Thoughts on turning 31… and the
future of Map Your 30s blog

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When I first started writing about turning 30 years old and decided to create the Map Your 30s Blog, my idea was simple: I wanted to write about all of the changes happening in my life and I wanted to make the point that life doesn’t end when you’re 30.

In fact, in my very first post after turning the big 3-0, I said that “my goal with the Map Your 30s blog is to prove that turning this momentous decade doesn’t have to be the end of your journey.” I wanted to write about how it’s okay not to have everything figured out, because I still didn’t and because I knew plenty of people who were stressed because it felt like being 30 meant SO MUCH.

It doesn’t.

Or, at least, it doesn’t have to.

Yesterday, I turned 31 years old and, let me tell you, a LOT of stuff has happened in my life since. If you’ve been following me at all (on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), then you might have noticed quite a few changes… Starting with the biggest one of all: At 30, I was living in New York City, the place I had chosen to call my home since I went to college there at 18 years old, and am now a happy resident of Southwest Florida, where I am actually originally from and never thought I would end up in again.

But there’s more. And since I had very specific categories I wanted to grow in, talk about and generally work towards bettering in my 30s, here it is.

Relationships: When I turned 30 years old, I was single and kind of starting to be miserable about it. I hadn’t had a longterm relationship in six years and, even worse, the relationships I had before were pretty freaking horrible. But in my first Map Your 30s blog post (which was written exactly 3 months after turning 30), I wrote about finally finding the relationship I have always dreamed of. And well, we’re about to near our one year anniversary and are happily planning for 57 more to come.

Career: This is probably the place where I’ve grown the most, besides relationships. At 30, I had just accepted a job that very quickly turned out to be the wrong move for me and spurned me to go back to Florida, with my tail between my legs, to live with my parents and figure out the next step. In my update last June, I had thankfully gone back to being the Food Editor at Brit+Co and started writing again for MamásLatinas. Since then, I also started being a regular contributor to Mom.me and am hoping to find another PT writing gig soon. Beyond that, though, I also am freelancing a ton since the start of 2017 (after hiring a writing coach) and am very optimistic that I will hit my goal of being published in 17 publications this year… and very soon, I expect!

Home: My home situation obviously changed quite dramatically from being 30 to being 31, since I moved states and settled back in Southwest Florida (for now, anyway). I used to believe that New York City was the place where I belonged and the only city that I could live in, but that’s no longer true. It ironically probably took 10 years of living in the city (the official time you can start calling yourself a “New Yorker,” which I very much consider myself to be) before I realized that I could live elsewhere too. Right now I am happy to be in SW FL but I know that my life is going to take me elsewhere, and possibly before turning 32. That’s meant that my physical home, as in the apartment we live in, is a bit in flux. But that’s okay because, as we all know, I don’t have to have it all figured out just yet.

Finances: This area is a tricky one but, I have to say, I think I am finally starting to get to a better place. At 30, I had no savings to speak of at all. And shortly after starting this blog and moving to Florida, I realized that I might have to save for a car and who knows what else. It’s been tricky, too, because Adam and I traveled a bunch towards the end of 2016 and that ran up our credit cards a bit higher than we’d like. However, with my stable editor and contributor jobs, extra income from freelance writing and some hard-ass budgeting, I am very confident we will be able to pay it all off by the time I turn 32 next year.

Health: I have to admit: At 30, I was definitely not the weight I was hoping to be. Although that didn’t stop me from taking the boudoir photos I had always wanted, it didn’t exactly make me feel good to be eating unhealthy food 80% of the time and only focusing on healthy food 20% of the time. As I wrote in my first Map Your 30s blog post, I wanted to switch those numbers and start to really focus on my health. Although I still haven’t figured out a good gym routine, I am happy to report that I now eat vegetarian or vegan about 80% of the time and have lost about 20 pounds since my 30th birthday. And I wasn’t even trying to!

Confidence: Here is where things get a little tricky… You see, “confidence” was my secret keyword for writing about recovery, which was something that I was not yet comfortable sharing with the world this time last year. I had gone into rehab in July 2015, relapsed in April 2016 (yes, a month after turning 30) and finally confessed to my journey last September, the same month that I celebrated my half-birthday. I also wanted to talk about mental health in this space, and I haven’t done much of that. But from being 30 and on the edge of a relapse to being 31 and almost a whole year sober, I am feeling pretty good and (dare I say it?) more confident than ever.

So, all in all, I would say that the 30th year of my birth was a pretty good one. I met the love of my life, started a full-time freelance writing career, moved from NYC to SW FL, set up a good budget to pay off debts, lost weight as a result of healthier eating and finally figured out life as a sober person.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster and, although I haven’t written about it as much as I initially thought, it’s been a good check-in for myself to see how I have been doing on the bigger life goals.

Here’s the thing though: Although in my head, I kind of want to do more of Map Your 30s, in my heart I know that this is totally unrealistic. The truth is that I have other writing goals right now and no time to focus on this. Beyond that, I want to do something different with my personal writing… and I haven’t quite figured out yet. But I’ll definitely let you know once I do.

However, that’s doesn’t mean that Map Your 30s is totally dead. What it means is that it’s on the back burner and possibly something I just check in with once a year or so. I’m not sure yet, to be honest, but what I do know is that I was right all along: Turning 30 doesn’t mean the end of your life and it doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out by then.

If I’ve learned anything over and over in the past year, it’s that life changes and evolves in ways that we imagine, ways that we plan for, ways that we expect… and so many more ways that were definitely not the plan, not what we expected, and not what we could have imagined.

Would I have imagined this time last year that I would be a full-time freelance writer and editor, living with an amazing partner, in Southwest Florida of all places? Absolutely not! But this has brought new adventure, excitement, stability, love, career advances and so much more to my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And I wouldn’t trade turning 30 for anything either. Or 31, for that matter.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

2016 was an exceptionally happy year for me (and I’m not afraid to admit it)

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We’ve all been saying it all damn year, haven’t we? 2016 IS THE WORST.

I know that I’ve definitely been guilty of this sentiment, and it wasn’t really just because of the election (although that contributed to my year-end complaints). But in the past few days, I realized just how much we’ve all been doing it lately…

Look, I get it. This year has kicked us all (figuratively) in the balls. Between the celebs that died throughout the year and especially around Christmas/Hanukkah, it’s been tough. The election was, well, pretty awful for those of us who care about other people and maintaining our rights. And that’s not even to mention Aleppo and Brexit and… ugh, I can’t go on. This year has been the WORST, right?

Or has it?

The truth is that 2016 is not killing people, but people die because of complicated things like a history of drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not the only reason why so many of our fave celebs passed away this year, but that’s certainly a theory that makes sense too.

Then there’s just the general thinking that… Hey, if we call 2016 the worst, then what about all of the bad years that came before it or the bad years that are still to come? (Ya know, with President Trump actually possibly accomplishing some of the vile things he said he planned to do during his campaign.)

Here’s an idea: Let’s all stop calling 2016 “the worst” ASAP.

The truth is that a lot of bad things happened this year. I’m not going to deny that. But a lot of bad things happen every year. When we put all of our blame on a year for doing bad things to us, then we’re taking away our choice – our choice to do something about it, our choice to see the positives, our choice to move on with something more than just feelings of anger.

So I’m done. I know it’s the last day of the year, but I am not going to look back at this year and talk about how it was “the worst” because, especially for me personally, it simply wasn’t.

In a nutshell, two major things happened to me this year that have actually made 2016 my happiest year yet:

1. After 12 years, I moved out of New York City and started a full-time freelance writing career that’s actually been going really well.

2. I met Adam, who turned out to not only be the most generous and loving person I’ve ever met but also an incredibly supportive life partner.

In fact, the first decision actually led to the second. I had been dealing with some recovery issues in NYC and simply no longer felt all that happy there. Plus I was turning 30 and needed to do something different in my life. By circumstance (not all under my control), the best thing for me was to move back home to Florida for a while.

I decided that I would do this for six months to a year, and that this would be my time to figure out what my next steps were and what I wanted to do for my career. It turned out that going all-in on my freelance writing was the right move, and I love where that part of my life is now.

Of course, when I moved to FL, I didn’t think that my personal life would go anywhere. I had been single for many, many years… And although I was sick of that life, I also thought: Who the F am I gonna meet down here?

Well, you know what they say: Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. In comes Adam…

Here’s the story that I tell friends when they ask how we met:

I moved out of NYC after 12 years on a Friday and, needing to find something to do and feeling like I was ready to “get back out there” after a 5-month dating break, turned my favorite dating apps back on the following Tuesday (meaning OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble).

Meanwhile, Adam had finally signed up for online dating after an even longer break when his last relationship ended… And so there we were, both finally “ready” for something real. We started talking on Bumble that Wednesday morning. By the next Saturday (exactly a week and a day after I moved to Florida), we had our first date. It lasted four hours, and only ended because I had a family obligation.

The next week, I cancelled another date in order to have a second date with Adam… and the rest is history. I never went on a date with anybody else. Neither did he. And we moved in a month and a half later.

Not only has my career and my new relationship made me really happy this year, but I learned a lot about myself throughout 2016 too. I’ve also met some great new people (mainly, my boyfriend’s family, and also many other writers who I now call friends) and I learned how to accept love.

Before this year, I never truly knew how to be kind to myself (my NYC therapist’s parting words to me). I still have trouble with that, to be honest. But Adam reminds me every day that I am worthy of love.

Although I’ve had a few relationships, even a two-year one where my ex lived with me, I never truly knew that I was worthy of love. In fact, I had never heard anyone say the words “I love you” to me. Sure, I mean, family and friends… but never anyone who truly loved me in every way that a person deserves to be loved. Until Adam.

He taught me how to accept love and that I deserve it. He continues to teach me that every day and, the more I am with him, the more that I realize that he is truly the love of my life.

I know how cliche that sounds. I know that it’s a funny and kind of ridiculous statement to be saying at 30 years of age. And yet… I’ve had boyfriends and I’ve had countless dates in the past 14 years of my life. But I’ve never had love. And now I do.

So when I look back at 2016, I can still recognize all of the bad things that happened this year. This year, though, is about more than that. This is the year that I fell in love for the first real time of my life. This is the year that I truly found what I want to do with the rest of my life. And this is the year that I learned what it takes to be my best self (even if I’m not totally there yet).

To be honest, I don’t know what 2017 will bring. But I have plans! Plans for my career and plans with my love. If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that a year isn’t to blame for bad things and it’s not really to blame for the good things either.

My year was great because I made it great. Because I learned what I wanted and went after it and accepted the things that came to me unexpectedly too. 2017 will hopefully be more of the same.

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To car or not to car? When buying one is the question…

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To car or not to car? That is the question…

Here’s the deal: I have been living in the state of Florida for almost three months now, and I have yet to purchase a vehicle for my transportation needs. And I am starting to seriously consider whether I actually need one or not…

The truth is, I’ve been living in New York City for the past 12 years and it’s been really easy to get by without a car. It’s really the best city this side of the Atlantic for public transportation. There are tons of subway lines and the buses aren’t too bad either (though many of my NYC friends have never been on one, I like them!).

In fact, nobody I know in the city has a car because nobody really needs one. And if they do have a car – and there’s been a friend here or there – it’s for a very specific need. One friend has a car at his family’s home in New Jersey, one friend has a car because it’s easier to conduct his business, one friend has a car because it’s MUCH easier to travel with his baby and another friend has a car because he needs it for his band equipment.

The general trend, though, is to not bother with one at all. To be honest, the only real reason to have a car is if you live in an outer borough (Brooklyn and Queens, mostly) because it is a shorter commute to go from one outer borough to another in a car. But even for those friends that have a car, not a single one of them uses it to commute to work or to go into the city.

I’d heard stories of other friend’s friends having cars for various reasons, such as going to the Hamptons during summer weekends or for monthly Costco trips. Those seem like pretty decent reasons, actually, but none of these were really reasons good enough for me.

I was pretty happy to not own a car for the past decade, and I honestly sort of continue to be happy about it.

The truth is that my main reason for considering owning a car at this very moment is because it has always seemed impossible to NOT own one everywhere outside of New York City.

Sure, you could probably get away with it in smaller cities like Chicago and Atlanta. But in general, if you want to live anywhere outside of the metropolis that is the biggest city in the United States, then you needed to invest in your own mode of transportation.

No longer can I depend on the trusty old MTA to get me to the beach, to get me to work or to get me to dinner with my friends.

These days, I really can’t get anywhere without a car – but to be honest, I am still having my doubts about needing one.

The truth is, I’m very comfy without one right now. I work from home (as the freelance food editor at Brit+Co) and find very little cause to use a car on a daily basis. In fact, if I had a car, I definitely wouldn’t need to use it every single day because of my very cushy remote work situation.

I’m currently in the process of officially moving in with the boyfriend, which is partially another reason why I’m both considering getting a car and considering NOT getting a car.

You see (and I know that I am SUPER spoiled in this), he pretty much drives me wherever I need to go. And the truth is, it’s not like he’s going out of his way to go somewhere special. Nope! For the most part we are going somewhere together and that’s just fine by me.

With very little exceptions, our arrangement has been working for us.

I know that this might not always be the case, which is one reason to get a car. I know that as the “honeymoon” period of our relationship fades or as my needs become greater (or his needs, for that matter), having one car for two people is not going to be ultimately sustainable. And even worse, I know that in cases of emergency, if I need to get to the hospital or bring one of our pets to the vet, I am REALLY going to need a car.

But right now, all of that seems really far off. At most, I can see myself maybe needing a car once or twice a week – and at the moment, it’s kind of easy to just say “meh, I’ll just have Adam drive me or borrow a car from my parents in dire straights.” If I started to spend the money I am planning to budget on a car FOR the actual car, I would be spending more per ride than if I took an Uber or rented a car three times a week.

Now doesn’t that seem just a little silly?

I know that a car will provide me with plenty of freedom. Should I start to feel cooped up or want to go out and run an errand or want to just go to the store and surprise Adam with something, or even just buy flowers for myself because it’s gloomy outside and I want them, having a car will definitely be a huge advantage. And that’s not even to mention one or both of us needing some alone time or time with a friend. Coupledom, while extremely awesome, isn’t everything.

But then again, I’ve survived 12 years without one. And although I’m not saying I will live the rest of my life without my own mode of transportation and simply depend on my partner when and if I need him (or, ya know, an Uber), it’s also nice thinking about all of the really AWESOME things that I could do with the extra money I’d be spending on a car that I barely even use…

So, for now, I am holding off. In a couple of months, after my work situation is more stable and I’ve paid off my 2015 taxes (don’t ask) and our rent has gone up a bit with a lease renewal and we are just more stable as a couple in our lives together… I will reconsider. Yet at the moment, I just can’t help but think: do I really want a car when an extra vacation or two a year might just be so much more fun?

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Why carrying cash is the worst thing you can ask a Millennial to do

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Like pretty much everyone I know my age, I am one of those millennials who absolutely positively abhors carrying cash at any point in my life.

I hate going to the ATM, I hate opening my wallet and finding random singles in there and I absolutely HATE when I get advice about how I should carry cash for tipping while traveling or in cases of emergency or how cash is easier to split checks with.

No, it is not. And here’s why:

Carrying cash is a huge pain in the A any time of the day, any day of the week, any week of the year. I hate the way cash smells, the way it dirties my finger tips and, worst of all, the way it seems to disappear almost the minute that I take it out.

Paying with cash is never easier than paying with my debit card or credit card. And splitting the check is definitely NOT easier. You know what’s easier? Charging exactly how much it is that I owe at dinner and including my own tip – maybe I want to leave 20% and my friend wants to leave 12%. I shouldn’t have to follow their lead, and I definitely don’t have to when I can just pay for my own damn self.

The cash that I occasionally have to take out seems to disappear as easily as I get it. Sometimes I take out $40 and, before I know it, I seem to have spent it. Man, what did I spend it on again? A soda here, some gum there, the impulse purchase at the gas station… Over and over again, I find that carrying cash always leads to purchases that I would not otherwise make if I actually had to pull out my card.

If I don’t have my card when I want to purchase a couple sticks of incense and they don’t want to take my card… Well, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

Also, what kind of fool doesn’t take cards these days?!

I hate cash.

I’ve always hated cash, really. I remember back in 2004 when I first moved to NYC and had to carry cash whenever I went out. I needed cash for the occasional cab, for buying dinner with friends, for getting some drinks, EVERYTHING. It was a pain because if I didn’t have enough, I was bummed and if I had too much, well I ended up spending it all anyway.

These days, it’s much simpler. I don’t have to worry if I have enough money because it’s all right there on my card. If I need $26.70 to cover a really nice lunch or $19.95 to buy a skirt, I don’t have to have exact change and I don’t have to – EVEN WORSE – get change back.

Because let’s face it, we do NOT do anything with that change anymore! This is no longer the time when we need quarters to do laundry or buy a gumball. Nope! These days I either have access to a home laundry machine or I can (GASP!) charge it. And I’d rather not buy the gym anyway, thank you very much.

Having cash around serves absolutely nothing. Sure, maybe tipping waiters would be a little easier… But what we need is a simpler system at restaurants instead of a dependence on cash. And I get that some people prefer to carry it, but these are not my people.

I can’t stand having cash in my bag, whether I’m just running errands at home or traveling. The only time I’ve honestly found cash useful is when going to the farmer’s market or a food truck.

But that is the ONLY TIME that having cash is acceptable and necessary, as far as I’m concerned. And if I were honest, when I didn’t have cash and a food stand didn’t take my card, I simply shrugged and moved on to someone who had an iPhone and the smarts to buy one of those charging attachments.

Life, for me, is just simpler this way.

After making any kind of purchase, I can log into my bank app and see exactly how much money I have left – and how much I spent and, most importantly, if I am going over my budget.

So maybe you’re still “old school” and prefer to carry cash all of the time. But I prefer to keep my money right where I can see it, in my bank, on my app and out of my pocket where it’s easily squandered. Don’t ask this millennial to change, because I can guarantee you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with me and most of my peers.

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I’m about to turn 30…

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In the past few months, and I couldn’t tell you if this is coincidence or some weird algorithm or simply because I am more aware of it, my Facebook feed has been full of “hey you’re turning 30!” articles.

And it’s true. I am turning 30. In exactly a month, to be precise.

To be honest, I am not yet sure how I feel about the whole thing. At times I feel like the it is kind of silly. All of the pressure that we face, as women and as human beings in general, to have checked off certain life milestones by this age. A great career, a nice home, a semblance of independence and some vague definition of being a real adult now that our twenties are behind us.

Oh yeah, and can’t forget the whole life partner thing.

Whether married, engaged or simply paired off with the person that you’re thinking you probably *will* marry, the pressure to “Have It All” seems to really start at this age when we have graduated from those years of growing and finding ourselves to these years of settling into our lives.

But what if you’re not actually quite settled or ready to be settled yet? Is the pressure to have it all figured out by 30 real, or is it something that’s just in our heads?

Irina25thBdayAs I read through what seems like the 27th list of things I should have done/read/watched/experienced/learned by the time I hit the big 3-0 next month, I’m left wondering: isn’t there more to figure out after this? After all, life doesn’t begin at 30 and it definitely doesn’t end there either.

So that’s where I find myself now, thinking that turning 30 is both a really big deal and absolutely no big deal at all.

Sure, I have some things figured out, like that really awesome career that I love. But some things are still in the To Be Determined folder, like that life partner-type figure that’s looming somewhere on the horizon. Maybe.

In the end, though, I know I still have some work to do on myself. I don’t really think that work will ever end, because what’s the point of life if you just stop improving yourself? But since I’m turning 30 and all the hoopla that supposedly comes with it, I am taking this year to especially focus on some of the things that are important to me.

I’m calling it the Map Your 30s blog. It’s basically a vehicle for me to focus on the things that are important to me and the parts of my life that I want to work on, strengthen or improve in some way. That means my career, relationships, finances, home environment, health and confidence/spirituality.

I doubt it’ll only last a year. That’s quite a big undertaking that I am planning to tackle. But the truth is that it’s really not about a year-long project or because I’m turning 30 and all of a sudden some sort of alarm is going off in my head (it’s not), but simply because I want to do it. And I want to do it now.

Being 30 (and maybe having learned a thing or two in the last decade) is just a perk.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

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