FADE TO BLACK: Goodbye Hollywood

I know that some people may already know, but big life news is ahead! As of September 22nd, I will once again be packing up my car and driving cross country to Alabama. I accepted a job at Red Clay Media in Birmingham, AL as a comedy writer/producer for It’s a Southern Thing. I am beyond excited to get started, but of course a little nervous uprooting my life yet again.

Check out It’s a Southern Thing here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDyCK-HRoSqUsowdKzOVHZA

For the past 7 years, I have never lived in the same apartment for over a year. May sound crazy, but I was bouncing between college, study abroad, new housing, back to Philly, and eventually LA. The only difference is that this time I have actual furniture (I guess because I am now an adult and moved past my blow-up air mattress and Walmart plastic dresser days). I used to be able to fit all my belongings in the trunk of my car, but now I must embark on a journey of calling a moving truck and for the first time ever living in an apartment by myself. As much as change can be scary, I am very excited for it.

As of August, I had officially been living in LA for 2 years. It has also been 5 years since I first came out here for my first internship. Although it feels like forever ago that Katie and I arrived with no place to live as we desperately moved into the only apartment that accepted us. We would job search for hours as we sat in our furniture-less apartment, dreaming of the days when we would finally both have it together enough to buy a matching plate set. For anyone planning on moving to a city with no job or place to live, it is an obvious risk, but well worth it. I can safely say, we both have beds, real dressers, couches, and 3 chairs (non-matching, but at least there are more than 2).  More importantly we both have jobs, friends, connections and lives out here. Now, it only makes leaving harder. The more roots I have stuck in the ground, the harder they become to unwind. Although I have so many good things ahead in Birmingham, each time I leave a new city, it only becomes harder.

Over the past two years, I have not only grown my career and writing, but I have also grown so much as a person. I learned how to fend for myself more than I ever had to college. So much has happened, but there is still so much I feel that I need to do. I’ve been out here for two year and never even hiked to the Hollywood sign. It’s strange how you always tell yourself you are going to do all these things in your new city, and you don’t realize until you are packing up your things, that the list you made is only half checked off. It is cool to look back and think of all the things I did that weren’t even on the check list to begin with. Those are always my favorite memories.

Some like to call this part of life “starting over.” I hate to use the phrase because it implies I am ending everything I just had. Like with each move in life, all the past moves have stayed with me and made me into the person I am today. We are never truly starting over, as everything in our past continues to push us forward.

Now I am typing up my thoughts as I sit in my favorite coffee shop in North Hollywood. The same coffee shop where I wrote “Lady Parts,” and spent countless hours writing new stories and sketches. Too bad my half-filled punch card won’t be as valuable down south, unless someone wants to come eat a crap ton of pie with me before I leave LA. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Thank you to everyone I met out here in Los Angeles. From work, classes, and flag football, it has been quite a ride. I have made some amazing connections and learned more than I could have possibly imagined.

I am spending my last weekend in LA packing up, tying up loose ends, and trying to fit in as many goodbyes as possible. On Wednesday I leave for a small vacation to Vancouver with Chad. When I return, I work my last week at Encore, have the movers pick up my things, and leave that Sunday to start my road trip to Alabama (Roll Tide). Of course, more updates to come as I journey to Vancouver and drive cross country with my mom.

Until then, please enjoy this photo of us enjoying the Good Burger Pop Up (I’m a dude, you’re a dude, we’re all dudes)…

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Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger

The Circle of Lady Parts

It has been a whirlwind of a month. Ups and downs. Lows and highs. It’s almost as if I’m doing this thing called life.

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Watching the run through of the table read and taking notes

June marked my two-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. For those of you who do not know, I purchased a one-way ticket to LA with no job or place to live once I was cleared from my doctor.

I always get questions about life in LA and the glamorous world of Hollywood. Well, not to burst your bubble, but it isn’t just celebrity sightings and brunch every day. Los Angeles is just like any other city. There are good parts. There are bad parts. It is not any more glamorous than anywhere else I have lived. Maybe people have visions of me driving down palm tree lined streets in my fancy car (I did get an electric car though so maybe that makes me more LA).  Everyone wants to believe that in LA everything is amazing, but it’s like any other place. I live in a decent apartment, go to work, come home, and repeat. Stuck in the same never-ending cycle you are, opening the same door repeatedly even though you know where it leads.

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Here is a picture of Cali girl to lighten the mood since the first paragraphs are a bit much. Also she is adorable!

I believe we live life in circles. Highs turning into lows turning back into highs. On Saturday I literally and figuratively came full circle on a journey that started from as young as I can remember. Not to say that the circle or journey is complete, but it made a significant upturn.

For those who may not know me or have not read any prior blog posts, I had been struggling with female health issues for a long time. I had no idea I was even struggling with them until I was old enough to understand what was wrong. Flash forward to the year after college graduation (May 2016). I moved home and immediately got surgery with a 6 weeks minimum bed rest period. I learned so much through the experience, but the biggest thing was confidence to speak out on female health care in hopes that I can make someone else’s experience better than mine. I wrote the blog post, “Bonnie’s Bed Post,” exactly three years ago about the surgery and received a lot of great feedback. What made me the happiest was people reaching out to me after reading the post. People either were curious enough to want to learn and education themselves on the topic or people were also struggling and happy to see someone talking about it. All we want as human beings is to not feel alone. When you are going through a health issue that is marked as taboo, or has little research, it can feel as if you are isolated from everyone else. All I would have wanted was to know someone else who made it through. Someone to talk to. Someone to relate to.

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They made a poster for the table read and let me keep it!

I figured what better way to relate to not just women dealing with these issues, but to everyone around the world, than a TV comedy. The point is not just to talk about women’s issues, but to do it in a way, that starts a conversation, and leaves room for a couple laughs. I set out on a journey to LA for the UCLA Professional Program for TV Comedy Writing (found out I got in a week after buying the one-way flight, so that worked out), and learned not only about screenwriting, but how to turn my personal stories into something that everyone could relate to.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2018. I graduated the UCLA program with a script titled, “Lady Parts.” I continued working on it after the program and started submitting to contests in hopes it would gain some attention. I kept taking the feedback from all the rejections and continued re-working the script. Fast forward again to July 2019. I’m at home watching the Bachelorette while eating a Trader Joe’s microwave chicken pot pie (actually really tasty), when my phone dings. I got an email. I won? I WON? My script was the 2019 grand prize winner for the ISA’s Table Read My Screenplay Hollywood.

Now here is where the story gets hard for people. Lots of people assumed that suddenly I would quit my job and that agents, managers, and producers would be calling me all day. I hate to tell you, but my phone was quiet. Just because you win a competition, does not mean Netflix is calling you asking to make your TV show for millions of dollars. It is just not how it works. Again, I was sitting home watching the Bachelorette and not even as it aired because I’m too poor for cable. I’m sure you hear those Hollywood stories of actors getting their big break when they only have $1 left to their name. Those stories are true for a reason. Things don’t just happen out here, you must make them happen for yourself (a little luck never hurts either).

By winning the contest, my script had a live table read by professional actors and actresses which was directed by a professional director. I also got free entry to the Hollywood Pitch Festival. This all took place the Lowe’s Hotel in Hollywood. I want to thank ISA, the actors and actresses, and the director for taking the time to bring my story to life. It was pleasure getting to work with such talent!

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Shout out to my new friend Luke, who I met at the pitch festival. He pitched my script even when I wasn’t there!

The pitch festival was a weekend long event, but since we were doing a run-through of the table read, I only attended part of it. The festival had a big room lined with tables. Each table hosted an agent, manager, or producer/production company, waiting to hear your pitch. The tables all switched out every 2 hours for 3 days straight. You only had 5 minutes at each table. Also, you had to make reservations ahead of time for certain individuals, otherwise you were in the standby line and paired with whoever was open at the time. This could be good or bad depending on what you are pitching. For example, my TV female comedy may not be what the horror sci-fi feature agents are looking for. No matter whose table you were at, you never know what will intrigue them and it is always great practice.

The pitch festival felt like boarding a train at a crowded station. Every 5 minutes someone would yell the time and groups of pitchers would rush through the door trying anything to get their script in the right hands. It was a constant frenzy of yelling, running, and like most things waiting in line.

The most exciting part of the whole competition was winning the table read. I spent the afternoon working with the director and actors doing read throughs. It was my first time working with a director on something I had written. For people who don’t write, imagine your personal journal being written aloud by actors. For me, it is completely terrifying. What if people don’t like what you have to say? What if people don’t laugh? I think the greatest thing that happened was watching the actors and directors play certain roles or say certain lines differently then how I imagined. Just because I imagined a certain scene a specific way, it will come across differently to everyone reading it. The experience was invaluable.

It came time for the actual table. It was my first time having the script read aloud to a group other than my UCLA workshop class back in 2018. I was so nervous, I could barely breathe. Not to mention my dad was right behind me and the first scene, well it was a sex scene. I sat in the front row, unable to see the audience’s reactions. As the reading continued, I was ecstatic to hear laughter. For me it just sounded like there was a laugh track playing, but that means I accomplished my comedy goals. There is a video of the live table read and once I have it I can send to anyone who is interested.

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Luckily my dad happened to be in the LA area for business and was able to attend the table read. Thank you for always supporting me!

After the reading we all celebrated at Cabo Wabo next door to the hotel. Of course, people were saying congrats and complimenting the writing, but what got me most excited was having people, especially men, come up and ask questions about female health care and sexuality. I got a lot of comments like “I had no idea women went through all that,” or “I had no idea this was even an issue.” For these people, I got the conversation started. Even if a few people walk away with a new outlook on female health care and sexuality, then I have done my job.

This brings me back to the idea of having the script sold, or having agents calling me all day. Everyone keeps asking what are you going to do next? What are the next steps? Let me tell you very simply, I do not know. As I mentioned in my earlier blog posts this year, I was going to make this year about my own happiness. I was going to make decisions that made me happy. You know what made me happy? Getting a conversation started. Watching people laugh at a script I’ve been planning and working on for 2 years. Writing a script that men and women can relate to. So, what if the script isn’t being made into a Netflix series this year? It doesn’t mean it will never happen. It just means there is a time and place for everything. For me, this was all a personal win. I struggled so hard after all my health issues to finally come to terms with them. To finally feel like I was in a place to share my story and write about it. To now have it out in the open and have it read aloud to strangers is more of a win than I could have ever asked for. I owe a big thank you to everyone at ISA who helped to put the table read together as well as my support system at home for encouraging me to continue writing every day.

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I was also able to visit Chad and family in Orlando. I got to see my one true love Pluto (sorry Chad).

As I said earlier it is a series of never-ending circles. Circles of ups and downs, and I have no idea what is going to happen next. All I know is that everything will work out how it is supposed to happen.

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me riding a mechanical bull, except it is a taco…

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Save a horse, ride a taco

For Those Who Called Me Crazy…Well, I’m Still Crazy

Hello friends and family! I am sorry it has taken me so long to crank out another blog post, but as per usual life has been hectic the past couple months. The last I had written on here, I was on a family vacation to Jamaica, but now I find myself trying to keep up with work, classes, travel, and social life (well I am trying to have a social life).

I started taking sketch comedy classes at Upright Citizens Brigade. You may remember I took a class there when I first moved to LA. After I finished up UCLA, I decided that I wanted to continue taking sketch classes and signed up for level 2. Give me a couple weeks and I’ll be writing for SNL of course. The cool part about the theater is that they let you put on your own shows, granted you bring your own actors and props. I was talking with some of my classmates and hopefully we can all get together and plan a show to perform using our sketches from class. Once we have a date, I’ll send an invite on Facebook if anyone is interested in coming to watch.

As most of you know I have been working a night shift (4pm-midnight) for the past year at my current job. I am happy to announce that I will no longer be on the total night shift starting this week, and that I will slowly shift back to day time. Although I will miss sleeping in, I am so happy to have my nights free.

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Last week I flew home and surprised my dad for his birthday. Also got to surprise some cousins int he process.

Working nights for a year taught me a great deal about being alone. As an extrovert, spending my morning hours with no one to talk to and no one to physically see, could leave me feeling depressed. I ended up deleting Snapchat, and almost deleting Instagram, because seeing my friends having fun, while I was at work, was not in any way good for my mental health. It made me realize how much we try to show we are having fun and how perfect we are to our friends and family, but it is all just a façade. I could send pictures of my mornings and with the right caption, it could suddenly feel as if everything is perfect. As a fellow millennial I am guilty of it myself, but I am trying not to believe that everyone around me is living perfect lives. I wanted to get out of my rut and feeling sorry for myself. I got off my phone and delved back into writing. One of the only places I don’t put on a mask and try to pour myself into every character I write.

The craziest part of this whole LA adventure is that I am finally lapping myself. During my first year here, everything was so new. For example, Spring came around, and it was my first Passover and Easter in LA. When Saint Patrick’s Day came last year, it was my first ever in LA. I watched as the months passed and could not believe how much was changing with each one of them. I talked about this in my past blog, but I am fascinated with the way we as humans measure time and monumental occasions.

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There was a super-bloom across California. If you want to live in a Bob Ross painting, then this is the place for you! Although, I still feel like it looks like Cheeto dust.

Instead of going on a rant about time again, I wanted to focus on self-worth. As the months of 2019 crept along, I found that I was continuing my same patterns, focusing on where I thought I should be and not where I wanted to be. At 25 years old, there are so many benchmarks you feel like you have to hit. We are constantly being told to show that we are perfect, when in fact we are all exactly where we need to be. What it all boiled down to was that I did not have the confidence I thought I had in myself. It did not matter what benchmark I had hit, or if it had made everyone like my recent post, this year I really started to hone in on whether it felt like a benchmark to me? Was this something I really wanted?

I took to heart a lot of comments I had on my earlier post about turning 25. I realized that change doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes months, or probably the whole year to figure it out. My dad had given me the advice to continue doing what I love.

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We beat the boys in the Escape Room! 

Along with the sketch comedy writing courses, I stuck with the flag football on Saturdays. I love meeting new people and having an excuse to run around on the beach (and also an excuse to grab a Bloody Mary afterwards).

As of yesterday, I started working out again and may even go to a yoga class once a week. I don’t have any equipment or money to join a gym, so I follow along to videos on my laptop, while using wine bottles as the weights. For heavy weights I use handles or sometimes cartons of milk.

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A quick visit to the Oldest Brewery in America. 

Also, I chopped off my hair and I’m in love with it again. For the first time, I didn’t sit there and think about what other people would say if I cut all my hair and styled it a certain way. It was a c’est la vie moment! All that’s left in my eat, prey, love adventure is to book a trip to Europe (but my bank account says otherwise).

When I first said I was buying a one-way flight to LA with no place to live and no job, everyone called me crazy. Although, it was the happiest I had been in a long time. It felt like I was finally making a move in the right direction. To this day, I am sure people still think buying a one-way flight is a crazy decision, but I am starting to realize we should relish the crazy. The crazy is what makes you happy. The crazy is what drives you to reach your dreams. The crazy is what stops you from becoming mundane. So after almost two years out in LA, yes, I am in fact still crazy and it seems to be working out just fine. I hope to stay crazy, because I am finding that in my craziest moments, is when I truly accomplish what I want.

Lastly, Chad adopted a puppy named Cali. She is already the love of my life. Until next time, please enjoy these adorable puppy photos…

Jamaica (All Roads Lead to a Gift Shop)

It has been a bit since my last post, but I wanted to share some stories from my latest journey to Jamaica with my family. We spent 7 days in the Runaway Bay area. To get the all-inclusive deal (flights included in the price) we had to pick one city to depart from and of course everyone, but me lives in Philly. Lucky me had to fly an extra 5 hours both ways just to use the all-inclusive deal.

The flight attendant on my first flight, LAX to PHL, was the greatest. Not to mention I got a new plane with the screens and chargers. As drink service came around I ordered a simple coffee. She asked if I wanted something more fun. I asked her what would be more fun. She slipped me a mini Bailey’s coffee and some cookies. Then on the second time around, without even asking, she had a coffee with a Bailey’s already mixed in, waiting at my seat, as I went to the bathroom. It was truly amazing until my tipsy self went to terminal A East instead of A West and could not find my parent’s car.

The next morning, we flew to Jamaica and this time the flight did not even include a free beverage or water. We arrived at the resort and waited to be checked in. It was almost like a mini orientation. You must learn the map, eating times, rules, etc. The resort has a dining hall, open for every meal, but for three dinners, you can go to the special restaurants. Since we were jet lag we wanted to call it early and head to bed.

We got in the elevator and midway to the next floor up it stops. We checked to see if maybe we were there. My dad pried open the doors only to see concrete. Then the elevator dropped. The lights went out. We all screamed. The elevator stopped dropping. I tried to push the call button. We heard a women’s voice, but apparently, she could not hear us. The elevator jolted back to life after a minute and let us off on our floor. We ran out. I called the front desk from my room to warn them of the problem. The girl said she kept seeing the help button but could not hear us. She also told us we had to hold down the button to talk. I checked over and over again, but there was nothing to indicate that you had to hold the button down. Glad to know if there was an actual emergency we would have been stuck in there with no help. I do not want to harp on the elevator, but it was terrifying. We did not ride the elevator at all during the rest of our stay at the resort (for good reason). It is probably best for our health to take the stairs.

Another problem was the limited chairs at the pool areas. Our first morning, we slept in a bit, only to find that there was not one open chair by 8am. Apparently guests were waking up around 5am to start claiming chairs around the pool. If this does not make you lose faith in humanity, we had to take turns watching chairs to make sure they were not stolen. Soon we became part of the problem, also waking up early to claim 4 chairs. Again, I do not want to harp on the bad, since it was all minor compared to all the amazing moments of our trip.

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Before the sunburn

On Tuesday, we took a half day trip to Dunn’s River Falls, a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios. The falls are about 180 feet high and 600 feet long. They run upwards like a giant natural stairway. You can climb up the falls by yourself, but like most tourists, we had a tour guide take us and a group up. I had my GoPro strapped to my chest. I would not suggest bringing anything on the falls that you do not plan to lose. Although it was strapped on, when I slid down a rock, the pressure of the water made the camera pop out of my strap. I really thought it was gone forever, till one of the tour guides found the camera with his foot a minute later. It was a miracle. Plus, now I have a very long experimental video of my GoPro sadly tumbling on rocks. With the right music overlaying it, it could be quite deep.

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When I travel, I find that all roads lead to a gift shop. No matter, the tour, the country, or the hotel, all roads lead to a gift shop, full of chockskis, that I’ll end of throwing out years later after being stuffed in my junk drawer. When we were trying to get back to our bus from the Dunn’s River Falls tour, we had to go through blocks of gift stores and sellers constantly trying to pull us in. It was the like the scene in SpongeBob, where they have to make it through the perfume department. If you do not know the reference, please watch the first three season of SpongeBob on Amazon Prime and educate yourself.

“The only way out, is through the perfume department.”

On Wednesday, my mom and I woke up early for a sunrise yoga class. It was held in the marriage pavilion, which was nice and quiet. The class was a small group, led by instructor Owen. Owen was incredible and also led our morning stretch class on Friday. When we missed the morning stretch class on Saturday, he found my mom and I at the pool and offered a private lesson. He was a great teacher and I will miss his classes a lot. He also believes that one day I may be able to touch my toes.

Since my family is as white as can be, we ran out of sunscreen by day 3. We went to the hotel store to buy another tube, only to find that the sunscreens ranged in price from $20-$40. Smart business moves on their part, because we had to buy at least two more tubes to survive the week without sun rash.

We also met some amazing people around the pool and beach areas. Typically, people tend to be a lot nicer on vacation, which is always a plus.

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Living our best life

The next day we went on a Segway tour of the surrounding area of the resort. The guide put on knee pads, elbow pads, and giant helmets. From the picture you see below, you can tell my family looked the coolest and in no way like the biggest dorks on the planet. The tour was a lot of fun (only scary to ride over speed bumps). Part of the tour included a stop at a beach bar for a drink and history lesson.

First, we talked about the flag and its meaning The flag was adopted on August 6th, 1962, the original Jamaican Independence Day, after the country gained independence from the British protected Federation of the West Indies. Gold represents the wealth of the country and the sunshine, and green represents the vegetation on the island. A lot of people, including myself at first, think the black stands for the people, but there is a deeper meaning. Black reflects the strength and creativity of the people which has allowed them to overcome the odds.

The resort was located in Runaway Bay, on the northern coast. It is slightly east of Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus landed (DID NOT DISCOVER SHIT – JUST STOLE IT cough, cough) in 1494. The original, native settlers of the land were the Arawaks. The Spanish explorers eventually overpowered the land and took the Arawaks as their slaves. The name Runaway Bay derives from its having been an escape route for the runaway slaves.

As we see the cycle of history repeating itself, Jamaica is captured by the English from Spain and made into an English colony in 1655. It was not until 1962 that Jamaica became independent. Our tour guide tells us that the Jamaican economy took a giant hit that they have yet to recover from. For example, a house that is worth millions of Jamaican dollars, is about $300,000 American dollars. It is a huge jump. He also mentions corruption in the governments. Of course, please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Just wanted to share some the history I learned along the way. It’s always important to know about the country you are visiting and try to learn something every day.

As many of you know, I still look like I am 14 years old (even though I am a 25). Let’s add on the fact that I was constantly with my parents during this trip. Everyone at the resort assumed my age and either would talk down to me or not serve me alcohol without my parent’s permission. PSA – please people do not assume age and talk to everyone like an adult. Trust me I wish I was 14 and enjoying my vacation, but instead I am stressed about taking out extra money to get the dental PPO plan. Trust me, adulting sucks.

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Pretending to give a Bachelor monologue about how the girls are not here for the right reasons

On Friday night we went to the luminous lagoon. The lagoon stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny, in the town of Falmouth. During the day it seems like a typical lagoon, but at night it is the sight of a natural phenomenon. The water is home to millions of micro-organisms, including the dinoflagellates. When these organisms are disturbed in the water, either by a human, fish, boat, or any moving object, they glow light blue for a second, almost like a firefly. The luminous lagoon is one of four places in the world where you can witness the phenomenon, but the only place you can experience it year-round. In order to see the glow, you have to take a boat out on the lagoon at night. You could see the outline of fish and a glow constantly surrounding the boat.

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Sparkle, Sparkle

We docked and had the option to swim in the lagoon. At first, I was thinking there is no way in hell I am jumping into murky waters in the pitch darkness. Let’s be real, some creature is going to drag me to the depths of hell. I know this is hyperbole, but I have seen the movies. I know what happens when you can’t see what’s in the water. I decided to be brave and go for it. Luckily the water was only 4 feet deep, so it was not as scary as I thought. It was truly an amazing experience that I cannot even describe. As you moved your hands to swim, the blue glow would follow, as if you had super powers. As you lifted your hands from the water, they would sparkle blue for a second. Sadly because of the lighting, it was impossible to take photos of it with my phone or GoPro, so we had to buy the photos from the tour guide, which do not give it justice. Of course, as it is time to swim back to the boat, I felt something rub up against my arm and leg. Then it started to sting. I was stung by a moon jellyfish. My immediate thought was oh no, someone is going to have to pee on me. I got onto the boat, and the workers told me it was harmless and the sting would go away on its own. They sprayed me with vinegar (no one peed on me thankfully because I have been there before in Israel). After a couple hours the sting went away (I was partially right about diving into murky waters at night though).

Sadly, we only had one more day left at the resort before flying back. We decided to just relax for the last day and enjoy. We flew back to Philadelphia on Sunday early morning. I got crab fries from Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Philly before returning to the airport for my flight back to LAX.

Now it is back to work and next week I will start a sketch comedy writing class in my non-existent free time. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of some interesting “wooden” souvenirs…

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Can you find the wooden object?

The Quarter Life Crisis

As with any birthday over 21 years old, there is less to look forward to and more responsibility and pressures added on about what that age signifies in our life. I usually get the same question from friends and family: When you were younger, what did you think you would be doing at your age now? I turned 25 yesterday, so the question really is when I was younger, what did I think I’d be doing at 25. For myself, and I am sure for many others, the answer is far off from reality depending on how young I was when I made these assumptions.

At first, I thought about my career. I always wanted to move to Los Angeles. Originally, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, and at 18 I thought I’d be a reporter on NBC or some big network. Then of course college happened and life happened after. For some reason I thought that people who are 25 are making plenty of money and definitely have their stuff together. I had no idea that I’d be sleeping on an air mattress for 3 years and purchase my first bed frame and dresser at the age of 25. If you had told me that at 18 I think I would have been really scared.

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Birthday brunch with the family

Second, I pondered on my love life. When I was younger I thought 25 was so old because that’s the age when people get married and have kids. I was completely off my rocker about this one. Not to say that I thought I’d be having kids, but maybe I imagined I’d be married with a house. I don’t know what kind of imaginary world I was in where journalism was paying the big bucks, but I was in it. Looking at it now, I can’t even imagine being in that place now. I mean I feel like I can’t buy my first bed and get married within the same year. That is crazy talk! Baby steps!

Lastly, I thought about all the other stuff that I was supposed to have by age 25. I did start my 401K this year and started to get health/dental insurance. I qualified for my first credit card and increased my credit score. On a side note, this is the first year I think I understand how credit scores work. Somehow, I had it in my head that I’d have a fancy apartment or house decorated to look like Anthropology stores with a dishwasher and in unit laundry with two dogs I could totally afford. In my head it was predetermined that all these things needed to be accounted for at age 25.

The only thing I seemed to let go by the wayside was my measurement of happiness. I had gone off about all of these things I imagined my life to be like by 25 based off what society and my peers claimed should be my goals. I never took a step back to think if these goals aligned with the goals that would be in my best interest and happiness. When I was younger had I hoped that I would be happy and fulfilled? It is not that I do not feel happy or fulfilled in this moment, but for me it was not the measurement of success and I believe it holds true for many others. Although, I still think a dishwasher and Dyson V10 cordless vacuum could change my outlook on life.

For some reason as human beings, when the Earth completes another rotation around the sun, we decide to wear glittery dresses, drink excessive champagne (okay there is never a reason not to drink excessive champagne and wear glittery dresses), and countdown to the New Year. We also like to take this time to reflect on the past year. We gather all of our accomplishments or disappointments and try to make goals that will make the next year better. It did not matter that this revolution happened, in our minds, it was the perfect amount of time to use to measure the meaning of life. Lucky for me, my birthday lands a couple days before the new year, meaning as the Earth completes a revolution around the sun, I, myself have also completed another revolution. Thus, I am left getting lost in my reflections about the past, especially as I hit a quarter century. Now I sit in an airport terminal, awaiting to board my delayed Frontier flight to Orlando, thinking how I got here and what it all means.

What is important? Is dental insurance important? After having cavities in all four of my wisdom teeth then getting them all removed after going to the dentist for the first time in 3 years – yes, yes, it is. But, is where I am at, at 25 and this new year, compared to what others deem as the standard, the important measurement of a revolution around the sun? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about the year in terms of health and happiness. Did I do things that made me happy? Did I do things with my best interest at heart? Did I do things only to appease everyone around me, while forgetting about my own needs? Is this where I want to be at 25 and not some life I imagined I needed to have at 25? Would a Dyson V10 make me happy? (yes, it would – someone please help me buy one)

I am now a quarter of a century old and I feel fine. Everything is fine. This year I may cut my hair and go on a random trip to Europe because I can’t not have a quarter life crisis, but I truly am fine. Here’s to another revolution around the sun and a happy and healthy new year!

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me getting overjoyed to be in the presence of Pluto at Disneyland…

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I swear I am 25 years old and not 5 years old. Only at heart.

Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka…oh deer!

After Mount Fuji we were off to Kyoto. Remember we had just woke up at 2am, climbed to the summit of Mount Fuji for sunrise and climbed all the way back down before making the trek to Kyoto.

We had originally found a bus we were going to take to save time. In order to take trains, you have to go back to Tokyo and then go to Kyoto. If you look at a map, this does not make much sense. We got on the wrong bus and somehow ended up at Thomas the Train land theme park. The theme park is real. They have an entire theme park, full of Thomas the Train themed roller coasters. The metro line there is even filled with Thomas the train decorations. In order to get back to the station we came from (go back the other way) we had to cross the theme park. The workers were nice enough to let us cross the park without purchasing a theme park ticket. We marched with our full backpacks across Thomas land, back to the original metro station, only to end up going back to Tokyo in order to route to Kyoto. Turns out it is the faster way in the end.

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Finally being short has its advantages…I did not have to duck at all in Japan

We stayed in our first Ryokan in Kyoto. Ryokan’s are traditional Japanese guest inns that have existed since the 8th century. The rooms typically have tatami-matted rooms, communal baths and areas where you may wear your yukata around. Yukatas are like kimonos, typically made of cotton, almost like a robe. The room came with instructions on how to set up our bed and how to put on our yukatas. There was also a table and pillows to drink matcha green tea. If only I could wear that yukata everywhere. It was so comfortable and I just want to wear it to work.

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Chilling in some yakatas
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The instructions were quite simple

The other place we stayed in Kyoto was a hot spring hotel. Japan is known for their natural hot springs, which they pump up to the ground into bath houses. Typically bath houses are split between genders, but we splurged to have a private one in the room, just so we could experience it together. There is a sink next to the bath because you  must wash yourself off before getting into the hot spring. You are considered dirty and why would you want to sit in a tub of your dirt? It really does make sense.

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The best night of my life

Kyoto had some of my favorite sights. We went to the Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji), which is a Zen Buddhist temple and a National Special Historic Site. After we went to the Red Gate (Fushimi Inari Taisha). Inari is actually the god of rice, but traditionally Inari is also worshiped as the patron of business. Fun fact: Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business. You may recognize the site from it’s many popular red gates. Additionally we went to the Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama Bamboo Grove), which is a natural forest full of bamboo (as the name suggests).

After two days in Kyoto we were headed to a small stopover in Nara before headed to Osaka. Our main reason for going to Nara was the Nara Deer Park. The park is home to over 1,200 freely roaming wild deer over 1,240 acres. The deer here are friendly. You can actually pet and feed them (To be honest they don’t really approach you unless you have food). The deer are everywhere in town, simply roaming the streets among the people.

On a side note, Nara was the first town who had soap and hand driers in their bathrooms. Shout out to Nara!

On a different side note, there are no trash cans anywhere in Japan. There are signs everywhere asking you to take your trash home with you. For sure the cities looked cleaner, but also it was a bit annoying when you were given street food and then could not do anything with what you were given. Anyways just a strange thing I noticed.

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Oh deer, this is bus is taking forever

Next we were off to Osaka. We stayed in our first Air BnB type place there. The original plan was to explore Osaka for the day and then head back to Tokyo to finish seeing some sites we could not fit in before flying out. Unfortunately we received news of the typhoon Jebi that morning and had to switch our flight last minute. We headed back for Tokyo for one last night out and then we were going to fly back to LAX the next day.

The rest of our adventure in Tokyo is in the first Japan blog (since I divided up by city) if you want to know more. It was very upsetting to have our dream trip cut short, especially since we had planned to do so many more things in Osaka and Tokyo. We were extremely lucky to get out in time because the storm was devastating and the worst typhoon in 25 years. I hope anyone in the area’s affected is okay and that anyone else traveling was able to make it home safely.

We enjoyed our time in Japan so much that we have already talked about another trip soon. It was an amazing experience and I am happy to have had the opportunity to visit!

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of us enjoying crab on a stick and tea flavored ice cream…

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Hiking Mount Fuji in Running Shoes

After Tokyo we headed to Mount Fuji. We had booked a hostel in a town nearby to the base of the mountain, but had nothing planned for the next two days accommodation wise.

We also learned that there is no easy way to get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. I thought there might be a direct train or at least a specified way, but instead we spent hours trying to figure out train lines. We would get on a train headed the right direction and then suddenly it would start heading the wrong way. We would get off the train and get on going the other way, but alas would always get back to our starting point. It was one of the most frustrating situations, especially because I speak no Japanese and could not ask for help. The good news is that we made it to the hostel.

This hostel was one of my favorites, mainly because they had free endless hard boiled eggs and bread. I am not sure what type of bread this was, but it is thick cut and everywhere is Japan. It was great bread.

Before I go on an entire post about great bread, I’ll get into the actual hike. Originally the plan was to hike up and down the mountain in a day and then head to Kyoto. There is a bus in town that takes you directly to the 5th station (I’ll explain the stations in a bit) in about an hour. By the time we reached the 5th station it was noon. The stations were distance markers that had bathrooms, snacks and seats. The 5th station is the last station reachable by bus. The rest required you to hike up. All the stations also had inns you could stay at for the night. Reservations for the inns are required, but they also take walk-ins. Obviously the higher you go up, the harder it is to get a spot in the mountain huts.

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Mountain Huts as you go up the stations

From the 5th station to the summit is roughly 6 km. When we saw that we thought it would be no problem. Hike up and down. Piece of cake. Turns out it took us 4-5 hours just to reach the 7th station. There are 9 stations total before reaching the top. A worker at the 7th station who was serving us ramen (yes you can order ramen on top of Fuji) let us know that the last bus left at 21:00 sharp. This meant we had only two options:

  1. Immediately climb down from where we were and hope to make it to the 5th station before sundown and before the last bus departs and head onto Kyoto. This would mean not reaching the summit.
  2. Continue to climb, hope that there is space for 2 in one of the mountain inns around the 8th station, stay overnight and climb to the summit in the morning with nothing but the items on our back.

Keep in mind that we had thought this would be a one day hike. All we had were our day-pack backpacks, while majority of our things were being held at the hostel. The contents of mine consisted of a rain coat, headband, water bottle, wallet, and a baseball cap. I had no change of clothes or toiletries. Plus I got my period while hiking up the mountain and had no pads or tampons (or change of underwear).  Also it was extremely hot and humid during the day, but once you reach the higher altitudes, it gets close to freezing. We had no layers or jackets.

BUT…WE ARE NOT QUITTERS! We had come all the way to Mount Fuji and by God we were not going to leave without making it to the top.

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If I kept singing this, I could focus less on my sciatica pain

With our no traction Nike running shoes, we managed to make it to the 8th station. We were lucky enough to meet another American couple who gave me pads and Advil. Also they were staying at a mountain hut on the 8th station that had enough room to let us stay last minute. LIFE SAVERS!

Although the distance between the stations got shorter, they started to take more time as the hike became steeper and altitude increased. Also to be honest I don’t think my sciatica pain and idiopathic scoliosis helped. On top of all this, there were so many tour groups hiking through, that there would be traffic on the narrow paths. It was sometimes worse that the 101 or the 405 during the morning commute.

We made it to our mountain hut at the 8th station right before sundown. It was actually insane because even at this point in the climb you were among the clouds. When you looked off into the distance it looked like you were staring out of a plane window.

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Taken right outside our mountain hut at sundown

The mountain hut was not really an inn, but rather racks of wooden planks, stuffed with sleeping bags. It honestly looked like the barracks inside, but a step up. We were given two spots that were so tiny you had to sleep on your side to fit. The pillows provided were not pillows, but sacks of plastic beads wrapped in plastic. Needless to say we did not get any sleep.

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Please take note of the plastic pillow

You had a choice between the 2am wake up call room, or the 8am wake up call room. We chose the 2am room since we were not sleeping and we wanted to see the sunrise at the summit, meaning we would need to start hiking up by 3am latest.

On a side note, none of the bathrooms on the mountain had soap or towels. It was literally hole in the ground toilets and sometimes sinks. They also wanted you to pay 200 yen each time you used the toilet. There actually was not soap or towels in most public bathrooms in Japan, especially at the major tourist sites. Do people here not use soap? Was I supposed to bring my own? My OCD-self carried around hand sanitizer everywhere anyways, but still!

At 2am we received our wake up call, otherwise known as abruptly turning on the lights. I was wide awake anyways. Let’s be real, in a room of 100 people, there are bound to be a couple snorers and sleeping bag stealers.

We luckily were able to borrow flashlights for the trek up. It was amazing to look down and see the city lights. Also when looking up you could see a path of light snaking their way up to the summit as hundreds of other idiots also hiked to the summit at 2am.

After 4 hours of hiking we finally reached the summit. The sunrise was in 10 minutes and we scurried to find a place to watch. The last 4 hours were the worst, not only because of the altitude, but the cold. All I had on was a thin pair of leggings, a shirt with a rain jacket over and my baseball cap. The mountain inn had provided surgical masks for anyone sick, but instead we wore them for heat. Plus my running shoes were not doing my ankles or knees any favors as we scaled up the last parts. My hands were shaking so much I could barely take a photo of the sun rising. It was quite beautiful though. At the highest point there is a small wooden shrine that you can walk to.

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Can you tell we are freezing? Also take note of our solid footwear choices.

Next we hit up the gift shop on top of the mountain, which was actually quite disappointing. After all our struggles, I was ready to spend money on some sick souvenirs, but instead only ended up with a key chain. I guess I should have figured the top of the mountain would not be the easiest place to bring souvenirs.

Then we started the trek down. I actually thought the way down was harder than the way up. The decline was steep and snaked around the mountain. The path itself was covered in rocks making the ground slippery. I fell on my butt pretty much every turn. Also we were not in hiking boots, so my foot would slide with every step. My knees and toes felt like I was 90 years old. Most importantly, we finished the hike and made it down around lunch time.

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We made it to the top of the world!
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I now hate rocks

I am not sure I would suggest the hike to anyone unless you come prepared. You should be wearing hiking boots, pack for extremes in both hot and cold, as well as plan your accommodations beforehand. Also, bring snacks. They are expensive and cash only only the mountain. Not going to lie the expensive snickers bars we purchased at the 6th station saved my soul.

 

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of the most advanced train toilet with a button that automatically lowers the seat. This could save couples across the globe.

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My Bonnie lies over the ocean…and other parts of geography you can travel over!

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