The Day I Found My Freedom

I’ll never forget the feeling I had that March afternoon in San Francisco.

I was just dropped off at SFO, heading to my gate for my return flight to Michigan.  Tears in my eyes, I got out my phone to call my parents.

“I don’t want to go back,” I declared. “I’m going to call off the wedding.”

It was 2008, and I had been engaged for exactly seven months.  Although the engagement was quick, and I thought I was happy at the time, it didn’t take long for me to see the reality before my very eyes.

The day in, the day out.  The daily traffic into my corporate job.  Coming home to the same routine, every day, to the same person- at 23 years old.

I knew it wasn’t the life for me.  Two years earlier I had plans to move to New York City as soon as I graduated.  I didn’t expect to meet someone later that year, on my 22nd birthday on December 22nd, who would swoop me off to Kauai for Valentine’s Day and move me into their beautiful suburban house once I finished college.  I’ve always been a big believer in signs, so I thought, “maybe I’m not supposed to go to New York after all.”  There had to be a bigger reason for meeting this person on such a significant day to me.

Back in 2006, my partying was getting out of control despite my grand plans for finishing school and heading to the city.  At the time, it seemed like he was an angel saving me from myself.

I would later learn no one could save me but me.

When I told my father, he thought I was insane.  Of course, any father wants their daughter be taken care of and to have a good life.  A good life to me looked a bit different than my parents’ view, though.

The day before my flight, my half sister (who worked in SF at the time) and I talked about my relationship and my goals for life.  Before I even realized it, she knew the marriage wouldn’t work.  She challenged my views and helped me realize I should take some time to reconsider.  She helped me think differently about what I really wanted- because for over a year, someone else was trying to make all my decisions for me.

Little Italy, 2008

As the plane took off, I thought about how I would wait a couple of weeks before telling my fiancé I didn’t want to get married.  I thought about what types of jobs I could apply to in San Francisco, where I would live, and who I could become.  I daydreamed of freedom, making new friends, and exploring the magical, quirky sights of the city.  My gut told me moving was the right thing to do- and from the moment my fiancé greeted me at the gate, I knew it was over.

I didn’t wait two weeks.

I told him right away.

Of course, he tried to convince me it was a phase and how my sister was envious of me. He attempted to tell me I didn’t know what I was doing and how I was meant to be with him. All of his efforts to control me- from my diet to physical activities to what I wore- filled my brain, and I no longer felt sorry for him.

I began to have a deeper compassion for myself.

For the next week I stayed on a friend’s couch, who took a day off work with me to pack up my things.  I left my princess cut diamond on the dresser, leaving behind all the furniture I helped buy with my graduation money.  No physical object was worth sacrificing my dreams- or my future.

Who knows what would have happened had I not taken that trip to see my sister in 2008. Perhaps the wedding would have happened, and maybe I would be divorced now.  We will never know.  However, despite the judgment I received from others, I knew deep in my heart that I was making the right choice.  I knew, at 23, that I didn’t want to take the easy way out and allow the wrong man to take care of me.  I simply refused to do that.

I would have to spread my wings and fly.

I would have to make mistakes on my own.

I would somehow, someway, succeed- and despite the failures, I would learn from them- because I finally had my freedom.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I do know I will never have to mourn the chances I didn’t take.  It’s been nearly 12 years since I took the leap, quit my job, and blindly moved to an apartment on California and Commonwealth Avenue.  Over the course of those 12 years, I’ve lived in a dozen more apartments, several other cities, and did eventually move to New York…

All because I chose freedom.

Full Circle- New Moon and NYC

My four year anniversary of moving to New York City is coming up on June 18th.  Is it still an anniversary if you don’t live there anymore?  Not sure.

Nevertheless, I flew in on a Wednesday night.  The following Thursday morning, I headed to my apartment on 98th and Broadway, sight unseen, where 10 boxes were waiting for me with the doorman.  I had seen the apartment on a Skype tour with my roommate/landlord, emailed and texted with the other girls who lived there, and while this action would not seem logical (or even safe) to most, it made perfect sense to me.  Mailing a check for $1,550 to a stranger?  Sure.  I just knew everything would be fine.

Intuition has gotten me through everything.  Everything.

The day I moved in, I unpacked a few things and headed down the street to get lunch.  I found a place nestled on Amsterdam and 96th with TVs.

There were more people than I would have expected at the bar, eating wings and intently watching some kind of game.  Oh- soccer.  I liked soccer.

I didn’t even understand the importance or care about the World Cup four summers ago when I moved to NYC, but it quickly became my favorite thing.  Why?  Easy- it was socially accepted to go to the bar at noon and eat nachos with cute boys on the Upper West Side.

I met one in particular- Moshe, but he went by Mo- who was from Toronto and lived just north of me on 111th.  We met on my first Saturday in the city when I went to the ‘dam (which has since closed) over eggs benedict and grilled cheese.  He asked me out to dinner that night, and soon after he became one of my favorite summer companions.  World Cup games, Long Island pool days, and Sundays in Riverside Park.

We’re still buddies.

That brings me to my weekend plans- and how much times have changed.

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On Friday afternoon I am heading back to NYC for the weekend- yet I didn’t even consider that it would be the four year mark of my big move.  It feels very appropriate; the New Moon in Gemini, a different Kristin, and of course, coming full circle.

It has not been an easy four years, but I am excited to enjoy a weekend in the city with an entirely new perspective.  Not one with a broken heart like the broken heart I had when I arrived June 18th, 2014 and when I left July 25th, 2016, but with a happy, whole one.

A heart that is grateful.  A heart that knows she doesn’t need boys, beer, or bars.  A heart that is content within herself.

I know my behavior was reckless when I lived there.  I know that.  I am grateful to have gotten out alive (quite literally).  However, those memories are pieces of my life that shaped me into the tough little cookie I am today.  I’ve learned I don’t need to be tough all of the time, though- only when I need to be.

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I couldn’t be told that, though.  I had to learn for myself.

Happy New Moon, everyone.  Let’s set intentions, dream big, and move forward- even when we second guess ourselves.  This is a time to keep going- to keep moving forward with those projects and goals.

I used to avoid success through dating and drinking, and guess what?  It didn’t work.  The Universe knew there was something bigger for me, and I trust that.

“It’s never too late- never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.” -Jane Fonda

Hiding Behind the Skyscrapers and Dreams

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The beginning of the end of my New York era begins with a weekend in Hoboken.

Ah, memories.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two whole years since that Memorial Day.  It was my third time in New Jersey, second time in Hoboken, and first time eating a Taylor ham sandwich.  I had a week-long relationship with a Jersey boy, who had me over for a Memorial Day celebration which I ultimately ruined thanks to showing up late, drinking too much, and then sleeping through dinner- where I was supposed to make scallops.

Oops.

After two days across the river and one final goodbye to the Jersey boy, I took PATH back to the city on a bright Sunday morning, feeling empty inside.  Going home to no one, clueless as to what I would do with myself for the next two days, I immediately walked into an Astoria bar after taking the below picture.

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I hid my pain well- unless you were one of the few who saw the way I lived my life.

Although I was smiling in that photo, inside I was in pieces.  At that point I was almost ready to face myself and stop hiding behind the hustle and bustle, drinking and dates- but not quite.

New York is an easy place for dreamers to hide- but when those dreams are broken, it’s time to live in reality and create new ones.

I’m feeling grateful this Memorial Day to be able to make peace with my past.  I’m also grateful to finally say goodbye to the old Kristin- the Kristin who was so scared and alone.  The girl who ran toward comfort yet pushed it away.  The girl who wasn’t sure what she wanted, and didn’t know if she would ever find out.

The Jersey boy couldn’t fix me.  He wanted to try, but it only lasted seven days.  A job, apartment, friend, family member, or therapist couldn’t fix me, either.  I had to step out of the skyscraper shadow, look in the mirror, and fix myself.

and I am so glad I did.

“Manhattan. Sometimes from beyond the skyscrapers, across thousands of high walls, the fearful cry of a too-well-known voice finds you in your insomnia in the middle of the night, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island of un-reality.”

-Albert Camus

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San Francisco Soul

Ten years ago today I moved outside of Michigan for the first time in my life.  Taking a one way flight to SFO, I moved in with two girls I had never met, into an apartment I had only seen in photos.  Making a major life decision based on intuition, I felt an amazing feeling of euphoria for the first time in my life: it was a feeling of freedom.

A chance to start new.  A city to be free to find myself.

I had just called off my wedding and knew there was a lot more out there for me; but I had no idea what that would be.  Little did I know what a winding path I would have since that April evening!  My first days, months, and year in San Francisco was such a special time in my life- one that I will never, ever forget. ✨

Never be scared to follow your intuition and take risks- your heart knows that way.

Embrace Being A Girlie Girl

I’ve been a girlie girl for as long as I can remember.

In fact, I was a girlie girl before I was even conscious of the sunglasses on my face or the ruffles on my clothes.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree- as I get older, I’ve noticed I am becoming more and more like the ladiest of ladies- my mother.

Although I’ve always been known to have a dry wit, a lot of guy friends, and would be more likely found at a sports bar than dancing at a club, I would never, ever, put down my lipstick, listen to a guy advise me on what to wear, or stop shaving my legs in the winter.

Why on earth do women think they need a man to take care of themselves?

It’s so, so ridiculous.

I don’t know about you, but I do everything I do for me.

Over the years my boyfriends have tried and tell me not to wear makeup.  They’ve encouraged me to put on a pair of jeans and ditch the dress, to stop wearing the big sunglasses, to grow out my hair, and to take off my lipgloss.  They’ve told me to dress sexy, they’ve told me to stay in sweatpants, and hell, they’ve even told me what they wanted their ex-girlfriends to wear.

And you know what?  I kept doing what I wanted to do.

I will never cease to roll my eyes at any magazine or propaganda that informs women how to please their man, dress for their man, or attract more men. You know what I have to say to that? Be your damn self, because that’s how you’ll attract the right man.

I know what you’re thinking, “this girl is single- what does she know?”  Well, I’m the one who called off a wedding ten years ago, has lived with three men over the course of my life, and I’ve always been the one to leave.  I don’t stick around for the stifling-  I would much rather be free than “taken care of.”  I’ll be on my own unless I meet a man who embraces my girliness, loves my lipstick, and encourages me to be me.  

I suppose I just can’t come to terms with women who don’t want to do things for themselves.  Being a girlie girl doesn’t make you weak, being graceful doesn’t make you any less powerful, and embracing your femininity doesn’t mean a man can walk all over you.

Being female is a superpower.

So, take your power back.

My wish is for women to stop putting so much weight on men’s opinions and how it makes them think of themselves.  I don’t want to hear about women changing their clothes because of a man’s opinion, memes complaining about having to take care of yourself because of a date, or hear that my friends acted like this.  No.  Just no.

Shave your damn legs for yourselves, ladies.  Trust me, it feels great.

Traveling Light- Collecting Sentiments, Not Stuff

It just occurred to me that this is one of my first “minimalist” trips.  In the past I used to always check a bag or two, pack enough shoes for three weeks, and prepare for any occasion.

Not anymore.

As I packed for a week in Colorado, I was realistic- I knew I’d be lounging around during the day, working away on my laptop, and bundling up to go out and explore.  This has been a bit of a “working vacation;” while my friend is at his office during the day, I’ve been drinking endless amounts of coffee in his luxury apartment lobby, working away, and catching up on TV shows (since, you know, I normally watch shows from my laptop).

I brought one carry-on- my packable Henri Bendel overnight bag (which comes in Bendel stripe or black), making it easy to store after getting back from a getaway.  Since Henri is my favorite for all the things, I had my plaid purse and monogram cross-body bag along for the trip.  I was glad airport security didn’t have anything to say about me having three personal items, not two- but my cross-body is small enough to get away with.

So, far, so good.  Packing was a success.

Yesterday we took a road trip to Boulder and checked out the lovely Pearl Street shopping area after exploring Flagstaff Mountain.  Shopping used to be one of my favorite activities of all time.  My friend Brett just so happens to be the best shopping partner, too.  Over the years he’s accompanied me on many excursions- from shoe shopping in San Francisco to Macy’s with my mom and me in NYC, he’s a really great sport.  Not this time, though- he didn’t have any bags to help carry and didn’t spend hours waiting for me outside a fitting room.  Since the beginning of our friendship (when my fashion blog was in full-force) my priorities have taken a major shift- what used to be one of my favorite pastimes now gives me a ping of anxiety, with a “where will I put this?” running in the back of my mind.

My colorful wardrobe of items I never wore has since been replaced by classic blacks, staple pieces, and favorites- no duplicates, no “because it was on sale” excuses, no space fillers.  Just things I actually wear and love.

Sure, I’m on a budget and don’t have space in my carry-on- I packed as much as I possibly could into that Bendel bag- but I also realized I don’t need anything new.  Just a couple of weeks ago I did a major deep-cleaning in my apartment, doing two huge loads of laundry and gutting my entire closet to re-organize.  Even though I didn’t think I had much, it was entirely overwhelming.  Step by step, I organized socks, shirts, skirts, leggings, loungewear, etc.  After all was said and done, I felt AMAZING.  I knew where everything was, ditched the things I no longer use or wear, and created a method to the madness.  “Stuff” can get overwhelming even when you’re a minimalist- there’s just less of it!

This trip has inspired me to consign and donate even more of the clothes I have.  It’s made me take a closer look at the things I really need- and things I haven’t missed in my six days in Denver.  So, what did I bring, you ask?

Seven days in Denver: Packing List

  • Hairdryer
  • Straightener
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Face lotion
  • Nail polish (Essie “Merino Cool”)
  • 2 black tanks (H&M, 2 for $10)
  • 3 black leggings
  • 3 sweatshirts (two black, one grey)
  • 1 black dress (in case it got nice- it hasn’t)
  • 1 pair of tights
  • 1 black cardigan sweater
  • 1 SF Giants t-shirt
  • 1 SF Giants hat
  • Workout clothes- yoga pants, sports bra, running shoes
  • 1 quilted black coat
  • Bras, underwear, socks
  • Suede ankle boots
  • Black ballet flats
  • Laptop

This is all I brought.

My plane wardrobe consisted of a black tank, black wrap sweater, leggings, booties (that were easy to slide on and off at security), black scarf, and my long(er) quilted black coat.  The beauty of each and every item I packed is that everything goes with everything.  That’s the key to packing- having an interchangeable capsule wardrobe.

Although my love for clothes will never die, I’ve learned to prioritize and focus on quality over quantity.  Even though I didn’t do any damage on Pearl Street, I experienced something even better- mindful moments with a good friend, enjoying the beauty of nature, and some relaxing time away from home.  I did get a sticker from Trident Books, an iconic Boulder bookstore.  Coincidentally, the sticker (which came from a machine) is of a woman meditating in the forest with a baby deer on her lap.  We had just seen deer running through the mountain, too!  I put the sticker on my laptop as a reminder of this fabulous trip, and to stay mindful in every moment.

I leave Denver tomorrow afternoon and am so grateful for this re-set.  I start a new job on Thursday and I’m thrilled about the opportunity- and to be able to recharge before I begin a new chapter.

If this trip has taught me anything, it has confirmed the importance of collecting sentiments, not stuff.  There truly is a freedom to living more with less- so get outside, take a deep breath, and remember what really matters- this moment.