What would you do?

No fear.

Last night, I went to a talk downtown for the Portland Data Visualization group. The event was held at one of the many tech startups in town, and on one of the walls was this motivational slogan:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

And it got me thinking. I’m a fear-motivated person; only recently did I realize this about myself. And because I talk to Anna every day, I know this about her, too. This text message conversation ensued:

Me: What would we do if we weren’t afraid?
Anna: Love harder. Jump higher. Lie less. Create more.
Me: Build. Stretch. Grow. Learn. Guess. Fail. Flourish. Conquer.
Anna: Maybe we should try this.
Me: A social experiment. A living experiment.

So we presented to each other some options for conquering our fears. I don’t wish to speak for Anna, so I won’t reveal her plan, but I am going to get rid of 50% of the things that I own. I am going to start working on a new coding project, even though it feels impossible. I’m going to ask my boss when we are going to do a progress review. I’m going to talk to my roommates about some of my concerns about our co-habitation situation.

I’m going to start living my life in a way that is best for me, regardless of how afraid I am to do so. And I would like to present this challenge to you, dear STTF readers, as well.

What are you afraid of? Is it snakes? Go to the zoo and hold one. Is it asking for a raise? Set up a meeting with your boss. Is it telling a romantic interest how you feel? Write him a letter. Think of all the things you could do if you weren’t afraid.

Then go do them.

We want to motivate you. Leave a comment here listing something, anything, you’re going to do in the next month to conquer your fears. Come back and give us updates, I’ll do the same, and we’ll start conquering our fears together. We are strong, incredible young people. We have the whole world ahead of us, but only if we take it. So let’s take it.

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The Only “Girls” I Need Share My Surname

After watching the first three episodes of HBO’s “Girls” twice, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the show. I can see the truth in many of its criticisms, but I can also see the value in much of its praise. In particular, Heather’s post about finding value in the strong female friendships the show portrays struck me in an interesting way. I began to think that perhaps the reason I don’t necessarily identify with “Girls” is because most of my close friends are, well, dudes.

My best friend and me graduating from college.

This has pretty much always been the case. From kindergarten until now, I’ve always felt stronger connections with men than with women. And since this realization I’ve been trying to figure out why this has been the case. I think it’s been a combination of competition (what with the ever-ubiquitous array of female body image issues and popularity contests), the particular mental strengths and weaknesses I exhibit (spatial and mathematical intelligence is an overwhelmingly male trait), and a very interesting interaction that I can remember down to the second.

Fifth grade. (Gosh, that was a horrible year for me, wasn’t it?) The most popular girl in the class was named Brianna, and her best friends were Michaela and Sarah. At lunch, we would all go out and play four square (the game with the ball and the four squares drawn in chalk on the sidewalk, not the smart phone check-in game). The rules of four square are simple: you bounce a ball around and try to get people “out” of their squares  by hitting the ball towards them in such a way that prevents them from hitting it back toward you.

Because Briana was the most popular, she was in the “A” square, Michaela was in the “B” square, and Sarah was in the “C” square. Everyone else lined up for our chance in the “D” square, only to be taken out each time and to go to the back of the line. Until the one day I accidentally (seriously) got Briana out of the “A” square. All the girls walked away, to a different four square court to play the game, and left me alone in the original court. They didn’t talk to me for weeks, if memory serves. I think it was then that I stopped trusting women—I never had that feeling Heather described, that they would always be there for me, so I tended to abandon the females in my life (creating major friendship rifts and then opportunities for reconciliation, but I’ll get into that another time).

There are a couple notable exceptions to this rule: my mother and my sister.

My sister, Kimberly, is two years, two months, and one day younger than I am. She is an aspiring actress living in New York City. She, like me, has a multitude of things on her mind at any given time. For sake of keeping her privacy, I won’t talk specifically about her personal life, but Kimberly has had some hurdles to jump in her life. People keep telling me how brave I was to move to Philadelphia after college, but Kimberly moved to New York freakin’ City at age 18 to go to college. She auditioned for shows, got herself a job and friends and roommates, and basically owned her college experience. Now she’s focusing on her career full time, becoming a real adult. She’ll be 21 in a couple weeks. I love her very much.

But Kimberly and I were not always close. Indeed, when we were younger, we used to fight a lot. And not just verbally, physically too. I still have scars from some of those fights. But I think that came from a fundamental misunderstanding of each other. We’re very different people. I used to think to myself that I wouldn’t be friends with Kimberly if we weren’t sisters.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

See, growing up, we moved around a lot. Part of the reason I don’t have long-lasting female friendships is because I don’t have a lot of long-lasting friendships. In the pre-Facebook days, it was pretty hard to stay in touch with people in Hong Kong when we were living in Connecticut. The only person who was around the whole time was Kimberly. And yeah, that definitely contributed to my frustration with her and our relationship. She was always there, no matter what. She was the constant. And at the time I saw it as a bad thing, but now I don’t know what I would do without it.

The photo album caption for this photo is, “baby sandwich.”

To be honest, I couldn’t have moved to the east coast if she wasn’t here, if I didn’t see her a few weekends a month. Siblings can be the annoying thorns in your side, but she knows me better than anyone else (except my mom, which I’ll get to in a second). I’ve known her for her entire life, we’ve shared some pretty incredible experiences (snorkeling in Australia, for example), and I know that no matter what happens, she will be there for me. I always thought she wouldn’t understand what I was going through, that she was too self-absorbed or that she didn’t have the experience necessary to bring me up from my lowest lows. But often, she’s the only one who can. She believes in me in a way that not many other people do. And I believe in her. And we have this weird telepathic connection such that when I’m feeling sad, I get a call or a text from her. And vice versa. It’s awesome.

And I could write pages and pages about my mom. She’s such an amazing woman, coming up from so much hardship and putting herself aside any time I’m freaking out about my job or my roommates or a boyfriend. She, like Kimberly, always has my best interests in mind. Honestly, I’m going to cut it off there, because she deserves her own blog post. The maternal figure is sacred in my mind, especially because of how she always understood me, even though most people didn’t. Because she pushed me to be friends with Kimberly when I didn’t want to. Because even in my deepest moments of despair, she believes in me. She sees all the beauty in the world that is sometimes hard to grasp. I have so much admiration for that.

I didn’t realize how my relationships with my mom and sister had changed my outlook on friendships with women until I watched “Girls.” I realized that although most of my close friendships are with men, I’ve definitely been fostering more relationships with women. And I feel like I have my newfound appreciation for Kimberly to thank for that. She brought me out of my fifth grade four square darkness and into the light. Women can be catty and competitive, but if you give them a chance, they can also be extremely caring and loving.

So ultimately, I don’t feel the exact same camaraderie that Marnie and Hannah share in “Girls.” But I feel like I’m getting there. As a wise women once told me, “You just… you just have to focus on your mind.” It didn’t make sense at the time (seeing as it was skiing advice from an eight-year-old Kimberly Diamond that caused my dad to almost fall off the ski lift laughing), but maybe that’s what I’m coming into. Being myself and being able to open up to women in my life is something my mom and sister have taught me, and I think will make me a better person in the long run.

Relocation, and Why It’s Not Quite as Scary as You Think

Nobody is this happy when moving.

Moving has always been a huge part of my life. Up through high school, I had lived in four different general locations, in ten different houses and apartments, and attended a fair number of different schools. And in college… let’s just say I did a fair bit of relocating. (Eight apartments in five years? Lady, you crazy.) I became remarkably adept at putting everything I own into boxes and bags, sweeping out my room, saying goodbye to the familiar corners and windows and not turning back.

But no matter how many times I moved, there was definitely that moment. Leigh characterized it well last week when she wrote, “Oh, my God. I’m moving across the country. What am I thinking?” I’m living through that now, too: Two weeks from today, I’m picking up my life and moving it back across the country from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon.

I did the same thing eight months ago when I graduated from college and got this job in Philly. I was nervous and eager and excited and scared. Moving when you’re little is one thing. Your parents are coming with you, they take care of most of the logistics, and you’re just along for the ride. Moving to college, for those of us who went to school farther away from home, is a little scarier. Moving across the country for your first full time job, the real foray into being a pseudo-adult? That was horror-movie fear.

Moving back? I’m having trouble finding the words to describe it.

For all intents and purposes, Portland is my dream city. As students at the University of Oregon know, Portland is the holy grail. 107 miles up the road, we make frequent weekend trips, sometimes during the week for shows or parties with a late night drive home, our compatriots asleep in the back seat. The bike lanes are abundant, the coffee is bitterly brilliant, the farmers markets overflow with fresh produce, the bands play late into the night. The people are friendly and my new job presents an incredible opportunity to further my career. On paper, everything should be great.

But this move is more terrifying than any of the others. And that doesn’t make any sense.

As I said before, moving has never been hard for me. I love change, and adventure. But for the last six years, every time I’ve moved has come at the logical end of some task. The end of a school year, the end of a summer internship, the end of college. May 8th is special only insofar as it’s a little less than a week until I start my new job. And life in Philadelphia is going to go right on without me.

I think that’s the difference. When you graduate from college, you’re eager to get out into the real world, to start your own life free from the shackles of higher education. You and all of the people you graduated with. From then on out, though, it’s you against the world, trying to make the freeways bend and the clouds move in a certain direction so you won’t get rained on while you’re packing the moving truck and won’t hit too much traffic on your way out.

Maleable.

But that’s the excitement that I think Leigh was trying to get at. When you move as a post-grad/pseudo-adult/whatever people are calling us these days, it’s on your own terms. You get to decide when you’re moving, how much you want to pay, where you’re going to go. Yeah, jobs dictate those decisions (woo money, amirite?), but ultimately we are the masters of our own destinies. And that’s how I’m keeping myself sane through this whole process. Even though many aspects of this move are not entirely up to me, I’m doing it on my own terms (as much as I can).

That also means I’m remarkably unprepared. Two weeks out, and I’m still not entirely sure how I’m getting all my things across the country. I’m still trying to finagle rent and deposits and wrap things up at work and see all of my friends at least once before I go. And I’m starting to be sad about leaving this city that I never really got to know, that I hope to return to someday, that gave me the leg up from unemployed college graduate to working millenial.

When I brought this melancholy to the attention of my father, he pointed me to a column in the New York Times where David Brooks asked his age 70+ readers to write essays evaluating their own lives. I won’t get into the details of the sad story contained in the article (feel free to read it yourself), but I will say that it’s about how quickly our ideas about the future can change and how that has long-lasting effects on our lives. Perception, Brooks notes, can change in an instant. My dad’s email to me read (from the article):

The fact is, we are all terrible at imagining how we will feel in the future. We exaggerate how much the future will be like the present. We underestimate the power of temperament to gradually pull us up from the lowest lows. And if our capacities for imagining the future are bad in normal times, they are horrible in moments of stress and suffering.

Given these weaknesses, it seems wrong to make a decision that will foreclose future thinking. It seems wrong to imagine that you have mastery over everything you will feel and believe. It’s better to respect the future, to remain humbly open to your own unfolding.

It was this idea that gave birth to my moving philosophy. Life is an adventure, and not in the cheesy, bumper sticker and postcard way. Every single experience shapes every other experience, and our perceptions of those experiences. But we have no way of knowing what the effects of our decisions will be, and we have no way of knowing how we’re going to feel about it.

That doesn’t make this move any less scary, but it is making it easier to deal with. For me, moving on my own terms is about being open to the possibility of… well, anything. I can come back to Philly, I can stay in Portland for the rest of my life, I can move to Canada or Guam or back to Hong Kong. But Lyzi 20 years from now is a woman that I do not yet know. I don’t know her goals, her desires, her priorities, her values. I don’t know how she will perceive the world.

I do know that someday she will be sitting around the dinner table, talking about the crazy eight months she spent in Philadelphia, the anxiety she had about her move back to Oregon, and the adventures that came from it. And I’m sure she’ll look back upon this time fondly, with a soft smile, sipping her tea, and serving it to all her friends.

Through The Looking Glass: Sweating Out Exercise Anxiety

This is not me.

I recently decided to start losing weight. I’m on the upper end of the BMI chart for my height, but technically not overweight. I’m also a naturally curvy lady — big hips, big butt, big chest. I know I’m never going to be the skinniest person, it’s just not my body type. But I want to get to a place where I am happy looking at myself in the mirror.

And see, there’s the thing. I’ve never been happy looking at myself in the mirror. I walk down the street or bike to work and see women who I think look fantastic, but are considerably heavier than I am. Even when I see girls who are comparable to me in size, I think they look great. But no matter what stage of the process I am in, I can’t get down with my own body. Indeed, as a high schooler, I weighed close to 100 pounds (I’m 5’3), and I still thought I was overweight. Even though the tag in my waistband said 2, in the mirror I was the same little fat girl I was in the fifth grade.

That’s really it, isn’t it. Fifth grade. PE class. We had to run the mile. I couldn’t run the mile, so I walked it. I was pretty overweight. When I finally made my way back inside about 20 minutes later, the last person to enter the gym, everyone was sitting there waiting for me. We then went down in alphabetical order, shouting our times out. Mine was by far—by far—the longest. I didn’t have any friends in fifth grade anyway, but if I had, I doubt they would have continued to hang out with me after that.

As a result of this one day in PE class, as I discovered years later, I have severe running anxiety. I have an exboyfriend who loved to run, absolutely adored it. He had knee issues and had to stop, but if he could have, he would have been out running every day. We would go to track meets together. He had inspirational quotes about running up in his room. And it made me feel terrible.

So I started finding different ways to exercise. Going to the gym doesn’t work for me—I can’t stand to have other people see me flailing around like an idiot—so I work out on a mat in my room. It’s actually been going pretty well.

But yesterday, as I was on my mat trying to do v-sits, I started to get frustrated because I couldn’t see the change that was happening. I wasn’t feeling better; I was feeling discouraged. I was feeling impossible. I wanted to give up. And I did, briefly. But then I stood up and did jumping jacks—something I knew I could do. And doing that led me through the rest of my workout.

Exercising and losing weight isn’t like it looks on the sneaker commercials. There is no pill you can take or machine you can buy that will make you feel better about yourself. I’ve been pushing hard to get by by finding motivation outside myself, but in that moment yesterday when I stood up and kept going, I finally started to feel something like accomplishment.

That’s not to say that getting up and continuing was the magical formula that broke me out of my discouragement and made me feel whole again. The point is that it’s not easy. It doesn’t come magically. It’s a process, a constant struggle. For me, my hurdle is exercise, health, and weight loss. For you, maybe it’s writing, or reading, or dancing, or singing, or drawing. But I’ve found that internal motivation is what pushes me through. And maybe that’ll help you, too.

Self Empowerment Series Part Two: Volunteer Your Own Way

Sometimes it can be really hard to get up out of bed and into the world. This is the second in a five part series on self empowerment. I’ve found that when life feels impossible and I want to crawl into a corner and hide, undertaking one (or all!) of these tasks can help me get out into the big, scary world outside my front door and conquer my fears and reluctance.

PART ONE: CLEAN AND ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE.
PART TWO: VOLUNTEER YOUR OWN WAY.

Many of my friends have bristled at the thought of joining me for a Saturday of volunteer work. When most people think about volunteering, they imagine slaving away in a soup kitchen or digging garden plots. But it’s important to remember that there are many different people and organizations who could use your help, and that there are many different activities that constitute volunteering. Finding a way to use the skills you already have and feel good about in a volunteer environment is going to be the only way the task doesn’t seem daunting, and instead actually makes you feel better about what you can already do. As such, the first thing to do is do some research. The tool I use to find volunteer work is Idealist, a clearinghouse for job, internship, and volunteer opportunities. VolunteerMatch is similar. You can search by city and keyword, so finding the field in which you want to volunteer is easier than ever. DoSomething.org can give you information about the cause of the moment, if you want to be part of a larger movement. Your local Craigslist is a good option, too, but it’s not as well-curated as Idealist, so make sure to do a little extra research if that’s the resource you wish to use.

Volunteering doesn't have to be scary.

Also, make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for a time commitment you cannot honor. Idealist lets you set some search paramaters that can be helpful in this regard: time parameters and commitment parameters can make a big difference in finding the right job for you. Can you only work for one hour a week? One hour a month? That’s totally okay! Are you looking for something that is more of a long term commitment? That’s fine, too. I would suggest finding an organization you wish to work with and doing a one-off volunteer session with them. That way you can get to know the organization and the volunteer environment, and if you don’t like it, there’s no long-term commitment. If you do like it, however, you can continue to work with that organization and find a suitable long-term volunteer position.

It is important to remember that volunteering is not an entirely altruistic activity. In addition to helping out other people (or animals or plants or whatever you choose to help), volunteering is about bettering yourself. Time and length commitments are only part of the game. Make sure to pick an organization/cause/person you want to work for that you care about, or make sure the activity you’re undertaking is one you like to do. Idealist has a nice article about this on their site: in addition to making a difference, volunteering can serve to aid in your professional development, help you discover a career path you had not previously considered, and socialize with other people. For example, I recently did some volunteer work for a nonprofit in another state. The nonprofit’s cause was not one I necessarily identified with, but the project involved something I really do care about—making maps. I got to work on my career skills while making a difference. Remember: nothing says “Hire me!” like a robust resume full of volunteer work, and you might make some good friends in the process!

Which brings me to my next point. Everything is better with friends, so invite some people to come volunteer with you. Because most organizations are sympathetic to the fact that young people only want to undertake specific tasks, it can be fairly easy to find an organization where your friends can do what they want to do and you can do what you want to do while still working together. You may find that you and your friends enjoy volunteering so much that you want to keep trying new organizations and activities! Plan to have tea together afterwards and share your experiences, and you’re well on your way to feeling good about the world around you.

Ultimately, volunteering feels good. Helping other people is nice, especially when you get something out of it yourself (exercise, professional development, socializing, etc). If you do it your own way, you’ll start to feel really good about doing it, and it won’t seem like a burden at all! Indeed, it will begin to lend some purpose to your life, which can be very helpful in empowering yourself to do a multitude of other things.

Come back next week to read part three of our self empowerment series: read a book, any book.

Self Empowerment Series Part One: Clean and Organize Your Space

You can do it!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been going through some major life changes. From what I understand, moving, along with breakups, graduating, and loss of friendships/loved ones, is one of the most traumatic experiences one can go through. You uproot your entire life to move somewhere different, tasked with making new friends, finding a place to live, potentially starting a new job or beginning at a new school. As with all of the other traumatic experiences mentioned above, you’re closing the book on one chapter of your life, and opening it on another (pardon the mixed metaphors, but I feel like they’re illustrative). The entire process can be incredibly overwhelming.

In these deep and desperate moments, when you’re looking for comfort and familiarity, it can be easiest to turn toward your vices for support. For some, it’s gluttony, others lust or lethargy. Maybe for you it’s sitting down on your couch and marathoning your favorite sitcom. And there’s nothing wrong with that!  But the occasion does arise that you’ve spent too long laying in bed eating coffee ice cream out of the carton and avoiding the world, and it’s time to get up. And it’s really really hard.

This is the first in a five-part series on self-empowerment. I’ve found that when life feels impossible and I want to crawl into a corner and hide, undertaking one (or all!) of these tasks can help get me out into the big, scary world outside my front door and conquer my fears and reluctance.

PART ONE: CLEAN AND ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE.

Gah! The capslock makes this task look scary, but it is really not. When I think of cleaning and organizing, I, too, buckle under the pressure. Especially because I’m not a terribly organized person to begin with, so when I decide to get my hands dirty (as it were) and tackle my mess, I’m afraid it’s going to take forever and I give up.

If the Berenstain Bears can do it, so can you!

Here’s the trick. Don’t give up. The goal in organizing your room is not to clean and scour every corner or to get rid of everything you don’t need. The goal is to make you feel comfortable in your own space, and often that can take very little time and effort.

Keeping yourself motivated is the hardest part. I always put on some musicsomething upbeat and danceable—and decide what I’m going to do first. Another easy way to keep yourself motivated is to set a time limit. Work for a half hour, then take a break. Or an hour, if you have the time. Setting a time limit will motivate you to keep going, and knowing you can take a break will give you some release.

If you’re like me, your bed doubles as a shelf or a storage area. This can make it very difficult to keep your room clean, because if you sleep in your bed and it has stuff all over it, it becomes hard to make. Move the stuff onto the ground or another area, and make your bed. You will be surprised how amazing this makes you feel. Eventually, you’ll get into the habit of doing it every day, and this one tiny task will make your life that much easier.

Most people create intuitive piles for organizing books, papers, records, and other loose items. This is totally okay, if it’s how your brain works, but having a bunch of messy piles can be overwhelming. Turn your messy piles into neat stacks. Just by straightening up your existing piles, you’ll be able to see some of the surface the pile is sitting on, thus making you feel slightly more organized. Remember, this is about making you feel good about your space. Don’t change something that works (piles) just for sake of organizing—adapt your style to make yourself more comfortable.

Now that your bed is made, it is acceptable to use it as a staging area for whatever else you need to put away. For me, this usually ends up being clothes—both clean and dirty—that are strewn about. Use your bed as a staging area to organize other items. I tend to put all my clothes in a pile on my bed, and fold them or hang them up from there. It’s especially great because it motivates you to finish. Can’t sleep if there are clothes all over your bed!

Finally, and this is the most important part, it is important that you take a break. Everything I’ve suggested here will aid in making your room look cleaner and more organized, so take a moment to pat yourself on the back and appreciate your hard work! I usually will put on a record, sit in my bed, and look around at what I’ve done. It also feels really good to step outside your room and walk back in. You’ll be surprised at how great it looks!

Of course, there is more you can do to clean your room, including getting out the supplies and sweeping, mopping, dusting, and the like. But if you’re a busy person, like I am, sometimes you only have a little bit of time to make your space organized. If you have a longer amount of time, and you’ve gotten so motivated by doing the tasks suggested above, go right ahead and get down and dirty! If you’re seeking to make yourself feel better and get excited about life, however, these seemingly small tasks can make a big difference.

Come back next week to read part two of our self empowerment series: volunteering.

Play Me A Sad Song, Because That’s What I Want To Hear

Last summer, I graduated from the University of Oregon, and shortly thereafter moved 2,700 miles across the country to Philadelphia. Although I have never had trouble making friends, Philadelphians have proven difficult in this regard. Around one month in, I was sad. I missed home.

I went on YouTube and surfed over to the University of Oregon channel (it was football season, so I was probably looking for a highlight reel). I came upon this video:

I instantly started crying. How could I not? I had not only moved away from one of the most magical places I had ever lived, leaving behind my best friends, but I had also graduated from college and started my “real life.” This promotional video speaks to incoming freshman. “Now’s the time to be bold,” the narrator says. “To explore. To evolve.” By the standards of societal touchstones, I had been bold. I had explored. I had evolved.

In the following weeks, I watched it over and over, and cried every time. And then I decided to just listen to the song in the video, “Welcome Home” by Radical Face (also featured in the movie The Vicious Kind with Serving Tea To Friends hottie/obsession Adam Scott):

This, unsurprisingly, made me cry twice as hard. This video, the song, it’s all about being homesick. And I was nothing if not homesick.

So I watched this video over and over again, too. And I cried and cried.

Until one day, I stopped.

The song came on internet radio during work. I wasn’t paying attention, probably designing a flyer. I noticed myself singing along—I had clearly learned all the lyrics at this point—and I wasn’t crying. I had listened to it so many times that I was desensitized. The melody had become familiar, the wind chimes at the beginning comforting instead of distressing.

I have found that this also works with painful memories. The time your boyfriend dumped you for his coworker. That sinking feeling of the last conversation you have with your best friend before they move away. Your grandmother’s funeral. The best way I’ve found to get over painful thoughts is not to put them out of my head—that just causes them to resurge when I least expect them. If I make a conscious effort to think about what’s plaguing me, to talk to my peers about it, to write it down, to get it out and keep getting it out, the thoughts become less piercing and the pain less concentrated. By the time I’ve said it out loud five times, it’s the universe’s problem to deal with. Not mine.

Do keep in mind, though, that I’m no psychologist. I don’t know if it’s good for me to play these things over and over again in my head, but I do know that it works for me. At very least, it gives me perspective. At most, I end up feeling completely differently about the situation, which can be good.

For an example, we can turn to the videos I was watching and the reasons I was watching them—homesickness and shock at being done with college. Watching these videos over and over again made me realize that I didn’t need to be an incoming freshman to own and be proud of my unconventionality and my exception. I can own it and be proud of it myself, because that’s what college taught me to do. And when I am feeling homesick, or stressed, I say to myself, “This is real. This is now. This is how you change everything.”

By being able to overcome painful memories and use them to better myself, I am, indeed, changing everything. I am creating. I am contributing. I am learning. And most of all, I belong. I feel more connected to my peers. I feel more engaged in my surroundings. I am still homesick, but less so. This tactic works for me. And it is all our own unique struggles to discover what works for us. Do keep in mind, though, that it’s not impossible. The sad memories do fade. In the words of Mates of State, “Everything’s gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better.”

And if we can hope for that, then things aren’t all that bad after all.

P.S. The title of this post is from this song:

“Lady-Fronted”: A Top 5 Musical Extravaganza, Installation 1

I have a problem, and that problem is buying vinyl on the internet.

My record collection is relatively spartan (relative to fellow vinyl collectors, not to the general populace), thus the desire to purchase ten records in a week (yes, I actually did that last week—don’t judge me). But records are expensive, so I’ve recently had to curb my internet vinyl spending. And with online streaming tools like Spotify, last.fm, Pandora, Grooveshark, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp, I don’t need to own the wax.

But I want to. I really really want to, and it’s a huge problem.

So I’m going to use Serving Tea To Friends as a place to help me with this addiction by making a weekly list of the top five records I’ve been listening to. They may not have come out this year, or even this decade. They may be of varying genres. They  may be EPs or singles or compilations.

All I can say is that they will be lady-fronted. And they will be awesome.

So, here we go. The first installment of “Lady-Fronted.”

1. Colleen Green, “Green One”

Bandcamp | FacebookOn The Label | Twitter | Real Shit Daily (her webcomic!)

This record came in the mail before my vinyl fatwa, and boy, am I glad it did. The four tracks on this 7″ are poppy, happy, catchy, and poignant; each song delves into a different aspect of the young female relationship experience. I thought she was singing right to me! Female fronted garage pop, this record is sure to get you on your feet and feeling better about whatever it is that ails you.

Also, Colleen Green is like, the quintessential awesome lady. She writes a comic, she keeps it real on Twitter, and she doesn’t seem to care what you think about her. That’s rad. That’s the kind of human I want to be.

The video for the title track, “Green One”:

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2. The Splinters, “Kick”

Facebook | Twitter | Last.fm

So, I actually know these ladies. Once upon a time, I was an intern at a college radio promotion company called Terrorbird Media, working with one of the women in this band, Caroline Partamian. They’re now bi-coastal and working on their own projects, but The Splinters remain a band full of intoxicating energy, tambourines, jangly guitars, sweet female vocal harmonies, and danceable beats. Prior to “Kick,” The Splinters released a number of tapes and handmade EPs, but this collection is the result of years of work perfecting a sound that is, for lack of a better word, uplifting.

Here’s the video for the second track on the album, “Cool”:

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3. Diehard, “The Times We Didn’t Have Fun”

Bandcamp | Twitter | Facebook

I almost didn’t include this record, because it’s only part lady-fronted. Ezra and Liz share the front(wo)man role, with one of them taking the lead on some songs, and the other doing the others. I have listened to this record over a hundred times, and Diehard has recently become one of my favorite bands. It’s pure 90’s indie rock, simple chords and accessible drumbeats, but made right now and speaking to the experience of countless twenty- and thirty-somethings living in a city and experiencing life the same way we’re all experiencing it: blindly, full of unfulfilled expectations and countless mistakes. I think that’s why I like it so much. You can listen to the whole thing streaming at the Bandcamp link above.

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4. Privacy – “Songs”

On The Label (Record) | On The Label (Artist)

There isn’t much to say about Privacy, because there’s not much out there about her. I have deduced that her name is Laurel, and that she is a recording artist on Marriage Records in Portland, Oregon. This record may be the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. It’s acoustic guitar and Laurel’s dark, deep voice coming out of your speakers and directly into your soul. It sounds cheesy, but it’s gorgeous. Take a listen.

Here’s a video for the opening track, “Married”:

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5. Dark Dark Dark – “Bright Bright Bright”

Website | Last.fm | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

Dark Dark Dark is folk rock from Minnesota. I’ve always considered it to fall under the genre of “new weird America,” but it’s not as “weird” as, say, Devendra Banhart. Nona Marie’s haunting voice coupled with the guitars, banjos, accordions, bass, cello, clarinet, and piano create an overture that is undeniably beautiful. The songs are about love, hope, regret, chance, adventure, travel, and escape. It’ll get you hooked.

Here’s the last track on the EP, “Wild Goose Chase”: