What Even Is Happiness?


This summer, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of happiness. The concept keeps obnoxiously resurfacing in my life, like a fly you could’ve sworn you swatted away. My problem with happiness is that sometimes, deep down,  I really don’t think I’ll ever be happy. That it’s unattainable–not for everyone, just for me. Can ambition ever yield happiness? Do I even want to trade hunger for satiation? Is it worth it?

I’m still not sure.

This summer, I had everything that I thought one might need in order to be happy. A new season of life, a room of my own (Virginia Woolf style AND full of rugs & candles), a fun relationship, a dream job, etc. But I still felt that ache, that craving, clawing wild animal of unrest. Move, go, leave: the words pound at my heart and at my feet like a steady rain.

I still don’t know.

That same relationship ended with a conversation regarding, of course, happiness. How I seemed too happy all the time, how impossible and unsustainable that was. Of course I’m not happy, I said. I never will be, I think. Isn’t that obvious, I wonder? (It’s the depression, I know.)

I think instead of happiness, I crave peace, a balm for the seemingly unstoppable unrest in my mind. Instead of happiness, I desire joy. I’m focusing on finding the little moments and activities in life that give me fulfillment and feel meaningful. More than the grandiose, romanticized idea of “doing something important and big,” I want to find joy in being fully 24. In the changes, mistakes, hopes, the small things. In being wrong. In learning and growing. In allowing myself to be a person rather than an idea (and the grace & empathy which comes with that.)

I’m okay with not knowing.

I’m hopeful for happiness for the future. And I know I’m responsible for my own happiness. But mainly, I’d like to see where this unrest takes me–because I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild adventure.  

Sexual Objectification Feels A Lot Like Betrayal

If you’re a woman, you experience a lot of “first”s unique to womanhood. First bra, first time wearing makeup (and the inevitable blue eyeshadow phase), first time babysitting. The list goes on and on.  However, there’s a first every woman experiences, yet isn’t met with the cheery stories of weird mascara trends or training bra blunders: first time experiencing sexual objectification.

For me, my creepy cousin (yes, someone related to me) looked me up and down leeringly and said “Damn girl, where’d you come from?” I was twelve. He was, I repeat, my way older cousin. Needless to say, kind of the worst. I didn’t understand the extent of the grossness until I was older, and for the majority of my adolescence and teen years, I remained pretty ignorant of my body or the fact that gross people who objectify women existed. To give an example: I was basically like Animal on the Muppet Babies. Just going about my life, playing metaphorical drums, and being loud.

If I didn’t understand sexual objectification before–by my sophomore year in college, I GOT IT. I was taking a required public speaking class with an adjunct professor who is kind of like what would happen if Louie CK (only in appearance, not in wit or talent) and the Genie from Aladdin (mainly because the professor had one tiny hoop earring, a sign of desperation probably older than time itself) were merged into one brash, awful professor. He was also, fun fact, in ministry at a nearby church because of course he was.

I was 19 year old, curious about rushing a sorority but not sure which one to choose. Luckily for me, as a Communications major, it was the Greek burnout major of choice, so I had my luck cut out for me as I was perusing the different options from afar. Naturally, the COMM prerequisite Public Speaking course was a virtual sampler of people to impress. Surely, once some of them heard my informational speech on Hoarding, all the sororities would be all up in this.

For our first speech, we had to use a prop during our speech as a means of introducing ourselves. My speech went pretty well, until the professor came up to the front of the class and started talking about my clothes, not my introductory speech. He told me my body was distracting to listeners and nobody would ever listen to me talk because they would be too busy looking at my body. On and on, talking about my body to the entire class of 30 people (and tons of Greek people, insert teenage mortification), while I just stood at the front completely aghast. Did I say anything? No. I was too embarrassed (the professor helpfully pointed out my face was “all red.” So kind.)

I felt utterly betrayed by my body. How could something that was so normal and innocent to me–my mere existence–could be the cause of behavior elicited by that professor? In the weeks that followed, I still didn’t know what to do or even say. I felt exposed and embarrassed. Some of my classmates came up to me privately, defaming the professor’s outburst and telling me that it just wasn’t right.

Slowly, I began to understand that the problem wasn’t with me or my body (or even what I was wearing, which for the record, was 100% modest) but with the professor publicly objectifying me and humiliating me. When others wore less “modest” things to class (like, literally no pants…), he didn’t call them out. It was an unfair standard.

So, in a moment that was maybe the radical genesis of my feminist mentality, I approached him after class and told him to apologize to me. I literally said “I am a modestly dressed, independent woman and you cannot talk to me or about me like that.” Somewhere, probably in Los Angeles, Beyonce was smiling down at me.

And he apologized. That didn’t really matter though–because as I walked from class that day, I felt free. I learned that objectification will happen to us as women–and sadly, sometimes even worse outcomes spring from that mentality: rape, violence, murder, unhealthy views towards sex, relationships, and self. But we don’t have to let that shame us or feel like self-betrayal. We have the power of self-efficacy and dignity & we can continue to take back power through education, advocacy, and refusing to shame other women by saying things like, “Well, maybe she was asking for it.” A lady can be straight up naked but yet does not deserve to be treated like a garbage person or sexually harassed because NOBODY should be treated like that. Appearance does not qualify as consent. Let’s continue to speak up for ourselves and other women. If we don’t say something, who will?
(And for the final speech that semester, a group “how to” speech, the three other women in my group and I decided to lampoon this professor’s abhorrent teaching style. Our topic was “How Not To Give a Speech” and I started with a purposefully awful introduction. Naturally, I wore the same dress as before. One of my groupmates “interrupted” me and handed me a sweater saying “You better cover up, nobody will listen to you.” The entire class died of laughter, understanding the inside joke. A wonderful way to end that semester.)

Don’t be THAT guy at weddings:


For the last five years of my young adult life, not a weekend has passed without news of a engagement or wedding. And don’t be fooled–even once a wedding has passed, you will still see visible traces of that event for months to come, like a virtual bread crumb trail of acute narcissism.

Oh, it’s Mother’s Day? Perfect time to post that pic with mom and I wistfully smiling, because we know the secrets of love.

So & So graduated from law school? I need to refocus this situation to be about me, so let me post a picture with me in beautiful wedding gown and them in a purposefully awful bridesmaid dress.

Wait, of one of MY wedding guests is now getting married themselves? Gotta pull out the picture from that crazy reception dance off when I’m making an adorkable face.

Hey, I get it. Wedding pictures are expensive and you want to get as much mileage from those babies as possible. If I go into the home of a married couple and their living room wall ISN’T plastered with a wallpaper made from their expensive cornfield wedding photo shoot, I think “Hey, that’s not financially responsible.” I’d probably post pictures of myself on my wedding day on social media for even unrelated holidays or events–“Someone’s Bat Mitzvah’s today? Here’s a picture of me staring wistfully at my bouquet. Got jury duty? Here’s that inevitable jumping picture from my wedding party.”

But let’s rewind the clock back to when the happy couple first announces their big event. You, the potential wedding guest, open your mailbox and voila! A beautifully complex origami explosion is now sitting on your lap, filled with great power and responsibility. I mean, that piece of paper entitles YOU, Joe College Friend, to the BEST DAY OF TWO PEOPLE’S LIVES EVER (and an overpriced meal); talk about a potential power trip! You could just tape it on your fridge or toss it under a Bed Bath & Beyond coupon stack and forget about it. Forget about someone else’s best day ever? What sort of person are you?


(Quick sidebar: although clearly, the tone of this article is satirical, I really don’t understand the “this is the happiest/best day of my life” mantra. I’m sure in a list of awesome days, one’s wedding day is pretty high in ranking, but labeling it the best day EVER seems a little…much. Same with the “today is my happily ever after” statement–barf. We get it, you’re paying $25k to be a princess for a day. I’d 100% rather be a prime minister or CEO on my wedding. Private jet? Real authority? Yes.)

Except...David Cameron is blah.

Except…David Cameron is blah.

Since moving to Pittsburgh and subsequently far away from all my friends sampling nuptials, traveling to go to a sorority sister’s wedding in Tiny Town, Louisiana isn’t as high priority as, say, paying rent. But so far, in the wedding experience I’ve been so fortunate to witness (and the magic of TLC’s “Four Weddings), I’ve learned a few things about how to go to a wedding and not be the worst person ever.  

First, don’t assume or demand a plus one, especially if your relationship is on the new side anyways. We get it. You’re not single like the rest of these losers. You’ve been dating this person for, like, three weeks.plus-one

However, if an invitation isn’t overtly clear if you can bring your new significant other, err on the side of flying solo for the night. If you really can’t spend one day without your girlfriend of three weeks/days, don’t go to the wedding. However, if single, please don’t be the Bitter Bertha who complains the entire time and spends all night trying to find someone to hook up with. Because I repeat: this wedding isn’t about you. It’s not like someone is throwing you a wedding themed birthday party.

Personally, I’m pretty terrible at figuring out the whole “wedding gift” scenario. If you buy a shower gift, you don’t have to buy a wedding gift, right? But what if you traveled to get to the wedding–can that count as a gift? What if you don’t even really know like one half of the bride and groom–can you give them half a gift? To all these questions, my mom–wedding guest extraordinaire–has told me a resounding no. (If anyone has advice on this, please, I’m open to it. Weddings are expensive!)

Don't buy this.

Don’t buy this.

And finally, if there’s a dance floor, by all means, DANCE. I have a theory that all “young people” at weddings (read: anyone under 53) are seen by the elders (read:everyone older than 59–there are 6 lost years in between there) are seen as the ambassadors of fun. We set the tone of the party. Do you think everyone’s waiting for Aunt Matilda or the groom’s dad’s boss to break the seal of non-dancing? No. They are waiting on you, cool person under 53. So go, dance. Become the party guest you were meant to be, even if the dj is totally awful and just plays songs that NO ONE can dance to (I’m looking at you, early 2000’s pop songs and Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.”

That One Time I Auditioned for A Musical…

Originally Written March 2015. And yes, this all actually happened. 

When I’m nervous about something, I have a few tricks that I do to calm myself down–basically, I just sit in my car and talk to myself in my dashboard mirror like a militantly upbeat life coach. I might even be able to out self-talk Oprah. (Maybe that can be a future reality show for OWN–”Motivational Coach Melee”…take like 5 motivational coaches, lock them up somewhere, and whichever is the first to be negative & show self-doubt is off the island.)

But the thing I’ve been learning about nerve-wracking situations is that most of the time, they’re completely self-inflicted. If you did something illegal and you’re sitting in an interrogation chair at the police station, you’re probably nervous as hell–why? Because you did something bad. If you’re about to go on a promising first date with an actually fun accountant (apparently those exist) and you’re 30 minutes early and wandering around the nearby Target like a dazed person who just came off an acid trip, it’s YOUR own fault. You scheduled the date! You murdered the person! You didn’t have to do anything.

And that’s exactly where I found myself this morning: in another completely self-inflicted nervous situation and even worse–coated in other people’s dance sweat. Not my own dance sweat. Other people’s.

I was at an audition–my first in over ten years–and by the first six minutes there, I immediately knew that I was not competing anymore. I was in it for fun. Everyone there had dance shoes and impressive resumes and actually laminated headshots…I was wearing old tennis shoes, carrying a headshot printed on cardstock (I couldn’t find glossy paper and was, frankly, too lazy to buy any), and sporting a resume whose crowning glory was playing “Mary Sue Betty Bob” in the gloriously underrated children’s musical “Dear Edwina.” I’m clearly no “Broadway Baby”–maybe a cousin once or twice removed.

My nerves were soon soothed by the utter ridiculousness I felt learning choreography for the musical numbers we had to learn for the judges. For the first song–”Money Money” from “Cabaret”–the choreographer was constantly calling out instructions with phrases I wasn’t familiar with, things like “Show your Fosse arms” and “Look seductive.”

My audition group had eleven others, all older and more experienced than me, but, like Fanny Bryce, I soon found my place as the “wise-cracking funny girl.” These quips came in handy when we got to the second number we had to learn: “New York, New York,” which came complete with jazz hands, jazz squares, and jazz regrets on my part. My eleven comrades and I were even forced to do a Rockettes style kick line. Kicking isn’t really a problem for me, but remembering choreography is another story. We were to do three alternating kicks and then add a “kick ball change” and repeat the previous foot. For those of you unfamiliar with dance terms, kick ball changes are just another way of saying “Kelsy will forget the direction and accidentally kick the people standing next to her every single time, especially when the judges are watching.”

I’m very positive that I will not be asked for a callback for this musical; I mean, would YOU ask back the girl who accidentally maimed two of her fellow auditioners? Maybe I could chalk it up to the spirit of competition, like “All About Eve,” but I still don’t think that would help my prospects.

Through all this, I learned a very important lesson. I prefer comedy FAR above acting. Those little moments making everyone around me laugh were far more gratifying than that one millisecond of remembering the correct choreography–give me a laugh over a jazz square any day!

Update: I did not, in fact, get a callback. Because duh. 

Don’t Feed the Feelings

So, maybe I’m just like a walking Hallmark card generator (thank you, advertising degree), but as previously established last week in this ever-growing “LIFE, man” series (title pending), being an adult is super hard sometimes. And when the going gets tough, the tough/me make up a ton of motivational sayings to help them survive.

Don’t feed the feelings.

….and it’s really, really difficult not to try. Annoyance, anger, sadness, pity, self-loathing, jealousy, whatever–these are all feelings that easily flame from a tiny spark to a huge fire if entertained longer than necessary. And I for one feed these feelings until they’re torturous, terrible beasts.

Overthinking a tiny misstep at work until I’m certain I’m getting fired.

Hating myself for not getting over a guy from like 100 years ago (Spoiler, I’m Benjamin Button).

A slight annoyance at a friend turning into a huge deal.

Well, I usually feed these thoughts and feelings. But then I listened to a podcast one day that changed my perspective forever. Insert dramatic yet heartwarming music.

(Have you listened to NPR’s “Invisibilia” podcast? If not, you really ought to check it out.) I was listening to an episode called “The Secret Life of Thoughts,” which explained that according to one theory in psychology, the Cognitive Behavior Theory, thoughts…really don’t have meaning and should NOT be taken nearly as seriously as we do.

I mean think about it, how DO we know that our feelings are even true or logically sound? CBT says to challenge the feeling–don’t trust it. Test to see if it’s real. Because most of the time, feelings–and especially those terrible negative ones that always seem to pop back up in your mind when life gets a little off balanced– aren’t indicative of anything; They’re just emotional reflexes. Why spend so much energy trying to find meaning in chaos?

When people are in distress, their perspective is often inaccurate and their thoughts may be unrealistic. Cognitive behavior therapy helps people identify their distressing thoughts and evaluate how realistic the thoughts are. Then they learn to change their distorted thinking. When they think more realistically, they feel better. The emphasis is also consistently on solving problems and initiating behavioral change.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy defined 

I’m trying to not feed my negative, chaotic feelings. And you know what? Life has been a lot more peaceful and way less dramatic. Which reminds me of another phrase I’m coining…drama is dumb. (Just kidding, could you see that on a t-shirt? SO anticlimatic.)


College didn’t prepare me for how a full time job would be; honestly, “The Office” has been more handy in figuring out workplace situations than my “Please submit a PAPER portfolio because we’re all in denial that the Internet is a thing” internship seminar class in college.

And don’t get me wrong–I’m extremely, abundantly fortune to actually be working at a job I LOVE. I know a lot of people don’t have that same feeling about their job.

My fellow job people (employees?), I’m sure you feel me on this:…waking up on Mondays is hard, y’all. Due to my early/reasonable bedtime, I’m constantly called a grandma by my grad school friends (with the emoji and all, as if words alone weren’t painful enough). Dealing with people in the workplace isn’t always all waffles & instant friendship like “Parks & Rec” (although I would love to get an office dog/dog in general and name him Lil’ Sebastian). Having a daily organizational system of choosing your clothes on labeled daily hangers & being made fun of because of it (although it’s a VERY GOOD SYSTEM, okay!?!) is truly a burden I have to carry.  And to be perfectly honest, this whole “Do I pack a lunch? Do I not?” situation is still a daily conundrum.

I’m not sure what I expected…in college, everyone I knew who was 24 and working seemed so effortlessly cool and put together, with apartments full of beautiful candles and luxurious rugs. I have one candle and one rug and live in my parents’ house (where, arguably, they have more of each, but it’s just not the same.) Maybe I equate candles with success, but really, WHO DOESN’T?

I think I’m maybe speaking for everyone here, but we’re all just trying to figure it all out, even with the “security” of a full time, grown up job. And I don’t have answers and nobody really does.I feel way more like Taylor Swift’s “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time” than I ever did when I was actually 22.

The only thing I know for sure is this: seriously, a daily organized system of your clothes really IS awesome. Haters will hate.

What “Serial” Taught Me About Break Ups


Warning: I kind of talk about the end of “Serial”? So… don’t read this if you haven’t listened? 

So…the first season of podcast phenomenon “Serial” concluded yesterday. And it just…ended. There was no big twist or surprise “gotcha” moment. No shock factor. The ending was as much of a proverbial question mark as the beginning episode.

And this really, really bothered me (and many other listeners I’ve commiserated with!) People felt like they were strung along, only to be disappointed by the lack of finality. However, doesn’t it just come down to an entertainment factor?

We’re used to 22 minute moralisms. For foibles cleaned up and turned into fables with “made for TV” endings. Messy, unanswered, or open-ended questions are scary because…well…anything could be lurking in the unknown. Interacting with insecurities, ugly truths, answers we don’t really want to hear–in the silence, “there be the dragons.”

Real life answers are NOT entertaining, because for the most part, they’re anticlimactic, unsettling, or just sad.

Why do we crave closure so much?

Recently (also, hey, this is my first post in like 6 months, so recently refers to like anything from July onward, okay? Okay.), I went through a terribly un-fun breakup. The circumstances were sad, I was sad, everything was sad. However, I wanted more closure. I wanted a “bow ending.” A perfect, coherent speech that summed up my feelings and was pithy and smart–the ultimate Cool Girl finale speech. Of course, this didn’t happen, because I’m not living in a 2003 Reese Witherspoon movie. But I wanted that closure more than anything else.

Through that (and I guess “Serial” haha), I’ve realized though that sometimes answers come from lack. I’m learning to be okay with the mystery and dealing with the fact that finality doesn’t show up in ways we like sometimes.

The ending of “Serial” was just…real. We don’t get to have nice answers most of the times and really, bow endings are not real closure, but platitudes.

(And who knows, maybe Mail Chimp had something to do with it. My job is starting to use them now actually.)