My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

The Heart of the Matter

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We hear it all the time, in memories and eulogies, over too much wine and too much heartbreak — “I should have told them.”

That we cared, that we were upset, that we loved them, that no, we’re not okay and here’s why. There are so many different instances of the idea that maybe we shouldn’t tell people everything, whether it’s a lighthearted punchline in a stand-up special, or our own hearts that remind us of what happened the last time we did this. We got hurt, we got rejected, it turned out that the other person didn’t care.

WHATEVER THE OUTCOME, IT NEVER TELLS US THAT THIS IS A RISK WE OUGHT TO TAKE AGAIN.

So we regress into ourselves, we stopper things down. We tell people we’re fine when we’re very clearly anything but. If we’re lucky, when we explode, it’s not a breakdown but a breakthrough. It’s something that tells us about ourselves, something that illuminates not only a feeling we had in the core of ourselves, but a way we should live our lives better. Usually, though, we’re not so lucky. Instead, we cry our eyes out, experience a pain so heavy that it physically hurts. And we stopper this down, too, and put on a brave face, and tell people we’re fine.

(It’s funny that as we live in an increasingly connected society — one where we can tell complete strangers the tiny, little inane details of our most mindless thoughts, we’re still not comfortable with the idea of telling those close to us how we feel. Maybe this is irony. Maybe it’s just human nature. After all, most of those jokes can’t be used against you. Your attachment to the people and things you love, however, can.)

The whole of who we become — not just who we are right now, but the person we’ll be tomorrow, and the person we’ll evolve into in five and ten and 15 years — transpires through a set of beliefs we cultivate through experience, the emotions that come from those beliefs, and the actions that come from those emotions. And that person who was and is and will be us learns how to cope with feelings and emotions from past experiences. If you never practice by telling people how you really and truly feel, you’ll never learn.

And when we spend most of our lives quelling those feelings, shielding ourselves from vulnerability and dampening the ecstatic, marvelous, horrifying, tragic beauty that is life and all it’s supposed to mean to us, we’re not living it completely.

SOME OF US AREN’T LIVING IT AT ALL.

In fact, some of us are on autopilot most of the time. Acting out of supposed obligation, not will and choice and emotion and feeling.

There are, of course, caveats. We are told from a young age that it’s a risk to let people see how you feel. To leave emotions out of the workplace, never to let them see you cry, that you’ll be seen as less-than for expressing anything other than tacit okay-ness with how things are swimming along. And, in some instances, you can understand why this is true. Because sometimes the head and the heart don’t align, and yours isn’t the gut reaction being called in for opinion.

BUT IN ALL OTHER CASES — IN ALL OF THE OTHER WAYS THE WORLD MANIFESTS ITSELF AS SCENARIOS AND POSSIBILITIES —  IF YOU ASK ME, IT’S BETTER TO RISK BEING HURT THAN TO FEEL NOTHING AT ALL.

Because eventually, the ends will outweigh the means. A risk you take on telling someone how you feel, expressing why you’re not okay, saying the damn truth for once in your existence, will open you. And it will open every part of your life up to the things that could be and should be and will be. You stand no chance of finding love if you don’t tell anybody how you feel. You stand no chance of finding yourself if you’re always convinced that you can only contain half of what you really know to be true of you in that moment.

Tell someone how you feel. Go after what you want. Be honest with yourself, and your emotions, and listen to your gut reaction when something screams at you from your very bones that no, you are not okay. Ask yourself why that is. Listen to yourself. Trust that a feeling is a feeling is a feeling. There’s no wrong way to experience an emotion. There’s no wrong way to feel.

So tell them now. After all, it’s either this, or telling someone else why you were afraid.

Which one would be harder to admit?

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Dear Future Me…

What was your career like?

Did you ever figure out what you wanted to do, and if so, did you do it? How important did the money end up being, did you take dreams over paychecks and struggle to follow your passion? Did you create something you loved? Did you work with integrity and honesty and drive? Were you a good mentor, and did you remember to give back to the people who looked up to you? Did anyone look up to you?

Did you take risks?

Did you ever climb that mountain? Tell that person who you loved that you loved them? Go after that dream job, move to a new city, ask for that raise, open yourself up to possibility and failure and success and heartbreak? Did you eat the dessert whenever you wanted to? Did you see the movies you wanted to see? Which books were your favorites? What was your favorite ritual, your alone time, your just-for-myself thing? Did you remember to put yourself first sometimes, not for the sake of being selfish, but for the sake of your own sanity?

Are there people who you take care of now?

Do you have kids? Did you ever decide whether or not you wanted to have kids, and if so, how did you know? Was it a light bulb moment or was it gradual? Did you just see a tiny human on the playground one afternoon and realize the pang in your heart was real and telling you that you wanted kiddos after all? Did you know you were ready or were you scared the whole way? And what were their names? What are they like? Are you proud of them? You must be proud of them, I imagine, the way most parents are proud of their kids, should be proud of their little ones. Do they look like you? Do they love you? Were you a good mother? Do they think you were a good mother?

And if you didn’t have kids, how’d you decide? How’d you know they weren’t for you? Was there backlash when you made that choice? Was it even your choice?

Did you travel the world?

Did you explore your city as often as you could? Did you ever move back home? Or was homesickness just a comfortable constant? Was it just a small memento, and a reminder of your roots? Did you see the ruins of Babylon, climb the Andes Mountains, eat pasta in Rome and drink wine at the base of the Eiffel Tower? Because I hope you did. I hope you got to see and experience every part of this beautiful world.

How did you meet the love of your life?

Did you ever have one? Or were there a couple? Many? And if there were, did one stand out? How did they act? What were they like? What did they do, how did they take their coffee, and did they prefer pancakes or waffles? What color were their eyes and did you feel safe in their arms? How and when did you know that you loved them? Who said it first?

And if it ended, how did it end? Was it harsh and bitter, or just two best friends saying one last good bye? I hope it was the latter.

Do you regret anything?

What do you regret? And if you do, do your regrets outweigh your good memories?

I hope they don’t. I hope the good far outweighs the bad.

And most of all, were you happy?

Maybe not all the time, because that’s the impossible goal, but overall, were you happy? Are you happy now? Did the things you did and the places you saw and the people you loved… did all those things bring you joy and give you meaning and fuel your drive and determination to make the world a better place?

But I guess that last answer lies in me. Current me. Present day. Right here and now.


Because the things you do now, and the people you love, and the dreams you chase determine whether or not you feel fulfilled in this moment. The risks you take build up to larger rewards, and the things you choose not to do in the here and now determine your biggest regrets.

So chase after what you love now.

And take your risks and leap off those cliffs and book those tickets to that new city and read as much as you can and love as hard as it is humanly possible.

Make the answers you’ll give when you’re older the best they can possibly be.

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Something I’ve been thinking about lately is toughness. Being tough, being strong, being resilient, being scrappy, being brave, being stubborn, being unfazed and unrattled and unshakable and relentless. Being confident. All of these these things are synonyms in places, overlapping like a weird venn diagram of words and emotions and feelings. These are all good things to be and to have, and work as assets no matter who you are or what you do. Everyone is faced with criticism and critique, and everyone has to rise again from setbacks. That’s how life works. It ebbs and flows.

But of all these tools in the spectrum of human emotion that help get you from valleys to peaks and back again, I don’t want to have a thick skin.

I don’t want things to bounce off of me. I want to feel. Even if the feeling sucks. But that feeling is a reminder that I’m human.

In some ways, thinking you’re not human — that you’re superhuman, and maybe even invincible — is helpful. It’s the adrenaline that pushes you through something scary and challenging, and makes you think you’re stronger than you are. Fire isn’t as scary if you don’t feel the flame.

And whether you work or even just spend part of your life in a digital space, you learn pretty quickly to let things bounce off you. We’re told to know better than to read the comments. People send nasty messages to complete strangers all the time, either forgetting or ignoring the fact that there is another person and not just an anonymous computer screen on the other side of those words. Having a career based in social media where I often pour my proverbial soul out into the world wide webs on a regular basis, I’ve been the victim of said vial and ignorant and just plane awful messages and comments. And let me tell y’all, it’s not as fun as it sounds.

Add on top of that, the fact that it seems like the news is reporting on another atrocity every single day. Life would, in theory, be so much easier if you felt and reacted less.

But I don’t think that’s the way to go about it. Often, telling someone else to grow a thicker skin is to excuse the actions of everyone around them. “People are awful, don’t let them get to you.” But of course awfulness is going to get to a person. Of course it will bug someone. That’s human nature. You can’t tell a person to not feel, just because it keeps the status quo intact.

And okay, sometimes people can be hypersensitive about some things, but they have the right to feel any which way they choose. You can’t tell them that a feeling is wrong. (You can tell them that the concepts on which they’re basing their feelings are misguided, but a feeling is different from its dogma, and feelings in and of themselves are not right or wrong. They are just feelings.) And excusing the actions of other people — that oh, people are just overwhelmingly shitty, grow a thicker skin, move on — is to excuse that shittiness and let it keep happening.

Sure, you can only control your own actions and not the actions of other people, but your actions can also include taking other people to task when their actions are bad. You don’t have to ignore, and you don’t have to roll over, and you don’t have to simply accept things as they are. You don’t have to grow a thicker skin.

You can and should be resilient. You should stand your ground as much as you can, and especially when it’s for things that are right. But don’t grow a thicker skin. Don’t teach yourself how to not feel.

Let things affect you. Let things get under your skin and crawl up your veins and sit uncomfortably with you until you do something about them. Call people out when they say mean things to you. Stand up for yourself, and for anyone else you see being bullied or put down.

We may mostly be grown ups, but we’re still not so far from the playground. And sometimes on the playground, you’d skin your knee and it would sting and you’d get gravel and grit in your scrape, and it would hurt, but you would remember that sting and you would learn. Sometimes it was your own damn fault. But sometimes it wasn’t. Just because somebody else pushed you over didn’t make that sting hurt any less. And sometimes, those scrapes left scars. Sometimes, those moments of vulnerability lead to lessons and breakthroughs. Those moments of weakness often tell us who we really are.

Be strong and confident and believe in yourself and know when people say things, sometimes they say wrong things just to get to you. By all means, be stubborn and be smart about the fact that the internet is often dumb and people on the internet say dumb things and it’s often smart to ignore these things. But having that wisdom is different than having a thick skin. Don’t confuse the two, whatever you do. Don’t grow a thick skin, or at least keep parts of it vulnerable.

Feel. Be human. Be imperfect. Be alive.

My Hope For You

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It’s hard to fathom that another year has come and gone. And while usually this is a time when I take a moment to self-reflect on the past year, and share all the things that I look forward to in 2020 (which to be honest, I still definitely did because I’m a creature of habit like that), I wanted to do something a little different.

I wanted to put the focus on you.

Yes, you. The person reading this.

Because sometimes we all need to be reminded of just how beautiful this life really is, to be reminded to take advantage of the big moments, the little moments, the everything in between. To be reminded that despite the challenges and heartaches and rough patches you may have hit over the course of this year, you made it through. And you will continue to do so because you are a badass. And are strong, and courageous and bold and damn you’re doing the thang. And I am so fucking proud of you.

In 2020, my hope for you is this:

I hope you see things that take your breath away, things that make you feel like you have never felt before. I hope you travel to the places you have always wanted to explore, I hope you catch the sunset at the perfect time on a random Tuesday drive and have your whole chest expand with gratitude. I hope the night sky is always beautiful wherever you rest your head.

I hope you drink good coffee and stay out late with someone who enlivens you. I hope your bones are tired and your hair is messy and your heart is full of nostalgia. I hope someone who makes your whole damn face light up kisses you the way you have always wanted to be kissed, that they hold your hand and take care of you when you’re sick and bring you flowers just because.

I hope you fall so deeply in love with your life that your happiness is undeniable whenever someone looks at you. I hope your days are filled with people who inspire you, and that you always let them know just how rare they are, just how much you appreciate them. I hope they do the same for you. I hope you connect with your moments, the ones that make you feel like you’re doing something right, the ones that happen quietly in the middle of a conversation when everything stops and you truly realize just how lucky you are to be alive.

I hope you are reminded every single day why you’re special. I hope you are reminded that you make people feel heard, that you make people feel understood and accepted. I hope you believe that — that you have purpose, that you’re a good person who deserves beautiful things and rich moments in life, that you mean something to someone.

But most of all, I hope you look back on this next year and smile.

I hope it becomes the year you leapt — the year you started living.

2020 Vision

 

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This is normally my favorite post of the year. Because despite my best efforts, I learn things every year and it’s fun to record them.

And for some reason every year, I learn exactly the same amount of things as the year itself. Weird, no? I don’t know why or how it happens, but I’m rolling with it.

Without further ado, here is my list of 19 things I learned in 2019:

  1. Giving feels better than getting. After the craziness of the past year, I spent a lot of time putting my energy into giving back. I have a pretty damn good life when all is said and done, but there are many people out there – families, young children – who are struggling to put food on the table, to find a safe place to sleep, to simply make it through the day. The world can be an ugly place, but it’s made all the brighter when we help one another out. Giving back is the shit, y’all.
  2. Cut anything that’s not working for you anymore out of your life. Yeah, it’ll hurt for a minute but then it’ll rock and you’ll be all, oh wow, this rocks! And I’m a big fan of things rocking.
  3. Fear not! If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that the best experiences in life often come as a result of doing what you were scared of, of looking fear directly in the eyes and doing the damned thing anyway. Whether that be climbing that fucking mountain, opening your heart again after being hurt or simply saying yes out of a habit of saying no, you’ll only regret the moments you missed out on due to that pesky fear.
  4. Do what you really want to do. A few days ago I submitted the final draft of a second novel I’ve been working on for publication. It’s different than anything I’ve done before, and to be honest, it’s a little terrifying putting myself out there like that. It’s a risk, but you know what? It’s been a crazy and awesome and crazy awesome experience and sometimes you just have to go for it, ya know?
  5. It doesn’t take that much effort to feel close to people. This year I’ve been texting and IMing and Facebooking and Instagramming and group messaging my ass off and it’s made me feel closer to family and friends all over the country and the world. I’ve made it a point to stay connected to those in my life who matter most, no matter how far away they may be.
  6. Chocolate is great. Eat a lot of it. And often.
  7. Timing is nothing and everything. I’ve learned this year that despite my best efforts, you can’t really control what happens in life  – we’re all just figuring things out as we go. It’s both the good and bad part about it. The best and the only thing we can really do is focus on the right here and right now. Our tomorrows really aren’t guaranteed which is why you have to do the things and be with the people and see the places that make your heart say “Fuck yes!” Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Do it right meow!
  8. Take a break from the news. And while this year proved that if you didn’t check the news for half an hour, you’d miss something, for fuck’s sake, give yourself a break and just MISS SOMETHING. Go pet a dog or wrap a scarf around your cat. Go fly a kite like you’re those bratty kids in Mary Poppins. You can catch up later. Or not. Sometimes it’s okay to play the ignorant card.
  9. Did I mention chocolate?
  10. Go ahead and tell yourself you’re awesome. Do it daily. It’s cliché because it works. Trust me, I know because I’m so awesome, y’all.
  11. Stop putting off what you’ve been wanting to do. I may be speaking more to myself here, but that trip you’ve said you were going to take for the past  5 10 years? GO! Like, YESTERDAY!
  12. Turning 30 isn’t that big of deal. In fact, being 30 is abso-fucking-lutely the new 20. My twenties were a time of still trying to figure out who I was, navigating work and relationships and adulting and….well, to be honest, I’m still trying to do that. The difference is now, I own all of that. And I’m okay with it. And I’m slowly making my way there.
  13. You’re gonna have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince. A LOT. But it just makes for good practice, right? RIGHT?! Your person is out there, and will more often than not come into your life when you least expect it.
  14. Go ahead and get bangs. What’s the big deal, amiright ladies? Even if you hate them, they’ll grow. You only live once, yo. I liked mine at least 60% of the time, which is more than I like most things.
  15. Except chocolate. I like chocolate 157% of the time.
  16. Show up. For your friends, for your family, for your co-workers and dry cleaners and neighborhood Dunkin Donuts dude (shout out to John!). Be there for people. One small moment of compassion can spark a shift in someone, redirecting the course of their day, maybe even their life.
  17. Nothing is ever perfect, but who gives a fuck? Not me. I have no fucks left to give, y’all, and I’ve never felt stronger. This year has given me PERSPECTIVE. In 2019, I let go of having the perfect *fill in the blank with your own stuff* and, even though we’re living in an actual nation-wide nightmare, I personally feel confident and badass in between panic attacks. Bring it, 2020.
  18. Be your own hero. In 2019, I learned a lot about myself, y’all. A LOT. I felt those growing pangs, leaned into the discomfort and realized that I was more often than not the only thing holding me back from my biggest potential. It took me finding out the hard way that I needed to knock that the hell off. My advice: trust in your resiliency, own your strength and be proud of your damn self. Because you’re pretty amazing. And you need to be reminded of that sometimes.
  19. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. 

There’s a lot of talk about how 2020 is going to be worse, but I don’t believe that. I believe we all learned all kinds of (real) lessons this year and we’ll use them in the year ahead to stand up for what we believe in, to have even more joy-inducing experiences and to make this new year the best one yet.

I think, nay, I know we’re ultimately gonna be okay, guys. And if you ever get stuck or need someone to stress-eat chocolate with, I’m here.

Cheers to an incredible rest of your 2019, and an even more incredible 2020.

xoxo

Choose Gratitude

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I remember when I was in second grade my teacher asked us to write what we wanted to be when we grew up on a note card. At the time, I was bursting with dreams—an astronaut, a singer, a writer, an English teacher just like her. Of all the items on the list, though, there was one overarching theme. When I grew up, most of all, I wanted to be happy.

And so I wrote that on the piece of paper—‘happy,’ a promise to my future self. That scribbled word was a goal, a mindset I would work towards, regardless of the obstacles along the way.

Years later, and more or less ‘grown up,’ I think about that note card often. I think about how it has followed me through the turbulence of my teenage years, the chaos of college, and into adulthood, where honestly, being happy seems like the most important conscious choice I can make.

Being happy, I’ve realized is not something you can pinpoint, grab between your fingertips, or keep. It’s more abstract than we give it credit for. We search as if we’re able to discover it, obtain it, hold it in our palms—but sometimes it’s so beautifully fleeting.

And sometimes happiness is not really a ‘thing’ at all, but a decision. Deciding to live with a spirit of gratitude. Choosing to be thankful, to see the bright side, to love and smile and have hope, regardless of what’s in the way. Accepting that you cannot change everything, but you can adapt your attitude. And letting yourself heal.

Happiness comes from finding peace with where you are. Not because it’s exactly where you wanted to be. Not because you have everything you could ever need. Not because you are wealthy, or in love, or doing better than the person next to you.

Happiness comes for no reason at all, other than because you decide you want it there.

You decide to create it, to make it, to build it out of the circumstances around you. You decide to open the door to it, to let it in, and then to foster its growth in your life, no matter what good or bad moments you face.

You decide that you want to live positively—bringing in good energy and people and moments and exhaling all that is out of your control. You decide that when terrible things happen to you, when you’re broken, when you lose people you love, when you’re left, when you’re exhausted or defeated or angry, that instead of letting the circumstances of this life control you, you want to react with a smile on your face. You choose to say, ‘I can’t change what has happened, but I can change my reaction, my next breath, next step, and where I go next.’

And you walk forward, focusing not on what you’ve lost or has been taken from you, but the knowledge you’ve gained, the love you’ve created, the strength you’ve found, the hope you’ve given yourself, and the wealth of things, people, memories, and moments you have to be thankful for.

So choose to be thankful in the challenges. Choose to see the bright side, the healing, the places you will go and people you will meet next.

Choose to let go of what you cannot fix or control, what you are not in charge of, what is out of your reach. Choose to accept the circumstances of this life, even when they’re imperfect or awful, and instead of wrapping yourself up in negativity, exhale and release.

Release what is not meant for you. Release what has abandoned you. Release what has attempted to destroy you, hold you captive, bring you down. Release the pain you’ve been holding in your chest. Release the anxiety, the anger, the fear.

Release and make a conscious choice—today and every day—to seek happiness and live with a grateful heart.

Because there you will heal, you will begin again, you will grow.

It’s okay to be human

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It’s one of the first pieces of advice I can remember receiving — maybe my dad said it, or maybe I only imagine he did and ascribed the wisdom accordingly because I was little and when you’re little, you live in an insular world like that: “Don’t say you’re bad at something unless you’re going to try to be better at it.”

We live in a society that prides perfectionism as the be-all of virtues, and has bred generation after generation of people succumbing to its pressures. Everyone’s expected to scramble to rise to the top — we just never take the time to tell people which top that’s supposed to be. Of course, the unsaid there is to allow for room to decide exactly what that top is, where it is, what we define ourselves as the best. And when you’re a frustrated little kid who doesn’t understand why you can’t get something right on the first try, you’re bound to let out a few sentiments here and there about how you’re lamentably bad at something.

And as we grow up, we begin to learn that being bad at a few things isn’t awful — it’s human.

It’s refreshing to have flaws, and sometimes, it’s fun to be terrible at things, to revel in ridiculous karaoke sets and botched doodles, to laugh later over that time you tried to make a five course meal and wound up ordering tacos via Seamless as a Hail Mary. Being bad sometimes makes for the best stories. There’s freedom in admitting that your prowess can’t and won’t extend everywhere. There’s something refreshing in an adult who doesn’t just admit their shortcomings, but owns them.

But when kids are little, they’re also shuttled from class to class, sport to sport, extracurricular to playdate, and we begin to form ideas that we’re supposed to be the best at everything. The best friend, the best all-star, the best in science and English and the star of the school play and the kid with whom everyone else wants to trade their lunch. We’re told to excel, to never settle for second place — not just in what we love most of all, but in anything. In everything. Fault isn’t seen as natural strength and weakness, it’s seen as an Achilles’ heel to be rectified. We don’t embrace anything we’re not the best at. We sink in humiliation until we change or feign being at least slightly above average and overall okay. Often, we give up before we have the chance to be better. We write ourselves off before we try to see what we’re capable of.

Being “bad” at something doesn’t take away from the fact that it was your best effort.

Part of owning your flaws is admitting that maybe there’s space to get better. And besides, “bad” is a subjective perception. One person’s “bad” is another person’s extraordinary advancement. Regardless, it’s okay to be at a personal “bad” now and again. Virtuosos are rare, and anyway, they’ve got their own newly heightened standards to live up to and to beat. And for every Beethoven who composed his first masterwork when he was still stringing together how to read words on a page, there are untold hundreds of thousands of people who were crappy at first. Who couldn’t even dream of even so much as touching that sort of rare talent. But no matter how bad they were, they tried over and over. And that is how they got better.

Saying you’re bad at something isn’t the problem. That’s identifying where you have room to grow — so in fact, it’s good to admit it. Especially when what you’re measuring is your own improvement. The problem is getting caught in feeling bad without a desire to change, and what’s worse is having that desire, but not taking the next steps to change. The problem is accepting being “bad” as a limitation. As a sentence. As if there’s nothing in our power to right what we perceive to be “wrong.” And that’s simply not true. Saying you’re bad at something without action is, often enough, little more than wallowing.

Because at the end of the day, the only thing that’s really “bad” is our attitude about how we perceive ourselves.

And if we’re going to call it bad, then we’ve identified what we’d like to change — and it’s now up to us to decide to actually do something about it. To change how we perform, to change how we work, to practice, to change how we structure our day to appropriate our time as needed. Most of all: to change ourselves. And to change our idea of why we’ve been lead to believe “being bad” really is that bad. You can be bad at things sometimes. There’s nothing wrong in that. But dwelling on it will only make it worse. And complaining for the sake of self-pity will get you — and everyone else — absolutely nowhere.

Say you’re bad at something every now and again. Admit to being human. Revel in that if you want to. But don’t declare yourself personally dissatisfied with your ability unless you’re going to personally work to change that. It’s self-respecting at the end of the day, and everybody has to learn to take it for themselves. Or at least, from someone else — as I from my dad, and as, hopefully, you from me.

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