Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nostalgia Season

I am easily prone to nostalgia.

Particularly at specific times of year. I used to think it was October that sparked it the most, but lately I've been feeling it pretty strongly about spring. So, I think it might just be any transitory, changing season that makes me reflective and really puts me in the "what was I doing this time last year" mood.

I've finally been in California long enough to have memories of "how things were before." It can be a pretty transitory place around here, with all the young people and fast-paced career life that kind of moves people in and out and around. So as I'm approaching my two-year mark this summer, I've officially reached a point where I'm one of the staples. One of the people who's "been around for awhile." I've just noticed here and there that some of the people who fit that role when I moved here, the people who seemed to know everyone and had their feet under them and all that jazz, are starting to move away one by one or move on to different life phases and what-have-you.

Change is often subtle in that regard as an adult, because it's not like back in school when every semester turned up a fresh crop of people and shipped a new batch out in graduation hats. It's more one at a time, these days, as friends get new jobs in new cities or coworkers switch teams, and all the faces change slowly one by one until it catches me by surprise one day.

I get these strong waves of nostalgia now and then where it just washes over me and I suddenly miss all the people who've left and the past seasons of life and how things were and so on and so forth. I had one of those moments tonight, when I went to a dinner party in a neighborhood where I used to spend quite a bit of time when I first moved to California. I even stopped in, for a minute, into a house that used to be ripe with meaning for me. It used to hold so much expectation and comfort and anxiety and stability all at once – I don't even know quite how to explain it, but I had a lot of emotions and hopes wrapped up in that house. And I stood in its kitchen tonight and looked around at the different faces taking up space there and it was like one of those movie effects where you can see the shadows of former crowds mingling around the room and fading into the background. It suddenly struck me how much things have completely changed around me while I was busy doing this or that.

Moments like that always make me want to hold on really tight to what I have right now, because I feel so sharply that before I know it, it'll all change too.

And that in a year or two, when the air is again starting to turn from cold to warm as spring and then summer take hold, I'll be sitting around somewhere thinking about this exact moment in time. About when I was about to leave Google, when I was about to start a new job at Palantir, when I was on the tail end of one adventure and on the cusp of so, so much more to come. And the memories of when I was fresh to California, of all the angst and emotion of that time that's already starting to feel like so long ago, will be even further behind me and be even more of a distant feeling.

It's borderline intoxicating, in those moments, how strong nostalgia can be. It just fills me up with a kind of ache for things that are lost and an intense thrill about whatever is about to come and a curiosity about what it is, right now, that I'll be missing most in future days.

Also, it reminds me yet again that hurts pass and desires change and the things that disappoint don't last forever. It reminds me not to get too hung up on any letdowns, because I can look back and see so clearly how past wounds have healed into scars that don't hurt me anymore, and also how often what seemed like endings so frequently yielded unexpected second and third chances where I thought doors were closed. And that gives me hope, always.

Mostly, it just makes me want to live really, really well and appreciate every little bit of every little thing and person around me. It all goes so quickly! And someday it'll all just be shadows on the wall at a party that create an ache in my bones and get me drunk on memories.

So here's to making good ones :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

With An Alternate Plan

Sometimes movies just strike a chord with me.

The first time I saw Meet Joe Black, I wandered out of my apartment afterward in a haze and just kind of walked around things. I felt wide-eyed and in the mood to marvel at the world around me. Ever since, it has always been one of my favorite movies.

Whilst in the throes of germs this weekend/Monday (which constitutes the length of a holiday weekend, no? a holiday germ weekend? it's a thing now?) I watched a lot of movies and TV shows. I was on the verge of despairing boredom when I stumbled across a movie that I had, admittedly, stumbled across many times before while combing the Internets for worthy film fare.


I'd passed it up in the past because, to be honest, the name screamed "Jane Austen!" to me and I really have to be in the right mood to take on a Jane Austen-esque film. Turns out it is....not that. haha. Premise: Young man (Orlando Bloom) in the midst of career woes hears of his father's death and flies to backwoods Kentucky to sort out dysfunctional family affairs, meeting a quirky and engaging flight attendant (Kirsten Dunst) along the way and so on and so forth.

I elicited this movie's help to stave off the last of my sick-holiday-length-weekend boredom, and instead it surprised me. It charmed me. It lifted some weight and angst off my shoulders about various life issues, as movies about death frequently do. (See? Just like Meet Joe Black. The entire plot of that movie is death. I guess I have a thing. Does this make me dark? That death uplifts me? Excuse me while I go sit in the corner of a record store and wear black and....sketch things.....)

Anyway. ANYWAY. One recurring theme that kept striking me throughout this movie was the idea of alternate plans. The idea of....detours. That you can set out on journeys, goals, life trajectories, what-have-you, only to discover somewhere along the way that something doesn't quite fit anymore. Sometimes it's death. Sometimes it's divorce. Sometimes it's a career setback. Sometimes it's some kind of spectacular failure. Sometimes it's just a change of heart, that makes you pause at a fork in the road....or makes you simply walk off the road and start blazing your own little path through the underbrush, if there is no clearly paved fork provided.

It reminded me, again, that I need to be open to detours. To deviations. To distractions of the best kind. To seeing something, or someone, that I immediately know is a "yes" and be willing to step off my comfort ledge for it, come what may. To quote one of my most treasured quotes from Meet Joe Black, "Stay open. Who knows? Lightning could strike."

And to quote Elizabethtown:

"Here you have reached a fork in the map. You can go to your car and the rest of the directions will take you home. Or...look for a girl in a red hat...who's waiting for you with an alternate plan."

"All Good Things Run Wild & Free" shirt by Flybird Apparel, birthday gifted to me by a dear friend. (And now dying over their daydreamer shirt, good golly someone take my wallet from me. BUT IT HAS A DREAMCATCHER)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Job // No More Fighting

*In advance, forgive any parts of this that don't make sense or come across incoherently. I've had a hell of a weekend and my brain may or may not have been fevered or vomity (it's a word, sure) when I wrote it. Shrug. Onward.*

If you've read this blog for a couple years or so, you're pretty familiar with my whole "up and move to California" journey.

If not, here's a quick synopsis: came to California in July 2013, promptly lost the contract job I moved here for, worked odd jobs (freelance writing, consumer studies from the depths of Craigslist e.g. taste-testing popcorn at a factory for $80 cash), part-time job at Anthropologie for a few months, filled a maternity leave for a corporate brand management position with Ralph Lauren (how anyone thought I had the background for that job, I'm still not sure, but heyyy it worked out), wiggled my way into a temp job at THE GOOGLE (in capital letters because I'd been turned down by THE GOOGLE sevvverrrallll times during my first few months in California), rolled into another temp position in recruiting at the googz, and....

....and now, one year later, a new job!

I know: "Why in the world would you leave Google?" The answer isn't too hard, though – stability. Google is about as amazing as a workplace can get, but being a contractor only works for so long, with any employer. A little visit to Urgent Care last month (and again with the fever and vomiting this weekend, yuucckkkk what's the deal, body?) reminded me yet again that I need real medical benefits, among other things. I knew I'd start job hunting sometime this spring or summer, with my Google expiration date looming in September, but when a couple companies reached out to me about interviewing with them in February and March, I decided to go for it. And also, I think I've always known that I thrive better in smaller work environments. And the googz is anything but small. It is quite possibly the definition of not small :)

And here I am. Making this new career in recruiting a real, long-term thing. I'm joining a company called Palantir, and I am super, super into them. (You can read more about them at the bottom – I didn't want to bore anyone who follows me on Facebook or Instagram and already knows all the delightful things I had to say about them.)

My heart gets all squishy when I think about the last couple years. Like f'reals seriously squishy and tries to escape out my eyes.

That imagery came out 100% more gory than I intended. Y'all know what I'm saying.

It's been.....pivotal. That's the best word for it. Formative, trying, pressing, joyous, invigorating, exhausting, explorative, chaotic. All those things. And getting a contract at Google (twice) was this huge achievement for me. It was a landmark. I sometimes feel like I'm living in one of those movies or sitcoms where a girl up and moves herself to the big city and has to fend for herself until one day SHE ARRIVES. (My dating life is also, often comically, a lot like a sitcom story line. I should start cashing in on this.)

Working at Google for the last year made me feel like I'd achieved one of those I'VE ARRIVED moments. I got to work at the #1 company to work for....THE COMPANY OF ALL COMPANIES....for a whole entire year. And it was amazing. It really was. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

But you know those plotline diagrams? From your English classes way back when? The story builds and builds, with conflicts and character development along the way, and then there's THE CLIMAX...followed by a downward slope, and then a resolution. I feel like maybe Google was that peak....that big "oh my hell, I really really really actually did it" moment.

I feel like I fought for everything I got in the last couple years.

I fought to get it, I fought to keep it, and I fought to just keep on keepin' on. I surprised myself, all the time, with the things I got through. I'd look back at the end of some months and think, "Oh wow. I didn't know I had that in me." Do you know how amazing that is? To go through a period of your life where you learn that kind of stuff about yourself? I have more grit in me than I used to think. And that's a priceless feeling.

And now there's this. A resolution, of sorts. A gentle slope, and a settling. And just an unwritten epilogue full of potential stretching out in front of me.

When I talk about the things I ultimately want out of my life, simplicity is a word I often throw around. (I spoke to that HERE, in my ode to turning 28.) I want calm, and smooth, and happy, and genuine, and....all of that. Of course, excitement and adventure and travel and curiosity! But all within this overarching realm of simplicity. Of straightforwardness and little joys. Of being able to be brave and honest and ask for what I want, and having the universe reward me with less tangles and some honesty of its own. I mean, I can't control the universe and other people, but I can control me. And I guess that's what I've got to work with. Because I really do believe that simplicity and tangles are things that you choose, ultimately. You choose if you're going to roll gracefully with the punches or let them knock you flat. You choose if you let life's inevitable setbacks complicate your heart or not. You choose if you're going to stay buoyant and hopeful when things and people try to knock you down. You choose if you're going to pass on good potential because the obstacles don't feel worth it. You choose if you're going to let a dumb situation or two screw up the good things you can still choose to have or not. All of it. You choose.

And so, here I am. A next step and a new adventure and another place to work hard and build a new work family and start fresh and move forward. A long-term situation, with no deadline or expiration date on it.

And finally, finally, finally, no more fighting.

Now more about Palantir, my new workplace, as copied and pasted from my Facebook/Insta posts about it, if you haven't already read those ones:

Ecstatic to report that I've accepted a job offer for a recruiting role at a company called Palantir! At my first onsite interview, they gave me a free frisbee. When it was a legit 175 grams, I knew they had something to them ;) They're a data analysis company that does cool things with cool clients like the FBI, the CIA and various nonprofit entities, with an overall mission of "working for the common good and doing what's right, in addition to being deeply passionate about building great software and a successful company" while "making the world a better place, every day." Things I can get behind, y'know?

Perks include being located in downtown Palo Alto (rooftop gardens, here I come!), free food (heaven bless this Silicon Valley tradition), PUPPIES (can't go back once you've worked in a dog-friendly office), office decor based on LOTR/Game of Thrones/Periodic Table of Elements, free T-shirts for dayyyyzz, an occasional taco bar (!!!) and an annual company conference called HobbitCon. (My office is named The Shire, with worldwide counterparts like Rivendell and Gondor. Yes.)

Bittersweet to leave Google but it's been an amazing year (1 year! Can you believe it??) and I'm really looking forward to the stability (and benefits) of a non-contract role. And I am REALLY stoked to be part of such an exciting company. I feel like my new career path in the tech industry is colliding with my love of the nonprofit world and my obsession with watching Law & Order. Could there be a better combo?? Here's to new life adventures (and fighting crime)!

And now here's several articles about the company and some of the seriously neat stuff they work on:

An overall list of the areas they work on, from fraud to disease response to human trafficking:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing About Writing and Stuff

It's probably because the last few blog posts were hijacked by the Italy recap, but I came home from work today dying to write.

First I walked to the corner deli for a sandwich. Turkey, cream cheese, cranberry sandwich. One of my most favorite kinds of sandwich.....on a toasted roll. Perfetto. While walking, I plugged in my headphones and checked out the first episode of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast. Where have I been?? Women, get on that. And men, if you are interested in a diversity of candid and frank discussions about feminism, politics, the world and female body functions. Fair warning. Do what you feel.

I listened to the podcast while eating my sandwich back at my kitchen table, while the salsa verde chips burned my lips off and at least 1/3 of my brain was distracted by my plant that just.won't.grow. C'mon, little fern. Why do you not grow.

Irrelevant picture break, because that shirt:

I need to write a book. I want to write a book.

Correction: I have written a book. One whole book, and several first-few-chapters of other books. Don't be too impressed by that "whole book" – it's a children's book, so it's not that long. Actually, do be impressed  – it's a damn fine piece of literature. I'm going to get it published one of these days. I am. New homework for tonight: send that book to another publisher. The first one I sent it to, like two years ago, politely turned me down. Did you know it took J.K. Rowling something like 17 tries to find a publisher for Harry Potter? And Babe Ruth struck out a whole bunch? And nobody ever wanted to date George Clooney ever in his life until he met the woman he just married? OK not all of those statements were factual. Whatever.

The point is, I need to try again with that children's book. Because like I said, it's a good book. The short list of people who I've let read it all say so. They're also all close friends, family and one ex-boyfriend, sooo.....what I mean to say is, they're not biased at all. Yes.

I want to write a memoir.

I know I haven't like.....climbed Everest. Or became the first female graduate of some program at some school where I had to like....prove female worth....and Julia Roberts was my mentor and....stuff like that. But you know, I have stuff to say. CLEARLY. Hi, this is my blog. If you're new here....I have stuff to say.

Whenever anyone finds out that I blog, they always ask what I blog about. "My life. Stuff I do. Places I go. Things I think about." Those are my typical answers. Maybe I'll start jumping directly to "I just got stuff to say." And if I'm feeling in the mood for feist, I might add a little "you fool" at the end.

So yeah. You know those books that like....Tina Fey....and Ellen Degeneres...and Amy Poehler....write? The rambling chapters about funny and/or serious stuff and stories from their lives? With no real point other than that it's just a collection of things they want to talk about? That's the kind of book I want to write. I have started that book no less than eleventy times. Actually, if I combined all those eleventy false starts, plus all my various rambles on this blog over the last seven years, I might actually have one whole book. I might even throw in that other book I started writing, a YA fiction piece about people who all live on the same street and there's this nefarious underground plot to.........the problem is that I never figured out what that nefarious underground plot should be. So the book has been at a standstill for about four years. But maybe I could just squish it into my memoir and pretend it belongs, and people will be like "who are these characters" and then I'll distract them with my next chapter....which is about that one time that I tackled a pig at a rodeo. Because that's a crowd favorite, let me tell you.

I'm rambling. But that's what memoirs do, right? I'M PRACTICING, YOU FOOLS

And there you go.

I owe you a cookie if you're still reading. And probably a hearty pat on the bum, because who doesn't like one of those? the right circumstances, of course. I work in HR. I know things.

So those are all my thoughts for today. Now I'll go follow through with sending that children's book of mine to a new publisher. And maybe poking around at my various memoir-like google docs. Or more salsa verde chips. We'll see.

Happy Monday, kids

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ciao katilda: Venice (and Carnevale!)

If you're going to go to Venice, it doesn't hurt to accidentally time your trip during Carnevale.

Let me paint a picture for you of what Carnevale (aka the Italian Mardi Gras) looks like in Venice: Labyrinth meets Maze Runner meets Halloweentown meets Disneyland meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Little Nemo (holla at me if you even know what that last reference is -- not the fish movie; the pajama pajama one). We were basically in a magical Venezian fairyland. Confetti and masks and costumes everywhere, in a tangle of cobblestone roads and canals and passageways.

Being the end of our trip (and honestly, the amount of actual stuff to DO in Venice is lower than in the other places we went), we were very low-key for our couple days there. Full disclosure: on our last day, we laid in bed all morning and watched The Italian Job on a small kindle screen. Sometimes it's what you gotta do on day 10 if you're going to get through the night festivities!

The rest of that day involved wearing our masks for several hours (see: sweaty faces), confetti in our hair, and various fried street food and (of course) gelato. And NATURALLY, a gondola ride! (An absolute must-do in Venice, in my opinion. And since this is my blog, I get to state my opinions. GO ON A GONDOLA RIDE.)

Maybe the best part of it all, though, was at the very end of our last night, because....FIREWORKS! (Set to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Ha.) There are few things I love more than a good fireworks show. They make me think of my most favorite things, like baseball games, the 4th of July, Sandlot, Meet Joe Black, and now – Italy! It was the most perfect icing on the whole Italian cake. Especially since we walked a really long way to find the fireworks, almost gave up hope, then saw them go off and started running through the alleys/crowds toward them. My little heart was very, very full that night.

And there you have it......all the stories and photos of the time I went to Italy. Thanks for tuning in :)

Other Italy posts: When in RomePompeii & Sorrento / FLORENCE! / Pisa & Cinque Terre

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ciao katilda: Pisa & Cinque Terre

"The Leaning Tower of Cheese-uh!"

(Name that movie....)

Second to last Italy post, you guys! Then I'll get back to my regularly scheduled programming of life insights and clever wit and....such things....

But right now, let's take it back to Valentine's Day! In the most romantic country.....with three beautiful, hilarious and clever women. If I swung a different way, this could have been extremely ideal. As it stands, it's still pretty great to spend time with such excellent friends. I'll absolutely take it.

We used the holiday o' love for a little day trip in the rain to the leaning tower of Pisa....which, is totally a life experience but Pisa is totally a random little town with not much else happening. Plus it was raining, so when I say there were no people around the town I really mean THERE WERE NO PEOPLE AROUND AT ALL. In any case, it made for a nice quiet walk (OK we actually walked pretty fast so we could get back to the train station) to the tower for a photo sesh and then back across town to jet outta there.

Next, we train-hopped our way through Cinque Terre!

Translates to: five lands. Meaning: five towns situated next to each other along the coast. You can hike along the coastline between them all, or take the train around. We opted for a little of both....mostly train, with some trekking up and down the cliff paths. was all empty! Just us, the pouring rain and lovely colorful streets and houses. I think this place is more hopping in the summer when you can go snorkeling, etc. and all the shops are open, but I kind of loved the quiet rainy streets more than a little. Cassidy inspired me to shut my umbrella and and get my hair wet on some cliff-walks by the water. I do not and will never regret this decision, even if I was bit damp on the ride home. It was a very refreshing soaked-hair jaunt in the Italy rain. Mmmhmm

At one point we also went for a nice coastal jog with bellies full of pasta. Or we were trying to catch a train so we painfully and awkwardly ran through a tunnel to the train station. Something like that.

It was a fantastic Valentine's Day. And my balsamic and oil looked like Italy during lunch, so that was pretty neat. Amen.

Next up: Venice!
Other Italy posts: When in Rome / Pompeii & Sorento / FLORENCE! / Venice