wednesday thoughts…..

it’s not enough to have a job, a family, a dog, hobbies. life isn’t just comprised of separate pieces that check off a boxes on a checklist, and if you collect all the pieces and follow that formula, you’re doing it right. life isn’t like pokemon; you can’t just catch them all. life doesn’t have a formula. it’s not just job – check; family – check; hobbies – check. just because you check those boxes, doesn’t mean that you’ll lead a fulfilling life. you can have a job, friends, hobbies, but that doesn’t automatically mean your life had meaning. nobody cares about your knitting. nobody remembers your spreadsheet. that stuff is transitory and forgettable. at the end of your life, what did you really do? did you create? did you teach? did you make art? did you save lives? did you invent? did you make an impact in a meaningful way? did you leave something behind? that’s what really matters.

in addition, you can’t just rationalize what you did to make it sound like it had meaning. you can’t say that you worked a desk job, which helped a group with their numbers, which then helped this, which then helped that. it doesn’t work that way. trickle-down logic doesn’t work. you can talk up anything, but that doesn’t change what it actually is. in the grand scheme of things, money and profit and numbers don’t mean shit. corporations are generally evil, even if they pretend otherwise. if that’s what you do as a job, that’s fine–but you need something else to do outside of that, that makes a more direct impact. outside of that–what did you do? what did you make? what are you leaving behind?

and sure, you can say that you were a good parent and you raised children who grew up to be great contributors to society. cool, but ultimately, it’s your kids who did the actual contribution. what did you do? children raise themselves and teach themselves more than parents care to admit. parents don’t do everything right and children end up having to course-correct on their own. so parents can’t just say that they were good parents, because they weren’t good all the time. no parent is. so what did you do outside of anything that your children did?

and if you’re wondering whether it’s enough to just be happy, even if you’re not doing anything or leaving something behind…..
no, it’s not enough. we’re not owed happiness. hell, most of us don’t even get it, or we chase all the wrong things thinking that those things will give us happiness. they won’t. the world isn’t asking us to be happy. it’s asking us to be brilliant on its behalf, to make a difference in our own way.

Things I learned this year (2019 edition)

A little late, and I will admit, for a moment I did wonder if it really was a good idea to allow myself to be as jaded as I was. I hesitated posting this, and I thought on it a bit more. In the end, I came to the conclusion that fuck yes, it is ok to be this jaded, and I was right all along.

2019 was the year of toughening up. It was the year I realized I should have advocated for myself a long time ago. It also made me realize that it pays to wait for the right people, even if it means that the wrong people will get scared off. So here it is, my list of things I’ve learned in 2019. (And for previous Things I’ve Learned, check out my 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mid-Year Edition.)

Don’t save his number until he’s earned it.How do you know when he’s earned it? When his number pops up in your phone consistently enough that it’s usually near the top of your messages and calls list, and consistently enough that it’s familiar. Bytch has gotta earn that gigabyte real estate. He’s gotta realize that having a specific set of gigs dedicated to just his information is a fucking privilege. And he’d better realize how lucky he is once you do choose to save his number. Because it doesn’t happen to just anyone.

Stop apologizing. Apologizing just makes people think they can guilt you or take advantage of you. Fuck that. Stand your ground. If you actually are sorry and actually have something legit to apologize for, then yeah, apologize. But I’ve spent so much time apologizing for things that either 1) were not my fault, or 2) I didn’t actually need to apologize for, and I realized that it wasn’t doing me any good. 

You don’t owe anybody anything. Just knowing that is liberating. Don’t let anybody make you feel guilty for YOUR choices. Only you know what’s best for you. Your life is yours, no one else’s. You don’t need to do anything to make them happy. You sure as hell don’t need to sacrifice your own happiness for them. You owe them nothing. 

It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. When you ask for permission first, it puts the power in someone else’s hands. On the other hand, if you follow your gut, you’re the one with the agency–not them. When in doubt, do what you think is best, and if no one says anything, then great. If someone says something, say oops and move on. 

Take risks–just make sure they’re the right risks. Risk a big career change into a field that you are incredibly passionate about, even if the field is super hard to break into, and even if it means living frugally for a little while to make ends meet. The reward is worth it, and you owe it yourself to try. Risk getting in trouble by speaking up and giving a voice to things others choose to ignore. Risk getting called out for calling someone out who did you wrong, or did someone else wrong. Risk the consequences for going against the grain in any way, if you know that going against the grain is the right thing to do. On the other hand, don’t risk a broken heart by taking back the guy who ghosted you or made you hurt in any way. That’s the wrong kind of risk. 

Guy friends are often better than boyfriends. The difference between a guy friend a boyfriend? A guy friend won’t make you carry all the emotional labor in the relationship. With guy friends, you won’t have to “just tell him what to do and he’ll do it.” Guy friends know what to do without you needing to remind them. They’ll check in on you because they know you need it, not because you asked them to. Guy friends are like boyfriends, except fully-functioning adults. 

Don’t be the girl who changes her plans for a guy. Be it Friday night plans, career plans (BIG no no), or life plans (HUGE no no)…no guy is worth changing for, in any capacity. The right guy will support the plans you have for yourself, not expect you to change them for him. 

Men, before age 33, are useless. If you want a real relationship and not a FWB or a “let’s see where this goes”, date someone over age 33. Boys in their 20s are basically children and don’t know what the fuck they want. They are obsessed with “good vibes only” and “wanderlust | Ibiza | Chiang Mai | hustle | grind | $$.” Sorry, but every single person in their 20s goes to Chiang Mai. Every young guy loves to “hustle” even though not a single one of them knows how to pole dance and con rich Wall Street pigs. Boys in their 20s will talk a big game about wanting a partner “who challenges them,” but when you actually express interest, they’ll backtrack. Moreover, boys in their 20s don’t know basic shit like how to cook an actual meal that isn’t microwaved. Guys who are between 30-32 generally are functioning adults, but some of them will want to squeeze out the last remnants of their bachelorhood and will say they’re “not quite ready for labels.” But from 33 onward, most of them start to grow up and want to commit.

Ursula was only fulfilling her end of the business transaction. Ariel knew who she was dealing with, but she made a deal with Ursula anyway. Whose fault is this, really? 

Scar really was surrounded by idiots. 

In a world full of Gabriellas, be a Sharpay. Sharpay doesn’t apologize for going after what she wants or being who she is, even if people doubt her or undermine her or make fun of her. Also, Sharpay and Ryan were way better than Gabriella and Troy, and they totally deserved the lead roles in all the musical productions. Sharpay and Ryan worked at their craft, and theatre was their lives and their ambition. Gabriella and Troy were amateurs, and for them, the musical was just a hobby. But don’t worry, it works out for Sharpay. See: Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. (Don’t be afraid to have your own fabulous adventure, whatever that looks like.) 

The older you get, the more you realize that Disney villains kind of had a point for being angry. And the more you realize that Disney heroes are kind of….vanilla. 

Thanos’s logic was low-key correct. 

When I was a kid, and a teenager, I aspired to be like Hermione Granger. Instead, I ended up more like Bellatrix Lestrange. Oddly, I’m okay with it. 

Ginny Weasley still sucks, and if you think “her character in the books was actually badass though!”, I WILL judge you. Call it what you want, but she was a fuckin’ Mary Sue in the books. Nobody likes a ship shoved down their throats. (*cough*WestAllen*cough*) 

You don’t have to forgive, but you have to stop caring. If you’re having trouble moving on from someone, you don’t need to forgive them. But, you need to stop caring about what they do with their lives because honestly, it doesn’t affect you, and wondering about them is a waste of precious brainpower. Is he thinking about me? I don’t know, and respectfully I don’t give a fuck, ’cause I’ve got more important things to think about. What would you rather think about: the next pair of thigh-high boots you’re going to buy, or what he’s up to? Exactly. Guys come and go, but Stuart Weitzman is forever. 

It’s better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. This is one of those hard-to-swallow truth pills. Look, I want love just like anyone else. But real, true, unconditional love? That shit’s hard to find. Even most families don’t quite have that kind of love. They love their kids most of the time, but all of the time, even in the midst of epic failure? They’ll say they still do, but they’re lying. So, since love is much harder to find, focus on being feared. If someone truly loves you, they’ll love you. But if someone doesn’t care about you, then you better make them fear crossing you, because if they’re not a little scared of you, they won’t respect you and they’ll think it’s fine to walk all over you. So prevent that shit; you are not a sidewalk. This isn’t a Shel Silverstein poem. Grow a thick set of scales and sharp set of teeth and go out into the world and show them what you’re made of. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Film Review

Gahhhh, I have thoughts on this film. I mean, I loved it, but it also broke me. I’m still not over it. I will never get over it. (Ok, maybe that’s a little much…..BUT STILL.) (Also, Adam Driver is still hot.)

Ok, so, this goes without saying, buuuut…..MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. If you didn’t watch, don’t read on and then @ me. Also, expect a long-ass post. Maybe go to the bathroom before you read, or avoid liquids until the end of this post.

Ben Solo’s Redemption

I have to give Ben Solo’s redemption its own section because it really was the best part of the film for me. And I have thoughts about his death. I get that Ben sort of had to die — that’s kind of the formula for villain/ anti-hero redemption arcs (read: Severus Snape, Anakin Skywalker, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Klaus Mikaelson from The Originals). The completion of their arc is an act of total selflessness and total self-sacrifice, and that’s usually at the cost of their life. Having a villain-turned-redeemed-person live after switching sides seems a bit….less? Like, after all the evil deeds they committed, after all the people they killed, to have them live feels a bit out-of-balance.

On the other hand, it would be a really interesting take to see how a villain/anti-hero goes on with life after their redemption. What does their atonement look like? What happens after the battle is won, and life goes on? It would be so interesting to see the struggles they might deal with (because there ARE struggles — you don’t just change overnight). It’s realistic to think that even after some kind of redeeming act, they would still struggle with their inner conflict between light and dark. They might have moments of weakness. They might have moments of bitterness. I mean, that’s all of humanity, not just villains. We all struggle with reconciling the conflicting sides of ourselves. We all struggle with defining who we are and questioning whether we are truly as good (or as bad) as we try to be. So, as a story with a definitive ending, a villain redemption arc ending in self-sacrifice makes sense — it ties up the story neatly. But to explore a villain’s life after redemption? That would be such an interesting, refreshing take on the villain-redemption arc.

So, I definitely see both arguments for and against Ben’s death. First off, I love Ben Solo (and Adam Driver, as usual, portrayed the character beautifully, in such a nuanced way). He is among my favorite, if not my favorite, characters in the franchise. (And it’s not groundbreaking news that I tend to favor anti-hero characters.) Ben’s character was the driving force behind this franchise (yeah yeah, I know what I did there). I mean, his actions and his character development are what moved the story forward. In TFA, what signified Ben’s commitment to the dark side was killing his father, Han Solo, and in TLJ, the exploration of that gray area between the light and dark side is really rooted in both Ben’s conflict over killing his father and Rey’s conflict over her inner darkness. The entire arc of TRoS is Rey and Ben choosing their light sides over their dark sides.

On one hand, Ben’s death is the completion of his redemption arc. Throughout the films, even in TFA, Ben is conflicted. He’s never been totally dark. However, to have him live after he kills Han Solo and is responsible for the deaths of a number of characters in the film (including Luke and Leia) wouldn’t necessarily feel quite right. It would almost lessen the impact of his redemption. Because that’s the thing with villains — their arc usually involves them going to the good side for selfish reasons in the beginning, so you never quite know their motives. Ben initially wants Rey to join him because he senses how powerful she is (and although I do ship Reylo, his treatment of Rey in TFA is questionable at best). Ben eventually returns to the light side after being forgiven by his father, but we can’t just forget about everything he’s done before his redemption. While he may have been conflicted, his actions were terrible. He acted evil; he was the villain. And intent doesn’t justify action, no matter how conflicted the villain might have been. So, to really balance out the scales, to really have him commit to this turn towards the light, Ben had to do something that was the total opposite of evil. Evil is rooted in selfishness; good is rooted in selflessness. For him to completely be redeemed, he had to commit an act of total self-sacrifice. And he had to knowingly self-sacrifice, but choose it anyway, because in that moment, he wanted something greater than himself. And that was Rey. He loved Rey, more than he cared about himself. So he chose to save her, at the cost of his life. That was what really cemented his return to the light. Because we finally see that ultimately, Ben doesn’t want Rey for selfish reasons; he doesn’t want her for her power; he doesn’t want her so she can help him rule over the galaxy. In the end, he simply loves her, selflessly and unconditionally.

HOWEVER…..the Reylo shipper in me just wants to go up to J.J. Abrams and be like, “WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST LET BEN BE HAPPY????” We’ve already seen how it looks when the villain sacrifices himself, with Anakin Skywalker. Why does Ben have to follow that cycle? What would it have looked like if Ben had lived? How would he have made amends with the other characters, like Finn and Rose? Also, like I said earlier, even though Ben Solo was a real dick in TFA and parts of TLJ, he was still conflicted. His actions were villainous, but inside, he was still torn between his light and dark sides. There was still good in him. And whatever tiny sliver of good in him there was, it still counts. Redemption and grace don’t keep track of numbers or quantity. If there’s hope, there’s hope — plain and simple. And with Ben, there was hope.

We see Ben’s inner conflict at various points throughout TLJ and TRoS, before he totally turns back to the light side. Ben felt remorse over killing his father, and so for him to feel worthy of redemption, for him to move toward the light again, he needed to be forgiven. And he needed to be shown mercy, even though he didn’t really deserve it. Because, well, that’s what mercy is. None of us really deserve grace, we’re all born with sin, but we’re given grace anyway. The previous moments where Ben did not choose the dark side and showed potential for redemption — those are all part of his character development and his eventual turn back to the light. He didn’t just change at the last minute, or change for Rey; he had good in him all along, and in the end, that’s what he chose.

There’s also a disconnect between Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s portrayal in the comics and in the films. In the comics, we’re shown that he actually did not destroy the Jedi temple after Luke almost tried to murder him, nor did he mass murder his fellow students; in fact, he did not want that to happen at all. In the comics, we see the side of Ben that is more human, that is hurt and lost after feeling like the people in his life have turned their backs on him and lost faith in him. In the films, however, we’re led to believe that Kylo Ren was responsible (at least in part) for all this. So, I think this disconnect in Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s character is what divides folks on the Reylo thing — some of us see Ben as someone who was a victim of bad choices and trusting the wrong people, while others see him as a ruthless, manipulative villain. I think I see how the directors/writers might have been torn on how to portray Ben’s character — after all, the films need a villain. But I think when you take into consideration some of the content outside the films, it’s a little easier to sympathize with Ben’s character and to understand how he came to be Kylo Ren, and place his trust in Snoke, and become the villain he believed everyone thought he was.

As far as Reylo is concerned, I’m not sure that Reylo is toxic or abusive. Rey still has agency in her relationship with Ben. She chooses her friends and her beliefs and the Resistance over him when he asks her to join him in ruling the galaxy. She leaves him when he’s cruel and evil, as hard as it is for her and even though she really cares for him. Rey only chooses Ben when he finally chooses the light. And I don’t think Ben is truly narcissistic. I think he’s someone who’s lost his way. Because in TLJ, Ben does start to really care for Rey when he sees how much they have in common — they both feel lost, isolated, conflicted. They both feel like they’re supposed to be this thing that everyone says they should be, but they don’t know if they are that person. What Ben truly sees in Rey isn’t just her power — he sees someone in whom he finds solace and comfort. He sees someone who really sees him. And I don’t think he’s ever felt seen by anyone; I don’t think he’s ever felt understood by anyone. So that feeling of being seen and understood is new, and in the beginning, he doesn’t know what to do with it, and he doesn’t necessarily make the right choices when it comes to wanting to be with Rey. But when Ben truly embraces his light side and rejects his dark side, the choice is so simple — he goes to save Rey, to help Rey, and to help their cause. I don’t think it was a case of Ben choosing the good side so he could be with Rey — that would be selfish, and by now we’ve seen that he’s not. Ben chooses the good side because he truly is good; he just needed to feel worthy of returning to the light. It also wasn’t a case of Rey needing to save him. Because Ben also saved Rey. I think they both needed to save each other, because they were both conflicted and flawed and torn between their light and dark sides. So yes, I do think that Ben deserved a shot at happiness. And I think Rey would have been happy with Ben as well. BEN SOLO DESERVED BETTER.

That said, this is J.J. Abrams we’re talking about. J.J.’s style is a bit safer, a bit neater; he likes to tie up loose ends. So, a safer ending is what we got. I think even if Ben had died, the ending would have felt way more satisfying if he had been remembered in some way. And if his redemption was made known. There was ZERO tribute to him at the end. At least Anakin came back as a force ghost, but we didn’t even get that with Ben! And, why didn’t Rey pull a Rose Dawson? SHE’S NOT REY SKYWALKER, SHE’S REY SOLO, DAMMIT. THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO GET MARRIED AND HAVE JEDI BABIES. *breathes* Clearly, I am emotionally ok.

So, Ben Solo’s character arc was really the standout of the film for me, but there were a lot of other things I really loved and other thoughts I had. Honorable mentions are:

Poe, Finn, C-3PO, and Chewie

So this was sort of the B-storyline, just like in TLJ where the B-storyline was Finn, Poe, and Rose. I was really, really happy with how the A and B storylines were so well-balanced. The pacing of this film was much better than that of TLJ. The story moved well, not too fast that you were confused, not too slow that you were bored, and not too choppy that you were waiting to switch back to the A storyline. The B-storyline didn’t feel like a separate film. It felt like part of the story. You couldn’t have the film without the B-storyline. What I didn’t like about the B-storyline in TLJ was that it just didn’t feel relevant to the overall plot. It served to make a point and to subvert, rather than to move the story forward. Finn, Poe, and Rose’s mission really was a waste of time. But this B-storyline, in TRoS, was absolutely needed in order to move the story forward. And I found myself enjoying these scenes just as much as the scenes with Rey and Ben.

Rey’s Lineage

I won’t say I called it, but….. I called it. Or at least, I knew that this fan theory had been floating around for a while, since TLJ released, so it was a plausible way to go. I’ll be honest, I thought it would have been really cool to have Rey be a Kenobi, because that’s the main rivalry in the films. In the original films and in the prequels, it was always Kenobi vs. Skywalker. So for Rey to sort of “join” the Skywalker family as a descendant of Kenobi, would be to reunite that rivalry, which would have been cool. That said, I have mixed feelings about Rey’s lineage. On one hand, I think the story just works really well when Rey is descended from someone significant and her place in the story is bigger than she thinks. I like that she’s descended from someone evil, and she does have a dark side and she has Palpatine’s power, but she still chooses the light. It’s in keeping with the whole theme of redemption and how our choices are what define us, which is what Star Wars has always been about. However, I also feel like this revelation of Rey’s lineage basically undoes the entire message of TLJ, which is that you don’t have to be descended from someone important to be somebody and to have a place in this story. Additionally, I feel like this revelation basically undermines Anakin Skywalker’s sacrifice at the end of RoTJ. I feel like Rey’s lineage was one of the creative decisions from J.J. Abrams that basically rendered TLJ, and everything Rian Johnson built up, pointless. So I personally have mixed feelings on Rey’s lineage. It works, but then it also isn’t really necessary. Notes for next time we create another Star Wars saga trilogy: STICK WITH ONE DIRECTOR. (And bring Ben back.)

Reylo

I know, I’ve already said so much about Ben Solo. But this specific thing I like isn’t about Ben’s redemption — it’s about the relationship between Ben and Rey and how it’s portrayed onscreen. In this film, especially, when I watched their fight scenes, I could really see how they truly were equals. Like, when they’re fighting against each other, Rey really does give Ben a run for his money, and vice versa. Their power and skill level is equal. And, when they’re fighting on the same side and they’re helping each other out, they just have this bond like they’re both instinctively aware of each other. They don’t need words to communicate; they somehow just know what the other one needs or what the other is thinking. It was just so cool to watch. And when Rey wakes up and Ben looks at her, like come on, that is the only time we’ve ever seen Ben happy. So yeah, I still ship it.

TLJ vs. TRoS

So I touched on a few things I liked better about TRoS than TLJ, like the pacing of the film and the B-storyline. It’s hard for me to say whether I prefer TLJ to TRoS — it’s a toss-up, and there are things I like and disliked about both films. In terms of pace and moving the story forward, I think J.J. Abrams did a better job. I love Rian Johnson, but I did feel like the way the A and B storylines were executed in TLJ were choppier, and it was one of those things where it took me a few views of TLJ to really appreciate it. J.J. Abrams’s style is more conventional. I liked the pace and the editing (for the most part), right off the bat. The pace moved really well, and A and B storylines were woven together so well. The story felt tight — every scene and every moment served to move the story forward.

However, where I think Rian Johnson was far superior was in character development. TLJ was the film where Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s character really started to get fleshed out. In TLJ, he was brought from conventional-villain-that-we’ve-seen-a-million-times to incredibly nuanced, somewhat tragic, intricately developed character that you both love and hate simultaneously. That’s not an easy feat by any means, but Rian Johnson and Adam Driver pulled this off beautifully. In TFA, I looked at Kylo Ren as just Darth Vader Lite. But in TLJ, I started to see how much more compelling Kylo Ren/Ben Solo was. I didn’t become fascinated with his character until TLJ, and I credit Rian Johnson for that character development.

I also liked how Rian Johnson brought a different twist to the Star Wars universe. Like I said earlier, J.J. Abrams’s choices are a bit safer and more conventional. With TFA and TRoS, we got a safer film, with a more traditional ending. We got storylines tied up neatly and kept within the original characters and plotlines. Rian Johnson introduced new characters (Rose) and brought a different interpretation to the Force and the Jedi. He brought a new interpretation on the light and dark sides, and showed that the two weren’t necessarily black and white, or one or the other. I wish that J.J. Abrams had carried on these themes, rather than revert back to the traditional Star Wars film format. I wish Rose hadn’t been sidelined and had been given a larger role. I wish that what J.J. Abrams had done instead was mix his more conventional style with some of Rian Johnson’s more subversive elements. I think a balance between the two styles would have been a real winner and a way more memorable end to this trilogy.

I still have questions

It wouldn’t be an Ari post if there weren’t questions, right? So mine are:

When the fuck did Palpatine have a kid? Like seriously. When did he hook up? With who? Like, I don’t understand when this would have happened. Logistically it doesn’t make sense.

So, was Snoke basically Palpatine’s puppet? And Palpatine was behind it all? So basically, Anakin Skywalker had one job (kill Palpatine) and he didn’t even do it right? Tell me again how he managed to force ghost, but Ben, WHO ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING RIGHT, did not get a force ghost? It’s fine, I’ll wait.

Can someone explain Rey’s yellow lightsaber? Does she just like yellow? Is she a fan of Coldplay? Is there any significance with lightsaber colors?

Honestly, J.J. Abrams did a great job of tying up most loose ends. I mean I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. And overall, I really enjoyed the film. I mean, the emotional impact was just ridiculous. The film gave me all the feels. I loved how even though most of the original characters have now gone, the new characters carry the torch and their legacy and even a bit of their life force. It was definitely nostalgic, but as a story, it was damn good. So thank you, J.J., for not totally fucking it up. Am I upset that Obi-Wan was STILL not mentioned at all? A little bit. Will I get over it? Maybe.

If you’ve stuck with me up till the end, then thank you, reader. What did you guys think of TRoS? Let me know!

A few of my favorite things – Makeup and Skincare

So since the holidays are approaching, I’ve decided to a Favorite Things List – just like Oprah, except not nearly as many people care, and I can’t give away things for free. But I get really excited when I find products that I love, or things that make great gifts. So I figured I’d share some. This is specifically for makeup and skincare. I’ll post other categories as well in upcoming posts.

Supergoop! Zincscreen SPF 40

I love this sunscreen. My favorite things about this sunscreen are the SPF protection, the formula, and the finish. It’s all-mineral, so it’s great for sensitive skin and there’s less need to reapply every two hours to get the full sun protection. It’s fragrance-free and cruelty-free. And, it leaves a really nice, dewy, glowy finish. I was wearing this sunscreen while FaceTiming with my mom, and she asked me if I had just returned from getting a facial. This gives your skin a nice glow without looking greasy, and the tint helps subtly even out your skin.

Cerave PM Moisturizer

I’m obsessed with Cerave. You can have an entire skincare routine using just their products (and I actually do have that). This moisturizer in particular is HG status–it keeps my skin moisturized and hydrated throughout the day (and night), it’s fragrance-free, it contains ingredients that help restore and maintain the skin barrier, and it’s lightweight. I’ve used this moisturizer for almost seven years now. It’s been there for me through breakups and job changes. Guys come and go, but Cerave is forever.

Cerave Moisturizing Cream

See? I LOVE Cerave. I discovered this moisturizing cream because I had just gotten off a flight, my hands were really dry, and the lotions I had just weren’t doing it. Normally when my skin starts to dry up and peel, I turn to oils, like marula oil. I didn’t have marula oil on me, so I went to Target and picked up a tube of this moisturizing cream. Holy crap, it was a game-changer. I use it all the time now, and it keeps my skin moisturized and supple and happy. The only thing I don’t love is that it’s packaged in a jar, but hey. If you’re really against jar packaging, the travel-sized version of this comes in a tube that lasts pretty long.

Drunk Elephant Marula Oil

I’m generally more selective about expensive products when it comes to my skincare. But, this product is one of the few exceptions. I had never used any kind of facial oil prior to purchasing this marula oil, but since then, I’ve become a convert. Oils, and marula oil in particular, is incredibly versatile. I use this on my face, usually in the winter when my skin tends to get drier. I mix a drop or two in with my Cerave PM moisturizer, apply it to my skin, and it keeps my skin from drying out. I also use this on my hands whenever they tend to get dry. I use this on my cuticles. I even use this on my hair. I recently started color-treating my hair after going my entire life without dyeing it. I notice that my hair starts to get a bit drier than it did prior to my highlight job, especially towards the ends. So, I’ll take a couple drops of this oil, rub it between my palms, and then just apply it to my hair, from about the second half, down to the ends of my hair. This keeps my hair moisturized and keeps the ends from looking fried. So, considering the multiple ways this can be used, and how well it works (it’s better than other oils from other brands!), this is well worth the price.

Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops

This stuff is like liquid metal. This was the first highlighter I loved, and this product is what really sold me on highlighter. It was the gateway product into my obsession with that blinding highlight. But, with this, you can do a subtle highlight if that’s more your speed, and build it up if you want that blinding effect. Plus, you can mix it in with your foundation if you want an all-over glow. This stuff is super easy to blend, a tiny, tiny bit goes a long way, and it lasts all. freaking. day. Another more high-end product in my arsenal, but so worth it.

Supergoop! Shimmershade SPF 30

When Supergoop! first introduced this product, I wasn’t all that excited about it. I don’t wear a ton of makeup on a daily basis, and for the longest time, my go-to eyeshadow was Urban Decay (the Naked palette). I thought, I don’t need another eyeshadow. But when I tried this out in-store, I was hooked. What really sold me on this eyeshadow was its versatility. Yes, it’s a great, subtle, everyday shadow that gives just a hint of shimmer, really brightens up your eyes, and gives sun-protection in an often-neglected area. But, this eyeshadow also works so well as a subtle highlighter. I used this a lot as both an eyeshadow and a highlighter in the summer, when I needed as much sun protection as I could get. Plus, this stays on all day. And the packaging is great–it’s so easy to just throw in my purse and keep on-hand for touch-ups.

Cerave Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

I used retinol before when a dermatologist prescribed it to me for acne. But then I stopped after my skin calmed down. However, since I’m approaching my 30s, I started incorporating a retinol serum again in the winter for preventative anti-aging. It’s part of my nighttime skincare routine. I love this particular retinol serum because it contains encapsulated retinol, which is much better tolerated by most skin types, including sensitive skin. Your skin is less likely to peel or experience irritation or redness as it adjusts to the retinol. So far, I really love this and I notice a difference in my skin. If you’re going to incorporate a retinol serum into your skincare routine, this is the way to go.

Benefit Gimme Brow Gel

When I first started looking for products for my brows, this was the first one I used. At the time, I didn’t really apply very much so the definition in my brows was really subtle. I switched to a brow pencil (below) and I preferred using that. However, Sephora sent me a sample of the Gimme Brow, so I started using it again, and applied it a lot more liberally than I had before. The difference was definitely noticeable. It’s still not quite as defined as when you use a brow pencil–and you have a lot more control over the shape of your brow with a pencil–but for every day, and for more of a no-makeup look, this is a great product that gives a subtle definition to your brows and enhances them without looking too precise.

Anastasia Brow Wiz

This is one of the staples in my makeup kit. I used to avoid brow pencils, but once I started using this, I saw how versatile pencils are. You can go for a really defined, sharp, Instagram-makeup brow look, or a more natural look if you use a lighter hand and just fill in sparse areas. Your brows can still look natural, even with a pencil. The trick is to get one in a shade that’s 2-3 shades lighter than your hair color. This brow pencil looks natural and stays on all day–and it’s super easy to work with. Whenever these go on sale, I stock up and buy like, four of them.

Anastasia Contour Stick

I recently hopped on the contour bandwagon, and this stick is a really good product if you’re new to contouring (or if you’re lazy like me and prefer using fingers over brushes). I literally apply these by just drawing the contour line on my face, then blending it out with my fingers. The result? A natural-looking, yet defined, contour (hello, cheekbones!), that looks like you actually spent time blending it with different tools and brushes and products.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

This came in one of my Sephora Play boxes, and it was honestly one of my favorite products from that box. I used the Laneige lip balm before, and I liked it–but I did notice that was not quite as emollient as I would have liked. The Lip Sleeping Mask is so much better. It’s thicker, more moisturizing, and stays on longer. I apply this at night before going to bed, and in the morning when I wake up, my lips feel soft and moisturized, and I don’t feel like I need to reapply this. Plus, it gives your lips a nice shine, like a lip gloss, but less sticky.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer

I tried this moisturizer over the summer and ended up really liking it. It’s sort of like a thicker version of the Cerave PM. However, note that this product is not oil-free and the Cerave PM is oil-free, so depending on your skin type, you can choose which one is best for you. This is another moisturize that would work well in the winter, when your skin might need a bit more of a moisturizing kick. Plus, all DE products are made thoughtfully, with ingredients that are safe for sensitive skin and beneficial to your skin, and without any ingredients that are potentially irritating.

Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist

This is another great Supergoop! product that multitasks. (As you can probably tell by now, I love multitasking products. Anything that requires less work is a win for me; I’m all about being lazy.) This mist sets your makeup, and helps reinforce your sun protection when you need to apply sunscreen. Plus, it smells amazing–the scent comes from peppermint oil, rather than fragrance. (Any fragrance in skincare is a big no-no!) It’s great for all skin-types including sensitive skin, and the bottle is sleek and great for throwing in your bag on the go.

Pantene Sulfate-Free Rose Water Shampoo + Conditioner

I’ve never really been all that particular about my hair products prior to color-treating my hair, but since I’ve crossed over to the dark side (or should I say, the light side 😉 ), I’ve had to be a bit more thoughtful about my hair products. I’ve had to start choosing sulfate-free shampoo, as well as heat protectant, leave-in conditioner, oils, etc. This shampoo is sulfate-free, so it’s gentle on color-treated hair. And, it smells AMAZING. It leaves my hair feeling soft and smooth, and smelling like rosewater.

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb

I don’t normally like lip glosses, but this is one of the few lip glosses that I love and is definitely worth the hype. It’s surprisingly emollient when you first apply it–it feels almost like a lip balm. The colors are all universally flattering, and the shine lasts for hours. And, the packaging is gorgeous, and the glosses have a nice, sweet scent that isn’t too overpowering.

Givenchy Rouge Interdit Black Magic Lipstick

Black is my favorite color, and when I saw this lipstick, I knew I had to have it. I am pleasantly surprised with the product. The lipstick itself is really emollient, and it reacts with the natural pH of your lips to create a custom, flattering berry shade. I love using this when I want to add a nice hint of color that looks natural. You can apply just a couple swipes for a bit more color than your natural lip color, or you can build it up to a much richer, berry shade. It’s such a cool product and it’s become one of my staples in my makeup bag.

Sephora Collection Cream Lip Shade

I am actually a huge fan of Sephora Collection. Sephora’s in-house brand makes really good products at reasonable prices. Most of their makeup products, including foundation, BB cream, etc, are fragrance-free, generally non-irritating, and have a really inclusive shade range. This lipstick was probably the best 14 bucks I ever spent. I have this lipstick in several shades, including the signature red shade, and they are all so great. The color is vibrant and lasts almost all day, and is easy to remove at the end of the day.

Stila Liquid Eyeliner

Sometime this past year, I made the switch from pencil eyeliner to liquid. I used to use liquid and gel liners, and I remember how much staying power they had. I had some good luck with a lot of pencil liners, but since I started using more liquid foundations and less powder foundations, I’ve found that eyeliner and mascara still tends to smudge a bit. So I made the jump back to liquid, and this liner is my absolute favorite. It’s almost like using a pen–it has a felt tip so the application is really easy to control. Once you get used to creating that winged-eyeliner flick, application can take a little as a couple minutes. And, the best part? This stuff lasts all. damn. day. Eyeliner smudges are a thing of the past.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hulu) – Review

So, most of my friends will tell you that I’ve been badgering them to watch the Four Weddings and a Funeral miniseries reboot on Hulu for a while now. I’m a big fan of Mindy Kaling, and this show definitely didn’t disappoint. I loved watching the characters develop, and watching their relationships develop. I haven’t seen the original, but I definitely have a lot to say about this reboot.

At the core of any good, believable rom-com, are well-written characters. And I really did come to love the characters in this reboot. So, I’ll go into the characters and what I love/didn’t love, as well as some other things I’ve noticed. While there were some things I missed, overall, there’s a lot to love, and if you haven’t watched this show, what are you waiting for?

Spoilers ahead. So, if haven’t seen the series, go watch it now, and then come back and read this. Enjoy!

Maya and Kash

Ok, I just have to start off by saying that I LOVE these two, and I was really rooting for them throughout the series. Nikesh Patel and Nathalie Emmanuel have such great onscreen chemistry. You can really feel those moments of tension before they admit their feelings to each other, and when they finally do get together, it’s magic—it’s that perfect combination of ease and fun, but still romantic. I thought the show did a great job of showing their romantic development—we’re shown why they’re perfect for each other, rather than told. I think a lot of shows make that mistake of telling rather than showing, which makes it hard for the audience to buy the romance (e.g., Barry and Iris in The Flash). Maya and Kash didn’t feel shoved down our throats; it didn’t feel like the writers were trying really, really hard to get us to root for this couple. We just did, because they felt so perfect for each other. It was just natural. I loved seeing the little bits of their lives that they shared with each other—like Kash introducing Maya to Pakistani food, Maya helping Kash practice his lines for an audition, and Maya sharing really personal family issues she deals with. These little bits really show us how Maya and Kash get to know each other and learn to work as a couple, and Maya’s sharing of her family issues is a rare glimpse into who Maya really is and the things she carries with her (more on that later).

I really liked Kash’s character development, for a number of reasons. I like Kash as a character. He’s not perfect, and he makes mistakes (sometimes, really big mistakes #wedding disaster). But, he learns from them, and he grows. He takes risks, and he follows his heart. But, he puts the people he loves before himself. He gives up his acting career prospects to stay in his banking job, to support his family when his father can’t work double shifts. He chooses to stay in London instead of going with Maya to New York when he realizes his family needs him. Kash isn’t selfish. He just does what he feels is right, even if the consequences might make people hate him, or might not be what makes him happiest. This is a big reason why it’s so satisfying to watch him finally succeed as an actor, and why it’s so heartwarming at the end to finally see him with Maya, without having to hide it or feel guilty about it. It’s nice to see a character get his own little piece of happiness, after spending so much time trying to put the happiness and consideration of others first.

With Maya’s character, it’s a bit more difficult. I like Maya’s character enough to root for her. Her heart is in the right place, but she’s also not perfect. She also makes mistakes. She makes decisions that, while definitely relatable, are also frustrating to watch. But what I got from Kash’s character that I was really missing from Maya’s, was insight into who she was. With Kash, we got great scenes with his father, his brother, his best friend Basheer, even the Imam from their mosque. We saw who he was outside of his relationships. We saw the things that shaped his character. We don’t really get that with Maya. We know about her mother’s death, and that gives us insight into certain things like why Maya is uncomfortable going to Quentin’s funeral, and why she loves Mamma Mia. But we miss those explanations of how else her mother’s death, and just her family life in general, shaped who she is. We miss those explanations of how her family shaped her values, her approach to love, her fears, her goals. With Kash, we know why he gets into investment banking (family and cultural pressure to make money and do well), and we also know what his true passion is (acting, which he ultimately pursues and succeeds at). We know the motivation behind his decisions. We know his passions; we know his struggles. But we don’t know what Maya’s passions are (aside from “helping people,” but that’s not specific enough). We don’t know her motivations. We don’t know the expectations she had from her family, the struggles she might have had growing up. We don’t really know that much about her, save for that little moment I mentioned earlier, where Maya opened up to Kash about her father. So, while I rooted for Maya’s character, it would have had a much bigger impact if we knew her character more, and if her character was given the same thorough development as Kash’s.

Duffy and Gemma

I was really surprised at how much I liked Duffy and Gemma’s character arcs, especially because I didn’t particularly like either of their characters in the beginning of the series. Duffy honestly seemed like a Nice Guy, mad at All Women for “not realizing how much of a nice guy he was,” while silently pining after the woman he loved from afar. But, I’m happy to say that Duffy’s character evolved SO well. In the beginning he’s far from perfect…he pines over Maya, and then when he breaks up with her because she starts to act sort of distant, he treats her pretty shittily—especially considering HE initiated the breakup. But, he eventually learns, and he grows up. I think Gemma had a really good effect on him, as she doesn’t really tolerate his crap. Duffy becomes a character that is an actual nice guy, not a Nice Guy. He learns to risk his ego to tell someone how he feels. He learns to take responsibility for his own happiness. He becomes a great role model for Giles. And we see some nice scenes that give us insight into who Duffy has become—like how great is with Giles, and how he cares for his mother.

With Gemma’s character, she seemed snooty in the beginning, but as the series went on, you really got to know her character—and I ended up finding her character really endearing, funny, and relatable. She had some of the best dialogue in the show. I loved how she learned to break away from what was expected of her, and do what she felt was best—especially after Quentin died and she had to take care of her son Giles on her own. I loved how she learned to stop truly caring about what her other rich friends thought of her, yet she still retained a bit of that social class humor that made her character unique. Gemma and Duffy balanced each other out really nicely. They brought out the best in each other. (Also side note: I had a feeling these two would end up together, after the following two scenes: the one where Gemma is the only one who recognized Duffy’s costume at Ainsley’s birthday party, and the one where Gemma tells Duffy that Maya’s letter wasn’t meant for him. Not gonna say I called it, but….I called it.)

Ainsley and Bryce

So, I found Ainsley’s character slightly grating and annoying at times, but in the end, I really liked how her character grew. I think out of all the characters, she experienced the most growth. From realizing that Kash really wasn’t right for her, learning to forgive Craig and going to his wedding in the end, learning to say “fuck it” to what she thought looked best and instead following her heart, and learning to forgive Maya and Kash and move on with her life—the girl grew UP. I also loved seeing the juxtaposition of her previous relationship with Kash, with her budding relationship with Bryce. With Kash, you DO get the sense that their connection is shallow, that they look great on paper but they don’t really know each other. With Kash, Ainsley is mainly focused on the appearance of a perfect relationship, a perfect wedding, a perfect life. She seeks external validation to fill something fundamental that’s missing in her romantic life and missing in the way that she perceives herself. But with Bryce, Ainsley doesn’t need all that. Ainsley is her best self when she’s with Bryce. She learns to not care what people think, as long as she believes she’s doing what’s best for herself. She doesn’t need other people to see how well she’s doing. She doesn’t need a perfect wedding. She no longer feels the need to prove anything to anyone, because she’s finally happy and at peace with herself, with her decisions, with her relationship. What I love the most about seeing Ainsley and Bryce, is that we see Ainsley for who she truly is. She may look a bit shallow, a bit spoiled, on the surface—but when we see her with Bryce, we see how great she actually is. How much she cares for her friends. How thoughtful she is. And we see that she really loves Bryce—she knows the little things about him, like his fascination with neat facts, the fact that he can’t keep a plant alive, and that his father designed Dallas Lovefield. The Ainsley we see with Bryce is a much more mature, thoughtful person than the Ainsley we see with Kash. Her character at the end of the series is miles and miles from the character she was at the beginning of the series.

Andrew Aldridge and Tony 2

I was not expecting Andrew and Tony 2’s characters to be a big part of the series, but I was pleasantly surprised. While their characters didn’t have as much screen time as the other characters, the writers (and actors) really made the most of the screen time they had, and no scene was wasted. Each scene, each line, did something to advance their characters and their story. I love that, while these two aren’t major characters, we still get a good glimpse into their background, which explains why they are the way they are. We get to know who these characters are. We see Andrew’s fellow Parliament members, and their conservative political views. We see Tony 2’s family, and the struggles they deal with as undocumented immigrants. And we see development from their characters—we see Andrew’s regret over his lost love (which is what pushes the main couple, Maya and Kash, back together). We see Andrew finally pluck up the courage to do the right thing, even though it may cost him politically. And one of my favorite scenes in the finale is when Tony 2 finally becomes a British citizen.

Honorable mention characters:

A few characters that deserve an honorable mention: Quentin, for being hilarious and an unexpectedly sweet and thoughtful husband to Gemma. He was gone too soon, and most definitely missed. Marcus, for being a great source of comedic relief AND for eventually becoming somewhat of a friend and ally to Maya. I actually really liked their relationship—it reminded me of the relationships I have with some of my coworkers. It’s a lot of playful, sibling-like bicker and banter, but underneath it all, quite a strong bond. Basheer and Fatima, for being another couple that I really rooted for. These two had great chemistry, and their wedding was my favorite in the entire series (and just one of my favorite scenes in the series, period). Also, Basheer is such a good friend to Kash. I loved watching their friendship grow. And Basheer was one of my favorite comedic relief characters. Craig and Zara, for being such fun to watch and for having a really cute relationship and character development. Both Zara and Craig had some great lines; both were hilarious. And I loved how Craig was a goofball with a big heart, and Zara was someone who, like Ainsley, might seem shallow and self-absorbed at first, but turned out to be quite thoughtful and understanding. I thought the scenes with Zara trying to get Molly’s mother to make amends with Craig were sweet, and I loved how in the end, they did come together as a family. And I also loved how Craig and Zara grew when they became parents. Fatherhood fits Craig so well, and it’s so like him to be really involved in the kids’ sports, and be an overprotective dad. These two were great fun to watch, and their wedding was one of my favorites as well.

The finale

The finale was great and wrapped the story up nicely, but I almost wish it had been longer. At times, the pacing felt choppy, and it almost felt like it tried to cram too much into one episode. It felt a little like the finale of The Vampire Diaries. The ending was good, but we needed to spend more time getting there, and we needed our big moments to have more impact. While I liked Maya and Kash’s reunion, I felt like it was a bit rushed. So much screen time was devoted to Duffy and Gemma, and I felt like we didn’t get enough time to organically work our way to Maya and Kash’s reunion. And while I thought their reunion was cute, I felt like Maya and Kash’s moment at Bash and Fatima’s wedding was so much more romantic and had much more of an emotional impact (seeing Kash in the mirror, making their way to each other). In the finale ending scene, you still did get the sense that these two felt like they were the only ones in the room, but the moment just didn’t feel quite as big and romantic as it did during Bash and Fatima’s wedding. For a happy ending reunion (and for the main couple in the show), it should have been a bigger, more impactful moment.

I think what would also have made the finale more satisfying was a bit more of a reconciliation with Maya’s friends. Before the ending, both Duffy and Craig kept saying that they “weren’t allowed to talk to Maya,” or “weren’t talking to Maya.” I get why her friends took Ainsley’s side at first, but they didn’t even bother to hear Maya’s side of the story—and I did think it was a little bit of a dick move to just stop talking to her altogether. First off, are they in high school?? Like, yes, it’s not a great move to date your best friend’s ex, but did anyone forget that Craig remained friends with Kash as well? What happened with Craig and Kash’s friendship? (And I’d just like to point out that Kash and Bash were able to remain good friends, even after Bash and Fatima started dating, got married, and had a kid.) Also, Duffy knew, before anyone else in the group, that Maya had feelings for Kash, and he also knew that nothing ever happened—but he never mentioned that during their big argument. I understand that Maya dating Kash did hurt Ainsley, but I don’t think it was necessary nor fair for all her friends to ice her out like that. I did like that they showed how Ainsley realized that Maya and Kash loved each other—but I wish Maya’s other friends had the same realization and forgiveness for her as well. I think a reconciliation was implied in the end, with the wedding dance scenes and everyone having fun together, but a reconciliation of this type, after a year-long exile from her friend group, deserved some more heartfelt dialogue and more of a resolution. Plus, we never see Maya dancing/interacting with Craig or Duffy in the final scene. I wanted to see the friend group back together, with Kash, and everyone getting along.

That said, I did like that it was Ainsley who brought Maya and Kash back together. And I like the way Ainsley and Kash mended things and were finally able to move on and just be friends. One thing I like about rom-coms is that, the main couple has to overcome some things where, if they hadn’t overcome them before, they may not have been as successful. Both Kash and Maya needed to get to a certain place before being together, and both of them needed to get together again, without the feelings of guilt or needing to hide or feeling like they were doing something wrong. With Ainsley being the one to bring them together, both Maya and Kash were able to reunite and start a relationship fresh, without the baggage that plagued them both before.

Some more things…

Ok, so this is the same dilemma I have with literally every movie/show that takes place in a big city. How does those people afford such a fancy apartment in a city with a ridiculously high cost of living, doing jobs that most likely pay UNDER the median income? Maya works for half-salary in London, and Ainsley runs a design shop that never really looks that busy. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.

Also, I found it hilarious how the writers just skirted over the logistical issues Maya would actually face if she really did move to London and start working there. Like, forget about working visas and all that—it’s a rom-com! Ha.

And while I was really happy that Kash finally made it as an actor, let’s be real here. It takes way, way, way more than one year to work your way up as an actor and star in a play on the West End with Eddie Redmayne.

But hey, it’s a rom-com. When have rom-coms ever been realistic? That’s not the point. Rom-coms are fun, feel-good, and they give you hope. We don’t watch rom-coms because they’re realistic. We watch rom-coms to get away for a bit, so that for at least a short time, we can feel like there IS going to be a happy ending, and that things DO work out.

Would I recommend this show? Abso-fucking-lutely. Am I going to rewatch the whole thing? Yes, right now.

4 months later….

So I remember in this post, I gave a little update on my singing journey. I started taking voice lessons a few years ago, so I compared an old video with no training, to one I had done after a couple years of training. Since then, I’ve expanded my training, taken training with different instructors, and started studying other aspects of the voice, like resonance and breath control. So, here’s a before and after, about four months apart. The first one is when I had just started to learn more about resonance and breath control, and the second one is after a few months of really working on it, and that song, specifically.

Some differences between the before and after – the after, I feel like, has a stronger resonance and warmer tone. Also note that in the before video, I’m mic’ed, while in the after, I’m not. (TBH, I kind of hate mics….it throws me off ’cause I hear myself differently. I much prefer being un-mic’ed – which I guess also explains why I much prefer more intimate shows rather than big performances.) I changed up the melody a little bit as well, between the time of the before and the after recordings, so the after has some more variations and runs and that I had been working.

The after video is definitely not perfect, and I’m still working at improving, but I’m happy with my progress so far. It hasn’t been without its frustrations (especially considering it’s ME, and I’m a type-A perfectionist and also a bit impatient). But, I’ve been trying more and more to take the pressure off of myself to be perfect, right away, and instead focus on carving out time to practice, even if just a little bit, and focus on specific things–like my breath control, or my resonance, or my tone. I’ll put together some general things I’ve learned, as well as practice tips that I’ve learned, as I’ve spent more time taking singing lessons, ’cause I think that’d be a fun post. Honestly, singing lessons are super fun, and even if you’ve never sung a note in your life but still would like to learn to sing, I HIGHLY recommend it. A good singing teacher will create a really supportive space for you to feel encouraged and excited about learning to sing. But anyway, that’s another post. Here’s the before and after! (Note: The after is just a clip of the song, so to compare the same parts, jump to 1:52-3:10 in the before video.)

Before

After

Things I’ve Learned This Year: Mid-Year Edition (2019)

So I usually do these posts at the end of each year, but 2019 has been interesting so far, and I’ve already learned a lot. You can check out Things I’ve Learned 2017 and Things I’ve Learned 2018. Here’s the mid-year edition of Things I’ve Learned 2019. 

  1. Blood isn’t necessarily thicker than water. Just because they’re family, doesn’t mean you have to tolerate them if they’re toxic. Sometimes, your real family—the family that truly supports you and understands you—is your chosen family. They were chosen for a reason. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, with anyone. You can set boundaries with family. You can set boundaries with friends. You can set boundaries with yourself. Respect goes both ways, so if you are respecting somebody and respecting their boundaries, you should get that same respect in return. 
  3. It’s ok to have expectations. I hate that quote that says “if you want to be happy, then don’t have expectations, and you’ll never be disappointed.” No, fuck that. Have expectations. Expect adults to act like adults. Expect a man to treat you well. Expect to get compensated fairly for your work. If you don’t have expectations, three things happen: 1) you settle, 2) you get played/short-changed, and 3) you don’t hold anyone accountable for their actions. And that’s just bullshit. We are all responsible for our actions, and we all need to be held accountable. Society isn’t a free-for-all. 
  4. When in doubt, delete his number. And if you think you can’t, tell yourself that you can, and you will. And then just fucking do it. If you’re sad about it, don’t worry—you’ll live. And anyway, even if you didn’t have his number, if he was worth your time, his number would be near the top of your text messages or recent calls list. If his number isn’t near the top, then is he really worth it? Cut your losses and move on. There are better, bigger, more courageous fish in the sea. 
  5. Let them work for it. You are not free salsa. You are guac (or queso) for which you have to pay extra. Do not ever question whether you are too difficult, or too hard to read, or your standards are too high. No. You are worth the high standards. You are worth the extra effort. Weed out the weak ones now, so you can make room for the ones who don’t scare easily and who know your worth. 
  6. You are not responsible for other people’s emotions. Someone said you intimidate them? You’re not intimidating; they are intimidated. (There’s a difference.) And that’s not your problem. Don’t change yourself just to make someone more comfortable. Their comfort isn’t your problem. You can’t be expected to contort yourself just to fit into someone else’s idea of approachable, or friendly, or whatever. Be yourself, and own your untouchable-ness. 
  7. Ignore the positives; believe the negatives. So he opens doors for you? He shows up on time? Yeah, I do the same thing for my coworkers when we have a meeting. It ain’t that special. Know the difference between actions that are just basic human decency, and actions that are actually special. And if you spot a red flag, run. No matter how many doors he opens, no matter how much he texts you back, no matter if he’s paid for dinner—those are things that are standard, not special. And one red flag should outweigh all of that. 
  8. Your standards are not too high (and even if they are, who cares?). What do most of us really expect from a potential partner? That they take the initiative to show interest in spending time, to get to know us. That they actually take the time to get to know us. That they treat us with respect. That they learn to get along with our friends. That they remember important dates. (I mean if they can remember their own fucking birthday, or the date that a movie comes out, they can remember our birthdays, or anniversaries.) I mean—none of those things are actually that difficult. Most of those things are just basic human courtesy, and any polite, rational, decent human being would be more than capable of doing that. Anyone who says that those standards are “too high” has some serious issues, and you should just drop them like they’re hot. Except they’re not hot, so just drop them like they’re room temp. 
  9. One chance is plenty, and second chances are way too generous. It’s not that difficult to not fuck up, so one chance is really all anyone needs. It’s fine if someone apologizes and you give them another chance, but it’s better if they don’t fuck up to begin with. Apologizing isn’t the same as fixing. And if someone apologizes, and learns, and fixes on the second chance—great. But you still got hurt. In the end, you’re the one that gets hurt but forgives, and they’re the ones that screw up and get another shot. It’s not fair. Be fair to yourself. 
  10. It’s ok to be a little jaded. That’s called instinct, and it’s usually right. And being “jaded” is just another way of saying that you’re being realistic. If you don’t have much faith in people, it’s probably because people never gave you much reason to have faith in them to begin with. So why put faith in something that doesn’t deserve it? Your trust needs to be earned. 
  11. Be proud of your scars. Whether visible or not. Scars just show that you’re brave. And that you survived whatever hellfire you were put through. Be proud of the battle scars. Be proud of the armor that you’ve built up. Be proud of how much you’ve hardened. 
  12. I don’t have faith in much, but I have faith in one thing—and that’s faith in God. And the thing is, it doesn’t need to be proven to me that He exists. There’s evidence everywhere, if you just pay attention. So if you’re going have total, unconditional faith in one thing, have faith in God. God is the one constant, the one that will never fail you, the one that truly will love you unconditionally. He is the only One that you can, and should, trust unconditionally, even when you feel like everything is going to shit. Trust that you will get through it, and that there is a reason. Because you always do, and there always is. Because He never gives you more than you can handle. If life is throwing so much at you, it is because you are strong enough to handle it. Think of how badass you are with all those battle scars. God didn’t create a quitter. He created a warrior.