If You Wanted to Know How the Move is Going…

For the past 8 years, polite acquaintances have asked, “How’s Columbus/Louisville/Chicago/Orlando?” and I finally have a really long, unedited answer for you.


When my parents dropped me off on Ohio State’s campus in Columbus, Ohio and I watched their red Chevy Tahoe drive off into the distance, I felt like I had just been dropped out of a plane. As the scarlet blip of their vehicle got tinier and tinier rolling down High Street, the lump in my throat grew. I believe that an animator witnessed that moment and modeled the Mr. Krabs meme entirely after me:

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That first week of school I thought I was real chill for sneaking off into the stairway to sob so I wouldn’t bother my roommates, but I just joined several others who were low key calling their moms because we all had no idea what was happening to our lives. Going from a small, Catholic all-girls school to a  giant, co-ed university was utterly disorienting.

As the months went on and I gradually stopped being shocked by the sight of men, the campus of 50,000+ became progressively less overwhelming. I found solace in taking care of similarly terrified freshmen when I became a resident advisor, and I met lifelong friends, and learned to love football in a profound and borderline-obsessive way.

Seemingly at the exact moment I had grown accustomed to my favorite view out of the Thompson Library (in the Mortar Board room, 2nd floor), and the heart-swelling sounds of the OSU Marching Band rehearsing (TBDBITL), I was accepted into graduate school at DePaul University and the University of Louisville. Marty (a cute boy I met), was moving to Chicago, where DePaul was located. I also planned to head to Chicago, but Louisville was like, “Hey girl, what if we gave you a teaching assistantship?” and I was like “I don’t even know u” but I visited anyway, and after a day on campus I looked at my dad and said:

“Dad, I can’t do this, I’m too scared.”

And he said, “Okay, then don’t do it.”

So naturally, I had to go for it.

BUT YOUR GIRL WAS FREAKING OUT–I straight up knew no one who had ever lived in Louisville, and while I had the blessing of a great roommate and a couple of amazing people in my graduate program, I spent most of the first year crying into progressively larger books because my brain hurt and I was lonely AF. It wasn’t until I found a great Chinese takeout place and I could tell you what goes in a mint julep that I started to feel at home, and then BOOM, I graduated and moved to Chicago.

I really thought that moving to Chicago would be like slinking into a warm tub of comforting feels because I had my man with me and some soulmate-level friends—but the train commute was long (45 minutes each way) and there was so much to learn about living in and taking advantage of a big city that I just wasn’t equipped for. Exhausted, post-grad Carly made her desktop background a picture of a field of wheat and dreamed of starting a farm because she felt overwhelmed.

And, as the story goes, JUST when strangers started asking me for directions and I felt confident telling them where to go, Marty and I moved to Orlando, Florida—also a city where no one we knew had ever lived. In a lot of ways, this has been a great experience, because both Marty and I knew what it felt like, separately, to move somewhere that felt scary and new, so embarking on it together was exciting and reassuring.

Some days, though, I look around me and still feel the immense weight of starting over. I keep getting confused when people “go on walks” during their lunch break because I forget that you can go outside in March. Someone told me alligators regularly climb and hang out in trees and I believed them for three months. People un-ironically wear winter coats when its 60 degrees out. It all still feels so new, and nothing beyond my screened-in porch feels comfortable yet.

In 2017, moving around seems to have become an integral part of the life of a millennial—an expected rite of passage that labels one as a “go-getter.” But this shit is hard. I hear people say all the time, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” but the exhilarating feeling of new-ness is always accompanied by paralyzing self-doubt and homesickness for a home that doesn’t really exist anymore (as all of my closest friends are now spread about the country, too). For example, I discovered an awesome little clothing store tucked away in my neighborhood yesterday that can’t be found on Google maps, and it made me feel like an awesome, super-chic adventurer– but I could also really use a night drinking wine with those who know what a “Pnina Bride” is (Marty and Gatsby try, they just don’t know) but my girls are far away.

One such far-away-soul-friend told me the other day that it is possible to get everything you want, just not at the same time, and it was surprisingly comforting.

No matter where you are in life right now—whether you’re far away, or close to home, or in a mental space somewhere in between—just know that your location isn’t the ultimate determiner of your happiness, though it can feel like it sometimes. We can obsess all day (and I do) about where we could be, instead of settling in as best we can to where we are. It’s something I have to work at every day. After I post this, I’m going to go buy some limes, because they’re 50 cents and fresh as hell here, and I know someday I’m going to say to Marty, “remember those cheap limes?” and he’s going to say “I remember you being excited about cheap limes” and we’ll miss things exactly as they are right now.

The Five People You Meet at Disney World

1. A child who is way too overwhelmed for this  

If you ever find yourself at Disney World, the name of the game is naps. Naps for everyone. You get a nap, and you get a nap…everyone gets a nap. Disney World is ten degrees hotter than the rest of Florida always and provides absolutely no shade unless you’re inside of a gift shop. Walking around a seemingly endless stretch of evenly-paved, artificial road will get you sweaty in a hurry, not to mention the line waiting and general crowd heat. It will exhaust you even if you’re just standing there. As adults, we know that we probably need to take regular water breaks, but children, once released into Disney World, will go all the way HAM and will not stop until they pass out (who can blame them?). Prior to the inevitable pass-out, though, you’ll catch a glimpse of a child just staring at Mickey Mouse with their eyes glazed over, just kind of wobbling in place. It’s a mixture of awe and possibly heat stroke. You might also see a child in a stroller just very quietly sobbing, as one does when all their dreams are coming true but they’re too tired to take it all in. My favorite is when a child just decides to start spinning around in place because there is so much to look at. The parents will be like, “Jimmy, come this way” and everyone witnessing this, including Jimmy, has serious doubts that he’ll ever be able to move in one simple direction ever again, now that his eyes have viewed such an aggressive array of brightly-colored whimsy.

2. Parents having a quiet, curt exchange with one another

This is one of my favorites to witness, because I know I’m roughly 10 years away from it being my life. The silent discontent almost always has to do with the child asking, “CAN I HAVE TWENTY LOLLIPOPS!?” and the dad saying “why not?” and the mom staring at the dad like, “there are literally 100 reasons why not” but it’s too late, and the fun parent has been decided yet again. I’ve also seen moments like this happen whilst leaving the park at the end of the night, where one parent has a child slung over their shoulder, and they’re discussing what went wrong during the day. This usually has to do with one partner critiquing the other’s #ParkStrategy or gloating about how they knew the location of the Jungle Cruise all along (it’s in Adventureland, in Magic Kingdom. Not Animal Kingdom. Like a Jungle Cruise should be. Just FYI).

3. Family members not speaking to each other OR yelling the most

Some families don’t know that disagreements at Disney world should be kept as low key as possible. I am not one to judge disputes and I don’t pretend to know anyone’s life, but some pretty epic miscommunications can happen within a place that claims to be WORLD SIZED, and some people think they’ll be spared I guess?? But no one is spared. You just shouldn’t get mad about it. I hear people on their cell phones all the time like, “Tommy you were supposed to MEET US AT THE DONALD DUCK TOPIARY!!! YOU IDIOIT!!!” and they fail to realize they’re surrounded by shrubbery shaped like anthropomorphized animals. Look around you, bro. When the voices of tiny mice singing are being pumped through speakers everywhere you turn, it’s not a time to call out our boy Tommy. Later, maybe. Not now.

4. A spoiled child

Every child is going to have a crying-in-a-gift-shop moment, but when you see one of those little girls who has clearly been to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (the most boujee salon on the planet) throwing their ten new stuffed animals on the ground crying about how they should be allowed to live in Cinderella’s castle, you start to experience bystanders’ embarrassment for her parents, who are just looking helplessly at their baby tyrant. Not hearing the word “no” does not make a child happy, even in the happiest place on earth.

5. A person who is having the most delightful moment of their entire lives

Fact: every time I watch the evening fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, I start crying. I’m not even that big into Disney movies, but for some reason that MUSIC and those shooting stars arching over the castle just take me back to simpler times. If you can look past the people listed in #2-4 above, you will see little moments of magic happening everywhere. Disney World is literally constructed to be unreal, and therefore it allows you the freedom to experience joy that reality has all but squashed by the time you turn 13. It’s like you get a little piece of your light, whistful, I-know-nothing-of-taxes-nor-standardized-tests heart back–and that is priceless.

The Golden Nugget: A Theory

I don’t need to know you very well to walk up to you and say, “So I have a theory…” I pretty much go for it with anyone who will listen. Socially uncouth? Maybe. But it’s helped me develop an idea worth writing about (well…I didn’t think it was worth writing about until someone asked me, ‘have you written this down?’ which is always a generous thing to say to someone who is excited about something).

So here goes- my Golden Nugget Theory, one that I developed in graduate school when some of my colleagues argued that people don’t have souls and I got hella upset (love you guys–it helped me think it through in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise).

We’ve all heard of the religious idea of souls—something that can be saved in order to access the afterlife. While this is fascinating, that’s not the definition of “soul” I’m working with, even though I thought “soul” was the closest thing to what I wanted to describe. For that reason, we’re gonna call what I’m about to discuss a “Golden Nugget.”

I believe that every single person has a kernel inside them that makes them who they are. Visually, it looks like this in my mind:

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But like, real small. And it’s housed in the center of your body. I don’t know why. I just feel like it is (roll with me here).

Your Golden Nugget contains all that makes you, you. The essential components. When everything else is stripped away, there is your kernel of self-ness.

In response to this assertion, I’ve heard the argument that people have an endless capacity to change. We’ve all heard stories about convicts completely renouncing their former lifestyles, of people going completely rogue after living a straight-laced existence, etc. Someone also brought up the fact that certain people with frontal lobe damage can have complete personality changes.To that I say that none of those factors—personality, decision making processes, even values—are part of your Golden Nugget.

The factors that make up your Golden Nugget are embodied in the unquantifiable “vibe” people get from you. Not the surface level “you’re really nice” or “you seem like an asshole” vibes. It’s a sense of person-ness you can feel, even if you can’t see someone. Like how you know if someone’s standing behind you, but in a less eerie sense. Internally, your Golden Nugget creates the feeling that tugs at you when you’re in the right place, around the right people, or when you’re feeling completely understood.

If it sounds confusing, I want y’all to think about babies. Babies are pure Golden Nuggets. They have not yet crafted around themselves the traits that we need to survive in this world—emotional blocks, learned personality traits, etc. They are just open Golden Nuggets who need love. Really, if you want to learn anything about anything, be around a baby. Or a dog. I digress.

Golden Nuggets help to conceptualize death and love, too (continue rolling with me)

When people pass away, it’s scientific fact that their energy doesn’t just stop—it has to move on. We don’t quite know where that energy goes when someone dies, but it without a doubt heads somewhere (isn’t that lovely?). What continues on, I believe, is not all the things that you’ve built up throughout life, not the experiences you had that influenced who you’ve become– but your original Golden Nugget, and the freedom that provides.

Golden Nuggets are also the base component for falling in love. You know how we can’t explain why we fall in love with certain people, despite their personality traits, physical appearance, etc.? It’s because we’re recognizing their nugget—that is what we love, and what makes it so hard to explain. It’s also why people fall in love with “bad” people. Possessing a Golden Nugget, unfortunately, does not save anyone from being a destructive, borderline evil person.

So why is this concept important? Why, when someone suggested that people don’t have souls (or Golden Nuggets), did I literally freak out?

For me, the Golden Nugget is my driving force for how I conceptualize people. There are so many factors that can’t be explained about why people act the way they do, and why they make the decisions they make. This inability to explain people is why gossip exists (WHY is this person doing that? What does that mean for me?), and it’s why people on the whole are so quick to judge others (I am confused—let me categorize you). We all opt-in to it at varying levels. But the Golden Nugget theory reminds me to think about inherent purity and value in people I can’t understand. Everyone has a Golden Nugget that is to be treasured and respected for its difference.

Whenever I am about to go off on someone (which, frankly, is more frequent than I’d care to admit–your girl has some rage) I try to tap into that “vibe” of someone’s presence and tell myself that, even if it’s buried real deep, they’ve got a Golden Nugget (and if I met them as a baby this wouldn’t be happening).

To be clear, there are MANY people who have blocked any ability for others to recognize their Golden Nugget, and it is not your job to go and hunt for it—but it is good to remember that it’s there, somewhere.

If this is sounding like, to quote a frustrated individual I spoke to once, “some sappy, hippie bullshit,” perhaps it is–but the world could always benefit from some sappy, hippie bullshit when it helps you feel not as angry toward people.

Folks, there is a lot to be angry about. Find a baby. Hug a dog. Think about Golden Nuggets, and let it help you where it can.

Why “Like” is more important than “Love”

When arguably the most beloved television couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, were asked “what makes your marriage last?” Chip simply responded, “Well, we like each other.”

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This reminded me of another glorious, though fictional couple:

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And quotation by Friedrich Nietzsche:
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”

Liking the person you love is essential, but hating the person you love is a story we hear much more often.

So many people are chasing an artificial idea about what romantic love should be. I am so completely frustrated by the love story that’s told over and over again—one that begins with an instant attraction and culminates in a sweeping, passionate romance that is completely unrealistic for two complex humans to maintain consistently forever. While many relationships start out this way, that initial flame eventually starts to wane, and we are left feeling like it’s time to move on—after all, what’s left? In the highs and lows of a relationship, what’s consistently left is friendship—it is deeply liking the person. It is the essential foundation for building a life with someone, yet it is left out of so many stories to the point where people forget how necessary it really is, and they don’t know to look for it.

While I don’t have a vast array of anecdotes to choose from, I have experienced the feeling of being attracted to someone whose every quality I did not like. I don’t know what it is—our brains self sabotaging maybe? God’s way of amusing himself? Regardless, it’s a real, chemical phenomenon that seems to be a rite of passage for all. Such a real phenomenon, that those emotions can easily be mistaken for love.

A literal thought I had once was- “I hate how he interacts with my friends, and how he talks to people in general, but he is SO. HOT. so maybe it could turn into something really great.” I saw nothing wrong with that logic. And who can blame anyone for using that line of thinking? Our society glorifies loving someone in spite of things. Exhibit A:

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I’m all about a good challenge and disagreement every now and again, but what happens when Noah and Allie pictured above stop looking like a gorgeous, young Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling? The Notebook would have you believe you get a person to die with whilst holding hands, but if you rarely agree on anything, you’re probably just going to get a messy breakup once you finally take a two minute breather from making out. Once that breakup happens, you might think to yourself, “I don’t know how to make a relationship work,” but there is a good chance that you were just looking in the wrong place. You weren’t starting by looking for a friend.

Now I want to be clear—I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to meet someone. I don’t think you have to be “just friends” first. I do believe that the friendship that is built within your relationship is its most important component, because it will always be there no matter what life throws at you.

If you like the person you’re with on the same level as a good friend, it makes everything easier. You don’t have to be stressed out at parties if you like the things your partner says and how they treat people. You don’t have to worry about becoming bored with one another if you like what your partner cares about and find their perspective interesting. If you like who your partner is and how they carry themselves, you’ll start building small moments of realizing how much affection you have for them, and those moments are the threads that keep the fabric of any relationship together. It is why Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice urges Elizabeth, “…Do anything rather than marry without affection,” because she recognizes that if the liking is not there, it doesn’t matter how rich (or how hot) Mr. Darcy is.

Romance and passion are the easiest parts of a relationship to maintain when you create a depth of friendship underneath it. I wish there were more stories out there that chronicled the growth of a partnership so people would stop feeling stressed comparing their relationship to a superficial ideal. For now, I will just continue to sing the praises of passionate agreement, fireworks of genuine affection, and the sexiness of knowing that your partner is also, in the truest sense, your friend.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

To kick off this post, I will give you one of my favorite things on the internet:

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Very few people like to talk about mental health, I think, because the idea that our brains are constantly in a delicate chemical balance that could flip out at anytime is generally unsettling. We like to think of “sanity” as stable and unchanging—but it isn’t. People need to become more comfortable with talking about what’s going on (and what might be going wrong) in their minds, so we can avoid isolating ourselves (and all the consequences that come along with that decision).

You know your girl is all about sharing, and that includes hard things. I don’t think that sharing my experiences will have any sort of groundbreaking effect, but I know how much I have been helped by reading about other people’s experiences, particularly with anxiety and panic disorder—which is, spoiler, the subject of this post.

One of the most intense, stress inducing things I’ve ever done was take the leap to move to Louisville, Kentucky to enroll in a graduate program. It was a big decision, and while I want to play it off like I was a total trailblazing badass, I am actually an emotional orchid who requires a consistent watering of affection and words of affirmation. You don’t tend to receive those things at first in a city where you know no one. I was completely scared—no shame.

Thankfully, the first few months went really well, and that was in no small part due to a few wonderful people I met in my program, my roommate who was a totally well-adjusted, welcoming person (#blessed), and some really supportive faculty mentors who acknowledged that graduate students are also people.

A couple of months into this experience, I had to get a new doctor (another joy of moving to a new city), and thus was prescribed a new medication. Almost immediately I began experiencing full-blown panic attacks. Basically imagine the most stressed out and terrified you have ever been, and imagine your body reacting that way while you’re just chillin’ in your couch. Panic attacks are like an unwanted internal town crier that’s just screaming “FIRE!” with zero prompting, and for extended periods of time.

Given my current situation in a new city, with a new course load, with no friendships established just yet, there were many points of stress, and I began to chalk these panic episodes up to “just not being able to handle it.” I would get so frustrated with myself thinking, “you’re so lucky to be here! Why are you freaking out?” never ONCE thinking that it could be an outside source causing my body to react in ways it never has before.

I want to avoid going off on a tangent here, but I think many people, many women especially, are particularly hard on themselves when things aren’t going mentally right for them. When you’re told your whole life by society (and like…all of history) to avoid being an “emotional, hysterical woman” you tend to tell yourself the same thing. Men, of course, have their own gendered struggles with this—basically society is trying to do a number on all of us, and you need to push back against it. I’ll pick that topic up later. And by later, I mean I will always be talking about it in some form or another. Hit me up whenever.

Fast forward through about six months of telling myself to get it together, to when I saw that a fellow graduate student posted a status on Facebook stating that she had been feeling depressed for many years. She had only recently discovered that it was entirely due to the medication she was on.

This got me thinking- what if the medication I was taking on a daily basis was causing these panic attacks? Turns out, it absolutely was.

I wish I could say, “And then it was all better! Yay! I’m cured! Very short story, much success” but even though I got rid of the initial catalyst, the unfortunate reality is that, once your body has experienced a panic attack, it is as if you’ve opened a portal of possible reactions your body can have to stress.

I have always been a relatively anxious person (which is good when I’m able to channel it to bring energy to social situations, but not so fun when my mind is like, ‘hello yes RU bored? HAVE I GOT SOME WORRIES 4 U!’), but before I experienced panic attacks I did not understand what it felt like to not be in control of your brain and it’s processes.

I am a stubborn person. I believed that I could mentally overcome just about anything—but let me tell you, when it comes to the chemicals in your brain, you cannot keep going without help.

It is not a sign of strength to manage it alone.

There are infinite reasons why your brain could suddenly freak out on you (again, not a happy thought), but in no situation is it at all your “fault.” It seems that most people (myself included) don’t exactly feel empowered to get help when a sudden shift like this happens. More people would if we keep this conversation going.

I was hesitant to post this, mainly because I was afraid that someone would read it and think “Seriously? That’s so minor compared to [insert many examples of people who experienced more difficulties here].” Perhaps it is minor, but we do an awful lot of talking about things we can handle, and not nearly enough about the things we can’t.

Reach out, keep talking, and be kind to yourself.

“We are all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass

In Preparation for the Holidays: Top 5 Questions to Avoid

**DISCLAIMER: The following is a conglomeration of things that are typically asked by extremely well-meaning relatives around the holidays. This is in no way a roast of anyone’s well-meaning relatives, and is not all derived from personal experiences. Awkward questions are simply a universal holiday tradition. While your reason for the season may differ, we can all agree it shouldn’t involve accidentally making your cousin cry by asking the following:**

  1. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?

Possible Intention– Relationships are so fun! I love talking about them, and because I love you, I want to know!

Internal Reaction WHY YA GOTTA SAY “yet,” GRANDMA!? No, I don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend YET because DATING IN THE DIGITAL AGE HAS NO RULES and is IMPOSSIBLE TO NAVIGATE. You met grandpa in your teens, and you knew he was a good person BECAUSE YOU KNEW HIS WHOLE FAMILY and I don’t even know if a guy is going to look anything like his profile picture SO MAYBE IT’LL BE A MINUTE.

Tip– I have found that, if someone wants to talk about their relationship, THEY will bring it up. If it gets serious, Grandma, you’re gonna know about it without having to ask.

Possible Response– “No, but my new job is awesome…”

  1. Are you trying to get pregnant?

Possible Intention– Children bring so much joy to families, and I feel like they’ll bring you joy, and I just love talking about babies at Christmas time!

Reaction– Aunt Betty—what exactly are you asking me? You’re asking what our timeline is for kids, but it also feels like, on some level, you are asking if we are consistently rollin’ in the ol’ hay (not the one in the manger, if you catch my drift). I do not wish to talk about either of these things.

Tip– On a not-so-funny level, fertility problems are real, and no one wants to accidentally stumble on such deeply personal matters. Also, having kids is not what everyone wants, and no one should feel obligated to explain that.

Possible Response– “When/if I am pregnant, we will definitely let you know! You know what I am trying to do? Cuddle cousin Marsha’s baby. LOOK AT THAT BABY, AUNT BETTY!”

  1. So how’d you feel about the election?

Possible Intention– I’m thinkin’ we might feel the same about politics, and if I’m wrong about that, I am pretty sure I can get you to see the light.

Reaction– OH PLEASE NO, UNCLE JOE. PLEASE NO. I have seen your Facebook. I know where you stand. You see me once a year. Not now. Not this way. Not three eggnogs in.

Tip–  Before you say ANYTHING POLITICAL EVER ask yourself, “am I just looking to confirm my own thoughts? Will I be offended if someone disagrees?” if the answer to EITHER OF THOSE QUESTIONS IS YES, stop. On the flip side, you might feel it is important to give Uncle Joe some #stonecold #politicalrealness, and while that’s noble–you’re not going to change the mind of someone you only see once a year at Christmas.

Possible Response– “I did have a lot of feelings about this election. You know what I also have a lot of feelings about? Great Aunt June’s fruitcake. It’s amazing. How does she do it?”

  1. What are you going to do with THAT degree?/Can you make money doing that?

Possible Intention– I am asking you these questions because I don’t really understand your field and want to know more

Reaction– I am KEENLY aware that money is essential for living and that people get money from jobs IT IS SOMETHING I HAVE CONSIDERED, OLD FRIEND OF MY DAD. The job market is completely different than it was 40 years ago, and you have touched on a subject that has and will continue to have me breathing into a paper bag for the foreseeable future.

Tip– In the name of all that is holy, never ask people about their financial plans unless you are quite literally their financial planner—which you aren’t, dad’s friend Larry. You are not.

Possible Response– “I know what it takes in my field to be successful, and I am not afraid of hard work.”

And then just stare.

Or, you could completely freak out on them like Taylor Mali does in this amazing poetry piece-

5. When are you going to move out of this place OR why don’t you come back and live here?

Possible Intention– I benefitted from either moving away from home or from living in my hometown, and I want to recommend that to you because I care.

Reaction– I think about where I live and why I live there literally daily. Your line of questioning is making me feel guilty about all choices I have made or will ever make.

Tip- I have never met anyone ever who has not thought about the place they live in and whether or not they want to stay or leave. If they want advice, they will share these struggles with you readily.

Possible Response- “I am grateful to be able to choose where I live, and if anything changes, I’ll let you know! Speaking of which, isn’t it crazy that planes exist, and how fast they go? I could leave/come back so quickly! Today even!”


The way I see it, you have two choices going into the holidays: you can dread every single question coming from your relatives and assume that all of it is meant to humiliate you, or you can overlay really positive intentions on everything they’re saying. Perhaps you have a relative who is literally the meanest person ever, and you KNOW their intention is to make you feel bad. That is real, and there are sour apples even on the finest of trees. But they win if they ruin your holiday. Play a mental game I like to call “anti-Grinching” and just respond to them as if they’re being so sweet. If they’re truly trying to be mean, this will frighten them, and you will have fun.

Cheers to warm holidays, good feels, and being surrounded by people who love us enough to want to know what we’re up to 🙂