Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog


Sex, Love, And Tinder Culture: Are Millennials Setting Themselves Up For Failure?

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 07:05 PM PDT

Dr. Logan Levkoff is a sexologist, sex educator, and the sexual expert on the TV show, Married At First Sight. Married At First Sight is the social experiment where couples get married at quite literally, first sight. Consider it the modern-day arranged marriage, but with a lot of research and science to it. I suggest you check it out. In the following dialogue, Dr. Logan and I discuss sex, love, and dating in the Tinder culture Millennials find themselves in.
Twenty20 / NickBulanovv
Twenty20 / NickBulanovv

Thought Catalog: Hello Dr. Levkoff. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in order to get a better idea of your expertise and knowledge-base?

Logan Levkoff: Hi Kovie. Of course. I am a sexologist and sexuality educator. I started in this field as a peer HIV/AIDS educator when I was 15 years old. I was always comfortable talking about sexuality. I went to college and realized that there were not many public female voices on sex/uality that were positive, candid, and representative of what my peers and I were experiencing.

I tried to fill that void by continuing peer education, writing anonymous sex advice columns, and fairly provocative articles in our campus' women's paper. This was long before campus sex columns were popular. And I wound up getting a Masters and Ph.D. in human sexuality education.

I would say that I deal with all aspects of sex and sexuality but primarily I work teaching kids, teens, and parents – all in an effort to de-stigmatize sex and sexuality and encourage healthy communication about sex. And most recently, I am the sexuality expert on Married at First Sight.

TC: That is quite the career path. I would say not a lot of people know what a sexologist is or what they do on a long-term basis. Thank you for informing us. Now to get right to it, let's talk firstly about Tinder culture which has been in the news in interesting ways in the last few weeks.

Sexually healthy people acknowledge their needs and aren't afraid to ask for things.

I will candidly say that I find the general idea of Tinder at best, harmless, and at worst, disheartening. On the one hand, I understand that we are in a technological generation, on the other, I think it is reducing meeting and mating to ordering a sandwich.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but the way it has been applied seems to be riddled with, for lack of a better word, "interesting" consequences. One of them being people use the app for basically as much sex as possible – even though some may get on it with the intent to date, and maybe even to do so on a long-term basis. In the first place, what do you think of when I say, "Tinder culture," and what are your thoughts on it?

loganlevkoff1

LL: Such a good (and complicated) question. Tinder culture: short-term fun but perhaps not satisfying for the long-term. I have no problem with consenting adults having sex or looking for sex without seeking a "relationship."

That being said, I am someone who believes that it is always important to be upfront and honest about what you want. I worry that we have lost some of our ability to speak up for what we want, whether that is no-strings attached sex or a more emotionally intimate relationship. Sexually healthy people acknowledge their needs and aren't afraid to ask for things.

Now, I do think that Tinder is fascinating. I love that dating apps give us the opportunity to meet people we may have never encountered before, however, I would be lying if my heart didn't break a little at the thought of a swipe based on a split second look at someone. Is sexual chemistry and attraction important? Yes. Is is enough to sustain a long-term relationship if nothing else is there? No.

One last thing: did Tinder create the hook up culture? Certainly NOT. I wrote something on Twitter recently that spoke to this. I wrote: Tinder creating the hook up culture is like Zima creating teen alcohol use in the 90s. These things already existed. Nothing new.

beetlejuice

TC: Let’s talk about hook up culture. And I completely agree, I don't think Tinder created hook up culture, but it is facilitating it. However, Tinder wouldn't exist without hook up culture. Hook up culture is an interesting phenomenon to me.

In order to be forthcoming, I will say I do not participate in it for several reasons. But looking on as an outsider, and an outsider who enjoys analyzing cultural phenomena, I have found that many people who do participate in it, do not think of themselves as participating in it. It's almost as if hook up culture is something that many who participate in it, still also want to distance themselves from.

But in light of books like Sex at Dawn, it does make it seem like modern-day views on sex prior to hook up culture were not quite in line with what our ancestors did tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years ago. Sex at Dawn contends that contrary to the “common narrative of human sexuality,” multiple sexual partners was common and accepted prior to the agricultural revolution in terms of human evolution. The text does this by comparing human mating systems to that of bonobos.

From a research perspective, I dispute some of the claims because the methodology seems to be unjustifiably selective in its sample use of bonobos, and the conclusions are based on a lot of circumstantial evidence. Not only that, but some of it cannot be confirmed by anthropological data, and negates the presence of biology and differences that exist in biology.

Do I believe that monogamy is the default "natural state" for all human beings? No.

And I say this as someone who studies culture – but who also knows that sometimes social scientists get in their own way by holding out mere hypotheses as facts. And thus, the notions becomes tantamount to nothing more than pop psychology.

So tell me about hook up culture, its implications for society, and the consequences of engaging with material such as Sex at Dawn without reading or understanding critiques of it.

LL: I have trouble with the whole hook up culture, mostly because I think that it was a term used to describe what many people do when they are trying to navigate their own sexuality and their desires and feel empowered to do so.

The "HOOK UP CULTURE" may seem formal now simply because technology has made it more organized, but I struggle with it as a general term or description. I sometimes feel like when people use that term it is done to minimize people's experiences rather than consider that those experiences (satisfying or not) help to create better ideas of what we need and what we want out of our partnerships.

Now, having said that, I have been in a monogamous relationship for 20 years. Do I believe that monogamy is the default "natural state" for all human beings? No.

I think that many people are monogamous because that is what our culture has dictated (regardless of whether or not we agree) and it helps to organize our lives. Of course, this isn't true for everyone. There are many communities where families are blended, shared responsibilities among all people, and polyamory is accepted and respected.

I am a firm believer that anything that initiates a dialogue (ideally an intelligent one) about a subject is valuable. Sex at Dawn is one of those texts. It is fascinating and provides us with an opportunity to talk to the people in our lives about expectations in a relationship. I like to think that where I do my best work is helping people to make sense of what is in our culture, pop or otherwise.

beetlejuice

TC: I definitely think that the word "natural" being applied to relationships – monogamous and otherwise – is skewed in favor of those who dispute monogamy as natural. This is to say, I think monogamy is natural to human nature, but it is not the only natural way to organize human relationships in society.

I know this because I'm an African and on both sides of my family directly, polygamy has been practiced at one point among my ancestors. So what I'm trying to say is I don't think it's an either/or thing. I think there is variance in natural occurring phenomenons; I think it is quite possible that there are multiple “natural” existencies when it comes to mating in general, and especially long-term mating and relationship decisions.

Of course culture dictates and shapes as well, and I do think that human beings have to be humble to the notion that many of us do not know quite know when the natural starts and stops, and when the cultural starts and stops. I think it is a more prudent position to claim they are intertwined, that there are thin lines, and it probably changes as culture changes and what we know about the science of the human experience changes.

But I want to get beyond that and get into why I think some of our dating practices may not be in line with long-term social desires. I've been thinking about this idea of the long-term self and the short-term self in many contexts.

Now the idea in this context is that the short-term self wants to engage in as much as "free love" or sex, as possible. But because of culture, many also want committed relationships in the long-term. The idea is however, if one pays attention only to the short-term self, is it possible that it comes as a consequence to the long-term self? Does any of that make sense at all?

loganlevkoff2

LL: First, I agree with you on the monogamy issue. Just wanted to get that out of the way. There has never been one way to experience life.

Now, with respect to other issue, I think that I understand what you are getting at. I guess I am wondering, are you referring to emotional intimacy? Childbearing? Partnership in general?

I think that it is very easy for us to get swept up in our current place – whether that is age, expectations of peer group, and so on. While I don't believe that paying too much attention to where we are now irreparably impacts our ability to be satisfied in the future, there is a small caveat to that. Childbearing.

While there are amazing reproductive technologies available to us, they are not simple solutions. I get the feeling that many people are afraid to talk about what they want in the future for fear that they will scare off potential mates, but if I have learned anything over the years, it is that we all have deal breakers.

We need to think about (and be candid about) what those non-negotiables are for us. (Though I would ask people to think about what's behind that deal breaker to determine if it is a preference or if it is at all malleable. If not, that's fine, too.)

beetlejuice

TC: Let’s move on to our modern conceptions of dating, love, and commitments, including marriage. One of the ways in which culture really affects my perspective is in choosing long-term mates.

Now I have not read Aziz Ansari's book Modern Romance yet although I read his excellent essay about it, and I identified with some of what he had to say. When I observe American culture as an African in this context, it seems very romantic to me but not necessarily in a good way.

For all intents and purposes, I am a romantic. But my romanticism does not come at a cost of making practical decisions. And for me, commitments ought to involve pragmatism. This notion of fairy-tale romance as the sole prerequisite for long-term commitments, especially marriage, is something I look at with a little hesitancy.

Marriages should have at their core, love, but the type of love evolves over time.

I don't think that fairy-tale love – which I do not mean to mock but I use in the sense of what our media texts have exposed to – is a guarantor of a lasting-commitment. I think one has to consider everything from (non-) religious values to children to the history of someone's family to career goals to financial stability.

It sounds entirely unromantic but being the product of a 34+ year marriage if there's anything my parents have insisted on, it's that love isn't going to get you through. Respect and agreements on certain values, but also the little details of pragmatism that I've mentioned are what at least they have seen, makes marriage – which they can speak to – something long-lasting.

What do you think?

LL: Well, I'm not sure I could have said it better myself. I am not a romantic. The fairy tales have never turned me on. Roses and chocolate and jewelry don't turn me on. Respect turns me on. And for me, I believe that respect leads to romance.

When partners feel valued, when their contributions to the relationship – whether those are financial, emotional, household, or familial – are respected, romance blossoms. Marriages should have at their core, love, but the type of love evolves over time. That evolution isn't bad, it's wonderful. It's deep and solid.

Good marriages (or partnerships in general) are grounded in balance and equality, respect, communication, and an understand of who someone is from a holistic perspective (who they are, where they come from, what they want, what their values are, and so on).

Is passion important? Yes, but the passion that comes from the novelty of a (new) relationship is going to change. If we believe all the headlines on the covers of women's magazines that tell us how to keep things as hot as they were in the beginning, we are in trouble. If things aren't as hot we may assume that our partnership is failing. You can't assume that. Relationships evolve.

loganlevkoff3

TC: Yes, that absolutely make sense. For the record – I do love flowers though! (Haha) But to wrap this up, one of the things I think about in any cultural conversation that has to do with human beings making personal choices, especially in the context of something as vast and wide as sex and dating and love, is that none of us are unicorns.

I say this because people have this notion that we can simply ignore media texts and history and what we're taught about sex, dating, and love from childhood – regardless of whatever cultural-specific messages we receive. But we know that is not possible in its entirety. Those things, even when we go against them are how we fundamentally formed our understanding of the world. Some of them, we might individually and as a society agree are worth changing – or one might disagree.

Are we using our experiences to think about the bigger issues or do we just go through the motions without thinking about what it is we really want or need?

In studying human history and in observing humans, I think there is this generational observation that has been said many times – the solution of one generation becomes the problem of the next. For this culture, the sexual revolution, as its called, can be said to have fostered some of what we now call hook up culture – even though as you said, I think you're right in that, that term might be limiting.

But it seems to me that because none of us are unicorns but culture is also dynamic, we're in this place where on one hand, the previous generation's solution became our 'problem' – in the context of hook up culture, and on the other, we still want to form long-lasting relationships. But I get the sense this is becoming increasingly more difficult with that hook up cultural norm also being a facet of our generation.

What are we Millennials doing, and what are the consequences of what we're doing?

LL: In general, I would say that participating in anything that doesn't represent you or goes against your personal or cultural values is rarely going to be satisfying. What I would rather do is encourage – and in some cases give Millennials the freedom – to think about what it is that they really want and to not feel guilty if those wants are more traditional or more nontraditional.

What many of us do is find ourselves going through the motions because it is easy and what is expected of us. I don't think that there is an official outcome or consequence to participating in a "culture"; experiences give us perspective and ideally help us to determine what it is that we really want out of life, love, and sex.

The question we really need to be asking is: Are we using our experiences to think about the bigger issues or do we just go through the motions without thinking about what it is we really want or need? TC mark

25 Ways Cancers Love Differently

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 09:22 AM PDT

stephbarcenas
stephbarcenas

1. We don't let you get away with shit. Cancers are extremely intuitive—psychic, even—so we always know when you're up to no good. Don't bother convincing us otherwise—we see right through you.

2. Our “crabs' shells” lend themselves to tenacious character. We may be over-emotional, but we're also tough as fuck. An ostensibly benign fight may make us bawl like babies, but we know how to harden up when all's said and done.

3. But, yeah, we’re sensitive. Very sensitive. So sensitive, in fact, that we feel we have to emote for the both of us. If you're a balanced, impervious Libra, for example, we'll often feel we have to emit ~feeling~ for two, which can be exhausting. But we can't help it—us water signs, baby. We've got some leaden emotions.

4. If you hurt us, though, we’ll retreat into our shells—we’ll shut down. A wounded Cancer is an insular Cancer, indeed.

5. More often than not, our emotionality is a virtue. But, on bad days, our hypersensitivity gets the best of us, and we're left overanalyzing/overreacting to every little thing you say and do.

6. We're suspicious imaginative. Hypersensitivity breeds jealousy, and we're seriously prone to feeling green.

7. We're manipulative persuasive. We're in touch with our desires, and we know how to get you on the same page.

8. We're very romantic, and our fanciful love thoughts are often all too starry-eyed. We want a deep, lasting, passionate, devastating love. We want a Carrie and Mr. Big love.

9. Like a crab, when we feel threatened, we pinch—we can be seriously clingy. If we feel vulnerable around you, rather than distance ourselves or give you the space you may need, we'll latch onto you even tighter.

10. And our shells, you'll notice, are hard to crack (at first). We're self-protective and defensive, so it takes us a while to lean into love.

11. Once we do, though, we're all in. We love for keeps.

12. Underneath those hard, protective exoskeletons exist highly vulnerable people. Proceed with tact.

13. So we're never the first to make a move. Despite our hard demeanor, we're secretly terrified of rejection.

14. In virtually every other situation, though, we like to take charge. We're highly opinionated, and we'll never let you call the shots.

15. We're mooooooody. Mucho moody. (Pro tip: you’ll never win by saltily identifying our sore moods. Just let ’em pass.)

16. We're hella loyal. Once you're in, you're in.

17. …Seriously. We'll do anything for you, because carefully nurturing our loved ones brings us unique joy.

18. So, when you're having a bad day, you can pour all your anxiety, nerves, and negativity into us—we'll gladly digest them into positive vibrations. It's what we do.

19. We're creative and expressive. We know how to articulate exactly how we're feeling, and we don't hold back.

20. We prioritize family and the home, so you'll always be at the top of our to-do list. If you're important to us, you'll always be the most important thing. Nothing comes between us and the people we really love.

21. We don't take well to criticism. You'll find that we often overreact to anything less than loving praise—that's just because our shells mask some seriously deep-seated insecurities. Bear with us. Once we really trust you, we'll lighten up.

22. The “no criticism” thing applies to you too, though. We're super protective of our loved ones, and we do not take kindly to outsiders' criticism. If someone even thinks about tearing you down, we'll bite. Hard.

23. We're uncomfortable with strangers and unfamiliar situations, so the best way to put us at ease is to love us at home (or, at least, give us one of our favorite meals).

24. But we’re highly adaptable. Before we can really adjust to those strangers and unfamiliar situations, our shells allow us to exude false confidence, which often translates into the real thing.

25. We're empathetic. However you're suffering, we'll do our very best to make you feel loved and secure. You can always cry on a Cancer’s shoulder. TC mark

23 Of The Most Beautiful Lines From Literature

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 08:49 AM PDT

dashutka2212
dashutka2212

I asked friends and people across the internet what they thought the most beautiful lines in literature were. Some chose lines from classic books while others picked more recent releases. Here are some of their answers.

1.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” – Stephen Chbosky, Perks Of Being A Wallflower


2.

“I know so many last words. But I will never know hers.” – John Green, Looking For Alaska


3.

"Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart." – E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web


4.

“Rudy, please, wake up, Goddamn it, wake up, I love you. Come on, Rudy, come on, Jesse Owens, don't you know I love you, wake up, wake up, wake up…” – Markus Zusak, The Book Thief


5.

"I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one. My reason for life." – Ian McEwan, Atonement


6.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac, On The Road


7.

"She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind." – Toni Morrison, Beloved


8.

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” – Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


9.

“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.” – Cormac McCarthy, The Road


10.

“
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.” – Janet Fitch, White Oleander


11.

“You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” – Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind


12.

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion


13.

“I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera


14.

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh


15.

“The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains.” —Arthur Golden, Memoirs Of A Geisha


16.

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” — J. D. Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye


17.

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank, The Diary Of Anne Frank


18.

 “There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful." – John Green, The Fault In Our Stars


19.

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” — Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close


20.

"I don’t have any problem understanding why people flunk out of college or quit their jobs or cheat on each other or break the law or spray-paint walls. A little bit outside of things is where some people feel each other. We do it to replace the frame of family. We do it to erase and remake our origins in their own images. To say, I too was here." – Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology Of Water


21.

"If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is." – Factotum, Charles Bukowksi


22.

"Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words. And for this, as I said, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more." – Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller


23.

"I let it go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home." – Five Quarters Of The Orange, Joanne Harris TC mark

Read This If Your Relationship Has An Expiration Date

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 08:35 AM PDT

stevenKSchan
stevenKSchan

I can't honestly recall a single relationship I've been in that didn't have an expiration date.

Some of these dates were inherent – the boys I met working at summer camps, the relationships I formed on the road. Those expirations were blatant and overt – On the 21st of April, one of us had a plane to get on. On the 30th of August, we all had to pack up our bags and go home.

Those end dates were the sweetest kind, if possible. They made everything before them seem heightened – every kiss more intense, every uttered word more special. There were no bruises to the ego upon parting – just a simple sinking feeling and the knowledge that life would go on. You got to hold on to the notion that there was one more person in the world whom you loved or adored or at the very least liked for a while. They were comforting, those expirations. They were a simple way of flirting with love.

The hardest expiration dates are not the overt ones though.

The hardest expiration dates are the covert ones. The doubts that creep into your mind six months into a relationship. The arguments you simply can't resolve. The conversation you have about the future that keeps you up at night, turning over somebody's words inside your mind. These are the signs that point toward your inevitable destruction – the signals that indicate the end.

'It works now,' You remind yourself, 'But he or she wants to live in the suburbs. They hate travel. They want (or they do not want) kids.'

And no matter how much you re-iterate to yourself that it doesn't matter or that you can cross that bridge when you come to it, it matters. It worries you. It encapsulates you. It makes you wonder if your relationship exists on borrowed time, if it's all going to come crashing down.

And if it's going to, when?

And if it's going to, shouldn't you just get out now?

We are obsessed with rescuing ourselves from pain. If something won't last forever, we'd rather knock it down early. Cut our losses. Save ourselves from falling from greater heights later on in the game.

We forget that the worth of everything is not measured by its longevity. That some of the best things simply don't last forever. After all, all of our favourite novels, movies and stories had endings. And yet, we read them anyway. We watched them anyway. We loved and learned from them anyway. They still had value, even though they eventually ended. And so do our relationships with people.

The uniquely beautiful thing about relationships that have expiration dates is that they aren't moving toward an end. They aren't about the future so they get to be about the now. About every day you have left with that person. About everything they can teach you before life inevitably tears you apart. Because you know that someday, it is going to.

Someday you're going to wake up and they won't be asleep in bed beside you. Someday you'll hear a joke they'd love and not have their number to text it to. Someday you're going to need their advice and they will not be there to give it. And so you do the only thing that you can: You ask them now. You laugh with them now. You fall asleep beside them now, and relish every moment that you have before it's gone.

Relationships with expiration dates teach us that love doesn't have to last forever to be meaningful. That someone doesn't have to stick around to make an impact. That the best things in life are not always measured by their longevity but by their intensity. Their complexity. By their patience and wisdom and by every way our lives change as a result of them.

We don't get to hold onto every person we love in our lives. But we do get to decide whether or not we're going to appreciate them for everything they're worth while we have them.

And if we can learn to do that, then perhaps we’ll find we can experience the most sincere form of love that exists. The kind that opens us up, takes our entire life by storm and then gently, quietly, teaches us how to let go.

And to appreciate what we have for as long as we get to hold onto it. TC mark

There’s This Thing About Artists

Posted: 20 Aug 2015 08:26 AM PDT

Claire Widman
Claire Widman

I feel like this is essay is going to be like one of those therapeutic letters you're supposed to write to someone you're mad at but never send. I do that a lot, I have over 800 emails in my Gmail drafts folder composed to people I've been mad at since 2007. I have one that I wrote in ’08 to my mean boss:

Hello Steve,

Fuck you.

Sincerely, Amber L. Tozer
Marketing Assistant."

I wrote this thing about artists and I use the word “we” a lot because it’s easier than saying “me and most of my friends” or “me and a lot of people I have talked to” – I know some artists out there will be like “Don’t try to describe me in your think piece you dumb bitch” and to them I say, “Thanks for reading my stuff.” But, yeah, the word “we” can seem a little preachy but it’s just a word I am gonna use to describe myself and people I know, including very successful millionaire famous people and people who are sleeping on their friend’s floor and eating ramen and wondering what the fuck they are doing with their lives.

Without really knowing exactly why we do it, and sometimes we don’t know what we’re trying to communicate, we tinker and toil away at our projects. It's a never-ending loop of creating and hoping people connect with us.

I'm an artist. I don't know why I feel gross saying that, maybe it's because I associate someone who says "I'm an artist" with a douchebag movie character who yells that line at someone who is mad at them for being all fucked up. Maybe I feel like I am truly not an artist because I was a jock who got a business degree and I like Top 40 songs too much. Or maybe it's because I haven't "made it" and have spent the last few years barely supporting myself as a comedy writer after many years of trying. But, I am an artist and so are most of my friends. We produce stuff from our feelings, whether it's happiness, rage, annoyance, confusion or heartbreak – we take these overwhelming feelings and put our perspective behind it and create a piece of work then present it to the public and then we're judged. We're either loved or hated or nobody gives a shit. 

Sometimes our work is incredible but we're not good at business and the public never sees or hears what we create. Or maybe we're mediocre but know the right people and are good at schmoozing and before ya know we're a household name. Some of us experience years of success followed by years of nothingness, we become a has been and can't find our way back to what we once had. And, the best is, when we work our ass off and when the success comes, we deserve every bit of it.

Without really knowing exactly why we do it, and sometimes we don’t know what we’re trying to communicate, we tinker and toil away at our projects. It's a never-ending loop of creating and hoping people connect with us. It's a lonely and scary process, but we keep going. We're broke, sometimes paralyzed by our fear of financial insecurities but we figure it out. We'll work mind numbing part-time jobs that allow us enough freedom and time to work on our art. We'll live like animals, sleep on couches and in our cars and we'll skip meals if we have to. Most of us hate asking for help, it's embarrassing and often question if what we're doing is actually ruining our lives. What kills me the most is when normal people say "You need to get a steady job." Like that has never occurred to me, "Huh? What's that you say? A steady job? One of those things you go to, do some stuff, and get a paycheck on Friday? Well, ok! Let me just change my entire personality and nervous system and I’ll get right on that. Thank you for the unsolicited advice, it warms my heart."

As a creative person, it's hard to explain to people, who choose stability over everything, what it's like to want – I take that back – "want" isn't a strong enough word – they don't know what it's like to HAVE to work on a craft. When you ignore this nagging little gift you were given, it's like you're starving a baby who you could easily feed. You're just watching this baby die and you feel horrible about this crime and put yourself in a mental prison. Every time I've tried to quit, I HAD to come back. I'm very envious of people who work a job, make a decent living, maybe have some kids, watch their favorite TV programs, take one or two vacations a year – and are content. That is a great life as long as you feel good about it. I’m envious, and If I could do that I would. But, the way I'm wired, along with a lot of my friends, we HAVE to keep creating and connecting with life and others in a deeper way. And, so we do.

When we finally find our voice/niche/style we get a little confidence, if we're lucky, people to start to notice. Whether they are fans or powerhouses in the industry, we start to get a little momentum and feel thankful we've stuck with it. But, this is just the beginning of another phase. A phase where we have to work with people who can change our lives. The ones who can get our work exposed to the masses. They are the talent agents, the managers, the development execs, famous friends who are now producers – the people who can shoot us to the top. Depending on what kind of souls these people have, they are either very encouraging and kind and change our lives or they are demons from hell like the boss I drafted that email to.

After awhile, rejection from industry people isn't so painful, and if we're in the right headspace it can be used as fuel to keep trying. Some of the coolest people I've met in the industry have been the ones who have rejected me, they were honest and encouraging and wished me well and gave me solid advice. Some of the people who have hurt me the most are the ones who go on and on about how much love my work, and we’ll have meetings and fancy lunches, then all of us sudden they just stopped responding to me. It's a big mind fuck.

I have had to really bulldoze over my emotions when it comes to the political and business end of getting my work exposed. I’ve heard horror stories from friends and have experienced some very painful let downs. We’re fucked over, people steal ideas, men in power use their position to get sex from desperate female artists, desperate female artists use sex to get leverage on powerful men, egos collide and projects fall apart just because someone isn't getting enough credit or money. You spend years developing an idea with a network or production company, then one day they're like, "Um, never mind. Byyyyeee!”

I guess as an artist the goal is to get do whatever the fuck you want, how you want, with people you love. It's when you're desperate when all of your power is lost. The art is no longer fun, you say yes to jobs because you have to. You work with assholes because it's a "good opportunity" and a paycheck. But, no matter what we have to keep going. Hopefully all these shit experiences are needed for whatever lies ahead. I've seen my artist friends go through hell, come out of it swinging and create something magical inspired by the hell they were in. They write books, they make movies and music and TV shows, they start teaching, they reach a "fuck it" point and do that thing everyone tells them they're crazy for doing. It's all very beautiful when you think of the horrible stuff a creative person goes through to keep creating. It may seem selfish but when you’re listening to a song you love or watching a movie that blows your mind – whoever created that had to go through hell to make it. They weren’t selfish, they were driven. Imagine if your favorite artist, the one who made your favorite movie, or the one who wrote that song you listened to over and over again to help you get through that hard time, would’ve quit right before they made that magic…to get a steady job. Their music and movies wouldn’t exist!

I wanted to write this because a few months ago, I hit a pretty big low. The kind of low where I was complaining and crying and hating the industry. I made myself a victim with tunnel vision, I couldn’t see a way out and it felt so good to blame everyone else. But now that I’m out of that super stinky funk, I think maybe I was learning a lesson about perseverance and trust and learning to just sit with whatever I’m feeling – because whatever bullshit is going on – it’ll pass and everything always changes. And, I have to remind myself to be patient with people who don’t understand why I choose to do what I want over stability. I have to be careful about who I vent to because when I talk to a normal stable person who starts giving me advice I feel like pulling their hair and screaming I MADE A MISTAKE BY TELLING YOU MY PROBLEMS BECAUSE WE HAVE DIFFERENT BELIEF SYSTEMS.

I guess my message is:

To the people who don't understand the artist in your life – pat them on the back and wish them well and buy their work if they make something.

To powerhouse industry people – you can make or break people and you have a choice in how you treat people. Don’t be dicks ok thank you so much, also please call me.

To the artist – don’t ever quit you creative and crazy motherfucker. TC mark

What It’s Like To Suffer From Misaphonia, The Hatred Of Sound

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 08:04 AM PDT

Flickr / Al Ibrahim
Flickr / Al Ibrahim

I've been hearing more and more recently about the misaphonia phenomenon that has become public knowledge all of a sudden. Misaphonia is a rare mental disorder that plagues people all around the world.

This disease is so newly recognized that Microsoft Word doesn't even identify it when I type it out. But people who have been diagnosed with misaphonia are going public, making it a trending topic in today's society.

The word misaphonia translates to "hatred of sound," but it turns out that this hatred of all kinds of noises goes so much deeper than a simple translation.

I have had misaphonia for as long as I can remember. Some of my trigger noises include snoring, gum-chewing, food-chewing, loud breathing, smacking of lips or the sound of a voice with a frog in their throat. These are very common triggers of misaphonia, but some others include teeth brushing, laughing, crying, belching, hiccups, yawning and countless others.

Symptoms can even go as far as certain syllables, letters or words that people use.

I am totally aware that this disease seems like complete bologna. It appears like a bunch of medical crap that whiny people made up to rationalize their pet peeves. The word is even pronounced with the word "phony" in it. How real can it possibly be?

I know that most people who aren't sufferers of the condition dislike these so called "trigger stimuli" to a certain extent also.

But the difference between the simple distaste for these noises and the impact it has on people who have misaphonia is astonishing.

As someone who suffers from this disease, I was plagued by the inability to enjoy a meal with the people I love. The slightest slurp sound or grinding of teeth has led me straight into a loathing oblivion where I've had to constantly remove myself from the location with many apologies to the people at the table.

That is what misaphonia becomes: a lot of removing yourself from situations where you know you will be exposed to the sounds.

It's not something we can help. I have tried for years to suck it up and deal with it. Through my youth I tried going to sleepovers with my friends and falling asleep as quickly as I could to avoid the possible sounds that might ensue during the night, but it never worked. As a biologically programmed night owl, my inability to fall asleep always led to the eventual midnight pickup and my mom bringing me home to sleep in the comfort of my own room.

All my friends and family were worried for me when I went to college; I would have a roommate who would inevitably make noises in their sleep. I was nervous too. I stocked up on industrial earplugs and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately my roommate turned out to be a snorer. Things got so bad for me that I would be up in the middle of the night crying hysterically in the corner of my room with a pillow over my ears, rocking back and forth in the fetal position. That's how bad misaphonia can get. And that's not even the worst of it.

This is misaphonia: an uncontrollable burst of annoyance and rage that cannot be terminated unless the noise stops or we leave the area immediately. It is inexplicably hindering to every day life.

Noises at the office can throw us into a fit, noises that the people we love make can hinder us from spending time with them and the every day pleasure of enjoying sounds is completely taken away from us.

It may be hard for people who do not suffer from misaphonia to understand the extent in which this disease can affect us, but it's very real and very frustrating.

Trust me, the people plagued by this psychological nuisance wish nothing more than to not be bothered by simple noises. It drives people away and we receive dirty looks and negative vibes from a majority of people who have been unlucky enough to encounter us in a bad way due to noises.

People who surround us begin to feel massively self-conscious about the way they breathe or eat or even sleep. Our loved ones are all too aware of the pain it causes us and through our pain we cause them discomfort. It is a never-ending cycle.

My mom used to get mad at me all the time before she understood that I have a serious issue tolerating certain noises. She used to say to me "How are you going to get married? How are you going to accept someone completely, noises and all?"

I'm still figuring that out. I haven't had too many problems with relationships because I've dated people whose noises haven't really bothered me too much. But it is a hard topic to bring up in a relationship. I'm always afraid I'm going to be looked at like I have ten heads or at least a diamond tiara on my head.

What people who do not have misaphonia need to understand is that this is a real condition that affects people every second of the day. Medicine is still in its early stages and there is cognitive therapy that can be done to lessen the impact of triggers, but finding places that specialize in it is extremely difficult. Most people just live with it and find ways to avoid certain noises, which is much easier said than done.

I'm not looking for people to rally together and find a cure for this condition. I'm sure tons of people are saying that it is all in our heads, which it is. But so is bipolar disorder, so is borderline personality disorder, so is schizophrenia. Misaphonia is a mental disorder just like any other mental disorder.

I just want people to understand that it cannot be controlled. Our hatred of noises is something that we wish could be fixed, but unfortunately it does not work that way. Misaphonia can be a living nightmare. You become a prisoner to the noises. But I've found focusing on the sounds that I do like hearing is great therapy to me.

Like music, I love the sound of all music. I usually am listening to music wherever I am. It helps ease my mind and mask the noises that surround me. I sleep with earplugs and with the television on. My close friends and family understand it to a certain extent, but they will never know for sure whether my feelings are legitimate or not. No one will.

Have patience with these people. We don't want to be this way. Understand that it is a serious issue rather than a false claim.

Misaphonia is making its way to the spotlight and soon enough, people will better comprehend what this condition really means for the people who suffer from it. TC mark

Diapers Of Doom: 9 Ex-Babysitters Share Their Most Horrifying Experiences

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 06:42 AM PDT

cburtonsiller
cburtonsiller
Found on AskReddit.

1. I babysat a boy who threatened to tell his mother I touched his privates if I made him go to bed. (He was 9 or so)….I called his parents and told them to come back immediately, their son had said something very inappropriate. The whole time the boy was screaming, “NO! It was a joke! Don’t call anyone!”…His parents were furious; apparently I was NOT the first sitter he tried this on. I refused to sit for them again. I feel bad that they never got to go out, but seriously. No way I was risking my ass.

beetlejuice

2. Here’s the one that scarred me for life….I was babysitting a brother (9) and sister (7) who always acted out pretty badly….One night I was making dinner in the kitchen while they were watching T.V. in the living room. I had a clear view of them and could hear them arguing about what to watch. When the sister refused to change the channel the brother whipped out his penis, stood over her, and threatened to pee on her unless she changed the channel. When she called out for me he changed tactics and full-on smacked her in the face with his little wang. I just stood there, horrified, no idea how to address what just happened. I ended up telling him to pull up his pants and continued cooking. Because Jesus fucking Christ that shit was way beyond my skill level.

beetlejuice

3. When I was 12 I babysat a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. The boy went to the bathroom and then started screaming for me. So I go in and his pants are around his ankles with his head at his feet, bare ass facing the door and he’s holding his cheeks apart….His sister walks up behind me and says, “You’re going to have to wipe his butt; he can’t do it right.”…I wiped the kid’s butt and when the parents came home they were all, “Oh we’re so sorry we forgot to tell you!”

beetlejuice

4. I babysat for a single mom down the road. She was going out with her new BF. Cute, great 5-year-old boy, though very timid. I myself was 15 at the time….He gets up and runs over to grab some scissors and runs back. I say “hold up slow down, you shouldn’t run with those it’s bad and dangerous.” He instantly drops the scissors and starts sobbing, turns around and defeatedly heads toward the kitchen….I’m completely baffled and follow him to the kitchen. I say I’m confused and what’s going on? He points to a drawer and through sobs over 20 seconds he manages to struggle out, “it’s (sob) in (sob) there.” It’s a silverware drawer, but prominent on the top is a large knife, which I can see some flecks of blood on. I turn around to him and he’s taken his pants off. On his legs I see countless cuts, some scars looking years old, some only a day or two old….I close the drawer and kneel down and tell him I’m so sorry I would never hurt him and to put his pants back on….

I say I need to make a quick call, but I’ll be right around the corner and back ASAP. He agrees, and I call the cops….I decide to deadbolt all the doors just in case….Lucky for me, too, because mom gets home before the cops….I go to the door and tell her she’s not getting in until the cops arrive. She freaks out, screams at me, and is pounding in the door yelling to be let in, ordering the kid to let her in or “it’ll happen.” …

Just as she grabs a brick and approaches a window, the cops pull in. She drops the brick and goes to them in hysterics, claiming I threatened to hurt her boy and I’m doing terrible things….Cops converse and tell me I’m going to be cuffed and put in the cruiser until medical services get there to inspect the child….Medical gets there, inspects the boy, I’m released with apologies and the mom takes my place in cruiser….All that and I didn’t even get paid.

beetlejuice

5. I used to babysit a 4-year-old a couple times a week.…This is after a couple months of sitting him. He was cranky so I took him to his bed, suggested he rest, and he became enraged.…A few minutes go by and he comes downstairs very, very slowly. I ask him if he’s calm now and he nods. Then the smell hits me. I walk up to him, he’s standing on the last step of the stairs, and I can see he’s got poo on his foot. Upon closer inspection I can see there is poo all down his pajama pants. Oh lord. I look behind him, and there is a trail of poop that goes all the way up the stairs. The carpeted stairs. I go upstairs and find he had pooped on his bedroom floor and, of course, smeared it all over the place….He also threw scissors at me one time, but I would still take that over the poop.

beetlejuice

6. My parents’ friends when I was in high school had two young kids. One about four/five and the other about two….I put them to bed around nine or something. The little one was fine but the older one ended up crying pretty shortly after. He came out and said he couldn’t sleep with the man staring at him. I asked what he was talking about and he said the “Indian man” kept watching him and it scared him. I tried calming him down but any talk of going back to his room sent him into hysterics. I let him lay on the couch with me….He makes a little squeal and covers his face. I ask what’s wrong and he says, “The man is standing behind you.” I was fucking terrified. After about a minute he tells me the man walked away, and he falls asleep within a few more minutes. When the parents got home, they said the kid has been doing this since they recently moved into the place and describes an older Indian-looking man with a headdress. I never babysat there again.

beetlejuice

7. When I was in my early teens, my sister (almost a decade older) asked me to babysit for her coworkers, who had two kids—a boy and a girl, both under 6….Fast-forward to bedtime, and I’m sitting on the bed reading books to both kids. The boy suddenly drops his underwear, pulls out his penis, and begins playing with it. As the words “put your clothes back on” are about to come out of my mouth, the daughter reaches for my jeans zipper. I freaked the fuck out, slapped her hand away, jumped out of bed and screamed, “STOP THAT.” “I just want to see what yours looks like.” Nope. No. This is creeping me the fuck out….The parents came home and mom immediately began chatting my ear off….I follow her into the kitchen, and just as I had worked up the courage, she removes a spoon from a drawer, puts some water in it, puts a white rock in it, and begins heating it over the stove….Holy. Fuck. I’m like ~13, and this lady is gonna smoke heroin in front of me?…I said I was tired and got out of there as fast as I could, saying that I wasn’t feeling well.

beetlejuice

8. I babysat this girl (8) who had her own iPad. She was into scrapbooking….So once when she went to get the picture out of the saved photo folder, she proceeded to scroll past 30+ pictures of naked women….She took a picture of me and when she went to show me, she flipped through a few pictures of her vagina….It was a very fun conversation with her mother.

beetlejuice

9. Babysat/nannied for 3 kids the summer after my freshman year of college….One day the middle child ran off to play at the neighbors without telling me. Her mom and I agreed to “ground” her until the following day was over (a day and a half total)—she had to stay home/inside and clean her room….On that next afternoon about an hour before her mom was to come home and she was to be “ungrounded” she pulled a knife out and pointed it at me because “I was ruining her life” and “brainwashing her mother.” She chased me around the kitchen a few times before I just grabbed her arm and yanked the knife out. When I did that I was apparently “abusing her.”…The little shit was used to getting her way and thankfully I was off to my sophomore year of college two weeks later. TC mark

There’s Nothing Wrong With Emma Roberts, And That’s Exactly What’s Wrong With Using Her As Aerie’s Newest “Real” Model

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 01:20 PM PDT

Instagram Photo

OK, Aerie, let's get one thing straight before I start. I think you guys are great. Your underwear is cute, your stores are always clean and welcome and I still harbor a secret love for your mother brand, American Eagle, even though I haven't purchased anything from them since 2006.

I respect your dedication to your customers, especially the young women who are your target audience. I think your "Photoshop-free" campaigns are great in theory; the first one you did was great, featuring girls who looked like real people and not like Sims. We see so much Photoshop in ads and campaigns now (and on Instagram, too!) that sometimes we forget what real people look like.

That being said, I think your choice of Emma Roberts as your current spokesmodel is a little ill-advised. I get it, I do. She had a following on "American Horror Story" as Madison Montgomery and got turned into a meme or two. She's starring in the new Ryan Murphy show "Scream Queens," which will probably be great for a season or two and then fall apart just like his other shows. She's super pretty. Her aunt is Julia Roberts, America's Eternal Sweetheart. Her Instagram channel is popular. I get it! I really do. She's got the star power you need, but she still feels accessible because she's not too famous.

The power of a "No Photoshop" campaign, though, doesn't come from tapping a tiny, platinum blonde starlet. She looks like Photoshop. Her features are perfect. Her skin is perfect. Her body is petite and toned. There's nothing wrong with Emma Roberts, and that's exactly what's wrong.

Instagram Photo

"Real doesn't mean flawed," Emma said about the launch. Nope, it doesn't. We live in such a social media vortex now, one where we can filter out our zits and undereye bags on Instagram. Teenagers can Photoshop themselves in all sorts of crazy ways. Technology has changed the way we see ourselves and each other. As someone with legitimately bad skin, I compare my skin to my friends' all the time when I see their selfies on Twitter and Instagram. I compare my body to Kylie Jenner's. It's impossible not to, and it's equally hard to separate the real from the fake.

I would have loved to see someone who isn't a tiny, Hollywood blonde as the star of this campaign. It's nothing against Emma Roberts, who is probably a lovely human and looks gorgeous in the photos. It's just so boring.


Emma Roberts doesn't have zits. She doesn't have scars. She's got access to Hollywood dermatologists, colorists, trainers and makeup artists we "normal people" can only dream about, and I'm sure she takes advantage of them. I sure as hell would, wouldn't you?

The photos for her Aerie campaign are very pretty, and I'm sure they'll sell a ton of underwear and sleepwear, but I can't help but think they're a snooze. A beautiful blonde in her underwear isn't exactly groundbreaking. If you're going to go sans-Photoshop, show your customers someone with cellulite. Show them someone with uneven skin tone. Show them the dark roots or the thighs that touch. Show us a girl who feels like someone we know, someone who doesn't fall into the typical, tired old Hollywood realm of beauty. Real doesn't mean flawed, so give us real. TC mark

Why I Quit My Job As A Server

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 07:54 AM PDT

Shutterstock / Dragon Images
Shutterstock / Dragon Images

My first job in New York City was as a Hostess at the Applebee's in Times Square. Why, yes. It is the largest Applebee's on the planet! My job was to stand behind a desk at the front door, greet guests, announce numbers of parties walking up the stairs, and make sure that only guests used the bathrooms. There was no janitorial staff. For $7.25/hour, I had the honor of cleaning the bathroom, and unclogging toilets eight times per shift.

I lasted two weeks before I found something better. It was another Hostess job this time at a 2-star restaurant on the Upper West Side. They paid me $12/hour with no possibility of a raise, only the possibility of a promotion. Ownership, managers and servers constantly yelled me at over situations that were far beyond my control and frankly, above my pay grade. When scheduled for the coat check, I would make upwards of $300 in tips. These tips went directly into a manila envelope at the end of the night as profit for the restaurant. I was allowed to keep my $12/hour, minus taxes.

After that, I moved on because I had hit the jackpot. A small wine bar on the Upper West side was looking for servers and decided I was trainable. The server's paradox is that you can't get a server job (and make that fat server cash) unless you have previous experience serving. You either lie about previous experience or hope that someone takes a chance on you. The floor manager at this place liked me enough to give me the old college try. I was a terrible server at the beginning. I couldn't open a bottle of wine with any grace. I stumbled over verbal specials, and I let the bitchy Upper West Siders smell my fear. Still, they kept me on staff because I tried so hard.

DEMO_aj22

As time went on, I moved up in the ranks of New York City Server jobs. I worked mostly in steakhouses. Once the environment became too toxic, I moved on. The one factor that always remained in any such job was the obnoxious guests. The restaurant industry has created monsters. The customer is not always right. Most of the time, the customer is an asshole. Take it from me. I cut a guest's steak for her once. At the table.

My most recent (and last) restaurant job was one that I thought I'd hold onto for at least a few years. We'll call this restaurant the "Roman Holiday". For once, I liked the people that I worked with, and the people I worked for. This job came complete with a predictable sum of money deposited into my bank account each week. I felt like a shelter dog that had found its forever home. Admittedly, the workload was overbearing. The food and wine menus changed on a daily basis. This was fine for those of my co-workers who were truly passionate about food, wine, and hospitality. After many months of trying to be the good server on my Roman Holiday, I finally had to admit that I was on the wrong path. I had sold out. No paycheck is worth the stress that I felt working as a server.

One day, a few months ago, I had a guest at the "Roman Holiday". It was the kind of woman who shouldn't have left her apartment without having coffee in the morning. Some people owe it to society to drink coffee before they leave the house. You know who you are. I greeted her, and ordered her cappuccino. Naturally, she complained that it was taking to long. I apologized and assured her that the barista could only work on three drinks at a time, and her 'ccino would be up in a mo. She shrugged it off and started asking questions about the menu. She needed to know exactly what was in the yogurt because she knew she wanted to modify the order, but she wasn't sure how she wanted to modify the order. Then she started asking about the cereal.

The cereal at the "Roman Holiday", like everything else, is made in house. They fill a third of a bowl with the cereal, slice a quarter of a banana and throw a few dried cranberries on top. About 5 oz. of milk is served in a quartino on the side. For all of this, they charge a whopping $12. I try to steer people away from this item, being the penny pinching, living hand-to-mouth, buried in student debt, millennial that I am. Still, her questions persisted, and the conversation went like this…

Cereal Woman: Is it like granola, or is it muesli?

Me: I'm sorry, Miss. I don't know what muesli is. Can you describe it for me?*

Cereal Woman: (in a raised voice) Muesli. It's MUESLI. You're a server. You should know what muesli is!

* I have since Googled what muesli is. Gross.

At that point in the exchange, I excused myself to the pastry kitchen where I often cried. The pastry kitchen was my safe place where they baked magic, and rarely judged me. In that moment, in the safest place at the "Roman Holiday", I finally said the words out loud. "I can't do this anymore. No one's cereal is worth my dignity."

After chasing the validation of being a "good employee" for the better part of 10 years, I finally had enough. I thought of all of the auditions that I didn't attend because I couldn't get my shift covered. I thought of this past Christmas, when I spent the day working a double, unable to go home to my family. I thought of all of the times I'd sit in lineup sweating because of my disappointing lack of food and wine knowledge. I thought of all of the things I could have accomplished if I had put half of the work into my acting career than I did in my server career. Finally, I let go.

I put in my notice about a month and a half before I actually left. The last day, didn't feel like the end of an era. It just felt like another day of the grind. A week later, I woke up at 8 AM, instead of the usual 4 AM, and I realized that I had gotten myself exactly where I wanted to be in that moment. I'm sitting at my computer today, hustling for my new and improved career. I haven't served anyone cereal in two-and-a-half weeks. I don't know how I'm going to pay my September rent or the bills between now and then. You should see the smile on my face. TC mark

25 Of The Most Important Things You Can Learn Before You Turn 25

Posted: 25 Aug 2015 07:25 AM PDT

Twenty20 / tiffanythere
Twenty20 / tiffanythere

1. Carry mace around with your finger on the trigger.

Crazies are everywhere. Invest in some pepper spray and when you're walking alone, even just a few blocks, have it out and ready. In a pinch, an umbrella is excellent for fending off attackers (I know this from experience).

2. Wear your retainer.

I didn't go through eight years of tooth extractions, spacers, palette expanders and braces to have my teeth shift in adulthood, but I've met plenty of people who "forgot" to wear their retainers and now have crooked teeth again. So if you want that thousand-dollar smile to stay in place, just stick the contraption in every now and then.

3. Stand up for yourself.

I'm don't like confrontation. When I have to confront someone, my skin gets blotchy, I sweat profusely, my voices cracks and the whole situation feels like an out-of-body experience. But if I can't stand up for yourself, who else is going to do it? No one. Plus, I feel like a total #boss when I drop some knowledge and make my confrontee recognize who they messed with.

4. Bullies exist at every age.

I will never understand people who get some sort of sick pleasure out of tearing others down and causing physical/mental/emotional pain. When I was little, my mom would say bullies are jealous. While this is sometimes the case, unfortunately, some people are just mean.

5. You actually might use algebra some day.

One time I helped my dad build a patio using the Pythagorean Theorem. Sure, that's the only time, but at least all those years weren't totally wasted, right?

6. Don't change yourself for the people around you.

You won't make them happy, you won't make yourself happy, you won't make anyone happy. If you need to change to please someone, they're just going to pick something else to criticize. It's not worth your time.

7. Learn basic life skills.

I'm no mechanic, but I can fill a car's engine oil like a champ. I learned how to change a tire real quick when I drove over a nail on the way to work. I have a delicious-but-nutritious go-to dinner recipe burned in my memory, I can do a breast self-exam (and I found a benign lump once, so those things are legit) and I'm trying to get a thorough grasp on how taxes work. Know the basics and you can fake the rest.

8. Hold onto your student ID.

If your college ID doesn't have an expiration date, keep that baby close. If you don't mind fibbing a bit, you can continue to get discounts on museums, clothes, movie tickets, food and more until you don't look like your picture anymore. Ethical? Maybe not. Wallet-friendly when you're living that overworked and underpaid millennial life? Yes.

9. Enjoy your own company.

I always go to the movies by myself. I take myself to lunch on the reg and recently spent a good chunk of a paycheck to see Billy Joel alone (10th row, babyyy). It might be weird at first, but you'll feel more confident and learn that you don't always need others around to have fun. Heck, I love hanging out with myself so much that I went on a solo trip to Paris and London last year.

10. The bigger you dream, the more you'll achieve.

You know that cliché phrase on motivational posters in middle school halls everywhere, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars"? It's actually true. Work toward your loftiest dreams and if you don't get there, you'll usually at least be a lot closer than if you had settled.

11. Travel.

The best way to learn about other cultures, meet people from different worlds and eat some of the most delicious food ever (my main motivation tbh) is traveling. Hostels, AirBnB, transportation options like Megabus and Eurail and budget airlines make travel easy and more affordable than you might think. Plus, travel doesn't have to mean going overseas! Grab friends – or don't (see #9) – and go on a day trip to a nearby city.

12. YouTube is amazing.

You can learn pretty much anything on YouTube: how to play the guitar, how to moonwalk, how to make macaroni and cheese waffles, how to clean a toilet with Coca-Cola. The possibilities are endless.

13. ‘It'll be a good chapter in my memoir.’

If you're in a situation and you know it's temporary but it's still rough, just say this sentence to yourself. Do I actually plan to write a memoir? Probably not. But when I had to sleep on the floor of my office every weeknight for six months (related to the scenario briefly alluded to in #1), it made everything a little more bearable.

14. Some things will always suck.

Gynecologist appointments, bikini waxes, treadmills and sequels that replace the main actor. #ThingsThatWillNeverBeEnjoyable

15. Learn to listen.

I used to love to hear myself talk. I still do, but I now realize that it's inconsiderate to hog the conversation. Everyone wants to share their stories and often those stories are just as, if not more, interesting than my own. Open up your ears and really listen when someone is talking to you. Ask questions, engage and don't just wait to tell your own story that sort-of-relates-but-not-really-at-all. You'll make the storyteller feel good and you might even learn something.

16. Story-toppers are the worst.

Similar to #15, don't try and top every story. There is a difference between sharing a similar experience and just exaggerating your own tale so that the attention is now on you. Rude.

17. Girl crushes can make you a better person.

My first boss was this super-cool chick who takes no nonsense and gets the job done while also being kind and looking like a rockstar. J.K. Rowling is a brilliantly creative woman who made an indelible mark on the world with her imagination. Veronica Mars is the ultimate badass and uses her intelligence and sarcastic wit to solve murders and just get through everyday life as a teenager. Okay, that last example is fictional, but all of these ladies have traits that I deeply admire and try to emulate to make myself the person I want to be.

18. Crappy apartments aren't fun, but neither is paying student loans until you're 70.

Sort your finances out as best you can now so you have more freedom later. Pay more than the minimum on your monthly loans if you can. 401Ks are cool and you can apparently save a heck of a lot more money if you start investing young.

19. Prevent the preventable.

Wear a helmet. Don't lie out in the sun without proper SPF protection. Wear your seat belt– even in a cab. And don't text and drive!! Literally nothing on your phone could possibly be more important than the lives of you and your passengers.

20. Leave everyone alone.

A wise woman named Kacey Musgraves once told us, "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy." Don't tell someone how to plan their wedding or spend their money or take care of their children. Don't get so worked up over things that do not affect your life. Don't ask vegetarians how they get their protein. You didn't care about my protein intake three seconds ago, why is it suddenly the most urgent matter in the world?

21. Channel your inner weird, over-confident child.

I was a bizarre kid. I wore a feather boa around the house while singing Bette Midler's seminal classic "Perfect Isn't Easy" from Oliver & Company on a daily basis. I also liked to read – a lot – and would test out big fancy words I learned (like "comical" instead of "funny") in conversations with other 9-year-olds. If we all acted more like our strange tiny selves who did not care even a little bit what other people thought of us, imagine what we could be capable of.

22. Pronounce things correctly.

How cute is it when you hear grown humans order "pasketti" at a restaurant or say they need to get a book out of the "liberry"? Oh, right. Not cute at all. While we're at it, learn the difference between "you're" and "your" because you're not impressing anyone with your poor grammar. (See what I did there?)

23. Life is not a movie, but sometimes it's better.

No, I can't get into law school wearing a sparkly bikini in a video submission. Hugh Grant will not spill orange juice on me and clean me up behind the most charming blue door ever. Morgan Freeman does not narrate my life. But what about that night my sisters and I watched fireworks on the beach with virgin piña coladas? Or the time that cute English stranger asked if he could kiss me on a landmark bridge? Or that day my best friend and I tried to sneak into a Jason Derulo concert and got kicked out and ate falafel instead? Those memories are even more magical than all of my favorite films combined.

24. The Reasonable Man.

My dad has this theory called The Reasonable Man, which first came into practice when my sisters and I wanted to pool-hop nine years ago but were nervous about breaking the rules. It is simple, logical and, quite frankly, brilliant. The Reasonable Man states: 1.) If it's not harming anyone, it's probably okay. 2.) If it's not inconveniencing anyone, it's probably okay. 3.) It's better to ask forgiveness than permission. The Reasonable Man is my moral compass.

25. Always give credit where credit is due.

There are few things worse than sharing an idea, a story, a project or even a joke and later hearing or seeing someone else tell/use/claim it as their own. Theft of creativity and originality is one of the worst crimes of theft and I've learned too many times that others do not share the same integrity when it comes to giving props.

Shoutout to my mom and dad and all the people who have taught me how to be a decent, kind, semi-functioning human. Armed with these lessons, I think I'm ready to take on 25…though I still have a few days to join a girl band and star in a completely wholesome reality show, right? TC mark