You lost your job. Now what?

At 24 years old, you don’t expect to lose your job, before you can leave it. No one ever wants to lose their source of income, but it happens. You could have been laid off because of a shortage of work, poor performance in the workplace, or maybe you somehow managed to be terminated for violating a workplace rule. It doesn’t matter how it happened – no one enjoys losing their job!

Rule #1: Before you leave that termination/lay off meeting, find out exactly how the items inside your desk are getting to you if they have already told you that you cannot touch them. Feel free to give the Department of Labor a call and ask some general questions if you’re not sure about something.

Monday will be seven days since finding myself unemployed. Up until this point, I never took heed to the “have six months of back up money in the bank”. My budget has been so tight since moving to New Haven that I have almost no money in my account and I feel so incredibly foolish. As soon as you lose your job, there are a few things you need to take care of:

  1. Look up the unemployment rules for the state you live/work in. I worked in New York, but I live in Connecticut. The current rule is to file where you were employed. You will need to make sure to have all of your personal information and your W2 so you can apply for unemployment payments. The first week of unemployment is always an unpaid waiting week so be sure that all of your finances for the week are settled and that you have enough to cover any bills due.
  2. Take a day to organize your update and polish your resume(s), make lists of your career interests, research companies you may want to apply to, and update your LinkedIn information. I would also recommend talking to your contacts and rounding up your references, just in case an application requires them.
  3. Don’t waste time before applying to positions. I usually apply in batches based on location and job type. I am currently looking for roles all over Connecticut and in Manhattan.

I actually feel like the biggest question has been, “What Do YOU Want to Do?” I really am not sure which career path I want to follow next. I am going to school for publishing, but I also have interest in events planning, interior design, fashion, public relations, and the list could go on for days. Right now, I am making lists and organizing the files of my computer and researching each possible path for my new life.

Another important thing to do during this time is to build a new routine. Create a new daily schedule that you will stick to because this will really help you remain focused and determined. They say that it takes 21 days to really adopt a new habit, but day 1 is the hardest day if it never comes. I made sure to start this week off right. I woke up at 8AM and whipped out my Yoga mat.

My new routine is going to be hitting the gym every weekday morning. I have wanted to be one of those morning gym people forever and so I am finally going to be one of them! On the weekends, my mornings start with Yoga, right here in my apartment. On the weekdays, after the gym, I will apply for jobs until about noon and then work on my novel for a bit.

Finally, use this time to really lean on your family, your friends, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your fling, whoever you have in your life that makes you smile or makes you feel good and can help support you – lean on that person or group of people. This has probably been a major setback in your life plan and it’s really important to know that you have a network of people standing tall behind you. No one likes falling down and getting dirty, but someone will help you stand back up and will wipe the dirt off your back so you can keep moving.

Life as a (Cat) Mom

I became a “mom” this past August…and then again, in November.

Just because my children are furry, four-legged, and have claws it doesn’t make me any less of a mother. I keep a roof over their heads and food in their bowls, even when I don’t have a whole lot of food for myself. I make do, for my kids.

Cooper, the Maine Coon, is really more like a dog child. He goes through his mood swings, leaves his toys all over the place, runs from the kitchen to the living room to wag his tail at the window, and then cries when he doesn’t get his way. 2 AM seems to be the hardest time for him because this is usually when he will cry at the bedroom door and meow in my face until I get up and let him out.

Brooke, she is my independent child. She sits quietly in the living room watching out the window or sleeping under the couch (this is her favorite spot). She is much less playful than Cooper, but I love her just the same. She knows when it is time to eat and she will race me into the kitchen for her food and then she will hustle back to where she knows the food bowl will go. She understands, that as the younger sibling, Cooper gets fed first…otherwise, he will eat her food rather than his own. While I do believe that he is happier with another cat in the house, I do believe that he is trying to hard to show his dominance in the house.

There are days when being their mother is really hard. Sometimes, you just want 10 minutes to sit down and that’s when the hissing and the rumbling start in the living room. Cooper is the instigator and Brooke is a little too sensitive so hissing is an hourly occurrence around here. Cleaning the litter box, some days, can be very much like what imagine cleaning a diaper will be like – disgusting beyond belief. Cleaning up something else’s poop will never be a glamorous activity and it will never smell like a rainforest. It will always make you want to gag and off yourself.

Last week, Cooper and Brooke were not getting along at all. She scared him so terribly that he pissed himself and then took a nice little poop in the corner of my bedroom. The first issue was quarantining the now pee filled cat. Second, I needed to clean up the cat pee before it set on my hardwood floors and really stunk the place up. It wasn’t as bad as people made it seem. Ten Lysol wipes later and the pee smell was gone as well as the pee itself. My third issue was how in the world do I bathe this cat? I didn’t have a bathtub, rather a shower stall. So, I did what I had to. I turned the water on to a lukewarm temperature and I let the water run all over him. While he was not pleased, I knew from this cat expert on Youtube that Maine Coon’s can actually be washed, but you just have to make sure his fur does not become matted. So I rinsed him off and then wiped his fur down with these pet-safe wipes that I had gotten at the store. This way he at least won’t smell like cat pee.

He was not happy though and Cooper came out of that shower looking like a drowned rat. I felt like a terrible mom. For thirty minutes I sat there with a wet cat and a towel drying to soak up as much water as I could so that his fur could air dry the rest of the way as he ran around. Brooke sat silently in the kitchen with her head peeking around the bathroom door, looking all innocent. Secretly, I think she was laughing at the way Cooper looked, but that’s just me because cats don’t laugh.

After I cleaned the cat, I then went back, picked up that pile of poop and used my Lysol wipes there as well just to be extra sure my floor would not stink of cat poo for all of eternity. That night, I was the bad guy in the house because I stuck the cat in the water. That’s one of the hardest things about being Coop’s mom. I spend a lot of time being the bad guy.

“Cooper! Leave Brooke alone!”

“Cooper, get off the kitchen table!”

“Cooper! Cooper, what have I told you about eating my shoes!”

He will always look up at me, give the cat sound that equates a sigh or a “but mom!” and he will continue on his way to his next adventure. Brooke will always be my silent child, who meows when the time is right, comes running for food, and will poke her head in the door if she hears a loud noise. Hopefully, as she takes her sweet time to adjust to life here, she will really learn to open up and become half as playful as Cooper is.

For now, I continue to mother these two cats and love them as much as possible no matter how hard or smelly that might be some days.

Social Media Brand Management: Public or Private?

Many of us who use social media are hesitant to create an account with public access. It is very common to use the “Request Access Only” privacy settings, whether this is on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or even here on WordPress. This is because protecting your brand is of the utmost importance in this never-ending age of the internet footprint. You might not consider yourself as a brand, but anyone who has applied to college, internships, jobs, etc, should be hyper-aware of who you share your information with, what you are putting out into the world, and considering how it could be perceived by future educators, employers, or even a future a spouse.

When I post things online, sure – I do not always make the best judgment calls when voicing a strongly worded opinion or when I tweet angrily at the MTA. More often than not, I use more swear words than a sailor. At this point, my past posts are what they are and I cannot change them, rather I make them a part of my life journey on the internet. This is why taking control of the information, its viewers, and what you follow is so so important!

1.  Setting up your privacy

I have different settings across the many platforms that I utilize as a modern-age twenty-something. Facebook and Instagram are my more secured profiles. You must request access to be my friend before viewing any section of my profile. This feature allows me to select exactly who has the full access pass to my online life. I don’t just hand out this pass to anyone. There is a lot of digging that goes on before I press the “Accept” button, and even then I can still go back and “Un-friend” or “Un-follow” if I see something I am not sure I want to be associated with.

My Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and WordPress are all a part of the more public online version of myself. Some days, my Twitter follows are flooded with the weirdest of accounts, but I make sure to review these thoroughly in efforts to protect who and what my brand is associated with. For example, there seems to be an inundation of porn-based Twitter accounts lately. This week alone, I have seen 15-20 requests from accounts like this. There is no reason they follow me other than to gain more followers. As soon as I see one of these accounts has followed my account I do two things: Block and Report.

I block and report these accounts for a few reasons. First, because I really do not want them looking at my account. Who knows who this person is? Normally, the name is a bunch of nonsense, the profile is full of links to porn sites, and the pictures are of breasts, vaginas, and butts. I don’t want my timeline full of that. The second reason is that I fear that these accounts could be hackers attempting to gain access to my personal information. Finally, I report these accounts because sexually explicit accounts such as these should not be on Twitter. I feel like Twitter accounts with erotic content need to have some substance to them or a real purpose other than spamming users with pictures of pussy.

2. Managing your followers and who you follow

It is really important to closely monitor some of the people who try to engage with you on social media. I make it my business to follow accounts and accept requests from users that reflect my values as a person in society and the working world. If you are a conservative Catholic with Pro-Life values, you are probably not going to want to follow Southern New England Planned Parenthood or any of the women’s pro-choice movement accounts. However, you might follow and friend other folks online who believe in the same things you do as a way of building your own personal network and breeding a safe online environment for yourself.

Personally, I choose to avoid most accounts that conflict with my liberal, left-wing, pro-choice, BLM, Clinton supporting beliefs. I also try to follow as many accounts that have to do with my interests in the publishing industry, creative writing, and becoming a published author. When a new account follows me or requests to follow me, the first thing I do is check to see what content is viewable to me. If I can see pictures they have posted or articles they share, then I click through and see if their values align with mine. As long as there is nothing hateful, discriminatory, or Donald Trump-related, then I will often allow this account to follow mine. I do not always follow back, but I will, 99% of the time, allow you to view my account.

Being pickier when accepting follower requests gives you the power over your content. You would not want some Muslim-hate group to take an article you wrote about inclusivity, twist the words around, and use your name in something awful. As a life rule, I do not give access to anyone whom I have no association with if they make crude jokes about women or post pictures or articles about guns/gun violence.

Part of managing who you follow, in a less extreme way, is just thinking before friending all of your co-workers or associates. Do you manage people at work? Maybe think before friending them and posting pictures of your boozy Christmas parties or that kegger that you went to last week. What is the company culture? What is your position within the company? If you work in customer service, perhaps try not to bash your customers on your page because you never know who will find you and see it, even with privacy settings.

3. Controlling the information

The final piece of online brand management is just always remaining true to yourself. Post the things that you see value in and speak from the heart. Share articles that have accurate information, are from reliable sources, and will actually contribute to the conversation. Always write eloquently, check spelling and grammar, and check your facts. When I write anything, I use Grammarly. You can download it as an extension on your browser and it will underline anything that needs a correction. It is an incredibly handy little tool when you are writing online! The next time you are just sitting and playing around on your laptop, go to incognito mode on Google Chrome and just search your name. See what comes up and look at it through someone else’s eyes. Have a friend or family member do this as well as a way of checking yourself. It is always better to monitor your online image from the start rather than have a stranger approach you and dredge up content that might be embarrassing or better-off-buried.

Brand management is not something I talk about professionally, but my hope is that others can use my suggestions and lessons as a way of better monitoring their online presence.

Sex: It’s in All of Us

When was the last time you had sex?

Go on…really think about this. Was it last night? Maybe it was last week? Was it perhaps last month? It could have been last year. I want you to stop and ask yourself, “When was the last time you had mind-blowing, bed-breaking, headboard smashing, insanely wild sex?”

It was March of 2016, but since then it has been the longest dry spell. For a brief period of time, I had broken up with my boyfriend, so he and I clearly were not getting it on. I had cut ties with the friend with benefits long ago and I really did not do the whole one-night-stand/dating thing. I find that my brain is just not programmed for it and I end up getting attached to that person’s company. It is more the comfort and attention offered by that person than anything else. I tend to have a bad taste in men so they are all really just jerks in the end.

My boyfriend and I got back together this past June and I have been giving him a chance to redeem himself and our relationship since moving back to New Haven. So far, so good…except for the fact that there is this unspoken tension between us but we are working through it – slowly. I am currently withholding sex from him because he can’t just trash our relationship and think he can get back in the sack, does he? He doesn’t even know that I am actively withholding sex from him. We just don’t have sex at this point. I actually feel like our relationship is going up in flames because lately (always) communication has been getting worse and worse between the two of us and little things he does really get on my nerves.

He tends to get into these moods and it’s really hard to get him out of them. I understand having a bad day, but I think it is something more than that and it’s no fun for me to ALWAYS have to be the happy, optimistic, positive one. Some days, I just want to be a little negative and express my upset about somethings. It’s not fair. Is it just sexual frustration? I don’t know. We used to have sex and it was fun and he was a much happier guy, before, during, and after. But now…how can I do something so intimate with someone who right now I am completely doubting his loyalty? If the trust isn’t there, how can there be intimacy?

Living with Cooper

I moved into my apartment all on my own, and I NEVER planned on having a roommate. Then, I met Cooper – the domestic, long-haired cat in my life, and within 24 hours there was a little man living here.

He is only a year old, but it is like having a young child as well as another twenty-something around. When Cooper is sick, I sit up with him and make sure that he stays hydrated and that he isn’t cold. I take him to the vet, I feed him, brush his hair, and I provide him with all of the toys he could ever need or want. Actually, this reminds me that two of his toys are busted and that I should replace them soon.

IMG_2245When I can’t sleep, he hangs out with me until I pass out. If I have home-work to finish, then he hangs out until I finish.  When I am upset about something, he is there to listen. While I know he will never be able to respond or give his opinion on anything, it’s just nice to have someone else in the room to hear my rant.

He and I fell into a nice rhythm from the first day he arrived here. I work in Manhattan so our day starts very, very early every morning. I wake up at 4am to Cooper’s very warm body snuggled next to my back, and then I fill his food and water. I’ll take a shower, but I will leave the door open because he likes to climb up and sit on the low shelf in the wall where the towels are stored. By 4:30, I am showered, dressed, and packing my bag for the train ride to the office. I make sure that all of Cooper’s toys are in the center of the living room and that the blinds are pulled up half way so that he can look out the window while he is home. Sometimes, I will actually catch him sitting on the windowsill when I walk back from the bus stop.

It can also be very stressful having a pet. When you go away, you need to make sure he has enough food and water and there is nothing laying around that he can get into. Some nights, I just want some alone time, but he just cries at my bedroom door, if it is closed, until I invite him in. Some days I just want to be by myself, which was the perk of having my own place. He is such a good boy though so having him around even when I want some privacy is okay by me.

#MeToo

Earlier this week, social media outlets exploded with the use of #MeToo.

Normally, I just share things like this with as many people in my network as will listen because sexual violence is something I fight very hard against, especially in this current culture. This time, I chose to voice my own experience and enter my name into the unfortunate pool of men and women affected by this. I want to talk about what this social media campaign meant to me because I have only ever shared my experience with one person and then I shoved it out like it didn’t happen. It was as if I had removed a cork from my thoughts and once it was released it was gone but that is not how this works.

It was senior year of high school – I had been working at my public library. One day, a guy was hanging out in the mystery books section and he asked my opinion about what he should read next. Of course, my interest was peaked because someone was talking to me about books. We talked for a little while and he made his selections, and then asked how often I worked there. I said, “Only Tuesdays”. He asked for my number and we texted for a little while. He came back the following Tuesday and once again, I helped him select a book to take out that week. We had been texting on and off during the week. I didn’t know his name or if he was in school or even how old he was. I just knew he had dark hair, really blue eyes, a penchant for mint gum, and seemed to like mystery novels.

The third Tuesday in April, he comes in, asks me for a book suggestion and this time we are talking for a while longer. I am re-shelving books and he is walking with me and we someone how end up cornered by the audiobooks. He backed me up against the shelf, grabbed my hand and started kissing me. I still did not know his name or his age. I do know that I never asked to kiss him and as soon as I could I told him to leave and that I didn’t want to see him in the library ever again…and I never did. Not even now when I return as a patron. To this day, I cannot chew mint gum because it takes me back.

I never felt the desire to share my experience with anyone – my therapist included.

Making Moves

Please forgive me for vanishing. A lot has happened. So much has changed that I am honestly not sure where I should begin. I think I will start with the best parts.

I moved – to Connecticut. I now live and breathe in New Haven, am employed in Manhattan and I am riding the Metro-North to and from New York every day. Some say I am crazy, but I say I am passionate about living my best life! It’s not that I was unhappy while living at home. I think I just felt incomplete in a way. We live life in a series of chapters and the West Hempstead chapter is over for now. I have turned the page and we begin refreshed and ready for the adventures that are to come. My family is still on Long Island so I will absolutely be back. This is the perfect combination; it is the best of both worlds. I can live in the city I love, while working in another and I have easy access to my family whenever I want.

The move itself was tiring and sweaty. I spent two days cleaning, re-shelving, and un-boxing and to be honest, I am ready for a long nap. I will share photos soon – I promise! Right now, I am just enjoying having my own space. Once the cooler weather comes, my furry friend, Chestnut, will be joining me in my apartment. Right now, it is simply too hot in the apartment for my hamster but I am sad that I had to leave her at the house. I have been here for two months just about and I still have yet to empty out one final box and to place all of my decorative items someplace. When I have a little extra money (not likely to happen), I want to buy another shelving unit with a glass door.

Not only have I changed my address, but I have also launched myself head first into a healthier lifestyle. I became a member of Jenny Craig and signed up under their $20 to lose 20 lbs plan! This is a really big step for me because lately my eating habits have been deplorable: chicken nuggets, cake, ice cream, tacos, halal food, etc. The list of unhealthy food choices could go on, but really I just want to feel healthier when I wake up in the morning. If cake were a diet supplement, I would be a pro at remembering to take one everyday. Unfortunately, that is not how life works so I must stop inhaling dessert. I have actually lost about 4 inches overall, even though I kind of yo-yo’ed while on the plan. I will just have to keep pushing myself to do better.

I work a desk job. From 8:30 AM to 6 PM, I am in my seat, with the occasional jaunt to the Bevi or into the kitchen…to grab snacks. Mainly, I am sitting and eating and sitting and eating and it just needs to stop. My goal is to lose over 100 pounds, BUT since that happens with baby steps, we will start with a smooth 20. It will  not be easy, but I think the challenge of changing your life is all part of the fun.

As if I had not already changed enough about my already stressful lifestyle, I decided to become a cat mom which means I am now solely responsible for the well-being of what is essentially my child. Every morning, I make sure he has food and water, I brush his hair, and I make sure that he has all the toys he will need to entertain himself while I am gone for the day. Cooper, is a one year old, Domestic Long-haired cat and it just so happens that I ended up adopting him on his first birthday!

He is an endless vat of energy — constantly pouncing inanimate objects, chasing his own tail and running from one end of the apartment to the other. Of course, he spends a good part of the day trying to break out of his collar — with a 99% success rate, but as his mother, he needs to learn who is boss. For me, the hardest part is cleaning the poop out of the litter box. I must apologize to my mother because, while Cooper’s shit is gross, I cannot even imagine the stench of baby poop and actually having to wipe a baby’s butt.

My first day heading back to my office after I adopted him was definitely tough. I think I had and probably still have a little bit of separation anxiety. At the same time, it was nice to be out of my apartment. I wake up to a cat stretched out behind my back almost every morning. The first morning, I just felt a warm body next to me and my brain told me it was my boyfriend. I turned to my other side and sure enough it was just Cooper. Those are the mornings that I wish I lived with my boyfriend, but I love having my own space so I am glad he is not living there. I love when he visits me though! He comes to visit me just about every other weekend and he is so good with Cooper. Actually, I think the cat loves him more than he loves me — maybe I am just jealous?

While we are on the subject of my boyfriend, I think I owe to it myself to dissect how I feel our season 3 renewal is going. We are still building up to an epic midseason finale, but so far, so good. He is much more open and communicative; he actually has made the effort to come to my apartment and see me. My only hesitation is trusting that he can keep this going if I ended up moving out of New Haven again. He did not do well at all the first tine around. I love how committed he seems now, but I could not stand it if I left again and he completely forgets how to be a boyfriend. My biggest fear is that this happiness is only temporary because I am really happy with him right now.

Our relationship is in this phase of getting to know one another again and I think that there is still a lot that he and I will discuss and need to discuss. Right now, I am just enjoying spending time with my favorite guy again. We will see where this road takes the three of us – me, Zack, and the cat.