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The End: Why It’s All Over, and What I’ve Learned

I think it’s time to be honest. This just isn’t working out. And you know it as well as I do.

It’s been a week or so since I posted, and no one has asked about the blog, so I’m sure I could just slip away quietly. But I felt like I wanted to move on honestly.

When I began this project in January, I did so with the best of intentions. I wanted to open myself up to new experiences. I wanted to make a commitment and stick to it. And I wanted to try and foster conversations, whether they were about the new things I was doing, or about the challenges of trying new things in the first place.

I had plans for this blog. Some of them were pretty big. I wanted to try hot air ballooning or bungee jumping. Some were more… sociocultural, perhaps. I was going to brave the beach in a bikini, despite the fact that I’ve refused to wear a two-piece swimsuit since the age of three, and then write about body images, and certain implications of certain clothing.

Or, if we’re being honest, I was probably going to write about how it was a horrible, humiliating experience, and how I just don’t get you skinny bitches who walk around on the beach in underwear.

Some of my goals were silly — go blonde (wig, I’m not bleaching my hair, no sir, no ma’am); do karaoke, audition for a musical. Basically, make an ass of myself.

I think it worked for a while. There were good days and bad days. I did find that I was more inclined to try new things, to go to places I hadn’t been, to brave new frontiers a bit. A bit.

But here’s the truth: While part of my goal here was to become a bit braver, I think what I might have achieved is a reminder of who I am. I am someone who enjoys going new places, and enjoys trying new things, but who does not enjoy making a fool of myself. Maybe some might say I should learn to be less self-conscious, but I’m really okay with that part of me, especially if that part of me prevents me from doing too many things that make others question my level of sanity and/or sobriety.

And there’s the matter of logistics. I came up with the idea for The Something New Project shortly after leaving a job that was just wrong for me. I wanted to stay relevant, I think. But when you’re not working, you don’t have a lot of money to do things like hot air ballooning and bungee jumping. And despite terms like “funemployed” and “at liberty,” if you’re smart, you’re not crawling in time, because you’re focused on looking for work.

I’ve recently taken on a position as Editorial Director for a brand new start up, The Daily Do Good, which is going to be a new adventure in itself. It’s my first time really being a major part of managing and running a business, and I feel like my contributions will be a big part of whether we thrive or don’t. I’m also freelancing in various writing and editorial capacities, continuing to look for other stories to pitch, making sure to give proper time to my health, my partner and my home, trying to expand my network of friends and colleagues, and am still getting to know my new city.

It’s not that I don’t feel like I am learning something new every day. God knows that’s not the case. Some days, I felt like I had to postpone something new so I could have it on hand to write about the next day. It’s just, well, sometimes you don’t realize you’ve learned something until a while later, you know? So I feel like a lot of the things I write about have been… what’s the word? Artificial, maybe? Or I start something because I need a new thing, but I haven’t had time to appreciate something else. I think I have four or five half-read books now. Some undertakings take a lot longer than one day, and it just has gotten to the point where my hands are too full.

And the big truth is, I’ve stopped enjoying this. It’s just felt like pressure for a while, but really only from within. I know there are people who read this or even comment, and I’m so grateful, but it’s not as though anyone is clamoring for these posts. That sounds like complaining, I know, but it’s not actually intended as such. I’ve been talking to a few other blogging ladies of late, and they all tell me the same thing: You have to do it for yourself. I haven’t really felt like that lately. But if I also haven’t been writing for the eager audience, well then who? Isn’t there enough pressure to get things done than we don’t need to put burden on ourselves to do things that don’t need to be done?

On Thursday night, I stood on a bridge with my sweetheart and our dear friend, and we read prayers and tossed bread in the water as part of a private Tashlich ceremony for the Jewish New Year. We talked about casting off our sins and negative burdens, and I thought about reassessing all that I’ve been carrying and juggling, especially in my own head.

I certainly don’t regret trying this project. I think it was a good idea, and I can honestly say I feel like I made a valiant effort. I also think that under other circumstances, or perhaps with different parameters, it could have worked very well. So I hope that anyone who had their doubts from the start will resist the urge to say “I told you so.”

In the last ten months, I’ve gleaned some important lessons about blogging. First, don’t commit to doing it every day. You’ll drive yourself insane. I’ve started referring to this blog as “my very dubious blogging venture of 2014.” Or, if you do, make sure you’re blogging about something you really enjoy. I enjoy the concept of learning new things, but I don’t always find the things I learn or do to be especially memorable or worthy of being immortalized on the Internet. As a newspaper reporter, I wrote a lot of stories on topics about which I did not give a damn. But that was my job and I was getting paid. Poorly, but I was getting paid. When you’re blogging, you need to give a damn.

Next, be topical. I think this blog started to lose its identity. It wavered somewhere in the spaces between personal and topical and thematic. There were too many instances of “why should the reader give a damn?” And while I could say, “Well, if someone likes cooking, she’ll give a damn,” the truth is that if someone takes the time to visit a blog, there should be a pretty high likelihood of give-a-damn.

And then, make a contribution. Be sure you’re blogging about something current, or something helpful, or something that can teach people something. Or tell a good story. The idea of something new every day is a good theory, but it’s too scattered. Maybe if I’d started out with the notion of something new every week, or every month, or I’d decided to undertake a large project over the course of one year, like making a quilt or learning to speak German or losing 50 pounds, that would have been better.

If you’ve been reading this project, I think one thing we can all agree on is that I have a particular love of food and cooking. So I’m going to take a little bit of a break from regular blogging, but in the not terribly distant future, if I’m going to blog, I think something with a culinary bent is the way to go, don’t you? Maybe this project can serve as a roadway of sorts to a place that’s better.

Ugh, that was such a navel-gazey thing to say. Really, who am I, some poetry-writing teenager musing on her place in the world? Shut up.

And (shameless self-promotion, because what else are these things for), if you want to keep up the conversations, please follow my blog on my portfolio site, www.hollyleber.com, where I will occasionally comment on random things from How I Met Your Mother to Sheryl Sandberg, and follow me on Twitter at @hollyleber, where I retweet articles of random interest, grammarshame, abuse the hashtag, and just generally take the piss out of life. That’s what Twitter’s for, right?

This is the end of The Something New Project, but it’s not the end of my effort to expose myself (not in a dirty way, though that would be something new) to more new lessons and adventures in my life. I think this venture has taught me to be a little more open, to look for the discovery in the day-to-day, and to ask myself, “what’s the worst that could happen” before automatically rejecting an idea.

Ugh, I feel like I should have some profound way to end this. I really don’t. And I have to go unload the dishwasher, and figure out what I’m doing for dinner. If you’ve been along with me on this ride, thanks. Thanks a lot.

Day 258: Do Good, Feel Good

Yes, I’ve totally failed at the last week. That happens. In life, there are failures. You can’t change them or cover them up, you just pick up and move on. So that’s what I’m doing.

And…. today is an AWESOME day for the Something New Project. Because I have a simply fabulous new thing.

I’ve joined an incredible new company, The Daily Do Good, as Editorial Director. The Daily Do Good is the brainchild of our fabulous founder, Saranah Holmes, and it’s a great way to spread love and charity, especially if you live in the DC area.

Let me tell you a bit more…

Who we are: A website and subscription e-mail service dedicated to philanthropic events and charitable opportunities in the DC Metro area.

What we do: Deliver a thrice-weekly fun-to- read (hyphen-happy!) e-mail detailing upcoming charitable events and a twice weekly e-mail, Do Good Now, featuring the story of an organization and offering readers an opportunity to donate directly to that organization.

When we do what we do: Event e-mails three times a week (Mon., Wed., Fri.), feature e-mails twice a week (Tues., Thurs.). It’s right there in the last paragraph! It’s okay. We know it can be hard to remember details when you’re excited. We’re excited, too.

Where we are: The Daily Do Good is based in Washington, DC. Currently, that’s where our focus lies. Of course, anyone who lives here knows that “DC” really means “within a 50 mile radius of DC proper.” In the future, we hope to expand our geographic reach.

Why we do it: Our motto is “Do Good, Feel Good.” We believe that giving back is a privilege. We also know that it can be overwhelming to try to find all sorts of information and figure out which cause deserves your help the most, which charity to donate to, or which event to attend. We want to help streamline that process to make the process of giving back easier and more joyful for you.

How we can all help one another: We just mentioned how we can help you if you subscribe to The Daily Do Good. You can help us by spreading the word. Post about this exciting new opportunity on your social media pages, and tweet us at @thedailydogood. If you work for a charitable organization or non-profit, get in touch! It would be our pleasure to tell your story, to help you raise awareness (and funds!) about the great, important work that you are doing. See how it all cycles? When we help one another, and help our community, we help ourselves. Pretty cool, eh?

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Day 249: Seconds

If, like me, you love experimenting with seasonal produce, you know that can be an expensive venture. 

Enter seconds. 

I just learned about this. Apparently, when you go to the farmers market or produce stand, you can ask if there are “seconds” available. This means overripe or half-gone fruit that can be sold at lower prices (typically a minimum of half off). 

Which is how I ended up with a 30 pound crate of peaches in my kitchen.

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And thus, #Peachapalooza begins. 

This seconds concept is pretty great for when you have no idea what you’re really doing, because if you screw things up entirely, you haven’t spent too much money. It’s also nice to feel like you’re helping food to not go to waste. 

And you get to have all sorts of fun. 

Fair warning: The crates of seconds will almost definitely have a huge mess of ants. I spent a lot of time on my knees with a spray bottle of vinegar and a roll of paper towels, committing mass genocide. If you have a front porch or some other outdoor area, leave the crate there and bring the peaches inside. Rinse them with the hose first if you’ve got one, which I don’t (Ah, apartment living). 

Also, if you have a compost pile, you’ll have plenty of additions. I know they make those covered compost buckets, but seriously, gross. 

 

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Day 248: Make ‘em laugh, Joan

In light of the passing of Joan Rivers, it seems only appropriate to pay homage in today’s blog. And so… five Joan Rivers clips I have never seen:

1) Joan on single women vs. single men. The Ed Sullivan Show, 1967. Highlight: “Oh, Joan, there’s the most attractive young man down here with a mask and a gun…”

2) Interviewing Mr. Rogers on The Tonight Show, 1983. The juxtaposition of personalities is incredible. 

3) An Audience with Joan Rivers, UK, 1983. Highlight: “I had a Jewish delivery. They knock you out with the first pain and wake you up when the hairdresser shows.”

4) On the Carol Burnett Show, 1974. Highlight: The dumbfounded young man at 5:39

5) Don’t Start With Me: 2012. Highlight: Too many to mention. It’s on Netflix. Trailer below.

Ms. Rivers was unabashed and acerbic. She was seen by many as mean or crass, and sometimes she was, but she wasn’t precious or politically correct. In this hypersensitive society we live in, God bless a person – a woman, especially – who can look in the mirror and be amused. 

“Never be afraid to laugh at yourself,” she said. “After all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.”

 

 

Day 246: The Shutdown Plan

Nope, not shutting down the blog. Just the computer. And the iPad. And the iPhone. And thank God I don’t have other devices. 

It’s not just about how computer use before bed has an effect on melatonin levels. It’s about not being able to quiet the brain. Tell me if this sounds familiar: It’s about 11 p.m., the TV is on, you’re on your laptop, checking Facebook, Twitter, email, watching some YouTube videos, catching up with the news, maybe chatting with an old friend, and in the meanwhile you’re also responding to text messages from that guy you met at that thing last week (or from your mom). 

Honestly, how are we supposed to get a good night’s sleep? Or have a comprehensive, uninterrupted thought? No wonder one in ten kids have ADHD and most adults don’t seem to be doing much better. 

So, clearly, I’m not holding up to this tonight, but we’ll call this new today because it’s a decision. I’m shutting down. 

Starting tomorrow, after 10 p.m., I’m shutting down my computer and my iDevices. I’m going to try that for two weeks, then go down to 9 p.m. I’ll try that for another two and see how it’s going. My hope is that cutting back the excess stimulation before bed will help me sleep better, and thus help with an increase in productivity and energy, and a reduction in daytime tiredness and anxiety. 

A few exceptions: I’ll take phone calls. Those don’t require keeping my eyes peeled to a screen. I also sometimes like to listen to familiar movies or audiobooks as I’m falling asleep. A few minutes to find the appropriate setting is fine. And since I’m not shutting off the TV (movies relax me), using the laptop screen to watch something on Netflix or what have you is fine, at least until I get my Roku. 

I just think we’re too overstimulated. Our brains are running all the time, and eventually, they’re going to explode. Aren’t you just exhausted? 

 

Day 245: Brief Interview with Hideous Blogess

09-14 SILVER SPRING, MD

We need to talk

Q.

I think, and I think you can agree, things have gotten stale. Maybe in some way, they always were. We’ve definitely had some good times lately, with the road trip and the jam and bread, even the running. But overall, in the day-to-day, well, this just isn’t what I’d hoped it would be. 

Q.

No, no, not that. That’s not what I want. I hope that’s not what you want. 

Q.

But I’m just not feeling fulfilled. And I hope this wasn’t a mistake. I don’t want it to have been one. I hope you don’t think it was.

Q.

I’m just not feeling like I can keep all the promises I made to you, to myself, at the beginning. I don’t know that I have that kind of energy. I’ve tried, I really have, but that sort of commitment might just be beyond my level of capability right now. I don’t have the means for things like white water rafting trips and hot air balloon rides. I have more obligations than I did a few months ago. All of these things I want to give you take time I don’t always have. 

Q.

You’re right, you’re absolutely right, I do. I get lazy and tired, and you deserve better than that. I could make you promises I’m not sure I can keep, or I can ask – beg- for your patience and indulgence, but I don’t really know that that’ll make either of us feel better. I’ll try, I really will, but I’ve been getting to know myself, and some of the the things that might make you happy will just make me feel like a fool, which was part of the point, I know, to try to get past feeling that way, but sometimes it doesn’t seem fun for me. I think things need to change, but to honest I’m not sure exactly how.

Q.

Yeah, less often could work, weekly, I guess. But that’s not what I really want. I think the way we do this might have to be a little different. The 15-year thing doesn’t feel like it’s working. That’s… well, sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. And sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. I need to work on myself. I carry my failures with me and if I can’t try again, if I can’t ask you to stand by me while I try again, they’ll just weigh me down. There are just so many changes that need to be made.

Q.

No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. We’ll still have fun and be foolish and silly. But maybe it needs to be less flash in the pan and more… well more of a process to something. I know this was meant to be that in and of itself and it is, it really is, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m starting to feel… resentment. And I feel like you’re getting bored. 

Q.

Just… just let me finish, please. I do want to know how you feel. It matters to me, I promise. But I need to get this out. I need to straighten out my thoughts. I don’t want it to go on this way. I don’t want to just endure until it ends. I want to be happy. I want you to be happy. Things need to change. Not completely. Not every day. But some of the time. I’m not exactly sure how, but I’m figuring it out. I think I might need to figure it out as we go along. I want to make it right for us. Can you do that with me? Can you maybe even help me? 

Q.

Thanks. Thank you. 

Day 244: Pizza, pizza everywhere…

… or, you know, in my kitchen. 

There were plans to go the Renaissance Festival. But you know those days when you just know that no matter how much fun you’re having, the weight of what you need to get done will weigh on you? That’s how it was. So plans at Ren Faire became laundry day. I know, not as fun. 

But at least there was a new pizza recipe to try at the end of the day. We made whole wheat dough with raw honey in my bread machine ($8 at a yard sale!), then rolled out the very dense dough as thin as possible. Then topped it with a carrot greens, almond and goat cheese pesto I made, along with sliced heirloom tomatoes, grilled chicken, smoked mozzarella, shredded Parmesan and Italian herbs. 

Et voila..

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Of course, after the pizza goes in the oven, I look up a few ways to make the crust extra crispy even without a pizza stone. If it helps you out: Put the baking tray in the oven to get it hot first, and oil the bottom of the crust. 

Does anyone else think I should have just started a cooking blog? 

Day 243: We ain’t afraid of no ghost

In honor of its 30th anniversary, Ghostbusters has been re-released in theaters for one week. 

And though it’s shameful for me to admit this as a Child of the ’80s, I had never actually viewed this classic from my youth from start to finish, just some bits and pieces. There are a few other embarrassing gaps in my film viewing history. 

Now, however, that problem has been remedied. The dry humor was fantastic, and the fashion gave me flashbacks of terror. 

Must ask, though: Did anyone ever just consider the best way to defeat the Staypuft marshmallow man might be to throw chocolate and graham crackers at him? 

Day 242: Every cent counts

Does loose change find its way to every surface of your home? To the linings of pockets, the bottoms of purses? 

Especially the pennies. Those are just useless. They can’t be used in laundromats, parking meters, gumball machines… 

Therefore, my partner and I have decided to start a penny harvest in our home. It was something my middle school did. I don’t recall actually participating, though I imagine I would have. We’ve set up a jar where we’ll deposit our pennies, and twice a year, we’ll make a donation to a charity or organization of our choosing. 

The hardest part is deciding where to make the first donation. There are so many good causes we both care about. We also want to make sure the majority of what we give goes toward the actual cause. 

If you have any suggestions, please share them, along with an explanation of why. Once we decide, I’ll post it here. 

 

And because I promised I would, an update on my C25K progress: I’ve just completed week 2, with success (success being not falling down or throwing up). I can feel myself having an easier time of it with each repetition. Of course, once I feel like I’m improving, the program gets harder. Next week, I have to run for three minutes. I know that sounds like nothing to most of you, but I am ridiculously out of shape, and even when I was in the best shape of my life, I always got winded at the drop of a hat. So if I can do it… achievement. 

 

 

Day 241: A networking lesson

Who else has gone to conferences, happy hours or networking events and felt awkward and out-of-place? Anyone else hate chit chat and glad handing? 

Me too. I’m not above pretending to answer a Very Important Text (read: check Twitter) to avoid awkward small talk. 

Tonight, however, my dinner guest taught me a great lesson on how to survive and thrive in those situations. Ready? 

Find the ugliest, loneliest person in the room, and talk to him (or her). 

Brilliant, right? Not the nicest thing in the world, but maybe leave the philosophy out of your discussion and it really makes sense. 

Of course, next time someone approaches me at such an event, I’m going to wonder if I’m the recipient of the same theory, but what can you do? 

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