Category Archives: Big Picture

My Post-Election Dive Into Astrology

Throughout much of high school, before 3G networks and touchscreens, I checked my horoscope every day through a primitive app on my flip phone. It probably cost my parents an arm and a leg in data charges, but they never said anything about it. I just had to know what the stars had in store for me, an awkward Virgo with bad skin and a crush on every boy.

Things seemed so uncertain back then. Despite the routine of school and extracurricular activities, I worried constantly about what the next day, week, or month might bring. Would I pass the math test I definitely didn’t study for? Did the boy I kissed several states away still think about me? Would I get into college? Were my parents really healthy? Would my Max Crumm win Grease: You’re the One that I Want?!

I now know that these questions stemmed from a greater anxiety that I did not yet know how to control, but it was easier to put my faith in something mystical than actually listen to my therapist. Those four or five line horoscopes gave me a bit of comfort and hope, enough to quiet my mind, at least for a little bit. Of course, if the stars called for more chaos, I’d dwell on this for for the rest of the day. I’d read and re-read each line, trying to interpret just how these vague predictions applied to my life. More often than not there was no correlation, but any hint at something negatively relevant would send me into a tailspin.

Once college rolled around, I stopped keeping up with my horoscopes. I started hanging out with skeptics who ridiculed the practice for being, you know, not real, and mostly a “women’s interest” thing. College wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for me, but I didn’t feel the need to rely on some astrologer with an internet connection and too many pashmina scarves to tell me what planets might throw a wrench in my month. Plus I just didn’t have time for anything that wasn’t schoolwork, theatre, or subtweeting people on Tumblr (sub-tumbling? Is that a thing?).

Suddenly it was 2016. I was in a new city with a job in my industry and some sense of stability in my personal life. I’d occasionally look to my horoscope when I had something big on the horizon or flip to the forecasts in the backs of women’s magazines while waiting for a train home to Philly. I was always a little curious, but careful not to put too much stock into things that may or may not happen because Mercury happened to be spinning in a different direction. But it made for a good way to pass the time.

And then the election happened.

Looking at the history of our country and the events leading up to the 2016 election cycle, I can’t say I was completely blindsided by the fact that America decided to give the nuclear codes to an anthropomorphized bag of Cheetos. But I had been optimistic. I was so excited to FINALLY have a capable, brave woman lead our country and I really believed it was going to happen. Nothing made sense after that night. I’ve been fearful for our future, for my own future since November 9th. At this point, that fear is part of my baseline. I’m getting used to it.

Around the same time I decided to kind of blow up my life. I figured I might as well stop ignoring the things that were bothering me while I still had time. My relationship ended. I started looking for a new job. I toyed with the idea of moving to LA. I got highlights.

With all this chaos, I once again turned to the stars. I now regularly read reports from three different astrologers, with others thrown in for good measure. Tweets from Poet Astrologers are regularly in the “While you were away” section of my timeline, because the algorithm knows what I want. I spent hours studying my birth chart, trying to figure out the intricacies of each planet and what my moon sign says about my personality. I still don’t fully understand it all, but I know that I’m a Scorpio moon with Libra rising. I’ll let you all dissect that information as you will.

The skeptical side of my brain that stores all my deep trust issues keeps screaming that all of this is fake and everything is just a big coincidence and nothing happens after we die. But the closer we inch towards nuclear winter, the more I want to tell that side to shut up and let me have fun for once. I’m not alone in this. I’ve seen more and more of my friends and Twitter acquaintances embrace astrology in the age of Trump. Sites like Bustle and Refinery29 are full of astrology-related content. We’re looking for comfort and guidance wherever we can find it. Maybe the planets aren’t pulling the strings and everything is just a random coincidence, but right now I’d rather blame the eclipses. Sure, I haven’t gone full woo-woo, and I probably only half-heartedly believe in every word written in my horoscope. But who am I to make fun of something essentially harmless that gives someone comfort?

We all need something to look forward to, and Mercury comes out of retrograde on September 5th.

What It’s Like To Be An Adult with ADHD

It’s a lot of hiding. Dodging questions until you can’t dodge them anymore. “Why do you write everything down?” “Why do you drink decaf coffee?” “What’s with all the doctors appointments?” Eventually your tendency towards brutal honesty gets the best of you and the truth comes out. You pray that your latest confidant will understand. They do, more often than not.

A part of you wants the whole world to know, so that you don’t have to explain yourself over and over again. You want them to recognize when you’re having a Bad Brain Day, to know that you can’t always give 100%. It’s not an excuse. The volume in your head is just a little too high. You need a moment to breathe. To reorganize.

Work isn’t like school. There’s no letter from the disabilities office for you to hand to your professor at the beginning of the semester, explaining everything. There’s no parent-teacher conferences, no IEP meetings. Your mom can’t call your boss to tell him how your brain works. You have to advocate for yourself. But what if they don’t understand? What kind of accommodations can you even ask for? Will they see you differently? You replay nightmare scenarios over and over in your head and decide to just keep your mouth shut.

Some days you struggle, but you persist. You’ve accomplished so much and exceeded everyone’s expectations. You learned a language! You’ve starred in musicals! You earned a bachelor’s degree! You have a full-time job! And yet, you still feel like you’re fooling everyone. When you trip over a word. When something falls through the cracks. You have days where you allow the words from those first evaluations, from your third grade teacher, from the middle school Cool Girls, to make you feel small. Words from over a decade ago, when you were a totally different person.

Relationships are difficult. On the train to a party you fret over making the right impression, saying the right thing, not interrupting people when there’s something you just HAVE to say, not talking about yourself too much. Small talk is a drag. You’d rather discuss film theory or religion or how we’re all going to die some day but aren’t we so lucky to be alive at the same time as Patti LuPone? Or just look at your phone.

Some friendships move fast and furious while others get neglected. Old familiar faces of one-time best friends show up on your Facebook feed and you wonder what happened. Scheduling conflicts. You got busy. You forgot to text back. Things got too loud. You got distracted. Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s finding a community of wonderful, brilliant neurodiverse people in your travels and online. It’s those beautiful “No way, me too!” moments with coworkers and strangers at parties who know how to unlock your secrets. You compare diagnoses and medications and the alternative therapies your parents subjected you to before you turned 18. You start to get out of your head a little bit. You start to feel less alone.

Your Brain Brothers and Sisters show you that your diagnosis comes with superpowers and teach you how to unlock them. You teach yourself how to harness your hyperfocus and turn down the noise when you need it gets too loud. You learn how to multitask the right way, writing things down so you don’t drop any balls. You start a bullet journal. You buy a fidget cube. You lose it almost immediately.

You grow up. You gain perspective. It never goes away. But eventually, you learn how to be kind to yourself.


This is something I’ve wanted to talk/write about for a while, so it feels both great and scary to hit post. ADHD has been a part of my life since I was 9, so I have a lot to say on the matter. If you have questions/topic suggestions you’d like me to address in future posts, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

I also recently got to talk ADHD with Zach Valenti on his podcast, focused.af. It was a really fun conversation and Zach is the bomb. Go check it out!

A Ghost Returns

EXT. YOUR HOUSE – EVENING

A dark late spring evening. The sound of crickets fills the air. It’s interrupted by a DOORBELL.

You open the door to reveal CHARLOTTE, 25, standing in the doorway with a bouquet of flowers and giant puppy-dog eyes.

CHARLOTTE

Hi. Please don’t close the door. I’m sorry I went away. I guess I ghosted you, as the kids say. And that’s not cool. There was a lot going on that I wanted to just process on my own. I couldn’t quite figure out how to put what I was feeling into words. I just felt that there were bigger issues, you know? The whole world is on fire. I felt powerless. So instead of making something, I drowned it all in wine and popcorn and reruns of Parks & Rec and trying to figure out the “next step” in my career. It’s not much of an excuse. A lot of good things have come out of this trash heap of an election. A lot of good writing at least. I guess it’s also easy to feel small when there are so many voices out there, voices that are more articulate and knowledgeable and passionate. I lost some of that last bit along the way. Passion. Anyway, I know that for this thing to work, I need to open up more. Not be so afraid of the words. And I’m ready to do that. There are always things I’ll hide away just for me, and you can understand that. But I don’t want to run away from this. That’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to me.

A beat. You consider this.

CHARLOTTE (cont.)

Can I come in? This vase is really heavy and I’m getting chewed up by mosquitoes out here. You should probably empty that kiddie pool. Standing water leads to West Nile Virus. You’ve seen those ads.  

 

What I Learned From Blogging Every Day in April | BEDA Day 30

30 days, 30 posts. I actually freakin’ did it.

I started this project out as a way to get myself writing again, knowing full well that I would probably quit halfway through, as I have with almost every challenge I’ve started over the last few years. I thought that even if I made it halfway through, 15 posts in as many days is still quite a feat. 6,000+ words in two weeks is nothing to shake a stick at, unless you’re doing NaNoWriMo.

And yet, even on the days where I felt zapped of all creative energy, I wrote. I knew a 100 word post about my weekend was better than no post at all. I got the words down on the virtual page and sent those words out into the world. Sometimes I got 2 hits a day, sometimes I got hundreds. The traffic didn’t really matter to me. As long as I could cross “write a post” off my to-do list for the day, I was happy.

So what have I learned over the past 30 days? A few things, actually.

I can always find something to say.

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence (who hasn’t?), especially when it comes to meeting new people. I tend to hang back in conversations or not introduce myself to people, thinking I have nothing interesting to say. If anything, this project has shown me that I can always find something to add to the conversation. My thoughts are valuable and worth sharing. Even if I have some trouble translating what’s in my brain into conversational English, I’ll eventually figure it out. This is all easier said than done, but I’m working on it. It all takes practice, and I think BEDA was a great exercise.

I don’t always have to fit into a niche.

Everything I’ve read about “the business of blogging” encourages writers to stick to a genre of content and not stray too much, lest they lose precious eyeballs. That definitely works if you want to build your blog into something huge, but when it comes down to it, I’m writing for me. It’s easy for me to stick to travel content when I’m only posting a few times a month, but that gets a bit mundane when I have to post something every day. And when it comes down to it, I’m not a travel expert. I’ve traveled a lot, and it’s one of my favorite things to do, but I still don’t really know how to pack a carry-on. I’m allowed to write about the gender wage gap or tiny houses if I want. When it comes to this site, I’m my own boss. And that’s incredibly freeing.

I need structure.

Generally speaking, my writing output has gone way downhill since I graduated from college. When I was in school, I had deadlines every week and professors to hold me accountable for them. Now, when I want to write a new script, I have no one to answer to but myself. Being your own boss can be great, but I’m a pretty lax manager when it comes to deadlines. With this project, I knew I had to get something out every day, and if I didn’t, my inability to follow through would live on the internet forever. When I go back and watch videos from my failed VEDA attempts, I get pretty embarrassed. I didn’t want to feel that way again. Maybe letting my inner critic drive this project wasn’t the healthiest move, but it helped me get it done. For once I wanted to whole-ass something and throw myself into a creative project as much as I could with a full-time job. And that’s exactly what I did.

As for the future of this blog, I don’t really know what’s in store. I’m going to keep posting at least twice a month, but right now I want to focus on other writing projects. I dusted off an abandoned pilot script a few weeks ago and would like to at least finish a draft of that. Going back to the theme of structure, I’m also hoping to et back in the classroom this summer and start some new projects.

I think I’m coming out of this project with a better sense of who I am as writer and as a person. Sitting down to write every day forces you to reflect and spend some time in your own brain. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s terrifying, but it’s always worth it.

Of course I have to thank you all for reading and supporting me through this project. Whether you left a comment, favorited one of my Tweets, or said something to me in person, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only person reading these words. I hope you’ll all stick around for…whatever I have in store for the future.

BEDA 2016 completed. Someone buy me a drink.

5 Things I’m Looking Forward to This Summer | BEDA Day 27

Summer is nearly upon us, my friends. While I’m more of a spring gal, I still look forward to all the travel and outdoor fun summer brings. Here are five things I’m particularly looking forward to this season.

  1. Vidcon! Vidcon is always a staple of my summer. It’s become this annual pilgrimage where I’m reunited with old friends, surrounded by likeminded people, and have the opportunity to learn new things about the always #changing face of #newmedia. While the conference has grown substantially in the last few years, there’s still something great about spending 3+ days with people who share your passions. I’m incredibly excited to go back for my fourth year.

  2. A Return to LA – I’m planning on spending a few days in LA ahead of Vidcon to catch up with friends and eat a ton of In-N-Out. I have a bit of a fraught relationship with the City of Angels, but I always enjoy my visits. I know I’ll be spending at least some of my 36 hours in town listening to Kanye in my rental car and drinking iced coffee from Intelligentsia, so it’ll be just like the summer of 2013.

  3. Central Park Hangs – Central Park is a bit of a trek for me in the winter, but I’m so looking forward to spending plenty of weekend afternoons there this summer. I bought a picnic blanket last year and used it all of two times, so I’m determined to get more use out of it in the coming months. I also have a ton of reading to catch up on. Maybe I’ll actually finish The Catcher in the Rye this year (don’t judge).

  4. Shakespeare in the Park – This is the year, guys. One of these weekends, I’m going to wake up super early, bring my aforementioned picnic blanket to the park, and camp out outside the Delacorte for free tickets to one of the Public’s productions. I’m particularly excited about the all-female production of The Taming of the Shrew running in May and June. Donna Lynne Champlin is in it. What more do I need?

  5. Governor’s Ball – So I did that thing a few months ago where I bought a pass without asking any of my friends if they planned on attending. As such, I’m facing the prospect of going to (what used to be) the New York version of Coachella by myself. The lineup is way too good for me to pass up, though. Between The Killers, Haim, Chvrches, and Death Cab for Cutie, I’m pretty much in musical heaven. Now to find someone to tag along…

What are you looking forward to this summer? Let me know in the comments!

You’d Better Vote | BEDA Day 19

The New York Presidential Primaries are today, and I’m incredibly excited to hit the polls. Nothing makes me feel more adult than participating in the democratic system. I’ve voted in both presidential elections and local school board elections, and I always try to read up on the candidates ahead of time to make an informed choice. Of course, this makes me a bit of an outsider among my generation. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who just don’t plan or aren’t paying attention to the election at all.

First of all, kudos to you if you’ve actually been able to avoid all coverage of this year’s circus of an election. And second of all, that’s bananas. You’d better vote.

I’m not going to get too political or tell you who to vote for. That’s not my beat. I’m not really one to push people towards any particular candidate (especially since I have mixed feelings about all of this year’s options).

A representative democracy doesn’t work if its constituents don’t participate. You want things to change? Show up at the polls. Call your representative. Rally for a cause. Sure, things are broken, but we can still make our voices heard. We in the United States are so privileged to have a say in our government, even if the people we choose to lead it don’t always do what we want. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

I encourage you all to take a little time, read up on the candidates, and show up at your polling place. And if you’re not registered yet, get on that. Even if your state’s primary has passed, there’s still plenty of time to register for November’s general election.

You’re not allowed to complain about the winner if you didn’t vote. Get out there.

Photo Credit: Theresa Thompson

How to Survive Convention Season | BEDA Day 17

Summer is an exciting time to be a nerd. We have more time to catch up on the movies, video games, and books we’ve been neglecting all year. Summer also brings something many nerds like myself look forward to all year long: Convention Season.

San Diego Comic Con, GeekyCon, Vidcon, Anime Expo, PAX Prime, Dragon*Con…a nerd can rack up some serious frequent flier miles in the short summer months. Attending lots of conventions in a short period of time is awesome, but how do you avoid feeling totally burnt out by Labor Day? As a (somewhat) seasoned con attendee I’m here to share some of my tips and tricks for avoiding TCSE – Total Con Season Exhaustion.

First off, pace yourself. Try not to attend two conventions back-to-back if you can avoid it. Give yourself at least two weeks between conventions to recover and ready yourself for the next round. At each con, don’t run from one panel to the next. Take plenty of breaks just to sit down and get away from the crowds for a few minutes. Go to Starbucks and get a cup of coffee or go take a power nap in your hotel room. If you schedule your breaks well you won’t miss anything important.

On a similar note, SLEEP. Sure, you want to party in your friend’s hotel room all night, but you probably won’t have any fun at the con if you’re a zombie the next day (unless you’re cosplaying as that chick from iZombie). No amount of coffee can measure up to a good night’s sleep. Try to get at least 5 hours of sleep in a bed. Your back and your brain will thank you for it.

Pack accordingly! You will probably be on your feet for most of the day at any given convention, so comfy shoes and clothes are necessary. If you’re cosplaying, keep an extra pair of shoes in your bag in case your platforms give out on you or your ankles need a break. Also, bring plenty of snacks that will hold up well in your bag. This will save you money (food on the floor can get pricey) and will keep you from trying to eat the person in front of you in line Walking Dead-style.

Know where you’re going. Read up on the host city ahead of time and find out where the nearby hospitals, pharmacies, restaurants, police stations, etc. are located. If you don’t have a car, figure out how you’re going to get to and from the convention before you even get on the plane. Program the number of a local cab company and the convention center’s security department into your phone. You never know what’s going to happen while you’re away, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

Finally, set a budget for the whole summer and for each specific convention. Between registration, hotels, flights, and all the awesome stuff sold on the floor, cons can get pretty pricey. Figure out how much money you plan on spending ahead of time and keep track of how much you spend when you’re there. This way you’ll get what you want out of the convention without having to hitchhike home.

What are some convention season tips you’ve picked up over the years? Let me know in the comments. Have a safe and fun convention season, and I’ll see you this year at Vidcon!

studying college freshmen tips advice

Five Unconventional Tips for College Freshmen | BEDA Day 16

Congratulations! You got into college! You’re probably looking for some advice for your freshman year, right? I’ll save you some time and tell you that a lot of these posts will offer the same advice: set ground rules with your roommate, introduce yourself to new people, consider joining Greek life, pack light, etc. While this is all great advice, I’ve come up with some of my own tips for college freshmen and first-timers over the years. As a recent grad, I consider myself an semi-expert in the field. Emphasis on the “semi.”

1. You DO need to bring your giant teddy bear.

Most articles providing college tips will advise you to pack light, as dorm rooms are pretty tiny. While this is a good idea, it’s important to bring along some of the comforts of home. It’s nice to come back to your thousand-year-old teddy bear and pictures of your friends after a rough exam. Pack things that will make you feel comfortable in your new space, however large and embarrassing they may be. 

2. The weirder the club, the better.

Your school will probably hold an activities fair within the first few days of the semester. Here you can get to know some of the organizations on campus and sign up for their mailing lists. Activities fairs may sound lame, but they’re definitely worth attending, if anything for the (almost guaranteed) free food. Get on the mailing lists of the weird clubs, like the paranormal investigations group or the lightsaber dueling team. You’re bound to meet interesting people here, and even if you don’t join the club you’ll leave the first meeting with a few new Facebook friends.

3. STUDY.

This seems obvious, but so many students write academics off freshmen year. DON’T DO THAT. The grades you get this year do affect your GPA and lay the groundwork for the rest of your academic career. If you build up a solid cumulative GPA this year, you’ll have something to fall back on when have to take harder courses as an upperclassman. Bio 101 may be grueling, but it’s worth it to show up. You may actually learn something.

4. Don’t force a friendship with your roommate.

Unless you’re going to the same college as your best friend from high school or you found the perfect roommate online, it’s likely that the person sleeping in the bed next to you will be a complete stranger chosen at random by university housing. Maybe you’ll have a few things in common, but you probably won’t be best friends forever. This is okay. Focus on living (somewhat) harmoniously with this person rather than forcing them to be your friend. Give your roommate some space and, above all, COMMUNICATE.

5. Be genuine.

College is a time to start fresh and leave your high school self behind – or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Some people see this as an opportunity to craft a new persona far from who they actually are. When meeting new people, be yourself, and be genuine. You don’t have to come up with new stories to make yourself sound cool to the people you meet your first year of school. Cliche as it sounds, the right people will think you’re awesome just the way you are.

Do you have any unconventional tips for freshman? Let me know in the comments! Best of luck next year, future freshbabies! 

Disregard Misogynists, Acquire Funds #EqualPayDay | BEDA Day 12

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day in which women around the world work to raise awareness about the gender pay gap. In case you were wondering, the gender pay gap is real. Period. End of Story. We should not be debating this anymore.

In the United States, women make $0.79 for every dollar a man makes. That gap widens for women of color, mothers, and transgender individuals.  Ask your friends, ask your coworkers, ask your mom: they’ll probably have some personal experience with income inequality. Sure, we can populate higher-paying industries and negotiate all we want, but this problem is not going away. It’s a thing, and if you don’t believe me, go read this article on elle.com immediately.

As someone just getting started in her career, reading about the wage gap and seeing it in action is incredibly disheartening. Somehow, my work is less valuable because I’m not a man. It is worth less for reasons I simply can’t change. Why is that? Because maybe I’ll pop out a kid someday? Because I’ll eventually have a man to rely on to feed and clothe me (God forbid I marry anyone else)? Or is it simply because I’m not wanted in the workplace?

What makes this all even more bananas is the fact that it is SO EXPENSIVE to be a woman. We get charged more for products that are literally just painted pink. I cry every month when I have to hand over $10 for a box of tampons. Once you add clothes, hair, and makeup it all gets kind of absurd. These things sound frivolous to complain about but it all comes down to a higher cost of living that our salaries can’t always cover.

So, what can we do about this? Personally, I’m working on being more confident in the workplace. Sticking up for yourself is hard, especially when you’re an anxious mess who has no idea what she’s talking about half the time. I’m working on the whole “fake it til you make it” thing and I know I’ll get there eventually. On a more global level, though, we can all help by speaking out about income inequality. I urge you all to have a conversation with your friends and family about this issue, and not just today. We need to take the stigma out of talking about money, and this is a good place to start. If you want to go even further (and you should), you can urge your representatives to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Not sure who to call? This site has you covered.

I know I’m subjecting myself to every awful reaction the internet has to offer by posting this, but let the yell all they want. I can’t just sit here anymore. It’s high time we fixed this.

 

Remembering Names is Hard | BEDA Day 10

Happy Sunday, blogees! I like to consider myself a pretty sharp person, but there’s one thing I’ve been struggling with recently: remembering people’s names. I can talk about shows in detail til the cows come home, but names seem to go in one ear and out the other. It was bothering me so much, that I just had to make a video about it.

On a different note, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing with this whole YouTube thing. I still love making videos but the game has changed so much since I started vlogging in my dorm room five years ago. I don’t really have a niche or a brand. I’m personally fine with that, but it makes it hard to tell people what my channel is about. If anything, I guess my brand is “comedy vlogs about travel and 20-something life.” That’s kind of vague, I realize, but it’s as close to a genre as I’m going to get.

Enjoy this delve into my slightly dysfunctional brain. I hope you’re all having wonderful weekends!