Browsing Tag

life

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

Requiem for a Fallen Catholic.

February 12, 2015

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By Trish Cook.

Confession

I hate going to church. Especially funerals. I am only here in the hopes that my presence will comfort a hurting friend, not because I believe in this bullshit.

Sit, kneel, stand, cry.

Remember how losing a parent is like a having a body part amputated. How long the numbness where they used to exist lasts, how searing the pain is once the feeling returns. Remember why, ever since my dad died decades ago when I was twenty-four, I havent been able to sit through a religious service without getting angry, teary.

More pomp, more circumstance, more hollow promises.

Prayto whom, I do not knowthat my friend John, who has just lost his father and is the reason I grudgingly sit, kneel, stand, and cry today, finds comfort where I no longer do.

Wonder, as I have so many times since my own fathers funeral: Why would a loving God let us walk the earth so wounded? Lie so battered? Allow us to become so bruised, each and every one of us?

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

  Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Have No Idea What I’m Doing With My Life.

February 11, 2015

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Hello from London! Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by author Sukey Forbes.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Atlanta in a couple weeks followed by NYC! 

Dear Life,

I’m writing to you, whoever you may be, in hopes that you are in possession of a road map for life that I could borrow. A step-by-step list of directions for how to achieve a happy life: get this degree, live in this place, get this job, marry this person, have x number of kids, die happily on this day. Or maybe none of those things, I don’t know. I’m not saying that I have an unhappy life- that is not the case. In truth I have nothing to complain about. And I shouldn’t complain anyway because as Teddy Roosevelt said, “complaining about something without offering a solution is called whining”, or something like that. I live in Barcelona, an amazing city, I teach private English classes, which is a pretty painless job, and I spend much of my time with good people, drinking wine and enjoying the Spanish life. Doesn’t sound bad right?

My problem is that I left my life, job, friends and family in America behind six months ago to come to Europe and “find myself” and now that my time here is almost half done, I find that I spend most of it in a constant state of anxiety that I haven’t really found myself at all, or that I haven’t found the right version of myself, or that I’ve actually just wasted a year of my life and all my money living illegally in a foreign country and achieving absolutely nothing. And that is my biggest fear. That my time here won’t mean anything, won’t have been the life-changing experience I thought it would be, and that when I go home, nothing will have changed.

All my friends and family say how proud they are of me for taking this risk and that they are so jealous of my life living in an amazing city in Europe and that this will be the best time of my life. But I’m scared that this isn’t the best time of my life, or that I’m trying to force it to be that. I feel like if I don’t come home having made some epiphany about my dream career, or with a new boyfriend, or some life-changing revelation about myself, that it will seem like I have failed in some way. And I don’t really feel that I can talk to my friends and family about what I’m going through because it will be like admitting that I can’t do it alone or that maybe this whole thing was a mistake.

I know in my heart that this is all wrong- that my time here is a life experience like everything else and that I should stop worrying about what it all means and just spend what little time I have here enjoying myself. But my head is hell-bent on worrying and obsessing and planning and all-in-all making my life full of anxiety and dread for the future.

I guess I kind of think of this year as my last hurrah as a “kid” before I go back to the real world, buckle down, get a big-girl job and start looking for someone to marry. But maybe that’s not what I want. Maybe I want to keep travelling, live in another country, work at a bar, date lots of people I have no intention of marrying, etc. Maybe I want to be Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love and eat lots of spaghetti and then ride off into the sunset (literally) in Bali with a handsome Brazilian man. But is that realistic? I think maybe not.

I also can’t help but think how much farther I am falling behind my friends in the game of life. Every month I’m here “finding myself” they are getting promotions and raises, saving money, buying houses, becoming fiancées and wives and mothers. How do I stop comparing myself to everyone else and what other people have? I want to be content with my life and where I am and what I am doing, but I don’t know how to do it.

I’m sure I am not the only twenty-something in the history of the world to not know what they are doing with their life and I hope this letter reaches someone who may have had a similar experience and has some insight to offer. Or at the very least, a kind word of encouragement.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

A.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it!

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

The Gray.

February 8, 2015

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By Amanda Snyder.

I’m kind of a black-and-white thinker. You know, the idea that places and people and experiences are generally either all one way (like awesome) or the opposite (like totally crappy and not worth it). I’ve moved out of apartments and cities and whole countries and run away from relationships and nixed friendships because of this way of all-or-nothingness.

But I’m trying really hard to change.

It would be so nice if life worked in that kind of definitive way, right? As in: There is right; there is wrong. There is good; there is bad. There is choice A; there is choice B. Like an easy math problem, you either come up with the right answer, or you don’t. Press one for yes, two for no.

Black.

White.

Only life is brimming full…no, overflowing with massive, huge, bursting shades of gray. And I’m not really very good at gray.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Addiction, Dear Life., depression, Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Self-Medicate! What Should I Do?

January 26, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Shannon Brugh, whose previous essay on the site did phenomenally! 

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little.

Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd 2015 Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Sep 26-Oct 3, 2015

Dear Life,

I have gone through hell and back since I was born. I will save you the gory details and tell you that I am about to be 27 and have finally arrived at the most peaceful place, spiritually speaking, that I have ever been. But as I am finding peace in my work, family and friendships, a new career opportunity suddenly presented itself. I have been a bartender for the past eight years and, after graduating from college, am trying to move on to a more secure career that is conducive to raising a family. Two days ago I received an email for a lead on a job as a liquor rep in center city Philadelphia. I live about an hour from there currently but lived there for three years during my undergrad. I am perfect for this job. 100%.  But one requirement is that I must submit to a drug test prior to being hired. I have suffered from severe anxiety, depression, OCD and PMDD for at least the past ten years and smoking pot has significantly relieved my symptoms. I am nervous that if I get a call for an interview in the next couple weeks, I would definitely not pass the test. What do I do?? I am a good hearted, intelligent and motivated young woman. I have spent time in Rwanda. I want to save the world. I know I would be an asset to any company in the world, but I smoke pot to relax. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

thank you, J

Ps… That was a complete free flow of thought. I apologize if it was long-winded.

Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Have No Idea What I Am Doing!

December 30, 2014

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Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Sep 17-24, 2016. Email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to book or with questions. 5 spots left as of Jan 27, 2016.

 

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by my friend the ultra-prolfic and talented Jordan Rosenfeld. Read and share and comment and get one of Jordan’s books and send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ’em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter.

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Dear Life,
Disclaimer:
My problems are minuscule in the grand scheme of things; my life is pretty awesome and I’ve got all of the tools that I need to be successful. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of major challenges and struggles, but I’ve come out of each and every one stronger, smarter, wiser, and older than my real age. My soul is old.
I moved to NYC after graduating from college in Oklahoma to pursue my dreams (what were they, again?) I completed the internship that I’d been dreaming of for a couple of years and felt like the world was mine…every other minute.
Eventually though, I was poor, cried almost every day because I was so stressed about money, fought thoughts of regret about moving away from home, and needed a job. I worked part time at kind of grueling jobs, and now I’m on the temp-track…working at amazing places around the city but unsatisfied and unsettled. Still eeking by to pay the rent every month and still wondering if this is the right place for me to be.

Yes, I love New York. And yes, I know that I am experiencing a kind of life that many people my age will never get to experience. I am lucky. Why am I complaining?
When do I stop trying this? When do I give up and move home? When do I throw in the towel?

I want to help others. I want people to see that kindness can change the world. I want to walk the earth and take people with me. I want to experience new cultures and share my experiences with those who cannot. But are these dreams so out of this world that I need to bring it down a notch? Am I out of my league, here? And I should just cool my jets and be patient?

One minute I’m loving life and the next I’m thinking “FUCK THIS SHIT!” as I walk to my apartment in the snow, groceries in hand and hood blowing back. One minute I’m proud of myself for making it here and the next I’m like…SHIT, IM ALMOST 24! WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!

So, I’m trying to manifest the job that I want but I don’t know what exactly that is. It’s taking a little too long and I don’t know when to give up. Because at some point…don’t I have to? Isn’t there a limit on trying? I know that people reading this will think “NO! GO FOR IT, GIRL! DON’T EVER GIVE UP!” But when my pockets are empty it isn’t that easy.

Thanks, Gurus.
Almost 24

Continue Reading…

Addiction, Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

I’m A Misfit.

December 28, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Treva Draper-Imler.

I am not pretty. I am damn funny, silly and a bit quirky. Those things make me too cute, as my friends would say. I tried being pretty, but the cost was my soul. I’m fine, really fine, where I am.

My Dad, Paul Draper, is handsome. He is a classic “Steve McQueen” type. He has a sculpted chin, dark hair and green eyes. My brother David is handsome. He was a model in college. The fact that my brother was a model probably added 5 years onto the time I will spend in therapy. My mom is pretty, She has red hair and sky blue eyes. Her skin is so china bisque fair, dotted with a freckle or two. misfit

My earliest memory of my father is him beating me till I urinated on myself. I was four, and he caught me chewing on a doll’s foot. I was in my Pj’s. He struck me until the floor was soaked in urine. He then made me mop my urine up. Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Am In Love. But It’s a Mess.

December 26, 2014

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By Megan Stielstra.

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by one of my heroes (I guess I should call her a She-ro?) Megan Stielstra. She’s also happened to have written one of my favorite books, um, EVER: Once I Was Cool. Not just from last year but, ever. So this is cool. Once I was cool, indeed. She has also been interviewed by my dear friend (and her dear friend) Elizabeth Crane on this very site. It’s just delicious. But anyway, this Dear Life is so good. Read and share and comment and get her book and send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ’em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter.

1798X611

Dear Life,

I have fallen in love. It’s such a gorgeously distracting feeling. All I have to do is picture him, with the ocean in his eyes and wilderness his face, to run all hot and sweaty. He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen, and he feels the same way about me. No one has ever given me the kind of compliments he does; ones that make me feel real, feel beautiful. I hold my head higher these days.

The problem is (because of course there has to be one), I already have someone. I live with my boyfriend, and it’s fine. It’s just fine, and it’s been for quite some time. He is a good man, he treats me right, tries to make me happy. For some reason though, it’s a long time since I felt truly happy in his company. Our conversations have grown shallow, we never sleep together anymore (lately, I don’t even feel like being touched by him), I don’t feel that we connect. I have known this for well over a year, but since there’s never been any actual disagreements or conflicts between us, I have let it slide. I have accepted the situation and carried the longing for something more hidden deep inside of me. But over the last couple of weeks, it has broken free, it has spilled out and overflowed. All is filled with longing now.

I am so discontent, feeling so utterly alone at times, but he seems to be fine. He seems to have no problem with the lack of intimacy or excitement. And he is such a nice person; I don’t know how to let him down. I have never said any of this to him out loud, so if I do, it will probably come as lightning from a clear sky. And it will crush him. How do you go about crushing someone who loves you? I don’t want to do it, the mere thought makes me sick to my stomach, but still… If I cannot be with this man I have met, if I cannot touch his face and hold his hand and soak up his warmth, I think I might die.

I don’t want to believe that I am a bad person, cause I spend all this time consciously doing good, but now it seems I am losing my way; doing things I never thought myself capable of. It feels awful, but at the same time, I don’t know what else I could have done. He was impossible to ignore. I had to be with him, and it will forever be my most beautiful memory.

Right now I am having a beer in bed and crying. Please help.
C. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Uncategorized

The Joy of Simply Waking Up.

December 25, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anna Jorgensen.

From Gucci to Gap to Goodwill and Grateful.

The other day I’m on my way to a vintage clothing shop, and I see two fellows on the bus bench in front of the shop. They’re obviously homeless as evidenced by their grubby, layered frocks; mangy, matted hair; shopping cart of filthy blankets and extra, oversized army jackets; and the 2 litre bottle of cheap chardonnay they are sharing at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

The fellow facing me has brown hair and glaucoma. He asks, “Can you spare some change?”

I say, “Just a minute,” and go into the store, not wanting them to filch my cash, feeling paranoid they’ll steal my wallet and somehow out-shuffle me down the street. I enter the store, search my purse and find two dollars. I go back outside—the other man has removed his jacket revealing a body riddled with scabs. As I approach the men, I smell stale urine. (I must note that I have chatted with a few home-lacking people, and they do not all smell foul. I ride my bicycle on the boardwalk and see plenty out of doors dwellers at the free public showers soaping up. The water isn’t heated. But I digress.)

I approach the men and hand them each a dollar. The fellow who didn’t ask for money and isn’t facing me immediately hands his dollar to his friend, and I feel chastened having made the assumption.

I ask his friend, “What’s your name?” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life

Not The Living Proof Girl.

December 23, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Karen Dempsey

We piled into a long, rented passenger van. Two of the juniors, Dan and Mike, had already claimed “driver” and “co” and instituted the rule that driver chooses music, setting us up for sixteen solid hours of Phish.

I crunched in next to a wiry kid with a mess of black hair.

“Benjamin.” He grinned, showing off a shiny retainer. “Freshman.”

I was a college sophomore headed out on a road trip from Boston to Savannah with a dozen kids I didn’t know. It was a Habitat for Humanity volunteer trip—not exactly MTV Spring Break. But, for me, that wasn’t really the noteworthy part.

I don’t need an introvert/extrovert quiz to know where I fall on the spectrum of personality types. I’ve always been a person who lingers most comfortably near the edges of things, enjoying the view from a distance. Even at nineteen years old, my ideal break would have looked more like a low-key trip with a good friend, or week at home in Buffalo with the people who knew me best.

But some small part of me had pushed to try it for once: fall fully and inescapably into the center of something unfamiliar, with a whole group of people I didn’t know pressed in close. And I’m being literal here, because, as I settled into my seat, Benjamin the freshman was making the case that he should be allowed to sleep on me.

“I know we just met,” he said. “But you’re going to know me really well by the end of the week. It’s a long drive. And if I can’t lean on you, I’ll never get any sleep.”

The drive was long. With Phish cranked up and Benjamin nuzzling my shoulder, sleep wasn’t really an option. So I spent the ride trying to catalog the other volunteers by the things they said, the way they interacted.

By virtue of being a senior, Cindy had earned some kind of a supervisory role on the trip, a designation quickly challenged by several of the boys. She was enthusiastic but wavering, an unforgivable combination among ruthless twenty-year-olds. But she had two smart, solid girlfriends with her, and they shored up her confidence. You could see they wanted her to succeed. Eventually, the rest of us would, too.

Anthony from Staten Island was an RA on campus. He had signed up with his friend Eileen and a kid from his floor named Rob. From the moment we all introduced ourselves, Rob began working the refrain, “Come on, Eileen,” a la Dexys Midnight Runners, into every conversation.

There was the soft-spoken, fair-minded guy who was treasurer of student government. The amazing pianist who would spend his junior year studying in South Africa. The pretty, smiling girl who was active in a Christian youth group on campus. There was Beth—alternately friendly and harsh, caught in the push-pull of wanting to fit in and pretending it didn’t matter.

And then there were Mike and Dan. Pushy, I thought. Kind of jerky. But they were the type of kids who pulled the outliers into their jokes instead of making them their (easy) targets. Also? They were really, really funny.

Along with being an introvert, I was a person known to develop crushes on smart, funny boys. Driving across those ten states, as we neared the end of our drive, I was falling hard for Mike.

Like the children we still were, we found ways to debate everything from seating arrangements to whether beef jerky was an acceptable snack choice. But there were long, quiet spells where no one said anything at all. And there were discussions about things that mattered, too, like the fact that we were getting a chance to help build a house that an actual family would live in.

A few hours into the drive, someone brought up the subject of abortion, and the exchange got heated, fast. Beth’s voice trembled. She seemed about to cry. Cindy and her friends exchanged a look, and stopped talking. The silence hovered there in the thick air of the van. Then, carefully, someone started a new thread—something light. And someone else picked it up. And just like that, we were a group of people who looked out for one another.

We passed a hand-lettered, misspelled sign on the road: “Acers of land for sale,” someone read. “Ace – ers of land.” And then someone screamed, “Yeah! We made it! We’re in the south!”

The house we were to stay in was a mustard-colored ranch set up with several rooms of bunks for Habitat volunteers. I was glad when Anthony called to me, “You wanna bunk with us?” He, Rob, and Eileen had kept up a steady stream of lighthearted bantering and bickering since we’d all met in the van. They were easy to be around. All I had to do was laugh.

The work would start Monday, but first we had the rest of the weekend, beginning with a night out in Savannah. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, so we planned to head downtown to a popular Irish bar. I was glad I’d packed a little makeup along with my work jeans and tee shirts.

“Is that my brush?” Eileen asked, as Rob checked his hair in the mirror over the bedroom’s one small dresser.

“Oh, come on, Eileen,” he shouted back.

We drove into the city and found parking; we weren’t even through the door of the bar when a beaming blond girl flew into Mike’s arms out of nowhere. A girlfriend. Of course. She—Amy—and her friend were sailing the friend’s dad’s boat (I know) down the coast for spring break. They had run into us coincidentallywe were assured, with no previous planning between Amy and Mike, on our one night out in Savannah.

“Man!” Mike said. “Can you believe this?”

No. I really couldn’t.

  • ••

One night later in the year, my roommate Caroline went out to see a popular band—Living Proof—that was loved mightily for its covers of new wave songs. Disappointed she couldn’t convince me to join her and her new beau, Caroline went to the show dragging her feet a little. But she came home effervescent. Drunk on keg beer, she gushed about this beautiful nameless girl, who had spotted her not having fun and pulled her out on the dance floor, turning her night around.

Caroline called her The Living Proof Girl, which became shorthand for the enviable, carefree spirit who approached college—and life in general—with a seemingly effortless upbeat attitude. Be charming and pretty! Dance with strangers! Infect the world with your happiness!

Soon after we went to see the campus improv comedy group, My Mother’s Fleabag. Caroline said, “It’s her,” at the same moment I thought it. We both recognized the girl on stage for different reasons. The star of Fleabag was The Living Proof Girl. Who was Mike’s girlfriend. Who was Amy freaking Poehler.

(“You’re funnier then she is,” my friend Kim said recently when I told her this story. “But I think she’s got you beat in the tits department.”)

  • ••

My heart sank a little as Mike melted into Amy’s hug. But I had only known him for a matter of hours. I swallowed my Guinness and made myself start conversations with the other volunteers. I even tapped my Irish American upbringing and requested songs from the band. The singer asked where I was from, then gave our group a shout-out into the microphone. I had fun.

  • ••

The next day, Sunday, we had planned to drive to Hilton Head. But Anthony wanted to go to church first, and we had only one van.

“Guys, I haven’t missed Sunday Mass my whole life,” he said. “You can’t wait an hour?”

There was grumbling. Silence. He looked around at the group, pleadingly.

“I don’t think we can make someone miss Mass for the beach,” I heard myself say. Anthony had pulled me into his little crew when I was apart from the crowd and I owed him one.

It turned out Anthony had gotten the time for the service wrong, so he would miss Mass after all. But he seemed grateful we’d made the effort, and I was glad I’d spoken up.

At the beach I sat taking in the view of the Atlantic, seeing it for the first time from a place other than from the New England Coast. It was chilly out, which didn’t stop some of the girls from peeling down to bikinis. People swam and screamed and splashed each other. I was happy to sit on the beach and watched, wiggling my toes in the sand, wondering what else the week held.

In the morning, the alarm sounded early.

“Ugh!” Rob groaned. “Come on, Eileen.”

We were putting up the framework of the house. When had I held a hammer before? To hang cheaply framed posters over my bed? The nails bent at odd angles or went in sideways. Wood splintered. I was sweating, and my shoulders ached. Jack, a guy who lived on the property in a trailer with his dog and managed the volunteers, walked around offering guidance. I swung the hammer. Thwack thwack thwack. When a nail bent or broke I wrenched it out again. Eventually, I could set those nails in perfectly and my beams came together, part of a wall that was part of a house that a family was going to live in.

Mike and Dan walked over with a sledgehammer.

“Ma’am, this wall is going to have to come down.”

“This is going to hurt us more than it hurts you.”

“Don’t laugh, ma’am. You should probably look away.”

We watched the walls go up. We filled them in. Jack handpicked the best workers to hang the drywall. We screamed and cheered because, at that age, when you accomplish something big, you can still do that.

One morning there were gnats—no see-ums, people called them. They descended on you and filled your nose and mouth. I was near tears. Bug spray didn’t work, the nets on your head helped but obscured your view, and no one else was wearing them. I snuck back to the house, made myself a peanut butter sandwich, and used the house phone to call my sister. “Why did I do this?”

I pulled myself together. Back outside, a little rain descended and drove the bugs away. We celebrated.

Another day, Beth cut her hand using the table saw and Jack had to take her for stitches and a tetanus shot. While they were gone, we lazed around a bit. There was chalk on the worksite and Mike splayed across the ground and had me trace his outline like a body at a crime scene. Then he called Jack’s dog and coaxed it to lie beside the tracing so that he could trace the dog too. Laughing, I took a picture of their two empty outlines.

Our last night in Georgia, Cindy hooked up with the freshman.

“Tell me you didn’t have sex with him,” one of her friends fumed.

“She would,” Beth said acidly.

And the confirmation was written in the grin on Benjamin’s face.

Mike gave me a wide-eyed, open-mouthed look of exaggerated shock and I had to leave the room and laugh.

  • ••

Back at school, I mailed off my rolls of film and when they came back, I bored everyone I could with photos of the house going up. I slipped the crime scene picture into an envelope, carefully wrote out Mike’s address and dropped it in the mail. And soon after I got an envelope from him—an invitation to the party he’d promised us all he’d throw at his off-campus apartment.

I went alone. The Savannah group came, in pairs and with roommates or on their own.

“That picture was so great,” Mike said to me.

I walked around his apartment and saw a picture of him with Amy and then, eventually, the real Amy, hanging out and laughing in a hallway.

I stood next to Beth, watching Mike laugh with a group of his friends.

“I had such a crush on him,” I said.

“Who didn’t?” she answered dismissively.

There wasn’t a lot for us—any of us—to say to each other now that we were back on campus. But somehow, that seemed okay. It seemed, in fact, exactly right. The experiences we’d shared together, and whatever we’d learned about ourselves as individuals, weren’t the kind of things we needed to say out loud.

Content to leave it that way, I finished my drink and slipped out without saying goodbye.

  • ••

Junior year at a football game, I was walking through the stadium with a boy when I saw Mike and Dan in the crowd, running toward me.

They spotted me, whooped, and each grabbed me in a hug, and I felt like my face would break from smiling. I introduced them to my boyfriend and they shook his hand because we were in that strange world where adulthood and childhood, job interviews and football tailgates, collide. Mike, who was then a senior, put his hands on my shoulders and leaned down.

“You’re good?” he asked, while the crowd roared around us. “You’re good?”

“I’m good!” I grinned back, and he squeezed me in a last hug.

“Good luck,” we called to each other, and laughed. And headed back toward our futures.

  • ••

Twenty years later, I’ve discovered via the magic of the web that Mike is even handsomer than I remembered, with three equally photogenic kids hanging off of him in his Facebook picture. Dan is a New York Times bestselling author who has been interviewed on all the major news shows. Amy Poehler continued to pursue her interest in comedy. And the guy who shook hands with Mike and Dan at the game? He’s my husband, and we have two (adorable, hilarious, introverted) kids.

  • ••

KAREN DEMPSEY has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, Babble, and Brain, Child. She lives in Massachusetts. Read her work at kdempseycreative.com or follow her @karenedempsey. This essay originally appeared at Full Grown People.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

A detoxifying, weight loss, energizing, strengthening superfood blend. The Green Dream was the first superfood blend I created. "Green foods" are one of the least common foods consumed, yet they are the most nutrient-dense and most important! I wanted to find a way to get these incredible foods into your body without compromising flavor or convenience.  Green Dream is high in plant-based protein, so it keeps you full for longer and helps burn fat. Unlike other protein blends on the market, there are no "fillers" to extend the blend:  Green Dream uses only superfoods as ingredients, thus providing abundant, concentrated nutrient power with each teaspoon you consume.  Green Dream cleanses as its pure ingredients break down toxins and ushers them from the body. And Green Dream is energizing: it provides a natural, caffeine-free power boost every day as it sets the stage for sustained energy while your body releases old materials and rebuilds with precious new fuel. This blend also supports the body in weight loss, if needed: when your every cell is nourished from the clean protein, good fats, and detoxifying green power it provides, the body gives itself permission to let go of unneeded material.  By feeding your cells only the best, Green Dream makes being healthy and fit easy... like a dream.

A detoxifying, weight loss, energizing, strengthening superfood blend.
The Green Dream was the first superfood blend I created. “Green foods” are one of the least common foods consumed, yet they are the most nutrient-dense and most important! I wanted to find a way to get these incredible foods into your body without compromising flavor or convenience. Green Dream is high in plant-based protein, so it keeps you full for longer and helps burn fat. Unlike other protein blends on the market, there are no “fillers” to extend the blend: Green Dream uses only superfoods as ingredients, thus providing abundant, concentrated nutrient power with each teaspoon you consume.
Green Dream cleanses as its pure ingredients break down toxins and ushers them from the body. And Green Dream is energizing: it provides a natural, caffeine-free power boost every day as it sets the stage for sustained energy while your body releases old materials and rebuilds with precious new fuel. This blend also supports the body in weight loss, if needed: when your every cell is nourished from the clean protein, good fats, and detoxifying green power it provides, the body gives itself permission to let go of unneeded material.
By feeding your cells only the best, Green Dream makes being healthy and fit easy… like a dream.

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Guest Posts, healing

A Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self.

December 22, 2014

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By Anna Taylor.

My twin sister and I were born eleven weeks premature, each weighing less than a bag of sugar. We survived against all odds. However, as a result, I have cerebral palsy, affecting my legs.

Twenty years ago this week, I underwent major surgery that turned my life upside down and back to front. I never wanted the surgery but when a doctor told me in no uncertain terms, that without it, I would be confined to a wheelchair by the time I was thirty, I didn’t have much choice. I felt backed into a corner, unable to see any other way forward. I was promised greater mobility and independence than I’d had for several years and I knew that I couldn’t let that chance pass me by. I was concerned about the impact such anaesthesia would have on my already fragile stomach, but everyone put those symptoms down to my hormonal age and did not see any reason to postpone the multiple operations I needed. Continue Reading…

Birthday, Guest Posts, Self Love

Happy Birthday To Me

December 22, 2014

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By Ellyn Oaksmith

I don’t know why I picked 47. Maybe, just maybe, I am getting wiser. This was the year I made my birthday about love. All kinds of love: sisterly, romantic and that most important love, that shores up women approaching the rocky shoals of middle age: my friends. My sister kicked it off by quietly asking me if she could throw a mid-week gathering for me. Wine and cake, six o’clock to eight o’clock. At first my mind scrolled through a list of motherly duties: homework patrol, soccer, carpool, piano lessons, riding lessons… How could I carve out time on a weeknight to drink wine with my girlfriends?

It was as easy as saying “Yes.” Keeping the guest list small was easy: it would just be a small group of women with many connections: book group, volunteering at the school, our children, all living on the same suburban hill. My sister baked a cake and opened wine. There would be cheese and crackers for those who would miss dinner. She’d keep it simple. I was surprised at how excited I was. Little did I know the reserves of joy this gathering would unleash.

Each day I logged onto the Evite.com to see who had responded, my heart warming with each yes. By the weekend every single woman who had been invited was coming. I was Sally Fields at the Academy Awards. “You love me. You really love me.” My inner eleven year old, terrified that no one would come to her party, was silenced. Bring on the cupcakes.

My birthday was on a Sunday, the party, the Wednesday before. By Monday I was aglow, smiling at strangers, buying treats for my kids at the grocery store, paying attention to the things I love about my husband, enjoying dinner together instead of living for lights out. I was Gene Kelley in “Singing in the Rain,” spinning my umbrella over my shoulder, enjoying the slap of raindrops on my face. Did I mention that I live in Seattle?

Continue Reading…

Don't Be An Asshole Series, Gratitude, Guest Posts

What Doesn’t Kill You.

December 1, 2014

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By Jen Pastiloff.

I wrote this for Thanksgiving but hey, it’s still close enough to Thanksgiving. It’s “Cyber Monday.” Who the hell uses the word “cyber” anymore, anyway? Happy Cyber Monday! Another reason to shop! This is America!

This was my T-Day post:

Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful. Two of my friends just lost their sisters two days apart, right before Thanksgiving. This little boy, Benny, the one I posted about a few weeks ago (click here to donate), is legally blind, has Prader Willi Syndrome like my nephew Blaise, has had fifteen surgeries on his back, and now, just last month, had an accident that left him paralyzed. Happy Thanksgiving.

Not.

But the thing is, and I mean, this really is the crux of my forthcoming book Beauty Hunting – we must find the good in the bad, we must find the slivers of beauty in the pain, we must find what we have to be grateful for. Otherwise – life is torturous and ugly and mean and filled with pot-holes.

I created this series I’ve written about called “The Don’t Be An Asshole” series or otherwise known as The DBAA Series, whereupon I make fun of myself. I call myself out. I hope to lead by example and remind us all not to take ourselves so seriously, because hey, life sure can suck at times already. Why should we add to that suckiness?

Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Julien’s Castle: The Way of Grief.

November 26, 2014

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By Nancy Sharp.

He was young and French. Perhaps he didn’t understand. “I said I’m widowed,” loud enough this time to make myself perfectly clear. “Okay. So?” he asked, with a bemused smile.

“And I have three-year-old twins.”

I expected him to run. Hadn’t I frightened him away?

“What are you doing here,” he wanted to know, the crisp night air making smoke between us as he spoke. We stood under a streetlight, the din of a raucous Oktoberfest party at Zum Schneider, an indoor Bavarian biergarten in lower Manhattan, still in earshot.

It was a curious question.

I might have told him any number of things: that I was only escorting my friend Lisa that night because Lisa was missing Germany; that I didn’t even drink beer; that my command of the French language centered around ten high school phrases; and, that I was too old for him, which if he only stopped to look, he would see.

The eye sees what it wants to.

“No, really, what are you doing here?” he asked again, sweeter this time.

He seemed to be looking through me. It was piercing without being lewd.

The heat of his gaze embarrassed me and I blushed.

“How old are you?” I blurted out.

“Twenty-seven. And you?”

“How old do you think I am?”

He cocked his head to the right, reddish-brown curls sweeping his ear. He was fixing hard on my face, his hazel eyes flickering under the street lamps.

“Twenty-nine.”

“That works.”

And yet, crisp jeans and glossy lipstick did nothing to mask what little identity I felt beyond widowhood, even now, nineteen months after Brett died. Had he not been so boyishly handsome, I might have been the one to walk away. Dropping the Widow-Bomb on a twenty-seven-year-old was bound to burst this flirtatious bubble so what exactly was he waiting for?

I was certain he would leave, perhaps even stagger backwards and say, “Well, nice meeting you,” heels moving quickly as he politely returned to his drunken friends. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Men

Dear Me: A Beautiful Letter To A Man’s Younger Self.

November 21, 2014

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By Peter Tóth.

Hi Peter,

It’s me, your 36 year old self.

How are you doing?

I’m writing to you from Nottingham, UK. Yeah, I know, you might want to ask how did I get here. But that’s not important. I’m here as a result of many decisions, almost all of them still unmade by you.

It’s shortly before 7 in the morning and I’m sitting on a George Street bus stop, waiting for the Nottingham City Transport bus line number 10, going to Ruddington, where I work. You haven’t really worked yet and I cannot lie to you that it’s always great, but work is good, it will be good for you. You’ll meet many people at work and/or while working. People are good. It takes an effort to convince myself of that sometimes, but I truly believe they are.

But I’m not writing this letter to tell you what I’m doing, what you’ll be doing in 20 years time, because even if you would somehow read this letter, you probably wouldn’t become exactly who I am now anyway, as you would hopefully read this carefully and you will avoid some mistakes that I have made. Although it’s these mistakes that got me where I am, doing what I do and I neither can, nor I want to complain about it, so let’s cut this hypothetical bullshit of what would, or wouldn’t be.

I won’t be telling you what to do and what not to, what I decided to tell you is this: Whatever you’ll be doing, just enjoy it more, enjoy it as much as you can. I’m looking back and I don’t think I regret doing anything. I also don’t regret not doing anything. But what I regret is not fully enjoying what I was doing while I was doing it. Not being completely present, focused. Not paying attention. Not being in love with what was surrounding me, not being in love with what’s within myself.

Continue Reading…