Category Archives: Travel

How #ONA15 helped me face my networking fears

Do you like meeting people?

I’m going to be really, really honest here — I don’t. I hate it. (Keep reading.)

Earlier this year, I bought myself a pass to go to a conference in Los Angeles — the Online News Association’s annual gathering for digital journalists and badasses to come together to share industry knowledge — and talk to each other. 

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What the hell was I thinking? I can’t even drag myself to a professional event in Atlanta, let alone fly across the country to do it.

I’m an introvert. Before you dismiss that claim because you’ve heard my extreme laugh, hear me out.

I am easily overwhelmed by crowds and I generally err on the side of, uh, complete avoidance when it comes to socializing with people I don’t know.

In the days before the conference, I didn’t have much to say about it. “I’m mostly stressed,” was my answer when questioned. I spent most of the night before my flight thinking, “What have I done?”

How was I going to deal with this? How would I survive this mortal combat known as  — “networking?” I gave serious thought to completely ditching it for the sake of “saving money” — and my scared and fragile psyche. But it was a trip to California, for God’s sake. I wear a compass around my neck with a map of Los Angeles pasted to the back of it most days. (It’s cuter than it sounds.)

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There was only one option — a one way ticket to getting the hell out of my comfort zone. So I committed. I packed my favorite blazer, an enormous stack of business cards —  and an attitude synonymous with “Long Black Road.” They used to tell me boy you ain’t goin’ nowhere…

On Wednesday, after a painfully early flight (of sideways sleeping and freaking out) — ONA hosted a Google event in Venice Beach. There was going to be a presentation, preceded by the scariest words in the English language — “light refreshments and mingling.” Oh. God.

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Now, normally, the mention of a mixer would have sent me running for the hills. With my head on fire.

And I didn’t have to go to it. I was tired. So exceedingly tired. I could have just showed up for the presentation and crawled into my plush hotel bed. But I forced myself to go.

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And at first, yeah, I felt really freaking awkward. As expected, I didn’t know a soul, and I just kind of wandered around the room like a lost little kid. Like maybe this cement wall will strike up a conversation with me? I prayed.

But I remembered a simple piece of advice I’d read earlier in the week while prepping for the conference — act like a host, make other people feel welcome, instead of focusing on how weird you feel. So I found someone who wasn’t talk to anyone, and we had things and people in common.

(Funny thing about media conferences, you’re bound to have something in common — you know, like, everything?)

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Once that conversation ended, I picked up another, and another after that. And that’s really all it took. One conversation with one stranger to propel me to have more conversations with more strangers.

I learned a ton of stuff at ONA — including how to negotiate a salary, how to write more engaging content, how to effectively use Snapchat, what the HECK Yik Yak is…

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But the biggest thing I learned was how to face a really tangible fear in my life, a fear that has interfered with my success and growth as a person and a professional — a fear that manifested into a lie about myself that I started believing: That nobody cares or wants to know me.

But they do — and they did, and I want to know more of you in return.

So thanks to all of the people who made me feel welcome, and thanks to the Online News Association for forcing people like myself to face of some of their silliest hangups. It was worth every penny and every anxious thought.

I read and finished Into the Wild during my flights on this trip for the first time. I both admired and pitied Chris McCandless for his bravery, his brashness — and his fear and distaste for intimacy. But we have to assume near the end of the book, as his health deteriorated beyond repair, he began to crave human relationships. Days before his death, he wrote in the margins of a copy of Doctor Zhivago — “HAPPINESS ON REAL WHEN SHARED.”

Indeed.

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#DearMe: Be the heroine

Have you heard of this #DearMe thing?

According to YouTube: “In celebration of International Women’s Day, take part in YouTube’s global #DearMe initiative to inspire and empower young girls everywhere.”

Obviously, I loved this. I wish I could look my younger self in the face and tell her a few things. Like, don’t drink Vodka, ever. Am I right?

So I wanted to take part in this #DearMe thing. It sends you to a website to create a GIF with a pre-made quote or an option to make your own. I wanted to make my own.

So I sat there and stared at it for a long time. I’m usually good with this kinda stuff. I can whip out a solid piece of advice pretty easily most of the time. But I completely drew a blank. Everything I would tell my younger self, I haven’t even learned yet. Simple lessons, like, “everything will work out for the best.” Or, “you’re capable and you’ll figure out a way.”

Probably because recently, I came up against some good old fashioned failure.
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I didn’t get something I really, really wanted, and I tried like hell to get it.

And if I’m gonna be honest here, this doesn’t happen to me a whole lot. I have a really strong vision for my life and I’m generally extremely committed and driven to get there.

So when reality didn’t line up with “the vision” it was a brutal, brutal letdown. The stuff of nightmares, breakups — nasty disappointment in myself.

I haven’t been a good sport about it all.

And no amount of goodwill or encouragement has helped me. (You’re like, OMG you are so annoying. I KNOW.)

I’ve got all these people (friends, coworkers, parents) barking at me to get the heck over it and feel proud of myself.

As much as I want to listen to that, most of me just wants to say, “ehhh get out of my face.”

Rejection is one of the hardest human experiences to endure. Rejection from a person, a place or a thing. It just sucks. You become a victim to your extreme vulnerability.

Here I am! I can give you THIS, and THIS and I can be THAT, and do THAT, and contribute THESE things, and succeed at THAT and change THIS and BY THE WAY – I’m hardworking and funny AND! I’ll do anything for you. Even move my life across the country! WITH BELLS ON.

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Eh… no thanks.

BUT I WOULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING FOR YOU.

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How do you recover from that? Beats the hell out of me, honestly. I really don’t know. I guess like most things, you have to sweat it out. Work through it somehow and set your sights on something else.

I feel so behind, though. There are high school students out there writing apps, and songs and books. And here I am writing about failure on some blog I made a year ago. Who the heck am I?

I feel I’m in no position right now to tell my younger self anything at all. I wish she could tell ME a few things.

So I’m going to try to imagine myself a little bit older and a little bit wiser. What would she say? She would probably say something along the lines of, “suck it up, drama queen, you’re gonna make it. Have some faith, be courageous, and listen to yourself.”

Ugh.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. And I’m not even sure I’m ready to swallow it. But I know I’m gonna have to eventually. It’s unbelievably easy to feel sorry for yourself when stuff like this happens. But that’s not me, that’s not my personality. It’s not who I was raised to be, someone who becomes a victim to a situation instead of rising above it.

So, #DearMe – Past me, current me, future me:

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20 things every 20-something *doesn’t* need to know

We 20-somethings, we love a good list.

Especially, the list of “pointers” about how to live a better 20-something life. “20 Things Every 20-Something Should Know,” “23 Reasons No One Likes You When You’re 23,” “I’m Feeling 22, Boo effing Hoo.”

Ok, I made that last one up. But some edition of this type of story publishes every week. 20 pieces of advice for the clueless 20-year-old. (Yawn.)

They all ultimately say the same thing: It’s okay to be a mess, hangovers suck bad, don’t get married young and get out there and travel.

Good advice or not, we’re all pretty obsessed with ourselves when we’re 20-something. Aren’t we? Myself included.

Seems like we get SO obsessed with trying to figure ourselves out that we forget about well, living. Because learning comes with living — Not by reading some Thought Catalogue article.

It’s hard as a young adult to have peace about life in the midst of navigating a premature career when you’re still trying to figure out how not to overdraft your bank account. Also, what is “mopping?” So I guess reading about how much of a wreck we all are during our twenties is comforting.

But you don’t need to read lists about 20 things that may or may not affect you to make yourself feel better about your life. You’re absolutely not alone.

“You mean, I’m not the only person in the world that eats cake and $4 wine for dinner!?” No, you most certainly are not.

I went to New York a few weeks ago to visit a good friend. I had some lose plans here and there, but I ran into several people I’d lost touch with. It made me think about life’s ability to twist and turn unexpectedly.

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And life has done that a lot lately.

We can plan our lives hoping to rid ourselves of every anxiety we feel about the future. But at some point, fate evades the planner and reveals a better plan.

Because let’s face it, even in my short 24 years of life, “the worst thing in the world” ended up leading me to something better. Every. Single. Time.

Life will continue to do that, I’m sure of it.

Maybe we shouldn’t waste our time trying to figure out how we tick, why we feel so deeply or why we physically can’t down 5 shots of whiskey every Friday night anymore.

It will be okay — there’s a plan of sorts behind all of your moronic, 20-something decisions. And even more importantly, the awesome things you’re just beginning to tap into will blossom and you’ll find your footing. And one day, you’ll be telling people why being 20-something doesn’t actually suck. It’s kind of wonderful in its own, twisted way.

At least, that’s what I believe.

Throw the ’20 things you need to know’ out the window — you only need one. Be yourself. And what will be will absolutely be.

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Every time we say goodbye

You know that scene in “The Parent Trap” (the one with Lindsay Lohan) the scene where Dennis Quaid and ‘Hallie’ are saying goodbye to Natasha Richardson and ‘Annie?’ It’s raining, it’s sad, and that Ray Charles song is playing in the background, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”

It sums up everything I feel about leaving people. (PS, can we reflect on how much we love that movie? Is it just me?)

I dropped a friend of mine at the airport last week after a blissful weekend with my college roommates (turned best friends.)
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetIt’s a weird place, airports. One of the only places you can feel fulfilled in one instance and empty in another.

Nothing beats the excitement of arriving at the terminal — But leaving… That’s another story.

I always wonder if the people embracing each other next to stacks of baggage are staying or leaving.

Every time I left my grandparents after a holiday when I was a kid, I would cry for at least 30 minutes afterward. (They lived 10 hours away.) I thought I would “grow out of it” one day, because it was childish, I thought.
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But after 24 years, when I say goodbye to close friends and family, that Ray Charles song plays in my head, and I cry.

After I dropped Emily off I was struck by the fact that airports were a whole lot like life.

You come, you go, you stay, you leave. People arrive — and they depart.

The arrival is sometimes euphoric. But inevitably, (unless you’re Buddha) you spend some time dreading the moment you have to go.

I enter relationships that way: Hesitant, and dreading the moment we have to part. Which is pretty depressing, I know.

But don’t all good things have to come to an end?

Not necessarily.

I think about some of the greatest joys in my life: Writing, cooking, music… Those good things will never end.

The same goes for people.

Though some people will leave – In a furious drama, or just as quietly as they came. They will leave you, nonetheless, better or worse than they found you.

But the ones you bond with inexplicably, the ones you don’t understand life without — The ones who become a part of you without even knowing it. Those people are here to stay.

Though maybe not physically.

This silly needle-point picture hung on the wall of my grandparents’ house before they both died.

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I took it with me because it reminded me of my grandmother, who was hilarious, giving and tough.

She held us together, pushed us out the door — And told us that we should never, under any circumstance, chase a boy. It was hard for my family to say goodbye to her 3 years ago. But though she’s gone, she’s still with us, encouraging us to make the world brighter, just by being in it.

Charleston & the disposable camera

Last weekend, we took a quick vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. We brought the Kodak disposable camera, for it’s quality, obviously. Here are just a few of my favorite shots. It was a weekend full of charm! (And getting lost on backroads and arguing about Google maps.)

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The Charleston Harbor.

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One of the many charming houses lining every street.

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The food in Charleston is bangin’. Hominy Grill  has a “to-go” window for ordering drinks while you wait for a table. Need I say more?

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We rode bikes!

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We saw the sites (Rainbow Row.)

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We went to the market.

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Admired the charming scenery.

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Represented ‘Merica.

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Took a selfie.

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We sat on the swings on the edge of the bay.

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More market charm.

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You can find me living here in 60 years.

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Cobblestone streets.

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Great friends, great drinks.

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Brad’s winning smile.

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This kid was cranking out some Disney tunes with his saxophone along the harbor (it was SO cute, and he sounded so good! You go!)

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We really, really didn’t want to go home.