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(Another title for this post is “Everything is Terrible”) (Also, the girl above is photoshopped on both sides!)
This post will probably be a soapbox of old news. This is because I’m a little bit too old for selfies. I partook in the activity when digital cameras first came out. I was in college and it was very novel. But by the time smart phones really started to take over, I outgrew the insecurity and self-absorption needed to take selfies all the time.
I do remember, back with our digital cameras, we would always ask our friends to “touch up” the photos before posting them on Facebook. Or to not post the one where I’m making a goofy face. The touch-up, would require someone to have photoshop and know enough to clone out red marks or fix red eye. That was it though.
Now, on the rare occasions I do take a selfie, I just post the thing. Everyone knows I have some red spots. Big deal. I hadn’t even thought of a way to edit my photos like that on a smart phone. Sure, I would crop and frame. But thinking about smoothing my face or erasing “fat”, just never really occurred to me.
Well there certainly is a market for it! A few months ago, I was browsing around Instagram clicking various hashtags. I came across a person who was on a “journey” (weightloss, financial, travel, etc). This person posted a selfie stating how happy they are with themselves compared to some time in the past. The first comment was, “You are glowing!” And she was. Her face was bright, polished, smooth, red cheeks, and she had a whole “glow” about her. Like, unnaturally.
That was my first forray into Makeover Apps. Specifically, Perfect 365.
The tagline for Perfect 365 (and all the other makeover software out there) is “The easiest way to make you look great.”
This makes me so sad. Because no matter what I do with this software, I never look great. I only look sub-human. Pretty much like a cyborg.
Going through the app is eye opening and depressing. The first thing it does is, supposedly, cover up blemishes. Funny, this is the only thing it keeps fairly natural as you can still see mine on the right-hand side of the photo.
Now on to the bigger stuff; under eye darkness. We have to remove that completely. Because, humans get circles under their eyes, and we don’t want to look human. Nope. Get rid of those. Because, for some reason, under eye circles are not “great” and are not “attractive” and make me “less than”. Gone!
Well, if we’re going to bad-photoshop our dark circles away, we might as well bad-photoshop our entire skin. Pores are for suckers. We don’t need them. Lines? Nope, see ya. Sure, humans have pores and lines. But who wants to look like a human? Not me! I want to look “great”!
Okay, we’ve done three things and already we look like a creepy porcelain doll. Perfect. 365.
But why stop there! To keep looking “great” I need to contour. Clearly my face is too fat because I still look like a human. Silly humans with your fat faces. I can’t even stand to look at that photo. Gross. “Great” people don’t have fat faces.
So we’ll slim down the face, ah much better. Oh no! Our cheeks are droopy now. Okay, let’s lift them right up. There we go. “Great”! Perfect. 365.
You’re bad at make-up? Because you’re a human right. No worries, this app has you covered. We can just bad-photoshop all types of make-up on you.
Eye liner and shadow and fake lashes and cat eyes and lip stick and now you look “great”. (Actually, these look so bad that people don’t even try to pawn them off as real on Instagram. Surprisingly).
So, this photo is my attempt at a “still kind of human looking” makeover with the app. The smoothing alone really comes out looking creepy as fuck. Oh I mean “great”.
I have no idea what this says about our society. It’s really fucking depressing. What’s the point of posting a picture of yourself, if you need to render yourself into a completely different person? People love you because you’re human. We like looking at humans. Not creepy dolls. Not cyborgs. And not fakes.
The more rampant this is, the more impressionable people will believe this really does look “great”. And that there is something wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with spots under your eyes. There is nothing wrong with blemishes. There is nothing wrong with having pores.
Trust me. You already are perfect. 365.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the campy song contest Eurovision, I hosted a party and wanted to stay on theme. This being NYC it wasn’t to difficult to find European candies and foods. I found some on the books places and other local places, so here is the whole round-up. This spans Brooklyn and Manhattan of the best stores to buy European treats.
You know you’re in the right place because there is a bench outside painted in the United Kingdom flag. This was by far the best place I stopped at. It is completely a British market. It had all kinds of imported snack foods from the UK. But it also had just imported foods in general. It truly was a market. Lots of Heinz canned foods. And Marmite! That was $6 if you were wondering. They also sell Vegemite for $9.95.
They offer lots of tea. Plus, prepared foods of traditional fare. You can buy a full shepard’s pie or other meat pie if you call ahead. For take out they offer sausage rolls and mini-pie’s. These were delicious. I even saw the chocolate Smartie’s there.
The woman on register was definitely British and very friendly. I found exactly what I was looking for. And the store was really great. I definitely would stop there first if you’re looking for any type of British food or other items.
This is my local market! When I first moved to Kensington, I shopped here regularly because it is just a few blocks from my apartment. Then, there was a controversy about them not paying their workers fair wages. There was a huge boycott of the store and I started shopping somewhere else. Only recently, have I started shopping there again. It’s a shame there was that issue because it is a fantastic grocery store!
I almost didn’t need to go anywhere else, Golden Farm (Church Ave at E 4th st) offers so many foods from other countries. And it is very very cheap. (Probably because for a long time they didn’t pay their workers fair wages).
When you first walk in, head to the left and you’ll see plenty of European crackers, candies, and other snacks. Some are traditional, some are not. There are also American commercial and organic foods put in there as well. Kensington is a primary Eastern European neighborhood so that is how the store caters. There were lots of Polish snacks and foods. Traditional perogies. But also German cookies. Italy imported crackers. And authentic French crepes.
There is not a meat or cheese department, so you’ll have to go somewhere else for that. I even found preserves that were made in Armenia and Moldova (both Eurovision countries). And canned veggies from Israel. Many of the food items are fairly random. They also sell whole fish or dried fish. However it is. Sorry, I don’t know how to prepare that! But it’s there if you’re interested.
This is also a traditional market in that it has a huge selection of fruit and vegetables outside the store. They do sell a little bit of dairy; some milk and cheese. And have good prices on beer, cereal, and other ingredients. It is not a traditional grocery store since it doesn’t have a deli, a weekly circular, or sales.
I am extremely fortunate that two of the best sources of European goods were just a few blocks from my apartment. I love my neighborhood so much. There are quite a few Polish deli’s on Church Avenue with similar offerings. On the same block as the aforementioned Golden Farm, is a small Polish deli called Bobek Deli (Church Ave between E 4th and 3rd Streets).
This store offers many Polish goods like food ingredients, coffee/tea, soaps, sausages/meats, cheeses, and fresh food (perogie’s!). I went here mainly to pick up Polish sausage and fresh perogie’s. The perogie’s (several types) are $0.60 as of today. They also many types of sausage, salami, and other cured meats. I specifically asked for something that didn’t need to be cooked. Since I just wanted to make a platter of sausages for Eurovision (in honor of Conchita Wurst of course).
The woman behind the counter was extremely helpful. All the labels and names were in Polish so I wasn’t quite sure which was which. She spoke in English and was great at helping me pick which sausages would work best for the party and what else would go with it. I bought two Polish sausages, then some delicious salami, and perogie’s. Everything was very affordable.
Bobek Deli also offers other cooked foods, which I definitely recommend. Plus, it being right next to Golden Farm means you can get most of your shopping done right on the same block.
This candy store is very small, cluttered, and in an awkward area in the Lower East Side/Chinatown. There are lots of traditional candies on the right as you walk in. Then Jelly Bellies and other normal candy shop candies near the register. The register itself is kind of hidden and checking out with multiple items is kind of awkward. The whole places is pretty crowded with goods but I know small spaces is what NYC is.
More importantly, on the left near the front of the store, are all the Imported treats! Here is where you can find Vegemite for $9. This is the best price I found of the two places I found Vegemite (of the six places I went to). I also found Tim Tams here – those were $9 as well. I can’t even complain. These treats have to cross multiple oceans to get here. I’m glad that I can get them both for under ten bucks.
Because I do know what vegemite tastes like, I skipped on that. But I did pick up a container of Tim Tams to try, after hearing a lot about them. Well, they were delicious! And I wish they were cheaper because I’d love to have them on hand when friend’s come over.
The Sweet Life also offered Marmite (for $8, so not as good of a deal as Meyers of Keswick), which I did not purchase there. They had Italian hard candies. And Hob Nob’s. These were another treat that I heard a lot about but had never tried. This and Meyers of Keswick were the two places I saw that had them.
Honestly, I thought the woman behind the counter could have been a bit friendlier. I was in the store quite a while looking around and it seemed like she was in a hurry for me to leave. But they have an excellent selection of everything. And this was the only store that had any type of Australian treats! Maybe there are other places in the city that have them, but this was a fantastic selection over all of imported snacks.
My plan was to visit the London Candy Company then Sockerbit because both are/were in the West Village. So, I first went to the London Candy Company several years ago on an awkward date. They were located on the Upper East Side and I loved the store. I had heard about a year ago, they were moving to the West Village but hadn’t had a chance to check out the new store. Over the weekend, I decided to go there for Eurovision supplies. I looked up the address and walked past. The building was completely closed up! Looking on line, their Twitter account hasn’t been updated in a while. And their domain has been sold/parked. It looks like nothing is happening there. This is very unfortunate and disappointing. The only upside is that Meyers of Keswick is near-by and is a great alternative.
But another great European candy store in the West Village is the Swedish candy store of Sockerbit. This was the “cleanest” store I visited of all of them. By that I mean more in design. None of the stores were dirty. But Sockerbit was extremely organized, highly stylized, and kind of very Swedish.
It is set up like bulk candy shop, which is unique in comparison to all of the others. They sell a few packaged items but that’s not the reason to go there. You pick up a paper bag and a plastic scooper then go to town in the bulk bins. Mix and match putting them all in the bag. All the candies are the same price (I think $12/lb). They also have Finnish and other types of European candy than just Swedish.
Sockerbit also offers several Swedish goods and market items. They also have a refrigerator for cheese and those types of Swedish goods. The store was fairly busy when I went. The bulk candy thing might weird some people out but they seemed to do a good job of the “no hands” rule. In general, this was the “prettiest” store of all of them.
If you’re looking for European goods/snacks, there are lots of options in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Australian snacks (other than dub pies) are a little bit trickier! My round-up included Meyers of Keswick, The Sweet Life, Bobek Deli, Sockerbit, and Golden Farm.
Eurovision is campy, over-the top, EuroPop performances. It is very self-aware. And it is also very serious business.
This year will be the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest! Eurovision combines the national pride of the Olympics with the live performance & voting style of American Idol. Some call it the World Cup of song competitions. There will be 27 live performances this year; usually there are 26. This year is extra special because, for whatever reason, Australia has been invited to compete.
Unlike song competitions and award shows here in the states, Eurovision is streamed live because there are no commercials. The show is not drawn out painfully forever to try to increase ad sales. Instead, the show plows through one performance to the next. The pacing makes you feel like you cant take a break until it’s time for voting! Twenty-seven performances in about two-hours!
After a speed run of live performances, there’s a break where the host makes awkward banter and bad jokes. They don’t mean for them to be bad. But, the entire show is in English. Usually in countries where English is not their first language. So you end up having two people trying to make stage-talk in a language that both of them only half understand. The result is as you would imagine (great).
Then comes the voting! The votes consist of 50% audience voting and 50% “panel of expert judges” voting. You cannot vote for your own country. While Europe is voting (we can’t vote, obviously) there are musical acts. Or a history of Eurovision montage. Then they painstakingly display the results from each country as spoken by a country representative via live satellite link. Sometimes the satellite link works correctly. And sometimes it doesn’t. You’re not supposed to vote politically…
Then, they declare a winner! Somehow, Eurovision is a very efficient award show machine. They crank out 27 live performances, voting, results, and crowning a winner in just about four-hours. I’ve seen episodes of American Idol that have barely 5 performances take two-hours! The winner is actually important because it determines where the competition will be hosted the next year. This year’s is in Austria because they won Eurovision last year.
Because simply watching a campy EuroPop song competition isn’t enough, many people play Eurovision Bingo. Or, much simpler, just a drinking game. The competition is this predictable. Yet, it’s also not predictable at all some years.
The list below make up some of the bingo card slots that I compiled this year. Read through to get an idea of what this competition is all about! Feel free to download the bingo cards pdf to print out for your own Eurovision party!
Eurovision has some famous artists under it’s belt. Like Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves, ABBA. But more often than not, the performers competing are big in Europe just not over here (or yet). Here are some highlights of previous Eurovision performers:
A drag queen performer sings a song reminiscent of a James Bond theme song. She won last year’s competition.
This song features a group of grandmothers singing about partying. During their performance they bake a batch of cookies.
Eurovision’s only winning rock song to date. These Gwar-esque performers won in 2006.
Last year, France’s goofy entry received the lowest amount of votes with a total of 2.
Sometimes Romania sends falsetto-singing vampire warlocks to perform.
In 2008, Ireland sent a turkey. His name is Dustin. He is a TV personality and has recorded several albums.
When I first started reading Graphic Novels, I started with memoirs. I loved reading an illustrated autobiographical story. I’m a sucker for personal stories anyway. Graphic Memoirs do read different from autobiographies. Little moments are shared in a way that doesn’t work as well in written novels. There doesn’t always need to be a grandiose chapter of insight into the author’s life. Little moments can be illustrated very easily. And still portray the author’s life.
Graphic Memoirs also tend to be about a particular aspect of an author’s life, rather than a chronological telling. In this way, it’s like reading a very personalized non-fiction story. These can be of travels, family, childhood, mental illness, identity or a number of other specialized topics.
My favorite type of graphic novel are memoirs and I’ve read a lot of them. The five books below aren’t necessarily my favorite. More so, these are a good representation of memoirs and tackle very interesting topics.
This memoir chronicles the author’s brother’s struggle with epilepsy and how is family handled it. The story itself is actually very interesting. As his family tried lots of different religions, home remedies, and other natural paths to cure their son of epilepsy.
But what truly makes this book are David B’s illustrations. They are very dark. His drawing style is of mostly blacks. Thick lines. Very busy. And very grim. The book has a dark overtone to it all throughout, most of which is depicted just in his style.
His visualizations work perfectly for the story he’s telling. This is also an interesting memoir because it is, essentially, his brother’s story. Yet told from his perspective.
Burma Chronicles was the first graphic novel I ever read. I love traveling. I love reading about traveling. Guy Delisle has written several graphic travelogues of his various experiences traveling as an animator. He is a Canadian citizen, which allows him work visas in countries that us Americans don’t necessarily have access to. This memoir is about his time in Burma. But he has also written about living in North Korea. That one is also very interesting.
Since I have never been to Burma, seeing his illustrations helps to bring the country alive more than written descriptions could. He shares many little moments in his day-to-day life, which really help to show what living in the country is like. Writing this out would become mundane or monotnous. But illustrations are different and even the same drawing can represent different things.
In this one, his family is staying with him in Burma. So it is also a memoir of him being a father and raising an infant, while working in a foreign land. There is a lot to this that written text just wouldn’t do justice. He brings to life his infant son, the country of Burma, and even his work as an animator.
I highly recommend all of his travelogue memoirs!
This is the best autobiography I’ve read on mental illness. Far better than any written novel. Illustrating mental illness makes the feelings visible. Seeing a drawing of someone crawling on the floor in sadness gets the point across better than using metaphors. Having a visual for a manic episode shows the true nature of the disease. These emotions just cannot be conveyed as strongly in text.
I’ve never felt like I could relate to any book on depression as much as this one. Her drawings of sadness clouds, darkness, crawling from the bed to the couch, represent perfectly how I’ve felt in depressive episode. Rather than write in words her feelings while going through mania or depression, we are able to actually see what her feelings look like.
This novel also addressed the Creativity Factor of mental illness. She illustrates the struggle between wanting to manage her mental illness while also fearing she will lose her creativity. Forney goes into this in detail. Even discussing famous artists who were definitely suffering from depression.
Also, in the end she does learn how to manage her episodes through behaviors and meds. Most of the book chronicles her visiting a psychiatrist and how she goes about that. I love her honesty not only in her writing but also her drawings. Lastly, Forney identifies as bisexual, which is always nice to see representation in media.
Liz Prince is one of my favorite graphic novelists. Her drawings are simple yet tell you everything you need to know. Her writing is a perfect balance of wit and substance. I can also relate to her fairly well. So that helps. In the past she has published short graphic novels about a long-term relationship. And then, when that ended, her life being single again. Those are both really great and funny.
Tomboy is Prince’s first long-form graphic memoir. She is definitely ready for it. Instead of focusing on relationships or the lack of relationships, Prince focuses on her own identity. Specifically in the terms of her gender. This is not a LGBTQ novel. It is not a trans novel. Prince falls into this niche where she is both cis and straight, yet is assumed not to be. Her look is rather androgynous. And her personality/interests more masculine. She her struggles with being misidentified in childhood. And being the only girl on the baseball team.
Her illustrations help to show us all of her various phases, hairstyles, and body changes as she grew up. These visuals are key, since we her appearance is the main topic of the book. In the end she finds a place where she can be herself, and be liked for being her. This story’s message couldn’t be conveyed as strongly if it were written in text rather than the graphic memoir style.
This is a novel I didn’t love when I finished, but was sufficiently creeped out while reading. The premise of this graphic memoir, is that the author went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. He had a few brief interactions with him. And even back then knew that there was something off about Dahmer.
The book then goes into detail about Dahmer’s childhood. His early homicidal tendencies. And other high school interactions with him. But the fact that it is revolving around the author’s own personal experiences, really makes this one. Hearing this from a personal perspective is very effective at increasing the creepy factor. Reading about a serial killer is creepy enough. But to think that this person was once considered just a regular high schooler, is even creepier.
Although Backderf’s illustrations aren’t overly dark, these visuals really make Dahmer’s actions feel more realistic. And, yes, creepier. It’s interesting to see him transform from an awkward teenager into, well, a monster. Having visuals for this is really effective.
This was my third Brooklyn Half and sixth half marathon in total. Last year, I began training too early and had lost a lot of my momentum by the month of the race. That was the first year I attempted actually training. I had a goal time and everything. I didn’t meet it. And I didn’t have a good race. I ran almost-PR’s for all my splits then completely gave up at Mile 10. I had nothing left. And walked most of the last three miles. I was miserable. It wasn’t even my worst time. But it was my worst experience.
For this year, I decided to go back to my training plan of Fuck It. This entails no consistent running schedule whatsoever. Some haphazard “long runs.” Zero pressure. It’s worked in the past so I actually had high hopes. Well, I was three-minutes slower this year than last year. But my overall experience was far better.
Last year, I did not run to the best of my ability. I gave in to my mental weaknesses. This year, I know I could not have ran that race any better. Unless I actually trained, of course. Going in with what I had, I never stopped when I didn’t need to. I never let myself get discouraged. And I really dug deep while struggling and continued when I didn’t want to. That felt good.
So my preparation for the 2015 BK Half included 17 total runs between January & May, the longest being 5-miles. I am not encouraging this. Especially if you are new new to running.
This year wasn’t about physical training. I already know how to deal with cramps, blisters, pacing, hydration, and dry-wicking material. Last year I let negative thoughts get the best of me and I did not want that to happen this year.
This year, I trained my brain to not sabotage me during the run. I actually wish I had done this in previous races because it helped more than anything else I’ve ever tried. It took a strategy. I came up with a plan of attack for when my doubts and worries come up in the late part of the race. I chose three ideas that could occupy my time and took some thinking.
The first idea I prepared was a current artsy project I’ve started working on for fun. It consists of multiple pages. So I broke down each page in my head. I thought about font, colors, layout, spacing, etc. The minute details were time-consuming to think about and a great distraction. The second idea was working through one of my NaNoWriMo stories. I thought about character development, plot points, sense, and the fictional world. This was another successful distraction because I really could get lost in the story world.
When I began to think Why am I doing this? I don’t even like running, I quickly told my brain “Stop!” Then paused for a second to bring back up what I was last thinking about in the project or story. “Okay, but what about the main character’s sister? Where does she fall in place.” By asking myself questions, it kept up a good distraction from negative thoughts. Or just thoughts about the physical pain I was in.
It was a cloudy Saturday. There were fears it was going to rain. It did, later on. Before the race even started, I had to stand in a 25-minute security line. Not a baggage check security line. Just a metal detector security line. … Even at this part I practiced my distraction exercises. I get so upset at ostentatious security. I often exert a lot of energy getting mad at people before a race starts. I didn’t want to make myself so upset this time. So while standing in this mandatory line for the most absurd reasons, I thought about my story to keep myself calm.
The rain held off until the race started (Wave 2). Within the first mile we could start to feel rain drops. Then it really started down pouring. We weren’t even in the park yet and it was raining hard. I’ve ran in the rain before but never during a half. I was prepared with a hat and dry-wicking everything. But it was pretty miserable. My hair was sticking to me. My clothes felt gross. My socks were now wet. There was mud and road gunk everywhere. Just kind of gross.
On the plus-side, the clouds remained the whole time. The run down Ocean Parkway is so boring. It’s flat. There aren’t too many spectators. There’s not much scenery. Since you’re on a highway, there is no shade, so this part is the worst when the sun is out. I was very grateful that it remained cloudy for the entire race.
I stretched a few times, for the first time during a half. I planned it out at certain mile markers and I really think it helped. Although my pace is slow, I only stopped to drink water and stretch. I was running the rest of the time. After the race, I felt fairly good and just had a normal Saturday.
To be honest here, the Great Saunter felt like more of a challenge and struggle than any Half Marthon I’ve ran. Two and a half hours is a joke compared to a 12-hour activity that actually takes up your entire day.
Using the site Beer Menus, I’ve rounded up an on-going list of bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn that offer Bell’s Oberon on tap. I’d like to visit all/most/a lot of them this summer.
Part of this is an #oberonchallenge to visit as many bars selling Oberon as I can. However, it’s also just an easy way to check out new bars. When I’m stuck for a place to go, I can pull out this list and suggest one of these places. That way I’m learning new places and new neighborhoods. If I don’t like the bar, I have my one Oberon and leave. Or if it’s great then I’ve learned a new bar.
Obviously the taps change frequently, so I’m trying to update the map once a week. No promises that this will always be accurate at all times.
I’m normally not one to shill products. Obviously these are my opinions and this post isn’t sponsored and blah blah blah.
My relationship with alcohol hasn’t been long. Growing up with an angry alcoholic was a pretty good deterrent for the stuff. I was convinced that if I got drunk, I would hurt someone (physically or verbally). So I avoided it all throughout college. I know, not stereotypical. My college boyfriend didn’t drink either (for no solid reasons) and I never felt pressured to drink. I made a circle of friends with others who didn’t drink and rarely thought about it. Also, taking a full class load and working full time really left little time for anything else.
After college, my 4-year relationship ended and my friend’s left Michigan after graduation. I stayed for another year and made new friends. Then I began socializing in bars and had to learn how to drink. Cheap college-kid beer tasted gross. It also reminded me of my step-father who only drank Milwaukee’s Best. Just the smell of cheap beer reminded me of smelling it on his breath. Gross!
Then at some point during the summer after I graduated, someone offered me a Bell’s Oberon. It was served with an orange slice. It wasn’t the color of pee. And it didn’t remind me of my terrible childhood. Also, it was actually quite tasty. Bell’s Oberon was the first ‘real’ beer I ever had. And the first beer I ever enjoyed. So when I say it’s a beer I love, there is a huge nostalgia factor happening.
After I left Michigan, I quickly learned that Bell’s is a rather small brewery in Kalamazoo and doesn’t have a huge distribution. None on the east coast, actually. Whenever someone took a trip to Michigan, I always asked them to bring me back Bell’s. I pined for it.
Last year, Bell’s announced they were expanding their distribution to New York City! I was ecstatic! I still am excited that I can get Bell’s on tap here! Since Oberon is a seasonal beer, this is only the second summer I’ve been able to just go out to a bar in Brooklyn and order it. I’m not over the novelty yet.
Last year I put together a playlist that consists of literal summer songs. Every song title mentions “summer” “ocean” “beach” “hot” “sun” “surf” “ice cream” “sand” “pool” etc. So songs that simply remind me of summer by association are not included.
Because the playlist is about song titles, it spans various genres of music. Hip-hop, rap, pop, punk, indie, and country. Here’s the break-down, I’ll include the playlist at the end.
The professor I worked for in college would often ask me, “what are your hopes and fears?” It was something one of his college professors would often ask him.
You are to answer in the form of: I hope ______ but fear _____.
The idea is to identify a goal and why you’re afraid of it. Openly stating this hurdle helps you to better address it. You become aware of your fears and can plan ahead to overcome them. Putting your fears out there give you direction so you can make a plan of how to avoid your fear from happening.
Tomorrow I am running the Brooklyn Half for the third time. I’m not necessarily nervous but I do have some concerns. Thinking of these off the top of my head I can list: blisters, not stretching enough, eating too much/not enough, wearing the wrong clothes, not getting enough sleep, pacing myself.
Yet, if I were to list my hopes and fears about the race, it’d be this:
I hope to run the best to my physical ability but fear not being emotionally together enough to maintain focus.
I’m not actually afraid of blisters or not stretching. I already know how to deal with them and have a plan. When I really break it down, I’m afraid of being able to mentally focus on staying positive during the run. I know from experience that thinking negatively while running kills all my momentum. I can’t process emotions while running. If I get too upset during a run, I just give up and start walking. I can only focus my energies on physical efforts or emotional ones; but not both and definitely not at the same time. Since I’ve been feeling off and on down lately, I’m worried my brain may get the better of me tomorrow.
Now that I’ve identified my goal and fear, I can come up with a plan. I don’t need to spend time laying out my clothes and going to bed early. I mean, I will do those things. But more importantly, I will focus on relaxing and clearing my thoughts. I may try some meditative exercises. Writing down things that are stressing me out then telling myself to address them after the race. Coming up with several positive mantras that I can repeat while running. I don’t want to have to come up with them on the fly. Two that I’ve used in the past are: One mile at a time and Run your own race.
Being able to identify your fears from the beginning can help you to better plan for them. If you have a plan, then you don’t need to feel discouraged.
It’s been a long-time coming! In the beginning of 2013, I stopped defining myself by my debt and began tracking my net worth instead. I began contributing to my 401-K again. Implemented a plan for paying off my credit card balance. I logged the growth in my Personal Finance Spreadsheet. Soon after, I realized that positive net worth wasn’t that far out of reach. By September, I paid off the balance on my credit card. This left my student loan as my only debt. On the loan, I’ve been making more-than-minimum monthly payments. For the 401-K, I’m putting in the minimum matched-amount.
And now the time has come where the two have finally evened out! My 401-K is now safely more than the amount of debt I have!
Using the terms “good debt” vs “bad debt” are rather meaningless. But I am very grateful for my student loans. And have no ill feelings toward them. Student loans often get a bad rep when it comes to finance talk. These are an investment. I definitely can’t wait to pay them off. But no regrets.
So, my 401-K is larger than the amount I owe on my student loans. Yes, I still have debt. But thinking of it that way is completely out of context. Looking at net worth means looking at your entire financial picture. This broad view can help you take your brain from the negative of debt woes, to thinking more about taking advantage of what you can build.
Instead of the goal being “get out of debt.” My goal became, “have a positive networth.” The problem with “get out of debt” as a goal, is there isn’t anywhere to go from there once completed. You are focusing on losing something, not growing something. Once you’ve lost something, it’s over. But paying off your debts is only the beginning.
Focusing on growing something means there is always a next step; keep growing, grow faster, grow in a different way. Now that I have achieved a positive networth, I can just keep doing what I’m doing. I want to continue growing my finances. Not take on more debts. And continue to increase my investments and savings.
Stating the obvious, having a goal for “positive net worth” is literally focused on the positive. When your focus is on losing/crushing/destroying debt, these are pretty negative words. Sort of the semantic equivalent of Go Team! versus Beat the other Team!
I want to take this happy announcement time to officially announce that I also earned a promotion and a raise at my current job! This is my third year with the company. This is the longest I’ve stayed with a company. The others just weren’t good fits. So this was the first time I had to engage the raise/title change/etc conversation. It wasn’t as scary as I thought. And surprisingly, I was already being considered for it so the process was rather quick. The promotion is valid since my responsibilities have significantly increased from when I was hired. My title has been expanded to Web Analyst & SEO Specialist. Neato.
The raise was rather significant. My rent is now only 42% of my monthly income. All of my utilities & commuting costs come to 9%.
Now that I have hit a financial milestone of positive networth and am earning more money, will my lifestyle change? YES.
My long-term good habits, personal finance knowledge, and frugal sensibilities are not going to be lost overnight. I won’t all of a sudden decide buying a new car is a great idea. Or start eating out every single day for every single meal. However, I might start buying two bagels a week instead of one. Or not panic if I forget to pack a lunch. Or not berate myself for buying a drink after happy hour. That sounds pretty nice to me.
Since I am fairly sensible with my finances, I am planning on putting more into savings each month. And increasing my student loan payment. I don’t think buying an extra bagel will hinder those plans.
These two positive events occurring at the same time really shows how my student loan debt has been a great investment. I’m certain that without my college experience, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now. Statistically, those without college degrees earn less on average. There is no need for me to hate my student loan debt. I accept that I needed to take that risk to move myself further. It has paid off, pun intended, and I will continue to look at it as a positive building block for my financial growth.
When you don’t have to drive yourself home, you tend to stay out later and drink more. That’s the way it is here at least. I don’t really like taking cabs all that often. The social interaction is always awkward for me. Plus, it’s pricey. So I usually suck it up and take the train. Or back when I lived in NJ the bus. Here are some fun stories of the lucky, funny, and scary times I’ve fallen asleep on public transportation.
It was my first week in my new apartment so I went out with friends to celebrate. We took advantage of some really cheap cocktails at a bar in the village. I was still getting the hang of the train routes to my new place. But for the most part I knew my options. I got on an F train which would take me directly to my closest subway stop with no transfers. When I left the bar, I knew I didn’t feel well. Drinking some water on the way to the train wasn’t helping either. I managed to get a seat on the train but was still feeling really lousy. Really drunk and really nauseous. At some point, I knew I was going to get sick. So I got off the train at the next stop and got sick on the platform. Classy! I felt a little bit better. Well enough to get back on the next train.
The next train comes, I get on and take a seat. Now I’m just feeling tired rather than sick. I sit back in the seat and close my eyes, knowing there’s still a ways to my stop. I had lived in Manhattan previously so I wasn’t used to the difference in time it took to get to Brooklyn from various neighborhoods. Next thing I remember, I hear a metal clanging really loud next to me. I open my eyes and the conductor is standing in front of me yelling “Last stop! Get off the train!” I look around and I am definitely all alone on the train. I wearily stumble out and realize that I am at my stop! The last stop on the G train is my stop – Church Avenue. Apparently, the train I stumbled onto was a G train. And I hadn’t even realized.
I was very fortunate because otherwise, if I stayed on the F, I would have ended up in Coney Island for sure. Technically, the conductors are supposed to check the train for passengers at the last stop before pulling it out of the station. But they don’t always do this. I have had friends who ended up on an actually empty, powered down train, on the tracks, because it was never checked!
On a Sunday last August, I went out with some friends for day drinks. Nothing too crazy. Certainly not like the first story. We walked around the West Village just casually hanging out and stopping at places. At one point, we met up with a friend who lived near-by. He was weeding out his closet and trying to get rid of clothes. So he brought a bag of clothes he was going to donate, to see if we wanted anything. One of the things in the bag was a nice wool coat that he no longer wanted. I liked the look of it so I grabbed it.
This was early August so the weather was very muggy in the city. When it gets so hot, the subway cars blast air conditioning. Sometimes it’s welcoming but other times it is literally freezing. So I had the bright idea to wear the winter coat on the train on my way home.
Several hours later, we all part ways, and I’m carrying my nice wool coat. I get on an F train (damn F train again). It’s an old train so I get a seat in the corner at the end of the car. I wrap the coat around me, get really cozy, and promptly fall asleep.
It was so comfortable that I woken up a while later by the train being above ground. This really only happens after my stop. So, I definitely missed my stop. But the hilarious part was no one was sitting next to me. In fact, the people who were in the same train car with me, were very far away from me. Like, when you see a homeless person asleep and you don’t even want to sit in the same row of seats as them.
Sure, I wasn’t smelly. But it was over 90 degrees outside and I was asleep on a train in the early evening wearing a winter coat. Not typical normal-person summertime behavior. I would have questioned this person too!
However, I did learn that if you want some space on the train, just behave irrationally (and you don’t even have to cause a scene).
Okay, I fully admit this one is the worst. Let me put this into context of the bus I was on. I was living in Jersey City Heights at the time. There isn’t a convenient PATH station to the city and NJ Transit buses are kind of expensive. So this private company has these little white short jitney buses that cost about $1 and make various stop s ending at Port Authority in Manhattan. They are barely legal. There is no time table. There are no actual official bus stops. No bus stop signs for them. When you’re on the bus and you want to get off at the next stop, you have to yell “Next Stop”.
A friend came to visit me from out of town and was staying in the city. So I came in to hang out with her. We had some day beers, then some food, and walked around some. It was a very long day. I wasn’t drunk but was exhausted from the busy day and tired from the earlier alcohol. I was very used to these buses and knew just how long I had to my stop. I got on the crowded bus at Port Authority and laid my head next to the window. Someone was sitting next to me. It was very loud.
Then I opened my eyes to see how close I was to my stop and no one was sitting next to me. I looked up and no one was on the bus. But the bus was still moving. So I thought maybe it wasn’t too far.
I walked up to the front to the driver. He saw me in the mirror and his eyes grew large like, “oh shit!”. Apparently he didn’t know that I was still on the bus.
He asks what stop I’m looking for. When I tell him, he responds, “Oh, very far.”
At this point I’m half-awake, a little buzzed, very tired, and just not thinking straight at all. I’m not sure where we are. And am trying to figure out how I can call for a cab. I ask the driver if he will just let me out but he continues driving. There was a language barrier here so that didn’t help. But we clearly were in the middle of no where around Jersey City so just dropping me off probably wasn’t a good idea.
I’m still standing trying to process what to do. When we now pull into a bus yard. A bus yard, definitely in the middle of no where, only warehouses surrounding it, with all these little jitney buses. I wonder to myself if I can call a cab to come to “the jitney bus yard”. The driver isn’t really saying anything because language barrier. But once he stops the bus in the yard, he opens the door and points out. Still really confused, I get off the bus. What else can I do at this point? I think I ask something and maybe he says something like “one moment.”
Okay now I’m just standing in the middle of this bus yard with no one else around except this bus driver. Who is now driving the bus around to park it. I do have my phone but have no idea who to call. He disappears from my view. For whatever reason, I never really worry. I just keep running through my options in my head.
Then a car pulls up to me in the yard, it’s the bus driver. He says the name of my stop and that he will drop me off there. Not knowing what better options I have, I get in the car. With the bus driver.
Yes, I am fully aware that this could have ended very terribly.
But it didn’t. We rode in silence and I told him some cross streets that were near my apartment but not directly in front of it. He dropped me off and I thanked him profusely for the help.
Then I walked up to my apartment and flipped the fuck out that I was somehow still alive and holyshit that was bad news and wow so glad he was a normal person.
Lesson learned. For as many times as I’ve fallen asleep on the train, I am now super extra careful about all buses!