20-Something Female Seeks Catharsis.

I know that one day, I will look back on this time in my life as one of great personal growth and transition.

And despite the trials and tribulations of my daily life, I am quite sure that the events of my journey will in fact retrospectively unfold as a well-crafted novel; with my character very keenly developing as was always cosmically intended.

But from my current perspective, this time in my life seems more accurately described as one of great stress inducing paranoia crazy town is this real life tootie fruity loop de loop oops I lost my train of thought transitional captivity.

And the last time I would have described my life in such a way, I developed a small ulcer.  But as the heroine of my tale, I have got to believe there’s been at least some of that keen character development since then; and there’s no way, in the name of all that is sequined and holy, that I am dealing with an ulcer on top of everything else.  So, in order to preserve my mental and physical health, I have put together a small list of stress-reducing activities to share with the greater 20-something dazed and confused population. May the force be with you all.

[California] Kirsten’s Stress-Reducing Activities

1. Take a break from Facebook. I can’t stress this enough (ha, see what I did there?).  Often times, there’s no better way to make oneself feel like absolute bull-kaka-woo, than to take a leisurely scroll through your news feed.  Think about it.  For the average user, Facebook has three primary functions: 1. to b*tch and share opinions that people around you would otherwise not entertain; 2. to nonchalantly brag about (and, of course, exaggerate) the good things happening in your life; and 3. to obsess over the personal and professional status of the people that you like, you hate, you consider competition, and/or you previously dated.  And that is exactly the kind of widespread, unhealthy behavior that is making many a 20-something stress eat themselves to infinity and beyond.  Our generation spends way too much time fostering destructive, competitive relationships with each others’ online profiles.  You might be just fine with the [snail-pace] progression of your career, when all of a sudden that snobby ex-friend from middle school posts that she was offered a promotion, and a raise, and better benefits, and a fancy office, and then delivered the news to her perfectly hunky husband by putting it inside a home-made fortune cookie.  The best thing you did this week was pop a really angry zit.  Cue the epic panic attack.  So, listen, unless you have super powers and can read that post for what it really says (perhaps I’m insecure and having marital problems that I’m not mature enough to handle so I’m pretending like it’s all okay), do yourself a favor, and take a break from the online obsessing.  Instead, try focusing that energy on a healthy competitive relationship with good ol’ numero uno.  Give yourself personal goals and start achieving them.  And when you do, brag about them on Facebook.

2. Sing Disney songs in the shower.  This is something that has started happening to me since I moved to Los Angeles: every once in a while–actually, quite frequently–I am overcome with the urge to sing Disney songs.  Passionately.  I don’t know what it is.  Maybe I’m just happier here in California, or maybe the magical power of Disney is more compelling due to my proximity to Anaheim; but regardless of exactly why, I have been floating around the house like Mary freakin’ Poppins, continuously singing every Disney song that I know at least 90% of the words to (the potential remaining 10% can be made up).  I don’t need to explain why singing is stress reducing.  Whether you’re Mariah Carey or a tone-deaf wannabe who can’t quite handle the Happy Birthday Song, singing is always a cathartic experience (probably because you’re sort of forced to breathe). The reason I suggest Disney songs specifically is because they can connect you with your innocence.  They remind you of a time when your greatest responsibility was to have fun; and if you’re lucky they can connect you to that feeling.  But, on the flip side of that, you can also experience the emotion behind them a little differently now that you’re more mature.  For example, I bet you’ll connect with Pocahontas’ Just Around the River Bend a little differently now that the rest of your life is just around the corner (and let me tell you, in a moment both unexpected and emotionally intense, I did just that. Damn Pocahontas. Gets me every time).

3. Take on a weird hobby.  If you’re the type of artist I am, you’ll understand my rather unique dilemma. The beginning of my career has been a delicate balance of working on my craft (namely writing and acting) and maintaining a job that allows me to pay my bills and feed myself.  Therefore, the whole working on my craft part has been something I’ve done in my free time (which, as most of you know, means I had no free time).  Therefore again, the whole working on my craft thing felt like a hobby, which made it extremely (here’s that word again) cathartic.  Well now I’m in LA.  And the attempt is to make the whole working on my craft thing and the job that allows me to pay my bills and feed myself one in the same.  It’s a very good and emotionally rewarding thing to be working toward a goal, however at the same time, I feel as if I’ve lost the catharsis that working on my craft once provided.  So, I took on another artistic hobby for just me: I’m learning to play the ukulele [sorta] fluently.  I can now play 3 chords  really well.  And to me, it’s just one of those sorta weird hobbies, not something that I’ll ever exploit. No expectations. No stress.  *The reason I say pick a weird one is because you’re less likely to want to make it your career, but, hell, if you get good at it, you might as well put it on your resume and that’ll make you even more unique.  Right?

4. Watch a bunch of commencement speeches on YouTube. Last week, I had my first job in Hollywood, working as a PA (production assistant) on a commercial shoot for 2 days.  Of course, it ended up being a fantastic experience to learn and network; but if you had asked me what I thought it was going to be like the day before I went, I would have told you no way in a million years was I going to make friends and have fun and get more work.  I was convinced I would somehow heinously embarrass myself, eat lunch by myself and probably get fired.  Let’s give it up for my self-confidence.  Anywho, the night before the job, in order to fend off a second panic attack, I clicked on a link that a friend had sent me in a Love and ADD comment. It was a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts this past year.  It’s gotten about a bazillion hits on YouTube so I’m sure you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t, DO IT.  And then from there, do what I did and watch Amy Poehler give one to Harvard and Ellen give one at Tulane and on and on and on until your eyeballs hurt from staring at the screen too long.  Seriously, I was disgustingly nervous to be a PA because I’d never done it before, but I listened to Neil Gaiman when he said, “if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise and then just behave like they would.”  So I pretended I was confident.   And, let me tell you, that sh*t really works.  There’s also something about a commencement speech that makes you think what these people are saying is really genuine.  Because they’re not speaking to the general public, they’re speaking to a group of young people on the verge of starting their lives.  While graduating college may not be a universal experience, that intense feeling of uncertainty in the face of change is.  And so these keynote speakers give advice as only they know how–from their own experience.  And it’s nice to hear that they struggled, too.  And it’s nice to hear how they overcame.  Really, it’s just nice to remember that you’re not alone, and to believe for a second that somehow you’ll figure it all out. Now, to the class of 2013, I congratulate you…oh, wait. Sorry. I mean, yeah, YouTube commencement speech video binge: good stress reliever.

5. Interact with another human being.  Everyone else on this planet feels or has felt as scared and weird about life as you do.  And chances are they need to talk about it.  But, as we covered before, their Facebook page won’t tell you that, nor will the tone of their text message.  Even with all those really fancy emoticons on the iPhone, you won’t get the whole story (I mean, they don’t even have one for broccoli. WTF).  When you’re feeling down, get together with a friend and talk about it.  Tell them how you’re feeling and listen to how they’re feeling.  Or, if that’s too great an emotional commitment for you right now (hey man, no judgment), then don’t talk about it. Get together and just enjoy each other’s company.  Start a book club, practice your weird hobby, play bean bag toss–whatever the activity, get out of your head, have a good time, and remember to be an actual human being.  It’ll keep you going and decorate your memories with something sweeter than that time you gave yourself an ulcer.

After all…just a spoon full of sugar helps the great stress inducing paranoia crazy town is this real life tootie fruity loop de loop oops I lost my train of thought transitional captivity time in my life go down… (ha, see what I did there?).



The 20-Something 12-Step Program.

I am quite used to hearing about how great a time 20-something is in a girl’s life.  It would seem that the general consensus of those people that I turn to for advice is that I should sit back and enjoy being “young” and “having the world at my feet.”  Sure, I suppose, from a purely ideological standpoint, they’re right.

Ideologically speaking, a 20-something has pretty basic responsibilities (wake up before noon, feed yourself, bathe once in a while); a 20-something still has “time” to figure out what they want to do when they grow up (and completely change that goal once every 14 days or so); others are less likely to judge a 20-something for receiving help from their parents (which, uh, Wham Bam–if you’re reading, uh, we need to talk…); and, finally, as a 20-something, you’ll probably never look better than you do right now.

Sure, ideologically speaking, this is a super fabulous time in a girl’s life.  And, sure, I can ramble off this list to myself until the cows come home (and oh, do I ever–frantically, every night, in an inspirational journal while I simultaneously stress eat mint chocolate chip ice cream); but, if you’re like me, 20-something has brought more than just a fun, experimental decade of awesome attractiveness.  If you’re like me, being 20-something means having your self-confidence brought before a firing squad and blown to smithereens roughly twice a week.

One’s 20s are truly a contradictory time. While you’re at the peak of many a good quality, chances are you’re only able to focus on what could be better.  There’s the wishing the professional world of which you are trying to break into would take you more seriously.  Or, hell, just give you a shot at all.  Of course, for every job you apply, you need what the biz likes to call experience, and yet, the only experience you really have is the art of embellishing your professional history.  There’s the counting down the days until you can no longer legally exploit your parents’ medical insurance.  There’s the understanding the importance of eating healthy but only being able to afford pop-tarts and fast food.  There’s the dreaming about what you’ll do “when you have money”  (you know, like buy something other than pop-tarts so you still look good in your 30s).  If you’re a woman, there’s the whole figuring out if/when you want to have babies; and if you do, finding a mate quickly enough so that you can date them, analyze them as a partner and a parent, groom them for both roles by getting a dog together, convince them to marry you, figure out how you’re going to pay for everything, and then reproduce all before your biological time clock runs out.  And on, and on, and on, and on…

Being 20-something is retrospectively appealing. But presently speaking: it’s the perfect recipe for an anxiety disorder.

And why is that?  Because, from what I can tell, this is the time we’re supposed to find our confidence.  The time we’re supposed to shed all those silly insecurities we fostered in high school, the same ones we attempted to drink away in college that are now rudely resurfacing like a deep-rooted zit you can’t quite pop.  But you’ve gotta pop that zit and bask in the glory of a clear, confident complexion.

Okay, so how?  Truthfully, I haven’t the slightest idea and I’m a little tired of people just telling me to “be confident.”  Sure, okay!  Let me just flip that switch over here…oh, wait there IS NO SWITCH and I don’t know where to start and I’m freaking out and where’s the ice cream?

The last time I remember being completely confident was, wait for it, middle school.  I know, I seem like a total oxy-moron for referencing perhaps the WORST time in a girl’s life as a time of great confidence, but seriously, somehow for me, it’s true.  At that time, I was less than 5 foot tall, flat as a pancake, waiting for my head to grow into my teeth, and so completely uncool that I was more than alright with just being me.  It was a time of horribly experimental personal fashion, greasy hair, and Plumber’s Disease (my pants NEVER fit because I was flat in the back, too).  And I wrote screenplays (cough*regurgitations*cough of Austin Powers, Charlie’s Angels, and The Parent Trap…or as we called it, The Sister Trap…that one didn’t make it out of post-production).  And I directed plays (The Legends of Sleepy Hollow with the neighborhood kids, starring my sister in drag as Ichabod Crane, to be performed in my parents’ garage).  When I wanted to do something, I just did it.

There were limitations, and more than a handful of things that I personally considered less than ideal, but I accepted these things about my circumstances and about myself because only time could cure them, so why worry?  And everyone around me was in the same exact boat.  And, for the most part, we accepted one another because of it.

I want that feeling back.

Okay, so the key to self-confidence is primarily self-acceptance and your 20s act as the 12-step program to get you there.  Slowly but surely you rid yourself of self-loathing thoughts and you purge yourself of those people that ever made you feel that you are less than worthy (we all have ‘em, but honestly, people who are that self-righteous are lame and you deserve better).  You give up those addictions that are holding you back.  You know, like your obsessive need to check the professional and personal well being of everyone you know on Facebook in order to compare yourself to them (bad, bad, bad. Stop doing that).  You accept those qualities about yourself that, though maybe less than ideal, make you unique (I, for example, still struggle with Plumber’s Disease and have, as Captain Kev-merica puts it, non-diagnosed adult ADD).  And as with any sort of withdrawal, the journey is difficult but totally worth it because that’s what builds the oh so coveted self-confidence.  Or so they tell me.

But, yeah, in the meantime it blows.  So do yourself a favor and go get a pint of ice cream and find some pictures of your middle school self.  Because, if anything, you look better these days.  And that helps.