Pillow thoughts: lessons learned from a summer away from home

I’ve survived my first summer away from my home and family who are back in California, but barely. Just barely. You never realize how quickly time goes by until it does. And…you also never realize how much you’ll miss home until you’re no longer there, and you can no longer go back as much as you’d like to.

A lot of things come and go, and days–good and bad–will hit you hard. One thing I’ve learned during my first summer that was basically all work and no play is that yes, being an adult is not easy. And I haven’t even begun my official career yet, but still…having two jobs and working 7 days a week with only a few days off here and there between both jobs & barely any vacation time? It makes me realize how much I took for granted the days I sat on my arse all the time at home in Cali or in my dorm here in the big city. Days off were not always utilized to the best advantage in the past, and budgeting has become of utmost importance.  Appreciation for what my parents do every single day of their lives to keep me in college, to help me with my new apartment, and to help me fulfill my dreams at one of the most expensive schools in one of the most expensive cities to live in?  Yeah, that’s skyrocketed x 1,000,000.  And trying to keep myself afloat on my own paychecks is basically not possible.  So thank you, mom and dad. I love you guys for letting me be here in New York.

You really can’t take family time for granted.  I thought not getting to go home for Thanksgiving (which is my favorite holiday because it’s so family and food-oriented, especially with my family <3) was hard enough every year. But deciding to stay and work all summer and not getting to see my family except for 2 short weeks where they had to work all the time too?  I didn’t realize how heartbroken and homesick I’d truly be, even more so than my freshman year of college being away from them for the first time.  By now, you think I’d get used to being away for long periods of time from California, but this was a lot harder.  All I had was work.  No acting.  No school.  A lot of my friends away back in their hometowns for the summer with their families.  Living paycheck to paycheck. Crappy hot and humid AF weather with thunderstorms out of nowhere.  Moving around a lot before I finally secured an apartment, which was a pain of its own.  Heartbreak to be had.  Anxieties of the future to be felt.

But, here’s the thing: I did learn a lot from being away from my family and not living so much on my parents’ dime this summer.  What did I learn?

  1. STOP. SPENDING. EVERY. PAYCHECK. YOU. GET. You should use whatever money you earn to A) put into your savings account for future emergencies and needs. B) buy groceries that are a necessity (not just food you wanna eat at that moment. Don’t be an idiot. Be healthier). C) help your parents with rent/subletting fees/transportation/all the necessary things you need to keep you afloat in New York. What NOT to spend it on? –> every adorable/cute/pretty new item you get at your new retail job, snacks you don’t need every friggin’ day, and did I mention all your expensive apparel & accessories at your designer retail job? Leave the shopping to the customers. However…
  2. Treat yo self, BUT only every now & again.  And really make sure you deserve it and have budgeted it out so you still have money in your bank account for oh, I don’t know, food so you stay alive.
  3. Learn to budget money for rent expenses, groceries, and occasional nights out.  This one I really got tips from my older brother and best friend, Lexi, from back home.  They both know how to save well and spend smart.  If you factor in certain costs into the amount you have in your bank account, you’ll know not to overspend and force yourself to guiltily ask your parents for money because they’re already doing enough for you and be grateful for that, okay?
  4. When you do purchase things, shop SMART. In terms of groceries, don’t buy in Costco bulk.  You’re not feeding a family of six like your parents, you’re feeding a singular person: yo self.  Don’t buy things just because you crave them in that moment; only buy what you’ll know you’ll need and know you’ll eat in the next week.  Only buy clothes if A) you honestly need it, B) it’s quality is worth the price (don’t factor in that it’s a discounted price, be realistic. Would you spend that amount on any skirt or dress you saw in any store?), C) you know you’ll wear it more than just this one outfit you’ve planned out in your mind or saw on Pinterest. Again, don’t be an idiot; use the 3-3-3 rule/3-day rule you’ve used for a few years that’s saved you from lots of stupid purchases in the past (will I wear this in 3 weeks? 3 months? 3 years?/Am I still thinking about the item 3 days later?).  Whether it’s food or clothes or fun novelty things or WHATEVER, don’t fall for the crave you’re feeling in the moment.  Plan and wait.  Don’t just grab and splurge.
  5. Use days off wisely.  Call your parents and siblings because you know you miss them and don’t make the stupid excuse of you don’t have time…because guess what? It’s your day off and now you do. Organize your receipts to make budgeting days easier.  Add things to your planner so you don’t forget work schedules and important dates & events.  Buy groceries. Do your laundry. Unpack your boxes and suitcases now that you finally have a permanent place to live for a few years.  Clean your room and apartment.  Cook meals for the rest of the week so you don’t have to go buy food and waste more money.  Lay out your outfits so you know what you’ll wear the rest of the work week and you can’t complain about not having anything because have you seen how much you’ve bought at your new job?! LOOK BACK AT TIP #1 AND STOP DOING THAT SO OFTEN AND LOOK AT #2 AFTER.
  6. Make time for hanging out with friends that are still in the city.  This summer, I basically hung out with my best friend in NYC, Kayla, every. Single. Day.  You’d think we’d get sick of it, but we didn’t.  We became closer (which we didn’t think was possible) and we were there for each other during really rough times we both separately went through these past months no matter what.  People I didn’t always get to see because of school conflicts who stayed in the city too? We finally got to hang out and spend time together!  You need to allow yourself to give yourself an escape from work life and the bustle of the city and just spend downtime with friends.  Visit parts of the city together that you’ve never gone to but always wanted to visit.  See a show together.  Explore museums and parks that you now have time to without the pressure of schoolwork or rehearsals butting in.  Maybe even take a roadtrip together!
  7. But also, give yourself some much-needed me time as well.  There were days I seriously just needed to detox and be by myself.  Usually, that meant sleeping on and off throughout the day to recover from the work week and exhaustion of running around so much.  Sometimes, it also meant I got myself some beignets or some sort of treat, took the train uptown to Central Park, and just sat and enjoyed the sunshine & maybe doodled in my sketchbook while listening to music.  Maybe it meant just walking around the city playing Pokemon Go and just letting my feet explore the city wherever it took me.  And maybe, it meant getting some necessary errands and chores done and feeling accomplished for doing so.  Whatever that means to you, do it.  Everyone needs a personal day off for themselves to recover from everything and everyone.  For someone who struggles to always have the best day ever every single day, it’s important to take the time to really just relax in whatever way helps you, so you can be the best version of yourself when you get back to work or back to hanging with your friends & family.
  8. Stand up for yourself. If that means asking for at least one day off because you’re being overworked and you’re running yourself into the ground?  Do it.  I love my jobs and I especially love the people I work with at both places, but I need at least a day to myself without working at either of my workplaces to recover so I could be my best when I got back to them. I want to be fully energized and fully productive, and I have to stand by asking for the time I need so I can be the best I can be.  If standing up for yourself also means confronting someone with your feelings (in your personal life)?  Do that too.  I was being emotionally dragged back & forth by someone I really cared about and I didn’t want to face them, for fear of losing them forever as a friend.  But, it was hurting our relationship even more so by saying nothing, and even more so, my friends and family saw how much it was hurting me every single day.  I had to be honest with how they made me feel, and when I finally did, I was glad it was all over.  A weight lifted off of my shoulders and I felt the air cleared.  I had an answer, and I could move on with my life.  I learned not only what I shouldn’t have to put up with in a relationship, but also how I deserve someone who is clear about how they feel about me, and wants me completely and commits to those feelings.  Whether in work or in personal life, you have to know what your time and your self is worth, and stand by and stand up for it.
  9. Whatever time you get to go back home, cherish it. I loved being home, but I still felt it was too freakin’ short.  We got the amazing opportunity to go to San Diego Comic-Con International for all 5 days thanks to my older sister being a bomb storyboard artist at Cartoon Network (WOOT!), but that took up a lot of my time with my family.  It was hot, it was exhausting, it was draining, and we were all running around separately that we didn’t really get to spend a lot of time together.  So when we got back home, I only got to see my sister for those few days before she went back to work in LA, and my parents had to go to work when we got back.  My older brother was taking art classes so I didn’t see him for most of the days, and I was so tired all I did was sleep.  But, the nights I spent with my best friends/basically sisters Lexi and Sam (who I haven’t seen since Christmas) and my family at homemade dinners of my favorite meal or nights just chilling on the couch and talking while cuddling my puppy? I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  I just wish I had more of them.  But whatever time you do get with your family? Don’t take it for granted.  Just love and enjoy it.
  10. Finally, be proud that you are trying to take on more responsibilities.  It’s hard.  I’ve made some mistakes (*cough cough* have you seen how many $$ tips I had to write out above??). But I’ve grown and learned.  I held down 2 jobs and worked the whole summer. I moved 3 times this summer (Gramercy–>Stuytown sublet–>Brooklyn–>back to Stuytown for your own apartment FINALLY) all by myself without a moving truck or anything but my best friend to help me (bless you, Kayla. Thank you for everything <3).  I’m trying to build up my savings account. I’m trying to help pay a part of rent with my parents with what I can.  I’ve been away from home for the whole summer and now going into fall + this past spring semester being away from them then too, I’ll almost be gone from them a whole year and I haven’t passed out from pain or died from distance and being away for so long.  I’m taking steps to become an adult and learning what it means to take on those responsibilities early on, learning from mistakes and accomplishments and hard work.  What I’ve had to tell myself this whole summer?: You’re growing.  And it’s nerve wrecking.  But when you look back on it?  You’ll be glad you experienced it early on so you can continue to grow.  And even better?  The next time you get to see your family, it’ll be worth the wait, and the time spent with them will be more cherished & more memorable than ever. ❤

So again, thanks mom and dad.  Even when you’re not right with me, you’re still teaching me and helping me to experience the world to better prepare me to make it my own.  I love you and I can’t wait to see you in November for my 3rd year show at Atlantic. I hope you’re proud of me now, and you’ll be proud of me then, too. ❤

xo Sara






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