I had probably never, and I mean never, like never ever, been so excited to ditch the west coast than I was this past weekend. After surviving a work trip in Arkansas, I knew that it was time for me to take a break. It was actually during my time away that I started sewing together a plan for my first ever vacation since being an undergrad.
I’ve been working full time since about July and I definitely was starting to feel fatigued. All of my friends, professors, and family members warned me that the real world was not going to be easier than school. I knew better than to imagine it would be easy. But now that I was, and am, in the thick of it it’s been such a sobering experience. Like it really has been sobering, because I hardly go out and party now!
Before I talk about my trip to Boston, I think it’s important to talk about my thought process leading to this mini vacation. I’ve been working full time since July, reminder I graduated back in May. I had a very good amount of time to still have fun and live my life responsibility free. My only real commitments were paying my phone bill, filling up my car, and feeding our dog Peggy. I still had savings from school, so even these small pressures weren’t weighing on me. Something that I had not expected was that when I started working the weight and stress would start to pile on over time. For some reason, I thought that starting a job was like a sink or swim type scenario. I expected the start of this race to be the hardest. However, like any race, the real challenge is keeping your pace. With this being my first job I must admit I ran out of steam around mid-October.
I don’t remember where I saw it, but there was an article that caught my attention talking about work and stamina. There was a point made that Americans pride themselves in literally working themselves to death. This is a thought process that I not only don’t condone but can’t accept. I believe and advocate for a healthy balance of home/work life. I could never be that person who lives on red-eyes.
While some people thrive off the adrenaline of constantly being under pressure I realized that this is not how I operate. Accepting my physical, mental, and emotional stamina early on is what has made my life all the more enriching. If I had tried to match the sheer will power of my colleagues I would have burned out. If I crashed and burned not only would my team suffer, but then I’d be left without an income and no way of getting more drip for the gram. Now how I could let my fans down on the gram?!
I had never imagined that my first real vacation would take me back to a place where down jackets and Bean boots were expected. But I admit I loved my time back east! If you didn't know, I decided to head back to Boston, Massachusetts for a mini reunion with some of my closest friends. #Squadgoals cannot even contain how much these girls meant to me! And its also not bougie enough for our lifestyle brand image! Anyways, it was Veterans Day weekend and after trying to plan a trip in June, all of my friends and I finally found a time to make it happen. Allie and I were taking the weekend off and getting away. This was the second time our group would all be in Boston together since our senior year fall break. It's also kind of poetic how we reunited about a year after this trip.
The first time I ever came to Boston was to celebrate our friend Eliza's birthday. Just like that first trip, this break was an invite to do it all! We ate good food, bought some good drinks, and of course Allie and I made even party as hard as we to in The Beef and Brew! I was so glad to see my friends and just take a minute to forget about the deadlines and drama that my job was all about. I got to shut off my mind from worrying about what other people needed from me. Here I was with some of my best friends just doing as we pleased. Every night we went out and I never worried about waking up early. HA- in fact there was a day where Allie and I woke up at like 1pm to see that Eliza had already lived her life for like half the day.
While some of our friends live in Boston, I think that seeing us out-of-town friends activated their inner vacation mode too. I was proud to see my friends adulting and hearing about their lives since we left Seneca Lake. Our conversations started off in the realm of nostalgia, but ended in a sobering dose of reality. We laughed, we talked about love, and them drank to the bills we had to pay later that month.
There was a lot of fun on this trip, and thankfully many moments captured by our momager LK. I want to dedicate a separate post to that, so stay posted!
In the meantime, to all my friends and those who read this, I hope this offered you a good break. Taking a break isn't a bad thing after all! Whether it's just taking a breath or going to an intense workout, or anything you can imagine, just take a moment for yourself.
The new group of friends I was hanging with enhanced my confidence so much. My friends introduced me to the holy grail of alcoholic beverages with the White Claw. With only 100 calories and like 0 carbs this was the universe’s will telling me to get into shape! Let it be known that Lauren Kane introduced me to these endless fun. The spring good times just kept rolling and one of our group’s highlights was sharing tips and tricks into getting our bodies right for #CatamaranSeason. Which by the way we created, trademarked, and could never be copied. I saw my friends jogging, eating greens all the time, and snacking on chips that were chips but like also weren’t… I just remember that as I tried different workouts or just tried to commit to going to the gym I wasn’t hiding it from my friends like I used to avoid the subject at all.
My time in England had made me confident in my skin because here I met people who liked me for me. Kind of like what the spring offered me, my semester abroad was my clean slate. I gave myself permission to talk about my insecurities, not hide behind humor, and be open about what I liked and didn’t like. Granted, I thought I’d never see these friends again, but thank God I didn’t ghost them! During my time abroad I had started to cook for myself, since in the UK there are no dining halls, and being active regularly. One of my favorite past times was taking the First Bus to the Norwich Castle Mall and roaming around, with no goal or destination in mind. This same sense of drifting is what helped me walk into the gym at school and not say no. I was always down to go anywhere and that included taking a spin class, signing up for CrossFit, or hell even entertaining my friend Pippa’s idea of joining rugby for like 0.2 seconds.
As my walls came down I started to let my friends in and teach me what they knew about fitness. My friend Will, I swear we became friends since we have the same name, taught me what he learned from his personal trainer. I started to build a basic routine and felt good about knowing a little bit of what I was doing. I felt a difference in my body for sure. But nothing inspired me more than when it was that famed day for our boat and I noticed that my board shorts were a bit looser. My shorts weren’t falling off my hips, but I felt that for once I was actually doing something and my body was responding. I promised myself that when summer came I would get a gym membership, shoutout to my friend Ailyn who really got me to get over my fears of the gym.
Since the summer of 2018 , I started watching workout vids, following influencers, and investing into getting the right gear for this fitness journey of mine. I don’t remember the moment when I realized I had started this journey, it all kind of just started to line up. And that’s how I feel about signing up for this race. I never thought of signing up for a marathon because I thought it was something I maybe wasn’t ready to do. But this is why I surround myself who see my potential, because my personal trainer knew this was not impossible.
After graduating from school in May, I moved back home and one of the first big boy things I did was find a gym and commit to personal training. Luckily, Planet Fitness came in clutch! There was a gym by my house and I started taking classes with the trainer slowly. Now those first workouts kicked my ass! I would feel winded during our warm up, like girl all we were doing was jumping jacks, some burpees, and high knees how was I dying?! Well this pain was the reason I knew I was doing the right thing. Every time I reset during a set or was told to stop to fix my breathing was building me up. The weekly class became two a week, then three, then four, then starting Orange Theory, and then mixing in heavy weight and resistance. My trainer noticed me getting stronger and looking better, I truly felt like I was glowing because my family and friends noticed our work paying off. I’d learned to trust the pain in the process thanks to my trainer, and when she presented the 5k to me I didn’t immediately say no. She was presenting me with a new fitness goal to reach. I was game!
Here’s an interesting note, the week before the 5K I was in Arkansas. Because I was on a work trip, I didn’t really have the time or resources to squeeze in much of a workout besides some push ups or crunches at night. I tried to watch my eating, but with parties every night I did enjoy a good vodka soda and southern fried food copiously. After arriving on Tuesday night, I signed up for an OTF class for Wednesday and booked a training session on Thursday and Friday. I had no idea how my body would respond to the shock of getting back into the grind, but I had to get back into it if I wanted to do this 5k the best that I could.
I guess I got lucky, because my OTF workout was all cardio. And when I mean ALL cardio I mean we ONLY used TREADMILLS and ROWERS. Someone could have picked me up and squeezed me and sweat would have poured out as if I was a little sponge. My trainer was running the 5K with myself, her daughter, and another gym member, and so we focused on getting in some good leg workouts. She knew I was stagnant most of my trip. However, she let me know that this was her first ever 5K to and that we were doing this for ourselves. Knowing that we were a team of novices excited me. Even though I woke up at like 5:00am to make a smoothie and get in my pre workout, I was energized this morning.
At 8:10am the call was made for all the 5k runners to line up. Someone nearby asked her friend Are you nervous? Her friend shrugged and said Kinda, I guess. If she had asked me, I would’ve said Same. I was not nervous to run, nor was I super eager to either. I was in the zone and could only think about keeping my pace. As the rope was cut the only voice that mattered was Rita Ora’s as the first song on my 5K DAY playlist was “Anywhere.” For most of the race, the gang stood together. Yet, a mile into the run we came across a steep hill. I shuffled beside my trainer and she noticed my steady breathing. You got a personal goal you gotta go reach it. She waved her hand forward and smiled. Just like her goal was to not let this hill beat her, mine was to not stop. I nodded and smiled and took off to keep my heart rate up. I looked forward, popped in my other AirPod and zoned back into the race.
My legs were pumping forward and my breath was steady, I looked briefly at my phone and could not believe that I was 2.9 miles in! The morning was still very cool and I felt my body radiating warmth. My hat gave me some shade and as I made it up the last hill I finally saw the sun breaking. The first few rays of light hit the path in front of me and it seemed like all the runners followed this illuminated path to the finish line. I took one last deep breath and pushed the earth away from me as I saw the finish line and the timer. Under 35, under 35, under 35.... that's what I kept telling myself.
I was really feeling it because when I crossed the finish line I felt something cold touch my hand and I was broken out of a trance. One of the volunteers handed me my medal and congratulated me for finishing. I was panting, but you know damn well I had to put it on and record this moment. I had finished a 5K. I didn't care about winning, didn't care about who had the cutest outfit, all I cared about is that I had done something else that I never thought I could do before. When my trainer found me she said I made it in 35:30 not bad for my first time, but look at you! I saw you get there before me! She was proud of me and I was too. We had a big group hug and I didn't care about comparing times or anything. I was just happy that just how I started my fitness journey trusting strangers turned friends that here I was with a new group that would continue to inspire me to say thank u, next wellness milestone.
Of the 5 senses, I cannot think of a receptor that I have underappreciated as much as taste even though it’s become one of my most developed. My relationship with food has long been a novice and dangerous one. I’ve never been a foodie. I was just fat. My struggles with maintaining a healthy diet really did come from my embarrassment to learn about food culture because I thought it would just make it more obvious that I ate a lot. But it wasn’t just that I was having a copious amount of calories, I was also eating all the wrong things.
During my childhood, my grandma did the cooking in the house. My mom worked with my dad running their business and so during the school day grandma was the matriarch of the house. After she picked us up from school, I vividly remember walking into our house and catching a whiff of her spices and caldos brewing. My entire family is Salvadoran so you would expect that pupusas and those gelatinous tamalaes wrapped in plantain leaves would adorn our plates. This was not the case. In general, my mom’s side of the family does not cook. Back in El Salvador, my mom’s family were vendors. Because their days were defined by hustling from before sunrise until twilight, my family found that buying food was a welcomed relief. This same attitude of finding cheap and ready-to-eat food carried on when my parents started their family.
My parents started their family young and they started it without a clear model of a stable family. I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but my mom was the only one to have two parents and grew up in a house. Part of this learning curve of being young adults is learning how to provide for these little human beings that you love so much you’d do anything for them. It was a treat when my dad would get a weekend off or have time before our bed time to see my sisters and I. We’d make it an event when our family could go eat out. My dad worked in fast food, he was a regional manager, and so with a hard schedule a trip to McDonalds was always welcomed. As mentioned, I knew my parents loved my sisters and I more than we deserved. This was evident when we wouldn’t split an apple pie, no, each kid got their own of those devilishly good sweets.
My relationship with food was that there was always food around, a sign of my parent’s prerogative to provide, but the problem was that I didn’t know that nutrition was part of this equation. So my grandma cooked, and she made this for the kids and for my parents when they got home from work. But around middle school, I developed a vice for fast food. I was tired, angsty from puberty, and I didn’t play sports, so going out to eat with my friends was my relief. McDonalds, Starbucks, Denny’s, you name it and it was in walking distance of my school. I found it to fill up my day and tummy to go eat. Paradoxically, my wallet was shrinking while my waist was growing. By the time I entered high school, I was obese and I had a bad habit for always wanting to go out and eat.
Pitching a movie and lunch was my weekend plan. Eating out all these fried and sugary foods was packing on the pounds. Along with damaging my health, my emotional health was suffering too. The older I got, the bigger I got too. It made me insecure, feel ugly, and almost unworthy to take up space. I couldn’t fit into the clothes I wanted to, my skin wasn’t silky rather it looked as greasy as the Asian Zing wings I always ordered. My problem wasn’t binge eating or purging or any other eating disorder, I just ate out all the time.
Fast forward a few years, and I swear I’ll get back to this journey soon so stay tuned, and I’ve learned that #CheatDay does me more harm than good. I’m proud to report that I weigh 170 pounds, a milestone considering how I’ve shed off 50 pounds since I started my wellness journey. I started to cut down sugar intake, carbs, and most things that fry. Again, as someone whose main issue was poor nutrition the switch was mostly easy. Of course, it was hard to skip burgers for salads. But, when I watched vids and read about other salads that weren’t just iceberg lettuce I saw that eating healthy could be tasty too.
With my diet changing came the grueling work of getting my body moving. I started a gym routine and taking workouts seriously. If I wasn’t dripping in sweat I knew I wasn’t giving it my all. And if I wanted to fit in my Gucci belt, which recently I had to add holes to make smaller, than I had to give this my all.
About a week ago, I finished a brutal leg day and joked to my trainer that I wanted In N Out as my cheat day treat. Her smile quickly turned into a set of straight lips and she sternly said, “Cool, make sure you get that protein style and eat half the fries.” I nodded, still panting, and thought But this is cheat day?! She noticed my quiet response and said, “Look you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, but if you want to change your body and feel good you got to learn how to control your nutrition.”
That comment stuck, and when I get home I digested it while showering. My belly was empty so her food for thought was filling. She was right. The idea of cheat day, and one day where you binge all the sweet, savory, tart or bitter foods that you miss could easily curtail the work you did those 6 other days of the week. I was and am working out and watching my diet for a long term transformation. Doing this means that everything I put into my body is part of that journey. If I devoured Costco pizza I would be saving money, but I’d be pushing myself back more than if maybe I had 2 or 3 slices during a week.
I notice that #CheatDay contains all kinds of post like pizza, burgers, and donuts and such. My truth is that I shouldn’t fear food. Food is my friend. My fear of talking about food was from not wanting to look fat, yet I realize now that talking about food can be empowering. If I want pizza I should look into it, and that’s how I found cauliflower pizza! If cheat day is your 1 day to feel that goodness that comes from greasy food go for it. But if I really want a burger I can eat one, just control the rest of the meal as well. Do I want all the fries? Do I really want a shake? Maybe yes maybe no, but I can only know if I treat all food was pieces of my journey instead of an escape from this transformation.
I know I’m late to the HUSTLERS party, but then again I’ve always been one to show up late. Not just fashionably late, but head turning jaw-dropping icon-worthy when I show up to the occasion. This promise to astound my friends and followers with my shenanigans reached a new level this past weekend when I not only finally saw the masterpiece that is HUSTLERS, BUT that I also got to meet the leading lady of the film, the talented, gorgeous, and icon Ms. Jennifer Lopez aka JLO aka Jenny from the block aka YOU KNOW WHO SHE IS!
If you’re wondering how I got to spend my evening with this queen, here’s a refresher. In the summer of 2017 I interned with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. You might know them better as the Academy. You know the people who organize the Oscars and make all our dreams come true on screen? Yeah them. Along with getting to network with hundreds of other interns and professionals, the Academy made a commitment to take care of its interns. Some of these benefits included an alumni program, getting a mentor, and being invited to future Academy screenings. Now THAT is how you treat interns.
When HUSTLERS began its theatrical run I immediately knew that this film demanded my attention. The all star cast is what first drew me in, from Constance to Cardi and JLO and more, the cast of this film was a menagerie of strong and talented women. While I wasn’t familiar with the article that inspired it all, I kind of liked going into this movie blind. After the rave reviews the film got at TIFF, from both friends and critics I knew who attended, I knew this movie deserved my presence.
HUSTLERS has been out for a few weeks now, but I knew I wanted to save myself for the Academy’s screening of it. As an amateur connoisseur of cinema, when a movie excites me it prompts me to rush to a theater. Honestly, I had not been this animated to see a movie since Lady GaGa started in A STAR IS BORN. From the premise of a women's perspective into this seductive and mysterious world, that is stripping, to the guaranteed fan service of seeing your favorite stars, this movie was making a statement that it was no chick flick. In fact, one of the producers even said on Saturday that one of her goals for this movie was to, "Show that there can be films about women that are funny, emotional, and powerful and not be called just 'chick flicks.'"
I believe that calling this cast a menagerie is both an injustice but also a compliment to the film. For example, when we first meet JLO she is dripping in diamonds and a leotard that she laughed and called "floss." Her character Ramona is immediately recognizable as the matriarch and one of the most talented dancers in the club. She gives us 3 minutes of one of the most gripping, adrenaline pushing, and unforgettable sequences in any film I've ever seen. JLO's dance routine shows that she's more than ready to share the stage with Shakira at this year's Super Bowl. The women in this film bare their bodies and emotions both to the audiences in the club and to those watching. They're seducing us, they want us to want them, but they are untouchable. That's why I think menagerie works.
The film is important because its writing reminds us that there's layers to women who work in strip clubs. It reminds us that the real life work of women in strip clubs is that of being viewed and reached for, and sometimes being mistreated in this captivity of having no other option. During the panel at the end of the film, director-writer Lorene Scafaria said, "I wanted the women in this film to be complicated and nuance. I wanted to give people a look into this world [stripping] from the perspective that we don't get, which is from a woman."
One of the most amazing things about this film is how the two protagonist, Destiny (Constance) and Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) are mothers working day and night for their daughters. A testament to the heart in this film came from one of the producers. She stood up straight, and in a stern tone talked about what it was like shopping this film around. "We took this film to everyone. Everyone loved it," she said. She then sighed. "But they all said, but these women...can't someone get raped? Can't there be a justification for why they do what they do?"
No doubt, this comment resonated with everyone. She was speaking to stigma people have on stripping, women, and the sheer realities of our world. The room burst into clapping when the director said she could not change the source material because she wanted to honor the experience of these women. JLO upped the energy when she said, "This film shows women doing what they have to, and I hope we can all learn to judge less. People judge me all the time, people all judge, but you don't know what is really happening. We need empathy."
My mentor quickly ushered me to his side and all I could work up to say was, "I have looked up to you my whole life, you deserve an Oscar!" She smiled warmly and said, "Aww thank you very much." I swear, as soon as I met her she was ushered off the stage! Her team spared no extra second keeping her on stage because they knew she would be flocked. Good for them, and great for me that I got my two cents in. On my way home, I had to, and I mean HAD TO, listen to the film's soundtrack on Spotify. I cruised down the 405 playing "Shake That Money" ready to shake my own and make this money for the gas I spent driving to Beverly Hills!
Candidly, I don't get starstruck. In this line of work it's pretty unprofessional to be a fan. But every now and then I let myself enjoy the perks of my hard work. Spending an evening in JLO's presence is just one of those reminders that you gotta work hard and then play hard.
Now before we begin I would like to say that I am actually by NO MEANS a Starbucks addict. I’m merely a connoisseur of the #PrettyBasic lifestyle. Note, I once drank espresso in front of the Coliseum. That's real caffeine! See I may be basic but I have culture.
Yes I wear Lulus to the gym, obvi I carry my S’well everywhere I go, and ofc you’d never see without my DryBar flat iron in my travel bag, BUT I again observe and appreciate these things. I’m not fixed on them. I say this because having a gold card is a sure fire sign that Starbucks is getting a fair amount of one’s salary. But in my case, I actually have never been a gold member until now. And the only reason I’ve reached this point is actually thanks to the help of gift cards I got from my college graduation.
Balancing my finances has been a part of adulting that I’ve had to take seriously since moving out of the 14456. (That’s Geneva’s area code.) Last week, I sat down and put on my smarty pants hat to get to work. After watching about 3 tutorials and skimming them appropriately, I opened up an excel file. With the help of my phone and bank’s app I started to document all of my recurring payments. From the date, to the name, and even the category it fell into, I built a cute and colorful record of what I pay monthly. You might be surprised, I know I was, but Starbucks was not breaking my bank.
Full transparency here, I have some pretty amazing parents. Without them my salary would have been bled dry even before I started working. They have contributed more than I deserve, yes really, in setting me up for success. I don’t pay rent, I don’t worry about car insurance, and most notably, I don’t have student loans. I left college debt free. Having this blessing is just what it sounds like, a blessing. Because my parents have done so much to help me learn to manage my own money I knew that blowing it on iced coffees could not do.
My repertoire of Starbucks orders is pretty extensive, like a grande light-iced-matcha iced tea lemonade like YUM, but honestly those aren’t my usual orders. Since college, my Starbucks order has limited itself to a grande iced coffee, no sweetener, and coconut milk. Yet, I only spring for the grande when I NEED that kick of caffeine. On most mornings, I brew loose leaf green tea at home. That’s major y’all. The same drink I make at home is roughly $2.45. Now if I got that maybe 3 times a week that would be almost $7.35 every week that I’m tossing away. I’m tossing that away because the same tin I buy at Tarjay of Teavana tea is like $6.00 and that gets me 15 whole packets!!!
Now I totally don’t buy the jargon that avocado toast is what makes millennials poor. We all know that’s because of institutional forms of oppression. #GetWoke But I do believe that financial literacy and monitoring spending habits is something that as young people we should learn. Keep in mind, I got a C in college level math and I majored in writing. But basic arithmetic is something to value. Thanks public school!
I was prompted to write this because when I got my mail my mom saw me open the envelope and she saw my gold card. She rolled her eyes and I knew what she was thinking. ‘He’s spending all his money there.’ Well mom, the truth is not really. I get my caffeine kick at home. The times that coffee crosses my mind are just when I really need a jumpstart for a good workout or when I know it’s gonna be a late day at some industry party or a star-studded screening. You know, just normal Will things.
But even when I need CRACK, aka coffee, I find it easier to make it at home. This beats having to worry about waiting for 15 minutes in a drive through for a drink I could slurp down in 2 good sips. Thanks for icing me friends… I am a civilized person though, so yes, I use a Keurig. I could NEVER be those people who drink drip coffee. Like freezing my coffee grounds, I’m talking about you Allie H, and then putting my coffee to drip and sit all day, I gag thinking about that.
I will rejoice in knowing I have joined an elite, and insane, crowd of people who think Starbucks is the shiiz. But this card is more a gimmick to me. I won’t be carrying it around with my other cards. Could you imagine how my Costco executive member card would feel being next to it? It could never take it seriously.
PS if I really wanted a good cup of coffee I’d just go to Coffee Bean! #SorryNotSorry!