A blog by Maddie Brady

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4 Guilty Pleasure Christmas Movies to Watch This Weekend

4 Guilty Pleasure Christmas Movies to Watch This Weekend

I’m such a guilty pleasure pop culture junky and I make no exception at Christmas. There are so many awesomely bad Christmas specials out in the world and nothing makes me happier than a totally cringe-worthy celeb-filled holiday TV nightmare and God bless that we […]

My Favorite Christmas Traditions + A Festive Jumpsuit

My Favorite Christmas Traditions + A Festive Jumpsuit

  I started celebrating Christmas a little earlier than usual this year (because Lord knows we need any excuse for some joy these days) and I’m starting to get so excited, guys! I broke out the decorations, put up my little Christmas tree, tuned into […]

21 Things I Learned My First Year in Madison

21 Things I Learned My First Year in Madison

I can’t believe it! It’s been a whole year since I moved to Madison! I feel so incredibly different than I did a year ago. I’ve started my career, I’ve made a life for myself in a city where I didn’t know anyone, I’ve experienced a lot of growing pains over the last 12 months. And even though things aren’t perfect, I’m really proud of the person this year has made me.

The world doesn’t scare me that way it did a year ago. I’m stronger, I stand up for myself more, I’m more in touch with what I want, I’m more protective of where my energy goes. It hasn’t been an easy ride. Honestly, this has probably been one of the toughest years I’ve ever had. I’ve been really lucky, but I’ve also been really scared and emotionally exhausted. I’ve had a lot of “what am I doing here” moments and that’s okay. I’m 24 – I don’t need to have all the answers. But at least I’m learning a lot, I’m trying to figure out what it is I want to do, and I’m having some fun along the way.

I’ve been reflecting on this last year a lot. I never even thought I would make it in Madison this long, to be honest. But I’m still here and I’ve learned a thing or two…

Work

  1. Find your way in. I’m working in a field that I knew very little about starting out, but I’ve found my ways into my job to make it interesting. I like working with people, I like figuring out what tools can meet my customers’ needs, I like keeping up with industry news, I like writing certain kinds of documents, etc. It may take a while to gain enough knowledge to find your way in, but lean into it when you do.
  2. Take notes. I’ve been a life-long note taker and I find that I’m more engaged and understand things better when I write them down.
  3. Try to be yourself. Transitions are really hard for me and I’m hugely skeptical of institutions, so it takes me a long time to really buy in. But I’m glad I kept going and got to a point where I feel like I can be more myself at work. I felt like a newbie and an outsider for a long time and I know that was partially my own reluctance, but it’s so exhausting feeling like you have to put on a mask all day, five days a week. I’m better at my job now that I’m more relaxed and who cares if someone doesn’t like me anyway.
  4. Learn about the industry. I’m a big context person, so learning about our customers, our installation process, our competitors, etc. all helped me get a better grasp on what it is I really do and why it matters in the scheme of things. Things can get very theoretical very fast in big companies, so learning as much as I can has made me more invested in what I do since I know exactly how it affects other people, too.
  5. Find your people. I got really lucky and met my work bestie on my first day. We bounce ideas off each other, support each other’s projects, and dish about work and life. I always feel like I have my best ideas when we work together and she’s pulled me into some cool projects I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Shoutout to Kat for being the best! (I hope she reads this lol)
  6. Make things fun. This isn’t always possible, but I’m trying to take work less seriously when I can. Starting a meeting with an icebreaker about what kind of ghost you would be? Awesome. Sending out a Britney Spears themed email to your team? Done. Including the funniest stock photos you found on Shutterstock in your group editorial meeting? Unexpectedly hilarious. I know it sounds kind of lame, but you do what you can.
  7. Separate work and life. Once again, not always possible (especially when you’re having dreams about workflow analysis), but I know that, for the most part, people respect your boundaries. I turn off my email on the weekends and I’ve committed to making my apartment a work-free zone. I’m lucky because I don’t have a crazy travel schedule but I think it’s always important to take a step back when you can and remember you have this whole other world that isn’t your job.
  8. I’ll never pigeon hole myself again. I never thought I’d work in technology. I never identified as being a woman in STEM. But here I am doing just that. I have a really strong arts and humanities background and thought that’s all I could do. But now I know I can learn pretty much anything. This has to be the best thing I’ve gotten out of this job – if I can learn medical software, bring it on world, I can do anything.
  9. It’s okay to move on. If it’s really not working, it’s okay to leave. It’s so easy to get sucked in and to feel like you couldn’t possibly, but people leave jobs all the time and everything is fine. Listen to your gut – you’ll know when it’s time to go. I’m staying put for now, but always try to remember that life keeps moving and it’s can be the right thing to go along with it.

Madison

  1. People really are nicer here. I grew up in the Midwest, but I underestimated how nice people are in this town. I’ve never lived somewhere where it’s easier to meet people and where everyone looks out for each other. I’m always chatting with the cashier at my grocery store or making friends when I go out to the bars. I went home to Chicago last weekend and tried to chat with some people about the beer selection only to get shut down – it reminded me why I love living here.
  2. Badger Nation is real. I went to a women’s college where we didn’t football and then grad school in Ireland where football was a little different… So moving to the most football-obsessed state ever was a pretty big change to say the least. Between the Badgers and the Packers, there’s always a game on and people are always drinking about it. I’ve woken up to “Chug! Chug! Chug!” more times than I can count. This shit is serious.
  3. Don’t miss the Farmers Market. I never thought of myself as a farmers market person, but the one here is huge. Everyone comes out for it decked out in their Badger red (regardless of whether or not there’s a game on) and it’s just a total event every Saturday. I always buy my veggies here in the summer and love to pick up bread, cheese, jam, and flowers, too. It’s so nice to wander around and feel like your part of the community.
  4. It’s safe and cheap and nice. I have to say, being able to afford to have a life outside of work is really nice. I don’t have to pinch pennies to go get a beer or go to a concert – every time I go back to Chicago I get a little shocked at the prices. It’s also a city where I feel really safe living as a young woman, which is saying a lot these days. Overall, the quality of life is so good, there’s fun restaurants and bars, lots of young people, and it feels great to be able to support myself my first year on my own. I’m not sure I could say the same if I lived somewhere else.

Relationships

  1. Invest in friendships. I haven’t always been a good friend. In college, I was the girl who would leave my sick friend behind to go to the party. It always made me squirm when people came to my room and cried. I consistently chose guys over my friends and expected them to understand. But now that I’m older I’m learning how much more valuable my female friendships are. They are the most consistent relationships in my life and my friends’ support is the bedrock of my happiness in a lot of ways. I’m working hard at being more present with my friends and I’m trying to be more vulnerable with them, too. I wished I learned sooner.
  2. Cut out the Crazy Makers. When I was reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way she talks about people who are Crazy Makers: people who suck up all your energy and make you feel like you’re the one who’s crazy. I knew exactly who she meant. I’m now more protective of my energy and who I spend my time with and I’m happier for it. People who make everything about them aren’t the people are going to support and inspire you to be your best.
  3. Distance is okay. This is the closest I’ve lived to my family in about 5 years so, at first, I was seeing them all the time. It got to a point where I didn’t feel like I was developing my own life in Madison, so I decided to take some space and stay home for a while. I learned that even though I’m close to them I don’t have to be around them all the time – it’s important to set boundaries and it’s okay to say no to things. I’m young and want to have my own life and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  4. Go to the party. If I ever got invited to a party and the only person I knew was the host I always went. Of course I got nervous and yes I downed a drink or two as soon as I got there, but I always made myself go and meet people. I did this a good deal in Dublin, too, and I’m always so glad I did. There are always inevitably a few awkward moments, but it’s amazing how easy it is to introduce yourself to someone or strike up a conversation around the punch bowl. It’s a muscle you have to flex regularly, but I’ve met some of my best friends in Madison this way.
  5. Give friendship time. Friendship is not like dating: you won’t necessarily know right away if you’re a good fit. After one date you pretty much know if you’re interested or not, but with friends sometimes it can take longer than that. You have to warm up to each other and let your guard down and do stuff together. Of course there will be people you just won’t get along with, but sometimes friendships start out awkward and become amazing. Be patient.

Myself

  1. Go with my gut. Learning to tap into my gut and trust my own feelings has become my most powerful tool. At this time in life it’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s expectations – what your parents think, what your friends are doing, what you thought you’d be doing by now – so learning to be honest with myself and trust my own feelings has helped me so much. I overthink a lot of things and my gut is my grounding force.
  2. Self care isn’t always easy. I’ve talked about this a lot on the blog, but self care doesn’t look like what I thought it would. Sometimes it means taking long luxurious baths and drinking wine, but sometimes it looks like getting my ass to the gym and saying no to going out because I need to take it easy. It’s a struggle, but it’s feels really important to become an advocate for myself.
  3. Life is funny. I don’t pretend to know what life will throw at me anymore. This year has made it very clear that I have no fucking clue and zero control, so I might as well make the best of what’s in front of me. It’s good to have goals, it’s good to be passionate about your work, but life is also life and we do what we can.

If you made it to the end of this post, you are the real MVP (and also probably pretty bored or you’re my mother). Seriously though, moving to Madison was a scary and sort of random decision on my part – I needed a job, I wanted to be close to home, I didn’t know what else to do – but I’m so glad that I did it. It hasn’t been easy and probably won’t get any easier and that’s okay. I’ve learned so much, grown up so much, and am being really intentional about what my next step is… stay tuned to find out!

What’s on Your Human Reading List?

What’s on Your Human Reading List?

A few weeks ago, my mom and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago for a little field trip. We dropped into Cauleen Smith’s exhibit Human_3.0 Reading List while we were there and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. In the exhibit, Smith offers a […]

My Game Plan for Surviving the Autumn Blues

My Game Plan for Surviving the Autumn Blues

It happened all at once, didn’t it? Suddenly it’s that time of year when the days are shorter and the nights are dark and quiet. Even living in the heart of Madison the mood is starting to shift – kids wrapped up in sweatshirts instead […]

Some Great Local Organizations to Donate to Right Now

Some Great Local Organizations to Donate to Right Now

Palm Trees St. Maarten

With everything going on over the last couple of weeks – Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the earthquake in Mexico City, another hurricane in Puerto Rico – I wanted to share a few organizations bringing some much needed good to the world. One of my goals for the year is to find an organization that I feel great about donating to on a consistent basis and the thing I keep hearing over and over again is: go local.

Although I think there are national organizations doing good – I particularly appreciate the work Planned Parenthood and the YWCA do – but when I think about who is on the ground when disaster strikes it makes a lot of sense to donate locally. These organizations know the needs of the community and often specialize in a particular niche or kind of supplies.

Seeing as donating money is often said to be the most efficient way to help, here are a few places to consider donating to, if you can…

  • One of my favorite podcasts, Call Your Girlfriend, mentioned an organization that specializes in sending menstrual supplies to victims of Hurricane Harvey. I imagine menstrual health products are often forgotten about in the chaos of a storm, but you don’t stop having a period just because there’s a hurricane. I donated to this organization in particular and here’s a whole article on various organization doing this kind of work post-Harvey.
  • Another organization I kept hearing about was the Texas Diaper Bank. A friend of mine at work began a diaper collection for some local organizations here in Madison, so I had diapers on the brain already. Many relief organizations don’t supply diapers to families in shelters, so diapers can be a real need for parents with young children and many older adults, too. Another local, niche organization making a real impact.
  • I kept seeing a name pop up again and again after the earthquake in Mexico: Los Topos or “the moles”. They’re a volunteer rescue group founded in 1985 after an enormous earthquake killed 9500 people in the Mexico City area. They wade through rubble to pull out survivors and bodies of those killed in earthquakes to save lives and bring peace to families in their community. The New York Times did a roundup of local Mexican organizations to donate to, including information about donating to Los Topos.
  • Most recently, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico leaving most without power or communication. Hospitals are running low on fuel and supplies, which strikes me particularly strongly now that I work in medical software. Here we are in Wisconsin having a big celebratory customer conference while so many suffer in another part of the United States – it’s mind boggling. The Puerto Rican first lady, Beatriz Rosselló, has created a campaign that will funnel money to local organizations from donations and private sector sponsors – Unidos Por Puerto Rico. Lin-Manual Miranda is also endorsing the Hispanic Federation to send funds, as well.

On a personal note, I was especially heartbroken to see the devastation that hit the Caribbean and the island of St. Maarten. My family and I visited around Christmas a couple of years ago: I remember our time there being so relaxing and reflective. We took a road trip around the island one afternoon – which you can do since its 13 square miles – and we found the most amazing beaches and restaurants tucked in the corners of the island. We cherished our brief time there and thinking about our trip made all of this feel more tangible and horrible somehow.

I can’t even imagine what the people living there must be going through now. 95% of homes have been damaged and 60% are uninhabitable, aid is slow to reach them, and many fear they’ll be forgotten in the relief efforts, a fear mirrored by those in Puerto Rico, as well. The photos of both places are unbelievable. I’m still on the search for a local St. Maarten charity that is doing hurricane relief – please let me know if you know of any!

Do you guys know of any great organizations worth supporting? Sometimes it’s so hard to know where your money really goes and I feel like personal recommendations go a long way here. Also, I want to say that of course donating money isn’t the only way to help and keeping your local communities strong through volunteer work and activism is always an amazing thing to do. We can’t be everywhere and do everything. Stay strong and safe, friends.

Weekend Vibes // The Week of September 15

Weekend Vibes // The Week of September 15

Hey guys, hope you’ve had a good week! I’ve been in a bit of a funk the last few days and left a lot of stuff around the house undone so I’ll be channeling my inner domestic goddess this weekend. I’m hoping to get outside […]

Two Wardrobe Staples I’m Really Excited About Right Now

Two Wardrobe Staples I’m Really Excited About Right Now

Last weekend I was in a treat yo self kind of mood so I bought myself a smoked salmon sandwich and a La Croix and went shopping. For me, shopping is an event: I love going to the stores, people watching, trying things on, listening […]

Book Review: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Book Review: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes

Like many of the books I read, my mom gave me the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes on a trip home earlier this year. I had seen a few of Rhimes’ shows – I followed Scandal pretty closely in college until it got too torture-y and watched the first season of How to Get Away with Murder because they’d filmed a few episodes at Bryn Mawr – but I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of hers. I had heard good things about the book, though, and as an influential woman of color in the entertainment industry I was interested in hearing her thoughts on media and TV today.

Little did I know it would also be my feel good book of the summer.

I’m a sucker for personal project memoirs: I ate up Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project back in high school, for example. So, I loved the premise from the start. I’m a big believer in personal development and self care (see my last whole post about this) so I really resonated with her impulse to challenge herself as a way of bettering of her life. I also loved her writing voice – it’s so personal, conversational, and engaging. I flew through the book because the writing was so easy to read.

Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes

There was a lot I liked about the book, but here are a few things that really stuck out to me:

  1. It was refreshing to read a book about an accomplished, creative, unmarried woman. As I’m entering my mid-20s I’m starting to see a lot of my friends get into serious relationships and get married, which is awesome. But I’m not always so sure it’s for me. I’m definitely an introvert and I really can’t imagine living with someone longterm in a way that makes me feel as fulfilled as living alone does. Shonda Rhimes really beautifully talks about how her creativity will always be her #1 and she could never live up to the commitment of marriage because of that. I let out a sigh of relief at those words – it’s really powerful to hear her make that choice and helped me recognize that no one path is right. Whatever is right for you is what is right.
  2. Saying Yes comes in many forms. Her first chapters talk about her decision to say Yes to events she typically says no to: interviews, speeches, panel discussions, etc. But then she goes on to describe other ways she says yes – yes to playtime, yes to health, yes to compliments, yes to hard conversations. She talked about “finding the Yes” in every situation: what here isn’t working and what can I embrace to make that change. I like the idea of finding the unexpected Yes in things.
  3. You define your own success – even if other people think you’re already successful. Shonda Rhimes was already super famous when she wrote this book. She could have accepted that this is what success felt like and left it at that and no one would have questioned it. Instead, she made sure she was in charge of defining success for herself. Yeah, sometimes it was work related, but other times it was really personal and she still made those things a priority. Just a good reminder that life is more than what it looks like from the outside.

I would recommend Year of Yes if you’re on the hunt for a fun-loving, self-help book. I read this genre a lot before I go to bed at night and this one stood out as a particularly quick read. It’s inspirational without being too cheesy and spoke to a lot of the things I’m thinking about as a young woman today. I also want to make it a goal to ready more books by people of color since my reading list has definitely been pretty white lately. Would love recommendations on what to pick up next or to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this one!

Check out my other book reviews here and here.

Five Ways I Made This a Self Care Summer

Five Ways I Made This a Self Care Summer

This summer I made a promise to myself to focus on me. The last year has been really tough: moving to a new city, starting a really technical job, living alone, meeting new friends, fully supporting myself financially for the first time. It’s been a […]