A City Cat Moves South

When I first moved to New York City, I wish I had done a few things. The first is I wish I had kept a journal of all the details that felt new upon moving to the city for the first time. I remember thinking I had grown up in multi-cultural areas like Miami and Orlando but nothing compared to the exposure I had to other languages and cultures simply through riding the subway to and from work. I also wish I had kept an obsessive log of all the restaurants I dined in throughout my 5 years in the city. If anyone asks, I have all of 5 fail-safe restaurants off the top of my mind to recommend.

I’ve been back in Orlando 17 days.

I moved down here on somewhat of a sabbatical under the assumption that I’d just stay with a friend, with no real plans other than to hit the springs, rejuvenate and give myself a month to apply to jobs. Since then, it looks like I’m starting a job opportunity I could not pass up on the 26th, making my time in Florida much longer than originally planned. I suppose I knew there was a chance of that when I bought a one-way ticket for $78 bucks.

Moving back to Florida has not been without it’s own series of culture shock. Here’s a look at a few of the #justsouthernthings (or #justsuburbanthings?) I’m still grappling to get used to again.

1. The sheer size of everything.
New York City is super compact. Like, I once had a friend whose kitchen you had to shuffle into sideways. Needless to say, the kitchen occupied one person at a time. Can you just imagine? That’s like building a kitchenette in one of those closets that hold ironing boards. Well, it happened. On the Upper West Side.

Meanwhile in Florida, I saw an outdoor shopping mall with a sign for Planet Smoothie so I pulled in, parked, got out of the car and just stared at the sheer size of the shopping mall. Where was this place? I saw a sign for it. Now, getting to it was it’s own challenge. It turned out to be behind the strip of businesses I had parked in front of, some 200 yards away. The open sky bearing down over the asphalt where Planet Smoothie remained in the distance made me feel so insignificantly small. Maybe that’s why New Yorkers feel so important, because everything is at hand and we feel like giants in the intimate corners of our restaurants and bars. Or the dorm-room size apartments we pay $1600/month for.

2. If you don’t have a car, you’re out of luck.
I have not owned a car in 7 years. Before moving to New York City, my life was compactly organized within a 5-mile radius of Winter Park. That’s when I paid $200/month in rent and had a front porch, a backyard full of rose bushes and a full-size garage. That we used for storage. I’m currently using my 17-year-old brother’s 2003 Honda Civic until I get my own but after doing some research on public transportation in Orlando, it would take you nearly 2 hours of transfers and waiting (in the Florida sun or rain, mind you) to get all of 5 miles North. The public transportation system here is atrocious. Even with a system as broken as the one in this city, 29 million passengers used public transportation services last year. The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, or LYNX as it’s more commonly known, has an operating budget of $127,045,444. Compare that to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority budget of 14.6 billion, servicing 1.7 billion New York commuters in 2015 alone.

3. Everything is so clean.
This point may only be magnified by the fact that New York City is famous for being so dirty. Between the subway stations that haven’t been power-washed since the 1940’s and the growing rat population, suffice it to say that you get used to living with a certain level of grime in New York City. It doesn’t matter how hot the water in your shower is, you’re just going to leave your apartment and get dirty again.

In Florida however, decency and order is rule. The stores are impeccably organized and the streets are pretty clean, too. Between going from the AC in the apartment to the AC in a newly washed car, I feel like I’m in a bubble of cleanliness and comfort. I have no criticism against this except that I feel like it heightens one’s disconnection from humanity at some level. What happens when we encounter circumstances, or even people, that threaten these comforts? There’s a disconnect between the have and have-nots in New York City, certainly, but in Florida, or in the suburbs let’s say, it feels like that disconnect is all the more grievous. You don’t have to think of kids that don’t have clean running water because you can just avoid that area of town. You don’t have to face things that make you uncomfortable because well, the windows in your car are tinted and you don’t have to make eye contact.

You don’t have that privilege in New York City.

4. Southern hospitality can be weird.
Shopping for groceries in Manhattan at rush hour resembles a dystopian Lord of the Flies experiment sponsored by Trader Joe’s. It’s every man for himself. Shopping carts are smaller for optimal aisle navigation, everyone has their headphones in and elbows out. I went to Publix the other day (if you don’t know what Publix is, imagine a grocery store experience in heaven) and I was in your average suburban-sized aisle (see point one) when two different men said “excuse me, ma’am” as they walked past me in the cereal aisle. I do not own the cereal aisle. Why do they need me to excuse them? They were at least two feet away from me when they passed by. How absurdly polite.

During this same Publix experience, two different produce attendants asked if I needed anything. Do you know how much eye contact these exchanges required? Do you realize how much eye contact they make in the South? What is everyone staring at all the time?

Which leads me to my next point…

5. It’s a village.
I feel observed all of the time in Florida. I’ve now begun to observe others, if only because I ran into two different people from high school in the Metro Orlando area of town. I went to high school 20 miles away from this region. The Cheesecake Factory is not safe, the gigantic Target in Millenia plaza is not safe. You will see people you know and will have to account to why you are in town and have not called them.

I went to Epcot earlier this week, you know, the Disney theme park that averages 31,000 visitors a day, and saw an old teacher and another couple I knew from the church I used to belong to. Greater Orlando may have a population of 2 million people but it’s actually a provincial town at heart.

The townspeople do not use turn signals.

From Unhappy to Hired


On Monday, I was offered the position of Assistant Managing Editor at one of the quickest growing social content platforms available.

I’m excited to share that I accepted this new role supporting the development and promotion of diverse, compelling content from writers and thought-leaders across the country!

I have so much to say but I’m still organizing how I want to say it.

This experience has confirmed how much I enjoy seeking out and sharing best practices. Searching for a job is such an ambiguous, often tedious, endeavor and I like the idea of building transparency and knowledge in order to demystify the process. I’ll share what I learned in upcoming posts but for now, I have to get to work.

About Those Leftovers

Ahhh, Thanksgiving.

A time when I am reminded how proficient other people are at cooking and muse once again about a domestic future for myself far in the distance.

At the moment, the reality of that future goes about as far as my reading this roasted cauliflower recipe.

Luckily, I will be going home for Thanksgiving this year where my parents will have selflessly cooked everything in exchange for the brief return of their only daughter and the entertainment my brothers and I provide whenever we are reunited. And our love, probably. I have a flight headed home to Florida this afternoon and my to-do list for the long weekend includes “eat chick-fil-a, visit the beach, text Gerty a photo of an alligator” but not much else.

Last year, my youngest brother visited me in New York City and we enjoyed a very hectic morning preparing to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. I totally recommend doing this if you ever get the chance to but make sure you line up to wait in a spot with maximum balloon visibility. See, we did not do this because my research towards these sorts of things is forgotten when I have to wake up at 5am in the morning and I only realized my mistake after the parade began. This prompted my brother and I to run along multiple avenues in search of a better spot along with all the other suckers that did the same thing.


We looked like the pack of wildebeests in The Lion King, you know, in that scene where the plot takes a turn for the worst (NO SPOILERS) but alas, we were determined to watch a televised parade of large balloons pass us by in celebration of a holiday that preserves a fictitious historical narrative surrounding our country’s history. New Yorkers enjoying Thanksgiving from the comfort of their expensive mid-town apartments probably watched and laughed from the comfort of their heated homes.

And then I wondered… Are we their parade?

(I didn’t really, I just saw an opportunity for a Carrie Bradshaw impression and I took it.)

I also took this photo.


Our hands and noses froze in the 30 degree weather.

The balloons look much smaller in person.

And we had the greatest time ever.

What are you and your family doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any traditions? If you don’t, I have a suggestion for a new one where you save me a piece of pie.

In A State of Emergency: Why Trump 2016 Isn’t A Laughing Matter Anymore




Dystopian plots have interested me since I was a kid.

I like thinking through the social issues presented and considering their impact on humanity as it is explored through character story-lines. Contemplating how humans might respond to one another when confronted with a lack of resources is an endlessly fascinating subject. Just consider that the last movie of The Hunger Games installment is projected to make $121.5 million in box-office revenue this opening weekend. The Twilight Zone, a show I’d often watch growing up, explored dystopian communities and cultural norms in many of their episodes and in high school, I dog-eared the pages of 1984 and Lord of the Flies. Most recently, I’ve followed The Walking Dead series week to week because their attention to character development within the dystopian narrative is extremely compelling.

Lately however, I don’t have to watch tv or pick up a book for this kind of entertainment. I can just observe our current political atmosphere and reflect on Donald Trump’s increasing popularity in the polls. I’ve hesitated to write or share any content referring to Trump’s run for presidency because I know contributing to his visibility ultimately benefits his campaign and I didn’t want to give Trump the value of being taken seriously.

After reading the xenophobic comments he made in a Yahoo News interview published yesterday however, I’ve begun to take him seriously.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures, including warrantless searches and identification registries, in his plans to increase surveillance on Muslim Americans and mosques. His comments cited that “we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.” When he was later asked to clarify his interview comments and distinguish how Muslim databases (a system he “would certainly implement” upon election) would be different from requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany, he evaded the question by repeatedly saying “you tell me” several times before finally walking away.

Prior to this moment, Trump’s hate-speeches against Latino communities and his obscenely reductive platform on immigration issues were guised as a patriotic call for nationalism and called good sense by Conservatives. His recent comments surrounding how the US should respond to Muslim communities in light of the recent terrorist attacks committed by Daesh, however, are so blindingly racist and xenophobic that any semblance of a nationalist or patriotic guise no longer exists for Trump or his incendiary statements. Trump is a grim example of someone using a combination of their privilege, ignorance, and wealth to postulate hate speech and encourage white supremacist ideology. Hate crimes across the US have been directly attributed to Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric with increasing frequency.

Conservatives can’t cling to Donald Trump as a pillar of American values when he rejects the protection of individual liberties and rights that all Americans – Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, or otherwise – are entitled to. He rejects basic foundational principles the US was founded upon; principles the Constitution is purposed to uphold today.

History is going to look back on this time and ask why we didn’t hold Donald Trump, a widely popular figure within American culture at this time, more accountable. How did we allow presidential campaigns to get this surreal? And why did we, the American public and media, remain complacent in addressing and silencing hate?

Will this be our shame?

What People Don’t Tell You About Following Your Dreams

This is part 2 of a series sharing my journey to land my dream job. I look forward to sharing this process with you as the days unfold it, thanks for reading!

anxietyImage Taken by Tess Mayer

Currently, I’m sitting at a Gregory’s Coffee in the Financial District awaiting my final series of interviews this afternoon. The cold brew is great, I was complimented by the ladies behind the counter on how polished I look (yaaasss), and I had a great chat with my mama this morning so I’m feelin’ 100.

That was NOT the case earlier this week.

Given that this interview was scheduled for later in the week, I had a wealth of time between Monday – Wednesday to think of reasons why this opportunity might not work out. I began asking myself, who am I to deserve it? Who am I to believe my talents should be recognized in this way? To be completely transparent, anxiety has kept me in ill company this week as my thoughts have run through a gamut of professional and personal insecurities. In light of this, I called my mom a lot. I put on my favorite songs and forced myself to dance (in my bedroom, by myself – it’s a thing) to get endorphins going. And I reflected on a few things I learned that people don’t tell you you’ll experience once you decide to go for your dreams –

1. How uncomfortable you’ll become in the process:
Earlier this week, I was struck by how publicly I’ve been showcasing this journey and efforts. Hello there. You’re reading about it. On a public blog. And that’s been the whole point, you know, to invite others on this journey and share what works while learning from what doesn’t. But it didn’t hit me until recently how painful it will be if these opportunities don’t work out.

Out of all the articles I’ve read about the merit of following your dreams, none have mentioned the point when your voice will falter as you tell others about what you’re doing. Or how you’ll have to remain your own biggest encourager because if you don’t believe you can do it, other people will be hard-pressed to convince. However uncomfortable you may get, return to the reasons you took the leap in the first place and look to your prior accomplishments to remind yourself of your abilities. Anyway, it’s only when you’re outside of your comfort zone that the stuff of life can present itself.

2. The support of others may surprise you:
Alternately, you may be surprised by who shows up to cheer you on. I’ve had several friends check in with me each day for updates. Their day by day encouragement and presence in my life has reminded me that others believe my success is possible and that’s a pretty great counter to insecurity.

Surround yourself with your biggest encouragers. When you need a pick-me-up, text your best friend and ask for their vote of confidence. There’s nothing wrong with needing others to remind you of your talents. They most likely see talents in you that you aren’t even aware of yet.

3. You’ll surprise yourself:
As you guys know, I applied for several jobs that I may have seemed under-qualified for at first glance. By writing a proficient cover letter and making connections between my prior work experience and future opportunities of interest, I made the narrative of my professional career one that hiring managers could understand. In doing so, I was called in for a management opportunity I’m superrrr excited about. One I am interviewing for this very afternoon!

Everyone has a starting point.

One of my personal heroes in the media industry, Nancy Gibbs, began at Time magazine as a part-time fact checker in 1985. She’s now the Managing Editor of Time which reaches 50 million readers worldwide. Imagine new milestones for yourself. Challenge your dreams to widen. And then, put in the work necessary to reach them.

4. How hard the work is:
And work it is.

Y’all, I’m gonna get real with you for 2 seconds and say this has been an exhausting week. Although my schedule is flexible and I’m not reporting to an office, being my OWN manager and industrious each day has been an investment of energy in and of itself. In addition to that, I’d be lying if I said there isn’t an emotional component impacted. It can be taxing to be “on” for interviews and put your best foot forward in a series of meetings with professionals you admire and respect.

If you’re considering taking on a new project or going for your dream job opportunity, make sure your schedule is set up for it. Life will never be put on hold for the sake of your timeline but if you’re volunteering, going through personal challenges, and working 70 hours a week, you may be setting yourself up for failure by taking on a new venture. Think critically about what is demanding your attention and eliminate the items that aren’t wise investments. Be resourceful, be ruthless with protecting your resource of time and energy, and beyond that, be ready pick yourself up in the face of rejection.

Resilience is work.

5. Your access to opportunity is largely based on the generosity of others:
Make yourself available to opportunity long enough and some incredible things are bound to happen. I love this article by Bruce Kasanoff which impresses the value of telling people what you WANT to do rather than what you’re currently doing. I love this because he has a point; telling people what you want to do gives them the opportunity to contribute to your story. I’ve learned that nobody reaches their dreams by operating as an independent unit. In contrast, the value of your professional network is incomparable. In her book The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay stresses the importance of “weak-tie” connections.

“Weak-ties are the people we have met, or are connected to somehow, but do not currently know well. Weak ties are also our former employers or professors and other associations not promoted to close friends … Weak ties give us access to something fresh … like bridges you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead.”

Who’s in your network? Think through it. Ask friends, co-workers, family who they know that might help you get where you’re going. And most importantly, respect any access you gain to these connections by communicating effectively, being punctual, and takin’ all the notes. Read The Defining Decade if you haven’t yet.

6. How stubbornly you’ll have to stand beside your work:
JK Rowling was rejected 12 times and told not to quit her day job before the Harry Potter series was picked up by a publisher. I ha-ha-hardly think my musings on this blog or any article I may pitch is in comparison to Harry Potter BUT Rowling’s journey was a comfort to reflect on when I received “no’s” or silence from editors.

Honestly, I don’t think my writing is particularly exceptional. It’s okay. I enjoy the process of it. I do my research. And quite frankly, it’s an area in my life I am willing to be a student to for the rest of my life. My commitment to learning and improving is what distinguishes what I have to offer. A large part of being excellent is showing up consistently and putting in the work. So, work, improve, and stand by your work when others don’t see the value in it (yet).

7. You’ll survive if it doesn’t work out:
Whatever the outcome of this next interview or the ones from earlier this week, the truth is I’ll survive if they move forward with someone else. My ego might bruise but luckily, my ego isn’t what’s carrying me forward. This won’t be the last professional opportunity I have and the fact that I’ve made it this far is an extremely positive reflection of my talents and candidacy.

Similarly, whatever project you’re working on, whatever place on the team you’re hoping for, know that it won’t be the last opportunity or shot at success. Opportunities are boundless if you’re committed to crafting them.

Now, go on and create your own.

The Legacy of Harris Wittels: Comedian, Writer, Friend

Have you ever heard of Harris Wittels?

As I was reading through my open browser tabs this morning (my lazy way of bookmarking sources around the internet I want to return to), I rediscovered an episode of You Made It Weird, a podcast series hosted by Pete Holmes that Wittels was featured in last November. I didn’t recognize Wittels’ name until I read the description and remembered that one of the writers of the popular NBC sitcom, Parks and Recreation, had passed away earlier this year. That writer was Harris Wittels.

From onset, the conversation between Holmes and Wittels is unapologetically dark and honest. The podcast feels like an invitation into their conversation as friends, one of familiar ease peppered with inside jokes and personal details. They’re both engaging as they discuss their attempts to grapple with the reality of death, finding purpose in life, and the tyranny of addiction while skillfully using humor to break the tension time and time again as the discussion progresses.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.36.53 PM

Wittels shares his engrossing journey as an addict at length and brings depth to the retelling of his experience with addiction as a son, artist, boyfriend, and friend. You get the sense that Wittels is speaking about his experiences from the safety of his distance to them but learn that he’s a month into the infancy of his sobriety at the time of production. Yet he explains how he became a part of drug culture and progressed from recreationally using prescription painkillers to shooting up heroin with ease.

I’ve never been a witness to addiction in another person’s life.

I recommend listening to this episode if only to hear a first-hand account of the complexities surrounding addiction and the journey to sobriety. However, if you already understand this from personal experience or in witnessing someone you know live in that reality, you don’t need a podcast to associate you with addiction’s capacity for destruction.


Throughout the episode, Wittels remains disarmingly candid in the way he shares the decisions he made under the impetus of drugs; a will born out of the resistance to experience withdrawal or the emotional fatigue of life. He also shares the financial, relational, and emotional tolls that the fight for sobriety would cost him. Wittels would continue this fight until his overdose earlier this year.

Wittels’ laughter, as it bursts throughout his conversation with Holmes, reminded me of a friend I used to spend many of my high school days with; someone I used to share jokes with while exchanging adolescent loneliness for the comfort of friendship.

They both have the same easy giggle.

I didn’t personally know Wittels and I’m not entitled to any memory of him.

Still, I am saddened by his loss and the thought of the people he brought energy, laughter, and the comfort of friendship to. Professionally, Wittels was an integral contributor to crafting the familiarity that so many audiences felt towards the Parks and Recreation cast, the same magic that made my friends and I fans of this clever and often heart-warming show. He engineered many of the jokes we retell to one another to make each other laugh or remind ourselves of the outrageous enthusiasm with which Leslie Knope would live her life. The impact that Wittels’ instinct for humor and creativity had reaches further than he could have possibly imagined.

Parks and Recreation - Season 7

The loss of any person to the tyranny of drugs is terrible. Listening to Wittels’ experiences as shared in his own voice, however, is not a legacy to the way in which his life ended. Instead, it is an intimate reflection of the value the people in our life hold and our endless responsibility to reclaim our purpose, as well as that of others, from the damages or discouragement we’re subject to as members of this world.

Before closing the show, Holmes extends a genuine word of comfort to Wittels, one that is almost awkward in how authentic of an attempt it is to reach across the divide and say to someone who has just shared their experience of extraordinary struggle, “please feel included, and welcomed, and loved in this reality… you’re not alone.” He explains how he’s observed that his efforts to create, do stand-up, and tell stories are collective attempts at communicating this same eternal message to another person, and reminding himself of this message, too.

Wittels’ embraces the moment and adds in his own reach across the divide by reminding Holmes of that time they played music at his party, “one of the most fun memories ever”, when Holmes was on bass.

As you listen to his story, and even read these words now, may you be reminded you’re not alone.

1 2 3 4 5