So here I am, coming to you live from my 2009 MacBook which I feel lucky to own and still be able to use, and also totally silly for not having replaced a couple of years ago when I had more money saved. Oh, well. Maybe you can guess by the tone of this that I think a lot, and regret stuff when I feel down, and it's a sucky spiral to get caught up in. But never mind all of that. I feel a need to share some of what I've learned in my 29 years on this planet. I'm also interested in getting better at writing, and I cringe a little bit when I read the stuff I wrote a couple of years ago (but that's a good thing, right? Means you're evolving). So, you're about to read some of that said "stuff" below.
About two years ago, I was working full-time at a YouTube management company in Los Angeles. My boss hired me to be an editor for a new "online magazine" she was launching that centered on mainly female YouTubers in the beauty/style space. Everything felt very shiny and official, like I was moving up in the world. I used quotation marks back there because I found the whole operation to be pretty unfocused, and personally thought that creating a WordPress site and throwing up listicles does not automatically make you a magazine. Was I drawn to the pay raise and the office location more than the actual job itself? Yes, guilty. Did I go for it anyway on the off chance that this was actually a cool initiative I'd regret passing on? Of course.
Needless to say, I felt really unsatisfied at that job and it wasn't until I got fired (more on that later) that I started taking the time to get to know myself better. I guess that's a lifelong process because there's still so much that I don't know. We all have in us an incredible amount of potential, I believe, and I frustrate myself when I can feel my potential bubbling up and I let it simmer back down.
After getting fired, instead of plummeting into a pit of despair (well, I did that a little), I started getting more serious about writing songs. I'd been playing guitar since college and had written a few here and there, but they weren't great, and it was something I'd always thought about taking more seriously. I had in my mind an idea of Nashville as this magical place where people get to go to work everyday and literally sit in a room writing songs together. And I thought to myself, "I know I could be great at this if I just devote the time and commitment." So that's what I started doing.
All of that to say...my life is pretty different now. Over the last couple of years, I've written some songs I'm truly so proud of and can't wait for people to hear. I work as a server and I live in Nashville (but don't get paid to write songs—yet) and when I was miserable in my fancy office job I started writing down this list of things I've learned throughout the last decade as I was walking to lunch one day.
It's two years old, so it's entertaining for posterity's sake but also I still agree with a lot of what I wrote.
I think we can all agree on one thing: Your twenties are not an easy time. Most people have no idea where they're going, or why, or when things will really 'click' into place. It's sucky but can also be very exciting. And, being that we are still "young" (I've been guilty of Googling things like, 'Is 23 young?'), I feel it's important to give yourself the leeway to make some mistakes and push forward a little more often.
1. Not everyone will like you and that's OK.
I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, my friend Zaza was complaining to our English teacher Franny (no, these names have not been changed, lol) about someone at school who just didn't treat her very nicely. Franny said, "You know Zaza, I had to learn this when I was younger—you're going to have people throughout your life who just aren't going to like you." I'm sure everyone can attest to this. The fact is, if you're going to live authentically true to yourself then it's inevitable not everyone will like you. The more disappointing thing that's harder to stomach is when you really think you ought to connect or click with someone specific (like a roommate) and they just don't warm to you at all.
On a more morbid note, my mom's wise friend Jack always says "F**k 'em all but six" because you need six people to carry your coffin when you die. Ha, ha. Truly though, I'd rather have a small handful of great friends who'll be there no matter what than a bunch of fair-weather phonies.
2. Don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself doing the things YOU enjoy.
No one relates to perfection, first of all. One of the main reasons I've enjoyed following Taylor Swift's career trajectory is because she's not perfect. She's never been the best vocalist and it's exciting to watch her evolve and get better. But I love her writing and am interested in what she has to say and how she says it.
Also, no one really cares. People might judge you and care for about five minutes if you "mess up" but then they go back to worrying about themselves. This is fact.
Everyone in this life, no matter how selfless (hi, Mom!) or giving they are, spends most of the time thinking about themselves and how any given situation will benefit them. Isn't that why you're reading this in the first place?
3. People will not remember your name or your resume and it's TOTALLY FINE to pester them multiple times.
Don't think you're being rejected just because no one responded to the one email you sent out with your very basic resume. Don't be afraid to be annoying when you are applying for a job you really want. Again, no one will care that much. So be annoying.
4. Avoid energy-suckers.
Looking back, it took me a long time to not only understand the red flags but also to extricate myself from a toxic friendship. It was probably about a solid year of feeling like something was off, and not knowing how to fix it until push came to shove. If there's one thing I've learned from friendships, it's that you really ought to feel like a great version of yourself when you're with that person. If you feel off, or low, or just generally uncomfortable in any way, then you owe it yourself to stop spending time with that person. Life is too short to hang out with people who don't light you up or make you feel excited to just be alive. I'm proud of myself for getting out of relationships that didn't feel good to me.
5. Do some writing—ideally every day.
I'm a memory hoarder and I also need to write in order to feel sane, so this is kind of personal. But it doesn't matter what kind of person you are—I really believe writing is therapeutic and can help you expel crap out of your system you need to get out. It can clarify things for you and generally make you more creative and a stronger thinker. Whether you're writing a single sentence, a short paragraph or 3 full pages; whether it's morning or night, I strongly suggest doing a little bit of writing every single day. Sometimes I even write a Gmail draft to no one (I also have a bunch of song ideas in there). For me, when I get older I really want to remember how I spent my days and look back on how things unfolded to lead me to the place I end up, wherever that is.
As an aside, I'm currently reading my great-great-grandfather's journals that he kept as a teen in the late 1860s into the early1870s. He repeatedly wrote about how he had nothing to say, or that it was another boring windy day on the farm, or that his dad brought him home some apples and a new pen, etc. He often felt down and didn't see the point in recording in his thoughts. But I'm so grateful that he did, because now it's a fascinating family treasure and helps me feel close to someone I was never able to meet in real life (he passed away in 1944 and was the oldest living man in Wolfeboro, NH!).
6. Sometimes it's nice to call people instead of texting them.
I often find it's so much easier and more efficient to have a conversation this way. I know calling someone is the 90s equivalent of showing up at their house, but as life gets deeper and people get more spread out, I find it to be the most effective way to catch up with someone. Hearing the nuance in someone's voice and having a conversation you simply couldn't have had via text is really wonderful.
7. No one can tell you what you're "supposed" to be doing in life, and that's a good thing.
So, here I am finishing #7 and the funny thing is, I wrote this bullet point when I made the list two years ago and am just now coming back to finish the description. Present Cora actually really needed to hear this from Past Cora. I've been having a hard time lately, if I'm honest.
Like I mentioned earlier, I moved to Nashville last summer after living in Los Angeles for almost four years and even though it was a move I wanted to make, it's been difficult for me to settle in. I've been guilty of always thinking the grass is greener somewhere that I'm not, and I felt that way for a while living in LA, too. I know I end up missing out on stuff with this mentality, and it's something I'm working on and trying to get to the bottom of now.
I guess the solution might just be deepening my commitment to myself as a person, writer, artist, etc. No one is coming to save me or hand me the life I want on a silver platter. And I find that no matter how much advice I seek, whether it be from friends, family, Tarot cards (lol) or my astrologer father, I know deep down what I need and want. It's important not to lose that internal compass and get swayed by what other people are doing. You're only you once, and for this single lifetime, so there's no point following anything except your own heart and your own gut.
Thank you for reading, sending a hug to anyone who needs it!