I’m so excited to share all I’ve learned via The Vegan Dollar’s forthcoming YouTube channel, where I’ll review hacks and practical tips, and talk about the mind-blowing lessons I’ve internalized when it comes to spending, saving and turning the status quo on its ugly little head.
Do I know what I’m doing? Not really. Does it feel “too soon” to take the leap? Absolutely. Am I scared? Um, YES. Do I let those things stop me anymore?
HECK TO THE NO.
At the risk of sounding saccharine, it’s been both a bumpy and beautiful road to get to a place where I feel comfortable honoring my soul’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudging, and through The Vegan Dollar, I hope to empower others to explore and actualize their dream lives.
Starting March 13th, Uncle Jesse and I hit the open road. While there are so many exciting unknowns ahead, I DO know the coming months will include…
Anything you want to see me cover on The Vegan Dollar? What does chasing your dreams look like?
I was 11 years old when my best friends, Amy and Angie (“The Twins”), befriended a girl outside of our regular social circle, Diane. They must have thought we were in Season 2 of our friendship.
Diane was cool enough, I guess, smart enough, I guess, nice enough, I guess with shiny, straight black hair and almond-shaped eyes. Right off the bat, I felt like I couldn’t trust her. She never said it aloud, but it was obvious she was laying the groundwork for her Popular Crowd Migration to middle school, less than one year away.
During the years leading up to Diane’s initiation, The Twins and I had ridden our bikes to school together, joined the same summer swim team, and created a fantasy baby-sitting business, just like the one in the book series we obsessively read while sitting side-by-side in their shared bedroom.
Soccer, girl scouts, arts and crafts – The Twins and I were inseparable. By 5th grade, though, I was overweight and badly in need of braces; there was no way I was making the cut into Diane’s budding Popular Crowd. The Twins and Diane would still sometimes invite me over, but do their best to exclude me once they did. That winter, when we tried to build an igloo at Diane’s house, they told me they couldn’t make it big enough to fit me.
The following spring, The Twins and Diane invited me to meet them at a drug store in the neighboring town – the town where all the cool kids hung out after school. They wanted to get the latest must-have toy, DIY balloons. By squirting a dollop of liquid plastic on the end of a little red straw, you could blow a hardcore bubble “balloon.” And then you could, ah, well, um. I don’t know. Stuff your training bra with it?
I couldn’t wait to get there. Babs (Mom) and I pushed the heavy drug store door open, the bells jingling as we looked left and right, trying to spot my crew. We wandered to the toy section…the card section…the toiletries section…back to the toy section. I did a double-take. The huge rack holding the balloon toys was empty. We waited. And waited some more.
I tried to ignore the dread pooling in the pit of my stomach. Eventually I accepted the truth.
They had told me to meet them there late.
I quickly did the math in my head. They each must have bought over a half-dozen balloon packs to clear out the store before I had gotten there. Now that’s commitment. I stopped speaking to them after that, and shortly afterwards, my 5th grade teacher caught me after school.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, her kind face crumpling with concern. I was a straight-A student; I was never held back to talk to the teacher after school, let alone forced to witness her Pity Face. I was mortified.
“Everything’s fine,” I muttered and bolted out the door. Were all the parents talking about me? It was bad enough being in the same classroom with Diane every day.
Angie, The Good Twin, tried and failed to apologize, explaining that she was just going along with the other two. All this did was remind me that their evil plan had been real.
The next year, I started having panic attacks on the way to middle school. I was teased for being heavy and wearing weird quirky clothes, and had the sinking feeling it wasn’t ever going to get any better. The drug store incident had been nothing compared to the bullying some endure, but for a sensitive pre-teen, the moment was life-altering.
That was the moment I could have decided to let them win, to become one of them. To look at the world through the lens of, “How does this make ME feel?” instead of, “How does this make YOU feel?”
The mean girls reminded me exactly how to treat other people.
And by that I mean how NOT to treat other people.
Us mean girl prey know we never want anyone to suffer like we once did. And we love the role they played in our lives. Without their cruelty, we might never have cultivated such huge-ass hearts.
DISCLAIMER: Names changed because it’s fun to rename people you’ve never met.
“I don’t have a lot of experience with girls. I mean, like, verrry little.”
Looking back, I probably should have dropped my fork and run. But he was so funny. And had great hair.
It was late March 2015, and Adam was the ninth person I’d met during my 10 first dates in 10 weeks online dating phase. I never made it to the tenth. Our first date lasted nearly six hours, over dinner and drinks at a local gastro pub. (And by gastro pub I mean restaurant that features 117 kinds of beer, dramatically mustachioed waiters and duck confit sliders.)
At 35, Adam was a few years older than I was, animated and full of fun stories. When a position in the arts failed to cover the bills, he settled for manual labor alongside his father, work he described with hilarious disdain. If I had had to guess, I’d have said he’d probably just moved out of his parents’ basement within the past year.
“Next time we’re going to have to go to [the notoriously cheap local Mexican restaurant],” he said after I ordered my third drink (I did mention we were there for six hours, right?).
“I won’t be able to afford your hollow leg!”
At the end of the night, I insisted on paying, knowing I’d racked up an impressive tab with my multiple martinis and tuna tartare compared to his two beers and burger. As with most first dates, I left feeling both energized and drained, and still very much on the fence.
We texted incessantly, and by the end of our second date, I found myself saying, “I reallllly like you” before kissing him. He had been so nervous, I was surprised by how naturally he reacted.
On our third date, we got lost in the subway.
Still, I wrestled with my resolve to keep dating. Meeting strangers and immediately auditioning them for Future Life Partner, or at the very least, Tonsil Hockey Teammate, seemed…WEIRD to me. Maybe because my dating life didn’t begin in earnest until 31 – after my divorce. I had married my first real boyfriend, someone I’d known through work for almost two years before we’d started dating, and we had been together for over ten years.
Nevertheless, in early 2014, newly single, I dove headfirst into two back-to-back relationships via eHarmony, eventually burned and defeated by both. “Gotta get back in the game!” was the conventional wisdom, and since I’d yet to become the baller, independent thinker you see before you today, I went with it. “10 First Dates in 10 Weeks,” I called it.
After that, I entered one more relationship courtesy Match.com that was nice, but not right for me. It was mid-2017 by then and I realized I needed a break. I needed to finish grad school and focus on my passions. I dove headfirst into my thesis, met amazing new people, and lined up an exciting array of adventures for 2019 (heh, stay tuned).
Is that the reason I’m glad I’m single this Valentine’s Day? …Kind of. Have I noticed that I haven’t gone on a date in almost two years? …Sorta. Am I EVER going to date again?
That’s right. You heard me. At some point in 2018 it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted because I was following someone else’srules. No wonder I was burnt out, frustrated, confused. I thought I just hadn’t found the right app, or tried hard enough, when in fact I was simply looking in all the wrong places. It was so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d missed it:
Real friends. Friends for the sake of being friends. We weren’t trying each other on to see if we fit. We weren’t grilling each other over craft beer with sweaty palms and sky-high stakes.
We connected over shared laughs, common interests and similar goals. Our paths crossed naturally, and over time, we confided in each other, deepened our trust and developed genuine love. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.
So did Adam become a real friend? No. But he certainly was the closest to one I found during my 10 9 First Dates in 10 Weeks, and he reminded me of what I really wanted. He reminded me that I need to see someone’s heart and soul before I feel comfortable sharing my most vulnerable self.
I admire those who can bare it all sooner, who can meet new people and embrace the uncertainty. I have girlfriends who relish getting to a new city and firing up Bumble. To them, it’s fun and exciting. For me, it’s a fate worse than death a chipmunk-less world.
The choice to never date again probably sounds dramatic and sad to those folks. When I made the decision last year? I’d never felt more relieved.
How do you feel about dating? About being single (or not) this Valentine’s Day?
DISCLAIMER: Names changed to protect the innocent guilty.
I was 18 years old when my life began.
One balmy summer day, after all the Y2K dust had finally settled, a young, auburn-haired woman walked into the local bookstore where I worked. Meg. The new hire. Her sundress flapped against ivory legs as she took the new hardcovers to the front of the shop.
We were fast friends, chatting in between placing orders and ringing up customers.
“You were maaaade for retail,” she teased, quoting one of our most recent patrons while I rolled my eyes.
I’d gotten the full-time job the same year I’d earned my GED. By the time I met Meg, I was taking classes at the local community college, my sights set on screenwriting. Bullied for glasses, braces and a few spare chins, I had eventually been homeschooled. I sometimes wondered if old soul really meant late bloomer.
Meg regaled me with sordid tales of her past: running away from home, men calling in the middle of the night begging for forgiveness, operatic dreams dashed, sex, drugs and rock and roll.
“You need a little fun in your life,” she said one night as we sipped Sangria at a local bar. She was five years older than I and seemed to know all the places with lenient carding policies.
In March, one month before my 19th birthday, Meg and I took our shoes off in the mud room of her parents’ colonial and walked into the small, dated kitchen, just like we’d done countless times before. Blue painted cabinets and faded wallpaper enveloped us. Despite its age, everything in the house was spotless.
And there he was.
“Gem,” he greeted. (“Meg” spelled backward.) His deep voice rumbled with affection.
The figure sitting at the small round table, munching away on carrot and celery sticks, shared Meg’s fair skin and smile, but had much darker brown hair and eyes. Goodbye Justin Timberlake, hello…
“Ben, this is Jules. Jules, Ben.”
Meg’s twin brother. The apple of her eye. He grinned widely, eyes sparkling.
In addition to sharing physical similarities with his twin, Ben also shared Meg’s intelligence, musical ability and sense of humor. He’d graduated college two years earlier with a degree in psychology, but his true passion was film, giving us plenty in common. He had a serious girlfriend, but she didn’t like his friends, which meant every time I saw him, he was alone.
And suddenly he was everywhere.
The next time we met, we talked for over an hour. The third time, he sprung up and gave me a giant bear hug. His solid frame pressed against me and I lost my breath. I’d never been held like that.
That same night he stopped me from leaving by saying, “That Train CD you gave Meg is really awesome.”
We stood in the laundry room of a friend’s house, in a holding pattern between the door out, for me, and the door back in, for him. We chatted for a few minutes about music.
“Well…goodnight,” I said eventually.
He stepped forward and this time I was ready for it. I lifted my arms so his were forced to circle my waist.
“You give good hugs,” I murmured.
He gave a throaty chuckle and squeezed me even more tightly.
Over the following months, the conversations and hugs grew longer. And longer. But he never made a pass, and I was sure I was imagining things.
Finally, in November, buoyed by quitting a toxic babysitting job, I emailed Ben. “I think there’s something between us,” I wrote, heart racing. “You’re completely amazing, and I wish you all the best life has to offer,” I went on. “I’m just afraid -and my ultimate point lies here- that you won’t realize when it’s being offered to you.”
That was Thursday. On Sunday, Ben replied. It was the longest three days of my life. He explained that his lack of response indicated “slight discomfort” because, while he enjoyed my company just as much, it was in “a different way.” He ended by saying he hoped that we could “continue to chill.”
I was devastated. Humiliated. Yet some part of me wasn’t willing to accept his words. And because of that, our friendship deepened. I was sure if I waited long enough, and tried hard enough, I’d get the thing I wanted most.
Six months later, at 3:00am one May, standing outside his parents’ house, Ben kissed me.
“I thought it was all in my head,” I breathed.
“It’s not,” he replied, brown eyes blazing. He held me and stared deep into my eyes, like he always did.
“I tried to figure out if I just wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough or funny enough,” I gushed. The words were out before I could censor them. I didn’t care.
“That’s ridiculous,” he reassured me.
The following year was speckled with a few more kisses, a couple of midnight confessions, and an endless series of marathon hugs. He loved me, and said I was one of his best friends, but he was never ready to leave his girlfriend and accept all I was willing to give.
Before I knew it, I was 21, tipsy, and begging Ben not to leave a party. He did.
And that was the moment.
The moment I decided to let myself fall in love with someone else. Someone I’d known a long time. Someone who, as it turns out, loved me back.
Meg once told me, when I finally confessed how I felt about her brother, “Your loving Ben has a purpose, if only to make you see how much you deserve in love.”
And she was right. Without Ben, I never would have known how to appreciate that love that’s meant for you is easy. Simple. Happy.
Any time someone talks about “Most Embarrassing Moments,” I think of that email I sent to Ben 17 years ago. I cringe. I blush. I bury my head in my hands. But actually, I love that girl. She put it all out there, fear be damned.
I love my coworkers and get to do a lot of cool things at my job. Last week, however, involved the kind of work you should only do if you hate joy.
Now, I’ve done a lot of event planning in my day, and it can be hugely rewarding. But even in those cases, it’s filled with chaos and unpredictability. No matter how much you plan pray, anticipate, pray and prepare pray, nothing ever goes 100% smoothly. You just have to hope no one else notices.
When I got to the event location last week, my stomach dropped. Not enough chairs. I had requested more chairs the night before, but it still wasn’t enough; people were filtering in late and filling the aisles, disrupting the meeting. In four years, we’d never had such a turn-out. A great problem to have, but once again, experience and pre-planning did diddly-squat, resulting in me looking like an incompetent asshat.
I stood against the wall trying to tell myself it wasn’t a big deal, my stomach knotting as I begun to realize there was no way we were going to have enough time to transition from the current meeting set-up to the one beginning 15 minutes later.
And I was going to have 100+ people, including The Big Boss, there to witness me not making things happen.
When the dreaded 15 minute transition period hit, the A/V crew ran around plugging and pulling things from the podium while I frantically tried to set up my laptop and connect to the new audio conference line.
“Is the speaker here?” Big Boss asked.
I smiled serenely. “He is! [Coworker] just went to get him!”
I returned my gaze to the computer screen, checking to see if I had the updated presentation materials that had come in minutes before. Hurry, hurry, hurry, I thought, knowing pretty soon my screen would be projected in front of 100 people so I’d better get the hell out of my inbox.
Okay, download new slides to desktop, close Outlook, sound off, Instant messenger off, PowerPoint slides open for each of the speakers, oh crap you need the webcast link from the email, open Outlook, get link, dial in, is screen working yet, where is the new A/V team, why can’t I hear anything on the line, do we have enough lavalier mics, where is the handheld, holy crap it’s loud in here and I can’t hear the operator, this is never going to work, oh my god, why did we think this was going to work, is the speaker here, is he mic’d, oookay now everyone is seeing a picture of my dog (just kidding I totally wanted that to happen), does Big Boss have her intro notes…
Okay. Okay. We have lift off! Holy sh*t what is that box on the screen and how do I get rid of it? Okay, okay, we can just slide it over here in the corner… okay, we’re fine, we’re fine…Oh my GOD that’s the wrong slide deck, say hi to Uncle Jesse again everyone…okay, we’re moving along now…oh for the LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY his mic isn’t turned on…
Once the main speaker took the stage, the next 45 minutes went by in a blur, my only thought being, Please please please let that be the updated version of his slides WITHOUT ANY EMBEDDED VIDEOS DEAR GOD PLEASE and let everyone on the line actually be able to hear. The speaker was a pro and fielded questions from a lively, engaged audience, allowing me to convince myself that in the end, the entire thing was a smashing success.
As soon as it ended, I grabbed my lap top, made a beeline for the parking lot, and wept into my ice cold coffee.
To event planners everywhere: I bow down to you (which you probably can’t see because you’re too busy wiping snot off your travel mug). …Can you please share your secrets?
It’s eight steps from my living room loveseat to the bathroom.
Seven steps from the bathroom to my bed.
Twenty-four steps -two flights down- from my kitchenette to the front door.
Over the past fourteen years, since graduating college, I’ve moved five times, had eight jobs, four broken hearts, one marriage, one divorce, run two marathons, lost and gained several hundred pounds, said goodbye to five loved ones (including one dog), written two books and 407 blog posts, gotten two advanced degrees, and traveled to three different continents.
Sometimes when things feel stale or stagnant, I review that list and remember: life is always changing. A notion that used to send me into the fetal position now puts a skip in my step. Thank god things are always changing.
No matter how many things we try to track and count, or how many boxes we tick on the Checklist of Life, we’ll never be able to control that one constant – change. Nor will we ever arrive at some magic moment, proclaiming, “Ah, okay, done now!”
When I moved to my 350-square foot apartment in November 2017, the only thing I was sure of was that one chapter was ending and another was beginning.
I was terrified, but determined. After all, if I wanted a different sort of life, I was going to need to do things, well, differently. Of course, I still placated myself with thoughts like, “If you hate it, Jules, you can leave whenever you want and go back to living with an actual oven.”
I needed to tell myself things like that because I still didn’t trust The Grand Unknown. I still didn’t really believe the old adage, “The path will appear when you take the first step.” I always wanted a Plan B, a back-up, something I could measure and rely on. So often we look for sure things and guarantees, favoring our logical, expensively-educated brains, while missing what I’m starting to believe is the entire reason we’re inhabiting these funny flesh sacks in the first place: to follow our hearts.
Who says our hearts are unreliable, anyway? Have you ever tried tackling a tough question by getting still, taking a few deep breaths, and sinking down into that space within your chest? That space that says: You are enough. You can do anything. Your dreams matter. You are loved.
Isn’t that the voice who should always dictate our next steps?
There are still many days where I straddle the line between my heart and my head. Not sure if that’s you, too? In my experience, it feels a little something like this: Hope vs. desperation. Giddiness vs. dread. Authenticity vs. fraud. Ease vs. restlessness. A life of seeming forward momentum and social media-worthy accomplishment vs. that huge part of you that just wants to scream:
Do you ever imagine standing up in the middle of a busy day and doing just that?
Then you could walk five steps to the fridge, fill three water bottles, and take your one dog two flights of stairs down to your one car. You could drive hundreds of miles until you reached the infinite woods.
There, you could hike countless miles and relish innumerable sights and sounds. You could consider your endless blessings, remember your boundless spirit, and realize your limitless potential.
Because counting only matters when you’re living small.
How do you deal with The Grand Unknown? (Hey, come out of that corner, you. It’s safe over here. I have bean dip!)
Oh, Chipmunks. There are going to be some epic adventures to share this year; I can scarcely wait. For starters, I can pretty much guarantee nudity.
Right now, though, as I nurse my 8,000th cold in the past two months, I have that strange feeling… I bet you know the one. I call it “the in-betweens.” Nestled under blankets and a heating pad, with Uncle Jesse curled by my knee, it’s as though some invisible hand has pressed the pause button.
Scared, exhilarated, exhausted and excited after an epic year of goal-crushing, travel, mind-blowing metaphysical exploration, closure, new and rekindled friendships, I’m sipping lukewarm coffee that I know should be tea, trying to just breathe and be. To see the beauty and blessing in this time out. Not every moment is meant to be go-Jules-go-go. There’s a gift within these gray January months, when signs of spring seem unforgivably absent.
Things are always moving, shifting, growing. Even when we can’t see it.
So in this time of unknowns, limitless possibility and quiet, I thought I’d share something ‘in between’ nothing and my normal blog posts.
I watched a video last night of an artist sculpting