Why are there 20 varieties of soap? And other thoughts.

Earlier today, I was at Super Target in Durham. Like any female, I’m pre-programmed to absolutely love Target. I love smelling all the candles, going through the clearance, and marveling over all of the various kinds of crackers.

But I have grown to detest the one closest to my house. 

It’s too big, there’s too many people, and I always feel like years have been taken off my life upon exiting the store.

For 10 minutes today, I was in the body wash aisle, trying to decide which one to get. I scanned through the labels – every type posed a question.

Do I have sensitive skin, or not? What’s the difference between a $3 bottle of body wash and $7? And what do micro beads do, anyway?

It was kind of overwhelming. Even if you figure all of that out, you still need to pick from 20 different scents. Do I want mountain sparkle tree? Lavender vanilla delight? EXOTIC FRUIT SALAD?!

Which one REALLY captures the essence of Melissa?

(Admittedly, I made all of those scents up, but they probably exist.)

Besides me, a mother was helping her teenage son pick out deodorant. She read through the various scents, prompting him to choose one. His face was expressionless.

It was frustrating to hear. This kid couldn’t care less about deodorant, and probably would have been happy with anything. But his Mom wanted him to choose between 10 different manly scents.

I was tempted to sweep all of the bottles of body wash off the shelf, grab him by the collar and exclaim,


Although it would have been undeserved and ridiculous, I also wanted to tell his mother that she was the reason men can’t make up their minds about anything.

But I digress.

I was already frustrated. It took me almost twenty minutes to get coffee because the girl in front of me had to ask the barista a million questions about the different specialty drinks.

I had to search through racks and racks of over-dazzled, plaid, and patterned shirts just to find a simple white t-shirt.

At checkout, I had to pick from 10 different payment options, opt out of getting cash, and got furiously beeped at because my debit card has a chip, not a swipe.

It’s not Target, though. It’s over-choice. And it exists everywhere.

"Pre-Packaged Bread/Peanut-Butter Department" via Anthony Albright on Flickr Creative Commons

“Pre-Packaged Bread/Peanut-Butter Department” via Anthony Albright on Flickr Creative Commons

As I get older, I really start to feel that there’s something burdening about having so many choices. It may sound strange coming from me, the queen of “you can do whatever you want!”, but our society is so accustomed to choices, we feel we are entitled to them.

At any given retailer, people can choose from any combination of granola, chocolate chips, sugar, and unicorn magic in cereal, breakfast bar, or trail mix form. It causes people to lose all self-awareness and get fooled into thinking they need a Keurig, along with 20 varieties of k-cups.

It’s ironic, because statistically, you’re more likely to make a poor choice when you have too many. A Psychology Today article, “The Burden of Choice”, sums this up very well. It discusses the danger of over-choice, citing Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice.

Schwartz claims that inevitably, the more options there are, the decreased chance that you will make a good one. Plus once a choice is made, “we are told that better choices exist”, and we become unhappy with what we have.

Or as Schwartz put it, ”we will make a non-optimal choice, and this prospect undermines whatever pleasure one may get from one’s actual choice.”

I mean, I know that doesn’t really relate to choosing a type of body wash. I know the mothers of the world who are letting their sons choose their deodorant scent aren’t responsible for wishy-washy, full grown adults.

But there’s STILL something to that. Our society is not good at making commitments – hence the millennial tendency to switch jobs frequently, go through various long-term relationships before marriage, and why when you ask your girlfriend where she wants to eat tonight, she says:

“Oh, I don’t know. Anywhere but any place that you’re about to suggest.”

We love the ease of options, but we hate the difficulty of decisions and commitment. We’re addicted and hindered by choices. 

The phenomenon of over-choice, the same Psychology Today article pointed out, was actually predicted, nearly 40 years ago, by a man named Alvin Toffler. Toffler didn’t just predict that we would have too many choices, he wrote in his book Future Shock, that the unlimited choices would make us unhappy.

That they would essentially “paralyze” us.

I can personally attest to that. When I was growing up, I had tons of choices. It fed into me being a bit insatiable, and eventually, burned me out. The cost of having so many choices, was the eventual inability to fully commit to things.

I could do anything I wanted, and never really had to commit, because opportunity was my safety net.

It’s a habit that I’ve desperately tried to break.

It’s not fair. It diminished everything I’ve had with the shadow of what I could have.

Hence my current minimalistic, near nomadic lifestyle. I don’t need to keep searching or waiting. I know what I want, and I understand that thing won’t always be easy to obtain or keep.

The alternative is just avoiding tough choices and potentially valuable, character building experiences and relationships. That does not appeal to me. I don’t want to be burdened by over-choice, to live in such a way where nothing, or no one, is good enough because it’s not easy or perfect.

Honestly, I think people are tired of choices. I don’t think anyone else wants to spend two hours in a Target, trying to push past other people who are equally as confused about what kind of fabric softener they should buy.

I think we all are moving towards reserving variety and choice for when and where it matters. We don’t need unlimited options of everything, just a few really good things, that work really well. I think we’d all be happier that way.

But who knows. I’m not an expert. I haven’t done extensive research on the subject, and as always, just speaking from personal experience.

I’d honestly love to hear from people of all ages, about how they feel about the topic of “over-choice”. If you have thoughts, please email me, and I’d love to discuss this further (melissas100list [at] gmail [dot] com).

If you think I’m being preachy, or took offensive to any of this – again, I’m not an expert. I’m just speaking from the perspective of an individual who doesn’t understand why there are literally thousands of shades of lipstick. Call me idealistic or mis-informed, but the next time you can’t decide where to get takeout from, I promise you will think of me.





I cut my hair this week.

It was an easy decision for me. After weeks of cutting my hair shorter and shorter, I informed my hairdresser, Stephanie, it was time. I sat down in her chair, took out my hair-tie and said, “Yup.”

“I want a pixie.”


I can’t really explain my urge to get the cut. I was scared, but I felt an insatiable pull to do it. For weeks, I’d text Stephanie and ask her to cut my hair again.

Each time, it got shorter. From shoulder to right under chin. I got braver.

From even, without layers, to a buzz underneath. From blonde to brunette.

After I did all of that, I still wasn’t satisfied. I wanted the pixie cut, and I had all along.  As I sat, and Stephanie meticulously cut and trimmed, I overheard a mother talking to her young daughter.

The little girl was getting her hair cut. She had long, tangled blonde hair with pink tips. Grinning, she ecstatically explained how short she wanted it to be.

“Do whatever makes your heart happy,” her mother said.

It seemed to resonate with both Stephanie and myself.

“That’s cute,” Steph murmured.

I thought about that for the next couple of days. What a simple concept – do what makes your heart happy. It reminded me of the feeling I’ve been getting lately whilst painting.

I’m desperately trying to put together a few pieces for a show in December. I’ve always wanted to show a creative side outside of just writing, and I jumped at the opportunity. Hence the array of paint brushes, magazines, and scraps my roommates are forced to step over.

Art2  Art1

But it wasn’t just the appeal of a show. In high school, I wrote all the time of course, but drawing/painting was a welcomed escape that I poured myself into. I spent hours with fine tipped ink pens, watercolors, and pencils, listening to music.

I disappeared for awhile.

Lately, art has brought me so much joy, I’m pushed to do something else. I want to incorporate my art (and others) into my blog. While this will always be a destination to talk about travel, adventure, and love, I also want it to be a place to share my work.

It makes my heart happy.







Can’t Help Falling In Love

Admittedly, half of the appeal of this commercial are the doodles. The art. I have a soft spot for drawings/writing/any visual representation of ‘da feels.

But also, love is great. Especially love that is depicted via gum wrappers.

New Finds

I don’t talk about it much, but I’ve been adding a lot of new stuff to my Etsy store.

I love thrifting. I literally spend hours browsing vibrant necklaces, intricate wooden boxes, and records with colorful sleeves. I’m also experimenting with adding some of my own original paintings and illustrations to my store.


So, here are some new treasures — (the boxes are my favorites and no, my vintagey post cards are NOT included).

Tribal Metal Bracelet


Refurbished Cigar Box


Gardenia Engagement Ring Box


Brown Leather Bracelet


Vintage Wooden Date Box


Enjoy, loves!

Kind of a review, but mostly feelings about Master of None.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I haven’t read The Bell Jar. 

But I have watched Master of None. The Netflix series stars Aziz Ansari as an idealistic, yet indecisive and silly actor (not too far from his actual self). In the finale (SPOILERS), he reads this quote after being told off by his Dad.

“You need to learn how to make a decision,” says his (real life) father.

Via tvguide.com

The episode continues to show Dev’s (Aziz’s character) indecisive nature. In the beginning of the finale, he browses Yelp for New York’s best taco. When given other taco options, he says he can’t eat the second best taco, “like an asshole”.

The whole episode is about decisions.

I’m not great at decisions. I’m better at risk. I won’t recap the history I’ve dialogued throughout this blog, but to sum it up, mediocrity scares me.

Because I’m not going to eat the second best taco, “like an asshole”.

But we’re all of kind of assholes, right? We’re all selfish. We’re all constantly looking for a better option, and our society enables us to have unlimited ones.

I started online dating a few weeks ago. I wasn’t proud of it. However, after an embarrassing long streak of bad luck with men, I figured I had nothing to lose.

Talk about options.

I went out with a handful of guys. I expected it to be a nightmare, for them to be strange or off-putting.

But I was wrong. They were all nice, polite, good-looking and interesting.

They held doors open for me. They bought me drinks. They listened to my stories about love, adventure, and travel, and asked questions about it.

It restored my faith in love, but in the end, I didn’t feel right about it. Not because they were lacking in substance or character, but that was just it — I had too many options. I couldn’t decide, and because of that, I didn’t want to.

Via slate.com

From every conversation came branches. Every tip, of each of those branches, promised happiness and adventure. A nice, polite, good-looking and interesting partner. But also, the realization that what I was looking for couldn’t be found at the bottom of a beer and flirty banter.

Because at the end of every date, I retreated into myself. Into a safe place where I visited myself in Paris, where I was living as a poet. Where I spent days wandering around markets and evenings with a stereotypical French lover.

Other times, I found myself in a cramped, hot apartment in Bali. Awkwardly riding my well-used scooter to school, where I taught English to children. They painted pictures for me and made fun of my American accent.

Hiking near Mt. Hood, walking my German Shepard Walter, with only the sound of snapping twigs beneath my heavy boots. Organizing my favorite travel books on the shelves of my tiny shop in Asheville. Graduate school in Boise, meeting friends out at a local bar for shitty beer. A Claire Underwood haircut and taking pictures in Seattle.

A comedy writer in Queens. Painting abstract pieces in Budapest. Curled up in a chair, in the corner of my studio over Port City Java in Wilmington. Or simply continuing a solitary, but fulfilling life here in Durham amongst friends and family.

I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest.”

It’s not as silly, or indulgent as it sounds. Greater than any love for someone else, or somewhere else, is the unconditional love, understanding, and willingness to protect a girl who shakily walked onto a plane bound for Reykjavik, Iceland.

With only a backpack, a boy, and vague promise of a fulfilled dream to sustain her. Somehow it was enough, and although I have more and less as I did then, it still is.

Promise. Opportunity. Potential for more than just the second best taco.

The bravery to wait for it, with the knowledge that I may be an idiot for doing so. The strength to continue to put honest, sincere effort into the life I’m in. Hope that one of those imagined places, people, or scenarios dreams of me, or someone like me, as well.

I honestly don’t know if I liked the final scene of the Master of None finale. But I loved what Aziz said. I love how that Sylvia Plath quote, in his voice, echoed within me and shook up my spirit.

How it brought me back to myself and the confidence I feel in my intuition and ambition for a magical, unforgettable existence… just like that.




Think of something that will make your heart beat faster and go do it.

If Suck-tober showed me anything (how I will forever refer to October 2015), it’s that we all should extract the “meh” things from our lives.

This is probably the shortest post I’ll ever write, because I feel really confident about the message I want to put out there:


What does “meh” mean, exactly?

“Meh” is the feeling you get after an unsatisfying game of Monopoly. After you eat overcooked meat. When you’re texting some so and so and realize you have nothing to talk about.

Too much of “meh” isn’t good for your soul. ”Meh” things attract sucky things. The general “meh” feeling is why really boring stuff exists.

Think about it. At some point, someone gave up, and that’s the reason we have really shitty frozen pizza out there.

The thing is, as soon as you let in too much “meh” in, the good wonderful, swooshy feelings you feel about other things start to disappate. You stop getting fucking excited about stuff. The adrenaline fades.

Then you start to be “mehs” bitch.

And “meh” is a sneaky bitch – she follows you everywhere.

I hate “meh” things. I hate how that general feeling waters down everything else. It makes you feel sluggish, uninspired.


The opposite of meh.

It changes you. It eats away at your imagination. It makes you heavier. It gives you a hazy view of your life that makes you forget that NOTHING IS OUT OF YOUR REACH. 


Just something to think about. This is my challenge to anyone who’s feeling particularly “meh” right now – take a risk. Think of something that will make your heart beat faster and go do it.


All of the rain was making me feel blah, so I started taking long walks. I threw away the clothes I never wear or feel bored by. I made a ridiculous keynote for Annabel (I won’t disclose the contents).

Fuck feeling meh. Go feel alive.


It’s a Thursday evening, at dusk.

The residential street I’m walking down is lovely. Cozy homes snuggled into hilltops. Vibrant red and yellow leaves scattered beneath cars, aside curbs. The brick sidewalks are uneven, so my companion and I are in the middle of the road.

“I’m worried about you right now…” Annabel says playfully, as my boot laces slap the gravel. “We’re not stopping to collect your teeth.”

“That’s fine,” I replied, stopping to tie my favorite brown boots. “We can go to the emergency room after we see Elizabeth Gilbert.”

I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had ended up face first on that street.

Continue reading…

“I’m really not that kind of girl.”

I don’t know if you know this, but after you’re single for awhile, there are inevitable milestones.

The first time you decide to stay in and watch Netflix instead of going out? Check.

Deciding to dye your hair a crazy Crayola color? Check.

Then there’s the big one. The one action that every single girl should take, even if she’s uneasy about it. I’ve talked other single friends about it, and the answers vary from:

“I would be so nervous.”


“I’m really not that kind of girl.”

I’m fairly adventurous, so I’m honestly surprised at how long it took me. A lot of girls go back and forth, as there’s obvious concerns and considerations. But last weekend, after months of consideration, I accepted my fate as “that kind of girl”.

I did it.

I booked solo international travel. And for the second time in my life, I chose Reykjavik as my destination. With Paris as a secondary stop.

The rest of the weekend was spent daydreaming about dried fish, thick accents, and planning glacier/hot spring related excursions.




Seriously, though.

Iceland ranks in my top five of most loved things, right after my cabbage patch doll Fire Addams (I named him when I was three, no regrets). It’s always symbolized potential. I’m confident my love for this cold island will always be something that defines me.

But enough with the mush and on with the adventure.

So far, I’ve planned a few incredibly exciting things:

#1. New Years Eve in Reykjavik

Bonfire in Reykjavik, via  MongFish on Flickr CC.

Bonfire in Reykjavik, via
MongFish on Flickr CC.

I booked New Years in Reykjavik just because, but apparently it’s a thing. They’ve got all of these really cool traditions that vary from epic bonfires to setting off 500 tons of fireworks. I mean, damn, read for yo’self:


So, I will be joining local Icelanders in a lot of fire related traditions. Which is pretty fucking cool.


#2. The Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon via  Jason Eppink on Flickr CC

Blue Lagoon via
Jason Eppink on Flickr CC

The Blue Lagoon is a huge tourist attraction… that I didn’t go to last time I was there. Which is great, actually, because I can revisit all of my favorite Reykjavik spots while checking out new stuff.

But probably just sitting in the Blue Lagoon with some kind of fancy face cream slathered all over my face. I will go big.


#3. Staying at The Best Fucking Hostels

Kex Hostel via  LilyyyB on Flickr CC

Kex Hostel via
LilyyyB on Flickr CC

Reykjavik has the best hostels by far. Kex, Backpackers, Hlemmur… this place is incredibly social and clean, with very aesthetically pleasing accommodations. I would post which one I’m staying at, but I don’t want the internet to stalk me.

Just believe me, they’re all good.

I practically lived at the Backpackers in Akureyri (pretty sure I ate about five of their burgers over the course of 2-3 days), and between Hlemmur and Kex, I really didn’t want to try any other hostel in the city. Except when I was exceptionally poor and did not have a choice.


#4. Um, duh. Montmarte.

smoking via zoetnet on Flickr CC

smoking via zoetnet on Flickr CC

When I arrive in Paris, I will go right to Montmarte. I will spend a weekend cuddled up in some awesome Airbnb. I will eat bon bons and macarons. I will rename myself Marguerite, I will pretend I’m French.

(Also, a picture of the Le Consulat restaurant has been on my desk for months, so I will obviously also be going there.)


#5. Um, duh. Marion.


I am SO excited to see my French sister. Marion and I will smoke cigarettes (sorry, Joan), wear red lipstick, and drink incredibly too much red wine. We will talk about boys, eat incredible French food, and she will very likely bring me somewhere inspiring and wonderful.

Versailles with Marion

Versailles with Marion

(I will also drink wine with Laurent and read to her two adorable children.)


I’m still making plans, which will probably also contain a substantial amount of time on a glacier, another random European city, and at least a night or two with my best friend (also named) Melissa in London.

Although a lot of my excitement for this adventure comes from just the enthusiasm for travel, a lot of it has to do with being surrounded by a substantial amount of things I love, in a short amount of time.

Those people, those places. Pure joy.








Sailboats & Red Lipstick

When I was 20 years old, I left my family and moved to Philadelphia. I knew one person that lived in the city, a boy named Andy that I had gone to high school with. Aside from some family at least an hour away… that was it.

For my 21st birthday, I got a tattoo on my foot. Spontaneously, I selected a blue feather. It’s by far my favorite one, out of my three, and I’ve never regretted it, or felt scared when I got it.

Every year, there seems to be a benchmark of courage I hit. Unintentionally. Of course, my favorite would be the Iceland thing, the adventure abroad I fully embraced.

Continue reading…

Annabel & Melissa’s Excellent Outfit Adventure

“Where are your cardigans?” Annabel asks, leafing through the large pile of clothing on my bed.

“I don’t have any.” I reply, rustling through some crop tops.

“Do you have a collared shirt?” she tries again.

Over the next few hours, it would surface that besides cardigans and collared shirts, I also have no belts, lipstick, or eye shadow.

If I had to describe my style to a stranger, I’d settle somewhere between hippie dippie Indiana Jones and Peter Pan chic.  My wardrobe varies from leopard print high heels to brown combat boots. Patterned rompers and colorful skirts.

Once, I unintentionally dressed like Lara Croft. 

on 6th Street.

on 6th Street in Austin, combat boots and dress.

Continue reading…