Great(ly Misplaced) Expectations

A true-story essay on balancing expectation against reality / that really thrilling post-college moment when you realize you have to figure some things out yourself, and your degree probably won’t help you as much as you think.


The most enduring romantic comedies are the ones that start out as relatable and end with the impossible, carried by a leading lady that leaves your disbelief happily and willingly suspended from the moment she glides (or stumbles, or dances, or drinks) her way across the screen. One of the best examples of this is The Holiday.  

Kate Winslet shouldn’t really be relatable. It doesn’t matter how plain a polka-dot wrap dress you put her in, how balefully she looks up at (that ASSHOLE) Rufus Sewell. She’s Kate Winslet. And yet when she thrusts her head out the window in search of clear, cold winter air, and slaps her own face saying, “LOW POINT”, I’m happy with my popcorn and seeing myself mirrored in her upper-middle-class misery. Who hasn’t caught themselves mid-overreaction, and, pathetic and embarrassed, had to chastise themselves? Just me? Okay. 

Kate Winslet’s Iris is lucky in that her Low Point is without any witnesses. She lives it out alone in her so-picturesque-they-actually-built-it-for-the-film cottage in Surrey. My Low Point was witnessed by one of my guy friends and, to my undying shame, by his mother whom I still have never met. 


2012 was a bizarre and directionless year – it usually is for most people. Not the year 2012 in particular, but what it was as a concept: the year following my graduation from college. I was twenty-three, had moved back in with my parents, and as a Humanities major, had sent out about a thousand and six applications to jobs in a wide variety of fields, roughly 95% for which I was woefully unqualified.  

It was rare that I ever heard a response from any of these applications, despite several revisions of my resume using my dad’s old-reliable copy of What Color is Your Parachute? (Black. The color of my parachute is black.) My college friend Maggie once described the process of post-graduate job-hunting as shooting your resume out of a free t-shirt gun into a shapeless void. So, like any good aimless graduate that’s just moved home, I made the best of my time while I awaited responses from the void. I got a part-time job at a cupcake shop, reunited with most of my high school guy friends, and smoked a lot of pot.  

What followed is what I like to call the Porticello Era (one night, a bowl or two in, someone had been trying to describe different vegetables, and I had passionately argued for the porticello mushroom, and my friend Kyle spent the rest of the night miming playing a giant, over-sized fungi). It was messy, emotional, and invaluable in the landscape of my twenties. 

Making and retaining friends has never been challenging for me, with the exception of the first two weeks of fifth grade when my family first moved to a new town. (Long past are the days when my mom would buy me a chocolate-muffin-shaped bribe on the way to school while I cried silently and asked her to not make me go.) I was a somewhat incurable tomboy when I was younger, and for years I derived a particular level of comfort from my male friendships that always eluded my female ones (read: unidentified, underlying sexual tension). Between that tendency and the fact that most of the girls had stayed in their respective college-towns after graduation, my social interaction during the Porticello Era was almost exclusively male.  

I had a daily-texting relationship with my best friend Lindsay that I leaned very heavily on – she was only two hours away in Chico, and our friendship has always been almost limitlessly accessible.  Lindsay was the friend that those embarrassing, bodily-fluid-based sort of indiscretions would most immediately be shared with. Lindsay and I developed a theatrical rapport and cinematic delivery-style with our story and experience sharing based on the onslaught of pop culture we devoured as teenagers, and we lived vicariously through each other on many occasions. For some lucky reason our lives have often lined up in terms of milestones, if not geography. Most importantly, Lindsay always deeply appreciated a good story, and so did I.   

By the spring of 2012, life had fallen into a fairly standard routine: around twenty hours’ worth the shifts at the cupcake shop a week, heading to hang out with the guys, and working on my book. Working on that manuscript was the only real driving force of this period of my life, and as is the case with most creative endeavors, it didn’t necessarily stop me from engaging in otherwise inadvisable behavior. (In fact, it could be argued it encouraged it. It was almost a memoir.)  I didn’t get into any trouble, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it. Smoking pot in the confines of a close friend’s house was the most rebellious I ever got, and I was lucky enough to have two easy refuges for this pastime while back home. 

Haunt Number 1 was the apartment. Belonging to Brian and David, in a less than stellar but by no means unsafe part of town, it was less than ten minutes from my parent’s apartment and less than five minutes from Carl’s Jr. and Jack in the Box. There wasn’t much more we needed. We devoured movies, cupcakes, fast food, Super Smash Bros, and so, SO much pot and beer. It was a classic guys apartment – beer cans and a crooked movie poster was the extent of the decor – and when the lack of air conditioning became too much in the 100+ Sacramento summer heat, we would all jump in our assorted cars and head up to Haunt Number 2, Beck’s house.  

Where the apartment was what was needed for an early-twenties refuge, Beck’s house was everything you truly wanted. It was his mom’s house, but his mom was a nurse in central California and was very rarely home – gone for days/weeks at a time – so it essentially was Beck’s house. It had a deck, a tree-filled yard, a pool, and almost no actual adult supervision. Sure, we were all 3+ years into being legal adults ourselves, but between still being in our hometown and wanting to engage in at-the-time illegal recreations, adult supervision was still an impediment to having a good time. 

I had known these guys for years, since high school for the most part, but I was closest with Brian, who I’d been in band with. We’d been friends first and we had a number of unexpectedly deep late-night AIM chats on the books by the time I’d gotten back from college. Brian was my entry to this social group.  

Then there was David, resident smooth-talker and movie buff, who idolized Kevin Smith and was constantly certain a move to LA with the screenplay was around the corner. He did attempt the move, twice, I believe, but over time we all realized David, while usually well-intentioned, was always just talk. All he did was incur several debts and failed dreams; I’m fairly certain he’s still back at home with the Next Big Thing right around the corner.  

Beck was the ladies’ man; it was a Known Fact since we first met him at a pool party the summer before sophomore year. He had an enviable mysteriousness because he hadn’t gone to the same high school as us, plus he was naturally charming. Being the tallest and best-looking of the bunch sealed the deal. I honestly don’t know that he even got up to much when we were teenagers, but getting responses at all from any new female entry to the social group made him, relatively speaking, a ladies’ man.  

There was Anthony, who was a bit rough around the edges but nice enough at heart. There was Dan, who had the inexplicable nickname of Sanjay and had also gone to a different high school. And there was Kyle of the porticello fame, sweet and gregarious and affable and friends with everyone. 

It was a great crew of guys to get drunk with. We all worked casual, service-industry jobs, nobody was paying heavy rent, and it kind of felt like living out the movie Waiting on a daily basis. I spent more time at Haunts 1 & 2 than I did at home – any time in-between was spent working or writing – and I was really feeling comfortable for the first time since the despairing post-college mood swings of the prior winter. It was a time of townie clichés, and by May of that year, I had begun to make the most cliched mistake of them all: one by one, I started hooking up with the guys.  


Of course, Beck happened first. It’s the second-best story because it was so very teen movie. One early May night, most everyone else had somehow drifted off to other parts of the house. Anthony had been the last to depart, off to the kitchen to make nachos. It was a warm spring night and the glowing pool (and shirtless redhead within it) was irresistible. I didn’t have a swimsuit, but why would that stop me? I stripped down to my skivvies and dove as soon as Beck asked. We were making out within seconds, and within minutes we ditched Anthony’s food endeavor, sex being a (slightly) higher priority than nachos.  

Anthony came looking for us when the nachos were finally ready and got an unfortunate eyeful. The next morning it was as if nothing had happened, and Beck and I’s whatever remained a secret.   

And that’s kind of how Dan accidentally happened. 

Northern California is known for a lot of things – and while my friends did (rarely) engage in snowboarding and camping and trips to San Francisco, their most passionate Nor Cal pastime was, without fail, smoking weed. And they always smoked the really, really good shit. I hadn’t started to participate until after college, excluding one or two forays when I’d visit home for the summer. While that frequency certainly increased in 2012, I never developed much of a tolerance.  

One particular night, now mid-June, the gang embarked on a game of Beeramid. I’ve since gathered that the rules of this portmanteau’d drinking game vary with the nuances of linguistic dialects, but our version bore the most important thread of every iteration: you didn’t play it and not get absolutely smashed. My friend Jessica had joined the evening’s festivities and the presence of an additional female was much appreciated, and immediately seized upon, and Beeramid became Battle of the Sexes. Jess and I lost spectacularly, and we all celebrated unsurprisingly with a bowl. I quickly bypassed porticello-level crossfaded and went for a lone wander.  

Attracted by the colorful glow of the television, I ended up in one of the back rooms of the house, where Beck had at some point settled down to watch a show. I joined him, and as we were alone, figured it was safe territory to lean in. He quickly met me halfway. 

We were about three minutes into our make-out session when I had the startling realization that I was actually making out with Dan. 

Now, I can (and do) fully blame the beer and the pot in equal portion for my amiable mistake. However, when I decided a month or so later that there was no harm sleeping with Dan since we’d already made out anyway, that was all me. (The fact that we did so on the unforgivably grimy pull-out sofa-bed at Brian and David’s apartment was also my cross to bear.) 

At some point, an additional shared friend made his way onto the list, as well as said friend’s roommate. My behavior got so bad – and I don’t mean bad as in shameful-judgement-bad, I mean bad as in ill-advised because the only thought I put into these decisions was “well this feels nice doesn’t it?” – that at a house party later that month, Kyle suddenly asked if he could ask me a question. 

“Of course,” I said.  

We were sharing a sofa in a room full of people that I mostly didn’t know, but I could see Brian and a girl I’d just met and bonded with over my old anti-drug D.A.R.E. t-shirt a few seats over, somehow using an air diffuser to get high. Kyle and I had just shared a laugh over an inside joke. (We had also, about an hour earlier, posed together for one of the most adorable photos of me that exists to this day. But that is neither here nor there.) 

“Well,” started Kyle, and he looked almost shy for a second, which was a first. “Can I try something?  

“Sure?” I said, always game.  

And he leaned in to kiss me. I shoved him, surprised but playful, back into the sofa. 

“KYLE!” 

“What!” 

He looked shamefaced and shrugged, laughing, mentioning something about having heard something, and that it was worth a try. And I would hold him more accountable for his actions if he had less of a point, because later that night I decided to hit a coquettish second base with Anthony out on the porch.  

People process things differently, and I like to think that 2012, my messiest year, was how I processed balancing expectations against reality.  


I recently stumbled across a box of university-era journals. Post high school, my journaling was always well-meant, but inconsistent at best. One notebook in the pile was a perfect example of this: what had started as an artful assortment of collages and blurbs about what kind of future I wanted for myself devolved slowly into indiscriminate lecture notes. But among the article cutouts and doodles were two gems.  

The first was a circa-freshman year “Strive List” (who was too cool to use the word Goals? THIS CHICK.) It had admirable and haphazard goals like “Write a Book”, “Own a Dog”, “Become a Yoga Aficionado”, and several others that were unnecessarily capitalized.  

The second gem, with markedly less luster but no less striking, was this heart-breaking entry about how afraid I was of amounting to nothing beyond a financially unstable, paycheck-to-paycheck “adult”, incapable of ever looking feminine or like a real woman. And, startling for me because I remember more than anything feeling utterly confident, happy, and golden for the majority of the time I spent in college, this entry was written a mere two months before I graduated. 

The timing of both entries isn’t lost on me. In the middle of college, it’s blissful and easy to casually expect amazing things from life. It didn’t occur to me to aim for anything but the absolute sun after one year of college, a time when even the most dramatic challenges could always be overcome by the right night out with the right people, by the right binge combo of movies and chocolate. And while I’d to that point retained that light-hearted and enviable ability to look past the impossible in my life and aim high, the version of me that wrote hopelessly, two months before entering that dreaded “real world”, that I was likely to never achieve anything was very afraid. She had a real fear that the sunshine that was so recently certain, had no guarantees. 

2012, thus far my entire experience of the “real world”, had only validated those feelings. I’d gone to college and gotten a degree, like the world expected. And then I came home and the best job offer I got, after months of hunting, was at a part-time gig at a cupcake shop. My bright career full of words like aficionado (not to mention successful) was a joke. So the one thing that was working for me – being an engaging, attractive woman, and getting attention for it, was the one thing that I clung to and used as a source of fulfillment. Repeatedly.  

As a successful formula, it had a familiar lifespan. It yielded satisfactory results right up until the point where it very, deeply, profoundly did not.  

Welcome, my friends, to the Low Point. 


That little town my family moved to remains to this day such a posterchild hometown of upper-middle-class white-privilege-clichés (and, apparently, hyphens) that I’m genuinely surprised it hasn’t snagged an offshoot of Real Housewives. It was a running joke that any minute now, it would get discovered. But until then, only locals would have the joy of experiencing its man-made water features, its immaculately-planned housing developments named after Italian villages, its faux Town Center that did – to give credit where due – became the center of town, as there was nowhere else to go if you didn’t have a learner’s permit. (Or any desire to escape the confines of a cookie-cutter populous that somehow managed to get its own Chili’s and Mercedes Benz dealership but distanced itself from the existence of its mobile home park and put the low-cost grocery store out of business in favor of a regional Whole Foods knockoff.)  

In summary, we tended to avoid it as a hangout. There were other more interesting places to be. Or, if not more interesting, at least cheaper. But one unsuspecting July evening, I was at an upscale burger joint with Kyle, and we’d run into some mutual friends that had the distinction of not being townies, and ended up in Town Center. These former comrades escaped our home town and had enviably maintained the distance after graduation, so a catchup was due. 

In all honesty, I don’t remember any of what we talked about. I couldn’t really even tell you which high school acquaintances they were. Over time, the individual aspects of this interaction – participants, topics of conversation, length of time – have glommed together into only one discernable concept: a looming, undeniable feeling of failure. That I was failing, spectacularly, at doing what these people were doing. At moving on. At using college as the jumping-off point it was so clearly supposed to be. And fuck me if that realization didn’t leave me more raw than I’d ever been in my discernable memory.  

What I probably should have done was text Lindsay to see if she was available for one of our sudden but no-less-important “WHAT IS MY LIFE” talks. But two beers in, I made the unwise decision to text Beck and see if he was around. We always had a good time, and while we were definitely friends, we had never managed to cross that line from physical/friendly intimacy into emotional intimacy. I decided this was the moment to do it. I mean, what’s more of a bonding experience than telling someone that you’ve never talked emotional shop with that you feel utterly worthless? That your life lacks even the most remote direction?  

Full disclosure, this was an idiotic decision for two reasons. One, I had been drinking. I should not have been driving.  

And two, well, it went about as good as you can expect.  

Very upset and certain this was a good idea, I hopped into my parent’s minivan. (Do you like how I got this far without revealing the fact that every one of these memories took place while I was driving around my parents’ 1999 Plymouth Minivan? I know, my restraint is admirable.) Around five minutes into the nine-minute drive to Beck’s I started crying.  

Alone, in the minivan.  

By the time I pulled up to his house, I was looking worse for the wear. Never have been and never will be a Pretty Crier.  

I park in his driveway and notice the lights aren’t on, figure Beck caught an early night. He hasn’t responded to my text yet either, but my need is great so that doesn’t stop me. I get out of the car and knock on his front door. 

For a surprisingly long time, I don’t hear anything, but the alcohol within me urges me to knock again, just louder. Finally, I hear one of his dogs barking, partnered with the noise of someone inside obviously approaching the door. 

The porch lights flick on and I flinch. I can only imagine how pathetic I look at this point – crying unabashedly by now, ready for the door to be thrown open and to get scooped up in a hug. That’s all I wanted in that moment. But as I stand there in the yellow glow of the porchlight, accompanied by a few buzzing night bugs suddenly whirred to life by the flickering warmth, I begin to feel supremely exposed. That sixth sense of physical presence that humans seem to be gifted with me had me certain Beck was on the other side of that door; I could feel it. 

I kept waiting and nothing happened.  

The door never opened, and eventually the light turned off.  

Defeated, crying anew, I made my way back to the minivan and drove back to my parents.  

The Low Point was the next morning, when I got a text from Beck, apologizing profusely.  

Because, well, you see, I’d had the unfortunate timing to arrive on one of the very rare nights that Beck’s mother was home.  

So that presence I’d felt on the other side of the door? 

His mom.  

Looking through the peephole, probably wondering, “What the fuck business does my son get up to if random girls show up at 1AM on a Wednesday night, crying hysterically?”  


I look back on that next day (and the Tumblr post I wrote about it, because c’mon, it was 2012) and think of it as a jumping off point. Low Points often are. In the words of that Tumblr post: “ideally it makes you realize you can only be less weird and desperate and creepy than you were in that one moment.” 

Here’s the thing – if that life I’d been living was fulfilling, there’d have been nothing wrong with it. I can’t stress enough my belief that happiness and satisfaction come in vastly different shapes and sizes for every human (a la my Bucket Theory). But it became a painful level of 20/20 clear to me on that night that I was not happy or fulfilled. I was very much the opposite. 

The next week I decided I needed to make some changes. I started budgeting and looking at what it would take to get a little studio apartment in Midtown Sacramento instead of living with my parents in the suburbs. I kicked off the most successful spree of gym attendance I’ve thus experienced in my life. (You win some, you lose some. I’m still losing that one.)  I began involving myself in wider circles and staying in better touch with my distant friends. I created feasible goals. And in later (healthier) years, some of those same superficial friendships became some of my best.

It ended up being an unexpected game-changer move to San Diego that catalyzed my next big Life Phase. But I remain convinced that it was this massive mind frame change, the understanding that what I had feared in the past wasn’t doomed to come true, that left me open to the idea in the first place. 

Five Fave Easy Wardrobe Pick-Me-Ups

Looking good and feeling on point is probably my favorite past time. When you’re feeling yourself, even walking down the street gets you pumped. (It doesn’t hurt if you’ve got headphones and the right soundtrack to help this process.) Here are my favorite wardrobe pick-me-ups. For me these are the best (and mostly easy) things to add to your wardrobe or look to up your strut.


Jeans that FIT

Good denim has been one of my guiltiest pleasures for a long time – unfortunately, ten years ago, that meant spending way too much money on jeans that were actually more spandex than denim. Thanks to the return of mom jeans and the rigid high waist they bring with them, true denim is back. Find one fit that works for you and wear it into the ground (or, for me at least, until your figure and friction wear through the inner thighs because I STILL haven’t found any denim that can beat my legs in this department. If you have unlocked that magical product, TELL ME NOW.)

GOOD jeans will make you feel like a superstar because you can do whatever you want in them. They balance sleek lines and a tried-and-true material with actual live-ability. Trends be damned – when contemporary fashion tries to bring the skinny back, I’m sticking with these mom jeans and their belly-button waistlines.

Recs:


Killer Sunglasses

Nothing makes you channel your inner celebrity like a pair of big ole sunglasses, and I can’t recommend this accessory enough. Whether you bite the bullet and invest in a designer pair (TK Maxx, anyone?) or buy a cheap expendable pair from your favorite shop full of festival wear, good shades are simply the shit.

They let you eye up the general public and people watch guilt free. They cover the biggest eye bags and are the perfect substitute for bothering to do your makeup. If the only other thing you’re rocking are those jeans I mentioned and a white tee, power shades will transition you from regular to rock star.

Recs:


Red Nail Polish

I know that beauty treatments are all too often the territory of the upper classes, but if there’s one habit I can recommend you commit to, it’s a cheap manicure. The best deal I’ve found here in central London will cost you £16. Alternatively, I highly recommend investing in one good red nail polish and rocking that DYI self care. The bottle will last you ages, the beauty-feel boost is well worth it, and if nothing else, the pun-filled names of your favorite shades will almost always brighten your day.

You can say a lot with what red you pick – there are deep don’t-fuck-with-me scarlett reds, funky orangey-poppy reds, lady-of-the-garden-party pinky-reds. You name it, there’s a shade of red for it, and it’ll make you feel like you can take on the world.

Recs:


Statement Watch

Watches are a dying breed, and half of the people that bother to wear one have gone the way of the smart watch. I’m going to be the rebel in the back and suggest/shout at you that rather than throwing half your rent at another Apple product, you opt instead for a traditional, old-school mechanical watch. You don’t have to go full traditional and buy a wind-up, but based on how often I get compliments on my chunky, trusty, goldie, you can’t go wrong with the beautiful face of a watch with mechanical hands.

This is another one that you can find at every price range, and your average bystander won’t know the difference. Sure, the real richies and timepiece enthusiasts will know what you’re repping, but most people will just notice the statement itself. Traditional watches also up your class factor – you don’t realize how much more sleek it is to check your wrist for the time instead of pulling out your phone until you live it firsthand.

Recs:

  • Department Stores – they have the best variety, and I honestly prefer individual look over particular brand
  • That being said, I’ve been rocking a Marc by Marc Jacobs for about five years and I just checked out their current selection: Marc’s still got it

Not Giving A Fuck

This one is the best but the toughest, because while it’s the only one that doesn’t run the risk of breaking the bank, a lot of the time it can be obnoxiously finicky and hard to find. But this is the best thing to up your swagger. I find that getting the little things together are what makes me the most confident – the other four on this list are the best head-start I can advise.

The truth, though, is that what gives you the confidence to really not give one is different for everyone, and it is 100% worth doing the self work to figure out what you need to get there. It’s not always going to be as easy as a LIT pair of sunglasses or vintage high-waisted jeans – but once you find it, I can guarantee it’ll never go out of style.

My Complicated Relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow

Sitting poolside at a stately home in the English countryside is probably not the best place to write this post. The sun is glowing across the grounds, I’ve got a gin and tonic, I’m fresh from a flower bouquet workshop, and I’m doing an excellent job pretending I don’t ever have to go back to work.

So, scratch that – it’s EXACTLY the right place.

I am in this stunning, landed-gentry-sort of scenario to celebrate one of my best friend’s weddings. She has impeccable taste and an international love story, one that brought her Canadian fiance’s family from Toronto and her own family from far-distant Perth, to the glorious compromise of Ardington House in Oxfordshire. I lucked out because I’m the only one that’s a train ride away from this summer countryside perfection – even Kelly and Scott had to fly in from Vancouver, where they met and live. Viewed selfishly, all those pieces together have given me the opportunity to spend four days knocking out a definite line of my bucket list. This is the kind of luxury that I’ll only get to experience a handful of times in my life, and watching other people get to live this life on the regular – which, in a more organic, fair trade, slime of snails on your face and catered couture raw food sort of way – is exactly what Gwyneth Paltrow has turned into a multi-million dollar brand. And that’s exactly why I love and hate her.

When I moved to London, I pulled a tourist move and picked a flat on the edge of Notting Hill. It was within walking distance of several old London stand-bys: ten minutes to Hyde Park, fifteen to Kensington Palace or Portobello Road depending on the direction you were heading, and five from two different Zone 2 tube stations that could take you essentially anywhere else in the city your heart desired. About four months into my stay in this particular neighborhood, Gwyneth opened her first UK shopfront, a cosy three floor shop in a terraced building a ten minute walk down Westbourne Grove. In the most embarrassing way, something about this THRILLED me.

Maybe it’s because I was born in enviable proximity to several film-worthy locations myself (Orange County for life), or because I grew up in one of the most celebrity-saturated moments of modern culture – I don’t know why, but I am one of many that’s fascinated by peaking into the reality of famous people. In equal measure because of both Shakespeare in Love and Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow was a pale, willowy particular point at the start of that fascination. (It also didn’t hurt that Chris Martin wrote Fix You for her. She’s CLEARLY amazing.)

Years on, being so close to a place that GP most assuredly has spent some time (I told myself, at least), was more exciting than I was willing to admit. I started parking myself at the bougie, farm-fed-organics grocery three doors down from the shop, writing at the tiny coffee bar seats they provided while I sipped a £4 mint tea and watched young mothers roll by with strollers that legitimately cost three times my monthly rent. I breathed in that West London air and envisioned myself blending right in.

I would, for lots of self-inflicted reasons, never truly blend into that West London, GOOP environment, and I’m a neat six-figure salary away from ever being able to purchase even one item from any rec list Gwyneth puts together. I don’t even like or want to live that clean granola lifestyle she exhibits, and really, she is SUPER ANNOYING. But why, then, do I still like her so much, with borderline reverence? She embodies so much of what’s irritating in the world, a level of inaccessibility and privilege that, 100% of the time, is downright staggering. That’s not even to touch on the nepotism factor, either. If she was even slightly more self-made, I’d bear her sufferance with a little more grace. But the older she gets, the more I see Blythe Danner every time she smiles, and I’m reminded far more now than when she was accepting her Oscar in 1999 that she had the luck of her birth on her side, and most of the world is not so lucky.

That lifestyle, though! Those retreats and cotton bathrobes and slick skincare routines, the girl trips to the Maldives and the ability (and audacity to encourage us) to maintain her own multi-million-dollar London home while her husband does the same. When it should be excruciating, her ability to talk about these things like the only barrier between us and them is a lifestyle choice, makes it incongruously appealing. It creates an illusion of accessibility that is just not true. What I have had to come to terms with – and I’m trying to push back against it – is that clearly, this is a flavor of Kool Aid I enjoy sipping on. From my own distant lifestyle, where even the smallest purchase from a GOOP shop would require advance savings spread across three paychecks, I have to admit I do enjoy it.

…I must, right? Otherwise the habit would have died off long ago. Even though I know it’s not the most healthy dichotomy, this digestible sort of masochism is so widely accepted and encouraged by social media that I just don’t even try to fight it anymore. It’s how we can hate influencers but follow them, enabling their entire lifestyle and berating their existence in the same breath. Where it matters, I’ve decided, is where you draw the line. Sure, it’s not the most healthy dichotomy – but is it the least healthy? Not really. I’m not actually even spending any money on the ridiculous products this woman saintly touts, so the only measurable loss is my own energy, which doubtlessly could be better spent elsewhere. But it’s a relative “better spent”.

My strange love/hate of GP isn’t hurting anyone, and when I take a deeper look at it, I find it’s just reflective of my greater desire to be more effortlessly luxurious. Or, at least, to have the ability to exude such an aesthetic. Because the truth is, I’m sure she’s trying. I am DEF-initely trying. We all are, and that’s why we follow and revere these people that seem like they aren’t. The real dream is not having to try, and that’s a helluva lot easier to achieve with lots of money.

Instead of actively trying to emulate her lifestyle, instead of ever even considering attempting channeling my inner Gwyneth, my aim is to have my own version. Everyone should have their own GOOP, the sense of self-assurance that people in her position resonate with from birth. Just because yours doesn’t come with that five star lifestyle and a shop with an average transaction value of $700 doesn’t make it any less valuable. It’s just a different (and probably better) aesthetic.

That’s what I tell myself anyway, sitting in my absolute temporary luxury, because cutting Viola de Lesseps and Fix You out of my life is an unattractive prospect. After all, on the one hand, I’ve literally got a tattoo of a quote from Shakespeare in Love. It hardly makes sense if with the other I’m giving its Oscar-winning actress the finger.

Lot 432

I don’t really believe all things happen for a reason (I do). But when seemingly unrelated events/moments/ideas coincide, I’ll pick up that old tried-and-vaguely-true mantra and preach to anyone within ten feet of me that fate is a thing that really pulls life together (and apart). Like, for instance, when the two ideas I’ve been toying with writing about pair up neatly and I get the opportunity to knock them both out in one go. Such is my luck today, sitting down in front of the enormous clock in Waterloo Station, realizing my unintentional theme is time.

We use time to boundary everything. It’s usually the first reason we can or can’t do something, tied with or just ahead of money. At work, it is without a doubt my most familiar adversary, and if not having enough time was a Buy Five, Get the Sixth Free punch card situation, I wouldn’t get through a week without a freebie (or five). When someone or something gets a sense of entitlement about just how high they should rank on your priority list, there’s that embodiment-of-an-eye-roll argument that we simply MAKE time. Like we’re wizards that are one agenda notebook or scheduling app away from adding three more hours to the day.

Worse – and maybe I’m alone here – time seems to have two distinct versions. There’s how it feels on a day off, and there’s how it feels on a day on. One second you’ve got a handle on how to manage your time, but then you turn around and your Saturday has gone by in an impossible flash, and NOTHING has gotten done. Unless watching a season of Sons of Anarchy for the billionth time qualifies.

So how do you pick? How do you know what matters and what doesn’t? When you eventually find a way to magic in a few minutes here and there, how do you know what to do with it?

There’s no single answer, but I’m going to try and help anyway.

I Knew Him, Horatio!

Two weeks ago I was in the office at my store, having the wily kind of Tuesday where in the middle of editing Excel spreadsheet formulas you decide that despite your borderline illiteracy in the subject of Shakespeare, it’s time to get a tattoo of that one line from Hamlet that you quote all the time.

I have this thing about famed literature, where it doesn’t stick with me in a big way, but I retain bizarre but specific details that then carve out a spot in my heart for said literature regardless. These details and the resultent pseudo-obsession have no respect for the fact that this will almost definitely manifest in me embarassing myself when I try and talk about books I haven’t touched in ten years, a la Bridget Jones and Chechnya. A prime example of this – the obsessive specificity, if not the Bridget Jones part – is that I couldn’t write you three sentences on what happens in Catcher in the Rye, but until I die I will be able to recite the completely under-valued line “LIBERATE YOURSELF FROM MY VICELIKE GRIP”, spoken by Holden Caulfield when, with the senseless surety unique to late-teenaged boys, he executes the decision to put his friend in a headlock while he’s trying to get ready for a date. Give me a few years and I’m sure I’ll find a reason to get that tattooed too.

Where Shakespeare is concerned, you’ve got the course I took during my English Lit degree, where I relied entirely on my friend (and Drama major) Suzy to get me through, and then you have my more prominent memories of the abridged collection of Shakespeare plays my aunt bought me in seventh grade. Hamlet was the first play I read, and I don’t know why, but the only thing that really stuck in my bones was that line: “Alas, poor Yorick!” (Well, that, and the image of Ophelia’s dad hiding behind some curtains, which my twelve-year-old-self thought showed some pretty weak hide-and-seek game). Real talk, though? I didn’t ever bother to look up what the hell Hamlet is even talking about when he says the line until that two-weeks-ago moment in the office.

But then I did, and I decided that in fact, the skull of the court jester from Hamlet’s youth WAS something that should definitely live on my arm forever. Because when Hamlet says “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio”, he’s not just musing at a skull, as you do. It’s a bit of an “Oh shit, I knew the person behind this skull, he was pretty funny, and here he is, dead. Wow, life’s short,” moment. Life IS short, Hamlet. So thanks, Will Shakespeare, for your keen wordsmithing, and for giving me essentially a hip and highfalutin version of my own YOLO tattoo. It’s no punch card, and Yorick hardly actively gets involved in helping me prioritize my life and manage my time better. There’s a large case to be made, though, for having a bit of a black comedy reminder that even should you make the WORST decision when prioritising your time, we’re all Yorick in the end.

#empressmatilda Gets Involved

Two nights ago, Yorick fresh on my wrist, I was participating in the universal tradition of needlessly scrolling through my newsfeed one last time before going to bed. I was on an old post of mine (#narcissist) and accidentally tapped on one of the tags I’d used – unsurprisingly, given the post’s content, the Empress Matilda hashtag. And while generally speaking there’s not much happening in that tag, on this particular evening, there was a post from Dix Noonan Webb, an auction house in Mayfair, advertising several lots of coins going up for auction.

Two lots included coins minted in the name of Matilda during the Anarchy. (Brief history for those new here: Matilda never officially reigned as England’s queen, but she got pretty damn close, and controlled most of the West Country during the nearly twenty-year period of time known as the Anarchy in the 12th century. More importantly, I’m highkey obsessed with her). The day and time of the auction? THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON, A TEN MINUTE WALK FROM MY WORK.

The first coin was valued between £700- £900, which was quite obviously outside of my price range. The second was a mere £200-£300, so still out of my league, but I went to the auction in hopes that nobody would bid for it (the history world isn’t quite as obsessed with Norman Feminist Icons as me….YET) and that they’d kick it down to £100 or so. With my hopes thus raised, I took the train in for the twelve o’clock start time, signed up for a bidding paddle, and made my way to the Wellington Room of Dix Noonan Webb, 16 Bolton Street, ready to get my auction on.

Upon entering I helped lower the mean age of the room by about thirty years, and I immediately grabbed a seat in the back row, a few chairs over from the only other woman present. She was around my age, maybe a little older, but was seated with such chilled composure that I was absolutely certain this was not her first Late-Anglo-Saxon through Plantagenet Coin rodeo. She became one of my favorite humans when she leaned over and said, “All the women in the back then, eh?” I liked her even more when later in the afternoon I heard her chatting with another bidder and she genuinely uttered the sentence “Oh, I haven’t seen Dennis in yonks!”

The auction started with Lot 299. I was interested in Lot 432. So I observed a fair amount of bidding while waiting out my Matilda coins, watching a few valued from £200- £300 go for closer to £1,000, while others – namely the most expensive coin of the day, one from 975 – went for a cool £8,000. (Who are these people and how do I become them). A handful of technical difficulties later, we made it through to the Norman coins, and finally, at 1:20pm, my time came. The Matilda coins went up, and I didn’t even get a chance to raise my paddle, because those motherfuckers went FOR £1,200 AND £4,300. I watched it happen, grinning like an idiot from my seat in the back row, because even though I clearly wasn’t going home with those coins, Matilda’s popularity, long-overdue, was clearly on the rise.

Yorick was very fresh when I attended this auction, still encased in Dermalize and looking rather worse for the wear as the ink and plasma gooped a bit beneath the bandage (you’re welcome for that visual). He sat with me, not judging the fact that I didn’t have that kind of money to drop on medieval coinage, but more importantly, justifying my decision to sit in the Wellington Room in the first place. Because as much as I’ve just spent a lot of your time trying to convince you that we all die in the end, so do what you want with your time, sitting in that auction room gave me an amazing flip side. That this collection of coins – gathered by countless people with page-long provenances, if anyone had kept a record of their entire existence – showed that even if after we’re all dead and buried, humans are such that even a smashed up penny from the pocket of a noble in 1139 has value, almost a thousand years after its owner was dead an buried. After the monarch printed on it, who actually never even reigned but fought like hell for the right to, was forgotten by most of the world.

& Waterloo Station

When I saw down to write today, I picked a new writing spot. I was sneaking in a writing session before a closing shift, something I don’t do often because my writing sessions are almost exclusively the territory of days off. The past 48 hours had me filled with words, though, so I plonked down at a coffee shop at Waterloo Station, surrounded by hundreds of summery Londoners, and stared at the giant clock suspended from the ceiling.

It doesn’t matter what you do with your time, but in the best possible way. All of that pressure that you feel is absolutely temporary. You can look at it from the perspective of YOLO Yorick, or of some nine-hundred year old coins. Yorick, the jester, being dead, when once he was funny and jovial and very much alive. Those coins, with Matilda’s seal stamped into them, surviving hundreds of years, into a world Matilda herself could not have imagined, being in a small auction room in Mayfair, where some mysterious bidder dropped over four grand on them.

Time is ceaseless. It’s there whether you do the thing or you don’t. Whether your priorities are always the same or change every day. Whether it’s 2019 or 1139. Whether you’re cracking jokes or impossibly sad. It just keeps going on. It’s a little terrifying, but at the same time, strangely comforting. There’s not a lot in life you can bet on never changing, but the passage of time is one of them. And like Achilles says in the 2005 cinematic masterpiece, Troy, “Take it, IT’S YOURS!”

Sure, he’s actually talking about immortality, but his aggressive demand is one I’d encourage everyone to echo. Your time IS yours, and you should spend it how you want.

And if you’re waiting for the right moment for some change, think of Yorick. This might just be it.

Emotional Listerine

Last night, one single Watermelon Margarita and Pornstar Martini in, a friend and I decided that when it comes to relationships, the term “palette cleanser” doesn’t come close to the level of reset needed come the end of a truly bad partnership. Two months, two years – when you’ve been dealing with someone for whom it turns out the word shitstain is a nicety, you need something a little more intense than a fruit tray and a sprig of mint to get you to the next round. And a cleanse isn’t gonna do it either.

Fuck that lemon juice and cayenne pepper – what you you really need, we decided, is emotional Listerine. And because the idea of leaving the emotional recovery process to a rebound is somewhere precariously close to high-risk and deeply nauseating, I’ve been thinking about what perfect combination of controllables would constitute the best emotional Listerine.

Here are my findings:

One: A Word Document / Notebook

This is for the whinging. The rage you’d generally spew at your best friends, the cry-happy moments that come back to you and haunt you and make you wax lyrical when poetry has never been and will never be your strong suit.

It’s just for you. Nobody ever needs to see this guy. You may write in it and never read it again, you might reread it start to finish every time you go to add ten new lines (it me). But I’m a firm believer that the process of mentally getting someone out of your system can manifest in a real, physical way. Pen to paper – fingers to keys – get on it. We can’t all be Stevie Nicks and get a Silver Springs out of our breakups, but a .doc file full of emotional nonsense? That dream we can achieve.

Two: A Real Good Walk

This might take you a while, because not everyone has the best walks at their disposal, and sometimes leaving the room feels impossible two (or ten) days into this process. But my god, THE THINGS A WALK CAN DO FOR YOU. Through your neighborhood, through the neighborhood six blocks over, through a park, through the fucking mall. I’m serious. Get your body moving. Remind your body of the little miracles it – and YOU – are capable of. This will go absolute miles in getting you to the next brain-phase. Walks take you places, man.

You can use the Real Good Walk to call your friends, call your mom, and talk through how you’re managing. Everybody walks their own way. But since you’re reading my advice list, I’m going to go ahead and recommend you leave yourself alone with your thoughts. See what’s around you. And if you must needs have something to occupy your ears and mind, bring along Number Three.

Three: THAT Playlist

Oh, you know the playlist I’m talking about. Or maybe you don’t, in which case, let me educate you.

This is not the playlist that’s going to make you cry. This is the one that’s going to make you run the FULL EMOTIONAL SPECTRUM. Do yourself (and me) a favor and put some really silly shit on this playlist. Put some really happy, ridiculous, you-MUST-tap-your-toes songs. The tunes that when you close your eyes transport you to that summer you spent on the lake or laying out in the grass in your best friend’s backyard. Then put some sad shit on this playlist. The crescendos that make your spine tingle. The lyrics that pull your heart strings like hot rubber bands stretching from deep deep love to full-moon-I-kind-of-want-to-cry-myself-to-sleep.

This playlist will do for your soul what that walk you just went on did for your body. Because when you feel absolutely exhausted by what life (and specific humans) have put you through emotionally, music reminds you of exactly what extreme and beautiful notes you’re capable of feeling, and that however intense those low notes are, in the end they are as ephemeral as a two-minute, forty-six second Top 40 Pop Song. You listen to THAT playlist long enough, pretty soon you’ll be perfectly poised for Number Four.

Four: THE Project

The first thing to accept about the Project is that you might NEVER start, do, or finish it. The aim of The Project isn’t to actually to do any of the things. It’s to remind you of the good, old, pure fact, that if you wanted to, though, YOU COULD.

My mental picture of The Project will forever be Gwyneth Paltrow starting her own boutique PR firm in Sliding Doors after she breaks up with her Fuckface Boyfriend Jerry, so I always associate it with painting big, blank white walls Tiffany blue and buying a new personal planner. And really, that’s the perfect mental image, because it comes with a very visceral metaphor (you PAINT THOSE WALLS with a fresh coat of emotional paint) and new stationery. That’s how the best projects always start, right?

The Project doesn’t have to be as major or physical as starting your own PR firm. What’s most important to remember when picking and planning it, is for it to be yours. Do not let a single person in your life – not even your absolute best friend gives you advice on EVERYTHING friend – tell you what this project should be. It is 100% just for you and your emotinal well-being. The project should be the answer to the question “What would I do if nothing else claimed my attention? My time? My energy? My money?” It could be as simple as working out (SIMPLE, she says, not remembering the last time she worked out), reading a book a month, or planning that twenty-country trip you’ve wanted to go on since the first time you saw a globe.

Don’t limit yourself. You might find that you’re capabe of more than you ever even realized.

And that’s it, guys. I reduced all of my findings to those four things, and I stand behind it. The good news is that it will burn a helluva lot less than actual Listerine, and the better news is that nobody’s here to judge your results like some #beforeandafter hashtag. It’s just you, and I am a VERY firm believer in YOU.

Matilda: 12th Century Feminist

One night last October, Drunk Me did Future Me a favor and spontaneously booked an overdue trip to Oxford for the following morning. (There are worse drunk decisions to make, I’m sure.) The forecast said light rain from 10am through the evening; the reality was a luminous fall day that alternated between broken clouds, bright sunlight, and scattered downpours. In short, your ideal wandering-through-a-thousand-year-old-city fall weather.

Oxford formed the completion of, shall we call it, the Empress Matilda list. The Empress Matilda list started to form when I first visited the Tower of London and the reality of how close I was to the history I’ve admired from afar for years truly sank in.

Arundel was the first stop, where Matilda took up the invitation of her friend Adeliza, her step-mother and the former Queen Consort of England, to “come visit” (read: to kick off her bid for the throne in a period of English history that would come to be known as the Anarchy). It was a drizzly, wet spring day, and I narrowly avoided a solid soaking on my way back to the train station that evening. Standing in Arundel Castle was my first experience of sharing steps with one of my historical idols. It dun fucked me up and I LOVED IT. So the Empress Matilda list grew, and Wallingford was next.

Wallingford Castle was the stronghold of Brian Fitz Count, one of Matilda’s most fast supporters, who ruined himself for no apparent reason other than his passion for her cause (insert courtly romance projections here). Wallingford oversaw the whole of the Thames Valley, bolstered by its vital river crossing, and throughout the Anarchy it remained, through Brian’s zeal, a pro-Empress battlefront. All that’s left today (I’m looking at you, Civil War) is a few scraps of wall and the rolling earthworks upon which the Norman castle originally sat. When I visited Wallingford, it was a high summer day – zero clouds, a thousand rays of sun, and market stalls and ice cream trucks spread from the town square to the riverfront. I stood on a small bridge between the castle meadows and the remnants of the motte and took a 360-degree video, sweating in my shorts and t-shirt and surrounded by the buzz of summer fauna, wondering at the sensation of breathing in the same space as Matilda, as Brian.

Winchester was next.

Matilda came close – SO close – to being England’s first ruling queen. Winchester was her moment. It was before she made it to London and the mob chased her out – and it was after her cousin Stephen, the king, had been captured at the epic Battle of Lincoln. Welcomed by Stephen’s own brother, the exceptionally oily Bishop Henry of Winchester, she processed down Winchester Cathedral and was named Lady of the English. She didn’t know that within six months Stephen would be back on the throne and the war would have returned to a bloody stalemate, so I imagine it felt like the first step in finally winning. At least, that’s what I imagined when I was sitting in the same cathedral.

After Matilda was driven from London, Winchester became the scene of one of her many narrow escapes. Surrounded by the enemy (Bishop Henry’s men – see, oily!), her half-brother Robert of Gloucester held off attack and was captured so she could escape alone with none other than Brian of Wallingford, alone on horseback, riding astride like a man to the point of exhaustion until they reached the safety of Devizes Castle. And after seeing what she had escaped in Winchester, I had to see what she escaped in Oxford.

That brings us to today – or, last night, when I decided I’d left off the last trip in my journey of major Matilda destinations for long enough. So I caught a train from Marylebone Station at 9:00am this morning and made my way to Oxford Castle. I arrived just in time for the 10:30am castle tour and walked up the same stairs Matilda did, while under siege, wondering how she could possibly escape what seemed in every way to be a full-proof trap. Most people would have given up, surrounded by an enemy army with no hope of reprieve (Stephen had famously let Matilda leave Arundel Castle unmolested back in 1139 under the excuse that she was simply going to go visit her brother Robert, a decision that historians still wonder at and I’m sure Stephen himself largely regretted for the rest of his life). But not Matilda. A freezing night in December, three months into the siege, she and three of her knights wore white cloaks and were lowered out of the castle onto the frozen Thames with knotted bed sheets, where they escaped by walking directly through Stephen’s encamped army under cover of snow, darkness, and luck.

All of these adventures, all of these moments, are true stories taken from the exceptional life of an exceptional woman – and they are only a handful in the grand scheme of what she endured. Prior to the Anarchy she had already been sent to Germany to marry the Holy Roman Emperor – twenty years her senior – where she then traveled much of Europe with her husband and was by all accounts an appropriately involved and loved imperial consort. When her husband died she was pulled back to Normandy and forced to remarry, only this time to a cocky little shit (the fourteen year old son of an Angevin count) who, upon their marriage, hated her as avidly as she hated him. Their tumultuous marriage eventually produced the first Plantagenet King, Henry II, but not before she attempted to leave Geoffrey and her father forced a reconciliation while she hid in Rouen for over a year.

Matilda should have been remembered as England’s first ruling queen, but instead she’s unknown to most, and in the ultimate irony, was honored even in death by an epitaph that couched her importance entirely in her relationship with men: “Here lies the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry. Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring.”

So if you’ve ever wondered why I wax poetic about this woman, or why I’m so fascinated by her story, or why I got an enormous portrait tattoo of her, that is why. Every person that asks me is one more person that gets to find out she was so much more than a daughter, wife, and mother. She was a passionate woman desperate to be accorded the respect that men and kings had purely by virtue of their sex. And I can’t get over the fact that not only are women still facing those problems 900 years later, but that her story is so little known to them.

The struggle isn’t new – but we can sure as hell be inspired by those who fought it before us. Matilda was certainly one of them.

The Bucket Theory

I’m a chronic mom-caller. Like, I may live over three thousand miles away from my mother, and I may be a grown-ass thirty-year-old woman, but if I go more than 2-3 days without speaking to my mom, it’s weird. I used to call her on my way home from work, and now that I have my own place, I call her as soon as I’m home, eating my pre-made dinner on the couch while I tell her about my day and listen in turn about hers. I’ll call her on my days off when I have literally nothing new to tell her. I’ll call her when I discover pre-filled strawberry jam and cream scones for sale at Tesco. Chron-ic.

Whether it’s because I do such a faultless job of this on a regular basis, or because my mom has a tendency to feel like she’s a ‘bother’ if she’s the one that calls me (“I never know what you’re doing! You’re so busy. You could be at work.” “Mom, I keep telling you. If you call me and I’m busy, I just won’t pick up the phone.” I digress.) – my mom hardly ever calls me. But this afternoon I was off work, sitting at a coffee shop, when my phone rang and it was my mom. Calling me!

We talked about a lot of things, as we always do. Work stress, life stress, good things, challenging things. And at one point, somewhere between good things and challenging things, I mentioned my Bucket Theory. I feel like I tell everyone and their mother about my Bucket Theory, so I was 110% sure I’d already not only mentioned it to my own, but explained it in depth. But it turns out I hadn’t, and because I will never not enjoy the sound of my own voice – especially when expounding my own life views – when she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard about your Bucket Theory” – I LEPT at the opportunity. And as a result, the topic is fresh on my mind, and I figured no time like the present to infect the internet with it.

So here, un-asked for, is my Bucket Theory.

We spend an inordinately large amount of time while we’re growing up and getting older being told exactly What Will Make Us Happy. People, society, strangers, LIFE. They all act like there’s a one-size-fits-all formula for how to make a life for yourself that genuinely brings you joy.

What I spent my twenties doing was unlearning all of that.

Attaining happiness is only universal in that it can always be broken down into buckets. One bucket, six buckets, twenty buckets, every person is different. The buckets come in all different sizes. Maybe yours are all tiny and easily filled; maybe some are bigger, and need a regularly scheduled top up. But the constant between everyone’s buckets is this: the sum of their parts is a Satisfying, Happy Life. (Accidentally just typed Lie, and I’m gonna go ahead and ignore what that typo is trying to tell me.) The only way your buckets can be Wrong is if they hurt people in the process of being filled. As long as you have peaceful, kind buckets, I truly think your only priority in life should be to define them and fill them however you see fit.

I believe I’ve gotten to the place I am in life because I figured out what my buckets are and made a big deal out of prioritizing filling them the fuck up. Having my family in my life is a big bucket – but for me, geographic closeness isn’t a requirement of keeping that full. I rely heavily and happily on technology to do so. Having a job that’s satisfying, but also allows me creative freedom in my style and on my days off, is another big old bucket. It needs a regular top up in that I always want to feel driven and like I’m developing the people around me, but I’m quite certain my career bucket will never get any bigger. It will always play second fiddle (second…bucket?) to others.

And then there are the surprise buckets – Being Near Medieval English Things turned out to be a pretty major one. Nobody told me when I was thirteen that where I live would bring me more happiness than my college degree itself. Tattoos. Financial Independence. Writing – well, no surprise there. Seven year old Kathy could have accurately drawn the size of that bucket right after she wrote her first short story about a girl sneaking off from a family picnic to find a dragon in a hillside cave. It will probably always be my biggest bucket.

But if your career bucket is your biggest, wahey to you! You will find no judgement here. The same if being physically close to those you love is a big bucket. I get that too. Making a family. Having a dog. Achieving fame. Immersing yourself in other cultures. Helping the environment. Listening to great music. Chocolate chip cookies. They are your buckets. It is your life. Too many people get down on themselves because their buckets are different or strange or maybe even because they’re not different enough. I assure you, it doesn’t matter. Nobody has to deal with whether or not something brings you happiness and fulfillment except You.

So if you’re looking for an extra bit of happy in your life, take a look at your buckets. And once you figure them out, there are only two things you need to do: chase their fulfillment like nobody’s business, and never apologize for it.