Valentine’s Day has come and gone- the day full of Hallmark cards, chocolates, flowers, and sweet nothings.
If you’re unattached like I am, it’s another day to love yourself, eat candy, and remind your friends you care. I sent cards to far-away gal pals, bought a stuffed animal for my cat, and made myself scallops and fries on Valentine’s Day; sounds pretty perfect, right?
Lately it seems my friends are more concerned about me finding a date than I am. It’s usually the married ones. I just smile and say I’m not looking- however, I am open. I won’t rule anything out. Nevertheless, going on dating apps and searching for a partner isn’t of interest to me.
I like my life how it is, and I don’t want anyone to change that.
The truth is, I am not looking for a relationship. When I meet someone who matches my energy, however, I may reconsider.
Dating at 35 is much different than in your 20’s. Since being in my 20’s, I’ve seen friends marry, have kids, and get divorced. I’ve watched them have affairs and stay in unhappy marriages. I’ve had friends vent to me about their sexless love life and tell me they’re envious how I’ve been able to do what I want.
Well, it’s because I choose to live this way.
In your 20’s and even your 30’s, many people look for a partner because they think that’s what “you’re supposed” to do. But when you realize partnership may not be all it’s cracked up to be, you chose to love yourself first.
An article popped up in my feed this morning that I couldn’t help but share. I’m sure many of my Facebook friends would disagree, but I couldn’t help but wonder- are single women wasting their energy looking for a partner when their happiness has nothing to do with whether or not they’re coupled up?
Are they just searching to compromise, to have their identity shattered, and to settle for less than what they dreamed of?
You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children – ‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner,” (Paul Dolan) reasoned during the panel.
Many celebrities and public figures agree, especially Gloria Steinem. “The two happiest groups are married men and unmarried women,” the famous feminist once stated.
Maybe unmarried women really do live longer. Maybe they don’t. Whatever the case, I can say the key to living a fulfilling life is to do what makes your soul happy- so if that’s going home to your cat or to a house full of people, do that. Everyone is different.
This Valentine’s Day, I am writing a love letter to all my friends, family, and fellow single people who are out there living their best lives.
You already know you don’t need a partner to be fulfilled.
I’m writing this letter to let you know I commend you for not settling for less. I’m proud you didn’t lower your standards to fit someone else’s mold.
If you haven’t been in love, that’s okay. If you’ve loved 100 times, that’s okay, too. It’s all a part of the journey.
This Valentine’s Day, I’m writing a love letter to everyone who knows the greatest love is the love they have within themselves. Just as Whitney Houston once sang, “no matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.” Amen, sister. As someone who has been single since 2014, I know the love I have for myself is greater than a love that isn’t right.
If you have found someone who loves the you who you love, you are very lucky. Wait for that kind of love. Foster your relationships with the friends who embrace your quirks and your flaws. Find comfort in knowing being your true self will attract the people who are aligned with your spirit.
Here’s to the single people this Valentine’s Day. Keep doing you. You’re the best Valentine of all.
The beautiful thing about life is we have the ability to choose how we want to live it. Whether you realize it or not, you are completely in charge of the decisions you make.
There are many aspects of my life which are unconventional, and perhaps even misunderstood by others. As I tossed and turned in bed last night, thinking about a brief conversation I had about going car-free, I pulled out my phone and started to take notes.
Reflecting on what is “expected” versus living a life that best suits my values has elevated an immense amount of stress and anxiety, not to mention has bonded me even tighter with others who feel the same. From living minimally to standing firm in my choices, my life has completely changed for the better since embracing a few principles.
I used to do a lot of work with diamond companies and jewelry designers, so the 4C’s are something I used to write about often. I may not be a woman who dreams of the day she will get an engagement ring (I gave back a 1.51 princess cut diamond in 2008 when I decided to move to San Francisco), but my own 4C’s of life quality- instead of diamond quality- are important details that shape my life today.
“Car-free has gone from something where it’s for people that can’t afford a car to people who can afford not to have a car,” Ryan Johnson, founder of Culdesac, told me. As the first car-free neighborhood in the United States, Ryan is starting with Tempe, an area of Arizona which relies heavily on driving. Created to encourage residents to walk, enjoy experiences in their community, and connect with one another, Culdesac is a concept I’ve been living for the past six years- even though there are cars all around me.
Making a conscious choice not to drive came easily after spending the past six years living in New York and Boston. I loved walking the city, taking pictures wherever I went, and embracing the sights all around me. Public transportation is something I began to enjoy- not dread. Whether it was looking out the window in a cab, reading on the train, or listening to music while I waited for the bus, I used my time well as I commuted, a drastic difference from sitting in traffic and feeling my blood boil.
I’m sure one day I will drive again, but for now, I can afford not to- and I’m a lot healthier, more eco-conscious, and financially responsible as a result. I wonder how much money I spent on gas in the past, driving aimlessly to alleviate my anxiety. Today, I opt to walk to cure stress- and it works a whole lot better.
I used to love “stuff.” My closets were filled to the max, I pushed things under the bed, and I forgot what I even owned. This of all changed when I left NYC in 2016, moved back to Michigan for the summer, and later took a one-way flight to Boston (when this blog began!) with three bags. Everything I needed was transportable via car (Uber, specifically), making my move a piece of cake.
I started over completely when I moved back to Michigan this past October, now living in a townhouse with my cat. With an empty apartment and a few bags full of clothes, my mom and I set out to decorate my place with a minimalist aesthetic with functional details.
Everything has a place and purpose- with the clean colors and pops of red, green, and gold sprinkled throughout the house, I can easily move something from one room to the other and it fits in anywhere. I don’t own anything for the sake of owning it, and my closet only consists of items I wear.
I first got sober in 2011- but didn’t stay that way. Apparently, I hadn’t had enough “yets;” those destructive and life-shattering events which make people say “I need to stop.” You see, even though my mental health was deteriorating and my relationships, finances, and dignity suffered, I hadn’t been through enough.
It’s a pretty twisted way to think about it- who wants to keep drinking just so they can experience the hospital multiple times, months in detoxes, far-off rehabs, or living with 20 other sober people? Well, I’ve officially done it all. That’s the thing about addiction- you never think these things will happen to you. The voices in your head tell you you’re okay; that nothing bad could happen.
Well, it did- and it all made me so much more appreciative of everything I have today. Would I go have a drink to “fit in” or shut someone up as I did nine (or even three) years ago ago? Absolutely not. I don’t have to get into the nitty gritty with people I just meet, dates, or acquaintances, but if they want the truth, I’m happy to share what it was like to physically detox for weeks, not be able to eat or walk, and be stuck in a hospital.
I’m good on the cocktails, thanks, but feel free. My own sobriety isn’t something I would ever want to push on someone else- but it’s a choice that has given me the opportunity for a brand new and much better life.
I’m not here to offend anyone who is a parent- but making the decision not to have children is a big part of my life. At 35, it’s important for me to be transparent with others about my wishes.
Having a family is expected for people. Nevertheless, the idea of family gives me anxiety. I love my mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I don’t know if I am fit to step outside of myself and care for another human. I’m a lot to take care of. I would never want to neglect or affect someone else because of my own preoccupation- which is also why I’ve been single for half a decade.
Call me selfish, but I call it self aware.
Children give people a sense of purpose, and it’s wonderful to see friends of mine parent some amazing human beings. I look up to them, but instead of being a parent myself, I see myself as a mentor or teacher, not a mother. Writing alone gives me a sense of purpose. I share some of my most personal and intimate details of my life, so I would say that’s a little bit of a sacrifice, right?
Opening up to people about my mental health, life choices, sobriety, and self-acceptance helps me to better understand myself as well as benefiting others through my own experiences. If there is one life I can touch, my writing here has served its purpose.
Finding peace, purpose, and passion may not lie in what the world tells you is best for you- that’s something you need to find within yourself.
A couple of years ago I heard a group of people making fun of me after I left the room. In a fury, I started writing a short and not-that-sweet blog post about it- a post titled “Gossip: It’s Low Vibe Energy.”
I often write about the things in life that irritate me, and almost immediately felt better afterward. I’ve written about the things in life that are painful- heartbreak, my experience in treatment, depression, and trauma. I’ve revisited stories of high school bullies and people who pushed me out of their life. I’ve talked about my alcoholism before people could start whispering about where I had been for a month or my poor behavior in the past. I’ve tried to own my side of the street, and took back my narrative before others tried to construe the truth- or think their words would break me.
I’ve noticed how gossip isn’t necessarily meant to be malicious or cruel toward other people, though. As a person who used to have a habit of taking everything personally, I was deeply hurt when people gossiped about me. Whether it was a flat out lie or laughing at my misfortune, I withdrew from connecting with people out of fear. For years I kept to myself and avoided interaction whenever possible.
This all began to change when I moved to the city. In San Francisco, being quirky was widely accepted. In New York, it was encouraged to drink during the day. In Boston, well, people were more concerned with themselves than even giving you a second glance, let alone gossip.
Now back in my hometown of 14,000 people in the city proper, of course gossip runs wild. Whether it’s school board scandal or frowning on changes in the community, people thrive on the dirt. They feed off of it.
I’ve learned an important lesson though- one even more pertinent than owning my narrative:
A lot of people use gossip to connect.
They talk about others to feel heard. They whisper about people behind their backs to gain some sort of validation from their peers.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
Connection is a powerful thing, but a lot of people aren’t comfortable with sharing their own truth. They connect based on other people, shallow aspects of life, and material gain. They judge other people by what they have or what they’ve accomplished, but not what’s inside their soul.
Today, I connect based on truth.
I’ve been invited to meet old friends and I’ve received messages from acquaintances who are merely curious about my personal life. I’m aware not all of these people truly care about me as a person, but they do care about what sort of drama or problems I may have.
It’s okay, though- I’ve beat them to it.
I’ve already shared what’s really going on with me throughout the web, and I hope to have more opportunities to share my story with the world. Whether it’s public speaking or writing, I know my experiences have helped people learn they’re not alone in their struggles.
My own struggles have brought me strength, for I have overcome them. Gossip may still be low vibe energy, and it’s not something I will participate in today. I wish the best for those who have snickered behind my back or tried to watch me fall; because today, I continue to rise. I hope they find their own way of doing so, too.
I met Chelsea Toler-Hoffmann over a decade ago when I was working at her parent’s law firm in Austin, Texas.
We kept in touch over the years and always tried to catch up when she and her mother, Shawn, visited the East Coast to meet with clients. They are a joy to spend time with, so I was excited to see the family this past spring in Boston’s Back Bay to chat about life and their newest venture- a Family Foundation.
Chelsea now serves as the President of The Keep Families Giving Foundation, an Austin-based organization created to unite a new generation of philanthropists- something we both feel strongly about.
“You’re never too young to become a philanthropist. Whether you’re passionate about a cause as a teenager or are looking to contribute family funds later in life, there are endless ways to get involved,” Chelsea told me.
I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the organization, her plans for the year, and hopes for the future.
How did you and your family decide to start a family foundation?
While my family has always been passionate about giving back to our community, the loss of my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, really served as the catalyst for the decision to start our family’s foundation. After her passing, I decided there was no better way to honor her than to transition into the role of serving as the President of the Keep Families Giving Foundation and to help other families identify their giving passions to better pursue their philanthropy journeys.
We are unique in that many family foundation’s are passed down from multiple generations and incorporate legacy as well as giving into their purpose. Some of these foundations have strict guidelines on what they will fund and give to and or have specific focus areas that each generation must learn to honor their family’s traditions. For our family, I had the unique opportunity to co-found this foundation along with my parents and really co-create what our foundation would focus on/give to. Together we developed our mission to cultivate and educate the next generation of philanthropists while creating a collaborative community across generations and sectors for social good.
We have adopted a unique model in which our next-gen advisory board works alongside a mentor advisory board to nominate organizations and causes that they care about for KFG’s grant awards. Each next-gen philanthropist then has the unique opportunity to really explore their philanthropy passion areas and learn alongside their peers as well as mentors. Their interest areas range from film and the arts to healthcare and education.
Further, we do not limit our giving or partnerships to particular cause areas, but instead help support next-gen philanthropists in identifying and finding the causes they care about to make meaningful impact in the world.
We envision a world where the next-generation of philanthropists are provided with the education, mentorship, community, and tools needed to not only carry on their family legacy, but also champion their own social good causes and experiences.
What were you doing before you started Keep Families Giving and how does it correlate?
Prior to serving as the President of the Keep Families Giving Foundation, I had the unique opportunity to serve in I Live Here I Give Here’s, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, first development/fundraising role on a team of 6 women that helped raise $10 million in 24 hours for over 750+ nonprofit organizations in Central Texas as a part of our city’s only online giving day, Amplify Austin Day.
This unique experience helped me better understand philanthropy and the power of bringing sectors together for social good. In this role I helped work with the corporate sector on community engagement as well as family foundations that participated in the day to support many of their grantees. Helping others find their giving passions became larger than a career, but what I wanted to dedicate my life to. Together our city came together to better our city and support our local community in a unique and innovative way.
After my time at I Live Here I Give Here, I felt prepared to transition into leading my own family’s foundation and continuing my lifelong purpose of helping others find their giving passions and pursue their philanthropy journeys to better the world.
What are your plans for this next year?
We are thrilled to announce we will be launching our city’s first InterGEN Summit on February 29th-March 1st in Austin, Texas. This summit will bring together 150+ foundation, family office, university, nonprofit, and corporate leaders from around the globe for a unique opportunity to test, co-create, and innovate more impactful philanthropic models and solutions for change. This years’ summit will focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our goal for the gathering is to inspire doing good together while establishing Austin as an innovative philanthropy hub for the rest of the world, just in time to kick off SXSW!
For our keynote conversation, we will hear from powerful philanthropic families like Jim Epstein (the great, great grandson of James Gamble — co-founder of Procter and Gamble, and the grandson of Clarence Gamble — the founder of Pathfinder International) from the Gamble Family about how they have successfully engaged many generations in their community work in partnership with a nonprofit organization their family founded, Pathfinder International. This will serve as a great example of the importance of the SDG goal — 17 Partnerships. Since the next-gen advisory board has selected the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as our theme for this year, all of our speakers will incorporate one or more of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals into their sessions.
We look forward to learning a great deal from hosting this inaugural summit about how to better our world when we work together across generations and sectors for change.
How can people get involved?
We will have various events and programs available to get involved in throughout the year. You can identify a next-gen board member that shares similar passions and connect to them by sending a message to email@example.com. We are also always open to partnerships and or collaborations if you might want to work together on a social good initiative.
We are also in need of volunteers and a few mission aligned sponsor for our upcoming spring summit. You can learn more about this by reaching out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What fuels your passion for giving back?
Seeing others find causes and initiatives they care about and then being able to make real change in these areas. Every person deserves to understand the gift of generosity.
Your voice and your passions matter — together we can make real impact in the world.
You can connect with Keep Families Giving on Facebook, Instagram, or register for the Intergen Philanthropy Summitvia the links below. Use discount code KFG20 for 20% Off: