from NJ/NY

  • Activity

    • Take A Walk With Me (a photo journal)

      1 day ago


      Walking is one of my favorite things to do. When I can't focus, I go for a walk. It allows me the space and time to reflect and gain clarity. It's also peaceful, which helps keep all the warring thoughts in my head quiet. 

      Walking has a lot of health benefits, too, but I won't bore you with those. 

      Autumn is my favorite season, and unsurprisingly, my favorite time to be in nature. 

      I have no idea what it is about fall that makes me indescribably happy. The crisp air, the beautiful foliage, boots, scarves, hoodies, the scent of apples, pumpkins, cinnamon, other yummy baked goods (I love fall scented candles, okay?), the endless clear blue skies, the crunch of leaves as you walk through them ... there's a lot to love. 

      Since the temperature is finally cooperating, I decided to go out and enjoy it these past few days.

      Here are some of my favorite shots (poor quality attributed to phone) - 













      Do you enjoy fall or going for walks?

    • My Ride Has Been Pimped

      3 days ago


      Well, instead of pimping my existing ride, I got a new one. That still counts, right?

      The reason I wanted to write about this is because we have this horrible habit of taking wonderful things for granted once they become the norm for us. 

      It happens with everything from relationships to technology to cars. We're really excited for this new thing at first, so we go out of our way to treat it nicely, and then by the six-month to one-year mark, the novelty has worn off and we return to how things were before. 

      I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that won't happen. No matter how much I want to hold onto this feeling of "oh my god this is awesomeeee!", it's going to happen eventually. 

      But at least I'll have this to refer back to.

      How Awesome Is This Ride?

      So, exactly how awesome is my new car? It's pretty awesome. Check out this setup:


      The #1 criteria for my car search was the ability to sleep in it. Why? Because I don't want to just focus on traveling overseas. The U.S. is home to some pretty amazing places, and I figured having a car with me would be more practical than trying to rent one or Uber. And since I can sleep in it, I'm saving lots of money on lodging. 

      At first, I was kind of skeptical. I'm fairly tall, and a lot of the wagons and crossovers that were initially on my list seemed too small to fit me comfortably. Plus, telling salespeople that car camping was a goal of mine was met with some weird looks. Oh well.

      What I ended up with - a Subaru Forester - wasn't even on my list because of how it had ballooned over the years. It used to be a short, boxy station wagon, and now it's essentially an SUV. However, the price point was right on target, I enjoyed how it drove, and I fell in love with the colors of the one I ended up getting. 


      Tell me I'm not pretty!

      Why I'm Happy

      I can safely say this is the first time I've ever been this excited about a vehicle, but I think that reflects where I'm at in life more than anything. 

      I was originally happy with my '02 Civic Coupe because it's adorable and sporty (and Honda's are great), but as the years went on, it was clear it wasn't very reliable to drive. That held me back more times than I realized. I didn't enjoy driving, and as a result, I stayed home more. (And without a commute, that can be dangerous.)

      Contrast that with yesterday... I got home and became restless for the remainder of the day because I wanted to go on a road trip right then and there and put this baby to the test. (Unfortunately, it needs an inspection and real plates, so that didn't seem like a good idea.)


      Instead, I took it for a spin at night to see what a difference having new lights made. It turns out, a world of difference. My eyesight is horrible and I'm usually not super comfortable driving at night. My old car had been in an accident (not by me =)) and as a result, the driver's side headlight was a bit wonky. The lights themselves weren't very bright, either. These were crazy bright, and I can tell the high-beams will do just fine on creepy back roads. 

      As I continue to drive it, I'm discovering all sorts of useful things about the car that I never had before. The biggest plus is heated seats (I'm cold 90% of the time), the extended sunroof, and the aux input for my phone + Spotify. (I had a lame ass cassette tape audio jack connection thing before.)


      But nothing beat the excitement of blowing up an air mattress, laying down, and realizing how perfect everything had come together. (My face says everything.) I pictured myself turning on the overhead light and reading with a view of the nighttime sky through the sunroof, being curled up in the middle of nowhere with some music playing's just so cool to think my car can double as a hotel room. 

      Oh yeah, and it's AWD, so I don't have to worry about road conditions as much as before. My Civic was nimble, but horrible in the snow and rain. 

      Overall, while my heart may have dropped a few times thinking about how much I was spending on this, I can say that excitement won out in the end. Cars are a depreciating asset - I would never consider its worth in my total net worth (especially since I'm going to drive it forever) - but I can view it as an investment in the lifestyle I want. 

      It's another symbol for this new chapter in my life, and I can't wait to see where it will take me.

      Here's a hint of it (more or less me being silly):


      I fail at hiding.

      Look at all this SPACE!! What is this even?!!? 


      Just sitting back here. Chillin. In my car. Because I'm a total nerd.

      Do you have any car stories to share? Do you think I'm insane for being excited to sleep in my car? Let me know. =P

    • Friday the 13th Isn't So Bad

      5 days ago


      Growing up, I thought I had absolutely horrible luck. My dad would even joke that his side of the family was cursed with being unlucky (this, of course, he told to me right before I had surgery one time). 

      Then, one Friday the 13th, I decided to be somewhat of a rebel and declare it my luckiest day. Because I had such bad luck the rest of the time, this was my one day to be lucky. 

      And truthfully, good things usually happened on that date, so I continued to believe it. 

      These days, I don't put much stock into the concept of luck, but the realization of today's date made me think about how I've been slacking on writing about gratitude.

      So here's why today wasn't so bad, among other things: 

      -- I had my first good experience at a car dealership. Shopping for a car is exhausting and aggravating and I was so grateful to be treated like a normal human being today. I got to test drive the car without a barrage of questions (the sales guy just said "go, enjoy the ride!"), and there was absolutely no pressure. 

      -- I'm going back tomorrow and I should be leaving with a car, which is a relief more than anything. I finally found something I'm excited to drive and spend five figures on (okay, maybe not super excited about that). I'm happy I found something more safe and reliable to be encased in.

      -- My cat didn't make any attempts to steal my chair today. (Trust me, that's a win.)

      -- I received a shipment of my favorite coffee. I had been running out, which isn't acceptable. 

      -- I'm enjoying sakura sencha green tea because I'm feeling under the weather. (See, I'm not just a coffee snob. Also a tea snob.)

      -- I took a nap because I wasn't feeling well and then I didn't want to get up because the bed was too comfy. I'm always grateful I have the ability to nap whenever I want...unless I'm under a deadline. 

      -- It was finally cold enough out today that I got to bundle up. I'm actually wearing two hoodies right now. Trying to enjoy it for a brief moment before mother nature gets confused again because it's supposed to be 80 degrees on Sunday. Sigh.

      -- Similarly, I did laundry last night and pulled out a hoodie from the dryer, wrapped myself in it, and did a happy dance. Freshly washed, warm hoodies are the best. 

      -- I'm grateful for the collective wisdom of many individuals I used to narrow my choice of a new laptop down to one. The ability to buy stuff online is convenient, but when it comes to technology, I have a hard time buying without trying it. Here's hoping it works out.

      -- I'm grateful for the few songs that envelop me in a rainbow of warm fuzzy feelings. (No, not an acid trip.)

      -- My retirement account has more money than I thought, despite the crazy economy. This will be the first year I max out my IRA and I'm pretty excited. Vanguard admiral funds, here I come!

      -- I received an unexpected refund today, which is always nice.

      -- Also got paid (mostly because my one client was on vacation at the beginning of the month). 

      -- I booked a random flight to Austin because I miss the city and it was on sale. 

      -- Currently strongly considering jetting off to Ireland as I stumbled across a $290 round-trip flight.

      (As a side note, next year is basically going to be a year of traveling for me - and I'm immensely grateful I can do something like that. Still trying to figure out how I'm going to document it all, but I'd like to do something to "bring people along with me.")

      -- I'm grateful for the people in my life, and glad that, for the most part, they're healthy. One of my clients had a health scare and my dad is going through a few things, and it puts things into perspective a bit. 

      -- I'm happy that I have two quality pens. Good writing utensils are important to me. (Tip: if you're ever in an office supply store with me for some reason, I will be in the pen aisle.)

      -- Lastly, I'm grateful I got to witness this sunset. Nighttime is the best time for the beach.


      What are you grateful for?

    • Are People Doing the Best They Can?

      6 days ago


      On the surface, this is a fairly simple question. Do you think people are doing the best they can in any given circumstance? 

      Most of us would probably answer with a resounding "no." Everyone knows someone who seems like a slacker, who skates by in life without any regard to how their actions impact others. (And let's not even get into serial killer status. I'm talking about the average person here.)

      There was more context provided in the book. In this case, the author had agreed to go to a conference she didn't want to speak at, and ended up rooming with someone she described as a slob. (The roommate was eating a donut when she walked in, and in making the effort to shake hands, wiped her dirty fingers on the chair she was sitting on without a second thought.) 

      Upon trying to make small talk, her new roommate decided to light up a cigarette, even though the hotel was strictly no smoking. When she expressed this concern, the roommate shrugged it off. 

      This person angered the author so much she took the issue to her psychologist. How could she be so uncouth? Who DOES that?! Every sentence was a scathing judgment on this person's character.

      Her psychologist simply asked, "Do you think she was doing her best?"

      "NO," she blurted out. "No way."

      It wasn't until she did some serious soul searching and reflection that she realized how unforgiving she was being. 

      "I assumed that people weren't doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries."

      "Self-righteousness starts with the belief that I'm better than other people, and it always ends with me being my very worst self and thinking, I'm not good enough."

      Since she's a sociologist, she set about asking a variety of people how they would answer the question. I loved her husband's response the best: "All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be."

      Why Cast Judgment?

      This also reminds me of the fundamental attribution error - the claim that in contrast to interpretations of their own behavior, people place undue emphasis on internal characteristics of the agent (character or intention), rather than external factors, in explaining other people's behavior. (Thanks Wikipedia.) 

      When someone is driving recklessly on the road, we assume they're an asshole. 

      When someone refuses to get off their cell phone in a library, we think they're an asshole. 

      When someone gives a customer service rep a hard time, we automatically categorize them as an asshole. 

      I'm not condoning these behaviors by any means, but we jump to these assumptions with no other thoughts attached to them. 

      I'm of the opinion that we're all human, and as such, we're subject to irrationality and making mistakes. No one acts perfectly in every circumstance. If we did, we'd have no regrets and a lot less self-help books. 

      At the end of the day, who am I to say someone isn't trying their best? How do I know what their best is? I have no idea what kind of emotional hell the day may have poured on them. (Maybe the author's roommate was in the process of a destructive divorce and only had donuts and cigarettes to turn to.)

      What's more is that this judgmental thinking rarely adds to our lives. I'd argue that it takes away more. Negativity is exhausting, and I'm sure you have enough of your own issues that you don't need to add the issues of others on your plate. From a mental bandwidth perspective, it's not sustainable. 

      So what's the solution? Well, I always try to minimize my exposure to this to begin with. If someone is driving recklessly, I distance myself...and that's about it. I don't curse at the person, I don't start ranting and raving like a lunatic all over social media. I acknowledge it, wonder what's causing the erratic behavior, and then I let it go. I always carry headphones with me in case someone is talking too loudly. If someone is saying hurtful things to an employee and I'm next in line, I try my best to lighten their day.

      As far as people in my life, I don't allow room for negativity. I'm not sunshine and rainbows all the time - far from it - but if someone is bringing me down, then I let them go. One of the basic principles I subscribe to is that something/someone must add value to my life in some way to be a part of it. I will do my best to help people, but there comes a point when you've provided all the guidance and direction and the person needs to take action. 

      Common thread: let go. Far too many people hold onto anger, resentment, judgment, or whatever else, and most of this is caused by people they don't even know. Why are you allowing the actions of strangers to affect you THAT much? What is the purpose in devoting that much mental energy to caring? 

      Am I Doing My Best?

      Okay, let's go back to the original point of this. 

      When I came across this question, I paused. My answer years ago would have been very different than my current answer, and that's because I used to be mired in self-righteousness. I know better than they do. How could they even think that makes sense? What a dumb mistake! I would never make that decision.

      Wow. (In case you're curious, I was pretty bitchy.) 

      I was coming from a very unforgiving place; a place full of hurt where I wanted to get back at the world for all the pain I had endured. A place of inadequacy. 

      Something I've struggled with a lot is the feeling of not being enough, or not doing enough. Asking too much of yourself and then beating yourself up for falling short is a vicious cycle, and it's not a productive one. So one of the things I've been trying to do this year is be more forgiving - of myself, and others. 

      Forgiveness is a very powerful thing, but it's not easy to seek it or grant it. However, it's extremely freeing once you figure it out. 

      As a result, I can approach this question with a much more level head. I know I'm doing my best, but my best looks very different on a day-to-day basis. Some days are easier than others. I have weeks where I'm on a roll with work, and I have weeks where my brain doesn't want to focus on anything.

      My best could be making it out of bed and checking email. Someone who didn't know any better could assume I'm a lazy bum who does nothing of importance, and that assumption would probably be fairly hurtful. 

      I refer back to the quote above. Life is a lot easier when you simply give people the benefit of the doubt (that includes yourself), and accept the fact that as humans, we're subject to making mistakes. 

      That doesn't mean letting people walk all over you, or giving yourself permission to slack off. You still need to be honest with those around you and yourself. But it does mean operating from a place of forgiveness and open mindedness. 

    • Create Your Own Opportunities

      1 week ago


      I could leave this post at the title, but that would be entirely too uncharacteristic of me. 

      I see a lot of people get hung up on scarcity - there's no jobs, not enough pay, not enough time, no way in hell they'll be able to do X, Y, and Z. They hold on to various excuses and focus on the limitations. 

      I used to subscribe to those thoughts, too. I was a certified glass half-empty cynic who didn't see the point in hoping for anything better (especially with my luck). 

      But that wasn't useful in the slightest. If you're unhappy with a situation, you need to find the power within you to change it. Unfortunately, a lot of people give that power away because they're focused on the wrong things. 

      Let go of excuses. Let go of immediately thinking of all the reasons why things seem impossible. Let go of self-imposed restrictions. 

      Instead of saying crap like that's too hard or I can't or I'll never be able to, flip it around. (Or in the words of a friend, focus on answers - not obstacles.)

      Break overwhelming aspirations down into little chunks and figure out what it'll take to get there, step-by-step.

      Ask how you can do something. Allow yourself to dream about what your life would look like if you could accomplish whatever it is that you're seeking. 

      Approach these things as a challenge to live a better life. 

      For the most part, what the average person wants in life isn't impossible to obtain, but we have this horrible habit of making something impossible by giving up on it easily. Yes, learned helplessness can be a bitch, but it's not insurmountable. 

      At the end of the day, we all have a choice to create our own opportunities. But creating an opportunity is harder than waiting for one to fall into our lap, so most opt to wait. And wait. And wait. 

      I don't know about you, but I'm impatient and I don't want to spend what's left of my time here waiting around for some unknown thing to transpire while becoming more and more hopeless. That's not living - that's letting life happen to you.

      Think about one thing you want to make happen in your life, and take one step toward making it a reality. Then keep going. Create your own path - don't let someone else create it for you.

    • The Power of Reinvention

      2 weeks ago


      Somewhere along the way, it's almost inevitable that you'll feel stuck. Whether in a job, relationship, a living situation, or just overall life (hello quarter life crisis). 

      What we do when this happens can have a huge impact on our character, and consequently, our story.

      Some people crawl their way out of a hole. Others place the burden of getting out on friends and family. Many will run themselves into the ground before they get a much needed kick in the ass and eventually make it out.

      Well, I've been feeling pretty stuck for months on end, and I haven't been able to find a reason for it. This isn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last time. And every journey of getting out of the stuck-ness has been different, which makes figuring out the solution even more challenging. 

      What's clear, though, is that it doesn't matter if you try everything under the sun that you can think of - if it doesn't work, then you can't force it. Or, in the words of Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

      A Slight Epiphany

      Over the months of trying to apply all these different solutions to my life and seeing if one stuck (enough to make me feel unstuck), I came upon a realization: 

      We have the power to reinvent ourselves. 

      We're in charge of our path, and we can choose to change it...if we want to.

      If you don't like the person you are, if you want a new skill, if you want to lose a habit, you can reinvent yourself and your story. 

      The problem is most people are afraid of change, so they shy away from this. While change isn't easy, I can't help but be fascinated with this perspective. It's so simple, but there's a lot of truth to it.

      How I'm Reinventing Myself

      I like a lot about myself (after putting in a shit load of work - trust me, I detested the person I was years ago), but there are a few things that I know I need to change. 

      Along with this change in mindset, this past year I've also taken to thinking of things as experiments. Experiments allow for freedom - they're not permanent, and they're far less intimidating. This is important because I hold myself to wildly high expectations and tend to beat myself up over not achieving things. 

      My thought process on new things is more or less oh hey, I'll try this, see how it works, and evaluate at a later date, upon which time I can decide if it's working well or if it has failed and needs to be shelved. I also take care to note what exactly worked, what didn't and why - and if I should tweak anything and try again, or abandon something completely. 

      With my thought process and mindset explained, my reinvention is essentially hitting a giant "reset" button on life. That means letting go of a lot of things (almost everything) and leaning into all the amazing, overwhelming possibilities that life contains. 

      I'm not going to lie - it's extremely scary. I have no idea if it will work. But it's a much better alternative than staying stuck, and I know I'll learn something from it. 

      Making painful decisions isn't easy, but I can tell it's the right decision because underneath all the anxiety about the future, I feel an odd sense of relief. 

      Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust that everything will be okay.

    • One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

      2 weeks ago


      If I've learned anything from being self-employed, it's that you need to get really, really good at setting boundaries. And then communicating those boundaries to clients. And further, enforcing them every step of the way. 

      Learning it and practicing it are two very different things. 

      I still check and respond to email on weekends, even when I wish I could escape work for a bit. Hell, I check and respond to emails pretty much anytime I see a notification that I have one. (And then get anxiety about receiving an email late at night.) 

      I know this isn't what I want to be doing, but I've put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver, and I've established a pattern of doing it, so it seems strange to break it suddenly. Even so, I've been getting slightly better at it as the year has gone on. Especially when I reach a breaking point and I can't fathom staring at a screen for another five minutes. 

      That said, the last week has been annoyingly crazy. My one client tries to stick to a once-a-week production schedule for videos, but I can't do anything until I receive material from them to start creating them. They didn't make the deadline last week. They instead sent me an audio file for something totally different to edit (which was unexpected). Finally, on Wednesday I asked them for an update...only to be told they were still trying to get it done. 

      Normally, I would say the lesson isn't getting published. I need materials by Wednesday morning the latest, and it was already nighttime. But this client made a public commitment to have this module of lessons done on Friday, soooo yeah. Unfortunately, this client also decided that the week before they went away would be a good time to push sales on a product and became completely swamped by emails from potential buyers. Each email I was cc'd on was another reminder that they were pushing off getting the materials ready. Not a great feeling knowing making up for lost time was going to fall on me. It was just a whirlwind of bad timing. 

      And sure enough, I went to bed at 3am and woke up at 8:30am and clocked over 11 hours worked yesterday. This was in the midst of running around to the chiro and trying to enjoy dinner with a family member I don't get to see very often. I ate one meal, didn't even get to enjoy coffee on national coffee day of all days (yeah yeah it's silly), and my body was screaming in pain the entire time because the setup I have at my parents isn't very ergonomic and I was still hurting from adjustments. But because I had barely eaten I couldn't take any pain killers. 

      It was lovely. On top of that, said client wanted to have a phone call before they left, so I found myself on the phone at 2am and eventually staying up until 4am to get the lesson pushed out. 

      I am SOOOOO glad it's the weekend (or am I, as emails are still coming in...). I am also glad I got a raise earlier this month. 

      Normally I don't like to complain because my clients are good people. People are prone to making bad decisions and underestimating things. I just hate that crunches always come at the worst times. Add to that I've been working off of my laptop, which is horribly inefficient (one screen, no dedicated GPU so exporting takes a ton of time, and my wrists were killing me), and I was near tears as I tried to take the project piece-by-piece last night. 

      And then of course, a student notes a link doesn't work in the lesson. I put in all that work and THAT'S what you have to say?!!? is what I felt like screaming. Instead I mentally slapped myself, fixed the link, and thanked her for pointing it out. 

      Anyway. I try not to vent a lot because negatively doesn't solve anything, but this is a reminder that I really need to figure out a way to create a healthier work environment for myself as far as setting and enforcing boundaries go. I know my clients are understanding, so I have no one to blame but myself. 

      I hate letting people down, but it's almost impossible not to let someone down in the course of fulfilling expectations from someone else. I only have so much time and mental bandwidth, so when I dedicate it somewhere, everything else takes a hit. 

      And in this case, family took the hit (not the first time). So I'm off to attempt to play Borderlands with my dad since that was basically his only wish while I was here and I'm a horrible daughter because I can't even make that happen, AND I still need to pack. Wee.

      Anyone else need to vent about crap? Or hey, did something awesome happen? I'd like to hear it.

    • In Which I Learn the Ways I'm Broken

      3 weeks ago


      So today I had a lovely visit to a chiropractor because why not? 

      I learned all sorts of things I didn't want to learn. 

      Apparently my head is actually on crooked. 

      My left leg is shorter than my right leg, because my pelvis is contorted somehow.

      I have early signs of arthritis in certain areas of my spine near my neck. 

      My neck is really fucked up. My spine is twisted up there and going the opposite way it's supposed to. All the muscles there are tender. 

      He casually insulted my lack of athletic prowess several times, citing poor reflexes and horrendous flexibility. "Is that really as high as your leg can go?"

      Then further added salt to the wound: "Your neck is going to feel sore after I adjust it. Similar to the soreness you feel after working out. Oh wait, you probably don't know what that feels like." Well excuse me.

      Getting old is so much fun. SO MUCH FUN.

      Oh yeah, once he 'fixed my head' he quipped, "Now you won't be giving funny faces to people anymore!" BITCH YOU DON'T KNOW ME. I pride myself on my amazing range of facial expressions regardless of where my head is. Hmph.

      My only hope is my headaches go away after this. 

      So yeah. Visits to doctors and medical professionals are great, right?!

    • Lessons Learned From Going Purple

      3 weeks ago


      Today, my hair returned to normal after a year of experimenting with a variety of colors. 

      I went from purple to magenta back to purple to purple with blue ends, red over purple with blue ends, purple over everything, and finally ended at blue over everything (with my purple conditioner over it). 

      Here's the journey in image form: 


      The blue was camera shy - it's definitely there in the last picture. 

      In memory (and because I thought it would be amusing), I'm going to share some things I noticed while having some sort of purple hair. 

      It's a Great Networking Tool

      I had originally dyed my hair about 2 weeks before heading off to an industry conference. It was still shockingly purple. To the point where I would pause when passing a mirror to make sure that was indeed me. (Purple strands in my eyes also alarmed me.)

      I became known as "the girl with the purple hair" while I was there. People would sometimes stop me to inquire about it. Other times, it helped start a conversation. As someone who's pretty introverted, this was an unintended benefit. 

      It Looks Like You Murdered Barney in the Bathtub

      Purple dye is messy as fuck. I would say for the first month, every time I took a shower, the tub looked like a puddle of Barney remains. It was insane. 

      My pillowcases were purple. My hands and fingernails were purple. I was somehow leaving purple marks in strange places. I would have been fairly easy to convict. 

      I also used Overtone - purple conditioner - and while that washed out better, it would still stain shit. 

      Out of all the colors I tried from Pravana, violet was the worst offender with this. Blue came in second. 

      Random Compliments

      Boring hair doesn't usually elicit much of a response, but I had quite a few people tell me they liked my hair at random times, which was a nice pick-me-up. 

      Other times, I felt more compelled to compliment someone else I encountered who also had an interesting color going on. Giving compliments and receiving compliments = win-win. 

      Spending More Money

      This was an interesting paradox. First, I think I paid around $180 to have this professionally done (my hair needed to be bleached and then dyed). Since that was more money than I had ever dropped on my hair before, I felt compelled to keep up with maintenance...which meant spending even more money. (This must be how people with german cars feel.)

      Overtone conditioner is about $18. Thankfully, I only went through 2 bottles. 

      But once my dye started fading after a few months, I went on Amazon and purchased more. Overall, I think I went through 5 or 6 tubes of dye, at around $10 each. 

      There was also the time I tipped housekeeping extra at the industry conference because my hair kept insisting on crying purple tears in the shower and uh, it may have stained some of it. 

      Not horrible, but for someone that enjoys keeping things simple, this upkeep was kind of exhausting.

      Becoming Critical of Color

      About three or four months after I initially had my hair dyed, it was looking quite sullen. My roots were growing in, and the color was fading unevenly, which pissed me off. A lot. 

      I have a weird obsession with consistency and for the color to be fading in one spot or on one side but not the other was too much to deal with. Every time I looked in the mirror (it sounds like I do this a lot - I don't) I would stop and glare at these uneven spots, like that would magically infuse my hair with color. 

      This happened around every 4-6 weeks, which meant re-dyeing my hair around that schedule.

      It's ultimately the reason I gave up and went back to brown. Whenever I put my hair up, all you saw was my roots anyway, and I didn't enjoy the ombre look as much as I hoped. It was "blah."

      It's Fun to Experiment

      In general, I approached this as an experiment. I had been wanting to dye my hair purple for about two years before I actually did, and as tongue-in-cheek as this post is, the experiment taught me a lot. 

      I already spend enough time on hair and makeup - I don't want to spend even more time on it. Whether that's thinking about it or maintaining it. 

      But it was fun brainstorming what colors and combinations to try next, and wondering what the results would look like. 

      When I got tired of purple I didn't think I would go back, but eventually I missed it enough to give it another try. So I'm as indecisive as I originally assumed I was!

      I also have NO idea how some people go to the salon every month to get their hair redone. Even lifting my roots and re-dyeing them would have been too much work. (Yes, I'm lazy.)

      Anyway, as strange as it is to write this, by the time the one-year mark rolled around, I had had enough. I didn't feel like "me" anymore. So it's back to being brunette.


      So... anyone have any fun hair stories to share?!

    • An Open Letter to Anyone Who Feels Alone - You're Not

      3 weeks ago


      Earlier this month, a friend from a different community announced that she would be organizing a blog tour for Suicide Prevention Awareness. I had told her I was interested, but it took me a while to figure out how to put the importance of this subject into words that made sense. 

      The result is probably the longest thing I've ever written (that's online, anyway) - an open love letter to anyone who has ever felt alone or struggled with depression or thoughts of suicide. 

      Because that was me at one point. 

      The post is way too long to share in its entirety here, so if you want to read it all, you can do so here. (Feel free to ignore the debt parts - the focus of this particular tour was on the link between depression and debt, but I kind of ignore debt and go more in-depth with how I overcame things after that.)

      Here's an excerpt - 

      This is an open love letter to anyone who has struggled with debt, suicidal thoughts, depression, or any combination of those. I want you to know that you’re not alone in this.

      Why Suicide Isn't the Answer - My Story

      I am firmly in the “suicide is not the answer” camp. But it wasn’t always that way.

      Throughout much of middle school and high school, I struggled with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis.

      I attribute much of it to the bullying I endured during those years. I was carefully picked apart, feature by feature, trait by trait, by a handful of assholes who had nothing better to do. And I had no one to turn to.

      One incident sticks out the most in my head: I was on the lunch line with a few friends when kids behind us started making fun of my teeth. At the time, my parents couldn’t afford braces, and my front teeth were, well, prominent.

      I felt my face flush instantly. My friends quietly adverted their eyes, and no teachers were paying attention. I endured several more moments of verbal poking and prodding before running off the line and back to my table, tears running down my face.

      When my ‘friends’ came back, they expressed some sympathy, but conversation around another topic resumed and that was that.

      I could never come up with any reason for the bullying other than I was quiet, which made me an easy target. Which also sucked, because it made me wish for the power of invisibility more and more each time it happened.

      I started thinking that my sole purpose on this earth was to be tortured at school. (Dramatic much?) At the time, I had one or two friends I could turn to, but when I tried to confide in them, it was clear they felt uncomfortable.

      As a result, I felt completely alone, and things only went downhill from there. It wasn’t long before I would pass a group of laughing kids in the hallway, wondering what I did to elicit such a reaction. (Yep, I was super paranoid.)

      Once a proud holder of ‘perfect attendance’ awards, I started missing school because it felt like a prison. I would wake up each day with the thought not this again.

      Not only did I hate what my life had become, but I hated myself. I was firmly convinced I wasn’t worthy of love, and that there was no reason for anyone to love me anyway, so what did it matter?

      Eventually the pain subsided; it was replaced with emptiness. I had cried enough tears, ran myself ragged with negative thoughts, and my soul had been ravaged. What was I doing with my life? Why did it matter? I don’t mean anything to anyone. Everyone always looks the other way. Their eyes speak of hate and disgust. I’m just a burden.

      It was easier to go through the motions and put on a fake face to please others to avoid the inevitable are you okay?

      But a life of emptiness has no roads to travel. Being directionless, it becomes pointless. So I found myself planning how it would all end.

      Yet, for all the planning I did (and I’m quite the planner), I could never pull the trigger – in any sense of the word.

      To spare you the unnecessary details, I eventually reached the precipice. I had to make a decision: end it, or figure out a way down.

      I chose the latter, though it wasn’t an easy decision. Considering I had to build the road from scratch, the journey was anything but quick.

      That journey taught me that suicide is not the answer. It took me years to reach that conclusion, but thoughts of suicide haven’t entered my mind since. 10 years ago, I never thought I would find peace, but I did.

      Everyone’s journey is different, of course. What worked for me might not work for you. But I still believe that we have the power to control our destiny – we can choose to live, to find peace, to love and receive love. 

      That choice is one of the most difficult choices we will have to make in life, but it has been worth every struggle and battle I've endured. Even the ones I lost - especially the ones I lost, because I learned the most from them. 

      You're Not Alone

      I'm all for being independent, but connection is something most of us crave. Sometimes we need the help of others to make it through, and there's absolutely no shame in that. We weren't meant to live in isolation. We're all trying to figure this shit out and stumbling along the way. So please, reach out and ask for help when you need it. Form connections with others because we all have something to learn from and teach each other. If you ever need someone to listen, I'm here.

      What follows in my post is how I regained control over my life - my story - and why it matters. I talk about forgiveness, leaning into the pain, being enough, asking for help, practicing gratitude, the power of music, finding meaning, and why happiness shouldn't be our end goal. 

      Side note: As part of the music section, I also created a playlist that contains a range of songs which reflect the inner turmoil we all wade through at some point. There's a bunch of different genres and moods in there, but if you find turning to music helpful, I encourage you to make your own playlists as a form of therapy. 

      I hope this helps.  purple_heart

  • About Me

    Yo. I'm absolutely horrible at introducing myself or writing about myself, so here we go...

    I used to write personal finance articles and do social media management for clients, but that somehow turned into editing videos for educational courses and YouTube. The journey of self-employment leads to crazy places...

    Like working from home in pajamas or yoga pants 99% of the time. I can be found the other 1% of the time at a coffee shop or library (dressed, don't worry).

    Hobbies include playing video games or board games with friends, reading, listening to music, Photoshopping things, writing more stuff, learning new things, and laughing at my cats. Free entertainment at its finest.

    This is an outdated guide to affording RTX that I put together in 2016. Most of the basic info is timeless (aka - principles are the same), although prices have changed. I'm leaving it here in case it's still helpful for anyone.

    Some of my favorite quotes:

    Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.

    If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.

    You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

    Those sum up my philosophy on life pretty well...although that philosophy is constantly evolving. And I promise I'm not being philosophical unless it's after 2am. Don't ask why.

  • Comments (35)

    • rachyrock FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Goddess of Noms

      8 months ago

      Erin! Happy Warm Fuzzies day, friend!  caboose

      I am honored and so very happy to count you among my friends. I hope you've had an excellent day!

    • agpaladin789

      1 year ago

      Thanks for the add! I find it extremely inspiring and simply awesome that you are a personal finance freelance writer. I actually work in Finance/Banking and find myself teaching everything I've learned about loans, saving, investments, and other financial products to my friends and family. Unfortunately, not a lot of people know this incredibly life changing and tremendously beneficial information, so finding someone else who understands it so well such as yourself and shares the knowledge with other people is incredibly admirable. I'm Allan, nice to meet you!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Oh my, a fellow finance nerd?!!? That makes me happy. =) You're right, not a lot of people are aware of the information, or about how life-changing it can be. When people hear "finance," they tune out immediately, and it's a shame.

        I started my blog with the thought of, if I can change just one person's life for the better with this information, it's been worth it. But, writing can be like talking to a wall sometimes, so I've thought about going into the financial planning field. Several of my blog friends have done it, but it's still not an easy path!

        If you're ever interested in writing about it, let me know. The personal finance community is awesome and you don't ever feel out of place for nerding out about numbers and stuff. ;) I'm glad to hear you're at least educating friends and family. Financial literacy is important. And thank you for commenting and adding me!

      • agpaladin789

        1 year ago

        That would be awesome! I'd love to help in whatever way I can. When people start to tune out during my finance ramblings, I usually keep going so that something sticks to them at least. I love to hear myself talk lol :P

        I studied Political Science in a liberal arts college in MA, with the full intention of becoming a lawyer. Instead, I ended up becoming a banker after doing an internship in investment banking, which led to my eventual career in finance. I grew up in a low-income household with little knowledge of personal finance, so I've made it a mission in my life to teach as many people as possible about personal finance, particularly individuals in low-income communities.

        How did you fall in this line of work?

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        @agpaladin789 Ahh sorry, I forgot notifications stop working the first time you reply to something...

        Ha, I'm the same way. My friends know better than to start talking about finance stuff around me because I'll usually go on some sort of rant. But I also try to respect the fact that some people won't be interested, and I can't force them to be. I've been trying the personal angle of "getting your finances in order helps you live the life you want to live" so people have something to connect to.

        That's an awesome mission! There are a few bloggers I know who have a history in investment banking. I grew up learning what not to do from my parents (credit card debt), and like you, I want to educate as many people as possible so they don't make the same mistakes. It's unfortunate that personal finance classes aren't mandatory at some point or another in school.

        Blogging was the start of it all. I never set out to be self-employed at all, but after seeing many people in the community make the jump, I figured I could, too. Blogging gave me a huge network - quite a few blogs hire writers to produce content on a scheduled basis. One person writing 3-4x per week is rough. There are a lot of corporate blogs hiring that pay fairly well, but I prefer the more personal style of blogs. All of my clients came from referrals from others in the community. We very much like to help each other out, and we're rather close.

        Not sure if it's something you'd be interested in, but we have a convention called FinCon where we all meet up. It's in San Diego this year in September. Besides that, there are panels on how to get into the industry and there are tons of connections to be made. Also, The Road to Financial Independence is something you might find cool. It's a movement going across the country to inspire financial literacy.

    • topham FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold DHYB

      1 year ago

      Hey new friend! Hows it going?

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Hey Topham! Thanks for adding me. =) Busy as usual, but hoping for some downtime later today. Dealing with a bit of the same struggles as you (regarding your recent journal). How has your day been?

      • topham FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold DHYB

        1 year ago

        Things are going okay, super busy, but you know, when I'm not busy my mind wanders. Which is fine outside of work, but at work, not the best. I've been following you for a while (when LtTank mentioned us both a while back) but forgot to send a FR over. I like what you're doing with your journals!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        I hear you! I like keeping busy as it keeps my mind occupied, although it's nice to have a clear head when it comes time to write. =) Thank you! I'd like to get into a daily habit of journaling, but once a week seems to be a good pace for me right now. Journals are a neat way to look back on the past few years and see what was going on at that point.

    • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

      1 year ago

      Happy Valentine's Day, Erin! Hope you're having a great one!


    • Desayjin FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold RTX Guardian Emeritus

      1 year ago

      Happy Warm Fuzzies!


    • rachyrock FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Goddess of Noms

      1 year ago

      Happy warm fuzzies day, Erin! I sincerely hope that our paths will cross at RTX this year, since it's long overdue :)

      Have a lovely day!

    • artduck QUACK

      1 year ago

      Hey Erin! I just got your letter! I just got back to school, but I wanted to thank you for your kind words and kickass secret santa gift! I hung it next to my desk and it looks great! <3 I'm a guardian again this year for RTX so hopefully I'll see you in Austin this summer!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Yay, I'm so glad you liked it, and happy you're also a guardian again! We'll definitely have to meet up at some point when it's not super crazy. =)

    • fallenlords Dirty Shisno

      1 year ago

      a personal finance freelancer? Its like you combined the 2 things every schoolkid hates, math and writing a lot. May or may not have also immediately thought of RvB and how that would be the most boring role possible for a project that makes super soldiers and AI.

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        I hate math. It's more about the concept than numbers (most of the time). Writing is something I happen to love, and finance is something I'm passionate about, so making a living doing it is fine by me. Better than sitting in a cubicle all day, which I was doing before this, and is really boring.

      • fallenlords Dirty Shisno

        1 year ago

        Oh dont wory, im not judging that. Personally i rather like writing, at least as long as it isnt for something school related. Still, its like youve got a job that sci fi writers 40 yrs ago couldnt even dream of. Telling people around the world how to spend their money without even having to leave the house? What a time to be alive

    • Raf FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold ShimmySham Gaming

      1 year ago

      apparently we weren't friends on the site! had to fix that!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        I thought we were, haha. Glad it's fixed now!

    • Fly Keeper of Blades

      1 year ago

      Hey I saw you jumped into the OCC! Welcome aboard!

      • ErinM

        1 year ago

        Thank you!

    • annagramx

      2 years ago

      So, not entirely sure how to accept friends on the new site, but thanks for the request! It just says pending and doesn't give me an accept option. Excited to see you at RTX!

      • Fly Keeper of Blades

        1 year ago

        Just wanting to help: If you go up to your profile name in the top right corner you can go to My Settings and they should be the last tab on the right.

    • sneedse

      2 years ago

      Happy Warn Fuzzies! Glad I got to meet you in Rafs stream. Look forward to getting to meet you next week! smiley12.gif

    • Audrey Spread The Love!

      2 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words, my dear. I hope you're having a wonderful day! smiley12.gif
      Spread the love with Warm Fuzzies of your own today!

    • rachyrock FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Goddess of Noms

      2 years ago

      Erin! Happy Warm Fuzzies Day! I've enjoyed chatting with you in the streams too, and I thank you for putting up with (& interpreting) my typos! At least it adds some comic relief smiley0.gif I've been busy too, but I look forward to watching the streams when I can! Hope to see you in a few this weekend! smiley13.gifsmiley12.gif

    • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

      2 years ago

      Happy Valentine's Day, Erin! I've loved reading your journals and getting to know you these past few weeks. I hope you're having an incredible day. Thank you for your awesome contributions to this community!

      This comment brought to you by the Warm Fuzzies Project. Now go spread the love. smiley12.gif

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Aw, thank you! smiley12.gif

    • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

      2 years ago

      Hey! So I'm going to try to join this thing called Glassbreakers which is a peer mentorship community for women. Thought you might be interested!

      • LadyOddDuck FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Call Me Duck

        2 years ago

        I did a big overhaul of mine about a month ago. Always refining it though. Hopefully the mentorship can help with that!

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Thanks for letting me know - it looks like a great community! Of course, my LinkedIn profile isn't up to date.. smiley6.gif I'll have to work on that.

    • Cailinbean FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      2 years ago

      Thanks for the request! I had a lot of fun talking to you and Rachy and everyone else! :)

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        You're welcome - glad we all got to enjoy each other's company! smiley1.gif

    • MegOmyeggo FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Small Lady

      2 years ago

      Hello new friend! :D

      • ErinM

        2 years ago

        Hi! :D

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