(Un)popular Opinions: Episode 1

Life

“I’m incapable of being how you want me / I do what I want.” (MISSIO, “I Do What I Want”)

We all have things we don’t like (or do) and others do (or don’t). Like for example, pineapple on pizza. People seem to be very divided about this unconventional pizza topping and it can stir up some pretty heated debates.

Today, I’m going to be sharing my (un)popular opinions on a few subjects I’ve been thinking about lately. #sorrynotsorry if you don’t agree with me!

1) Washing your hair more than 1-2x/week is overrated

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Just washed hair, but it looks almost this good a week later!

First up: let’s talk about washing your hair. I used to rely on shampooing mine at least every other day to keep it from getting all oily and nasty. Now, I wash it maybe twice a week at most (usually just once), and I gotta say, this new schedule is life changing. Ain’t nobody got time to spend 20+ minutes in the shower everyday. News flash — it’s actually better for your hair to give it a break between shampoos. Honestly, my hair is less oily now washing once a week than it was when I did it every day or every other day.

Yes, I exercise every single day  — running 4-5x/week and going for walks or hiking the other days and my hair still looks great after working out with my new routine. On days when my mane starts to look a lil greasy, I wear it in a half ponytail or hit it with some dry shampoo. Now I only spend 5 minutes at the most showering every day after exercising #win

2) I like the idea of a “beauty fridge” even though they’re bougie AF

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So cute, so unnecessary. Photo via Urban Outfitters.

Have y’all seen one of the newest trends in the wellness/self-care realm — the mini beauty fridge? I started seeing them pop up on social media at the end of last year and while my first reaction was an eye roll, I gotta say I’m intrigued. I get the idea behind it — many skincare products are best stored at cooler temperatures to maintain longevity and quality. Also, there’s something so refreshing about putting on a chilly face mask, especially on a hot day.

As someone who’s always striving to up my skincare game, I would love to try a mini beauty fridge. I just can’t justify spending $50-$75 or more on one when that money could get me one of the skincare products on my wishlist.

 

 

3) I don’t get why keto is embraced and veganism is scoffed at

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Yes, you can have “animal fries” on a vegan diet. Keto, not so much. These are Green’s amazing “West Coast” fries.

Keto was like, the it diet of 2018, and its popularity doesn’t appear to be dying out. So many people tout their weight loss success stories following this ultra-low carb diet that’s pretty much a cardiologist’s nightmare.

I mean, good for you if going keto has helped you lose weight or manage your type 2 diabetes. But let’s not forget that the diet was originally designed to help patients with epilepsy. And there haven’t been any studies looking at the long term effects of eating keto. Many health experts worry that eating so much fat, especially animal-based fat, could lead to heart problems.

Meanwhile, we have the vegan diet, which while not as “in your face” popular as keto is, definitely seems more sustainable (there are lots of people who have been vegan for decades). While to many, veganism seems extreme, it really isn’t when you compare it to keto or even the paleo and Whole 30 diets which were popular in years past. All you’re cutting out is animal products — meat, eggs and dairy (most also eschew honey). Almost anything can be made from the things vegans can eat — just look at this all-vegan pizzeria in Brooklyn that makes insane slices topped with everything from mac & cheese to curly fries or even this vegan lox bagel. Of course, most vegans eat a more balanced diet packed with plenty of plants to get all the nutrients they need without harming any animals or consuming copious amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Really, veganism isn’t any more extreme than keto, and because it has its roots in ethics, it’s more than just a diet — it really is a lifestyle.

4) I don’t think it’s unhealthy to get more than 8 hours of sleep

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I get my best sleep when I’m snoozing next to this girl.

So we all know we need to get enough sleep, but how much is enough? 8 hours always seems to be the magic number, with amounts less or more than that considered unhealthy. While sleep deprivation is definitely not ideal, I don’t think it’s bad to get 9 or even 10 hours of sleep, if that’s what your body needs to be healthy.

For me, 8 hours is the bare minimum that I need to function at my best. Ideally, I would like to get 9 hours of sleep each night. To achieve this, I go to bed fairly early for when I have to wake up during the week — I try to fall asleep by 10:30 p.m. at the latest to wake up by 7:45 a.m. at the latest. That’s 9 hours and 15 minutes, give or take some time in the morning because I set my first alarm for 7:15 since I know I’ll want to hit snooze (just being honest). This pretty much guarantees I’ll get at least 8 hours of sleep, if not more. On weekends, I don’t set an alarm and occasionally sleep close to 10 hours, but I never wake up feeling overtired.

I’m fortunate in that I’m usually a pretty good sleeper. I typically fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night. Even when I worked overnights a few years ago and shifted my sleep schedule to different times, I was still able to sleep at least 8 hours at a time.

I know some people can thrive on a lot less sleep than me, so more power to them, but sleep has to be a priority for me!

5) Birthday cake flavored things are better than actual birthday cake — don’t @ me

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A little of this goes a longggg way, but it’s so good.

Who doesn’t love celebrating their birthday? I mean, I guess some people dread getting older but personally, I enjoy taking some time to celebrate me once a year. Fun fact: I’ve never worked or gone to school on my birthday. Since it’s in the summer, I was always on break when I was in school and now that I’m working, I’ve taken vacation days every birthday so I can enjoy it more — and the last two years I’ve even traveled for my bday.

The birthday cake flavor just symbolizes all that’s fun about birthdays, except you can enjoy it the other 364 days of the year. I love the flavor so much that if I see something in that flavor (and it’s vegan), I gotta try it. Like Trader Joe’s birthday cake popcorn (so addicting, BTW) or NadaMoo’s birthday cake cookie dough ice cream. I also just recently ordered these Siren Snacks birthday cake protein bites that I can’t wait to devour.

When it comes to legit birthday cake though, I’m much less enthused. I prefer cupcakes over sliced cake, but sometimes cupcakes can be too sweet, ya know. That’s why birthday cake flavored foods are so great, because they have that same sweet taste without giving you a sugar headache.

What’s your take on these, erm, controversial topics?

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Vegan in PHX: The Best Plant-Based Restaurants in the Valley

Food

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (-Michael Pollan)

When I tell people I’m vegan, most respond with something like, “So what do you eat?” Many omnivores, especially those who don’t know vegans IRL think all we eat are twigs and leaves, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Vegan food has come so far even in the 6+ years I’ve been vegan that nearly anything omnis eat can be made vegan. Think: plant-based egg substitutes that actually fluff up and taste like scrambled eggs, veggie burgers that “bleed” like beef and the creamiest nut-based ice cream that rivals any dairy concoction.

Fortunately for the 3 percent (and counting) of vegan Americans, vegan dishes are becoming more common in mainstream restaurants. For instance, fast food bastion Carl’s Jr. just launched the Beyond Burger at more than 1000 locations nationwide. While not all vegans are willing to support companies that are still responsible for animal slaughter and mistreatment, it’s no question that having well-known restaurants offering vegan products will help more people consider veganism or at least reducing their animal product consumption.

Until I moved to Phoenix, my experiences with all-vegan (or at least vegetarian) restaurants were minimal. My college town in Colorado has an amazing spot called Tasty Harmony, which was the first plant-based restaurant my family and I ever went to. The city I grew up in now has a handful of vegan dining options. Tucson has a decent number of vegan spots as well. But not nearly as many as Phoenix, which is a given, considering it’s the 5th largest city in the U.S.

So far, I’ve tried nearly all of the vegan/vegetarian spots in the Valley and I love them all, for different reasons. Here’s my guide to the best plant-based restaurants in PHX.

Green New American Vegetarian

2 locations (north Tempe, downtown Phoenix), open 11 am – 9 pm Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday)

Despite the name, Green is an all-vegan restaurant with plenty of options that will please even meat-eaters. The downtown location was the first vegan restaurant I ever tried in PHX, way back in February 2017 (almost a year before I moved here). I ordered the animal-style fries (now called west coast fries) and even though I’d never tried In-N-Out’s iteration, Green’s version tasted incredibly authentic. I was hooked!

Since then, I have gone back to Green at least half a dozen times, but only the Tempe location since it’s closer to home. Plus they offer tacos, which are bomb. They always have a “beef” and “fish” taco and each week, they introduce a “chameleon” taco which is always changing and totally unique. Green’s menu has a lot of delicious-sounding things on it, but it’s hard for me to stray from the tacos since they’re so good.

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A French-inspired taco with green beans and pears (!) plus my fav fish taco from Green. 

They also have a decent selection of beers (which my parents love), wine and sangria, a margarita or other cocktail, kombuchas and iced teas. But the best part has to be the tSoynami! It’s basically a vegan softserve mixed with all kinds of add-ins, like cookies, flavored syrups, cereal, fruit, nuts and baked goods. I always try to get one of their special seasonal flavors when I go — the pumpkin pie and chocolate monsoon are some of my favorites.

Best For: Taking omnis who aren’t sure about veganism. They really have something for everybody, from healthier options like salads and rice bowls to appetizers and fast food style sandwiches.

The Coronado

Downtown Phoenix, open 7 am – 9 pm Sunday-Thursday and 7 am – 10 pm Friday & Saturday (new hours!)

If I had to narrow it down (which is hard), I would say The Coronado is my favorite vegan restaurant in PHX. Technically vegetarian since they offer eggs and cheese (but pretty much everything can be made vegan or already is), they offer a full menu all day, with weekend brunch specials and amazing cocktails.

I’ve gone twice for brunch and twice for dinner, and I’ve loved everything I’ve gotten there. The first thing I ever ordered from The Coronado was their Good Morning Sandwich (with tofu). The biscuit was so buttery (without being made with butter) and the tofu, veggies and agave mustard sauce went together so well. The next time I went for brunch, I ordered a special — sweet potato waffles, which were heavenly.

For dinner, I’ve tried their cauliflower tacos (the BEST) and their chili and cornbread which is perfect for the cold nights we’ve been having lately. Their cocktails are also incredible. I haven’t gone since they updated the drink list, but I know I’ve had some good ones in the past — a spicy one sticks out to me the most.

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It’s always a good morning when you get to enjoy the Good Morning breakfast sandwich from The Coronado.

They always post about their vegan poptarts (only available on the weekends) on their Instagram — I am dying to get my hands on the s’mores one!

Best For: Boozy brunches. It’s so nice to sit out on their patio on warm days (go before it gets too hot in the summer, though!) and enjoy a cocktail or two and some brunchy bites. For omnis (or vegetarians) who are iffy on tofu, they have the option of eggs. I’m biased though because I LOVE tofu!

Pomegranate Cafe 

Ahwatukee, open 8 am – 8 pm Monday-Thursday, 8 am – 9 pm Friday & Saturday and 8 am – 4 pm Sunday

Also technically a vegetarian restaurant, this cozy space tucked into an unassuming shopping center in Ahwatukee (next to a Trader Joe’s) offers delicious food for any time of day. Pomegranate Cafe is focused on sourcing ingredients from local farms and serving organic food whenever possible. This doesn’t mean their dishes are flavorless, though. They have an extensive menu (probably the largest of all the vegan spots) packed with items ranging from nachos to a raw everything bagel and curry bowls to quesadillas. They also offer a ton of desserts, fresh juices and smoothies, coffee drinks and even some alcohol (as long as it’s organic).

I’ve gone once for brunch and at least 4 times for dinner, and my favorite menu item is definitely the spaghetti squash & ‘meatballs’. I want to go back and try so many more things because they all sound so good!

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I’ve ordered the spaghetti squash with meatballs at least twice because it’s so good!

Best For: Those with dietary limitations. Pomegranate Cafe is really good about marking which menu items can be made gluten free, soy free or nut free and there are plenty of kid-friendly options as well.

24 Carrots

Tempe, open 9 am – 8 pm Tuesday-Friday, 9 am – 9 pm Saturday and 9 am to 2 pm Sunday (closed Monday)

Another great vegan spot convenient for East Valley dwellers like myself, 24 Carrots’ menu is much like Pomegranate’s in that it’s focused on farm-fresh ingredients and offers many gluten free and raw options. Unlike some of the other vegan spots, alcohol is not available.

The extensive menu includes vegan standbys such as a hummus plate, nachos and zucchini pasta but also has ever-changing menu options such as the veggie burger, quesadillas and tacos which are updated weekly.

I’ve only visited once, but the totchos (a special for that night) that I had were delicious and plenty filling, even split with my mom. I’d love to try their brunch items and desserts!

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Hello, totchos special!

Best For: Health-conscious vegheads. 24 Carrots’ menu is definitely heavy on the veggies, but it’s all so fresh and flavorful.

Ruchi

Chandler, open for lunch 11 am – 3 pm Tuesday-Sunday and dinner 5 – 9:30 pm Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday and 5 – 10 pm Friday & Saturday (closed Monday)

One of only two vegetarian spots for Indian food in the Valley, almost everything on the menu at Ruchi is vegan! Growing up, my family and I would go out to eat often at a place called Taste of India in Colorado Springs and my mom would sometimes make Indian food at home (full disclosure: we are totally white) so I grew up loving Indian cuisine. Ruchi is definitely authentic and offers vegan diners the chance to eat traditional dishes like naan and curries without any animal products.

I’ve loved everything I’ve tried there but the vegetable vindaloo is by far my favorite. The sauce is so rich with flavor and spicy but not overwhelmingly so. P.S. I sadly cannot find any photos from Ruchi on my phone, so just picture curry dishes and rice.

Best For: Spice enthusiasts. If you love spicy and flavorful foods, you’ll love Ruchi. They offer different spice levels, but I always say the hotter the better.

The Nile

Mesa, open 8 am – 3 pm Monday-Thursday & Saturday, 8 am – 9 pm Friday and 10 am – 3 pm Sunday

Right in the heart of downtown Mesa is the historic Nile Theater, which was the Valley’s first movie house when it opened in 1924. It’s since served as a clothing store, church and nightclub before becoming a music venue in 1994, which it still is today. The front of the building is home to The Nile Coffee Shop — a hipster-ish venue serving breakfast, lunch, brunch on the weekends and coffee drinks.

The menu is small but packed with classic dishes with a vegan twist, like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, macaroni and cheese bowl and bagel sandwiches. On my first (and so far, only) visit, I ordered the Caesar salad because I had never had it veganized and it was really yummy. The croutons were the best part!

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Gotta get those greens (+croutons) in!

Best For: Vegan comfort food. If you’re craving meat, cheese and carbs without the animal products, check out The Nile for your fix.

Seed Shack

Gilbert, open 11 am – 9 pm Tuesday-Friday, 10 am – 9 pm Saturday and 10 am – 4 pm Sunday (closed Monday)

Tucked into an unassuming strip mall just off Baseline is Seed Shack, a newer addition to the East Valley vegan scene. The atmosphere inside is pretty chill and calming, if a bit small.

The menu offers plenty of vegan staples (what plant-based restaurant doesn’t offer a hummus plate?) but also has a few unique items that stand out. One of them is the tornado veggie + chili dish, which I ordered. You can opt for either spiraled zucchini or potato, which is then beer battered and served atop a bean-based chili. I’ve never seen chili served like this before, and it was definitely flavorful and fun to eat.

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This was a yummy, if messy, dinner.

Best For: Unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Other than the tornado veggie + chili option, Seed Shack also makes delicious-sounding dishes like truffle bacon mac & cheese and a barbecue jackfruit pita. When I went, they also had the Impossible Burger topped with PB&J, but it looks like that’s no longer on the menu.

The Uprooted Kitchen 

Gilbert, open 10 am – 4 pm Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 8 am – 3 pm Saturday & Sunday and 10 am – 8 pm Wednesday (closed Monday)

One of my favorite spots to hang out in Gilbert is at Barnone at Agritopia, which happens to be about 2 miles away from where I live. I’ve gone there several times to enjoy a glass of wine on the patio outside Garage East and even ate dinner a couple of times at Fire & Brimstone (a pizza place inside Barnone). But it took me several months to finally check out The Uprooted Kitchen, a small vegan eatery also inside Barnone.

Unlike the other vegan spots on this list, The Uprooted Kitchen is primarily a breakfast & lunch place. They are open for dinner on Wednesday nights, but I usually only go out to eat on weekends. I did check them out for lunch one afternoon last spring with my mom. They have a small menu with items that change weekly (check their website or Insta for updates). They also have weekly cold case specials, for grab and go lunch options, and a case full of plant-based desserts and pastries.

I’ve tried their tempeh breakfast sandwich as well as a raw berry cheesecake and I have to say, I’m partial to their desserts. The sandwich wasn’t super exciting but I’m willing to give them another shot and maybe try a sweet breakfast item next time.

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This was soooo much food!

Best For: A healthy breakfast or lunch. Since they’re located within Agritopia, The Uprooted Kitchen sources a lot of their produce right from the farm, which is really cool. This makes them a great spot for a real farm-to-table breakfast or lunch.

Vegan House 

Downtown Phoenix, open 11 am – 8:30 pm daily

This Asian restaurant in the heart of DT PHX offers diners plenty of faux meat options, including seafood, which can be pretty hard to find. I’ve only been once since I heard it was ranked as one of the best vegan restaurants in the Valley but TBH, I wasn’t super impressed and neither were my parents (both omnis). None of us are big on faux meats and the dishes we had weren’t super exciting, though the menu does seem pretty authentic and it has gotten high ratings on Happy Cow. It just wasn’t our thing.

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The orange cauliflower from Vegan House.

Best For: Vegans craving meat. Vegan House has everything from soy chicken to vegan shrimp and ground beef, so it’s great for newbie vegans who still want that meaty texture and flavor sans the animal suffering.

Still on my list to try: The Cutting Board Bakery & Cafe (they recently updated their menu), Casa Terra (Arizona’s first fine dining vegan restaurant), Mi Vegana Madre (I’ve tried their food truck at vegan festivals but have never visited their newish brick-and-mortar location in Glendale), Loving Hut (multiple Valley locations)

Have you ever been to a vegan restaurant? What’s the best vegan dish you’ve ever had?

Highs & Lows of 2018

Life

“I feel most times we’re high and low (high and low).” (-Empire of the Sun, “High and Low”)

2018 has been a roller coaster of a year, amiright? I feel like people say that every year, but this year for me, it’s been true.

I rang in the New Year (actually on Dec. 31, 2017 but who’s counting) by hiking in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix with my fam, which should definitely become a NYE/NYD tradition. At the time, I wasn’t sure what 2018 would bring, of course. My contract was almost up at work, but I didn’t have a new job lined up yet. Cue the panic.

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NYE hike views from Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Mountains. December 2017.

I was optimistic, though. I wrote down resolutions for the first time, and I was hopeful I could stick to them. Spoiler: I did not, but that’s okay. I made progress on some of them, and I will continue to work towards achieving them and my other goals.

This year was very unexpected, from start to finish. Part of me is glad it’s almost over, but I’m also thankful for the lessons it taught me and the memories I will always treasure. For now, let’s take a look back at my highs and lows of 2018. P.S. This is a super wordy post, sorry, so if you get bored, just look at all the pictures I included!

High

Leaving my job in January

Almost since starting my job in Tucson in January 2016, I knew it wasn’t right for me. After a year had passed, I realized things weren’t going to change (though they did get a little better with some management changes) and I wasn’t happy working in TV news. So I scrapped my plans to transfer to another station in the company (aka what I did to leave Tulsa to get my Tucson job) and decided to stick it out until the end of my 2-year contract, after which time I planned to find a job in a field that was better about promoting work-life balance.

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Best part of living in Tucson: being so close to all this natural beauty in Sabino Canyon. My last trail run here in January 2018.

By the time January 2018 came, I was ready to move on. I felt I had served my purpose and I wanted to better utilize my talents elsewhere. Mostly, I was sick of having to work holidays, producing two shows a night at least twice a week when everyone else only had to do one most of the time and just feeling underappreciated.

I actually flew out for an all-day interview with a TV station in Las Vegas in early January because my boss heard wind that I was considering staying with the company but finding a new station. It was one of the most exhausting days of my life having to be “on” all day after waking up at 3 a.m. and not getting back to Tucson until midnight, but I guess they were impressed with me because they wanted to make an offer. Long story short, my boss shut them down for reasons unknown to me and I’ll never know what it would have been like working in TV news in Vegas.

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Apparently the only pictures I got of my long day in Vegas were at the airport, probably because I was interviewing all day. January 2018.

I still have no regrets leaving the TV news world. While the jobs I’ve had since have actually been lower-paying (shocking, considering how poorly paid journalists are), they’ve been a much better fit for me and my skills and personality.

Low 

Leaving my job in January

I’ll admit — it was hard leaving my Tucson job without having something lined up. It was terrifying, TBH, and the only thing tempering my fear was knowing my parents were letting me live with them while I searched for a new job.

It was also hard leaving behind the friends I’d made, and the home I created for myself and Honey in Tucson. While our apartment wasn’t the best thanks to poor management, I loved the area we lived in and being so close to the mountains and fairly close to work. I’d also become close with a few people at my job, and knowing I probably wouldn’t see them again (at least not for awhile), even though we were going to be in the same state, was not great.

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Loved working with these people (and many more who didn’t make the classic last day picture). January 2018.

High

Winery visits x3

Before 2018, I had only visited a winery once before, in April 2017. This year, I went three times and they were all a blast.

My sister and her boyfriend visited us for their spring break from college in March, so we drove up to the Verde Valley wine region for a day of wine tastings. None of us had visited this wine region before so we were excited to explore.

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The picturesque vineyards of the Verde Valley, March 2018.

Arizona might not be as well known as our neighbor to the west for having good wine, but visiting the wineries was such a fun experience that I went three times this year — twice to the Verde Valley, and once to Sonoita. I don’t consider myself a wino (lol) but it’s just cool to try new wines and enjoy the beautiful vineyards with my fam.

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It’s wine ‘o clock somewhere. Javelina Leap Vineyard, April 2018.

Low

Getting carded all the time

I admit this is a lame complaint, but I couldn’t think of anything better to go along with with the high.

I turned 26 years old this year, and still get mistaken for a teenager. I think that annoys me more than being carded for drinks, because I know many places are really strict about making sure they’re not serving minors. However, several times this year I’ve had people ask me what school I go to. As in, high school. Then I have to awkwardly tell them I graduated college 5 years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long). Maybe it’s just because I’ve been doing more things with my parents this year since moving in with them, and people assume someone with their parents must still be under 18. I know I look young, but really? I can see being mistaken for a college student, but not a high schooler. This is why I always try to look put together with makeup, nice clothes and sometimes heels, to make myself appear closer to my age.

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Does this look like the face of a high schooler? Wait, don’t answer that. December 2018.

High

Starting a new job

After almost six months of actively applying for jobs and having interviews, I finally started a new job in early May. And the best part — it wasn’t in news. I was a copywriter for a digital marketing agency in Phoenix, and I loved almost everything about the job. I became an expert on so many different topics, from home renovations to medical conditions to auto body work to benefits of pedicures, I covered it all by writing blog and social media copy for dozens of clients across the country. No two days were the same, and unlike in TV, I actually had some downtime occasionally, which was nice but some days I wished I had more work on my plate to fill 8 hours. The pay wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I gained a TON of useful work experience, which I’m grateful for.

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Downtown office views. May 2018.

My team was super chill and the company had kind of a startup like feel to it. While I was there, I went to a few work happy hours, laughed alongside my coworkers who participated in karaoke at a stand-up comedy club, took part in many game days and received gift cards for my birthday. I also got to work from home sometimes, especially the last two months I was there. These were things I never got to do while working in TV.

Low

The longest commute ever

The low pay meant I couldn’t move out of my parents’ house into an apartment closer to work, so I spent 2 to 3 hours every Monday through Friday (except for work from home days a couple times per month) in the car driving to and from my job. It was about 70 miles roundtrip, and Phoenix traffic (and drivers) are terrible, so it wasn’t my favorite way to spend part of my day. Fortunately, I had some good music to get me through it.

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Just one of many hour+ commutes I endured. July 2018.

High

Buying my first car

My parents let me use their 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe my last 2 years of college when I moved off-campus so I could get to and from classes and other activities. I kept the car (which I named Alejandro, after the Lady Gaga song) when I moved to Tulsa to start my first job and then when I moved to Tucson, I officially took ownership of Alejandro by paying for registration and insurance.

Besides a couple of repair jobs costing me a few hundred dollars and usual maintenance, Alejandro was pretty hassle-free until this year. One morning on my way to work, soon after starting my new job, Alejandro would not accelerate above 25 mph as I was pulling away from a stoplight. I pulled over, called my mom and ended up driving back home and taking her car to work. Luckily, I wasn’t too far from home when this happened so I was able to get to work on time, but I was worried about having to pay for repairs.

Long story short, I decided it wasn’t worth it to keep a 10-year-old car with 130K miles on it because of the potential repair costs headed my way and I needed to look for a new car. Well, not new but new to me.

One Saturday in June, my dad and I headed out to test drive some cars and hopefully come home with one. I was looking for small hatchbacks that would get good gas mileage (see my long commute above) and picked out a few to test drive: the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Toyota Prius C. I test drove the Fiesta, decided it wasn’t for me so we drove all the way to west Phoenix so I could see the Prius C and Fit.

I’ve wanted a Prius for a long time, so I was most excited about driving that one, especially since it was a pretty blue color. I ended up loving it so much that I didn’t even drive the Fit, and I ended up leaving with the 2015 Prius C (which I named Skye).

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Say hello to Skye, the Toyota Prius C. June 2018.

My dad was really helpful in the negotiations process and I got a pretty good deal on my new car. After 6 months of driving Skye, I’m still obsessed. I love that it has Bluetooth, climate control, a cool heads-up display and most of all, the gas mileage is incredible. I regularly get 50-60 or more MPG and it only costs me about $20 to fill up, which is half what I was paying to fill up Alejandro!

Low

Getting in a serious car accident (not in my new car)

As I mentioned before, Phoenix drivers are awful. Like, there are news stories all the time about people driving the wrong way on the freeways or hitting pedestrians. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that about 6 months after moving to Phoenix, I got into a car accident.

My parents and I were driving to Tempe to go out to dinner one Saturday in July. We were on one freeway and were about to get off to get on another freeway when suddenly, people were hitting their brakes. We were able to stop, but the driver two cars behind us did not. Our car got pushed across several lanes of traffic into the HOV lane, and we got hit on the side at least twice. It was the scariest moment of my life, and I was in such shock when we finally came to a stop that I was just crying. I am so thankful my parents and I weren’t hurt, but I guess a few people in some of the other vehicles involved had minor injuries.

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No photos of the accident scene for obvious reasons, but here’s a selfie of me before we headed out and got into said accident. July 2018.

We had to stand on the side of the freeway for more than an hour while police took down information, and then we got to ride in the back of a police SUV for a couple miles until they dropped us off at a gas station where we took an Uber home. It was not the night I had in mind, but I am really glad we were all okay, if a little shook up. My dad’s car was totaled, so he had to buy a new one, and the accident made me rethink driving to work on the freeways, so I started taking the side streets instead and it was much less stressful.

High

Trips I took

Not counting my interview in Vegas (since that was just for a day), I went on 4 trips this year: Denver, Sedona, Denver (again) and Bisbee. I’ve been to all these places at least once before, but it was nice to get out of town for a few days and explore.

I flew to Denver in May for my sister’s college graduation, and then again for Labor Day weekend. I grew up making day trips to Denver, so it was cool to actually get to see the city for more than just a few hours. Denver has a really great restaurant/drinking scene with plenty of vegan options and cute neighborhoods to walk around. We also went to Breckenridge one day, which brought back memories from my childhood going up there to see the rubber duck races every Labor Day weekend (though they didn’t actually do the races this year).

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One night we went to Linger, a cool rooftop bar near downtown Denver. September 2018.

This was the second year in a row I traveled for my birthday, and I wanna make it a new tradition. Last year was San Diego, this year Sedona. Besides the hellish drive up there due to a horrible car accident, the three day weekend was wonderful. Sedona is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I would absolutely love to live there some day. In the short time we were there, we hiked among the red rocks, had fun at the natural water park aka Slide Rock State Park, enjoyed a birthday dinner at the most chill vegan spot, embarked on a guided trolley tour and explored the incredible Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village.

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Sedona is my favorite place in Arizona. How can you not love these red rock views? July 2018.

In late September, my parents and I drove down to Bisbee. My dad and I visited Bisbee for the first time in early 2017 and loved the town’s hippie-ish vibe. This time, we stayed for more than just the day and made a long weekend of it. We stayed in a really cute Airbnb and walked basically everywhere since Bisbee is really pedestrian-friendly. We ate some amazing food (including at a vegan spot in a cool alley that’s only open 4 days a week), checked out some art galleries, toured the Queen Mine and just soaked up the weirdness of the town.

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The cutest, quirkiest little downtown you ever did see. September 2018.

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Not getting to travel as much as I would have liked

Fun fact: I’ve never been out of the U.S. in my 26 years. Crazy, right? There are so many destinations I’m dying to go, both abroad and closer to home. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to do that this year, mostly due to finances and starting a new job where I didn’t have vacation time right away.

Next year, I plan to get my passport so I can hopefully at least go to Mexico since it’s so close. I would also love to visit my friend in Salt Lake City, spend a weekend in LA/Palm Springs (also so close), go to the Grand Canyon and maybe even Joshua Tree. I’m not planning any big trips due to my circumstances, but it would be great to see some places that are new to me.

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My last visit to SLC. Take me back! June 2015.

High

Running more this year

I wasn’t born a natural athlete. I took dance classes throughout my childhood, and dabbled just a bit in soccer, karate and tennis (which I still like to play) but that was about it. I never competed in middle or high school sports and I honestly don’t consider myself much of a competitive person.

I started running in 2014 when I first moved to Tulsa. It was a way to help me cope with the life changes I was going through, it helped me explore my new city and I found I really enjoyed it. I started out with walk-run intervals and slowly progressed to running a few miles at a time without stopping. I also discovered trail running, which I wish I could do more of here, but there aren’t many suitable trails.

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Sunset view from my favorite running trail in Tulsa, along the Arkansas River. November 2014.

I’ve continued running regularly (read: 3 or more times per week) ever since, and I keep going back for the endorphins. By the time I moved to Tucson, I was routinely running 3 or 4 miles at a time (sometimes 5) and never getting tired of it.

When I moved to Phoenix, I was sad to leave behind my favorite running paths and trails in Tucson and I gotta be honest — the ones here just don’t compare. However, I do enjoy running around my neighborhood and since moving here, I’ve ramped up my running game. My sweet spot is still 4 miles, but I’ve run 7 miles twice (the most I’ve ever done) and I’ve run 5 miles more than ever before.

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When I’m running, I feel like I’m flying (most of the time). December 2018.

I’m still not sure I want to run a race (again, not a competitive person) but I love building my endurance and feeling that runner’s high.

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Falling on my face during a run

Let’s face it — I’m a klutz. For some reason during my freshman year of college, I tripped while walking to and from classes an embarrassing number of times. Maybe it’s the way I walk, but I’m just prone to falling down.

Needless to say, I’ve eaten pavement more than my fair share of times since starting to run. Honestly, I don’t remember falling down much when I first started, but it’s become more common since I moved to Phoenix. Maybe because I switched to running on bumpy sidewalks and the street instead of the smooth paved trails in Tulsa and Tucson. Whatever the case may be, I have tripped a lot while running in the past year.

Most times, I scraped my knee pretty badly but I was still able to walk and run normally. That wasn’t the case during my November 12th run. I was working from home that day so I set out on a run around 7 am or so, planning to run 4 miles. About a mile in, I had just turned down a street when my foot caught something and I fell HARD. For some reason, I reacted slowly so my hands didn’t have time to catch me, and my face hit the asphalt. I stood up pretty quickly to assess the damage, and realized my forehead and nose were bleeding. Awesome. Also, my sunglasses broke but I didn’t care. I was shaken up so I decided to walk home, trying to minimize the bleeding. Fortunately, it was the day Veterans Day was observed, so not many people were out and no one saw me looking like I had gotten beaten up.

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Trying to disguise my klutzy self with a Snapchat filter. November 2018.

I got home, washed my wounds and started icing my head. I soon realized my knees were in pain, and not just because they were scraped. They had apparently taken the brunt of the fall (other than my face). Going up and down the stairs was extremely painful. I also thought I might have broken my nose, because it felt weird, but I think it was fine.

I took the rest of the week off from running, and was able to run again a week later. I still felt some pain in my right knee, but it was bearable enough to walk on. Now more than a month later, I feel a bit of pain if I turn my knee a certain way and it’s still a little numb to the touch (no idea why) but I’m basically 100%, which is great because I didn’t want to give up running because of my klutziness.

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Getting laid off from my job

As I mentioned earlier, I loved almost everything about the job I started in May. So it came as a total shock when I found out in September that I was getting laid off. It was due to the company restructuring, so they basically eliminated almost everyone’s position, so at least I knew it wasn’t due to my performance. But it was still a blow, especially since I had just started working there a few months earlier.

I had to start the job search process all over again, which was frustrating. Probably the worst part was watching coworkers find new positions right away, while I was still sending out applications and going to interviews. Job searching is not fun, and I wasn’t ready to do it again so soon after stopping.

By my last day on November 16th, I still had nothing lined up, and I was freaking out. I was glad I was living with my parents so I had a financial safety net, but I worried that not finding a job soon would hurt my career potential. And even the people on my team who had less experience than me (even one who started working there a couple weeks after me) had landed new positions, which had me seriously questioning my skills and even my worthiness as a human being. Not a great mental state to be in, especially so close to the holidays.

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Last time with this view on my way home from work. November 2018.

High

Finding a new job I love

A week after Thanksgiving, I went on an interview that I figured would be just like the others I had already been through, and end in rejection. I never really know how to feel about how I did after an interview is over, and this one was no different. So I was definitely surprised when I got a call less than a week later offering me the position! I was thrilled, and said yes.

Because the job is with a school district, it was contingent on a pretty extensive background check, which came back clear so I was good to start working before they went on winter break. I attended a brief orientation, and started work the following Monday. My first week was mostly training, but I got to dip my toes in and start posting updates on the district’s social media (since I’m their social media specialist).

I don’t work again until January 7th, but after just a week, I’m already very excited for my new role. The one downside is that it’s a part-time position so I’m trying to line up a side hustle to make some more $$$ but the hourly pay rate is better than any other job I’ve had before, the commute is a little shorter and there’s so much potential for growth, plus I get all the district holidays off (2 weeks for winter break, a week for spring break, a few days for Thanksgiving) which is way better than my previous jobs’ PTO policies. I’m definitely excited for what’s to come in 2019!

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Last day of work until 2019! December 2018.

What are some of your highs and lows from 2018? What are you most looking forward to in 2019? 

My Favorite Vegan & Cruelty-Free Products: Hair Care Part 1

Beauty

Hair Care

*This is part of my series highlighting my favorite vegan & cruelty-free beauty products and brands* 


“Invest in your hair, it is the crown you never take off.” (-Anonymous)

I haven’t had virgin hair since I was a preteen, when I began getting my (then) light brown hair highlighted. I was blonde for awhile in high school and college, then went dark brown just before I started my first job in 2014. A few months later, one of my new friends and I decided on a whim to color our own hair. I picked up a box of auburn hair dye, and the rest is history. I decided that red is my color, and I’ve mostly colored my hair myself since then, aside from having it colored professionally at Ulta once.

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Summer 2013. When I was hella blonde and thought I was cool wearing fake hipster glasses.

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Back to the dark side in March 2014. I miss those bangs tho.

Colored hair is more prone to damage from heat styling, UV exposure and even shampooing. Up until recently, I used to shampoo and condition my hair every other day because I was worried about greasiness. Now, I shampoo and condition twice a week at most, and my hair is so much healthier. I also credit the products I’m now using in my mane — specifically, the IGK line of hair care.

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New hair, who dis? November 2018 after getting my hair professionally colored.

I first fell in love with their Smoke & Mirrors conditioning cleansing oil. When I started washing my hair less often, I would use this in between washes to keep my hair looking clean. This stuff smells great and works as advertised.

Another winner — the Low Key cleansing walnut scalp scrub. I don’t know about you, but my scalp can get itchy and oily, especially after coloring my hair. This scrub purifies the scalp, washing away product buildup and keeping my scalp looking and feeling healthy. The sweet, minty smell is a nice bonus.

Of course, IGK makes some fabulous shampoos and conditioners. Though they come in small bottles (8 oz.), they last a long time if you wash your hair only once or twice a week. I currently use the Hot Girls shampoo and conditioner because my hair is in desperate need of hydration. They really nourish my dry ends and help my locks look good without needing to shampoo all the time.

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IGK Hot Girls shampoo & conditioner; IGK Direct Flight multi-tasking matcha dry shampoo

Sometimes, you just gotta use dry shampoo, especially when you wash your hair less frequently. Enter IGK’s Direct Flight multi-tasking matcha dry shampoo! I used to be a ride-or-die Living Proof dry shampoo girl, until I discovered this. This smells and works even better than my old fav. It doesn’t leave behind that annoying white residue like most other dry shampoos AND it’s safe for color-treated hair.

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So fresh and so clean clean. IGK Smoke & Mirrors conditioning cleansing oil and Low Key cleansing walnut scalp scrub.

I am dying to try their new Speechless dry oil finishing spray for hair & body, Rich Kid coconut oil gel, Down & Out dirty spray and their Trust Issues instant scalp rebalancing treatment.

IGK products are vegan, cruelty-free, contain no parabens or sulfates and are color safe.

I’ll be back soon with Part 2, focusing on my favorite vegan/cruelty-free styling products!

Do you have a holy grail dry shampoo? Have you ever tried IGK’s products?

My Favorite Vegan & Cruelty-Free Products (A NEW Series!)

Beauty

Cruelty Free Beauty

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” (-Yves Saint Laurent)

I’ve been vegan since 2012, eschewing animal products at a time when most of my peers (I was a sophomore in college then) were taking advantage of all-you-can-eat dining halls with endless (and often unhealthy) food options. I have always loved animals, but my motivations to go vegan were a little murkier than that. I really just wanted an excuse to restrict my diet without seeming like I was starving myself. I was (and am) a recovering anorexic, and thoughts of restriction have run through my mind for the past decade. That’s a topic for another post, however. I now consider myself a vegan for ethical, environmental and health reasons, not just to stay thin.

While I’ve eaten a plant-based diet for nearly 7 years, I haven’t always paid as close attention to the products I put on my body. I didn’t purposely go out and buy makeup owned by companies that tested on animals (I have never bought anything from MAC, ever), but I also didn’t really think to look at the ingredients of the products I was buying. I figured, if it came from Sephora or Ulta, it had to be high-quality. But it wasn’t necessarily cruelty-free.

At the beginning of 2018, I made a resolution to clean up my beauty routine. By that, I meant I was only going to buy products that are cruelty-free and vegan. Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. There are websites that have a full breakdown of brands that do not test on animals or use animal products but it can still be tricky to figure out which brands really conform to this.

Fortunately, I have found a handful of brands that not only offer vegan/cruelty-free products, but their stuff actually works well and I feel comfortable recommending it. Just to note, I am DEFINITELY not sponsored, these are my honest opinions. I hope this guide helps you navigate the growing landscape of vegan/cruelty-free beauty products. Stay tuned for full reviews of my favorite hair/skin care, makeup and beauty supplements!

 

Home: What’s That?

Life

I’m going back home to the place where I belong / There’s nothing like it / No, nothing like it / Take me back home / Where the blood runs through my soul / I can’t describe it, there’s nothing like it (“Home” by Morgxn)

In my 26 years, I’ve lived in three states and six cities. That’s more than some people, and less than others. When asked where home is for me (generally in job interviews, for some reason), I usually have to go into a long-winded explanation of how I was born in Phoenix but my parents moved to Colorado Springs when I was 2 and that’s where I grew up and I moved back to Arizona (Tucson) almost 3 years ago and now have lived in Gilbert for almost a year. Sometimes, I even explain where I went to college (Ft. Collins) and my less-than-two-year-stay in Tulsa afterwards.

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Breckenridge, Colorado (photo taken Sept. 1, 2018). One of my favorite places in the state I lived in for most of my life.

I have a complicated relationship with home. After I moved 2 hours away from home for college, I always told people home was in Colorado Springs, because my parents and sister still lived there and I went back for holidays, breaks and some weekends. But once I moved out of state for the first time, I still said home was Colorado, but a small part of me felt like I was creating a home in Tulsa. I lived completely alone for the better part of  a year, before I adopted my dog in early 2015. I didn’t love my job by any means (I’ll save that for another post) but I had made a few good friends at work and for the most part, I loved the little life I had created for myself — with routines, favorite running paths and exploring my new city. While I knew Tulsa wouldn’t be my forever city, it was a good place to call home for about 20 months.

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Sunset view from my favorite running trail along the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma (photo taken Nov. 14, 2014).

 

Then I moved to Tucson, and my relationship with home got even more complex. I absolutely loved (still do) Tucson — the mountains, the climate, the rugged desert landscape, the city amenities without being too crowded. It quickly became home to me, as I made new friends, settled into my second job, found new hiking and running trails, tried out several dog parks and just got to know my new city. My family still lived in Colorado, but during my 2 year stay in Tucson, I only visited once. I was becoming more and more invested in my home.

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Saguaros for days (photo taken Mar. 24, 2016). Sabino Canyon was one of the many hiking areas I fell in love with in Tucson, Arizona.

At the beginning of this year, I made the move to the Phoenix suburbs, to join my parents, who moved back to AZ in 2017. For the first time since high school, I’m living with my parents full-time, and it’s been an adjustment. I absolutely love living with them, and I very much appreciate that they’ve been willing to let me live with them (especially during my two stints of unemployment) but it’s been weird to not live on my own, which I have done for the most part since my sophomore year of college. Living with a roommate my freshman year taught me the lesson that I prefer to live on my own, or at least with family/close friends instead of a total stranger.

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Gilbert water tower all lit up for Christmas (photo taken Nov. 29, 2018).

Now that I’m living with my parents again, can I say that Gilbert is my home? Not exactly. While I do feel a little settled in here in terms of knowing where everything is, I haven’t established any friendships or even a solid work history. And part of me still feels small ties to my previous homes. To Phoenix, where I was born. To Colorado Springs, where I grew up. To Fort Collins, where I learned adult responsibilities and formed my closest friendship. To Tulsa, where I grew up really fast, had my first “big girl” job, adopted my dog and learned that I enjoy figuring things out on my own. To Tucson, where I learned what I want in a city and helped me get out of my comfort zone a little more.

Arizona feels like home to me probably more than anywhere else, but I also have the itch to explore new cities and add them to my growing list of places I’ve called home. I’m not sure if future opportunities will lead me away from where I am now, but I know that no matter where I go, I’ll always hold a part of that place close to my heart.

Where is “home” for you? Do you have a complicated relationship with home like I do?

The Quarter Life Crisis

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The face of the 20-something navigating her quarter life crisis.

There’s a lot of talk about the so-called “midlife crisis,” but not as much discussion about a similar phenomenon that happens in a person’s mid-20s — “the quarter life crisis.” I wasn’t sure of its existence either, until it happened to me.

Quick flashback to my 25th birthday to set the stage for my own quarter life crisis. It was July 2017 and I had traveled from Arizona to San Diego to celebrate the milestone with my parents and sister. At that point in time, I was employed as a TV news producer, my second job (ever) in the field. I wasn’t happy, per se, but I was decently content with where I was at in life so far. I was living in a state I loved, with a loving rescue dog, a handful of friends from work and surviving on my own financially.

However, less than 6 months later, my life would change dramatically as I lost that job, without anything lined up. I wasn’t technically fired or laid off; rather, my 2-year contract (common in news) was up, and the station wasn’t willing to have me continue working off-contract, since I had expressed interest in leaving. January 18, 2018 marked the beginning of my first bout of unemployment.

Being unemployed rocked my world, and not in a good way (most of the time). My parents, who had recently moved to Phoenix, graciously allowed me to move in with them as I searched for a new job. So I moved my life 2 hours north and tried to get used to living with my parents again, after living on my own for almost 4 years. I very much appreciate their willingness to have me live with them, but I still longed for the independent life I had built. I also struggled with anxiety and depression during the 4+ months I was without a job.

Finally, in May 2018, I started my new job as a copywriter at a digital marketing firm. The pay was not what I was hoping for (even less than what I was paid in TV, which wasn’t much) and the commute was brutally long (more than an hour each way), but I fell in love with the work I was doing and the great culture of my new workplace. Things were looking up…

…until they weren’t. On a September morning, seemingly like any other day, I found out I was getting laid off, along with basically everyone else in the company, including management. It felt like a punch to the gut, knowing I was about to be unemployed for the second time in a year.

Flash back to the present. As I’m writing this, I have only eight days left of work before I’m officially unemployed again. After sending out at least 50 applications and having several interviews, I don’t have anything lined up (again) and my future is unclear.

This time around, though, I want to try to avoid spiraling into anxious and depressed thoughts, and instead take a more optimistic look at my life. Hence, starting this blog. Here, I plan to narrate my quarter life crisis — the good, the bad and the ugly. It won’t all be about unemployment — I also want to talk about my interest in fashion + makeup, veganism (fun fact: I’ve been vegan since 2012), fitness, my dog and other random snippets from my life. I hope you’ll join me!