Personal Note: Answering All Your Questions

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After 18 months in NYC, I’ve returned to DC for the rest of my life. I moved about a week ago and ever since have been fielding DMs of ‘why?’ and more specific questions. Walking the line between personal privacy and wanting to keep you all in the know, here’s what I’ll say: There were a lot of new things in my life that led to this decision. A new career, new people, new passions. Above all, I spent the first half of 2020 digesting all the lessons of 2019. Losing so many family members over the course of nine months, living so far from my family, feeling guilty, feeling helpless, changing careers, made for an eventful, albeit rather dark, 2019. Digging into all of these teachings I came to the same conclusion over and over: my heart is in DC. I made the decision, for me, to leave my relationship and start a new chapter in a new [old] city. I spent more than five years living in DC before the move to NYC and it will always feel like home. The words sound rather clichéd and disingenuous, but the truth of it is that in the past few months, and especially past week, I really feel that I’ve reconnected with myself. Out of respect and excitement for everything that’s to come I’ve decided to take a step back from the daily IG life (many of you’ve already noticed this). This isn’t goodbye, we’ll speak soon — especially on the blog. With love, Molly

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On July 28th, I published the above IG post. At the time I had just moved 250 miles from New York City to Washington, DC, a city I had previously lived in for five years. Ending my engagement, moving cities, starting a new relationship, has all played out in seemingly rapid succession over Instagram and has led to many timeline-related and “Wait… what?” style questions in my DMs and (most recently) asked through Stories.

While I believe and have believed that you truly don’t owe an explanation of your life and choices to anyone, what I do believe is that many of you sincerely care and gaps in what I’ve shared has left you feeling confused. So here’s the full story:

  • I ended my engagement [and relationship] shortly after it began. It was the right move for me and the right move for him.
  • At that time I was already intending to move to DC for a short period of time (August-October) to attend to private doula clients. Ending that relationship made me intensely question why I was living in New York City and if it was making me happy. I ultimately determined that being so far from my family over the previous year had taken a deeper toll than I initially realized and by May was making long-term plans to permanently return to DC. As many of you may remember, I have been talking about moving to DC since Summer 2019.
  • I decided, with my ex-fiancé, that the cats would remain in New York City with him to avoid causing them emotional strife of a move (moving them to NYC was difficult for them).
  • In early July, I learned that my DC apartment had fallen through, two weeks before I was scheduled to move and physically needed to be in the city to support my doula clients. I was offered the opportunity to temporarily move in with someone I had known as a friend for years and been dating for a few weeks.
  • We both quickly found that what was intended to be “just for a week or so” felt a lot more like forever so I stopped looking for another apartment, rented a U-Haul, and before the end of July was officially moved in.

I did what I have been advising you all to do for years: I did what was best for me. Clichéd as it may seem, I followed my heart.

In March I stopped the most popular series on the blog, Dear Molly, purely because I slowly felt myself becoming the thing I loathe most of all: a hypocrite. How could I write each week, telling you all to be brave and honest and bold while I played it safe? At the time I was deeply struggling in my own relationship, with myself and then partner, and while I got pretty good at putting on a happy face I knew I couldn’t do it forever.

Leaving my relationship and New York City, and all the details that came with those choices, have made me feel more like myself than ever. Part of why I didn’t write on here for so long is the same reason that I took a hiatus from Instagram, I want to protect that feeling. I don’t personally feel that I’ve ever had a terribly filtered online persona, but I do think that the mindset I get into when I log on is one that I’ve cultivated to be positive. I want to continue to be the positive place you all love to come, but I don’t want to continue sacrificing the reality of my life along the way.

So what does that mean? Simply this: when I need “me” time, I’m taking it.

Quarantine: Day 80

It’s been a minute… unintentional, but still incredibly long since I was on here. It feels like life is moving at a glacial pace and somehow big changes are happening every day, hour, minute. Most of those changes I’m not ready to share here, but it feels good to know the world is continuing to move. It reminds me of my time as a white-water instructor. While the surface may look calm, you never know what’s underneath and while I don’t envision being swept up in my own undertow it can feel like that at times.

How many emotions and feelings are tied to quarantine and how many have been there the whole time. Is quarantine the cause or is it a magnifying glass? I don’t believe emotions are ever born of nothing. It’s never a fight about the dishes, it’s about not feeling supported as a whole. It’s not a fight about your boyfriend having “too many” female friends, it’s about you not feeling secure and loved in your relationship. There’s always a deeper level and I push myself to continuously dig into introspection.

As someone with a slightly impulsive personality (read: all my tattoos are born of less than 5 hours of forethought) the slower pace of decision making, learning to respond instead of reacting, has felt like the softest bed to land on. Being on the verge of steps I’ve been considering for over a year has left me with some feelings of impatience, but also an immense comfort. I know what I’m doing and I’m happy to do it. Big decisions are never easy, but often are the ones that define our lives.

I spent the past year weighing the thoughts of everyone around me and using this ‘research’ to influence and maybe even determine how I felt about a situation. When your family and circle of friends say one thing it can feel like swimming upstream to choose a different path. And may even put you in the line of fire of the people you trust and love the most. Learning to prioritize my own voice, heart, and wants has made all the difference. It’s my life to live and I cannot spend it thinking of the needs of others (I’ll have plenty of that to do when I’m a mother, right?).

You cannot base your emotions on the emotions of others. You cannot live your life to make someone else happy. Your emotions are valid and honest and real. They are never an “over-emotion” because they are exactly what they are, mean, and feel to you. Embrace them, reflect on them, challenge them, and accept them.

Quarantine: Day 65

Paragraph: Written.

Paragraph: Deleted.

Wash.

Rinse.

Repeat.

That’s been the feeling lately. I usually keep personal frustrations and struggles off of the blog until I feel like I have some clarity. Mostly because I don’t want this to become a space where I lament and you all listen, like some egalitarian therapist office. That’s not the purpose of this blog, it’s not a record of my personal growth (although, in many ways it’s similar).

I’ve spoken about my anxiety on here before and … truly I don’t know where that sentence was going. And that’s really frustrating for me. Quarantine has made me feel more and more like I’m in a box. Being literally confined to a small space has made my mind feel the same way. I wish I had a big revelation to share with you. I wish there was a magic number of sourdough loaves I could bake or miles I could run to make myself feel better. Maybe there is. Maybe that number is too large to be feasible. Maybe it’s this city. Maybe city-living has become too much for this country girl. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s strained friendships.

Lately, I’ve found myself being the support person for everyone around me and it’s made me feel like I can’t actually be upset about quarantine or personal questions and struggles I’m having. I have friends going through break-ups that I want to be there for, so how can I go to them for my own support? Through my attempts to be positive, it feels like I’ve excluded myself from the ability to share a lot of the feelings I’ve been feeling, deeply.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a checklist that you could scroll through, answer yes or no to each item, and receive the perfect path to take? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could turn off questions or emotions that you don’t like coming up? But as a human and not a computer program we don’t have that ability. I almost wrote “we don’t have that luxury” but what a gross sentence. To view our struggles, free will, options, and opportunities as a burden?

It seems that every time I think I’ve hit the low of the quarantine, another low comes along. I’m not sure exactly what it was about today, but my mood just would not click. I worked out, I went on a long walk in the fresh air (breathed through a mask, of course), made coffee, made breakfast, made lunch, cleaned the apartment. And still, just felt like a dud. I felt frustrated and petulant, frenetic and exhausted, everything was off. Quarantine and so much time in a box have a weird way of making you feel safe and vulnerable all at once. Both suffocated and lonely.

This is one of the weird rides I have ever been on and it continues to get weirder and more difficult.

Temp Check

I take my temperature every day, literally and figuratively.  It’s how I cope, how I breathe in and out, and how I determine the way that I’m going to care for myself over the course of the new day. Sometimes self-care is staying in bed all day, sometimes it’s a bath, sometimes it’s a run. Yesterday’s self-care looked like organizing the blog’s press and finessing the coding (with significant assistance from my code-literate fiancé — first time I’ve used that word on here… 🥰).

So how are you doing? What’s your temperature?  Today mine is normal, although I have a slight cough that’s likely a result of the change of season I’m witnessing from my window. I’m worried about my family. My parents are both in high-risk groups and both essential personnel, meaning they haven’t stopped going to work. My mother, brother, and sister-in-law are in medicine and on the front-lines of Covid-19. My niece is less than four months old, I think about her every day.

I’ve prioritized pausing and allowing myself to feel everything that I am feeling. Despite being on day 45 of quarantine it is not ‘business as usual’. Nothing about this situation is usual. Letting myself feel concerned is part of how I am caring for myself.

A few things that are helping …

 

Checking In: Ready for Spring

 

For the past several weeks my Pinterest has become more and more of a solace to me. A place to ignore the dropping temperatures outside and focus on cultivating a very warm feeling inside. I’m filling my thoughts with woven totes, linen dresses, airy morning light, and menus planned around soon-to-be-in-season vegetables. Thoughts of long walks at sunset, cool blue-grey mornings, and coffee sipped on a balcony. Thoughts of peace, calm, and allowing current frustrations to give way to relaxation.

Personally, this self-manifested warmth has done more than help shake the winter blues, it’s giving me a clearer focus point. A vision, a goal to concentrate on as I look forward months ahead. A handful of months ago, I found myself continually, and thanklessly, helping others in an unsustainable way. In truth, it has been a huge growth experience for my patience and capacity for generosity. Introspectively, it’s raised the question of whether it’s my ego taking over or if certain things are something that I could be validly upset over.

My teacher often reminds me of jalandhara bandha, the web that rests over our hearts. In her words, “This is why we do our best to cultivate loving thoughts. They flow from your head down to your heart, getting caught in the web.” Over the past few weeks, I’ve used this mindset on a daily basis to attempt to set my ego aside and cultivate loving thoughts. I definitely don’t enjoy having negative or upsetting thoughts. They tend to burrow themselves deep in my anxiety, affecting my sleeping, my eating, and the way I move through the world. It’s a difficult line to walk between being true to yourself, speaking about the ways you were hurt, or staying silent to preserve an apparent peace. So which is the right path?

I don’t have the answer, but what I’ve found throughout my entire life is that cultivating loving thoughts does not harm. One of my biggest pieces of relationship advice (romantic or otherwise) is simply this: be generous with forgiveness. There’s nothing that can persist when love, generosity, and forgiveness work together. I’ve added in the glowy imagery of a fast-approaching spring and granted myself a little distance from what was causing me stress.

A step backward, and yet a leap forwards.

 

xx, M

 

Personal Note: political views

{2017 Women’s March}

 

For my 100th article (!!!), I wanted to touch base about a recently received Instagram DM that asked told me to “stop talking about politics”, with the threat that they would unfollow me if I didn’t. I politely wrote back this:

Hi, thanks for letting me know how you feel. After considering your request I’ve decided that I will continue to post “political” things.  To suggest that I bury my head in the sand or abstain from using the small platform I have for good is simply not something I will do. I’m glad you think my page is “fun”, but my ability to choose to separate the “fun” in my life from the real struggle and oppression of others, comes solely from a place of privilege and I refuse to exercise that privilege. I hope you continue to stay and join the conversation.

I haven’t checked, but I’m going to assume they unfollowed me.

I’m not shy about how I feel, politically or otherwise, and I have a personal history of activism, protesting, writing to senators, and publishing political pieces. I never considered keeping that piece of my life separate from the blog. How could I? How could I look at this opportunity to share a new viewpoint with someone, let someone know that they aren’t alone, let someone know that they have an ally? Would you?

This person who wrote to me is not the first, and they often say the same things about my “liberal agenda”. What’s interesting to me is that I don’t think of this as me having an “agenda”, I certainly don’t think of it as partisan, and to be honest, I don’t even think of them as political issues. Yes, there are issues that we need to resolve through legislation, but so many of these issues are human rights issues. Access to affordable healthcare, the right to choose what happens to my body, the right to seek asylum without being separated from your children, the right to speak out without fear of retribution from your government, these aren’t the rights of a US citizen, these are the rights of all humans. Everyone deserves these rights.

I don’t know what else I can say about it besides the fact that I will not be stopping.

On Reflection: The Long and Short of It {my hair}

 

Short.

Light.

Dark.

Blonde.

Long black.

 

No, it’s not how I take my coffee. It’s what I’ve done to my hair over my 20 plus year history of fighting and eventually succumbing to embracing its natural form.

Fiery red. Growing up I always had very long, shiny, baby blonde hair, but when I was 11 I got the notion the red hair was the ideal form. I lusted over auburn locks and wanted them so badly for myself. After a year of begging, my mom let me indulge this want with a box of temporary hair color. I was hooked instantly. I loved it, but as many of you probably know, temporary hair color (particularly red) doesn’t fade beautifully and so began a cycle of dying, chopping, and growing out that lasted over a decade.

Dark brown. In high school, I dyed my hair a rich dark brown as an effort to reclaim my natural color and cover up the highlights earned from hours of running in the sun. I adopted the idea that my highlights made me look younger than I was and in an effort to look grown I covered them. Layer after layer of glossy dark brown dye gave me a deep, nearly black hair color that I kept until college.

Short & black. After my first year of college, I chopped off ten inches a wore a short dark bob. It was about as different as my hair had ever been. I think it was part of a desire to distinguish myself from the high school person I used to be. A lot of people’s college experiences are marked with all the places they drew a line in the sand and said “this is who I am”. A lot of my early time at college was spent trying to distance myself from my country roots. I had a list of reasons a mile long for doing so, none of which seem to hold any weight today.

 

Natural. When I started a new relationship in 2014 I stopped running. Stopped running from my roots, from my passions, from who I naturally was. My hair got long and the dye washed out. My natural highlights returned, a little brassier than their natural blonde, and my curl pattern started to form again. I focused less on my appearance than I had in years and I embraced a natural “me”. I washed my hair with baking soda and vinegar, spent my days working at a yoga shop and taking long Ashtanga practice every morning.

 

Blonde. In early 2015 the desire to dye my hair again came back, from a place of play. I wanted to try something new, something I never had before. Going lighter instead of darker. I had always been taught that dying your hair darker is adding color and therefore healthier than bleaching or stripping out color. This is why for so long I was terrified to go blonde, despite wanting to try it out. I took the plunge through a series of full highlight treatments over several months which gave me a very natural blonde (I had a lot of new acquaintances believing I was a natural blonde).

 

Bob. The unexpected haircut. As I grew out my blonde toward the end of 2016 I decided to go for a chop (up to my shoulder) to get off a lot of the length and let my natural hair grow back. When I left the salon she had cut my hair the shortest it ever was, up to my jaw. It was like losing my crown. It made me really evaluate my ego and where I kept it. Even five months after the chop (below) my hair was still much shorter than I was comfortable with, although the color was returning to my natural hue.

 

Natural. Today I’ve fully embraced my natural hair. It’s low maintenance, I cut it myself, I flip my part from the left to the right. I keep it long enough to not need hair ties (I just tied all the length into a knot). I don’t have to worry about fading as I did with my dark & short, I don’t worry about it drying out as I did with my blonde, I don’t worry about it curling up too much as I did with my bob. It feels like me, no mess, no fuss.

 

I think the big thing here is how important hair can be and how much it can change how you express yourself or process aspects of your life. Everyone should be free to embrace their natural hair or not, it’s their choice. No hair is unprofessional, no hair is superior. Everyone’s hair and aesthetic is unique and everyone should have the freedom to experiment and embrace the style they want to.

2020 Reading List

 

I’d like to use this year for a little reading repertoire housekeeping. Over lunch with a friend a few weeks back I divulged a great secret of mine: I’ve never read Faulkner. I’ll admit, I pride myself on having a thorough knowledge of the classics. However, the expression on her face showed how much I was missing. A quick review of my previous reads and I was convinced, I’m missing too many of the greats.

So in 2020, to kick off a decade, I want to either read or reread* many of the classics that have shaped modern writers. Off to a good start, I began Crime and Punishment on January second and am a little over halfway through. One nearly down, many to go. So here is my tentative list of novels to read this year.

 

+ Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Considered the first great novel of his “mature” period of writing, it focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money.

+ The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner Divided into four sections told from four different perspectives, the book is both a notoriously arduous and disturbing read, whose often disorienting narration requires patience and persistence, and whose subject matter confronts painful themes, among which reside incest and suicide. A true tale of endurance and human suffering which will stay with readers for a very long time indeed.

+ As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner The author’s strongest display of the stream-of-consciousness narrative and is ranked 35th in the Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century no less.

+ Play It As It Lays: A Novel by Joan Didion “Simple, restrained, intelligent, well-structured, witty, irresistibly relentless, forthright in diction, and untainted by the sensational, Play It As It Lays is a book of outstanding literary quality.” ―Library Journal

+ The White Album by Joan Didion A 1979 book of essays by Joan Didion. The subjects of the essays range widely and represent a mixture of memoir, criticism, and journalism, focusing on the history and politics of California in the late 1960s and early 70s.

+ The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger* Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States for its themes of angst and alienation, and as a critique on superficiality in society.

+ The Deer Park by Norman Mailer “A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent . . . [Mailer] drives us up and down The Deer Park at breakneck speed. It is a trip through unfamiliar country, for a time funny and then unnerving.” —The New Yorker

+ Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston* It is considered a classic of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, and it is likely Hurston’s best known work, following the life of Janie Crawford as she tries to discover herself through a series of marriages. The book is deeply moving as it confronts issues of female identity with the linguistic richness of 1930s Florida.

+ The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, it is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

+ Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut An American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

+ Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Set in a dystopian future where literature (and all original thought) is on the brink of extinction.

+ The Jungle by Upton Sinclair* The book galvanized public opinion and led to a forced government investigation that eventually caused the passage of pure food laws. Today, it’s often referenced in response to poor working conditions and food safety laws.

+ The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway* 1926 novel portraying American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights.

+ Hiroshima by John Hersey 1946 piece exploring how six survivors experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, and its aftermath.

+ One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the narrative serves as a study of institutional processes and the human mind as well as a critique of behaviorism and a tribute to individualistic principles.

+ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou A powerful American classic that tells of her struggles growing up during the Great Depression, and the abuse she suffered.

+ Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller* 1949 stage play, it won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

+ On the Road by Jack Kerouac A defining work of the postwar “Beat” culture and both a physical and spiritual journey of the narrator who tries to find meaning in his life through his friends, lovers, and adventures around the U.S.

+ The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper*At the time of Cooper’s writing, U.S. settlers believed in, and perpetrated the myth that, Native Americans were disappearing, believing they would ultimately be assimilated or killed off entirely due to the genocidal structure of settler colonialism. This allowed settlers to view themselves as the original people of the land and reinforced their belief in scientific racism and European ethnic and racial superiority. 

+ Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand* A fictional dystopian United States where all the world’s movers and shakers have abandoned society, leaving the world and the remaining people in a state of flux. 

+ Walden by Henry David Thoreau* One man’s autobiographical attempt to find simplicity, self-reliance, and peace through solitude and nature.

 

On Reflection: My Year In Books 2019

 

This year was one of the toughest I’ve had, ever. Stepping through each month, week, day presented new challenges and I found myself drawn back to reading as an escape. I was always a big reader as a kid. I was the stay up till 3 am to finish a good story or read Lord of the Rings in a weekend. On family vacations, I would pack two or three novels to keep myself occupied.

I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when I stopped reading, but I would guess it was sometime in college when the task of reading over 200 philosophical pages a week crowded out my ability or want of leisure reading. For something that used to come so natural to me, it was hard to pick up after graduation. For a while, I thought of reading as just another casualty of my busy life, but this year I wanted to prioritize it. I constructed a list of all the books I wanted to read in 2019 and aimed to keep to it. The first few months weren’t terribly successful, but as my year grew more tumultuous I found myself drawn back to the solace of a good read. While I didn’t read all of them, I did read quite a few on that list and ended up branching into a few more.

 

+ The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

+ Emotional Intelligence: Resilience by Harvard Business Review

+ Rising Strong by Brené Brown

+ A Beautiful Composition of Broken by R. H. Sin

+ It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine

+ Women in the Wild by Lucy McCauley

+ Healing Pluto Problems by Donna Cunningham

+ Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

+ The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

 

I also took some time this year to reconnect with my love of LOTR and reread several of my favorites, namely: The Two Towers. While most of my reading this year focused on emotional development and personal growth, I did find that reading something for enjoyment alone was time beautifully spent. Obvious as that sounds, and is, I tend to have a very utilitarian look on the world and ask myself “How is this pushing me? Helping me? Furthering me?”. Losing so many close family members this year really pushed me to slow down and step back from the ‘hustle’ so many twenty-somethings are encouraged to have.

I’ve happily moved at a slower pace this year and focused on the things that are most important to me. I’ve traveled home as much as possible to see family. I’ve stepped into a new intensity within my sport. I’ve adopted new hobbies and passions. And I’ve read for enjoyment alone.

On Reflection: 2010 to 2020

 

As I write this, at the end of November 2019, I’m cooking my internal organs with a 101 fever, desperate for all of this flu to leave my body, and distracting myself with any tedious task I can (that doesn’t involve moving my pounding, migraine-filled head). About two hours ago I settled on the task of updating my resume. About 30 minutes ago I gave it a final look over. About 24 minutes ago I started to tear up.

Maybe it’s the cold medicine giving me a deluded sense of achievement, but I think it’s the radical feeling of true accomplishment that’s responsible for these waves of emotion.

I started this decade in high school. 2010 feels a lot further away than ten years, but maybe that’s because when each step is crossing a milestone the distance doesn’t just feel further, it really is. I was naïve at 16 years old, in 2010. I hadn’t applied to college, taken the SAT, or even started studying for it (in complete honesty I never studied for it). I hadn’t had my first boyfriend, hadn’t failed my first test, hadn’t lived away from home for longer than a week. I was sheltered and naïve to the fact that I was scared to live outside of the box I had drawn around my self.

By 2011, I was thrust into more “new” than I had experienced before. I went from living in a very red county to a very blue campus. I entered college with viewpoints I now cringe at. Those four years turned my life and beliefs 180 degrees. I went in a Republican, Christian, who truly believed that because we were all equal under the law that we were all equal in society. I graduated as a Liberal, Agnostic, who has a deep appreciation for the intersectional, social justice movement. But that rebirth, painful at is it was, was necessary. I sat in many a philosophy class as the representation for the dissent. I pushed my peers hard on their beliefs, much to their chagrin, out of curiosity. I don’t like to be wrong, but I appreciate it. If someone wants to tell me I’m wrong I won’t take it, but if they want to show me, I’ll welcome it. Philosophy was a class of ‘show me’ and ‘prove it’ to me, which is why I fell in love with the field.

Graduating in 2015 put me halfway through the decade but at square one of where I wanted to go. I ended up have a string of part-time jobs that, while I hated them at the time, I wouldn’t change for anything. Looking back they are the times I should have been more ambitious about all my hobbies. I should have focused on the present instead of the future. I had this idea, largely societally-influenced, that my life hadn’t truly started because I didn’t have a full-time job.  Imagining a scenario where I used that time to explore what I could be, who knows where I would be now. The majority of my part-time positions were in the customer service or food service industry, providing me with indispensable patience that has served me daily. The best part of 2015 was my introduction to the world of digital marketing. It provided me with the foundation of working in a small business, start-up atmosphere, how to maneuver in the digital space, what branding was and how to wield it powerfully and efficiently.

Those are the skills that got me my first full-time job in 2017, after 18 months of job-hunting. They are also the skills that carried the blog in its first year, 2018, when I needed a creative outlet.

Starting the blog in 2018 is the highlight of the decade for me. Finally stepping into something with two feet was a bold statement about who I am and where I want to go. I found out fairly quickly that a nine to five desk job is not a productive atmosphere for me and have used the blog as a creative outlet ever since. There is a large duality about how I look at the blog. It’s both a playful, sandbox mentality and a serious entrepreneurial outlook. I try all kinds of things on here, stretch myself, do and talk about what makes me happy and motivates me. Meanwhile, I work very hard to maintain a brand image that is respectable. I heavily vet brands that I work with, I track finances, metrics, and contracts meticulously. I see a lot of my parents in this approach. The playfulness of my dad, always expansive and looking for new projects, passions, and adventures balanced with the steadying nature of my mom. Much like their 35 year marriage (in 2020) it’s working beautifully and harmoniously.

The final year of the decade was the toughest of my life. At the end of 2018, we learned about several terminal illnesses in the family and over the course of nine months in 2019 we lost my uncle, grandmother, and grandfather. Experiencing so much difficulty pushed me to incredible introspection. It’s easy to feel guilty when being away from family during difficult moments, especially when loyalty is as important to you as it is to me, however, as my aunt reminded me: you have to live your life. You cannot rush or hold back your life for your family, it’s not what they want for you and it doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run. My growth this year, and in many ways this decade, can best be exemplified by my decision to renew my NYC lease and remain in the city I love. I highly considered returning to DC for proximity to my family, but made the decision to continue living in a place that I love and that makes me happy. It’s a selfish action that I’m proud of.

The beauty of life’s ebbs and flows really showed itself in the final week of the year. One week after losing my grandfather, my sister in law welcomed a new baby into the family. My first niece, my parents’ first grandchild, and a very special little person.

Welcome, little Kendall Joanna.

Welcome, 2020.