Saying No to Working 12 Hour Days & Keeping that Vacation Feeling Alive

keeping that vacation feeling alive

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We have returned home from a month abroad and while a month is not a great deal of time, it seems that life, especially here is Los Angeles, spirals at a velocity that makes a month equivalent to a year. In that month, our lives have been touched by my old friend Change and yes, I still simultaneously miss and loath him. We have been home for only a week. I haven’t even started up all of my “normal” activities like work and work and my other work, and I am already exhausted!

I was not aware of how much we work in LA until we were in Spain, and one of our friends said that in the US all we cared about was making money. I thought about what he said and prepared to argue such a generalized and bold statement, but I couldn’t. S and I are open minded, artsy, with careers in the humanities that we are definitely not involved with for their lucrative potential. We pride ourselves on being the epitome of the old cliché, “work to live, not live to work,” but what our friend said rang true. I think about money every day: the lack of, pending bills/debts to pay, “is this worth spending on?” And on rare occasions, “what am I going to treat myself to with this extra cash?” I consent that this is a very normal way to think about money in modern western culture. What is not normal, or is, but probably should not be, is how much we work in order to earn enough money to maintain a certain lifestyle.

Working 12 hour days on a regular basis, going from one job to the next, even on weekends has been a normal part of our lives. We are fortunate that our supplementary jobs are related to our passions, but still, never having a weekend, working long hours all of the time, that is no longer okay with me. This rant is probably inspired by a bad case of vacation withdrawals but here goes. As a woman in her thirties, I refuse to feel like I am working all of the time, (even if I am.)

I have thought about this all week. I cannot change my life drastically, quit my job and live on perpetual vacation, but I can change small aspects of how I function daily in order to keep that vacation feeling alive.

spanish breakfast

  1. On vacation I loved drinking my café con leche and tostada de tomate. I’m keeping this. It’s easy, delicious and somewhat healthy.
  2. On vacation I loved not being so dependent on the phone. I didn’t have an international data plan so I was not constantly on the internet. If I needed directions I actually spoke to a human on the street. Imagine that! I know I’ve said this before, but being so easily accessible on our very smart devises can cause stress. I do not want this stress any more.
  3. On vacation I did not miss my car at all. In fact, I forgot that I had one. I loved walking around the various cities we visited, riding the metro, and really getting to know each city by their rhythm, sites, people and smells. LA is not really conducive to walking. In fact, I think the city hates pedestrians. We have a metro/train/bus system that is okay but not great. What I have seen on the rise in the last couple of years are bike lanes and paths. I want to drive less and be outside more.
  4. On vacation I did not obsess over the calendar. I loved that feeling of freedom that comes with not having a schedule. Of course in my real life I need to have a schedule. What I do not need, is to schedule something every hour of every day. I am really making a conscious choice to spread things out throughout the week and not fill up my days entirely. If I want to keep that feeling of vacation, I have to have free time daily. This leads to the following.
  5. Do one thing at a time. I have been rushing through life making sure that everything gets done and I do not want to do that anymore. I want to enjoy my life not rush through it.
  6. On vacation I remembered that I am a priority in my own life and not an unpleasant chore.
  7. On vacation I loved the feeling of adventure I got as we discovered new places and activities. I want to continue this at home and make sure that we avoid any ruts and/or mid-life crises by being open to new experiences. 

 

Return on Investment for Fun

las vegasIt is a rare and special occasion when a group of thirty-somethings can get away, leaving family and responsibility behind and partake in drunken conversations about life that lead to sober epiphanies. These past two weekends have been these types of occasions, and while I would love to divulge the weekend’s events, girl code prohibits me from spilling all of the juicy details. What I can share though, is that as a woman in her thirties I have come to the realization that my pallet for fun has evolved. Getting stupid drunk has lost its appeal. I’m not saying it no longer happens, but it’s no longer the purpose of any outing. Now if I do end up stupid drunk, not only do I pay for it with the never ending thirty-something hangover, but I also pay for it with guilt. The voice in my head says things my parents would say except now, the voice sounds a lot like me. My internal monologue somehow makes its way through the hangover fog and reprimands me with “Really, was that worth the risk of a DUI? DUI’s are expensive!” or, “You are a grown up with responsibilities, why put yourself or anybody else at risk?” or “Don’t you feel stupid for going out pretending like you’re a kid? You are definitely not a kid anymore…”

I make promises to myself when I somehow get home safely, make the sign of the cross more out of superstition than religious beliefs, and begin what I call a “detox,” which basically consists of not drinking alcohol. I know, I sound like a full blown alcoholic. I am not, (making the sign of the cross and knocking on wood this time just in case.) Really, I take this as yet another thirty-something realization, another sign of growing up. My definition of fun has to change and the return on investment for fun can no longer be higher than the actual fun itself.

So how did I come to this conclusion? Well, it all started with Las Vegas for my friend’s wedding, continued the following weekend with me back in Los Angeles at Griffith Park, laying on a bench at the Old Zoo Picnic area for a birthday party, and ended with me sitting on the couch at home, live guitar playing, and me zoning out while scrolling through all of the Netflix rows for about an hour without actually ever watching anything. Yeah. Go ahead. Make assumptions.

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Sometimes I Miss Being a Selfish & Self-Centered Twenty-Something

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It is the curse of the dynamic woman in her thirties to live in a state of perpetual exhaustion. It’s not that we are now older and do not have the required energy to keep up with the pace of our lives. It is the opposite. I attribute this exhaustion to being so fabulous at life, that we have made ourselves indispensable. Career, family and personal life, (a thirty-something’s version of the holy trinity), come together on a daily basis and demands our undivided devotion.

exhauste thirty-something womanAs a woman in her thirties, I am very much in demand and it is this, being needed and the responsibilities that accompany it, that I struggle with. I am not complaining, but sometimes, in a fortunate moment of solitude and silence, I indulge in nostalgia and reminisce on days long gone. Days when I was the only person I answered to, took care of, or took into consideration. That state of selfish abandon that is inherent to the twenty-something experience beckons me with the allure of a distant friend. I miss being selfish. Yet at the same time, I feel fortunate knowing that my life has a higher purpose and that I can affect the people around me in a positive manner. Again, that struggle for the ever elusive balance, the theme of my thirties, is what I am challenged with daily.

tired womanWould I be less exhausted if I indulged in a bit of selfishness every once in a while? Or, would I be just as exhausted or more so, by adding yet another item to my “To Do” list? I can see it now: finish project at work, pick up laundry, do something selfish. Funny part, (or maybe it’s the sad part), is that even as I write this, I don’t even know what that would be. What would I do on a holiday from my normal life? Would I go to the Korean Spa, read a book on the beach, go shopping for items I don’t need but just want, drink really expensive wine and sing Billie Holiday’s Greatest Hits out loud and all by myself? It’s fun to imagine a day of selfishness. It feels like a vacation for my mind.

Perhaps this is all I need to remedy my case of exhaustion, a daily mental break from the constant brain churning problem solving and planning. A break to imagine myself doing something fun, just for fun.

IO West

As featured on Love Happy Hour dot com

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thirty-somethingOne of the reasons I love living in Los Angeles is because on any given Friday night, I can go out and discover something that will amaze me. Recently I found myself on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Ivar drinking a beer at a bar and performance space called the IO West. While I was alone waiting for my husband to arrive, I stared out the window at the scantily clad club goers, random street vendors and the last remaining summer tourist taking photos with the stars on the boulevard. The night was alive with activity both on the street and at the bar. I sipped on my cold and perfectly hoppy IPA. Young actor types and the nearly famous made up the crowd. One could feel the anticipation building in the bar/lobby of the IO for we all knew we were in for a treat. I went to order a second beer and decided to close out when I noticed that my tab was only for $10. Could it be?

thiry-something out in LAI looked around for a sign, any sign and that’s when I saw it. Not only does the IO West host some of LA’s best improv comedy shows, but it also hosts Happy Hour from 6:30 to 8:30 on Monday through Friday. I was thrilled. They had a small but varied beer list which was on special for $5, $4 Whisky and Coke, and a $7 Double Date, which I had never heard of before, but apparently consists of a can of beer and a shot of Whisky.

The IO’s Happy Hour is special because on weeknights, with a slight variance in schedule depending on the week, the bar hosts Happy Hour shows that are absolutely free. Monday night’s show is called “The Consistent Monday Improv.” On Tuesday they may have “Happy Hour Open Mic,” while on Wednesdays they have an event called the “Network Happy Hour.” Thursdays, there is usually no Happy Hour show, but on Friday they have a show called “Date Night.”

thirty-something Los AngelesThat fateful Friday night, when Happy Hour found me instead of me finding it, I was at the IO West to watch one of my favorite shows, “Opening Night, The Improvised Musical.” The show, which is now in its 15th year and has built up a great deal of industry acclaim, usually consists of 5 extremely talented triple threats. In the span of an hour or so, the troupe, fearlessly lead by Shulie Cowan, improvises an entire musical, the dancing, the singing and the story line, all based on a title that is chosen from the audience. This is a uniquely LA experience on one of the most famous boulevards in the world.

I highly recommend going to the IO on a Friday for date night, whether it’s a first date, or a couple wanting to experience something new. Have some libations on special for Happy Hour, let yourself be on the edge of your seat while you marvel at the seamless fluidity of “The Improvised Musical,” and then later, just for fun, walk the boulevard and people watch when the neighboring clubs are starting to let out for another type of late night entertainment.

Aging Gracefully

aging gracefully 30 somethingAs a woman in her thirties, I am not often satisfied with the changes happening to my appearance. I recently listened to an episode of the Freakonomics Podcast where the expert they interviewed, (and I can’t remember his name, perhaps this also has something to do with the aging process), explained that with time, each and every person becomes the leading expert on everything related to themselves. It is this intimate knowledge that makes one self-conscious and in the same regard, self-centered. So it is with this in mind that I understand that the changes that are occurring to my appearance are really only noticeable or important to me.

I admit that I am vain and that I stress over superficial and embarrassing to admit physical changes. But I also know that I am in good company and that regardless of what the standard of beauty is in any given place and time, there is a person somewhere comparing themselves to it. I believe that we should all be happy and feel good about ourselves no matter what we look like, and it is this that I try to instill in the teenage girls I interact with on a daily basis at work, but I would be lying if I said that I loved aging. I accept the changes that are taking place and are very conscious to not base my self-esteem or self-worth on my appearance, but aging is not fun, especially now that I can actually see it.

Obsessing over aging and the changes that accompany this inevitable process is very common. I once had beauty regime conversations about fun topics like make-up colors. Now all I want to know is what cream my friends use to combat dry skin and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. What is everyone using to get rid of under eye bags? I research natural ways to combat greying hair, and keep making a mental note to start some kind of exercise routine because although I am thin, I am loosing muscle tone and beginning to feel flabby.

30_aging_gracefully_I have realized that aging gracefully is only slightly based on genetics. To truly age gracefully one has to build the discipline to incorporate with intention, all kinds of regimes. Exercise, eating a well balance diet, staying hydrated, cleaning and moisturizing the skin, but probably most important of all, teaching ourselves to let go. Not letting one’s self go, but letting go of the results we think we deserve or should get from employing all of these regimes. Letting go of that image we have in our minds of what we should look like and accept the image that stares back at us from the mirror. Aging is just going to get worse and more dramatic. Better start making friends with it now…

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Flamenco, My first 12 Years

estrella morenteWhen I was in college I wrote a paper for my Latin American Literature class comparing Jorge Luis Borges’s and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s use of the concept of circular time, as a prevalent theme in their respective works. The concept of circular time, the idea that one lives within concentric circles and that just like the phases of the moon are defined by its placement in correlation to the sun, we too live out phases and cycles that also are defining, repeat and come to a close. It was fitting that on Sunday evening I found myself at my old alma mater, the very place I first explored the concept of circular time, stricken by the realization that one phase of my life was coming to a close in the very same manner, alongside the same people, and in the same space it had all begun. The house lights dimmed signaling the start of the concert. The ensemble emerged into view set up in a half-moon formation with Estrella Morente in the center. The guitar, the rhythmic clapping and then that voice, marker of my college years, soundtrack to my flamenco infancy right there on stage singing to my present self. My life flashed before me with every musical note.

One of the titles I wear is Dancer, specifically Flamenco Dancer, though the Flamenco part of that title was not always the case. Flamenco became part of my identity at UCLA where I took a dance class that I thought would be “just for fun.” Well, for the past twelve years of my life, this “just for fun” class has dictated and defined the choices I have made regarding work, friends, husband, lifestyle, goals and aspirations. I instantly became enthralled by the challenge of learning this new language, began exploring the culture and dances of my ancestors, and discovered this vibrant community of artists in Los Angeles, who just like me, have given themselves over to their passion for Flamenco; not for money nor for fame, but because it calls to us.

Estrella Morente was the first Flamenco album I ever purchased. I remember going to Amoeba records on Sunset Blvd. and perusing through their world music section until I found “Mi Cante y Un Poema.” I played this, her debut album to absolute exhaustion, learning the words, teaching myself to recognize the different Flamenco rhythms, but mostly letting the music fill and move me. Those first years, like the start of any new relationship were innocent and exciting. But twelve years is a long time and going from 22 years old to being almost 34 has not been all ruffles and polka dots in Flamenco land.

I have loved and hated Flamenco. It has made me feel elated and then made me cry from frustration. It has taken me on adventures and then abandoned me in the conventional world. It has brought me a sense of community and at the same time isolated me within it. Flamenco, as many would agree, is a complicated and tumultuous relationship to maintain. It gives back what one puts in, but it is never ever enough.

flamenco compas

Hearing Estrella Morente live for the first time on Sunday, brought me back full circle though. Twelve years, like the length of a full compas or rhythm cycle, have passed. Royce Hall, the first stage I performed Flamenco on, sitting next to my then classmates who have since become my sisters, my then and now colliding as I listened to these songs that were once my introduction to flamenco life and are now like intimate friends. I felt happy. I felt closure. But mostly, I felt renewed.  

I am ready for the next compas.

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My 30’s, the Middle School Years of Adulthood

intentional change

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As a woman in her thirties it has repeatedly come to my attention that change is my friend and my foe. While my twenties whirled by in a chaotic mess where each “surprise,” (quotes around surprise since we are all very much aware of what is said about hindsight), was a catalyst for change, my thirties have felt like the complete opposite; intentional. I am not passively awaiting my next adventure, I am causing it and planning it and throwing myself into the vast unknown. I wish I could say that I was doing so fearlessly, but that would be a lie. Change is even scarier when one has calculated both benefit and cost in advance.

This is a topic I have often returned to because it is in this decade where we are setting the tone for the rest of our lives. The twenties are like the childhood or the elementary school years of adulthood. It has been documented to exhaustion in books, movies, music and magazines that the 20’s are a decade for exploration and discovery. The 40’s are like the high school years of adulthood in that, (hopefully), it all starts to make sense- career, family, goals and life purpose. And if it doesn’t make sense, the midlife crisis too has been a topic of much discussion. So what are the 30’s? Yup you guessed it, the awkward middle school years of adulthood.

Just like in middle school, in our thirties, changes are starting to happen to our bodies that we are not totally comfortable with, ideas of what we want to be like or do when “grow up” are taking shape, and just like the math geek in middle school can turn into the prom queen in high school and join a new social circle, we start to form relationships that will either continue into the next decade, or get left by the wayside according to societal commonalities like proximity and like mindedness.

So yes, I strongly believe that our thirties sets the tone for our adult lives. Of course I also believe in the fluidity of change and its necessity for growth. Change, an intrinsic state of the universe, can happen accidentally or be instigated at any age.  But I have to say that I am so impressed and so inspired by the thirty-something women out there who are not letting the decade define them, but are out there defining the decade. I am inspired by the women I know and I think of them, packing up and moving in order to change careers, going back to school, fighting for the rights of others, raising exemplary children, falling in love and pursuing the unconventional, gathering the courage to leave unhappy circumstances, never giving up. I think of them when I start to fear upcoming change, or begin to feel stagnant. I think about the intentionality of their decisions and about how they are setting the tone for their lives and suddenly I am reinvigorated.

Telenovelas, Mean Girls & Sharkeisha: Questions About Woman on Woman Hate

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The following may be a universal statement: Women are mean to each other. I work in two traditionally predominant female trades, Dance and Education, so I get to see the very complicated dynamics of female interaction first hand and on a daily basis. I have been able to observe teenage girls at school, colleagues out in the field and the women of various ages, social class and education levels that make up my extended network. I am an expert in the field of mean girls, and even more so since my students made me watch the 2004 Mean Girls movie with Lindsay Lohan. I know all about the “Regina Georges,” “Plastics” and “Burn Books” of the world. I even know to remind myself when I encounter a mean girl that “She doesn’t even go here” and then chuckle at the not-so-inside, inside joke.

My mean girl studies began early on though. I come from a land where the Telenovela is a nightly family ritual, and from an environment that almost reflected what played out on the screen. It was by tuning in, that I not only improved my Spanish but also acquired a basic understanding of what being a woman could be like. I was fascinated by the dichotomy of the female characters. I learned that good girls were prettier but suffered the most, and that bad girls had way more fun but always ended up crazy, dead, or in jail. Good and bad were always at odds and as a kid, I wondered which one I was going to grow up to be. Spoiler alert: I became both. As a real woman in her thirties, (and not a two dimensional character on an admittedly cheesy yet so addicting soap opera), I have mostly been a good girl who sometimes dabbles in mean.

mean girls

Of course, the definition of good and bad varies with perspective. I have been called mean when I thought I was being helpful. Likewise, I have unknowingly accepted compliments that were intended to sting instead of boost. It is difficult to talk about these qualities whose definitions are so tied to cultural and societal beliefs, but I will be so bold as to say that a couple of months ago, I saw a video that depicted the epitome of a mean girl. At the urging of my students, I watched a YouTube video that had gone viral about a girl named Sharkeisha. If you have never seen it click here, but fair warning, it is upsetting to say the least. Sharkeisha is filmed punching an unsuspecting girl in the face and then became famous for it. I was horrified by what seemed to be unprovoked violence, horrified by the nonchalant voyeur who stood by to film it all, but mostly disgusted by the millions of people who glorified her actions and rewarded her behavior with fifteen minutes of fame.

(Side note, since the video went viral, Sharkeisha has faced some very steep mean girl consequences. I am happy to report that she is currently in jail with a misdemeanor charge.)

The Latin American soap opera as well as movies like Mean Girls and the Sharkeishas of the world, are just some examples that portray the archetypal relationship between women. So yes, women are mean to each other, but why is this an accepted cultural and societal norm, so much so that industries are built around the concept? There have been numerous studies done on issues like black on black crime, bullying and domestic violence, but has anyone ever really delved into the issue of woman on woman hate? This is not rhetorical. I am genuinely interested in reading something that will explain why the girls I interact with at the High School I work at, are emotionally and verbally abusive to each other and then proclaim to be best friends. Why it is that I have gone out with my girlfriends only to be stared down by another group of women for the mere transgression of being in the same space. Or why just this morning, I received an email from a friend who happens to be living abroad, describing how she is judged and treated by some of the women in that town.

I am a dancer and throughout my life, all of my closest female friends have also been dancers. Because of this, I learned two life altering lessons very early on.

  1. There is always someone better than you so there is no point in wasting time or energy being jealous.
  2.  Everyone has their own path in life. Enjoy your own and stop worrying about what somebody else is doing.

mean girlsI have been extremely fortunate because I have always had strong relationships with women who were smarter, richer, more talented, better looking than me, one, or all of the above. In my small peer group there is mutual respect and admiration, sisterly banter and the occasionally tough reality check, but never hate stemming from insecurity. So it is from this background that I am completely baffled when I experience another woman, as my students would put it, hatin’ on me.

Why does being a woman, at least outside of my peer group and in the society that I live in, often feel like a competition? Ladies, shouldn’t we be helping instead of hatin’ on each other?

On Valentine’s Day, an Ode to the Thirty-something Woman

By: Antonio Triana

30-something womanThen:

Perfect visual specimens at the apex of their beauty

Women that have some adult experiences while still retaining mystery,

a bit of innocence, and vulnerability…

Sophisticated, graceful, passionate

A woman, at the height of ambition and inspiration

She is no bright eyed bimbo

She drinks wine in the moonlight

She is at the peak of development in ability and readiness to procreate

She covets, craves, yearns, and requires sex and love, or love and then sex

She writes cookbooks and serves fresh bread, wine, and herb tea

She gets her legs waxed and it’s not even summer

The head is classically shaped; the features chiseled to handsomeness – oh the beauty of this certain age!

The body is athletically muscled and gives one the feeling that even its sweat would smell good…

30-something womanNow:

The 30-something woman of today is an inaccessible, far flung being. The advent of the internet isolates her somewhat and provides much more exacting choices in life, while becoming remote to the everyday man. I doubt I will know with great pleasure, and delight in the perfection of the 30-something woman again. I am after all a guy at 55, losing hair, thin, swollen in the mornings and way too fastidious. (I’m still a good entertainer!?!)

To the 30-something woman, what can I say, I love them all, then and now.

 

tony on her 30'sAntonio Triana is a professional Flamenco Guitarist and now guest blogger on Her 30’s,  currently living in the Los Angeles area. Learn all about him and upcoming performances at http://www.antoniotriana.net/ .

Trattoria Amici

As featured on Love Happy Hour dot com

Thin crust pizzaPizza is possibly my most favorite food. I know, how uncouth of me, but how can anyone not love a staple of the human diet? The saying goes that one cannot live off of bread alone but I beg to differ, especially when that bread is covered with cheese and sauce, and baked into a perfect crisp. Pair that with a deep crimson wine or a cold Italian beer, and you’ve got Happy Hour.

I’ve been trying to explore my much transformed hometown of Glendale, CA. Growing up, I hated how boring and suburban it felt and I especially hated how the mall was the center of all social activities. Downtown Glendale had so much potential what with old theaters, independently owned shops, and it’s very own public transit system that was actually functional and cost only twenty five cents. Apparently, I was not the only person who thought that my hometown had potential because gradually developers have transformed it into a consumer’s wet dream. The new mall called the Americana, houses high end shops and restaurants and is literally built like a town square, fully equipped with a trolley that takes patrons on a tour of the premises. My husband said it best when he said it felt like Disneyland but for adults. Because of this very reason I was reticent to accept a Happy Hour invite to Trattoria Amici which is located on Americana Way. The only reason I went was because my friend said the magic word: pizza.

I pulled into the vast parking lot that had me looping from floor to floor. I then rode the escalators down through the chandeliered and carpeted lobby and slowly emerged into the bright and overcrowded square. Frank Sinatra followed me as I crossed the trolley tracks and the faux lawn until I finally reached my friends, who were already partaking in an al fresco Happy Hour experience on the patio.

happy hour wineI don’t want to admit it but I really liked Trattoria Amici. Because it is located in the Americana I wanted to hate it but I couldn’t. I felt like I was in a sidewalk café in Europe. The waiter was Italian, my company from Spain, there were cloth napkins and real silverware on the table, the bread basket warm and the olive oil just the right amount of acidic. We ordered wine for $5 a pour and Italian beers for $3.50. We ate personal sized pizzas with thin crispy crusts and veggies for $6 and generally enjoyed the simple yet sophisticated atmosphere.

Happy hour glendaleTrattoria Amici has Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30. Their Happy Hour menu has specials on wine, beer and classic cocktails like Mojitos and Margaritas. They also have a wide range of gourmet pizzas catering to meat lovers and vegetarians alike. I had the pizza with artichokes, but the next time I go I will have the funghi and then the classic margherita, and well, I guess I will have to keep going until I’ve tried every pizza on their menu.