How the Internet Helped Save My Skin

Skin

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I learn best by reading. When I was struggling to learn multiplication in second grade, my mom bought me a book that showed me how and finally got math to click. I own almost the entire Gossip Girl book series because my mom would order boxed sets at a time for me to read, because it would calm me down during periods of high stress in high school. And now, I work in publishing, specifically publishing non-fiction books, written specifically for the purpose of informing.

So it’s not surprising that when I’m interested in something new, I read as much as I can about it in hopes of understanding. I have at least three books about running that I bought when I started training for long races, a stack on politics purchased after the 2016 election, and even a book about “how to be a classy lady,” so graciously gifted to me by my very subtle mother. (I will say, that book taught me the single most valuable tip I’ve ever learned about how much wine to purchase for a party: one bottle per three people per hour. You’re welcome).

And so, when I was finally fed up with my mid-twenties skin looking like I was still thirteen, it’s not shocking that I sought out as many articles on skincare as I could.

What initially sparked my interest in beauty and skincare was when I discovered Beauty YouTubers when I was in college. For months on end I binged their backlog of videos, learning about makeup and a little bit about skincare. I perused the “travel” makeup sections at Sephora and Ulta, and tried everything I could. Years later, I’ve settled into a pretty simple, yet solid makeup routine, but still hadn’t addressed the underlying issue of the skin itself.

I started on YouTube, looking for recommendations from the Vloggers who had inspired my deep dive into makeup. Somehow, I was led to the site Into The Gloss, founded by Emily Weiss, now famous for the cult-classic skincare line, Glossier, which was actually born from the ITG comments section. I read every post I could find, and the comments on those posts. Some of the most important advice came from the comments (like in this open thread) rather than the articles. I caved and bought Glossier’s Milky Jelly cleanser. I bought a few products from The Ordinary, and a retinol cream, and a salicylic acid toner, all of which promised to smooth my skin’s texture and reduce acne. My skin fried.

For a week straight, my face burned, made worse by the freezing January temperatures in New York City. My routine was too much for me all at once, and I had no idea what I was doing. And then I found natural beauty, starting with this post.

On its face, “natural” or “green” beauty seemed simple and gentle and pure, and like it would rescue my dry, burning skin. I religiously researched the ingredients in my existing routine on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, and found that the majority of my products were not only harsh, but likely toxic. (The Environmental Working Group is also commonly known as the “Environmental Worry Group. They got me). I scoured sites like Credo Beauty, Detox Market, and CAP Beauty for “clean” alternatives to my favorite products. It was expensive, and a lot of work, and it wasn’t really even helping my skin.

During my time researching natural beauty, I frequently used the product recommendations on the subreddit r/NaturalBeauty. This was my first foray into Reddit, a land I previously assumed was inhabited by only racists and nerds. But everyone on this subreddit was nice and helpful and informative, and as my faith in natural beauty waned, my browsing led me to r/SkincareAddiction.

SkincareAddiction is one of the most informative and pleasant little spaces on the internet. They have an infinitely helpful sidebar with product recommendations based on worries about skincare afflictions (acne, hyperpigmentation, dehydration) and a basic starting routine. What’s more, they have a “Daily Help Thread” where newbies can ask questions and someone from the community will answer very helpfully, or point you to a resource on the site that can answer the question in-depth.

I learned that the skin I’ve called oily my whole life was just dehydrated, after I had decimated the moisture barrier that protects the various skin layers. Dehydrated skin is thirsty and overproduces oil, resulting in more acne. When you use a stripping cleanser or acid treatment, you exacerbate the problem, feeding the cycle. So the first step was to restore my moisture barrier at all costs. Of course, there were plenty of resources for doing that.

I stripped my routine down to the bare minimum: gentle, hydrating cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen. After a few months, my skin was noticeably bouncier and less angry, and definitely didn’t burn anymore. It was finally time to address the gross hormonal acne on my cheeks and chin that had been flourishing since I had my Mirena implanted in 2015.

The r/acne subreddit had a simple, informative guide to acne treatment, which wound up just being the simple addition of benzoyl peroxide to my routine at night. After a single week of slathering my face in the product, my skin cleared. My pores were less noticeable, and I was even glowing a little bit. I found this infinitely ironic, because at age 13, I asked my pediatrician for a solution for my acne and he, too, advised me to use BP every night. I did not. And twelve years later, the solution was in front of my face.

Another wonderful resource to me has been the YouTuber, Dr. Dray. She is a no-nonsense dermatologist who shares as much knowledge of skincare as she can, and explains why less is more when caring for your skin. Although I have concerns about the state of her general health and well-being, her advice is sound and well-informed. I watch her videos every day (much to Andrew’s annoyance) but her tips are right in line with what I’ve read on r/SkincareAddiction, further proving that good skin health doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or complicated.

Now, I am gentle with my skin and taking care of it is my favorite part of the day, especially at night when I feel like all the city grime has been removed and I have a fresh, moist face. I’m now incredibly particular about my skincare products, only using the ones I have come to trust and obsessively reading reviews of unfamiliar ingredients or products, but for the first time in over 10 years, I feel confident in my skin, all thanks to the world wide web.

Routine

And now, my routine:

Keep in mind, skincare is incredibly personal, and what works for one person might be a nightmare for you. My skin is prone to dryness, especially in the winter, so I’m extra focused now on hydrating in layers. I am also very anal about sunscreen during the day.

In the mornings I alternate cleansing with Neutrogena Gentle Hydrating Cleanser Creamy Formula OR Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash, and follow-up with CeraVe PM Moisturizer. Once it’s sunk in, I do a layer of CeraVe Cream, and finally CeraVe AM Moisturizer (for the SPF 30). I am very passionate about sun care, because it not only prevents wrinkles, but also prevents signs of aging. I’m trying very hard to force everyone in my life to use some daily.

Right when I come home from work I take off any makeup/grime with Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar water. Then I rinse my face with water and go to the gym.

After the gym I use a mix of jojoba and castor oils to remove makeup, sweat, general grime, and sunscreen. I wipe it off with a clean washcloth. I have around 24 that I wash every few weeks. I make sure all the rest of the gunk and oil is off my skin and cleanse with the Neutrogena Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. Then I moisturize with CeraVe PM and CreaVe Cream. Once those have dried completely, I use Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide) all over my face, especially focused on my chin, cheeks and nose. Then I get in bed.

When I was young and used the BP sporadically, I used the full-strength 10% concentration, that increased my irritation. It turns out, lower concentrations of the active ingredient are just as effective and don’t irritate the skin as much. Using the lowest amount, I’ve seen amazing results, and there’s no reason to go back to using something stronger that makes my skin dry.

The last thing that has actually changed my skin is not picking at any acne that does sprout up. I know, I know. You’re not supposed to but it’s SO HARD. But I’ve finally learned (because I read it) that it doesn’t help. Acne actually heals faster when I don’t touch it, and it keeps the bacteria from spreading to other areas of my face (gross), and makes it less likely to scar. It’s really difficult sometimes to keep my fingers off my face, which is why I’m putting it here on the internet, so everyone can hold me accountable.

Anyway, I’m very particular about my skin now, and although it seems obsessive and unnecessary to invest so much time and energy into a routine, it feels like a soothing investment in self-care, not to mention that it helps me decompress after a long day, and calms me before bed.

It’s not selfish, or frivolous, or feminine to take care of your skin – it’s the largest organ in the body, and taking care of the skin is taking care of the self. Acne wreaks havoc on mental health and self-esteem, and indulging in a simple routine that actually helps shouldn’t be looked down on.

Even this piece in the New Yorker advocates for skincare as self-care, and a coping mechanism for this trash can world we live in. If the New Yorker says it, it must be very very cool, and definitely okay.

 

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Mental Health Is Nothing to be Ashamed Of

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Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to step in and say something, since I have a very close relationship with mine. **Disclaimer, I’m obviously not a doctor, just an anxious person.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had anxiety. I refused to try new foods in restaurants, I had regular panic attacks over tiny things (asking for help with my homework, getting to sleep on time, thinking my friends hated me), but I buried it and carried on. I managed to perform every weekend in high school as a competitive cheerleader, succeed academically and still have friends. I kept my meltdowns and worries private and assumed they were just a part of life.

When I went away to college, the number of new experiences and things beyond my control overwhelmed me. Being away from home, balancing a heavy course load, a new, long-distance boyfriend, and Division I cheerleading all compounded and became more than my coping mechanisms could handle.

I felt out of control. I was crying at the drop of a hat and crying hard, hyperventilating over small things, like people coming into my room to hang out, or my roommate talking to me while I was reading. There was an ever-present and seemingly inexplicable tension in my neck and shoulders. I became obsessive about things, like needing my dorm to be perfectly clean and organized, needing to constantly make sure my family was safe, needing to obsessively reaffirm that my boyfriend still loved me. I isolated myself, opting to stay in rather than go out whenever possible. I was miserable, and so were the people around me.

Eventually, I unloaded on my mom, another woman who has dealt with anxiety her whole life, and who has had hers under control as long as I could remember. I felt like I had too many feelings, like everything was out of control, and like I just didn’t know what to do.

I credit my mom’s own experience with anxiety and panic attacks, and her acceptance of mental health problems as valid health problems for the success I had in getting mine under control. A lot of people will look at anxiety or depression and say “cheer up” or “let it go.” If only it were that easy. But my mom listened to me, and helped me make an appointment with a therapist.

She accompanied to my first appointment, which I wholeheartedly dreaded. I didn’t want to have to tell a stranger about myself. I didn’t want to cry in front of someone I didn’t know. But the overwhelming feelings I had outweighed my fear of a therapist.

Those three sessions with my therapist were some of the most helpful experiences in my life. Hearing a professional affirm that what I had been experiencing and coping with actually was anxiety filled me with the greatest sense of relief. After that first hour it was like a weight had been lifted. I didn’t have to feel like I was alone or losing it or out of control.

Those sessions helped me pinpoint things that triggered my anxiety, and to discover methods to deal with panic attacks and uncomfortable situations. I had just been forcing myself to deal for so long, it was another relief to have tools to fall back on.

But I’d be lying if I said the most helpful thing for my anxiety wasn’t the medication. Every morning I wake up and take 20mg of Paxil. Since my initial prescription in college, I’ve even increased the dosage. I’m not ashamed. The effect of the medication was almost immediate. It took the edge off of the insurmountable anxiety I felt about day-to-day things. I didn’t obsess anymore, or worry that I’d lose the people I love. Initially, I was concerned that medication would level me out and I’d lose my personality, but in reality it has made the peaks and troughs a lot smoother and more manageable.

I know that I will likely be on Paxil (or something similar) for the rest of my life, but I don’t worry about it. (Ha ha get it?) I also have asthma, and the best way to describe my use of Paxil for anxiety is that, in the same way my lungs don’t work quite right, my brain also doesn’t. It needs help to keep everything running smoothly. No one would ever tell me to give up my inhaler and just take deep breaths, or that it was all in my head, and I don’t feel that way about my anxiety meds either.

Of course I still worry about things and have the occasional panic attack, but my quality of life has vastly improved over the past five years. My only regret is that I didn’t get help sooner. I suffered through it on my own, when I didn’t have to.

I try hard to be open about my experience with anxiety because it’s important to me to open up the conversation. It’s important for people to know that it’s normal and okay to have mental health issues and that they don’t have to rule you.

Mental health shouldn’t be embarrassing and no one should have to suffer in silence. It should be easy to get help. I want anyone else out there who feels like they’re suffering alone to know that they are not. There are so many resources out there, and everyone deserves to live the best life possible. You are never alone.

A few resources can be found here.

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Why I Run

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When I went to draft this post, I found one that I had drafted two years ago before my very first half marathon. I wrote in that post about how far I had come then, and re-reading it, two years later, I realize how much farther I have come since.

Since I graduated college, I have run three half marathons (Rochester, New York and Brooklyn) and I will be running at least two more this year. I also entered my name for the lottery for the NYC Marathon in November, something I never would have imagined being a possibility even six months ago.

Until college, I never really ran. I grew up watching my dad run 5- and 10k’s, but struggled to run more than a mile at a time. When I got to college, I started running to deal with stress, but running on the treadmill grew tiresome and I eventually found different ways to deal with stress and anxiety.

Over the summers without a gym membership I would sometimes do short (and very slow)  2-3 mile runs in order to stay in shape, but once I went back to school my workouts were always about building strength. I dabbled in HIIT workouts a little bit, but they’re not my favorite.

Why I Started

I did not take a serious interest in running until after I graduated, and I think it was a combination of factors that led me to feel crazy enough to start racing. The first was a lack of a gym membership. When I first started working in New York, I stayed in New Jersey with my college roommate and her parents. After work I would come home and do a 30-minute jog to relieve stress and get my heart rate up. Over the few weeks I was there, I ran just about every day, and I felt myself getting stronger, my endurance improving.

On top of that, I was working part-time at Athleta, constantly surrounded by athletic women and was exposed to every kind of physical activity under the sun. Plus, I got a baller discount on running gear. And isn’t owning the gear the first step??

How I Started

Eventually, I committed to running one day a week, with an imaginary goal of someday running a half marathon. At that point, two miles was a stretch for me, so the goal was a moonshot, but it did give me something to work towards. Each Saturday, I would run one mile more than the week before. Two miles became 3, which became 4…

In the spring, a friend of mine (Hi Caroline!) decided she wanted all of her friends to run a 10k with her for her birthday (she was turning 25, maybe that’s what you do when you turn 25?? I’ll let you know…) which gave me tangible training goal, and a firm deadline for my training.

The race went fine – it was on a 90-degree day in June and I had spent the summer Friday beforehand day drinking with my coworkers (sorry) but I LOVED the competition. People cheering all along the course plus being able to pass people fueled the competitive asshole inside me. Within a week I had signed up to run a half marathon.

Fast forward a year and a half (?!) I (try to) do a long run (at least 5 miles for me) every weekend, and I’m in a lottery to run a marathon. For me, running has become something to look forward to and is a kind of meditation. After about three miles, moving my legs comes naturally and I have time to just relax, which sounds weird. I have a busy mind, so the more I can engage my entire body, the more relaxed I feel.

A few more things I genuinely enjoy about running: the attire (I’m sorry, it’s true. And I’m an Athleta gal through and through), racing with friends, running along lakes, rivers reservoirs…any body of water, really, and most important, post-race brunch.

And Now…

I’m not fast by any measure, and I definitely don’t train as much as I should, and definitely not as much as an elite runner, but what I do is enough for me right now, and I definitely love every part of it, despite having setbacks. Race training isn’t linear. There are weeks when I skip, days when I fight through every step, weeks in a row when I can’t reach my goal. When I first started increasing my distances, I ran 8 miles for like 4 weeks in a row because I could not get my body to do more.

It takes a lot of mental toughness too, which does not come naturally to me. It helps being competitive, since my biggest competitor is myself, but it’s sometimes too easy to justify walking, cutting a run short, or skipping a run altogether. The worst is when my last run felt like magic, each mile faster than the last, and I’m struggling slowly on mile two.

I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished and all of the goals I’ve met since I started running. And I’m excited to keep running. I have goals for times I want to beat and places I want to run, and as long as my body lets me I plan to keep going.

Also when you’re training you get to eat a lot, which is a HUGE plus.

 

Book recommendations for people who #GetIt

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I can’t emphasize enough how much reading has helped me throughout my life.

In second grade, my mom gave me a book about multiplication because I was not grasping it in the classroom. In high school, she would buy me boxed set after boxed set because she always noticed how reading calmed me down. I have been working in publishing with books now for almost 2 and a half years. And after the recent election, I devoured any book I could get my hands on that might help make sense of what happened.

I have a core list of books I recommend to pretty much anyone who asks for suggestions. They run the gamut of genres, but what I’ve gathered is that many of them illuminate what it means to be human, make connections and not have life figured out (#trying). Some are light, quick reads, but many of them are pretty heavy and make you think. Sorry.

An important add – my favorite way to get book suggestions (aside from at work and from friends) is the site Yasiv. You enter a book you liked and it maps out a web of related books, based on Amazon purchasing. Sometimes it’s confusing and directs me to irrelevant things, but for the most part, it’s an amazing tool.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I feel like this book has been around forever. The rainbow striped jacket has become commonplace among book collections, and for good reason. The novel follows a group of teens from a summer camp for creatives through adulthood and chronicles how adulthood often means giving up on creative endeavors. The group does stay friends, for the most part, and what I love most is how Wolitzer depicts the relationship between old friends.

It struck a particular nerve because I am still friends with many of the same people I knew when I was in high school, or even younger, and have managed to hang onto them. Yes, our relationships are all different now that we are grown ups, but The Interestings does a remarkable  job at describing the comfort of falling into old routines with people who have known you for longer than you have known yourself.

“It was a relief to know that even in getting older and splitting off into couples and starting families, you could still always come together in this way that you’d learn to do when you were young, and which you would have a taste for your entire life.”

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is a bit of a no-brainer, since it won just about every award a few years ago. Regardless, it was well-deserved. The novel tells the story of a young orphan in Nazi Germany, and a blind girl in France during WWII. Although their lives appear to be very different, over the course of the book they begin to overlap.

This book is beautiful and well-written (obviously) and tells the story of a horrifying war through the innocence of two children, both doing what they think is right. It put history into perspective for me.

Doerr’s first novel, About Grace is another favorite of mine. A man who has lived his life seeing his premonitions come true has a vision of his daughter drowning in a flood. The book traces his journey as he tries to avoid the tragedy by any means possible.

Doerr just has a way with beautiful words and storytelling that grabs readers by the heart and sucks them in.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I’ve had debates about this book with my coworkers. It’s a quick read, but details the aftermath of a family losing their oldest daughter.

While a major plus would have been getting answers, the book leaves readers hanging (hence the debates) but reminded me of The Lovely Bones, in the way it was sort of told from the dead girl’s perspective, and how you can see the family secrets come creeping out.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara

Anyone who has ever had a conversation with me about books knows I obsess over this one. It’s a behemoth, both physically and emotionally.

Early on, it becomes apparent that the main character, Jude, has suffered a terrible childhood tragedy, which is revealed in pieces throughout the book, interwoven between stories of Jude and his other friends in adulthood, all confronting their own struggles in art and life.

The plot seems generally pretty run-of-the-mill, albeit depressing, but something about this book engrossed me. I couldn’t put it down. It made me feel so much, and is one of only a few books that I’ve cried while reading. (I typically save my tears for real life).

A Little Life illustrates the complexity of friendships, and highlights the way a friend can alter your life, something that strikes me every single day:

“The only trick to friendship…is to find people who are better than you…kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving – and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you and try to listen when they tell you something about yourself.”

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

This might be cheating. I haven’t read this book in 17 years but I did just get a brand new hardcover copy…Regardless, at 7 I couldn’t stop talking about this book, and now at age 24 I still can’t stop. For a children’s book, it is incredibly intelligent. It might have been where I heard (and laughed-out-loud at) my first pun. Holla at Mrs. Kress at Briarwood for reading me this book and making me fall in love with words and smart humor!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his 15-year-old son, this book is a stunning portrait of our world through the eyes of a black man. Not only are Coates’ words like poetry (not literally, just very very beautiful) but it illuminates the reality of being a minority in America. I acknowledge my white privilege, and Between the World and Me illustrates feelings and conflicts I will never know. An amazing book for anyone looking to learn the struggles and strengths of another culture.

Also read Coates’ excerpt in the Atlantic here for a preview.

I would read the transcripts of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ sneezes. He’s wonderful.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I first heard of Donna Tartt when The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer back in 2013. Christmas of 2014, I asked for all three of her novels in paperback (is that a nerdy and specific Christmas wish? Maybe). I read them in the order they were published (The Secret History, The Little Friend, The Goldfinch) and of the three, the first was by far my favorite. I believe that’s the general consensus, actually.

Regardless, what I loved most were the John Knowelsian undertones. My favorite book in high school english was A Separate Peace, a very loss-of-innocence type book with heavy symbolism and imagery. The Secrey History had similar “outsider goes to boarding school where he is accepted into a group and they turn on one of their own” vibes. It’s also kind of creepy without being overly scary, if that makes sense.

Of the remaining two Donna Tartt novels, The Little Friend  SUCKED and The Goldfinch was good. Kind of dragged, but good.

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg

When I first started working for my current boss, we got lunch and drooled over how much A Little Life sucked us in. At the same lunch, she mentioned Portrait of an Addict Addict as a Young Man and I was instantly intrigued, for a few reasons.

  1. The author, Bill Clegg is a literary agent who has repped several very successful recent books (Fates and Furies, The Girls).
  2. It’s his memoir of a two week crack binge in New York!!!

I am infinitely intrigued by drug addiction. After reading in the LA Times about OxyContin, I was couldn’t look away from the epidemics running rampant today.

Clegg illustrates how he smoked crack in public places, and managed to work and get high. It opened my eyes to how many people are struggling with addiction while appearing to have it all together.

It was also incredibly fascinating to see first had (or as close as one can get when recalling a crack binge) what it was all like.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

I’ll admit, I’m neither here nor there about Patti Smith’s music. But, every time I looked up book recommendations based on my previous likes, Just Kids came up.

So, typical weirdo fashion, I asked for both of Smith’s books for Christmas this year (of course in paperback, my preferred format). Admittedly, it’s only mid-January, so I’ve only read Just Kids, but I LOVED it.

For one, Smith is a poet. Her writing is natural and beautiful and has a lyric quality. Second, she came from literally nothing in New Jersey in the 70’s, already gave a child up for adoption by the time she came to New York in her early 20’s, and lived in the Chelsea Hotel with longtime friend and iconic artist, Robert Mapplethorpe.

Her entire memoir is honest and humble, but a few things struck me as particularly important. Mainly, as a twenty-something during the Vietnam War, Smith illustrates the same angst, fear, and unrest that’s present right now. Although Jimmy Carter or Richard Nixon weren’t as bigoted and hateful as Trump, the concern was there, and the willingness to fight was also present. The willingness to get through those times makes me hopeful that what is right will persevere now, too.

It also won a National Book Award, and if you can’t already tell, I’m a slut for book awards.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

If anyone has heard me speak since November 9th, they’ve heard me rave about Hillbilly Elegy. I cannot shut up about what an amazing book it is.

Working in publishing, the popular view of Hillbilly Elegy this year was that is was an anomaly. No one expected it to be a breakout sensation, selling thousands of copies each week.

And then, the election happened. I truly, truly felt like the Mr. Krabs meme. I desperately wanted to understand what happened and try to make some sense. So, as I do in most times of incredible stress, I went to a bookstore. Three hours later, I emerged from The Strand with Vance’s book in tow. Two days later, I had finished the book and I haven’t shut up about it since.

A lot of things about this book are important. For one, Appalachia is kind of looked over as a demographic of Americans. I have been spoiled to live in a powerful area of a powerful state, and I can understand that those who live in middle America feel forgotten. While I feel like I am at the center of it all, they’re the fringe.

The other important thing about this memoir is the voice it gives to blue collar workers, and more specifically, former blue collar workers. Much of America used to be an industrial boom-town, full of manufacturing jobs and promise. And suddenly, technology swooped in and everyone who believed that a manufacturing job meant they were set for life found themselves unemployed. I saw it myself – one of Rochester’s top employer’s was Kodak. In my lifetime, I watched an iconic brand spin-off, close, and lay-off thousands of employees. I remember the same uncertainty, knowing my family could be laid off any day now.

But that was only half the story. Yes – middle America feels looked-over. But the other part of the problem is not something any government problems can solve. Vance, a writer for the conservative New Republic is the first to admit that many issues of “hillbilly” America are cultural.

What this book made me realize the most was although I understood the plight of the end of manufacturing in America (to an extent), I did not understand hillbilly America. One part that struck me, more than anything else, was when the author described his shock that his college girlfriend, now wife, experienced little stress around holiday gifts growing up; while his peers would amass massive credit card debt to make sure the season’s hottest toys were under their children’s trees on Christmas day, his wife knew no such thing. She asked for and received books for Christmas!!

I related to the wife. And I felt like there was so much to learn from this somewhat forgotten culture, that I was incapable of grasping.

The other thing I liked about this book was that it’s not preachy. I didn’t feel like I was reading an incredibly historical or politically charged book. It felt accessible and relatable. It actually reminded me a lot of The Glass Castle, a book I read and have loved for a long time.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

When this book first came out, it was billed as a thriller “for anyone who loved Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.” At that point in my life, I was over both of those things.

Alas, a few of my coworkers (who were also over the “Girl” thrillers) read this and recommended it to me, not because it was fantastically mind-blowing, but because it was a quick read that encompasses a few cultural points that I talk about a lot.

Without revealing too much of the plot, I will say that the book’s narrator is a women of nouveau-riche upbringing just outside the Main Line in Philadelphia. The character suffers sexual assault, and for a long time, the author asserted that although the assault was depicted hyper-realistically, it was a figment of her imagination.

However, months after the book’s release, Knoll wrote a letter admitting that she was raped in high school, and that’s why the book felt so real to so many other survivors.

It felt like a grown-up version of Laurie Halse-Anderson’s Speak, if the main character was in her 20’s, self-assured, and worked at a women’s magazine.

For all of it’s superficialities, Luckiest Girl Alive has some important things to say, and is a wild ride from start to finish.


Those are my top-top recommendations. The books that stick with me and that I think about daily. I reference them in my thoughts, and to people who haven’t read them yet and don’t get it, but whatever. Read them now.

Up next on my “To Read” shelf are:

Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didon (I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read this yet)

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

Comment what you’re reading? Do enough people read this to make it a real call-to-action??

#TRYING – Lauren Goewey

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I met Lauren in sixth grade, when paired up for an anti-smoking project. While our peers made posters or pamphlets, Lauren and I filmed and produced (using iMovie in 2003!!) a MasterCard-style commercial, complete with a blooper reel.

Needless to say, Lauren and I have remained close, and she has continued to kill it in life. One of the smartest people I’ve ever met, I used to copy her AP Econ homework in 12th grade. She graduated from the Honors program at Lehigh and immediately started working at DuPont. She’s now at corporate Urban Outfitters, all while training for and running MARATHONS. PLURAL.

I have always admired Lolly’s drive and intelligence. She knows what she likes and what she wants and knows exactly what steps to take to reach her goals. Another thing I love about Lauren is her ability to identify a toxic person in her life and let them go.

She’s an amazing woman and an even better friend. She’s the one person from home who lives physically closest to me (aside from Andrew) and having her a quick bus ride away helps ease the homesickness and FOMO. She’s always down for a run or boozy brunch or to just sleep and watch RHONY with me all day, for all of which I cannot thank her for enough. Thank you for always loving me and also not putting up with the bullshit XOXOX.

SCHOOL/WORK

What is your job title? What do you do?

I’m an Analyst on the Financial Planning and Analysis team at URBN

What did you go to school for?

Economics [NERD]

What did you want to do when you started college? Why did you change?

I went in undecided but took a bunch of science classes as well as economic classes… the science classes stopped after organic chem!

How would you say greek life impacted your time at school?

Lehigh is an interesting place; Greek life is the social scene there.  So, it more or less gave a group of pals to socialize with for four years.

What was the hardest part of college for you?

I think mastering the art of balance. Learning how to study effectively as well.

How did you end up at Dupont?

I interned there the summer before senior year, and got a job offer before I started senior year.

What did you enjoy about working there?

Well, a lot of the people there were my parents age so I felt like I had several sets of pseudo parents, which was nice since I couldn’t see my own parents a lot. Also, I had a lot of flexibility when it came to hours and working remotely *sigh*

What was the most challenging part?

The hardest part was after the spin (DuPont spun off the division where I worked to a new company, Chemours)- lots of layoffs, fixed cost pressures, etc. Made for a lot of absorbed work and long nights!

Why did you leave?

I had moved to Philadelphia about 8 months before leaving, and the commute was a lot. I also had some questions when it came to the future of the new company (i.e. being sold to private equity, etc.), so a couple things played into the decision.

What do you do now at URBN?

I do a lot of analysis for the company as a whole.  Each of the brands (Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie) have their own finance teams, but my team looks more holistically at the business. A big part of my job is helping to prepare for the board meetings and quarterly earnings releases.

What’s the difference between the two jobs?

At Chemours I was focused on the cost-side of things, here I’m more big-picture, which is nice.

What was it like when you first moved to DE and didn’t know anyone?

Not ideal.. Not at all. It was tough; luckily I had friends that would visit on the weekends and I would also take weekend trips to have a social life.

How did you meet people/make friends?

Through work mostly. Actually, I can’t think of any friends I made that weren’t through work. 

What do you enjoy about working at URBN?

It’s a fast-paced environment and industry in general, which is a cool change. One minute you’re killing it, the next you’re not.

Is there anything you don’t get to do that you wish you could?

I wish I could do more of the strategic work my team does.

What’s the hardest part?

It’s a very different work environment than I was used to at my old job, so that took some adjusting to. It’s a lot more “creative” and less stuffy but also at the same time has more of an “ass in seat” mentality which is an interesting combo.

Have you ever cried at work?

Of course.

How do you deal with a bad day at work?

Text the crew about it of course. If it’s still light out when I leave, running also helps.

Have you ever asked for a promotion or raise? How did you do it?

I haven’t asked for a promotion per se because I changed jobs, but I did work to negotiate my initial offer which is similar. The best advice someone gave me while doing that was “the worst thing they can do is say no and then forget about it.”

Any tricks for organization?

You’ve seen my room, right? Not sure I’m the best person to answer this question! Although I may have things thrown all over the floor, I’m pretty good about keeping a calendar so I’m always on top of things that are going on both with work and things I’m doing in my social life. [Lauren’s room is a mess, that’s true. But she’s a big proponent for getting things in her iCal.]

 

How do you budget/make sure you’re saving money?

The 401k plan helps because the money is taken out before I ever have a chance of spending it. I try to do the same with my savings account and transfer a sum automatically at the beginning of the month.

Did you have a mentor? How did you find them?

My first boss is great! I’m lucky that I had such a good one. He keeps up with me and gives advice whenever I ask.

What’s something you’ve struggled with recently?

I had a stress fracture in my foot after running Chicago, and it was pretty tough to agree to rest for a few weeks so that it could heal.

What or who inspires you?

All of my friends! From high school, college, and work as well. They’re all working hard and going after what they want.

What would you say is your greatest weakness? And your strength!

My greatest weakness is probably that I don’t like to be wrong so I hate admitting fault. Strength probably that I’m pretty disciplined and determined to achieve whatever goal I currently have for myself. [Envy that drive and discipline…]

LIFE STUFF

When did you start running half marathons?

I ran my first one in March 2015! You were there to watch me (and bring me a bagel at the end)!

How many have you run at this point?

If I’m not forgetting any, I believe I’m at 5.

When did you decide to make the jump to full marathons?

After I finished my first half marathon and thought “well that wasn’t so bad…”[Lauren is an overachiever…]

What’s the hardest part? (Aside from physically running 26.2 miles)

My stomach doesn’t always cooperate with me during long runs, especially during races.  A lot of runners deal with this problem; I’m pretty lucky that I can say this is my biggest physical problem during a marathon.

How do you make time to train?

Well, I wouldn’t say I do conventional marathon training. I definitely keep up with the long runs on the weekends, but during the week I really do only cross-training. When I am doing a 20-miler on a Saturday, I actually feel like I have more time on the weekends because it forces me to go to bed early on Friday, wake up to beat the heat, and be done by 9 AM! Two full days ahead of me.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done recently?

I went back to Bethlehem to visit the Christmas city during the season and go to the Christmas market there which was cool!

What’s your next goal?

I came pretty close to qualifying for Boston, so that’d be cool! [Unreal.]

Would you ever do anything beyond marathons, like ToughMudders or Triathalons?

For some reason they don’t appeal to me. I think it’s the swimming!

What’s your favorite workout? 

Classes like Orangetheory where it’s cardio sprint intervals mixed with weight lifting circuits.

What’s the next place you’re travelling?

Right now, the only set plans are to do a weekend trip to Nashville in the spring. I’m planning on going to Norway to kayak the Fjords in June!

Have you always been conscious about clean eating? How did you get into it and how do you stick to it?

Lol, does my diet count as clean eating??? [Don’t let her fool you, she’s a healthy eater!!]

I had a bacon egg and cheese this AM. I think it’s all about balance. I try to be conscious during the week but if I’m out to dinner, I’m not ordering a salad.

Biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Probably moving to Delaware without knowing anyone there.

Lesson you learned the hard way?

You can only BS so far!

Best advice you’ve ever received?

I think just not to worry about the little things so much because they’re so trivial in the big scheme of things (easier said than done of course).

Favorite places to shop?

Lulu, Madewell, Zara

Favorite skincare or makeup products lately?

Anything La Prairie, especially their foaming cleanser. I just got Milk’s tinted moisturizer and I like it.

What’s your morning routine?

Usually I workout in the AM- so I’ll get up, go workout, go home, shower, throw together some overnight (5 min) oats, and pick up coffee on my way to work (s/o to Wawa).

Best restaurant you’ve been to lately?

I’ve been eating too well lately.  Since I live in PA, I’m very big on BYOB’s as well.  There’s a Scandinavian restaurant, Noord, that I’ve been to once for dinner and once for breakfast recently.  It’s excellent!

What’s something you’re really passionate about?

I try to treat any ailment I have holistically, which I think is important. Not that medications are bad, just that sometimes there are alternatives that aren’t explored adequately. [Lauren has a qi gong specialist here in Rochester…]

Best books you’ve read recently? TV shows? Podcasts? Music?

I started Billions last year, so I’m excited for that and Homeland to start up again in January. I listened to In The Dark podcast (S/o to Erin for the rec) which was great, and I’ll tune into the Freakonomics podcast at work.

Where do you get your news?

Well Erin wakes up 5 am so she usually gets the overnight news to us.  Otherwise, I have CNN alerts and go to the homepage in the morning to check out what the Clinton News Network wants me to know.

What would your ideal day look like?

Waking up and working out, grabbing an absolute bagel, and then spending the day outside (maybe at a beer garden?). [There’s one down the street from me sis – add it to the itinerary for the next visit :)] 

What’s your go-to order at a bar?

Depends – usually a pilsner, unless I’m loosening the purse strings and then I’ll get some type of vodka cocktail.

If you could live in any city, which would it be?

I’m not sure– I’ve never been to Vancouver but I’d like to check it out! [Fall 2017? Spring 2018? I’m interested!]

Where are you dying to travel to?

Southeast Asia.

How did you meet Evan?

Through my co-worker at DuPont, Corynn.

What’s the most fun part of dating?

Trying out tasting menu’s and BYOB’s across Philly.

The toughest part?

Not having time to clean my room! (Ok I would use anything as an excuse not to do this).

How do you keep in touch with long-distance friends?

Live and die by the group chat. Technology makes it easy! [Glad you’re only just a text away. Couldn’t live my life without you.] 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About IUDs

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“Stigmas against IUDs from the 70s/80s are dumb and women deserve to be better informed on them…I’m lookin’ at you doctors and health education teachers.” — EB

When I got my IUD last December, I knew exactly two people who had one. And I knew nothing about them or how they worked. Since then, I’ve watched the vast majority of my close friends talk to their doctors and eventually make the switch from traditional birth control (can I say oral contraceptives? I don’t like that word. The pill. We had been on the pill) to the IUD.

I went into it kind of blind. In a personal crusade to rid myself of chemicals as much as possible, combined with a chronic inability to refill my prescriptions on time, I declared that I wanted get one and my mom and sister ended up making my appointment for me. Truthfully, I had no idea how it worked. I didn’t even know how the pill worked. I was just interested in a more hand-off approach to birth control.

I had some inclination that the IUD would hurt. A friend of mine had got one months before me, and had a pretty unpleasant and uncomfortable experience.  I’d describe myself as sensitive, so I was prepared for discomfort. Essentially, the IUD needs to be placed at the end of the cervix, something that is very small. It’s what dilates when you give birth and have contractions. So if that’s the pain women feel when it’s opening on it’s own, imagine someone forcing a turkey baster through. Not fun.

I had no knowledge of side effects beyond the insertion. Graphic: I bled for three months after. Three. Months. Can you imagine having your period for three months straight? It was something else. BUT after that, I did not bleed again. Smooth sailing.

I just feel like there wasn’t any info out there that made sense, only what I heard from my friends. Even things about the female anatomy and how birth control in general works were fuzzy, and there weren’t really any articles that spelled it out in a digestible way for me.

I learned exactly how the uterus connects to the cervix that day during my insertion as I felt the little Mirena T go up through each part of my lady bits. Because no one really tells you how things are laid out.

So I asked my friends, all the people I love and trust most, about their experiences with the IUD. And they didn’t know much more than I. And all women should know more about, and be in control of their reproductive health.

**And no matter what their friends say, all females should ask their doctor what’s best for them, too!**

So what is an IUD?

An “intrauterine device” is a tiny little T-shaped birth control method that lives at the bottom of the uterus that prevents pregnancy. It is 99.9% effective. In fact, my doctor told me that the only thing more effective would be a hysterectomy.

There’s 2 kinds of IUD – a hormonal one and a copper one.

The ParaGard IUD (copper) doesn’t have hormones. It’s wrapped in a tiny bit of copper, and it protects you from pregnancy for up to 12 years. 12 years?! I will literally see three different presidents in that time period. What a time to be alive.

The Liletta, Mirena, Skyla, and Kyleena IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin is very similar to the hormone progesterone that our bodies make naturally. Mirena works for up to 6 years. Kyleena works for up to 5 years. Skyla and Liletta work for up to 3 years. (Source)

I think everyone I know has the Mirena – except one, who has the copper ParaGard. Mirena is good for 5 years. In my case, until the end of the Trump administration. Thank God, because this sis cannot afford another IUD out of pocket.

How does it even work?

Good question. I had no idea how it worked the whole time I was on the pill, and even after I got the IUD I really had no idea how it worked. So I’ll leave this to the experts at Planned Parenthood:

  • Both copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm move so they can’t get to an egg. If sperm can’t make it to an egg, pregnancy can’t happen.
  • The ParaGard IUD uses copper to prevent pregnancy. Sperm don’t like copper, so the ParaGard IUD makes it almost impossible for sperm to get to that egg.
  • The hormones in Liletta, Mirena, Skyla, and Kyleena IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways:
    • 1) They thicken the mucus that lives on the cervix, which blocks and traps the sperm
    • 2) The hormones also sometimes stop eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), which means there’s no egg for a sperm to fertilize. No egg, no pregnancy.
  • You can also use a copper IUD as emergency contraception, (which I literally just learned while doing this research) if you get one within 5 days of having sex. Which is pretty cool if you’re looking for that.

Why should I get an IUD?

There’s several reasons. For one, it’s 99.9% effective. You can’t mess it up. Once it’s in, you don’t have to think of it for 3-12 years. And if in that time, you decide you’re ready to have kids, take it out and you’re all set.

It also keeps hormones localized. Instead of the hormones running through your bloodstream, it sits in that one spot. So if you’re nervous and conscious about that kind of stuff, the IUD is a great option.

A decent number of women stop getting their period on the IUD. I did. One less thing to worry about, ya know?

How do I get one?

For sure talk to your doctor – call your OBGYN or head to a Planned Parenthood and get their opinion before making any choices. It’s important to talk through your medical history, any questions you have, and discuss any risks.

Then make your appointment! As of now, Obama made it free on most insurance plans. Call your provider and get the scoop.

What can I expect when I get it inserted?

Lots of doctors advise lots of things before insertion. Most advise that you make an appointment when you’re menstruating. But from what I’ve heard, they can make due if you’re not. **Talk to your doctor**

A few people I know were given Misoprostol, which is taken vaginally (?!?!!), and is supposed to help with opening the cervix. I was not given this, two of my friends were, one took it. So I guess its necessity is up in the air. If your doctor recommends you take it, talk it through if you have concerns.

Another thing doctors advise is to not have sex a week before and a few days after. What they actually said was, “nothing in the vagina,” meaning no sex and no tampons. Mine said to wait a week, but Lauren’s gyro handed her a tampon on her way out.

I found out when researching this that it depends on when in your cycle your IUD was inserted and what kind you got. A copper IUD is effective immediately. A hormonal IUD is effective immediately, if it’s inserted in the first 7 days of your period. If not, it will take another 7 days.

What to expect from the actual insertion? Discomfort. Imagine bad cramps. And then imagine they’re ten times worse. It only took about 5 minutes, but it was uncomfortable to say the least. It’s basically like you’re at your annual exam, and the doctor goes in there with a comically large pipette. The challenge is navigating the uterus and cervix and getting it to sit right, especially because everyone is constructed in different sizes and at different angles.

Many of my friends had trouble with this too. It’s definitely not fun.

A common, immediate side effect is passing out – which I have done before. I voiced these concerns to my doctor, and she actually gave me a juice box before I left. I did not pass out, but the cramping did leave me a little light-headed.

Another odd thing to note is that that your gyno could check to make sure your IUD is sitting a-okay with an ultrasound. And it’s not like you think. The ultrasound is internal.

My friend Lauren was quoted in an article all about the procedure, along with several other women; in her words, “In retrospect, 10 minutes of discomfort seems insubstantial to five years of effective birth control.” Amen sis.

What about after?

The part I did not anticipate was what came for months after. I had residual bleeding from January until March. Every. Single. Day. I cannot express how exhausted I was for about four months, which I wasn’t anticipating. I called my gynecologist every month until it stopped, just to make sure it was a normal and not alarming side effect. (Highly recommend calling your doctor if you’re even mildly concerned).

Another side effect I had that definitely wasn’t common was that my anxiety went wild. Since I had been on the Pill since Sophomore year of college, and on Paxil since Junior year, my Paxil-taking body only knew how to exist on the Pill. Then, afterward I started feeling on edge. Super on edge. So, again, I called my doctor and talked through it and got it worked out.

A friend of mine who hadn’t previously experienced anxiety had a similar experience. She got her IUD and suddenly started feeling very anxious all the time, an especially odd side-effect because she’s an incredibly laid-back human. She talked with a healthcare professional and determined the best course of action.

A few of my friends have had another VERY ODD experience involving the wires attached to the IUD: they poke their significant other during sex. One specific friend of mine actually drew blood, which is how we know her boyfriend wasn’t just being sensitive.

This is super common – don’t worry. Over time, the wires flatten to the mucus-lining of the vagina, and they also soften. Another friend of mine went to her gyno and had them snipped, which is another alternative (but I have also heard might make removal difficult).

I’ve also heard from women who were on the pill for a long time developing ovarian cysts after getting the IUD. When you’re on the pill, you don’t ovulate. When you have an IUD you do. So it’s possible that when you do start ovulating again, especially after a long period of not doing so, your body can panic and cysts form. They’re painful (cramping) but harmless most of the time. But as always, if you’re experiencing unusual pain or other sensations, ALWAYS call your gyno. Even if she just tells you it’s fine. Just call her.

One other odd side effect I’ve heard of is a change in hair – my coworker’s hair turned extra oily after she got her (copper) IUD. She had been dealing with it for a while when she asked her hairdresser who said they see super oily hair in pregnant women. Then it clicked – the major change in hormones from going off of the Pill. I myself have noticed a change in the texture of my hair since last December. Could be something else, but I’m thinking maybe it is something. Definitely putting it on the list of things to ask my gyno at my annual check-up.

The rest of the most common side-effects are what you’d expect going off of the pill: cramps (if you even get your period anymore) or acne flare-ups. My skin went berserk after I got my IUD, and to this day I am still trying to tame it. But I’ll take breakouts over hormones coursing through my body and the chance of unplanned pregnancy any day.

– – –

All in all, I would highly recommend and IUD if you talk to your doctor and decide it’s healthy for you. I have nothing but great things to say and it’s truly awesome to not have to worry about taking a pill or refilling a prescription (MY KRYPTONITE). I have actually recommended to several friends (all featured in this article) at this point and all of them seem happy with their choices as well.

I just want more women to know their options, especially with the change in administrations and potential change in healthcare. I feel like in the 70’s and 80’s IUDs got a bad wrap for being unsafe, but now they are so safe, if not more safe than the pill.

What’s more, now that I’m impregnable until 2020, I don’t have to worry a single day of the Trump administration about the cost of my birth control, or the cost of an unplanned pregnancy. I can use my time doing far more important things, like fighting the patriarchy.

DISCLAIMER: I’m obviously not a doctor at all, and neither are any of my friends. We have all shared our positive experiences, but what is most important is talking to your doctor. Along with you, they know drugs and your body best. 

Also want to thank all the lovely ladies who shared their experiences with me, and who continue to teach me about life every day. 

(image source)

#TRYING – Kara Brown

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When I graduated college, my mom gave me a book called I Just Graduated…Now What?. As someone who has always learned from books, I was eager to dive in, because I was LOST. But the book didn’t answer my questions. It’s written by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter, and many of the essays in the book were the stories of incredibly privileged people who weren’t struggling like I was. I was confused and I didn’t know where I was going. I wanted to hear from people who were there and who were struggling like I was. Not people who had money to travel the world and find themselves. I didn’t have time for that.

Fast forward two years and I’m still obsessed with hearing from people. I am obsessed with Into The Gloss#TopShelfies and Top Shelves. I love seeing what people are up to and what’s in their medicine cabinet. Beauty is a pretty level playing field (excluding luxury brands that I will never afford) because most women have to take care of their skin and everyone has to bathe!

And then I got into listening to #GirlBoss Radio with Sophia Amoruso. I am obsessed with these women’s stories and hearing how they came from places very similar to where I am now. But still something is missing. Myself and everyone I know is at the starting-out point of their careers, and it’s still messy and confusing and pretty ugly. And no one is showing that, which is sad, because it’s so real, so connecting and so fascinating.

So this is my first interview with a young women who is in the middle of it all who is still inspiring me, my beautiful friend, Kara Brown.

Kara is one of the most driven and compassionate women I’ve ever met and I’m so excited to see where life and her career take her. And I think she knows a lot more than she let on. SPECIAL THANKS TO KBREEZIN FOR LETTING ME PICK HER BRAIN AND BEING MY EXPERIMENT. YOU ARE A TRUE SIS.

 

EDUCATION

What did you study in school?

I studied Speech and Hearing Sciences.

When you started school, what did you want to do?

I really don’t know.  I didn’t get into nursing school so I picked the next medical major I could find.  Which happened to be Speech.  

Why did you change? (or not!)

My work study during college was working for the Office for Students with Disabilities.  It was so humbling and really opened my eyes to what kind of work I wanted to dedicate my life to.  I was a peer advisor to the most wonderful college student who has very severe CP.  This girl is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.  While she suffered from severe spasticity (muscles cramping/spasms, resulting in intense pain, limited mobility in joints) she always wore the biggest smile on her face and was one of the most upbeat and positive people to be around.  I remember the first time I went to her dorm room to help her with her homework.  After I was done with her for the evening I walked back to my dorm in tears.  I felt like I’ve taken everything in life for granted.  Here’s this girl who’s known nothing but life in a wheelchair.  Unable to even go to the bathroom without assistance and here she is kicking ass in college.  It was very humbling and I feel so fortune to have had to the opportunity to work with someone like her.  I knew then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life fighting for people like her.

What was the hardest part of school?  

While, the academic part of school was definitely challenging (having selected a very hard major I didn’t care about) the hardest part for me was trying to love and accept myself.  I went into school with this very false sense of who I was as a person, who I was as a woman.  I did a LOT of stupid things during those four years.  I was my own worst enemy.  I was never smart enough, I was never skinny enough, I was always making mistakes.  The hardest part about school was trying to find myself.  

WORK

What do you do now?

I am an Employment Specialist.  I help people with a wide range of disabilities locate and maintain employment.  I’m trying to break down barriers in my community for those who cannot do so alone.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part about my job is having a client get their first job.  For some of the people I work with, they’ve lived their entire lives with people beating into them the ideology that they will never be functional members of society and that they have nothing to contribute to the community.

What’s your dream job? (Attainable or not!)

I would really like to work for the government as a disabilities rights advocate.  I’d like to help reshape and enforce civil rights for people with disabilities.  

[I’d vote for you]

What was the hardest part of getting where you are?

I went straight through undergrad to grad school.  Trying to get a job seemed pretty impossible. I have a Masters degree and it took a really long time for someone to give me a chance because I have “no work experience.”  I’ve run university programs and have been paid to work in my field for almost 4 years now.  But yeah, that’s not “work experience” – NEXT.  It was depressing and I cried for what seemed like all summer.  But I finally got an interview a few weeks after I graduated and someone gave me a chance.  I absolutely love my job and I feel really lucky to be doing something I’m passionate about.

Tips or tricks for staying productive or motivated? How do you stay organized?

I work in the community so I have no office.  I have a boss but I make my own schedule.  It’s super easy to slack off and get behind.  But I really love what I do and the people that I work with so that helps to keep me on my shit.  Organization? SIS. SIIIIIS. Google Calendar is literally a gift from god.  Also, get a planner.  Kate Spade makes them too so you have no excuse.

One thing you’re struggling with?

I don’t make much money.  I mean generally in my field you don’t make much but at this rate my mom is going to be my roommate for a very, very long time.

One thing that really surprised you?
 One thing that surprised me? The negativity of people in the community and their views of people with disabilities.  It’s really heartbreaking to see an employer not give your client the time of day.  Or when an employer has zero patience with your client.  Sometimes I want to be like, would you like it if I treated your son, daughter, or wife like this?  

How do you deal with a really crappy day at work? Who do you call?
I text my friends.  I work out.  I call Mitch.  I call my other co-workers who probably had just as bad as a day as I had.  I laugh.  But I have more good days than bad.  

What time do you wake up in the morning?
I like the mornings.  So I normally wake up at 7-8AM.  

How did you find your job?
Indeed.com, I didn’t have any fabulous connections.

Anything you learned about interviewing?
Bring your resume, be super earlier, look cute (it doesn’t hurt).  Most importantly, read about the company you are interviewing with and about the position.  Check Glassdoor.com and see if there are any interview reviews or questions posted on there.  It helps!

What was your first “big girl purchase”?
Sadly, it was paying my credit card bills and car insurance.  YAY..  bills really suck but I suggest scheduling automatic payments around your payday so that you don’t forget!  It keeps your credit in good graces and prevents those late fees.

What’s something you suck at, or your greatest weakness?
My greatest weakness is my quick temper.  I get heated fast and I react fast.  If you piss me off I’ll be hitting you where it hurts with words faster than you can say sis.  I’m working on this.  I’ve been working on this for a very long time but *shrugs*

Have you ever cried at work? Tell me about it.
I’ve cried in my car after work.  On my way home.  That’s the best time to cry, right?  No one can see me and I have Beyoncé to serenade me.  

LIFESTYLE

What passions do you have outside of work?
Advocating for people with disabilities is my passion at work and outside of work.  It’s my mission to educate people every chance I get.  

What’s one thing you don’t get to do at work that you wish you could?
Spend legitimate time with my clients.  Some of them really just need a friend.  That’s why I spend some extra time with them sometimes.  To make sure that they know that someone cares about how they’re doing and how their week is going.

What causes are you extra passionate about?

Women’s rights.  Black Lives Matter.  Really any civil rights movement.

Favorite book? Movies?
Any book by Thomas Harris.  Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon.  Drive.  Her.  Kill Bill.  Inglorious Basterds.  Fury.  

What’s something cool you recently read, saw, did, etc?
I recently went on a road trip to Alabama with my friends from grad school.  My friend Maddie flew in from Santa Barbara, Aimee flew in from Colorado, and Jill/Joe/me drove down from Pittsburgh.  Nothing like driving to the Gulf for thanksgiving and tailgating at the Iron Bowl.

What is something frustrating that happened recently?
Uh, the 2016 Presidential election?  I’m sick of speaking about it but I’ll be damned if Trump is gonna shut me up. #StillNastyStillHere  Also, the amount of general racism I’ve been seeing lately.  I just really can’t imagine where all of the hate some people have for other human beings is stemming from.  It makes me really sad to see people bash movements like Black Lives Matter.

Best advice you ever received?
Ignore them and they’ll go away – Mom.

Treat others the way you want to be treated – The Golden Rule (learned this concept in the 2nd grade)

Lesson you learned the hard way?
Wow.  So many.  When drinking, choose who you hang out with wisely… it could land you in the back of a cop car.  Think before you speak.  Being sharp and witty is a curse when angry.  You can construct very hurtful statements.

One place you’re dying to visit?
New Zealand! Live, Love, Lord of the Rings.

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Don’t laugh;  Boston Butt.  It’s smoked pork butt *peach emoji*.  I had it during Thanksgiving in Alabama and it was AMAZING. Stop laughing.

Any general advice?
Advice I wish I would take: think before you speak.

Where do you get your news?
Anywhere but Facebook and/or Fox News.  I really like the News app on my iPhone.  You can select the news outlets that you like and what you’re interested in and it puts it all together.  

Have you ever felt like you’re really adulting well? Or not?
Sometimes I feel like I am but then I come home to my mom’s house and I’m like well shit guys.  I still feel like I’m 16.  I feel like I’m adulting well when my boss emails me and tells me I’m doing a great job with my clients.

Favorite drink to order at a bar?
Stella!

Music you’ve been really into?
Johnnyswim.  I saw them live recently and they are killer.  

What did you ask for for Christmas?
World peace and two hens. [That’s not a joke. She wants 2 chickens]. 

Funny or cool skills? Fun facts about you?
I pride myself on being a knockoff Snow White.  I always find animals.  I really want chickens, cows, and a horse. [SEE!!!?]

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Spending a lot of money on coffee and shoes.

Most reckless thing you’ve ever done?
I got a tattoo in a dirty basement once (sorry mom).

What’s your ideal day?
Waking up, getting the most perfect cup of coffee, going to the gym, walking my dog, and then going out for the evening or staying in and reading a good book.

What’s the next milestone you’re looking to reach?
I’d like to run a full marathon in the next year or so.

Where do you go for inspiration?
I like to take long walks in the woods with my dog.  It allows me to cool off and think.

Advice for your college self?
KB, you are cool and cute.  Stop trying so hard.  Stop drinking so much.  Keep up the long hours in the library.  You aren’t fat.  Someone will love you for who you are one day, I promise.

[I love you now and always KB <3]

Something we wouldn’t know from your resume?
I have a minor in environmental studies.  I love the environment, rocks, ungulates, and wolves. I know a lot about a lot.  

[I didn’t know this. Can’t wait to talk Earth Science ASAP]

MAKEUP/SKIN/STYLE ETC

What’s one product you couldn’t live without?
A really good face wash.  I’m loving Soap and Glory right now.

Favorite products or tips?
Use facewash, toner, and then moisturize. Twice a day!

Favorite places to shop?
Any Gap company.

RELATIONSHIPS

How did you meet?
[She doesn’t want to answer this one, but she made the first move and I love her and admire her for it. She’s amazing].

Most fun part of being in a relationship?
The most fun part is having someone to look stupid with.  It’s fun learning all the little things about a person.  It’s fun to have someone like you all the time.  Like dude, I don’t even like myself 23% of the time so… thx!

Any general advice?
I hate talking things out.  I like to apologize and move on.  I realize that not everyone operates like I do.  Think before you speak.  Words stick with people.  Don’t let something that’s bothering you go unsaid, it’ll eat you alive.

Has there been anything challenging?
Mitch is currently renovating the largest house in all of Pittsburgh.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration.  Is it?  Anyway, my roommate is my mom and Mitch’s house isn’t done.  So we don’t see each other as often as we would like.  It sucks but it’s worth it 1000x and back.  I’m also awaiting my gold medal of patience for when this enormous project is done. And two hens in the backyard. [SEEE?!]

What’s the weirdest part?

I met Mitch in August and I feel like I’ve known him for forever.  It’s weird how natural it feels to have him by my side.  I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who would ever need or depend on anyone.  Not to say that I depend on M, but I couldn’t imagine him not being in my life.  I hope he doesn’t go anywhere.  That would suck.

Anything I forgot and you want to say??

Something that really enriches my life is the strong women I surround myself with.  These women empower me and inspire me every day.  It’s weird growing up, leaving college, and beginning the next big chapter of your life.  You’ll lose friends but the friends that remain by your side will bring you more joy than you could ever imagine.  I feel so incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life.  

[Right back at ya sis]