Slow Down You Crazy Child

You know what’s funny but also not super funny at the same time? How bloody hard it is to relax, or more precisely, how hard it is to sit down and do nothing. I dream about it loads while my brain is whirling around like an Addams Family pinball machine and yet, when I finally find myself on the couch with an open afternoon spreading out ahead of me, I panic.

I panic because there is always more items to check off on the to do list, because it feels so good to be productive and moving towards a goal, and because — which I cringe to admit — taking time for myself often registers in my brain as being undeserved, selfish, or lazy.

I first developed this productivity idealization in college after feeling such pride at being known as the girl who could do everything at once. A lack of sleep, an unhealthy amount of anxiety due to stress, sacrificing time with loved ones — this felt like the price one needed to pay in order to make their dreams into a reality and every time I reached a new goal, I was onto the next without taking any time to sit down and appreciate what I was actually creating.

This was all going swimmingly (*heavy sarcasm*) until last summer when I hit a wall. Or as blogger Amber Burns put it in her recent newsletter, “I didn’t break up with hustle culture, it dumped me, HARD.”

This January the New York Times published a feature titled, “Why are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” which was a followup to BuzzFeed’s viral op-ed essay, “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.” In both articles, the writers address the growing dangers of “hustle culture” for glamorizing unhealthy work-life balance among millennials, many who have taken on this collective mindset of “work hard, play hard, do everything, you’ll sleep when you’re dead.”

I have definitely fallen into this hustle culture trap, especially with freelance work, where your success is based off how much or little you’re putting in. But what I didn’t realize until I hit my wall was how much I was sacrificing along the way. Sleep, mental health, physical health, time with loved ones, the ability to be spontaneous, the ability to see what things were/weren’t actually working in my life, and just a general enjoyment of the little things in life — the things whose value aren’t related to furthering my goals but simply for making me happy.

This past year I’ve been working on overhauling my knee jerk reaction to overplan and overcommit in the name of the “hustle” (literally just rolled my eyes so hard at my own use of the word “hustle”). I hate to admit it, but it’s a hard habit to undo! At least once a week I catch myself stressing about all the things I’m trying to balance at any given moment. How do I keep up with friends outside and inside of NYC AND work on my long-term work projects AND enjoy my time of creativity AND carve out time for working out AND be there for my family 2000 miles away AND still have time for myself?

The answer I learned after a particularly rough week is that I can’t do everything at once and that’s okay. It’s okay to put some tasks to the side, it’s okay to unplug, and more than anything, it’s okay to sit on the couch and do nothing. Because what matters even more than the external accomplishments around me are all the things happening inside my overzealous, passionate, ever-changing mind and heart.

^^ Favorite Billy Joel song that I listen to on repeat when the stress sets in. ^^

This is all easier said than done and this past month I’ve been doing a bit of a life revamp, or a mental decluttering if you will. This means I’ve been slowing down and prioritizing self-care over everything else, which is hard! Choosing to go on a run, or sit and read, instead of driving myself crazy over a pitch letter has felt like I’m reseting my mental code. But this time around, this mental decluttering has truly allowed me to re-engage with productivity in a more focused and intentional way — which feels like a breathe of fresh air. Now I set timers for how long I’m going to work on something each day, I don’t try and do 18 things in my two free hours after work, and in general, I feel more on my own team. It’s a work in progress but it feels good to be doing it slowly but surely.

So if you’re in the same boat, consider this my permission slip to you to slow down you crazy child, and do something just for the joy of it today. All the chores will still be there after you take 30 minutes to turn off your phone and paint your nails but your mindset will have shifted into an entirely different space. You can still be ambitious and passionate and yes, productive, while also having a healthy, balanced life. This is not something you have to earn, but something you inherently deserve.

So best wishes my recovering over-productive friends, you are worth all of your dreams coming true as well as the time to sit and enjoy the hell out of life in the most unproductive, spontaneous, adventurous, relaxing ways.

To be honest, I think this might have been my own permission slip as well.

What is Creativity Anyways?

Hey, long time no see! Would you believe that I’ve been working on this post for weeks and every time I sat down to give it a whirl, found myself needing to suddenly clean out my closet or re-seal my bathtub? Sometimes it stuns me how much a break can affect my entire creative routine and despite me loving writing, how hard it can be to jump back on the horse.

Since June I have been struggling with my creativity and lacking what my therapist recently named as “my muse” — which made me feel like an 18th century painter. It just seems that every time I sit down to write I feel so overwhelmed to make something perfect that I often don’t finish anything at all. As any good overthinking introvert would do, this entire experience has left me questioning long into the night the concept of creativity: Is it a muscle that needs to be worked everyday or do I give it a rest and wait for it to come back? How do I stay focused in the midst of longterm creative goals? And how do I get creative with my creativity? (To name a few.)

Lucky for me, I’m not the only one contemplating these big creative life questions. While stumbling around in the dark trying to find my own answers, I found that The Layman has been doing the exact same, and it got me thinking: Where does creativity come from for me?

[Shameless plug: The Layman is a new 1021 Creative YouTube series hosted by one of my favorite humans Alex Sargeant. After years of making YouTube videos for other people, Alex is stepping out on his own to answer life’s big questions with the help of some very smart people. This episode above features one of my best friends from childhood Robbie McCarthy — a former Master Lego builder, classical composer, musician of all the instruments,  and founder of Air-Schooled. The episode is all about creativity and it’s definitely worth hitting that subscribe button for.]

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8 Books I Love About Female Friendship

It’s been a hot minute since I read a book I felt absolutely compelled to tell everyone about. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some GREAT books this year. The Shadow of the Wind was my faithful and beloved companion throughout China and a pure delight from start to finish. But Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendships spurred in me an entirely different type of book love — the type where I found myself striking up conversations with strangers on the subway just to tell them about this book. It not only compelled me with its writing but it felt like someone was telling, and celebrating, my own story within its pages and how often does that happen?

In Text Me When You Get Home, journalist Kayleen Schaefer writes about society’s changing perspective of female friendship from casual, catty interactions to life defining relationships. Schaefer shares her own experiences of shying away from female friendships growing up because of the perceptions she was saturated with by the media that female friendships were dramatic, emotional, and backstabbing (something I definitely relate to). There was more of an importance to be “one of the guys.” But in her late 20s, after breaking up with her boyfriend of nine years to chase her career dreams, Schaefer learned just how important her female friendships were as they evolved into her chosen family. At its core, this novel begs the question: What if we stopped treating friendships as the side relationships in our lives and treated them with the same sacredness we would a familial or romantic relationship?

While the novel is centered around female friendships, I think it’s a must read for anyone of any sex or gender because at its core, Text Me When You Get Home is a love letter to the friendships that give our life shape and color and support. It’s a validation that the way we chose to prioritize and navigate our adult friendships, with loyalty and unconditional care, is completely worthwhile. From the first paragraph, I was texting my best friends copies of this quote:

“Text me when you get home. Usually it’s late when women say this to each other, the end of a night that at some point felt thrilling. We might have been at dinner, a concert, a cocktail. We might have been just hanging out talking even though we knew we’d be tired the next day. Maybe we shared secrets or surprise compliments (or both). Maybe we danced. Maybe we hugged with total joy. Maybe we were buoyed by booze or maybe we just felt light because of our love for each other. My best friend Ruthie, who lives a few blocks from me in Brooklyn, and I say it to each other after these kinds of nights. “I love you,” one of us will say. “Text me when you get home,” the other will say. We’re saying the same thing.”

I mean, COME ON! MY HEART! And that was page one! I don’t have a book in my apartment more highlighted and dog eared than this one because it gives words to all the ways I feel about my friends. For those I’ve been friends with now for 5, 10, 15 years, the word best friend no longer feels big enough. They’re my family or rather, my fate mates — a term I made up to describe the people I believe I was meant to know.

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Must Be Love on the Brain: The Chemistry of Crushes

Looking into my crush’s cinnamon brown eyes, I suddenly realized he had asked me a question, a question which I had not heard because I was so engrossed in the symmetry of his face.

I had two options here: I could either assume the identity of a rational human being and ask him to repeat himself OR I could attempt to outrun the blush heading north from the base of my neck and just say any answer that came to mind. Caught in the eye of a dopamine tornado, I chose the later option hoping that my crush had asked what was holding up the salad line. He had not and what started as just an awkward silence quickly turned into a confused awkward silence broken up occasionally by a lunch order.

I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident. That outside of this one crush on a California boy, who at the time had been assigned the desk next to me, I was the Lady Casanova of crushes, just collecting heart eye emojis with my continuous talk of consent and graphic novels. But the truth is, I don’t crush crushes, crushes crush me.

I still remember my first crush: Justin Fishman, kindergarten. Everyday I would attempt to sneak closer to his assigned seat on the show-and-tell rug only to be deterred by the exasperated questioning of my teacher. I learned quickly that a Fishman and a Lanning would never work due to the long distance imposed by an alphabetic roll call. 

Later there was Sammy Maxwell, the boy who asked me to the sixth grade dance. There was Aaron Lee, the red headed boy with the bright blue shoes, and Richie the tuba player who I wrote love letters to in high school. There was my freshman dorm mate who’d never been kissed, the writer-turned-gamer in my English seminar with surprisingly broad shoulders, and the friend-of-a-friend obsessed with Groupon. There was the guy whose voice sounded similar to Snuggles the Bear and the former rugby player; the musician who after our first date I blurted out, “Can I put my face on your face?” and later, the coworker who looked like Daniel Dae Kim — to name just a few. 

Over the years, my crushes have been diverse in their interests and backgrounds, but unified in their effect, turning me from a semi-stable human being into a puddle of goo. Even at 29, with two IRA accounts and numerous long term relationships under my belt, I still find myself barely more equipped to handle a crush than my braces-clad 7th grade self. 

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29: The Year of More

To give you an accurate picture of where my brain is at right now, I’ve been waking up every day for the past week wide awake at 3:30am thanks to jet lag. And what I’ve learned during those especially early mornings (besides the fact that this trip to China was totally worth all the sleepiness) is that there is nothing really like Marie Kondo-ing your entire apartment before the sun rises. Sure I almost fell asleep standing at the cross walk yesterday but at least my closet is now organized by color.

These past two weeks traveling around China have been some of the most memorable of my life and while I can’t wait to share all 1493 photos with you, tales of the trip will be coming in another post because today we’re talking about BIRTH-DAYS. Well, not all birthdays, let’s not be crazy. Today we’re talking specifically about my birthday because another turn around the sun always leads to me asking some big life questions like, “Why do people like having birds for pets?” and “What would Harry Potter’s therapy sessions be like?”

On the day of my actual birthday my family and I were attempting to hold our own within the  massive crowds surrounding the Terracotta Army when my mum asked me what my resolution was for my 29th year around the sun. Now, if there is anything that makes my heart beat out of my chest in a flurry of happiness, it’s a good list — bonus points if it’s a list of resolutions!

Surrounded that day by 2,000 years of history and tradition, I assumed I’d be hit with something really profound to guide my new year. But just like reaching the top of the Great Wall of China and comically finding a man in a white tank top sitting under an umbrella with a megaphone selling ice cold beer, this year I decided that instead of letting my perfectionist tendencies run rampant, I was going to keep it simple. This year my mantra is: More.

Hear me out.

Like many people — which may or may not include yourself — I naturally navigate my life using a less mindset. I need to spend less, I need to stress less, I need to be on my phone less. I want to procrastinate less, spend less time in the office, be less in my own way about writing and working out and traveling. On most days I tend to focus solely on the things I am not, or the things I’ve yet to accomplish, or habits I’d like to break, which means my waking hours contain a lot of self criticism in the hopes of self improvement. It also means I rarely appreciate who I am in the present moment and I’m sick of it people!

There is a balance here I’m hoping to achieve between appreciating the present and striving forward. And if any zodiac sign can try and figure out this contradiction, hopefully it’s the Geminis. So in celebration of turning another year older, here are the 29 things I want more of this year.

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My Top Book Recs for Your Next Holiday Away

Travel prep is fully underway at the Lanning household as my trip to China is only two weeks away (Don’t tell the cats). And while things such as fully understanding the Chinese to American dollar conversion rate should be my top priority, what I actually can’t stop debating is what books I’m going to bring along with me on holiday.

I don’t normally plan my travel TBR list this far in advance but the question was posed to me while on a date last weekend and it felt entirely out of character to not completely overthink it. I mean, we all know that our everyday reading selves can be entirely different from our travel reading selves so some consideration must be paid.

For example, maybe you’re a memoir devourer during the breaks of your 9 to 5 but put you on a beach in the Caribbean, with a mojito in hand, and suddenly you’re all mystery thrillers, all the time. I know it sounds shocking but I’ve seen it happen. Fiction devotees suddenly stealing time away in the nonfiction section of their travel destination’s bookstores; SyFy fans drawn into the pages of the latest romcom — the juicier the better.

So while Brooklyn Carly is really leaning towards packing The Shadows of the Wind, Swing Time, and The Argonauts into my backpack, will vacation mode Carly be just as chuffed about these decisions? Honestly, I’ll probably be so jet lagged I won’t be able to string sentences together but it’s the thought that counts. I’m going to continue narrowing down my choices until the last minute but until then, should you be taking a trip of your own and looking for a good holiday read, here are some of my favorites below. Enjoy!

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Falling in Love With my City Over One Million Steps

Ever since moving here, I’m frequently asked the top things that shouldn’t be missed when someone visits the city. And to be honest, that list is infinite because anything that makes your heart beat wild with anticipation can be found on this island at the highest level. Musicals, soup dumplings, pizza, bookstores, exhibits, concerts — you name it, it’s here and it’s dope.

You could say yes to something every night of the week (or numerous things a night, if you are a super extroverted and not me) and still never do or see everything you want in this city. Which at times can be intimidating and makes me feel guilty for setting up a routine that often keeps me in Brooklyn most weekends. But what I’ve learned in the last four years of living in New York is that there is no one right way to fall in love with this city. In fact, my way involved hundreds of miles of pavement, my Nikes, and a couple of ice tea pit stops.

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The “Perfect Moment” Myth

^^ Saw this shared by Curly Girl Designs this morning and it felt like a sign to sit down and finally write this post. ^^

The idea of opening this blog started rattling around in my head about three months ago. Last year I made the decision to close down my longtime blog the Curious Case after an experience pushed me to reconsider the way I was sharing my life online. Once the dust had settled and I’d gotten back on my feet, I began to realize how much I missed having a corner of the internet to share my ideas and experiences upon — both the profound and my arguments that mariachi bands make everything better. But the more I got excited to start this, the more I found myself dragging my feet to get the work done.

Before I could possibly write, I’d think to myself, first I needed to clean my desk which would then turn into the entire apartment. I’d search Instagram and YouTube for “inspiration” and an hour later lament the fact that it was 11pm and I had nothing on the page. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to turn this idea into a reality, but it just wasn’t “the perfect time” I’d tell myself. Once I had organized all my spices, called every single family member, and planted a garden –essentially all the easy stuff on my to do list– then I’d be primed to devote all my energy to writing. Finally, after months of dragging my feet, I realized that I needed to reconcile my idea of “the perfect moment” if I was ever going to get this blog (and the countless lists of other passion projects) off the ground.

I often catch myself in the midst of a self-imposed “perfect moment” paradox. It’s not the perfect time to go to yoga because the house isn’t clean. It isn’t the right time to launch this blog because there aren’t enough blog posts on it. It isn’t the right time to date because I’m still working on figuring myself out.

The myth of “the perfect moment” is by far my biggest productivity road block and at the end of the day “my perfect timing” excuse comes from being perfectly nervous to fully commit. Because what if it doesn’t work out? What if all that dreaming and hoping and hard work comes to nothing? What does that say about me? It’s scary to give your ideas a real shot because when they’re floating around in your head they’re still untouchable to reality. But they’re also untouchable to anyone else but you.

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A Roadmap For the Blues

^^ Photo by my favorite illustrator Zoe Si. ^^

This week was a week where absolutely nothing worked. I got sick, my cat got sick, my heat in my building broke, I fell behind on work assignments, I ended up canceling all my social engagements. By Friday the Mercury of my world had so fully retrograded that the only thing to do was eat Indian food and drink Aperol spritzes in yoga pants on my best friend’s couch.

Going into each week, I tend to set some high, and highly planned, expectations for the seven days ahead, and most the time, it works. But this week, after trying and failing to keep my original game plan afloat, I finally threw my hands up in the air and decided to lean into the chaos. It wasn’t the week I had hoped for, but it was the week I was having, and a week that was only going to be made harder without any sort of self-care. Once I gave myself permission to just relax and be, my retrograding Mercury week turned into an almost comical collision of calamities.

Should you also be experiencing one of those weeks, here’s a tiny roadmap I used to help get me out of the blues and back on my feet.

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Sundays are for …

There is a special sort of magic that only comes on a Sunday.

While my Saturdays are often days packed to the brim with errands and catching up and to do lists, my Sundays seem to demand the opposite. Sure, they still hold the same amount of time as a Saturday, the same amount of hours and possibilities, but there is something about a Sunday that says brunch and long walks with no destination.

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