The Wow Moments

You know that feeling where everything has changed, but you’re not really sure anything has changed at all? Where 365+ days have passed and although you can point to specific days on the calendar and be like “See! A difference!” you look around your surroundings and you shrug and think same old-same old? Where you can feel yourself getting older (mysterious aches and pains, eating one cookie makes me gain 10 lbs), but are still so stuck in how young you are?

There are concrete things that have changed.

Can we all just take a moment to admire my mad wallpapering skills?

Can we all just take a moment to admire my mad wallpapering skills?

I moved once. From small town America to the capital of Michigan. I upgraded to a place that has a washer and a dryer, a pantry and a walk-in closet. It’s walking distance from really cool things, and a stone’s throw away from the holy place known as Spartan Stadium (Looking at you, Rose Bowl champs!).

I changed jobs twice. From working in academia to working in food safety to working in academia. I left one place because I thought the grass was greener, because of opportunity and more money. That was a mistake. And it was dumb and it caused me a lot of annoyance and grief that I could’ve avoided had I just been patient. But, it also got me to Lansing—and it got me to my next job: working back in academia, where everything feels a lot like home.

Man-in-my-life graduated from college. This was exciting and it made me teary-eyed because I’m sappy like that.

Then there’s everything that hasn’t changed.

The Graduate and The Girl

The Graduate and The Girl

In November 2013, I was Queen of the Ants in My Pants, ready for something cool to happen. I like when I can feel forward momentum in my life. Last year, I was revving my engines, thinking about getting a new job and wanting to move and waiting for man-in-my-life to (finally) graduate and all of this wow stuff to happen. It all felt so far away. Facebook showed me how exciting everyone else’s lives were—why couldn’t my life be the same?

And then all those things happened, and I’m sitting on the other side of it a year later wanting to rev my engines again. C’mon, world! Let’s go on an adventure and do something wow again! Let’s get a pet and let’s have man-in-my-life secure a post-grad job and let’s buy a car and let’s… I have a whole list of things I’m waiting to happen. I’m a perpetual think-ahead-er, never quite satisfied with the now. I’m so certain life could be better only if this or that happened.

Sometimes, I wish I could learn how to stop and smell the roses. I’m anxious and ready for new things, but I could also use a little time to sit still. A lot of life happens when you’re not looking, and maybe that’s my problem. I’m so focused on details and specific events that I’m not paying attention to all of the changes and those every-day wow moments. I’m getting stronger every day at the gym. I’m adding more writing projects to my resume. I’m getting really good at curling my hair. I need to cheer those kind of mundane things on too, because those are mini wow moments in their own way, too.

This time of year is often a time of thanks and remembrance. I’m a lot of the same person I was 365-ish days ago. I’m one year older and inching up on a half birthday and two and a half years with man-in-my-life and two years in the “real world.” It’s been quite a ride this past year. Lots of ups. Many downs. And I’m sure as November comes around in 2015, I’ll be sitting back and smiling on all of the wow moments I think are coming, and all of the wow moments—both big and small—that’ll astonish me.

Lauren is a social media professional, writer, and editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.
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Step by Step, Word by Word

I have sought counsel from eight separate people regarding a fairly difficult situation in my life. Despite their words of “I’m sorry,” there are is always the saddening “I wish I could help,” which is exactly the opposite of what I wish I could hear.

When my parents were both diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I felt a similar sort of melancholy and loneliness. Despite friends and teachers and neighbors rallying around my brothers and I, all they could really say was “I wish I could help.” It wasn’t that their hugs and prayers weren’t welcome, it was that I was so desperate for a solution, for something better, and the people I relied on couldn’t provide me that.

I turned to writing, delving into fictional worlds in my head where I could control what happened. I didn’t have to wait around for doctors or on blipping heart monitors to tell me what was going on, I could simply write and choose what happened. Most of what I wrote didn’t deal with cancer. Most of what I wrote had nothing to do with my personal life at all, but it felt good to finally have a say in what came next. It didn’t fix anything with my parents’ health (which eventually got better, by the way, and they have both been cancer-free for several years), but it did help in a way that hugs never could. It let me shut off the depression that was my world for a few moments and transfer into a new one. It helped me get through to the other side of the time I affectionately call the Dark Years.

For my job now, I write all day long. I write tweets and news releases and snippets for an upcoming magazine. I spend my day typing away on a computer, stringing words together to tell a story (sometimes even if that means it’s only 140 characters).

So when I get home and open up my laptop, my fingers hesitate more than they did several years ago. My eyes and my hands are tired, and my brain could use a break from being creative. I want to shut off—and I do. Cue the binge-watching world of Netflix. It’s great for my work life, I come in renewed in the morning and ready to work. But as far as the conflict that’s occurring in my life that I’m continually wrestling with in my head, I’ve never really stepped away. In TV land, I can’t control what happens. I watch as tensions flare, and am seemingly more restless when I come out the other side.

I desperately need the reprieve of sinking my teeth—or fingers, rather—into a world commandeered by me. I want to be the maestro so that I can actually fix a problem instead of just living in one. And, as they have been known to do lately, my words are failing me.

When writing/life fails you, I think the best thing you can do is to take it as it comes. I can’t control everything, but I can control how much effort I put into solving things. I can sit down daily and try to write, even if I only ever muster a sentence or two. I can brainstorm of a peaceful solution to turmoil in my life, and actively pursue those options. I can try to remind myself that I won’t be on the struggle bus forever. Sometimes even that’s hard to remember, but then I just think of the words of John Lennon, who once said:

Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. 

And so trying to march on and attempting to write I shall, one word at a time.

Lauren is a social media professional, writer, and editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

On wanting to be/actually being a grown up

Here’s an announcement I would like to make to the world: I, Lauren, am 24 years old and am a fully-functioning, financially stable adult.

I can hear the applause from all of you and, really, it’s heartwarming.

But why is it so easy to say, and so hard to actually do? As much as I’d like to think I’m a grown up, there are many things in life that make me feel like it is otherwise.

AWESOME PARTS OF GROWING UP

Apartment (with a pantry! And a washer and dryer!), check. Car, check. Big girl job, check. Macaroni and cheese every single night for dinner if I want (and, let’s be honest, I always want), check. Lots and lots of bills, check.

Maybe the bills aren’t exactly awesome, but they are a constant reminder of how on my own I am. No longer do I have the convenience of sweet-talking my way into my folks paying for my gas, or for my electricity to be free when living at home. I have to pay for what I use, and it’s liberating in a weird sort of way. I have bills because I’m an adult, and being an on-my-own-in-this-big-bad-world adult is kind of awesome. Plus, it reminds me that the reason I’m able to afford these bills is that I am #blessed to have a pretty awesome job at a pretty awesome place.

NOT-SO-AWESOME PARTS OF GROWING UP

I can announce to everyone that I’m 24, and therefore am old enough to be “on my own.”

Getting people to believe me is a different story.

Case in point, my lovely parents. Lately, I feel like I’ve been having an uphill battle to prove myself, despite all of the Medals of Adultdom I have achieved post-grad (and even during school). There are points where I want to scream that they can’t tell me what to do. There are points where I could pull my hair out at my frustration of what feels like this ever-present leash.

There are times I wish I could say “I’m still your child, but I’m not a child anymore,” and have it actually mean something.

They are my parents. I respect and love them wholeheartedly, but I am struggling with stepping out from underneath their shadow and doing things that I want to do, apart from things that are parent-approved. If I want to spend all of my savings on a trip to Europe, then I feel like I am old enough to make that (potentially stupid) decision and go. If I want to chop off my hair or get a tattoo, then I should be able to without having to feel guilty because my mom will look at me with those sad, why-have-you-hurt-me-so puppy dog eyes.

I guess what I’m struggling with is: how old do I have to be before my parents, and the whole world, realizes that I’m not a kid anymore? How old do I have to be before my parents take a step back and really and truly mean it when they say “We have X, Y, and Z concerns, but you’re old enough and we trust you”? At what age does it suddenly become okay to make potentially life-altering decisions—a trip to Europe! buying a car! getting married!—without them having a (literal) panic attack?

AN ODE TO GROWING UP

I, Lauren, am 24 years old and am a fully-functioning, financially stable adult. I realize I have a lot of growing left to do. I realize I’m probably going to make a lot of stupid mistakes in life, and some of that will ease as I grow older. I also realize that, at 24, I’m not doing half bad for myself, and many of the decisions I’ve made so far have actually been pretty good ones.

Alexandra tells me that: maybe the point is that my parents may never actually accept me being a grown up, sadly but truly. Instead, I have to accept that that’s in fact okay. I will do what I am going to do and that’s a part of what being a grown up is.

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

Working a Work Conference (Part 2)

The morning I went to the work conference, I was pretty sure I was going to get sick.

This wasn’t because I had come down with the case of the flu or had food poisoning, but because it felt like my insides were turning inside out. I was so anxious about going and having to survive several days in a sea of people I didn’t know. I was certain this was going to be terrible.

And like most things you’re dreading, it was all over before I knew it. I had successfully made it through all five of my social media presentations. I found a group of people I could talk to. I even did pretty well at casino night.

Minute by minute, the conference went by. The worst part was breakfast, where I’d go down to the big room full of tables alone and quickly scan for someone, anyone that was a friendly face. And after that, it was sitting in rooms and listening to speakers or milling about at cocktail hour.

When it was finally over and I was back home, I sighed relief that I had survived, and not altogether terribly. My presentations went great, if I may say so myself. I had walked around for several hours in heels. I even tried moonshine (which was strangely endorsed by everyone there, and was considered some sort of “initiation” into my first work conference with them. Verdict: the lemonade kind is dangerously delicious. The cherry kind tastes like nail polish remover smells).

I won’t say I wasn’t shy and anxious and overwhelmed the whole time. That would be a lie. I was in a constant state of stress, trying to appear like the cool and collected new girl who gets to sit on social media all day at work. But, I will say that it got easier as it went on. My presentations were a great icebreaker. My roommate was the sweetest thing, who introduced me to several of her friends. People were curious about what I thought about the company, being such a newbie in a room full of veterans.

If Present-Day Lauren were to speak to Pre-Conference Lauren, she would say this:

  • Practice yoga. Or learn to meditate. Or take some deep breaths. Or something. It is okay to be nervous, but don’t let nerves ruin you.
  • Don’t wear a necklace where the pendant has a tendency to fall off, no matter how cute it is. Having a charm fall down your shirt in the middle of a presentation is a little awkward.
  • Every single person who is going to the conference has been a new kid at one point, too. Know that you’re not the only one, and not the last one, and rely on those who have been there to be your guide.
  • Even though it may feel like it, it isn’t the end of the world.

Next time, I’ll be ready. Maybe. Probably. The odds are in my favor. A few weeks after the conference, people still remember my presentation—someone came up to me today to ask me about my dog, which I talked about frequently—and that feels good. So, what do I need to say to Pre-Next-Conference Lauren? Just breathe; you’ll do just fine.

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

Working a Work Conference (Part 1)

I’m terrified — and it’s not for the reasons you may think.

I am going to my first you’re-going-as-an-employee-not-an-intern conference tomorrow, where I will be speaking in front of nearly 200 people about what it is to be a social media professional. Strangely, it’s not the presentation that’s freaking me out, but everything else about the conference.

I have worked at my current position for just under three months, and am still relatively unknown across the international company. There’s someone doing the social media and writing these newsletters, but no one really knows who. That’s the whole point of me going to this big girl conference: to meet people.

It isn’t really a secret that I’m a shy person. I am a proud introvert. So the idea of going to a conference where I don’t know anyone for a few days is just nauseating.

Like, how do you in a totally non-creepy way approach someone and be like “Um. Hi. I don’t know anyone here. Who are you?”

I’d feel 80,000x more comfortable if I knew one person who could introduce me to people. I’d feel 80,000x more comfortable if I was on a somewhat first-name basis with any one of them. While I’ve emailed many people at my new job, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet many face to face. How am I supposed to find the ones I sort of know mingling in with the crowd?

Some research says I should look for how people are standing. Find open groups of people and enter in. Which sounds great, but THEN WHAT? Dilemma: How do you just enter into a conversation of people uninvited?

Probably my main course of action will be to remember that there will be others there in the same boat, attending the conference for the first time. Then again, a lot of people who work here are ones who have been here for years. It’s intimidating to be the new kid in the crowd and it’ll be difficult not to be the most awkward one in the room.

Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be a wallflower. This website gives good advice: “others might assume you’re not worth getting to know if you’re not putting forth effort [by being a wallflower].”

There will be cocktail hour, thank goodness, which I hope will help some.

Maybe they’ll approach me, or I’ll find some stroke of underlying confidence that’ll carry me through.

Or maybe (probably) it won’t be as bad as my over-anxious brain is making me think. After all, I made it through my first days of high school, college and several jobs without knowing anyone and I made it out alive, right?

But, for the sake of relieving some of these worries, do you have any advice? What is the best way to break the ice in these types of settings?

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

Never Quit (Except Maybe When You Should)

Once upon a time, I went to Ireland… and I hated it.

Except for the views. How could you hate views like this? (Cliffs of Moher, Ireland)

Except for the views. How could you hate views like this? (Cliffs of Moher, Ireland)

There were many things wrong with it: it was thousands of miles away from home, I was missing everything (including seeing my brother graduate high school and celebrating my 21st birthday with my friends), and they drove on the wrong side of the street and I had this job that totally wasn’t for me. That’s what I told my mom, anyway, that Monday afternoon about five days after I had arrived, trudging up the stairs to get to the LUAS (an above-ground subway).

“I don’t like it and I want to quit and I want to come home and, like, this isn’t what I signed up for and I miss you and can I come home now?” She listened patiently, then told me I could come home, but only if I stayed for just a little bit longer, just to make sure that I really did hate it after all.

Fast forward approximately three months later, and I felt disappointed as the plane landed back on US soil. I was home. And the magical summer abroad, where I learned and loved many things, was over, including my job as intern-extraordinaire at New Island Books. I had listened to my mom’s advice, and I had stayed, and I had had one of the best summers of my life (and one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, too).

I returned to Michigan State for my senior year, ready to start a 15-credit hour semester with three jobs. For one of them, I worked at a newspaper. And for many reasons, most nights I went home sobbing, hating every minute of my four-hour shifts.

Momma and I (circa 1993-94?)

Momma and I (circa 1993-94?)

“I don’t like it and I want to quit and can’t I just come home?” She repeated what she had said a few months prior: I could quit, but only if I stayed just a little bit longer.

I did. And I still quit three months later. It was for more reasons than “I didn’t like it,” but the fact of the matter was I was so unequivocally miserable in life (at the time) and with that job that I needed to go.

My mom taught me to never be a quitter. You finish what you start, and that is that.

But I think there’s a fine line between choosing happiness over staying just to prove a point to yourself or someone else. There comes a time when you know something isn’t working and you have to be honest with yourself. Sometimes, my mom isn’t right.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is not always a best answer to the situation. Could I have left Ireland and been happy? I think so. Could I have suffered through that newspaper job and been okay? Probably.

Hindsight can give you the answers you wished you had had, but there is something to be said for your instincts. Trust your heart. Follow happiness, wherever it takes you. But maybe consider sticking with something, even if you aren’t 100% happy at first, because you never know where life will take you. Sometimes my mom is right, and sticking with something will give you one of the best experiences of your life.

Lauren is a social media professional/corporate writer/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

The Beginning

This post is about fear and staring it in the face. This post is about first-floor apartments and walk-in closets. This post is about working on a PC again and learning new things. This post is about sharing an office and living alone.

This post is about heading back to the land of my alma mater.

I’m moving into a bigger apartment that has a pantry — something I didn’t ever think I’d be this excited about. I am starting a new job, focusing on the writing I have long-complained that I miss. I am going to work down the street from where my younger brother lives, and I might be getting a cat. I also will work out more. Maybe if I say it publicly on here, I will actually do it consistently.

Since 2012, I have moved five times, and am getting ready for the sixth. I’ve been to college and back again, to various types of “homes” that haven’t been quite the home I’m looking for.

It’s back to where it all started, in a way. To a time when I was happy, even when I was miserable. To a time when I could turn around and see my friends whenever I was lonely. To a time when I was learning constantly, and not feeling complacent.

I’m about to be a writer again, and I think that may just be the piece of home I’m aching for. It is — or was, or will be — the essence of what I want to be professionally and creatively. I’ve been searching for the right words for so long; perhaps going to a location where I am forced to create them is just what the doctor ordered. I am going to be a writer again. The words feel like an old friend on the tip of my tongue: dusty, but ready to come back out into the light.

This post is about the beginning. Or the sixth iteration if it, anyway.

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.