Monday, October 8, 2018

Germany & England & Ireland & Germany


Before this September, I had never left the country.

Sure, I had booked a trip to the Bahamas when I was in high school and then backed out of it the night before because I was afraid of traveling with a former best friend who hated me… but that doesn’t count.

I blame my lack of international travel on anxiety and being afraid of language barriers and immigration and all the overwhelming nonsense of traveling abroad. Now that I’ve done it though, I’m ashamed because it’s literally nothing more than a SMALL extra step upon arrival in a new country. When I arrived in Frankfurt it was no big deal, and when I arrived in London it took almost an hour… but the actual process went a little bit like this:

“How long are you staying here?”
“Answer.”
“Have a good time.”

*stamp*

Done.

Traveling far away from home, in countries where I couldn’t take my phone off airplane mode, helped me truly relax. I could just give in to new experiences because I had no other option. I was 5-6 hours ahead of my usual time zone, barely had internet access and couldn’t call my family or friends. This would typically bring me great anxiety, but for whatever reason (Cymbalta) I chose to LIVE MY BEST LIFE.

The reason for this trip was primarily work. Back in April or so, my colleague (Judith) and I found out that we’d have to travel to Herzogenaurach, Germany for work in early September… and that we’d also have to be there two weeks later. That left a week in between where we’d be in the U.S.

For me, traveling back to Boston would have been a minor inconvenience… but for Judith (who lives in Portland), we’re talking about a 9+ hour flight. I decided that I’d do some traveling in between because I’d never been abroad. Judith also had some convenient arrangements (a son whose father lives in England, a partner who was traveling to London for business during the week we’d be there, a sister who lives in London with spare bedrooms, etc.)

So, that is how a three-week trip to Europe happened for Ms. Patty Barrett.


GERMANY PART I

Did you guys know they serve meals on transatlantic flights? For free! With wine! And refills of wine! And Baileys! Followed by another meal?!?! I was shocked. I actually don’t remember if the food was good because I was too excited. The flight was only about 6 hours, which is basically the same as the flight to Los Angeles or Portland, so I couldn’t believe all the additional benefits flying over an ocean brought.

My cross-country expectations have now been raised, and it is doubtful they will be met.

I landed in Frankfurt at 5:00 am and took another quick flight to Nuremberg and eventually made it to my hotel around 7:30 am… which was about 1:30 am in the U.S. So, naturally, I slept away my first day in Germany. That is until my boss texted me and asked if I wanted to, “Go on an adventure for snacks.” I thought he was embellishing a quick walk around the corner, but he actually meant we were bike riding through the German countryside to an Aldi.

It sounds pretty, and it was, but I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a teenager and I was terrified of riding on a bike that I was too short for... in the street… without a helmet.

Whatever, I’m alive.

The week was spent working in a training space titled “The Shed” so what I’ll say about my week in Germany is this:

  • Tiny German towns with medieval towers give me heart eyeballs
  • BUTTER PRETZELS are delicious
  • I love glass bottles of Coke Zero and glass bottles of EVERYTHING
  • Any country that provides cold cuts for breakfast is good with me
  • I love tiny little Nuremberg sausages! And that is not a euphemism
  • My favorite German word is “Feurwerzeufaht” which essentially means firefighter access… I just think it’s a fun word

ENGLAND

I could write a love letter to London.

It was the first city I’ve visited in quite a while where I just fell completely in love and wanted to move immediately. I kept saying everything was “delightful” and “charming.” My friends kept laughing at me for being so smitten. But it’s true, everything was delightful and charming! Have you been? Don’t you agree?

Before leaving for my trip, I watched The Crown for the first time. People have been suggesting it for years, but I never cared much for the British royal family. (Meaning, I had no feelings either way.) However, since I was traveling to England and the queen the show is about is still reigning, I thought it’d be cool to get a quick history lesson.

To no one’s surprise, I loved the show and became obsessed with the British monarchy. The entire time I was in London, I also watched Victoria (because it was available on England’s Netflix) and fell in love with the Victorian era. And yes, I did travel across an ocean just to lie in bed and watch Netflix. Deal with it.

The coolest part about this trip to London was that I stayed with Judith’s family in Barnes/East Sheen. Normally, I’d be afraid of burdening someone with my presence for that long - but she convinced me that we’d be very welcome and that I’d be foolish to turn down a free stay in London.


 I took her up on her offer, and I’m so glad I stayed with strangers. Hilarie (Judith’s sister) provided me my own little (delightful, charming) room and staying there was my favorite part of the whole trip. Not only did I get to experience London for the first time, but I got to know new people (including Hilarie and an 11-year-old girl named Lucy, who is basically my spirit animal) and I was able to have experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Experiences like attending a high school rugby game at a private school in the country (which would have been creepy under different circumstances), seeing Tom Hardy at a posh restaurant, ordering curry while watching Strictly Come Dancing, taking the tube and bus everywhere, and having a drink at a local pub filled with men who did not want me there! 



Other highlights from my ten days there:

The Tower of London was by far the coolest experience ever. We saw the crown jewels, a traitor gate, an old chapel from the 1300’s and a TORTURE CHAMBER. It’s always nice to spend a Sunday afternoon in the place where King Henry VIII murdered his wives!

Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter Tour was unbelievable. I got to see all the sets and costumes and learn new facts that I never knew (like all the crew members are the people in the portraits at the school.) It also had a HUGE model of Hogwarts that they used for all the exterior shots. It was unreal. It was also funny to visit with Judith’s son, Beau and his dad, Noel (who is Judith’s ex-husband.) Hilarie was there as well. It was a funny little crew, and I had such a great time.

Harrods, where I was finally able to buy a Paddington Bear stuffed animal surrounded by women shopping at Hermes.

Dinner at Murano, a Michelin star restaurant.

Fish and chips at a “posh” pub where Tom Hardy was also drinking a pint with his wife. I didn’t believe Judith when she said it was him, but then her nephew Hugh said he saw Tom Hardy touring his boarding school that day.

Marks &Spencer. Judith talked so much about Marks and Spencer (a food market/department store) and then we finally went and I tried on hideous velour dresses with Hilarie while Judith shopped for “knickers”.

Sunday roast dinner by my lovely host, HIlarie.

My time in London was seriously special. I can’t wait to go back!


IRELAND

I have yet to mention that Judith and Hilarie are from Ireland. They have the most (charming, delightful) Irish accents. It was so much fun to hear them talk to each other. They both spoke so quickly and I had no idea what they were saying most of the time… but it was still fun.

Judith felt that since we would be in Europe, she’d be remiss if she didn’t stop by and visit her mother, who is ill. She invited me to tagalong for a night in Limerick and since I’m of Irish descent and have always wanted to visit Ireland, I figured it would be a missed opportunity to not go with her.

And I am not kidding when I said it was the coolest, most hilarious 24-hours I’ve spent anywhere in my life. The Irish were hands down the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It was incredibly noticeable. It was more than waving or saying hello… it was clear that anyone would go out of the way for a complete stranger and was actually interested in what they had to say and where they were from.


I explored the city and visited a medieval castle, potato market, riverside walking path and an old church. It was really beautiful. There were even swans in the river! But the best part of all was dinner. I assumed Judith would be taking me somewhere very local and Irish… and she did. We went to Jasmine Palace. The best Chinese food in all of Ireland.

And you know what? It was really good Chinese food.

We met one of her other sisters, her friend from college and friends from childhood and had the best night. Upon hearing it was my first time in Ireland, they refused to let us go back to the hotel and sleep for our early flight. They took us out for a pint (which is Guinness, you don’t even need to specify in Limerick) and all the pubs were filled with laughing Irish folk of every generation. It wasn’t like Boston, where everyone goes to their own spots geared towards their age demographic. Every generation was out in the same pubs. We saw bachelorette parties, groups of old men, old women, people in their thirties, young kids… and everyone was SO RIDICULOUSLY NICE.

It made my heart swell, and it made me proud to be Irish.

The girls all promised that if I ever came back, I had tons of places to stay. Now that I’m less afraid of being a burden, I may take them up on that. But even if I get my own place, I am definitely calling them to drink some pints and eat late-night chips covered in various gravies.



GERMANY PART II

On Sunday night, when we were heading back to Germany, I was likely in the worst mood I had been in during the whole trip. I could have cried, and not just because we were back at London Stansted flying on RyanAir which is the worst airline and the worst airport. Officially.

But somehow, I found the strength to be a good friend to Judith… just kidding, she was a good friend to me and let me be miserable while also telling me to get my act together. But really, I got the strength because right before our plane was about to board they changed the gate (those fuckers) and I literally JUMPED the stanchion and RAN like I’d never run before so that we’d be first in line at the next gate.

We were. Judith trailed behind me laughing her ass off.

Getting to Nuremberg from London was a disaster that I don't need to go into, but RyanAir is quite an experience and I wouldn't recommend flying them if you can avoid it. But, then again, the tickets are SO CHEAP.

We spent our first day shopping in the town center of Nuremberg which is full of cobblestone and gothic cathedrals and even a castle! But more importantly, I bought a NEW COAT from a saleswoman at Zara who made me cry and then I fell while entering a restaurant and almost sprained my ankle! 

Our next four days in Germany were spent sleeping, working, complaining a little bit, eating schnitzel and the best Italian food we've ever had (?), drinking tons of Coke Zero and finally calling it a trip. 

Oh, and I also found out through a StrengthsFinder assessment that my top 5 strengths are: Strategic, Input, Empathy, Intellection, and Developer. My strengths lie heavily in strategic thinking and relationship building. So, that’s a cool thing I know about myself now.

One of the questions I was asked, now knowing this information, was “What can people expect from me?”

“A socially awkward, emotionally intelligent, highly aware and lively individual who promotes others and builds relationships through shared personal experiences.”

So, all in all, it sounds like this trip was far more than a European adventure. It was an adventure… to my soul.

Nope, sorry about that.



HOME

Traveling for three weeks was exciting, amazing, eye-opening, lovely, CHARMING, DELIGHTFUL and tough AF on my anxious heart. I thought a lot about the good parts of living in the U.S. (and the dumb parts that are super dumb) and my perspective has increased immensely.

There was also something oddly cool about working in Germany and having my own badge to get into the campus. I felt like I had arrived. Where? I don’t know. There was just something about this trip that clicked for me. I finally feel like I’m in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time.



But the best part of the whole trip was spending so much time with my pal, Judith. I met her this year… on Skype. She works in Portland, and I work in Boston. We had only been together in person three other times this year. Yet, I don’t know a person I have ever felt so instantly bonded to.

On my second trip to Portland (after only meeting each other once), she was insistent on picking me up every day from my hotel and driving me to work with her. We call each other at least once a week, and not because we need to for work. Our jobs are totally independent of one another. I feel so lucky to have met this warm, lovely, wise and hilarious friend this year and have spent 3 full weeks abroad with her as my support system at work, and then staying with her sister, meeting essentially her entire family, and then becoming part of it.

Experiences like that are a dime a dozen. And even though I’m not writing a guidebook any time soon based on my travels, I feel like I had a trip that could never be duplicated and an experience nobody else could have. I won!

As expected, I have been bitten by the travel bug and I’m already looking up flights for my next trip to London… and basically everywhere else in the world.

If I could leave you with any advice, it’s this:

Sometimes, it’s GOOD to take candy from strangers… as long as they adorably call them “sweets” and offer you a spare bedroom.  

And, do something that scares you. Get out of your comfort zone. You will grow tremendously and become A WIZARD 'ARRY! ... or just a new person. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

But also, who cares?



Back in L.A., I was seeing this great therapist next to a car wash in Playa Vista who didn’t wear shoes and had a cute husky puppy that was sometimes in the office with her.

When I was debating if I should stay in L.A. or move back to Boston, she asked, “What is keeping you in L.A.?”

“I have no idea.”

“What’s holding you back from moving?"

“I think a lot of my friends would make fun of me, or make me feel bad about it.”

 “Well, they sound like shitty friends. But also, who cares?

For a long time, I believed that. I thought, “Man, I’ve surrounded myself with the world’s meanest friends! They call each other out for everything and make fun of each other and never consider that people might be going through something…”

But it’s not true. I mean, I did it too. I judged people for no reason whatsoever.

“I don’t know why anyone would move to New York when they’re just going to move to L.A. eventually,” I said as if I had any idea what I was talking about.

The truth was that I was projecting my own deep-rooted insecurities and shame on them. They’re actually quite good friends.

Sure, they may have made fun of me. They may have rolled their eyes, spoke amongst themselves and said they didn’t understand why I was leaving L.A and that I was making a bad decision. They may have even called me a loser and an untalented piece of shit.
But, they’re human. But also, who cares?

I was also just making assumptions, based on previous experience of judging people with them but assumptions nonetheless. Of course, they didn’t say anything to me about moving, other than supportive statements or telling me they would miss me. I was just afraid of what they might possibly say. Things like:

I was giving up on my dreams. 
I couldn’t hack it.
I was stupid.
I was settling.
I was naïve.
I didn’t even give it a real shot.
I was a loser.
I wasn’t talented enough to be out there.
I moved to LA and all I got was this HR Manager hat.   

Some of that might have been true. But... who cares? What does it have to do with them? It would just be an assumption or a quick judgment that they were making. And I was living my life to avoid being judged by other people.

A judgment I didn’t even KNOW FOR SURE would be made. Just something I ASSUMED.

God, how did I make it to 32? I’m fucked up, man. Shame is a bitch.

Brene Brown, the doctor/researcher/author of many great books, said in her Ted Talk, “Guilt is saying ‘Sorry, I made a mistake.’ Shame is saying, ‘I am a mistake.’”

And that is exactly how I’ve felt for a very long time, and how I felt when I moved back from L.A. It put me in a deep depression, as I’ve talked about here before. I told myself that I was, in fact, an untalented ass clown who gave up on her dreams because she couldn’t hack it in L.A. so she was settling in Boston with nothing to show for her time in California but an HR Manager hat.

Who needed friends to judge me behind my back when I was doing it so well on my own?

Dealing with shame has been a process, one that I’m still working through. But I have begun to understand that I can’t resent other people for something I’ve created in my own mind. Until it’s a reality, and I hear it first hand, then I can’t be upset with anyone over something they never officially said. And even if they did, it doesn’t matter. Just because they voice an opinion doesn’t mean it’s real. But also, who cares?

More importantly, I realize that I can’t live my life to avoid being judged. It has held me back from SO MANY THINGS. I didn’t go to a workout class until I was 31 because I was afraid people would laugh at my inability to keep up.  

I have never spoken up for myself (like asking for a raise or telling someone I was offended) because I was afraid of rubbing someone the wrong way.

I wouldn’t wear something I wanted to wear (like the beautiful leopard print faux fur coat in my closet) because I was afraid everyone would make fun of me.

I’d delete many an Instastory because I was scared people were making fun of me or unfollowing me for posting another picture of my face, or video of my cat.

I'd apologize for EVERYTHING. Like being bumped into, or having plans when someone asked me to hang out, or for texting sweet nothings to someone I had a consensual romantic relationship with while they were busy, or sleeping. 

I put myself in dangerous and uncomfortable situations because I was afraid that if I said “No” then I’d upset the person. (And I’m talking really dangerous, uncomfortable situations.)

Like I said, I’m still working through it. But while this year has been annoyingly self-reflective for me, it’s also been extremely freeing. 

It feels amazing to put on a quite short denim skirt and not be afraid that someone thinks I shouldn’t be wearing it. It’s awesome to work out almost every single day because I don’t care if someone judges me in their mind for using the 2lb weights during barre that day. And it feels GREAT to say “NO” when I don’t want to send someone a picture of my junk, or accept a drink on their tab, or follow them to a bathroom to give them a blowjob (yup, that was asked of me), or receive an unwanted kiss.  

Doing new things, and putting myself in scary, vulnerable situations is all of a sudden very exciting. I don't assume people are thinking anything at all about me. The world doesn't revolve around me, BELIEVE IT OR NOT. (Don't tell my parents.) 

But even if I were confronted with a situation where someone was judging me, or assuming something about me, then I'd just ask myself the ultimate simple question... 


"WHY DON'T THEY LIKE ME?" 

Just kidding. 

"Who the FUCK cares?" 

I used the F word. So you know I'm serious!!! 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Generate Light; Not Heat

I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who is exhausted by the news and social media feeds lately.  Just this morning in Massachusetts news, there were three fires, an officer-involved shooting and an 80-year-old man who was brutally beaten for no reason in his neighborhood.  And that’s just on top of all the Trump-related nonsense which makes me want to throw myself into the garbage and call it a life.

I came across a quote the other day, in the notes of a workshop that I co-wrote so I probably should have seen it before, that said, “Generate light; not heat.”  It hit me fast and it hit me hard.  How nice does that sound?  Sure, the quote was pertaining to relationships with difficult people but isn’t our relationship with the world/United States of America the most difficult one of all right now???? 

How can we generate more light instead of heat?

I don’t know the answer for everyone.  And you probably shouldn’t listen to me anyways because I just choked on everything bagel seasoning.  How does one choke on a seasoning blend?  Good question.  Welcome to me.  

But I’m attempting to generate more light by being myself, and not giving a shit what anyone has to say about it.  I don’t have much, but I do have an ability to craft jokes that make people laugh. We all need to laugh more.  So I’m going to do the best that I can to bring as much humor as I can to every situation! Even the uncomfortable ones.  ESPECIALLY the uncomfortable ones. 

I’m praising others whenever I get the opportunity to combat the trolls of the universe.  This means telling people how much I like their outfits even if I don’t know them, commenting positive thoughts on blog posts that I read, responding to people’s Instagram stories in agreement or praise and having more positive conversations than negative ones.  (Meaning, instead of starting a conversation at work with, “You know what I hate? Outlook!” I’m going to say, “You know what I love? Cheese.”) (Or something like that.) (Probably that though.)

I’m raising my endorphins.  I’m working out, going to barre classes, walking more, listening to lots of high-energy music and dancing in my living room to disco music. Just kidding! (I’m not kidding.)  Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!  Happy people just don't kill their husbands.  (Thanks Reese Witherspoon.) 

I’m signing out of my social channels when I need a break and putting my phone on airplane mode for a few hours a day so I can get work done without distraction. 

I’m choosing to not complain.  If traffic sucks, oh well. If I had a stressful day, then guess what? It’s over.  If the air conditioner on the shuttle is leaking on me, and only me, and it's too crowded to do anything about it but my butt is soaking wet... OH WELL.  Sit in that still water, Patty!  Nothing puts me more on edge or sucks energy straight out of the room than someone entering with a complaint… so I refuse to participate.  Even if it means I have to wait TWO weeks for a new episode of Younger.  TWO. WEEKS.

I’m watching happy things, listening to happy things (which to me is a great murder podcast) and focusing on GOOD SHIT. 

Everything is crazy right now and we’re living in a dumpster fire.  But there are good things going on in the world.  People are doing the best that they can and making a difference.  It all seems so overwhelming and scary and I can’t stop feeling like hiding because I just don’t even know where to begin.  So, this is where I’m beginning. 

I’m going to generate light; not heat.


And I guess I should probably do laundry too.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Thank You But I'm Actually Terrible

I think the most hilarious joke in the world is me.

By that, I mean that my humor is very self-deprecating. I like to make jokes at my expense as a way of connecting with others. If I talk about my struggles with relationships, or depression, than I’m opening up the door for others to relate to and laugh at their own struggles. It becomes a conversation! It removes the stigma! By openly dealing with my issues I hope to help others deal as well.  

I do not like to make fun of other people for laughs. It makes me SO uncomfortable. I once saw Tracy Morgan perform and he picked a young guy out in the crowd and explained to him, in great detail, what his parents (who were sitting on either side of him) do behind closed doors. It involved a glass table and shitting. I was very new to comedy, and I knew that was something I never wanted to do when I started to perform. It was also something I never wanted to witness. WHY WOULD THAT TURN ANYONE ON?

The definition of self-deprecating cracks me up. It means “modest about, or critical of oneself, especially humorously so.” You can’t tell based on that definition whether it’s good or bad. I don’t know either, but I do know that there’s a difference between self-deprecating humor and undermining oneself. And I’m fucking tired of undermining myself.

I will not change my sense of humor. I think it’s fun to make jokes about my life because I don’t like to take everything so seriously. Most of the jokes that I make are actually just jokes.

When I say things like, “My first serious boyfriend was blind, which really helped me feel more confident in my appearance.” I don’t actually believe that all I could get was a blind guy because I was too ugly to date anyone else. I mean, he was (/is) blind, but not blind enough that he couldn’t see me.   

Carrie Fisher wrote in her book Wishful Drinking, “If it wasn’t funny, then it’d be true. And that’s unacceptable.” That is exactly how I feel. My life has been weird and wonderful, happy and sad, terrible and great. I can’t imagine dealing with it any other way than by laughing at it.

I laughed through having whooping cough when I was 17 and literally coughing until I vomited all over my high school. I laughed through losing my virginity in my early 20’s and having five friends tag along to CVS with me for Plan B. I laughed through depression, loss, heartbreak and pain because it’s the only way I knew how. I mean, in case you guys didn’t know, I have a dog! But he’s dead.

For me, this only becomes a problem when I start to underappreciate myself. For instance, I recently ran into someone in the bathroom at work. She said, “I like your jacket!” and my immediate response was, “It’s fake!”

Like, what? Why did I need to say that? And WHY couldn’t I have said “vegan” since that’d sound so much cooler? But I had to discredit her compliment on my style by telling her how unworthy I was.  

The craziest part is that I love my style! I like how I put myself together each day. I like the carefully curated uniform I’ve got going on. I put effort into it and I enjoy that aspect of myself. What’s the point in discrediting it?

I do this with everything. I’m so afraid of confronting the idea that I actually have great qualities worthy of respect and admiration.  I’ll receive good feedback on my job performance and I respond with, “Yeah, well, I barely know what I’m doing.” Someone compliments my legs and I say, “My ankles break all the time and you haven’t seen my thighs.” Someone thanks me for helping them out, and I say “I have nothing else going on.”

For the record, I think I’m awesome at my job, I love my legs and helping other people and being there for my friends is a top priority of mine.  It’s not that I don’t feel confident, it’s that I have a hard time expressing it or agreeing with someone’s positive impression of me. In my attempt to not come off like an asshole, I somehow end up being more of an asshole and making the other person feel super uncomfortable. It’s like I’m saying, “I HATE MYSELF AND YOU SHOULD TOO. IDIOT.”

I am cringing just thinking about the awkward responses I get when I say something weird back. The conversation keeps going with MORE praise, they just pity me. The conversation would end completely, and without judgment, if I just said, “Thank you.” Nobody is going to respond with, “You’re right, your thighs ARE gross!” or walk away thinking, “Man, I really wish she told me MORE about her weak bones!”

The truth is… I actually kind of like myself. Self-deprecating humor and all. But I need to start feeling more confident in my confidence. Liking yourself and appreciating your attributes is a good thing. Thanking people for their compliments or feedback is respectful, especially since they went out of their way to give it to you. I’m a constant feedback giver, so I need to be a better receiver.

At the end of the day, I am still going to be a bag of trash who stress eats chicken fingers... but I can do that while wearing a kick-ass pleather jacket and pulling off a pair of heeled Madewell boots like no other.

And, hey, thank you for acknowledging me.

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