Saturday, March 17, 2018

2 Months in San Francisco

I looked around my apartment tonight and reminisced about when I dragged the first boxes into my new space.

I'll share photos of my apartment decor sometime soon. May or may not have *just* hauled the last of the moving boxes down to the recycling

Two months in and SF is still taking my breath away on the daily. The charming buildings, the street art, the abruptly alternating fog and sun, that vibe on early weekend mornings when the city is quiet and the streets are kinda empty, the cable cars climbing up and down the insane hills, the calf muscles I hope I'm developing from walking up said hills, the tourists seeing it all for the first time that make me feel all blushy inside that my home is worth tourist-ing and that to these people I am a "city person" who "actually lives here." (I gave someone directions the other day on a street corner!) I used to drive through San Francisco and stare up at the apartment windows and feel very very curious about the seemingly glamorous and sitcom-worthy daily lives of people who lived in the middle of it, and now I'm somehow one of them.

And, you know, there's the random people yelling at all hours of the night and day, and the sirens wailing up and down my street because I live near a hospital (I actually don't mind the ambient noise -- I have a harder time sleeping in absolute silence). Also, learning the hard way that getting packages delivered to a city apartment is a jooooke (anyone seen the Broad City episode where she has to journey to recover a package and meets Garol?) So, I get packages delivered to my office now.

Unexpectedly, being amongst so many people at all times also has a strangely distinct perma-loneliness to it.

The people watching is fabulous, but I'll catch myself envying the groups of friends and lovers out in my same coffee shops and parks and corner markets. It's a unique kind of "we're here together but not together" feeling I never experienced when I always moved around tucked inside a car. I know I have friends and people I make plans with too, and yet that feeling is there and I'm curious if other city people know what I'm talking about.

I crush hard on this city.

Out of all the cities around the world that I've visited, it's still my favorite. I love the light pinks and sandy beiges of the buildings sprawled out over the hills like ornate legos. The colors and proximity to the ocean make me feel like the whole thing used to be under water and just rose up one day all ocean-bleached like a coral reef, and the people simply filtered into its little corally spaces.

I'm still slowly learning my way around city life after a lifetime of suburbs, but it's an admittedly picturesque place to do some learnin'.

Dear SF: Let's not break up soon. xoxo

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Arrivals Curb

Sometime last year, San Francisco got under my skin.

Every time I'd visit the city, I'd regret leaving it more and more when it was time to head south to Palo Alto. *cue Moana song: it caaaaallls me*

But moving to the city meant finding a new apartment and that required $$$. And for me, that required a new job. Ideally, one in SF so I wouldn't have to commute.

And let me be very clear: trying to find a new job while you already have a full-time job and are also going to grad school full-time is f***ing insanity. It's hard, and tedious, and it hurts, and you have to slap a cheery smile on the whole time you're going through it because no one's supposed to know you're seeing other companies on the side. And every no is not just a no to a job you maybe really wanted, it's also a no to the new apartment and the other hopes and dreams tied up in landing a new gig. But eventually, thankfully, I pulled it off! So here I am.

And it feels damn good to have arrived at a "here."

5 years ago, I made a bunch of other big changes and arrived in California. And the shine of that new life lasted a good long while, and brought with it investments in other new things, like pursuing a different career field and enrolling in my MBA program.

And then, for a good long while, life got busy and To stick with the metaphor from the title of this post, I was very much in the Departures Curb phase of life: a whirlwind of planning and preparing and hustling followed by long amounts of sitting in transit waiting to land somewhere.

And just like an international flight when you're sitting in coach and your body is folded up all small and the air is stale and perhaps your seat neighbor is irritating you a bit or perhaps a lot, this arena of life can feel......REALLY LONG.

Honestly, the last ~2 years of my life have felt.......REALLY LONG. I knew the finish lines were out there, and I knew I was investing in good things to come, but it often felt like there wasn't much immediate gratification for all the hard work. Lots of "means to an end" but mostly just the "means," ya know? Rewards and desired end goals at my job felt perpetually elusive and out of reach, and every new quarter of grad school rolled around with more and more quarters queued up behind it.

But then....

Things started happening all at once in a jumble around the 2017 to 2018 transition, when suddenly: job offer! new apartment! in the city! what is happening! And if the calendar says 2018, that means all my hustle at school is about pay off with a diploma before said calendar hits 2019.

Objectively, it's exciting. In practice, it's somewhat dizzying, like someone just spun me around really fast whilst blindfolded then tipped me into a stumbling walk forward. It's not bad, it's just all new and a bit disorienting.

Something tells me I'm still holding my breath.

And one of these days, whether soon or in a few weeks or months, I'm certain I'm going to have one of those startling wake-up moments where it all clicks into reality and I think, "Oh wow, this is real and it is my life and I deserve it and it isn't going away anytime soon." For now, I'm still waking up in my apartment (MY apartment! in the city!) a little bit lost in space -- floating pleasantly, but still adjusting to a new, altered state of gravity.

I guess it's like jet lag: when you're drowsily happy with the anticipation of being home, full of calm relief mixed with budding nostalgia for everything you just experienced, and tugging your luggage behind you through the revolving door that ultimately spits you out at the Arrivals Curb.

"Come pick me up; I've landed." Ben Folds

Friday, February 9, 2018

One Year Later

*taps mic awkwardly*

I had absolutely zero intentions of taking a full year hiatus from blogging, but here I am.

Let's catch up a bit....

Where do I live? 

Finally bit the bullet a month ago and moved into the heart of San Francisco after 5 years living an hour south of here in the Palo Alto suburbs. I'm a city person now?? I live on a hill, in a vintage brick building, in my very own studio, with a clawfoot tub, and I have to learn important city things like "how to rescue your packages from the post office when the delivery person can't access your apartment lobby while you're at work," and "how to gracefully vanish into the night when you fall over in front of a bunch of people on the city bus." Whenever anyone is ready to launch a sitcom about my life, let me know. Unless it means I have to form comical / friendly / romantic / etc. relationships with my neighbors -- I don't, how do you say, "neighbor."

Where do I work?

I left the small company I was at in Palo Alto and am now working at Twitter (!!), where I manage a program focused on technical learning and development for engineers. Considering how much I love helping people love their work, it suits me. I'm only 3 weeks in, so not much to report yet except there's free kombucha so I guess I drink living things that are good for my gut at lunch every day now. Stay tuned on all counts.

Did I finish grad school yet?

NO GO AWAY. I mean, soon! Faux graduation coming this June (*insert theatrical teaser trailer*), followed by a summer off from school, then wrapping up a couple credits in the fall, then ALL DONE. Soon.

Do I still own a pet fish?

Did you even know I owned one to begin with? Well, I did and I do. His name is Ron Swimson and he's a full year old. Taking care of him consumed so much of my emotional and physical energy that I quit blogging for an entire year. Ha. *side eyes Ron across the room* *Ron swims away and asks me for the hundredth time to please stop blaming him for my baggage*

Did I travel anywhere new?

I did! Without planning to, I even managed to have a theme to it: The Outskirts of the United States. See: Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii. It was real good times, with real good pictures, which you'd know if you follow me on Instagram. If you follow me there, there were no year-long or anything-long gaps in posting. The ease of such micro-blogging might be the true reason this space suffered neglect. *mouths "I'm sorry" to Ron across the room*

Have any new tattoos?

You bet your bitcoins I do. I'll tell you about it sometime.

Uh....anything else you feel like sharing?

*abruptly sits up from prone position on therapy couch* Yes, actually. I assembled an entire couch by myself a couple weeks ago. It's lovely, and I'll share pics when I have the rest of the apartment decorated and can share all the photos at once. Yeah you read that foreshadowing right -- this is me vaguely committing to not waiting until 2019 to post again.

k I mean like....anything meaningful or philosophical.

Oh, that. I'm sure I do. So stay tuned, and....happy 31st birthday to me. It's nice to be back.

"Don't they go by in a blink." -Meet Joe Black

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Three Decades Down

I turned 30 this weekend!

Man, that number doesn't feel real. I always forget my new age for awhile, a lot like I forget how to write the correct year for the entire month of January (you feel me right).

Here's how I celebrated: spent a lazy morning lounging in bed, skipped my 8:30am Saturday class (I deserve one skip, right?), scored a free birthday cupcake at Sprinkles, treated myself to a massage at my favorite little place around the corner, watched a movie in bed, took a delicious nap, spent the evening out with some favorite friends where I ate and drank and talked and laughed until my face short, perfection.

Entering the 4th decade of my life first turns my thoughts back toward the last 10 years.

Looking back on my 20s, it's best defined as a decade of "figuring out." My teenage years may have brought an awkward phase in the physically-growing-into-myself department, but my 20s brought a similar deal on the emotional side. 10 years ago, I was a staunchly religious child (yes, child). My view of the world, and of myself, was small. I had a lot of answers, and even more blind spots. I listened to a lot of people and authority figures, and didn't listen to myself nearly enough. I apologized a lot. I was also a bright-eyed little idealist. I was on the cusp of discovering my first career moves, in which my heart would lead me straight to nonprofits and my bank account would wonder how the hell that was ever going to last.

In the ensuing years, I'd meander between jobs and industries. I'd write, professionally. That was the realization of a childhood dream. I'd realize, slowly, that the things you love are not always what will fulfill you professionally. I had many roommates. I thought, knowing the path I'd been told was mine, that I'd get married and have a few kids....any day now. I'd feel guilty, often, when it didn't quite add up and I wrestled with a quiet voice that just didn't want that, not then.

Eventually, the emotional unrest would lead to physical unrest and I'd pick up and move to California. Four years. It's been almost four years since I crossed that state line, and I haven't looked back.

I came to California, and I found myself.

I found people who thought like me, loved like me, put no restrictions on me and allowed me to think and see freely. I found, in myself, a solid moral compass with a needle pulled only by my own inner voice. I realized, slowly, that being driven by fear is no way to live, and inflicting fear in other people is no way to love. I learned, slowly, that I had a goodness in me I never had to earn and never could lose. I learned, ultimately, that there are things I stood to learn that I didn't know that I didn't know. That's what happens, when your brain is not your own for a long, long time. I embraced therapy, and healed my mind. I embraced myself, and started healing spiritual wounds. I'm embracing, currently, the courage to put words to that truth when I know there's people in my life who won't understand it. I wouldn't have understood it either, until I finally saw it. And then the lies were terrifying, and naming them was painful, but ultimately brought the sweetest relief and freedom I could ever ask for.

I applied to and started graduate school. I'm almost halfway done with that MBA. I bought a car, and I learned to drive stick. I found my voice as a proud feminist. I found my footing in the professional sphere. I learned to hustle. I learned to ask for what I want. I survived (and am surviving) the tricky balance of full-time work, full-time school and full-time life. I got on planes and explored the country. I got myself a passport and explored other countries, several times.

I am 30, and I am proud of myself.

Though I have my moments like any human, I no longer make a habit of nitpicking, questioning, apologizing, submitting, veiling or diluting myself. I feel a force and a permission inside of me that no church pew or patriarchy ever gave me. I feel a well of replenishing, life-giving water that springs up inside me and runs over the edges. I feel the hands and hearts and support of the many wonderful, beautiful people in my life, thrumming like a vibrant vein of oxygen to my chest. I recognize clearly how capable I am of standing on my own feet and using my own brain, but also, how much I do need and want my support system.

I feel holy, and I feel whole.

And so, to the years where I learned myself, to the years where I drained myself, to the years where I lived and laughed and loved and rejoiced and wept and embraced and left and all of the above many times over.....thanks for the decade of figuring out so much about myself and about my life.

Now here's to a decade of being me, and living my life, on my own terms. Here's to a decade of being a woman who knows herself and knows what she wants, and isn't afraid to ask for it, and is so, so done apologizing for it. The next 10 years look promising and mysterious and bursting with both endings and beginnings, but also calming and settling and deliberate and cozy all at once.

And, truly, all that unfettered, uncaged living looks nothing short of electrifying.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I can see clearly now, the year is gone.

At the beginning of 2016, I wanted to connect.

I said, "I've spent a long time priding myself on being good at forgiving easily, letting go of stuff and moving through life unscathed. But I'm starting to feel like maybe what I'd been doing this whole time would be better described as detachment."

I wanted to learn to be angry. I wanted to dive into school. I wanted to travel. I wanted to listen to more music, the way I used to, like it was part of my daily nutrition. I wanted to plug back into my life, both the good and the hard parts, and really suss them out.

It's December 31, and I've made strides.

I quit a job that did a number on me. I started a new one that respects me and feeds my soul. I started grad school and I'm hustling and surviving it and stretching and growing. Since June, I've worked out more consistently than maybe ever before in my life. I traveled: to Panama, New York, Japan, and Spain. I wrote some stuff I really like, e.g. this one. And 2016 was also hard, with endings and whispers of endings I didn't want to deal with or face.

The year also woke me up to the painful awareness of the white privilege that kept me, for the first nearly 30 years of my life, from seeing that America still has such monstrous vile in it, when I suspect those marginalized by that hatred have always been unable to unsee it.

I learned (and am learning) to get really, truly mad when it counts. I joked on Twitter earlier that I found 2016 very therapeutic.....because it drove me to therapy. Ha. It's true: I finally committed to regularly seeing a therapist. And about a month ago, I told her I was ready to pause for now because I'm feeling really, truly good and she agreed with me. Does this count as a graduation? I'll get myself a cake.

At our first meeting, way back at the beginning of the year when the year was fresh and I still believed America might not shoot itself in the foot come November, this therapist asked me to tell her about myself. I talked for a little while, and then she looked at me and said, "It must be exhausting to be responsible for other people's feelings all the time." This woman saw me.

On the anger front, she told me I was like a water balloon. When you squeeze one part of it down, the water doesn't go away -- it just strains and stretches another part of the balloon. Anger is like that. You can pretend you're getting along fine (about, say, a religion that lied to you, about almost everything, for your entire life, while also hurting people in droves, then crucified you for finding out while also vilifying you for daring to ever call out its ugliness for what it is), when really all that anger is just residing somewhere you can't quite identify and making you sick.

In the safe space of her office, with someone removed from the situation but who also took time to learn it, I could be angry. I could be so, truly angry and betrayed. I could release my grip on that overladen water balloon and, instead, work on slowly untying the knot holding it together so I could finally let some of the pressure leak out.

And a bit at a time, I've learned to feel better. I've learned to take back my own goodness, mine, me, not anything I've earned from anyone. I've learned to admit that I don't need to grovel at the feet of any organization that takes that innate goodness away from me and tries to sell it back to me at the price of my own conscience and intuition.

I've learned that, as a woman, I can unveil my face in the sight of any deity, lift my bowed head and make it look me directly in the eyes, while daring it to ever try to take my power, my happiness, my grace, my life, my worth, ever again from where it all belongs: in my own capable hands.

So, 2017.

I'm sitting in my room newly minimalized by the purging of belongings and clutter I long needed to let go of, sitting in an emotional space where I am in control of my own destiny and life and able to feel at peace with who I am and what I want, and sitting with a mental view that sees a year of more hard, hard work ahead both via the day job and night school, and sitting with determination to stop pouring myself into any person or thing that makes me feel empty.

It doesn't always feel pleasant  or comfortable to plug back in and reconnect to the parts of life that feel easier to clamp down on and avoid, but let me tell you, it sure as hell feels clean.

And so, finally, sitting with a mind and body unveiled, I'm starting to see clearly.

Monday, December 19, 2016

7 Current Favorites From My Closet

"Everybody gotta wear clothes; if you don't, you get arrested." -Mr. T

Though technically, that depends on the location and scenario. And now that I've begun this post with an inspirational quote, let's get to it!

I feel like I've really found my fashion stride in my late 20s. The inklings were there in my younger years -- to put together something unique, something comment-worthy, something slightly off-beat. What I lacked, in my awkward-gumby-growing-pain years, was the finesse to pull off those inclinations with ensembles that a) flattered my body and b) consisted of pieces that actually worked together.

For funsies, and because I have some new treasures that I've been enjoying pairing with old favorites, here's a look at a few things I pulled together from my closet.....

7 Current Favorites From My Closet


This look gives me all the heart-eye-emoji-feels. Flattering cut-outs, red plaid, grey boots. I'd wear it out with friends or on a casual date. Could also swing it for work if I added a tank under the belly-holes. Belly-holes is a weird word. Let's move on.

leslie knotted shift dress: Tobi / red plaid shirt: H&M / grey boots: wholesale fashion shoes


The following is along the lines of what you'll see me in on any given work / school day. Boots, leggings, loose t-shirt and my fav leather jacket. I'll mix it up with a scarf or hat here and there, but an outfit like this is my home base / comfort zone / default mode.

tan boots, striped tee & leggings: Target / leather jacket: a little shop in Florence, Italy


This dress!! Little black dresses are hard for me to find, especially since I don't generally wear tight clothes and most clubby outfits are like "let's be spandex" and I'm like "let's be nope." I love the loose shape of this shift dress and I'm excited to wear it to fancy things and also dress it down w/ leggings and boots for more casual outings.

braylee plunging cut out dress: Tobi / tan heels: Payless


Rompers came in at some point in the last few years and I've been a slow adopter. This grey one (seeing that grey + jersey makes this outfit basically the exact same as the sheets I sleep on) just might make me a convert. Already looking forward to wearing it w/ some cozy layers this winter and then rocking it with some sandals this spring and summer.

hat + black boots: Target / jean jacket: Gap / chillax draped tank jumpsuit: Tobi


When I saw this treasure at the store, it was like finding a soulmate. Corduroy (my one true fabric love), reminiscent of overalls but sassy....sold. In fact, my size wasn't in stock so I promptly ordered it on my phone right there in the middle of Target. Zero regrets. What I do regret is not ironing this before the photos but.......I never iron anything so at least I'm consistent.

red corduroy jumpsuit + grey tights: Target / brown-grey boots: Cindy Shoes / black tee: H&M  


This is the kind of outfit I'd pull together on a day when I'm feeling a little funky and in the mood to be noticed. As an introvert, I'm not always in that mood. But when I am, there are mint pants and leopard print.

grey hat: Target / jean jacket: Gap / leopard-print tee: Cotton On / mint moto leggings: Unhinged Boutique / black boots: wholesale fashion shoes


Speaking of being in the mood to be noticed....this sequined crop top is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Paired with some high-waisted jeans.....done deal. My day-to-day life doesn't generate many opportunities to wear something this bold, but I am turning 30 in a couple months so.....*tucks away in closet with high anticipation*

glitz & glamour sequin crop top: Tobi / high-waisted jeans + purple suede purse: Urban Outfitters / black zipper heels: (I genuinely can't remember but it was several years ago)

The end! And now back to my regularly scheduled programming of living by the space heater in my cozy bedroom because it was 31 degrees when I went to the gym this morning. I know that's small potatoes for some of you people, but I live in California and I'm weak-sauce.

hope you're having a really lovely holiday season my friends xoxoxo

p.s. any items in this post from Tobi were provided to me free-of-charge, but you know my feelings are genuine because I picked the pieces out myself and also because I'm an honest human

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Some Neighborhoods of My Life

Many years ago, in vintage blog days, I used to start my posts by saying what music I was listening to while I wrote. So let's throw it back: I'm currently tuned in to "Moving Mountains" by Skylar Grey.

I spent a couple days this week showing my sister around San Francisco.

It was her first time in the Bay Area, so I showed her all my favs, including but not limited to Alcatraz and a long ride on the outside of a cable car up and down some iconic SF hills. (It's charming and precarious all at once and I love it.)

One of my favorite things about SF is how distinct every neighborhood is, and how closely they're all smushed together. One minute you're experiencing that bustling city-feel of Market St by Union Square, then you're immersed in another world in China Town, the next moment you're enveloped in the wafting scent of pizza-on-pizza-on-pizza in North Beach, and somewhere in there you're being misted by saltwater on the pier by a colony of sea lions.

I'm in a phase of my life lately that feels a lot like San Francisco: many neighborhoods and coves, all tucked together in one beautiful, vibrant smush.

Here's some words about a few of my own neighborhoods these days....

my body

Currently in the fitness regime: Crossfit. I never thought this would be the place for me, despite knowing people who told me otherwise for years. It deserves its own post, so I'll leave it at this: I'm happy and I feel good, and my body is strong and fierce and my own.

my space

I value organization. I've always valued it in my calendar and work life, but I've never quite made that leap to minimizing my possessions (clutterbugs anonymous, please unite) and putting things in their place. Recently, I stayed up late one night and made piles of things to purge. My space is now simple and warm and full of only the things I love the very most. I feel a weight lift off me when I curl up by a favorite candle (this one, in aloha orchid), turn on some white twinkle lights and bask in that joyous feeling of being alone and cozy and simple and safe. Do you have a space like this? You need one.

my brain

School is wrapped up for the Fall Quarter (*moment of silence for going to school full-time while also working full-time*), and it feels both damn good and challenging to work so hard and steadily chip away at my MBA. In January I'm starting my first programming class as an elective. I'm excited and nervous, but so far school has made me feel both of those things several times plus some confidence and grit on top of that every time I get through the anxious parts. Here's to more!

my heart

A lesson I've learned a lot of is that matters of the heart require a delicate balance of logic and emotion. Truly, you need both. And it's a balance in a way that's not always 50-50 at any given time -- it's more a balance of learning when to let one side tell the other one to shush and let go of the reins, either to protect yourself or run an illogical risk that somehow feels worth it. It's some kind of chaotically lovely and unnerving mixture -- a lot like a ride up and down SF streets while clinging to the outside of a cable car, actually.

my soul

I'm in a good space right now where my job and school life genuinely do feed my soul, although challenging at times, but it feels good to add other joys into the mix while those two areas ease up for a hot holiday second: lazy mornings in bed, Sunday morning movie matinees, rainy drives, good books/music/shows/people....all the best cherries on top of an already lovely life.

And with that said: It's raining outside, my favorite candle is lit, my Christmas tree is twinkling, my music is still lilting through my living room and I feel a little more like letting some mountains move me:

For once, once in your life
For once push your ambitions aside
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
For once, once in your life
For once just stop to open your eyes
And instead of moving mountains
Let the mountains move you
~skylar grey