It’s been a year since the start of my rom-com love story

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Last July, on my portfolio site, I wrote about how my life turned into a rom-com cliché and that I was okay with it.

It was a post telling the tale of how I met Adam unexpectedly shortly after moving down to Florida. As you now know, the past year has been especially challenging as I slowly climbed out of the darkest place I’ve ever been to in my life. Meeting him had a lot to do with finding the courage and strength to turn my life around, and I can never give him enough credit for the love and support he has shown me.

This past weekend, we celebrated our one year anniversary by going to the beach in Marco Island, FL, and spending a lovely day together. Doing a little day away was incredibly fun, and I am even more excited for part two of our anniversary celebration this coming weekend. We’re heading to Fort Lauderdale for a mini-vacay weekend, where we will stay in a fancy hotel and see Matilda the musical on tour. It’s a particularly perfect celebration of our two interests — since I’m a huge Broadway fan and he loves the work of Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

Since writing my initial post about Adam ten months ago, not much and a lot has changed. For one, we’ve now perfected our little love story. Whenever someone asks, it typically goes something like this:

I left NYC and moved back down to Florida at the end of April. Out of boredom, I turned on all of my dating apps back on a few days later and, exactly a week after the big move, we met for coffee. It was a four hour first date, followed quickly by a two hour second date and a seven hour third date. He was my first date after moving down to Florida, and quickly became my only one. We fell in love when we went away together on long weekend just two and a half weeks into dating. I moved in after a month and a half of being together. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Our incredible little rom-com cliché of a love story is still going strong a year after that first coffee date. In fact, we revisited that coffee shop on our six month anniversary and again this weekend. We shared dessert just as we had that first day and laughed about how my mom interrupted our date at the very end (yes, really!).

Adam still teases me about how I rushed off into the bathroom to compose myself after that, and I still joke that I can’t believe he asked me on that second date despite my mom showing up. But hey, when you know, you know, right?

That’s the mentality that has perpetuated our relationship from the very beginning, and it still holds true today. That’s not to say our relationship is perfect or ideal all of the time. We have our fights and have to get through difficult situations just like any couple. But what I wrote last July, about how I couldn’t have even dreamed of a relationship this great, is still true.

He is still the most incredible, generous, sweet and kind man that I have ever met. His love for me and support of me (and my career) has only continued to grow. In fact, he even gave up drinking shortly after we met because I’m in recovery and he wanted to be there for me. Even this gesture — giving up something he enjoys and has no problem with just because he loves me so incredibly much — has meant the world to me. And to be honest, I feel much stronger in my sobriety because of his constant support there.

The most incredible thing I have felt in this past year, though, is that I truly have a partner in life. I wrote recently that marrying a man doesn’t make me straight (ya know, since I’m bisexual), and he supported my piece. Anything that comes up, even fights and issues within our relationship, we deal with in the best way we can and ultimately come out stronger on the other end.

Now that it’s been a year, I realize that I am happier than ever. A little over a year ago, I didn’t know what it meant to be truly loved and I didn’t know what it meant to be in a relationship where I didn’t have to constantly question that love. But with Adam, love came easily.

I’m still a little surprised at how we found each other… Two people that ultimately don’t belong in Southwest Florida, that don’t fit in here, that shouldn’t even really be here in the long run. But we did. And now that we have, that feeling is incredible.

The feeling of not having to second guess myself or second guess my partner’s feelings for me is pretty incredible too, to be honest. I love actively planning our future with him, and I love that we constantly talk about spending the rest of our lives together.

I know that life doesn’t actually end when you’ve found your “happy ending” relationship, unlike what those rom-coms would have us believe, but I’m glad to see that the right relationship (even after so many wrong ones) does lead to many, many happy times.

And now I have a year of happy times to look back on and, say, roughly 57 more years of happy times to look forward to.

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Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still important 20 years later

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The proudest moment of my career (so far) happened earlier last month when VICE published my piece titled “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out.”

Not only did the piece go up the morning of the 20th anniversary of the television premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was also featured at the very top of their website for the entire day. Seriously, that’s a HUGE honor for any writer but especially awesome since it was my first piece for them.

The thing that was even more touching to me, however, is that I was able to honor of one of my all-time favorite TV shows in this very special way.

The truth is that BTVS (as we fans frequently call it) has held a special place in my heart for a very long time. Not only did the show legitimately help me come out, but it generally left an impact on me that has lasted through the rest of my life.

When I first heard of BTVS, I wasn’t impressed. I never really watched it when it first started but got into it at age 16 when a couple of my high school friends became pretty obsessed. Soon enough, I was driving around in my car with friends as we all sang along to the musical episode’s soundtrack at the top of our lungs.

I remember endlessly debating the Team Angel vs. Team Spike situation (#TeamAngelForever), and grieving when the show ended just a year before I graduated high school – which was just a year after I discovered it. In a way, it felt as if BTVS entered and left my life far too soon.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, was how much impact Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel and the rest of the gang would have on my life.

It’s no understatement that BTVS helped to solidify some friendships for me at school (and in the years that followed), but the biggest impact that the show had (besides helping me come out, of course) is what many girls and women saw in Joss Whedon’s work – a kick-ass heroine who could be funny, pretty, awkward, loud and all-around awesome.

Although I always related more to Willow (hello, I even have red hair now!) than Buffy, I could still love and appreciate Buffy for everything that she was. She was a great leader and phenomenal title character. The show was funny and quirky and spoke to my adolescent and teen self in a way that I found freeing.

I don’t know how Joss managed to do it, but I felt more and more like myself the more I watched Buffy stumble through life with a wealth of responsibilities. She didn’t always succeed in picking out the right outfit, but she always saved the world.

When I read the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz on the cover, I was thrilled to travel back into the Buffyverse to read how the cast (all except Giles!) reflect on the show 20 years later and what it has meant to them. Joss even calls Buffy and Angel the greatest love story ever told, so take THAT, #TeamSpike!

A lot has happened in the world since the show first premiered on March 10, 1997. But while it may not be the happiest place right now, it’s important to recognize all of the positive changes that have happened too. For me, the biggest (and happiest) is the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.

I remember doing a big report on gay marriage and civil unions during my senior year of high school, in Fall of 2003 just after the show ended, when very few states even wanted to talk about that kind of thing. And now it’s nationwide law! That’s amazing, truly.

For the past year, I’ve actually been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend Adam. It took us almost 11 months to get through the show, but it was sooooo worth it to share something I truly love with the person I love most in the world. Being a big Joss Whedon fan already, he loved it of course.

But more than that, watching the show with him this past year served as a great reminder for me about why I loved it in the first place. Of course, like most devoted fans, I’ve gone through the entire series 4 or 5 times already. Watching it all once more was a joy and, as the 20th anniversary came and went, I’m glad to have spent time with the Scooby Gang once more.

After all, if it wasn’t for them, I might have never come into my own as a proud bisexual woman as early as I did. And that’s something I will forever be grateful for.

To read my piece “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out” on VICE, click here!

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my portfolio site and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

How to choose to be happier in our crappy world (VIDEO)

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my portfolio site, IrinaGonzalez.com. Thank you!

Happiness is something that humans think about a lot. At least I do.

For years now, I have been saying that “happiness is a choice and it’s a choice that I make (almost) every day.” That’s still true, of course, but sometimes that kind of thinking gets away from me.

Look, there’s no two ways about it: The world is currently not a happy place.

There’s untold chaos, which isn’t exactly anything new, but now that chaos is complemented by a particularly hairy situation in the country which I call home: the United States of America.

In case you are living under a rock, our president of just under 100 days is not well liked by people like me… You know, basically anyone with a brain, an appreciation for science, the environment or any kind of diversity. As an American citizen and immigrant, I am not a fan and I truly wish that the American public hadn’t elected this racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic pseudo-tyrant into office. But it is what it is, and I for one certainly plan to spend the next four or so years resisting.

Enough about my politics though… This post is about happiness. About why we seek it and how we find it and, most of all, how we recognize it.

And that’s the key word: How to recognize happiness.

I honestly think that is one of the hardest things about “being happy.” It’s not that we are clueless about what happiness means, but I do think that we have much higher expectations for it than we possibly should. And that’s part of the problem: our expectations.

Recently, a video titled “An Algorithm for Happiness” made the rounds on Facebook. When I watched this fascinating video, something clicked in my brain and reminded me how to be happy.

The truth is, primarily because of what is going on in the world right now and the election of President Orange Cheeto Dumpsterfire (my all-time favorite moniker for #45, since I can’t actually bring myself to say or type his name), I haven’t been my usual happy self.

Sure, I’ve had a lot of happy things going on in my life: I bought a car, celebrated mine and my partner Adam’s 31st birthdays and I’ve had some pretty great successes in my career. But in general, I have been angry and grumpy and sometimes what I jokingly call an “angry feminist.” And those feelings are totally okay, of course, because we must acknowledge and honor our feelings.

But… at the same time, being an unhappy bitch sometimes can be mentally taxing and ultimately harmful to our overall selves.

A week ago, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my last relapse in recovery. You see, I’m an alcoholic. I entered rehab in July of 2015 and I have been working on sobriety ever since. It’s been a mostly successful and occasionally bumpy road, but I am proud of the progress I’ve made.

How does that relate to happiness, you ask?

Well… Although I no longer attend meetings, I don’t remember getting to know many addicts who were happy. Which makes sense, of course, because if you’re happy, why would you need to dull yourself with drugs and alcohol? You don’t, and that’s the point.

As I watched the video talking about the algorithm for happiness, I was reminded of some of the lessons I learned through recovery, primarily the lessons of cognitive behavioral therapy, which strives to teach you how to think differently about your issues.

To be honest, I was never a fan of AA or NA meetings, but I did thoroughly enjoy Smart Recovery – and cognitive behavioral therapy is exactly why. When I went through one-on-one- therapy for my alcohol addiction, it was with a CBT therapist too, and it’s a system that has really worked for me.

The reason that CBT has worked for me in terms of my alcoholism and happiness is because I learned how to reframe my thinking. In this video, the Google executive uses the example of a glass to demonstrate how we think about happiness.

He argues that happiness is looking at the half-full side of the glass and being grateful for it and looking at the half-empty side of the class and asking “Can I do anything about it?” and, if not, “Can I accept it?”

This kind of thinking is absolutely critical to understanding happiness and how it works in your life.

He goes on to explain that happiness isn’t actually about how much water is in the glass, but what you think about how much water is in the glass. LIGHTBULB MOMENT!

When I watched that, I realize just how much my happiness had to do with CBT and recovery and how much it had to do with the current state of the world and my thinking about it.

Adam recently pointed out that I am not the same happy-go-lucky girl that he met almost a year ago. And in a lot of ways, it’s true. Although I reasoned that there’s many, many reasons for it (most of them beginning with the man currently sitting in the White House’s main room), some of it is also my thinking about what is currently going on.

To be honest, it made me feel bad that the world has come to such a dark place and it’s made me feel even worse that I have lost some deep down belief in hope and the goodness of people because of the current situation.

But that’s not fair to the world, and that’s not really fair to all of the people who are doing good work now. I strive to be one of those people and, after watching the video below, I realized that there is more that I could be doing to help make the world a slightly happier place.

The first part starts with me. It starts with reframing how I view the world – even just a little bit – and recognizing that there IS still hope and there IS still good here.

To be honest, it’s a lesson that I expect to have to learn and relearn for the next four years. But you have to start somewhere, right? And I choose to start with being happy today, and happier than I was yesterday.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my portfolio site and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!