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.

Sexism and Pain


As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gain power and voices, I’ve been nursing my most recent story in my head. I was quick to jump on with accounts of my own harassment, assault and constant struggle to be taken seriously in my career. I think it’s time to talk about my most recent medical journey as well.

Two years ago, I was rehearsing for a show when I bent backwards to narrowly escape a fencing jab. My left knee gave out and I crumbled to the floor. An intense and sharp pain shot from my knee through my whole body. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt.. so bad that when my writing partner went to grab her car, I started throwing up. My knee started swelling immediately and I couldn’t put any weight on it without unbearable pain.

The morning after I went to the ER, the hospital called me to let me know they found a small fracture in my kneecap and advised me to get to an orthopedist as soon as possible. As it was Friday, my options were limited. I called every orthopedic office until I found someone with a Monday appointment.

That following Monday, I saw Dr. Trash for the first time. (Why I’m concealing the identity of a doctor that doesn’t deserve protection is beside me, but his pseudonym is not only fitting but also very close to his actual last name so it works.) I didn’t think much of having to wait over an hour past my appointment time in his office (all doctors operate like that, right?) and didn’t care that he rushed the appointment. All I cared about at that time was getting the medication needed to ease my pain and the doctors note to clear my absence from work. He asked about the injury and I explained it to him. I told him that it felt like my knee twisted and that there was bone on bone. He laughed at the description, citing it’s impossibility. He looked at my x-ray for about 30 seconds then diagnosed me with a dislocated knee. He advised me to stay in a thigh to ankle immobilizer and come back after two weeks.

I went home and, despite my medication, was still in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even lay in my bed because laying flat was uncomfortable. For the next two weeks, I just dealt with the pain and powered through it.

Two weeks later, I went back to Dr. Trash’s office. When I said that I wasn’t doing any better, he said it was probably because I wasn’t icing or elevating. I told him I was doing that constantly and my office even got me a special chair to elevate. He told me I would be sore for a bit but that’s “just how teenage girls’ bodies are.” I was 25. I thought it was a weird comment but didn’t think much beyond that at the time. He wrote me a script for more pain meds and pushed me out as fast as I came in.

I started PT and spent the first month relearning how to walk because the immobilizer stiffened up my leg. I was in constant pain. I started to get worried that something more was wrong. My roommate has a strong history of dislocating her knee and I’ve seen her recover before. Her recovery was much shorter and appeared to be less painful, but I thought “oh well, everyone’s body is different.”

A month later, I was back in Dr. Trash’s office. At this point, I was starting to get really concerned. After relearning how to walk, I was finally starting to strengthen my knee at PT and it was met with intense, localized pain.

When asked how I was doing, I told Dr. Trash that my pain was getting worse with physical therapy. I told him it was localized and that it almost felt as if my knee was like a puzzle that didn’t quite fit together. He dismissed my pain, stating that these things take time and I would be sore for awhile, but I told him that I wasn’t sore, I was in pain. He told me that the way teenage girls’ bodies are stacked puts pressure on your knee and therefore causes discomfort. I revealed to him, yet again, that I wasn’t a teenage girl and that my pain wasn’t discomfort – it was sharp, localized pain. He mentioned my teenage girl body yet again, and said this is all common for girls dislocating their knee. I told him that I was concerned I tore something when I fell, and asked why I didn’t get a MRI. He told me that he usually doesn’t issue MRIs for women with knee dislocations since dislocations are so common in, you guessed it, teenage girls. Defeated, I gave up.

I feel like I need to clarify at the point that I never had a “teenage girl’s” body. I grew boobs and hips before I ever knew what they were and never hosted a typical teen body. As an overweight 25 year old, I DEFINITELY wasn’t hosting one. I also grew up as an athlete and had my fair share of sprains, pulls and thrown out necks. I had chronic pain due Lyme putting water in my knee as a kid and carpal tunnel as a teen. I understood the difference between long term ache and “holy shit something is wrong.” Something was wrong.

Over the next two months, both of my PTs and I started getting frustrated with my lack of results and increased pain. There were sessions that brought me to tears because I was in so much pain. No one knew how to help ease it and it seemed that everything they did made it worse. I recall holding my breath and concealing my tears as my PT rolled out my patellar tendon because the pain was so bad it sent goosebumps to my skin. (Turns out she was rolling right over the actual trouble spot without realizing it.) Defeated, my PT checked in with me one day. “So it’s just a dislocation. Your x-ray didn’t show anything else, right?” “Aside from the ER showing a small fracture, nope.” “And your MRI was clear?” “I didn’t get a MRI.” “Why?” “My doctor won’t prescribe one.” “You need to push for a MRI.” he mumbled under his breath.

That was the jolt of confidence I needed to make another appointment with Dr. Trash. I decided I would push as hard as possible for a MRI then take it to another orthopedic surgeon. The night before my next appointment, I ran into my old roommate who broke her femur when I lived with her. As I was telling her about my rough recovery from a seemingly simple injury, she asked me who my doctor was. I told her it was Dr. Trash and she told me to run away from him. He was the same doctor who did her leg surgery wrong, and when she questioned him about her pain and bowed leg, he dismissed the pain and told her she would just have to wear long skirts for the rest of her life, like her problem was that superficial.

The next day I went into Dr. Trash’s office with more confidence than I had over the last 8 months. When he asked me how I was doing, I was honest and told him worse than when I came in. I told him that I was in immense pain that only got worse with PT. He told me women tend to feel pain worse than men, especially when it came to TEENAGE GIRLS DISLOCATING THEIR KNEE. I was done with his shit, and demanded a MRI. He told me he doesn’t prescribe MRIs for women’s knees because of the high statistics of TEENAGE GIRLS DISLOCATING THEIR KNEES. I told him I was not a teenage girl, and even my limited medical knowledge told me that there were enough ligaments and cartilage in the knee that a MRI seemed appropriate. He told me “honey, you didn’t do any damage to your cartilage or ligaments, you dislocated your knee.” I asked him how he was so sure, and again he gave me the stats on how common of an injury it was with teenage girls. He told me insurance would never cover the MRI. I told him I didn’t care, I’d pay full price for it. He then, defeated, told me “Well I guess I can falsify your prescription and tell them we’re looking for floating cartilage or something so insurance will accept it. Will that make you feel better, sweetie?” I resisted the urge to punch him in the dick, said yes, grabbed my script and walked out of his office for good.

After getting my MRI, I went to one of the best knee surgeons in Chicago. In my first appointment, he spent more time that Dr. Trash did in all my appointments and told me that the problem was that I chipped a chunk of cartilage off my leg. He said it could be seen a bit in the x-ray alone, but was clear as day in the MRI. The MRI also showed bone bruising and minor ligament damage, all of this caused by… my bone coming together when my knee twisted. EXACTLY WHAT DR. TRASH TOLD ME WAS IMPOSSIBLE. My new doctor, Dr. Hair, told me nothing was impossible in medicine. A few months later, I found out that the second thing I felt, my knee feeling like a bad puzzle, was also true. I had surgery that revealed a piece of cartilage as big as a nickel chipped off and lodged itself into another part of my knee.

It has been almost two years since my initial injury and I’m still recovering from my most recent major knee surgery which should correct my defect. I spent eight months of that time with a doctor who dismissed my pain and diagnosed me off of statistics instead of symptoms then didn’t listen when I told him I was in pain.

I wish I knew at 25 what I know at 27. You know your body. Trust it and listen to it, and the second a man starts comparing it to the statistics of teenage girls, run to a doctor who will listen to you. I heard stories that women often had pain dismissed by male doctors but had never experienced it myself. I wish I listened to the little voice that kept telling me something more was wrong, but instead I trusted that someone who thought my biggest symptom was being female knew more than me just because he had 50 years of medical experience. Every single day I’m thankful for my PT and old roommate who gave me the confidence needed to run away from Dr. Trash.

When I think about that time in my recovery, I fall into a depression. This injury changed everything for me. It kept me from performing and pursuing my comedy dreams, cost me thousands of dollars, made me miss months of work and stopped me from being a typical mid-20 something. Instead of going out, I had to relearn how to walk three different times. I spend $90 a week on PT. I lost friends because I couldn’t do anything for weeks at a time. For two years, I couldn’t perform or hustle like I used to while I watched peers get closer to their dreams. My plans of moving to LA were replaced with surgery dates and recovery windows. When I realize that this all could have been resolved in a single year instead of two had I not gone to Dr. Trash, I become furious.

So, ladies (and gents too), what can I teach you? Listen to your bodies and trust that know them. You are not reduced to a statistic based on your gender. And the second a doctor starts dismissing your pain or comparing you to a teenage girl, run the fuck away.

“I will always try to be happy.”


Here’s a fun fact about me (that you probably already know): 99% of what I read is nonfiction. Most of my bookcase is filled with autobiographies, instructional books and opinion pieces on the Middle East. Every now and again I sprinkle in a little Hunger Games or Narnia. Since my commute can be up to two hours every day, I read a lot. Right now I’m reading Sarah Silverman’s autobiography, The Bedwetter (thanks to a raving review by my mom). Yesterday I came upon this paragraph, which made me pat myself down to make sure she didn’t have a wire on me or a chip planted in my head:

A lot of comics think the real threat of mental blockage lies in becoming happy. They fear that happiness or even just dealing with their shit might make them not funny anymore. To me, that’s a bunch of romanticized bullshit. I don’t know. I guess if you write your best stuff when you’re miserable, maybe, but I don’t. I’m paralyzed when I’m miserable. I sleep. A lot. I will always try to be happy. I don’t think people really understand the value of happiness until they know what it’s like to be in that very, very dark place. It’s not romantic. Not even a little.


I have a very hypocritical stance on this whole “tortured artist” thing. So many people emphasize that comedians come with baggage, with a dark past. And I hate that shit. But at the same time, I feel like a hypocrite because I had a dark past myself. However, my place in comedy really has very little to do with my struggles in life. Here are the only three parallels I can draw:

  1. When I spent my two days at SNL, I was happy for the first time since my dad died and that made me realize I could do the same for others.
  2. By having anxiety issues and depression, I realized how valuable happiness is.
  3. By losing three people prematurely and unexpectedly, I realized that life is too short to not go after what you want.

But the reality is that I could have very well pursued comedy regardless of my dad’s death. I grew up in a family that valued humor and encouraged me to perform. Everyone was very loving and supportive. No one in my house really had any big problems… my childhood wasn’t dark and lonely. It’s not like I started doing bits to get attention because no one loved me… I did it because my parents encouraged us to be creative and silly. So it’s unfair for me to say that my hard times were the contributing factor to my pursuit of comedy.

I wanted to call up Miss Silverman, meet her for coffee and give her a high five when she mentioned that misery isn’t romantic. Thank you, Miss Silverman. Maybe I’m being a bit of a dick when I make this generalization but whatever… this is my blog, and I do what I want. But I really think that those people who romanticize hardship and write best when they’re miserable don’t know what being really depressed is like. When I was in my dark days, I couldn’t write anything. I couldn’t even get out of my fucking bed. Everything was a black hole and the thought of even getting up to go to the bathroom was exhausting. I slept and cried. That’s it. Didn’t even watch TV or read. On my more functional days, I would read or try to write… but my writing read more like a sad and dark diary entry than anything. When did I write my poetry? When I was happy. I could remember and reflect on my misery… therefore being able to write about it… but it was done with a clear head. I didn’t get shit done when I was depressed. I got shit done when I was happy.

So I think that anyone who romanticizes depression and hardship hasn’t gone through it. Maybe you think you did… because emotions are relative. When I was younger, I thought that I was depressed when my cheerleading coach quit. I didn’t think it was possible to get more upset than I was at that point. Then I learned what real depression was… a debilitating, dark and miserable sinkhole. So, kudos to anyone who can’t relate to this. Anyone who thinks I’m being an asshole because I don’t understand their feelings. I’m happy you’ve never experienced what others have. But I really believe that anyone who knows what it feels like to be in a very dark place would never wish to revisit it, especially when you know what happiness feels like. I strive every day to chase happiness. If that makes me normal, boring or naïve… great. There were many years of my life where I prayed that one day someone would use those adjectives to describe me.

I’ll sum it up with this point… I would trade everything I have in this world if it meant that my dad could come back. My time in Chicago, the people I met through losing him, my SNL experience, the wonderful college years I had, my wisdom, how close I became to my family, the experiences that I was able to enjoy because of losing him, my own happiness… I would give it all up. So I hate romanticizing hardship because the truth is that if given the chance, I would give up my gift of creativity if it meant that I didn’t have to experience my dark days. That’s not romantic.

Strive for happiness. Appreciate it if you’ve found it. If you’re still looking, have faith that it’ll come. There’s no nobility in holding onto your sadness in fear of losing your creativity. 

“Hard is not relative; hard is hard.”


During my lunch break today I did my semi-weekly Upworthy.com binge and watched a TEDx speech made by Ash Beckham. It was one of those rare moments you come across where the words coming out of someone else’s mouth are the same ones you’ve been struggling to find. One of those moments when you have this philosophy that you can’t quite put into words but then someone comes along and does it for you. In her speech, “Coming out of Your Closet,” Ash said:

Hard is not relative; hard is hard. Who can tell me that explaining to someone you just declared bankruptcy is harder than telling someone you just cheated on them? Who can tell me that his coming out story is harder than telling your 5-year old that you’re getting a divorce? There is no harder; there is just hard. We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else’s hard to make us feel better or worse about our closets and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.

Thank you, Ms. Beckham.

For a really long time after I lost my dad, I judged everyone else’s pain relative to my own. At first, I didn’t sympathize with anyone. Oh, your grandma died? Too bad. My dad died, which is worse, so your grief is not justified. I couldn’t bring myself to feel bad for anyone. Then I had a reality check. My mom became friends with the father of a child who went to the same support group as I did… and by child, I mean child. He was only about 7 years old… the oldest of three children. The story behind their life was so sad that it made me losing my dad seem normal. You would think that the family would never smile again, that they would walk around the building like most of the other families… confused, depressed, lost and just barely holding it together.

They didn’t. They were always so happy… so full of life. That’s the moment when I realized so many people have it worse than me. From then on, I felt guilty for being sad. I compared my hard with those who had it harder and told myself that I can’t be upset because it could always be worse… which meant that I felt even less sympathy for someone losing their grandma.

Then what happened? I lost my grandma. After 20 years of my grandma being the only surviving grandparent in my life, I lost her… and it was hard. We were all so upset. My mom and her siblings were now without any parent and although they’re “grown up”, it still hurt. It’s still hard.

You have to stop judging someone else’s grief. It’s a really hard lesson to learn on both ends. If life dealt you a shitty hand, you’ll find it hard to give out sympathy. If you have it pretty good, you feel bad when you get so upset over something trivial because other people have it worse. Life is an endless circle of it could be worse; if you lived a day in my shoes; you don’t understand how this feels; your pain is not nearly as bad as my pain… Guys, SHUT UP.

Who are we to place judgment on other people’s emotions? Who are we to stop someone from feeling the pain that they’re entitled to? Who are we to refuse sympathy just because we’ve met someone with a harder situation? This is why so many adults struggle with allowing themselves the ability to feel. There’s a constant fear of being labeled weak or silly for feeling the sadness everyone comes up against.

Why don’t we forget about trying to justify someone else’s hardship and just be there for them when they need us? So what if it seems trivial to you? It’s not trivial to the person hurting. They want someone to give them the permission they so desperately need to grieve. Give it to them. If not, we’re all going to walk around holding all this shit inside of us… thinking that we’re foolish for feeling pain.

I’m not perfect. I still struggle to feel sympathy for certain people under certain circumstances*. However, after hearing Ms. Beckham’s words, I realize that we all need to stop playing this I have it worse, he has it worse, she has it worse game and just feel. When your world is crashing down, let yourself grieve. Be selfish in those moments and get it out. Your life is hard every now and again and you’re not going to end up happy unless you give yourself permission to let the emotion come. Grieve it out… then be there for your friends, without judgment, when they need to grieve as well. Just be there for one another.

*Note that I can’t deal with people who are clearly making shit up for attention. Those people don’t count.