As 2010 began, things were comfortable in a lot of ways. I had a good job — my first one out of college — as a travel copywriter. I was just about to attend a book club meeting on a total whim where I’d meet a group of women I’d grow incredibly close to over the next several years. I had recently moved into a beautiful apartment just outside of Boston where I had only one roommate. I filled my nights with live music, live-tweeting reality shows, and a smattering of sporadic online dates. I was obsessed with Chatroulette, Shaun White, and Jersey Shore.
Now, as 2020 is about to start, much has changed and much hasn’t. I’m still a copywriter, but now for a tech company. I still live in a beautiful apartment just outside of Boston, but in a different town and without any roommates. I’m no longer friends with any of the women I shared all those great memories with over the years, but have grown close to so many others. I fill my nights with live music, events, and any classes that strike my fancy — most recently, street photography, dance, and pottery — and my time off with as much travel as I can manage. I’m obsessed with Instagram, Shaun White, and Broad City (though I still hold The Situation dear and quote him frequently). I’m uncomfortable more often than I was back then, but I’ve come to accept that as an inevitable part of being in your 30s.
And in a bunch of moments during all of those years in between, I’ve started carving out my own weird little space in this big, crazy world. I moved to Florida to get my Master’s degree (and also ended up getting my gallbladder out in the process). I moved back to Boston and fell even more in love with it. I worked at a wonderful place with wonderful people and had free lunch every day for nearly four years. I got laid off. I started a new job that drained my spirit and made me question everything. I quit that job without a backup plan and discovered the freedom, fun, and incredible anxiety that comes with being a full-time freelancer. I got another job that I love and finally get to work in the heart of my favorite city every day.
I ate ceviche in West Palm Beach, sea urchin in Miami, and fried pickles at South by Southwest in Austin. I collected seashells on Sanibel Island, drank from the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, and got beads without flashing anyone at a pirate parade in Tampa. I had a one-night stand with an MMA instructor who had cauliflower ear on my 25th birthday at Foxwoods. I saw my first and last bullfight in Madrid, marveled at Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona, waded into the Mediterranean Sea in Nice, did the Dougie at a nightclub in Florence, pretended to hold up the leaning tower in Pisa, and threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain on my 26th birthday in Rome. I crawled the honky-tonks in Nashville, drank wine with an unhinged former Olympic doctor at a hotel in in Vero Beach, Florida, saw Anthony Bourdain speak three times, and ran into Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age in New Orleans. I ate poutine in Quebec City. I left what happened in Vegas in Vegas three times, drank with dads, and cried tears of joy while looking out over the city from the end of Macondray Lane in San Francisco on my first solo vacation. I baked pies, cakes, cookies, tarts, and bars. I danced my ass off at what seemed like a million concerts and a billion weddings.
My best friend and I had high tea in London, took selfies with the Mona Lisa in Paris, and split a space cake in Amsterdam that ruined our whole night. I escaped a room in Arizona by shooting a sheriff. I lived out my grunge sightseeing dreams in Seattle and ate a Voodoo doughnut in Portland. I went to conferences and music festivals and Coney Island and met my half-sister and partied too hard more than a couple times in New York. I stood under the CBGB awning at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in front of the leg lamp at the A Christmas Story house in Cleveland. I stayed in a tiny house in Charleston and crossed Machu Picchu off the bucket list in Peru.
I got my first tattoo, a cheeseburger, at age 28. Then, two years later, Matthew McConaughey’s iconic “All right, all right, all right” quote from Dazed and Confused, because you just gotta keep livin’, man.
But perhaps more important than any of these experiences is that 2010–2019 was the decade that I really became a writer. It sounds so trite, but it’s truly amazing to look back and see how every little decision, every seemingly minor accomplishment, every “why not?” built on every single thing before it, and led to opportunities I couldn’t fathom in my wildest dreams.
In 2011, an editor at The Atlantic saw a nostalgic piece I wrote on Thought Catalog (!!?) about — of all things — a middle school dance, and reached out to see if I’d be interested in writing a feature for their new Life section. ::Billie Eilish voice::DUH. Of course I was, and of course I did.
Several months later, I was browsing the Twitter feed of a woman I didn’t know, but found particularly annoying in a compelling way, and saw a call for submissions for essays by female writers about Madonna for an upcoming anthology. I just so happened to have the perfect story, which involved six-year-old me trying on a double-D-cup bra in a department store fitting room in an attempt to replicate Madge’s “Vogue” look. Fast forward to March of 2012 and my first essay was published in a book, alongside Emily Nussbaum, Rebecca Traister, and so many other female writers I admire. Thanks, annoying woman!
In 2013, I went to an Anthropologie on a lazy August afternoon and felt so inspired by its commitment to selling an impossible lifestyle that I wrote a story/vision board/love letter about it that ended up on HelloGiggles. I still haven’t read it since I wrote it, and I’m not sure why.
Tinder waltzed into my life in 2014 and zapped most of my creativity and productivity well into 2015 because I was too busy swiping, uh, “canoodling,” and agonizing over a bunch of men who ultimately weren’t worth a damn millimeter of my brain space. Well, a couple of them were perfectly lovely, I guess. A couple were also gay. The experiences did birth these haikus, though, and I managed to land a few pieces here and there:
The Tangential: Disney Characters Who Deserve Slow Claps (with the incomparable Scott Muska)
In 2016, I turned 30 and had a really fun, low-key birthday party that I left before some of my guests did. I also had a boyfriend and a car. By early summer, I had neither. But I finally cracked McSweeney’s! And I got a new car!
2017 started with a rejection from the much-coveted Modern Love column, but I quickly found a home for the piece on The Bigger Picture and it ended up as an editor’s pick on Medium.
My completely open freelance schedule in 2018 allowed me to jump at an amazing opportunity to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas for a New York Magazine piece on museums. Between getting quotes from locals and visiting just about every museum in the city in two days, I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on a single article. But it was so satisfying to see it published, and something about the whole experience really changed me in an unexpected way. Afterward, I felt like if I could do that, I could do anything, and it felt really damn good.
And in May of this year, after a period of feeling like my best work was very far behind me and my creative well had run completely dry, I got up to go pee on a mundane, random workday while wearing a romper. I returned to my desk and immediately typed the words “Anything you can do, I can do in a romper” into the massive, running Gmail draft I have for writing ideas. Then, “Sorry I’m late, I was wearing a romper.” Then, “From the romper’s perspective — making life difficult.” And finally, “I’m an Adorable Romper, and I’m About to Make Your Life a Living Hell.” I can count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve experienced that click, the “that’s it” moment over the years. But when it happens, all of the clichés about the piece writing itself prove to be pleasantly true.
I received the acceptance from McSweeney’s on my birthday (while wearing another romper, ironically) and my first thought was that the psychic I went to in 2017 who saw me “hitting my stride” at 33 might just be onto something. The piece went up a few weeks later, and I was absolutely stunned at the overwhelming, positive response; nearly 21-fucking-thousand shares. Of a dumb thing I wrote about a dumb romper! What was even more amazing, though, were the personal messages I received. A girl I haven’t talked to since high school reached out to tell me that the Facebook “mom groups” she’s in were going wild for it. One stranger told me she and her daughter shared a laugh reading it. Another tweeted that it made her spit out her coffee. Someone said IT MIGHT BE BETTER THAN “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole” (which is absolutely not true, but extremely kind). And I got this email, which caused me to tear up at work:
Somehow, it got even better. A week later, I was standing at a crosswalk checking my email on my phone, and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the subject line “The New Yorker/Shouts & Murmurs.” Then promptly squealed aloud when I opened it and saw a message from the editor asking me if I’d ever considered submitting to them. Was I in a parallel universe? It had long been my #1 publication goal, but I hadn’t quite mustered up the courage to submit yet. Let me tell you, I located that courage very, very quickly after receiving that email.
As a writer, it can often feel like you’re just screaming into the void. So when even one person you admire (or, as demonstrated above, someone you don’t even know) acknowledges your work, it really gives you so much oomph to keep at it when you’re feeling frustrated or uninspired or jealous of another’s big success. That being said, I’m really leaning on those moments after my three Shouts submissions have been (very kindly) rejected, but I’m bound and determined to close out 33 with a New Yorker byline. Five months to go. Let’s do this, baby!
2019 was full of many other wonderful writing opportunities as well. I placed pieces on Little Old Lady Comedy, Points in Case, and Weekly Humorist. Things came full circle when I began freelancing for Boston’s Metro newspaper — where I’d cut my teeth as an intern way back in 2006 writing for the entertainment section — and finally got to pen my very first concert review. And I’m achingly, insanely close to taking an extremely official step to realize my absolute biggest dream, a process that began way back in 2018…but more on that next year. :)
Despite my mostly Type A personality, I’ve never had a real “timeline” or specific plan for how my life should unfold. And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve always had an inkling that my path wouldn’t be the traditional married-by-27-and-kids-by-30 one; by always, I mean way, way before I began this decade at age 23. I’m a little unconventional, a little silly, and frankly, a little strange. The past 10 years have certainly shown me the pain, ostracism, and straight-up loneliness that can occasionally come from being unapologetically myself, but they’ve also revealed the immensely gratifying, beautiful rewards and relationships that authenticity can produce as well. Things tend to come to me just *slightly* later than everyone else around me, and when they do arrive, I always realize two things. The first is that they were worth the wait. The second is that I wasn’t actually as “far behind” as I thought.
So let’s pop that champagne, shall we? I’ve got designs on you, 2020.