up a compromise:

The Year of Patiently Evolving.

If you’re reading this, you should know by now that this blog has been entitled “Patiently Evolving” since I created it ten months ago.  Hailei suggested this title without even realizing that.  That’s how I knew that it was right.

She compared it to being a caterpillar in a cocoon, waiting patiently as it grows for the right moment to break out and say, “Hey world, I’m a butterfly now, and it was so worth the time I spent in that damn cocoon!”

If there was any year to begin practicing patience with my journey, it’s this one.  I’m not only stepping into a new year, but a new world: My job has just come to an end, my EMC contract is about to as well — I’m looking into an abyss.  There will be many moments of doubt, anxiety, fear, sacrifice, and, most importantly, change.  Now is the time to handle myself with care.  Now is the time to embrace patiently evolving.

Here’s to hoping that by December 31st, I feel kind of like a butterfly.

order now, ask later

lifestyle

This morning, while running errands, I made my daily pitstop to The Chipped Cup, a sweet little uptown coffeeshop on Broadway at 149th that takes all my money and supplements my caffeine addiction (I love them).  I ordered my usual, and as the barista called out my drink at the bar, a man standing in line to order goes, “What is that?  I want that!”  The barista reiterated my order to him (a large, iced, almond milk latte) and he confirmed he definitely wanted that.

This guy had absolutely no idea what was in my drink.  When it came time for him to actually commit to the drink, he started changing his mind.  “Oh, not almond milk, I want regular milk.  Oh, wait, is there espresso in that?  What does that mean?  Can I get the almond in there with regular milk?”

So, what you’re saying, sir, is that you looked at the drink and wanted it, but you had absolutely no idea what the drink actually was? Clearly this man might be a little slow on the uptake (and probably shouldn’t be in a coffeeshop), but here’s a thought: Why are we so quick to look at things and instantly commit to them without knowing what’s inside?

I feel, especially in this day in age, we impulsively commit to something we see without asking questions first.  Whether it’s clothing, jobs, relationships — we’ll order it first and ask questions later.

So what happens if you realize you don’t want it anymore?  This man couldn’t return the coffee for a refund — they simply just made him another variation of what he wanted (free of charge, of course, because Chipped Cup is magic).  But in the long run, who does that hurt?  Not this customer, because there are no consequences for his error in judgment.  It hurts the business.

And what about the things we commit to that don’t come with gift receipts?  Apartments, relationships, jobs.  You can quit on all of these things, and the landlords will find new tenants, your exes will find new significant others, and the company can hire someone else; but isn’t that more trouble than it’s worth?

As the questions first, order it when you know it’s what you want.

 

The Year of Travel

lifestyle, Travel

Each year on January 1st, we list off a myriad of resolutions and positive promises to ourselves that will hopefully manifest change in our lives. And whether they stick or they don’t, twelve months later, we reset and do it all over again.

I rang in 2017 with a dear friend of mine, Hailei Call, who begins each year by proclaiming what she hopes it will be with one title: “The Year of…”  It’s much broader than a checklist of endeavors we set out to accomplish or the number of times we vow to visit the gym in a week.  The concept of naming your upcoming year simply promotes what you hope will manifest itself the most, not necessarily how you’ll get there.

At the start of this calendar year, I predicted this would be The Year of Travel.  The travel didn’t need to be anywhere exotic or distant, I just wanted to explore places outside of Manhattan; even if they were in states I’d been to over and over again.  I spent a solid part of this year in a long-distance relationship that had me on many midnight trains to, from, and through my home state of Connecticut.  I also spent most of this year helping my best friend plan her wedding, which, in turn, brought about planning-travel, shower-travel, bachelorette-travel, and wedding-travel to various places.  I was brought to Long Island for family holidays, baby showers, and alike.  And I’m rounding out the year on my first regional contract at White Plains Performing Arts Center where I’ll travel for rehearsals and performances.

This year, for many reasons, was my year of travel without even trying.  I’ve been lucky enough to share those adventures surrounded by lovely people in lovely places.  Here are some of my favorites to share with you.

O   R    L   A   N   D   O ,    F   L 

One of my closest pals plays Nemo in Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  I started my Year of Travel on the second week of January flying down to see her for a couple days.  Despite the fact that I had been there before, being in Disney World as an adult was still just as fun as it was twelve years ago (except for the fact that Epcot wasn’t nearly as exciting when I was thirteen and couldn’t drink around the world).  I’m looking forward to kicking off 2018 the same way!

B  O  S  T  O  N ,   M  A  S  S .

Three friends and I took an amazing weekend trip to Boston together in April.  I fell madly in love (see BeanTown) and know in my soul that something will take me there someday to live for a moment or two.  I was lucky enough hit Boston twice this year and go to my first Red Sox Game at Fenway in June.

S  A  R  A  T  O  G  A    S  P  R  I  N  G  S ,   N  Y

I’ve been visiting Saratoga Springs almost every summer since I was born.  I’ve missed a couple years here and there since moving to NYC, but it’s a place that lives in a very special corner of my heart, and I was lucky to escape there for a couple days over the summer.  My mother has been going every year for the last 40 years. FORTY YEARS. It’s such a sweet and special town. Stewart’s Ice Cream: No words. It is the best.

P  O  R  T  S  M  O  U  T  H ,   N  H

Along the way to an overnight getaway in Ogunquit, Maine, we stopped in the sweet little town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Honestly, we wanted to stay and nix the next half hour of driving! It was so beautiful — a quainter version of Boston. Our visit was short but so worth the pit stop. Portsmouth Brewery is a must-go!

O  G  U  N  Q  U  I  T  ,  M  A  I  N  E

Ogunquit was a great end-of-Summer escape.  It was such a wonderful little town, filled with cute shops and gorgeous views.  I tried lobster for the first time and we spontaneously went kayaking.  It was totally worth the drive!

W  I  L  D  W  O  O  D  ,   N  J

My bride-to-be’s bachelorette party was in Wildwood, New Jersey.  It was a perfectly inexpensive weekend getaway.  We landed an amazing Air BNB, located near a ton of restaurants on the water, and only a short walk to the boardwalk.  We rode the go-karts, Escaped The Room, and made breakfast each morning equipped with Costco bagels and lots n’ lots of mimosas.

N  E  W     W  I  N  D  S  O  R  ,   N  Y

I can’t say New Windsor, New York is the most exciting destination ever; but it’s special for the simple fact that I got to watch my best friend get married there.  It was about an hour west of where we grew up together in Connecticut, so it was definitely familiar, but still a new adventure.  The venue (Anthony’s Pier 9) was beautiful, and the rehearsal dinner was held at Newburgh Brewing Company; which is so charming and has a stunning view of the river, especially in the Autumn!

P  R  O  V  I  D  E  N  C  E  ,   R  I

Though it was only a glimpse, I took a spontaneous road trip to visit my best gal who recently relocated to Providence, Rhode Island to get her MFA at Brown (she is a rock star).  The journey was short but sweet — we got brunch at The Grange Providence, an adorable little restaurant down the street from her apartment that serves brunch all day.  Yes, all day, every day.  While we didn’t explore much, the road trip itself was a new adventure, and it was undoubtedly the first of many more visits to come!

tj maxx, you should go

lifestyle

So anyone who knows me is well-aware — I am undoubtedly a Maxxinista. Most of my wardrobe, from my dresses, to my shoes, down to my underwear, is from one of the TJX stores.

Well, last week, I had the most outrageous experience with a $10 shirt that I purchased from the 57th Street TJMaxx in Manhattan earlier last month. It was a simple, pink, cotton shirt that was stylish without breaking the bank (as most items at TJMaxx are) manufactured by a brand named Lavender Field.

By the time I reached work at noon on Saturday, this shirt had stained everything I was wearing including my bra, my new purse, my Levi jeans and even my skin.


It was WILD. So I did what any millennial would, and I tweeted about it — pictures and all.

I was met in the days following with flawless customer service. Theresa, Andre, and Kevin were so incredibly helpful, kind, and generous with my situation. Since, of course, every item that was damaged came from their store, I was able to go in to the 57th street location in Manhattan and get store credit for, not just the culprit shirt itself, but every single item that it dyed (except my skin, cause they don’t sell that there).

I just had to write about this. The TJX corporation has always been one of my faves and it was so comforting to know how highly they prioritize customer satisfaction. They will forever have my business because their customer service is MAGICAL.