Straight Talk Sunday
Welcome to the monthly series where I write about the ideas and inspiration behind the Spotify playlists I release on the first of every month.
Lately I’ve dedicated a good amount of time studying and practicing meditation. One of the practices I found myself most intrigued by in the past month was a type that has you sit with all types of emotions — enjoyable, challenging and everything in between.
This month’s playlist is a musical journey through that meditation practice. The arrangement of songs took me chronologically through moments when I’ve felt empowered, joyful, in love, nostalgic, sad, angry, open-minded, carefree, passionate, and empowered once again. The list of emotions certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it touches on a lot of the things I’ve been reflecting on through this practice. I figured I’d explain or tell a couple stories about just a couple of them. I don’t expect you to have any considerable connection to the actual experiences, but knowing that these journeys are something we all go through as humans, I hope it serves as a starting point to explore, remember and sit with different emotions you’ve felt throughout your life.
Welcome to the monthly series where I write about the ideas and inspiration behind the Spotify playlists I release on the first of every month. There tends to be a personal story behind each of these, so I’ve committed to some friends, readers and myself to use this space to practice leaving my ego behind to make room for vulnerability. It’s scary being so forthcoming on the Internet, where strangers, friends and coworkers alike all reside, but I keep coming back time after time because of the responses I get from people saying thank you for writing about things that typically aren’t talked about openly. Thank YOU all for letting me open up and get real through good times and bad, time after time. On we go.
As I was working on February’s playlist in January, things all seemed to come crashing down once again.
What I hoped would be a month of new beginnings presented itself as a month of unforeseen endings. If you’re able, bear with me through this story; it’s longer than the average. But at the end of it, I hope you’ll feel a closer connection to this music, to me, and to the theme of finding change and turning points when they’re least expected.
Straight talk: I’m a pretty anxious person. As I fear many young professionals can attest to, we live in a pretty stressful environment. Technology has totally changed the traditional way of living: constant access to email on your phone may unofficially encourage working around the clock, social media has enabled whole new levels of FOMO, and the average American thinks of their phone every eight minutes. Eight minutes! I could keep going, but you know all of this stuff, and you probably feel it too.
In an effort to deal with the anxiety this creates for me, and as I noted in my last Straight Talk Sunday, I’ve spent a lot of 2018 focusing on investing in myself.
One of my favorite days of the year is January 1st because you’re encouraged to sit down and think about what you want to focus on in the upcoming year and set goals accordingly. I love carving out the time to figure out what I want to get better at, think about what gives me energy, and find a way to hold myself accountable to doing those things.
All that said, the problem I’ve found with setting new years resolutions on January 1st is that they rarely last throughout the year. I also fundamentally disagree with the fact that one should only consider what their resolutions should be once a year. So I’ve switched my focus from annual resolutions into monthly resolutions.
The theme of my resolutions is almost always to better myself. Note: while I’m currently working on boosting my confidence and reminding myself daily that I’m a badass who’s doing a great job at this whole life thing, I also think it’s worth recognizing that there are always ways to keep improving. For example, I think I’m doing really well at work, but I know that I’m terrible at setting boundaries, taking breaks, and managing the high-stress environment that comes with a career in sales. So what happens if I hold myself to goals and activities to get better at each of these things?
For me, that led to three goals I want to focus on this year:
- Get better at managing stress and anxiety
- Make time for things that give me (and others!) joy
- Develop skills that I am passionate about
Having defined those, I set monthly intentions that aim to fulfill each of these. Here’s what I’ve done so far :
- January: Meditate 5 times a week. Meditation is a way to achieve relaxation and stress reduction by focusing your attention and eliminating a constant stream of thoughts and worries that may be causing unnecessary stress. I’ve found this to be a really effective way to control the voice in my head and become more aware of the present moment.
- February: Read before bed 5 times a week. Similar to meditation in some forms, I find reading to be relaxing, educational, and a great way to focus on a different narrative than a constant stream of thoughts and worries
- March: Run 50 miles. In the past year or so, I’ve gotten really into running. Not only is it another way of managing stress, it’s a way for me to get outside and see the beautiful city I live in. 50 miles was a relatively arbitrary number that seemed stretchy but achievable and would set me up to be in good enough shape to run a half marathon at a decent pace in early April
- April: Write 5 handwritten letters. I’ve grown up in a family that appreciates snail-mail. I still receive letters and postcards from my mom, who grew up receiving letters from her father when she moved away from home. The joy I get from receiving a handwritten letter is something I hope to always be able to experience, and I hope by putting time into this, others get to experience a similar joy
That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Future months are not planned out yet, but given I have set principles and themes that they’ll tie to, setting the intentions is relatively easy and fun.
As I look back on each of these months’ intentions, they’ve each helped me manage stress, bring me joy, and develop skills that I consider to be worth investing in. And because of that, I find myself carrying these things over into future months as much as possible. It’s April, and I still try to wake up and meditate on most days of the week, I read before bed almost every night, and running is a part of every week for me. These are things I truly enjoy, making them much more than just “one and done” activities.
The reason I share all of this is because I truly believe I’m not alone in finding being an adult in today’s world to be fun, but also really stressful. I have a great job, am surrounded by wonderful, smart and successful friends, and live in a fantastic apartment, but I’d be lying if I said I feel like I have it all figured out. I often question whether I’m on the right path, if I’m in the right place, etc. I don’t envision myself finding out the answers to those questions overnight, so I’m incredibly intentional about taking baby steps to manage stress and invest in things that give me energy. It’s on me to figure out what those things are, set intentions to do them, and to hold myself accountable. And the best way I’ve found to do that is in this process of monthly resolutions or intentions.
I hope this is helpful if you find any of these feelings to be familiar. I’d encourage you to join me on this monthly journey and share with me what you’re working on. If it helps as a starting point, here are three quick recommendations:
- Find your focus — figure out what your goals are before picking monthly intentions
- If you’re into reading, a couple books I read recently and recommend:
- If you want to start exercising more frequently, I’ve copied a cardio playlist I created and continue to update. I also recommend testing out podcasts while exercising; that was a game-changer for me. Some good ones to start with are How I Built This, 30 for 30 Podcasts, and The Moth.
Thanks for reading, and leave me a note or send me a tweet me @sunsetrearview if you do or are interested in doing something similar! Would love to hear your goals or intentions!
You may or may not have heard of this #100HappyDays campaign that’s going around. I first heard of it after noticing that a friend of mine from work had posted two days in a row on Instagram. I wasn’t used to seeing her post all that often, so immediately took note of her increased posting and this mysterious “#100happydays” hashtag that she had tacked onto both pictures. I asked her about it, and she sent me to the website, where I learned about this really simple concept of posting a photo every day for 100 consecutive days of something that makes you happy. Include the hashtag #100happydays, and if you make it through all 100 days, you’ve succeeded at something that over 70% of people fail to complete because of a quoted lack of time. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out, and hopefully my friends and followers on Twitter wouldn’t get too annoyed of this daily post.
Fast-forward 43 days: here I am. I’ve managed to post a picture every single day for the past 43 days of one small thing that’s made me happy. I’ve suffered a minor panic attack, and have learned ten important things about myself. Hit the jump to read about it.
Straight Talk: I’ve only been able to post to Sunset 5 times in the last month. And truth be told, I was shocked when I counted five posts…it seemed like I only posted once in the last month. (Shout out to all the other members of the SunsetFam who kept the machine running while I was out.)
I spent the past two weeks on vacation, and before that it was a total grind at work. Today I want to tell you a story. It’s about what I’ve learned about life, passions, and motivation.
(While I’m at it, it just so happens that I’m listening to a song called Punga by Klingande that is mostly instrumental, but there are few words you hear in the song say “I want to tell you a story.” It’s cool if you read into it as ironic, but I think Klingande actually inspired me to tell a story. Klingande and a couple other things I’ve realized over the past few days.)
*If you care to listen rather than read, I recorded myself reading this. Please bear with the emotions in my voice at times and the loud noises in the background in the middle. Such is life, right?
I haven’t felt inspired in a long time to write a Straight Talk Sunday, because I never want to force these posts. They’re very personal and take quite a bit of confidence for me to actually put out to the world. Frankly, they’re often a bit sad, and I hope that’s okay, but it helps me to get through hurdles in life by writing about them and getting my thoughts out on “paper.” So today there’s something I’ve been thinking about that I think is worth talking about, partly because I need to think through it, and partly because I think it’s a theme that can extend to a lot of us out there. It revolves around the idea of working to live versus living to work.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself feeling this level of stress that I don’t typically let get to me. The reason is clear: I’ve been transitioning into a new role at work and I’ve somehow managed to say yes to enough projects that while I’m in the office, I’m running from meeting to meeting, hardly finding the time to go to the bathroom. And then I come home and keep working to prepare myself for the next day’s meetings and presentations. Weekends are spent working, preparing for the week ahead. And somewhere in there, I make myself find time to post to Sunset, because at the very least, I find that enjoyable and rewarding. It has left me with no time to sit and relax or spend time with family or friends. The bigger problem, though, is that I’ve started convincing myself that with time, it will pass.
Every December 31st, I find myself turning to the person next to me and saying “can you believe, that come tomorrow, we’ll never be able to say that it’s [insert current year] again?” It happened again this year, and I found myself remembering what it was like to say it was 1992, 1997, 2003, and then realizing that this year will mark my four-year college reunion. Suddenly I felt old as fuck. And I realized that I needed to create some of those cliche new years resolutions that I try to do every year, but there was something that stuck out to me that I really needed to do.
Straight talk: life has given me lemons. I’m saying this after a great weekend spent with family, so it might seem unexpected, but as I sat down after it all, I felt this wave of emotions roll over me. And as I sit here writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “Lydia, don’t do this. Your family will read it and wonder what’s wrong with you — why can’t you just see the good in things and be happy about it?” The thing is, though, I’m an incredibly happy person. It’s incredibly rare to find me without a smile on my face. And it’s all genuine, too. This world has been pretty damn good to me. I love my friends and family. But damn, these lemons can really eat away at me at times.
What hit me today is that all of us are held to expectations. We’re expected to go to school, we’re expected to find jobs; each of us is held to something, whether it’s from your parents, your friends, society…it doesn’t matter. As somebody who lost a parent over two years ago, I’m think I’m expected to be okay. Nobody set a date or a time for me, but I’m pretty sure that people expect me to have formulated a positive viewpoint on life moving forward. And frankly, I have in a way. There are days when I’m okay, and I can tell myself that life goes on, and my dad would want me to be happy for him and live life to its fullest. But beneath that, there’s still a pit in my stomach when I think about the loss. My dad was my mentor, and the absence of that is something I haven’t quite been able to get over, even two+ years after the fact.
Hit the jump to continue reading…
It’s no secret that I love a song with a good piano section in it. If you were to get a dollar every time I said that on this blog, you’d likely be a rich fool by now. I hope it doesn’t get too repetitive when I write about it, but it probably does. The thing is, though, that can really make a song for me. I came across this cover of John Cale’s “Fear A Man’s Best Friend” by ANR (Awesome New Republic) today, and the piano melted my heart immediately.
I started to ask myself today why it is that I love piano in songs so much. Is it that the sound pleases my ears more than any other instrument? Perhaps. But I think it’s got more to do with the memories it brings up in my mind. I started taking piano lessons in Kindergarten with this incredibly kind old man named Louis Pizzolato. I’m not even sure if that’s how you spell his name because he was always referred to as Mr. P. He was a white-haired man, very old (never knew just how old, but appeared to be in his 80’s or 90’s), and he always had a bucket of candy in his office. To call it an office might be an extreme, because really it was a room next to the cafeteria at my school that could fit an old man, a piano, some candy, a couple shelves of music books, and a kid eager to learn. Nothing more than that. The lighting was always dim in that room, maybe because the window to the outside was about 6 inches by 6 inches, if I recall correctly. There were two other rooms just like this one, one on both sides, but I never knew much about those rooms. The most I ever heard was that those piano teachers rotated in and out a lot. They didn’t stick around for long. Mr. P, on the other hand, was there day in, day out, for years.
[Hit the jump to continue reading]
I heard some of the most exciting news in my life last week, and needless to say, it made me incredibly happy. If you follow me on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or really any social media network, you are likely aware that the company I work for was acquired by Google last Tuesday. The news came as a surprise to most of a company nearing 400 people, but I’d be absolutely shocked if it wasn’t a welcome surprise to all of us. Google. Wow. There’s so much to be excited about, but perhaps the things that excite me the most are the free food, the free shuttle rides to work, and having slides in the office. (Yes, I am a child.)
Despite that childish nature, I’ve realized something over the past three years that I’ve spent “in the real world.” It’s not a long time, but it’s long enough to understand what makes me happy and what inspires me to do my best every day. And when I found out about this Google acquisition, I started reflecting on these things, as I realized that I’m about to start a “new” job in a new place, and in wanting to make sure that I’m just as happy as I have been for the past eight months at Wildfire, I stopped to think about just what it is that has made me so happy lately. To begin, I think I have to give a bit of background on my previous work experience, though.
I started my first job at an advertising agency in North Carolina. I came on board as an intern, as it was nearly impossible for me to find a full-time job at the time. I had no work experience in marketing. I was a Human Rights major, thinking all through college that I would join the Peace Corps or work for an organization like Unicef. It hit me one semester, though, when I was taking a Sports Marketing class, that I really loved marketing. I had tinges of guilt here and there; I had always told myself that I would never work for any of the big, profitable corporations of the world. But something was drawing me to it, so I listened to my inner conscience and attended a short business program at Dartmouth that allowed me to explore marketing in a bit more depth. I continued to love it. But still didn’t have any real world job experience.
So, I lucked out with an internship at this agency in North Carolina, working specifically with one person to create an Account Planning department at the agency. Our mission was basically to bring consumer insights into the marketing and advertising process, so we could create strategic approaches to our work rather than simply creative. I have so much respect for my first boss there, who is still a great friend of mine. She taught me a lot of what I know today, and took a risk by bringing me onto her team of one, knowing that I had no real experience, but trusting that I was smart enough to figure it out and could learn quickly.
When my boss left the company, I switched over to another department, and actually made one more jump before I landed in what would be my full-time position at the company. I ended up as a Web Producer, a fancier name for a project manager on Interactive projects. To this day, I am extremely grateful for that opportunity, but knew all along that there was something missing. I often questioned whether I was in the right place geographically, as all of my family happened to be many states away (in all directions). I also didn’t ever feel passionate about my work there. Whether it was a lack of interest in the client base, perhaps the organizational structure of the company, or maybe simply that the agency lifestyle wasn’t for me, I felt somewhat empty. When I was finally able to admit to myself (with the help of a dear friend) that it was time for me to move on, I was about to make one of the best decisions I’ve made yet.
In my job search, I was much luckier than I was the first time around. I’m sure a big part of it has to do with the fact that I was looking for jobs in and around San Francisco, and the job industry is/was booming compared to the crippling state of the job market on the East Coast. Whatever the reason, I found myself with a couple different opportunities being handed to me, and at the end of the day, I chose the Social Media Account Manager position at Wildfire.
I won’t candy coat things and say there haven’t been times of frustration or disappointment at Wildfire. It is an incredibly fun place to work, but it’s also a job. There are pros and cons. But the bottom line is, I’m happy to go to work every day. That was something I could never say at my old job, where I found myself cringing at the thought of getting out of bed every morning. Months later, I think I’ve found out just what it is that made me turn this corner. Well, there are a few things, but the point is that these things are all constants that I have with me every day when I go to work at Wildfire.
First, I found an environment that excites me.
I work with exciting clients, I arrive to an energetic and fun workspace every day, and our industry is exciting. This sounds subjective, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m driven by the excitement of marketing, specifically within social media. And yes, it’s a booming industry, so that is exciting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have friends in finance who see “an energetic workspace” and think fast-paced, and perhaps stressful. While that would drive me insane, it’s exciting to them. If you’re looking for a job, I challenge you to find out what excites you and seek that out in a workspace.
Second, I found a place where I can be myself every day.
I can be myself around my coworkers, around my managers, and even around my clients. It’s refreshing, and it really allows me to flourish. I’m not sure this was really missing at my old job, except for the fact that I never had a very firm grasp or understanding of how to make a difference at my old company. Wildfire has allowed me to do that, and perhaps it’s part of its startup environment, but it’s made a huge difference in my happiness level.
Third, and I think most importantly, I found a place filled with people who I am excited to be around every day.
I say most importantly, because I really think this one makes all the difference. I wake up in the morning these days and get excited to get out of bed to go join my friends at work. There’s a level of understanding that we’re all there to achieve the same goals – help the company thrive, and of course, help ourselves and one another grow and learn. But beyond that, I’ve made some of the best friends of my life while working at Wildfire. I’ve met people who I know I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life, and that’s something really unique about the company. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
In a matter of weeks, our whole company will be facing change: we’ll be picking up and moving into the Google office spaces. While it’s an incredibly exciting time (for reasons like the slides in the office, yes), there’s also a bit of me that is nervous. Consider this: Wildfire is a company of under 400 people, and we’re about to join one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world. I fear that the sense of family that we’ve built at Wildfire might start to feel lost as we join a much bigger team in a much bigger space. It’s also a bit scary to think that there will likely be fewer to make a difference in the day-to-day, which is something that I’ve fallen in love with at Wildfire. I imagine Google is a much more mature and structured workplace, so understandably, we may not have all the same opportunities to incite change where we feel it’s needed.
At the end of the day, though, I know can brush these things aside and be overwhelmed with excitement. Because in the face of change, the three things that I’ve realized make me love Wildfire are constants. Those are things that can’t be taken from us. And I again will say that I think the third thing is the most important; I will still be in a place filled with incredible friends. Wherever we go, however far we move, we’ll still have each other as constants. I’ll still have the excitement of going to work and being with my friends every day. It sounds simple, and really it is, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize this. But if you haven’t yet found that or made the realization, I’ll share it with you again: great friends can be the single most important cause of happiness, and in the face of change, if they’re really true friends, they will be your constants.
I’ve been struggling a bit in the past couple weeks with the concept of maintaining this beloved blog that I’ve been running for over three years. My life seems to get crazier by the day, and juggling a full-time job, the commute to and from work every day, social gatherings, and just having time to myself here and there gets difficult. Finding time to put in blogging gets really hard, and like I said before, I don’t ever want to force anything.
I’ve thought a bit about quitting, you know…about letting go of the blog. It’s fucking sad to say, and it even makes me squirm when I type it here. This thing has been my obsession for the past three years, and to think about discontinuing it tears at my heartstrings. But I’ve just found that it’s really hard to manage with so many other things on my plate.
But today I’m here to say that I’m not giving up. Nope. Not me, not today. There are a lot of distractors, but then all of the sudden I come across something so beautiful, so different, so moving, that it reminds me once again what the point of this blog is. It reminds me why it’s WORTH taking time out of my life to maintain this blog and to share with you guys what I find to really be life-altering. It was beautiful music that got this started, and it is beautiful music that will keep it going.
Today I came across some of this music, and I’m here to share it with you guys.
I get really excited when I hear a song that sounds, for lack of a better description, a little different. Listening to so much new music every day can be tiring. A lot of it starts to sound the same, and it starts to blur in my mind a bit. What’s funny is that at times I’ll hear songs that don’t fit to a typical song structure (you know…chorus, three verses, a bridge), and I’ll immediately put it off as the works of people poorly versed in the study of music. But then some songs come along that don’t follow this structure and I praise their existence. But perhaps what’s more important than just the structure of the song is the sound of how it was put together.
A great example of this is a song off of Bowerbirds’ new album, called “In The Yard.” When I listen to this track, there are things that I hear and wonder if they intended to make it sound funny like that at times. I ask myself why it sounds a little off, or why the tempo changes so unexpectedly. And then I realize that they’re doing this completely on purpose. These guys have a mastery of the art of making music. And by doing these quirky things in their song, they’re keeping my attention the entire time. It’s creative, and by god it works. This song right here inspired this post, and it is something like this that inspires me to keep going.
Another great example of music that moved me today and reminded me why I love doing this so much is a song by Django Django called “Default.” Tell me this isn’t one of the more unique songs you’ve heard in a while. Is it electronic? Is it rock and roll? But wait. It’s folky, it’s twangy, and if it isn’t one of the catchier songs you’ve heard in a while, you might be crazy. I absolutely love it. Are these guys modern-day Fatboy Slim?
And lastly a video I received today of a live recording of The Barr Brothers performing their popular song, “Beggar in the Morning.” This one struck me as unique because of the visual experience. I can listen to a song like “Beggar in the Morning” and be mystified at the noises and the beauty of it, but it’s hard to really conceptualize what it took to put these noises together. In a session they did with KEXP, The Barr Brothers recreated the song, and we get to see all of the parts that form the whole. It’s truly beautiful, and without these visuals, I’m not sure I would have been able to appreciate this song to the same extent that I will now.
And to sum it up, thank you guys for being here to read what the Sunset Family has to say every day. If it weren’t for you guys, we’d have nothing to work for. So thank you, thank you.