#NewYearsIntentions

Around this time seven years ago, my best friend Clarissa and I sat on the floor of NYC Penn Station, doodling in a shared notebook as we waited for the train. At that time, she was an intern at the Atlantic and I was a recent college drop out. We both weren’t where we wanted to be in our lives- although we were swimming close to the shore, we were still treading water. I can’t remember who’s idea it was to brainstorm resolutions and start holding each other accountable  but every year since that day, we get to together in January to write down and talk about the things we will accomplish in the new year.

I go back and forth about new year’s resolutions. I don’t firmly believe in them (even though U make them every year). I do believe in intentions and planning. With intentions, we put our feelings and true desires out into the universe. Sure, the universe does whatever it wants with them but for me, intentions help steer me in the right direction. Planning comes in after intention setting. Take those intentions and transform them into manageable, achievable, short-term goals (Clarissa and .I create shared spreadsheets to track deadlines and progress).

But with all that intention setting and planning, make sure to add room for error because life never does according to plan…

I already broke one of my resolutions, one that I was adamant to keep – to take time off from relationships and dating (for five months or longer). I know why I wanted to purse this resolution- for the last several years, I’ve been in a series of relationships where 1) I wasn’t happy and 2) I wasn’t my true self. But last weekend, I went out on a date with a cute man who asked me out (I have a weakness for men’s abdominal muscles- hey, I’m human!).

After the date, I checked-in with my guilty feeling self. Why did I go out with him? Do you any self-control, Andrea? Why did I set this intention, this resolution? Whoa… hold the phone. Let’s take a step back and sort the trashcan that’s my brain. I need a break to be by myself (to know what it’s like to be alone and how to actually like being alone); some time to figure out exactly what I want in and from a partner (kindness, a loving home, a kid, etc.) and determine if I’m the ideal partner (I’m not- so how can I fix that?). Again with my handy, dandy notebook, I wrote these intentions out and gave myself a firm deadline- some time to truly think about me and relationships- before I hop back into the dating pool (and even if it’s  And I will continue, daily, to check in with my intention to make sure it feels right (Clarissa also reminding me that I’m a love drunk idiot also helps).

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to break you. This should be a time of reflection, not worry. My main intention for 2018 is to fall in love with myself. I choose to fall in love with myself. I intend to fall in love with myself. Setting and reaching goals isn’t about willpower- it’s about the power of your intention.

What are your resolutions for 2018, dear reader?

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#ALoveLetterToThePassingYear

 

#Truth

Dear 2017,

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I know that Dickens was talking about 1840s London in the aforementioned quote but those words in bold perfectly describe you. This crazy year filled with anger, sadness, weepy eyes and upset stomachs…

President Trump, his party and cabinet appointees rocked the US. There was the travel ban. The ban on Transgender individuals serving in the military. The FCC repealed Net Neutrality. I lost friends. I lost jobs. I got into a really bad bicycle accident. The Grenfell Tower fire. The Manchester bombing and London Bridge stabbings. Stabbings in FinlandBombings in Somalia. There were nights I didn’t know how I would pay my bills. The worst roommate on the planet moved in. The Northern and Southern California wildfires. I missed out on an opportunity to teach abroad in China. Unicorn frapacinos. A bombing and hit-and-run in New York City. I had health problems (ugh… my teeth). The shooting in Vegas. The shooting in Texas. Hurricane Harvey. The damage in Puerto Rico. The earthquake in Mexico. I faced incredible heartbreak. The suicides of two phenomenal talents. Charlottesville. My alma mater was gratified with swastikas. I was severely depressed for several months- there was one week I didn’t get out of bed and didn’t eat. I had some desperately lonely times. That Pepsi commercial. The death of Erica Garner. The Amtrack derailment.

Nevertheless, 2017; you had plenty of beautiful, fantastic moments…

April the giraffe had a baby. I lost twenty pounds. I got better at asking for the things I want. I served my state at the Nevada Legislative. #MeToo is getting the conversation started. The US started electing Democrats, LGBT, women and people of color into major positions of power. The solar eclipse. I met and befriended some incredible people. I recounted with old acquaintances. I fell in love. I traveled A LOT- the East Coast, Los Angeles, Europe (and fell even more in love with London). I had the privilege of speaking at conference in D.C. and participated in various demonstrations in my community (the Women’s March in January; PRIDE in June; Reno’s Black Lives Matter March in August).  I WENT TO DISNEYLAND! I went to concerts. My ex finally moved out of my house. I designed a book cover (and got paid for it!). I started writing my memoir. My best friends flew to visit me. Australia and Germany legalized gay marriage. Saudi Arabia passed a law allowing women to drive. Beyonce gave birth to the next messiahs. I found my dream job. I watched a ton of good movies and television, and listened to a lot of brilliant music. “Hollyweed.”  I rollerskated and baked a lot of desserts. I learned how to play DnD and got inked. I partied and spent many happy nights snuggling with my cat. Oh- can I plug my favorite viral video of the year (#InstantHappiness)…

2017- you were a year of lessons, a year of growth. You broke me but then I blossomed and flourished. You made me question almost everything I’ve believed in but then you reaffirmed my faith. I am truly grateful for it all.

Still… I can’t say that I’m sad to see you go.

Thanks for the memories- you were a good year. Andrea 

#TheBestOf2017

Oh, 2017. You made my eyes and ears explode. So much happened in the world of entertainment this year that kept me glued to various screens- my computer, my phone, my television and the local cinema. This year may have been a rough one for some but in 2017, the world of pop culture dominated (hello, #MeToo movement). Listed below are my favorites and recommendations of this passing year.

Hello gentlemen…

MOVIES   Please note that I haven’t seen “Get Out” (I know, know…), “The Big Sick,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Florida Project,” “The Shape of Water” and so many other future (hopefully) Oscar nominated films. And can we reminiscence about one of my favorite moments of the year- the Oscar fiasco (Go”Moonlight!”)?

Trainspotting 2:” Hands down, my favorite movie of the year (and not just because I’ve had a massive crush on Ewan McGregor for most of my life). Sequels usually don’t hold but man, this movie… “T2” wraps up loose ends in a neat, plaid bow and has a lot of fun doing so. Also, THE SOUNDTRACK  (take a gander at “Silk” by Wolf Alice). Also, SCOTLAND (take me back to the U.K….).

Dunkirk:” The sound. “Dunkirk” must win Best Sound Editing at the Oscars next year. It is deafening (in the best way, of course). Christopher Nolan knows how to make a movie- TEACH ME YOUR WAYS! The stakes are high and he plays with the timeline of war in an interesting way. (My only compliant is there wasn’t enough of Tom Hardy’s lips.)

Girls Trip:” Sometimes you need something stupid to watch and this is it (okay, stupid is the wrong word). The female friendship woven throughout the movie is heartwarming and feels real. I first saw “Girls Trip” at the theater when I was having an off day- I left with a cramp in my side from laughing so much. Tiffany Haddish absolutely kills in this movie and the other actresses play well off of each other so well.

Wonder Woman:” Finally. Finally, finally, finally. We HAVE “WONDER WOMAN!” Gal Gadot is bad ass yet adorable. Patty Jenkins is a bad ass and a genius. This movie was sweet. It was fun. It was funny. And there wasn’t any cheap shot of certain female anatomy (that is important! Take note, male filmmakers!). This movie inspired me to start writing screenplays again and got me seriously thinking about creating something magical- 2018, you better watch out for ME!

TELEVISION  Please note that there was simply too much good television made this year- “Big Little Lies,” “The Deuce,” “GLOW,”  “The Crown,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend…”  But I’m finally watching “Game of Thrones” and am finally caught up with “The Great British Bakeoff!”

Master of None:” Give it up for brown people. In the middle of the new season of “Master of None“, there is this beautiful love letter to New York City and its residents. It’s refreshing to see stories about the little guy- the elevator operator, the girl who works at the corner bodega, your taxi driver. The entire season is fantastic (the Thanksgiving episode!) but this episode proves to the world that there’s no one like New Yorkers. (Netflix)

The Handmaid’s Tale:” I love this show even though it hurts to watch. The United States no longer exists. The majority of the world’s women can no longer get pregnant. Those who can are raped and force to to bare children to term. With everything politically that happened this year, I watch this show and wondering if the premise of “The Handmaid’s Tale” could eventually become our reality.  Nevertheless, the show is compelling and leaves you wanting more. I can’t go enough of this show and am I so excited for the next season. (Hulu)

Stranger Things:” I waited all year for the new season of “Stranger Things” and binged it within two days. With the exception of the seventh episode (you know which one I’m talking about, this season was perfect. Give me anything with Samwise Gamgee and cute guys named Steve. Bitchin’. (Netflix)

This Is Us:” The feels. Ugly cry. This show. It’s so, so good. (NBC)

James Corden also killed with his “Carpool Karaoke” segments this year. They are always so much fun to watch. (CBS and iTunes)

MUSIC Yes, yes… I still need to listen to DAMN.

(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” by Sampha:  It was a cold day in the beginning of February when I first heard this song. I was drinking coffee in my favorite coffee shop when the barista played this song over and over again on the loudspeaker. I was hooked. Sampha wrote this beautiful tribute to his mother and their East London home  right after she passed away from cancer. You can feel the emotion seeping from his pores as he sings about childhood memories. This is my favorite song of the year.

Praying” by Kesha: I have to admit something awful. Despite my fondness for glitter, for the longest time I hated Kesha’s music. I was never a massive EDM fan and the bass in her songs would give me headaches. Flash forward to this summer. I intensely followed her legal battles against Dr. Luke and was curious to about her new album, especially when she still had ties to him. The first time I heard “Praying,” I cried. It has real power. Raw power. It is intense with filled with grace.  There is a kindness in it that I don’t think I could ever give anyone if I was in Kesha’s shoes. This song has taught me about forgiveness and finding the strength in yourself.

Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles: My friends know me as a die hard One Direction fan (I wouldn’t sing anything else at karaoke). OD went on a hiatus this year and each member branched out, moving and shaking with their solo careers. While his bandmates followed the pop route, Harry Styles took another direction (haha… puns) and made a record that, when I first listened to it, thought was a David Bowie album. “Sign of the Times” has this gorgeous sweeping chorus, with beautiful vocals and drums. I want to live in this song and in its music video.

Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. How can you not love this song?! Okay, it took me a while to fall in love with it but after hearing it for the millionth time, the song stole my heart (and makes me want to live on a Puerto Rican beach in a teeny bikini). Props for being the most YouTube video of all time and helping to raise Puerto Rican’s tourist interest.

One More Light” by Linkin Park. 2017 was a sad year for rock and roll. The suicide of Chris Cornell was tough to process but Chester Bennington’s death felt like a repeated punch to the stomach. Linkin Park was a staple in my music rotation during my formative years, a band that I literally grew up with. Reading about Bennington’s suicide this July brought up some unsettling memories. The band released the video for “One More Light” a few months after Bennington’s death in memoriam. It’s with footage of a smiling Bennington interacting with fans- both the video and song just hauntingly gorgeous.

Rest in peace, Chester

WRITING  One of my resolutions for 2017 was to read more books. Despite my weekly visit to the local library, I would spend more time on Buzzfeed rather than flipping tangible pages. Quite frankly, I can’t remember the majority of things I read this year but I do remember this piece of journalism. The photos alone tell a heartbreaking story but dive deeper into the text and learn how the Syrian people  continue on despite the war around them. The music flows over the ruins of Aleppo and through the crevices of our hearts.

What are your favorites of 2017, dear reader?

#TheHolidaySeason

The BEST Christmas movie

I have a Christmas complex. I love holiday music and twinkling fairy lights. I guzzle down peppermint mochas at Starbucks. I enjoy cookie baking and decorating. I can sit and watch “Love Actually” and “The Holiday” back-to-back every day for the entire month of December. I even love gift shopping.

But Christmas- the actually day itself? Bah humbug…

The holidays are a hard time of year. There are SO many expectations. Cooking a dinner that rivals Martha Stewart’s. Getting along with your family. Giving the ideal present. Small talk with your creepy coworker at the holiday party. Frankly, I want to shut the blinds, lock the door and hide under the covers from this all until the new year.

The holidays are a break from your every day routine- which may be nice for some but for those like me, a reality break gives me massive anxiety attacks. So, I have my own holiday traditions to soften the blow. I call my mom first thing in the morning. to check-in. For the last couple of Thanksgivings and Christmases, I volunteered at the homeless shelter, serving dinner. When I get home or to a friend’s house, I make my favorite, gooey mac-and-cheese, and make sure that one of the aforementioned films are playing nearby (there is something wonderfully comforting about Englishmen). When I’m with others, I ask to help with the cooking and clean and try my best to stay present in that moment, accomplishing the task. But when I’m mentally ready to go, I make sure to listen to myself and then, politely scoot. I avoid an emotional hangover by giving myself plenty of self care and props for hanging on.

The best part is not knowing that you’re alone this holiday season. Although you maybe be the only one in your apartment Christmas Day, there are others experiencing the same feelings and thoughts as you. You’re going to see and remember things that will trigger your emotions and make you long for the “good,” ole days but hey, you got this. Why wait until next year for all your troubles to be miles away when you can enjoy the now with the things and experiences that mean most to you?

How do you celebrate the season, dear reader? And however you may celebrate this time of year- may it be safe and stress-free!

#LosNinos

Teaching Grey the art of a mirror selfie, 2011.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I was a nanny for a little boy named Grey. He was obsessed with musicals and quickly became my adventure buddy- we explored the city together every day. His parents refused to take him on the subway so we rode it often together. We went to Rockaway Beach, Central Park, various museums, the animal shelter, the movies and different restaurants. My favorite days with him were spending wandering different neighborhoods, giving him piggyback rides and singing songs from Grease.

Although I liked my time with Grey and I was told that I was a decent nanny, something about that experience solidified my thought of not having kids. It’s still pretty taboo these days to admit that you don’t want children. I always hear, you’ll change your mind. You’re too young to understand. You’re missing out. No matter how valid your reasons are for not wanting kids, people will insist that it is in your best interest and the best interest of your community to raise a litter.

There are various reasons why I don’t want children. I don’t think I’d be a great mother. I don’t like the state of the world right now- bringing a child into it seems cruel. I’m not financially ready. I enjoy my alone time way too much (even time away from my beloved cat). I’ve seen what pregnancy does to the body and I quite happy with my current frame. I know that I could do what my parents did with me and adopt a child but then I think about serious things like mental health issues. Even with having biological children. I know exactly what I struggle with and don’t deny that I come from a family with plenty of genetics that I do not wish to pass down.

Don’t get me wrong- I like kids. I would become a nanny again in a heartbeat. For quite some time, I considered going back to university to get my teaching credentials (I’d teach elementary school, third or fourth grade). I always figured that I’d be the “cool aunt” or godmother, knowing that I’m to build my family in another way. I was once told that a family isn’t one without children- that’s a big lie. Having a family is incredibly important to me but there are so many ways to describe a family- I am one with my partner and my cat. My close friends are my family. Children are not required to achieve such status. Family is a feeling, not the number of offspring.

What are your thoughts about children, dear reader? Do you want them? Or not?

#MiLegado

Dear reader, you must go see “Coco.” I laughed. I cried (a lot). My Spanish vocabulary grew. The movie is about family, following your dreams and leaving your legacy. I left the cinema with tears in my eyes, thinking about that- legacy. How will I leave my mark on the world? How will I be remembered when I’m gone?

Everyone leaves a legacy. Our existence has an impact on the world whether we intend it or not. Some legacies are good. Some might be bad. For the last couple of days, I’ve been asking myself, what would I want people to say about me when I’m six feet under? They would say, Andrea was smart. Andrea was sensitive. Andrea was a goofball. In high school, I wrote a eulogy for myself (these days, you can get your own Wikipedia page). I can’t remember what I wrote word-for-word in my tribute but I do remember writing about all of the grand things my young mind dreamed of accomplishing. Like winning an Oscar with my name engaged into the gold. Writing for “Vogue” and having my byline digital archived until the end of the Earth.

But enough with the tangible, material stuff.

Your legacy is etched into the mind of others and the stories we share about you, through friends and families. Children can often be one’s legacy- raising decent human beings, handing down their values and traditions to younger generations. But what if you’re like me and don’t want kids (I’ll save that topic for another blog post)? Is that where the glitter and fame come in?

We all want to be remembered for something, to be known as more than just ordinary. I believe the best legacy is leave is kindness. Love. I know how I want to be remembered… I want to be remembered as someone who tried their best to make a positive difference- I still don’t know what that means. I know that there are various ways to change the world for the better, both in macro and micro terms, minor or drastic- all I know it that I will do something (or I have already did something) kind. I know that I probably never become President or win the Noble Peace Prize but I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for others. A woman who made people laugh.  A woman who brought joy.  A woman who listened and cared.

What will be your legacy, dear reader?

#BlackPrincess

I am floored for the future royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (yes, I’m that American obsessed with British culture). Bring on the constant news updates about the official date, her dress and those amazing ceremony hats. Markle (whose name sounds like she should be enrolled at Hogwarts) is being called the “Black Princess” on social media, a nickname that she brushed aside, highlighting that she is biracial.

Back in junior year of high school, my English teacher asked what ethnicity box I marked when filling out forms like job applications. Then, it was something that I never really thought about- I look Black (wide nose, kinky hair, dark skin, etc.) so I always checked off, BLACK. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC seven years ago when I started to embrace my Latina heritage (I “blame” the local bodega owner who would make me speak Spanish to her every time I purchased something from her store). I completely ignored that side of myself (lo siento, Mom). Flash forward to present day- I’m job hunting, filling applications online when the form asks for my ethnicity. Black (not Hispanic)? Latin/Hispanic (no other races)? I check marked, Other.

Markle, we are the ambiguous ethnic blends that perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot. Granted, we shouldn’t be focused on her race but their love story. However, I get it- Black people need a win. We don’t see Black princesses of any hue often (note: Disney’s 2009 film, “The Princess and Frog.” Princess Tiana was only in human form on screen for 19 minutes of the 98 minute-long feature). But to limit her identity to only Black is wrong. The future duchess openly celebrates both sides of her racial background- and we should do the same.

If you’re biracial, dear reader, how do you identify?

#NetNeutrality

I don’t know where I would be without the internet. I wouldn’t have a career, blogging and creating online content. I wouldn’t be in a relationship (thanks, Bumble!). It’s one of the things I daily take advantage of- the fact that I can visit any website I choose, that I can turn on my iPhone’s data and spend as much time as I want on Instagram; that I have affordable, high-speed access at my finger tips. So, what would happen if this all disappeared?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC- which regulates radio, television, satellite and cable communications nationwide) revealed plans to dismantle net neutrality, which would lead to internet speeds being controlled by few very corporations (this vote will happen December 14th).

Take a step back: what is net neutrality?

To break it down- internet service providers (Comcast, Charter, Verizon, etc.) must treat all data on the Internet the same and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website or platform. Service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

Net neutrality protects websites and their users. If it goes away, that means all your internet date and viewing can be scrutinized by telecom companies. Without net neutrality, providers can program the computers that route that information to interfere with the data flow by slowing down or blocking traffic and communicators that they don’t like, and speeding up traffic they do like or that pays them extra for the privilege. Imagine not being able to check your favorite news site in the morning or not being to access your bank account online. Companies (say your bank) will have to start changing more for access which will trickle down to their consumer- so you would pay more to use your currently free banking app.

What can you do to help? Write to your Senator and Congressman. Call them. If enough constituents voice their opinions, lawmakers will realize that they will not getting reelected if their district doesn’t stand with their decision making. If you’re living in a state and a city where your Senator and Representative oppose net neutrality, lobby your city council to create a municipal ISP that will draft plans to install and roll out gigabit or faster service to every home. Encourage your city (no matter the population and mileage size) to take the Next Century Cities pledge and become a Next Century City.

(And dear reader- net neutrality, as well as a new tax plan are scheduled to be voted on by mid-December. Do your research and voice your opinion! Let’s start 2018 right!)

#FUN

If you haven’t been to Disney’s California Adventure, you must go!

There’s this SpongeBob SquarePants song that I often sing to myself:  F is for friends that do stuff together/ U is for you and me/ N is for anywhere and anytime at all, down here in the deep blue sea… It may be a silly tune for kids but hey, SpongeBob has a point… When was the last time you had fun?

Having fun is something that we adults don’t often consider. It’s something that we associate with our youth and take advantage of daily. But having fun must been taken seriously. It’s playtime and needs to be celebrated. A critically important component of wholehearted living is play- it’s essential to our health.

When we carve out some leisure time, we’re more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun (even if there is so much good television out there these days). Our rigid calendars, daily obligations- work, meetings, school, appointments, social dates, etc.- and constant planning don’t always leave room for much spontaneity. Nor does our culture, which rewards productivity above all else.  Sure, we’re all here to contribute to society and to infuse meaning and purpose into our lives. But none of that matters if you’re not enjoying your life.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be productive or miss your deadlines for the sake of fun. I’m always stressed- about work, about my health, about money, about my future. Even at the end of the work day, when I’m at home enjoying an episode of “This Is Us” with my cat on my lap, my brain is wandering. Shows are an escape but they sure don’t beat a thrill ride or a a couple of laps at the rink. When I give myself these moments to have fun, my day turns around.

Think of having fun like this- play can:

  • Improve brain function. Challenging the brain can help prevent memory problems and boost creativity.
  • Relieve stress and release endorphins. Fun helps you forget about your problems, your worries and you responsibilities, even if it is for a couple of hours.
  • Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust and intimacy with others. It helps loosen you up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers and make new friends.

So, go! Allow yourself to be silly! Head off into adventurous territory! Do something unexpected and spontaneous. Just for the hell of it. Because all work and no play really does make us Jacks and Jills dull. Now, go do something unproductive!

How do you play, dear reader?

 

#NaNoWriMo

Three-quarters of American high school seniors lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 40% of those who took the ACT writing exam last year lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to complete successfully a college-level English composition class. I once was one of those students, not ready for English 101 when I started university. Even though I loved writing, I struggled with spelling and vocabulary. I was determined to be the best journalist I could be (and get A’s in my English classes) so I practiced writing. I journaled daily, read about writing strategies and joined the campus writing club. I also participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Every November, the National Novel Writing Month creative writing project encourages participants to write. Last year, over 431,626 people participated, logging in their written work on the NaNoWriMo website. On the site, you can read pep talks and connect with other writers. Sure, we shouldn’t wait until late autumn to write but if you’ve been seeking inspiration, NaNoWriMo is better late than never.

This year, my NaNoWriMo goals are to 1) write every day (even if I can only crank out a paragraph- and social media posts don’t count . Sorry, Twitter. Technically, the goal is to work on a novel but sure, why not a couple of blog posts? 2) Reach the goal of 10,000 written words by December 1st (NaNoWriMo asks writers to write 50,000 words but I’m realistic with myself).

Why write? Writing is essential for everyone in order to be successful in school and in the workplace. Students write  in order to demonstrate knowledge and express ideas. Outside of the classroom, writing is necessary skill for employment. We need to write well in order to express ideas, persuade and advocate.

I write to communicate. I write to help clear my head and escape. I write to understand and be understood. I write to connect with others. I write in order to discover. I write to express myself. I write to transmit. I write for change. I write for money. I write for the purpose of being published or the intention of being read. I write because I’m good at it. I write in order to get better at it. I write because I love stories and storytelling. I write for love of the craft. I write for the sake of writing itself. I write because I can’t imagine not doing so. I write because I must.

So, write on, dear reader… And only 9,578 words to go.