I Survived the Dark to Live in the Light

Last week I felt compelled to hop on my bike and ride down M22 to visit my childhood home and spend some time in the neighborhood I grew up in. Telling people where I was raised is always a bit bittersweet to me; back in the 90’s, I didn’t think there was anything special about Greilickville. Sure, we had the bay across the street, and yes, I was able to take out kayaks and a paddle boat in my own backyard.

It’s hard to believe I didn’t realize how magical this was.

This idyllic childhood setting is something I’ve held on tightly to; the memories of swinging along the creek as I read a good book, hunting for treasure, and imagining all sorts of fantasyland in my own backyard. I remembered peeking over the Norris School playground fence to see my Grandpa Jerome working in the yard, or my mom sitting on the back porch on an afternoon she was off of work.

I felt fortunate to grow up next to my grandparents, my school, and surrounded by nature. As years went on, I began to let go of what I loved so much and began to try to find my way in a new world- a world that involved gossip, rumors, and materialism.

Norris Elementary is now Leelanau Studios, but my artwork of a fishbowl hung in the hallway up until the school closed. My mom has it in her house now.

The early memories of my childhood are the ones I want to remember; not the painful memories of loss, insecurities, or abandonment. I don’t want to recall sitting by myself at lunch, struggling to find connection, or discovering the girls I confided in weren’t really my friends at all.

It was always easy for me to pick up and start over; whether it was a new activity, new school, or a new city, it was never difficult for me to meet people. However, facing the people who hurt me- and facing myself- was much more difficult. Moving back to Traverse City has reminded me of the Kristin people may remember before I left for San Francisco, or even New York- a lost, confused girl with a free spirit. To mask my own discomfort with groups, I would drink excessively- even though my inner voice was always telling me to stay home. Today, thanks to twelve years of “re-inventing myself,” I realized I was exactly who I was the entire time:

A whimsical girl on a tree swing, reading a good book.


Old friends have tried to remind me of the Kristin I was- not the youthful, pure-hearted Kristin, and not the Kristin I am becoming today. No, some people who knew me over the years love to bring up the lost and confused person I was for a period in time- but I realized those people never got to know who I was in the first place.

Despite giving them the opportunity to get to know me now- years of writing on the table and all- they still try to bring me back to the low-vibe, insecure person I was before I found recovery, healing, and inner acceptance.

When asked what I did in Boston, it’s difficult to give an honest answer without unloading more information than the asking party wishes to receive. There is no simple answer for how I occupied my time during my three years in Boston:

I moved to Boston after rehab with no idea where else to go. In Massachusetts, it was a safe space to be myself, to learn to love who I am, and most importantly- to learn to ask for help. If it weren’t for the supportive friends who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t have been able to build such a solid foundation.

When I moved to Massachusetts, I began to think about others- not just myself. With Trump recently inaugurated, there was endless work to do to help others have a voice and basic rights- and I was able to use the skills I learned in rehab to cope with life’s difficult issues.

While in Massachusetts, I became a new version of myself– a clear-headed person with a vision for a healthier, more balanced world.

Sometimes you just have to say goodbye- not only to the people who hold you back, but to the identity that you once clung to. I have to remind myself of all I have endured- the detoxes, the programs, the relapses, and the lives I have lost. I’ve wondered why I survived so many dangerous situations, yet friends of mine have lost their battle to addiction.

Others don’t need to know everything I have faced, but if they did, they may understand why I bike around town with a smile on my face. When you’ve been through Hell and back, you stop letting the little things bother you- and you have an entirely new appreciation for life.

I may be a free spirit, and I may wear my heart on my sleeve. Nevertheless, my struggles were not in vain- and today, no one will take my joy.

For I survived the dark to live in the light.

Nothing Will Go Away Until It Teaches Us What We Need To Know

Running away from my problems used to be my favorite coping mechanism.

I can still fall prey to this old bad habit; I’ll hope people who bother me will disappear, or I will leave situations when I’m uncomfortable.  However, every time I do this the same people pop back up, and the same situations manifest in a different way… over and over again.

It’s a fact.

I could write about endless examples, but there’s one I have in mind which was so bitterly uncomfortable that I’m still surprised I got through it.  When I had a difficult roommate, I obviously thought the solution was to move.  To run away.  Despite receiving the silent treatment for weeks, I didn’t leave- and get this:

I was kind.

I still said “excuse me” when we would pass each other in the hallway, and I still tried to be considerate despite her obvious distaste for me.  Although I really had no idea what I had done wrong, I didn’t cower or run away- but I did later learn she had been secretly drinking.

It wasn’t even me that was the problem.

Old Kristin would have run away to avoid the feelings of rejection, discomfort, and anger- but New Kristin dealt with the situation, stuck to her guns, and now has a much better living situation because she stuck with it.

Completing things you started can be difficult- especially for someone like me who hates to be uncomfortable.  If you were to ask me in an interview today if I am a “team player,” I would probably stop lying and tell them I work best independently.  The truth is, I’m not a team player- I’m one of those kids who got frustrated in school and did the entire project themselves.  As a control freak and type-A person, I kept trying to do everything myself, over and over again, and do it MY way.

But those bad roommates will keep coming along, and so will team assignments.  It’s up to you to choose how to handle them today.

Maybe I do work best independently, and I look forward to the day I don’t have roommates anymore.  Nevertheless, as long as I remain teachable and willing to put down my ego and learn to live life differently than I used to, I’ll be just fine.

Nine Lives

Like a cat, I have seemed to live nine lives.

Time and time again, I have found myself running- running from what others thought of me, running from what I thought of myself, and running from who I was afraid I may may become.

It took a decade of running to discover I was exactly who I needed to be all along.

From moving to San Francisco in 2008 to living in Boston ten years later, I realized I brought myself with me everywhere I went. No “geographic cure” could be the remedy, nor could “recreating” myself change who I was on the inside.

I may have fallen nine times, but I’ve always managed to land on my feet- and today, I’m grateful to sit still.

The Power of Pause

Our society glorifies “busy,” though often times people aren’t accomplishing anything at all. We come and we go, forgetting to take moments for ourselves to sit in quiet contemplation.

This morning I heard a great message- to embrace the power of pause.

It’s these quiet moments when we gain insight, charge our batteries, and embrace the power within. Instead of quickly coming to a resolution or a response, take a few minutes to stop and think.

With a new week ahead, it’s important to remember to breathe, reflect, and take a pause before reacting. Whether it’s a disagreement at work or a task you need to accomplish, remember how powerful pause can be.

True Freedom: Letting Go of Resentments

As I strolled through the Back Bay and down to the Esplanade yesterday, I felt a new sense of freedom. It was a beautiful fall day, and I had the chance to head to my favorite spot in Boston- the Charles River.

The freedom I felt was greater than just being able to take time out to enjoy nature, though- it was a sense of freedom within.

I went to a meeting where I saw some people from my past who I avoided due to resentments- and not only did I face those people for the first time in over a year, I raised my hand and spoke about it.

“Resentments kept me sick and my secrets held me hostage.”

For a long time, I only let half of my true self be known.

People in the group nodded and smiled. Over the years, I found every reason in the book to avoid groups, places, jobs, family, or friends- all due to uncomfortable feelings, resentments, or disagreements. Running was my favorite pastime- but not in the jogging sense of the word. I ran from discomfort.

“I’m no longer willing to water down my story or hide from the world,” I continued. In the past I was extremely fearful of judgment or rejection- but the only person that hurt was me. The more honest I am, the more I learn how accepting others are- but I also learn which people don’t matter.

I’ve been working on being my authentic self, loving my truth, and owning my story no matter what others have to say about it, and that is the greatest freedom of all:

Freedom within.

Faux Extrovert

The other day I picked up the book “Quiet” at the library. It was a timely find, as I’ve been reflecting on my own self care needs, causes of anxiety, and everyday interactions with those around me.

As I read the first few pages of Susan Cain’s book, one paragraph struck me:

“Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang if guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much,” a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.

Of course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”

Oh, how I relate.

Lately I’ve been exhausted; not due to a lack of rest, but with the amount of social interaction I have had. This has been a month of healing, but it has also been a month full of groups, social activities, and sharing my story, thoughts, and innermost challenges. In a community setting it can be difficult to find the space and time to sit and reflect; there’s always someone talking, somewhere to go, or someone critiquing what I say. Sure, I have no problem speaking up, but I am easily drained when I don’t have time to just be.

Over the past decade I’ve been extremely outgoing, which served its purpose when moving to new cities, recreating myself, making friends, and succeeding in the workplace. Alcohol helped with that, too. However, alcohol no longer serves, either.

It’s time to embrace who I truly am- on my own.

As I’ve written numerous times before, I grew up as a shy only child, spending my days drawing, reading, and writing. “Boredom” is not in my vocabulary- I’ve always known how to entertain myself through creating. However, somewhere along my path I became a social butterfly, only to find myself lashing out when my batteries weren’t charged. I never considered that my mood swings were partially due to a lack of energy.

Someone explained the definition of “introvert” to me years ago: someone who gains energy from alone time. An introvert is a very misunderstand type of person; they’re not necessarily timid or weak- an introvert holds a modest strength that doesn’t need to be proven through loud words, social interactions, or attention-seeking.

As I dig deeper into the person I once was, who I’m becoming, and the person I want to be, I have realized the power in quiet. Truth be told, extroverts tend to annoy me. How can these people be so loud? How can they be so needy? Can’t they just learn to sit still and create something instead of constantly consuming?

Of course, it’s not my place to judge people who gain energy from activities and social interactions; diverse personalities make the world go ’round. However, I have always gotten along best with fellow introverts- those who are introspective, creative, independent, and calm. I prefer one-on-one interactions to groups, deep conversations to small talk.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to pick up a drink and be the life of the party; I can find my tribe by being myself. I can develop meaningful relationships, a purposeful career, and live a happy life by embracing my introvert characteristics.

Susan Cain describes people who pretend to be extroverts just like I have; it’s a breath of fresh air to leave that facade aside and own my introversion. I may not be loud and aggressive today, but when I do speak up, I do have something meaningful to say.

I’ve found solace and strength in my writing, and for that, I am grateful. I’m no longer afraid to speak my truth- my whole truth- and admit my struggles. More on that later. As for now, I’m enjoying my Saturday afternoon curled up with my book, writing in my journal, and soaking in the sunshine from my window.

Quiet is a beautiful thing.

Living With Grace and Grit

I’m still coming down from all of the creative and inspirational energy I took in from my last trip back to NYC. Wow! From the moment I saw the skyline to the feeling I had while driving out of the city, the weekend was nothing but magic.

It felt like home again.

One of my favorite moments from my trip back to New York was when I arrived at Queensboro Plaza and noticed all the synchronicity around me.

From the number “7” (which had been following me around all weekend) to the purple color of the train line, it seemed like everything was a sign.

A sign I’m on the right path. A sign for my next steps. A sign telling me I am fine as I am.

After my trip, my perception changed; not just about the city, but about my own life. It occurred to me that I wasn’t living up to my own potential because outside voices have been holding me back. As a result, my dreamer (and sometimes grandiose) nature has second guessed herself, creating her own negative voices inside her head.

So, I stopped listening.

My path has been anything but traditional, and although I’ve attempted to go the “traditional route,” something has always blocked me from fitting in. It used to be my own self sabotage and issues with self esteem, alcohol, and emotions- however, as of the past year, it’s been because I have been standing up for what I believe in.

I came to Boston to fearlessly look in the mirror and step into the person I am meant to be- without distractions- so the last thing I will allow in my life is someone or an institution to cause me to step backwards.

Most recently, my passion for helping people and inspiring others to see life through a new lens has caused quite a bit of discontentment with the “3D world.” Our society as a whole isn’t quite ready to see life through a new light, but I know there is a place and purpose for me to share my story and strength.

Some people just want to sit in their own misery, though.

This brings me to the whole theory of the “imposter syndrome.” It makes me wonder how many people wake up in the morning, put on their suit or shiny heels, and honestly can go in thinking they’re a “professional.” As if putting on a show and acting for the sake of a paycheck is any way to live. To think living for the weekend or retirement is the only way to live.

Sorry to say, boys and girls, but that’s how our society is programmed. It’s pathetic.

Personally, I would rather live a short life that is full of, well, life. A life of purpose, not routine.

How many of those people feel restricted? How many of those people know they have better ways to spend their day? How many have talents to give but never will, all because society is telling them their dreams are silly?

I have no idea, but I’m done pretending.

I wasn’t given the gift of a grit-filled past with a touch of grace to simply keep quiet.

My story is meant to be shared.

What’s my next step? I’m not sure. However, I am confident my work will be of use to many people- so I am done holding back.

I am ready for my answer, and my next big adventure.

Free to Be: Going On Your Own Path

There comes a day when you stop letting the outside world trick you into thinking there is only one way to life, security, happiness, and success.

~

A lovely friend of mine, a neurologist in Cambridge, described the city perfectly to me once:

“Cambridge: where everyone thinks they’re a ‘renegade.'”

I had only been in Boston for a few months, so I hadn’t yet gotten an impression of the people or the culture.  However, I liked this idea, and I certainly loved Cambridge.

Although I used to wish I had taken a traditional path (or at least a “laid out” one) I realize now through listening to others that it wouldn’t have been right for me.  I have spent the past 11 years trying to “fit” the mold; city to city, job to job, relationship to relationship.  It was a struggle trying to fit this square peg in a round hole.

I had simply assumed by speaking with her, the grounded and successful woman she is, that she must have had an easier path than mine. That things came naturally to her.  That she followed her heart when making her career choice.  However, upon knowing her better, I learned that it wasn’t her choice to become a doctor; it was her father’s.

I met this woman April of 2017, and she played an instrumental role helping me learn I am enough.  She said to me, over and over, that I am fine just as I am.

I didn’t realize what she meant until now.


As my life came together, fell apart, and came back together time and time again back in the summer of 2017, my friend (who I just visited in NYC) also reminded me of how strong I am.  Although I felt hopeless at times, she saw the light in me.  She recognized my strengths.  She helped me see my own light; and in turn, I have been able to do the same for her.

It’s interesting how we can get down on ourselves so easily, yet we are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

Now, let’s go back to the idea of a “renegade.”

This made me laugh.

However, much of our society blindly follows the unwritten rules the “patriarchy” laid out years ago, without question.

I can’t imagine living an existence where I don’t question these rules.

As I began to step into my authentic self, I stood up to “the man.” I have ignored their sexist comments. I have ignored people telling me I can’t do things. I have been independent.

Perhaps this does make me a “renegade.”


Over the years I thought about what society wanted me to do; or at least, what those around me expected.  I thought that if I got an advanced degree, a certain job, or had impressive credentials, I would please others.

But why did I care about pleasing the patriarchy?

I wasn’t pleasing myself.

As I have let the ideas of what other people “expect” from me, I realize that I wasn’t doing anyone any good.  I wasn’t happy in relationships or jobs where I couldn’t be myself.  I wasn’t succeeding in roles that didn’t align with my talents.  I felt anxiety in environments I forced myself to be in.

As my spiritual practice and confidence grows, the more I realize that manmade rules are simply tricks to give others power.

We have all the power we need within ourselves.

The more fearlessly honest I am, the more gifts have appeared in my life.  I’ve been published in places I never dreamed to see my work, I’ve received heartfelt letters from readers who didn’t know who else to turn to, and I’ve gotten the opportunity (and blessing) to find inner peace, joy, and empowerment through my authenticity.

I used to water down my personality to “fit in.”  That didn’t serve anyone.  Today, I refuse to play a role in society; I will live my truth.

I came to this earth for a reason; and that reason wasn’t to follow the patriarchy, let someone scare me into doing things their way, or let others take my power.

My reason was to help others realize they, too, can fearlessly spread their wings and fly.

So, that is what I will continue to do. ✨