Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

Moving on.


When I moved to Chicago, I thought I’d leave before college graduation.

I wanted to be a teacher and it made sense to my seventeen year old self to only go to an out of state college for three years then come back to CT or NY to get certified within that state. But when I changed my major three days into my freshman year, that plan went out the window.

I was supposed to move back to the East Coast after college graduation. Actually, I did move back to the East Coast. Well, kinda. I did not renew my lease in Chicago. I packed up and planned to move home but was called in for a job interview. The day before going home, I put all of my stuff in storage then went on the interview. I figured that if I didn’t get the job, I could come back and get my stuff. Then I packed all my clothes and headed home. We immediately went on vacation for a week where I found out that I was being called in for a second interview. After vacation, I headed back to Chicago and took the job. So essentially, I just over packed for vacation

When I started working in Chicago, I had no immediate plans to leave. I always knew I would eventually end up on the East Coast, but I never had a definite time frame. My standard answer was that I would be in Chicago for two more years, which turned into three, which turned into four. Two years ago, I was ready to pack up everything and move to Los Angeles but breaking my knee put those plans on hold. I wasn’t too upset about that though because Chicago always pulled me back.

I’m nine and a half years into my extended stay in Chicago. I love this city with my entire heart. I love the people I met and the strangers who greet me with the kindness and optimism that can only be traced back to the Midwest. I love taking an hour long walk after work along the lake and finding myself still in awe of our skyline. I love the neighborhoods I lived in – Lincoln Park, the Southport Corridor of Lakeview and now Uptown. I love that I always find something new in the city like how expansive Montrose Park is or where to order the best Chicken Shawarma plate. I love when I find myself back on DePaul’s campus and replay the memories: the quad where I used to run through the sprinklers after a night of drinking, the dorm where I met my best friends, the hall where I was initiated into Chi Omega. I feel the pit in my stomach churning when I find myself by my old place on Cornelia, wishing I had enough money to buy the townhouse that I loved so much. I like the way we all gather inside for long nights of beers and Christmas lights in the winter and eat outside every night in the summer. I love Eagles games at Mad River, our annual Christmas Trolley and late nights after comedy shows at Old Town Alehouse. I love how it’s in the middle of the country so flying to either coast is not a hassle. In college I cried on every ride to the airport down Lake Shore Drive. I knew I would be back soon, but I never wanted to leave. I would strain my neck looking back at the skyline on the way to Midway until it was completely out of view.

I never wanted to permanently live in Chicago. I stand by that. For every reason I have for loving Chicago, I have another reason I want to be home. The thought of raising children so far away from my family is worse than leaving Chicago. I don’t want to be a long distance aunt anymore. I missed a lot of my nephew and cousins growing up and while I don’t regret my time here, it’s bittersweet to see all the time lost whenever I realize how old they are. While I pride myself in being a lot more present these days because I’m more financially stable, I want to be able to join in on all the little things the next generation of my family will bring. I want to be at sports games and school plays and whenever I have my own kids, I want sleepovers with cousins and dinners with grandma. Beyond family, I miss New England. I miss having four seasons instead of two and being so close to so many major cities. I don’t like that each time I come home it’s an event. I want to be able to visit with friends without feeling like I’m stiffing my family. I’d like to be able to relax instead of making sure I got to see everyone while home. And I miss New England falls. GOD how I miss New England falls. I miss the hills and the trees and the mountains. I miss the foliage and the scent of October. I miss being able to hike up real trails instead of city paths.

But each time I think I’m ready to leave, something pulls me back. It’s not easy being in love with a city so far from home. I wish New York or Philadelphia had the same vibe as Chicago.

I know that in the next few years I’ll be leaving this city. Where I’m going next I’m not too sure of. I don’t know if I want to spend a year in LA living in warm weather for once before returning to the East Coast, or if I just want to head straight home. I’m not even sure of where on the East Coast I want to live. While I’m 90% sure I’ll end up in New York City, which would split the difference between my extended family in New Jersey and my immediate family in Connecticut, I’m not positive. I may jet out to California in a year then head over to New York City a year or two later. But whatever way I split it, I have two years max left in Chicago.

I’ve set dates on moves before, so I know things can change. But the problem is that I keep on delaying my departure which makes it more difficult to leave. I fall more in love with this city with each passing year. There are some good reasons why I haven’t left Chicago, like breaking my knee and wanting to stay with my medical team until completely recovered, but the truth is that I’m also terrified. I wasn’t scared of going to college. Everyone made some sort of leap that year. And while I was constantly scared after college, it was also a normal transitional period. But here I am, in my late twenties, and there are no external forces like going to college or joining the workforce to push me out. This decision is completely self-motivated and I’m the only one that can execute it. I’m scared that I won’t find the same support group I have here. I’m worried that moving closer to my family will keep me from hustling in comedy. I’m concerned that my constant indecisiveness on where to live will be what keeps relationships from forming.

My friends in Connecticut and Los Angeles will all confirm that I’m not a great long distance friend. I miss and love them but get distracted when I’m in a different city. I push away from the ones I’m really close to because it hurts to know we no longer live close enough to be dependent on each other. I try to separate myself so I’m not disappointed when their life eventually goes on and they find someone to fill my void in their new city. I want to change these things about myself, but I know that it’s something I struggle with.

I know that Chicago will always be here to visit. But I loved being a resident. I know my close friends will remain my close friends and I’ll probably come back as often as I jet to the East Coast right now. And I know that if I ever find that I made the wrong decision, there’s a three story walkup on Cornelia Ave. that I’m more than happy to put a down payment on.

I chose the perfect city to become an adult in, both legally and mentally. Any pain or hurt is almost always the result of loving something, so I’m thankful that I found myself in a city that I loved so hard.

After almost 10 years, I’ll finally answer the most frequently asked question of an East Coast transplant: Chicago is WAY better than New York*. But sometimes the thing we love most isn’t what fits best.

*(Except for the pizza. NYC thin crust over Chicago any day.)

I’m back.


I decided to start routinely writing in my blog again.

There are a couple reasons for this.

The inciting incident is a conversation I recently had with someone where I was talking at length about my post “My Worst Moment in Improv”. I mentioned how, in the aftermath of that post, I started backing away from both writing in my blog and improvising as a whole. I didn’t expect so many people to read my words and wasn’t prepared for the reactions I received. I was contacted by classmates who expressed regret in not stepping in on scenes that went too far. I was contacted by too many women who shared the same sentiment. I was contacted by theaters in other cities that asked me for advice on how to implement change in their own theaters, like speaking out about an issue makes me qualified to write their harassment policy for free instead of hiring a HR rep. I started slowly, and subconsciously, backing away from improv as a whole. I was tired of having to speak on behalf of all women. I was disgusted by the handful of people who shared my words & were the same people I saw inflict harm on women in the community. I was sick of showing up in buildings, including the one I worked in, and having the words “So I read your article. To play devil’s advocate, isn’t it more dangerous to deny creativity?” being said to my face. I was frustrated that I was being asked to explain consensual scene work like some kind of expert, yet was not being paid for the energy it took out of me. I was done with men stepping up to prove that they’re “good ones” like I didn’t have the ability to read them upon meeting them. I didn’t expect the reaction to consume so much of my energy and just grew tired and disenchanted by the entire community. A lot of that was on me. I wasn’t bold enough to just tell people to fuck off. I felt a sense of responsibility to continue the conversation and educate people who were inquiring. But clearly it took more out of me than I thought, because when I look back, that article is what caused me to slowly back out of the improv game and stop writing in my blog.

Two years later and I found myself back in a class with an instructor I trusted and admired for years. During the class I did the same exercise that the article I wrote was based on for the first time since a bunch of dudes thought date gang rape is a great group scene idea and I checked out completely. I felt disconnected and just wanted to get through it. I did, without incident, and was proud and sad and just thinking a shit ton. I came to the realization that I allowed my experience a few years ago take so much from me. I was pissed at myself for letting that entire experience keep me from two things I love – writing personal posts and improvising. After a high quality long conversation on a sticky and humid summer night, I decided to throw myself back into both writing and improvising.

The second reason is because in a month, I’ll be having major knee surgery for a dumbass accident I had almost two years ago. During a rehearsal, I made a dumb physical choice and fucked up the cartilage in my knee. I have already been through one surgery and two counts of learning how to walk again and am dreading this last round. The surgery will require that I do not put any weight on my leg for about six weeks. Short term recovery (being able to walk well, swim, exercise lightly, etc.) will take six months and I should be fully recovered in a year. While I’m grateful that this will be my last surgery, and that I have really good insurance to cover a highly specialized and expensive procedure, I’m really dreading sitting on my couch again. It’s really hard to be in limbo for two years while I watch my friends go on with their careers and lives. I did not think that my mid-twenties would be defined by this injury. I hate thinking about where I’d be if I didn’t have to take so much time out for recovery. While I want to be happy for my friends and their achievements, it’s hard for me to hear about their trials and tribulations in the comedy world while I’m stuck in this knee limbo unable to do anything. Before this accident, I felt like I was constantly creating, performing, writing, and working hard to achieve my goals. I finally got some of that wind back this summer, and now I know I have a year of recovery starting soon. I cried like a baby last night upon realizing that I might have performed for the last time before my surgery. So I’m trying to be proactive and reintroduce things I can do while recovering. One of those things is this blog.

So I’m back. Because I need this outlet again. I have a lot of thoughts I’ve been bottling up and my Facebook statuses weren’t providing adequate space. 

Be selfish sometimes.


What’s up world? It’s nice to meet you. My name is Annie and I’m 23 years old… which means that I have tons of experience being inexperienced. I like to think that I know shit, although most of this letter is as much of a reminder for me as it is a notice to you. I’m obsessed with happiness and enjoy living life optimistically. I’m sure you’re like… oh, well everyone can’t be happy, you asshole. Some people have real shit going on. To this I say… you should read my previous posts. But whatever, I forgive you.

So here’s everything I think about the world. Here’s my unsolicited advice to you:

Don’t be mean. It’s such wasted energy. You don’t have to love everyone… you don’t even have to be super nice all the time. But don’t be a dick. Nothing is worse than watching two people going at it… biting back and forth. It doesn’t matter who started it – you both look stupid. If someone is being an ass to you, kill them with kindness. Make them feel bad for ever mistreating you. Be the bigger person. When you just stab back, you’re showing them that you deserve to be treated poorly because you’re not above doing it yourself. Be a genuinely nice person… and if you can’t be nice, just shut up and walk away.

Spend your time wisely. I can’t stress this enough. I learned really quickly in life that we don’t have enough of it. Stop talking about wanting to do something and just do it. Stop giving yourself excuses. You’re not too old and you’re not too busy. I hate hearing someone talk about how bad they want to try something… only to hear “oh, but I could NEVER do that!” Why not? You’re not going to know unless you try. Prioritize in life. What means the most to you? Who means the most to you? Spend your time with people you love… people who treat you with kindness and care. Sometimes the person you need to be with the most is yourself. Time spent in relaxation isn’t wasted… you need it. And stop saying that you’re too old to start a hobby. I hate that shit. You’re never too old to begin doing something that you love. Age is but a number… your desires and personality stand the test of time.

Choose good friends. You are the only person responsible for this. You are the only person to blame when you get upset over a bad friend. Cut them loose. There are so many people in this world who are willing to love you… why waste your time with someone who doesn’t? They’ll make you feel inferior and insecure. Your friends are supposed to support you and if they’re not doing that, let them go. You don’t owe them anything.

Leaving doesn’t mean running away. When I moved from Connecticut to Chicago, I wasn’t running away from anything. I love my family and I love my hometown… leaving was actually a little difficult, and increasingly so as the years went on. However, I knew that I had the chance to branch out and find who I am. I knew that there was something more for me to discover. And with that…

Do what’s good for you. Be selfish sometimes. This makes me think of the Billy Joel song, “James”. Do what’s good for you, or you’re not good for anybody. I used to feel really guilty about moving. It felt selfish… I knew my mom missed me and I felt horrible when I wasn’t home for the rough times. But coming to Chicago really made a huge difference in my life. I found that I was a happier person because I was able to find my people and felt like I really fit in here. I’m able to do my comedy thing and be in an environment that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy back home. This makes me an overall better person to be around. If I wasn’t selfish in my move, I wouldn’t be good for anyone. I would probably still be depressed and searching for something to grasp onto. Instead, I’m doing what I love… which makes me a more lovable person.

Learn how to get through the hard days. We all have them. Those days where getting out of bed is an impossible task. You feel like it would be so much easier to give up and you have no idea how the hell you’re going to survive your pain. Life suddenly feels so long and you wonder if things would be easier if you just went away. No one understands you and you can’t stop crying… or worse, you can’t even begin to cry because you’re so numb. No matter what people tell you, you can’t believe that it’ll get better… you feel so helpless. But it always gets better… always. Everything is temporary. Let yourself feel what you feel and don’t apologize for it. Live through your pain with the knowledge that tomorrow is a new day. All you have to do is go to sleep… when you wake up you’ll have another chance.

Ask for help. Admit your flaws and troubles. Open up and let people know that you’re not okay. That you need someone to talk to. You’ll be surprised by how many others have been there before. The happiest people you know are probably so damn happy because they know what darkness is like. Everyone carries a secret bag of shit… they just may not wear it on their sleeve. If you never ask for help, you’ll never receive it. People can’t read you as well as you think they can… and don’t sit there angry when no one asks you what’s wrong. You have to reach out.

Let others know that they’re important to you. They won’t always be in your life. People move or drift away… or sometimes their season in your life comes to an end and you no longer depend on them like you used to. Let them know they made a difference, that they taught you something, while they’re still there. Maybe they’ll be in your life forever, maybe they won’t, but let them know that you care for them while they’re around. Your mentors aren’t immune to times of self-doubt. Let them know that they make a difference.

Above all, be yourself. Which is hard, right? Well sometimes it’s as simple as checking in with your body. How do you feel? What do you want? What do you have to do to get there? Who is important to you? Are you being true to who you really are? I stopped lying a while ago. I try my best to always tell the truth. That’s how I know I’m being myself. If I feel like I’m trying to conform to fit someone else’s expectations, I question whether or not I really need that person around. When you’re being yourself, other people who are likeminded will be attracted to you and you’ll form this group of people who you really care about. Who you feel like you’ll never have to “fake it” around. This will make you love life more than anything.

Be kind. Don’t be afraid. Know that most people want you to succeed. 

I can’t delete her text messages.


A friend just passed this video onto me and I just had to write about it:

Chills. I didn’t understand the hype until the end. The second he mentioned the undeleted phone contacts, I almost lost my shit. I thought I was the only one.

When someone dies, you want to hold onto every piece of them possible. You start with physical things – notes, clothing, pictures that hang on your wall. Then you realize it’s all too sad, too pathetic. You fear that someone will see your room as a memorial site because for some reason, when someone dies, the picture that was always next to your bed now becomes too much for others to handle. Overnight it turns into a constant reminder of what you don’t have. People aren’t going to look at it and say “You were such an adorable kid!” Instead, they’ll give you this sad look that says everything they’re feeling.

So I got rid of the pictures, pieces of clothing… I tucked away the notes. Anything with handwriting on it is sacred and you throw it in a cabinet because the smallest spill on a seemingly stupid note would bring your world crashing down.

My dad died before I had a cellphone, so his contact info was never there. I have no old text messages or phone calls. My friend is different.

When my friend Amanda died, I put up my favorite photo of us. It was from my sophomore year’s Fest (an annual outdoor concert at DePaul). Things were simple and fun that day. Four Loko was still legal, the weather was warm and three of my best friends all lived together. It was right before the biggest breakdown of my life (obviously alcohol induced) and I was completely unaware that my entire life was going to change. We were just young and just so naïve.


Amanda’s death was awful. There is no other way to explain it. It was unexpected and cruel. To make things worse, the news covered it… and as much as you tell yourself to stay away from Google, you can’t help it. Then you realize how much it hurts to have your friend, someone you knew and loved, called the “Hit-and-run victim”. Hit-and-run victim in critical condition, Man arrested for hit and run involving cyclist, and ultimately, Hit-and-run victim dies, Remembering Amanda: Friends, faculty talk about student killed in hit and run accident.

So it’s no surprise that I couldn’t, and still sometimes can’t, let go. I eventually got rid of the picture. People looked at it and saw how young she was… instead of that happy, carefree and naïve vision I had. So I took it down. Instead, I held her memory in a private place – my cellphone:


She was supposed to move in with us, which means that I thought we had time. This was four days before she died. The day after the text, she went home for the weekend. I spent a really long time regretting not seeing her. I now know that you can’t always predict the future… but you better believe I still think of this constantly. We never have the time that we think we have.

And I refuse to delete her messages. I have a handful of dead people in my contact list. Why? What is the point?

If a picture gets lost, it’s not all my doing. If someone spills something on a loved one’s note, it’s not all my doing. If memories fade, it’s not all my doing. But deleting someone from my phone means that I’m saying it’s okay to let them go. You feel like you’re deleting them from your life.

And honestly, a part of me doesn’t want to let go of that.

How I (try to) combat regret.


Regrets. Yeahhhhh. When bad things happen, it’s your natural instinct to feel shitty. To be honest, I didn’t feel great going into 2013. The impact that 12/14 had on our community made the New Year seem superficial – I’m given this brand new year… but why? Why am I fortunate enough to have a clean slate? The shootings that day changed all of us in different ways. I realized that I wasn’t invincible. That at any time, something horrible could happen and I could be gone. With no tomorrow guaranteed, why was I still dwelling in the past?

22 years old and I was already living a life chock-full of regrets. I had two types of regret – the first being things that I never did. For example, I felt unbelievably guilty for how I treated my assistant principle who ended up giving her life on 12/14. I felt sick to my stomach when I recalled how disrespectful I was to my father.  I still mourned the fact that I was “too busy” doing nothing to hang out with my friend the day before she died. These were all things I didn’t do. Thank you’s I never said… kindness I never gave. The worst part about this type of regret is that there is nothing that can be done but move on and learn. At some point, you have to look in the mirror and forgive the person looking back at you.

This is why I’m so emotional. Why I pour out all of my feelings into letters to friends who deserve to know how I feel about them. I don’t care if they think I’m overdoing it, being cheesy, or if I seem vulnerable. It would be an insult to the memory of those I’ve lost if I didn’t do it. If there’s one thing I learned from losing people, it’s that you have to open up and say thank you. Congratulate a person on a job well done. Let people know that you believe in them. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you love them. Send an email at midnight letting a friend know how much of an impact they had (and continue to have) on your life. Tell them that you’re a better person for knowing them… that your life wouldn’t be the same if you two never crossed paths. What do you have to lose? Are you afraid of appearing weak? Of being rejected? I doubt that your friend will reject kind words. If anything, your friendship will grow more meaningful. And if worst comes to worst, yeah… rejection sucks. But regret is painful. Really painful. Regret follows you around for the rest of your life. Don’t regret words unsaid.

The second type of regret came from things that I haven’t done yet. I felt guilty for getting out of shape, never pursuing comedy and giving into the 9-5 lifestyle. I thought that this was how my life was going to have to be. A younger version of me swore that I would never work in a cubicle… but here I was. I slowly mourned the ideals I once had and accepted my new lifestyle. So many other people do it – so it can’t be that bad, right? I reached my peak of fitness a few years ago… there’s no way I would be in shape again. Oh, and that comedy thing? Hah. I was a dreamer… that was a cute dream.

Then I realized that I was only 22… I was way too young to accept a fate that I wasn’t happy with. I joined a gym, signed up for Second City classes and started going to yoga during lunch to get my mind off of work. It was that simple. There are so many things in life that we have control over. That we can control. You’re never too old to pick up a new hobby. You’re never too out of shape to get back into shape. Change the things you can to tailor a life that brings you more pleasure than pain. It’ll make the painful things that you can’t change tolerable.

With those small changes, I owned 2013. It was my year. A year full of happiness and free of regrets. Things started to fall into place. Away went insecurity, bad friends, and depression… in came love. So much love. If you’re still looking for a resolution, make one with me. Strive to make 2014 a happy one. Live a life free of regrets.

Now go write a letter & send it to a friend. 

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire


Last night when I was trying to avoid going to bed (I’m basically a child… I always feel like I’m going to miss something), I started rereading parts of books that I love. I came across one of my favorite quotes about one of my favorite people. Steve Martin, when talking about Gilda Radner’s death, said, “Gilda was so lovable in person as a person. And so it was easy to get sentimental about her, because in looking back over her life, I know she had trials and tribulations, but knowing her, it was never expressed. It was just joy and happiness and funniness and comedy.”

That got me thinking. How lovable are you in person as a person? Times get hard… believe me, I know it. But are you letting this define the type of person you are?

While I love Gilda and want to give her all the props in the world, I don’t think she was able to be “joy and happiness and funniness and comedy” by herself. I firmly believe that we are products of who we surround ourselves with. 

I’ve had high times and low times. There were periods in my life where I was fun to be around and other times when I was toxic to other people. However, when I look at all the factors that contribute to my happiness, I realize that so much of it has to do with the company I keep. When I was at my low point, I was surrounded by fake friends who weren’t doing anything to inspire me or make me feel comfortable in my own skin. How am I supposed to grow as a person if I don’t surround myself with others who are like me?

And when I say “like me”, I use that term loosely. I love having a diverse group of friends. I have friends of all different ages, occupations, passions, backgrounds, walks of life… but we all have this commonality that roots us. We have a deep desire to be happy, to dream and to just be there for each other. The crowd I surround myself with gets me. They’re fierce students of life. They understand that sometimes I just want to break out and dance and other times I really need to cry. They understand the silly side just as much as the sentimental one. They get that I have fears, dreams and quirky habits… and they’re really incredible people who make me happier every single day.

Last Thursday I was at my improv class. My proudest moment of that class was that I didn’t manage to piss my pants during it. Was it because everyone was hilarious? Actually, quite the opposite. All of us couldn’t stop laughing at absolutely nothing. We were all just so happy and giddy… to have our friends who weren’t in class last term back with us, to have negativity weeded out, to just be present in the moment. To be alive and together.

There are so many areas of life that you can’t control. Shit happens, bad people come and go… so much of our life speeds past us as we desperately try to hang onto some morsel of control. But you can control this. You have a say in who you spend your time with. So reflect on your life… who are you spending the majority of your week with? You can’t control it all – your boss is your boss, your teacher is your teacher and the grumpy bus driver is your grumpy bus driver. They’re not leaving anytime soon. But look at everyone else… who are you getting coffee with? Who are you Facebook chatting with? Who are you making the conscious decision to keep in your life?  Are they there with you – raising you up, lending you their ear when you need to talk, not judging you when you admit that “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus is one of your favorite songs?

Last Saturday my friend had us over for a bonfire and it was wonderful. I was surrounded by a few of my favorite people, as well as some new and glorious strangers. Everyone was just there, in the moment, enjoying life. It made me think of one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems:

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Find these people. Please do yourself this favor. They’re out there and they’re so excited to meet you.

“I’m going to spend the rest of my life missing him”


If you have a computer, TV or any friends then you probably know about last night’s Glee episode. It was painful to watch. Losing a friend, or any loved one, is really hard… let alone grieving in front of a national audience. I cried from beginning to end… not necessarily because of the story line but because I know all too well what losing a friend is like. While overdone in parts (I mean, it’s Glee…) the writers did an excellent job of capturing what grieving is really like.

Within the first few minutes, Kurt said the line that everyone who ever lost someone can relate to… “I’m going to spend the rest of my life missing him”. I remember the first time I realized that death is permanent. It sounds silly… like you should obviously know that you’ll never see the person again. However, when you’re so close to someone, you never think of the possibility that they won’t be there anymore – even after they die. When my dad passed away, I had this moment about a month after the services when I realized that I may live for 70 more years but will never see or hear from him again. It is this grounding and permanent feeling… and I think that single line captured the emotion so well – “I’m going to spend the rest of my life missing him.”

Another very real moment was when Santana stormed out of the room because she just couldn’t be there anymore. She said that she thought coming back would help but everything just reminds her of Finn. A few years ago, we lost a coworker and friend to cancer. It was horrible – anyone who worked at a camp understands that it’s a family. Our friend Danny was diagnosed with lung cancer and within months he was gone. It didn’t make sense… he was in his early twenties & didn’t smoke – if anyone could beat the odds, wouldn’t it be him? It was one of the most devastating things we’ve been through.

I was still in Chicago when it happened & I wanted nothing but to get home and go to camp. Two weeks after the services, I finally returned to work and thought it would make me feel better. For a couple days it did but then I had my breakdown. I heard a stupid song or something and lost it. I kept on expecting to see him pop up around camp and every inch of that place was attached to a memory. It was really hard to go to work every morning after that. Everyone was grieving, including the kids. Danny was the one who bonded us – he was the leader. We never imagined camp, or life for that matter, without him.

When Santana was talking about how Finn was a better person than she was, it struck a chord. That’s what we were all thinking when we lost Danny. It was this thought of… well, if one of us has to go – why are you choosing the role model? The one who genuinely loves his job and never complains? The one we all look up to? Eventually you make it to a place where you realize that you’re able to carry on their legacy. You’re able to take on the traits that made him the best. We all kept thinking – if he’s gone, who is going to be the one to do this, or the one to do that? Eventually you realize that you’re going to have to step in and be that person.

When Finn’s family was packing his things and Kurt’s dad went on his rant about ‘why didn’t I give him more hugs,’ anyone who lost a loved one could relate. There are so many regrets. A few months after we lost Danny, a close friend of mine, Amanda, was killed by a drunk driver while she was on her bike. Two nights before her accident, she texted me to see if I wanted to hang out. I was tired and cranky, which meant I just disregarded her text message… I did that a lot to her. I saw her all the time so I never felt the need to try hard in our friendship. For months after her death, I was so hung up on that text message. Why didn’t I hang out with her that night? Why didn’t I at least give her the decency of a text back?

There are all these little regrets we feel with loss. It’s stupid because they are mostly centered around ‘normal’ behavior that is only escalated because of death. Why didn’t I treat my dad with more respect? Because I was a thirteen year old girl – that’s how they act. Why didn’t I answer Amanda’s text message? Because I was tired, cranky and assumed I would see her in a few days anyways. You have to remove the guilt and realize that it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. There’s nothing you can do to fix it but forgive yourself.

The last scene that was incredibly relatable was when Sue was telling Santana that Finn had so much potential and it’s all pointless now. My friend Amanda was an incredibly talented filmmaker. She was a hustler… always finding a project to work on or creating one herself. There was no doubt in our mind that she would make it. The entire film department knew who she was – she really made her mark. She had this philosophy that you never had to be a starving artist if you believed in yourself enough… if you took every opportunity that came your way. She spent all these years and put in all this hard work to get ahead by the time she graduated from DePaul. Then she was killed and I felt like, well… what’s the point? What’s the point of working hard towards a goal if you don’t know what tomorrow brings? All that hard work, ass kissing, money and time spent… and she’s gone.

Now, as someone working hard to achieve her own dream, I understand that it’s not pointless. When Amanda realized she wanted to make films, she never looked back. From that point forward, she spent every waking hour doing what she loved. Those were the happiest days of her life. It doesn’t matter that her life was cut short… she did far more than most people did. She went for it – I mean, really went for it. She was happy every second that she worked towards her goal and that’s what matters. She inspired her classmates, friends and family to fearlessly chase their dreams. It wasn’t pointless.

Losing a friend at a young age is hard. You had all these plans and expectations for the future that just vanish. You feel guilty for living longer than they did… every second of your grieving process you wonder why it happened to them instead of you. However, I feel like I’m a better friend because of it. Losing Danny and Amanda made me realize the importance of being a good friend in the time I have. I realized that I’m not invincible because of my age or good health – you never know what tomorrow brings. So make the most of every single day. Steve Jobs once said, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Live your life so that there’s something to look forward to by the end of the day – you never know what tomorrow brings. Be fearless.

I was homeless once

Life Lessons

Well, kinda. Last August, I was set to move back to Connecticut when I was offered a job. Without an apartment, or any money to sublet one, my best friend & her roommates let me crash on her floor for about two months until I figured out the apartment situation. This was my home:



We DIYed the shit out of it. On top of living behind a (kinda) curtain (which was duct taped to a rod and fell down constantly), my air mattress had a hole in it for the first month, which resulted in me waking up twice a night flat on the floor until my mom finally convinced me to let her buy me a new one. I didn’t have air conditioning either so I was often found spending hours in Starbucks cooling down. I know everyone says their life should be a sitcom… but I mean… come on

I only paid utilities and the entire time I felt like I was completely taking advantage of my friends. I was thrilled to move out so I could stop feeling so guilty. Want to know what my friends said the night after I moved out? That they missed having me around. Seriously? 

Good friends are priceless. If I didn’t have such great people in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to accept the job. I had no money, nowhere to live and no family around Chicago to let me crash. Without hesitation, my friends gave up their dining room to help me stay afloat. Friends of mine have become family out here – they invite me over for holidays when I can’t make it home, take me to their parent’s house in the burbs to relax for the weekend and are there for me when I’m sick or upset. Seriously – how lucky am I to have these people? Moreover, how much of this luck was my own conscious decision?

Look around you – who are you associating with? Who are you making a conscious effort to impress? What motivates your friendship? So much of your quality of life is directly affected by the people you surround yourself with. While we can’t choose all of these people (family, coworkers, landlords…), we are able to hand pick friends. So why do you choose to settle for someone who brings negative energy into the world?

It’s tough to weed out the toxic friends… but you’ll find that your life is so much better without them. You don’t have to abandon these people entirely – just don’t make them a priority. I went through a friendship cleanse when I was turning my life around a couple years ago – it wasn’t easy. However, it was worth it. Letting people go gave me more time to focus on enriching friendships with those who contributed to my happiness.

One idea that helped me was to look at everything I did for my friends – were they things that would be returned? Or am I just going to end up disappointed? Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect my friends to bend over backwards for me… but I also don’t expect them to be completely selfish. Were these people I could have a real conversation with? Or were they filler friends good for going out with every now and again? Did they unlock potential in me? Or were they jealous of my accomplishments?

Think of the core group of people you interact with weekly. Make sure the good outweighs the bad. It’ll make you happier. 

How to deal with your friend’s grief


We all feel awkward about it. A friend of yours had a death in the family and you just want to help. But how much are you actually helping vs. hurting? As someone who has been on both ends, here are my 5 tips for dealing with a grieving friend.

1. Never ask how it happened

This is my cardinal rule. NEVER ask your friend how their loved one died. It’s selfish. If they are willing to share the cause of death with you they will. Oh trust me, they will. It’ll be one of the first things they say. But if they don’t offer up that information – DON’T ASK. Personally, I hated having to explain my father’s death. Every single time someone heard it was a car accident, they had this look of utter despair on their face and I just couldn’t deal with it. Put yourself in their situation – what if you had a loved one pass away from an overdose, suicide, bad fall… would you really want to replay the story over and over again? In the end, it doesn’t matter how the hell they died. The concentration isn’t on them. It’s on your friend and helping them in their time of need.

 2. Don’t send flowers

Flowers are a nice gesture and they show you care but when someone in your family dies, you get so many flowers. Trust me; there will never be a shortage of them. Think creatively instead. When my grandma passed away, my aunt’s office delivered sandwiches to her house before the wake so no one had to worry about finding something to eat while getting ready. When my dad passed away, some of my friends wrote long letters. That meant more to me than all the flowers combined and I still have them. Here are a couple suggestions: a gift card to a restaurant so the family can have a night out together, Visa gift cards to help pay for gifts during the holidays, offer to do the grocery shopping for them for the next few weeks or put together a basket of their favorite magazines, candy and CDs. My favorite idea is to offer to babysit during the services. Most families have kids in them and it sucks having to decide which parent is going to be able to make the service. Instead, go to the wake in the first hour then offer to watch the kids of the family. It’ll mean a lot.

3. You don’t know how they feel

So stop claiming that you do. Even if you lost someone close to you, your pain is different than their pain. Hell, I can’t even claim to understand how my brother feels and we lost the same parent at the same age. Everyone has a unique relationship and unique feelings. The second someone claimed that they knew how I felt, I immediately put my wall up with them. If you lost someone close to you around the same age as this person did, it’s ok to relate and let them know what your experience was. It’s not bad to offer advice, just don’t ever say “I know how you feel”. If you haven’t been in their shoes before then don’t try to relate to them. A 13-year old doesn’t care that you lost your father at 40. It’s okay to not be able to relate. The number one person that I went to during my grief period straight up told me that she felt bad she hasn’t lost anyone and couldn’t relate. That didn’t keep me from going to her when I needed someone to talk to. In fact, I respected her more for being honest.

4. Don’t be afraid to visit

I think that a lot of people hesitate to visit the family at home during the week of services because they’re afraid they’ll bother them. That’s so far from being true. When my two best friends and their family came to be with me the morning after my dad passed away, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I will never forget my landlord stopping by with their baby to hand deliver their gift. The truth is that when you’re going through a tough loss, you and your family are grieving together, which means you can’t escape it. Sometimes you just need a baby to play with. Also, stick around at the wake. I know that people don’t like wakes but nothing felt better than knowing that there was an entire room filled with my middle school friends to escape to during the services.

 5. It’s OK to be the distraction

Not everyone is going to be the therapist. Sometimes you have to be the distraction instead. That person who will provide the fun in life. If your friend doesn’t want to talk to you about their loss, that’s totally fine. When I went through this, I only talked to my 8th grade teacher… I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. It’s overwhelming having 10 different people wanting you to open up to them. That’s why we need the distraction – the friend you know you’ll always be able to have a good time with. It doesn’t invalidate your friendship. They need you just as much as the therapist friend, just in a different way.  


When all else fails, just ask the person what they need. They’ll let you know.