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empowerment self discovery

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.

Categories
empowerment

Stop Telling Women To Smile

A week ago I was sitting at my favorite coffee shop, notebook in hand and a coffee on the table.  I pulled out my mirror to see if I had anything on my face, quickly fixing my concealer that was out of place from my oversized sunglasses.

“Your makeup looks fine!” a stranger next to me declared.  I looked over, laughed, and continued to set up shop at my seat.

He didn’t stop there.  “You know, most men would say women look best without makeup.  It’s Sunday!  Don’t wear makeup!”

Newsflash: I wear makeup for me, not you.

I love to dress up, wear red lipstick, and don my Karen Walker shades.  Not looking for validation, on most days I simply want to write in peace; the last thing I want is to have strangers approach me to give me unsolicited advice or flirt poorly at a coffee shop.

Nevertheless, whether or not it was meant to be a compliment, it was still suggesting I change who I am or what I do.  That never sits well with me- flirting or not.  It’s manipulative, and it’s unwelcomed.

Here’s a comprehensive list of things women don’t need to hear from a man:

  • How to wear our hair
  • What clothes to choose
  • How long our hair “should” be
  • When to wear makeup
  • That we should smile

Maybe some women need the words of the opposite sex to gain their confidence, but I am not one of them.

“The sexualization behind telling women to smile is alarming. It makes women feel that we are only meant to be happy and pretty and it’s a passive way to engage into an unwanted conversation.” –

I’ve had ex-boyfriends try and dress me up in the shortest of skirts, 6 inch heels, and cleavage revealing attire.  That’s just not my style.  I’ve even had an ex ask me if I was going to a funeral because I was wearing all black.  Didn’t you know black is slimming and chic?  Just look at Audrey Hepburn.  I doubt she cared what other people said about her little black dress.

The guy at the cafe went on to later tell me how our meeting was “serendipitous,” in which I immediately rolled my eyes.

No, you just sat next to a woman and started telling her what to do and not to do.  Also, I have no interest in a divorced 50-something who was thumbing through his “Plenty of Fish” app.

Women can have it pretty rough out there, but as long as we hold our own and stick to our laurels, we will be just fine.

Just don’t tell me to smile.

Inspired by Stop Telling Women to Smile, a street art project addressing gender-based street harassment.

Categories
empowerment

Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

So, I have some thoughts on the poor behavior of some of the men who live in the world.

I received a message from a guy I went to college with.  We have been friendly for years, but he’s always been flirty.  However, once he started making comments about my body, me losing weight, and my chest (referring to them as “puppies”), I told him to please stop.

I called him out on his behavior, saying his wife probably wouldn’t like that.  He told me he was “rolling his eyes” at my comment.

Okay, but would she?

Well, he can do whatever he pleases on his own watch, but I won’t condone the behavior.  The old Kristin may have played along, and perhaps I would have even been flattered, but not any longer.

I am on the female’s side.

I am ABSOLUTELY sick of the way some married (or attached) men speak to women who aren’t their partners.  Absolutely sick of it.

Wives, girlfriends, and mothers deserve better than the way some of these men act.  This isn’t up for discussion or debate.  If what you said to me made me or another woman uncomfortable, then it’s not acceptable.  We are not “too sensitive.”

If you’re bored and unhappy, leave.  Why did you even get married to begin with?  So someone else can take care of you while you go out and play?

This is one of many reasons I don’t aspire to get married.

There’s my two cents for the day.  Oh, and if I had a dollar for every time something like this happened, I could retire today and buy a house on an island.

Call them out.  Break the cycle. Let them know it’s not okay.  Someone has to.

Categories
empowerment

Being Your Own Partner

The other week at work I told a friend of mine that this would be the summer I would meet a guy with a sailboat.  She looked at me and replied, “you need to find a guy with a dog.”  I looked at her, gave a puzzled look, and said, “I’m more of a cat person.  I’ll go with the sailboat.”

Truth be told, I don’t want the guy.  I want to go sailing.

Society makes us think we need the guy- but guess what? We don’t.

This morning I was messaging with a friend who lives in NYC who mentioned there’s a sailing school on the Charles River, which I had looked into when I learned about the community sailing program.  Sounds like a happy medium to me- the perks of sailing without the baggage of the guy.

Funny enough, over two years ago I went on a date with this friend; yes, he has a sailboat, and no, I am not interested in him.  However, two years ago I would have hung out with him purely for the boat.

This Kristin would rather hang out alone.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about partnership.  How many people do you know who are in unsatisfying relationships?  I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of these people.  Sure, some people are scared of being alone.  Some people are extroverts.  Some people want to settle down.  Some people like the security of having a “plus one.”  However, I see absolutely no reason anyone should feel obligated to settle down with another person.

To me, a man would only hold me back- unless he was extremely strong.

The one and only time I am certain I was in love ended after this person told me he didn’t want a partner- ever.  This shook me to the core.  He was one of the only people in my life I could just sit in a room with, fall asleep next to, and sing old Chicago songs with.  He was only time I ever got “the fuzzies;”  I didn’t even know what “the fuzzies” were until I met him the very last night in June of 2014.

Nevertheless, it ended, and it has taken me four years to finally realize he wasn’t perfect, either.  He would sit on his phone all morning, go to Brooklyn and hang out with his old Harvard friends without me, and was the most self-deprecating person I had ever met.  Still, I loved him.  A lot.

But since he left me, I learned to love myself.  In fact, now I love myself enough to not let another person bring me down.  If a guy were to tell me my sunglasses were too big, my lips were too red, or my hair was too short, I would laugh at him.  If a guy suggested I wear shorter skirts, tighter tops, or send suggestive photos, I would run.  Fast. 

Sexism, misogyny, and objectification have no home here.

The old Kristin didn’t stand up for herself, so she fell for everything.  Yes, that is cliche.  However, what I didn’t realize was that I was attracting the wrong people because I was insecure.   I know this is partially because I grew up without a male role model; and the things I did hear about women were negative, judgmental, and, well, mean.  

They say women get their loving side from their mothers, and confidence from their fathers.  Not all of us have those blessings.  In a society where women are mean to each other, men treat women like playthings, and the media forces mixed messages down our throats, what are those girls supposed to do who have no role models at all?

This is why I write.  This is why I let my vulnerability out after years of holding back.  Maybe, just maybe, I can help one other woman realize she is worth so much more than her label, her view of herself, or what the world says about her.

So, I’ll leave you with this: my friend at work also told me there is a “lid to every kettle.”  She is probably right.  Whether or not I do meet my match one day, I will be fine- because I have the best partner of all- myself.