51 Things I Learned in 2016

Historically, my aspirations of keeping up with writing on this blog have led to countless posts beginning with “It has been too long.” Once again, history proves that it repeats itself as I dust off my laptop’s keys and pause briefly trying to remember what my password for this account is.

History is also repeating itself because, as per my annual tradition (going on eight years now), I am going to look back and share several memories and things I learned over the course of 2016. If you are intrigued, please read on. If I have already successfully bored you, here’s a photograph of a cute baby animal before clicking away merrily to a more fascinating website:

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Ahem. And now, 51 Things I Learned in 2016:

1) You wake up with hesitation about 2016 on January 1st. You’ve been having doubts about everything it seems lately, and you are genuinely unsure of where this year is headed. You have just moved out from your parents’ house, and you are still re-adjusting to living on your own.

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2) These doubts and fears don’t go away when you find out that your new landlords tell you they are selling the house you are currently renting on January 2nd, and you have until April 1st to find a new place to live. Again.
3) To fight these feelings brought on by the large blank canvas that looms before you, you start  making spontaneous plans, like entering a writing competition, pitching a story to a magazine, applying for a fellowship and planning a two-week trip abroad with your boyfriend the two of you have dreamed about for years. You tell yourself half-heartedly that if you are meant to be a writer, at least one of the writing things will pan out.

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4) You get rejected by the magazine, but are encouraged to keep pitching.

5) You become a savvy apartment hunter, and within two weeks of learning you have to be out of your current residence you and your roommate locate an adorable two-bedroom that will be ready by March 1st – and you can paint the walls.

6) You have driven a U-Haul. Never forget that.

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7) You sigh relief, thinking you don’t have to move again for a long while – until your place of employment informs you they are moving their offices in August.

8) It’s during the spring where the year suddenly takes off for you, and in turn throws several surprises your way: Your co-worker and fellow work space neighbor informs you she is leaving for another job in another city. You make it into the fellowship. Another co-worker and dear friend informs you she is leaving her part-time job where you work for a full-time gig elsewhere, but she gets to visit you at your fellowship. You receive a voicemail from a number you don’t recognize only to learn that the writing competition you entered has selected your piece out of 270 submissions to be one of the 12 performed in September.

9) May and June are very conflicting months for you.

10) But you start to feel like this whole writing thing might actually be your calling after all.

11) The night at Hotel Foster and Ian’s Pizza in celebration of a friend’s graduation will live on as a story you tell your kids when you reminisce about your twenties before they came along.

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12) You learn that you will never ever ride the Lake Michigan Ferry again. EVER.

13) Because apparently, you get motion sick. Or so you think.

14) Remember, you have driven across half the country completely alone, after getting sick – twice, through states you’ve never been to, with a phone at 10%, a dead GPS, no maps, and with less than half a tank of gas. Remember that you did that.

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15) But next time, remember you should fly.

16) You would find the one lady in Rochester, New York who runs an AirBnB that looks like a fairy-tale cottage and is a freelance scenic designer for some of the community theaters in town.

17) After a 2.5 hour ferry ride, and over ten hours on the road lending to hundreds of miles driven and several toll booths fed, you will find yourself in one of the most comfortable beds of your life. It will easily make the Top 5 List.

18) The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is a magical and inspiring place.

19) You meet some of the best theater critics and arts journalists currently working in the country, and you instantly feel insignificant. All confidence you just gained regarding your writing is gone.

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20) Marisa Tomei is a fantastic actress. Period.

21) When you think you suck, remember you made Chris Jones laugh with your writing. Laugh because he found it funny, not because it was awful. You hope.

22) You realize your next car should be newer, so the chance of your muffler falling off completely after a cross-country road trip is less likely.

23) Food poisoning isn’t fun. Especially when you are 1,000 miles from home.

24) You spend your second week at your fellowship feeling like your disappointing everyone because you keep getting sick, off and on. You wonder what the hell is going on. You’re quite certain several people are speculating you are pregnant.

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25) But you’re not pregnant. You (finally, and officially) get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Suddenly, so many moments of your life make sense.

26) Thank God for your dear friend who was able to help you drive back home. You learn the two of you are even more alike; she is after all the reason you learned about the fellowship, told you to get checked out, and helped you get anxiety medicine.

27) It’s also because of her that you have seen Times Square and your first Broadway show, Something Rotten! at the St. James Theatre in New York City.

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28) In August, you spend two-weeks on a whirlwind adventure abroad with you boyfriend of six years. You thank your doctor for giving you another batch of anxiety medication to help you cope.

29) You don’t remember planes being a problem before, considering you have gone on a plane every year since 2012 and aside from freaking out from occasional turbulence, you have been fine.

30) Despite the rain in Iceland, you enjoy its natural springs and waterfalls and black sand beaches. You adore the colorful houses of Reykjavik. You eat at Bobbie Fischer’s favorite pho place. You sit on a basalt column outside of Vik, in the mist, never wanting to sit anywhere else. You stand in front of a Skogafoss, and the brisk droplets from the waterfall make you feel truly alive and happy. Months later, you will want to go back.

31) London is as wonderful as every single British romantic comedy has ever made it out to be. You feel welcomed. You become a skilled Tube rider. You spend the day touring the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels. You learn sometimes you just need to go off and discover, and you will happen upon a local pub (just around the corner from 221B) and it will have the best fish and chips you have ever tasted. You walk the whole length of Hyde Park in hopes of finding the Peter Pan statue. Months later, you will want to go back.

32) The London Tube and The Paris Metro both have a tendency to attract accordion players.

33) Paris is exactly how you picture it. You find joy in sitting outside of Notre Dame, eating your leftover airplane breakfast as lunch, listening to the bells beside the love of your life. At that moment, you can’t imagine anything more romantic.

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34) Bike signals save lives in Amsterdam. So does the fact you and your boyfriend both have your phones on you, allowing you to find each other when you separated.

35) You get cursed at in Dutch. You deserved it.

36) You also learn that stairs are incredibly steep in Amsterdam townhouses. But from all the walking you are doing in their beautiful parks and around their museums, your calves are up to the challenge. Good thing, since Scotland also has an obsession with stairs.

37) Edinburgh is the city for artists and writers, and feeds your passion. You attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and see circus acts and a wonderful tale about the true writers behind the Grimm tales. You visit the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling worked on Harry Potter, which reminds you to write more…and that you need to finish reading the books.

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38) It is amazing how close a room full of strangers can become over a magical evening featuring whisky tastings, dinner, and an illusionist’s show.

39) The Scottish Highlands are beautiful. You decide you need to return someday to see everything you missed. Speaking of which, you miss Scotland a lot.

40) Your boyfriend can drive on the left side of the car in Ireland. You find this new ability of his extremely attractive.

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41) The Irish countryside makes you think of home.

42) You make it to the Cliffs of Insanity. You can neither confirm nor deny that you took a piece of them with you.

43) Your new work desk is a mini condo with a window. But still, you hope for no more moving.

44) You are called a playwright when the monologue you wrote for a writing competition is performed before an almost full-house at a professional theater. The artistic director hugs you, and she and her artistic associate, along with your piece’s director and actress all commend you on your writing style. For the first time in a long time, you feel like you have found a place where you belong, among these fantastic artists.

45) In regards to a certain election, you didn’t see that coming. You also can’t help but feel as if you are living in an alternative timeline, what with the election results, the surplus of celebrity deaths, and the Cubs winning the World Series.

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46) Apparently, if your boyfriend’s parents host your entire family for Thanksgiving, your grandparents will take this to mean you and your boyfriend are actually engaged.

47) Between the holidays and end-of-the-year-work-related-stress, your anxiety flares up again in time for all end-0f-the-year festivities. You decide you won’t let it get in the way.

48) La La Land helps you find magic in a month where you have been feeling anything but. On that note, Rogue One makes you wistful for Iceland and Carrie Fisher and Arrival helps you make peace with the concept of making decisions for your future self.

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49) Your roommate makes you a Star Wars blanket, a friend gifts you Nessy socks, your landlord and downstairs neighbor continue to be the best landlord and neighbor ever when they surprise you with gifts, your mom gives you a book followed up with the words “you can write better than this,” and your boyfriend invests in your health by getting you a Fit Bit – which, surprisingly, helps you manage your anxiety. Bottom line: on your worst days, no matter the distance, remember people love you just as you are.

50)Speaking of love, you realize how grateful you are to have Z in your life. From remembering the little things (such as the fact you like peanut M&Ms in your movie popcorn) to being there when you need it most (such as having a panic attack), he is absolutely one of the best elements of your life. He has seen you at your worst (mentally, emotionally, physically – yes, including illness) and he still holds your hand and helps you get through to the next moment. Remember his kindness and patience and love as you head into your seventh year together. Men like him (heck people like him) don’t just appear at your doorstep everyday.

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And, finally…

51)You realize you need to keep working on being happy yourself. You skew bitter and resentful too often, which is sad because if there is anything you have learned this year is how much you actually have going for you.

So, in the famous words of Shia, “JUST DO IT!” is the theme for 2017. Eat the healthy salad instead of the pizza you will regret. Clean up the mess instead of letting the mess control you. Turn off Facebook instead of scowling at the stories friends share. Read a book or work on your own, instead of wondering why nothing ever happens to you. Book a flight and go on a trip and don’t let your anxiety win. Love your family, your friends, and Z to the best of your ability, and remember they are human too. Don’t be afraid to be selfish from time to time, and don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. Don’t judge your life by the friend that got engaged, the brother that bought a house, or the acquaintance that got a new job – hold yourself to your standards, not some other human’s.

Remember that.

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Cheers to 2017,

-The Shoe
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Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads: 2015 in Review

It’s been awhile (I always say that), and a lot has happened in the past 365 days.

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As has been my tradition for the past seven years, I like to take a moment to share what I’ve learned this past year for, at the very least, my personal amusement and benefit.

Because it was the year of the Hoverboard (real hoverboards, not this stickless Segway nonsense), I will use none other than Back to the Future gifs to aid in my reviewing of the year.

2015 in Review:

1. I ushered in the new year celebrating one year of full-time with my current employer, and starting a 401k like a real adult.

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2. I finally saw every episode from all ten seasons of Friends. That was most of my January, February, and March. No I don’t regret it.

3. Because sometimes you get coffee with a dear friend at 8 at night, only to have to move to a little bar to purely continue on the conversation.

4. To celebrate turning 25, I took the day off of work, and spent the day and weekend with Z.

5. I paid off the last of my student loans. It still doesn’t even feel real.

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6. I helped market and costume design a Shakespeare show and didn’t die.

7. I road tripped through South Dakota with one of my closest friends and we didn’t die.

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8. I saw Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower (one of my favorite places from our trip), Yellowstone National Park (which can be done in one day), and the Oregon Coast all for the first time.

9. The Oregon Coast is beautiful and I can’t wait to return.

10. Had the best coffee in the Seattle area once again…and it didn’t disappoint.

11. Saw the gum wall before they cleaned it up – I call that an accomplishment.

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12. No matter where we are, however many cities or states away, we can pick things up right where we left them. I learned that with countless friends this year, and I look forward to embracing that knowledge in the coming year.

13. October 21, 2015 was literally the best date (night) ever.

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14. I (finally) moved out of my parents’ house, and into my first grown-up place. It has down wonders for mine and my parents’ relationship.

15. Family is important – especially the people that become your family.

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16. Star Wars. Still sorting out my feelings.

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17. It is possible to go ice skating and not fall down.

18. Christmas 2015 – the year I got excited over kitchen appliances…and an R2D2 scarf from my new roomie.

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19. Z gave me one of the best Christmas gifts of my life. This gift took time, heart, and was put together with love. Something he shows me everyday, and that I’m going to try and show better myself to him and everyone else in 2016.

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To 2016 – I have a good feeling about about this one.

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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Throw Back Thursday: Blank Pages and New Year Resolutions, Part Two

Last year, I wrote a piece titled Blank Pages and New Year Resolutions, Part Two. Seeing as it was a year later, I decided to read the post again to see how it held up over the course of 2014.

Surprisingly, there were a few things I needed to hear. Again.

So in honor of Throwback Thursday and celebrating the New Year of 2015, I’m throwing it back to an oldie but a goodie this week. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope despite it being a year old, find its message still hopeful. 🙂

See the post below, and I’ll be updating everyone on my 2015 goals in a few days!

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Sincerely, The Shoe

Emotionally Naked

About a year ago, a very conflicted young woman came up with the brilliant idea of starting a blog. She settled on the idea that the blog would channel her frustrations regarding life at that point, in the present, as a part-time working post college grad struggling to find herself. She hoped to include humor as well as serious insights, and had the goal to update it on a weekly basis, so that at the end of the year there would be exactly 52 blog posts.

I was short by about 35.

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But that’s okay. Yes, I would have loved to have kept up with this blog a little better, but the fact that I did succeed in 17 posts is a small victory in of itself.

Sometimes we forget the little victories we happen to make, whether during our day, during a year, or during a lifetime. Maybe some…

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My First Paid Writing Project

Granted, it was Z’s parents and came in the form of an electronic gift card to a massive coffee chain known for mermaid cups and great benefits, but it most definitely counts as compensation.

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I even confronted Z about the whole thing. I thought they were being nice, spoiling me once again as the daughter they never had, but Z of course had to go and ruin that whole thought by telling me it was because they were blown away by my work.

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You see, Z* and I are both storytellers. Z is a visual cinematographer, and I am more of a self-proclaimed word artist. These similarities are why we work, and sometimes why we don’t…as well. (hehe)

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Anyway, Z was assisting his parents with a project that required his mad film skills, and I tagged along. Long story short, he needed to create a promotional video of sorts which ultimately will need a voiceover which means a script needed to be created and hey WORDS.

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I must confess I didn’t actually do a lot of the writing, I more took the general idea they had written out and played typographical Tetris with the document for half an hour. I tweaked, shortened, and downright moved some sentences around, and added a smidge of classic Shoe flair. I had fun dissecting the entire piece, and most importantly I was glad I could help out Z and his parents. (brownie points)

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(No, seriously, I was and am very glad I could help. Even before I knew I would be rewarded 😉

I wasn’t expecting anything. Maybe a “thank you,” and most definitely edits and changes, like I receive at work on the regular. However, I instead received a highly professional email from Z’s dad, which Z had to explain is him giving high praise. Like when the farmer told Babe “that’ll do, pig, that’ll do,”-it was kind of like that. Simple, yet very meaningful.

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Both his parents highly praised the piece, which I thought was okay but figured would need additional work. That alone warmed my heart like a white girl’s pumpkin spice latte. However, them going the extra mile and kindness to compensate me for my time, that brought everything to a whole new level.

My writing has a value to it.

In other of Back to the Future this past weekend.

In honor of Back to the Future this past weekend. Happy Belated BTTF Day Everyone!

That’s something every writer needs to realize some point. I guess that moment happened today.

What’s even better, is I know that the people that believe in my writing also believe in me, because they love me and support me. And, trust me when I say this, but if they truly didn’t see value or believe I have a chance they would not be as encouraging.

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Overall, I can’t think of a better way for my first paid (freelanced) writing gig to go.

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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* Z, my one letter nickname for the dashingly handsome, highly incorrigible, and overall wonderful human being I have had the pleasure of dating for the past five years. The nickname is to keep serial killers at bay and to protect him from any embarrassment my articles may generate for him.

Righting Writing

I cannot believe that it has been three weeks since my last post.

I could use the typical excuses of being extremely busy. I do have a major project at work that has kept me on my toes. However, as a dear friend once pointed out, one should always make time for writing if writing is what one loves.

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Which is why I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in July.

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For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it is a month (November) set aside where individuals will write a novel in a one month’s time. Camp NaNoWriMo is very similar to what goes down in November, but with a bit more emphasis on fun and keeping writers writing, even during the busy summer months.

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I have always (and by always, I mean, ever since I became familiar with this challenge) wanted to give it a try, but truth be told? I always claimed I was too busy, or I didn’t have a fleshed out idea in mind.

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The real truth is I was too scared to try, because if I tried and didn’t succeed, I would fail.

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Which is completely silly when you think about it.

My goal is to write at least 50,000 words for a potential novel. I am in an online cabin with a few friends to help keep me on task, and I them. That’s it. So why does that seem so daunting?

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To me, it is probably because I grow far too attached to my ideas (or as I call them, my potential bestsellers because I like to dream big 😉 and that attachment honestly hinders my work on them. I’m so scared I’ll mess up the story lines or destroy my carefully crafted characters that I do them an even larger disservice: I don’t even grant them life in the first place.

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Which is why I’m sucking it up and doing Camp NaNoWriMo.

Me, myself, and I sat down around a cup of coffee and discussed how the three of us were going to accomplish this.

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Me was freaking out, but myself calmed her down and told her to remember to just have fun with it. As I pointed out, that’s why you write in the first place-because you enjoy it. Because you have something to say. Because above all, it is just fun to tell a story.

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The three of us also agreed that we would come up with a new story idea, fresh and with no strings attached, to eliminate hours of agonizing over…everything. Plus, creating a story idea that we haven’t completely fallen in love with would eliminate not placing the invisible pressure of wanting it to be the most excellent piece of literature since Judy Blume. Avoiding that pressure will help us focus on what the camp is all about. What the camp and writing should be about: FUN.

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The camp officially kicks off July 1st, so we might experience another month of distance on here. I promise I’ll try to post updates, and of course whatever things life throws at me will force me to share my ramblings on here either way.

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If you would like to join my cabin, or participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, please visit https://campnanowrimo.org for additional details!

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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The Me Online vs. The Real Me vs. Work Me

When I was in school, professors used to warn me about what I put out into the world wide web because you never know when your future employer may check up on you. I thought I was safe making my Facebook page as private as possible, and making sure even there I was fairly well-behaved. I even went the extra step of befriending co-workers only after a certain period of time, and never, ever “friending” superiors and bosses.

Michael Scott. World's Best Boss.

Michael Scott. World’s Best Boss.

However, what my professors didn’t touch on was that your online interactions with so called “friends” on Facebook are just another area to consider when you are uploading that particular selfie (I still shudder at the word!) or typing that one particular status.

See, something has changed since graduation. A few years ago, the majority of my friends on Facebook were recent graduates, working part-time jobs and still embracing the camaraderie that college used to offer.

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Now, a fair amount of those same friends are working full-time jobs for well respected companies, some are even supervisors in positions where they oversee entry-level employees and interns.

It is funny, because being in a position of that nature, I am starting to view what my friends, and ultimately what I post online quite differently.

I look at a lot of resumes. I receive a lot of cover letters. I also am given links to online portfolios and LinkedIn accounts-but I don’t stop there. My curious nature will search the individual on their Facebook page or see if they have a Twitter handle, and so far, the majority of candidates have kept a fairly squeaky clean online persona.

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Now, I’m on the fence with seeking out information on individuals via Twitter and Facebook, because there is a part of me that believes that how a person behaves and acts off the clock isn’t my business and I shouldn’t condemn them (or applaud them, pending on how you look at it) for their various acts they proclaim in the online world.

On the same note, I can’t help but think that sometimes the behavior that is shared is a good indicator to the person’s overall personality-including their work ethic and how they will conduct themselves as an employee.

That’s where I get nervous.

I like to think I have a fairly clean online presence. Maybe a few too many shared quiz results (thanks a lot Buzzfeed), maybe a few too many cutesy smiley faces on my boyfriend’s wall, and maybe there are a few photos from college theatre that might raise an eyebrow or could be deemed questionable by the wrong audience (no pun intended).

However, is that how my Facebook friends see me? You might wonder why it matters what your Facebook friends think. They like you for who you are (that is, you are actually being the “real you” online and not the “cyber you” that so many people actually become on social media sites) and want you to express yourself! Right?

What happens when that Facebook friend lands a sweet job at a fantastic company, and a few months later shares on Facebook that his company has an opening for a position you would be perfect for?

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Do you think they will find your vulgar jokes, questionable selfies, oversharing posts, and whiny/complaining/too-much-information statuses as charming as they did before?

Some individuals might still find them charming. Some individuals might not care what you do after hours (or even on the clock). But there might be a few that question if they really want to bring you on as an employee because a few weeks ago you shared a status about how ” I hate work,  life sucks, racial slur and inappropriate/sexual comment about current co-worker, ending with I can’t expletive wait for the expletive weekend.” (Or something along those lines)

As a young working professional, and as an aspiring writer, I’m wondering what sort of online presence I should keep and maintain, and how I should go about it. The young working professional is being the right shoulder angel, gently coaxing me to post less, be more vague, and minimize my online visibility. Meanwhile, my writing side is being a sassy smoldering temptress on the left shoulder, seductively pointing out that I won’t get anywhere in the writing world if I don’t create an online identity and voice.

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Which leads me to you, fellow followers, friends (both on Facebook/Twitter and in real life): What are your thoughts on your online identity? Should we all be completely honest? Should we keep a pleasant online “FACE”? Or should we forgo the social media craze for the greater good of our jobs and their security?

I look forward to your thoughts!

Sincerely,

The Shoe

Wrong Place at the Right Time

I’m driving in my car, with the windows down and the radio on, still in disbelief at the greenery all around me. Birds are singing, fluffy clouds lazily stroll across the sky, and the air smells sweet, a blend of fresh cut grass and leftover rain.

And then it hits.

I’m at work, staring at my computer screen. Coffee on my left, paperwork on my right, and co-workers a cubicle’s distance away. Casual chatter and laughter as they design and I respond to client’s inquiries. A printing press is heard, the smell of ink and fresh paper wafts through the office, and I glance at the framed photos of my boyfriend and I.

And then it hits.

I’m sitting on a hard wooden pew, with cardigan covered arms crossed, and my right foot twitches. The minister shares a message, as hundreds of eyes and ears tune in. The sunlight catches the stain glass, the bright pink and white flowers pop on the altar, and a baby or two cry out.

And then it hits.

Inspiration hits at the absolute worst times. The ideas won’t stop flowing, words and thoughts and theories and visions all tumble together at the speed of light, so fast that even if you had a notebook or your computer nearby you couldn’t possibly capture every single thing spinning around in your mind at that very moment.

Then, the second you are finally near a pad of paper or your laptop, just as quickly as the creativity came upon you it has left again. Like a twister of imaginative wonder that has barely touched down before it’s sucked back up into the sky. You stare at the screen, the cursed cursor mocking you as it blinks ON off ON off ON off..

Nothing. Nothing at all comes to mind.

I think that is why I struggle so much with writing. Between work, commuting, and family commitments, my inspiration has no choice but to pop up at the worst possible times because I leave it no choice. I can’t help that my brain is extremely creative at 10:30 in the morning instead of after 6:00. I can’t control that driving somehow stimulates that special part of my cranium where the magic happens. Inspiration will happen when it wants to happen, and there isn’t anything I can do about it.

Or is that just what I tell myself?

Is it possible that I am using the fact that inspiration comes at less than ideal times as an excuse to not get any writing done? Is it becoming a well-disguised crutch? A crutch I lean on when I am too scared to actually try and turn my ideas into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages, pages into chapters…

If I really break down how I could channel my inspiring moments (carry a notebook, a voice recorder, send myself a text message), would that help? Or am I just a “writer” that is actually just an individual with dreams but no drive and is extremely crappy at commitment and extremely fantastic at excuse-making and creative procrastination? What is stopping me from actually trying?

Fear? Laziness? Poor discipline? Self-doubt?

A good friend of mine (you know who you are) reminded me that writing is much like a relationship. Some days, you may not feel like you are into the relationship a hundred percent. It’s similar with writing. If we only write when we feel like it, are we really giving our writing the best shot it has? What if we only loved when we felt like it? What if we only cared for our friends or children when we felt like it? What if we only listened to our bosses when we felt like it?

If we only write when we feel like it, or when we think the inspiration hits us, we aren’t giving our writing our best shot.

I might not become a successful writer someday. I might not be the proud author of a best seller. I even may never become published.

But you and I won’t get anywhere close to those dreams if we don’t at least try.

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