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perpetual dilettante. current obsessions and professions: travel, education, social justice, nostalgia, mindfulness, movement, books, & unf*cking my finances.

And the three challenges that diversify my reading life

I embraced my inner bookworm after finishing graduate school in 2017. The transformation, like a caterpillar to a butterfly, was swift and intense. Free Hours and weekends opened before me. I finally had time to fulfill my reading dreams.

The caveat: I had no idea where to start. Classics from high school were not scratching the itch, and social justice movements and current events in the United States told me to read deeper. How could I break out of the stagnant-feeling niche?

Enter the discovery of book challenges.

Since my first challenge in 2018, I’ve successfully layered multiple book challenges…


From first-hand experience in DC and Cairo

As a Washington, DC resident since 2008, the attack on the United States Capitol rattled my family and neighbors. Washingtonians are resilient. While many residents transplant from elsewhere, we fiercely love the District and DC natives. Large events on the Mall are not out of the ordinary, but January 6, 2021, was unlike anything we’ve seen.

Amidst friends across the globe checking in, one friend asked an interesting, unexpected question.

“How does this compare to your previous coup experience?”

Another wave of sadness washed over me, as memories of January 25, 2011, and the following weeks came flooding back. My…


How to embrace a money pit

Those of us privileged enough to own our dwelling can feel like the work is never finished. Regular cleaning, unexpected repairs, and renovations to keep up property value make the to-do list limitless.

Layering the financial uncertainty of 2020 into the mix, indecision paralysis, and stress about spending leads to burnout more quickly. What is a necessary project in this unprecedented time?

In my first year of homeownership, I’ve often wanted to pack it in and go back to renting. To reduce future burnout, I’ve slowly built habits to ride the waves of unavoidable, endless home projects.

Take Baby Steps

Upkeep can feel…


When to layer multiple hustles and when to focus

I’m lucky to work in a dream career, but I flirt with the idea of side hustling to financial security.

I juggle five side hustles outside of my 9 to 5. I invest time, money, and brain space in familiarizing myself with each hustle’s landscape, mastering the art of balance. Some hustles can be layered with varying levels of success.

Layering Side Hustles 101

  • Survey and Market Research: I’ve experimented with Shugoll Research, Opinion Outpost, Receipt Hog, and UserTesting. It’s free to sign up. A few hours a week is the maximum time commitment, but payout requires qualification and ranges from $1-$50.
  • Teaching Yoga


More than just millennial nostalgia

In the early 2000's internet boom, SmarterChild was an instant messaging robot most ubiquitous with America Online Instant Messenger (AIM) users. Developed by tech startup ActiveBuddy in 2000, SmarterChild could instantly search and share information from the web, remember where you lived, and respond with sassy rebuttals if it did not like your tone.

I recently went down the nostalgia rabbit hole with other millennial friends, and memories of our AIM screen names stand out. SmarterChild, a computerized creation simulating human conversation, imprinted fond memories across all our early online experiences. …


Pema Chödrön’s Heart Advice and Its Application to Writing

Two months into my Medium endeavors, more of my publication submissions are rejected than accepted. It feels shameful to admit, but I know this is a common experience for many new writers.

A few weeks ago, I thought seriously about quitting. Writing has brought me so much joy in the short time I’ve dedicated to the work, but it also has the power to bring a dark cloud over my week. Sharing my writing is at once so exciting yet so vulnerable. It felt like my writing style and stories were not clicking.

In an attempt to distract me from…


The practice of intention-setting can extend beyond mental benefits

In the onslaught of depressing headlines and global worries of 2020, I find myself stuck in a negative mental loop more days than not. I’m a yoga teacher part-time and even my tried and true movement and breath routines do not bring relief.

After months of experimentation, I found a combination of self-care practices can make each day slightly more manageable in these non-stop panicky days. Cultivating a practice of positive thinking can contribute to stress reduction and long-term health benefits, and I’ve found this to be a key tool.

Intention-setting is an important mindfulness and positive thinking practice. Renowned…


Debt-free is great if you’re able to physically and mentally enjoy it.

Three years ago, I discovered the financial freedom and F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movements through a work friend over an idle office watercooler chat. She casually mentioned her older brother fully paid off his house and student debt at age 35 in preparation for retiring early at age 40.

My eyes glazed over at the prospects of finally killing my student debt and reducing the pressure on my paycheck. I dove headfirst into the sea of F.I.R.E. personalities, social media feeds, and endless online advice. …


Deepen the reading experience with minimalist writing techniques from the expert

I finally gave myself permission to write. It took a global pandemic, political instability, and job insecurity for this mental shift to happen.

After a few months of practice, I realize I have a lot to say. But more words on the page do not equal better writing.

One of my favorite parts of this discovery process is the endless learning resources for writers. Authors I love continue to publish, and sometimes they graciously share their writing methods, successes, and failures.

During this intense period of studying the storytelling craft, I picked up an old favorite, pleasantly surprised to find…


Advice for entering the bizarre animal influencer underworld

Gray cat sitting in a tree
Gray cat sitting in a tree

For millions of Americans, job security is at an all-time low. The under- and unemployed are leveraging the digital economy to not just survive but thrive in the protracted economic crisis. Moving beyond the boundaries and hierarchies of the traditional and gig economies, the “hustle economy” maximizes freedom of creativity on your schedule.

Job insecure and stuck at home, I decided at the end of summer to put spare time into a creative outlet. Reduce stress, express myself, and potentially make money on platforms I already use? I felt silly for not diving into the digital economy earlier.

Naïve and…

Lauren Kardos

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