This year, I’m grateful for money. Kinda.

“What the hell are you eating?”
“Those frozen crab puff appetizer things from the freezer,” I reply, kicked back in my Nikes while tucked into a much-too-large SKULLY jacket. The team is gathered up in one of our conference rooms in preparation for a meeting, and I’m settling in before it begins by, as usual, stuffing my face with food.
“Aren’t those … Y’know …” My boss ends his sentence in a face that makes it look as if he’s just smelled something effluvious.
“Disgusting?” I finish for him.
“Yes. That.”
“Yup, they’re terrible,” I reply, smiling mischievously as I finish off the nasty treat, its texture akin to shredded, soggy cardboard, and its flavor comparable to what I imagine raw shrimp might taste like if chewed up and spit out by a mama bird. Mmm.
He laughs. “Why are you eating it?!” He gives me a baffled, but amused look.
“Because it’s free.”

Ah, yes. “Because it’s free” is pretty much my reason for doing anything in San Francisco. “If it’s not free, get it away from me,” I always say!
… Okay, I don’t actually say that, but man, San Francisco is expensive!

Forget those $30 concerts with $14 cocktails at the bar, or those $85 brew fest events you end up spending $200 in because the food booths are so pricey. And please, friends, it’s not that I don’t want to go to your magical birthday party in Napa, but I’d rather wallow in FOMO than pay for the $200 all-you-can-drink-party-bus ticket. And if my lack of attendance means we can’t be friends anymore, so be it. Because, well …

I’m cheap.

If there’s money piled up in my savings, I will tell you I’m broke. If I’m coming to your party, there better be a bowl of potato chips and an open bar. When I see a menu where most items cost upwards of $24 USD or more, you can bet I’m hoping we’ll split the bill. And if I have to choose between eating at a nice restaurant near my work, or toasting disgusting crab puffs from the office freezer, well, I’m gonna eat the f*cking crab puffs.

This isn’t to say that I only do things if they are free, but more often than not, I am the perfect model of Cheapskate McCheaperson.

“I’m bored. Come hang out with me.” I’m texting one of my coworkers, bugging him to join me after work (my team mates are basically my family at this point; long hours at the office inevitably creates those sort of bonds).
“We could go get motorcycle gear at Scuderia?” He texts back.
“Blaaaah. Come eat with me. It’s too cold to go to Scuderia.”
“Where are you thinking?”
“The mall.”
“… Cheri, you are a grown woman. You do not need to eat at the mall like a penniless 16-year-old. Go get real food.”

Psssh. Real food?! The mall does have real food! Have you even had the combination pork bowl from Ajisen Ramen?! Or the crispy chicken avocado salad from Buckhorn Grill?! You are robbing your tastebuds of the delight that is San Francisco mall food with your hoity-toity “I don’t eat at the mall” nonsense. It is tastebud thievery, I tell you! THIEVERY!

tumblr m5udbeTKzb1r72ht7o2 500 This year, Im grateful for money. Kinda. * heycheri sherilynn macale

“You make more money than 90% of our friends, Cheri. You are not poor,” another buddy says to me over Facebook chat. He’s trying to convince me to come out for the night, attempting to battle my phobia of spending money.
“So? Everything is expensive as hell here!” I reply.
“Yeah, but you’re young. Don’t you want to have fun?”
“Sure, but I also want to save money for a rainy day. Or my future. Y’know, like for a home? Or for my one-day family?”
“So you’re just going to sit on your money forever?”

What’s wrong with not spending money?!

I like to read. I like to play video games. I like to draw. I like to work out. I like to write. And guess what? It’s all freeeeee! … Er, mostly free, anyway.

Sure, sometimes I spend money to go shopping, but when I look at my closet, I also see piles and piles and piles of clothes I don’t really need but have been too lazy to donate or sell on Ebay. When I open my shoe wardrobe, it takes me ages to sort through the heaps of high heels, boots, and sandals. And don’t even get me started on my purse wall! That’s right. My wall of purses.

I’m not “poor” by any means, but I’m not so foolish that I truly believe I might never be poor or broke ever again. So, when I do spend, I spend wisely. I spend on things I actually give a sh*t about. If I jumped on every opportunity to tromp around the city with friends and go to brunch every single weekend, I’d probably be broke. And y’know what?

Being broke sucks.

I’ve been broke before, and it is awful.

When I worked as a consultant, paychecks would, often times, arrive incredibly late. So late that I’d have to petition my landlord for extensions on my rent, or piteously reach out to Mom and Dad for small loans to get by. At one point, I was working three jobs at once on top of consulting just to pay my bills: waitressing at an upscale restaurant by the beach, bartending at a wine bar on Polk Street, and even barista-ing(?) with San Francisco’s famous Philz Coffee (thank da’ lord for my bubbly personality; I had zero service experience and was hired based on charm and trainability alone).

Many bowls of soup were spilled, several apologies made as hot coffee toppled from countertops onto nice blouses, and small tips gratefully pocketed after eight hours on my feet with no breaks hustling back and forth between chefs and tables to ensure my patrons had the best dining or drinking experiences possible. Then, it was off to my next job. Double shifts, and sometimes triples were not uncommon for me.

It was f*cking tough. Being a server is really hard, you guys. My wrists and fingers ached constantly, my feet perpetually hurt, and I stopped caring if I had worn the same pair of jeans to the restaurant or coffee shop 2 weeks in a row — I was too tired to care, and at the end of the night, all that mattered was counting my tips and praying I had enough to make it to the next month.

I was depressed. Depressed because I knew I was smarter than that. Sad because I knew what I was capable of. Upset because being a server makes sense for some people, but it didn’t make sense for me. I was good at it, sure, but I knew my own potential, and not being able to see that potential realized absolutely killed me. It wasn’t just that I felt I was wasting my skills, but that I feared for my future, too. Who would want to date a waitress/bartender/barista? How could I ever support a family on this paycheck, working these hours? I felt worthless. All of my accomplishments, my stacked resume, my amazing achievements — all of it felt useless.

I spent a lot of nights crying, feeling like a total piece of sh*t.

giphy 2 This year, Im grateful for money. Kinda. * heycheri sherilynn macale

And then I got a call from SKULLY.

It wasn’t a full-time position. Not at first. But it was something. It was a rainbow of an opportunity, and the pot of gold at the end was a full-time position with a company that had an amazing story driving it, and I wanted that gold.

I dropped all three serving jobs to pursue my SKULLY contract, and I kicked ass. I worked well over the amount I was paid for, driven by this mad intent to prove my worth, not just to SKULLY, but to myself.

And somewhere in the process, I fell in love with my team. Because it wasn’t just me who wanted to prove myself — we all did. Each of us was in love with what we were doing because each of us was hired to fill roles we absolutely excelled in, for a company we 100% believed in. Being surrounded by this sort of passion and brilliance every day is intoxicating, and I was (and am) hooked.

Following my month-long contract, I was rewarded with a full-time position. My friends congratulated me. My parents called to tell me they loved me. But through it all, I felt scared. Scared because it was such an amazing opportunity, and it frightened me to think that one day, I might lose it. You don’t go from working 3 serving gigs and several consulting positions to the land of stability just like that — there had to be a catch.

So, full-time position in hand, I worked even harder. You think you like me now?! I thought. Just wait and see what I can do! In my full-time role, I attacked new challenges head-on, blowing expectations out of the water and exceeding goals where I could. I worked longer. More efficiently. I stopped getting sleep (much to the concern of my superiors who advised me several times to take it easy and get some rest), but I was addicted to the hustle, and no way in hell was something as simple as sleeping going to get in my way. SKULLY’s success became my success, and I was determined to see the company succeed.

Three months later, I got a promotion. And that scared me even more. It meant that SKULLY believed in me. That, heck, they liked me, they wanted to keep me on board, and they wanted to see what else I could do.

Promote me, will you?! I thought. You want to see what I can do with more responsibility?! I’ll show you, and I’ll make it look easy, too!

So I did. And I am. And god damn it, I’m going to continue doing it, and I’m never going to stop, because that’s what happens when you’re finally doing something you love for a living. In times where I roll my eyes playfully when being given a task, or moments when I whine about how much work I have to do, it’s only because secretly, work is my crack, and it is the most rewarding feeling in the world to feel useful, and to feel like I’m making a difference by contributing in a way that no one else can.

So yes, I’m making money now. And yes, I’m blessed.
But …

At heart, I will always be a cheap-skate.

Just because I’m doing well financially now and am successful today doesn’t mean I’ll always be. I feel safer with a cushion to fall back on, especially knowing how hard it is to find a well-paying job in the first place. I know the value of money, and I know how hard it is to earn. And I definitely work hard. I come from a humble background, with humble roots, with parents who constantly have their noses to the grind. We don’t come from family money, and we’ve been broke more often than we’ve been rich.

Thus, I am cheap.

And y’know what? I don’t think being a cheap-skate is so bad. Being a cheap-skate has made me more grateful, more thankful for everything I have, and more appreciative of everything I’m given. Being a cheap-skate has made me more generous. Because I know how rough it can be, I consciously put effort into charity work, in donations, in attempting to brighten the lives of the people around me in simple ways, and in tipping the sh*t out of my baristas and servers. I make it rain on them hoes! … Hos? I’m not sure what the plural form of “ho” is.

giphy This year, Im grateful for money. Kinda. * heycheri sherilynn macale

So, I say let me enjoy my soggy frozen crab puffs. And please, don’t mind me while I slurp down my $7 mall ramen with gusto. If you want to treat me to something “better”, I will accept your generosity with overwhelming graciousness and thanks, but in the meanwhile, don’t cry for me for not living large — I am content with and grateful for what I have.

And I will never stop working hard to earn more.

~ Sherilynn

PS. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you to my family for seeing me through the hardest two years of my life, for always being there for me, and for loving me unconditionally. Thank you to my friends for reaching out to me in times where I needed companionship the most, and being smart enough to recognize when I was too prideful to ask for love and affection. Thank you SKULLY for recognizing my potential, for giving me a chance, for scaring me in the best way possible, and for motivating me to learn, to grow, and to believe in myself. And thank you to my wonderful boyfriend who couldn’t care less if I was a waitress or a billionaire, and who appreciates me no matter what. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you.

The boy who ran away from home with me.

James The boy who ran away from home with me. * heycheri sherilynn macaleI took this picture of him nearly 10 years ago.

When I first met James, I thought he was so cool. He was the kind of cool that only a severely-sheltered girl of seventeen with zero worldly experience could imagine was cool. He had this sort of rebellious flair, this laid-back demeanor that made him stand out without having to say or do much at all. He had a presence, and when I first laid eyes on him, I immediately had a crush.

James was tall, fit, and had long legs. He had this mess of blonde, curly hair, and the other boys sort of flocked around him, naturally deferring to him in all matters requiring any sort of decision-making: where they sat, what they did after school, where they hung out during lunch — James was their leader. And when he spoke, it was always with purpose, always in that same deep rumble. He sounded like a man. He never seemed to vie for attention, and I suppose he never needed to, because everything he said made anyone within hearing distance stop to listen, and any small joke he made in passing cued belly-full laughter with ease.

From the first day he arrived at our little school, it became clear the other teenaged girls attending collectively believed that he was the guy to “get”. I remember seeing my female classmates walk by his desk during class to subtly pass him notes, letters he would unfold and read when the teacher wasn’t looking, then quietly smirk to. I remember seeing the school slut (yes, we had one of those) perch atop the edge of his desk and bunch her cleavage together between her arms while leaning toward him, striking up a conversation with him and laughing loudly at everything he said.

Though he was the object of many a girl’s affections, James remained cool. He never gave any one girl more attention than any of the others, and if anything, he ignored most of them to focus, instead, on his “boys”. They worshipped him for it.

For my part, I was never much of a flirt growing up. I was shy, incredibly well-behaved, nerdy, could barely dress myself, and a total tomboy. My idea of a good time was hanging out with my baby brother (still the coolest kid I know, by the way), playing video games, drawing, and writing in my diary. I didn’t exactly have much going on for me in the boobs department (and growing up, I actually believed breasts were everything), so when it became clear that what stood between me and James was a sea of young, hormone-driven teenaged girls all experienced in wooing and all eager to win him over, I gave up on the idea of us ever becoming an item and contented myself to merely fantasizing about what it might be like to date him.

Essentially, he had no idea I existed, and I was much too meek to assert myself and let him know I was alive.

Then one day, he talked to me.
He actually talked to me.
And us formally meeting completely changed my life.

*

We were in art class. My art teacher was a gentle sort of man, the type who quietly laughed off misbehaving students and very much wanted to be everyone’s friend. He never criticized our artwork even when it was truly terrible, but instead praised every chicken scratch doodle and encouraged us to keep practicing, raining down compliments on us at any sign of improvement. He was a major comic book nerd, and amidst the gaggle of delinquents surrounding me, I was his favorite student.

“Does anyone know who the X-Men are?” He asked us excitedly. There was a general but half-assed murmur of acknowledgement from the class, and I could see his shoulders slump a bit at the lack of energy.
“Yes,” I said, loud enough for him to hear over the mumbling and hoping to perk him up. He brightened at my response, continuing.
“Today, we’re going to invent our own superheroes! Does anyone have a favorite X-Man or superhero?”
“Sailor Moon!!” I squeaked enthusiastically, because Sailor Moon is the shit. Duh.
“WEENIE!!” Someone yelled at me from across the room. The class erupted in a fit of laughter.

Incensed, I swept the sea of giggling classmates for the source of this insult, surprised when I saw that it was him. James. His buddies were laughing and patting him on the shoulder, and he was looking at me with this triumphant smirk on his face, reclining back into his chair.

I couldn’t believe he just called me a “weenie”.
What the heck?!
Who even says “weenie”?!

… But it was such a harmless insult.
And he was just so cute.
And when I locked eyes with him, I couldn’t help my face getting hot.

I smiled nervously, then dropped my gaze to the pile of doodles on my desk, suddenly fascinated with the eraser on my mechanical pencil.

*

When class ended, I was far too eager to get out of there. Mortified at the idea that he had finally acknowledged my presence and faced with the potential opportunity to actually have a conversation with him, I did what any inexperienced and scared-shitless little girl with a crush would do: I stuffed my things into my backpack quickly, clutched my heavy three-ring binder to my nonexistent chest, and ran away! * To this day, I still suck at getting hit on. But just as I exited the door and had made it a few steps into the hallway, I heard him call for me.

“Hey! Hey, wait!” His voice was so recognizable. I knew it was him. When I hesitantly turned back toward art class, I saw him struggling to stuff his own papers into his backpack and hurrying in my direction. I quickly glanced around me, unsure if it was me he was speaking to.
“Uhm, me?” I asked shyly.
“Yeah, you,” he said, finally slinging his bag over his shoulder and standing next to me.

Oh god.
This was happening.
He was talking to me.
James was talking to me.
My brain short-circuited for a second, and I found myself staring. I had never seen him this closely before.

He had blue eyes. These really pretty, almond shaped eyes. And such long eyelashes. Wow.
And I mean, I know I’ve said it enough at this point, but man. He was so cute, and seventeen year old me was absolutely smitten.
I blurted the first thing that came to mind.

“What’s a weenie?”
He laughed, brushing his fingers through his mess of blonde curls before shoving his hand casually into the front pocket of his navy Dickeys, hiking his bag up higher on his shoulder. “You don’t know what a weenie is?”
“I mean, I know what a … Weenie is,” I said, sort of whispering the term in embarrassment, “but what did you mean?” I smiled shyly. I felt kinda sweaty. Man. Talking to cute boys is hard.
“Y’know. A weenie.” He glanced toward the ceiling and tipped his head from side to side, as if the movement would knock the definition out of his brain and onto his lips. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like, ‘dork’, or something.”
“Why did you call me that?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Because you’re a weenie. You gave a weenie answer.” He was smiling.
“Okay… I guess.” I said, not really knowing what to say to that.
“It was just a joke. You don’t really seem like a weenie,” he said. And I was relieved, for some reason, even though I didn’t know what he meant by weenie, because y’know, he was cute, and I wanted him to think I was cool just like I thought he was cool, because that’s how the teenaged mind works, okay? “What’s your name?” He asked.
“Cheri,” I said, still in disbelief that we were actually speaking to each other. “What’s yours?”
“James.”

I forget what we talked about after that.

And I guess it doesn’t really matter because the next thing I do remember doing with James was packing a bag and running away from home together, then going on one of the craziest adventures of my life living as a homeless teen for over seven months on the streets of Stockton, California, one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.

But y’know.
That’s a story for another time.

~ Sherilynn

Be Grateful for the Little Things.

Before I begin, I should say I meant to write this from the beach, but was afraid I’d let the point slip away if I leapt from my bed to bike on over there.

Ahem.

* * *

It was late at night. I had just gotten off of work, and my friends were in the neighborhood. They were all in good spirits, excited to see me (or so they acted) and in the mood for shenanigans. For my part, I was excited to see them as well but also felt kind of … Uhm. Weird.

It had been so long.
I was nervous.

What happens to me when I’m trapped behind a computer?
When I’m on the other side of reality and merely observing it, it freaks me out. Not leaving my apartment for too long gives me this kind of social anxiety, and it’s actually pretty awful.

The only thing that seems to really solve my impending introversion is to get the heck out there again and saturate myself in people. In real air. In the sounds of the city. In dog poop and smelly Bart escalators.

This experience will be good for you, Sherilynn, I thought to myself. What’s the worst that could happen?

My friends wanted to go to this playground nearby.
A playground, I thought? It felt like I was 17 again drinking forties of King Kobra with my then-boyfriend. Which, y’know, was actually kinda’ nice.
But it sounded fun.
So I came with.

Through most of our walk, I tried to reattune myself to their rhythm. Their cadence. They had been interacting with one another all night, and so were used to their collective presence. That’s generally what happens when a group stays together long enough. Sort of like how girls supposedly sync up during their periods (which I’m only somewhat convinced actually happens).

When we reached our destination, we took our seats atop a rickety, wooden boat — the kind pirates probably rowed out of their enormous ships — surrounded by a sea of playground sand.

There, we talked.
With the beer already drunk, we pursued company.

It was freezing.
Some of us were in one another’s laps and others huddled up for warmth.

I had gloves on.
I didn’t feel like cuddling.

I looked around me, and this guy — a friend of my friends who I had only previously met in passing — was sitting next to me, huddled over and kind of staring at everyone else just like I had been. I smiled to myself. I found the observation amusing.

“What’s on your back?” I asked, pointing to the thing on his back.
“Something,” he said, adjusting the thing on his back.
“It looks like a guitar.”
“That’s because it is.”
“Shut up.”
“What?”
“Is it really a guitar?”
“Yes,” he smiled, “it is.”

Now, normally I’m not the sort of girl to just up and ask someone to play guitar, but come on. We were in the middle of a playground in San Francisco, and most of us were buzzed. If that isn’t a God-given opportunity for Kumbaya, I don’t know what is.

“Do you know how to play it?”
“Um, yeah. I can play a few songs. Nothing special,” he murmured.
“Can I hear something?”
He laughed. “Sure,” he said, pulling out his guitar.

I waited.
He began strumming.

… And, okay.
Chords.
I’ve heard chords before.
My sister and Dad are rockstars on the guitar.
I grew up listening to them play.
I wanted something new.

“Do you, umm,” I started, scooting closer to him on our little bench and talking politely over the sound of his guitar. “Do you know any words to go with those sounds?”
He laughed again. “Yes,” he said, “I do.”

And when he started singing …
Let me tell you:

Guitar is an instrument to be played at close range. There’s something about the realness of it that just completely beats out this electric crash you hear over loudspeakers at music festivals, or on stage in local watering holes. It is intimate and beautiful. It’s an instrument that, when someone leans near while playing to let slip words in perfect tune to what feels like an unpredictable and thrilling acoustic wave of music, you feel this rhythm growing in your chest and a fire igniting in your loins. You feel your heart leap into your throat. You feel your hair stand on end, and your thighs quiver.

Guitar up close is sex.

No wonder the Beatles got so much punani.

And his voice was just … Whoa.
Surprising, coming out of him.
He didn’t look like a singer.

And when he stopped, I screamed.
And I totally got why people screamed for the Beatles.
I mean, he was no Beatle, but he sang this song about being in love with a girl and it was just the cutest, most amazing thing. It felt like he’d been studying out of a sensation-tickling textbook and was putting what he learned into practice.

I don’t know how else to describe how excited I was.

And the reason I tell this story is because:

In life, I think it’s important to find pleasure in the little things; those observant somethings and forgettable nothings. I think it’s important to find pleasure in pure observation of all of these amazing things going on around us and all of these new experiences, and to feel, with sincerity, that those things are incredible. InterestingOf value.

I believe that in life, a healthy curiosity is absolutely necessary to survive in the face of change. I believe that it is important not to think of change as this shifting, scary, and unfamiliar obstacle to overcome, but as an experience or a journey in which there is no right or wrong outcome.

Be grateful for the little things.

Guitar.
A sweet voice.
Friends we haven’t seen in forever.
Our memories.

We can get so bogged down by worries and overwhelmed by how we believe things should be that we forget to appreciate the small stuff. We become so intent on being in control of every little thing we experience that when something flies out of control, we focus on it so intently that it drives us insane.

So, forget all of the shitty mistakes you’ve made.
Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes.
In fact, you’re supposed to make them.
How else are you supposed to build a more educated guess on how to handle similar situations in the future? I mean, try your very best not to fuck everything up, but also be forgiving with yourself when you do.

Y’know, somewhere on my blog, there is an entry about perspective.
My thoughts on it are the same now as they were then: Remember and be grateful for all of the wonderful things in your life, and let that be that. Gratitude is a practice that should be practiced daily, and it is only when we shift our perspective to be constantly aware and appreciative of the wonderful pieces of our day-to-day lives that we can truly feel at peace with ourselves.

Oh, and get off your computer.

… K.
Off to the beach.

– Sherilynn