Farewell Chicago

Home.

My mind seeks to define it, my body craves to touch it, my heart yearns to feel it.

Being unable to succeed in any of these facets as of late –

We are all hurting a little inside.

If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me.

So in my effort to begin facing these emotions, I have written this post.

To discover,

how Home could mean something unexpected

and being Home-less (physically, emotionally, spiritually) could even be delightful

I keep returning to this.

Home is … a place where something flourishes.

I’ve been trying to understand why I’ve felt captivated to take this journey leaving behind by all definitions a very successful and incredible life in Chicago.

Irrespective of going abroad, I knew it was time to say goodbye to this fantastic city and all the luxuries and friends that I have been spoiled to be surrounded by.

I want to say thank you for making Chicago a place where I flourished these past 8 years.

Without your love, I wouldn’t be the confident, strong, fearless, and scrutinizing woman that I am today.

The type of woman that lives life with a magnifying glass, ticking clock, and hand grenade.

The type of woman that decides on a whim to give up everything that made up Home in her little-big mind because the music kept playing louder and louder –

to the tune of

Otis Redding – Cigarettes & Coffee,

“It’s early in the morning
About a quarter till three
I’m sittin’ here talkin’ with my baby
Over cigarettes and coffee, now
And to tell you that
Darling I’ve been so satisfied
Honey since I met you
Baby since I met you, ooh”

but the lyrics began fading into the sad, slow melody

“And whole my heart cries out
Love at last I’ve found you, ooh now
And honey won’t you let me
Just be my whole life around you…”

and one day, she didn’t hear a love song back.

March to the beat of your own heart – drummer girl.

Find a new way to flourish and home will follow.

Farewell, my old flame – may you rest in sweet peace.

 

 

Hello Remote Year

 

Hello Remote Year,

Darling, I cannot wait to meet you in person. I’ve heard so many fantastic things about you. Us – this adventure we are about to embark on will be once we can tell for generations to our kids and their kids. Grandma was like Dora the Explorer and traveled all around the world! As adorable and strikingly accurate as that likely will be, I’d prefer to referred to with the mystique of Carmen San Diego if you please.

I still can’t get over how we met. Driving to a Black Violin concert in the Chicago Burbs on a Sunday with Madam Katz. She inquired about how I was liking my recent transition at work. I told her I love my new role – as a Consultant de Salesforce – but hated how I never traveled to far away kingdoms anymore.

“You should consider Remote Year – look into it.”

Marvelous. Why not turn my biggest complaint about my job into my greatest asset?

So I applied for your services and waited with bated breath.

Well technically, I stalked you.

So fondly, I remember. Your first communication you sent me – an autoresponder email saying an admissions advisor would review my initial inquiry and send an invite to apply and interview if I qualified.

autoresponder

Eye spy with my little eye…that you are collecting my information in Salesforce. Maybe, I can convince you to choose me as one of the lucky 75 people out of 300K inquiries if I say I can help you streamline your recruitment, admissions, service, and reporting processes on the platform.

Will I hear back from you again? How do I catch your attention?

The next day you send me a newsletter from your Welcome Campaign – The Remote Life.

newsletter

I inspect the email further (literally) and discover that you use MailChimp to send out your marketing communications – makes sense, you are a startup my darling and MailChimp is less feature rich, but less expensive generally. If I were you, I would be using lead scoring to track and score my every move – my email opens, my reads, my link clicks etc. You don’t want to admit your watching me too, but you have over 10K new inquiries a day and only 5 admissions officers (from my LinkedIn research), and you need some automated way to prioritize your leads. I make sure to read every email you send me and click every link on every email. It’s a long shot, but darling I need you see me above all the other stars in the universe.

8 days later an admissions advisor reaches out to me to invite me to apply and set up an interview.

The application is 5 questions long – what you would expect if you were serious about pursuing a long-term relationship with someone.

  1. What do you do for a living?
  2. What is your experience with remote work?
  3. What do you want to get out of the experience?
  4. Why Remote Year?
  5. Another typical question – my memory escapes me

I use Calendly to search for an open time for me to speak to my interviewer. She is currently in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The only open slots are 6 am and 11 pm – welcome to time zone differences. I’m much more stunning under moonlight (i.e. I don’t do mornings) so I choose the later time slot.

So long story short – I knew you would pick me. Here’s the thing about interviews that most people ignore –

People DESPERATELY want to say yes. You just have to give them a reason to.

I am framing my story around your needs. As an admissions advisor, you have a certain quota that you are responsible for filling, and you are likely incentivized monetarily to recruit people that will retain with the program. You interview 12 people a day based on a written application that gives you some indication of fit, but the in-person interview can make or break a candidate in 5 minutes. You literally scan over the online application 2 mins before the interview and barely read it (something you accidentally admit) – looking more for indications of tremendous intent to purchase or red flags. In a good week, you spend 30 hours interviewing and have 8 applicants that are conditionally accepted and in the end only 1 that ends up depositing for the program. It’s called a Funnel and Conversion Rates. That’s usually how these things work.

All you want is to find someone like me. I am your ideal candidate.

  • I have been with my company for 4 years and have deep trust and support with the leadership of my practice. They know I will do great work and be focused wherever I am located.
  • I have extensive experience being on the road. I understand what it’s like living out of a suitcase and being around other people all the time.
  • I make a very steady income so my risk of attrition is much lower.
  • My lease is up at the end of January and you happen to have a program starting February.
  • I’m decently funny and entertaining. If you were stranded in an airport with me for 3 days, we could make a fun game out of raiding the bars for wine and whiskey and rationing it appropriately.

And sure enough – 7 days later – you get down on one knee and say Meina –

“Will you accept my conditional offer of acceptance into Remote Year Kublai?”

“Ugh what does conditional mean? (Love is not conditional!)”

“You’ll need King Huron’s approval.” That is a tale for our next letter.

In the mean time, I relish our engagement and dream about our honeymoon schedule:

February – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
March – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
April – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
May – Bangkok, Thailand
June – Belgrade, Serbia
July – Lisbon, Portugal
August – Prague, Czech Republic
September – Sofia, Bulgaria
October – Buenos Aires, Argentina
November – Córdoba, Argentina
December – Santiago, Chile
Jan – Lima, Peru

 

XOXO,

envelope

 

Fire & Freedom – A Preface to Hello Remote Year

I woke up at 4 am to a burning fire outside my apartment, and I’m not speaking metaphorically about “the end of an era”, but literally to a huge mass of flames burning 10 ft from my window.

I had fallen asleep abruptly – in a swim suit top and bottoms – which I had ordered in preparation for my year long trip abroad with Remote Year starting in early February.

“How awkward, I’m going to die in a swimsuit before I get to do this trip. Hmm I should probably put on clothing…or call the police…or just call the front desk in case the fire department is already on it’s way. Man, I’m a goner if our building goes up in flames in Kuala Lumpur.” – the insane ramblings of a sane person in the wee hours of the morning.

I call the front desk, and Terrence begins to laugh –

“Oh they are filming a movie and the fire department is already here and everything.”

I perched outside my window and watched the flames grow until finally the fire department began to extinguish them. The flames fought back and continued to spread. I had faith that the fire department had the situation under control; however, mesmerized I couldn’t fall asleep until I was assured that the fire was truly dead.

In the morning, I am informed that the fire was not staged, but a freak accident.

The Universe speaks in strange ways.

“Today is the day you are are going to make me face music that I am leaving this life I’ve built in Chicago – all the places and people. The memories can come, but it’s time for me to go? Did you really need to set a movie trailer on fire to tell me that?”

When your wrong, the Universe isn’t afraid to speak up and let you know you f***ed up.

I paid a visit to the Chicago Art Institute for the FIRST time today to cross it off my Chicago Bucket List with two friends.

While eyeing a Magritte painting which provoked the question, “Why two noses?,” I get a text from someone I had being seeing for 4 months. I told him I was leaving 2 months in, but we continued to see each other in a no strings attached kind of way. After all, how does one start something serious when they know the end is in sight?

He says that he isn’t going to say goodbye to me because “I should know that he’s met someone else.”

“Why two noses? Why not two faces? Isn’t that more appropriate? Why do I care? I’m leaving and everything else is irrelevant.”

Sigh. Ending things in a Surrealist exhibit at an art museum is a little overwhelming.

My friend consoled me.

“Let’s go to the tiny rooms. It’s my favorite spot in the museum, and it will cheer you up.”

Turns out – Wes Anderson is a huge fan of the tiny rooms, and he also happens to be the favorite director of he-who-cannot-be-named. I feel sick to my stomach.

We leave to go to a bar and just talk… drink…digest…cool down and come back to reality.

We were always incompatible. I knew it from day one, but I ignored it.

Universe –

“You lit a trailer on fire today to tell me that I’ve been playing with fire all along. That I’ve been lighting matches for fun, mesmerized watching embers flicker ignite and recede, over and over, and it’s time to call it quits before I get burned. It’s a stretch, but point taken.”

I believe strongly in the interconnected nature of physical and spiritual coincidences that are in fact more related than we care to admit; as well as, the flow of destruction and creation in the Universe. With the death of one life ushers in room for another.

My heart is ready for a new adventure – RemoteYear – here I come 🙂 .

Lessons in Authenticity

boywithapple

Ten.

He pauses the movie right before Dmitri – played by Adrian Brody – runs down the staircase to his desk and realizes that Gustave has stolen the painting (Boy with Apple) from his home.

“Wait, I can’t believe I’ve never noticed that before,” he rewinds the movie. “It’s a Gustav Klimt painting just sitting on the floor of the room.”

He’s seen the movie at least 15 times, but with all Wes Anderson movies, there is always a new methodical detail to be discovered – so he explains to me.

“The Life Aquatic is my favorite Wes Anderson movie. Have you seen it?” he asks.

I cringe because I know where this line of questioning is going, but I respond anyways – “No I haven’t.”

Eight.

“What about the Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling Limited, Mr. Fantastic Fox?”

I’ve been living under a rock – and not a cool graffiti covered rock.

“Nope”.

Five.

As the movie progresses, I’m sucked into the past – reflecting on memories growing up in a conservative Asian household. My mom always wanted to go to the movies. My dad would grossly disapprove and accuse her of wanting to get lost in the fantasy of film to escape reality. I would side with my dad – “Movies are a waste of time and money.”

As time progresses my relationship with film becomes even more distant. Between studying, being a student-athlete, working out, obsessively planning all my meals, and sleeping – I find myself unable to nurture any creative intake or output – It’s not that I don’t have time, rather I am tuning the machine and 2 hour movies give me anxiety because they are a departure from my daily “schedule”.

I graduate and am set loose into the real world – full of new people to meet and new places to go. Why watch movies when you can go out and live it? – becomes my moto – what I say to help myself sleep at night knowing that I am being ignorant.

We date. Elementary. Sherlock. Movie Nights. We break up. I stop watching all TV shows and movies for a year because all it does is remind me of the time we spent together and that makes me want to vomit because you were a terrible human being and I was a terrible person for not standing up for myself – you broke up with me after I found out you cheated on me.

We are dating. You are Art and Art is You. When you ask me if I’ve seen a movie or heard a song – I feel my heart burst into a million pieces because what I hear you asking me is “Are we compatible?”

….

We finish the movie and he asks me if I liked it.

“Yes, that was great.” I reply.

“That’s it?” he responds in disbelief.

The truth is I do love it. Yet I feel like in your eyes I am…

Zero.

(and not the heroine in the film played by Tony Revolori)

I comment on liking the song he’s playing. It’s Version by Fugazi. The sexy, dark undertones are familiar and remind me of the Deftones. I am looking for a dying ember to reconnect us.

He steps into the bathroom to take a shower – but peaks out to respond –

“Here’s what I don’t understand. You do seem to truly LIKE all these things. HOW DO YOU NOT ACTIVELY SEEK IT OUT?”

I am struck that I have a severe character flaw.

I craft all these meanings and inject emotions into situations that don’t belong and are ultimately self-limiting.

  1. I don’t watch movies because that’s what friends or people who are dating do. A movie cannot be watched alone.
  2. I don’t know how to ride a bike – because if I did I couldn’t use it as an icebreaker to judge a guys character. Specifically, the person I’m meant to be with is supposed to volunteer to teach me.
  3. I don’t want to travel abroad before I’m 30 because I have an uber-romanticized view of what traveling the world means. Being in love, hiking up mountains, drinking wine in a Tuscan villas, with that one special person.
  4. I don’t want to travel abroad before I’m 30 because I’ve worked so hard to be slightly ahead of the curve that I’d be devastated to lose momentum.

I’m disgusted by of all of it. Do these sentiments truly reflect who I am or who I am trying to become? Absolutely not and the buck stops here.

So then I get to thinking about – What would it mean to be more authentic? How would I change my actions and beliefs so that who I am and who I want to be are one in the same? Not identical, but evolving forward.

And to be clear. Evolving for me and not for someone else. Changing because it’s unacceptable not take the wheel and do what you love.

I’m being harsh on myself. I’m a pretty damn gutsy broad, and I’m taking a lot of steps in the right direction – completely switched service lines at work, leaving Chicago in 6 weeks. Headed abroad for a year or to San Francisco.

Sometimes we are so blinded by the big steps that we are taking that we forget the small ones add up. Taking care of your health, absorbing culture, or taking 5 mins to ask your Uber driver about his or her story.

All-in-all. Good to be reminded that there’s always room for a little more change.

Always be searching, learning, and pushing forward.

Best,

Meina Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Colombe in the Day

A cold, but sunny day. The curious sunlight peaked through the pure white linens into a room that had only felt passionate storms for three days and nights. The warm, cozy room had provided shelter and comfort while Mother Nature was busy shedding her tears. The eclipsed sun seduced its admirer with an irresistible smile, and the girl found herself rising from her bed to meet him at the ledge of the window.

“Come out young girl and see where this clear day can take you.”

The harsh reality of the winter day slapped her face as she stepped into the exposed air. Her fingers turned numb and her face became rosy flush. She smiled back at the ignorant breeze and glided through the cobblestone streets looking for a robust cup of coffee to match her cheery demeanor.

La Colombe – the Dove – perched on a peaceful corner on the outskirts of the hustle and bustle of the labored town square. The coffee shop held a famed existence in town. It served as a watering hole for tired birds who flocked from all walks of life looking to fuel their storied existence.

The girl stepped through the doorway and was embraced by the perfume of roasted espresso beans. A long, solid oak bench supported a series of small oval table tops and stumpy chairs. The bench, fixated to the wall and supporting beams, reminded its patrons that the secrets hidden in each private nest were inseparable from that which held up the rest of humanity. In the innocence of daybreak, the space was empty as most of the city’s workers were either snuggled in their homely routines or busy out and about making an earnest living.

The smile of the sun had charmed the girl to depart from her norm and live on the edge – “a Macchiato – double please”. A creamy, deep brown elixir was poured into a miniature cardboard cup and set on the counter. The girl wrapped her frozen fingers around the tiny radius of the cup and revived sensation through whatever slight heat she could absorb. Her needy fingers felt jealous as the cup was raised to her lips and her body eagerly shot back the ale.

Like a rocket ship, the bittersweet liquid jolted her heart, mind, and soul into outer space.

Let’s switch places, young girl. You be my sun, and I’ll be your moon. We can be in imperfect harmony dancing around this magical Earth. Every two weeks, like clockwork, our paths will align – as Mother Nature sees fit – you will be my most precious shining sun and  I – as the waning moon – will be full again.”

My sweet thing – You – were born with two left feet, and I was born hot and near-sighted. The passionate rhythm beating through our hearts can guide us when celestial mechanics are not in our favor. However, the reality of our creation cannot be avoided. When the blue moon rises again two weeks later, like clockwork, our fated tilt will force you to block me from the rest of humanity. Some days I think that I’d prefer if Mother Nature choose to cry – so then the world did not know what beauty was hidden behind the closed doors of the human eye – but I quickly realize my logic is crooked and tainted with blasphemy – the voice of all the lonely stars in the universe who feel wronged by what they do not understand, and the chemistry they cannot experience within their own souls.”

sun

Til’ death do us part, and the stars choose to bloom in another more perfect universe.

The girl awoke in panic to soaked white linens upon her bed. She peeked at her bedside clock – 8:05 a.m. She felt immediate relief as her crucial hour and examination was not until mid-morning. Although her mind felt frazzled by her dream, she couldn’t help but notice that her body held an extra dose of euphoric, almost cosmic energy to conquer the day…

 

An apple for your thoughts

Every day, you grasp an apple from the tree, and it tastes good. Crisp. Predictable. It satisfies your hunger.

Until one day you realize the apples aren’t growing back and that you’re not even sad because green apples never really were your thing.

You begin to fantasize about a big fat red apple – the type that makes you wonder if life had always been this sweet. Your soul is captured by wanderlust. You sneak a peak beyond the canopy for the first time – into the horizon – where you spot a distant speckle. You swear it’s the dreaming tree, the one that holds your prize, and this time you’re ready to make your escape.

… Drip. Drop.

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Reflection

Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated.

mulan

Reflection is a useful tool sometimes. I’m a big proponent of taking a step back to look at the big picture – ensuring that often routine thoughts and actions truly align with desired outcomes and changes. So even it’s cheesy, I wanted to share a template (http://www.thepassion.co/reflect2016/#introducing-reflect) that I’ve enjoyed filling out this weekend. It was created by Jessica Semaan and guides you through questions to evaluate 6 diverse areas in life – you, self-care, dreams, passions, community, and places. What I enjoyed most is the simplicity. No revolutionary questions, just an outlet to gently release thoughts to paper in order to reabsorb with heightened clarity.

Here are some of my big takeaways for 2015:

1) What was the most important thing you learned about yourself this year?

Pushing myself to the edges of my comfort zone is where I have discovered my strengths. This is going to sound really dumb to many people that know me, but the two things that make my heart quake in fear are publishing my writing and being a leader. There are 4 or 5 nearly complete blog posts sitting in my OneNote/Notes app. I cried quite a few times in my hotel room on my project in the first half of the year where I was left with limited resources to manage, build, etc. a full BI architecture. The edges of my comfort zone are pretty predictable. I am fearless when it comes to acting on things if I am reabsorbing the majority of the impact. Jump on a 6 am Bolt Bus to Boston? – count me in. Run back to back half marathons and/or a full marathon and/or workout 3 times a day – seriously, bouncing off the walls excited; however, there’s something about going beyond “Me” + “I” (which coincidentally = Mei) and adding a third variable to the equation “You” or even a fourth, “Us”. Yes, there’s something about re-leasing my energy for others to judge and potentially disappoint that totally petrifies me. The beautiful and exciting thing is that I have learned that I can thrive in these situations. My voice matters to others. Written communication is a unique strength that I possess. I am a strategic, focused, and deliberate leader. I’ve come to be attracted to those feelings of uneasiness and appreciate discovering the strength that usually lies on the other side.

2) How passionate did you feel about your work in 2015? What if anything, held you back from feeling more passionate?

In 2015, I believe I produced some quality, kick-ass work from both a professional and personal standpoint. The only thing that really bothered me was the intermittent frequency of my writing. I lean too much on quality over quantity, and I’ll never forget getting called out on that by a certain someone (yes you). I attended a ReSOULution class (90 minute SoulCycle class) on New Years day and the instructor Anthony did not disappoint – especially from an inspirational one-liner perspective. His perspective on resolutions is that the goal is not losing 10 lbs, making X amount of money, etc., the goal is to try more than you fail. Again cheesy, but it’s true that on occasion magical things happen when you choose to try and that on occasion shit happens anyways, but to never lose focus on the intention because that is all we truly have full control over. Ultimately what this translates to for me is, it’s not enough to do things passionately, but to also be mindful to engage frequently in passionate endeavors.

3) Reflect on 1-3 people that positively impacted your 2015 and how.

I’ve got 3 for you bro.

  • Mike N: Thank you pushing me to submit an abstract to present at ODTUG and believing that I had valuable insight and experiences to share with others. Even though it didn’t get chosen, this gentle push was a huge confidence booster for me to realize my capabilities. Ultimately, I am thrilled and honored to be co-presenting with you on a different topic and appreciate all of the support that you have given to me over the years. I seriously would not be who I am today without your guidance and knowledge.
  • Sarah K: Thank you for being my polar opposite and always challenging me to approach life from a different angle. Often priceless conversations spurred from simple questions like “How will this year be different?” and “What are your goals?” Not many people are blessed with someone in their life to openly bounce ideas off of and obtain constructive feedback from so I am very appreciative of this opportunity from our friendship together.
  • James P: Thank you for an amazing day in Brooklyn exploring the museum, eating dessert before dinner, spinning turn tables, and imparting unintended life lessons. You may or may not be reading this and thinking to yourself – LOL what did I do? It’s one of my parking lot blog posts but to boil it down, I’ll never forget strolling through the legit ghetto on our way to dinner and being scared shitless. I asked you if you ever got scared walking by yourself and you replied, “I used to at first, but then I realized the people walking – we probably have more in common than we have differences, and I try to focus on that. Even when I visit new places and don’t know anyone, I try to focus on food, music, and people because everyone can relate to those 3 things and have a great time together.” Thanks you for the fresh perspective and unintentionally, inspiring me to engage more in activities I truly enjoy and less in the ones I don’t.

4) Describe 3 joyful events or moments you had in 2015. Who were you with? What did you do?

  • Open World, Elton John concert with Reggie. Seriously joy belting out Elton John while sipping on psuedo-Rose (i.e. red and white wine drunkenly mixed together). Also the birth of www.BonnieClydeBI.com which is my second “baby”.
  • Fight weekend in Las Vegas, Avicii & Chuckie pool parties with Sarah, Christie, and Jam. If 3 flight changes doesn’t mean your having a good time then I don’t know what does. Smells like Teen Spirit will forever provoke vivid images of raging water and pure bliss.
  • San Francisco, exploring Golden Gate Park and the city by myself and spontaneously making new friends. There’s something about Twirl and Dip and Bar Tartine that will always hold a special place in my heart.

5) What were 3 self-care actions you took in 2015?

  • Quit eating/drinking artificial sweeteners and “diet” foods and drinks. This was a BIG one, but honestly really easy to stop when you really *think* about what you are putting into your body.
  • Began meditating, writing, and SoulCycle. All activities that I believe strengthen the connection of mind and body.
  • Cut my hair. That shit needed to go. Any guy who considers a girl to be more or less attractive based on the length of their hair needs to get a real life. I feel so much more professional (and free!) and that’s what really matters.

In Summary:

6) What do you most want to celebrate about 2015 coming to a close?

Being spontaneous in life. YOMLO.

 

Onto 2016 Intention:

1) Visualize your year using all senses:

  • Feeling: Control
    • A quality I admire in others, but wouldn’t consider a strength of mine yet. Something to strike for improving.
  • Color: New England Fall by Ciate (Olivia Palermo’s nail polish line)
    • *OBSESSED*
  • Place: Chicago
    • I’ve crossed a lot of places off my bucket list last year. This year, I envision myself spending a lot more time in Chicago cultivating something entrepreneurial.
  • Smell: Chicken?
    • Really no rhyme or reason. Just hungry 🙂
  • Word: Fulfilling
    • Defined as “making someone satisfied or happy because of fully developing their character or abilities.”

2) What are 3 fun experiences you want to have in 2016?

  • Engage in creative entrepreneurial venture
  • Make friends outside of the EPM/BI/Northwestern space
  • Nurture my blogs
  • (Instruct a spin class)

There are some specific opportunities I’m working on in the pipeline to fulfill these fun experiences as well as a few unlisted pure work-related goals. All in due time dear Watson.

Hope you have fun reflecting on your year and goals for 2016 too.

I’ll leave you with my favorite excerpt from this year. From Aaron Bleyaert

https://medium.com/@AaronBleyaert/how-to-lose-weight-in-4-easy-steps-1f135f7e1dec#.xeo7jmw5o

Late one Sunday afternoon you are writing out your rent check and realize it’s been exactly a year since you started working out. You think of all those miles you’ve run and those pounds you’ve lifted and chicken you’ve eaten and puddles you’ve made. It doesn’t seem that bad. You realize that it’s not about hitting a goal weight, or lifting a weight. It’s about being able to wait. Waiting, being patient, and trusting that life will slowly inch along and things will eventually get better. After all, change takes time.

But time is all it takes.

meinalisawaitspatiently. Until we meet again.

Happy New Year friends: 

 

 

I am Ana (Part 1 of 3)

Part 1:
There will never be enough time to do everything you love.

When you truly love something (or someone) and you do not have it/him/her, the mind, body, and soul discard their individual wants and collectively rebel to ignite an insatiable hunger.

Every single day I think about how to craft my next post. I expected that finding the time to maintain this blog would be difficult especially when mixed with my perfectionist tendencies. I often find myself in state of analysis paralysis when faced with the…emptiness…of white pages.

The empty pages reflect like a mirror and haunt me. Am I empty too? What I am coming to terms with is for me this whole blog thing isn’t a want – it’s a need. I need to document these memories to feel like I’ve done them justice. The comfort of the written word capturing every emotion at its…climax….before it’s too late. My life is not a blank book. Barter food for thought. Nourish the paragraph body. Spoon alphabet soup for the soul.

I am not empty.

I considered apologizing for the stream of consciousness (word vomit) that characterizes how I write – especially when I string together keystrokes in the Notes app on my phone while sitting delayed on a tarmac wondering if this is the time I’ll finally get hit by a hurricane (PS. Have you seen the Joaquin Phoenix meme? It’s pretty funny) – but then I realized that

I’m not sorry.

I am me and here I am.  Same girl. Better hair.


So cheers to September and felling full. Full of graceful aging, full of uncomfortable situations, and of course, full of copious amount of wine and over-priced spin classes (the two tend to go hand-in-hand).

Stay tuned for the next episode.

Meinalisawrites. Meinalisasmiles.

MeinalisafliesoutMondayMorning into 90 mph Joaquin (Phoenix).

Wish me luck 🙂

Summer’s Last Stand

Music and I are not-so-secret lovers. As a birthday gift, I spent Saturday of Labor Day weekend at North Coast Music Festival with a festive group of amigos.

We started off the day with obligatory flash tats:

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They were left over from Lollapalooza which meant the pickings were slim. Clearly, saved the best for last.

First on the line-up, SILENT DISCO! This was new to me. Everyone puts on headphones which toggle between two DJs and jam out! Always fun guessing who’s listening to what.

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Took an Awkward Family Photo:

From left to right – Momma K, McDad, CP, and Me 🙂

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The festivities were just beginning. We restocked on bevies and food and headed over to Chromeo.

As the lights began to dim, we parked it in the VIP area to watch the headliners –  Porter Robinson & Steve Aoki.

Once upon a EDM Orlando, Momma K and I were pumped to see Porter play and realized 95% of the way through the concert…we were at the wrong stage. Oops! Needless to say, he’s still awesome 3 years later and super happy we caught his set.

IMG_3403           Even though I’ve seen Aoki before at Northwestern, his show always takes the CAKE.

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This girl got caked pretty good.

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This girl did not get caked but still very happy.

Our motto this year: All about the Net New. Piece Pizza* is definitely at the top of my Chicago restaurant que. After a long day of drinking of dancing, couldn’t imagine a better way to end the night than with a huge slice (or two) of NY style pizza so that’s exactly what happened:

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*In full disclosure, it was excellent but doesn’t even come close when compared to street pizza in NYC. Go get yourself a slice of $2 pizza at a random joint in Midtown or West Village, and you’ll see what I mean.

Ending the Summer with a bang!

Meinalisasmileshere:

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A Baby is Born

I’ve always felt ambiguous about birthdays. I’d close my eyes and go to bed on August 26th every year hoping, but not truly expecting, to wake up the next morning feeling – different.

I get this question a lot: How are you only XX years old?

I began school in San Jose where September was the enrollment cut-off. We moved to Austin  (on my eight birthday) and that is where I grew up for my most impressionable years. Very sweet of you to assume I’m a genius who skipped a grade, because I’m not.

The point is, I’ve never felt excited about turning a certain age because I was always the last one in my group to do so.

Each birthday felt like a mile marker in a race where I was constantly two steps behind the crowd:

……..16 Congrats, you don’t have to carry your golf clubs from class to class and carpool to get to golf practice

………18 Go vote, buy a lottery ticket, and a package of cigarettes (just because you can)

………21 It’s a miracle you made it, but you can legally drink now*

Last weekend, I celebrated my 24th birthday with a group of successful, stunning, older women (excluding CT the outlier – she’s 24 too). They are 29, 30, and 31 respectively so not old by any means – just older than me. I can honestly say they are way more fun than my friends who are closer to my own age, but  this doesn’t come as a surprise after listening to their stories.

All three dated the same guy on and off during their 20s.

They were afraid to be single. Boyfriends turned into fiances and husbands and slowly their circle of friends shrunk smaller and smaller. Each knew they had compatibility issues in core values with the person they were dating, but ignored them in favor of “special” things they believed they would never find with someone else. In short, they would rather settle than be alone.

They were not fun. They allowed the guys in their life to dictate their actions. I use the word allowed judiciously because by no means were they forced to be a certain way.  Wants never turned into tangible outcomes because these wants were stupid, valueless, and meaningless in the eyes of their significant other.

They were insecure. Even worse, they allowed the guys in their life to define their self-image. Their voices became so small. Like parrots in a cage, repeating their masters diction, wondering if and when he would speak to them again. It’s been 8 hours and he still hasn’t texted me back. I know he’s out with his friends. He’s probably cheating on me. I should call him. He didn’t pick up. He’s probably cheating on me. Or worse, we had an AMAZING night and he hasn’t contacted me at all today, it’s probably because I’m not good enough in X, Y, or Z aspect.  Like a broken record, played over and over again eroding their self-esteem with every turn.

To be clear, by no means do I believe the guy was to blame for these outcomes, but being with the wrong person sure makes life a hell of a lot harder.  In time, each one has since completely separated from their ex-flames, viewed the world through their own lenses, and crafted a passionate life full of doing what they want. Thus, it’s not shocking to see why they are my “fun friends” and makes me wonder in 5 years how things might change with my friends who are closer to my age.

It is super refreshing being surrounded by confident ladies. Very little time and energy is spent agonizing over boys and insecurity is squashed immediately. We are able to focus on the present and living every moment to it’s fullest. I am thankful that they are 1000 steps ahead of me because I can learn from their journeys, see a different path – and no longer feel the pressure to sprint to catch up with friends that are closer to my age but on a more conventional track.

When I am with this group of ladies, the conversation always manages to take a deep and profound turn.  We may be at a pool party in Vegas, surrounded by tweens at EDM concerts, but the timing is always appropriate to share personal stories of lessons learned or ask serious questions about what we want out of life.

So here I am telling a long-winded story just to build up to this one simple question (typical)…

“Mei, now that your 24, how will this year be different?”

I sit facing the birthday cake, about the blow out the candle, 3 sets of wise owl eyes staring me down with bated breath, say something deep…good thing I’ve already thought about this…

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“Well, I did wake up Friday morning and think, I’m 24 and too old to be insecure. Also, this year I want to be CREATIVE and not like artsy, like truly CREATE something from scratch that I am passionate about.”

“A BABY” – CT (24 year old comedic interjection NOT appreciated – kind of sort of)

*Curse word or two inserted here towards CT*  I was thinking a blog would be a good start. I’ve been into blogs since freshman year of college, and they have had a huge impact in my life. I’ve always wanted to start my own and even reserved this URL my junior year of college. I feel like a blog would enable me to find my voice, not sure what I would write about specifically but I have some topics brainstormed.”

A BLOG IS BORN.

* For another blog post, I guess.

Here’s a picture of the crew from the birthday dinner @ Celeste in Chicago:

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Candle blown. Wishes wished. Meinalisasmiles here:

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