Breaking the Rules, Entrepreneur Style

Leap of faith

I keep going back and forth on whether I want this post to be a short-and-sweet “Hello, world! Here’s what I’m currently doing with my life!” or a deeper, let’s-breakdown-societal-constructions-and-analyze-their-grip-on-us type of essay.

I’m shooting for a happy medium. We’ll see …

The truth is, I’ve been waiting to write this post for a long time. And finally, here I am, in my second week of self-employment, thinking about how I can gracefully word the major changes I’ve made in my day-to-day life the past few weeks.

Another truth, is that although I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, it’s really no surprise (to me or the people close to me) that this is what I’m doing now. The moment I realized I could be an entrepreneur, start my own business, and work for myself, I haven’t been able to think about much else. 

If you asked me a few years ago what I wanted to do professionally, I probably would have told you I was headed back to grad school. I’d keep studying creative writing in hopes of one day getting published and becoming a professor. A noble pursuit, for sure. I still miss many aspects of life in academia. 

What I never would have told you, however (or maybe I would just be too afraid to say it out loud), is that I was quitting my job to be a freelance writer, while simultaneously starting a jewelry business … what?!

I know. Keep reading.

Growing up, throughout college, and heck, even earlier this year, it seems like I knew about a lot of people starting and running their own businesses. Yet, it always felt so far off.

Oh that’s nice, good for them. I could never do that, thoughMaybe you’ve felt something similar. 

I don’t think I’m qualified to be Exhibit A in any sort of case study, but I am happy to serve as an example to all of my liberal arts peers out there (especially my female liberal arts peers), who think that “business” is not for them. That it’s for a different breed of people. 

Here’s a little not-so-secret. If you want it to be, business and entrepreneurship is for you. On top of that, the business world needs people like you — people with more diverse backgrounds, with fresh perspectives, and different ways of doing things. 

For the benefit of people like me who were allergic to the idea of taking a business class in undergrad (still kicking myself for that), entrepreneurship is becoming more and more in style and thus, more and more approachable and accessible. Thanks to people like Tim Ferriss and Sophia Amoruso, there is a wealth of knowledge out there for people who know (or think they know) little to nothing about starting and running a business. 

What you begin to find, however, after listening to hours and hours of podcasts, and reading article after article on marketing strategies, goal-setting and optimizing morning routines, is that you actually know more than you thought you did. And that really, the only way you’re going to learn more and gain this experience that everyone is so busy talking about, is to just dive in head first and frickin’ do it.

So, that’s what I’m doing. There’s a lot more story between then and now that I’d certainly like to share, but for the moment, we’ll skip over it. The short of it is, after finding and securing a few promising contracts, I finally mustered up the guts to leave my steady office job (full of wonderful, smart people) and pursue my own opportunities full-time.

Between contract writing and jewelry-making, I’ve managed to stay pretty busy so far. I keep telling everyone, “talk to me in a week,” could be a different story. But so far, so good. I feel confident, excited, and most of all, empowered.

I felt it was important to write a public post on this because I imagine there are lots of young people like me out there. People who want to go out on their own, but think maybe it’s not for them, maybe it’s not worth it, or maybe it’s not the right time. 

You see, people like to make up a lot of rules about these “leaps of faith”. You hear it and read about it all the time. 

Quit your job, but have six-months worth of salary saved up before you do.

Travel the world, but only for two weeks of paid vacation.

Start this thing you really care about, but make sure you realize that it’s only ever going to be a hobby.

I took that last one a little personally … I’m done now.

The point is, there are no rules. The only thing limiting you, is you. It’s a little bit cheesy, but I think it’s 100% true. Don’t let people who aren’t you tell you that you can’t, you shouldn’t, or you won’t. You be the one who decides all of that and above all, trust yourself. 

You know you better than anyone else.

That is a concept I struggle with on a daily basis. But it’s when I truly believe that statement that I know, I am on the exact right track. 

 

SXSW 2015: Getting to Austin

SXSW 2015 Recap

Hey friends, I’m also writing fun stuff over on the Tribe Wheel blog. Learn why at the bottom of this post!

If you follow me on any form of social media, you know that last week I had the privilege of traveling to Austin, TX for an incredible SXSW experience. It’s been about a week since I’ve returned home from Austin and I have so much to share about my time there. I’m planning to do a series of recap posts from the week here on my blog, and I can’t wait to get it all down in writing.

But before I can even begin to dive into everything I did and tell you about all the fascinating people I met, I have to share another story — one of travel improvisation. I didn’t get to Austin the way I originally planned. And in hindsight, I’m so glad I didn’t. Because in my opinion, it makes the whole experience that much more interesting.

Part 1: Waking up to 12 Missed Calls Doesn’t Feel Good.

SXSW 2015 Recap

My flight for Austin was scheduled to leave Indy early Thursday morning — early as in 5:55 A.M. I woke up at approximately 6:00 A.M. Not good.

The hysteria that ensued during the next few moments is hard to describe. I’ve never missed a flight before, let alone slept through one. When it comes to traveling (anywhere, let alone an event I’ve been dying to go to for as long as I can remember … SXSW, if you’re following along) I’m usually so excited to hit the road that I’m the one making sure everyone else is ready to get moving, not the other way around. It was bad. My travel partner, Kendall, had tried calling and texting me dozens of times. It was actually pretty embarrassing to wake up and take in just how badly I had not answered her.

Moving on.

I flew out of bed not really sure what to do first, paralyzed by my panic. Once I came to my senses and realized that calling my mother was not going to solve this problem, I called Southwest Airlines, instead.

I knew that pretty much every flight to Austin across the country would probably be sold out due to SXSW. I was mostly right. There was one flight out of Indy scheduled to leave the next day that I could get on — only three seats left. I bit the bullet and paid the change fee right then and there over the phone, just to ensure I had a secure way to Austin.

After my new seat was confirmed, I managed to calm down a little bit. At least now I knew I would get to SXSW eventually, but I was still determined to get there that same day. It was pretty necessary that I do. Kendall would arrive in Austin in just a few hours to meet up with my friend Julie, who we had arranged to stay with the entire week. The two of them had never met and I felt horrible that Kendall had to travel by herself and make that introduction on her own. Not to mention, if I got there late Friday afternoon, I would miss an entire day of Interactive sessions. Not exactly ideal.

So, I got dressed and threw the rest of my stuff into a backpack (I hadn’t even finished packing yet — I really, really, really had not planned to close my eyes for more than an hour or two, but I guess that’s how these things go down) knowing that I probably had a long day at the airport ahead of me if I wanted to play the standby game. I called a Lyft to pick me up and tried to channel my inner yogi — it would all be okay, I just needed to breathe.

Part 2: A Spiritual Lyft Driver Drops Some Knowledge.

SXSW 2015 Recap

Normally in a Lyft, I’ll sit up front with the driver. I love taking Lyfts for this very reason — I love striking up conversations with someone I’ve never met . But that morning, I let myself into the back of the car — I was stressed, tired, and was foolishly trying to craft my own route to Austin via my Southwest app.

The driver noticed pretty quickly how frazzled I was, so he asked what was going on. I told him the story — that I had overslept and missed my flight, that I needed to get to Austin, and that literally everything going that way was sold out for days.

“You know what,” he said. “I believe that when things like this happen, they happen for a reason.”

It took me a minute to take in that statement. I really wanted to shrug it off and keep looking at potential flights I could piece together over the next 24 hours. But then I really thought about it and decided, you know what, there’s really not much I can do about this situation at the moment. So I replied, “Thank you. I’m gonna go with that today.” Because, why not? I really had nothing to lose — so I might as well look for a silver, serendipitous lining in the process.

When I arrived at the airport, I checked the boards for flights to Atlanta. That’s where my connection was the next day, so I figured if I could at least get there, I wouldn’t be stuck at an airport for too long — a night at the most. There weren’t any Southwest flights leaving for Atlanta for the next few hours, though, so instead, I walked over to the ticketing counter to see if someone there could give me some advice.

Part 3: My New BFF, or Anna, the Southwest Ticketing Agent.

SXSW 2015 Recap

The counter was pretty empty, so I walked up to the first person I made eye contact with and checked their name tag — Anna.

“Can I help you?” she asked. I really hope so, I thought to myself.

I explained everything to this woman, Anna, in the nicest way possible. I told her I was wanting to get here as early as possible so I could try to get on something standby, and that I knew that everything to Austin was sold out for miles. What did she suggest I do next?

If you’ve ever asked a ticketing agent at an airport for help, you’ve experienced that moment when things could go either way — really great, or really, really unpleasant. You’ve just asked for help (nicely, hopefully) and you know that the power is now in this person’s nimble, fast-typing hands. I held my breath, not knowing whether or not Anna was going to use her power for good or evil.

After she had typed away for nearly ten minutes, attempting to find a route to Austin in (seriously) the most creative of ways, it was very clear she wanted to help me. Failed attempt after failed attempt, Anna kept plugging away at that computer. She would get me close, and then the last connection on a four-leg flight path would be sold out. I kept thinking she was going to stop, tell me sorry, that I should just go through security and hang out at a gate and hope for the best. Instead, out of pure kindness, she just kept trying.

After what felt like hours, Anna found an empty seat on a direct flight from Chicago to Austin. It left in about six hours. I could rent a car here in Indy, drop it off at Midway, catch the flight, and be in Austin by 4:00 P.M.

Sold.

I set off to go rent a car, and Anna wrote down my cell phone number so that she could text me if she found anything better in the meantime.

Did we just become best friends? I think, yes.

Part 4: Am I Really Going to Do This? Keep reading. Find out.

SXSW 2015 Recap
A Bloody Mary helped with the situation later that afternoon.

I meander my way down to the rental car place and encounter another nice person, who conveniently picks up on my sense of urgency. We talk logistics, find a car, charge my card, and the plan is a go.  I tell her that I’ll be right back down because actually, I haven’t even booked this flight yet, and I should probably go do that before driving up to Chicago.

This is when I start to question my decision making skills. Keep these things mind — It’s about 7 A.M., I have yet to eat or drink anything this morning, I have zero time to stop and go to the bathroom, let alone get stuck in traffic (which will definitely happen), and in general, am just a hot, frazzled mess. Probably not a good recipe for much of anything, let alone rushing someplace in a motor vehicle.

I get back up to the Southwest counter and mull it over with Anna, who by this point, I’m feeling pretty attached to.

I start asking her normal questions like, “If I were your daughter, would you tell me to drive to Chicago?”

Ultimately, we both decided it wasn’t a good idea to attempt this feat. Stressing out even more to catch a flight in another city just wasn’t necessary, especially when I already had a confirmed route to Austin the very next day.

Part 5: It’s Happening.

SXSW 2015 RecapYou know the drill. I turned around to go cancel my rental car (which, by some miracle, they gave me a full refund for) and Anna assured me again that she would text me if she found anything while I was gone.

When I got back, the ticketing lobby was starting to get a little crowded. It had been pretty empty up until now, and I started to feel a little nervous — I didn’t want to miss a potential connection to Atlanta, or some other midway destination early on in the day.

Then, I caught Anna’s eye, and she started motioning for me to cut the line and come up to the counter. She’d remained pretty calm up until this moment, so I knew this had to be good.

“There’s a flight that’s been delayed. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to get on or not, but…”

It’s happening.

The next few exchanges are hard to explain, or even recall — it was a bit hard to tune out the Hallelujah Chorus playing in my mind. I snapped out of it and next thing I know, Anna is handing me a boarding pass and a copy of my new itinerary, which she doesn’t even have time to explain.

“You have to go now,” she says. “Gate B17. Jackie knows you’re coming.”

Challenge accepted.

I thank Anna quickly and graciously, and then started running (it was really more of a scamper, running with a rolling suitcase is not only really hard, but it looks ridiculous). I reach security and immediately stop running. My newfound adrenaline comes crashing down with a thud.

From the look of all the unseasonal flip flops and cargo shorts, I should have known better. It was obvious. Spring Break was a thing that was currently happening and it was not good for my situation. I slowly wound through the turn stiles with dozens of families, all headed to Myrtle Beach or Fort Lauderdale or places like that, and nearly started crying when the security agent politely tried to make conversation with me by asking if I’d had my coffee this morning.

When I finally got through, I continued to run (read: scamper) towards my gate. You better believed I ran the shit out of those moving walkways. It was impressive.

I’m almost at B17, weaving my way in and out of more spring breakers, when I hear– “Allison?”

Jackie. She had found me.

Part 6: Sometimes, Maintenance Issues on Planes Are a Good Thing.

SXSW 2015
I did eventually arrive at SXSW :)

What happened next felt like nothing short of a miracle. Especially to my under-caffeinated-yet-super-jacked-up-on-adrenaline self. Jackie brought me up to speed.

The flight I was about to board was scheduled to have left about an hour before I even arrived at the airport. The catch? There was a maintenance issue that prevented the plane from taking off. Sounds kind of serious, right? Meh. Everyone in uniform made it sound like no big deal. Some light had come on. So I took their word for it — I’d been operating in panic mode for so long it really didn’t even phase me.

Anyway, the plane had left the gate and headed towards the runway, but was forced to turn around and return to the gate. Somehow, Anna connected all the dots and discovered that if I stayed on this plane through all of its stops — from Indy to D.C. to New Orleans to Dallas — I could then hang out in Dallas for a two-hour layover and connect to get into Austin by 6:30 P.M.

I know, right?!

What’s funny about this whole thing is that, objectively, I was still in a pretty awful travel situation. No one wants to sit on the same plane for six hours straight. I was on that plane for so long, I said goodbye to one crew and hello to another (which kind of made me sad, we had really bonded after three flights together). But you know what? I really did not care. At all. Not once on that flight was I frustrated or tense. I was just so happy and grateful that it all worked out and that I was getting to Austin.

Our flight from Indy to D.C. was fairly empty, but once we landed in D.C. and the next group of passengers boarded, I could already feel the buzz of SXSW. I started meeting people who were going to the conference, who were doing this or that for the week, and who couldn’t believe I was from Indiana. (Midwesterners seem to be largely underrepresented at this thing, side note.)

When I finally arrived in Austin, it seriously felt too good to be true. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and I waited in the longest cab line ever with all these people from Sweden. It was awesome.

Part 7: That Lyft Driver Was Pretty Much Right About Everything

SXSW Recap 2015
Don’t mind the smudged stamp from the night before … #SXSW

The way I see it, there are two ways to look at this situation. On the one hand, I could dwell on the fact that I missed my alarm, missed my flight, and came *this close* to screwing up a lot of things.  But on the other hand, this whole debacle made for a much more interesting story and in my opinion, a much more valuable experience.

My ego doesn’t want to say it, but it all goes back to what my Lyft driver said in the car that morning. These things happen for a reason. In this case, I don’t think it was a big, monumental reason, but it impacted me nonetheless. These travel blunders tested my patience, pushed me to let go of the things I can’t control, and urged me to embrace new possibilities.

It’s moments like these, when you look at obstacles as opportunities rather than setbacks, that you gain something special from the experience. The kindness I encountered over and over that day was humbling. And it was because of the genuine, interesting people I met and the unexpected path I took, that made my trip to Austin that much more meaningful.

If you’ve made it this far — thank you!

I really appreciate you reading this story and taking the time to learn a little bit more about Tribe Wheel. A lot of you here might already know me, and if you do, you know that I’m in the beginning, baby stages of starting an online jewelry business. To really get this thing going the way I envision, I need your help!

As I work on finding (and making) more jewelry and building the Tribe Wheel brand from the ground up, feedback from people like you is everything. Here’s the deal — sign up for the Tribe Wheel newsletter and I’ll send you more blog posts like this one (although they’re usually shorter, promise) and get the conversation going about how we can keep the kindness flowing and together, create something really awesome. 

Thanks again — talk to you soon!

– Ally

Join the Tribe





Let’s Go For A Drink (Round 6)

Let's Go For A Drink - Ally Denton

Wow, guys. We haven’t had a drink together in almost a year. What’s up with that?

If you’re upset or confused by that statement, don’t panic. It’s likely for one of two reasons:

A) We most certainly have had a drink together, probably recently. I haven’t forgotten, I swear.

B) You haven’t been reading my blog for a year yet and thus, are unaware of my super-fun series in which I pretend we’re having cocktails and chatting away like old friends. If that’s the case, I’m sorry for you, but I’m relieved you’re here now. And you should be, too.

If we were having a drink right now, we’d definitely be drinking Prosecco. And yes, I realize that is the most basic of all the basic things I could ever say … but whatever. I really can’t be bothered with these labels when there is celebrating to do.

Let's Drink Prosecco - Ally Denton

What are we celebrating, you might ask? And to that I challenge, what aren’t we celebrating? I’ve been in kind of a festive mood all month. I guess that’s the point of the holidays — to feel festive. Though I will tell you, I haven’t been much for holiday spirit this year. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s because this was the first year I didn’t have an official “winter break”, or maybe it’s because I never got around to watching Elf.

Holiday spirit aside, I am ridiculously excited for the new year and have been channeling most of my festive energy towards that. Anyone who tells you New Year’s Eve is overrated just isn’t doing it right. My advice to those people: save your $200 and instead of getting all-access VIP tickets to your city’s newest mediocre club, go buy a couple bottles of prosecco (yes, I said it) and you and your homies have yourselves a fun little evening at home making fun of Ryan Seacrest. You’re welcome.

But seriously, think about it. New Year’s Eve is one of the only times all year long when you can actually take the time to stop and feel a turning point taking place. There’s all that energy of something new and fresh and full of who-knows-what right around the corner, and I hope I always get as hyped up about that feeling as I am right now.

Plus, 2015 is a nice, neat, organized number and I know I can’t be the only one excited about that.

My Brothers - Ally Denton

If we were having a drink right now, I’d probably tell you about my time spent in Virginia visiting my family this week. I’m still here, actually, so we’d probably be somewhere in D.C. Maybe Busboys and Poets, one of my favorite spots, or maybe somewhere hip around U Street, at a place recommended by my good friend who lived and worked around there up until about a week ago.

I’d tell you it’s been great to see my parents and my brothers. That if you’d told me six months ago I’d be the last one left in Indiana, I would’ve spit out my drink and laughed in your face. That now, it’s all kind of meshing, and I’m starting to feel good about what I’m doing back in Indy. That I love visiting D.C. That I have friends here. That it’s nice to see your family and plan a little escape all at the same time.

I’ve got two more days here and not much planned. Reading, writing, and drinking wine (and Prosecco, of course) have pretty much been the only things on my to-do list for the past week, and I have to say, it’s not getting old.

Me and Virginia - Ally Denton

If we were having a drink, there’s a lot more we could talk about. We could discuss new years resolutions. Or because I don’t really like the idea of something so resolute, we could discuss what we’re looking forward to or where we’re planning to travel or the things we want to do instead.

But probably, if we were having a drink, I’d suggest we grab one more and then hit the dance floor. We’re celebrating, remember? All of that other stuff can wait. Let’s enjoy the last few days of 2014, instead.

 

 

 

 

Things I Keep

This post is part of ThinkKit by Smallbox.

Prompt: Time to go through your (actual) desktop, junk drawer, or coat pockets and share an artifact from your past. A half-torn ticket stub, once-washed receipt, coffee-stained map, anything in a frame: it’s all fair game. What springs to mind from your artifact? The smells, sights, and sounds? A specific feeling? Hold it in your hand, close your eyes, and go back in time to a moment.

I’m really good at getting rid of stuff. If I’m not using it, wearing it, or looking at it on a regular basis, consider it gone. Moving into a smaller apartment this past spring forced me to purge a lot of things I just didn’t need. (In the process, I think I accidentally got rid of some stuff I really do need, too … but that’s another story.)

Even after moving in, I spent a lot of time over the summer continuing to get rid of objects that no longer made sense for me to have — snow skis, old prom dresses, worn out running shoes, costumes from college — you get the idea. I would never describe myself as a minimalist, but there’s something about freeing yourself from that extra baggage that feels really good.

But okay, here’s the catch. No matter how many times I clean out my closet, there are a few things I can never bring myself to throw away.

1. Wine Corks

Things I Keep - Ally Denton

It all started in college when I decided I was going to collect beer bottle caps, and use them to make a coffee table for our house senior year. Frat boy move, I know. But for months, I collected caps from parties, from the sidewalk, from bars, from friends — people I barely knew started giving me their caps once they realized my obsession. It was very kind, actually.

This project, however, like most of my crafty endeavors, did not go as planned. After laying the caps out in a very intricate design, if I do say so myself, I totally botched the important part of the process. The resin I used to seal the caps to the top of the table never dried correctly (I’m still not sure why…) and as a result, I was left with a sticky, toxic mess. So naturally, we threw the table down in the basement and still managed to find some use for it most weekends.

After awhile, I was finally able to stop saving bottle caps. But my affinity for collecting the tops of alcoholic beverage containers didn’t stop there, because now I collect wine corks. A classier choice? Not sure. But I’m doing it, it makes me happy, and I’d say I’m pretty close to finding another new DIY project to screw up.

2. Stickers

Things I Keep - Ally Denton

For a few years now, I’ve been casually collecting stickers. I say casually, because acquiring these stickers is not hard work. Most of them came to me for free. I have a big shoe box full now, and it’s a lot of fun to sift through. Inside are stickers from Colorado, Puerto Rico, France and Spain, local Indy restaurants and breweries, surf shops, concert venues, and dozens of other random, kitschy places.

When I tell people about this collection, they usually ask where I’m going to put them all. That’s a great question. And I think that’s part of the reason I started collecting them in the first place. One day, it will be really cool to see them all spread out, stuck on something more permanent, a collage of all the places I’ve been.

3. Cards

Things I Keep - Ally Denton

Above is a funny card I received from my friend Anne a few months ago, asking me to be a part of her wedding this summer. I said yes, don’t worry.

It wasn’t until the move this spring that I finally threw out cards from my high school graduation. Hoarder status, it’s fine. Clearly, I have a hard time getting rid of handwritten cards, letters, and notes. I think it’s the gravity of the act — the idea that you’re literally trashing the kind words someone took the time to write and send to you, with postage, and an envelope, and all of that snail mail stuff no one likes to deal with anymore. It just feels kind of harsh.

As much as I love to laugh and poke fun of cheesy Hallmark marketing ploys, I’m a total card person. I love sending them, I love receiving them, I love picking them out. Taking the time to write to the people you care about is important for a myriad of reasons. But mostly, it’s just nice. And for that, I think I can make a little extra room in my closet.

Soundtrack of 2014

This post is part of ThinkKit by Smallbox.

Prompt: Strike up the band – what was the soundtrack to your year? Was it the music you listened to the most? A certain song that kept reappearing, or worse…that you couldn’t get away from? Or maybe it wasn’t music at all – maybe a podcast, voice, performance, or significant sound played over-and-over. Whatever you heard: we’re all ears!

Soundtrack to 2014 - Ally Denton

I’ve been struggling to keep up with Think Kit posts this month, but when I saw this prompt in my inbox this morning, I had a “drop everything, save drafts, and get to it” sort of moment.

After obsessing over Spotify’s Year In Music dashboard, I’ve been wanting to put together a post on what I listened to most. If you’re an avid Spotify user like myself, you should definitely check this out. Your results will probably surprise you, in ways both alarming and delightful. For example, Usher’s “Love In This Club” made it onto my Top 100 Songs playlist and for that, I’m not sorry.

What really interested me about the Year In Music results was the seasonal breakdown. Spotify tells you which artists you listened to most each season and if you live in Indiana, it confirms your struggle with seasonal depression once and for all. Only kidding … kind of. It’s nothing new, but I continue to find myself amazed by how certain songs can take you right back to specific moments, people, and feelings from another time. Music, crazy stuff, man.

Here’s my seasons in music.

Winter: Kings of Leon


 
Early in 2014, I went through a phase in which I pretty much only listened to loud guitars, raspy male vocals, and excessive distortion. Kings of Leon took the crown on Spotify, but I was also listening to a lot of The Black Keys and The White Stripes. Twelve months later, not much has changed. I’ve still got heavy-bluesy-rock sounds on frequent rotation.

Spring: The Avett Brothers


 
I mellowed out a little bit during spring, which was a direct result of a decision to get back into playing violin. For awhile there, I was playing my violin almost everyday — a habit I hadn’t practiced in years — it was awesome. I was taking private lessons, jamming at least once a week with some new friends. I was finally starting to get my chops back, as they say.

The fact that The Avett Brothers were my most-listened-to artist during this season is,  without a doubt, due to the song above. It played on my laptop on repeat for a few days while I tried to learn it on violin. I’m happy to report, it worked.

Other artists on frequent rotation this spring: Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, and The Lumineers. Not surprisingly, they all use violins (or a cello … close enough) in their lineup.

Summer: Lana Del Rey


 
When Lana Del Rey’s new album came out early this summer, I was smitten. I spent many afternoons at work with Brooklyn Baby, my theme song for a solid few weeks, on loop. The real memories from this album, however, come from West Coast. This song was my jam (and my roommate’s) for essentially the entire summer. We had just moved downtown, we were feeling way too cool for our own good, and somehow the sound of that song embodied everything we were doing.

I think it’s just the badass, don’t fuck with me sort of vibe you get, or at least I get, from the song. Lana was in good company this summer. Her music of was accompanied by the sounds of Disclosure, MisterWives, and Phantogram.

Autumn: Lorde


 
I listened to Lorde quite a bit when her album first came out, but it wasn’t until this fall that I really got hooked. Her voice is sort of spooky and enchanting, so it just felt right to crank up this song in the car on a gray, cool day. This is my favorite track off the album, mostly due to the first 30 seconds. Heavy bass, catchy beat. Sign me up.

Because you can’t listen to too much Lorde without getting depressed, this fall also welcomed a lot of Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, and alt-J.

Tell me about your year in music. Which artists defined 2014 for you?

With Uncertainty Comes Opportunity

This post is part of ThinkKit by Smallbox.

Prompt: The calendar still says 2014, but let’s push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you’re counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it’s the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you.

Changing Rooms, sky view

2014 was a year in perpetual transition. January hit and all of a sudden there was this sweeping momentum for change, most of it good. I started a new job in a new field. I moved to the heart of downtown Indianapolis with one of my best friends. I took on some creative side projects, and through it all, had a lot of fun.

Other transitions weren’t as easy. My family moved away from Indianapolis, to a new home in Washington, D.C. Relationships ended and started, and ended again. I experienced misjudgments and disappointments, but through it all, learned a lot.

The year threw a lot of uncertainties in my direction, but what I gained in the process is the realization that things often feel crazier, messier, and more out-of-control than what they really are. In fact, what’s happening is probably just … normal.

Uncertainties are simply part of life. A big part of life. They can be scary and intimidating and overwhelming, but only if you let them. The deeper I get into my twenties, the more I realize that I’m not only just okay with uncertainties, I’m excited by them. In uncertainties lie future possibilities and for me, there’s nothing more reassuring or optimistic than that.

So as 2015 approaches, I’m looking forward to turning uncertainties into opportunities. Whether it’s a new place to go, a new person to meet, or a new venture to chase, I say, bring it on. Because without uncertainties, there would never be any risk. And where’s the fun in that?

 

image source: Anirvan on flickr

The Scar That Left A Mark

Don’t all scars leave a mark? By definition, yes. But if you’re like me (read: clumsy, unaware of your flailing limbs, not afraid to jump off of things, etc.), you probably have more scars than you can count, but only remember how a select few of them actually happened. There’s a big difference in a nasty cut from that razor you should have already thrown out, than a busted elbow after making a conscious decision to go rollerblading in the rain. (Ask me about that one later.)

The scar story I remember best is the first one I got. I was really small, maybe five years old. Almost every night in the summer, my parents and I would take a walk around our neighborhood. The beautiful thing about this routine was that they did all the walking, while I enjoyed the luxury of getting pulled around by my dad in a red Radio Flyer wagon. I’ve always placed a pretty high value on traveling in style.

To keep something like pulling your daughter in a wagon exciting, my dad had attached a rope to the handle of the wagon. This gave him a little more length and made pulling me more comfortable, but mostly, it just allowed him to run really fast with the wagon behind him. This scared my mom quite a bit, but that of course only made us want to run up and down the streets even more.

The evening of the scar, my dad decided it would be good idea to run up the big hill right in front of our house. Sounds good. How could I object? These are the benefits of having an Army Ranger as your dad. Running up a hill, pulling a small human behind you, and making a game of it is not only really easy, but makes perfect sense.

We took off up the hill. I clinched the sides of the wagon with my hands and started smiling and squealing as usual. It was thrilling and terrifying, all at the same time. I wish I had the physics background to explain what happened next, but all I know is one second I was flying full steam ahead, and the next I was flipping backwards out of the wagon, scraping my back and rolling down the pavement.

My mom gets to me first, running up from behind. She whisks me back down to the house and as you might imagine, is less than thrilled this accident even occurred in the first place. I’m crying and moaning like a five-year-old would, more because I’m scared and less because what happened actually hurts. My dad runs into the bathroom right behind us and feels horrible, but knows I’m okay and that it could have been worse. My mom will feel that way too, eventually.

The end result of the accident is an ugly cut on my upper back and the scar left behind is just a little mark, you can barely even see it now. The reason I remember this scar so well and think of it often, is because I’ve watched the mark work its way down my back for the past twenty years. It’s weird. Like I said, the scar formed on my upper back, close to my right shoulder-blade. But now, the mark is more in the middle of my back, just to the right of my spine. I wonder when it landed there for good.

If you’re curious, this little scar didn’t stop my dad and me from running around in the wagon. In fact, I can probably think of a few more scars I’ve collected with him as my partner-in-crime and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’ve got a few good scars, chances are you’ve got a few good stories to tell, too.

 

 

 

 

Some Stuff I’ve Learned

1. Social media is a blessing and a curse. Try not to become too attached or you’ll end up torturing yourself.

2. Good friends aren’t all that hard to find, but they are hard to keep. Stay in touch with the people you care about.

3. Sometimes, you don’t have it all together and that’s okay. You’re allowed some time (as much as you need) to catch your breath and slow down.

4. Sometimes, you do have it all together, probably more often than not. So remember that and be confident.

5. Mom is still, usually, always right about everything.

6. Worry is inevitable, but it’s never done anyone much good. Try to crush it as fast as you possibly can.

7. Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy and when you do, good things and good people tend to flock your way.

8. Don’t stop reading books. It’ll help you stay sharp and 9 times out of 10, will give you more things to talk about.

9. You’re never, ever too old to start something new or do something else.

10. When you know, you know. Go with your gut and don’t regret it.

11. Ask for what you want. There’s several reasons for this. One, you probably have nothing to lose in the first place. Two, people like to say yes. And three, if you don’t, you’ll never know. And that sucks a lot more than being told no.

12. Actions speak louder than words, but the right words are always nice to hear.

13. If you feel like going out, go out. If you feel like staying in, stay in. Either way, you’re not missing anything.

14. Compromise is usually healthy, but there are times when it’s not. Recognize when it’s not and hold on tight.

15. Be kind to people everyday and don’t forget to stop and accept the kindness that is offered back to you.

 

Peace and love, homies.

 

 

An Act of Kindness at Lollapalooza 2014

Lollapalooza 2014

A month ago, my good friend and I decided to spend our Saturday romping around at one of the more popular music festivals in the country: Lollapalooza.

I’ve wanted to go to Lollapalooza for as long as I can remember, but for whatever reason, it’s just never worked out for me. Either I don’t have money for passes, I wait too long to get tickets, my second cousin is getting married … you know how it goes. So this year, I finally I decided that no matter what, I’m going. Even if only for one day.

I got so amped up about finally going that I even wrote this post for Elite Daily about preparations to take and what to do the day of the festival to make sure you have the most fun possible. Like some seasoned festival veteran (I’m not), I advised people to do things like drink water, not forget to eat, not lose your friends, go with the flow, and force yourself to have fun whilst navigating through a sea of thousands of people. A large portion of whom are not in the right state of mind … you can see where this is going.

It happened at Calvin Harris. It was our last set of the night, the one we’d been looking forward to all day long. Like every other person in the crowd, I raised my phone when Calvin Harris took the stage around 9:00 P.M. My mistake. Because not three seconds after pressing the record button on my camera, my phone was knocked out of my excited little hands, never to be seen again. Oh, the tears. You can imagine my despair as I stood there, phone-less, trying to enjoy myself as when I met you in the summer vibrated across the crowd.

Calvin Harris
The only picture of Calvin Harris I could snap

Needless to say, I spent the next three hours having a major freak out. Which was exacerbated by the fact that I literally couldn’t move, or else risk getting trampled, elbowed in the face, totally lost, or all of the above. I was forced to stand there and at least pretend to have fun at Calvin Harris.

When the show ended, I did all the things you’re supposed to do when you lose a phone. I checked lost and found, I set up Find my iPhone, but I knew I was probably out of luck. When I got back to Indianapolis the next day, I filed an insurance claim online and my new replacement iPhone arrived at my office two days later. Pretty painless in the whole scheme of things, but still a total inconvenience and a burden of guilt on my mind.

I was no longer thinking about the incident (aka I had moved on from the fact that all my pictures were forever lost), when I received a strange phone call from an Apple store in Louisville, Kentucky. The guy on the other line said he believed he had my phone in the store, that someone had turned it in, and could I please confirm my passcode?

Ummmm… yes, yes I can. What?! The Apple folks kindly shipped me my phone a few days later and I was pleasantly surprised to find the following video stored in my camera roll:

 

Nice is an understatement here, am I right?

And I have so many questions for this guy! How did he realize, after he recorded this video, that turning my phone into an Apple store was a smarter move than turning it in to the infinite abyss that is (as I can only imagine) the Lollapalooza lost & found? There are some missing pieces here and out of curiosity, I want to know the full story.

I’m putting this out here on my blog because I really want to find this guy and tell him thank you! Kindness like this is genuine and rare — especially at an event like Lollapalooza where people are losing phones left and right. Help me track him down so I can pay it forward and not let his kind deed go unnoticed. Share this post and let’s see what happens!