2019 shoots

aud lew – nyc

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Phoenix, AZ – January

New York, NY – March

lily mclaughlin – chicago

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Chicago, IL

sam skapin -cleveland

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sami aryal – cleveland

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rob haberman -chicago

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zeltzin vazquez – chicago

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Mo ☻ – chicago

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sean o’day – cleveland

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benjamin lieber – nyc

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What’s Past Is Prologue

  • this is not edited for grammar and all that stuff this is like my password journal i let you read

I saw Free Throw at SubT in Chicago the week I was moving from there to here, Cleveland. It was an important experience for me because this record has helped me soundtrack a journey of embracing growing pains and learning to do what makes me happy and healthy regardless of whether or not it is what is expected of me or even disappoints others. Signing “I finally learned to love myself” in that room of people and being able to mean that even more than I did just months prior when I sung it at Bled Fest almost brought me to tears and I thought I want to write about this record – not a review, not about how incredible the guitar work is or what I would rate it – just how it makes me feel and why I think it matters a lot. 

“In an initial listen, What’s Past Is Prologue sounds absolutely like walking back into the same familiar and  comforting home that Free Throw has built over the years. But the furniture is rearranged, there’s a garden growing out front, beer cans in the recycling bin, and most importantly the door is open so you can come sit down on the couch to talk for awhile. It’s an album that invites reflection, permits frustrations, but ultimately wants to get better. For me personally, it’s an album that I understand in the context of being a person who is in therapy to hopefully help tackle issues of mental health in a very real way and it feels like a damn fight a lot of days. A fight that needs anthems such as “The Corner’s Dilemma,” which admits “I just want to be a normal person / Or anything but me,” in a way that’s more conducive to relief than grief. The record talks about both hurting and healing with a passion that is expertly conveyed by instrumentals rooted in the same emotions as the lyrics themselves. Together they tell a story you can feel—one that ends with some closure “I’m finally breathing again.” I wrote this for 

60 Best Records of 2019 So Far on the incredible site The Alternative back in July.

It’s always frustrated me that optimism can tend to come off cheesy or artificial and sugar coated when it’s such a necessary component of recovery / growth -but it can be hard to taste something so metaphorically sweet after months and months of everything leaving you bitter. I have definitely scoffed at more than one #MotivationMonday post only to feel instantly guilty. Maybe I need the whole story. Maybe I definitely used to find it easier to be cynical than admit my brain did need rewiring. Like the realization on opening track Smokes, Let’s Go: “I think I have some kind of penchant for things detrimental to my health” – there can be some odd comfort in even bad habits. The first few times I walked out of my therapist’s office in Chicago, down the stairs into the outdoor part of a cafe – I remember thinking what no one tells you about “recovery” is the sadness you have for the part of yourself you longer even associate with but are forced to acknowledge in order to understand how the hell you got to where you are. It’s like phantom pains – you just get used to it being there. Do you have a funeral for that version of yourself? Leave it flowers? Re-introduce yourself to people you have known for years? Look in the mirror and say “sorry” over and over until you accept the apology? Break all the CDs you sat in comfortable darkness with because they gave you permission to just accept that?

What’s Past Is Prologue is permission to change and freedom to admit you’re not proud of the way you coped but without the paralyzing guilt that can keep you stuck in the same spot. It’s an approachable stream of consciousness that we often only get exposed to in the midst of ones battle which is still cathartic and worth navigating through art but can be difficult when looking for more to then apply to your own narrative. It is all subjective but for me personally I have realized it is helpful to have art that has integrity but is in some way responsible or self-aware of its subject matter. Why? Because it is easy to get stuck. Sometimes I need to feel like I am winning, to get that same feeling of invincibility after you leave a really incredible movie that made you believe in something or yourself. When I was a kid I wanted to leave Spy Kids and go home to do flips off the swingset, now I want to listen to a record and know I can cope with life in a healthy way or at least try. That’s why I love the full circle moment at the end of the record with the victory cry “Today I finally learned to say, I love myself /Finally got out of my goddamn rut /And learned that when I truly need some help/ Not to keep my mouth so shut/ Not everything should stay the same /It’s okay to have some change”. 

I have learned to love growing pains, but the initial reaction to pain is usually to avoid it which can make self-growth so difficult to embrace. It’s kinda nice to have a record kick your ass and be like “hey get up, take a shower, clean your room, go outside, you’re better than this”. In the realm of “emo” music you are often exposed to songs of doubt, loss, loneliness, etc etc which is valid and it is crucial to have the space to express those feelings and be vulnerable – but when that is all I take in it is all I tend to feel as well. For some people that might work or might not bother them and that is fine, I just personally have had to become more conscious of what I listen to as an act of self-care. All of that to say this album has been important to me and while plenty of people have noted the sonic maturity of Free Throw, I can’t help but celebrate the storytelling especially knowing that the person / people behind it are living this narrative of personal victory and self-growth. “What’s past is prologue” is a quotation by William Shakespeare from his play The Tempest. To me it means everything in the past has just brought you to the point you are now, it just sets the stage and doesn’t have to be your final destination. Not to say that what came before does not matter or did not happen, but just what is happening and what is to come is far more important and better to focus on. It’s a mindset that makes change seem more exciting than terrifying and reminds you that your past does not define you and you can decide the past is past whenever you see fit. But it’s okay to acknowledge it – like on The Fix Is In, “And everyone’s ashamed of the person that I have become And I’m the one to blame I let it get to this point”. You see someone embracing where they are and that’s something to be proud of because it’s the perfect place to start. No shame, no guilt – just acknowledgement as a starting point. 

There is this sort of turning point on the record with the line “ And that’s when it hit me, this house doesn’t have to be haunted anymore” on the second to last song, Cerulean City, which always hits me. Maybe home is your brain, maybe it is a physical space, maybe it is someone – but you can choose to change the way you think about or totally walk away from that thing at anytime and you don’t need anyone’s permission. I went through a rough patch for a while and I got used to people knowing me as someone who was alone and did not need anybody – it became a messed up part of my identity so much that I denied myself different experiences because it wouldn’t “make sense”. How the hell could I be happy or let someone in or drive to that show or post that poem? We get so wrapped up in other people’s perceptions of us we can even cater to them or match that energy or be what is expected when we do not owe anyone consistency. Giving yourself permission to change is hard and it hurts to heal – it hurts to heal and that seems crazy but it’s true and this record shows that. It hurts to heal but it’s worth it. It hurts to grow but it’s worth it. 

“there are older versions of you that only exist because other people give them oxygen, and you are not obliged to keep those versions alive to make other people happy.”

― Billy Chapata, Chameleon Aura

What’s Past Is Prologue. What’s now is what matters. Maybe that’s cliche, maybe it is crocheted in a pillow somewhere –  I don’t care. It’s the reason I can sit here and write this with more peace of mind than I have had in years. It is easier to love myself knowing I don’t have to hold myself to who I was, I can just embrace who I am now, who is around me now, what is around me now. That’s what matters. So turn this record up start to finish – hear the story, allow it to parallel whatever you need, let it make you cry if you want. Maybe go for a drive or some place where time stands still like a bus stop or a playground at night or the top of a parking garage around sunrise – I just think you should listen to this record and listen to what it has to say then listen to your response to it more and do whatever you want with that. These are the records that I need – the ones that challenge me and comfort me in the same moment. The ones I get to learn with and love with and find myself in. These are the records I will look back on 5 years from now grateful that I had something to grow through it all with.

i think i might be happy

photo by Sam Skapin

Disclaimer: this is blog style writing I just type and post w/o editing

A month ago today I was at Danielle’s apartment in Chicago getting ready for a beach day by myself and finally just breathing for the first time in what felt like months. I don’t know if I seemed as stressed out and anxious as I now realize I was a lot of the time. I can tolerate stress a lot better when I am “happy” or more optimistic. I almost feel guilty for getting frustrated with anxiety because I am overly aware that there have been times where I have felt much worse – felt completely disconnected. But I am learning I deserve to be at my full potential, my best despite the fact I was at my worst previously does not mean I have to settle for “ok”.

When my lease was coming to an end me and my therapist spent a lot of time digging into how my environment affects me. Everything from the size of my room, traffic, accessibility to friends, what overwhelmed me about Chicago, places I found peace and safety, how hard it was not being able to get home when my dog passed away, etc etc. The conversations were hard to have because it felt like admitting to defeat to explore a reality where I wasn’t a “city person” when so many people around me seemed to be fine. I mean I had been doing it for a year and a half right? But surviving or coasting isn’t thriving and once you factor in mental health it becomes important to put a priority on environments where thriving and growth can take place. It was just frustrating, like what do you mean what I chose wasn’t what is best for me right now? Am I working too much? Should I feel guilty for staying in tonight? Will I have time to cook once I get home? How can I sit at home when there is __ event here or this place I haven’t been yet? The thoughts spiraled and really weighed on me, more so subconsciously but still there affecting my decision making and leaving me drained in an endless cycle to feel fulfilled. 

I have a hard time talking about my present day anxiety because I feel much more in control over it then I did a few years ago. It is almost embarrassing that it still slips in every once in a while, maybe a panic attack I try to hide or an intrusive thought that demands my attention or a nightmare I have to talk sense into when I wake up shaking. For the most part it doesn’t control my day to day or conscious thoughts thanks to practice, therapy, a support system that allows me to ask for clarity and reassurance and space. All that being said, for whatever reason the environment of a city, a job with strict clock-ins, traffic, being far from other people in my support system (boyfriend, family, friends, etc), having a “smaller” room (than I was used to), less access to free space to hike / write in silence, walk alone, etc etc – all of that combined just contributed to a daily stress level that sort of always kept me a bit on edge and then made anything else that much more amplified. Just noisy and stuck and busy and pushed and going going going. I didn’t hate it, don’t regret it, don’t think I could never do it again. It just turns out it wasn’t what is best for me right now. 

In the same breath, which might be confusing, I still believe Chicago was where I needed to be to be challenged in every sense of the word. It took me way out of my comfort zone, grew me exponentially, forced me to be independent and I learned to take pride and responsibility in taking care of myself both mentally and physically. Being in charge of myself, my emotions, my money, my wellbeing, my relationships.  It made me prove a lot of people wrong, most importantly myself. I was so dissociated when I moved there that it felt like watching someone else make all those big decisions because that was far too terrifying to take ownership over and have confidence in. Moving to Cleveland I felt so present, so proud – nervous but sure. Now I can defend my decisions, be proud of them, and also know I really only need to know it is what is best for me. You can disappoint people on the journey to being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself and that is ok and does not invalidate your decisions. I think learning that makes you tough and allows an inner peace we all deserve. 

I am rambling a bit, huh? I hope you get something out of this. Whether you need it now or 5 years from now. Maybe take time to reflect on what in your life is causing you unnecessary stress that you tolerate because maybe you feel embarrassed it is not what is best for you (since it is ok for others) or maybe what or who in your environments is making you feel on edge or suffocated. There could be a lot of ways to think about it but just learn to take inventory of how you are feeling and then dig into the why without fear of what you will find – it is much scarier to go along being complacent when you could be doing better with even small changes. I have also learned to set boundaries with both myself and others. We tend to think of boundaries as hindering relationships but really they help them last by keeping them balanced and healthy.

I can say right now I feel more present than I have in a while. I feel like I am making new memories which is hard to do when you feel disconnected from yourself and surroundings like I used to. I don’t totally know why I needed this. But I live in a house I love decorated with vintage pieces I collected and find joy in and it is starting to feel like home, I can walk a bunch of places that help me feel centered, I can connect with people more meaningfully and really be able to give my attention and invest in relationships with people I care about and want to support, I have a job that allows me to have more balance, taking care of myself has become more natural and less of a chore, I have more of a drive to create and be creative; I just feel like I am coming back to myself. Which is exciting. And I hope worth sharing. I am sorry if you aren’t in a place where I am right now but I never thought I would be writing something so positive and honest 2 years ago so just keep fighting for yourself because you deserve it I can promise you that.

i’m moving (again)

Photo: Audrey Lew

Not to be dramatic but making decisions actually sucks. I can barely pick if I want chips, an apple or a baguette on the side of my Panera Bread order. Anyway, I am moving away from Chicago in September (I am not missing Riot Fest though, come on) and moving to Cleveland, Ohio well Lakewood really. Not just because there is a Sheetz, either. But I figured I would walk through this whole decision thing in case someone was curious and because writing is therapeutic for me.

Before Chicago, almost all my decisions were safe and pleased as many people as I possibly could (shoutout to my therapist for helping me get over that). I stayed at home for college, didn’t drive, had never lived on my own – which there is nothing wrong with because that pace worked for me. Then I was like oh I am going to quit my fun stable job, learn to drive, and move to a different time zone halfway across the country because I am too comfortable, not growing, and not reaching my full potential as an individual!! Haha! But no it was rough. I learned so much the hard way but I learned a lot. I learned rejection and the importance of asking for help and was unemployed for over 2 months. I had to face a lot of fears. I had to let go of relationships that were holding me back or making me feel like a burden. I got in a car accident that totalled my car right outside my apartment. I learned to keep my circle smaller, learned that not everyone is going to like me – learned that is ok. Learned boundaries, and balance, and the importance of wanting to get better for yourself. I learned what communication and vulnerability looked like. Learned to give myself permission to disappoint others on the journey to finding myself and what actually makes me happy. Learned to realize I am happy. Learned to laugh at myself. I found some of the best friends I ever had. I fell in love. I grew into myself. I found a job that allowed me to use empathy productively to make people feel heard and seen. I tapped into my creative side shamelessly and started writing again for the first time in a while. I dove headfirst back into music. I found a city that felt like home. And it still does – it always will, but I need a break. And that’s ok. It’s ok to outgrow the places or people that once were exactly what you needed. That doesn’t make them any less special.

I am bad at taking breaks, I have such a hard time giving myself permission to slow down and not try to plan every second of time out. It makes me feel lazy and unproductive, but as someone working hard to work with my anxiety so I can be the best version of myself for me and the people I love – I need to embrace a slower pace in life and work. Chicago grew me so much so fast in ways I don’t even think I will fully grasp until later in life but I have to admit it is not always healthy for me right now. A major city is a whole different world. There are days it feels a lil too crowded and it makes me feel lost or overwhelmed. The traffic can make me feel stuck, like I should also be in a hurry. I know there are different pros and cons to everywhere but I have conquered so many “irrational stresses” and now I am left with so many I can’t make go away because of my environment. I was a lucky kid to grow up with a big backyard, so many woods to hike in during the summer, friends who lived down the road – this feeling like there was space to grow. I think I want that again for a bit. I am ready to slow down a bit and live somewhere that encourages that mindset and a slower pace. And I am letting myself not get frustrated that I didn’t adjust better / completely. What works for someone else isn’t going to necessarily work for me. We shouldn’t feel guilty for not thriving in the same soil others are blossoming in. We should only focus on finding where we feel like we can grow. Right now I happen to think that is Cleveland, Ohio.

So that is that. I am trading Cheesies for Melt. But no really – it is kinda a big deal. I am ready to make a career move to have a more challenging job and invest more time in my people and my passion projects. And in all honesty living somewhere cheaper will allow me to travel farther for fun because I will be able to drive to my hometown of Baltimore or back to Chicago without much planning. It’s gonna be good and it’s cool to actually say that and mean it. I am definitely nervous and I don’t have it all figured out yet but it’ll work out. I always go back to this saying “I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” So I am trying to be excited because I know what I want for myself and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get there even if it takes time. It feels good to value my happiness again and place more of an importance on that than just make decisions that are easy or logical. I don’t have to justify my decisions to anyone – I just have to know I am doing what I believe is best for me and let that be enough.

I am going to miss this city a heck of a lot but I know I will be back plenty. I know I will be FaceTiming Danielle or Morgan like the week after I actually move. So many people here let me really lean on them and I couldn’t be more thankful to grow a support system and to learn that I deserve that. Being “on your own” has definitely taught me that you need people.

OK I digress because I am a rambler and I COULD keep going. I just hope you all learn that you deserve to be in spaces where you have the space to grow, are supported, are celebrated, and even challenged. I put so much value in comfort and routines that I sacrificed my own joy and potential and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to wait for everything to be perfect and aligned when I could just do it and figure the rest out. And if you have the right people in your life, they’ll have your best interest at heart and encourage you. Moving to Chicago was the craziest decision I may have ever made but I am proud of it and I am ready to figure out what’s next for me over there in Cleveland. See you soon!

Favorite Society6 Artists

Art prints have become one of my favorite ways to decorate in the past year. Lucky enough, I have an incredible art gallery near me that sells lots of prints at various sized from all different artists at different price point. I know not everyone has access to such a shop which is why Society6 is so cool. I don’t know how much – but every purchase pays an artist and there are 30+ premium consumer goods to chose from like posters, blankets, and phone cases. I though I would walk you through some of my favorite artists – even if you aren’t looking to lively up your home you could spice up your timelines and follow their socials.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these images and quality may be comprised in effort to preview the work.

Dewey Saunders Studio

Frank Moth

Robin Eisenberg

SURUDENISE

Zainab Mughal

Justine Henderson

whatalife_studio

Alja Horvat

Eugenia Loli

Bosquetro

SheIn Summer Haul

I have always wanted to do a haul so please like and subscribe for more of this content. Okay but actually a big fan of expressing myself through clothing – thankfully at this point the majority of my clothing purchases are thrift or boutique brands but I definitely still shop fast fashion sometimes. I wanted to see how far $50 (with a coupon and free shipping) could get me at the currently hyped site SheIn. I went..off and am actually pretty impressed. You definitely get what you pay for quality wise but its a good option for trends or seasonal pieces you may not want to necessarily invest in. Let’s get into it. To get 6% cash back and find the most current coupons sign up for rakuten (formally Ebates) I saved at least $20 on my order (not sponsored but I wish) https://www.rakuten.com/referral/default.do You also get $10 for joining!

Bikini Set

Ngl, this top already broke but I can probably stitch it back together. Can’t expect much for $13 – I will say the bottoms are great and I will probably just wear those with a different top. Size small.

Satin Shorts

A straight up HIT! Comfy, has pockets, are made well. And for only $9? Okay satin. Size small.

Sequin Mesh Star Shorts

Another hit, baby! Yeah they are made cheaply but they make a cute cover up or running errands look. For $10 we love that! The drawstring does not fit but they are stretchy enough to not need it. Size small.

2 Piece Set

The material is pretty sheer – but that can be a plus during hot summer days or as a swimsuit cover up. The straps on the top is adjustable and there is a cute tie on the back. I’ve been wanting to try matching sets so for $14 it was a good deal and way to decide if I want to invest in something more sustainable in the future. Size Small.

Paperbag Denim Shorts

This is very much a trend I wanted to try purchase – but for $13 I was like alright lets try it. It is a cheap denim but because of that it is actually very comfy and lightweight. I am not a huge fan of denim unless it is worn / soft so I am not mad about it. They are extremely stretchy – I got a small. Could easily be belted as well.

Loch Ness Shaped Colander

I AM SCREAMNG LOOK HOW CUTE THIS IS FOR $3 ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! I love her. My pasta making experience just leveled WAY up.

Peach Door Mat (sold out)

There are a lot of other door mats on the site for $5! Nice for just outside your room – more decor than functional but still a nice addition to your home.

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Voyager mission with NASA

From September 2017

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I had the honor of attending an event at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to celebrate 40 years of the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft with NASA Social on September 5th 2017. It was an incredible day learning about space, hearing first hand accounts from those who worked on the mission, and talking to others who were enthusiastic about attending the event.

I was honestly really intimidated going into the event, knowing I’d be surrounded by absolute geniuses. I went to college for PR / marketing, science was never my best subject even in high school but the thing is I LOVE science (space especially, okay mainly space). The education system places such an emphasis on grades you almost forget to find joy or importance in the love for learning. Post-college I’ve made an effort to pursue little passions / interests / hobbies like art and fashion. What I’ve come to find essential is giving myself the freedom to learn for fun without the end goal of being an expert or mastering a skill. It’s both refreshing and relieving to just enjoy the intake of new information, a really pure thing that is almost essential to my humanity. Luckily, the NASA event truly reminded me of this.

I have many favorite memories from the day. Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist, talking about the major discovery of active volcanoes being on Io (Jupiter’s moon). William Shatner, James Kirk on Star Treck, reading the winning message which would be sent into space “We offer friendship across the stars. You are not alone.” Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager, talking about working on the project as her first job out of college only to return to it much later as the project manager and how Voyager sparked excitement for future missions.  Ann Druyan, creative director of the Voyager Interstellar Message, talking about the creation of The Golden Record which you have to read more about. There’s so much to it but The Love Story might be my favorite! You could also listen to the Beyond Podcast to learn more; Nicole was also at the event and will definitely be sharing some of the great conversations we had with the people I listed above.

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What really stood out to me were the remarks from different people involved on the Voyager mission about what it meant and inspired. It represented a passion for exploration, for understanding our solar system / getting perspective on our place in it, to bring hope to the generations to come, and much more.

“And what greater might do we possess as human beings than our capacity to question and to learn?”

Ann Druyan

I don’t want to misquote any of the fun facts about the significance of the missions so I’m going to share a few from NASA’s site which can be found here: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/

https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/frequently-asked-questions/fact-sheet/

  • The Voyager mission was designed to take advantage of a rare geometric arrangement of the outer planets in the late 1970s and the 1980s which allowed for a four-planet tour for a minimum of propellant and trip time. This layout of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which occurs about every 175 years, allows a spacecraft on a particular flight path to swing from one planet to the next without the need for large onboard propulsion systems.
  • The spacecraft are controlled and their data returned through the Deep Space Network (DSN), a global spacecraft tracking system operated by JPL for NASA. DSN antenna complexes are located in California’s Mojave Desert; near Madrid, Spain; and in Tidbinbilla, near Canberra, Australia.
  • The spacecraft are continuing to return data about interplanetary space and some of our stellar neighbors near the edges of the Milky Way.
  • To accomplish their two-planet mission, the spacecraft were built to last five years. But as the mission went on, and with the successful achievement of all its objectives, the additional flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved possible — and irresistible to mission scientists and engineers at the Voyagers’ home at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
  • Eventually, between them, Voyager 1 and 2 would explore all the giant outer planets of our solar system, 48 of their moons, and the unique systems of rings and magnetic fields those planets possess.
  • This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1.

I also really enjoyed the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in general and would highly recommend going (it’s free!) if you’re in Washington D.C!

Below is a slide show of some of my favorite images from the day.

balancing the energy you give

I have joked about “protect your energy!” as being a good mosh call, but I am not in a band and should probably stick to blogging anyway. Okay so what does that mean? What does that look like? I have been thinking about this a lot lately so I am just going to share what I think as someone who has lived 24 years as an empath.

I have been on a few extremes of this concept. I used to be very unconsciously giving of myself and my love, time, energy, soul sometimes without it even being asked of me. In retrospect I think this is mostly because I am a people pleaser and take on a lot of responsibility for the emotions and experiences of those around me. Which can be dangerous. To the point where if someone hurts me, I would actually feel guilty that they might get mad at themselves for hurting me so I would accept apologies that  weren’t even offered or not even hold them accountable for their actions by vocalizing my feelings. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is important to healing (and admitting you were hurt in the first place) but it is not your job to help others process what they have done to you even if they claim it was unintentional. It is not your job to make someone’s apology to you easier. It is not your job to do anything but take care of yourself. I also would tend to quiet my own needs and desires at the worry of it disrupting someone’s ability to give that to me. But this is so unfair to yourself because you shouldn’t have people in your life that can’t meet you where you’re at; definitely learn to vocalize all that but still you deserve people who give you what you need as you need it. You deserve people who work to understand how you receive love and clear communication and then adjust to give you that if it doesn’t come naturally to them and if that doesn’t match then you’re probably both better off not in each other’s lives in anything but a casual capacity. You shouldn’t feel guilty about what you need to feel peace and acceptance. In friendships or relationships of any kind. You are not going to be for everyone and everyone is not going to be for you and that is ok. There may be periods in life where you or the other person can not give equally and that is ok, we aren’t all 100% all the time, but that should be communicated and understood that it isn’t the norm. Don’t sacrifice your quality of life and mental health on empty promises where you don’t see progress. You have to advocate for yourself even when it is hard, but once you speak up be willing to walk away from anyone that can’t respect that. And listen to me, when you’re around people for too long that treat you like less than you deserve and make you question how they feel about you, you already have your answer. They don’t care enough and that’s not your fault or anything you should have to earn. Get the hell out of there. Because you might accidentally start to believe you are less than who you are or that you are asking for too much. Your insecurities still might ask those questions or feel like that with the right people too but the difference is you will have the space and safety to ask those questions and be told gently that you are just fine without any ounce of anger or guilt. I promise you that. Those people are out there.

I have also over protected myself. And looking back I can’t blame myself. You get hurt enough times your only instinct is to put up more walls. But again, the right people won’t be scared off nor come in with a bulldozer. They will ask why they are there, help you take it down brick by brick and be happy you trusted them enough to let them in. Becoming guarded happens and I don’t want you to blame yourself for that but I also hope you do give yourself permission to at least work through your pain enough to understand it, accept it, talk about it, and eventually not feel it so strongly. It is not your responsibility to try to justify or understand why someone hurt you at all – which can be tempting as an empath or just as a way of explaining it away. But there just isn’t as any excuse and maybe one day you can work through that with more perspective when if it is healthy for you. But I think that only causes you to lose focus on what matters most right after coming to terms with whatever caused you to feel the need to put your guard up in the first place. I think you really just have to give yourself permission to admit someone hurt you or betrayed your trust or disrespected your feelings – and then surround yourself with whoever doesn’t have a pattern of doing that. You can be honest with those people and just be gentle with yourself because no one who loves you is going to let your need for either space or more reassurance come as something to take personally because they just want to see you get your strength and confidence again. It won’t be easy – but it will be worth it. You might feel like you don’t deserve those people or even that they might also hurt you but work to not project that onto them because you should not have to be alone in a healing process. It may not be their job to heal you from hurt they did not cause but the beauty of love and connection is that they may choose to or they may be able to offer insight from their own past. Maybe one day you’ll be that for them. Having people (even a therapist, family member, book) that can help you get out of your own head and offer a different way of thinking is so important and I hope they prove that there are people who actually want to be apart of helping protect you. I hope you have people that prove all your insecurities and doubt wrong. I believe you will.

This year I started to work on matching people’s energies with the balance of still giving love as it comes naturally to me and not expecting too much of myself when I need to invest in myself a bit more too. It has been interesting but I think it is a healthy consciousness to maintain. I often get frustrated when I feel like I am over giving to someone but now instead of shutting down or being upset they aren’t matching me I try to understand that what they are giving me is their personal best and natual way of giving love / communication. That doesn’t mean I totally hold back when I want to express or give to someone but I am a lot more aware that I am doing so without expecting it to be given back. If I send that text and not get a response and I am good with that I am still going to send it because I somehow have a lot of love and that is a gift I don’t want to not share. But if I know I would be upset if that wasn’t matched by someone else in that moment I simply would realize it isn’t coming from the right place and put that energy into something else like taking care of myself or my work or cleaning or whatever because everything you give should be given because you purely want to / have to. Some days I just have so much to give and in a world that can feel kinda dark and lacking of love I never wanna keep that all for myself but now I don’t sacrifice my own emotions on days when giving to others would mean really taking away from myself. It is a balance. It is a balance worth working on I think. I am a lot happier in all my interactions with others now and when someone does give to me it feels so absolutely incredible. My emotional capacity has opened up so much and I am so grateful to have people in my life who are so patient and understanding as I grow and learn and begin to love more and know what that looks like. I used to be so afraid to feel but as someone who knows what it is like to self numb let me tell you when you numb the bad you numb the good too and it FEELS GOOD TO JUST FEEL IT ALL!! There are ups and downs and yeah I use it all to make art but the whole thing is worth it and I can genuinely say I am happy to be here giving as much as I can and being open to love in ways I never thought I could be. Thanks.

I could keep going but that is a lot of words. I am coming off a nice little self care weekend where I managed to let myself take a needed break and that investment back in myself resulted in this and also I feel refreshed and this is a bad run on sentence. Also I am still learning and a work in progress.

QUOTE TIME BABY these people are better at words than me so read:

“You are allowed to be hot on some days and cold on others, you’re allowed to flow like lava and crash like the ocean. You are allowed to feel.” Billy Chapata

“It’s easy to feel uncared for when people aren’t able to communicate and connect with you in the way you need. And it’s so hard not to internalize that silence as a reflection on your own worth. But the truth is that the way people operate is not about you. Most people are so caught up in their own responsibilities, struggles, and anxiety that the thought of asking someone else how they’re doing doesn’t even cross their mind. They aren’t inherently bad or uncaring–they’re just busy and self-focused. And that’s okay. It’s not evidence of some fundamental failing on your part. It doesn’t make you unloveable or invisible. It just means that those people aren’t very good at looking beyond their own world. But the fact that you are–that despite the darkened you feel, you have the ability to share you love and light with others–is a strength. Your work isn’t to change who you are; it’s to find people who are able to give you the connection you need. Because despite what you feel, you are not too much. You are not too sensitive or too needy. You are thoughtful and empathetic. You are compassionate and kind. And with or without anyone’s acknowledgement or affection, you are enough.”

― Daniell Koepke

“I no longer force things. What flows, flows. What crashes, crashes. I only have space and energy for things that are meant for me.” Billy Chapata

“Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are simply toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people for us.”

― Daniell Koepke

“Spend time with yourself. Take your wounds on a date and understand them better. Your healing lays in how honest you can be with yourself.” Billy Chapata

“Stop minimizing and discounting your feelings. You have every right to feel the way you do. Your feelings may not always be logical, but they are always valid. Because if you feel something, then you feel it and it’s real to you. It’s not something you can ignore or wish away. It’s there, gnawing at you, tugging at your core, and in order to find peace, you have to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. You have to let go of what you’ve been told you should or shouldn’t feel. You have to drown out the voices of people who try to shame you into silence. You have to listen to the sound of your own breathing and honor the truth inside you. Because despite what you may believe, you don’t need anyone’s validation or approval to feel what you feel. Your feelings are inherently right and true. They’re important and they matter — you matter — and it is more than okay to feel what you feel. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, convince you otherwise.”

― Daniell Koepke

“People hate it when you know your worth. You draw the line, you set the precedence, you stand your ground, and they flip a coin on you and make it seem like you’re the one with the problem. “You’re too demanding, you’re too selective, you’re too judgemental, you’re too unrealistic.” No, I’m neither of those things. I just love myself. I love myself enough to know what I need, what will improve me, what will grow me, what I deserve. I’m loving myself, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.” Billy Chapata

“Don’t kill flowers growing inside of you for someone who doesn’t appreciate the way you bloom.” Billy Chapata

to love growing pains

A lil story behind this one. I was in NYC staying in Nicole’s antique-road-show of a lovely room when I started writing this inspired by her energy and light. Me and Nicole have only actually met once but I have always felt a cosmic sort of connection to this soul sister (thanks Cody T for introducing us on Twitter). I stayed up and finished this a few days ago and was going to ask for her opinion on how to format it without telling her she inspired it. But then she woke up and responded to me and I had figured out how I wanted it to read. So I sent it and told her it was about her and I was absolutely nervous because that is a new vulnerable concept for me. Luckily, she loved it and by some sort of fate it was the day she was flying back to NYC and I didn’t even know? So on her flight she doodled art to go with the words just as I envision and here it is. Collab with your friends (as Nicole would yell). And don’t be afraid to share your art with the world and even the people it is about. Proud of you, Nicole. Keep glowing! (and not just from the Glossier)

Follow (queen) Nicole: Twitter

Website

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Drop A Pin: New York, New York

SoHo and Brooklyn

New York is undoubtedly a whirlwind of a city where all your senses are constantly being stimulated whether you’re riding the subway or sitting in a pizza shop. It doesn’t stop. However, I have always found some peace among the chaos while traveling there over the years. It’s where I wrote one of my first poems on the floor of Port Authority after missing a Greyhound bus to Boston. It’s where I traveled by myself for the first time right after graduating college when I was trying to figure out if I was ready to move out. It’s where I went to see Greed Day at Webster Hall and made it with seconds to spare because I had to leave my backpack with a random doorman to get in the venue.

New York can force you to try to tune out the world and in turn tune into yourself which is something I liked to avoid for a long time. Now much more introspective and optimistic, I was able to embrace the city with much more of a presence. The times I did find myself alone were much more reflective on how thankful I am to be where I am surrounded by people who I believe want the best for me. I found myself opening my notes app or reaching for a pen – ready to create again or at least ready to try. I think some of the beauty of being somewhere new is it can be easier to give yourself permission to try something new. So here is to NYC and my favorite two neighborhoods to explore (at least before it gets warmer). Thanks Kelly and Nicole for letting me stay with you!

helpful travel links: Airbnb, Bagbnb, Lyft

BROOKLYN, BABY!

New York Transit Museum – $10

I have to say, this may be a hidden gem. The museum features vintage train cars, old comics and literature, and lots of other New York history. Also a very cute place for a photo op.

Domino Park

If you want beautiful skyline pics, head here around sunset. Can’t imagine how nice this park is in the summer, especially with their retro lil taco stand.“Built on the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery, the park is a tribute to the diversity and resiliency of generations of Domino workers, their families and their neighborhood.”

Rough Trade Records

I’ve always wanted to visit this spot; known for being a crucial independent label for punk music especially in the UK. This is their only store in the US and it is a must visit.

Front General Store

Cutest spot for a unique or vintage find / souvenir. Incredible selection of vintage jeans.

DUMBO view

Just a quick walk from the Front General Store is this iconic spot.

PLG Coffee House

Cute spot for a quick bite, nice smoothie, and good atmosphere.

Happy Days Diner

Breakfast in NYC can get expensive, so if you’re looking for a fulfilling meal without breaking the bank definitely look for a diner.

Bergen Bagels

You can NOT leave NYC without a bagel and I am still..thinking…about these.

The Mini Mall on Bedford

Obviously every shop you’d ever want is in NYC but finding local vendors / secondhand options can be even better.

SoHo, SISTAH!

Glossier

If you’ve been wanting to try Glossier without paying for shipping, you have to check out their store. All their products are out to be tested and played without and the inside is absolutely gorgeous. My recommendations: Priming Moisturizer, Glitter Gelee, Stretch Concealer, Generation G lipstick in Leo.

Champion Pizza

Has been my favorite pizza spot in NY for years. The owner, Hakki, also has a really interesting story.

Let There Be Neon

I have a neon sign obsession and I have been wanting to visit this custom shop since Sara Dietschy made a video about it (view here). First photo by Audrey Lew

Broadway Market Co.

One of my fav spots to find jewelry or prints.

…and more

  • Eats: Georgetown Cupcakes, Cha Cha Macha, Pietro Nolita (healthy Italian food), Dominique Ansel (famous bakery), The Butcher’s Daughter (vegetarian options)
  • Sites: Drawing Center (museum), New Museum, JIMMY at The James rooftop, walk the High Line
  • Shops: Opening Ceremony, Second Time Around, What Goes Around Comes Around, MoMA Design Store

around town

I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”
― Nora Ephron, Heartburn