Living Candidly #9: Find Yourself, Find Your Tribe, Band Up

It took me the perfect amount of time to find my people.

I say that now, at twenty-five years, seven months and ten days. If you had asked me at, say, twelve years, eight months and three days, or seventeen years, three months, and twenty-six days, or a round twenty-two years, the answer would have been quite different. I would have said anxiously that I wanted my people now. I wanted them there then

As desperately as I sought them, they couldn’t be there then because they weren’t them and I wasn’t me. 

Those last three words are key. I wasn’t me. For some, like my best friend who is excluded from this narrative because she is the roots to my tree, she knew herself from day 1. Her confidence — even through the horrors of middle school — was intimidating and all the more alluring for that. I know that for many of the early years of our friendship, it was as if I was trying to hold a mirror to her image. At times, in retrospect, I wonder if she did the same due to the reciprocity of our inseparability. But whatever the case, there are people I believe who know their selves and their worth from the minute they step into the game of life. 

I, as life would have it, was not one of those people.

I’ve talked at length about it before, but one of the main ways that my insecurities voiced themselves through my adolescence was through my burgeoning generalized anxiety (or rather, my generalized anxiety voiced itself through my insecurities). This made me standoffish to girls, a spazz around boys, and all around an overachiever constantly trying to prove worth in anything of formalized merit. My out after high school — that glimmering future beyond the three halls of St. Mary’s — was college, which I yearned for in the daydreams of ivy-covered campuses and classes with people who I thought to be — and even I know how pretentious this sounds — of equal academic caliber. Yep, I would hate me too if I went to high school with me. 

Imagine my disappointment when college was not that but a petri dish of alcohol-addled and hormone-driven experiments, at least to my freshman and previously sheltered eyes. It was…a lot to take in. Adaptability became the name of the game, and fast. By junior year I had in fact learned to drink and by senior year I was in fact having sex. My high school self would not have recognized me. 

Still I felt lonely.

When I moved to Dublin, I had nothing left. The carpet had literally been pulled out from under my feet. My mental health was on repair from a complete collapse six months prior. I was, for the foreseeable future, unemployable. And, 3,500 miles away from home, completely and utterly alone. That alone time allowed me to establish healthier habits, mentally, spiritually, and physically, to incorporate for years to come. By the time I moved to London for my Master’s, I was energized. I knew my goals, knew my timeline, knew myself. That last one is the key change. 

The people who make me laugh, who make me feel loved, who challenge me to think deeply — these are all the people who came to know me best during the time when I knew me best. And when we made that connection, I didn’t let them go. There’s my friend who, I’ll admit, is from Villanova, but we grew closer as I prepared for my eventual move to New York and now she has become my voice of reason. There’s my roommate, a peer from LCC who I never imagined would become my closest confidante and the one who knows me better than I know myself. There’s my badass friend who can drink me under the table but also keeps me challenging the world every day, inspiring me to be greater. My literary friend, who trades book ideas with me and sends me gift cards for Amazon just out of love. My musical theater loving, capital-F Feminist, all around brilliant friend who is always down for a tea and a FaceTime. My coworkers and compatriots in all debauchery from my summers at the pub who are always down for an adventure or a night in.And of course my London Texan who floats through life with such grace it constantly amazes me. 

I have to stop myself sometimes because I don’t know what I did to deserve them. Each and every one is ultimate. None is second to the next.  Without a doubt, I would not have wanted to meet them at any rate faster than the speed at which they walked into my life. The important part is that these women are all here now. My people. My tribe. But if I could have shown that younger me, at any point, the wealth she would be getting, I would have been a little bit more patient — maybe.

Candidly Reading #6: One Day In December, Josie Silver

Candidly Reading #6: One Day In December, Josie Silver

Despite my hours of discouragement from dating apps, and my continuous — and this is no exaggeration — torture at the hands of the cis-gendered, heterosexual male Gen-Y population, I am nevertheless a firm and complete indulger in anything that has to do with fated romances. Perhaps its in my blood. My parents, for example, are without a doubt what I and many would describe as soulmates. And yes, there are times that I simplify to the idea that there are many possible partners for each of us and we, out of a choice of love, commit ourselves to one for our foreseeable futures at a point in our lives. Or we very well don’t! Many are happy without all that hubbub. But me? I want it. I want it badly.

Which means I force friends through rom-coms and pick up romantic novels, this time leading me to Josie Silver’s One Day in December, a charming, winning debut with the enticing tagline “Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.” I mean, c’mon, people!

The story begins with our heroine Laurie on the London bus making eye contact with her perfect man who sits at the bus stop on a snowy December evening. He attempts to board, seemingly to meet her, but doesn’t catch the bus before it departs. She searches for him for a year, only to be reintroduced the next December to him — this time as her roommate and best friend’s boyfriend. What ensues is ten years of friendship, missed connections, and pure heart that kept me so enraptured that I read it in three sittings.

Three. Sittings. I work in publishing and I will tell you that I haven’t been so enthralled with a “pleasure read” in months to plunge in so deeply to a world beyond the present reality.

This book will not with the PEN/Faulkner, the Nobel, or the Booker. It will not be the one whose quotes will litter your pinterest “recommended” feed like the litany of John Green ones that you can’t escape.

What it will be? It will be the one you return to on a snowy weekend for a sitting in which you engorge yourself on whimsy and heart alongside red wine — a pour Laurie and Sarah would approve of. It will be the one that gives you hope when it seems lost amidst the thousand profiles you viewed that day on, all of them strangely with a lazy eye (no offense to those with it…). It will remind you that although you may belong with someone, there are other loves (no spoilers), and that although not every love is fated, that doesn’t mean they’re toxic (a lesson I need reminding of frequently). And it will instill in you a deep romantic belief that there is a someone for everyone — you’ll just have to wait for your day in December to meet them.

Candidly Concerting #5: A Love Song to Sara Bareilles

Candidly Concerting #5: A Love Song to Sara Bareilles

You gave me a language to dwell in — a gift so perfect, it seems my own invention. I have been thinking your spoken and written thoughts so long, I believed they were mine. I have been seeing the world through your eyes so long, I believed that clear, clear view was my own.

“James Baldwin’s Eulogy” by Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

I’m just going to come out and say it: I cried. Multiple, big, crocodile tears at multiple, big, crocodile moments. Seeing Sara Bareilles live — let alone Sara Bareilles at a sold out Madison Square Garden — was a dream I had been harboring in my heart since early 2008. And yet, when she walked out on stage, I almost missed her because of the lack of pomp she possessed. Striding out confidently but without fanfare in a red pantsuit, she moved to the piano to open with the chorus of “Orpheus,” the track whose lyrics gave her the title for her 2019 album Amidst the Chaos. Despite the fact that I had been slowly working my way into seeing a concert of her own portfolio for years — having seen her at the Hollywood Bowl during Little Mermaid Live and as the lead in Waitress on Broadway — nothing could have prepared me for this. The entire set lasted 2 hours and encompassed not only her newest album but key tracks and fan favorites from all albums (including What’s Inside, the pre-release for Waitress). Some highlights: (1) the soaring incorporation of “Satellite Call” in “No Such Thing”; (2) the absolute silence in the audience when she closed with “Gravity” and (3) the way she adored her band and opener, Emily King, to the point of showering them with praise and recognition during the set. Not only was she talented, she was kind. 

Which, in all honesty, only cements that my borderline infatuation with this artist has been justified since my mother took me to Best Buy in 2008 before my basketball awards dinner to pick up Little Voice based upon the fact that I liked her cameo in a television provider commercial where she sang the chorus of “Love Song.” We — we being the Sara Bareilles fan base — all know the one. But my mom took me all the same. I had been attending weekly voice lessons for three years at this point. We sat in the car outside Panera Bread in her Yukon listening to the album, “Love Song”‘s iconic Gm, C, F, Bb surrounding us. Track played to track. She turned to me, “You should take this for your next session with Ms. Parker.” 

Her voice floated through the speakers that day in 2008 and nestled her understanding deep into my skin, my lungs, my heart, to a point where she allowed me to echo its reverberations in a way that enunciated and empowered my very own self. In her eulogy for James Baldwin, Toni Morrison said that he gave her a voice. Sara — her first name feeling as comfortable as that of a dear friend — was my foremother for years, and continues to be. She knew the joys and absolute terrors of jumping into a world unknown (“Uncharted,” “Chasing the Sun,” “If I Dare”). She bolstered me with not just one move across an ocean but two. She knew heartbreak: the deep, despondent lows of unrequited love (“1000 times,” “One Sweet Love,” “Between The Lines”), the destructive realization that some relationships just don’t work out (“Manhattan”) and even the more cursed combination of the two when you love someone who you just can’t move beyond (“No Such Thing,” “Poetry By Dead Men,” “Morningside,” “Gravity”).  She also remarkably was there when I did move on from each of these heartbreaks (“Little Black Dress,” “Fire”). She embraced me in my quest to find independence and — dare I make the pun — bravery in my femininity (“Brave,” “Armor,” “Eden,” “Let the Rain”). She was there for each of my a cappella auditions (“Bluebird,” “Gonna Get Over You”) and my final performance (“Stay”). She heard me when I felt lost, depraved, unworthy, and yet desperate for a glimmer of hope (“She Used To Be Mine”). And one day, I will walk down the aisle to her voice (“I Choose U”) and sing my children to sleep with her music (“Everything Changes”). 

Yes, this is my Love Song to Sara Bareilles. And while it is not that Gm, C, F, Bb chord progression that sticks in everyone’s ear since that Comcast commercial way back in the early millennia, it is the best I have to offer: my words. Thank you, Sara, for a magic from that moment ’til now and what promises to continue. I’m just grateful — from the remainder of my thirteen year old heart — that I was able to witness the magic in person.

Candidly Careering #4: The View From 6 Weeks In Publishing

Candidly Careering #4: The View From 6 Weeks In Publishing

In the glamorous view of my job as a literary agency assistant, my hours are consumed by thinking about words. Reading them, judging them, and then composing my own sentences of them to convey these judgments on what I read to the two agents to whom I provide support.

In reality, I spent two hours on a Friday calling florists to see what particularly beautiful or unusual potted flowers to send to one of our authors only to call back the following Monday to demand a refund when the blue hydrangeas were delivered wilted.

I was that florist’s nightmare.

But having blue hydrangeas show up in unacceptable condition to a 50+ time New York Times Bestselling author is — by all accounts — an agency’s nightmare.

Most days I fall in between these two extremes. I provide administrative support, absolutely: sorting mail, filing copyright confirmations, typing memos for project files based upon various e-mails received by the office from publishers, answering phones, the list goes on. But I also get the chances to learn about agent work through researching editorial contacts for submission, reading second round manuscripts after an unsolicited query makes it past the interns (who, quite frankly, save my sanity by handling the queries). I’m particularly grateful for the one agent in my office who has taken me under her wing as a mentee and does more than within her power to introduce me to each step of whatever task she is working on.

Whenever it gets tough, and it does because it’s still a job, I stop myself and pep talk myself to the phrase, “Yes, but you finally work in publishing.” And that still somehow holds the magic.

This is how I know that I’m still enamored with my job.

Today I was lucky enough to meet one of our authors. My big boss, the Head-Honcho, called and told me to mark this meeting two weeks in advance. I quickly did, jotting down the various other tasks for the day. “KH in office. 2:30.” And as the day drew nearer, I started to plan. I booked a hair appointment for 7:00 a.m. that day so I could look polished and primped — a master feat considering the way I had been spiraling into work of late. I laid out my clothes the night before. I asked the Head-Honcho whether she needed me to pick up refreshments for the appointment (a point she quickly dismissed, but I hope was noted). And when KH entered the office, I stood up and walked around my desk to shake her hand like the absolute clown that I am.

Yes, I fangirled at my own office for an author whose work I admire. But now I can say that I not only admire her, but I represent her — or, at the very most, support the people who represent her. That’s touching greatness, if not yet there myself.

So when the days hit where I feel very Devil Wears Prada, switching out my shoes under my desk and drafting e-mails for review rather than sitting and diving into query submissions, or the days when I’m scolding a florist for wilted blooms, there are the days when the extraordinary happens that 9-year-old Rose with her nose in a book would gape at.

And that’s pretty damn cool.

Candidly Reading #5: Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

Candidly Reading #5: Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women cannot be summarized. I refuse to do it. In just over three hundred pages and through the narratives of three women’s stories, it explores the entrapment of female sexuality in an America dominated by its male counterpart. There’s Maggie, who comes forward to claim her truth in her highly-sexual romance with her high school English teacher. There’s Lina, who simply wants to find that partnership — emotionally and deeply physically loving — that is lacking in her eleven year marriage, so she reignites an old flame in a torrid affair. And there’s Sloane who sleeps with other men and women in front of or recorded for her husband’s viewing pleasure, pushing boundaries as a submissive in ways that not even Fifty Shades could have predicted. I don’t want to give away their stories because I honestly think you should read their lives as Taddeo beautiful scribed them. It was chilling, evocative, and hard to distance yourself from in the heat of the moment (whether sexual, emotional, or even legal).

So today I don’t write about Taddeo’s work in depth because my efforts will not do justice. What I can do, however, is describe my own journey with the male gaze and female sexuality.

All my love x

I can imagine being inside this man’s head and seeing my mother’s legs and following them. One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.

Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

I remember the first time I felt myself capable of the male gaze. Not the subject of it, but the perpetrator; the very one inflicting it on what should have been my female allies. I was eleven years old, on my way back from fifth grade, and confused about what I had been drawn to observe. Breasts budding on my classmates. The ways in which my well-past maturation female teachers dressed. And while some of it was comparison to my own progress, most of it was admiration and curiosity. With a religious upbringing bearing down my throat, I finally coughed up the words in the car one day on the way home from sixth grade, “Mom, do you think I’m a lesbian?”

Now, this could easily be the opener to an LGBTQ+ “coming out” story, but the reality was that I had experienced several all-encompassing, youthful, and not-so-discreet crushes on male neighbors and classmates alike, so instead of taking my question to heart and having an open discussion my mother laughed in my face. “No, sweetie,” she said, reaching over and patting my hand as we pulled into the driveway, “you’re not a lesbian, trust me.”

I would continue through puberty to track the bodily development of my classmates in almost sick displays of masochistic jealousy. But the reality was that I was viewing them not as “too fat” or “too skinny” but as “What size bra cup do they have? Are mine bigger or smaller?” and “Do I need to do more squats to firm my ass?” I would take up running to shed the baby fat that I felt held me back from that young woman’s body I so desired to wield on the world, being told that if I was beautiful in addition to smart and kind, my ambition would have the chance to materialize much more tangibly. In essence, I was taught that being attractive to the rest (i.e. male) population — more attractive than the general (i.e. female) population — was going to get me further in life if I clocked it, manipulated it, fostered it.

It wasn’t until seven and a half years after that car ride with my mother that I was introduced to the rhetoric for exactly what had been ingrained in me: “the male gaze,” the patriarchy, benevolent (and blatant) misogyny. It appeared, strangely enough, in discussion of my first English Literature course of my undergraduate career: “Medieval Romances: Knights, Ladies, Etc.” Some upperclassmen brought in the language to discuss point-of-view for the narratives we were studying and, since it was all new information, I had little to digest the newfound topics with. It was like sitting down to Thanksgiving feast without any cutlery or plates.

That same semester, I made a friend who flaunted her attractiveness to men and women alike. She famously said she was the hottest girl in her high school bowling team — to which I always teased her that it “wasn’t really a stretch with the bowling team.” But she introduced me to the idea that women were often placed in pairs. “You see,” she said one night, turning to me with the CampCo pizza in her right hand, mouth full, “you and me? We’re the virgin and the whore. The two Marys of the Bible. You’re the virgin. You get the picture.” And I believed her, so I brutalized her when she hooked up with someone new or wore barely-there shorts. Instead of building her up, I was more aggressive in the tactics I had been inheriting from years of ingrained misogyny. Because with every guy that hit on her, with every flirtation that confirmed she was “the hot one,” I was being implicitly told through my own short-sightedness that I was “the opposite,” “the unattractive.” And my jealousy built.

I think about the fact that I come from a mother who let a man masturbate to her daily, and I think about all the things I have allowed to be done to me, not so egregious, perhaps, but not so different in the grand scheme. Then I think about how much I have wanted from men. How much of that wanting was what I wanted from myself, from other women even; how much of what I thought I wanted from a lover came from what I needed from my own mother. Because it’s women, in many of the stories I’ve heard, who have greater hold over other women than men have. We can make each other feel dowdy, whorish, unclean, unloved, not beautiful. In the end, it all comes down to fear. Men can frighten us, other women can frighten us, and sometimes we worry so much about what frightens us that we wait to have an orgasm until we are alone. We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need.

Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

Today, I like to think I am not that woman; I am that woman evolved. The woman I am knows how these things work, is acutely aware of the inner-workings of the patriarchy, and stands for it no longer when it comes to what inhibits not only her sexuality’s expression — her own mind be damned — but also the liberation of her friends’ and female compatriots. As we all heard in Candidly Dating #2, I have ended it with men for misogynistic comments. I have yelled at men in bars for grabbing my friends’ butts. I have used my male gaze eye to tell my friends (and the girls in the bar bathrooms) they are beautiful, and gorgeous, and stunning in no uncertain terms — even on the days when their makeup is running because some part of the universe has aligned against them. I have famously argued with relatives over the issues our current President represents in the treatment of women in America in 2019 (and prior). As for the friends, “the hot one” and I no longer talk after — you probably could have guessed — a fight over a boy who — you probably could not have guessed — chose me and upset the careful balance of mutual disdain we had built over the years. But the crippling grief that accompanied the loss of her and then him and then her in retrospect was enough to teach me that acknowledging the male gaze is good but to wield it in negative action is a dangerous, toxic thing to behold.

While I try to imagine a world without these elements of misogyny (blatant or benevolent), I know there’s not a chance in hell of it coming to fruition in my lifetime. So for now, I acknowledge my inherited gaze and push past it, admitting concession but also admitting power in holding it on our side. We all have it; we just need it to be put towards the better rather than the negative.

Women shouldn’t judge one another’s lives, if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.

Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

Living Candidly #8: Be Friends With…

Living Candidly #8: Be Friends With…

Be friends with the people who promise to deliver you digital AND print copies of British Vogue’s September 2019 interview by Meghan Markle of Michelle Obama when you fangirl so hard that it physically hurts your chest upon hearing the announcement.

Be friends with the people who sit and drink wine with you while you wait for multiple furniture deliveries in your new apartment without complaint, instead encouraging that extra pour while the Netflix loads.

Be friends with the people who run errands with you, and who you run errands with, for the pure sake that together is better than alone and each other’s company is preferred to anyone else’s. Even if that errand run includes waiting in a cellular store for an hour plus.

Be friends with the people who send you “love texts” — reminders that your worth is inherent and your value to them is esteemed. The ones that range from the “Hey! Just checking in <3” to the “Hope you have a great day” to the outright “I love you.”

Be friends with the people you can distance from for a time and then pick up with that same spark and joy in each other’s presence (physical or digital).

Be friends with the people who cry with you, who rage with you, who laugh with you. Be friends with the people who feel with you, not for you. There’s a difference. One is empathy, one is sensory sharing.

Be friends with the people who make you feel whole, whose very tether to your life makes you feel more grounded and vulnerable and fulfilled all at the same time. Be friends with the people who build you up, push you to be better while never discrediting where you’ve been, and celebrate your achievements while you reach for the next rung. Those people are the ones you want by your side when you falter, when you drop, when you sink. Because they know that you can pick right back up there again, and they will do everything in their power to remind you of that strength you lose sight of.

But in order to be friends with these people, you must be their friend too. Work on their resumes and job applications with them, celebrate their latest promotion. Vow to poop on doorsteps of exes, and say you “ship” their latest boo. Make time for their calls, even when you would rather be watching Hulu. Call them when something good happens in either of your lives, or when something is amiss in theirs. Be their cheerleader, their champion, their confidante. Make them feel their inherent worth, their value in your eyes; make them see their beauty — inside and out — by feeling your love. Be their rock when things get hard and promise to stick with them until the sun shines again.

Because friends — even the most fleeting of them — are more valuable than words can express. And when you have them as golden as the sunset, you have to sit on the waterfront and drink in the glow.

Candidly Careering #3: Writing *THAT* Résumé

Candidly Careering #3: Writing *THAT* Résumé

I was haphazardly lucky enough to land into the recruitment career track for a brief five months thanks to — and I’m not making this up — a Bumble BFF match. I had zero experience but what I did have was gumption and the gall to call myself a “people-first person.” While the position was ultimately what opened my eyes to the fact that publishing is without a doubt, 100% what I want to devote my life to, it did provide me with some valuable insight to what makes a résumé click when it comes through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to the 9-times-out-of-10 lazy recruiter.

And those tips are exactly what I am going to share with you.

  1. Always include a “Profile” or “Summary.” I cannot, cannot, cannot emphasize this enough. At least in my industry, your cover letter isn’t getting read until it lands on the hiring manager’s desk — that’s the second reader. In order to get there, you have to first impress the recruiter or HR manager. They’re there to quickly glance and determine qualifications. Three or four short, purposeful sentences at the top of your resume are great to sell to them who you are, what you’re good at, and why you are the best candidate for this job.
  2. Tailor, Tailor, Tailor. Every résumé should be tailored to the job you are applying for. I know, that sounds exhausting. But it shows when it comes through the ATS that you actually want this job more than just a throw-away submission. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received résumés with “expected graduation” dates that have already passed. All that shows is laziness. Going the extra mile in not only keeping your résumé up to date, but tailored to the specific application shows interest.
  3. Tell a story, but make sure it’s your story. This shows specifically in the action verbs that should without a doubt start every bullet point under every position you’ve held. Always start with an attention grabbing action verb. Show exactly how you benefitted the team you were working with, how you were a key component of their success.
  4. Don’t worry about gaps. If anything, worry about putting irrelevant material on there that will turn a recruiter away by saying you’re “unqualified.” Simply list your relevant experience under a title stating exactly that — “Relevant Experience.” It’ll make you seem like you tailored it for them (which you should have) while still leaving an air of ~ m y s t e r y ~.
  5. Use design sparingly. We all love those beautiful résumés on Etsy and Pinterest, but honestly what’s more important is getting your qualifications across. Don’t make it bulky but also don’t waste time with white space. Make sure to fit the entire résumé on one page and have it look cohesive.

Now go out there and get that job!!!

All my love x