Life Lessons

Money Versus Happiness

When we’re younger, we are always told we can be whatever we want to be. You usually don’t hear young boys and girls list jobs like accountant, secretary, plumber, or retail manager. (I’m not knocking those jobs but they just aren’t as exciting as ballerina, superhero, or movie star.)

When you’re younger, you don’t envision yourself sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Even as old as college, this usually isn’t what we envision for ourselves.

We imagine that we’re going to have exciting jobs. Our passions will turn into careers. And these careers will provide us with enough money to travel, buy a home, and eat out to dinner whenever we want.

Somewhere along the way, usually when we spend months after graduation sending out our resume to every business within 100 miles of us, we realize that our passion does not always lead to money. We’re not all going to make it as YouTube stars reviewing cookies for a living. (I’m not hip to the latest YouTubers so I’m not sure if this is actually a thing but I wouldn’t be surprised.)

While the 9-5 jobs aren’t glamorous, they have their benefits. They provide a steady paycheck and health benefits. If you’re lucky, you may even land a job that will automatically set you up with a 401K or some other retirement fund.

I spent one long weekend in the summer going on 5 interviews in New Hampshire and Vermont. I was desperate to leave my current position. I spend at least an hour in traffic each way. I like less than half the people I work with. And I am not a huge fan of the patrons who frequent my library. There are a few nice ones but most are rude.

I wanted to get out of my current job and get out of New York City.

I had a goal in mind. I wanted to be the director of a small branch somewhere up in the mountains. I’d live in a small town where everyone knew each other and I could spend my weekends hiking and going to the local farm. Basically, I wanted the complete opposite of New York. I wasn’t happy where I was so I was determined to make a change.

I started applying for jobs in New England and soon began getting call backs. I was lucky enough to squeeze several interviews in a short span of time.

My last interview of a very long weekend was at this little branch in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. It was for a library director position and if hired, I’d be the only full-time employee. The rest of the library consisted of part-timers and volunteers.

When I was in library school, this library was where I imagined working. It was a small town. (I’m talking population of less than 5,000.) I would be the sole person in charge of this little library that needed a lot of help. The Trustees were working on a plan to expand the library and bring it to the 21st century. The library needed a lot of help. The bathroom was in the basement and the only way to get there was down very steep steps. No elevator. And there was no access to the building except for several steps leading to the front entrance. No ramp.

There were a whole slew of people in the town who couldn’t use the library simply because they had no way of entering. I instantly fell in love with the little town and the adorable old ladies who interviewed me. I was ready to take on the task of rebuilding this library.

So I was elated when they called me the day after the interview to offer me the job. Here was my chance to fulfill all my librarian goals. This  was what I went to school for.

Then I was given the full offer and my heart dropped.

You can imagine a library that cannot even afford a ramp does not have much of a budget. I knew that the salary wasn’t going to be great, I just wasn’t expecting it to be so bad.

They offered me $30,000/year with no health benefits and 5 sick days to kick in once I was working for a year. I knew it wasn’t them being cheap. They were offering me everything they possibly could, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.

I knew I would have been happy there. I definitely would have enjoyed that job a lot more than the library I work for now. And I would have loved working in rural Vermont much more than Brooklyn.

But in this case, I had to choose money over happiness. Sure the cost of housing is cheaper in Vermont than Brooklyn but not much else would be less. I’d still have to eat every day and pay my student loans every month. And now I’d have to add an additional bill of health insurance since the job didn’t cover it.

I had to reluctantly turn down the offer. I still haven’t given up hope that I’ll find my dream little library. I’m just hoping to find one that’s slightly better funded.

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Maybe We’re Not Meant to Feel Settled

Depending on how you look at it, the word settled can either be a good thing or a bad thing. When it comes to relationships, hearing the word “settling” is never a good thing. You don’t want to be with someone who you’re just settling for. And even worse, you don’t want someone to just be settling for you in a relationship.

On the other side of the word settled, it evokes a sense of contentment. The official definition of settle is to “adopt a more steady or secure style of life, especially in a permanent job and home.”

While I wouldn’t say that I’m completely settled in life, I’m as close as I’ve ever been. Especially when it comes to my career. On paper, I make a decent living. (Although I question that after paying rent, car insurance, and student loans every month!) I am in the job I went to school for and have moved up quickly in my company.

I also have great friends, a loving family, an awesome bf, and a place of my own. Compared to my life even two years ago, I would consider myself settled. Or moving towards settled.  Hopefully, with a few more years in my company, I could save enough to buy my own property.

But just when all these things started falling into place is when I started to get the itch to move. I have wanted to move out of New York for a long time. It was going to happen after High School. Then it was going to happen after college. Then it was going to happen when I kept moving from one dead-end job to the next. Then it was going to happen after I graduated from grad school.

It was always going to happen until it wasn’t.

The last move didn’t happen because I was offered the exact job I wanted the day after my last class at grad school. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So once again, I put my dreams of moving out of NYC on the backburner.

And I’d probably let those dreams die out completely if it wasn’t for the overwhelming feeling of restlessness I’ve been experiencing. I don’t want to be settled. And I realized that I don’t want to ever feel settled.

There is so much in life to learn and explore that we should never feel truly settled. There’s always something new to experience.

The experiences will just be different for each person. Not everyone will feel the urge to pick up and move across the country. Maybe it’s always finding something new to talk about with your significant other. Maybe it’s mastering a new skill. Maybe it’s giving up YA books and making a goal to read more non-fiction.

No matter how big or small, don’t ever settle in life. There’s always something new to learn and fall in love with.

Cooking Tips from a Mediocre Chef

If I told you a few years ago that I wanted to cook you dinner, you’d think one of three things: 1. OMG I hope this idiot doesn’t burn the house down. 2. Let me put the pizza delivery guy on speed dial now. 3. I better not get food poisoning. In many cases, you’d usually think all three.

I was never as bad as the gif above. My family can make all the jokes they want, I never set the house on fire. (I did set the alarm this Easter for burning bacon in the oven but that was more the pans fault than mine.) But I was pretty bad. Thankfully, over the years I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in the kitchen.

Now when I tell someone I’m going to cook for them, they usually think, “ok cool, there’s a chance this meal won’t be terrible and if I’m lucky and she’s on her game, it’ll actually be really tasty.”

The list of things I can make comfortably grows everyday (mashed potatoes, buttercream frosting, homemade cake, tacos, roasted veggies, and more). At a certain point, I realized that cooking is a necessity. I can’t rely on someone else to cook for me all the time and ordering from seamless is an expense I just do not need.

I have an oven, I have a fridge. I should be able to make things on my own. It didn’t come easy and there were plenty of mishaps along the way. This weekend I’m attempting bread for the first time so the list of mishaps will continue to grow. But I have gotten a lot better so I’d like to share some tips for a person afraid of the kitchen but who wants to get started.

  1. Start small. You’re not going to step into the kitchen and create a meal that Gordon Ramsay will love. That dude is picky so it ain’t going to happen. Try baking some chicken with roasted veggies and/or potatoes. This is a relatively easy meal that you can play around with. Choose different seasonings and sauces. Roast different vegetables. The possibilities are endless.
  2. Cooking is an art, baking is a science. When cooking something, it’s OK to tweak the recipe a bit. You can switch up spices. You can add a little less or a little more of something. However, this is not so easy with baking. Decide to decrease the amount of baking soda and there’s a good chance you’ll wind up with a lifeless cake. Wait till you’re really comfortable with baking before you start playing around with the recipe.
  3. The more you cook, the cheaper it will become. For awhile, I never cooked unless it was a special occasion. If I was going to a girl’s night, I’d decide to bake some cookies or bring some mac and cheese. Since this was the only time I cooked, I’d have to buy every single ingredient on the recipe list. As you start cooking, you’ll notice that there are plenty of staples found in many recipes. Once you buy these, they should last for several different recipes.
  4. You are enough to cook for. I love cooking for people. Cooking for people is fun. I love seeing the reactions of people when they enjoy what I’ve made. I also like getting critiqued on ways I could have made the meal better. However, you don’t always need an audience to whip up a yummy meal. I struggle with this a lot because I tend to only cook when my BF is going to be over. Don’t be like that. You deserve a home cooked meal even if it’s just a table of one.
  5. Take advantage of your freezer. Now here’s the downside of cooking for yourself or a small audience: Leftovers. Leftovers can be good for lunch the next day, but what if it’s just too much? Well, you’d be surprised at how many things you can freeze. I made a cake the other day and had way too much icing leftover. I packed it in an airtight container and put that bad boy in the freezer. Now, next time I make cake, I already have icing prepared.
  6. Freezers are also great for meal prepping. Cooking everyday can get tiring. No matter how much I enjoy it, sometimes I just want to come home and plop in front of the TV without touching the oven. That’s why I started making certain things in bulk. Soup freezes very well. I also usually make 2-3 batches of banana muffins at a time to freeze for later use. Instant breakfast on-the-go. Also, drop some chicken breast with salsa in the crockpot for a few hours and you can turn that into chicken avocado burritos for later use. Easy for lunch or dinner.
  7. Do not get discouraged! This is the biggest one of all. I have had so many mishaps in the kitchen. They are bound to happen. You will make meals that even your dog won’t eat. Don’t give up. The more you cook, the better you’ll become.
  8. Have fun! While 7 is the biggest thing, this is the most important. Cooking should be fun, almost as fun as the eating part.

Happy Cooking!

Worrying Won’t Stop Bad Things from Happening

By now you guys are fully aware of my anxiety issues. I am a worrier. It’s in my nature. I don’t think I am ever going to fully change that about myself. But lately I’ve been noticing that my worrying has been getting worse.

I am becoming a bit of a Debbie Downer. Did you know that almost anything fun in this world can end in some sort of fatal result?

I’ve recently discovered that I really enjoy hiking.  It’s wonderful exercise and the views are amazing. Nature can be pretty awesome sometimes. But do you know what’s not awesome about nature? Bugs, particularly ticks. I have been reading through tons of articles stressing how bad the ticks will be this year on the east coast. With every article I read, the more anxious I become.

Aside from hiking, the summer months also bring a chance to spend hours in the pool. Since my new apartment is connected to my sister’s house, I can spend every weekend chilling in the pool with my sister and my adorable nephews. At five and three, my nephews are at that adorable age where every conversation we have ends in fits of laughter. All of this should be cause for celebration, right? Wrong! Did you ever hear of a thing called dry drowning?  It’s real and it’s terrifying.

Lately I feel like every event in my life comes with a list of ways it could go horribly wrong. It’s as though I have become acutely aware of just how fragile life can be. In an instant things can change for the worst.

I know what you’re thinking: “Chill out Liz!” Don’t worry, I’m not offended. I’m thinking the same thing.

While life is fragile and it’s impossible to stop bad things from happening, worrying will not make any of it better. In fact, my constant worrying and anxiety is just making my life harder. It’s preventing me from fully enjoying things.

It’s time to start enjoying things in the moment. I recognize that things can change in an instant. And in life, bad things inevitably happen. But really awesome, amazing things happen as well. I want to enjoy those moments worry-free* so when the not-so-great stuff happens, I can look back and remember that not everything in life is all ticks and dry drowning!

*Worry-free enjoyment does include dousing myself in bug spray and constantly shouting at my nephews to not swallow water.

Being the Bigger Person Sucks

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*Full disclosure:  This is going to be a long winded post full of angry complaints.

Back in March, I moved out of my apartment into a new one. Moving can be incredibly stressful. I wasn’t looking forward to moving yet again. But I knew it would be worth it. My older sister recently bought a home that came equipped with a one bedroom apartment on the second floor. The new place would be brighter than my old apartment, cheaper, and I’d be practically living with my sister and my adorable nephews.

And best of all, I’d be escaping my dreadful old apartment.  This apartment was a disaster in so many ways. It was a side apartment in a home, so I was renting from the family who owned the home. From the family to the conditions of the apartment when I moved in, I never had an actual moment of peace in my old apartment.

I briefly mentioned this in a previous post about moving and making horrible choices. When I first moved into the apartment, it was insanely dirty. I had to spend a good week scrubbing the place for hours after work each night before I was able to move in comfortably.

So I started off in my apartment with a bad taste in my mouth, and things just got worse from there. The wife in this family was a monster. Thankfully, I never experienced her wrath personally, but it didn’t mean I was immune to it. I would wake up at all hours of the night to the wife screaming uncontrollably to her husband. The screaming did not stop during the day. During the day, it was directed towards her kids and then her husband some more when he would come home from work. The only time I had peace in my apartment was when the owners were on vacation.

Then there were the bugs! One fateful summer night, I noticed a flying ant on the wall of my bedroom. I freaked out a little, killed it immediately, but thought nothing of it. It was the summer. Bugs finding their way into the home is inevitable. Then around midnight, I went to the bathroom. When I came back, I saw a few more flying ants. Then I noticed a scratching noise by the window. I pulled aside my curtains and saw a swarm of flying ants right outside my bedroom window.

I packed a bag and fled my apartment as fast I could. Now my landlords are pretty horrible people but thankfully they have their limits. As soon as they knew of the problem, it was handled. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I had to flee my apartment in the middle of the night. I was also incredibly understanding about the whole situation and didn’t demand a thing from my landlords. (Knowing what I know now, I should have refused to pay half month’s rent.)

With all the above being said, it’s no surprise that I was beyond happy to be changing my living situation. Little did I know this was just the beginning of my problems.

My landlords were supposed to mail me my security deposit after I moved out. Three weeks pass and still no check in the mail. After spending an entire weekend attempting to reach my landlords, I finally get a text back that it’s in the mail and should arrive shortly. Another week passes and still no check. After talking with my landlord again, it’s determined that the check must be “lost” in the mail (AKA it was never mailed out). She told me she’d leave it in the mailbox for me to pick up later that day.

Thankfully when I arrived at the mailbox, the check was there ($200 less than what it should have been), and it was accompanied with a letter. A poorly written letter filled with lies.

My lovely landlord determined that I caused thousands of dollars worth of damage, but out of the kindness of her heart she only deducted $200 from my security deposit to be fair.  (I recognized the $200 deduction for what it was: it was just the right amount to sting but not enough for me to really cause trouble over.)

Spoiler: I did not cause thousands of dollars in damage. If anything, I left that apartment in better condition because it was actually clean.

The best part is that my former landlord claimed the apartment smelled of cigarette smoke. Aside from the two puffs I had in the 6th grade to look cool, I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.

When I first got the letter, I was livid. After ranting and raving to my sister, bf and anyone else who would listen, I sat down at my computer to write my own letter. This letter let my landlord know what I felt about her grammatically-challenged letter and how living under her household for the past year crushed my soul.

I basically let her know all the ways I thought she was a horrible human being.

I never sent the letter. I wanted to. And sometimes I still do. But I recognize there isn’t much of a point. One of three things will happen:

1. It gets lost in the mail. If this happens, I’ll never actually know if it was received. There is no satisfaction in this scenario.
2. She gets the letter, reads it, doesn’t recognize her horrible traits laid out for her, assumes I’m just bitter, and throws the letter away. Once again, this scenario brings me no satisfaction.
3. She gets the letter and immediately becomes as irate as I did when I received my letter. She decides to contact me to retaliate for my letter. This scenario just brings me headache and drama.

So I left the letter sitting in my drafts untouched. I decided to be the bigger person, but it doesn’t feel good. There is a huge part of me that still wants to give her a piece of my mind.

If I ever run into her, I can’t promise my bigger person stance will last. That will probably result in a whole new post.

Stay tuned!

Things I’d Like to Do in Theory Only

In my head, I am a wonderful person. I have all these grand ideas on what type of person I’d like to be. This imaginative idea of myself is always cheerful, is put-together, exercises, and never leaves things on her to-do list left undone.

I attempt to live up to these standards but nine out of ten times I fail. I don’t go to sleep early enough at night. I don’t eat healthy enough. Some mornings I don’t even have enough time to brush my hair before walking out the door.

This ideal Liz also stays up-to-date with this blog. She regularly posts new articles. When she thinks of something new to write about, she immediately gets to her laptop and starts typing away. She doesn’t have dozens of unfinished drafts.

Unfortunately, you guys are stuck with the real Liz and I am sorry about that. The real Liz has the best intentions. She just falls short. I always say I want to write in here at least once a week but life seems to get in the way. If I’m not too busy to post, then I’m too tired to post.

I am going to try my hardest to keep up with this blog from now on. There is so much I want to write about. I just need to find the time to write.

I realize now that I will fail. There will be weeks and even months where I push off writing here. Just know that this blog is not the only thing real life Liz puts off and doesn’t follow through with. There’s a long list of things. In my head, I’m a great person. In reality, not so much.

In an ideal world, I’d be the type of person who…

Goes shopping on Sunday and prepares food for the week. Who never lets food go to waste and winds up buying lunch the whole week.

Wakes up early enough every morning to leave the house with my hair done and makeup on.

Keeps up-to-date with current events and always knows about the latest news or scandal.

Makes time to fit at least 30 minutes of exercise in my routine daily.

Doesn’t eat brownies and ice cream for dinner.

Is able to always have time for work, family, friends, my bf, and myself.

Actually donates their time to a worthwhile cause and not just think about it.

Doesn’t just pin a million recipes but actually cooks them.

Always has a tidy apartment. Clothes are always put away, dishes are never left in the sink.

Doesn’t just talk/think about all the things they want to do or the type of person they want to be. I would just do.

I really gotta start working harder to live up to the standards of fictional Liz.

Things I’ve Come to Terms with at 31

I turned 31 a few weeks ago. For the most part I have come to terms with my “old age.” The number is just going to get higher so I should stop fighting it. I did have a very small breakdown about officially being in my thirties but overall I dealt with it. Entering a new decade has definitely had its perks.

Your twenties are all about trying out new things and finding out who you are as a person. Want to move to a different place every year? That’s what your twenties are for.

Your thirties are a lot more mellow. Don’t get me wrong. I still want to try new things. There are plenty of places I still want to visit. Hobbies I still want to pickup. Books I eventually want to write. But my thirties have definitely shown me that there are quite a few things in my life that are set. I plan on spending my thirties embracing the little things that make me who I am and stop trying to change them.

Staying up all night will never happen again. This one makes me a little sad. When I was younger, “breaking night” while having a sleepover was one of my favorite things to do. Now, the idea of staying awake the entire night is torturous. A sunrise is a sunrise. I don’t need to see it. Let me sleep.

I will never dance well. This always used to be something I was embarrassed of: my horrendous dancing skills. Sadly, I was never blessed with rhythm but I am done fighting it. Next dance party I attend, I’m letting my inner-Elaine run free without any fear of judgment.

Being sexy will never come natural to me. This isn’t a self-deprecating comment. I am not saying that I’m never sexy. My boyfriend thinks I’m sexy. However, if I actively try to be sexy, I have the opposite effect. A striptease from me is a ball of awkward and will most likely end with me somehow getting stuck in my lingerie in a fit of laughter.

I will never enjoy exercising or eating healthy. I am still going to do it. Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more concerned about exercising and eating healthy. I’ll continue to give these things a chance for health reasons and all that nonsense, but I’m not going to like it. My couch will always be more appealing than the gym. I’ll always love cupcakes more than kale.

Being a millionaire is not in the cards for me. Why did we think we would be rich when we were younger? I considered having a nice car and my own home by the time I was thirty inevitable. Getting rich seemed like it was an attainable goal back in the days. Boy was I wrong. Now I just want to make enough money so I won’t have to work until I’m 80-years-old. The new American dream!

A day at Bed Bath and Beyond is now my favorite way to splurge. Partying it up all night at the latest club? No thanks, my apartment has $10 bottles of wine and Netflix. Dining out at that hot new restaurant? I’ll take my own cooked meal and sweatpants. Do you want these 20% off coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond? OMG yes! Clear my schedule. I need to spend the next several hours buying gadgets for my apartment. This toilet seat easily removes to make cleaning a breeze! (This toilet seat is a real thing and I absolutely love it.)

A feeling of impending death will always overcome me after a night of heavy drinking. My body can still handle a glass or two or three of wine at night to unwind. I can wake up from this ready to start my day. However, bring in the hard liquor and shots and all hell breaks loose. I can kiss productivity out the door for the next two to three days. That is how much time I’ll need to recover.

I’ll never pick up and move to a new place without a set plan. When I was in my twenties, I always entertained the idea of picking up and moving to another place. I still like this idea but it is a lot more reasonable. I would like to leave New York one day but not before I have a job secured somewhere. I have become a lot more practical in my thirties. That may sound depressing and boring, but do you know what isn’t boring? The ability to buy food and pay rent!

It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. I spent so many years of my twenties in a perpetual state of anxiousness. What others thought of me mattered way too much. This made friendships difficult. Relationships challenging. It made life in general rough. I am so over that nonsense. Here is something that young people really need to remember: The opinions of others truly do not matter. Life becomes a lot more free when you live it exactly how you want and now how other people want you to.