25 November 2011

With a Passion.

For two months I've been reading a book called The Passion Test. It's intended to help the floundering discover their true calling in life by concentrating strictly on things for which they are passionate. It's taken me so long to get through it because my holiday agenda has suddenly become full, and it requires a lot of undivided attention for list-making and self-searching and all that...

I never, EVER thought I would need a book to help me find my passion. I mean, I'm obviously passionate about so many things so why would I need help deducing what to do with my life? But a year after taking up professional bartending and slowly eliminating possible careers, I thought a little help was warranted. My entire formative years were spent in a theatre and on a stage, so I assumed performing was truly my passion. I had the resume, I had the talent, and I had the love of the craft-- check, check, check. Then why was I not pursuing that?

It's more complicated than I'm willing to share here, but the abridged version states that I haven't written off acting, but rather I'm anxious to discover other possibilities for myself. From the few chapters I have managed to complete I have discovered some valuable insight to the things I hold dearest. I wasn't surprised at the results, but I was shocked at how many other passions I actually possess. Revelation: I don't need to find my passion, I need to hone my passions. 

Last weekend I went to Vegas and I had the best time with people I had only just met. Like I've said before, I am social and outgoing. My unbridled confidence with people is one of my strongest qualities. I'm not afraid to talk to anyone because I believe everyone has something to offer. Plus how boring must it be for those people who watch the game but never play? I have never aspired to be a wallflower, nor have I ever been happy with myself when I behave as such. Las Vegas was an amazing trip because of the awesome people in my group, but I can only hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did. Personally, I  can without a doubt say that I let go of all my inhibitions, had fun, and partook in everything I wanted. It helps that Vegas is not reality. Vegas is a state of mind that allows its habitants to shed the practical denim jacket of real-life and wear a glamourous cape of luxury. I adore Las Vegas because everything is on full blast. No expense has been spared and it's a condensed dose of extremes. Drinks are strong, women are gorgeous, and parties are amazing. Last weekend was no different. 

Six of us went to celebrate Popov (a co-worker of Denver) turning a quarter of a century. We drove out late afternoon on Friday in one of those vans designated for airport shuttles, and bounced to house music the whole way there. Of course we mixed a few celebratory screwdrivers when we reached Baker, so that definitely helped the mood. Denver has quickly become a close friend, but by the time we arrived at the valet of The Palazzo I had gained a few more fun partners in crime. 

At the clubs, I felt ignited with energy. I wanted to do everything, dance to every song, and relish every moment. Alcohol has a way of expediting those tasks, but I think I really allowed myself to surrender to the Strip. Once inside XS, I was summoned to a table of Marines celebrating after their annual Ball. Dancing up on the platforms with an officer in full dress was the perfect American moment. Meanwhile, Birdie had made herself at home on a silver pole designated for guest dancers. Her astounding talent was quickly recognized, and soon we were collecting dollar bills that'd been thrown by her fans. 

On Saturday Denver and Birdie utilized the suite's black-out shades while Popov, Carraway and I went to place bets. Carraway in particular taught me a lot about how to do Vegas the right way: know the odds, gamble with your player's card, and always take a town car. I enjoyed having a seasoned professional as my date that day, and walking from casino to casino I felt like a celebrity on her day off. I even made friends with Cedric, my bartender at the Bellagio sports book who made me an Irish coffee unlike any other. I was soaking up every moment. Saturday night I wore a white dress that, on the hanger, I mistook for a shirt. I normally do not wear anything that exposes the legs I have spent so many years resenting, but I owned my look that night. And I'll be honest, I don't think I've ever felt more gorgeous. (Friends who have seen the photos, please just agree with me and we'll be alright.) We went to another club that evening, but left early to eat cheeseburgers and shakes. Carraway and I stayed out 'til three or so at the blackjack table, but sadly my good luck charm that had worked so well that afternoon was tarnished. We left poorer than we'd arrived, but I felt pretty rich that evening. 

Okay, so maybe my passion is partying? No. But, I will say, that a lot of finding out what your passion is has to do with how well you live moment to moment. I live with passion and love, and everyday I learn something incredible about myself and my place in the world. Last weekend I learned that I can have a great time anywhere, with anyone, under any circumstance. (Well, as long as there's glamour, drinks, and stilettos.) I'm no closer to knowing what I want to do with my career, and I should probably pick up The Passion Test again. However, I find myself wanting to jump into The Great Gatsby instead. 

17 November 2011

The Magic of Yes

There are a lot of times throughout my life I have felt I am in position that pleases someone else, but will pay off for me later. These situations have been known to include: projects at work, helping a friend, Holidays with forgotten family, and buying practical over splurge. I am positive everyone, but especially young ladies, find themselves in these quandaries all the time. We're doing the thing we think we're supposed to do, but we actually want to be doing something else. So why are we not doing the latter?

I think it's because we've been raised with the notion that we have to be well-liked, and in order
to be well-liked we have to make other people happy. (Well, that's what I gleaned from my upbringing, anyway.) I thought if someone asked me to do something that it was more of a rhetorical question, and that my answer had to be agreeable regardless of whether or not I wanted to. Questions like, "Would it be possible for you to spot my dinner tonight?" seemed innocent enough. I always wanted to help a friend. Until I received my credit card statement and, to my horror, realized I was going broke "spotting" people on their burgers. There was no way I was spending that much on other people's meals, but then I thought back. People had been asking me to cover them with such success that they started to expect that I would simply offer. And I had been! When the bill came, I snatched it up, paid it, and felt like a hero when my friends thanked me for being so nice. And then I drove home and felt like a moron because I couldn't buy anything else for the next week.

That expectation is my kryptonite. If I sense there are expectations of me, I feel innately pressured to meet those standards. Of course, this is a trap. How can one ever meet someone's expectations unless they know exactly what they are? In school, it's blatantly obvious; you receive a syllabus that outlines exactly what you have to do to achieve certain grades. Unfortunately there aren't any syllabi for life, so there has to be another solution to this mess.

I know! Change your perspective.

Unlike the execution of my Facebook, this adjustment took a little longer. I knew I didn't want to be doing all the things I was doing. I also didn't have time. Therefore, I practiced saying Yes only to the activities in which I wanted to participate. Everything else I allowed myself to say No.

For example:

Them: Can you go to the store before work and pick up some of those things we need? 
Me: No, I can't.

Them: Would you like to come on a private boat with all of those people you don't like? 
Me: No, thank you for the invitation. I'm busy that evening.

Them: Do you want to be a part of a really bad play, but a play nonetheless? 
Me: No, but thank you for the opportunity.

Cute Guy: May I take you out for dinner this week?
Me: Yes, you may!

When I started editing out all the secondary things in my schedule I became freer to be spontaneous. I cultivated a new power within myself and I was actually in more control of my life. Instead of doing all the things I was asked and expected to do, I was doing what I expected of myself. Like I said before, it was not a overnight process, and I am actually still figuring out how to master all of the techniques. (Sometimes it's hard to say No without sounding like a stuck-up priss.) I was genuinely concerned that if I didn't meet everyone's expectations that I would be held in poor favor with everyone I knew. That is a ridiculous expectation in and of itself-- and I created it! It was an invaluable lesson to learn that people ask questions because they don't already know the answer. If someone asks something of me and they don't like the answer, then they shouldn't have asked! They should have told me what they wanted of me. And even then, I have the power to say yes or no.

I also know now that I'm well-liked not because of all the dinners I spot, but rather for my personality and the fact that I am... me. It's funny-- I think a lot of women are extremely gifted with making sure everyone around them is satisfied, and yet they are struggling with how to accomplish anything they want done for themselves. If pleasing others is such second-nature, then it's time we started investing some of that energy into ourselves.

I am going to Las Vegas tomorrow. It was a only a few days ago Denver invited me to go for her coworker's birthday. I took a solid five minutes to mull over the pros and cons, and unwaveringly said YES! While putting my outfits together I realized I had become a different person over the summer. The Me from last Spring would have scoffed at the irresponsibility of taking off and going to Vegas for the weekend. I would have toiled over all worst-case scenarios and imagined a horror-show of a trip, only to be disappointed when I saw all the photos and heard the fun stories. This Fall, I am thrilled to have been able to say Yes to the unexpected and No to the mundane. 

09 November 2011

My Co-Stars.

I am an extraordinarily social person. Drop me in a group of Chinese men and I am confident I can find a way to assimilate. However, I always connected being well-adjusted to having loads of friends. This is not the case. Having loads of friends can be a detriment to one's own well-being, especially if one is as much of a people-pleaser as I am. I am always trying to accommodate everyone else's wants, trying to make sure they don't have to put themselves out for me. I was so worried I'd "lose friends" if I wasn't responsive to their text, attend their Facebook event, wish them a Happy Birthday, take them out for coffee when we said we should catch up, call them on the anniversary of their Broadway debut... I was spread as thin as a dollop of low-fat cream cheese on a loaf of bread. I needed to find a way to simplify my friend group, but how could I pick and choose?!  Oh God, did I have to break-up with them?

I decided the easiest thing to do was to deactivate my Facebook. I toyed with the decision for an embarrassingly long time, asking myself, Should I warn people? Let them know I'm unavailable via Facebook but they can reach me on my cell or email? No! I decided. The best way was to do it cold turkey. So I woke up one day, clicked a few links, dismissed a few intimidating, "ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO LEAVE?" boxes, and I was finished. 

I felt like a lead weight had been lifted from my mind. I tried very hard not to think about Facebook, busying myself with other things. I spent a lot of time with my mom and grandmother. I replied to text messages from Rubina, Star, Kiki, and Missy. I studied for the LSAT. I had a boyfriend. I emailed my friends in New York. I ran into people and actually had something to catch up with them about because the Newsfeed hadn't already apprised me of their goings-on. Something wonderful had occurred.

I became autonomous. My life became less complicated, more productive, and I was able to have a life without Facebook. Amidst all those liberating benefits, the people I truly enjoyed stayed in my life in a more substantial way, and the tertiary people fell away without their even noticing. If they missed me I received a phone call and we caught up. It was just that simple.

Rather than having a net of acquaintances as before, now I am comfortable with having a few folks who know me very well. I am still surrounded by fabulous people with whom I am honored to know, but I look at them as cameos in my movie. They are all people with lovely qualities who add a little bit to my life every time I see them. And sometimes those five-minutes of screen time can turn into a recurring role, as is the case with my new friend Denver.

But it is my friends who are my co-stars. They make me and my movie more focused. I am still a social person, but I use the word "friend" with more dignity now. I never knew how difficult it is maintaining a friendship, but I am grateful building stronger bonds with the select people I call my confidants. I have seen what can happen to people who rely solely on work-mates and Facebook to fulfill their crony quota. There are no pillars of support in those kinds of relationships. There will always be moments in our lives that reach rock bottom, and what would we do without those friends who love us more than they love their families? It is a sad reality when your status update is the first to receive any news in your life.

I have since reactivated my Facebook, but it has a lot more stipulations. Most of my photos are private and I don't feel the urge to update, tag, or reply. Facebook is a unifying phenomenon and it serves a place in my life. The difference is that now the number of friends I have on Facebook is not how I  gauge the people in my tribe; most of them are classmates and coworkers. I needed that break from my online relationship to understand what having a friend really means. I would fight for them, cry for them, and go anywhere to celebrate with them. But my friends do not define me or my actions-- we are all too unique from one another to have that be the case. I am the leading lady of my life and my friends are my supporting characters.

02 November 2011


...Is how my friend Rubina referred to Match.com when I was a member this year. We used this as a code name for the site while I shared my experiences in coffee shops and other eavesdropping hotspots. It was also her jab at my singleness and my likeness to cat lady-ness.

I was the first of all my friends to take the $60 leap and join Match. I was not, however, the first to date online. When I lived in New York it was de rigueur to have profiles on sites like okcupid.com and, in certain circles, manhunt.com. (If you are under 18, please do not visit the latter. Come to think of it, please don't visit either one.) My transition from SoCal to NYC was swift; I moved to New York the same week I graduated college. I grew up in Orange County so moving to a place where I only knew two people, more or less, was fairly intimidating. I had always been a student in a safe environment. This whole "real life," "paying bills," "twelve-hour days" business was completely new, and quite a shock, to me. My stressful job working as a production-intern-turned-stylist's-assistant at a bodacious talk show did not leave a lot of room for me to find new friends-- let alone dates. Weekends were spent mostly in my PJs and then binge drinking with the same group of friends. I crushed on most every guy in the circle, and pretty soon exhausted all hopes of having a Chandler to my Monica.

So, my roommate and I joined okcupid.com. I was really nervous to put myself on the internet like that and I had a lot of questions. Was it just for hooking up? What should I write in my profile? What shouldn't I write? Which picture? How can I tell if he's a good one? Who should reach out first? How will we meet in person? What if he's a psycho and my experience is the next plot of Criminal Minds? It seemed too stressful! All my worries aside, I realized it was actually a quite practical way for me to date in a new place. Even in a city full of thousands of eligible men, it was difficult to make a connection with anyone new. I was always in tunnel vision toward my next minute, shoulder-to-shoulder on the subway with fifty people and their own personal tunnels of thought. Online dating was a way to get personal without getting vulnerable. I also knew great couples who'd found each other on Ok Cupid. It clearly was not as scary as I was making it out to be.

I went on a few dates in New York, but honestly I was so busy and consumed with making rent that I wasn't in any position to be dating. Not only that, but after I'd read The Rules I came to understand that I would never find anyone worthwhile when I was such a mess myself. Call it new-age philosophy but I firmly believe that we all get back what we put into the universe. I am a perfectionist and hold high expectations of myself and my (future) mate. It only makes sense that I should be on top of my game if I hope for those qualities in someone else. Ideally, they want someone fantastic, too.

I moved back home for reasons unrelated, read The Rules, and decided to go online again. However, now I was even more nervous than before. With Ok Cupid I was able to talk to my New York friends about our experiences and even scroll through my matches to get their feedback. And although I had a closer group of friends at home, it was a totally different social scene. All the couples I knew met through school, mutual friends, or at work. No one my age had even considered online dating. Ok Cupid wasn't anywhere near as well-known in the 'burbs of SoCal as it was in the Big Apple. And if anyone had heard of Ok Cupid, it was usually for its reputation of being a vessel for hooking up. I wanted to try something different and with a slightly older age group.

Match.com seemed the most logical choice. It fit all my needs and was admittedly "free to look." I spent hours working on my profile trying to write just enough witty details about myself while still looking demure and slightly airy. (No one likes a ditz, but no one likes an outspoken over-achiever, either.) My pictures were tasteful and showed only the best versions of myself: good angles, nice makeup, cute clothes. I was ready to launch.

I began getting messages immediately. Most were bogus, some were interesting. I wanted to share my good news with my friends, but I didn't know what they'd think about me challenging my singleness head-on. I soon found out that my decision was more stigmatized than I could have ever guessed.

"Are you really that desperate?"
"Wow. Seriously? Aren't only weirdos and ugly chicks on there?"
"You're too pretty and smart to be online."
"That's awesome! My aunt met her husband that way."
"Why are you giving up?"

Instead of having the support like my NYC friends, I was alone in an already uncharted territory for someone like me. I was confused. I thought my friends would be understanding and happy for me that I was taking control of something that was, in most cases, hit-or-miss. I tried not to let it bother me, but even after I started exclusively dating someone I was hesitant to tell anyone where we'd met. The point is, though, that I still met someone I enjoyed. Had I met him anywhere else I would probably never given him the time of day, but being contacted via written word gave him a lot of opportunity to sell himself and me a lot of power. If I didn't like what he had to say in an editable format, why would I ever want to know him candidly? And even if our meeting wasn't fodder for a rom com, our relationship was still full of romance.

I'm not online anymore. I didn't swear it off completely, I just don't think I need to be actively searching for a boyfriend right now. My success online made many of my peers curious; some even signed up. I don't at all want anyone to think that because my relationship ended I have lost all hope for e-happy endings. I hope the best for all my friends and I hope they have success in love. At the very least online dating is great practice. We live in a time where technology has taken control of every aspect of our lives, so I don't know why our generation is dismissive of dating websites when most of our time is spent online anyway. It only makes sense that we might meet our other halves there, too. However, having a profile does not close the door to serendipitous meetings. Rather, it creates that many more opportunities to finding that person exactly right for you. For me, having a great story of how I meet my Mr. Big isn't nearly as important as having a Mr. Big.