A 2016 Recap

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  1. Wow.

I’ve never done one of these before, but I felt like I couldn’t let the year make an exit without saying my piece. I’m putting the state of the world aside on this one, because I think if I opened that can of worms I’d be writing this blog post until 2018. I’m going to keep it personal here.

It’s been much harder for me to find the motivation to write. I feel as though I started 2016 on a roll: I completed my final semester of my undergraduate degree and had a lot of fun while doing so, then I graduated and started a full-time job. When the excitement slowed, I began to sort of half-ass basically everything.  I stopped pushing myself; instead I just settled and chose going through the motions because it was less work. I let anxiety and complacency take over because I adopted the attitude of “what’s the point?”

When I sat down to write this, I thought about one night during my last semester of university. One of my best friends and I decided to have a movie night. We watched “Inside Out,” which I had never seen before (I don’t really watch movies, I have too short of an attention span!). If you’ve never seen it, the main characters are the five emotions who live inside the brain of the primary human character. We began to assign the emotions to our friends. She felt she related best to Disgust.  We chose Fear for one of our friends, and Anger for another. I told her I’d maybe choose Sadness, who is largely negative but also adorable, to which she gave me the most dramatic eye roll of all time and told me “You idiot, you’re definitely Joy!”

Originally, I was irritated by that. Joy is relentlessly bubbly all the time, often to the point of annoyance. Being moderately dismal was so much cooler.  It took the whole movie for me to finally agree on my friend’s decision.

To this day, I actually love that people think I’m made of sunshine. I want to have that kind of impact on people’s lives every single day. Happiness in infectious. What the hell am I doing pretending that my life is a saddening shade of dark blue? Sure, not all of it is bright yellow, but why give in to that?

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I do not make New Year’s Resolutions. I feel like those are literally always doomed to fail. I am making a choice for 2017, though. I’m choosing to be me – unapologetically authentic and joyful, because life is so much fuller that way.

Cheers to a better, richer, happier 2017, friends. Let’s make it amazing.

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Lying In Wait

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^ I’m sorry about the Hamilton Musical reference; I know it’s really nerdy. This is the song my title line is from. It’s the best song on the soundtrack. No, I still haven’t actually seen the show…

I graduated from university in May 2016. It was the most humbling, bittersweet and beautiful day; one that I won’t ever forget. But not long afterwards, my days of exploring and spontaneity came to a halt.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not at all complaining. I’m so incredibly blessed to have graduated from a four-year university and have a full-time job awaiting me, which is a privilege many young adults can only dream of. But I thought I couldn’t possibly be the only person learning to deal with such a life 180, so to speak, so I figured I’d share.

Many of my friends went home. Not home to our rooms in Manhattan; home to their hometowns in their respective US states, miles and miles away. I have always felt very strongly and thought very highly of my friends from university. Not having them around to share the struggle with has proven difficult, and a touch lonesome to boot.

There isn’t a class in existent that preps you to function as a post-graduate. There’s no “how-to” on having to commute at absurdly early hours, clarify how to make it through full workdays week after week, how to not panic if suddenly everyone you interact with every day is 7+ years your senior and aren’t your professors, or how to find time to still do the things you love and maybe sleep. For me, what has proven to be toughest is that there was always a trajectory: graduate high school so you can go to college, work your butt off in college so you can graduate and have a job. Now that I have a job, where do I go from here?

Describing myself as “goal-oriented” is not really a term I like to use, because to me it sounds like I’m trying to be my resume. I think I prefer “dreamer.” I’ve been forced to figure out what it is I truly dream of doing: today, tomorrow, in three weeks, two years from now, or five years from now. I never dreamed of being just one thing (My unrealistic dream of being a fashion designer died right around the time I realized that I can’t draw), but I do dream of seeing more of the world, writing more, and being a resource for other people.

I’ve created the time to carve out my own trajectory towards my dreams, which has given me something to work towards. It does not always fill the void that was left by my university days, but it makes the void a little smaller. It’s fulfilling. (Warning: one more Hamilton reference coming at you…) I might not be adventuring on a regular basis, but I’m not standing still. And that, in and of itself, is something to look forward to.

Throwback Thursday: This Happened

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I lowkey cried when this came out but I was (and still am) very, very proud.

Since I started working with The Turn It Around Project in February 2016, I’ve been afforded a few awesome opportunities to share my story and hear others share theirs. The most unique and humbling of those, however, was the chance to be in this video!

The video was shot in mid-June in Tompkins Square Park as part of a project with HooplaHa, a website that pushes out only positive and uplifting content on all of their platforms, which I believe is so necessary in the world we live in today. Together with Turn It Around’s founder, Abbe, and two incredibly fun members of the HooplaHa team, we spent the day chatting away and doing a substantial amount of giggling.

I don’t really talk about being bullied as a teenager or about my social anxiety because I prefer to try not to use it as an excuse for my actions, if possible. When I started university in 2012, I made it a quiet, personal project of mine to get comfortable talking about things I struggle with and being who I am. It’s a project I am still working on today: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Thanks to The Turn It Around Project, I am that much closer to being the person I have always wanted to be. I am part of a community that is proud of progress in general. It will always be a privilege to be a part of the team, and the video is something I will cherish forever. Read the full story on HooplaHa here, and come join the movement with us here!

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I Let Someone Else Dress Me

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There isn’t a lot of fashion stuff that goes on this blog, mostly because fashion has always been just a hobby of mine. I like putting together outfits and doing my makeup, experimenting, cleaning my closet, and the like. Most days I consider myself to be decently stylish. It doesn’t always happen, though. I’m currently writing this post in a weird Broadway-themed t-shirt and some shorts.

When I started my real person job, I decided it was time for me to dress like a real person 99% of the time, as opposed to, let’s say, about 75% of the time (That’s generous. I wear everything repeatedly until it literally falls apart. I have a pair of boots that I spilled Sambuca on in London, then got chocolate ice cream all over on a hot September day in NYC, and then walked all over Denmark in them, and I still have them. See what I’m getting at?). It was time for some real, quality items, so I decided to give Trunk Club a shot.

Trunk Club is like Ipsy or BarkBox, but with clothes and better. It’s a styling service from Nordstorm that gives you a personal stylist to fix your life. You tell them what you’re into and they search the internet for the perfect pieces. You then approve them, and they get sent to you for you to try. Whatever you like, you keep. Whatever you don’t, you can send back fo’ free (yes, free!).

When I signed up, I was almost immediately asked to set up a call with my stylist. We talked about my lifestyle, my hobbies and interests, and what I’m looking to get out of using the service. From there, via their app, I could see what my stylist Liz was choosing for me. I could veto whatever I thought didn’t suit me or my lifestyle (i.e. Work-inappropriate, won’t travel well, not my style, etc.). Liz was awesome, as I am notoriously picky about everything. When we finally settled on 13-15 items, this cute little trunk showed up at my house about four days later:

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The good: I was essentially playing dress-up sans my old itchy dance costumes. Many of the pieces were incredibly cool and were from brands I’d never heard of. Oh, and Liz nailed the shoe game. She found these puppies below, which I’ve now worn to work several times (Did I also mention they’re crazy comfortable? SCORE!)

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Not my best work, photography-wise… I think I’m much better at food…

The bad: My sizing was super off, so most of the clothing didn’t fit. This one was probably on me for not being clear. It’s hard to explain to a stranger how you like things to sit on your body. The only thing I bought were the shoes, but if everything fit, I would’ve bought it all.

The best: Their customer service is GLORIOUS. I was charged for an item I didn’t keep, but when I called their helpline, it was no more than two minutes before it was fixed with no questions asked. They’ve already asked for feedback and if I’d like to do another trunk, to which the answer is definitely yes.

It’s not something I’d usually do, but I’m all in for trying new things. It’s fun, it’s a confidence boost, and it’s an excuse to step up your style game, even just a little. And if I’m not convincing enough, even Buzzfeed loves them. We can all be the best-dressed versions of ourselves together!

Use this link to get started: www.trunkclub.com/invite/4DV4YA

Turn It Around NYC

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This past weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of shooting with The Turn It Around Project. Model I am not, but when I discovered this initiative, I knew I had to get involved.

Created in 2015 by Abbe Dembowitz and a team of fantastic minds from Pace University in New York City, The Turn It Around Project encourages taking personal insecurities and fears and spinning them into positive affirmations. It emphasizes loving yourself for who you are, and finding good in your flaws. People of all ages have participated in the project, serving as the best reminder that even in all of our negativity, we are truly never alone.

I’ve been after a chance to shoot with Turn It Around since their launch, and the experience was more than I could have ever hoped for. Normally, walking into a room full of people I don’t really know would encourage me to hang back until I warmed up a little, but that was not the case. The energy in the room was unmatched. It radiated positivity. Everyone was so comfortable talking about things that made them uncomfortable, and everyone was so welcoming. We collaborated on what statement I wanted to make with my photo, talking it over until it was perfect. The Turn It Around team is so invested in each individual that you feel like part of the community just standing in the room.

Working with Turn It Around is truly a NYC experience not to be missed. You can find more of The Turn It Around Project below, including dates for upcoming events:

Website: http://www.theturnitaroundproject.com/

Instagram: instagram.com/turnitaroundproject

Facebook: facebook.com/turnitaroundproject.nyc

Twitter: twitter.com/turnitaroundnyc

GoFundMe (so The Turn It Around Project can go global!): gofundme.com/uzfpmn2c

I am so honored to be even a small part of this project. All my love and support for what you’re doing, Turn It Around. Keep changing the world one photo at a time!

Feel The Fear, And Do It Anyway

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^ A little life advice I try to give myself on the daily.

I think it’s a good little anecdote to live by (And not just because one of my friends bought me this book for my birthday). As a young girl, I just about avoided this concept like the plague. I severely lacked a reckless abandon. I was not the eight year old girl running completely naked across the beach before throwing herself into the water to play in the waves with her equally-as-naked twin brother. I was the eight year old who would watch from a safe 15 feet back, fully covered in a rash guard, thoroughly convinced that I might drown or be eaten by some aquatic animal should I set foot in the water. And then I would cry on the car ride home because I didn’t get to play in the ocean.

In fact, I was that eight year old in almost every aspect of my life until I was sixteen years old. At sixteen, my high school offered a one week trip to Spain with the Spanish Language department. I was one of the first people offered a spot. After days of crying over it, I fearfully turned it down, and instantly regretted the decision.

You know those people who have theories about the universe and its connectivity and everything happening for a reason and whatnot? I am one of those people. This made me one of those really annoying kids who always needed to know why or how everything happened. This now makes me a moderately nosy adult who asks lots of questions. This also explains why I was given another chance to go on the trip when someone dropped out just weeks before departure.

The universe aside, this was a really big move for very fearful me. More details on my trip to Spain here, but in short, the trip was the very first thing I ever did to push myself out of my tightly-compacted comfort zone. Yes, I was terrified, but I realized there were ways to expand my horizons at my own pace, which was way better than not doing it at all.

I moved to New York City. I traveled some more, and booked adventures all on my own. I revisited an incredible city. I moved to another state for an entire summer. And now, I’m looking at trips that involve climbing bridges and learning to surf, and I’m looking to move again for real.

Every once in a while, I’ll have a really pivotal look-back moment while doing something not at all revolutionary. Going out with friends or taking a bus somewhere else for the weekend is hardly groundbreaking. But sometimes, I’ll sit there proudly and think about eight year old or sixteen year old me. I bet she never knew what a little fear and an airplane ticket would do for her.

This doesn’t mean I am fearless. I am not going skydiving anytime soon. I still cried on my flight to Austin because I was going to miss my family. I gracefully bowed out of holding an alligator in Florida because the gator seemed rather angry. I still can’t wrap my head around eating snails because it reminds me of Ron Weasley throwing up slugs in the second Harry Potter movie. I haven’t acquired the same reckless abandon as my skinny-dipping friend, but there is something to be said for her tenacity. Her curiosity. Her thirst for all the wonderful things the waves, and life, has to offer.

That’s what I have acquired: by taking my fear, acknowledging it, and politely asking it to step aside for now, because I want to play in the ocean, too.

Collecting Memories

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I’m an avid picture taker, and an avid writer (Obviously…). But, as I cleaned out my phone and laptop in preparation for new adventures (OK, mostly because I have far too many pictures of food floating around…) I found myself thinking about my collection of best travel moments, almost none of which are preserved in any of my pictures or journals. I think this is the beauty of travel, really… To collect memories of the moments you can’t put into words or keep forever in picture.

A few of my favorites (and perhaps my best attempt at some pictures to explain):

  • Hopping on a plane from Austin to Boston by myself at 3 AM in full hysterics, because loneliness is 200% a real emotion. I was so impressed with myself for trusting my gut. It’s also, to date, one of my favorite summer weekends; more here.
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Boston Skyline, from the tarmac at Logan International

  • The Western Wall on Shabbat, the holiest day of the week for those of the Jewish faith. Whether you know what’s going on or not, there was a spirit and energy in the air that I hadn’t ever felt before, and haven’t been able to find since. The women’s side of the wall is full of song, dance, and celebration. Cried through most of that one too, but happy tears, I promise!

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  • Taking residence on this balcony in Rome to watch everyone go by on Via Nazionale (No cappuccino though, unfortunately!).
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Via Nazionale

  • Picnicking under the Eiffel Tour on the most perfect August day.

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Walk The Moon @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

  • Breezing through London on one of those ridiculous tourist buses on my second trip to the city. I swear those things are secretly gold, and having been just a few months earlier, nothing was better than getting to see everything again in a different light.
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Top of St. Paul’s Cathedral

My addiction to traveling is all about memories like these. Every time I think about them, I get all excited about the prospect of having more of them. Side effect of the travel bug? I mean, at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me…

An Open Letter to My Mom, From a College Senior

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Modeled after a beautiful letter first written on Sincerely, Felicia. Click here to read the original, and click here to explore more of her work. Thank you for inspiring me!

Dear Mom,

Right now, I’m sitting in my dorm room, some 7 stories off the ground, listening to rain and the cars honking and some random man screaming under the scaffolding at the entrance of my building. I’m eating pasta for dinner (again) and actively procrastinating on all of my assignments (again). Most of my days are spent at work, in class, doing homework, and hanging out with my friends.

When you call and I don’t answer, I am out exploring the city, or attempting to stay awake through a movie night, or hunting down the best cookie in New York, or am knee-deep in links to job applications. When I see that I missed a call from you, I feel awful that I missed it, and I promise that the first chance I get to call you back, I will.

When I am up late at night swapping stories with my friends about home or the future or anything really, I find myself mentioning you a lot. We talk about how much we love our moms and how much we miss them. We consider your opinions all the time. We make jokes when we see other girls leave our buildings in outfits you would never approve of, saying “My mother would never let me wear that!”, even though we’re in our 20s.

I miss you so much, but I also love being here and making you proud. I am the person I am because of you. And no matter where I go, I will always know that you are right behind me looking on, as you always have been. You are the teary phone call at 11 PM because the world has come crashing down for the 7000th time and you’re the only person who can bring me back to reality. You are the happy words when I call with good news. You are the only person in the world who will give me advice and have me ignore you, and then be just as supportive when I come back to you a few weeks later with the same solution and still be just as happy for me, even though you were right all along. You are the voice of reason when I come up with another ridiculous idea, and you are my biggest cheerleader.

You make me want to make you proud every single day. In everything I do and have plans to do, I think of you and put my best effort forward just because I love getting to tell you, and getting to hear how proud you are of me. You have molded me into almost as strong a person as you are. You taught me to love myself, and to always hold my head high. You taught me about being alone, how to handle it, and how to embrace it. You taught me to take a leap and push myself, because if I absolutely eat it upon landing, you will be right there to pick me back up and tell me to try again. Whenever I have ever gone through a hard time in life I always think of you. I have a role model who is also the strongest human being I know. I promise that I still will always need you, even if I can survive without you, and even if I have lofty plans to move out of state or across an ocean. My life would not be my life without you in it.

Thank you for being my rock, my best friend, my favorite human, and for encouraging me to go see the world.

All my love,

Ilana

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I Think I’ll Go To Boston

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So if you aren’t familiar with one of my all-time favorite songs, even though New York and Boston are sworn enemies, click here. And yes, I totally played this song as we took off from DFW, and descended into BOS.

I have to admit it. I got lonely, a little bit sad, and it got to the point where I was willing to put down just about any amount of money to be in the presence of anyone I knew and loved. So I did.

Right up there with my most brilliant ideas? Maybe not. Worth it? Absolutely.

I made a really impulsive, very expensive decision about four days before the 4th of July to crash at one of my friend’s houses just outside of Boston. We talk non-stop, but I hadn’t seen her for months and I missed her like crazy, and I really needed someone to validate my consistent use of the word “hella” and be accepting of my constant talking about New York.

Honestly, the first thing we did when I got off the plane (besides encounter some severe issues finding each other) was go to Costco. We have one in my little suburban town back home, and as a kid I never liked going (because I was, and probably still am, that kid who doesn’t like shopping unless it’s specifically for me), but it was the most fun I’ve ever had going to Costco. Being away makes you appreciate all of the little things you take for granted, like going for thirds on all of Costco’s samples.

We grabbed pizza and visited an old-fashioned candy shop, and saw Magic Mike XXL just for Channing Tatum and Twitch. We made several Dunkin’ Donuts runs (Dunkin’ was invented in Massachusetts so they’re everywhere, and I can’t get to the one in Austin!). On the 4th of July, we crashed someone’s backyard fireworks show. In reality, it was the simplest suburban weekend in the history of ever, but it might have been the most fun I’ve had all summer.

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On top of that, perhaps what made me happiest (since I am currently attempting to live alone for the very first time) was that I got to go off to bed for two nights knowing my friend was asleep on the other side of the room, instead of several states and a time zone away. Apparently I never realized how much of a difference it makes to know that your parents are just down the hall, or your sister is next door, or that your friends live just 3 floors below you or across the street. It’s another thing I have clearly taken for granted (Being an adult is going really well, guys…).

It was over all too soon, I was missing it before I even left the ground at Logan International, and I already cannot wait to go back.

I hear it’s nice in the summer… Augustana, I can assure you it’s all that and then some.

Here We Go!

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11169140_10205815020687261_353952963_nIt’s finally May!

My semester is almost over, and I’m struggling through these last few weeks of my classes and finals. It’s only because I’m so freaking excited for my summer adventures, which start officially at the end of May.  I will be traveling to Scandinavia at the end of this month, and I will be spending my summer interning in Austin, TX. I’ve never been to either destination, and I literally cannot wait.

As for the picture? I pulled this from my Pinterest in January 2014, just before I went to Israel. I set it as my phone background during the trip as a reminder to really take it all in. Every place I get to visit is an incredible experience, and I used the little quote as a reminder to be present and enjoy every second.

You can bet that I will be trying to do this again with my trips this summer. Not like I’m counting down or anything, but only 24 days to go!