I celebrated my 34th birthday this month and thought it would be fun to reintroduce myself to you by sharing 34 things that you may not know about me.
The only other time I shared a list like this, I was 25.
And, let me tell you, I am mortified and embarrassed to look back on that list now.
Some of the most cringeworthy highlights include:
- Describing one of my favorite places in the world as the Las Vegas Strip, which, not coincidentally, now exists as one of my least favorite places in the entire world to visit.
- Describing myself as politically conservative, which, again, is another exact-opposite correlation to how I would describe my social, political, economic and philosophical leanings today.
- Describing myself with some pride(?) as a “drinker,” because apparently that was an identity I knew and felt comfortable with in my mid-20s, and maybe even thought made me seem cool and carefree or something.
Nevertheless… I am still grateful that this old list of self-descriptors exists.
Seeing how I self-identified 9 years ago tells me today that my inner work is, well, working.
When I look back to who I thought I was at 25, today, I can see how my outlook, beliefs, ideas, taste, self-knowledge and more are all changing. I can see my growth and evolution in action.
I like that I’ve changed so much.
I want to always live in a state of change, growth, and evolution.
I want to always feel like I’m becoming more of myself, and less of who I once was — trusting all the way that “who I once was” served me at that precise time with what I precisely needed to learn, all to become more of myself.
So, with that in mind, here are 34 things you may not know about me.
Please, allow me to reintroduce myself to you.
(And, thank you for being curious to know a little more about who I am behind these words.)
1. I was born in Rhode Island to an attorney and a stenographer in 1986, which may account for my analytical personality and my word- and language-obsessiveness. I thought about becoming an attorney for a while, but honestly doubted my intelligence or ability to be as good a lawyer as my dad, though I still sometimes think about what it would take to go back and get my law degree… just because it seems useful.
2. I’m a fourth-generation American of Italian and Irish descent and often find myself reflecting on how my ancestors were unwelcome, discriminated against, and largely perceived to be “less-than” by status quo society at the times of their immigrations.
3. My last name translates to mean “little bear” in Italian, hence the design of my brand logo. My friend and colleague Faren Peterson designed it for me in 2018 as I was making an effort to update my brand and remove what I considered to have become overly stereotypical new age tropes, like the “seed of life” graphic that graced my logo prior.
4. Writing for me represents an entry-point into the Self and has been one of the most important ways that I have gotten to know myself, understand who I am, and stay rooted and grounded, for years. Because of its therapeutic and empowering nature, I consider personal journaling to always take priority over publishing or sharing words, which I refer to as “writing for others.”
5. I have two tattoos, each of which I got at particularly difficult and disillusioned times of my early career as a writer. The first is one I designed, an interlocking pinwheel-like representation of a tree, which I placed on my right shoulder blade to be symbolic of my leadership philosophy “following me around” wherever I went. The second is a Sanskrit mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, which loosely translates to, “The sound of the creation of the Universe is contained within a single seed,” which I take to mean that everything in the entire cosmos (or, all of life) is found and represented in every single moment, day, breath, and atom.
6. I’ve traveled to 28 countries since 2016, including stops in places like Iceland, Turkey, Morocco, India, Peru, Cuba, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It’s impossible to pick a favorite place.
I have really come to appreciate the culture, history, way of life, and people in every place in which I’ve visited. Besides visiting everywhere, one place I really want to explore is Mongolia.
7. I stopped practicing Catholicism in college but officially defected from the Catholic Church in 2018. I am a critic of the Church as an institution and in particular for its ongoing complicity in child abuse, rape, and exploitation of minors. Out of protest, I wrote letters to the Archbishop and Bishop in my area and requested that my baptismal, first communion and confirmation records be stricken or indicate that I am not a registered or practicing Catholic because I could no longer accept even passively being counted as a “member” or supporter of the Church.
8. I began consistently meditating for the first time in 2018 while I was personally struggling to support a former partner with undiagnosed mental health and addiction issues. I found mantra (chanting) and singing to be particularly helpful for getting into my first, lasting meditation ritual — I’m not a fan of the “sit quiet and in total stillness” sort.
9. I think that 9/11 mildly traumatized me — something that I’ve only given thought to in the last year or so. I was 15 years old at the time and had no direct connection to the day, but it was so profoundly affecting to me (resulting in months of heart palpitations and sharp, heart-attack like pains that I eventually saw a doctor about) that I think it’s fair to use that word, “trauma”, which I don’t use lightly, if only to better understand how the events left an imprint on me.
10. I chose to “leave” yoga in 2018, which I then billed as a year-long sabbatical, despite knowing well that I would never return to teach yoga again. I have only practiced a few times in 2 years. It was a conscious choice to detach myself from the identity of being “a yogi,” which felt increasingly hollow and restrictive to me.
The culture of the yoga world (not to mention, the broken business model of yoga), really jaded me over the years and left me feeling increasingly unseen, undervalued, unappreciated.
I began to resent fulfilling the “identity role” of a “yoga teacher,” and felt restricted by it. I miss seeing my old students, and I’m sad that I was never given the chance to properly thank them or say goodbye to them, but I am otherwise very content with my decision.
11. I established two free yoga programs for populations that I felt needed them in 2016 and 2017: recently-arriving immigrants and refugees from places like Syria and Iraq at an adult literacy center in Rhode Island, and to the healthcare staff of my local Planned Parenthood chapter.
In the wake of the 2016 Election, I wanted to do more direct-action work to support causes I believed in and people who might not have access to traditional yoga environments. They were sponsored by a nonprofit organization and I taught them for over a year.
12. Also in 2016, I donated professional storytelling and copywriting services to two other causes that I believed in: an urban development nonprofit organization that was founded and operated by people of color in Boston, Massachusetts; and a fitness startup founded and operated by formerly incarcerated individuals based in New York City.
Ironically, donating these services actually prompted one of my employers to fire me as their contractor because they perceived me to be undermining their business model. I didn’t fight them because I believed in the work I was doing, and I still do.
13. I was hired as a communications consultant and strategist by that same urban development nonprofit this past autumn for a political battle that was described to me by the founder as an “existential fight” for the future of the organization. I developed strategic materials, written materials, and helped the leadership of the organization prepare for a public showdown that involved major power brokers, elected officials, and media attention.
The outcome of the fight is still as-of-yet unresolved, but our work contributed to further supporting the voices and self-determination of a powerful and resilient community in the Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan neighborhoods of Boston.
14. My roots as an aspiring writer date back to age 12. I typically think of my writing roots as really beginning in the wake of 9/11, but I often forget that when I was younger I had aspirations to write my first novel, loosely inspired by Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6. I used to type it on a Palm Pilot with an attachable, foldable keyboard.
15. I was bullied about having very wavy hair as a kid, which left me feeling very insecure about my appearance for a long time. And, this little wound manifested with me buzzing my head (to almost clean-shaven) from age 20 to about 26 or 27.
16. I was a great student, until I became a mediocre one. I was always one of the top of my class until about fourth or fifth grade, when letter grades started to feel serious and I became super self-conscious and doubtful of myself as a person. The first letter grade I ever received (on a public speaking project) was a D-, and the first grade that I received on a college exam was a 45 — yes, out of 100. But I graduated high school and college as a B student.
17. My first kiss was at age 17.
18. Young heartbreaks in the romance department at ages 17, 20 and 22 are what I credit for really helping to open my mind and expanding my worldview. My college heartbreak really pushed me to transform who I knew myself to be. Today I understand that there is a gift and opportunity in being broken open by hurt and sadness; it gives you the chance to reconsider what you think you’ve known all along. Today, I try to stay open by questioning and breaking down hard lines, strict opinions, or overly rigid points-of-view.
19. I was captain of my high school lacrosse team and took a lot of pride in my identity as a lacrosse player as a teenager. It was one of my earliest connections to senses of confidence and self-worth.
20. I spent my freshman year of college as a cadet in the Army ROTC program, where I studied Military Leadership 101, did physical training with recruits early mornings every week, learned how to shoot and clean an M16A2 rifle with Q-Tips, and camped in the woods for a couple of weekends.
21. One of my childhood best friends, who I lost touch with for years, died in 2016 after a long history of mental health issues and addiction issues. I was crushed when I learned of his passing because I always felt personally guilty and responsible for not helping him more at the start of his struggles (even if we were only 12 years old at that time). I feel like I failed him back then, and I committed sometime thereafter to not remaining indifferent in situations where I had an opportunity to help someone if I could.
22. I was named as a defendant in a lawsuit against my college when I was 21. I was a co-editor in chief of my collegiate newspaper and my co-editor and I were cited (rather superficially) as defendants for doing some reporting on campus-related student body issues that, our accuser alleged, caused him to lose his job. The case was dismissed.
23. I moved 10 times between 2008 and 2016 when I finally moved into my current apartment in Rhode Island. Those moves included stints in Washington D.C., Boston, New York City and Rhode Island in between.
24. I was on an airplane flying into Boston during the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013 and living in the East Village of Manhattan in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy left neighborhoods south of 20th Street in the dark for days. I wrote about these experiences and more like them in my 2015 book of essays, Big Apple, Black Sand and the Midnight Sun.
25. I have a brother, but you may only hear me talk about my sister. I’m close with my sister but my brother has had a strained relationship with our entire family, almost without reason, for most of my adult life. He stopped answering my calls and texts years ago, and while I’ve been frustrated with him for stretches, I made a conscious decision years ago to not listen to updates about him through the perspective of my family members, because I felt it would unjustly color my opinion of him. Instead, I’m holding space for him to re-establish a relationship someday, should he choose it.
26. I used to really resent my birthday before I decided to celebrate it. Wafts of quiet self-loathing (born of a long relationship that I’ve had to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and shame) made me really dislike the pomp and circumstance of my birthday. But when I decided to confront my shame and rewrite that story, I changed my tune. For a few years, I celebrated my birthday by hosting retreats around my birthday to honor and celebrate my gifts and my senses of meaning and purpose. In recent years, I celebrate not by working but by taking myself on a trip abroad to a place like Peru or Costa Rica.
27. I’ve studied perspectives, theories, philosophies, and archetypes of the Divine Feminine, including historical representations of Goddesses and Goddess energy, and other spiritual traditions that contain more balanced representations of feminine energy and women, for the last 8 years. Spiritually, I consider myself to be a servant of Divine Feminine (or Feminine Creative) energy, also known as Mother Earth.
28. I’m an environmentalist, a tree-hugger, and a lover of animals. I’m a dog whisperer in my own right (so people tell me) and have been known to win over the affection of the occasional cat, horse, and bird.
29. I support climate action and feel increasingly motivated to advocate for climate action publicly. This is coming from someone who used to be a climate change skeptic. My appreciation for the natural world and our planet has been born of many things, including travel. These days, I make efforts to recycle, reduce my carbon footprint when possible, and eliminate wastefulness where I can.
30. I’ve lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a partial view of the bay for 4 years, just a few miles from where I grew up, in Rhode Island. The tile floor is breaking in places, and the appliances are all over 30 years old, and the building may be sinking so the floors are slanted and the cupboard drawers rarely stay shut, and the window seals are broken and so there’s always condensation on them and the condensation freezes on cold winter days. Despite this, I’ve enjoyed living in my little creative bungalow.
I’m anticipating moving out in another half year, but I’m not sure where I’ll land quite yet.
31. My workdays today are mostly filled with holding space for slow and transformational conversations with coaching clients; as I’ve written recently, over the last few years I have fallen in love with supporting the growth and business strides and creative expressions of good-hearted, open-minded, interesting people who really care about who they are and what they do.
I still sometimes write website copy, story career histories into cover letters, or develop a communications strategy, but I limit that workload so I can support as many coaching clients as possible.
32. I’ve been practicing functional strength training for nearly 2 years and, as a result, have gotten into the best physical shape of my life. Thanks to a very dedicated trainer and leaning on my years’ worth of body awareness thanks to yoga, I train using kettlebells, bands, VIPRs and flat bars; do soft tissue and joint mobility work; and focus on a lot of neurological response (or, programming the brain to activate correct muscles for their correct use in different scenarios).
33. I put my book-publishing plans on hold late last year to retool, redevelop, and grow wider awareness for the core philosophy of Unavoidable Writing more publicly. It starts this year. I will be teaching a new, free, “no-upsell” webinar that will feature a 10-question quiz that I’ve developed to help anyone figure out their personal growth potential (and, as well, their possible pitfalls or sticking points) with remarkable accuracy. Previously, this quiz was only accessible inside the paid e-course.
I’m hoping to reach 1,000 people with this webinar in 2020. If you’re interested in attending, please email me with a note saying so.
34. I believe that everyone — you — has a story to tell. I believe that the story of what you’ve overcome, championed, learn, and grown through has the power to help lift and serve and support someone who is now experiencing what you once overcame… and doesn’t know that they’re not alone.
Your voice is important and matters in this world.
Do not take your words for granted. Do not take your voice lightly.
Say the thing. Try. Speak true. Trust yourself. Own what you’ve overcome. Tell the story of the world you want to live in. It starts with our words.
So, there you go, my friend.
These have been 34 things you may not have known about me. At the very least, I hope you now feel like you know me a little bit better.
One last thing… I want to give you a creative challenge.
Create your own list, just like this.
Make a running list of little stories, events, formative moments, experiences and ideas that make you who you now know yourself to be.
Can you make your list equal in length to your age?
I bet you can.
It can take a little work, and thought, but don’t drive yourself crazy over it. Just start. Just see what comes out. Reflect on it. Build on it. Keep it for yourself, or share it with someone you love.
In doing so, I think you’ll gain even more appreciation for the multi-faceted, dynamic, complex, nuanced, wide-ranging, experienced, and entirely impressive soul that you are.
Take credit for who you are and how you’ve learned, grown and evolved. You deserve that!
Until next time, my friend, thank you for reading,