I was talking to a friend last week who had been invited to a happy hour with a bunch of fabulous women - the only problem was, she didn't know any of them (and I couldn't make it).
She said she was thinking of skipping - her social anxiety was getting the best of her and it was just easier to stay in.
I told her this: "You should go. If you're too scared to attend a happy hour filled with nice women, there's going to be a lot of other scarier things coming your way. Think of your attending as a small act of defiance in a way - doing something that scares you or takes you out of your comfort zone. It's preparation for all the other stuff we'll need to do."
She went. She had a good time. She did something that was scary to her and it turned out it wasn't that scary or hard. And she felt stronger afterwards, knowing she could do something like that again.
There's not really a huge lesson to be learned here, other than this: if you're too scared to pick up the phone to call your senator because you've never done something like that before, it's more important than ever that you take a deep breath and do that now. If you want to go to a protest but you've never been to a protest because it's overwhelming and you're not sure what to do, that means you need to go. If you've never told that family member how their hurtful words about your politics cut you, say it out loud to them today.
Not one of us can do one single thing that will affect a lot of stuff, but a ton of small actions and small acts of defiance and small acts of courage - even if they don't seem like on the face of things that they matter - they add up.
Do the small things that scare you now, so you can be braver to do other things that matter tomorrow.
I’m not good with money. I’m not Bad With Money (like this excellent podcast), but I ain’t ever been great at it. My parents always took care of everything, and we were well-off (at least from what I understood growing up) so money was sort of like a thing that was there but you never needed to worry or talk about it.
As I got into my 30s though and started to get that it was JUST ME and it might always be JUST ME (aka no rich billionaire was coming to marry me -- I think this economic anxiety is a real one that single people in their 30s start feeling) I was like, I really have got to figure this out. This was hard to do when in your 30s because of one huge obstacle: SHAME. I was like, I AM TOO OLD TO NOT KNOW HOW TO DO THIS STUFF. So I just will never ask any questions or tell anybody I DON’T UNDERSTAND EVEN SUZE ORMAN WHO HAS MADE HER CAREER EXPLAINING TIPS SO BASIC THAT O MAGAZINE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THEM. So I just went on for a bit pretending that money wasn’t real and everything was fine.
To be fair I was never in a super dire situation. My parents paid for undergraduate college (at a state school; when I got into a certain New Hampshire liberal ivy I really wanted to go to they were like nuh uh we’ll pay for the state school; they are known as Good with Money, good call mom and dad); I had a scholarship for graduate school; and I paid off debts related to my costs of living during graduate school several years ago. I never keep credit card debt because it terrifies me. And if I’ve ever needed help, my parents, again, have ALWAYS been there as a cushion, so I’ve never truly worried for it, and I am extraordinarily lucky in so many ways.
Except the way in which, as I mentioned, I was getting old and I was like I guess I’m probably not going to work until I’m 87 and my parents won’t always be around so maybe I should look into this retirement thing… ? This is a true story that really will show you how bad with money I was until a few years ago: I DISCOVERED A 401K I NEVER EVEN KNEW I HAD!!! My first job out of college I had a 401K, I literally didn’t know what that was or that I was putting money into it, and a few years ago I discovered it! Part of me was like YAY FREE MONEY and part of me was like :horrified face emoji: Catherine you have got to take control of these things and start educating yourself.
So I did. I’m doing fine now - I’m not going to retire a millionaire - but I feel more comfortable and knowledgable about my situation than I did five years ago. Here’s how I got there and also some things I wish I’d known along the way. Some of this may be wrong and most of it is certainly very basic, but this isn’t for the money experts out there; it’s for those like me who were like WHERE DO I EVEN START. If advice is bad or wrong feel free to tell me in the comments. Like I said, I’m not great with money.
(Note: This isn’t a blog post about how to spend less, by the way. A lot of shame and emotional issues are tied up in money for a lot of people and they have trouble stopping spending beyond their means. That is absolutely something worth talking about and finding help for, but I don’t know how to do that. I also don’t know how to like, coupon, or be thrifty. This is just a blog post about basic financial steps you should be taking as an adult that took me way too long to learn.)
Last year I went on a solo vacation to a little beach cabin in the woods and I wrote a whole article about it. A couple of weeks ago, I went back. I think people wonder, how can you spend 3 whole days alone? I am at heart an introvert, so it’s very easy for me (and I’m a very social introvert so I spend a LOT of time in DC out and about, so a 3-day break like this for me is very good).
Well, I do a lot of things in those 3 days, all by myself. I try to treat it like a mini Catherine retreat. Yeah, I spend time doing all the self-righteous and healthy stuff. I meditated every day for at least 30 minutes; I wrote; I read books (All the Single Ladies and Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes); I worked out each day, whether it was yoga or online videos); and since we now live in a burning ring of fire that is getting closer and closer to imploding on our heads every day, I also suntanned in 80 degree weather and went in the ocean.
I did not leave the house once. Also there is no TV here and only spotty internet.
So to fill the space, I also did a bunch of stupid-ass things too that were dumb or pointless or were just to kill time. So that you don’t think I spend 3 days levitating in meditation and subsisting on green juice, I present to you a list of Rando Dumb Things Catherine Does When She Goes on Solo Vacation:
-Picked off all of an old gel manicure
-Panicked for 20 minutes while sitting on the screen porch while some animal in a thicket outside gnawed ferociously on something. I think maybe it was a possum?
-Made a two-person serving of Bisquick pancakes… and ate the whole thing
-Foam-rolled for an hour while listening to old episodes of “Another Round” podcast
-Fucked around on Twitter for entirely too long (the story of every day of my life)
-Drank an entire pot of increasingly cold and stale brewed coffee throughout the day
-Showered exactly once. Dirt’s good for you yeah?
-Recorded 2 different drafts of a new podcast I’m working on
-Did some work, probably a couple of hours a day. I like work, so no biggie
-Set up a trap for the fruit flies taking over the little kitchen and watched with glee as they all got stuck in the cup with plastic wrap over it.
-Went through 2 bottles of wine
-Got bored of wine one night, pawed through cabinet of airbnb (they said this was fine) and found some drambuie. Googled what exactly drambuie is. Proceeded to make disgusting but sort of satisfying drink out of drambuie and tonic water.
-Ate an entire slab of brie by myself, semi slowly, of the course of two days.
-Lay on the floor of the screen porch and stared up and listened to waves
Let me set the scene about what it looked like in DC amongst my group of friends to socialize in our 20s. Somebody would send a text; or yell up the stairs in a group house; or send an email; or maybe awkwardly utilize the then-brand-new Twitter to send a tweet suggesting an evening plan. (Yes, Twitter in 2007 was used for stuff like ‘going to dc9 in a few minutes any1 want to join’; this was before it turned into a platform that reflected your career and before any of us had more than 20 followers.) I would estimate that 75% of the time we would end up at the aforementioned DC9 - one of the only bars on U street around that time -- drinking pitchers of Miller Lite until 1am and feeding dollars to the jukebox to play a Dismemberment Plan song. Somehow we were never hungover the next day. All told, it was fun, easy, and always spontaneous.
Fastforward 10 years. People have marriages, kids, careers that demand they not be presenting to the board the next day with unwashed hair and a low-level hangover. Some of us try -- futilely -- to keep in shape, so are spending time at the gym in the evenings or rolling out of bed for early morning runs. We more often live alone, with partners or in our own apartments, so you can’t just yell up the stairs if anybody wants to go grab dinner or expect that every Sunday night, without any formal planning, you’ll be huddling around the TV for whatever HBO drama is playing out. Socializing with friends got hard.
Enter UPTIGHT PLANNING LADY (that’s me, could somebody create me a logo please and thanks) to tell you about how I’ve managed to still socialize several times a week in meaningful ways with groups of friends. I’m very happy with my social life. I talk to a lot of people daily and I would say, although I’m single and live alone, I probably socialize 3-4 times a week in real life with people, and multiple times a day virtually (which I count).
How do I do it? Here are my secrets: 1. Bucket your friend groups into the ways in which you can socialize with them and 2. Plan everything, preferably around clubs or formal activities.