Naughty AND Nice

We’ve reached that time of year when everyone starts doing their “year in review,” and I know that because Facebook is pushing it hard every time I log into my profile.  And magazines are all doing End-of-Year editions, wrapping things up, making lists, and, you know, checking them twice.  Everyone gets very reflective during the last few weeks of the year as though they’re debating what to write in the yearbook of their high school classmate they didn’t really know all THAT well but want to pretend like they did for the sake of future nostalgia.  There will be extra-long Facebook statuses (and not just from your really crazy conservative uncles) talking about how #blessed people were in 2015 or how shitty the year was but how much better 2016 is going to be because this is FINALLY the year they get their lives together.  We’ve heard it all before…just like Leo hearing he’s the front-runner for the Oscar only to have it snatched away come February.

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Will 2016 finally be Leo’s year?

But I’m going to tell you something no one else will around this time of year and certainly not Santa: it’s okay to be naughty, you guys.  Seriously.  Sometimes, it’s better to be naughty than nice.  Naughty people get shit done.

I should probably clarify.  When I say “naughty,” I don’t mean murder or adultery or not tipping your waiters (IF YOU DON’T TIP, YOU’RE THE WORST…or possibly European?  In which case, if you’re European, don’t worry, because your waiters are fortunate enough to get salary, so good job Europe).  I don’t mean voting for Donald Trump or being racist or misogynistic or destroying the planet with pollution.  I don’t mean charging a gazillion dollars for an HIV/AIDS medication like Martin Shkreli. 

When I say it’s okay to be a little “naughty” I mean:

It’s okay to be a little selfish

I know, right?  In the season of “sharing and caring,” I’m telling you it’s okay to to do neither of those things on occasion.  And it is.  I happen to be one of those people who has often been far too accommodating of other people’s feelings and needs to the detriment of my own.  We all have that one friend or family member who just sucks us dry but never replenishes the well, and frankly, it’s not fair or okay.  Sometimes, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others, and that is a lesson I have learned the hard way.  It’s not selfish to focus on how YOU feel or to spend time on projects that are important to YOU.  It is perfectly okay to put yourself first sometimes, to say no to things and people, and to focus on what is best for you.  I wish I could tell you that everyone has YOUR best interests at heart, but the truth is there are a lot of assholes out there who don’t and will do anything to get ahead of you in life.  Be kind to others and to those people especially (because they probably need it to make their Grinch hearts grow three sizes).  Always be kind.  But don’t be afraid to do things for yourself. 

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Wonder Woman doesn’t put up with your crap, and neither do I.

It’s hard to say no to people who always expect you to say yes, but a well-chosen “no” can change your life just as much as a “yes.”  I started saying “no” a lot more this year, and so now when I say “yes,” it’s to things I really want to do and to people I really want to help or collaborate with.  I’m a lot happier because I know what makes me happy, and now I have the emotional space to actually help others without feeling guilty about how I feel or what I’m not doing to take care of myself.

Embrace your inner-Slytherin aka be ambitious

Slytherins get a bad rap.  Yes, they were the house of Voldemort and a bunch of terrible Death Eaters, but they weren’t all bad.  I say this as a Gryffindor who should be predisposed to disliking them, but I also know that if I’m being honest, I embody some of the qualities of the House that Salazar Slytherin built: cunning and ambition.  It’s the latter that I want to talk about, and especially as a woman.  Men are allowed to be openly ambitious and no one thinks anything of it, but if a woman is openly ambitious, she is often viewed as selfish or aggressive. 

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Go for what you most desire…even if it’s just a bottle of peroxide to touch up your roots.

It’s not a bad thing to know what you want and to go after it wholeheartedly.  Ambition, for whatever reason, is viewed with negative connotations, and I honestly think it’s because people are afraid to see others working hard to achieve their goals when maybe they aren’t doing the same.  Where many Slytherins went wrong is in the methods they used to achieve those lofty goals (i.e. like making Horcruxes), but they never apologized for being ambitious, and neither should you.  I am not shy about what my goals are, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t care if people don’t like that I’m ambitious…because it’s my life and goals and not theirs.  Which leads me to my next point…

Don’t try to make everyone like you

This is a battle you will never win…unless you are Paul Rudd, because, to my knowledge, everyone loves Paul Rudd.  ANYWAY, it’s pretty much impossible to get everyone to like you.  It’s stressful and takes up a lot of time you could be spending on achieving your ambitious goals instead.  And definitely don’t TRY to make people like you by attempting to ingratiate yourself on others.  Do or do not; there is no try. 

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Yes, Paul Rudd. I care about you deeply. Like, I maybe care too much. Marry me?

People either will like you or they won’t, and there is nothing you can do to change that (other than not be a total asshat).  I have spent way too much time trying to appease other people, which has led to me being walked over once or twice or even thrice (okay, I really just wanted to use the word “thrice”).  In the end, I wound up being really hurt by those people when it was obvious to everyone else BUT me that no matter what I did, they were never going to really like me anyway.  Some people just won’t like you, even if you’re awesome and nice and work hard and make people laugh.  We can’t all be Paul Rudd.  So just do your own thing, feel good about it, and stop worrying so much about what other people think of you.  The right people will think you’re a Paul Rudd.  The rest probably prefer Pauly Shore, and who wants to prefer someone whose career peaked in 1995?  (Paul Rudd’s essentially STARTED in Clueless in ’95, so…)

Work hard, but let yourself live a little

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So sayeth the Lord(s)…

Know when to quit.  I fully admit to being a bit of a workaholic, but sometimes I forget to enjoy myself and the fruits of my labor.  It’s okay to have a lazy day once in awhile where you watch Netflix in your pajamas all day.  It’s okay to meet up with a friend for a drink after a stressful day at work.  It’s fine if you want to take a day-trip away from where you live to recharge and explore.  And it’s also fine to do this if you’re poor (you know, within reason).  It can be really easy to let yourself fall victim to the grind of work-sleep-repeat especially when you’re poor and stressed about money (which doesn’t always end when you’re not-so-poor), but you’re entitled to give yourself a break without feeling guilty about it.  I used to feel guilty about going to the movies when I was poorer, but it was the one place that consistently brought me a sliver of joy, so I treated myself; usually, I went to a morning movie where it cost me a lot less, but I still treated myself.  It all goes back to taking care of yourself.  You need balance, which means that as great as it is to work hard and make money, you gotta know when to play a bit and spend even a teensy bit of what you’ve earned on yourself.  So if you need a day to marathon Doctor Who and eat Haagen-Dazs*, go for it.  You’ve earned it.

*I’m definitely NOT** speaking from experience.

**I’m TOTALLY speaking from experience.

Stop apologizing for being happy around others who aren’t, for your opinions if someone disagrees with them, for your successes, for liking things that other people don’t, for not doing things the same way everyone else does

Women especially have a really bad habit of apologizing all the time for everything; almost to the point of apologizing for just existing.  But all of us could use a reminder to stop apologizing for ourselves except in situations that actually warrant a legitimate apology.  First, it is not your job to make sure everyone else is happy 100% of the time, and you do not need to feel guilty if you are happy when someone else around you isn’t.  You can try to cheer them up, but never apologize if you’re a ray of sunshine, and they’d rather be a cloud.  Be happy if you feel happy.

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She probably learned this nugget of advice from a made-for-TV movie. #marykatherinegallagher

Second, you are entitled to your own opinion.  Someone may challenge you on it, but you are entitled to having your own, differing opinion.  We live in an age where it is easier than ever to have and share opinions, but most people do not understand that it is in disagreement where solutions often arise, because constructive conflict usually breeds new ideas and compromise.  Life is about balance, and it is good for us to hear different opinions from our own, so that we can be exposed to lots of ideas and learn new things.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt more confident in standing my ground on things where other people disagree, and while I don’t always change other people’s minds, I have stopped feeling guilty about my opinions.

Third, it’s okay to be successful and happy about it; just be careful that you are grateful as opposed to grandiose in your celebrating.  No matter what you do, some people will always look at your successes as their failures, but that is a problem with THEIR perspective not YOUR hard work.  You don’t have to apologize for the things you have achieved on your journey through life just because someone else is a little jealous.  Now, don’t be THAT person who is always #blessed, but it’s fine to give yourself a little pat on the back every now and then when you are crushing it at being an adult.

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Be as happy as Lucille Bluth when she’s surprised as Gene Parmesan if you want to

Last, you really don’t have to apologize for liking what you like or doing something different from the way everyone else does.  So you like pumpkin spice lattes and Beyonce?  Great!  You believe in conspiracy theories and watch Long Island Medium?  Cool.  Maybe you tie your shoelaces with one hand or cook breakfast food only at night.  Whatever you like, don’t let other people make you feel bad because you occasionally go against the grain.  Embrace the bizarre parts of you, because that’s what makes you interesting.  Stop apologizing for the things that make you YOU.

But be nice.

It IS important to be empathetic, compassionate, and kind to others.  There is a lot of hatred in our world right now, and we all need to pull together to be a light in the darkness.  Do things for others.  Care about the environment.  Throw someone a smile on the subway.  These little acts of kindness are just as important as the big things you’re doing or hope to do for yourself and the world.  But don’t be afraid of letting that “naughty” side out when you need to.  We all need a little kick in the tush sometimes even if it comes from ourself.

I just realized that I’ve been singing the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” wrong for years.  The lyric is supposed to go:

He’s makin’ a list

Checkin’ it twice

Gonna find out who’s naughty OR nice

I’ve always assumed it was “naughty AND nice.”  But maybe that’s because I’ve always been a little bit of both.  We’re all a little bit of both.  So tonight when you put out your cookies and milk for Old Saint Nick, don’t worry too much about naughty OR nice.  Just embrace it all.

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Merry Christmas you filthy animals,

Emmy

Happy 2nd Anniversary, New York

Today is my two year anniversary with the City of New York, and I can’t help noticing how different my second year has been in comparison with the first.  This second year has, by and large, been much better.  Not that I’m surprised by this since transitioning to life in a big city tends to be rocky at first.  What I AM surprised about is how OVERWHELMINGLY better this second year has been.  Some of the struggles haven’t changed: money, career, etc.  The difference, I suppose, is in my approach to dealing with the issues at hand.  Now I can’t lie that as you read this, I am currently dealing with a big change in my housing situation, which was unanticipated, but what would an anniversary in New York be without a little drama?

NYC: the Wonder City as in, I wonder what I'm doing with my life?

NYC: the Wonder City as in, I wonder what I’m doing with my life?

Without further ado, here are some lessons I learned in my second year in the Big Apple:

1)  You are not completely hopeless or helpless and asking for help once in a while is not a cardinal sin or indicative of your ability to take care of yourself (or your “adult” status).  Someone out there, believe it or not, cares about you and your well-being and is, believe it or not, willing to help you if you just bite the bullet, put your pride aside, and ASK for it.  My theory is that as long as you are actively trying to get your life together, people will be receptive to the idea of helping facilitate that process if they can.  Also, my parents will never let me starve no matter how empty the bank account (“Ramen is not a suitable, substantial ‘meal’” – My mother).

2)  A positive attitude really IS the best way to go.  After a late-night journaling session toward the beginning of 2013, I had an epiphany that pessimism and cynicism had become my default setting (not an uncommon occurrence in Manhattanites).  Somehow I had become a person who always felt defeated, someone who thought “why bother” when it came to so many areas of my life.  And while I had battled a bout of depression only a year before, I realized I had ultimately become a person I never wanted to be, so I actively chose to push the restart button on my life and approach each day and situation with positivity.  And the minute I made positivity my active life choice, it was like all the clouds shifted and suddenly I felt so much better.  My acting teacher, the wise Robyn Lee, often points out that we can choose how we feel about any situation by simply acknowledging what our emotional boundaries are on both sides and then deciding what is best.  I now choose to approach each day with positivity and humor rather than focusing on all the things that could (and sometimes do) go wrong.  Negative energy is always the easier choice, but positive energy carries so much more power.

3)  I don’t have it all together and that’s okay.  I’m in a weird, transitional state where I feel quite settled in New York now, but professionally, I have no clue what I want to focus on.  I have a general sense, but I feel as though I am looking for a resounding “YES” from the universe as to where to focus my energies.  It’s frustrating, and I definitely don’t enjoy feeling as though I’m drifting through my post-collegiate life, but I know this state is only temporary.  I WILL figure it out simply by process of elimination, continuing to work, journaling, and just living life.  I have faith it will all work itself out if I’m patient.  The good news is I’m not alone in my confusion and messiness; I’m not the only person who feels this way, and if everyone else can get through it, so can I.

Surrounded by my fellow OCU NYC alumni at our Oklahoma Rising Benefit in June

Surrounded by my fellow OCU NYC alumni at our Oklahoma Rising Benefit in June

4)  Surround yourself with good people at all times.  It is of the utmost importance to keep people around you who build you up, make you laugh, hug you when you need it most, listen, offer advice, and do anything else in their power to propel you forward in life.  Anyone who doesn’t freely do these things is not worth it; this city is a hard enough place without them.  Sometimes, that means making hard decisions and severing ties.  But I promise it’s worth it in the long run.  I cannot say it enough: I am blessed with wonderful friends, family, and other people here who want the best for me at all times.  I deserve that.  You deserve that.  Invest your time and emotions in people who will wholly invest in you.  It’s worth it.

5)  Getting a bicycle was one of the best decisions I made.  Thanks to the uber-generosity of my uncle (no birthday or Christmas presents for the next like, 4 years), I am the proud owner of a beautiful, silvery-grey Trek bike upon which I careen around the streets and parks of Astoria and NYC.  I’ve only owned Elliott (my bike, named for Elliott of E.T.) since the end of June, but the effects have been radical.  Owning and riding a bike in NYC is a bit different than other places as far as safety is concerned, but the freedom you feel totally makes up for it.  I am noticeably happier and healthier (both mentally and physically) as a result of my bike.  I go for rides almost every day now, and it’s almost become a meditative experience, a way for me to think through a bunch of things and also clear my mind.  You can read more about my love of biking here.  Plus, bicycle rides make for fun, free, yet surprisingly romantic dates (it helps when both you and your boyfriend own your own bikes).  Let me tell you, a sunset bike ride in Manhattan is pretty damn nice. #feelings

6)  Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something you’ve never done before is by throwing yourself into it full force.  When I was asked to put together a benefit cabaret (see here) by my university’s NYC alumni organization for the Oklahoma tornado victims, I had no idea where to even start.  I had never produced anything in my life let alone a charity event with Broadway performers.  I knew I was organized and had a general idea of how to go about accomplishing it all, but it was definitely a major learning process for me, and while it was a lot of work and stressful at times, it was also a total blast.  I proved to myself that I was capable of doing something I wasn’t sure I could do, and I found that I really enjoyed producing.  It’s something I’m hoping to do more of in the future and for larger projects.  I couldn’t have done any of it had I not had a little team of co-producers helping me along the way and teaching me things.  And now that I’ve done it once, I know I’ll be able to do it again.  Despite my fear of screwing the whole thing up, I simply didn’t accept failure as an option and stuck to my guns and made it happen, which is a lesson I will take with me in other parts of my life and new projects.

7)  I accept there are a lot of things beyond my control.  This is a hard one for me, and I struggle on a daily basis with the whole “letting go” concept.  I always like to have a plan of action and think my way out of any situation and all its possible outcomes, but sometimes that’s not possible.  The world is made up of an infinite number of choices, so you can’t account for every scenario.  You can’t think your way out of bad things happening to you, because sometimes they just do.  I’ve learned that even though I can’t always control what happens to me, I CAN decide how I want to move forward from those things.  I believe how you deal with obstacles is far more important than the fact you have them, and that IS something I can control.

8)  Always bring your umbrella.  It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny out.  When you don’t bring it, it WILL rain.  This is a fact in New York City.

Jackie O'ed and enjoying a boating trip off the coast of Connecticut

Jackie O’ed and enjoying a boating trip off the coast of Connecticut

9)  Say “yes” more often than you say “no.”  I’m privileged to have friends who have friends who have cool things like boats and houses out of the City.  I know people who get free tickets to shows all the time.  It’s one of the perks of surrounding yourself with good people who treat you to fun things.  Yeah, we’re all tired and busy and a whole host of other semi-lame excuses, but you have to learn to be choosy about when you say “no.”  Saying “yes” enriches your life with experiences and stories you won’t get when you stay in bed and watch Netflix all day (we’re all guilty as charged).  Take advantage of opportunities when you can and be sure to thank those who provided them.  Go boating off the coast of Connecticut.  See Stomp for free with a friend after work.  Attend a pal’s end of summer pool party in Long Island.  Spend a weekend in Washington D.C. going to museums with your best friend.  Volunteer at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Learn and grow as a person because life isn’t just about work.

10)  98.5% of the time, Starbucks still never spells my name right on my coffee cups.  (Who is “Emne”?  Is that even a NAME?)

So, as I begin my third year here, I’m expecting things to become even smoother (minus the inevitable problems on the morning subway commutes) and hoping to shift into new gears especially in my acting/creative career.  I can’t believe it’s been two years since I hopped on a plane with two large suitcases, but sometimes it also feels like I’ve been here five years already.  I’m looking forward to turning the big 2-5 in November and taking more bike rides.  I still plan on spending way too much time at the Performing Arts Library.  I’m hoping to explore more of New York state and take a few mini-road trips into New England.  Year 3 is already bringing changes to my life in ways I didn’t expect, so who knows what will happen by this time next year.

Here’s to you, New York and our two years together.  Thanks for the hard lessons and the easy ones.  Thanks for making me tougher.  Thanks for giving me some incredible people and helping me learn how to slough off the ones who aren’t so incredible.  Thanks for the great pizza and beautiful sunsets over your silvery skyline.  Thanks for helping me grow up a lot.

I still think you’re pretty awesome…most of the time.  Hope you got me a good anniversary gift this year (like tickets to SNL?).

With love,

Emmy