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How To Avoid Living Your 20s on AutoPilot

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How do I want to be remembered? 

It’s only 1 sentence. 7 tiny words. But, this sentence might as well as be the prompt for each and everyone’s personal manifesto.

We so often think of our 20s as this chaotic decade. It’s the first decade where we are totally adults trying to figure out all the real world entails. This includes how to find a job, dealing with your first bosses, finding apartments, staying in touch with friends, making new friends, dating, relationships and maybe even marriage and kids of your own.

I recently listened to one of the best talks from Michael Hyatt. He talked about how this simple question can bring some much needed clarity, purpose and control into one’s life.

It’s the difference between leading a driven, drifting or designed life.

A driven life is essentially when we get trapped in the endless busy cycle. It’s almost like we become robotic moving from one task to the next. Simply living life on autopilot mode.

As the drifting life is more the scenic route where we just jump for one thing to the next without really thinking ahead. To illustrate this point, it’s as Ted Talk speaker Meg Jay said the people, who spend their entire 20s experimenting with no end goal in sight. They use their 20s as an excuse to delay adulthood.

(Sidenote: If you haven’t seen Meg’s talk, I highly recommend it. Watch it here. 

As Michael pointed out, both the driven and drifting life can lead us to outcomes that we may not have chosen for ourselves had we been conscious of the path we were on.

Instead, he argues (and I would agree) it’s about living a designed life. It’s one guided largely by the question I asked at the beginning of this post.

How do I want to be remembered? 

It’s less about your legacy – at least initially- and more about living intentionally. Working daily with a purpose and drive.

This is some really heavy food for thought. It can be broken down into two sub-questions.

What is important to me? 

What single brave decision do you need to make today?

Each person’s priorities will be different. Every one else will have their own agenda and priorities and will act on that. It’s up to you to make sure you don’t wind up compromising yours to live someone else’s .

The Real Reason I Said Goodbye To New York City

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This post is 18 months in the making.

Growing up I was never one of those kids who dreamed of living of NYC when I was older. In fact the first time I ever visited at the age of 15, I openly said I didn’t want to ever live there.

Fast forward seven years, I was on a plane with a one way ticket to the Big Apple. I was going to finally get a chance to flex my social media chops working for a ad agency.

I can honestly say I leaned more in the two years living in NYC than any other time in my life.

I became an expert at navigating public transit.

I leaned how to be independent.

And, how to make it in a competitive, cutthroat industry.

Oh yeah, the nightmare of navigating the NYC apartment rental process.

I also met and worked with some incredible folks- many of whom I still consider to be mentors to this day.

As well as the uncomfortableness of watching complete strangers cry in public. Then, realizing  you would be doing the same thing quite a few times.

As well as how to just live in the chaos that is  NYC.

But all that being said, NYC never really felt like a permanent home. It was like an extended vacation. I was working 60-70 hours a week and out either at “networking events” or happy hours with friends/coworkers at least 4 nights a week. What happened? I burnt out completely at the age of 24. When I didn’t want to go out and drink until sunrise, I suddenly felt very isolated.

NYC is a city that is always on. People expect you to work crazy hard and then to bounce back and party just as hard if not harder. For a self-proclaimed introvert, this can be very overwhelming. And isolating.

Apartments are generally too small to hang out with friends at home. The dating scene is atrocious. That leaves bars as the most easily accessible venue to see and hang out with people.

It can lead even the most cautious person to becoming a functional (or out of control) alcoholic.

I didn’t like that there was almost no chance to see friends in settings outside bars and brunches (for that matter being able to see folks completely sober).

This wasn’t a sudden realization. One that took over 6 months to realize. Much, much longer to sink in.

People get so caught up in the glamor of the NYC lifestyle, that stuff like this gets cast over. Heck, I cast right over it for a long time.  Too long, in hindsight.

Sure, people complain about the high rent prices, the disgusting smells of rotting trash (and who knows what else) in the summer time and the homeless problem in the subway stations (Seriously, do not get on an empty train at rush hour.) But, the one thing most people often don’t talk about is just how lonely of a city NYC is. It’s a city that is absolutely inundated with crowds (rush hour on the subway, a packed lunch counter, a weekend walk in crowded Central Park, etc). Every one is so caught up in their own heads in the hustle and bustle of trying to make it big that it winds up being a very isolating and lonely place.

Every one is going from place A to B in autopilot mode with their headphones in. Rarely if at all do you see people stop to talk to one another. Or just say hello.

Nobody knows their neighbors. And everyone is anonymous on the streets. That’s empowering, isolating and increasingly terrifying.

This is something I tried to overlook and then tried to change by volunteering with a community startup called On My Block films. This encouraged folks to get to know their neighbors by creating a film together in 48 hours. A seriously awesome project. And one that I am trying to make happen in Austin. But that’s another post altogether.

No matter how awesome the project was, it wasn’t enough to make NYC feel truly like home.

Looking back 18 months later while I may still struggle with loneliness from time to time (but I increasingly think that comes with the territory of relationships changing in your 20s), I believe moving away from NYC was one of my smartest decisions. At least for my sanity and mental health.

Have you ever felt isolated in the city that you live or lived in? Please share your thoughts below in the comment section or by emailing me directly (if you aren’t comfortable sharing publicly) at selfiesandsweatpants@gmail.com. (I do read and respond to all emails).

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5 Secrets to Being Happy in your 20s

My 20s – well the first six years of it- haven’t gone as planned. Chances are if you reading this, your 20s probably haven’t either.

I feel like I’m on the world’s longest emotional rollercoaster ride. Some days I feel like I’m on the top of the biggest hill. Giddy, happy and enthusiastic.  Other nights – like tonight- I feel like I’m free-falling down the biggest coaster drop, and all I want to do is curl up into a ball and cry in self-pity, “Why me?”

I like to think that though all of the heartbreaks, disappointments and failures that I have dealt with, I’ve become a really strong mid-20-something female. I’m independent. I’m fighter with a can-do attitude. I can handle any curveball that life throws my way. The reality is most days I’m pretty sure this is just a facade. A coping mechanism that I put on to shield myself from all the trauma I’ve gone through.

The only thing that I can really think of that’s gotten me through all this is getting really comfortable being uncomfortable. 

I know this may sound like pure torture to many of you. Why would anyone voluntarily place themselves in a situation that freaks them out or scares them shitless?

But, looking back, the scariest, most uncertain times in my life has made me that much more appreciative of what I have and often have resulted in my fondest memories. It’s forced me to be vulnerable and live in the NOW. 

I feel like being vulnerable has negative connotations in our society. In reality, I actually think it’s a good thing. It forces you to be on your toes, open yourself up and be more authentic. Most importantly, it forces you to appreciate what you do have and live in the NOW.

As I’m going on like year three of what seems like a never-ending quarter-life crisis, the biggest lessons I keep encountering from my mentors- who are all older than me- all stem back to getting uncomfortable and living in the NOW.

So, how exactly do you get more UNcomfortable? Here’s five tips from some of my favorite bloggers that I keep going back to and re-reading day after day.

1. Get Comfortable Flying Solo 

How many of you have always thought about going to a nice dinner all by lonesome? Or, grabbing a drink at the bar by yourself? I know I have. However, I usually chicken out before doing it. I let self-doubt and the fear of being perceived as “awkward” or as a creepy loner get in the way of possibly a delicious meal.

Then, I look at bloggers, like Torre DeRoche, who took a 10 day solo retreat, and realize all the things that I am missing out on because I’m not comfortable going solo. As Torre wrote,  “This is why it’s so important to learn how to love your own company, to travel solo, to dine for one. We are each living out our own journeys and so we much take care of our own needs, desires and dreams.”

2. Dream Big, But Work Harder 

This is the first decade where most of us are flying free. For the first 18 or so years of our lives, we went to school and lived by our parents’ and teachers’ rules. Then, we had college, where we got to express more of our individuality, but still lived within quite a few constraints.

Our 20s are really the first time where we get to live 100% on on our terms. Many of us start out with big dreams. Most end up abandoning them fairly quickly- usually because of lack of instant gratification, a societal pressure to “be an adult” or simply it’s too hard.

The reality is it’s easy to cruise on auto-pilot and succumb to societal pressures of being an adult in a 9 to 5 TPS report-filing cubicle job. If you want to live like they do in Office Space, by all means do it.

However, if you have bigger dreams and aspirations, it’s going to require a shit ton of work.  Like this post on the The Porch Dallas, you will need to be willing to forge ahead with a lot of hard work without a lot of instant gratification.

“Almost nothing truly worthwhile comes quickly. It takes time and discipline to become an Olympic athlete, or to simply get in shape; to get a degree, or become a CPA, or become a great husband or wife. And any of the things you truly want long-term can be derailed by indulging yourself in the moment.”

3. Don’t Settle. 

It’s not just being willing to dream big, but it’s also about not being willing to settle in your 20s. This is really the only decade in your life where you are expected to explore and try new things without having big ramifications. Once you have a wife/husband and/or kids, you have a lot more responsibilities to handle. And, a lot less ability to explore and take risks.

Don’t blow the opportunity by settling and getting too comfortable in your 20s. According to the Milk The Pigeon Blog, “the problem with comfort is that it’s boring. You don’t acquire life experience through comfort and familiarity.” 

4. It’s not your practice life.

Don’t just succumb to wanderlust and exploration with the thought of I can just start my real life in my 30s. There is no do-over time. Explore and take risks, but with a purpose of finding your true identity and calling. Make your 20s count for something.

As Penelope Trunk said, “Take your life seriously enough to be able to share difficulties and failures,” said Trunk.  “And remember that the best decisions you can make are ones that will last into your thirties. That way, you know you are doing things in your twenties that will matter.”

5. Being able to answer this question honestly.

What does it mean (for you) to live a good life? Not sure. Check out this brilliant video from Jonathan Fields as he interviews 29 change-makers on what leading a good life means to them.

What tips do you have for getting comfortable being uncomfortable in your 20s? Please share in the comment section below.

The Inspiration Behind Starting Selfies & Sweatpants

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A few weeks ago, I had a bit of an epiphany after having a conversation with an amazing mentor in my life. You see, I have been at a crossroads lately when it comes to my personal relationships.

I’m pretty much convinced that I’m hopelessly single. I can’t remember the last “relationship” I have been in that lasted more than oh- three or four dates. Hardly a fling.

Regardless of how appealing it may sound on some days, I’m too young to give up on dating and men entirely and enter the land of no return- filled with cats. Lots and lots of cats.

Hence, the idea for Selfies and Sweatpants was born. You see I have been on OkCupid and Match.com before. I took it seriously for one or two weeks. Went on a couple of nonchalant dates, got discouraged and closed up my account.

In hindsight, I realized I probably was giving up on finding “the one” too soon. I have been known to have extremely high expectations – both for myself as well as the guys I want to date. Let’s face it- it flat out sucks to go on first dates. They are awkward, uncomfortable and depending on who the guy you are with is, can be exceedingly creepy.

That’e exactly what inspired me to start this blog, Selfies and Sweatpants. It’s an outlet for me to get out of my comfort zone and share the trials, tribulations and misadventures that come along with dating. I’m going to challenge myself to go on at least 50 dates this year (2014.)

Follow the journey by subscribing to my blog here.

I can’t wait to hear from each and everyone of you. Please contact me anytime with your date suggestions, words of encouragement, or if you just want to chat.