Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You Don't Know Your Story Yet

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control
Who lives
Who dies
Who tells your story

If you're unfamiliar, that line comes from the musical Hamilton.

Which, I saw in New York in March. YAY

At work, I interact with cohorts of recent PhD grads who are transitioning into new roles -- taking their research backgrounds and learning to use it in ways that local tech companies want to hire. Neat.

Recently, we had a session where we chatted about some of their anxieties around the phase of the program we're now in -- the interview phase! If you've been around my blog for a few years, you know I have...very relevant...experience with the rollercoaster emotions of this realm.

tl;dr version -- moved to California 3 years ago for a job that immediately fell through, and thus spent the next several months interviewing, getting turned down, working a retail job at Anthropologie, getting cash for odd jobs off Craigslist like taste-testing popcorn, etc etc etc.

The thing is, looking forward, you don't know yet what your story will be.

You often know what you want your story to be. You typically have a plan. And when you can't see how that will pan out, or you can only see setbacks moving you away from that plan, and you worry that it's due to something you're somehow not doing right, it's incredibly unnerving.

Take my story. A couple months after arriving in California, shortly after I started working for Anthropologie, I interviewed for a job at Google. GOOGLE! This was the dream. This would be the perfect shiny bow on my own "young, scrappy and hungry" story. (another Hamilton reference YAY) My moved-to-California-and-had-a-setback-but-pushed-through-it-and-WOW-GOOGLE story. This was going to be the best.

And then, it wasn't. Because after several rounds of interviews, they told me no. And I cried in the parking lot of my retail job before cleaning myself up and heading in to earn my $10/hour for my $900/month rent. I was financially worried, but also emotionally crushed. That offer was supposed to be my success story. Right?

A year later, I did indeed have a job at Google. It was the third position I interviewed for at that company. And one of twice that many I applied to at Google, and one of dozens and dozens and dozens I applied to at countless other local companies. And it felt like a dream. And I knew I deserved to be there. Was it a fluke, if they told me no before? Nope. Because there are a thousand different reasons why a job interview might not pan out. And it may not say a damn thing about your skills or ability to succeed.

It's just....your story.

Looking back at myself, rolling into California in July 2013, would I have actively chosen a route with so many detours to get to where I am right now? Probably not. Looking back, would I change any of the details? Probably not. If I changed anything, it'd only be the faltering confidence I had. I'd sit myself down and tell myself I had reservoirs of grit and determination and nerve I didn't know about yet, and also important things to learn that would ultimately shape the jobs and path I later secured.

What I didn't know then, is that my own job setbacks and interviewing saga would provide me with an empathy and passion that pointed me away from a writing career and toward a people development career. What I didn't know then, is that the very thing that made me cry and took my feet out from under me is what later gave me clearer vision and steadier legs to stand on.

As I wrote at this time 3 years ago: "I'm fine with missed shots and almost-theres and you'll-get-it-next-times. I'm fine with bruised knees and scraped palms and frustration and delayed success. I'm learning how to fall, so I can learn how to skate."

Looking ahead, I didn't know my story. Looking ahead, I wouldn't have written it the way it was ultimately written. And looking back, I'm really damn glad life took the pen out of my hand and wrote it better.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

My Blue Apron Review

This is a story, all about how...

...I never cooked and then started trying. For the last couple years of my life, I had jobs that included the perk of free food. Translation: I fell hard out of the habit of cooking, ate out a lot on weekends and/or scrounged for oatmeal in the back of my cupboard. And then I got a new job, had to feed myself again, and found myself living off avocados and ritz crackers.

And then Blue Apron came on to my radar.

What is it? A subscription service that delivers a box to your door once a week, including 3 meals for 2 people (you can tailor this if you've got a family to feed). For me, that means 6 meals since I get to eat the leftovers because party of 1, yo. Except sometimes I have a guest so I share.

What comes in the box? Adorable little packages of food/spices/etc in just the right amounts you need. So, no buying things in bulk only to have the extra ingredients go bad. (see: story of my entire adult kitchen life)

Does it go bad on your porch? I often leave my house for 13+ hours at a time on weekdays. Luckily, the food comes in a box packed with insulation and ice packs. All is well when I crawl in at 10pm after a day of gym/work/class/whatever. *eyes glaze over*

Did someone pay you to write this post? Nope. This is just me genuinely saying stuff because I feel like it. And because as a full-time working adult & grad student, I need things like this real bad in my life to keep me from accidentally living off granola bars.

How much is it? $59/week. So for me, $10/meal. Basically what I'd spend eating out, and usually that was on something quick (see: not healthy) I could grab wherever was convenient. So, the price point is not objectionable given my lifestyle. Especially since it causes me to finally eat vegetables. Also, you can see the recipes a week ahead and skip a week at any time if a) the food isn't up your alley, or b) you'll be traveling or whatever and don't need meals that week.

Can I have a free hint? Why yes you may thank you for asking. Since I've been using the service for about a month now, I've earned some referrals to send a free delivery to a few people who are new to Blue Apron. If you want one of those, holla at my email: katildablog at gmail dot com. I hook you up amigo.

Is the food good? Yes. Yum. And decently healthy. And has much variety. And you can specify if you are vegetarian, or don't like fish, etc.

What do I like? I'm learning to cook! Any of the recipes I've made, I could make again. And that's neat. I feel impressive! One time I made empanadas! Sometimes I mince things! Basically this involves cutting things real small while chanting "mince mince mince mince mince" to myself to the tune of Rihanna's "work work work work work." I MADE PEACH SALSA YESTERDAY WHO AM I

What would I change? They're super into cucumbers. I am super not into cucumbers. I am borderline drowning in cucumbers. Also, they assumed I would own some basic things like olive oil and paper towels. I happen to own olive oil, but it's been 3+ years since I owned paper towels. I found myself needing to dry a pork roast with nada but real towels on hand to do it. Blech. Also, while I love the refrigerated box, I wish there was a list that told me exactly what things in the box need to go in the fridge. Because sometimes I guess wrong w/ the veggies and then they get weird. So. A little more instructions there would be muy helpful! Also, what the hell is the gel in the ice packs. I felt like I was drowning a snowman trying to get that down my sink drain.

Can I see pictures of your favorite meals so far so I can be super impressed by you and the things you've cooked? Yes. Yes you may. I've made several but these are the ones I happened to take pics of! Please note they made more food than pictured on the plate. I was just being dainty for photography purposes.

Chicken, Kale Slaw & Sweet Potato Fries

Brown Butter Gnocchi w/ Squash & Soft-Boiled Egg
p.s. this one was NEXT LEVEL. Will be repeating on my own for sure.

Sweet Chili Chicken w/ Coconut Rice

Baked Empanadas de Picadillo w/ Lime Crema

Roasted Pork & Summer Salsa

Friday, June 10, 2016

And then it was June


Happy Summer, one and all! It's officially upon us. And I've been up to some big things! Let's do this list style....with exclamation points!

New job!

I am currently two weeks into a new job, and it is loverly. I'm a Program Coordinator at Insight Data Science -- refer to my Instagram post to read about what that means because #imlazy. I'm enjoying my work, I'm enjoying the people, and I'm enjoying an even shorter commute (translation: I cut down a 15-min commute to a 5-min commute) (not mad). I feel good feelings in my bones about this whole change and I'm excited to see everything that comes of it.

My headshot for the company website:

Personal Trainer!

While trying to figure out what gym to go to, or if I should get into barre or pilates or martial arts or what-have-you, I came across a personal trainer on Yelp whose studio happened to be across the street from my apartment. Score! She has a legit background (including time as an Olympian for taekwondo, wha??) and I'm loving our sessions so far. My goal is to build more muscle and strength, feel healthier, and also learn howthehell to work out effectively so when our 2 months of sessions end I can go to the gym on my own not feeling like a cottonheaded ninnymuggins. Stay tuned!

A sugary snack my trainer told me not to eat but I'm all about moderation:


My first term of grad school......check!  What I know after finishing my first classes: People management is fascinating and fun to talk about and definitely my passion, as expected. Accounting makes my eyeballs feel hot cheeto flames. Definitely had a few nights where it got to me that my attendance and efforts weren't giving me the same results that I experienced in my undergrad and all prior schooling....but you know that whole "don't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree" thing? Yes. That. I know I have areas of strength and smarts, and the way that manifests in each class may vary widely. I do my best with the time and brainpower I've got, and that's worth being proud of at the end of the day. And now....on to summer school! Which is...another accounting class! ahahah....ha......rip the bandaid off all at once, right?

I have no pictures of school that don't involve me celebrating small successes by eating things my trainer told me not to eat. I CAN'T LEAVE A PAPER TRAIL GUYS WHAT IF SHE FINDS THIS YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING OK I'M SORRY FOR SUBTLY MENTIONING HOT CHEETOS EARLIER


It takes me awhile to drive to school a couple nights a week, so I've started getting into audio books. My current two picks: When Breath Becomes Air (about a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with cancer -- for when I'm feeling serious) and Discovery of Witches (think a grown-up, more sciency/smart version of Twilight set at Oxford in which a witch falls for a vampire -- recommended by my girl Kayla, for when I'm feeling lighthearted).

Me, perusing a non-audio book:

And that is all for now, my friends. Looking forward to the weeks and months to come with all of the above-named and yet-to-be-named adventures and shenanigans. I got some plans up my sleeves.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F***

The title of this post is the title of the book I've been reading lately.

Er, listening to lately. I've rediscovered space in my life for audio books and podcasts since I started spending more time in my car (see: commuting to school at night).

You might recognize the cadence of the book title from its rampantly popular inspiration, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In that book, the author teaches you the art of decluttering your life by honestly and carefully deciding what physical possessions you REALLY need, and parting ways with the things you don't. (Note: something that used to be a beloved yes, might be a no now. Try not to confuse the two.)

Inspired by the concept, author Sarah Knight wrote her own spin on the idea -- honestly and carefully deciding what things and people you are allocating your emotional/social/etc resources to.

Subtitle: How to Stop Spending Time You Don't Have with People You Don't Like Doing Things You Don't Want to Do

One key is to view your emotional resources as finite, with a limit, like a bank account. When you're saving up for a big purchase, you're more careful about the other random things you throw money at, right? Well....think about what people and activities you really want to give the budget of YOU to. And then learn to remember that giving any of that resource to something you don't really want is not a consequence-less decision -- it actually pulls you away from the things you want most.

How many parties do you attend that you don't want to go to? How many causes do you donate to that you don't care about? How many people do you maintain relationships with that drain you more than they give back to you?

The idea isn't, in Knight's words, to be an asshole. The idea is to have boundaries.

And coming from someone who sometimes surprises myself with my good boundaries but sometimes just really sucks at it, this book has been good for me. Even if something is pretty good, is it best? Even if someone messages you and you're in a hurry and there's 5 other messages to respond to, do you have to stop what you're doing and get to them all immediately? Even if there's something you could help with, does it have to be you? Every time?

No. It really doesn't. Even if it feels like it does.

What things really top your list, when you make it a short one? What people?

Allocate your resources to them first. If you have leftovers, be flexible from there. But you don't owe anything to anyone other than that.

Say no to a fun casual party multi-level marketing sales event a friend invites you to when you don't like the product. Say no to Snapchat if everyone is on it but you just plain don't feel like it. Say no to extra volunteer work in your community or church that, yeah, you could be great at -- but so could someone else. Say yes when you want to say yes. Say no when it gives you more time to say yes in other more-important-to-you places. And then shrug off any lingering guilt about that decision and mosey on forward.

My list-toppers right now? My important people. My work. My education. My alone time. My sleep. A few key social causes I care the most about. And from there, sprinkle in chores and exercise and errands depending on the day and the week as my mental budget allows.

Go forth and declutter, my friends. There is zero need to keep overspending yourselves.
^^^recently said yes to getting soaked during the workday in order to get free flowers from an event in another building. Zero regrets.

p.s. fair warning to anyone who doesn't like the word "fuck" -- you might want to choose a different book ;) If the title wasn't a giveaway.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thrifting for Earth Day (pssst sale codes)

Ready for a secret? For the last few years, I've bought most of my clothes on eBay.

I have a system. I get brand names for super cheap. It works and it's amazing (and unfortunately addictive, like a game) (but oh, such a fun game!)

Recently I've been hearing more about online thrift clothing shops, where you can both shop for used clothes and also bag up your own goods and send them in. I'd been wanting to investigate this route, so when Schoola contacted me I was like yyyaassss. (Just like that, in my head. Yassss.)

Schoola is an online thrift sore that sells clothing to benefit schools in the U.S. and The Malala Fund internationally.

From our conversation, I became an even bigger advocate of thrift shopping. For one thing, I learned that Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year. (Tons! That's the unit they weigh elephants and cars with!)

In total, 40% of Schoola's proceeds go to benefit children's education. All the same fun for an online thrift junky like myself, plus the opportunity to contribute to a good cause? SOLD.

They have both adult and child sizes, and right now they're having an Earth Day Sale! So go take a peek around and see if any of the clothes are up your alley (I spotted this and this and this and THIS) and check out these sale codes:

Translation: buy $50 worth of clothes and get it for $25, then don't pay for shipping. MAKE HASTE MY FRIENDS.

Here are a few things I picked up recently from their site:

They also sent me this cute jar full of little treats and school supplies!

How can you donate your own clothes? It's easy AND free!

First, request a donation bag. They send it to you, you fill it with clothes, you send it back free of charge (I love that part!), and bing bang boom, you've done your spring cleaning AND contributed to a good cause! I call that a productive day. You can read here for more details on how it works.

I've got my own bag stuffed full of clothes that are ready to move on to a new home.

Happy Earth Day my friends! Go forth and thrift.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Grad School & Calm Spaces

I'll start by saying that the best part of my MBA program thus far is qualifying for student discounts at the movie theatre again.

Because this is a magic card:

jk, I haven't actually taken advantage of that perk yet. But when I do, it will be the best part. And yes, I put lipstick on for that photo because giirrrrrlll I gotta look at it for three years.

Katie but seriously, how's school....

You know what I love about education? It explains the world around me. I love hearing things in class that make me think, "OMG THAT MAKES SENSE OUT OF THINGS." I wish I could cement all the facts and quotes in my brain and never lose them.

Take this week, when I read an article about cultural business communication differences. Remember my Japan trip? As I read the article, it validated my struggles from that trip and explained to me what mindsets I have that may have caused some barriers. I was practically licking the pages of the article; it made so much sense to me.

So, ask me again in a few quarters when I'm potentially more exhausted, but right now I am really loving school. I feel like an eager sponge soaking up everything I'm hearing (or trying, when it comes to my accounting class -- first test on Monday, yipes!)

But on that exhaustion note....

I don't feel overwhelmed yet. Three weeks in and with class and full-time work I am definitely very busy, but I'm not dying. I've had stressful moments, that's for sure. Something I'm really trying to do (with varying degrees of success) is to be deliberate about carving out space for calm in my life. Reserving afternoons or an hour here and there that isn't devoted to work, or school, or any deadline or obligation.

Historically, I tend to swing to either extreme: so busy I'm working myself into an anxious frenzy and can't sit still, or so fed up with the previous situation that I just lie in bed all day and don't do ANYTHING. So, I'm working on a new approach. Little breaks. Deliciously satisfying portions of rest spooned out amongst the chaos. Small spaces.

Today, it meant stopping at Chick-fil-a for lunch after my 8am Saturday class, driving home on a slower road with the window down (hellooooo warm California season! please do stay awhile!), blasting Journey and looking forward to an hour or two of blogging, watching an episode of the new Kimmy Schmidt season (#theyalivedammit), and opening all the windows in my apartment to let some air in before I settle in to study for that looming accounting test and create a presentation for next week's Saturday class.

It's the little things, but they're also big things. Especially when they're waffle fries and a pretty blue sky.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Japanigans Shenanigans

Oh heyyyy! I mean, Kon'nichiwa!

I returned from my trip to Japan a couple weeks ago, then promptly started my MBA program the next day! Between working full time and going to school at night and the added commute it takes to get to campus and recovering from jet lag and trying to make time for a social life as well....I'm beat, kids! But I'll post about grad school on a different day.

Today, this is about Japan!

Japan, Japan, Japan. Here's the thing: this trip was challenging for me. Probably my most challenging trip to date. And that is hard for me to admit, considering all the people I know who have seemed to travel there without a hitch. (Just me??) I want to stay real about that in this post because I know social media often portrays one picture when the real story might be another. Obviously my experience isn't necessarily a reflection of Japan or its people so much as it was things to do with my personality/taste buds and some unfortunate perfect storms of mistakes leading to costly/discouraging setbacks here and there. I will say upfront that overall, I do look back on this trip with fondness for the good parts and people that I loved :)

SO! I saw amazing things in Japan, I took amazing pictures, I had an amazing travel buddy...and yet, challenging! My other international trips felt more accessible to me. I think one mistake with this trip was to cram 3 cities into one week, which meant by the time I felt oriented in each city it was time to hop along to the next one. As someone who has felt confident and secure on all previous trips, it put a dent in my travel confidence to feel so overwhelmed on this one. And, it seemed like the phrases and politeness we used in one city would work well and in the next city would result in getting waved away or yelled at. I am sure tourists experience the same thing anywhere in the world, depending on who they interact with, but somehow it was a first for me.

Also, the food was admittedly difficult for me, which I didn't expect. I had a few things I loved -- like some fabulous sashimi at the fish market in Tokyo, and some amazing bowls of ramen. A lot of the times though, the flavors and textures I encountered didn't sit well with me (turns out Japan is really into tofu and I am...not so much...haha). Obviously this is all personal preference, and I'd never want to deter anyone who might actually have the right palate for this country. But for me and my travel companion, it meant a lot of feeling hungry and....just going to own up to this...eating at McDonald's four times just to feel full on something familiar. (Probably equals the number of times I've been to McDonald's in the past two years combined haha) (More of an In 'n Out and Chick-Fil-A girl, myself.)

This trip taught me a couple key things:

1) I want to be much more compassionate toward tourists and refugees in my own country. How overwhelming it is to feel like you can't read any signs, the food feels really foreign, and it's hit or miss if people will help you out or turn you away. I neverrrr want to make anyone feel that way! And I can't imagine experiencing those barriers AND having no home country to ever go back to. Makes my heart hurt. I was so, so, so, so grateful for the people along the way who answered our broken-Japanese questions or walked us across train stations to find trains we NEVER would have found on our own, etc. Heart throbs for those beautiful people!

2) Next time I travel to an Asian country, I'm hiring a guide! I definitely got a confidence boost whenever I figured something out on my own (who's your daddy, Kyoto metro map), but the time/money spent on the setbacks would have been soooo nice to avoid. With a guide (or just a friend who speaks the language), I could have enjoyed all the amazing sights without all the time/money/frustration spent figuring things out. Plus, Japan is super safe. I kept thinking how much worse those hard moments would have felt in a country where I'd also have to worry much more about my safety when things went wrong. Lessons learned in advance for next time!

3) Life is a continual practice in patience, both with myself and others. I kept thinking along the way, "Why isn't this easier for me? No one else told me they had a hard time in Japan. I've never had such a difficult time while traveling." At one point on this trip, I lost the key to my Airbnb somewhere in Tokyo. It was embarrassing and frustrating to email the owner and have her come meet us to give us a new key. On another day, we missed a flight boarding time (not the takeoff time -- the boarding time) by ~10 minutes and were not allowed to board. We could literally see the boarding area from where we stood, but no amount of pleading could sway them, and we ended up having to purchase a new flight for 2 hours later that was no cheap replacement (and weirdly no easy feat to purchase a new ticket -- one example where I felt like something that should have been so simple seemed so out of my reach). Literally, we sat in the airport's cafe after that in crushed moods while Lionel Richie played over the speakers. It felt right, haha.

With all of THAT said.....now you can see all the beautiful pictures :) Please note how CLEAN everything is in Japan. Seriously, spotless subway cars with freshly vacuumed, plush benches. I loved that about this country. And I will say, if I ever find my way back to Japan I will feel much better prepared and more confident going into it. Lessons learned in not cramming too much into a week-long trip and assuming it will be as easy to figure out as other trips somehow were!

The lows on this trip were low, but the highs were stunning. Enjoy!

Indoor slippers always and forever:

The guy guarding the ramen place:

The magically delicious ramen at said ramen place:

Fish market in Tokyo:

This egg salad sandwich on the train had all kinds of raw fish in it. I like raw fish but not so much in my egg salad, haha. Also I thought I ordered turkey but that's how it goes sometimes:

The photo booths in Harajuku were UHMAZING:

One course of the many-course meal at our traditional Japanese inn. Loved this place, struggled getting half this meal down. No insult to them -- again, just apparently learned on this trip that I'm not crazy about really legit Japanese food, though how I wish I was!

Michelle is happy that the meat in this course was cooked :)

I would begin every day of my life with a steamy indoor hot tub overlooking nature if I could:

Vending machines are a THING in Japan! Our approach was to toss in some yen and gamble on a picture. I loved this green grape soda with pieces of aloe. Not pictured: hot cans of hot chocolate and coffee. Now THAT I could go for in my home city.

No creeper-petting the women. Rules I can get behind.

The torii gates -- a must-do if you're ever in Kyoto!

A cat cafe! I like cats and yet this was a horrifying experience. haha

Bamboo forest at Storm Mountain:

Sunrise pic on one of those spotless subway cars:

Ocean break in Okinawa....

....home country of Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid!

This CD is a hilarious story. Michelle and I stopped into a grocery store to get snacks, and we saw this delightful puppy CD in a bin that we thought was labeled "4 for 20." Score! So we put it in our pile and then enjoyed it in our rental car (yes, I drove on the left side of the road! champion!) Later while checking the receipt, we deciphered that it actually cost us $20. Haha. It was full of such gems, though!

I really wanted to see tons and tons of cherry blossoms on this trip but we were about a week early for the full bloom. Caught some ambitious early bloomers though:

Into the ocean in Okinawa! Michelle went scuba diving and then we both went snorkeling. They're not in any pictures, but we were literally swimming amongst schools of neon fish. It was amazing.

American Village in Okinawa

Our fearless dive-shop friend, Yuma!

And that's all! Sayonara!