New Year Sum-Uppance, Vol. 4

Okay, okay. I usually do this before the new year actually begins, but as I said yesterday in my top 10 posts round-up, I’m a bit out of sorts (read: busy) this year. Anywho.

As I was looking through my usual sum-uppance questions, I decided it was also time for a little upgrade. So, I give you, the new and improved New Year Sum-Uppance of Justine.

Age: 25 (and still getting asked where I’m planning on attending college…hurrah.)

Location: New York

Occupation: Social Media Manager (because Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest is my life)

Favorite food: Sushi. There is literally never a time when Joey asks me what I want for dinner that my mind doesn’t IMMEDIATELY leap to spicy tuna rolls. I am who I am.

Music I like right now: Snow Patrol and Augustana still hold the keys to my heart, but I also dig Mumford & Sons a lot. What can I say, I like Irish music and men.

TV shows I watch: Ugh, not even worth mentioning. Ninety-nine percent of the television I watch is trash that I only tune into to quiet down my brain after a busy day. The other 1% is The Walking Dead. Obvi. Because, while that might still qualify as trashy, your brain is on high-alert whilst watching. Lest you SOMEHOW NOT HEAR A GRUNTING, WHEEZING, BUMBLING WALKER SNEAK UP ON YOU.

Book I’m reading: I hate reading more than one book at a time, but right now I’m actually slogging through Anna Kerenina and reading Sweet Tooth as part of my office’s book club. Mixed feelings about both.

What’s my hair doing right now: Sort of a joke, but also sort of serious since I talk about it often enough on this blog. Right now it’s long, blonde, and I have bangs. For posterity’s sake, here’s what I look like on most days:

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Of course, this is what I actually look like while writing this:

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So you win some you lose some…or something.

How I did on my goals from last year: Figure out what I really want to do with my life? For the first time in a few years, I’m actually working a job that is challenging, satisfying, pays me enough to live comfortably, appreciates me, and that I actually look forward to going to. That’s kind of crazy to me, and I’m still pinching myself. So…I think we can check this one off.

Build up the blog into more of a business? I’ll admit, this one kind of fell by the wayside. I still do sponsored posts when the occasion arises, but once I started feeling more fulfilled by my “real” job, I felt less pressure to do something with the blog. Now I’m not really sure what direction it will go in, but for now, we’ll keep plodding along.

Travel? In 2012, I went to Iceland, Chicago, DC, Vegas, Iowa, California, and Vermont. Not bad. (Plus, the hubs and I are planning a BIG trip for 2013…stay tuned!)

Find a way to get a puppy? Blah. This post. That’s all.

Goals for next year: More travel (here’s a hint: AFRICA. Okay, so that’s not a hint. That’s me telling you. But it’s happening.), moving to Brooklyn, paying off the last of my credit card debt, ACTUALLY GETTING A DOG, running a full marathon, staying happy.

It’s funny how much harder it is to make goals when you’re generally pleased with life. Speaking of which…

Overall opinion of my life: Really good. (My answers to this question are ALWAYS lame.)

To elaborate…I’ve always sort of felt like I can never get all aspects of my life in order. Either I was rocking it career/school-wise, but my personal life was out of whack, or I had a great relationship, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life professionally. For the first time, I feel like I have all the plates spinning together. It’s kind of scary. But I’m trying not to psych myself out.

So that’s it! I’m excited for 2013. I feel like it’s going to be my best year yet. (Plus, 2012 was kind of rocky, right?) What are you most looking forward to this year?

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The Top 10 Posts of 2012

You guys! I’ve totally been dropping the ball on my end-of-the-year traditions. As my long-time readers can attest, I always do a round-up of the top 10 posts along with my yearly sum-uppance. I’ve just been a little thrown off with all this time off work/working from home. Clearly I’m a girl who needs a schedule.

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I have not forsaken you at the end of 2012. So without further ado, THE TOP 10 POSTS OF 2012:

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10. Wedding Guest Attire. AND BEYOND!: Remember that time I obsessed about what to wear to a wedding for about a month? (In my defense, I was working a really boring job at the time. I had a lot of time on my hands.) Well, when I finally got my lifeoutfit together, you guys were either pleased with the result or just that I had stopped talking about it.

9. Don’t starve. Learn to cook.: I still incorporate at least one of these four easy cooking tips in just about everything I make. You should too.

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8. 6 Super-Easy Summer Hairstyles: It’s mildly reassuring that you guys don’t hate when I write about my hair. But seriously, who doesn’t need updo ideas when it’s too humid to even bother doing your hair, amiright?

7. 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Have a Movie-Themed Wedding: I actually pissed people off with this post. Which, if you’re familiar with how innocuous my blog usually is, is saying something. Of course, this was also a post published on Huffington Post Weddings, so that obviously increased my usual reach. (Confession: I still haven’t read the comments on the HuffPo piece. People can be mean, y’all.)

6. How to: Skip Washing Your Hair for 6 Days: Remember that time I got all greasy for you guys? I have to admit, I haven’t gone this long without washing my hair since I wrote this post, but I do try to go at least three days at a time. Think you’re ready for the long haul? Click the link to learn how it’s done.

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5. Check Me Out: That time I lost 30 pounds and got to be in Glamour magazine. A heart-warming tale for the ages.

4. How to: Paint a Metal File Cabinet: Want to hear a cute story about this post? A girl I went to college with for about a year (before she moved and we lost touch) actually found me again when she found this post on Pinterest. Isn’t that neat? Also, I still love this cabinet, and the paint job has held up really well. So…you should all learn from this tutorial.

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3. How to: Nutella Hot Chocolate: I don’t know why I’m so surprised this did well (I mean, everyone loves Nutella, right?), but I still can’t get over it. I hope you’re all drinking a delicious mug of my Nutella Hot Chocolate right now.

2. The 3 Most Annoying Things About Pinterest: I still stand behind all of these statements, and apparently y’all agree.

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1. What to Wear to a Concert: Okay. Listen. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this post doing so well. On one hand, it’s really reassuring that I am not the only human who has NO IDEA how to answer this question. On the other, I feel like a total cop-out because I didn’t even put together those outfit boards. I just compiled them. So…I get credit for being a curator? (Ugh…) Whatever. At least now we all feel a little less stupid the next time our musically-savvy friend invites us to see the latest boy band.

So there you have it! Now that you (and I) have seen what it is you liked, I’m curious: What types of posts would you like to see more of in 2013?

Weird for the win.

Do you ever sometimes randomly remember something about yourself as a child and think, “Why wasn’t I bullied more?”

Because, seriously you guys, I was a weird little kid. For about a six-year stretch, I had braces and then glasses and then braces again. (By some miracle, however, the two never coincided. God isn’t that cruel.) I played the flute. I was in show choir. I was in the theater group. I was in the top mock trial team. (#mocktrialnerds4life)

In fact, if I stopped to think about it, I’m not sure I could point to a singular moment in my adolescence that I was like, “Yup, that was a cool moment right there. So smooth.”

NOT A SINGLE THING.

But the thing that I just remembered? In middle school, though I always had nice clothes (courtesy of my stylish mother) and was always dressed in something different every day, I would go weeks at a time wearing the same over-sized sweatshirt over whatever I had on. And not just any sweatshirt.

I was just sitting here eating my favorite pre-race breakfast (Nutella on toast with coffee, inspired by my runner friend Emilia) before my 5-mile turkey trot later this morning, drinking out of my hilarious “duck tape” mug:

…when I had the following thought process:

“I love this mug. Where did I get it again? Oh right, my childhood bestie Jackie bought it for me because I had a sweatshirt with the same thing one it. …that I used to wear EVERY DAY in middle school. A middle school that I had just moved to. …Why the heck did no one pick on me in middle school?”

Because, for realz, you guys. Every day. I don’t even know why I thought that was socially acceptable. (Though, looking back, there were a lot of things I did that now I’m like, “Yeah….okay, baby Justine. Ya weirdo.”)

But then I started thinking, “Well…but I wasn’t bullied. Like, at all. I was very fortunate that way. My middle school days were fairly blissful. In fact, that is probably the weirdest part about my middle school experience.”

So what was the difference? Maybe I wasn’t quite as crippled by my fear of embarrassment back then? Maybe I was even more accepting of my weirdness, delighted by it, in fact, and that inner peace and happiness somehow warded off any cruelty?

I really don’t know.

The point is (I think?), that I was the weird little kid who wore the forest green (ohhh, baby Justine…) “duck tape” sweatshirt every day for weeks. And I was so, so happy. And I turned out just fine. So maybe, even if I’m weird and embarrassing occasionally now, I’ll turn out even more fine in another twelve years.

I mean, it is a pretty snazzy coffee mug. #weirdkids4life

Dreams and jobs.

It’s Monday. And while, in general, I try to keep it light on Mondays because most of us are still easing into the week, today, we’re going to tackle something a bit heavier.

Here it is: I got a new job. (You may already know this if you follow me on Twitter.)

I know. I know what you’re thinking: Good LORD, Justine! Didn’t you just get a new job? Right after you just got another new job? WHEN DOES THE MADNESS END?

And I completely agree with you. I’m ridiculous. And, it would appear, notoriously fickle.

But hear me out. Because I really don’t think this is a symptom of fickleness. I think, in a bizarre, sounds-deeper-than-it-is kind of way, the fact that I’ve changed jobs so many times in the last three years is a symptom of eternal hopefulness.

Did you get a little teary-eyed reading that? Or picture a really sincere orphan staring you down with eyes the size of saucers? Gross, right?

Let’s back it up. Back it up all the way to about a year ago. Back to when I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis.

Can you believe it has been almost a year since I wrote this post? (No? Well, I recently found out the INTERNET is only 21 years old. So…time is a funny, funny thing.)(Sorry if I just made you feel ancient. I feel the same way.)

But anyway. Pretty much since I wrote that post, I’ve had this on-going debate going on in my brain over a single question: Does anyone really love their job?

I mean, we hear about these people, right? We read about them on The Everygirl and follow them on Twitter and see their obnoxiously fabulous pictures from their obnoxiously fabulous work events on Facebook and Instagram. The thing is…have you ever actually met one of them? Or I should say, really gotten to know one of them?

Because, in my experience, even these people who gush about how blessed they are to be doing what they love and having success at it usually come with an asterisk. You know, the kind that are attached to disclaimers like, “I mean, I never see my family, but I love it.” Or, “I can’t afford to eat, but it’s such an incredible opportunity!” Or, you know, “Sure, the rest of my life is in shambles, but other than that things are perfect!!

And then when I see things like this on Pinterest, it’s not exactly encouraging:

The thing is, I’m not ready to give up on the dream. I’m not ready to accept that everyone just hates their jobs secretly and there’s no such thing as the dream job, not really, not 100 percent.

The sincere-orphan-staring-you-down-with-eyes-the-size-of-saucers part of me is still hopeful that the dream job can be real.

I feel like I’ve spent the last three years trying to prove it to myself one way or the other. So far, I’ve had the job I loved doing but that didn’t pay me enough to survive. And I’ve had the job that paid me enough to survive but I hated to do. And I’ve had the job that paid me enough to survive but was so boring I could feel myself coagulating in my chair every day. But now…

Now I’m going to start a job that is going to pay me enough to survive (even, perhaps, a little more than just survive), that I’m pretty sure is going to challenge me regularly, and that I think (*closes eyes and holds breath*) I am going to love.

I just really, really want to love it. I want it to be everything I think it could be. I want it to be hard sometimes, but also really fun. I want it to not make me hate life. I want it to make me a better person because I’m challenged and enjoying what I’m doing.

Is that too much to ask? Maybe. But I’ll never find out for sure staying somewhere where all I know is that I’m not happy. (Although, as you may recall, there’s also a case for the concern that I will never be completely happy.)

I guess I just hope that the unhappiness, wherever it comes from, will feel worth it. That seems reasonable, right?

So. That’s a lot of feelings. But I guess the gist is that I’m still fighting for the dream. I’m still hopeful it can happen.

I start on August 27th. So I’ll let you know.

And just because I’m nosy…what do you think? Do you have your dream job? Does it come with asterisks? Are they worth it?

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: The Finale

You guys! I’m 25! WE MADE IT!

And, in case you were tired of this segment, today is the last day. So…yay?

But anyway. Let’s get into our final five Things You Should Know Before 25.

21. You should know how to end a bad relationship.

This tip applies to the romantic and otherwise relationships in your life. The fact is, no matter how much work you put into something, you can’t always make things work. Sometimes, relationships are more of a mental, emotional, and even physical drain than anything, and it’s okay to admit that you would be happier without that person in your life. Break-ups are almost always difficult, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the right thing to do.

22. You should know you can’t fix people.

Sometimes your friends are just going to keep making bad decisions no matter how much good advice you give them. Sometimes people you love are going to be incredibly self-destructive, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s always good to be there when they want to pick up the pieces, but if their poor decisions are affecting your peace and happiness, see the above point.

23. “You should know how to live alone. When I was 22 and 23, I spent several months living alone. At the time, I hated it. But now, looking back, I realize it gave me the kind of independence and insight into myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way. ” – Susan Elgin

{the first picture Susan and I ever took together}

Susan unofficially guest posts on the blog pretty much anytime I’m having a meltdown about the way my life is going. (Don’t worry; I return the favor when she’s feeling that way about her life.) We’ve always joked that our friendship was our version of the New York love story (two strangers meet under unexpected circumstances, instantly click, and form a life-long relationship…adorable, right?), and honestly, I can’t imagine my life without her. Not only is she super insightful, she’s also one of the few people I feel completely comfortable being 100% honest with. That’s tougher to find than you might think.

But anyway, back to her tip. Not surprisingly, I completely agree with this. I know it’s not possible for everyone to live on their own (financial obligations are real, yo), but if you can, I highly recommend it. Besides teaching you big lessons in the way of being an adult, (“Wait, so you mean if I don’t replace the toilet paper, no one will?”), it also shows you what you’re made of. Your real, inner person comes out in unexpected ways, and you learn that you can be self-reliant. Plus, you know, you can walk around in your underwear.

24. “You should know how to cook. That doesn’t mean you have to be able to put together a five-course meal, but you better be able to follow a recipe.” – Erik Holt

Even though we’ve gone to school together since the fifth grade, Erik and I didn’t really become friends until our junior year of college. I mean, we had always been friends, but a trip to D.C. to visit Annie (and a 2-hour Taylor Swift prom special on MTV) in the summer of 2008 solidified that the three of us would be bonded for life. And it has to be said, I am so glad that is the case. Erik is another one of my basically-my-brother friends that I am crazy proud of for what he has accomplished (including having just accepted a sweet new gig in Chicago!) and for the person he is. Really, I am so blessed to have the best friends.

ALL RIGHT WITH THE MUSHY STUFF, YOU GUYS. Back to his tip. I completely agree with this. I think everyone should have that one dish they can whip up in their sleep, whether it’s Coq au Vin or a killer grilled cheese. At this point in our lives, you should be able to keep yourself nourished with something other than another bowl of cereal. Plus, you need something in your back pocket to impress dates, right?

25. “You should know that you don’t have to have everything figured out yet. You’re still young enough where if you want to make a change and try something new — whether that be a new job, new city, relationship, or whatever — you can. But you have to be willing to take that leap of faith because nobody is going to do it for you.” – Erik, again

A couple of people submitted tips similar to this (either a sign that it’s true or that we all just desperately need to believe it. But when I read this, I couldn’t imagine ending the series on anything else. Because 25 isn’t old. It isn’t an ending of anything. As another submitter said, 25 is the age where we can do things we won’t be able to do 10 years from now and that we couldn’t do 10 years ago. I think that sums the whole series up nicely.

Of course, if you’ve turned 25 and haven’t accomplished something on this list, you know you’re not actually a failure at life, right? As quite a few of these tips have attested, 25 is an age where it’s really OK to still not have everything figured out. I’m not sure there is an age where you’re supposed to have everything figured out.

Really, this segment was just about taking stock of what’s going on. Being mature enough to handle your ish, while realistic enough to know that we are way too young to know everything.

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted not only for sharing your wisdom, but also for being a part of my life. I love you all dearly. And I don’t know about you guys, but I have a feeling 25 is going to be my best year yet.

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 4

Well, the big day is tomorrow. Wacky. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the series thus far.

And NOW. The penultimate post. Enjoy.

16. You should know that you can still get a sunburn even when it’s cloudy and that there is no magical pill that will make you lose weight and that should never, ever comment on a woman’s weight.

Basically, you should have some common sense and general awareness of how the world works. It sort of baffles me that there are still people who seem completely ignorant of these very basic concepts.

17. “You should know how to ask for help…and how to know there are times you need to realize you’re a grown-up and help yourself.” – Tara Powers

Tara and I haven’t really known each other very long (and we’ve only met once in person), but she’s one of those people you meet and instantly feel like you’ve known each other most of your lives. Besides our shared passion for running (and eating), she’s incredibly nice, completely genuine, and super handy if you need a dozen cookies in a pinch.

What I love about her suggestion is that it incorporates humility and maturity — two qualities I think are sorely lacking in the world in general. Learning to ask for help has been a difficult thing for me to learn, but I like to think that being 25 means having learned your limits.

18. “How to use a plunger (no, really).” – Tara, again.

‘Nuff said.

19. “You should know that nothing you plan will turn out like you imagine it will. It may not be better or worse, but it will always be different.” – Becca Paszkiewicz

It would be impossible to make a list of my favorite people on Earth without including Becca. I mean…she’s obviously adorable. But she’s also brilliant (what UP getting into grad school!), incredibly kind, and hilarious. As you can tell from this photo, affectionately titled “THE GREATEST PHOTO OF MY BFFs EVER” :

Yes, this is from freshmen year of college. Yes, it was taken during a sleepover in my basement when we snuck out of the house because we really wanted cake. And yes, it looks like we’re stealing a birthday cake. (FULL CIRCLE BECAUSE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A BIRTHDAY.)

But anyway. Back to her tip. See what I mean about her being brilliant? I read once that expectation is the thief of happiness (or something like that…I think it was Shakespeare…anyway), and really, how true is that? The fact is, nothing is ever going to turn out exactly the way you think it will. So why bother getting so caught up in the details that you can’t deal if things aren’t how you picture them? At this point, we should all remember to check ourselves with this fact.

20. “You should also know that you will make mistakes and make bad choices, but the real crime is not learning from them. (Unless you murder someone, then it’s actually a crime).” – Becca, again.

See what I mean about her being hilarious? But in all seriousness, don’t waste the mistakes. We should know by now that they will happen, and the best thing that can come from it is that we don’t make them again. (Or at least that we get a great story out of it.)

Eeeeeeeee tomorrow is the last installment, dudes. See you on the flip side.

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the list! If you missed yesterday’s post, get caught up here quickly. Don’t worry; I’ll wait.

Okay, ready? Let’s get to it.

6. You should know how to travel alone.

I vividly remember the first time I took a plane trip without my family. In a way, it was kind of scary because you’re entirely on your own to get through security, get to your gate on time, find your luggage, etc., but similar to moving, being utterly on your own is incredibly empowering. Now I kind of relish when I can travel by myself, if only for how efficiently I can get from place to place.

7. “You should know your de-stressers and then use them whether — its yoga, Call of Duty, running, Ben and Jerry’s fro yo, or cleaning.” –Annie Schunicht/soon-to-be Breitinger

Annie has been my BFF for most of my life, so it shouldn’t be any surprise I would turn to her when compiling this list. I mean, she has graduated law school, moved to Florida, and she’s marrying the love of her life this September. Plus, she did this with me:

She’s kind of awesome. And one thing we both have in common (besides the ability to take an amazing photo) is that we can turn into crazy people when under a lot of stress. Fortunately, as Annie points out, part of being an adult is learning to deal with that tendency in a healthy way. The point is, we’re getting too old for temper tantrums and utter meltdowns. When things seem to be falling apart, go for a jog, stuff your face, make a list, and then get on with it.

8. You should know how to send a proper thank-you note. (And actually doing it every time you receive a gift or go on an interview.)

I mean, I don’t really need to get into this again, do I? If you’re 25, you’re officially too old to get off the hook for this.

9. “You should own least 3 professional outfits (read: no hooker heels with suits).” -Annie, again.

10. “You should know that what you may have thought of as failing or giving up might just mean making a necessary change. Be prepared for life to fall apart and come back together many times. Even many times in one day!” – Michelle Rose Abraham

Michelle often tells me she wants to be me when she grows up. Which, to me, is so funny because a.) I feel like I’m still figuring so much out and b.) there are so many things I admire about her. She’s super talented, smart, funny, and incredibly nice. She’s truly brave (yet another of my friends who moved across the country from everything she knew to strike out on her own), and I’m so happy to have her in my life.

I also love that she can speak so candidly about realizing something isn’t the right choice for you. That cross-country move I mentioned? It didn’t work out exactly as she had hoped. But rather than simply flailing and giving up, Michelle was able to pick herself back up and start out on a new journey. At this point in our lives, I think it’s crucial to know how to deal when something doesn’t work out — and how to figure out what to do next.

Hooray for Annie and Michelle! We’re almost halfway through the list folks. See you tomorrow!