2019 – The Year of Realizing Stuff

As the wise philosopher Kylie Jenner once said, “I feel like this year is really about, like, the year of just realizing stuff. And everyone around me, we’re all just realizing things.”

Honestly Kylie, YES GIRL.

Idk what it is, but the last few months, I have suddenly realized a lot of things. It feels like one day I woke up and decided I was far more independent than I had ever been before. I once was someone who depended on other people far too often for an array of things. I was constantly suffering from imposter syndrome, where you constantly live in a state of fear that people are suddenly going to figure out that all the things they think you’re good at or have going for you are all a facade. I desperately needed attention from guys so that I felt “good enough” and “wanted”. I constantly needed my parents to remind me that I was doing well with my career, and with life in general. I hoped that picking the right filter, or facetuning my photos ever so slightly would somehow make people think I was a better version of myself. I worried that if I posted about something like working out, people would secretly laugh at me because I’m not skinny and so they’d obviously think I’m wasting my time.

And then I kinda just said fuck it.

I don’t want to mislead anyone though. I still like getting attention from boys. I do look to my parents to see if they’re proud of me. I do second guess what I’m posting sometimes. But I’m also SO much less concerned with what everyone else thinks. And I truly feel like it happened overnight. If anything, I’m scared that one day I’ll wake up, and I’ll suddenly feel like that scared girl who’s just waiting to be exposed again. But for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying who this new girl is.

At the beginning of the year, I made some goals for myself, and I’ve shockingly pretty much stuck to all of them. I signed up for an expensive ass gym that I LOVE. Every month, I challenge myself to workout at least 25 times out of the month. Hell, if I’m paying $130 a month for a gym, it better be worth it, right?! Even when I was in California for work a couple weeks ago, I didn’t let excuses of work and travel get in my way. The first day we got there, I went on a 5 mile run by the beach in Santa Monic + Venice. Hey, who wouldn’t take advantage of being able to do this in February? The next day, I took advantage of the time difference and got my butt to a 7am Pure Barre class. And the day after that, I did 60 minutes on the treadmill (it was pouring out). I’ve found that by making working out a priority for myself, I have felt so much more in control of my life. I feel stronger, more mentally sound, and I’m proud of myself for sticking to it, despite my schedule not always aligning the best. On top of my gym and the classes they offer for free (that I 100% take advantage of), I’m also lucky enough that my job offers $45 in ClassPass credits a month, so I try out some really fun classes all over the city! My favorites have been a trampoline cardio class, a ballet class that strictly uses Cardi B music, and a kickboxing class that was truly life changing for me lol.

Like I said, working out consistently has really helped me feel so much more in control of my life, and I really attribute a lot of my newfound independence to it. I recently went through a breakup, and I actually think that this new outlook on the kind of person I am was part of the reason why I decided that this relationship wasn’t for me. The person I was dating is a really nice guy, and a good boyfriend, but he just wasn’t my lobster. I was incredibly stressed about what to do, but I ultimately knew that I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and it wasn’t fair to him – he deserves to be with someone who’s SO happy to be with him! So while it was painful to hurt him by ending the relationship, it’s what was best for both of us. And I felt strong enough to do it, because I’m no longer afraid to be alone. I’m gaining confidence in who I am and I’m slowly becoming more proud of myself. I’m realizing stuff more than ever before.

Sticking to Resolutions: Part 1

If you’re anything like me, then you typically set a resolution (or 2 or 3 or 4) for the new year, and then you leave it in the dust after a week and a half. I can’t begin to tell count how many times I’ve said that I was going to save more money, work out more, eat healthier, volunteer more, etc…. and then forgotten allll about it seemingly just after it started.

But 2019 feels different. Over the last year, I’ve become a highly motivated person. Not that I was so insanely lazy before, but I can see noticeable changes in myself. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I work really hard at my job, I make commitments and I stick to them. When I first signed up for the marathon, it was a rush of excitement and then a ton of “oh crap” moments shortly thereafter. But on November 4th, I woke up, made my way to the starting line in Staten Island, and moved across all 5 boroughs until I crossed the finish line in Central Park. I wasn’t going to quit just because it was hard.

Resolution # 1: So now here we are, the very end of January 2019, and I’m proud to say that I have stuck to major goals of mine. I signed up for a new gym on January 1st. I used to go to New York Sports Club, and it was such a waste. The nearest location was juuuust far enough from my office that when it was too hot or too cold, I convinced myself that I didn’t really have to go. And the location by my apartment. Forget about it – it’s tiny, still out of the way for any weather that’s not ~perfect~, and had the worst reviews on Yelp ever. So I decided that I was going to splurge on a new gym, and then pray that I actually went enough to make it worth the cost. If you’re wondering, it’s $130 per month. Way more expensive than what I’d normally want to pay, but given that I can see the gym from my apartment balcony, the gym itself is beautiful, has really convenient hours and offers 80+ classes a week for free, I had a hard time justifying NOT doing it. So I made Resolution #1: Go to the gym 25 out of 31 days in January. Here we are, kids. The end of January, and I’ve actually gone 26 out of the 31 days. So let’s do a little math here: $130 for the month / 26 days attended = $5 per day. So yes, while my gym overall costs more than I’d like, I’m essentially only paying $5 per day that I workout. And on Saturdays and Sundays, I often take two classes (Hardbodies and Zumba, heeeyyy!), so it’s an even better deal!

Resolution #2: Following in line with my FiTnEsS jOuRnEy, I made a weight loss goal, but made it different than how I normally do. Though I had a goal of losing 8lbs, I’m actually less focussed on the number than I am on how I actually look. Usually when I’m trying to lose weight / get in better shape, I go strictly by the scale. This time, I measured myself + took pictures. I haven’t done a follow up on those yet to compare with new measurements and pictures tbh (that’s coming up on Friday), but I can tell that my clothes fit better, my skin is more clear and I’m less bloated. Yes, the number of the scale has gone down, but I’m more impressed by what I can actually see. Speaking of scales, I am OBSESSED with my new one. I bought it for $30 on Amazon, and it does so much more than tell you about your weight. It connects to your phone via bluetooth and when you step on the scale, it measures things such as:

  • Your body fat
  • Your fat-free body weight
  • Your subcutaneous fat (the ration of subcutaneous fat stored in your skin to your body weight)
  • Visceral fat (type of body fat that is found around your organs)
  • Body water % (water weight – VERY important to me since I’m trying to be more mindful of upping my water intake)
  • Skeletal muscle + muscle mass
  • Bone mass
  • Protein
  • BMR (how many calories you burn when you’re in an inactive state)
  • Metabolic age (the age your body thinks you are). This one was super interesting to me because the ideal physical body age is 2/3 of your actual age, yet mine is a few years older than my current age. I’m 26, so my goal is to get that down to about 18.

I love having all of this info at my fingertips, because it shows that just the number on the scale showing your weight is just the tip of the iceberg and does NOT reflect a ton of other info about you! And I can track my progress from each weigh-in, so I get to see how my body is changing over time. It’s been such a motivating game-changer for me – almost like a little game. Linking it here in case anyone is interested 🙂 

Resolution #3: In yet another health related goal, I’m eating better as well. I had originally planned on doing Whole30, but then decided against it. If you recall, I actually did Whole30 last year when I came back from Mexico. I’ll be the first one to tell you that hey, it works! I lost weight, I slimmed down, there was a definite change. But I constantly felt like I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could go back to having normal foods. And then when it WAS over, I binged on soo much pasta and ice cream it was wild. Which is why I decided to approach it differently this year. While I’m not restrictive about anything really, I’m making choices more carefully. I’m still eating carbs, but far less of them. I’m avoiding breads and fried foods and snacks like doritos and pretzels. Instead, I reach for similar snacks like veggie chips or these insanely good peasnap snacks that have the crunchiness of chips and have a ton of different flavors, but they’re way less calories and carbs. I’m also avoiding MOST dairy. Like, I’m not adding cheese to anything, and I’m not having regular ice cream (btw if you know me, you know that dairy is my weakness despite me being lactose intolerant). HOWEVER. Halo Top, which is a brand that claims to make “healthier” ice cream, has changed the game. When they first launched a few years ago, they were regarded as “frozen treats” instead of ice cream because they were dairy free and good source of protein, and omg they were only like 300 calories for a whole pint! I would kinda force myself to eat it and pretend it was ice cream because it sorta resembled it, but let’s be honest – it wasn’t nearly as good. WELL. I’m here to tell you that Halo Top heard me loud and clear, and they did something about it. In addition to their non-dairy frozen treats, they’ve added a line of “light ice cream”, made with the same flavors as the fan favorites from their non-dairy line, except this line is made with skim milk. Holy Crap. For 280 calories a pint, I get the most delicious tasting birthday cake flavor ice cream, and I cannot tell the difference between that and regular ice cream, except that it just does take “lighter” if that makes any sense? Like it tastes the same, but just not as heavy and rich as regular ice cream, which I actually prefer. My life has been forever changed.

So that said, here’s what I eat on a typical weekday:

Morning: 

Option 1: a small smoothie from the bodega next to my office called the Lexington Ave smoothie. Made with apple, mango, orange, spinach, almond milk, banana and strawberry

Option 2: 2 breakfast sausages and a scoop of breakfast potatoes. Sometimes ya girl just needs some proteins and healthy carbs to kick off her day

Lunch:

I’m not really a lunch kinda gal, I’m more of a snacker. So throughout the day, I have some apples with peanut butter and probably some veggie chip snacks.

Dinner:

Option 1: eggs & bacon. I like to make it easy on myself, as I have never claimed to be a chef. I’ll make a 4 egg omelette and throw 2 or 3 slices of bacon on there, then pat off excess grease.

Option 2: baked salmon. I grab this at the grocery store across the street from my apartment (already cooked), drizzle on some olive oil and some seasoning salt and I’m good to go. Healthy & filling!

Option 3: When it doubt, get meatballs. I workout a lot, so I’m very into making sure I actually eat some sort of protein every day. Meatballs in marinara sauce is such an easy go-to because it’s yummy, tons of protein, and filling.

Resolution #4: My bullet journal! I really like putting my thoughts on paper (one of the major reasons I started this blog), but I tend to not keep up with it as often as I’d like. I came across a really cool post on Facebook about bullet journaling and decided to try it out. Basically you make an individual page in a notebook for each thing you want to track. For me, I have mental health, money, working out, eating and work. On each page you make a little calendar for the month, and number out 1 – 31 (or however many days are in that month). Each night, you color in the little square on the calendar for that day based on how each metric performed. For instance, when I go to the gym, I color in that day green (green = good job) and then write in the corresponding line underneath the calendar what I did at the gym. It takes me about 3 minutes each day, but is SO cool to be able to look back at each day and see a little recap of what happened, and then at the month overall. I’ve stayed consistent with it, and will definitely bring it into February with me!

Activities for Winter in NYC

Happy 2019!

If you happened to have read my love letter to 2018, then you probably saw that I touched on how I haven’t been super active with my blog lately. It’s true, I’ve been majorly slacking. My day job has been crazed with end of year marketing sales, I had some family stuff going on and I just didn’t feel like I had the bandwidth to put out decent content. Not that this post is going to be majorly deep or anything, but at least there are some fun things for you guys to check out!

For my non-local readers – I’m sorry! This one probably won’t be super fun for you to read, but maybe it’ll provide some inspo for what’s available in your own areas!. For my girls who are local to NYC and the surrounding area, this is for you! I’m all about finding fun activities you can do with your significant other or your friends, and I’m also all about finding the less expensive ones. Here are some of my faves! And by the way, this post is not sponsored by Groupon. It’s just where I went to find a lot of the ideas haha.

Escape The Room

Mission Escape Games: Located in midtown Manhattan, 2 tickets for $48 (20% off)

Amazing Escape Room: Located in Montclair, NJ. 8 tickets for $172 (23% off)

PanIQ Escape Room: Located in downtown Manhattan, 4 tickets for $79 (47% off)

Exit Escape Room: Located in midtown Manhattan, up to 8 tickets for $169 ($25% off)

 

Ice Skating

Sky Rink At Chelsea Piers: Located in Chelsea, 1 ticket is $12 (37% off)

Newport Skates: Located in Jersey City. 2 tickets for $16 (38% off)

Aviator Sports & Events: Located in Brooklyn. 2 tickets for $18 (50% off)

 

Arts & Crafts

Arte Vino Studio: Located in Hoboken. 2 tickets for BYOB Painting $44 (50% off)

La Mano Pottery: Located in Chelsea. 1 ticket for Hand Building Workshop $38 (49% off)

Painting Lounge: Located in midtown Manhattan. 2 tickets for BYOB Painting $68 (32% off)

 

Comedy

Standup Show with Drinks: Located in Upper West Side. Two General Admission Tickets to a Comedy Show with Two Drinks, and Two General Admission Tickets to a Future Show for $20 (80% off).

Dangerfield’s Comedy Club: Located in Upper East Side. 1 ticket is $12 (40% off).

Dark Horse Comedy Club: Located in downtown Manhattan. 3 tickets are $5 (93% off).

 

Been to something in the area that’s not on this list, but that you LOVED? Send me a message or comment below! xo AJ

My love letter to 2018

*DISCLAIMER* I actually wrote an entirely different “love letter” to 2018 before I wrote this one. In my old one, I focused on things like overcoming heartbreak, figuring out who I was, and a few other things. Then a few days later (today, 12/31, I went to publish it, and I stopped myself. I suddenly felt very differently about how I wanted to remember 2018. So what you’re about to read (if you’re interested!) is what a recap of what I did, what I learned, and what I want for myself in 2019. My wish for you, reader, is that you’re able to resonate with just one tiny thing that I write about. And if you don’t, that’s ok! My wish is that you take 2019 by the balls and make it yours. We got this.



If you’ve been following me for a while, then it’s possible that you read the letter that I wrote last New Years – my love letter to 2017. When I wrote it, I was super fresh off of a hard breakup, and I was feeling scared and vulnerable, but also excited. There was so much my heart was confused over, and yet, the thought of what a new year could bring – what could bring – that’s what left me buzzing with hope.

2018 was such a year. So it’s only right that it gets a love letter of it’s own, no?

Dear 2018,

To understand what motivated me for you, we need to rewind a little bit. In August of 2017, my family suffered a massive loss from the death of my Uncle Scott. This man was incredible. Was he perfect? Nope. But he was loving. He was kind. He was someone who gave back, not just with money but with time. He was someone who asked how your day was going and genuinely wanted to know, whether you were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or the valet guy at the restaurant. At his funeral, there were literally over a thousand people that showed up – that’s the first thing that struck me as incredible, because it was overwhelming how many people wanted to be there to pay their respects. But what stuck with me most was what someone said during his eulogy. That my Uncle Scott was the kind of guy who played offense – never defense. He worked incredibly hard, but he also played incredibly hard. He lived a full life and made more memories in his 40 something years than most people make in 80.

I walked away from that vowing that I would do the same. I think about him almost every day, and remind myself that life is short and that I want to take as many opportunities as I can to experience it all. So that’s what I did in 2018. I experienced everything I could.

When I wrote my letter last year, I decided that 2018 was going to be my “year of yes”. If something intrigued me, even a little bit, I was going to do it. Which is how I ended up getting so many stamps in my passport! January? Spent a long weekend in Tulum, Mexico. March? Spent a week in the most gorgeous villa I’ve ever seen with my family in Costa Rica. The summer saw a smattering of trips to the beaches in Montauk and Rhode Island. October? Hopped on a plane and split a week between Portugal and Morocco, and celebrated my 26th birthday in Marrakech. HOW did I get so lucky?! I got to zipline through rainforests and jungles, get soaked while white water rafting down rapids, take a mud bath in natural springs, ride a camel in the desert and shop in the souks. And every time I did it, I thought of my uncle and smiled a little bit, because I know he’d be proud that I was going on all of these adventures.

Not to bury the lead, but my favorite part in my “year of yes”? Completing the NYC marathon. It didn’t require a stamp in my passport – just a ticket on the Staten Island ferry. But it was, by far, one of the proudest moments I’ve had in my life. Did I run every step? HELL NO. But I moved throughout every inch of those 26.2 miles, across Staten Island and Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx and finally, Manhattan. And it hurt and I was tired and I cried when I crossed the finish like. But I did it. I crossed the finish line. And I’m already looking forward to doing it again in November.

But when playing hard, one must also be working hard, which is why I made a career change in March of this year. After almost 3 years at XO Group, I moved on by taking a leap of faith at a small start up company in  the digital marketing space. Within two months, I was given the opportunity to start managing someone under me, and a few months after that, I was also given the opportunity to lead in cultivating our agency’s relationships with major national and international publishers. I’m working harder than I ever have before in my career. I come in on weekends, I answer calls and emails on major national holidays, I frequently stay far later than what’s expected. But I know that the work I’m putting in now will not only pay off down the road, but helps me to build the kind of reputation in my industry and with my clients that I’m proud to have. I can now confidently say that I’m an extremely hard worker, that I’m proud of the work I put out there and that I’m growing and improving every single day.

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve put my blog on the back burner. I have grossly neglected it, hardly posting new blog posts or Instagram photos. I’ve been so focused on actually living life, that I’ve forgotten to post about it. For a while, I felt guilty and burdened by that. It bothered me that I started something and wasn’t giving it the attention it needed to flourish. It bothered me that my follower count wasn’t growing, or that I wasn’t getting as many brands wanting to collaborate with me. But I recently reminded myself of why I started this blog in the first place. I started it because I wanted to have a place to express my thoughts and feelings, to get things off my chest, to have a healthy, cathartic, creative outlet. And that’s what this still is. I know that I have this place where I can come and vent and share experiences, whether they’re sad or exhilarating, and that it’s mine. I know I’ll come back to it with more heart at some point, but it’s not something I want to force.

In 2019, I want to grow. I hope that one year from now, I’m writing about how I’ve grown as a person. How I’ve become more humble, more patient, more understanding. I hope that I’ll become better at apologizing first. I hope that I’ll learn more about how to treat my body better – not necessarily to lose weight, but to have better overall health, physically and mentally. I hope I’ll continue to become a better friend, sister and daughter. I hope I’m sitting here, one year from now, proud of who I am.

xoxo,

AJ

4 Tips To Relieve Stress

Guys, life is stressful. Paying bills is stressful. Being an adult is stressful.

I’m sure I’m not saying anything you didn’t already know, and you’re probably rolling your eyes already – I don’t blame you. But I do want to share with you some ways that I try to deal with stress so that I’m not an uber-grinch to everyone all the time. I partnered with Red & White Spa Midtown in NYC to encourage you to take some time for yourself and de-compress. You know how on airplanes, they say that you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others? That’s because you’re of no use to anyone if you run out of oxygen and collapse on the spot. DUH.

After 26 years on this planet, I know a thing or two about unwanted stress. While I definitely have a slew of privileges that plenty of others don’t, that doesn’t make me immune to feeling like I might crack sometimes. Between balancing friendships, improving romantic relationships, furthering my career and working on ever-present family drama + dynamics, sometimes it feels like I forget to breathe. Have you ever felt like that? I bet you have. And guess what? It’s ok. It’s normal. But it’s also really, really important to know when you need to take a second and take care of yourself. Here are some of my favorite ways.

  • Yoga. Now here me out, because this is important. I’m not talking about the yoga that’s like, a real workout and leaving you sweating (although I’m sure that’s nice too). Tbh, I really don’t enjoy that kind of yoga at all. This is different – it’s more of a mix of stretching and breathing exercises. Things have been BANANAS at work recently, and last week my boss treated us by bringing someone into the office to walk us through a half hour of stretching, breathing, and just connecting with our bodies and being at peace. It was freaking life changing. By the end of 30 minutes, I felt exponentially calmer, less tense, and ready to conquer the rest of my week. There are tons of different ways to do something like this. Classes, of course, but you can also YouTube different videos, download podcasts, or download apps that walk you through brief meditations.

 

  • Getting a massage. As I mentioned, work has been insane for me the last month or so. I’m talking working until 11pm on a Friday kind of insane. When Red & White Spa Midtown reached out to me to ask if I wanted to come in and try some of their services, I nearly cried from excitement. The tension that had been building up in my shoulders was something fierce. I could literally see little bulges of muscles gathered on my shoulders/neck, and it wasn’t cute. I made an appointment for after work, took the subway up to their 56th street location, and laid down for what turned out to be the most relaxing hour I’ve had all year. The spa is really nice, and aside from massages, they offer a ton of different services. I got the 1 hour Swedish massage, which started off with a brief moment of aromatherapy (which btw, excellently timed bc my sinuses were all backed up from the weather and this cleared them right up!), and then for the next 55 minutes, I was blissfully catatonic. My massage therapist got out every last knot in my back and shoulders, and created an atmosphere in which I was truly able to block out any concerns I’d been having about work and just focus on absolutely nothing. My mind was clear, something that hadn’t happened in a long time. As a thank you, they’re also offering 40% off any of their services to all of my readers. All you have to do is mention me when you stop by 🙂

 

  • Bubble bath: Why make it complicated? Sometimes a simple bubble bath is the cure for a stressful day. Make it nice for yourself. Add in a delicious bath bomb, light a few of your favorite candles (note: do NOT place them by your head if you want to avoid potentially lighting your hair on fire), pour a nice cup of hot tea (or wine!), and throw on some soothing music. Not only will the hot water loosen up your muscles, but you’re now placing yourself in a calming environment, which is crucial. I try and do this at least once a week, as a way to maintain some level of sanity. Wanna get really crazy? Throw on a sheet mask while you’re at it.

 

  • Exercise. As Elle Woods would say, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know there’s two things I LOVE to do. One of them is dancing, and the other is running. I’ve danced pretty much my whole life, and it feels like therapy to me. Going to my Wednesday night hip hop classes is something I truly look forward to every week. Not only is it fun, but I feel accomplished knowing that I’m challenging myself to learn  new choreo in under an hour, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I hit it at the end. When it comes to running, I may have exaggerated by saying I love it – I don’t LOVE it. I love how it calms me down. When I run, it forces me to regulate my breathing so that I’m not panting 2 minutes in. I’m someone who gets anxiety and when I feel that pressure in my chest that makes it hard to breathe, I throw on my sneakers and hit the pavement. It gives me no other option than to correct my breathing patterns, and in turn, releases endorphins and a sense of calmness. I haven’t always been a runner, and you don’t need to be a “runner” for this to work for you. I HIGHLY recommend trying it out though.

 

Any other tips? Send them my way! xo, AJ