Pizza Stone Toe Happens

Look at the life picture I've painted in 2017 and you'll see me falling in love, traveling across the globe and playing with lots of puppies. There were many bright spots, but I'd like to go on record along with the rest of America and say that overall this year was pretty much a little bitch. (Sorry mom.) Plus I've had to endure most of 2017 with only nine toenails. And if that isn't a metaphor for life, I don't know what is.

Social media me, sending chill vibes in 2017.
The real me, telling 2017 to lay off.
"You seem oddly... calm," my best friend, Suzie, says as she sits next to me less than two weeks after my latest breakup. As I prattle on and on about the man of the minute I found on some dating app, she remains skeptical. But obviously, I'M FINE. I mean, look at the evidence: I'm going on dates! Booking flights right and left! Taking up new hobbies! Unstoppable, I tell you!

A few days later, the simple task of reheating a piece of pizza confirms that I am not, in fact, fine. Apparently the sure-fire indicator I'm experiencing life trauma is to gauge my behavior in the kitchen. (cc: The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Meltdown of 2013.)

"Place directly on oven rack OR ON PIZZA STONE." Danger ahead.
I cleverly decide to use a pizza stone for this task because A) I'm a new woman post-breakup who makes even dull tasks exciting, B) The reheating instructions told me to, and C) I had a pizza stone when I moved into my apartment two years ago and wonder if it still exists. Answer: it does! And in its original packaging no less! This becomes a problem when I lift the disintegrating box to about chest height and the pizza stone falls out the bottom, plummeting to the ground... by way of my toe.

I do not advise slamming a rock-like baking surface onto any appendages. It hurts. But that pain remains masked in the immediate aftermath because #adrenaline. I continue operating under this dumb-founded stupor and irrationally text Suzie (also my first call during the nail polish nightmare).

"I think I broke my toe," I explain plainly. "Do you have an ice pack?" I sound calm and rational; Suzie knows I'm anything but. She says she'll be there in 15 minutes, which turns out to be just enough time for me to COMPLETELY LOSE MY MIND. When she and her husband, Sean, find me, I'm crying on the floor while Roxie licks away my tears.

"This is how I'm going to die!" I wail. "This will be it! My toenail is going to fall off and it will never come back! No one will want to date, let alone marry, the girl with nine toenails. I'll become an old spinster. They'll find me like this, alone on the floor of my one-bedroom apartment with my dog licking my decaying corpse. I'm finished!!!"

We all have low moments. I just happen to be even more delusional and overly dramatic than most during mine. Also, maybe I’m not over that whole breakup situation.

After 30 minutes of coaxing from Suzie, plus 10 minutes of Sean searching for the first aid kit ("It's in my Caboodle." "WTF is a Caboodle?"), I finally calm down. Husband and wife then tag-team wrapping my toe and eventually leave me with my foot propped on a pillow and a piece of pizza on my lap. Sean was in charge of the reheating this time; there were no further injuries.

Now based on my behavior, you might look at this situation and say: "Homegirl is going through some things. Maybe she should deal with the emotions and the toenails to get herself back on track?"

But no. Rather than going to the doctor, I hobble through life while swollen pressure builds up in my foot. Rather than face the breakup insecurities, I fill all my spare time with dates in an attempt to find validation from strangers. I double book myself multiple times -- once at the same restaurant. My date finds me halfway through a meal and my second drink, seated across from a friend while straddling the table with my foot propped up on a stool. Seriously y'all. WHAT AM I DOING? Nothing but wasting time and getting in my own way.

It takes me a week to go to the doctor.
Three months to give up on a dead toenail.
Four months to silence the voice saying I'm not enough.

I don't reach the tipping point for any of these scenarios by living in denial. I get there when my own self awareness and a wallop of honesty finally beat out my stubbornness and pride.

So we're back to my bizarre/grotesque, yet relevant, life metaphor here. Things can be going along just fine and then WHAM, they aren’t. But refusing to open yourself up to painful realities (pizza stone toes) or your true feelings (heartbreak), is simultaneously shielding you from getting on with your life. 

It seemed easier to cling to this disgusting, dead toenail rather than start over. But while I was trying to salvage something that was already gone, I missed out on life. Big things like getting to swim in the ocean and little things like a weekday pedicure.

July in California. But I only got to look at that beautiful ocean. #ToeProbs
See what I'm getting at here? Holding onto what's already lost only keeps you from finding what's better. When I finally did cut out what was ailing me, I finally got back to actually living. The hard part is that nails don't grow back in a day, or even a month. You just gotta put nail polish on your bare toe and make do with what you've got.

Once you're back out there, you'll realize that no one is even looking at your feet. And what may seem like a big hole to you may actually be unnoticeable to others -- especially if you're good at playing the "I'm fine" game. So don't be afraid to ask for help bandaging yourself up. 

BRB. Busy living my best life with my toes in the sand.
I actually managed to salvage the pizza stone toe double date, and ended up seeing the guy on and off for several months. So despite my wailing, delusional predictions, maybe not all hope is lost for this nine-toenailed-wonder-girl. 

And all hope isn't lost for you either. Whatever your dead toenail... it's gross, ugly and killing your vibe. Get rid of it. There's always time to start over.

***Disclaimer: I have now reached my quota for stories about feet and using the world “toenail” for life. Promise.***


Something > Nothing

A funny thing happens when you broadcast your life-altering decisions to the world: some people actually listen. One of the coolest things about the past year of my life (other than the fact that I can finally make happy hour) is that I've somehow become a source of wisdom/inspiration for a few people. I'm flattered and humbled, but also at a loss for what to say when people ask how they can shift their lives in a positive direction. It forces me to retrace my steps and ask myself: How DID I get here?

The simple answer is that it can't be defined by a single moment. Quitting my job may have seemed like a very assertive, final action that put everything on track, but in actuality it was one action that was flanked on either side by other actions -- some big, some small -- that were just as important as the birthday card/resignation letter saga.
The before... I pursued new relationships; I moved to a new part of town; I gave my boss an ultimatum that if things didn't change, I was going to find something new.
The after... I traveled to new parts of the country; I sat in my kitchen and applied to new jobs; I went to awkward networking events and met more new people.

All of these steps played a key role in where I've landed today. And you might also notice that they include a key word: NEW. New things can be scary; they can also be really exciting. I was outside my realm of experience and outside my comfort zone, but I was also learning and discovering the people, places and experiences I liked... and those I didn't.

The problem with "new" is that the "familiar" is just so much easier. So often the challenge of figuring out how to make a change leads people to settle for what's comfortable, hoping life will conveniently decide to reward us for inaction and offer something better.

These situations lead to cliches like "When God closes a door he opens a window" or "Things will work out in the end." Then there's of course the old favorite: "Everything happens for a reason." What these tired, overused, non-helpful words of encouragement don't tell you is that sitting back and waiting for life to happen to you will not open that window or make it all work out. And the reason things don't happen may be because you didn't do anything at all.

We were born with free will and the ability to act. It's important to know the finish line you want to reach, but just as important to also know you won't reach that finish line unless you start with a single step. Hopefully, someday you'll be able to look back and realize how important all the seemingly unimportant steps actually were.

And when you finally reach that finish line, odds are you'll realize the end you sought is actually the starting point for another race you couldn't even see from what you *thought* was the start. You may want change now, but have the patience that even the small stuff matters -- and don't be afraid to capitalize on the big stuff, too.

I leave you with this: None of us actually has a clue what we're doing. So just do SOMETHING.

Go ahead and live the life where you geek out over a picture of an iguana eating a lime.
Find the simple pleasures, and soak 'em up.


Hello from the Other Side...

Well kids, I survived. For those of you who have more important things to do than track my employment status, I quit my job last fall with zero plans for next steps. I had lots of adjectives thrown at me during my three-month funemployment journey: brave, risky, exciting, irresponsible. It was all of those things, but more than anything... IT WAS WORTH IT.

Comin' atcha, life. 
My generation gets a bad rap for being lazy, self-entitled brats. Perhaps that's true of the well-coiffed hippie I saw selling "magical rocks" outside a bookstore in Portland, but in general I'd like to raise a hand on behalf of Millennials and say that we're dedicated, loyal, hard-working folks who just want to find our place in the world. We quite frankly don't have time to be wastes of space since we're expected to have three years of experience the day after graduation just to be eligible for an entry-level position. This means once we get a job, we're pretty serious about keeping it. I mean, we all own rescue dogs and they need to eat.

Yes, we are busy sending Biden/Obama memes to the group text, watching viral videos of pandas playing in the snow, drooling over Chrissy Tiegen's latest Snapchat recipe and stalking an ex's new flame on Instagram. But do you know the main reason some of us run into poles with our heads glued to screens? Because we're trying to figure out how email works in the latest iOS update, proofing the 29th revision of that document that just won't die and responding to our boss' 2am texts. I watch Mad Men today and despite the alcoholism, mental instability and sexism, find myself thinking: "Wow! Those were the days!" If Don Draper went to Hawaii, he was untouchable: no Internet, no email, no cell phones. Meanwhile, during my get-over-your-breakup-vacation I found myself pacing across a pool deck in Santorini trying to find a Wifi signal.

This is a problem that plagues all of working America. The difference for Millennials is that 24/7 accessibility is the only norm we've ever known. It hit me as I sat fielding emails in the ER with an IV shoved into my arm at 6am on a Wednesday: perhaps this isn't a good norm to accept. Perhaps it's time to try something different.

"Quitting" has a bad connotation in most circumstances. For a long time I thought quitting was the equivalent of failure. But ultimately I realized that sometimes quitting is the bravest and best thing you can do. I'm not right about everything, but I was right about that. The three months I spent in limbo were some of the most important moments of my life. Not because I did anything revolutionary, but because I re-discovered how to place value in the things that make me happy.

Here I am being happy because Michelangelo posed for a photo with me.
I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of my personal experience and tell you about when I accidentally drowned my just-purchased MacBook and the emotional breakdown that followed, or about how many "thanks but no thanks" auto-response emails I got, or about the moments of fear and doubt when I wondered if I had made the right choice. No, I'm not going to tell you about all that. Because for every one of those moments, there were five better moments. Taking a deep breath on the side of a mountain in Colorado; looking at my phone and smiling because that dreamy southern guy wanted to take me out to dinner; posing next to an oversized tennis shoe; an Apple Genius telling me it "wasn't that bad" and resurrecting my Mac; getting the call that someone wanted to hire me. I became myself again, and it was great.

Who knew unconventional, oversized sculptures could bring so much joy?
Some people may live for work (and I like work a lot), but I live for those moments. And now, I get to do what I love at a place that understands how important those moments are, too. We get a lot of good, hard work done at my new company, but ultimately we are humans who have other people and other things to live for. Work/life balance -- it does exist, y'all!

I say all of this not to brag about how glorious my life is, but rather, as a means of encouragement for anyone who may have come to a similar crossroads. I've had almost a dozen friends make a transition in the past six months: job changes, cross-country moves, BABIES and other big-scary-life-decision-things. And I'm happy to report: 100% of my risk-taker friends have had a 100% success rate of finding fulfillment by chasing what makes them happy. Pretty good odds, eh?

So if you're reading this grappling with a life dilemma -- where to move, which career path to follow, if you should buy that puppy (NO BRAINER) -- then please heed this rule-following, type-A, control freak's advice:

Take the risk.

Even if it doesn't end up exactly how you envisioned (I, for example, am not writing sitcom scripts from my beachside bungalow in L.A. right now) ... it will be one heck of an adventure getting to whatever is next for you. Best of all, you'll never have to look back and wonder "what if." And let me tell you -- that is one heck of a feeling.