One Year in California

Today marks one year since our first day as residents of Los Angeles!

Last year, we had just gotten rid of over half our stuff, packed our Honda Civic with what was left and drove across the country.

And now, I want to reflect on a few of the highlights of our first year in LA, a few of the less-glamorous things, and a few tidbits of what you can expect popping up on the blog this next year.

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Highlights of the year

This year has been way more positive than negative, so I’m counting my blessings there for sure. Here’s what went well:

  • Finding and furnishing the apartment. Getting started so quickly really helped us feel right at home in our new city. This is officially my favorite living space in my whole life.
  • Adding Bonnie to the family. She’s just great. We’ve got some big vet bills for her this month, though, but she’s such an important part of our family now that it’s worth every penny.
  • Family and friends visiting. We were fortunate to see most of our family and quite a few of our friends this first year. Again, it’s been integral to adapting to this new life.
  • Job changes for both of us. My husband was able to get into a post-production job within the first month of living in LA, and I was able to transition out of two part time jobs and into a full time one! We’re both happier with our new situations.

The rough spots

I don’t have anything specific for this section, but a few themes did emerge.

  • Working from home. This sounds like it should be a highlight, but when making the transition to a city where you don’t know anyone, the lack of coworkers is a little rough. Thank goodness for video and phone calls and especially this blog – it’s helped keep me grounded on some shaky days.
  • Inability to set a routine. I can get into a good rhythm sometimes, but with all the visits and schedule disruptions, it’s been a little difficult to nail down. That means exercise, writing and working can get tough. That’s why balance is one of my words for 2016!
  • The rapid de-simplifying of the holidays. The past few months have been a little bit like a runaway train, and our bank account and my stress levels reflect that. I’m looking forward to February when things will actually calm down a bit.

What to look forward to

So here’s what both you and I can look forward to this year on the blog and otherwise. Want to hear more about a certain topic? Let me know in the comments.

  • Our monthly challenges. My husband and I are going to try a few different monthly challenges: bodyweight exercising, a vegan diet, and possibly a TV-free month among others.
  • Decreasing our student loan debt. Our goal is to pay off at least 25% of our loans this year – not a small feat, but I think we can do it. More on student loans and debt in a later post.
  • More volunteering. We volunteered on Christmas Eve this past year, and met a lot of wonderful people. It was so fun in fact, we’re going to try to do it every month. We may explore further options as well, and I’ll share some best practices for that once I’ve discovered them.
  • A better blog. This month, I’m taking some time out to develop a proper content calendar. My goal is to actually have a few posts scheduled out in advance at any given time so I’m not scraping around for post ideas. New design, new photos and new collaborations may be in the future to take this blog to the next level.
  • More colorful minimalism. I’ve been really craving more color in my life, especially in my wardrobe, so I’ll be intentionally adding and removing things to increase my joy. Of course, I’ll share how and why later on the blog.

A thank you

And finally, I want to thank all my readers for a great first year in California – we did it! The kind words and support have meant a great deal, and I can only hope to repay you by continuing forward as the Minimal Millennial.

And now your turn – where were you last year at this time, and how far have you come?

 

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Advice from Amy Poehler: Deciding Your Currency

Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.

I just finished listening to the audio version of Amy Poehler’s biography, Yes Please, and some of what she said really stuck with me. Particularly when she discussed finding out what it is that you have to offer and moving forward with that – not dwelling on something that you’ll never have or be.

Like, for me, I’ve realized that many women in my new surroundings are both tall and stunningly gorgeous. And somehow more blonde, and unsurprisingly more tan than I am. I’ve found myself comparing myself to these women and lamenting the fact that I’ll never be tall. 

What.

So, this quote about deciding on your currency has me thinking – what is it that I want to bring to the table? Certainly it’s not my tallness or my long hair (in a future post, I’ll tell you about how I chopped most of my hair off and continue to do so – without having someone do it for me, it’s pretty fun).

I want my currency to be kindness

I love loving people. I love being kind, and smiling, and talking to strangers about dumb stuff and hoping that it removes them from whatever they’re worried about for even a moment.

This is why I loved working in a coffee shop with people so much, and this is why I love kind things like flowers and rabbits (sorry for the rainbow-and-sparkles vomit there).

I feel like kindness is one thing I can be good at, even when I don’t feel like trying to be good at anything. Or, at least I hope it’s something I’m good at. Either way, I like practicing it and getting better at it.

She writes a bit about kindness and how important it is in this age of computers and machines:

The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.

This is what Amy Poehler says about her currency:

I had already made a decision early on that I would be a plain girl with lots of personality, and accepting it made everything a lot easier. If you are lucky, there is a moment in your life when you have some say as to what your currency is going to be.

But seriously, she’s a beautiful person. Now let’s talk about you.

What is your currency?

Your currency could be that you are ridiculously good looking. It could be that you’re great at math, or at high-level, big-picture thinking. You could be really good at making people laugh or you could be really good at growing beards. Maybe you’ve got an uncanny capacity for making up languages or you can see really well when driving at night.

What is your “thing” that you can offer? I’d love to hear it. I feel like we can all get so flustered sometimes and lose sight of our thing. And yes, it can be one or two or three things, but what’s important is knowing this: what you like to do that you also are good at doing.

It can be hard.

To close, I’d like to share the YouTube version of Yes, Please that I listened to. If it’s no longer available, check it out at your local library or take the leap and buy it. I will, however, strongly recommend the audio version. She’s funny and smart and has a genuine, likeable narration.

Not convinced? There’s tons of hilarious, heartwarming, inappropriate and genuinely good bits of advice from the book over at Huffington Post.

A Life Lived in Comparison

Comparison is an act of violence against the self.

~Iyanla Vanzant

Drooping FlowerI know a girl, let’s call her Stacy, who is the most graceful, beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. She’s always decked out in upscale (and likely expensive) clothes, and can pull off any look flawlessly. Over the years I’ve known her, I have learned one thing: I am not a Stacy.

I’ve tried to be a Stacy, but on a budget, by buying similar designer clothes at thrift stores, and even by going to (gasp!) malls to purchase outfits. One of my closest friends and I drool over her style choices and always ask ourselves “would she wear this?” before making the final decision on a piece of clothing. We’re living in comparison to this girl.

But then a funny thing happened. I realized that I wasn’t nearly as comfortable when I dressed like her, when I tried to act like her, and when I tried to do my makeup as well as she does hers. I realized, and you probably knew this was coming, but I realized that the more I acted like her, the more I became a fraud. I’m not poised. I’m not elegant. I’m more of a comfort-first, pink-and-sparkles kind of person. Think DJ Tanner versus Kimmy Gibbler, and I’m Kimmy.

So, my question for you today is: are you living your life in comparison to someone or some ideal?

And that’s not all. Occasional comparison is okay, in fact, it seems inevitable. But when you do compare yourself to another, are you comparing yourself to someone you’d like to be more like? Or is it someone that you can’t see yourself becoming?

I think that learning to live your life independently of what others are doing is an essential skill especially for those of us who “live” online. There’s always going to be someone more stylish than us, wealthier than us, better at blogging than us, and it’s up to us to decide how we react to that. Here’s a hint: don’t live in someone’s digital shadow.

So, to remedy my issue with comparison, I’ve been starting to compare myself to what I want to be instead of the person I’d most like to emulate. If I catch myself wasting time on Facebook or lazing about when there are things to be done, I ask myself, “would my ideal self do this? What would she do instead?” Write. Exercise. Meditate.

Challenge yourself to stop comparing yourselves to strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, and start using these comparisons to get to the bottom of what you really want out of life. Is it really fancier clothes?

A Letter to High School Me

Didn't we all just think we were so cool then?

Didn’t we all just think we were so cool then?

As I walked back from the craft store today with a bag full of yarn, I noticed boys in suits and bright ties helping beautiful girls in giant (or otherwise restrictive) dresses out of their parents’ cars. For high-schoolers, tonight is the biggest night of their lives to date: it’s prom night. They’re growing quickly into their adult skins, and they’re eager to really show the world what they’ve got.

For those graduating soon, this is one of the final steps before they venture off to college. I can’t help but be anxious and excited for them. They look at this night as an end point, rather than a beginning. I didn’t think about it as a starting point when I was their age, but it sure would have been nice to get that perspective. So, for fun, I’ve decided to write a letter to 18 year old enna.

To my lovely, strange, high-school self:

You are so young, so much before all the beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.

You don’t know this just yet, but these words from a poet named Rainer Maria Rilke will become a mantra that you repeat during trying times. The uncertainty you feel right now will someday soon present itself to you as an adventure rather than the mild depression you consider it now.

You will learn and re-learn how to define yourself when others no longer do it for you (yes, even now, they have more influence over you than they should). However, you’ve scraped by with much less trauma and self-esteem issues that many teens face, so hold your head high and know that you are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Soon, you will be thrust into a world you can’t even begin to imagine, and you are going to be fine. You will meet the love of your life (I won’t spoil it, but you know him now), make new best friends (and keep the old ones very close), and experience all of the other coming-of-age experiences that college has to offer.

But, you will be challenged. You will make mistakes, and more mistakes. All I can do is warn you, but know that each experience, good and bad, will shape you in a new way. Make the most of it, and never, ever take the easy road as a shortcut. You’ll be happier for it.

It’s likely that you are beginning your troubles with religion, and you are starting to notice that many people carry with them a deep unhappiness. This is a good thing.

Just know that it is not your religion that defines you, and you are not made happier by the car you drive (the one you like now will actually be totaled soon–everyone is okay though). Your age, clothes (you’re not going to be a fashion designer, by the way), and the things you own do not make you happy or define you.

What defines you are your beliefs and the company that you choose to keep. Remember, you can choose who your friends are. You’ll always have to remind yourself of that. Start early: reduce clutter, distractions, read what you want to read, and never, ever, settle.

And be nicer to your mom and dad. You might not like to hear this, and you may think I’m joking, but they are going to become your best friends and your greatest heroes. You’ll feel it as soon as you see the tiny tear in your dad’s eye when he drops you off in your first dorm room.

In closing, and to round out the quote I shared earlier:

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

And, at 23, you still won’t be close to the answers.

What would you say to yourself at 18?