A feeling of “grown-ness”

A few weeks ago, as I was riding on a boozy boat, surrounded by some of my oldest and best friends, I felt old.

I don’t mean old in the typical sense of wrinkles and graying hair, or painfully hungover after two glasses of wine from the night before, or surrounded by all my friends’ children (in fact, not only do none of us have children, none of our other friends from this trip are married, either). I mean old because our “grown-ness” dawned on me.

Most of us have been friends since about 2006. It was early in our college careers, and we were inseparable. We ate meals together, drank beers together, danced together, cried together. It was an emotionally packed time in our lives, where 5AM bedtimes were the usual, and 1PM recaps from the night before were routine. All of us would say college was a magical time. We agree that we had the most quintessential college experience, and it defined the strong friendships we have today.

Honestly, little has changed. I’ll say again, we were on a booze cruise, with coolers filled with beer, handles of whiskey, a few bottles of Rosé (typical). We were laughing hysterically, calling each other out, making fun as each one of us toppled over while tubing from the back of the boat (also typical). It was like we were in 2006, again. Except we weren’t.

We had new friends in the group, too. New loves, who at this point had turned into old loves, turned from new friends to old friends. We celebrated two 28th birthdays. We spoke about moving, and settling down, and careers, and families. How many weddings we’d all attended this summer, and how many more there were to go.

It was the first time, with our historic group of friends, that we stayed in each night. Laid on the living-room floor. Watched football. Had whistling contests. Cuddled with Ziggy the dog. None of us had the desire to go bar hop, see the Floridian scenes, wear “going out clothes,” we were just content being together. Grilling on the balcony, getting adjusted by the Chiropractors in the group, and playing Heads Up. If our 20-year-old selves saw us now, they’d wonder when we got so boring. But our 28-year-old selves were just 100% content. Even if we did fall asleep by 11PM.

My 28th birthday came around this weekend. And it was an incredible weekend. Friday night celebrating our friends’ wedding in upstate New York, near a waterfall, among the hills, with instrumental Beyonce.

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And then Saturday, my birthday day. We celebrated on a rooftop in Brooklyn, surrounded by whichever friends and family could make it amidst the final weeks of wedding season, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the marathon training, the work fire-drills, or the relationship-commitments. Even though some key folks were missing, it was my favorite birthday I’ve had in years. A small group of family and close friends that I’d met from 1995 through 2015, talking about things adults talk about – love, careers, taking shots. Happy and at ease with who they are. Excited about what’s to come. Under the setting sun, in my favorite neighborhood in New York.

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There were cocktails, cupcakes, tacos. The breeze was refreshing, and my outfit was on point. And 28, despite feeling old (or more precisely, aware of my “grown-ness”), was beautiful and complete.

Growing up feels good.

Thanks to all of those who celebrated with me.

Love,

A

More Growing Pains | A Tribute To My Old Friends

Up until now life has gradually transitioned from one stage to another, without much of a bump in the road. The change from child to teen was pretty painless and the switch from high school to college even more so. At any given point I’ve always been, not just ready, but eagerly anticipating the next stage of life. And until recently – that had always worked out just fine for me. I didn’t just think I was ready, or feel ready, I always was ready.

I was so fond of these transitional, big life moments that I actually sought them out, for no reason other than craving the blood rush it gave me. When I first graduated college, I was ecstatic to be an adult. And once I was, I was even more ecstatic to be an adult in New York City. Nothing new, I thought. But I was wrong.

Twenty-three is still so young, people say to me (especially here where 50 is the new 25). And maybe they’re right. I mean if all goes well I’m only about a quarter-way through with my life. But age is just a number. It’s not the numerical value of the years I’ve lived that’s scaring me, it’s about how much has changed during them. And the fact that for the first time in my life, this change that I can see and feel, is unwelcome.

In the past year or two, I’ve lost more friends than I’ve gained. This isn’t for any dramatic, intentional reason. It’s the mere fact that life keeps moving, faster and faster, and if you don’t stick together, you don’t grow together. And if you don’t grow together, you grow apart. I always thought to “grow apart” simply meant falling out of touch with someone. But recently I realized that growing apart is actually when you fall out of touch for so long that when you try to come back together, you don’t find the same person you once knew.

My parents preached it, but I never believed it: growing up is scary. And what’s even scarier is that sometimes, when you just want to retreat and go back to the people who were once your home, the people that knew you and all your teenage weirdness so well, they’re no longer there. Maybe I’m the only person consumed by a sense of dread and regret over this, but I honestly want nothing more than to pick up the phone and talk to the middle school or high school friends like nothing’s changed. Like we still spend hours talking to each other, watching Laguna Beach, binge eating junk food and then doing crunches to negate the previously inhaled junk food. But everything’s changed.

I don’t mean “change” in a bad way. Don’t think that for a second. Every day I find out that someone else is moving abroad, choosing their life partner (!!), making their first million or doing their part to solve some large scale global problem I don’t know enough about. My childhood friends are nothing short of amazing. I just wish I had been there to watch them go from kids trying to understand themselves and life, to the incredible adults they are today.

* Shout out to everyone who was a part of my journey to adulthood, big or small, from Solon or from Naperville. Every victory of yours fills my heart with so much happiness and I wish you all nothing but the absolute best in life. Hope to catch up with you someday soon. 

Love,

K

New York City: Four Years Down

It’s really weird to admit this. Especially considering the majority of our readers are likely New Yorkers who LOVE being New Yorkers, but New York never used to be my thing. I wasn’t the type of person that dreamed about moving here one day. That fantasized about flying through the New York streets in a yellow Taxi, the skyline of the city creating a consistent sheen of bright light and color. It just never really appealed to me that much. It felt oversaturated, hyperbolic, self-aggrandizing. I just knew it would chew me up and spit me out, and frankly I enjoyed living in a city that skewed herbivore.

I was a softy through and through (and through and through), and when I moved to Chicago, I thought that was as city as I’d go. I loved Chicago. In spite of the harrowing winters, my long commutes, and my bike getting stolen (actually, that one still stings). For one, K and I lived together (every close sister-combo’s dream), in an impeccably decorated, two-bedroom, apartment. I had a balcony off my bedroom, guys. I had two sinks in my bathroom. A bathtub and a standing shower. A desk, a queen-sized bed, two night stands, a TV stand, and a couch all in my room. IN MY ROOM.

I loved my job at FCB. I loved my smart, down-to-earth, genuine, kind, friends. I felt like a part of something. Friday night happy hours, overly indulgent dinners at Portillos (that glutinous chocolate cake though…), karaoke. Life felt pretty great.

But the English language gave us qualifiers like “pretty” great for a reason. For moments and feelings of inadequacy. When something is just incomplete. And there was something very significant missing from my life in Chicago.

Abi.

So after many conversations, job interviews, lonely days, and red-eye flights, I decided to take the plunge, and move to New York (because I couldn’t move my then-finance-boyfriend to Chicago when he was in the finance capital of the world, and I watched enough Mad Men to convince myself that New York was the place to be in Advertising, too).

I packed up my beautiful apartment, made a deal with K that we’d live in the same city again one day (BLESS), and trudged over to the Big Apple.

This was exactly four years ago today. And I can’t believe how much New York has changed my life, but maintained my essence.

It has injected me with confidence, strength, resilience. My skin is much much thicker, but my soul is just as gentle as it always has been. It’s taught me to love myself, and put myself first, and treat myself to everything life has to offer. To take my time growing up. That maturity doesn’t come with stature, or money, or property, or children, it manifests in a mindset. That birds of a feather don’t need to always flock together! And as cheesy as it is, diversity is life! It’s taught me that being weird is f*cking awesome. That I want to have a story unlike any other’s. That I don’t care if people think I’m kooky, as long as I’m being true to myself. Because being true to oneself is the single most important pillar of living the best life. I’ve learned when to say yes, and when to say no. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly fine (/completely amazing) to spend a Friday night on the couch in my dog’s company, watching Charmed and eating boxed mac n cheese. I’ve learned that when something becomes an obligation instead of a pleasure, it’s okay to let it go (within reason, we’re all responsible adults here).

Don’t get me wrong – New York has torn me down. Way down. But, man, has it built me up. If my pre-NYC-self saw my life now, she’d be thrilled. And maybe even in awe. Knock on wood.

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Not to mention, now I’m totally the type of person that looks out of the windows of my yellow taxi at the New York City skyline with gratitude and dreamy wonder.

Love you NYC,

A

A Search for Beautiful Minds

In 2011, I met someone who was going to change my life. This was the year I moved to New York (almost four years ago exactly!), so I was meeting a lot of people who would impact my life in ways big and small. But this certain person was truly going to transform it, in more ways than one.

His name was Griffin Farley. He was in his early thirties, and was an Engagement Planning Director at BBH New York. I was coming in as a Social Media Strategist/Community Manager (yes, I community managed) that had little to no idea what she was doing. To my ex-collegues – pretend I didn’t just confess that. New York was a intimidating as hell. I was surrounded by some of the most successful people in advertising, I felt like a child (because I always mitigate my experience), and I didn’t have any friends (not because the people weren’t lovely, because the Google account was the busiest and there was little time for niceties). Sounds like a sob story, but this is really how it felt! Of course, it eventually changed, and now some of my closest friends came out of my time at BBH, but the beginning was stressful and solitary.

Griffin was easily one of the nicest people I’d ever met. He maintained a sense of cool composure, even on the most demanding days. Off the bat, he validated my presence at such an amazing agency. He quickly realized my strengths, boasted them to all who would listen, and helped me fill out my weaknesses. He brought me into meetings I had no business being in, and would celebrate my quiet contributions.

Griffin’s kindness was just the cherry on top. His entire being brimmed with brilliance. At the young professional age of thirty, he redefined the communications planning discipline and brought light to propagation planning – “planning not for the people you read, but the people they reach.” Genius, right? Can you believe we didn’t always think that way? He brought this way of thinking to the core of my skill set, and I still use his philosophies every single day. No exaggeration.

In February 2013, Griffin passed away. He had been diagnosed with Mesothelioma in the months prior, and it was grave. At this point, I was an integrated member of the amazing BBH family (much in part to Griffin), and I have to say, we held so much hope. Every time he felt better, or came into the office, we thought he was going to make it. He’d sit as his desk, looking so weak, but so determined. Wanting nothing more than to come to work and do his work. It kept him going, he said. That’s what I call passion! I went to his house and visited one day, the sun was spilling in, it was bright and lively and beautiful. His little girls were sprinting around him, and he looked happy. Fulfilled.  I’m so glad I got to see him in his space – I felt like I truly understood where his love for life came from.

Since Griffin’s death, BBH has been hosting a workshop called “Griffin Farley Search for Beautiful Minds.” It’s the most incredible event I’ve ever been a part of. It’s alive with positivity and passion. It takes his unmatched love for mentoring young talent and injects it into every single participant. It brings together young talent who wants to break into advertising with those who are able to teach, help, and move them forward. Including the head of strategy at Google, 360i, Co:Collective, and more. It’s really remarkable.

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Every year, I sit with myself afterwards, considering how blessed I am to have known Griffin. And how much of him I now see in myself as I grow into the leader he always told me I could be.

All of this is to say, THANK YOU to the incredible team at BBH, and for everyone who’s keeping Griffin alive through their work. It means so much to so many.

Love,

A

A New New Yorker | A Writer in New York | Tale 3

Well goddamn, it’s been awhile.

I always used to twist A’s arm a bit about not putting enough time into this blog and she would always tell me it’s because she didn’t have enough time. I would sort of roll my eyes and ask my mom what she’s so busy with, but she never knew either. I don’t think I understood this concept of lack of time until I moved to New York.

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I don’t know what it is about this city but it truly consumes you. All your energy and all of your time. You get so stuck in your day-to-day life and trying your best to take any free time you do have to sprinkle in some stuff from your New York City bucket list (or binge watch Netflix because sometimes a girls just gotta relax and turn her brain off). All of this leaves you tired, drained and honestly – not really wanting to exert your brain in trying to write a blog post that is the perfect amount of analytics, truth and wit.

It’s funny, really. I always thought this city would inspire me. Well, it definitely does it some ways, just not the ways I expected or wanted it to. I thought it would bring out this artistic, creative talent that was hidden inside of me, waiting for the right place to unlock it. I envisioned myself spending weekends at various coffee shops writing or working in Photoshop, drinking black coffee and fawning over men in turtle necks. But instead New York City has unlocked the determined fighter in me. The one who works her butt off at work, and pushes through throngs of people near Penn Station only to come home and squat her butt off in the gym. The one who is fixated on having it all – a killer job, a fit bod, a bustling social life, at least two planned vacations at a time and time to attend any and all the New York specific events she can.

You can imagine that in trying to do it all, the first few things that drop off your “to do” list are the ones that take the most heart, soul and mind. And for me that’s writing. It’s a shame because out of everything, writing is probably the one thing I want to be working on the most. But for some reason, New York won’t let me.

I think the problem is that in New York, I keep myself so busy that I don’t have time to truly assess and explore my feelings. I feel something for a second and then I’m thrown into a new project at work, forced to re-route my way home to avoid a rowdy group of men on the sidewalk or running out the door to meet up with friends and down a bottle of champagne at brunch.

I thought that this is what writers did. I thought they lived their lives to write about them. Instead I’m finding that it’s hard to do both. There’s being a writer (experiencing things that you plan to write about but never really finding the time to do so) and then there’s being a writer (focusing less on doing things you can write about and actually putting pen to paper). And I want to be one.

Love,

K

A New New Yorker | Tale 2

I’ve been sitting on tale two of this series for a while – eagerly anticipating the next event that would inspire me to write. It hasn’t happened yet. So, I’m going to try to write on my lack of inspiration. Is this every writer’s nightmare or just mine?

I moved to New York City nearly a month ago now. My list of expectations was long and honestly, at this point, forgotten. Despite the move having happened not even a month ago, I can’t remember what all I had dreamt of – I can only remember how these hopes and dreams were unmet.

I think I thought it would be something like the opening credits to Sex and the City, where Carrie Bradshaw is fabulously strutting about the streets with a bright-eyed smile and a confidence only a character in a TV show can have. The sky behind her, blue as can be with some very picturesque cumulus clouds floating across the Chrysler building. Skip to the end of the video, the part where she gets splashed by a taxi cab – yup, that’s more like it.

Let me give you an example. One of the first thing I saw today was a man – how do I say this in a pretty, flowery way…I can’t…the man was literally peeing right outside the subway and I unfortunately saw it all! Last week on my way to work, I had to stop and gag up a little in a nearby trash can (which they should really put more of those around because if you look at the sidewalks you will clearly see that there is a lot of trash) because I couldn’t handle the various scents of NYC. Wet dogs, urine, dead fish – to name a few.

I know, I’m being a total Debby Downer. I don’t want to be! In fact, my least favorite question has quickly become “how are you liking it so far”, because it is for some reason impossible for me to lie and then I have to gently tell these happy New Yorkers that I have yet to fall in love with their home. A wants to kill me every time I talk about it and I’m sure I’ll get some backlash for writing about it.

But I think what I’ve learned so far is…

1. No matter where I go, I can’t leave behind who I am. I thought that this move would help redefine me – change me. But what I’m realizing is that even a new place can’t do that. Only I can. And getting myself to a place where I’m ready to let go of the past and embrace the present and future is a lot harder than packing up my apartment and leaving a city.

2. I’ve come to see that my present never seems as wonderful as it really is. While I’m living it, I’m discontent. Waiting for the next chapter. But when I look back, I ache for it. I’ve always heard those cheesy “the present is a present” quotes and dismissed them. Because well…that just sounds dumb. But learning to live in the moment and cherish it while you have it is so much better than regretting your lack of appreciation for it later in life.

So despite my less than warm feelings about The Big Apple – I’m going to make a public promise to give it a real chance. Feel free to keep me an honest woman here, guys.

With love,

K

A New New Yorker | Tale 1

Well, I’ve done it – I’m a New Yorker! At least, as much as I can be five days into my move here. I’ve mostly spent my first week here taking a mental break from work, actually hitting the gym, going out on solo expeditions and giving an excessive amount of love to my puppy nephew Kingston.

The more time I spend in this city, the more I come to see the difference between New Yorkers and the rest of the world. It first hit me at a Moth GrandSLAM event – where people take the stage to share their own personal stories with the audience. There I realized, through both the stories and audience participation, that New Yorkers are unapologetically themselves. They aren’t afraid to (in my Midwest opinion, over) share tidbits of themselves with complete strangers – no matter how dirty the truth is. People sent slips, though anonymous, up to the host during judging breaks telling tales of “that time I got stuck in a sand dune during a threesome” or “when I did cocaine with the guy that I was in love with…and his girlfriend”. Actual performers shared in their struggles with depression, losing loved ones and accidental viewing of child pornography.

On the streets of New York, you’ll see completely normal city dwellers fully embracing themselves – whether that means wearing what I perceive to be a ridiculous outfit, having open and loud conversations about their weekend activities or driving down the street with the windows down, putting on a Beyonce-inspired show for everyone.

At times I would have found all of this alarming and, for lack of better word, improper. I have not been raised to catch attention of strangers or overshare my personal stories. But now, just five days into my move, these people make me smile. To be yourself, so unfiltered for the world to see, is such a beautiful thing.

As I’ve shared with all of you before, one of the things I’ve personally been seeking is a better understanding of myself. Maybe it’s because I’m 23 and that’s too young to truly know you, or maybe it’s because I stayed in one city for eight years, not pushing past my comfort zone. Whatever it is, I’m confident that taking a few years to grow in a place where people are comfortable to explore and be themselves is just what I need.