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 Match.com, 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 #2: Returning To My Passion

Candidly Careering #2: Returning To My Passion

I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good.

Roald Dahl

In recent weeks, I have been incredibly vocal to those in my life about my distaste for my current career. And while I could list the various aspects that drive me to pull the magnifying mirror to the center of my desk and stress pluck errant hairs from my face with my thumb and forefinger, that ultimately serves no purpose. The end result is the same: I feel the lack of upward mobility and what is available in the longer term is lackluster to me.

Before accepting my job, I sobbed. I bent over my knees on my small available floorspace and actively grieved the fact that I was putting my dreams and aspirations of the greater part of a decade on hold. All that work, all that fantasy, evaporated before my very eyes. And yet I still accepted to role, mostly at the pure want of my bank account.

I truly do enjoy aspects of recruitment — but what I enjoy is precisely what I would have done within the literary agency arena: screen resumes (review manuscripts), contact candidates (interact with authors), negotiate terms of contracts (negotiate terms of contracts). I find myself incredibly lucky to have the overlap of skills so vibrantly apparent.

But it isn’t enough.

Interacting with the literary community was an essential part of my identity construction; it lent an opportunity for belonging, something psychologists widely agree is a human social need. And with barely the energy to read after work, I was stripped of even the opportunity to attend book clubs.

So when the opportunity appeared to apply to a well-established literary agency for an assistant/support role, I jumped. I took a leap of faith and I sprung from that cliff into the foggy below without the faintest clue of whether I would find myself at the bottom or not.

Reader: I landed not only alive but on two feet.

In the weeks of interviewing, I delved back into the contemporary literary marketplace to have recent reads to discuss, lighting my mind once more with words and phrases and thoughts that had once run quiet. I performed a sample manuscript review and reader report, typing up two comprehensive pages on marketability and textual strengths and weaknesses to consider before making a decision on whether to sign the author. And finally, I was able to accept a role that promises to not only take me back into the community that I withdrew from in the interim since London but to launch me on an upward trajectory that is anything but lackluster.

The change in anticipation of the career switch is palpable. I carry a novel with me wherever I go again, and I’m attending a book club next Wednesday. I took a pleasure trip to the Strand bookstore — my first of what will be many. I bought two — two! — bookshelves for my apartment. Roald Dahl was absolutely, unequivocally correct: it is far better to be an enthusiast. It lights a fire under you and within you, and that fire will sustain you as long as you feed it. The good news is, pages burn.

All my love x

Candidly Reading #3: The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer

Candidly Reading #3: The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer

“Why do you persist, then? Why do you care so very much about the fate of your organization, and so little about your own welfare, when the people you’re assisting — Jews, anti-Nazis, degenerate Negroid artists like Wifredo Lam, sexual inverts like Konstantinov — are the basest forms of human kind? Look at you. You’re a thinking man, a Christian man, educated at the best American institutions. Why are you imperiling yourself for the sake of that filth? How do you justify it?”

“Is this official business, Captain?”

“I’m asking merely from personal curiosity. Tell me why.”

“Those people are my people,” Varian said. “If I don’t help them, no one will.”

The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer

In an interview on CNN just the other day, Stephen Miller made the assertion that — as a Jew — he was outraged by the accusations by left-wing politicians like AOC that the detainment centers on the border were comparable to those desolate and fatal camps of the Holocaust. And yet, stories emerge every day of the lack of care given not just to children, but to men and women alike in their wait for sentencing, of freedom or — more likely — deportation.

Around the world, the issue of gay marriage and the rights that come along with its recognition is one that is still widely debated. You don’t have to dig into Google News far to find stories of brutalization of homosexual individuals, or the long-awaited and damn-near-time legalization of same-sex marriage. In Northern Ireland, it wasn’t until this past January that lesbian couples were both allowed to assert parentage on the birth certificate of their children — something that previously would have separated families upon the death of the listed mother.

And, of course, still we face racism in its most potent form in the United States, particularly with the rise of White Supremacist marches and the vibrancy of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Enter The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer, a plot placed so clearly and factually in the turn of the 1940s but with the bite of the present at the heels of the reader’s every page. Loosely based on the life of Varian Fry, an activist in Nazi-occupied France who smuggled thousands of refugees out of the annexed territory who also happened to be a discreetly practicing homosexual, the story follows his work as leader of the Emergency Rescue Committee, the lives of the team he assembles, the rescues of the refugees, and — in a progressive shift — his passionate love affair with Grant, a passing half-black academic from his college days. The scene set, Orringer is able to write parallelisms to contemporary debates on refugee acceptance, homosexuality, and race in one swift read that pulls at the heartstrings while also provoking the synapses to work at all cylinders.

While I found it a slow and prodding read, I did thoroughly enjoy The Flight Portfolio (the first of my Book of the Month Club subscription deliveries) as it prompted many thorough trips down the rabbit hole on The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Medium alike. I became actively curious not only of the past but also about our current domestic and global climate and the future that was most likely to result from our present choices. The Flight Portfolio may not have pushed into the most scandalous and heart-pounding depths of my library, but it did prove to be one of the most educating and engaging reads — a read that made me a more determined citizen.

I will say that the one disappointment at the end was the revelation in the Author’s Note that most of the characters, interactions, and plot were fictionalized for the purpose of creating a world that could prove parallel. And though I admire Orringer’s originality and ability to build from bare bones of history, I did wish that Grant was real and that he and Varian had lived their lives in coupled bliss after the four-hundred pages of will-they-won’t-they.


Of course, I am always susceptible to a love story. And so, I have to end this post with what I think has to be one of the most impressionable quotes about love — true love, regardless of its form — that I have ever come across. I would save it for a post for my Candidly Dating column, but who knows when I will finally meet someone who makes me feel this way. It’s better to share than to withhold, for maybe you need this in your life, dear Reader.

But that was how we recognized love, he thought: It made the exception. It was the case that broke the paradigm, the burning anomaly. In its light we failed at first to recognize ourselves, then saw ourselves clearly for the first time. It revealed our boundaries to be mutable; it forced us to shout yes when we’d spent our lives say no

The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer

All my love x

Candidly Dating #2: Recognizing the Red Flags

Candidly Dating #2: Recognizing the Red Flags

According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.

The Symposium, Plato

A running joke among my friends — and, admittedly, in my own head — is that the more red flags a guy has the more deeply attracted to him I inevitably end up being. I have bent over backwards for guys who have displayed anger issues, who have blatantly declared themselves non-monogamous , and who have even shown complete disinterest in me. This last one more than once.

Last week, Rebecca came over to christen my new apartment with a wine and Chinese take-out night, and as we sat on the hardwood floor of my unfurnished living room the conversation turned to the men we were currently talking to. I mentioned the one who had currently been pursuing me — and I mean this non-conceitedly — quite aggressively. My reaction to this interest was complete disinterest in him, to which Rebecca stared me down and said pointedly, “Rose. Let’s be real. You like the chase.” As always, Rebecca knows me better than I do. I do love to be the pursuer. She urged me to this once let myself enjoy being courted.

I let the conversation continue for over a week, and despite my best efforts — or perhaps on behalf of them — I started to see distinct red flags. First it was the question of “Would you date a Muslim?” He was not Muslim so there was no reason that this would be asked unless he had a distinct impression one way or another on whether this was a test of character.* Then there was the assertion of Trump being a better president than Obama when it came to foreign diplomacy. Third, he was adamant than “non-obedient” dogs retained more personality, and therefore were more likable, than their docile counterparts. Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back, was the staunch opinion that female comedians did not become as successful as males because they relied too heavily on sexual content, something that is apparently “not funny.” **

I should note that during all of this I would have been fine with differing opinions, if he hadn’t talked down to me as if I was distinctly wrong and baseless in my own opinion. The condescension was stifling.

I have been in this place before. Previously, I had limited my voice and adopted new viewpoints to appease my partner in the hopes of that fairy-tale ending. This time, however, I found myself growing disgusted rather than repentant. I didn’t want to back down. I didn’t want to fight — it was too soon to be worth the effort — but I didn’t want to invest in something that was doomed to make me question my own intelligence.

That was the red flag, waving loud and proud from the tail-end of a blimp in Times Square. There was no avoiding it. It wasn’t just one red flag, but a million little red flags from years of dating unsuccessfully — and without a voice — that had been sewn together to make me distinctly capable of seeing this one when it was so visibly affronting.

For the first time in my adult life, I broke it off.

He was very receptive to it, something I can’t say I have always been. I think we both knew we were too opposite, especially since I held my ground in the conversations. But it felt good to say, “No, this isn’t what I want and I deserve to find my complement.” Holding out hope feels good.

I’m not signing off my chance at love for a while, but I am going to hold onto the hope that there is a shared half that belongs to me. A pairing, a complement. And while it’s nice to be pursued, and fun to be the pursuer (some habits never die), it’s even more rewarding to stick to your convictions and believe in your worth.

All my love x


*I said that I would, of course, date a Muslim just like I would date a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Hindu, an Atheist, an Agnostic. A human is a human. Their faith is just a facet in the whole composition of who they are. (This he said was “Interesting…”)

**I told him that while sexual humor is definitely touted by the comedienne population, it is not something exclusively heard from female mouths and to condemn women for exercising humor that men have been experimenting with and celebrated for for decades is completely sexist. Women, also, deserve the chance to tell stories in a setting that inverts the taboo — essentially what comedy does — and these stories liberate and resonate with female audiences in ways that have previously been unavailable. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Living Candidly #7: On the woman I want to be

Living Candidly #7: On the woman I want to be

Varian could see what she’d bequeathed, genetically speaking, to Clotilde; they had a spirit his father would have called hell-beckoning.

The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer

Every morning I take two diet pills aspirationally titled “lean queen” in the hopes that it will curb my appetite to satiate me with an iced coffee breakfast, pastry lunch, and $10 portion take-out dinner for the sake of losing weight without exercise. It does not work, and I lay in my bed at night resisting the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tub stuck under my roommate’s frozen vegetables in the third drawer of the freezer.

I spend my free time at work online shopping, ordering clothes in sizes I’m embarrassed to admit and will unquestionably lie about if prompted. I pinch at my stomach and thighs and triceps when I look in a reflective surface and sometimes just when I look at myself in my cubicle.

I get blowouts to turn the curly, voluminous locks that once defined my look into sleek and sophisticated tresses that mirror the styles of the models that grace the covers of the magazines I so avariciously consume or even the friends, family and associates that fancy themselves models in the snapshots on my Instagram feed.

And then I make like them and post my own shot with the aim of appearing as effortlessly pulled together and collected as they do to me. A picture just like the one above.

But I am not.

I am tired. And I am frustrated. And I am lonely. And I am at the verge of screaming at subways because that’s as close as a city girl can get to screaming into the abyss.

I’ve recently been wondering what exactly has led me to this point of surface-level success but deep dissatisfaction. And the result is that who I am is not who I want to be.

The woman I want to be follows her passions with gusto and without hesitation. She sets her sights on her goals and makes meaningful steps towards them, even in the most minute ways, until they are within her grasp. She does not boast upon their completion. She lets the work speak for itself.

The woman I want to be is more than her job. She has a balance in her life — a separation of Church and State, if you will — that offers her the chance to find fulfillment in multiple planes until there is cohesiveness.

The woman I want to be knows her worth. She does not need a man’s approval, or another woman’s, and isn’t afraid to speak up and say no when boundaries are crossed.

The woman I want to be cherishes her friends and lets them know it. She places their happiness and well-being as a top priority but also invests in those friendships that offer mutual care, not in those that only drain and take. She forms her tribe, her family.

The woman I want to be is hell-beckoning, a force of nature. She appears strong and beautiful in pictures because she is strong and beautiful, not because of a diet pill, or a new dress, or a blowout. It is her essence, not her expenditure.

Today marks day one on this journey from turning that She into an I.

All my love x