Becoming yourself

Joyce Carol Oates quote

So much has changed in the past few years, it’s hard not to think I’ve changed drastically, too.

I certainly feel different. Wiser, more thoughtful, unafraid to ask for what I want, adventure-seeking and self-loving. My younger self would be pleased. Pleasantly surprised, even.

But I think Joyce Carol Oates—fabulous woman that she is—said it best when she wrote the line above. At our core, we always remain the same. The potential for all those qualities I mentioned was always within me. It just hadn’t been realized to its fullest yet. And if that’s the case, how much more room for growth is there? I’ll play it safe and say it’s limitless—just in case it exceeds my expectations.

@wittycassiehere Instagram

P.S. Related reading: A woman to aspire to

 

It’s been quiet

quiet

You know that feeling you get when nothing’s wrong per se, but something’s not quite right, either? Like when you try on your old favorite pair of pants and they still fit fine, but they’re just not your style anymore?

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. About my blogging mentality, in particular. Witty Title Here is my home on the Internet. It’s a respite, a labor of love, a curated version of my identity (as blogs tend to be) and so much more. There’s a lot here of which I’m incredibly proud. But to be honest, I’ve struggled with something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Which is why in 2014, I plan on changing things up—just a little bit—to rejuvenate my enthusiasm and hopefully get you excited, too. I haven’t quite yet figured out the details, but the big picture is becoming clearer. And I think it’s gonna be a good change.

Here’s what I do know.

I want WTH to be more helpful. I want it to be a place where you can find interesting people doing awesome things on the Internet. I want it to be less about me and more about you. Because you, dear reader/listener/lurker/friend, are why I’m here, writing and sharing, week after week.

Am I taking myself out of it—becoming less personal? Definitely not. It’s my voice, my story, my perspective I’ve shared all along, and that will never go away. In a sea of millions of blogs, personality, I’ve learned, is very important. But as a writer, I’d like to grow beyond talking about me, me, me. This is not an autobiography. Because really, aside from moving across the country, my life isn’t nearly interesting enough for all that. But the people I meet and the place I live? They’re fascinating.

Here’s what I’d like to know.

I’d like to know more about you. What you’re working on. Who or what you’d like to share with the world. The things that piss you off and the things that get you excited. (So we can commiserate about and celebrate them respectively.) I think we could get some fantastic discussions going on in this space.

What does all of this mean?

It means that I’m feeling pumped about my blog again. That I’ll be trying out some new things—and will be eager to hear your feedback. That I’ll hopefully stick to a more regular posting schedule. (I have every intention to do so but reserve the right to cut back when I’m feeling the heat at school. My education does, after all, take priority.) And when I find out you’re doing something awesome that should be shared with the world, I’ll shine the spotlight on you.

My sincere hope is that WTH  becomes a more valuable place for you.

Sound good? I can’t wait. Stay tuned, friends.

The best year of my life

Cassie and John

2013 was my most life-changing year to date.

It was exciting and uncertain and adventurous and anxiety-ridden. And it was hard. While 2013 has truly been the best year of my life so far, it has also been the most challenging. Logistically, emotionally and physically challenging. Looking back? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because if it had been a piece of cake, nothing would have changed. Nothing would have been accomplished. I wouldn’t have moved across the country to pursue my life’s biggest goals and dreams.

And so, I’d like to give this year a proper goodbye with a review of its biggest highlights, featuring the best of WTH:

Nikon D3200

In January, I experimented with my new camera, launched a guest post series, applied to a handful of graduate programs, and wrote about momentum.

February, like the months to follow, was full of anxiety over my uncertain future. Writing about the worst that could happen was a much-needed dose of acceptance, perspective and catharsis.

March was exhilarating. I revealed a brand new design here at WTH, which was the result of weeks of planning, coding and perfecting. I couldn’t share the news then, but March was also when I was accepted into USC for grad school. That month, I wrote about the kind of friend I want and how I planned to change my story.

In April, I thought a lot about sisterhood, shared words of wisdom from a rock goddess girl crush, and wrote a list of things I’d like to learn how to do.

three sisters

By May, I was FINALLY able to share the news that I was moving to California with John. That’s when things kicked into high gear and the reality of it all hit me. I bought a brand new car and put in my notice at work. Shit, you might say, was getting real.

June was a whirlwind. John released his fourth album, which I sang on. I made a few confessions, realized there’s no such thing as certainty, and talked to a handful of Los Angeles transplants. The last day of the month was my last day as a full-time employee.

July 4th

In July, I celebrated my newfound independence and packed up my things. John and I said our goodbyes to family and hit the road for the biggest adventure of my life to date. We stopped in Asheville, Nashville, Memphis, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Sedona, Mt. Zion National Park and Las Vegas en route to Los Angeles.

Columbia, TN

Mt. Zion

August was the mad scramble to find an apartment before I started school. We ended up finding the perfect spot in Silver Lake, and soon after, I began working toward my graduate degree in Journalism.

USC

In September, I developed the film from my cross-country road trip, shared the soundtrack to my summer, and reflected on how all the big changes I was going through made me stronger. I also interviewed Slash. So that was awesome.

Griffith Park

October marked my 24th year on this planet—and my first birthday spent in California. I began sharing adventures in my new city, like the secret stairs and a Brewery Art Walk. I also wrote about how to be a good person, because self-improvement, y’all.

Last month, in November, I stepped out of my comfort zone, talked about money, shared a few personal details, and celebrated Thanksgiving with you kind folks.

meeting the new baby

And now, here we are in December. This month, I wrapped up my first semester as a grad student with a final project I was really proud of. I wrote about what I learned in school and how much I was anticipating visiting home for the first time.

I got to hug my family and friends again, celebrated four Christmases and the one-year anniversary of my 5 Year Diary, and chopped off a good 10 inches of hair. There’s something about new hair in transitional times that seems to have a magical effect.

And next year? It’s only gonna get better.

2014 will be crazy and exhilarating and challenging in its own ways, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me. And I would love to know: What do you hope 2014 has planned for you? What do you have planned for 2014? Whatever it may be for all of us, I hope it brings progress, peace and personal fulfillment.

Cheers to a New Year, y’all. It’s gonna be a good one.

View from the top

Los Angeles mural

I’ll admit it: I’m a wimp in a lot of ways.

I have a low tolerance for pain and temperatures outside the range of 65 and 85 degrees. I’m sensitive to critical comments and fluorescent lighting. I fear making the wrong choice about everything—all the way down to whether I should bring a light sweater or not. But an aversion to anything that’s difficult can be limiting, and in the past, it’s allowed me to be more passive than I’d like. I’d rather think of myself as a Cheryl Strayed-style badass—without the heroin and missing toenails.

But I should give myself more credit. Before I moved across the country, a lot of people told me how brave I was for making the change. At the time, I accepted the flattering remarks without fully realizing the gravity of what I was doing. Yes, it was bold, but the hardest part seemed to be making the decision and sticking to it. The logistics, however tough they would undoubtedly be, would work themselves out.

Oh, how I underestimated the complexity of logistics.

Now that I look back on everything I’ve done in just a few short months, I’m glad I was ever-so-slightly deluded about the challenges ahead. Had I known it would be this hard, I very well might’ve chickened out. But because I didn’t, I’m that much stronger for it.

I don’t think I quite knew what I was capable of before. I’ll go out on a limb and say I still don’t. Literally every assignment I’m given in grad school seems impossible at first, but I always somehow manage to pull it off… usually right before the deadline. Of course, it’s only the beginning of the semester, and shit’s bound to get really real soon enough. But hopefully by then I’ll have built up an even greater tolerance to the pain and suffering that is journalism. (Just kidding, it’s not really like that. Actually, just kidding, it is.) Until then, I’m forcing myself to take a breath every now and then and remember my recent mantra: One day at a time.

And that seems to work for me, at least most of the time. When it doesn’t, though, a good run through the hills does my body good. Hilly runs used to kill me, and they’re still not easy now. But when I reach the reward at the top and take in the view of the hills, the city, and the Hollywood sign in the distance, I’m reminded of why I came here. I can feel the good those runs do for me every day. And I don’t know if it’s the vitamin D from the sun or all those avocados I’ve been eating, but my skin has never looked better. I must be doing something right.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, if you’ve ever felt anything like I have—wimpy, uncertain, scared shitless—let this be a lesson: If I can do it, anyone can. I’m not anywhere close to having my shit figured out, but since I’m guessing that will never happen, I can learn to live with that. Though the future is so uncertain, I hope and believe that it’s bright. And maybe I’ll bring a light sweater—just in case.

No such thing as certainty

tinyplanet

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow is my last day at my job before I move to L.A. (Less than three weeks away!) In a couple of days, I’ll receive my last full-time paycheck—a bittersweet reminder of the certainty and stability I’m giving up in exchange for adventure and dream fulfillment.

Tomorrow, I will still have a job. The next day, I won’t. That will be my certainty. (That, and sweatpants. Every day.)

The thing about certainty is that it’s often just a very comforting illusion. It’s the product of believing that what we have today will still be around tomorrow and taking whatever that is for granted. If that’s the case, how can a job, a paycheck, or stability be certain? Our perspectives on these things are different than they once were in this still-struggling economy, of course, but sometimes it takes a drastic change—in this case, my own volition to move—to realize none of it was ever certain anyway. I was just lucky.

If there’s ever a time to be uncertain, this is it. It’s like what people keep telling me: “It’s great you’re moving cross-country. Now’s the time to do it.” While I’d like to think I’ll always be the adventurous type, able to pick up and go follow my dream, I don’t disagree with the implication behind those comments. Now is the time. It’s why we’re doing it. While age isn’t a factor for everyone, in general, the older we get and the more rooted we become, the harder it is to make a bold move. There’s no guaranteeing that the future will be a more convenient time. Life doesn’t care about convenience. (The fact that I’m getting my wisdom teeth out one week before we leave is proof of that.)

So what do I know? I know that I can be certain of this moment and my intentions for the next. That’s about it.

I remember the day I quit my old restaurant gig hoping it would be my last. It probably wasn’t my last. I might actually have to master the art of balancing a large tray, once and for all, if I want to pay rent while attending school full-time. Or maybe I’ll be a dog walker. Getting paid to hang out with dogs sounds awesome, except for the poop part. Or maybe there’ll be the perfect writing opportunity, or maybe a combination of all of the above.

I’m open to the possibilities. I am so ready for a change, no matter how scary. Of that, I am certain.