I survived my big, scary medical procedure!

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done doneLast week, I blogged about needing to get a colonoscopy and endoscopy to confront my chronic stomach issues once and for all. As you can imagine, this was the most personal story I’ve ever published, and I share loads of intimate details about my life online. I’ve written about heartbreak, relationships of all kinds, love, and professional woes as a way to sort out unresolved problems. Those posts were intended to help others, but they were very much for me as well. Writing about my colonoscopy, however, had nothing to do with me. I made the announcement in hopes of encouraging others to be proactive about their health. A colonoscopy is about as taboo as it gets because we exist in a culture that denies women have functioning digestive systems, and I wanted to address just how dangerous and repulsive that attitude is.

I debated waiting until after my procedures to write the post. Then I realized I could write two articles on the same topic: One about the drama leading up to it and another about the experience itself. It took lots of courage to agree to the procedures, even though I knew I needed both, but the preparation day is no walk in the park either. I can say I survived my intense procedures, which required me to go under and fast for more than 24 hours, and here’s how I did it.

The procedure took place Thursday morning at a prestigious medical center in Beverly Hills, and I had to start preparing on Tuesday night. My boyfriend got home late from work, but we had just enough time to enjoy a meal together. My cutoff for eating solids was midnight, so during dinner, I kept looking back at the clock to ensure I wasn’t cutting it too close.

“You still have some time,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

The next morning, I skipped our usual smoothie and coffee breakfast routine, as I needed to avoid all solids and red or purple colored drinks until my procedure. I made some work calls and nursed two bowls of chicken broth, oddly satisfied with the taste. It wasn’t until noon that the hunger emerged, and going to Mimi’s Cafe with my mother (who came down from northern California to support me), made my stomach growl even more. I ordered tea and drank two bottles of lime green Gatorade, my only source of calories. I text messaged my boyfriend to say just how long the day felt without any food in my system.

Wanted this so bad all day

Wanted this so bad all day

By 3 p.m., I started feeling very weak, so I chose not to push it by answering too many work emails. I tried watching TV in my mom’s Beverly Hills hotel room, but the images of food on so many channels were tough to look at. I didn’t dare turning on the Food Network. Ironically, my former coworker Emma texted me to say she was at Chipotle, which reminded her of me since my obsession is basically common knowledge among everyone who meets me once. Heck, it’s part of the reason my stomach lining is in such a bad place (not Chipotle’s fault, my fault for mistreating my insides for so long). Emma had no clue I was fasting, but just the word Chipotle was too much. I couldn’t stop thinking about how hungry I was. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t even bedtime yet. All I wanted was to fast forward to the next day and scarf down whatever I could find.

Of course, a really awful thing needed to happen before all that. Part of the colonoscopy process is drinking a solution that cleanses your intestines. Everyone told me this would be the worst part of the whole experience. You’re essentially living in the bathroom for hours so the doctors can have a clear look at your stomach.

By 10:30 p.m., my mom and I relaxed in front of “And So It Goes” On Demand. I looked away whenever Michael Douglas’s character took a bite of something on screen, and I kindly asked my mom not to bring up food until after my procedure.

“The free breakfast here is so good,” she’d said. “I’m sorry you have to miss it.”

I consumed tons of fluids until midnight, when my cutoff for liquids of all kinds, water included, began.

I woke up around 6 a.m. with intense thirst. I sleep with my mouth open, so you can imagine how dehydrated this makes me. Right around that time, my boyfriend’s mother sent a text wishing me luck, and I told her how badly I wished I could have a glass of water. Having been in my shoes, she sympathized and assured me I could stick it out until the afternoon. I went back to sleep and dreamed of eating chips steak, mac n’ cheese, and burritos. I woke up relieved I hadn’t eaten before the procedure, but sad I couldn’t just stuff my face already.

A couple hours later, we headed to the surgery center in Beverly Hills. I went in for a colonoscopy with another lady who seemed fond of botox and Juicy sweats, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my mother before they took me back to the patient area.

The medical assistant asked for a urine sample before bringing me over to my rollout bed, gesturing towards the hospital gown and towel on the cotton white sheet. She gave me some privacy to remove my clothes, and I remember being shocked by the warmth of the gown and towel. When I laid down on the bed, she verified a few things on my file. She asked if my birthday was correct and I nodded.

“I knew you were a Leo,” she said. “I could tell the second you walked in here.”

“How?”

“Your hair. The way you carry yourself. I’m a Leo too, but I was born in August,” she said.

“I was supposed to be born at the end of August,” I told her. “But I showed up at the end of July instead.”

“You were ready to be here.”

“Too bad my parents weren’t. They didn’t even have a crib at that point.”

I got really uncomfortable when she told me to put my hair in a shower cap. They removed my glasses as well and suddenly I felt unbelievably vulnerable. In came the anesthesiologist, a tall guy with a goofy disposition that made me nervous given the nature of his role, and another nurse. I panicked when the anesthesiologist confused me with the botox lady, visualizing him giving me the wrong dosage and accidentally ending my life. This is how quickly I jump to ridiculous conclusions. I know in my heart it’s nonsensical, but when I’m on a roll, nothing stops the racing, catastrophic thoughts that flood my head. Add to that a florescent lit surgical room, rollout bed that feels like cardboard, and gown that doesn’t tie in the back and you’ve got one distressed neurotic patient.

Where was my doctor? Who were these people talking at me all at once? How could I pay attention to the anesthesiologist’s spiel when I had a tight rubber band wrapped around one arm and a needle approaching the other? Inexplicably, the tears poured down my cheeks and I started hyperventilating.

“What’s the matter?” the nurse asked. “We do these all the time.”

“I just want it to be over,” I wailed.

“It’s OK, she’s a nervous person by nature,” the Leo medical assistant said, inching the needle closer to my right arm. “Don’t look down.”

“I’m trying to distract her,” the guy said, and that’s when I got the injection. Fast and easy. The tears subsided as they rolled me into another room, and I completely relaxed once I saw my doctor. I know him, I thought. It’s all going to be OK.

“Hi,” I said.

“How are you?” he asked.

“All right,” I said, hoping he couldn’t tell I’d just been sobbing.

The last thing I remember is laughing about the “funny hats” the doctor and anesthesiologist were wearing. Next thing I knew, I was awake in the patient room and the procedures were over. I was done, and my results looked good. There was a biopsy, as well as a confirmation of my gastritis and some inflammation on my esophagus, but the doctor was optimistic.

When it ended, I inhaled baked potato soup and mac n’ cheese at Corner Bakery. I’ve never been happier in my life to eat, not just because I’d been fasting for more than a day, but because my results came out fairly positive. As far as I knew, I didn’t have an ulcer. I didn’t have colitis. There wasn’t even a polyp. Just gastritis and non-severe inflammation, the cause of my bleeding and constant burping for more than a month.

Out of the woods!

Out of the woods!

For the rest of my life, I have to avoid consuming excessive amounts of certain foods. Anything acidic is going to upset my stomach, so I have to watch the coffee, alcohol, and tomato intake. As the doctor said, I need to have a very “bland” diet from now on. My roommate used to say that I have a very mellow pallet, and perhaps it wasn’t about being a picky eater all along.

“When you were little, we used to make fun of you for having such boring dietary preferences,” my mom joked. “But maybe that whole time, you knew deep down that you could only handle basic foods.”

“That’s probably true,” I said. “Now let’s go to Target so I can buy Taylor Swift’s new album.” I needed to reward myself. In the words of Swift herself, I was “out of the woods.”

Getting a colonoscopy at 26

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My father and mother at Stanford hospital, where he was treated for cancer in 2005 and 2006. He was texting me while this photo was being taken!

My father and mother at Stanford hospital, where he was treated for cancer in 2005 and 2006. He was texting me while this photo was being taken!

Earlier this month, I blogged about being diagnosed with gastritis and having to make serious dietary changes as such. This article veered from my usual bubbly tone, and though a lot of readers praised me for telling my unsettling story, one person noted on Facebook that the post left him feeling “weird” and regret that he’d read it. I admire this individual and know he didn’t mean to be hurtful, but after divulging one of the most horrific experiences of my life, I wasn’t interested in hearing that it rubbed an outsider the wrong way. I can’t be a bundle of sunshine every time I publish, and I cannot water myself down because maybe it will put another person in a funny mood. More than anything else, I can’t be silent anymore about the stomach issues I’ve suffered for years, because that very silence contributed to the complications I’m dealing with now.

In less than a week, I have to get a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. My mom is coming down from northern California to support me, and I couldn’t be happier about that. You’re probably thinking “TMI, thanks for the visual.” But you know what? I’ve got bigger problems than embarrassment. I need to have two very invasive procedures because of chronic stomach issues that I thought were behind me. I’m nervous about the procedure and preparation day, so the last thing on my mind is how my own experience might make some uncomfortable. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the luxury of worrying about the opinions of others when it comes to this. And if you’re in need of such treatment, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about your needs either.

A little more than a month ago, I started having noticeable changes in the way I processed food. Then came the persistent burping and random, sharp abdominal pains. For our one-year anniversary dinner, my boyfriend took me to a wonderful fish house in West Hollywood and I was terrified the whole time of swallowing oysters, which I really love. The constant hiccuping made me fear I’d choke, and the stomach pains got progressively worse. Scariest of all was the prolonged bleeding, which cannot under any circumstances be ignored. I’m not mentioning these symptoms to be gross or make your own stomach turn, but to relay that certain abnormalities need to be checked out no matter how nervous or shy you may be. I tend to be private when it comes to this sort of thing, but this experience has taught me that silence is perhaps the leading killer of severe health issues, and if I can convince at least one person to seek medical attention about an ongoing problem, I will risk looking foolish in order to help. The bottom line is a problem I thought I resolved returned much stronger this week, leading me to book a visit with a GI who could hopefully explain why the medications prescribed to me — Omeprazole and Sucalfrate — hadn’t stopped my internal bleeding.

“This isn’t an isolated incident,” he said during our session. “I could tell you to wait for it to go away, but I don’t want to blow you off and then hear you developed a horrible ulcer we could have treated.”

At my uncle's wedding party in 2005

At my uncle’s wedding party in 2005

With that, I should be getting some real answers on Thursday. If it’s an ulcer, which seems doubtful since I haven’t been vomiting or nauseous, they’ll take care of it on the spot. The same goes for an inflammation or polyp. My blood tests didn’t pull up anything cancerous, so, obviously, that’s a relief. The good news is I found whatever’s bothering me early enough to tackle it full-force, but that means undergoing a procedure 25 years earlier than normal. I thought I had more than two decades to face this procedure, which I associated with old people up until three days ago, but life throws you curveballs every once in a while, and some happen to be weirder than others. After my dad’s untimely passing from liver disease nearly ten years ago, I don’t want to ignore any stomach issues that come my way and assume my body is resilient enough to heal itself. His was not.

In the past, I’ve been shamed for oversharing on the Internet, and I know this is definitely applicable. People might blush and mock me for publishing too much information about my life. Trust me, the last thing I want to do is tell the world that I’m going to have my personal business examined by doctors at Cedar Sinai in Beverly Hills. It’s not a pleasant topic to discuss, but the reality is millions of people experience stomach-related issues every year. 25 million Americans will suffer from a peptic ulcer at some point during their lives, and 2014 alone has seen more than 20,000 new cases of stomach cancer. And because it’s socially awkward to discuss digestive disorders, most people, like me, are quiet about them, unaware they have a potentially fatal problem on their hands. This is why I love Katie Couric for filming her colonoscopy process a while back: She watched her husband die from colon cancer in the 1990s and didn’t want the same to happen to her. They had kids to look after, and she had quite an amazing life to continue living.

We exist in a culture that likes to joke that women do not defecate, belch, or pass gas. Some feel so self-conscious about this that they avoid trips to the bathroom at work or wait until they’re all alone to do their business. I’ve been aware of society’s discomfort with biological functions since seventh grade, when that scamp Brandon D. repeatedly asked during PE whether I’d ever gone to the bathroom before. Yes, he was an immature middle school boy, but the discourse online isn’t much different these days, so I’m sure you can understand why lots of people, particularly women, struggle to talk about issues of the digestive variety. My lady friend even emailed me to say thanks for tweeting about having to get a colonoscopy, as stomach issues are too often set aside to avoid making others feel awkward:

“First of all I’m so happy that you are so open, you have no idea what that means to me (someone who has also always had stomach problems). I feel like people ignore or don’t want to hear about intestinal issues but that only creates silence and fear and stigma.

People ignore stomach problems or brush them off as just part of life they have to deal with, but it’s not. and being honest and seeking treatment and sharing that experience with others is really inspirational. And I wanted you to know that I continue to be impressed and inspired by you.”

At Chipotle in 2008 --- wearing sweatpants!

At Chipotle in 2008 — wearing sweatpants!

I don’t blog about this to be “gross” or involve you more than necessary in my life. I choose to write about this because I am literally sick from the silence that has accompanied me on this drawn out, uncertain journey. I refuse to be silent when millions around the world are dying and fighting for their lives to beat stomach problems of all kinds. Until we start speaking freely about the negative impact of digestive abnormalities, people like me will continue doing their insides, and ultimately themselves, a major disservice. That must end.

I’ve been anxious all my life and often find myself in the fight or flight state, which I’m confident has provoked my stomach issues. I also haven’t been particularly healthy the last year. When I moved from NYC to LA, I was 116 pounds, which is well below the proper weight for my height. I put it all on over the last year thanks to fun nights out with my boyfriend, comfort food binges as an underemployed sadsack, and neglecting exercise. I told myself I looked better with the extra baggage. My face was gaunt before and I had no color. While I loved indulging Chipotle and burritos all the time, my stomach did not, and my body slowly started rejecting all the bad stuff I shoveled into my mouth.

When I burst into urgent care sobbing last month, I was 129 on the scale. Now I’m 124, and that’s from a month of daily salads and healthier choices all around. I still love my burritos and mac n’ cheese, but I must consume two nutritious meals to make up for every even semi-unhealthy one, and when I do opt for junk food, my portions are significantly smaller. I used to chug 2-3 cups of coffee per day, but now I go days without ever pouring a drop of caffeine into my system. I thought I’d feel sick from the lack of coffee, but I might even be better off without it, I just doze off on the couch even more than usual. I’m limiting my alcohol intake as well, and I know my stomach appreciates that.

Am I worried about going under next week? Oh yeah. Am I terrified to wake up and find out things are worse than I imagined? More than I could ever convey in words. But nothing scares me more than living day to day thinking maybe my problem will fizzle as long as I take better care of myself. It doesn’t always work like that. You have to be proactive with your health, and that can mean telling the world that you need a colonoscopy and endoscopy because you’ve failed to eat well, relax, and talk about your issues openly for years. It isn’t too late for me, and if you immediately address any issues of your own, it will never be too late for you.

On changing my writing habits, recovering from gastritis, and letting go my online identity

Why I have to cut down on these from here on out

Why I have to cut down on these from here on out

Earlier this year, I’d often pester my boyfriend about dosing off while we were watching TV. I was underemployed and lacked a regular sleep schedule, so I couldn’t fully understand how he’d be so spent by the end of each day that he’d pass out with a good movie or show on TV. When I started holding a full (and even part) time job, however, our roles reversed. I fall asleep every single time we watch television. He used to wake me up so I wouldn’t miss any good parts of The Sopranos, but then it got really hard. He’d tickle my stomach or rub my head and I’d remain out cold, too exhausted to abandon my rest. He also knew I was out of batteries and didn’t want to disrupt my sleep if I was that tired.

At first, I chalked the increased fatigue up to actually having a normal schedule and wearing myself out each day. I still think that has an impact on me, but little did I know, I had a medical reason for being so groggy all along, as well as other issues that needed medical attention.

A couple weeks ago, something happened to me that was so alarming, I left work at 9:30 a.m. and raced to the nearest urgent care in tears. At the time, my manager was out of town and same with my amazing colleague Emilie. I had an orientation to host for work but was so scared by the medical emergency that I dropped my entire day to seek help from a doctor. Truthfully, I feared for my life, and in that moment, nothing else mattered.

I wailed in the waiting room on the phone with my boyfriend, who promised everything would be OK and that the nurse and doctor would solve the issue. I sobbed when they took me into the patient room and even harder when the actual doctor approached.

“What’s the matter, dear?” he asked, giving me a hug.

“Something’s seriously wrong with my stomach,” I said, the tears streaming down my face below my large, heart-shaped sunglasses. “My dad ate poorly like I do, and he died when I was 17. I don’t want that to happen to me too.”

My fear was that I had an ulcer. I had all the symptoms and worse. Every time I ate, I felt a stabbing pain in my belly. I burped and hiccuped nonstop. Nothing relieved the pain I felt in my stomach. There were other things I won’t divulge, but they were all horrifying. I could feel my insides churning and rotting, and I didn’t know how I’d get better.

After some exams, the doctor ruled out an ulcer and diagnosed me with gastritis, which can be brought on by poor eating habits, high consumption of alcohol and/or caffeine, and, the world’s biggest killer, stress. I’ve been a high strung person since birth (no, really, I was born a month early into a high stress hospital environment and am convinced it wired me for anxiousness for life). When I went to the doctor, I’d been coming off more than a year of underemployment and a slew of drastic life changes. I’d also been consuming lots of carbs and fatty foods for far too long. I was ten pounds heavier than I’d been a year earlier. Eventually, it all caught up with me.

Two weeks ago, I went back to the doctor to review my blood test results. I tested negative for cancer or other malignancies, but he revealed my cholesterol is too high for a person my age (genetic, plus I eat like shit), I have arthritis, and I have a B-12 deficiency, which explains the fatigue to some degree. Years of turning to comfort food has done a number on my body, and I’ve had to make some serious dietary adjustments as such. I’ve already lost five pounds since making major life changes and adjustments, and I know I have a long way to go to undo the damage I’ve done to myself.

I’m still in recovery from the stomach scare, but glad to report I don’t have anything serious. I just have to be careful about what I munch on from here on out to avoid getting an ulcer — or worse, stomach cancer — in the future.

My boyfriend and I are having more salads, cutting down our beer intake, and cooling it with the coffee. I still love Chipotle and Mexican food more than anything, but I’m being better about what I consume. I just have to. Believe me, I still want burritos all day everyday, but I hate the way they make me feel afterward. I cannot physically handle it anymore.

I’m focusing on screenwriting and have decided to stop writing for online outlets. The pitch process is exhausting and I don’t have the energy to deal with it after an emotionally draining past few weeks. More than anything, I have always used it as a crutch and way to avoid screenwriting, which is what I really want to do.

That’s all for now. I will be updating this from time to time, but the big takeaway here is that I’m finally taking care of myself, mentally and physically. I won’t be wasting my writing efforts on pitches that will only go unanswered. Maybe I’m just not good at online pitching or writing anymore, and that’s OK. I’m focusing on screenwriting, however bad it might be as I go through the motions as an amateur. It’s been really healthy taking a break from online writing because I’ve got used to not having that instant gratification of publishing something. I got way too accustomed to people checking out my stuff all the time that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I wasn’t churning out copy every other day. You may not see me writing for well known or cool websites anymore, but for the first time in months, I am writing for myself, and that’s the best thing I could do for myself right now.

On visiting NYC again

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NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

I recently flew to NYC for a work trip. A lot of people assumed I’d be excited to return to my old stomping grounds, as I have tons of friends in the city and had some pretty memorable experiences back east. I was certainly thrilled to go for business, but on a personal level, I was conflicted.

In July of last year, I knew I needed to move on from New York. I’d entertained the idea of relocating to LA in pursuit of screenwriting for a while, and now that I finally had the opportunity to try to make that a reality, I believed it was time to get out. I knew in July that I was ready to leave, but it wasn’t until late September that I acquired the confidence to abandon all I’d created in the concrete jungle for a calmer, sunnier, and healthier life in southern California.

A month before returning to the west coast, I switched my online dating profile to the LA network, which was quite small since this particular dating site had started in Brooklyn and was struggling to carve out a strong presence in Los Angeles. Thank God there weren’t many users on it, as one guy — known then to me as Ian41 — kept popping up on my Suggested Dates list and I clicked on over to his page to see what he was all about. Pretty soon, we sent each other a long email every single day leading up to my move, and shortly after my arrival, we knew we didn’t want to pursue anyone else.

We were very happy from the beginning, and though I had no job or place of my own (I was living in my grandma’s vacant condo in Long Beach at the time), I was more fulfilled than I’d ever been with my Upper East Side apartment or outwardly glamorous media career in NYC. That said, I still felt bad about the fact that I couldn’t necessarily take care of myself. Without stable employment, it was going to be challenging to pay rent, let alone move to LA proper.

When I made it to LA, I took some screenwriting classes, endured a few lousy entertainment jobs, and learned that the assistant route just wasn’t for me. I’d love to produce and write screenplays someday, but I am not going to become an abused runner in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll meet the right people and make it big as a result. So nearly a year after my NYC fallout, I applied for a non-entertainment position at a trendy startup. I wouldn’t be writing, but I’d finally feel good about my professional place in the world again. I ended up getting a job offer on my birthday, when I also learned I’d be flying to NYC for a week to train at HQ. So many changes were taking place, but for once, they felt like good changes. I was so ready to finally feel financially stable again.

Luckily, I also had a family vacation planned right before training, so I flew to Massachusetts first and then took a train to Penn Station from there. It worked out well, butNYC it also meant I’d have to be away from Ian for ten days — the longest we’d ever been apart. I stayed at his house the night before my flight, sulking at bed time because I was scared to go through such an intense process without him. I’m used to coming home to him after stressful experiences and days, and not being able to hug him and debrief on the couch afterward just didn’t seem right.

My first night in NYC was the hardest. I walked from my Times Square hotel to Dos Toros burrito shop on 14th Street. It was a long journey, but I could use the exercise and time to think. It reminded me of how thin I’d been during my NYC days, and all the moving around definitely contributed to that. Nobody walks in LA. I also had to get used to the reality of jaywalking. When I first saw people doing it on 29th Street, I thought to myself, “Are they insane?” Then I remembered that’s normal in NYC and that I’d been a major offender during my own days in the city. Soon enough, I was jaywalking without a care, scrambling to cross the street with green lights hanging above me and taxis zooming in my direction.

On my walk back to the hotel, a lump formed in my throat. It was dark out and suddenly I was reminded of all the nights I’d walked home alone in New York City, sometimes holding back tears or not even bothering to hide my disappointment with whatever had just happened. The truth is, the loneliness I felt living there was unbearable, and even more so upon returning. Suddenly my life with Ian in LA felt so far away, like it had never happened. I’d dreamed it all and was back in the city that had broken my heart in every possible way.

Longing for Ian and his family, all of which I consider my family now, I bought postcards for them at a tourist store. There was a sale for 10 cards at a price of $1, but I only purchased three: one for my nana, one for Ian, and one for Ian’s parents. I scribbled notes for all of them on the street and then proceeded to drop them in the nearest mailbox. I text messaged Ian to let him know, and right then, he emailed me a funny YouTube clip of a “great NYC pizza place” to check out during my trip. The video featured Steve Carell going into a Sbarro, and sure enough, there was a Sbarro across the street from me at that moment.

I relayed this to Ian, who seemed to think the incident was humorous as well. Suddenly the pit in my stomach was gone. I was in NYC solo, but Ian could share the experience with me, and I knew that no matter what, I was going home to him. One day we’d venture to NYC as a pair and try out the real pizza together, but until then, we could mock the crappy chains populating Times Square. It was all going to be fine.

The rest of my trip was spectacular. I loved waking up in Times Square and walking down to HQ in Chelsea. I remember thinking that my life in NYC might have been better and easier had I lived near work and avoided the subway. Had I simply done it wrong during my time in NYC?

When I explained this to Ian, he mentioned staying in NYC for several weeks one summer to work at his company’s firm in the city. They put him up in a four star hotel by the office and he believed living in New York seemed like a breeze. It’s never a breeze, but it’s certainly easier if you can walk to work, and that wouldn’t be very affordable.

It’s also not practical most of the time. If you’re not pushing through crowds on a snowy day, you’re sweating through your clothes on a humid summer morning. Or you’re being jerked around by a wind tunnel, and maybe even attacked by a rainstorm as well. It rained a ton my second and third day in NYC, but I still forced myself to stay away from the subway and use my legs. It wasn’t so bad for a week, but reminded me of how awful my work days in Manhattan used to start thanks to heading to the office in all sorts of bad weather. When you arrive at your desk in wet clothes with nowhere to set down your battered umbrella, you know your day isn’t set up for success.

The work-related stuff was incredible, but I also had a small window of time for catching up with old pals. I told everyone to meet at Smithfield bar on Wednesday evening, and sure enough, I was the first to arrive. I headed to the back of the room to grab a table, where I sat alone for about fifteen minutes before my friend Sophia showed up. It didn’t feel weird to be out and about by myself, but I remember thinking the NYC version of me wouldn’t have been comfortable ordering a drink solo at a popular bar downtown. I would have felt the need to play with my phone or insist to the waitress that more people were coming so as not to seem like a lone wolf. As I implied earlier, however, LA can be kind of an isolating place because of the lack of community, so being alone hasn’t been a source of discomfort for me in a while. I was also underemployed for more than a year, and that kind of solitude can definitely turn you into a bit of a lone wolf. Fine by me.

from sophia

From Sophia

Sophia brought me a box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, as I’m obsessed with the east coast treasure and have made that pretty clear on social media. Shortly after Sophia got there, my other guests arrived. Almost everyone was a former coworker from somewhere, but I only see them as friends now. One girl kept talking about how happy I looked. I agreed but followed up with, “Well, I’ve also gained some weight. LA will do that to you.” It’s true: I’m constantly in my car.

Still, I’d take my healthy weight and hearty diet over what I was during my time in NYC. I lost about seven pounds last summer due to stress and major indecision, but once I got where I was meant to be, and found the person I was meant o be with, I began to look like myself again. A bigger version, sure, but with more to love this time. I also think I’m more fun to hang out with, as I am always happy to order more drinks and food.

We all caught up on our career paths and personal lives, and one former coworker said he admired me for moving across the country and carving out a new life for myself in SoCal.

“When you first parted ways with [our former place of employment], I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “But then I realized it was kind of bad ass. Now you’re doing something entirely different in LA.”

As you know, I came out here to try to write for film and television. That hasn’t happened, and I’ve kind of tabled that dream for the time being (even though I’m working on some scripts of my own), but I also realized along the way that ambition will never be the most important thing to me again. I’ve never been happier than I am now, and I know I’m going to continue having a full, amazing life with the person I love.

old budes

My buddies!

I relayed this to the group, fully aware of the fact that the version of me they used to know never would have said anything like that aloud. They’re an ambitious bunch, but they also value their mental and emotional health, so they were pleased to hear this as such.

The following night, I went out to dinner with one of my boyfriend’s relatives. Like me, she was in town for work, and we met up near my old office. It was surreal walking through the neighborhood of my former place of employment, especially given the changes to the surroundings. One of the major building scaffoldings was gone, filling up the space with the brightness of the sun but also leading me to wonder how I might have handled days of bad weather had that been removed during my time in NYC. I thought back to the countless occasions in which I hurried across the street to get under the scaffolding, dodging whatever horrible weather was attacking New Yorkers at that very moment.

It occurred to me as I strolled near my old work building that my experience in NYC could have been quite different had I chosen not to work in media. What if I’d applied to my new place of employment while living in NYC? Would I have been happier overall with another career path? I thought this over so much that I actually walked past my old office without even realizing it. It dawned on me that I remembered the street name but not the building number itself. Rather than find the exact address on my phone, I kept moving, not wanting to be late to see my boyfriend’s cousin.

When I got to LAX late Friday night, my boyfriend was waiting for me in the arrivals area. We were exhausted but elated to finally see each other again after nearly two weeks apart. Though I hadn’t eaten in more than 12 hours, I couldn’t finish the burrito he’d picked up for me earlier in the day. I was still processing being back, but by the next morning, I was ready to indulge some of the New York bagels I’d packed in my suitcase. We enjoyed a sesame and plain bagel with cream cheese and lox, and we also had a Sopranos marathon the following day. With a mimosa in hand and my head on his shoulder, I could finally appreciate the east coast, but from where I truly belonged.

Exactly one year ago today, everything changed for me

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Bryant Park

Bryant Park

A year ago today, I spilled Pret a Manger yogurt all over myself in Bryant Park, barely missing the broken computer bag on my lap. I was on the phone with my friend Marjorie at the time, and for ten seconds, I stared at the disaster in front of me. I had nothing to wipe it up with, so I just used my ratty, yellowing H&M sweater, knowing all too well I’d have to throw away the item of clothing. Just an hour earlier, my life had changed forever — for the worse, I initially thought — and my new job was to clean up the mess with whatever scraps I still had. It was opening weekend for The Conjuring, and I bought tickets to the first showing because what better movie to see when you’re already having a rough day than a demonic horror based on a true story?

That morning, I’d been unceremoniously dismissed from I job I really cared about but ultimately wasn’t right for. Just weeks earlier, I’d blogged about the loneliness of NYC in the summer and how the show New Girl made me realize I eventually wanted to abandon NYC and try to become a screenwriter in LA:

So, in 2.5-3 years, I would like to relocate to Los Angeles — my birthplace, for better or worse — and give screenwriting a try. I know, I know, you can’t just move to LA and create the script for “New Girl” or some other incredible sitcom, but I’m willing to start from scratch and work my way up again, and the good news is I won’t be too old to take a big leap at that point. I’m not far away from hitting a ceiling in the print/online media world.

Relocating to Los Angeles seemed like a long way off, as I had an established career and life in New York, where I’d been residing for nearly two years. I had a strong social structure, talented and fun assortment of colleagues, tiny apartment on the Upper East Side with a hilarious, pint-sized Italian girl with the best laugh I’d ever heard, and good thing going in my improv level two class. So what if I kind of wanted to do something else and live in my birth state, where I’d be closer to my whole family and so much happier? There was more to life than happiness. New York taught me that the moment I set foot on the Penn Station train platform. Life wasn’t perfect in Manhattan, but I was finally settled. I was comfortable.

Of course, that comfort was gone the moment I became unemployed. Suddenly nothing but my lease was binding me to New York, so I was free to pursue my real dream of working in entertainment. I should have thanked my former employers a million times for setting me free, but I was too scared and uncertain of my fate to understand I had a real opportunity to do something amazing: I was less than a week shy of 25. I was young enough to make a complete career 180 and still succeed. Things were looking up.

My brother Michael said my departure from work was a blessing in disguise. Many friends and family members agreed, but they were also worried. Would I ride out the rest of my lease in NYC — enduring yet another brutal winter (the worst in years, as we’d all later find out) — or follow that crazy idea that had recently popped into my head and return to my West Coast roots?

It took me about two months to make the final call, which, of course, was to start fresh in Los Angeles, but a few significant people in my life pushed me to make the move. My mother played a huge role in getting me out here, as she said there were some good UCLA extension classes still open and that I could really benefit from enrolling in the school’s Writer’s Program. My friend Nikki, however, made the best point of all during a phone conversation.

With Nikki

With Nikki

I told Nikki that I hoped to move to LA at the conclusion of my lease in 2014, to which she responded, “Laura, becoming a screenwriter is going to be enough of a challenge. You should get out here as quickly as you can because we already know it’s going to take a lot of time to break into the industry. Besides, you’re going to be in my wedding. You have to be [in California] to help me plan!”

This was true.

The night before telling my roommate Jen that I intended to vacate the apartment within three to four weeks, I started packing up my belongings. My walls were completely bare by the time I went to sleep, and within a week, the room itself was empty save for my bed, a single box of clothes, my laptop, and my iPhone charger. By September, I vowed to leave NY by the end of the month, and I was so checked out of the city in my last few weeks that I switched all my social media account locations to LA, including my newly re-opened dating profile on HowAboutWe.

I’d had some questionable experiences with online dating, but given my desire to start fresh in a new place, I decided to revisit the site and perhaps have a few dates lined up in LA upon arrival.

I had always been told that love sneaks up on you when you’re not looking for it, and only now do I know that statement to be true. I was not looking for love when I activated my profile again. I was actually seeking friends and people to hang out with. Yeah, I thought it would be fun to have an LA romance, but mostly I craved companionship.

My NYC room before I moved out.

My NYC room before I moved out.

At first, I received lots of messages from people in entertainment, and that made me feel better about having to spend a little extra time in NYC. I was already making Hollywood connections and would surely grow that network shortly after moving. But the user who intrigued me most was not an aspiring actor, director, producer, etc., but a lawyer with the sweetest looking smile I’d ever seen.

I clicked on over to Ian41’s profile (I also loved that he included his real name in his username — I was LaurafromCalifornia) and was pretty impressed. He hadn’t filled out much, but he appeared to be well-educated, hard-working, adventurous, and kind. Right after we started messaging each other, I mentioned I wouldn’t be in LA until October but that we could email back and forth until then. We decided to take our correspondence over to Gmail and he said I could email him anytime. I was afraid to take a step beyond HowAboutWe’s inbox system, so it came as a huge relief when he made the first move the following day, September 16, with this email:

Hi Laura,

It sounds like the NYC fall weather is a bad LA winter weather.  At least you’ll miss the NYC winter.  I was freezing when I was there in March, I can’t imagine what it’s like in the winter.  Hopefully the nice weather here will continue in October!

Ian

I responded right away, and before we knew it, we were sending each other long emails every single day. With the stress of neverending moving arrangements, hearing from him became the best part of my day — the light at the end of the tunnel during my tedious cross-country relocation. I suffered terrible insomnia at the time, so I’d be awake when he emailed me at 11 or midnight Pacific time. I’d draft up emails to him but wait ten hours to hit “send” — I didn’t want him to know the girl he was talking to regularly stayed up until 4 a.m. out of misery. Our threads increased in length with each exchange, with both of us easily churning out 1,200+ words each time. They were nice, though, and we continued sending long emails until the day we finally met in person.

Our first date was at a bar downtown, and he told me right away that I should sit by his “good ear” to his right.

“I was hit by a car in London about 15 years ago and I’ve had a ringing in my left ear ever since.”

“My dad was like that,” I said. “Got shot in the head with a BB gun as a little kid. He died of cancer in 2006, but said he was happy to never have to hear the ringing sound ever again.”

Not even five minutes had passed and we’d already shared some pretty significant life events with each other. Sure we’d gotten close via email in the month before meeting, but there was something special about seeing him in person, as well as knowing we could be more than just pen pals.

When we first met, I was fearful about all things-LA. The driving, the parking, the traffic, the unforgiving sun, the struggles of making new friends, etc. I overcame all of this very quickly, and I also realized I was in love very quickly.cutee

I like to tell Ian that I moved to LA under the impression that I’d become a TV and film writer, and while I still want those things just as much as I did when I left New York, I know in my heart that I was really meant to come here for him. Had I not lost my entire identity a year ago, we never would have crossed paths, but I’m so grateful for all the horrible and unfortunate experiences that led me here.

I woke up the morning of July 19, 2013 feeling nervous and ill. The night before, my boss had asked to meet at Pret a Manger around 7:30 a.m., which seemed a little early for a feedback session. I got out of my bed at 6:15 knowing that a difficult conversation was ahead, and I just wanted to get it over with.

Today, the alarm went off at 8 a.m. It’s the weekend, but Ian had some work to do at the office, so we set an alarm as we would on a normal week day. We had some espresso and yogurt (we usually have toast but he just had gum surgery and can only eat soft foods for a while). Though I spilled my yogurt once again, it wasn’t all over me this time. I spilled on Ian’s table. There was a paper towel roll just a few inches away, so I wiped up the mess immediately, not needing to sacrifice my clothes or sit there staring at the disaster, wondering what move to make next. I’ve cleaned up a lot over the last year, and I’m a lot more prepared for damage control now.

Ian, my roommate, and me at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Robyn!

Ian, my roommate, and me at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Robyn!

Earlier this week, I cried for the first time in months about the approach of July 19, not because I longed for the past, but because I was disappointed by my situation and seeming lack of progress a year later. 365 days after the fact, I’m working but underemployed and always, always, always on the hunt for my next opportunity. Why couldn’t I have landed something full-time and forever by now? It made no sense to me.

I brought all this up to Ian, who of course saved the day by laying out the facts. Sure I’m not a successful showrunner or even a writer’s assistant, but I’ve come such a long way in the past year. I switched cities, landed three different jobs in the entertainment industry, completed two screenwriting classes and a workshop, joined a writer’s group, and began writing for HG. I also have a strong group of friends out here … and oh yeah, the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. As my former coworker Alex Alvarez said over fries and cocktails a few months back, I’m doing a lot better than I think.

So there’s where I am one year after a defining moment that flipped my whole world over. I was scared to start fresh again and move to the other side of the country, even though it was my home, but things are slowly coming together for me.

Writing scripts, wearing glasses and slowly departing the bottom of the totem pole

Earlier today, one of my friends called me in a state of panic.

“I hope I didn’t offend you the other day when I labeled myself an unemployed loser,” she said.

“Why would I be put off by that?”

“You’ve just been through so many job changes and transitions over the past year and I want to make sure I didn’t hurt your feelings with the ‘unemployed loser’ remark. I was calling myself that, not you.”

“But I am an unemployed loser,” I said before realizing oh wait, that isn’t true anymore. Really. “Underemployed fits the bill, I suppose. But that’s better than before.”

It’s absolutely wild to think about how much has changed over the last year alone. This time last year, I was sweating the summer away in humid, nasty New York City, hating life, losing weight because I was too unhappy to even find joy in food, and screaming in my sleep every night. I’m surprised my roommate Jen never asked me move out. She said I scared and woke her up all the time with my night terrors, which are completely gone now. I have my lovely boyfriend Ian to thank for that. For the longest time, I feared relationships because of how guys would react to my sleep talking/walking issues. Ian assured me he didn’t care if I talked or yelled, he just wanted to be next to me every night, and sure enough, all my anxieties melted when he came into the picture. It wasn’t just him, though. I’m so much more relaxed in California, even though I just shuddered at the sound of my doorbell. If you ever come visit me, call first. Don’t knock on the door. I will probably be too scared to let you in. Hey, you could be some creeper making the rounds trying to sell me Jesus, Scientology, Jehovah, etc.

That’s a downside of living in the suburbs. I also still can’t believe how much space I have. It’s going to take me a long time to ever be comfortable in a house again. I think NYC might have made me an apartment girl for life. On Tuesday, I thought I was being sung into Hell when I’d really just been woken up by a pack of screaming cats fighting in my backyard at 2:40 a.m. Now that my roommate’s kitty Poopty is gone, the strays think our turf is theirs, and they always battle each other for ownership. I love cats now, but not these monsters. They sound demonic when they wail at odd hours. For a second, I thought there was a witch ceremony or something behind my home. No, just a bunch of hostile felines with territorial issues and lots of rage.

Now that I’ve gotten some solid rambling in, I’ll circle back to the point of this post, which was to update you on my life or whatever. I’m working at a casting studio right now and contributing to HG as always. I’ve never loved anything more than I’ve loved writing for them, but you already knew that. I move around a ton at the casting studio, which is super exciting and different than any other place I’ve ever worked. I love the people in the studio and it just feels really good to have a tad more structure in my life. I can’t say I have a single full-time job, but I’ve successfully made some baby steps towards establishing myself in this crazy industry. I’m writing my own web series, which I do not intend to shoot or produce at this time. I’m just trying to stay busy writing and build up a portfolio for myself.

I’m also wearing glasses now! They hurt my head after a while but I’m adjusting well:

glas

They even gave me chocolate to go with my purchase!

Things are good, but I’m excited about going on vacation with my boyfriend in a few days. Can’t wait to just unwind and enjoy mimosas.

Speaking of things that are hard to believe, I can’t believe I’ve been with this guy for almost nine months now! Here we were in the beginning:

First photo together, taken in November 2013. I was still a little reserved at that point!

First photo together, taken in November 2013. I was still a little reserved at that point!

Andddd this was May. Not so shy here, huh?

Andddd this was May. Not so shy here, huh?

At his birthday this month

At his birthday dinner this month

I don’t want to write too much about the dude, as, unlike me, he’s a fairly private individual (opposites attract!), but I will say he’s truly the best part of my life, and I have a lot of positive things going for me. He makes me want to be better every single day, and it took meeting him for me to realize life could be so much more rewarding and fulfilling with the right person. I don’t care if I’m never published again or go completely under the radar. I can have the worst career ever and still be happy because I’ve got him in my life. Love is all that matters to me. I just happen to have other things working out for me now too. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be career-wise, but I’ve come a long way. And I’m so thrilled for what the next year is going to bring.

Proof that 9-year-old me was just as serious about writing as 25-year-old me

Vegas 1999, because I was such a rager in fifth grade!

Vegas 1999, because I was such a rager in fifth grade!

I’ve probably posted about this before, but while I was cleaning out my computer files today, I stumbled upon a snapshot of my 1997 journal. It was a composition book, of course, because Harriet the Spy used one and I had to be just like her, even if it meant nearly breaking into my neighbor’s house for a little too much adventure.

Had my plan to enter her kitchen actually worked out, maybe I would have ended up on the news for being an impressionable elementary school student, and Harriet’s phenomenal success would have been to blame. Thank God I wasn’t as sneaky as Michelle Trachtenberg’s onscreen persona. Who knows where I’d be now … maybe in jail!

Anyway, here’s a funny one-liner from my October 7, 1997 entry, “I was the best writer in the class, including the teacher.” Should have been an early sign to my parents that I’d always cause trouble with my writing!

laura 2

laura 3

“P.S.: I will write interesting stories.” Have I lived up to that promise, folks? Seventeen years later, I hope so, but more than anything else, I’d like to think I haven’t even begun the best part of the journey. I’ve done lots of writing for the internet and print, and next I hope to dabble into TV shows and film. I’ve been polishing my own scripts lately, but know I’m nowhere near ready to send them anywhere or enter any of those major contests. Screenwriting is complex and collaborative, and sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the steps I must take to tackle it successfully.

I’ve already taken a few introductory courses in TV and film writing, but I’ve always been more of a hands on learner. In other words, I benefit most from producing something rather than listening. Considering the fact that I thought I was a better writer than my teacher in fourth grade, that shouldn’t surprise you. Really, though, I know I have an incredibly long way to go, and I’m going to be more willing to share what I’ve written from here on out. No matter how confident you may feel about your talents, solid feedback is always helpful.

If I could go back, I’d tell 9-year-old me to be nicer to that educator I insulted. At least that lady could spell “honor roll”!

Getting ready for LA’s ‘June Gloom’

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uclaSince returning to the West Coast in October, I’ve worn nothing but light clothing everyday. I’ve been legitimately cold once or twice and the warmest thing in my closet is a red and yellow USC sweater that needs to pay a visit to my washing machine. Traffic in LA is enough to make me not want to take a job on the other side of town, but the warm weather never fails me. I’m not sure I could ever live somewhere else, even in northern California, which is way too cold for me now that I’ve been in LA for almost a year and attended college in Tucson, Arizona. I’m a sun dweller until the very end.

While the polar vortex assaulted the East Coast for months on end, I wore dresses and flip-flops outside every single day, thinking nothing of walking across the street for some coffee without even a light sweater. With the exception of traffic, which, yeah, is a big downside, LA makes for easy living. Arm yourself with some SPF 30+ and some sunglasses and you’ll be fine out here. But from what I’ve told, June can get pretty yucky.

Here’s what Curbed LA has to say about the unusual phenomenon:

The recipe for June Gloom requires three ingredients: cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California Current, and a high pressure formation known as the Pacific High: “Usually, the atmosphere gets colder as you head up. But the cold water creates a situation where the air near the water’s surface is colder than the air above it: an inversion. The Pacific High pushes air downward, compressing it and warming it. Together, this forms a stable inversion air that can hold a layer of cloud near the water’s surface like an older brother crouching on an upstart sibling.”

That doesn’t sound good. Even though a recent report suggests that June Gloom might not grace LA with its unwanted presence this year, I won’t let my guard down until more time has passed. That said, I’m not sure I mind a couple weeks of ugliness as I eagerly await the summer. I’m used to the sunshine again, and while I’ll never take it for granted, I can appreciate foggy days too. I find I’m more productive when the weather is dark and there’s nothing outside making me feel bad about typing away on my laptop indoors. I’ve tried writing in nature as well, but all that really does is put a glare on my screen and mess with my process. The gloom will be good for one thing, at least.

The kind of wedding (and bride) that make you think

Last summer, my good friend and fellow writer Nikki Grey published one of the best blog entries I’ve ever read. Titled “Are we defined by our professions?”, she talked about the troubles of defining herself by professional success for a long period of time. Though she had an impressive career as a features reporter in Santa Barbara, she eventually realized her job didn’t have to be her whole life. No matter her career path, she’s still Nikki, and a great companion at that.

A month later, Nikki was engaged to her soulmate Robby, who married her last weekend in Santa Barbara. I had the opportunity to participate in the wedding and invite my own lovely second half to the exciting event.

nikki s

Nikki looked amazing, and though I spent the past few months worrying about how I was going to pay for a lot of the nuptials necessities without a stable employment situation, I’m so glad I got to partake in her flawless day, which none of us will ever forget. It was wonderful to have my boyfriend there as well. We really enjoyed the food, dance floor, and open bar, among other things. Overall it was a blast and I’m bummed out that it’s over … the partying aspect, at least. It’s only just begun for Nikki and Robby! As Robby’s father Don said, this will end up being the day they loved each other the least. Just about the most romantic statement I’ve ever heard.

ian d

I’ve known Nikki for three years now and we’ve both changed considerably since our political journalism days in DC. We bonded quickly because we didn’t fit the DC mold at all, and sure enough, she moved to California once her summer internship ended. I wanted so badly to join her in my home state, and even though I remember telling her one day in Washington, “I could die tomorrow and be in DC and not California,” I toughed it out on the East Coast for another two years, truly suffering through every second of the way. I had fun, sure, but my experiences were mostly negative and trying. I belonged out here with Nikki.

We’re not the same girls who met in summer 2011. She figured out before I did that political journalism isn’t for everyone, and she also learned when she met Robby that life is so much better when you can share it with someone you love. Ian really showed me that, and not only is he the strongest force pushing me to keep going after my dream here, but the reason I know I’ll be OK if entertainment doesn’t work out for me. I could never do anything big again and still be happy as ever because I have him in my life. This is what Nikki was talking about when she wrote her blog post about success, and it’s so rewarding to see her start a successful life with her husband Robby.

They’re moving to Seattle right after their honeymoon, which started today, and while I’ll miss having the ability to just drive two hours to see my pals, I’m excited for them to embark on this new adventure together as a married couple. They’ll make friends, adjust to a new environment, and hopefully grow their family at some point. Nikki and Robby know they’ll be fine because they will always have each other. This theme is covered in lots of films and TV shows, but there’s something special about experiencing and seeing it. I first saw it in Nikki and Robby, and now I see it in my own relationship.

Here’s to a couple with amazing values, love, and priorities. Thank you Nikki and Robby for sharing it all with us this weekend. I love you both dearly.

robnik

Why I’m finally taking ownership of my time

A number of friends and family members have remarked that I attract some pretty unusual folks. All my life, strangers and acquaintances have come bearing their souls to me and confessed an assortment of things, and while I’m flattered so many people trust me, being everyone’s “go-to” person is exhausting, and I’d like to focus on owning my time and giving it to the key players in my world: my current and future employers, my LA buddies, my childhood and college friends, my good friends residing in other parts of the country, my family, and my boyfriend. I can be there for others, of course, but not to the extent I’ve been for far too long.

Since elementary school, I’ve been told I’m “too nice.” Not everyone would stand by that assessment, and believe me, I have my icy moments, but I generally give people the benefit of the doubt and try to go the extra mile for friends of any kind, whether they’re acquaintances or pals from the past. I’ve sent out many online introductions, exchanged dozens of emails, and talked through the personal problems of folks I don’t even really know. I’ve certainly needed help and advice before, so while I have no problem doing small favors for others, I haven’t been so great at drawing the line.

Acting like a dork before going on TV

Acting like a dork before going on TV

A while ago, a buddy of mine asked how I got on TV. I’ve been invited onto Pivot and various news outlets a few times, so I said that was the only way to score a television appearance. I reiterated that I haven’t done all that much TV work and that he really ought to talk to Elizabeth Plank, my rockstar former colleague who goes on TV a lot, for advice on making it happen.

“Well, Liz is basically a celebrity now and you’re so approachable, so I would rather speak with you.”

On one hand, I am happy to hear I’m approachable, but by all means, so is Liz, who is actually capable of answering a question of that nature, unlike me. I know it should make me feel happy to know people rush to me for guidance, and it really has been this way for many years, but what my friend said was telling of how others view me. When it comes to time, I am too selfless for my own good, and that’s about to change. I’m a person too, and when I overdo it with favors, there’s nothing left for me. It’s also very easy to take advantage of newbies to the entertainment industry, and boy, have I learned how to detect users. One came in the form of a Hollywood savant who cut me off when I said I didn’t have time to assist with a project. I was aggressively job-hunting to get on my feet, and though this was a reasonable move for me to make, it was not well-received by the other party. I am a good person, but I won’t allow anyone to walk all over me, and if somebody cannot understand why seeking employment is important, I don’t want that energy in my own life.

My good friend Nikki noticed this the moment we met. She was interning at the Daily Caller, where I was working as an editor, and pulled me aside one night to say I needed to be tougher and stick up for myself.

“Laura, why do you think the interns all flock to you like you’re their mother? You don’t value yourself.”

Nikki was right then and she’s right now. Three years later, I value myself the way I should, but I’ve been taking baby steps, and the next one is to value my time. I can’t be engaging in long-winded, neverending Facebook chats and texts when I’m with relatives, good friends, or my boyfriend. I have to be fully present, and that’s been difficult given my tendency to solve the problems of others no matter what I’m doing or who I’m with. No one has ever complained about me being on the phone, but I just don’t want to keep this up.

I’ve been very generous with my time and connections for a while, but right now, I’m practicing the art of saying “no,” not because I’m upset with anyone, but because it’s important to set my personal boundaries. It is the only way I’m going to make it in this industry, and in life. I am excited to get to work again, and once I am gainfully employed, I will only have time for my managers and those closest to me — on a regular basis, of course. I love being considered a kind friend to all, but I can still be nice and take ownership of my time.

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