Dear 17-Year-Old Me That Was Afraid To Grow Up

I wrote this on a plane an hour ago,
and am sitting in the terminal publishing it, wildly unedited,
because I know if I don’t do it now, I’ll get distracted and will never do it.
Also, Trump is one of our presidential candidates.
So, clearly, you just never GD know what’ll happen.  

Dear 17-Year-Old-Me That Was Afraid To Grow Up,

Life-Lessons-From-Aladdin-dont-touch.png

Dope. We’re talking! How crazy is that? Do I tell you to drop everything and go figure out leave-in conditioner ASAP? Nah. This won’t be that kind of letter.
(But, like, after you read this.)

I’m almost 27 now. Kind of revolting, right? What you don’t know — what you’ll find out faster than you expected — is that growing up is actually super dope.
Allow me to explain.

At 17, I know that you’ve been thinking: Maybe I am peaking. Maybe this is a good as it gets. I’m young, energetic, smart, ambitious, loved, supported, and I’m almost positive I’m hitting the maximum age of my soul. Which must then mean it is all downhill from here. Right?

No, stupid!
Stop using Neutrogena and get on that Aveeno tip immediately!

Without giving you too many spoilers: A series of things happens.

These things — some bad, some wonderful, most incredibly empowering — make you feel like you need to encase your squishy, hopeful, gullible soul in a hard case. (Eventually, you imagine a ruby, like that giant forbidden gem from Aladdin.) You make a lot of scary moves towards emotional and financial independence, and that hardens the gem. You briefly allow fuccbois into your life, and that hardens the gem. You leap from a v v desired and totally sensible career into a messy, gorgeous, soul-brightening one, and that jump hardens the gem, too.

You date someone who calls you “exotic,” and needs you walk him through feminism.

You travel alone a ton, hardening the gem more and more every silent, observing hour; every minute of solo car-aoke gone so awry that once you finally do speak to a human, you have to explain how you lost your voice.
You write so much.
A thin coat, each time.

And you develop this hardening mechanism because you are terrified that someone is going to take This Thing from you; something you can tell so many adults — so many of your own friends — lost a long time ago. You’ve heard it called youth and YOLO and enthusiasm and joie de vivre when people shake their head at you and try to figure out why you’re, they say lovingly, so annoying, but you can only describe it as a light.
A neon pink light.

And the fact that this light is gone from so many adults’ eyes scares the absolute dog s*#t out of you. 

Some people get it taken from them. Some people sacrifice it willingly. Most people never noticed it slipped away. But to you, it’s the best, most precious thing you own, and you resolve to protect it as long as you can.

So you keep that neon pink light in this gem, this multi-faceted Aladdin-ruby-thing where, at it’s best, it gleams and reflects and refracts a thousand fold for others to see and feel but never, never, never touch.
Never snatch.
Never put out.

I’m almost 27 now, and I’m suddenly aware of my 27-year-old body, and the fact that there’s so much more it can do than the excuses I could make for Why It Can’t. I feel longer and leaner and taller, but more importantly, I’m starting to feel more like I own every inch. Like I’m beginning to earn all of its real estate now.

And at 27, here’s the funnest part: It’s starting to feel like that gemmy light wants out. But it doesn’t want to burst. It needs to creep. It feels like it’s melting and slowly gooping out towards my fingers and toes. It seems to have Leveled Up in a way that takes all of the protective hardness with it. Like it absorbed, fermented, marinated — and now it can’t ever be put out.

This new hardness is liquid. Stretchy. Possibly radioactive. It’s the feeling of earning your life’s few milestones so far; of climbing and knowing you’ve already come a long way. It’s looking back at chunks of your life that you know you lived out fully, feeling a bone-deep satisfaction that you got Whatever That Was out of your system so you can make room for new adventures. It’s knowing that you took the time to nurture and feed and protect that light, and now, you’re pretty sure, it’s protected for life. That thing is insured.
It’s like scrapbooking.
It’s like painting a mural.
It’s like writing a book.
The thing — I’m gesturing all around your head and face now — gets better and better, more whole, the more you add to it.

So, right, yeah. Growing up can actually be dope. 

Okay. Damn. Good thing you like reading, wid all deez words.
Continue to chill out, always look around, and don’t ever stop being annoying.
(It literally turns into your career, but that’s a subject for a different letter.)

Love,
Later Berna 

 

 

26 Things I Know Now

Hi! Hello. You look great! We have a lot to talk about.
My life looks pretty different now. May I triptych?
I’m excited because I just learned that word ok thanks. 

WHAT I DID

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 11.31.19 PM

HOW I DID IT

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 11.31.56 PM

WHY I DID IT

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.44.52 PM

That is my last 2 months in the world’s wee-est nutshell. I just turned 26—if you just politely mumbled happiburtdae with your brain, then thank you—and I’m super grateful for it. Not just because I think it’s a vastly sexier number than clunky, frumpy, no-one-invited-you 25, but because it feels like I’ve gotten over some sort of twentysomething hump. (And the literal, physical move away from where I spent my messy baby-twenties helps, too.)

Now, a warning: This post is so rambly and self-indulgent, you’re going to need, like, protective gear.

A topsy-turvy summer, a cross-country road trip, a ginormous new job and a ratchet birthday in the span of a few months has got ya girl spending a lot of time strolling down Reflection Row.

Self-Assessment… Street.
Look At Your Life Look At Your Choices… Lane.

I’VE GOT FEEEEEEEELS.
THEY’RE MULTIPLYIN’.
AND I’M —

…sorry

26 Things I Know Now

About My Work

1. I need solitude to get anything done. 
One of the things I love most about my place-of-work is the potential for Leave Me Alone-gitude; the thousands of hidey holes I can crawl into to get my work done. The downside of that is coming out of such hidey holes and over-talking to the terrified, introverted engineer on the shuttle home. (Downside for him, cause I just made a new FRIEEEND, Y’ALL)

2. I do like salad, and I have to like salad.
Because if I let myself like Make Your Own Ramen or Tri-Tip Po’Boys every single day, I would be facedown by 3:00pm always. It’s a safety thing.

3. I really enjoy being a worker bee.
I’m not going to close the door on Upper Management Barbie-me in the future, but some people love managing adults (tbd), some people love managing teens (me!!!!), and some people love hiding in hammocks writing copy in a blissful haze until you realize you’ve skipped two meals (hi have we met).

4. You have to hide the hummus. 
I hide a packet of hummus behind the milk in our fridge every day so I have some for snack on the way home or else everyone on the 4:00 shuttle takes it all don’t hate the player hate the game

5. I also really enjoy structure.
I like clear cut procedures, precedents, rules, hierarchy. I found that one Albert Einstein quote in high school, about learning the rules of the game and playing better than anyone else, and I seem to have built my adult work ethic around that, for better or for worse.

6. Meetings are super funny after 30 minutes.  
I think it’s Official Science by now that meetings shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes; that’s a thing now, right? However, it is wildly amusing to watch the quality of productivity and conversation just dance every which way as you all convince yourselves you’re still getting somewhere. Just watch it next time.

7. We are all faking Work Speak. 
I spend a lot of time in my brain, translating fancy work language into What People Really Mean. I once counted 7—SEVEN—words in a person’s single sentence, words that mean absolutely nothing outside of the work place, words that could be replaced with basic English to get the job done. There are 45 different ways to say “That’s a terrible idea/No,” “I cannot and do not want to do that,” “Sorry I secretly wasn’t listening and I processed nothing you said,” “I literally can’t fit anything else into my brain right now so we’ll have to talk about this again later,” etc. It’s half hilarious and half exhausting.

8. I might have impostor syndrome forever.
As long as people continue to find value in my obsession with teen empowerment, I’ll probably always feel like I’ve accidentally slipped through the backdoor of Club Love Wut I Do and I’m small and dark enough that the bouncers haven’t found me so I continue to dance around in a happy, sweaty panic.

9. I am really, really, really into work-life balance. 
List under reasons I’m glad I’m not an on-call brain surgeon or freelancer (anymore) or executive assistant (anymore): I don’t do the Work Is My Life dance. I’ve learned not to draw my self-worth from my money-maker. I like drawing big, fat lines between everything. It’s weird that defending your after-hours boundaries feels like an act of rebellion these days, but I’m doing my best.

10. No one actually knows what they’re doing. 
The most magical moments in my adult life so far have been watching another adult do something, and I squint, and think to myself: You don’t really know what you’re doing, do you?
We’re all acting like we know, aren’t we?
I cannot stress this enough. This is the secret to adult life and it applies to absolutely everything.

.

About The World

11. No one is thinking about you. 
The answer to roughly 85% of any fears and insecurities that bob to the surface of my brain is Get Over Yourself. If this is you, here is a reminder for us: Think about how often you obsess about yourself. Now think about that happening in everyone else’s brain for themselves. THERE IS NO ROOM IN OTHER PEOPLES’ BRAINS FOR YOU. So quit trippin’! More likely than not, to the outside world, you are only half the carnival of awkward that you think you are. The fact that you are just not as interesting or distracting as you think is freeing! You can officially Do You. 

12. …Which means, haters are just hella bored.
People will judge you unfairly, and that’s actually super useful. It’s like a kick-it filter. Trying to kick it with all 7 billion people in the world would be super exhausting. If you have real haters, lift up their lives to the Lort, wish for them more interesting Netflix recs, and keep it moving.

13. Most adulty money things are a scam, honestly. 
Almost every aspect of financial adult ratchetry is, at its most basic level, this: Someone else holding your money and doing things with it when you’re not looking.
TAXES: I’m sorry, you say I make this much, but after the government scoops out a third and throws it in the air, I really only make this much?
RETIREMENT: I’m sorry, I put 7-12% of my paycheck into a hidden sinkhole that I can’t touch until I maybe make it to 55?
STOCKS: I’m sorry, this is a legal form of gambling, and the CEO of a company can tweet something racist and there it all goes?!
NO.

14. Love is weird.
That’s the biggest, highest-level, umbrella truth anyone can say about love, I think. When you’re standing outside of someone’s relationship, you can harp all the live-long day about the rights and wrongs. But anyone who’s ever been in love, however you define it, knows that love holds bits of your brain hostage. Particularly the parts that hold “common sense.” The best you can do is understand that, for everyone, love is really, really weird. I like shrugging at it.

15. People just want to be seen. 
Sometimes I will make teeny, tiny gestures at other people with my intention being, “Yo, I heard your funny comment amongst this noisy group and, confirmed, it was funny,” or “Yo, that really was a good suggestion but it got swallowed up when that guy sneezed, say it again,” or “Yo, yeah, it is weird that this man just took a dump on this Bart, can we just?” And people just open up after that acknowledgement. Friendships bud. A warm lil’ fire is started. It’s kind of magic.

16. Minions are good for you. 
I feel very, very lucky to have 3 young nieces who look up to me. The fact that they pick up on offhand comments I made in the car 4 years ago, and carry it around and use it to make life decisions… It feels like what I imagine Transformers feel when they mutate up from the ground and armor slides up and around their limbs. It makes it feel less funny to ride the trend of acting like my life’s a big hot mess, because it’s not, and it’s important that they see that. It’s a big reason why I came back.

17. Help your kids make good friends. 
Thinking back on my adolescence, dude, seriously—I’d have been gone without my straight-edge, overachieving, high-on-life friends. So much of what is good, pure, impressive, “right” about my life is because of them; because achievement, involvement and wholesome fun were simply what my biffs were into.

18. Both boys and girls are stupid. People are stupid. 
Everyone has equal stupidity potential. All humans are funny and broken, and in terms of love/dating/other types of hilarity, when we try to smash together, funny and broken things happen. This is basic math. This shouldn’t surprise us anymore!

19. No one actually knows what they’re doing.
The faster we all understand this, the better.
It helps you be easier and nicer to others.
It helps you be easier and nicer to yourself.

.

About MYSELF

20. I am really into DGAF people who throw their weight around.
The people I’ve always admired for being bold, forceful, effective—they skip the “should?”-ridden path entirely and just let the world deal with the weight of who they are. And the world does. There’s actually a lot of room for peoples’ weight. I think a LOT of people can relate to this: I sometimes internalize other peoples’ weight—adjust myself so I can play nice to other peoples’ demands—make myself uncomfortable for others’ comfort—carve out parts of myself to fit other peoples’ hard edges—more often than just throwing my own weight onto the table, too, and being like, nah fam there’s room for both of our pooches here, scoot over and deal.

21. I’m a people-pleaser; that’s my core sin.
It can be productive, energizing, and harmonizing. It can also be exhausting, annoying, and cloying. It becomes a problem when my need to make everyone happy, to have everyone like me, or simply to be pat on the head, takes precedent in my brain over more important things.

22. There is such thing as too different.
As much as I’d love to be World’s Most Open Unbiased Person, I know that like every other human, I have biases that form me and limit me. Constantly pushing these biases is super important. But contrary to my former I-can-love-anyone-always views, it does matter that someone shares similar views on race, feminism and privilege in order to deeply kick it. It has surprised me to learn that, to get past a certain intimacy level, there can be such thing as too different. Meeting people who can verbalize and share the bases of my moral standpoints off the bat; it’s like undoing a button at dinner. Relief.

23. I can do all the road trips.
This was always high on my bucket list, and y’all, I just… did it. I planned and executed a two-week cross country road trip with basically zero knowledge of road trips, literally just because (1) I felt like it and (2) I could. And it became this life-altering experience I got to customize and share with some incredibly important people and—can you tell?—I’m super proud of that. Road tripping requires a thousand tiny decisions a day, and two weeks of that helped me practice trusting and gut-checking myself. I need to do more, again and again and again.

24. And I need people who can do them, too.
My hypotheses that I’d love ~life on the road~ because it feels rambly and slow and infinite, like it could potentially go on forever and give me new things the whole way; that I’d enjoy submitting to the discomforts of car-ness; that I’d love the fact that the unpredictability of road travel requires extreme chill… all proven true. I also realized that being down for this kind of adventure is an INCREDIBLY important quality to me, in terms of a friend/partner/dog/rental car. (Thank you, beautiful road mates, for putting up with me.)

The road trip may turn into another blog entirely.

25. I’m really good at being happy. 
I think people have default modes of seeing the world, and mine’s almost always rose-colored AF. I know it. I’ve got a certain brand of happiness, and I’m good at protecting it. One of the greatest gifts a certain someone’s given me is how to detect when someone’s happiness is like mine. Ooh. That’s magic. And I’m good at being happy for you, too—celebrating and pointing out why you need to be more excited about your life is my favorite thing.

26. I have not, do not, and will not actually ever know what I’m doing.
So, yes. This entire blog is essentially a lie. But it’s working pretty well for me so far.
I do not know what I am doing.
We do not know what we are doing.
We are all drunk toddlers, figuring it out.
And I am becoming really, really good friends with that.

Ish My Teens Say: #DroptheMic

So, this is my blog, right?
I type things, I humblebrag, and here you are, subjecting yourself to it because you’re polite and curious but most likely just bored.

But, you guys.
My teens; the youth I get to work with and advocate for? So many times a day, I wish-wrapped-in-a-wish-wrapped-in-a-wish I could live broadcast my job into All the Internets.

Because the things they say would break your face.
And today was an incredible example of that.  

Continue reading

Love = Aliens: A Conspiracy Theory

I have this one Note on my phone (good ol’ Notes app!) that I’ve kept since, oh, September 2012, in which I exclusively write any feelings I encounter on the subway.
That baby’s a good 12-15 swipes long.

This is a snippet of a recent D-train brain-blip. Happy reading!

———

So.

I don’t happen to be in love right now (and I find being in love to be a very distinct and rare privilege, so everyone calm down with your single-shaming), but I certainly have been.

I think.

And every now and then, I get wee glances of what it was like, and I momentarily blackout. Like a camera flash. Blindsided for a second, a couple blinks, and then I’m back on the ground.

Continue reading

Check Yo’ Selfie B4 U Wreck Yo’ Selfie

While personally, the idea of taking my own selfie and posting it up, in all seriousness, for people to appraise makes me want to vomit generously in my mouth, there’s something to be said about the serial selfie-er. Something in my brain says GOD NO, while something makes hers clap and scream YAAAAASSS. She’s singin’ along to some song I can’t hear. She’s at some swag-party that I wasn’t invited to. Can’t help but wonder about those different strokes.

But anyway, the question being asked is,
WTF, SELFIES? 
Let’s look at the arguments here.

Continue reading