Author Archives: libs012

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 3 – Truth, Dare, and Dance

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 3 – Truth, Dare, and Dance

Disclaimer: Five years ago,  I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

This is Chapter 3
For the intro to the book, head HERE!
For Chapter 1 (Vulnerability) click HERE!
For Chapter 2 (Untitled- Pole Dancing) click HERE!
For the original Hobby post this chapter digs into, visit HERE!

Truth, Dare, and Dance

My parents often brag about how I said my first word at just 6 months old, but rarely do they talk about my first steps. That’s because I’m pretty much convinced that I crawled until I was three-years-old. I’m almost positive that they’ve kept this a secret from me my whole life. I believe this, because I’ve never been graceful.  At the age of 4, I broke my arm, got a concussion from falling down the stairs, and sprained my ankle after jumping from a tree house, all within several months of one another. Then, at the age of 7, while playing during indoor recess, I crawled straight into a desk, cut open the skin above my eye and needed to be rushed to the hospital to get stitches. Years later, when I was a sophomore in high school I broke my left hand, and several weeks later, I broke my right one (or at least the fingers). Finally, in 2015, I broke my hand, sprained another ankle, and went onto break my foot in the final months of the year. Among these injuries, I suffered from countless others: stitches to the chin, sprained knees, sprained wrists, sprained hands, tendonitis, concussions, contusions, bumps, and scrapes. I often lost my balance, and was very clumsy. Needless to say, we went through a lot of bandaids, and a lot of bags of frozen peas substituted as ice bags, in my childhood home.

It should be no surprise then that dancing growing up was never my strong suit.

In fact, I can very vividly remember during a game of Truth or Dare, at an 8th grade birthday party, being humiliated as I was dared to show my “dance moves” on a chair. During the dare, someone laughed at me and said, “You can’t just hump the chair.” I tried again, but the laugher was contagious. Everyone caught on, except for me.

 I left the sleepover the next morning telling myself over and over again that by the time the next school dance came around, “I would show them” and prove that I could “get jiggy with it.”

 However, when my chance came to hit the dance floor again, the result wasn’t so hot. One of my good friends at the time kindly said that for me to dance would take some work—or more like a lot of work. She added, “Try and work it like this,” as she shook her hips gracefully across the school gym.

I had no idea what I was doing. All the kids were “grinding” and to me that was just what my teeth did at night.

It took me years to get comfortable with attempting to publicly dance, and even when I started feeling comfortable enough to dance, I still carried a great weight of self-consciousness on my shoulders.

This might explain why any time I had tried to attend a group dance class prior to pole dancing, I found myself defeated, and walking out before the class had been completed. And I can assure everyone that It wasn’t because I was out of shape, or simply tired. I was very obviously choreographically challenged.

As my dance classmates would ChaCha right, and Zumba left, I would stand in the back spinning in circles until my feet were tangled into a knot. The situation would subsequently stress me out. “Who is watching me?” “This is so embarrassing” “How can I sneak out without anyone noticing?” “Is that the bass of the song or is that the sound of my heart beating outside of my chest?” “Is that the roof leaking, or am I sweating that much?” “Wait, am I sweating cause I’m dancing so hard, or am I sweating because I’m terrified?” “Where did I put my bag…Did I leave it near the door? Is it close enough to grab it and run?”

And with that I’d find myself sprinting from a gym class to the locker room, vowing I would never return to a group dance class again.

 Now with my new found confidence at Pole Dancing, I decided it was time to to try and tackle another dance class. Though, this time, instead of trying another Zumba class, I recruited a good friend of mine, and went ahead and signed up for a beginner hip-hop class.

Like pole dancing, I instantly felt intimidated as I walked into the dance school. Everyone there was wearing bright colored, professional looking hip-hop shoes; baggy sweats; and an easy relaxed tank. I had on my running shoes, a pair of field hockey shorts, and a white t-shirt. It wasn’t difficult to feel out of place.

 Everyone was also chatting, as if they knew one another. As I looked at my friend, I questioned:  “Is this the illuminati of dance?”

Then I whispered to the woman next to me who was tightening her laces: “This is the beginner class, right?”

“Yeah—but he doesn’t always treat it like a beginner class. It’s fast paced.”

Of course he didn’t.

All I wanted was to learn how to “shake it” without falling; but instead, of course, I would pick the “Be Beyonce’s next back up dancer” class.

Like a cartoon character, I verbally made a “gulp,” sound.

I turned back to my friend. She didn’t seem nervous at all. I was grateful I had brought her. I knew I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone else with me who hadn’t tried it before. And she was calm. She was ready to dance, and that energy was contagiousas we took our spots on the dance class floor. Not before long, we were shimmying to our left, shaking it to our right, spinning, and hip-hopping all over the room—or attempting to at least. I began to sweat as I lost my balance.

“You’ll get it,” one girl confidentially said to me. “Just take it slow.”

Frustrated, I continued to try and keep up. But the teacher was moving quickly. My friend and I had split up into two different spots in the room. She seemed to be getting it. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by the Justin Timberlakes and Keshas of beginner dance. They moved effortlessly, their legs stretching far beyond any point of flexibility that I might be able to.

 And just as I started to get one eight count down, our teacher began moving on to the next one. I had to remind myself that this was my first time. I wasn’t supposed to be perfect. Patiently, I continued to try and find my rhythm.  One of my main issues in the past about group dance classes had always been, “Well what if the others in the class judge me.”

 But what I was learning as I struggled through 5,6,7,8 was that these people weren’t there to judge someone who couldn’t do a two-step. These people were there to better themselves, to get good at something they loved doing—or to try something that they’ve always wanted to try. They weren’t concerned if I was hip-hopping to the left when they were spinning to the right. As long as I didn’t get in their way, my skills weren’t a matter of their concern.

These people weren’t there for me. They were there for exactly who they should have been. And as we approached the end of the class, I realized that I too was there for the one person I was supposed to be there for: myself.

This epiphany was the perfect reminder as the class let out. This moment of clarity was the difference between me abandoning a class the way I had before, and me finishing the class with my eyes set ahead. It was the difference between me leaving the class and vowing I’d never go back and me saying “I’d like to try that again.”

The next day, my co-worker asked me how it went. I told her that it was fun—difficult—but fun. She asked me to show her what we learned in the class. I was nervous. Would she judge me the way my 8th grade classmates did? Would I run away, scared?

Instead of declining in shame, I took a deep breath, found the song online, hit play and then stepped it out.

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.22.19 PM

 Unlike my eighth grade classmates, she didn’t laugh. She was actually impressed. And I won’t lie; I was impressed too. The moves that I struggled to put together just one night earlier seemed to be flowing easily now. My muscles had retained the information. I got tap happy with the music, as I showed the dance again. I wanted to keep doing it—I wanted to keep showing it off. An overwhelming feeling of pride accumulated throughout my body.

Excited, I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be an awesome year.’ And then I yawned, “And an exhausting one.”

 

I Was Wrong About The Hobby Hoarder

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Recently, I’ve been sharing chapters from the book that I wrote during and subsequently following the initial two Hobby Hoarder years. Now several years removed from the project and a few years older, I thought it might be time to reflect even more deeply. I’ll still share chapters from the book. But wanted to share what I consider to be an “out-cerpt.”

It’s been five years since I initiated the Hobby Hoarder project, and sometimes I find myself pondering how it was possible—How could I have ever done one hobby each week, how could I have ever afforded it, how could I have ever preached that anything was possible when now at points I feel so tired, when the bills are so big, when I prefer a Friday night at home to a Friday night out; when time moves so fast.

The truth is that as we age—our bodies change, our minds change, and our lives change. I didn’t believe people when they told me that. Some people said “Just wait until you’re older. Life will be different. You won’t be able to keep up with the hobbies. You’ll have more responsibilities. It won’t be easy. ” I didn’t want to listen to these people. I thought they were just naysayers and debbie downers.

You see, when I was the Hobby Hoarder, I came to feel invincible. I was ziplining through mountains, I was diving out of airplanes, I was swinging around poles, I was tap dancing through studios. I had no fear.

Except the truth is I did.

When thinking back, it’s easy to remember all that fun, terrifying, exhilarating stuff.

But when I was doing the hobby hoarder project, life was much different: sure I was younger and had more energy. But the big — really important parts of my life— were much, much in disarray:

-I was a freelancer–who always worried about what job I was going to find next, and if I lost my current job, would I ever find the next one?

-I was still in the closet, worried what coming out would mean–worried not just about what friends and family might think, but how I would feel–and if I would get to the point of self-love.

-I was single and not in a place to be in a relationship.

-I was battling depression.

-I cared a lot about what people thought of me.

-I hid my most deepest thoughts.

-I struggled with my most deepest thoughts.

When I took on The Hobby Hoarder persona, I transformed into a confident, outgoing, dedicated, determined, human who no one could tear down.

I was my own superhero, battling my internal struggles by becoming more outgoing, more courageous, more energetic, more positive. By taking some of my fears and facing them head on while I avoided the other ones.

I realize now that all the “nay-sayers” and “Debbie Downers” were quite right about two things:

– Life as I’ve gotten older isn’t always easy.
– And it is much different than when I was 24.

But what the tone in their voice got wrong when they told me those two things, was that it would be different and probably much more difficult:

The truth is, that even when I struggle, and even when the days are tough: Life is different. Life is better. 

Even though some days I find myself to be more tired, to be more anxious, and to be just as insecure–I’m constantly reminded that I’m in a much better place now than I could have ever been then. It is in my most raw and vulnerable moments that I have to take a pause to realize this. It is in the moments where I stop feeling invincible–I have to remind myself that I am and can be. It is in our tough moments, where we come out stronger on the other side.

The best part of it all is that now, at 29, I don’t need the cloak of the The Hobby Hoarder.

At 29: 

-I have a full-time job.

-I have hobbies that I turn to as an outlet–not an escape. (Photography and sports)

I’m out of the closet, and couldn’t be more comfortable with that. My family and friends also could not have been more perfect in that struggle.

-I’m in a relationship with someone who I love. Someone who makes each day better than the last. Someone who I might never have met 5 years ago–when my heart wasn’t open or ready.

-I’ve cut all my hair off, and finally enjoy taking the time to look at myself in the mirror and see who I’ve become.

-I still struggle at times, but I’ve learned to admit the struggles. I’ve sought out help and therapy.

-I’m honest and open (sometimes some will argue too honest and too open).

-I ultimately have good intentions.

-I have  morals and values.

-I have more responsibility. I still struggle with stress and doubt and worry. Because of this, I tend to share the little thoughts inside my head–for better or for worse.

-I’ve got the best friends in the world: honest and loving ones who tell me when I’m being a little crazy. When I’m being selfish. Who tell me when I can do better, who offer advice on how to do better.

-And I’ve got people in my life who let me know mistakes are okay, but remind me to move on from them. I have people in my life who remind me that perfection is often in our imperfection. 

When I think about the Hobby Hoarder years, and everything that was possible—everything I was capable of, and then I take the time to see how much has changed since those years—I feel lucky. I didn’t think life could get better than when I was doing all those hobbies. I thought that was life. and I didn’t think life could be better than those moments.

I was wrong. 

And I’m glad I was. 

Life moves. It changes. But it’s always something we should and can continue to conquer, and the world–something we can always strive to be on top of.

And if we are lucky, we’ll reach the top, a little bit wiser as well.

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 2 – Untitled

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 2 – Untitled

Disclaimer: Five years ago,  I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

This is Chapter 2.
For the intro to the book, head HERE!
For Chapter 1 (Vulnerability) click HERE!
For the original Hobby post this chapter digs into, visit HERE!

The truth is that sometimes the only thing more vulnerable than looking someone else in the eye is looking yourself in the eye. Before comedy—before the hobby year, I went an entire year without looking at myself in the mirror—without seeing myself. This isn’t just a poetic way of saying I was insecure. I didn’t even own a full length mirror and only occasionally would I check my outfit before I left for work by using Photobooth on my Macbook. When brushing my teeth or getting ready in the bathroom, I’d only take quick glimpses, but I truly stopped really looking at myself. Some days I’d go as far as avoiding my reflection in store front windows and car bumpers. I was terrified of the person who might be looking back at me—and I was also terrified of whatever flaws I might see. My self-confidence was at an all time low. I’d break down in dressing rooms—surrounded by mirrors. I stopped shopping—because I didn’t want to have to go through the desperation of wanting to escape before I even tried to slide on a new pair of jeans. Quite frankly, I just didn’t want to look at a reflection that would stare back at me with disappointment.

 

In 2012, I was 5’2” and what felt…chubby. Currently–I’m near 180 pounds. Let’s face it, by definition, I am not “sexy.” I’ve never been meant for the runway, I’ve never been able to sport a bikini, and I couldn’t even imagine gracing the cover of Cosmo.

My abs aren’t defined, my legs are stumpy, and my hair is flat. I am convinced that if pictures in the dictionary matched words, my mug shot would be the perfect candidate for “average,” and in a thesaurus: “your plain old Jane.”

Until my senior year of college, I was constantly fearful of going to group gym classes. Television commercials and infomercials always showed slender women in spandex who knew the choreography and routines better than I knew my menstrual cycle. Simply put, it was intimidating. I never wanted to go into a gym class and be the bigger girl who just didn’t get it. When I moved to New York City, I tried my first zumba class—and walked out in the middle. These gym-goers were fit and slender—and I was uncoordinated, clumsy, and chubby.

But I had decided, going into my yearlong adventure that I was tired of being simple. Flat. Adorable. That I was exhausted of hearing how lovely my dimples were—how wonderful my smile was—how cute my giggly laugh was. That I was tired of hearing the words “you’re just perfect the way you are,” “you are so cute.” The truth was—I really just wanted to be sexy. So I jumped into the year–or one might say swung into the year– with a quest to channel my inner Marilyn—and my deep dark Hepburn.

 

That brought me to my next dilemma…I didn’t know what sexiness was—or how to obtain it. For so many years I had just been intimidated by the thought that I would never achieve true sexiness.

I began to question if sexy was what I saw on all the magazine covers? If it was puckering my mouth up into a kissy face, or opening it just slightly enough while winking one eye?

Did sexy mean sipping on a cosmopolitan in a short black cocktail dress, dressing my eyes in dark mascara, and painting my lips a luscious red?

Did it mean buying a full-length mirror—rather than using the Photobooth application on my Macbook?

I googled “sexy hobbies”and regretted the search instantly as several hundred links to porn sites infiltrated my computer. So I put a condom on my search and revised it to “How to be sexy,” hoping that it’d be a bit more…safe.

I was drowning in the Internet. Advertisements were popping up right and left. Mass-marketing rhetoric on “sexiness.” What perfumes to spritz. What leggings to rock. What diet to go on.

My mind tried to understand everything I was seeing, everything I was reading. It was becoming very clear, very quickly, that sexiness was a math code that I couldn’t quite crack–that I might never crack. I tried to work through the calculations, but I found myself, instead, just talking in circles: “I’ve never done any of this stuff–This isn’t me at all–Is this what it takes? Could I only be sexy if I did everything opposite of how I already do it?”

And then I saw it—the piece of the calculation I was missing. A woman was staring at me from the computer screen. She was elegant. Flexible. And she had both her legs wrapped around a pole. I stared at the advertisement for what felt like hours.

“Pole dancing,” I said out loud to myself. “I could try pole dancing.”  “This could be my answer to sexiness.” I looked back at the advertisement again. Yes, this was the way to find my inner sexiness–or outer sexiness–and this was the way to truly start my year of firsts and prove I was committed to the new, the novel, and for me, the unexpected.

When I first told my best friend that I would be signing up for a pole dancing class, she looked at me, and burst into laughter. “Please, please, please…video tape it,” she begged. “I need to see this.” While her initial laughter made me uncomfortable–I was after all, on a serious quest, I realized her laughter was warranted.

She had known me for years, and to her, everything I was telling her about what I was setting out for–and to do–with this first hobby was opposite of who I was—or at least everything the childhood and teen version of me was. In high school, my hair was a bit messy, I wore my athletic sweats to school and I was always talking about the big game coming up–whether it be field hockey, basketball or softball. I wasn’t sexy. 

As I talked through the pole dancing thoughts with my friend, I couldn’t help but to laugh at myself, too. The truth was at the time the closest I had ever come to a pole was on an elementary school field trip to the fire station. However, I also didn’t want my own laughter to make it seem like this was something to take lightly. The reality was that I was on a quest, and this was my initiation to the year. If I couldn’t take this activity seriously—how would I make it through fifty-one more weeks of new terrifying, exhilarating, sometimes also self-deprecating activities? The answer was simple—I couldn’t. So instead of letting myself go down the path of deflecting by laughing it off or making too much fun of myself, I got down to business.

I began researching pole dancing facilities in New York City, and very quickly came across Body and Pole on 27th Street. The company advertised a “Pole Dancing Virgins” class on the front of their website, and so I thought what a perfect way to pop this cherry. I didn’t care what the price was. I submitted my Visa card number and sat back. I closed my eyes and basked in the moment. This was it: I was on my way to becoming …. sexy.

Then it dawned on me. What the hell does one wear to a pole dancing class?

As I thought of all the pole dancing videos I had seen on YouTube, I suddenly felt ill thinking of what I would have to wear—nearly nothing.

I went back to the Body and Pole website and decided to see if they had recommendations, and they did: booty shorts and a tank. I had never sported booty shorts in my life. I ruffled through the fine print on the site to see if I could get my money back. “This isn’t what I signed up for,” I yelled into my pillow and panicked.

But it was what I signed up for, and in the moments that followed, I made peace with the decision. I also decided that it was time for a shopping trip.

The next day, I set out on a search for the perfect outfit, hoping I would find something I’d feel comfortable enough in. I started at the mirrors of the dressing room. Nothing was right. The blue booty shorts came up my thighs too much. The black ones gave me a wedgie. In the orange ones, I had a muffin top. I began to be reminded of all the years I avoided the mirror. I was ready to avoid it again.

As I hastily handed the clerk my stack of clothing, I turned toward the men’s department. Maybe booty shorts wasn’t the answer. …Maybe something else was.

I walked to the men’s underwear section and located the boxer briefs.

I laughed… “I guess….maybe this works??? I mean…I guess a lot of women feel sexy in their man’s clothing the morning after….?”

I pulled a red pair of boxer briefs off the rack, along with three back up pairs, and a black tank top from the women’s department. Then I darted for the changing room, and threw on the red boxer briefs and black tank.

Begrudgingly, I turned toward the mirror. But then something changed….I wasn’t repulsed by the figure in front of me. Instead, I felt comfortable….and cool. This wasn’t anyway I’d felt in front of a mirror in a long time. I took a moment, and was grateful to have found something. However, as I went to change, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to put my street clothes back on quite yet. I wanted to indulge in this moment, so I immediately slipped the guy’s underwear back on, threw the tank top back over my head, and began posing in front of the mirror. Smooching my lips together, winking, shrugging my shoulders, waving my hair wildly. Then I started firing off mirror selfie after selfie. I was in the dressing room for over a a half hour. I was already beginning to feel sexier—and I hadn’t even started the class yet. “Good,” I thought. “This is fun. This is how it should be.”

pole dancing

Just one day later I headed to the Body and Pole studio, and prepared to get my sexy on.

As I walked out of the center’s changing room, I realized that many of the girls waiting for the class were much, much prettier than me, and I rushed into the bathroom to clear my nerves.

After calming myself down, I headed into class—red boxer briefs and all.

I grabbed a mat and placed it in the back of the room. As soon as the teacher walked in, she laughed and said “Why are you all so nervous? Move your mats to the front.” Then suddenly, with no way out of it, I was in the front row—staring at myself in a mirror. At this moment, I wanted to run as far from this spot as I possibly could. But the door was too far away, and the warm up was starting. And I was already behind, trying to catch up on the stretches. What I learned quickly about group classes like this, is that the instructors don’t pause for your self-esteem: That’s on you to work out.

As we moved through the warm up, I began to feel even more uncomfortable. The early instructions involved a lot of pelvic movement, hip rolling, and awkward discomfort. Suddenly, with the full mirror in front of me, I realized I wasn’t looking at the woman I had been photo shooting in the dressing room the day before, I was looking at woman full of imperfection. I noticed where my flabs were as I stretched my body from side to side. I was nervous that this case of self-consciousness would continue for the entire class.

All of this was just a prelude, of course, to our first moments on the pole—our first moments of real sexiness. It was just a half hour into class that we began to make our first moves on the pole, leading the way with our hips, extending our arms, and pointing our toes.

“It’s a body roll—not a pole hump,” our teacher yelled. “There is nothing sexy about pole humping,” she laughed.

I watched as she smoothly and seductively grasped the pole, rolled, spun, and turned. I was inspired. “Hot. Damn. That’s freaking sexy,” I whispered.

I looked at the mirror and made a kissy face as I went to take a spin.

I then fell off the pole trying to complete my turn, bruising my knees. I looked back into the mirror. This wasn’t sexy. This was hard. This was terrifying.

But while I’ve never been sexy—I’ve also never been a quitter, so just like a horseback rider gets back on her horse—I jumped right back on that pole. ‘Sexy is painful,’ I thought, and nailed the next spin I did.

“How we feeling?” The instructor yelled to pump us up.

Giggling, I responded, “Sexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxy.”

She laughed, and headed to the front of the classroom, and took a moment to explain that pole dancing can be anything you want it to be. It can be sexy, gymnastic, aerobic, athletic, a way of getting fit, a try at something new. Sexiness, she started to describe, is something we feel inside ourselves. It’s not the way we dressed or the faces we make. Feeling sexy is a state of mind.

And she was right. In the hour and a half that I stretched my body, popped my hips, and shook my booty, I had felt more “sexy” than I ever had in my life. Was it because I would have sexually aroused another person if he or she had stood within ten feet of me? Likely, no. (Trust me: I watched the video of myself doing some of the moves.) But had I played dress-up, again, like a little kid? Yes. Had I taken every part of the class seriously? Yes. And had I done something I loved to do (try something brand new and unusual)? Yes. Had I been anything other than me? No. And that made me feel like the sexiest person in the room.

On Coming Out and Everything that Goes with That

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On Coming Out and Everything that Goes with That

Recently, I received an email to create a casting video on my coming out story–as well as some of the struggles faced with coming out, if there was anyone I still had to come out to, and if I hoped to inspire others with my story.

In having the opportunity to sit down and talk to my camera–the way I had so many times before for the Hobby Hoarder–I felt at home. I also felt as though I was doing something I needed to do.

Within the video, I share a college story, crying in my dorm hall, my first kiss with a girl, the relief of having friends who supported me, and the sadness I have for others who may not live in a safe enough place to share their own stories, or to be exactly who they are.

With Pride month having just ended, I thought I’d share this video with you; however, I like to remember and remind people, that for many of us, Pride isn’t just a weekend, or a month, it’s a lifetime.

Consider this my first foray back into vlogging.

Love. is. Love.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 1 – Vulnerability

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Disclaimer: Five years ago,  I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): Chapter 1 – Vulnerability

 “Are you nervous?”

I turn around. Standing there is a 4-foot 11-inch young woman.

“No I’m not….”

“Really—cause I’m shitting my pants,” I joke.

“Okay…maybe just a little. Should we go buy diapers?” The young woman adds.

We share a laugh, and strike a short conversation.

It’s October 11, 2011. I’m about to do my first stand up comedy show, ever. As it turns out I’m also about to do something else for the first time as an adult: I’m feeling like I’m about to shit my pants.

Even if I didn’t do my first official hobby until February of 2012—this is really when I felt my life take a change for the better.

Prior to beginning my true quest, I met a stranger who took me under his wing. Who I warily let into my mind and into my heart, who I let see me struggle and who I let see me frustrated. In short: who I really let see me. By no surprise, I met Justin, a New York City comic, through the internet. After sarcastically responding to something I had posted on someone else’s wall, Justin apologized and told me he was a comic, that I shouldn’t take anything he said so seriously.

I laughed it off, but not before responding to him by saying, “comedy, eh?” That’s something I’d like to try one day.”

He responded by telling me that if I really wanted to try stand up comedy, he’d put me on his show. Though hesitant, I said, “Yes, let’s do it.”

I learned that Justin produced and hosted a show on Tuesdays at Gotham Comedy Club, so I bought a ticket to his next show—which happened to be August 26. This day also happened to be the day that a rare earthquake struck New York City. Little did I know that as the ground shook, my whole life was about get shaken up itself.

Following his set, I approached Justin and introduced myself. His blue eyes were welcoming, and he had a giant grin on his face–“Hey Libs! What’d you think? You still want to do your set.”

I hesitated, “Yeah…I think I do.”

“Great, we will write together—it’ll be awesome!”

From there, we were inseparable. We met in coffee shops for two months and spent hours crafting material for my first gig, a nine minute set in the Gotham Comedy Club basement lounge. Through our meetings, Justin helped me mold my jokes.

He taught me how to write jokes in order to surprises audiences: “Here try this. Set the joke up so that you look like you’re going one direction—then go the opposite.”

Well that’s not much different than my every day life….I thought out loud.

He laughed.

“Let’s take a look at one of your jokes….”

This was my chance….

“Some people say the best things in life are free—friends, family—that’s great. But I don’t believe that. I do not believe the BEST things in life are free—and here’s one reason: herpes.”

He taught me how to cut out the junk: “take out anything that’s extraneous. Keep everything short. You’ll lose your audience with too many words.”

He taught me the importance of including gestures and hand motions to make a joke come alive.

And he taught me to slow down: “Every time you think you’re doing your joke slowly—slow down even more.

Above all, he taught me how to appear as though I’d been a seasoned comic, not a beginner. And that lesson started with confidence.

Justin explained that if I really wanted to appear confident on stage, the first thing I had to do was take the microphone stand and put it behind me. This way nothing would stand between the audience and myself. He then asked me to perform stand up jokes in front of him—a one-man audience. And then when he had friends around, he challenged me to do my set for them with a fake microphone.

Justin not only taught me confidence and comedy, he taught me how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, how to stand up in front of someone and let them see me—really see me—something I struggled with for a long time. Mostly, because for many years I was unable to see me either.

Through one-on-one get-togethers with Justin, and through letting him see me in some of my most vulnerable states, I began learning how to let people in. And then I began to let myself in—to accept and to love myself. And even though sitting down to learn comedy was the prologue to The Hobby Hoarder year, the process of learning the craft, of sitting down with a stranger, of letting someone else see me, and of letting myself see me, opened my eyes to the world of opportunities out there. Justin also reminded me of how good it felt to laugh and how good it felt to make others laugh as well. In a way, stand up comedy was the spark plug to the hobby years—helping me to find clarity—helping me to focus my attention on the physical world rather than the internal world I had felt trapped in.

On October 11, 2011, just as Justin had instructed me, I took the microphone by one hand, and then placed the stand behind me, stepping into the spotlight.

Little did I know, this moment was just the beginning of an unpredictable journey ahead. This comedy show was my boarding pass for the flight I didn’t even know I wanted – or needed – to take; my permission to fly; to face all my fears; starting with my biggest fear of all: Facing myself.

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Never Have I Ever (Until Now): The Prologue

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Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.

An Intro

“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”

My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.

It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.

My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.

My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.

But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.

With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.

I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.

So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.

I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”

My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”

The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.

For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.

Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.

Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.

But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.

I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.

And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.

All Aboard.

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Sunchasing

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It’s Friday, January 2nd. The sun is sinking slowly through the sky. I’ve set out to catch the sunset yet every view I’m finding is obstructed.

“Will I make it in time?” “Will I miss the sunset?” “How many minutes do I have”

The questions are rushing through my mind.

I come across a gate.

The gate is open so I invite myself in.

I can feel myself getting closer to the sun… There’s a fence– blocking the way down to the water … But it doesn’t meet the ground. I take in my surroundings – no one is around. I slip under the chain links .

“Oh my goodness.”

I take a deep breath. I’m greeted with a view of the city I’ve not quite taken in before. Immediately to my right is the Williamsburg Bridge- a giant in the sky next to me.

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In the distance is a clear shot of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges- parallel to a stunning view of the World Trade Center.

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I can feel the temperature slowly dropping.

I grip my camera.

My hands are beginning to lose feeling. I left my gloves behind for the day. An amateur photographer’s mistake.

But I feel somewhat prepared for this:

I remember back to the first drive on our road trip. It’s sometime between 4 and 430am. David and Kim are just waking up. We are crossing into Virginia – and the sun will be rising soon enough. Without fear- without doubt- and in total agreement we decide that our goal is to catch the sunrise- it’s our first real day all together and we want it to literally start at the crack of dawn. This census also sets the tone for the trip.

At this point, David has switched to the driver seat. I’ve switched to the passenger seat. I’m googling frantically for a spot. “Will we miss it?”

The question echoes in my mind.

We are in Fredericksburg, approaching a battle ground up on a hill…

“That’s the spot,” we all agree. It’s cold then; like it is now. I’ve got a leather jacket on; a silly yellow hat and some sweatpants. But I don’t feel the cold. I feel a sense of pride; a sense of excitement – a sense that warms me up: a sense that keeps me going.

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Now, I’m warming up as I snap photos of the current sunset in New York. The memories make me smile. What’s ahead makes me smile.

The road trip ignited a different perspective in me:

“Breathe.”
“Slow down.”
“Thank the sun.”

Throughout the trip, we came to a common agreement that when we could- we would fight to see the sun set- or rise. We’d go miles out of the way; cross bridges to different states; and wake up just a little extra early to get the brightest start to the day.

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We’d search for wide open space to catch sunset.

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We’d comment on the type of sunrise/set we were watching:

“That’s a scrambled sunrise” I’d say as we watched the light appear just over a mountain in Nooksack Washington. “Scrambled cause you’ve got some clouds here and there but not enough to obstruct your view.” We’d add: “If there were no clouds, it’d be a sunny side up kinda day.”

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No matter what: There were always more sun rises to catch- sunsets to seek – or sometimes miss; and beyond all: there were suns to chase.

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Sunchasing – that’s the adventure – that’s what’s gotten me here- on a bed of loose rocks above the east river, on January 2nd, 2015.

In-between photos, I break to breathe in what I’m watching; to take a moment to appreciate what I’ve searched to be able to see. To be grateful for this opportunity; to cherish that big ball of fire in the sky.

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When the road trip started – I’m not sure I could tell you why the sun rises or sunsets meant so much to me.

It’s been just about two years and I think I’m finally starting to understand it. Because every time I see one now… Every time I go out of my way to comment on if it will be a scrambled, fried or sunny side up kinda day- I think of my friends:

I think of David and Kim waking up in the car and wanting to catch that first sunrise as much as I do. I think of how I don’t get to see them often; how David is in New Mexico- how I am here. How Kim is in Long Island- and how we still don’t get to see one another  often – both due to demanding schedules.

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I think of friends, teachers and family who have moved away. I breathe into the golden rays
and suddenly the sun seems a lot closer- and if that sun can seem a lot closer – then my friends ultimately are always right here with me in a way.

You see, the thing about the sunrise – or the sun set is that it’s a constant reminder that no matter the distance between two people: we are still right here on the same earth; and in the end; that’s truly not all that far after all.

If you’re missing a friend today- if they are just a little “too far away:”

Take a walk; find an open space; take a seat; and breathe in that giant ball of fire.

Go on now, go, chase the sun.

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