14 Things I’m Giving Up in 2014

The past week has been unusually warm in Manhattan. The air feels crisp and inviting, the atmosphere of the streets lively and fresh, and the people – myself included – invigorated for a New Year. I always make resolutions and oddly enough, I do actually keep them. There’s something about January 1 that makes me feel like I get a second chance (or a 26th one…) to improve bad habits or start great ones.

In 2012, I spent a lot of time holding back and not compromising. If my friends wanted to go out, I almost always selfishly insisted on the west side so I’d have an easier commute. If I was asked out on a date by a potentially wonderful man – but he suggested the Lower East Side on a Tuesday – I would have politely declined. But in 2013, I made a vow to say “yes” more – and that’s exactly what I did:

I said “yes” to Mexico in April. I said “yes” to late nights and early mornings. Yes to training for (and completing!) a half-marathon. Yes to kissing a nameless man on the corner of West 4th at 2 a.m. Yes to walking all the way across the park with Lucy in tow to the east side to visit friends. Yes to going all the way to Brooklyn for brunch — and thoroughly enjoying myself. Yes to trips to North Carolina three times, yes to new foods and new drinks, new clothes I normally wouldn’t wear, yes, yes, yes!

But in 2013, I also said “yes” to a lot of negativity.

And even more fear. I said “yes” to those really terrible thoughts that made me feel like everything that could possibly go wrong, did. I said “yes” at the expense of myself, sometimes sacrificing what I really wanted to make someone – anyone – happy. I said “yes” to thinking the absolute worst in every situation, every person, every date that left a bad taste in my mind. I did learn how to take those chances and change my attitude, but in ways that made me stronger.. and weaker, too.

What I want the most out of 2014 is to be happy. And so many things can contribute to happiness: health, friends, career, love, travel, new experiences. I don’t want to limit myself or put pressure on a timeline, but I do want to live better. I want to live with the same kind of passion, that same drive and hopefulness that made me who I am and made me a success in New York. I miss that beat in my step, that faith in my heart, that smart, sharp, kind, enthusiastic spirit that made me feel unstoppable.

And to get that firecracker Tigar back, I need to let go of some very small and very big things that are holding me back or keeping me down. These aren’t quite resolutions – just a little guide to help me along the new journey of 2014. Because really, with some of these out-of-the-way, my resolution to be happy again, might just be a reality.

In no particular order, here are 14 things I’m giving up in 2014:

1- Duck Face
Guilty as charged: if you stalk my Instagram, you’ll see so many duck face examples, it’s quite embarrassing. Sure, it can be cute. If you’re, like, 15, not, ya know, 25.

2- Investing in People Who Don’t Invest in Me
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as an adult is that friendships change. We all expect relationships to be difficult, life-changing experiences, but friendships are that way too. Even if you’ve been friends for years or just a short period of time, if someone isn’t making your life better by being in it, then get them out. People who are worth your time, will make time to invest in you.

3- Biting My Tongue
Maybe it’s my recently damped self-confidence or just the anxiety of saying the wrong thing, but in my life and in my career, I’ve had a tendency to not say what I really think. But this year, it’s time to lean in. I can’t move up – or move forward – by being silent.

4- Hitting Snooze
I desperately want to be a morning runner but snuggling in bed with Lucy is so much nicer than a 6:30 a.m. wake up call. But think of all the time I’d have to do things post-work if I got that 3-5 miler finished before my morning coffee!

5- Having Another Drink When I Don’t Want One
Sure, Saturday nights are great for having a bit too much. But a random Wednesday? With a guy I know I will never, ever want to go out with again? Forget saving feelings or following the crowd, my liver demands better. And I’d rather have less of those paralyzing hangovers post-25.

6- Judging People For Their Choices
I try my very best to be understanding and considerate, but it’s human nature to raise an eyebrow when a friend (or even a stranger) does something that isn’t quite the route you’d take in the same situation. You can’t change people, you can only be honest and caring, and thus, changing yourself. We’re each climbing our own hill and we’ll all get to the top in our own way.

7- Forgetting to Dream
I put in the hard work to get to New York and once I landed in my little apartment with my big NBC job and my big, popular blog, I sat down. It’s time to get up. I’m not finished yet – I’m merely getting started.

8- Buying Lunch Every Day
I work in Chelsea Market. For New Yorkers, I need not say more. For everyone else: imagine every delicious, decadent, expensive food you could ever imagine – from lobster to truffle tacos – a few steps away from you every. single. day. I could save so much more money (and travel so much more often) if I could plan ahead better.

9- Keeping Up My Routine
I’m a Virgo, and I love, love, love plans. I’m often the person sending out a group e-mail, trying to get my friends on-board to a new idea. But I go back to the same restaurants. I do basically the same thing every weekend. Not anymore though: I already signed up for Italian lessons and philosophy (yes, philosophy!) lessons. Time to switch it up.

10- Using the Word “Should”
It’s a dangerous word, that one. And it creeps it’s way into every worry I have: I should make more money. I should be thinner. I should have a boyfriend by now. I should live alone at this point in my life. I should save this extra $100. I should be more responsible. The only should I’ll say this year is: I should be me, exactly how I am today.

11- Getting Angry Over Things I Can’t Control
Like a long line at Starbucks. Or train delays. Or friends bailing at the last second. Or a guy with an attitude problem. Or people who don’t agree with me. Or the fact I’ll never be a size two (this girl has hips for miles). If I can find peace in every moment, I can find peace in every outcome.

12- Mentioning the Mr’s + Relying On Tinder
I’ve wasted far too much space (in my heart and on this blog) on the Mr’s I used to love. It’s time to let go of what was so I can find what will be. The archives will always be there. On the other hand, I can’t just rely on a dating app that’s basically “hot or not” to provide me with quality dating material. Bye, bye iTunes Store dating. Hello, just getting out of the apartment and into life.

13- Focusing on What’s Hard Instead of What’s Good
If everything was smooth sailing and easy, then would I appreciate the life I’ve built? If I never had to say good-bye to a friend because they moved on their own or because they were forced? If I never had my heart-broken or my dreams crushed? If I never cried out of frustration or desperation? If I never heard really bad, scary news? Life will always have it’s hard parts, but it’s never without goodness. I just have to breathe enough to feel it.

14- Being Afraid To Do It Alone
My friends won’t always want to volunteer at the soup kitchen with me. Or go to that new pub around the corner. Or sign up for a pizza making class or join a running group. But instead of dwelling in the fear of going alone, I choose to dwell in the possibility that something really amazing can come from taking a leap of faith. After all, that’s what I used to do every single day before I developed my life here.

Surely, I can do it again. Surely, I can do it with even more courage. Surely, I can open my heart to the New Year, and the new me, that’s waiting in 2014.

This Baby Loves Her Back

My boobs were bigger when I was 10 years old than they are now.

Something happened the summer before I started middle school — my mom let me shave my legs for the first time (at our lake house in a bikini, terrified of cutting myself), acne snickered at my skin and well, every top I owned suddenly was a bit too small. And though I had always waited quite impatiently to look like a real woman, when those curves arrived sooner than expected, I wished they would go away.

Having an inappropriate body for a young girl brought all sorts of things — unwanted attention from older guys, untrue rumors at school because surely if my body looked sexual, I must also be sexual in nature. The truth was I found myself wearing a 32 D-cup and sincerely had no idea what to do with such a massive and speedy physical transition. I hadn’t “french kissed” a boy and yet I had a chest to insinuate I was ready for quite more than that.

Sixth grade was really the first year I started cursing my own body. I was too heavy on top. My stomach pooched more than the other girls in gym class. I couldn’t run as fast because my breasts were too heavy. My skin was speckled. My teeth weren’t perfect and I didn’t want braces. The other girls were prettier. They were skinnier. They didn’t have awfully huge knockers that I hated so badly I kept them only in sports bras for years until one of my friends demanded I wear a proper underwire freshman year of college.

Throughout my many growing body pains, my pants and dress size fluctuated too. Following a stressful period my sophomore year of high school, I gained close to 20 pounds and kept it on until I graduated. To compensate for my insecurity, I covered up the extra weight in loose-fitting clothing and cardigans to cover what I saw as embarrassing rolls in every place. When I went off to college, I not only had to walk — uphill, literally in snow — everywhere I went, but I discovered a newfound love for running, too. The thing that triggered my actual shedding of the baggage around my midsection and thighs wasn’t anything healthy though — it was the depression I fell into following that terribly awful thing that happened on my 18th birthday.

And then I was thrown into a dark world of strange feelings about my body.

Not only was it slowly shrinking due to quite a loss of appetite and desire for much of anything, I also felt foreign to my own limbs. And maybe more devastating to me, that power I had always felt sexually since I lost my virginity to my high school sweetheartfaded. I didn’t want to be naked and I really didn’t want to be touched — unless it was a touch of love. And love was pretty much void for most of college. I didn’t know how to get back all of that fire that got me through everything, so I took the advice of someone special and I faked it until I made it. I led one of the sections at the student newspaper, I volunteered, I became an orientation leader and I went on dates with men I knew I’d never actually care about. And inside, I felt like the ugliest person alive. Like this body I had, was damaged or broken, that it wasn’t worthy of what I once thought it was.

But after lots of counseling and even more determination to pull myself back up, I found myself interning in New York and starting to finally feel beautiful. Or maybe glamorous is the right word. My bra was not only significantly emptier but my waist and heavy heart was too, making me feel unstoppable and vibrant in a city that mostly defines itself by beauty. Or at least being surrounded by it, that is. But when you spend your time trying to be social and liberated and basking in the light of a bright new chapter, you also start drinking more. When I returned to finish my last year-and-a-half of college, I found myself staring at yet another number on the scale I didn’t like and pulling out those hefty bras I thought I could throw away.

And so this pattern continued pretty frequently over the next five years… until last summer.

Mr. Possibility was still in my life — in and out — and though he did help me get over my intense hatred of my acne (“Those are only your freckles!“), he didn’t do much for my body image. His love (and constant praise) of those 5’10-and-up skinny, long-legged gals made my shorter, curvier, womanly frame feel unworthy. Unappreciated. Not good enough for any successful man in New York. While almost every guy I’ve dated (Dr. Heart included) has adored the little extra I’ve always packed, I’ve never felt quite comfortable having them like it so much. If it jiggled or wiggled or moved at all, surely it’s not an attractive sight for a man to see.

But in the sweltering heat of the July sun, after a knock-down, drag-out fight that ultimately kicked Mr. P out of my life for mostly good with the shocking slam of a taxi cab door — I made a decision to be beautiful.

Scratch that — to feel beautiful. To embrace my beauty. To accept it. To know it’s there.

And as much as falling in love with myself is more than my mirror’s reflection, a positive, accurate body image is part of the courting, too. I got back into running after a long-delayed absence, I starting drowning myself in water, I went on Accutane to get rid of 15-year-old acne and I stopped comparing myself to every girl that I saw.

That last one was the doozy.

I had been measuring myself up against every pretty lady I passed, wondering if she had all the things I wanted because her thighs were the size I wished mine were. Or her skin had never seen a bad day. Or her teeth were aligned so symmetrically it blinded me. Instead of seeing perfection in everyone around me — and ignoring my own shine — I started reminding myself about how superbly awesome my body is.

And maybe more importantly — how incredible it will be one day.

Now, it can run 6 miles and not be out of breath. It can make it through an intense Pilates session and hit the pavement minutes later. It can endure the brutality of the city and stay in step with the fastest New Yorkers who push by. It’s hand can comfort a puppy who has a nightmare in the middle of the night. It can hold the head of a friend in need or embrace a celebratory moment. It can rock out a black mini and a red dress, and then look equally good — and damn it, curvy as hell — in tight workout pants and t-shirt an hour later. It can curl and go straight, it can go natural or pageant-faced and be just as pretty. Even if the beauty is in the fruitful flaws.

But one day — it’ll even be better. It’ll produce life. It’ll carry a baby. It’ll give birth to that baby. It’ll grow and stretch and sag and wrinkle and change and with all of that, it’ll just get more astounding. It’ll get lines and have scars that hold meaning — ones that were caused by things I survived. Or memories that were worth every bit of pain. It’ll be touched by a man worthy enough to be loved by me for the rest of his life. It’ll be held delicately because it’s precious and one of a kind.

And it’s mine.

So why not love it? Why not be madly in love with it? Big boobs, freckled cheeks, a baby-got’s-back rear end, frizzy hair in all-weather and everything in between belongs to me. And to me, all of it is beautiful.