Sunday, October 26, 2014

Things I'd Tell My Younger Self

(21-year-old Ashlie in her beloved college apartment)

I'm far from having it figured out.  I still fall asleep with my make up on and teeth unbrushed horrifyingly often.  I haven't completely broken the habit of picking fights with my husband.  I ramble when I'm nervous, or when I'm super caffeinated, or when I really am into the sound of my voice.   I'm a precious work in progress, people.  

STILL, there are some things I do know.  Most of my sage is advice is hard earned and can boiled down to "drink slower and listen more."  But after celebrating ten years of dating and living with my now-husband, I've been thinking about college Ashlie, the girl who carried years of insecurity and the need for validation with her into a binge drinking, self regulating atmosphere, and I marvel that I made it out alive.  It makes sense that you can only earn the confidence that I feel at this point in my life, but there are messages I wish I could send to my younger self.  Here are a few of them.

1. A guy wanting to sleep with you is not a compliment.
Let's get this one right out of the way.  In college, the culture tends to be "drink up, get down, hook up, YOLO!"  If yolo was happening while I was in college, I would have been one of the people non-ironically leaving YOLO as my away message on Thursday and Friday nights.  I wanted SO BADLY to be a part of the college life that I had seen in movies.  One of my biggest regrets is wearing a shirt that said "Makeout Bandit."  I found it very thrilling at the time.  I wanted to entice someone, to be watched across the room at a party, to banter.  I wanted to interact with someone, to be liked, to have the feeling be mutal.  I confused a lot of these feelings with someone wanting to make out with me.  I figured that if someone wanted to kiss me, touch me, come home with me, then I'm the chosen one! Even if the chooser is very drunk and kind of gross and throws up twice before asking you to go back to his place, it feels good to be chosen.

We know where this is going.  Most guys (especially the kind picking hookups from a pool of drunk girls in a dirty basement) are going to sleep with anything warm and with a pulse.  It does not mean they are into you.  It does not mean they will be nice to you later.  It does not build up your esteem.  If you are having consensual, fun, unattached sex, then more power to you.  But if you are a 17-year-old looking for an older brother-ish kind of mentor figure who will also make out with you (wait, what?) and who will stop every single time you want them to stop, don't hook up with people who have been drinking at house parties on Myrtle Street.

2. You never have to finish your drink.
Ever.  I still get guff for this at 29 freaking years old.  There are no wounded soldiers, there are no "sober kids in China," (I think this bumper sticker was a play on the 'hungry kids in China' line from childhood?) and it is not a damn shame to waste that booze.  I can remember times in college when large guys would literally block the door and not let me leave a party until my cup was empty.  I would smile and giggle and love that I was getting attention, and then drain my cup and then black out.  I'm sure every one of you has a similar story about being "teasingly" forced to drink.

Even after college, when I would go out with friends, there was this whole weird thing where people would insist that I drink everything I ordered. No one has ever even noticed if I don't finish my diet coke, but leave 1/4 of a beer in the bottom of the bottle and people get embarrassed for you.  YOU NEVER HAVE TO FINISH YOUR DRINK.  You can one take sip, zero sips, or drink exactly half.  No one dictates what you put in your body.  Take the indignation that pours out of you when your mother suggests you do something, and direct it to the next person who tells you you have to finish your alcohol.

3. You are doing the right thing going to class about 65% of the time.
I recently realized that I am a poor student.  I thought that because I like to read and write and can carry a decent intellectual conversation, I must fit into the ranks of teacher's pets and hard workers.  In reality, I did papers and assignments late or not at all, asked for extensions and extra credit work at the last minute, and skipped class often.  Unless it was a theater class, I would pretty much treat it like an optional thing.  I would skip for weather, if my apartment needed tidying, if my friends wanted to go out to lunch, or if my boyfriend wanted to go on a drive. I particularly remember skipping class on a Monday when my grandfather was visiting and touring Boston with him and my family.  Not a carefully planned trip, just spontaneously decided to shirk responsibility. I regret nothing. No job has ever asked to see my transcript or asked me what tools my Humanities in the 1800s class provided me with.  Those memories with my friends and family and cat/daytime TV are so much more important to me than a perfect attendance record, and it's much harder to take 5 mental health days a month at this point in my life.

4. The teachers you are working with as an intern will be your colleagues in a few years.
On the flip side of the skip-all-the-classes coin, I want to emphasize to my younger self that these practicums and internships and student teaching gigs are REHEARSALS FOR REAL LIFE.  I had a move to Florida scheduled to happen right after I graduated, so I never imagined that I would be looking for jobs in the district where I was doing all my intern work.  Luckily, I didn't let that have much effect on my performance, and I was proud of a lot of my student teaching work.  GOOD, because one year later, I was applying for jobs where I had student taught, and I know work with several people I brushed elbows with as a student teacher.  Some of my most valuable treasures are the letters of recommendation I received from professors and teachers that helped me with pre-service teaching practice.   Younger self: you don't know where you'll end up or what connections you'll need to draw on. Try as many work places as possible.  Be polite to everyone.  Take notes, and send thank yous.  This is where you should pour your college focus.

5. That little girl submissive thing you have going is not your best look.
Career-wise, I haven often played overly sweet, overly helpful, overly deferential. With teachers and employers, I picked up the habit of never talking back, always agreeing that I am not put out, and always saying yes.  Laughing at jokes that mock things I believe in, gossiping about someone I don't actually dislike, executing plans and projects that I don't think are the best.  Kelly from the blog Adulting tells a story about this "good girl" syndrome becoming actually dangerous, and I'm afraid I would do the same thing in her place.  This attitude has saved me at times, I know- people keeping me on because I am helpful, and kind, and in general the things they want young women who teach children to be.  But it has also blinded me to the worthiness and power of my own voice.  My mother, sisters, and husband can attest: I have a voice.  I have opinions.  And only people who can't fire or unfriend me got that side of my personality for a long time.  Writing has helped me find my voice again, but I wish I had never lost it in the first place.  Teenage Ashlie, it's hard to figure out the line between tact and not speaking up.  Spend the next few years exploring instead of ignoring that difference.

When I asked my friends what they would tell their younger selves, I got answers like lighten up, let go of the situation, read more books, recognize that class/paper stress is much less than family/work stress will be one day, accept your family for who they are, know you are not alone, tell people what you really feel, you are pretty, you are worth it, you deserve happiness, enjoy this moment right now.  I think almost everyone has a pretty serious message they want to send back in time, and at first this made me feel a little sad.  So many wasted 20s.  But it doesn't have to be a downer, because we can learn from this right now.  I may have spent too many years in my life being submissive to authority or drinking too much to make people like me, but when I look back at the regrets of the 30s, those things will not be on the list.  Listen to the message you want to send to your younger self, and repeat it to yourself now.  There's still something to take from it.

Dear Younger Ashlie, work very hard for what you love, be purposeful about having fun, and above all else, be your own lady.

Dear Current Ashlie, you too.

I was definitely inspired by Sarah from Yes and Yes and her Notes to my Younger Self series that she ran last month.  Check out some excellent advice that others gave their younger selves.  I am so nosy and am dying to know what you would tell your younger self.  Please tell me in the comments!

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Coffee and Blogs no. 13

This week was whirlwindy.  Last weekend was spent in Chicago, celebrating my kick-ass marathoning sister and hanging with my family.  I got home on Monday for a quick celebration of Milo's birthday, and then the rest of the week has been a little off- late bedtimes, random evening obligations, routines gone to hell.  Real talk: I haven't spent enough time with Ben and I'm feeling it.  Today is full of errands and cleaning, but tomorrow we're headed off for some one-on-one time in Salem.  I'm really looking forward to it.

Even through all this craziness, I've been stockpiling some links to share.  We had a humidity wave all week and THIS MORNING IS COOL AGAIN.  Get your quilt and coffee ready.

I'm going to lead with Ebola, because there's no way you're sick of this yet.  Another blogger shared this link, which I found strangely comforting.  It also inspired me to get my flu shot and go to the gym.  Is this a silver lining to what I still find to be a scary and intriguing health story, even if my personal risk is very low?

Amanda is cute, all the time, and I want a mustard cardigan, stat.

Kate Baer (of the Ebola article share) writes a lot that I relate to about the struggle to reconcile religion with our current adult beliefs and values.  Her son is starting to ask questions.  I hope I have to courage to teach Milo and Elliott how to be good people and believe in things that are larger than them without tapping into any particular doctrine.  Kate's answers are my starting point.

I've been lazily wishing for a book club for most of my adult life, especially lately when I was gifted some awesome books at my birthday. I've been toying with the idea of an online book club, but I can't tell if it would be too tedious to share our thoughts in comments?  I'd love to know what you think!  These women nixed the problem of reading a long book by creating an articles club.  Bonus in this post- they share the list of articles they've read and discussed, some of which look really interesting.

This is a bummer, I'm not going to lie.  We all grew up spouting rhymes about 1492 and accepting at least partial credit for our awesome American country belongs to Christopher Columbus.  This comic from The Oatmeal reveals a lot of ugly things about a terrible man and his terrible legacy.  It's truly atrocious that he has a federal holiday.  I was worried that info in the comic was one-sided, since I'm not a scholar of Columbus or the early Americas, but the quotes pulled directly from his diary entries and letters were enough to turn me off to Columbus.  This is a petition to change the holiday.  I've signed.

42 Ways To Make Sure People Like and Respect You.  Take even a handful of these to work with you and become instantly more awesome.

I love Kerri at Your Wishcake.  She writes about caring for her daughter, keeping her creative process fresh, and running her little home with thrift and style.  I especially love her honesty about the things her family goes without, a bit of a rarity in the mommy/lifestyle blogging world.  Her article about things she's quit made me think.  No cable?

I'm getting super into my monthly horoscope and following astrological events.  On the lighter side of that cool craziness, here is a handy guide to determine which Halloween candy is appropriate for your sign.  Libras are so eager to please that we lose our king-size bars to keep everyone happy, womp womp.

I've been writing about friendship (confessing my checkered past and picking the people you spend time with), so this article about courting your friends was quite timely.  One of my goals in my 29th year will definitely be about cultivating friendships.  Still open to tips and stories!

Ben has been the unsung hero of a lot of my fun lately.  He watched the boys all weekend while I was off in Chicago, has been putting the boys to bed so I can dash to the gym as soon as he's home, put together more Ikea furniture than is fair for our new office (pictures to come!), and encouraged me to take my sister up on her offer of a dinner cruise tonight.  I am the luckiest.  Here are some of my favorite posts signing the praises of Mr. Swicker: My Film Maker, My Funny Valentine (my favorite memory of dating Ben), Ben is a Rad Dad

What did I miss?  Send me your lovely links!  Enjoy your weekend!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The People You Spend Time With

Last week I started musing about adult friendships and how powerful they can be.  I also admitted that I have my share of failures when it comes to be being a good friend.  I'm writing as an exercise, and as a call for help, and to see if all the bits and pieces make sense when I lay them out.  What is a good friend?  Will I ever be one? (Fair warning: I'm reading Lena Dunham's book right now, so I feel particularly compelled to be brutally honest and mildly melodramatic, despite the comfort level others might feel.  Also, if you are a woman, (or a human), read it.)

What makes a good friend?  Good is a cheap, nothing word.  It's so basic that I challenge my first graders to come up with a better descriptor in their little chicken scratch sentences.  Still, it seems like the natural adjective to sit right in front: good.  Solid, salt of the earth, uncomplicated.  A good friend.  Does this mean a fun friend, or a loyal friend?  Is it the friend who brings you coffee the day after you get yelled at by a mean customer, or the friend who tells you calmly that the tongue-lashing was justified and offers to help you sharpen up your skills?  Maybe it's just the safe feeling you get from certain people.

I also know there are a small handful of people with whom it's zero work.  Our souls just naturally match, and we can go months without talking, then click back into sharing information about our break ups and bowel movements with no chit chat.  We just get in there.  Then there are people who stand out because of matched interests or a similar style, and we find each other and can't help being friends and people say "Oh that makes sense."  There are other people where the friendship seems more earned; built up from shared time, exchanged favors, and mutual respect.  The second two groups are the people who effect our day to day.  The soul friends usually just effect our souls.

Think about your every day life and evaluate the people you spend time with. There are lots of platitudes about your personality being a combination of the five people you spend the most time with, and that's because its a real thing.  I remember, in the early days of dating my bold and opinionated husband, saying blunt or even offensive things to friends who had known me longer.  A few particularly stunned reactions later, I began to realize that I wasn't talking like myself.  Ben's language and personality were perfect for him; layered and understood by the people who knew him best.  Those qualities didn't translate the same way for me, and I wasn't emulating him on purpose.  It was happened from a combination of adoration and exposure.  It can be eerily easy to slip into someone else's mannerisms when you're putting in the hours.  The lesson is two-fold: be careful to hang on to "yourself," no matter who you're spending time with.  Conversely, because you'll never be able to completely guard your personality: pick people to spend time with that you won't mind acting like.

Another thing to keep in mind, when you're sorting through the people who meld with your soul and the people who might influence your tone, is that friend does not meet same.  It took me a scary amount of time to realize I could dislike something a friend did and not need to end it all dramatically.  Small differences (an offhand comment criticizing something I liked, for instance) could make me fold my arms and announce that I didn't want to play anymore.  But since I'm not that mature, I would actually just think that and then stop returning calls.  I think a real grown ass woman or man should be able to sort through things and realize which discrepancies can be handled.  Maybe you can't handle a friend who makes racist comments, but you need to be okay with the friend who is backing a different candidate for governor.  Or maybe your friend hates New Girl and you need to be brave enough to a) keep loving the show and b) forgive your friend for bad taste.  Because it's not middle school, your friends are no longer required to like every single thing you like.  You're grown now, so you get it.

In summation: realize the different kinds of friends there are and be cool with the differences, check out the people you spend most of your time with and make sure you're okay with sounding like them, and don't expect middle school friendships from grown ass people.  Everybody can play.

Next week I'm going to look at the actual living of a good friendship, things to do, places to go, ways to connect with the fabulous people who lift you up, even when you're busy and stressed (spoiler alert: everyone, all the time).  As always, tips and stories are welcome.  Thanks for being my friend!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

29 and Feeling Fine

My birthday was Monday and I was spoiled so deeply by my friends and family that it embarrasses me a little.  I stop sometimes and try to take in the love that surrounds me, but my human brain has no algorithm to process it.  

Here are some reasons I'm happy, lucky, loved, and free:

1. I got books for my birthday!  I'm reading Not That Kind of Girl right now, and I also got #Girlboss and Humans of New York.  I can't wait to take in all the STORIES!

2. Laurel showed up at my house on Monday to surprise me with love and gifts.

3. She brought these awesome rice cakes from Whole Foods (SWEET CHILI!)

4. Milo got a little sad when he woke up Tuesday and she was gone.  I love seeing how much he loves her.

5. My friends at work brought in fish chowder and apple crisp to have a little celebration at lunch.

6.  Ben, Milo, and Elliott made me cards and Milo wrote his name and I could almost figure out the letters!

7. I've been going to the gym regularly and I feel really strong.  

8. I brought some Christmas lights into my classroom and it's feeling cozier every day.

9. I've also started playing quiet classical music while we're working.  It's lovely.

10. Chicago happens SOON!

11. I bought a new outfit, including my first ever pair of skinny jeans.  I've never trusted my curves in them before, but I like how I look in these!

12. I get to snuggle my baby nephew and squeeze pouches into his mouth and spoil him with kisses.


14. I get to sight see with my beautiful parents and I know at least one long life-choice talk will take place.

15. I scheduled Milo's 3 year check up and plan to take him out for a special Mama-Milo date after he gets his shots  I want to start a birthday tradition of giving the boys some one-on-one time.

16. I'm also keeping up with doctor's appointments for myself.  Taking care of yourself is basically a full time job, just to keep level at zero.

17.  I downloaded a Healthy Holiday chart that shows all the dates from now til New Years Eve.  You put a heart of days (holidays, vacations, special events) that you're not going to stress about your diet, and eat clean and chug water on every other day.  Get one here!

18. I get to make a new birthday list, and this year it will be a BEFORE 30 LIST!  I have a really good feeling about my 30s and can't wait to be in the next decade, but I will live it up in this last year of my 20s.

Thanks for listening to my spouting of gratitude.  What is making you feel lucky lately?  I'd love to hear!


Saturday, October 4, 2014

coffee and blogs no. 12

I always feel this uncontainable optimism in the fall.  There is SO MUCH to look forward to at the end of the year and this is the first year that Milo really gets birthdays and holidays.  It's so fun to watch everything click for him.  My trip to Chicago is getting closer (a huge shout out to the lovely Alicia of Jaybird  for sending me an amazing e-mail with some insider tips to make it a true grown up vacation) and I'm doing all the classic autumn tourist-in-my-town things with my family.  I've been trying to focus on reading and writing in my free time and I've saved up some good browsing for you.

This is an article about not "liking" things on Facebook and how it changes your experience using the site.  The author saw changes psychologically (commenting and engaging more) and also mechanically (the algorithm that determines your newsfeed relies heavily on your likes) and now I may try the experiment.

I died at "the walking, talking essence of the Northern Hemisphere's annual tilt away from the sun."  I would date Mr. Autumn Man.

My friend Emilee is farmer and shared this real-talk article about modern farming.  I've always been interested, but this reaffirmed that I probably don't have the work ethic.  Support your local farms!

Pioneer Girl, the autobiography that was reworked into the Little House on the Prarie series, it being published for the first time.  Is this the darker side of Laura Ingalls Wilder?  I'd like to reread the series soon, and this might be just the thing to kick it off.  I love Laura as much as any childhood friend, and I can get behind a badass mother turned author any day of the week.  

I'm never, ever getting out of Amy Poehler's face.  This Buzzfeed article commemorates ten years since the first time two women anchored Weekend Update on SNL.  I loved the recapping of the jokes.  Ben Affleck made me laugh.  I'll love Amy Poehler until I die.

Here is a simply pretty article  about self care and reconnecting with the messages your body is sending you.  I find listening to my body very boring, because my body is finally smart enough to realize the health does not blossom from a gallon of coffee and seasonal granola bars, but this article frames taking care of yourself in a very lovely, desirable way.

This is not a link, but I feel that it's my responsibility to remind you that Parks and Recreation Season 6 is now available on Netflix.  I hadn't seen all the episodes and devoured the season in under a week.  I don't know how I feel about the flash forward.  I'm not yet accepting that this is the last season.

Now that you're on a roll, here are some past posts you might like: hey suburbia, we're in love with you, Channeling Leslie Knope to Kick Ass at Work, and A Love Letter to My Body. My be your own lady Pinterest board has some more assorted eye candy- check out the article on moon gatherings!  Full moon on Wednesday!

Don't forget to share your best friend tips and brag on your wonderful lady friends in the comments here!  I'm putting together the next article in my series on adult friendships!

Are you reading anything good?  Living out any caricatures of first world people enjoying our current season?  HAVE YOU FOUND THE PERFECT PLAID SHIRT DRESS I'M SEARCHING FOR?  I'd  love to hear from you!  Stay cozy, lovelies!

(image credit, text added by me)