The most dystopian parts of my day


1. Walking from Westfield to Brookfield on my way to work, through a long corridor with a giant LED ad that runs its entire length. It's like the Walking Dead in the morning, except everyone is much better dressed and technically alive.

2. Waiting in line at the Whole Foods in Union Square surrounded by 100 people, each with their own little individual basket filled with low-carb healthy protein free range organic eggs and unsweetened almond milk and pre-washed organic baby spinach in a box, headphones in, looking at their Facebook feed.

3. The subway during rush hour, now that it's cleaner than it was in the 90s.

4a. The notion that Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un both hold nuclear codes and...

4b. These two bozos could potentially blow this entire world into smithereens because of some perceived insult casually lobbied pre-dawn, from a resort in Florida, in under 140 characters, over Twitter.

5. That every morning I get up and coordinate a choreographed dump of my team's collective brain thoughts onto the intangible internet, and millions upon millions of anonymous strangers out there find, read, digest, use, and share the contents of our brains.

6. Everything, mostly.

Lost and found

Last fall, I was commissioned to write this piece for a mainstream women's mag website. I was paid in full for the story but it never ran, and now both commissioning editors no longer work at the media outlet, so I thought I'd publish it here.

Hed: How a 48-Hour Lululemon Immersion Made Me a Better Person, Sorta.


Over the course of this year, Lululemon has quietly launched a series of Immersions—invitation-only all-expenses-paid multi-day yoga and personal development workshops where the brand convenes a hand-picked group of influencers, athletes, corporate execs, and thought leaders in far flung locations spanning Austin, Texas; Java, Indonesia; and Moganshan National Park, located about 120 miles outside Shanghai. There hasn't been any real press on these retreats, so, to be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I RSVPed "yes" to October's Immersion in Whistler (seriously, no one would tell me anything about the trip ahead of time) but I had a gut feeling that this vague and mysterious retreat would be good—or at least really weird—and that I'd definitely have something to say about it in the end.

Besides being a casual shopper and just barely following the yoga pant scandal a few years back, I had very little a priori knowledge about Lululemon. One thing I am aware of is the company's reputation for having a very specific corporate culture—"Our core values are personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, honesty, courage, connection and fun, so we attract and recruit people who share those same values," Director of Global Community Christa Hull tells me. So yes, whatever stories and mythology you may have heard about the warm, fuzzy feelings and deep devotion Lululemon inspires in its employees and community at large, well, I'm here to tell you that they're all true—and it's by design.

"At Lululemon, we prioritize our employees feeling connected to themselves and the people around them," Director of Leadership Development Susan Karda says. "Part of what we try to do is create more meaningful human connection, self-awareness, and leadership within our employees. We receive such positive feedback around our immersive experiences and summits internally that we realize it’s something that’s extremely unique to the brand."

I'd heard a lot about Lululemon brand culture—and couldn't resist the opportunity to experience it for myself—so late last month I threw all the athleisure-wear I own into a suitcase and headed up to Whistler, where over the course of 48 hours, I'm pretty sure something good happened to my insides that I still can't quite explain.

Free career advice!

If you're coming to SXSW this March and have questions you've always wanted to ask someone about working in lifestyle media, digital editorial, food media, fashion writing, or just broader digital strategy, consider signing up for a one-on-one mentorship session with me!

I didn't know the mentorship program existed before I was invited to participate this year, but at SXSW, you can sign up to have one-on-one sit-down sessions with people who work in your industry—or the industry you want to get into—outside of the more impersonal panel-talk setting.

I'll have office hours on March 11th, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Westin Austin Downtown. You can sign up for a time slot by clicking the image, below.


Routine

Every morning, the first thing I do is look at my phone: Twitter, email, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. For the last three months, 99 percent of my morning news intake has been filled with bad news starring Trump and his Republican enablers. After I spend an hour-ish catching up on all the terrible things our government has secretly done while the east coast was asleep, I get up, drink two pints of water, take a vitamin C tablet, and make myself a cup of tea (sweetened with manuka honey). Then I get ready for work. Usually, to cheer myself up, I'll watch a YouTube video while I put on my makeup. I try not to look at my phone on my way to the office, because I try to be optimistic about the day. I feel like I get a lot of clarity on my walk through the Oculus every morning.

I really like my job. I have a great team, I work in a great building, I work for a great brand. So even though my days are stacked with meetings and I'm usually super-busy, almost all of my days are good days.

Then I come home and spend a lot of the evening catching up on more bad news.

So far, 2017 hasn't been super.

Luck

There was a great little piece in the New York Times last week called "Stop and Acknowledge How Much Luck Has to Do With Your Success." It's something I've thought a lot about over the past 20 years—mostly framed as "If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans" or "Everything happens for a reason." Here are some "lucky" moments in my life that changed everything and made me who I am today.

— Bombing the essay portion of the Hunter College Junior High School entrance exam
— Applying to Dartmouth only because one of my closest friends in high school had gotten in early decision
— Applying to a fellowship in Egypt senior year of college on a whim, in the middle of the night
— Completely failing to land a corporate job during recruiting season
— Landing an internship at Marilyn Agency while I was interviewing for an internship at Wilhelmina
— Bumping into the founder of Wilhelmina's plus division in the women's room one day
— Reading contributors' bios in an issue of Wallpaper in 2001 and learning that Central Saint Martins offered an MA in Fashion Journalism course
— Emailing two newspaper fashion editors in New York asking for an internship, and Libby Callaway at the New York Post hiring me, sight unseen
— Staying really late at the office one Thursday night and joking around with then-features editor Faye Penn, who was sitting at the random layout computer set up behind me that we should run a weekly column in the paper called "How Not to Look Fat"
— Picking five random agents' names from a list on Mediabistro and emailing Mel Flashman for the first time late on a Sunday night back in 2005

I wonder how much of this luck can be partly ascribed to being a young 20-something kid just starting out in this industry. Have I just been overthinking everything since 2010?

7 More days of freedom

Seven more days til I'm back in an office full-time and the most pressing concern I keep turning over in my mind is whether or not I should bring my Muji kettle with me. In the meantime, I'm in Helsinki seeing some friends and panic-buying salmiakki and Moomin merch.

A December of doing nothing

From the moment I went freelance on August 1, I knew in the back of my mind that I'd be taking December easy—I'd earmarked a check-in with myself around the six month-ish mark and the holidays are usually a quiet time in digital media anyway. I told myself I was going to work as hard as I could the first few months of freelancing, establish a roster of regular clients, and pare down from there—that's the strategy with which I approach pretty much any situation in my life when both ultimate goals and clear pathways to success aren't immediately obvious (especially when it comes to work). My theory is that you can't meticulously plan and control process, details, and outcomes if you're (1) not sure what you want, in concrete terms, and (2) if you don't really know what you're getting into, so you might as well go all-in, then figure out what you can do without after a 90-day trial run. In my case, the "great unknown" is the current state of the industry—we've seen plenty of legacy magazines and media brands fold or drastically scale back over the past few years, and the past five months have been no different. So, while the market is strong for freelancers right now (the more staff jobs are lost, the more contract an freelance work is available), doing the work is like throwing spaghetti against the wall: you can type until your little fingers fall off, but if your commissioning editor gets the boot, your outlet folds, or there's a holdup at payroll because of corporate changes, as an outsider, besides sending strings of strongly-worded-but-polite emails into the ether, you're kinda out of luck.

I've been really lucky: freelancing has been really good to me. After working in the industry for 15 years, I have lots of good friends in assigning positions at big publishing houses. So over the past few months I've been working consistently—and have gotten some really plum assignments that included lots of once-in-a-lifetime travel (see: What to do on the Rocky Mountaineer in Conde Nast Traveler, and my week at Versailles Behind the scenes with Brad Kilgore at A Taste of Waldorf for Food & Wine). For anyone who's thinking of going freelance and wondering about how the finances stack up, I can only speak from my experience, but I made way more money as a freelancer than I did as a director at a major media company—and while it's not a regular paycheck that's direct-deposited into your account every two weeks (and sometimes you do find yourself badgering editors to approve your invoices), freelancing can be very financially rewarding.

There's also the lifestyle, which is pretty much unbeatable. Over the past five months of saying yes to nearly every assignment editors threw my way, I'd estimate that, on average, I probably worked really hard two days every week—and by really hard, I mean I'd start writing at 6 or 7 a.m. and would churn through the day writing, doing phone interviews, transcribing, and writing more, until 11 p.m. or midnight. OK, that sounds like a crazy day, but keep in mind that the rest of the week—for five days!—I'd probably work about two hours each morning, then be free the rest of the day. Plus, no commute. And NO MEETINGS, which is a huge boon to productivity. To be honest, I can't really think of many downsides to freelance life, besides the obvious: drastic reduction in human contact, no brainstorming sessions with your colleagues, no funny Slack convos, reduced exposure to shared cat GIFs. The only thing that really bothers me, that I'll never get over, is surrendering control of your work. As someone who works outside of an office and isn't part of a core decision-making editorial team, you completely lose control over your story once it's filed—you have no real say over how it's illustrated, very little say in the editing process, no control over publication time or date, and zero influence over how your story is positioned in the larger framework of digital editorial strategy. That's been my only frustration over the past few months. Freelancing has taught me to be way more zen about this, though, and I've definitely learned to let go (a little bit).

So yeah, back to December. It's been such a luxury to do very little this month. I've really been laying low since Thanksgiving, getting lots of sleep, eating enormous holiday meals, watching way too much YouTube, and traveling. There have been a few stories here and there—my trip to France, a story for GQ on ugly Christmas sweaters, and some news reblogging here and there. But otherwise, zilch. It's probably the longest break I've taken since I started working full-time after grad school and it's been glorious. Like, today for instance, I woke up at 7 a.m. and went back to sleep after realizing I didn't have anything pressing to accomplish this morning, now it's noon and I'm thinking I'll spend my afternoon at the Natural History Museum and maybe go for a drink at one of my favorite places in town, a deconsecrated church where my friend Alex and I threw our joint 22nd birthday party. I feel like a lady of leisure.

That said, I've recently made the decision to step back into an office job, so it's T-10 'til I'm back on staff somewhere! I'll let you guys know when that announcement is official in the new year. Giving up my introvert/recluse lifestyle wasn't the easiest decision to make, but it's the opportunity of a lifetime—and I'm super excited to get back into the strategic side of digital editorial. You know what they say about the pendulum swinging both ways—I guess after months of stepping completely away from the managerial side of things and focusing on writing (which I love), there's something inside of me that won't feel fulfilled unless I'm hitting goals on a bigger corporate scale. So yeah, I'm very excited.

OK, let's go see some Dodo birds.

The thing I was doing in France

Here's what I was up to all week in Versailles earlier this month! Got to hang out with these two awesome chef guys and do lots of fun food things.

Food & WineBrad Kilgore in Versailles

Face + Food

A couple of things today.

SelfDermatologists' advice for your winter skincare routine


Food & WinePurple


Also, random day of doing not much at all vlog:

Seven minutes in heaven

OK, not really. But something exciting (I think)!

I've been invited by SXSW to be a "Mentor" this March, so I'll be heading down to the Interactive conference in Austin in a few months to hold a series of speed-mentoring sessions. More details on date/times and sign-ups tbd, but so far all I know is that the quick-hit drive-by mentorships will last for about seven minutes each, so talk fast and bring your most pressing questions! I'm very excited about this. If you know me, you know I love giving people ADVICE. Lol. But seriously, there's nothing I like more than helping people find solutions for problems in their workflow, or talking people through career questions, suggesting resources for people who are just starting out, etc. etc. etc. I think I'm slated for the media/journalism division at SXSW, and whether they put me in food or style remains to be seen.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a panel talk at SXSW on data-driven editorial strategy and, like, 500 people showed up to hear what we had to say. Pretty awesome. I think my favorite part of the panel, though, was after the scheduled talk when audience members came up to chat with us one-on-one. I really enjoy hearing about people's startups, their business ideas, and sharing info from my personal work experience that might be able to help others along their way.

1 Unforgettable meal

I know this looks like an iMovie from 2002, but do not let my poor videography skills detract from the overall epic-ness of the chef's table menu at the Gordon Ramsay au Trianon. One of my favorite fine dining experiences of all time.

39 things I learned in 39 years

Today is my 39th birthday. I'm spending it on assignment in Paris. I think I'm meeting up with one of my favorite people in the world for a drink tonight, a long lost friend who happens to also be in town, right time right place. I'm not very good at celebrating birthdays (I don't like parties just for me, I feel awkward), but I do like lists. Here are 39 random things I've learned about the world and myself over the past 39 years.

1. It doesn't matter how much you want something. If you're not meant to have it, you're not gonna get it.
2. Not everyone gets everything in life. If you have a satisfying career and a nice place to live, you're doing great.
3. If at first you don't succeed, try again, then quit.
4. People who are photogenic aren't always videogenic, and vice versa.
5. Sometimes it isn't about talent or hard work. Sometimes, whoever sticks it out the longest wins.
6. Oftentimes, the best work is born out of difficult situations.
7. The only way to grow is to step outside your comfort zone.
8. If you find something you love, buy at least three.
9. Eventually all your friends will get married, have children, and/or leave New York. Make plans accordingly.
10. Young people know a lot of stuff; learn from them.
11. Freedom is the thing I value most.
12. Not everyone is a good person, there are people out there who are just bad people and, well, they're not rare.
13. Undergrad is more important than you think.
14. Grad school is less important than you think.
15. Drinking lots of water and eating a varied and nutritious diet is one of the most important things you can do for your mental well-being.
16. Who cares if you're a little chubby.
17. Life really is a one-time thing. So are most of its greatest opportunities.
18. Go to the strange place, take the weird job, order the crazy dish. You can always leave, quit, or not eat it.
19. As often as possible during the day ask yourself: "Why am I doing this?"
20. You don't have to be friends with someone forever. Some people are better as memories.
21. If you're obsessed with something, chances are there are a million other people on the internet also obsessed with the same thing.
22. Always print your favorite photographs.
23. Every accomplished, successful person you respect and admire is probably a little bit crazy.
24. Don't talk about yourself too much. It's boring. Talk about ideas. Ideas are interesting.
25. It's perfectly OK to not like clubbing. Or not get clubbing. Or never go clubbing.
26. I've never used an illegal drug and I have no regrets about that.
27. Volunteering to help someone else is the most rewarding thing, ever.
28. You don't have to dance in public if you don't want to. You might have to speak in public at some point in your life, though. No getting around that one.
29. Doctors don't know everything.
30. Parents are people, too. They did the best they could.
31. There will come a point in your 30s when a switch flips and you all of a sudden just decide that you're not going to take any more shit from anyone (or anything, including but not limited to uncomfortable shoes, low-rise jeans, and bad bosses).
32. I really don't need all the stuff I have.
33. There's a 99 percent chance you won't ever be able to change someone else's opinion. Most of the time it's not even worth trying.
34. Remember, you can always move.
35. Always do your best to stand on the right side of history.
36. Tip generously whenever you can. $1 might not be a big deal to you, but it could mean a great deal to someone else.
37. Not everything needs to be done in extremes.
38. Most of the time, if you don't tell people it's athleisure, they'll never know.
39. If you are not honest with yourself about yourself, nothing else you do will really matter.

Dispatch from Versailles, so far

I'm in Versailles working on a semi-secret story and doing some super-fun non-secret stuff, like visiting fluffy chickens. Here are some of my favorite bits and bobs from the past few days (with bonus photos!).


I love chickens.


Here's me talking really fast about Marie Antoinette's sheep:


The local cathedral.



Arriving in Versailles.


Cute fake hedgehog at market.