Tag Archives: growing up

My Heart Almost Died.

I was always known to take chances, for following my dreams and being a free spirit. At times it was a little scary, but the thrill and pure joy of doing what I love outweighed that fear. It squashed the doubt inside too; all of those practical questions about money and the future didn’t matter. I was living in the moment, for “right now”, and I wasn’t going to grow up and let my “heart die” like Ally Sheedy claimed would happen in “The Breakfast Club”.

I spent my twenties finding myself, building my self-confidence and reaching for all of the exciting possibilities as a journalist and author. Money was not an obstacle; not because I had a ton of it, but because I could make almost anything work on very little.

I interviewed some of my favorite celebrities, could state I was the first person to interview Taylor Swift, made so many wonderful connections in the entertainment industry, and published 5 books all by the time I was 30. I even started seeing more money from book sales and actually got some paying gigs for articles.

I moved around a ton, leaving New York, my family, and some of my closest friends, always knowing they were there, cheering me on. To Nashville, back to New York, then to Anna Maria Island, and my 6 months of travel of the West Coast and New Orleans, and back to Nashville… something changed after that last move.

It wasn’t that money started to matter to me, but time did. I spent so much time running toward my next adventure. I gave so much of my time working as a barista even after it stopped supporting my free spirit lifestyle.

Suddenly, I was back in Nashville, where I had felt so alive just five years ago as I wrote “The Watch Dog”, but now I was stuck. Stuck being underpaid and overworked as a barista. Stuck doing digital marketing to create more income, and because I was trying to force myself to like it more since it was related to my chosen career path.

I always knew journalism wasn’t going to pay much, but times have really changed. With every high school and college kid blogging and writing articles, talent doesn’t mean as much as the time, energy and social media strategy you can bring to the table.

This past year, I have lacked in all of those departments. I’m fully aware I’m no longer 25. I don’t have the energy to run around behind an espresso bar for eight hours, write a chapter of my novel afterward, interview a singer-songwriter, write three articles, spend an hour on social media, cook dinner, and still have a social life.

Believe me, I used to do it all. I used to wake up at 4am and go to bed at midnight, and be at my best. I was bubbly about it all, too. Now, I’m a grumbly shift manager at one of the busiest Starbucks I’ve ever worked at, lucky if I write in my journal twice a week and my energy along with my spirit is depleted.

Ally Sheedy was right (or John Hughes rather)… I feel like my heart died a little. But I’m determined to get it beating again. What’s equally as bad as my dreams, or the energy to pursue those dreams, being on pause, is I miss home. I miss my brother, sisters, my niece and nephew. I hate watching them grow up so far away when I was there every day with them for so long.

It’s time to come home. I’ve spread my wings. I’ve left the nest. I soared. I fell. I got back up and soared again. And fell again. I’m tired now. Time is precious. I don’t want to waste that time working just to pay the bills. I am so drained and stagnant that I am not living.

When I move back to New York, I will be a nanny for my niece and nephew. There is nothing like being around children to awaken my creativity and remind me of all the excitement left in this crazy world. I will no longer have to waste all my energy at a job that underpays and overworks me. I will be making quality moments with people I care about, and when the little ones are off at school, I can focus on my writing.

I will encourage those kids to follow their dreams and that anything is possible. Along with their parents, I will try to help guide them with advice, but I know—and I hope—they won’t take all of it. Everyone needs to find their own way in life. There were tons of advice and warnings and discouragement thrown at me growing up.

Some of it was good advice, and maybe I should have taken it into consideration, but I wouldn’t have had this amazing journey with all of its ups, downs and wonderful surprises. My mother always said to me, “I don’t want you to get your hopes up”. To this day, I try to always get my hopes up. Sorry Mom, I know you didn’t want me to get hurt, but really, I’m fine!

Hope is one of the most important things. It’s our life line. Even if something didn’t work out, I never regretted the hope I felt beforehand. That feeling is magical; to allow yourself to get buzzed off of excitement and believe that anything can happen. I will always tell my niece and nephew to keep their hopes high. It’ll keep our hearts from dying.

Adulting Is For The Birds… Or is it?

I kind of have Peter Pan syndrome.  That doesn’t come as a surprise to my family members, I’m sure.  I am the baby of my siblings after all.  It’s hard for them to think of me as an adult, therefore it’s not easy for me to see myself as an adult.

Sure, I’ve traveled the country by myself and work multiple jobs and pay bills.  But I have never felt like a grown-up.  I still love the same things I loved as a kid: John Travolta and Adam Sandler movies, Jared Leto, Backstreet Boys, things that sparkle, bright colors, and eating off of small spoons.  I have always tried to save animals (“Free Willy” was one of my faves) and loved to dance and cook.  I even still play make believe, also known as writing novels.

I have not fallen in love (well anything mutually reciprocated anyway), had kids, or even learned to drive a car… or a bike for that matter.  I can’t help but wonder if/when I have reached any of those levels of life if I will still feel like a kid?

With that said, the past few weeks have hardcore hit me with grown-up issues.  I’ve been working as much as I can at the barista gig, as well as taking on as much as possible for new clients as a digital strategist, all while writing the final draft of my novel (“The Reunion“) before sending it off to the editor.  On top of that, I’ve been dealing with scheduling Comcast to come out and hook up their awful service; and having them come back to fix whatever keeps going wrong.  I’ve paid bills, rent, organized the house, and even got a big girl bed.

Pretty adult stuff, right?  I thought so too.  But I still feel like that Britney Spears song:  “Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”.  What makes it worse is that I met a guy I found incredibly attractive.  Nashville is full of cute guys, but I find my tastes are evolving.  They can be drop dead gorgeous and super sweet, but I’ve spent plenty of time around guys that fit that description.  I even had serious feelings for one, and it turned out to be a big letdown and underneath it all, he had no drive and misguided ideas of how life worked.  He also didn’t care about what I ever wanted, it seemed.

Anyway, this new guy… we share a similar sense of humor, he’s from the North and loves Adam Sandler too!  He didn’t have that Southern charm that makes me question if he was being genuine like so many people out here do.  I figured he had to be in his mid-to-late 20s, and I figured so wrong!  He’s the big one-eight.  18!!!  How the heck…what?  Ugh.

All this made me realize that though I may not feel it, I am older!  I am, gasp, an adult and maybe a cougar!  I can’t just date an 18-year-old.  Well, I suppose legally I can, but after actually getting to know this guy–excuse me–kid, I realized that I REALLY am an adult!  Or at least, somewhat of one… Who knew?!  I mean, this guy is not in any way independent.  He’s quite shallow and from offhanded comments he’s made, is very close-minded… oh, and he’s pretty much a downer.

The young Sandy Lo would feel sorry for this guy and would want to be the light to his dark days.  The adult Sandy Lo knows better.  I know that this guy would be a leech and instead of me brightening his days, he would dim mine.

The child version of myself would not know when to separate herself from things that could potentially harm her — like the wrong guy, too much junk food, not enough exercise, or keeping poisonous people and environments in her life.

So maybe I am an adult, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.  You know what?  Having a Peter Pan syndrome isn’t so bad, either.  I can still be an adult and keep the “never grow up” mentality to keep me sane through all of the sucky adulthood problems… like realizing that kids today REALLY don’t know good music, movies, or how to interact face-to-face.  Yup, I am most certainly a grown-up… who still carries her BSB lunchbox to work. 😉

The Boondocks: From Staten Island to Nashville

Being a born and raised New York City girl, country music wasn’t a consistency in my life. Music was, though. I grew up in the South Beach projects in Staten Island, and though it wasn’t the best neighborhood, it was my home. I can’t change that and I’m never ashamed to say where I came from. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my past. I’ve always been told, even as a child, I remain true to myself. While kids in my neighborhood used bad language, I never did. It was never who I was. When a friend of mine wanted to bully a girl who was different, I didn’t. Instead, I stood up for the girl and befriended her.

Despite staying true to myself, there were times I was tested. There were times I wished life was different. I wanted a swimming pool. I wanted to go outside and hang out with friends, but as I got older the kids in the neighborhood got worse. I wanted to be surrounded by good people, and though, I had quite a few nice people around—I was also around a few authority figures that didn’t do the right thing.

Music was an escape from it all. I remember walking into a different room of my project apartment and hearing The Beatles playing from my oldest sister’s radio. I would walk into my brother’s bedroom and hear Rob Base. My other sister would listen to more Top 40 and dance music. My father would listen to Run DMC while my mother gave me a well-rounded ear for the sounds of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. As a kid, I was partial to the music of the ‘80s even throughout the ‘90s.

My familiarity with country music consisted of Elvis, Bonnie Rait, Kenny Rogers and Charlie Daniels. Those artists were who my mother listened to, and most of them had songs in movies that I frequently watched.

As I grew up, and the South Beach projects began to go downhill, I found solace in music. By the time we moved out of the projects, I was about to start high school, and music became even more important to me, assisting in dealing with all those emotions that come with growing up.

Unlike some of my peers, I didn’t just want to listen to music. I craved knowledge about it. To this day, I’m still renowned for being full of random tidbits of pop culture trivia. It came as no surprise to anyone when I became an entertainment journalist.

Country music gradually began to enter my life as I became more knowledgeable about the music industry. I also made some friends who were big country music fans that began to strategically direct me to songs by Martina McBride and Rascal Flatts.

Soon I was watching CMT on my own since I couldn’t find a country radio station on Staten Island. When “The Boondocks” by Little Big Town came out in 2005, something about that song resonated with me. It’s a song about growing up in the sticks of the South, so how could I, a city girl, relate?

It didn’t hit me until the other night at Keith Urban and Vince Gill’s “We’re All For The Hall” show out here in Nashville. Little Big Town performed the song and I found myself singing along, but getting somewhat emotional.

“I feel no shame. I’m proud of where I came from. I was born and raised in the boondocks,” the chorus sings. Finally, it hit me. I am proud of where I came from, no matter the bad reputation living in the projects has, or for that matter, even just being from Staten Island. I am not ashamed of who I am or where I came from, and certainly not ashamed of where I live now or the people I meet—no matter how different it all is from what I’m used to.

Upon moving to Nashville, I was teased about moving to a town of rednecks, hicks, etc. etc. etc. Well, if Nashville natives are rednecks, then count me as one, too. I feel at home in this city. I’m proud to be here where music thrives, people are warm, and God is celebrated.

“The Boondocks” represents home. “One thing I know, no matter where I go I keep my heart and soul in the boondocks.” What a true lyric! To me, this song brings my past and present together. It reminds me of where I come from and also why I moved to the South. It makes me feel good about where life has taken me.

Aside from this revelation, Little Big Town is simply amazing and everyone (including you New Yorkers) should download “The Boondocks”. While you’re at it, get the band’s new single “Pontoon” when it comes out!

***Random Note: The part at the end of the song with “You get a line, I get a pole” is a variation of a song my mother used to sing to me that she took from The Andy Griffith Show.***

Procrastinating The End Of An Era

I’ve been whining and tweeting about finishing “Breaking The Moon” for a month or so now.  I will finish this novel and it will be tomorrow.  It’s like I said in one of my tweets: “Finishing a novel is like saying goodbye; that’s why it’s so hard to do”.  I think about Haley and how far she has come.  In “Dream Catchers”, she scratched the surface of who she really is.  She found her passion in life.  And in “Breaking The Moon”, she really grows up and learns how to forgive and understand and when to dispose of the crap that surrounds her.  Maybe some of you can identify with her more than others, but for me, she’s a piece of me.

When I wrote that first chapter during my first few months in college, I was like Haley in many ways.  I felt alone and suffocated by my parents and everything I knew.  I wanted to escape, but didn’t know how.  Writing stories and creating StarShine Magazine became my passion and they both opened up a new world to me.  They made me fall in love with myself…and I desperately needed to love myself at that time.

Then there’s Jordan…believe it or not, he’s me in some ways too.  Back when I was 18, he was more who I wanted to be like.  Now, I find myself in him in more ways than I thought.  I might not express my anger like Jordan does, but it’s there.  My childhood scars are very real, and though I laugh at many of them because sometimes you just have to–they still hurt, too.

I promise to write a book about that someday.  It will be based on my life, but not an autobiography.  It won’t be all moaning and groaning over a kid from the projects who was abused.  It will be about family–the love and the hate and the absurdity along with the comedy that comes with all of that.

But until then, you’ll see characters like Jordan who struggles with the past, but wants to rise above it.  And you’ll see characters like Haley, who keep quiet for too long

Sandy reading from "Dream Catchers" for the first time at Art & Music Night at The Cup in Staten Island, NY in 2009.

until she’s breaks free from the bubble her parents kept her in.  With all of this off my chest, I feel I can finally finish the last few pages of “Breaking The Moon”.  I feel good about giving you this insight tonight.  It’s an incredible feeling to have someone read your book and enjoy it, but it’s both frightening and comforting to have them understand where your characters are coming from: within yourself.

After the last chapter is finished, I will be going into heavy editing.  I’m hoping for an April/May release 🙂  Thank you all for your patience and support.  If you haven’t read “Dream Catchers”, please do!  It’s available on Amazon.com in Paperback ($19.00 US) and on Kindle ($6.99 US)!

Hugs, Kisses & Stars,

Sandy Lo