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

Drop A Pin: Los Angeles

I grew up wishing I lived in California. I always wore Roxy and Billabong clothes boasting the name of Cali beaches I had never been to. I don’t know what to blame my obsession on -maybe watching too much Hannah Montana or all the summers stealing my dad’s Beach Boys CDs – I just knew I was happiest in the sunshine. It seemed like a place I would never get to go to for some reason, like it really only existed inside the TV.

When I was learning to drive my daydream motivation was the idea of being able to cruise up the SR -1 or at least the Pacific Coast Highway. I wouldn’t end up getting my driver’s license until I was 23 (because that is when was best for me) and the day I passed my driving test I started realizing I had to make that high school daydream a reality. So here I was booking flights to Phoenix for 8123 fest and I thought, this is to close to California to not go? So I extended my trip, pit in reservations for a rental car, and texted my pink glowing friend Kika asking if I could crash. Surprise! It all came together. 4 days in the sunshine – spending time with myself and reflecting on how far I have come was exactly what I did not know I needed. I spent too much money on ice cream, I rolled the windows down in every car I got in, I blasted all the records I wanted to experience in the Golden State and actually let myself take a break for once. So thank you LA, I hope I see you real soon.

Malibu

Rent a car and drive up Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu is…magic. I put on LANY in my little red rental car and started driving up the coast holding back tears because there was this whisper coming through the rolled down windows saying, “you made it”. Suddenly the simplistic production style of 3 act LANY made sense – the sound of crashing waves, seagulls squawking, motorcycle engines purring, conversations from open door cafes spilling out into the streets – all the sounds mixed into the songs themselves like it was meant to be heard this way. It was the most present I had felt in weeks, leaving behind the Chicago winter for shorts and checkerboard Vans. And I wish I had someone to share it with – I am so lucky to have people worth missing – but also it was sweet just to have that moment with myself where I truly felt pink and blushing and proud. I cherish that. Thanks Malibu.

If you’re under 25 and looking for a rental car in a major city so you have more freedom to explore – use Turo! You rent someone else’s car and it is SO affordable: Get $25 off your first trip

El Matador State Beach

Go at sunset. Just go. I missed the ocean so much that my heart grew 2 sizes just being there; my curly hair also growing from the sea salt air. I was so in awe of the colors and the landscape. Boulders break up the beach, tide pools wait to be explored, canyons stretch out for miles, lush green grass fights to re-grow in areas once charred from fires, palm tree stand strong, bluffs drop off to offer views of water meeting sand. I was instantly mesmerized. I have always felt a strong connection to the ocean and the moon and what I didn’t even realize was that was the night of the super blood wolf moon…a literal LUNAR eclipse. That was home for me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I have learned home is so much less a place and so much more a feeling and I had that in Malibu.

Santa Monica / Venice Beach

Fritto Misto Italian Café

Affordable, authentic, INCREDIBLE Italian food. Very important: they bring you warm bread.

Walk along the Canals in Venice

Yes, these are actually man-made to look like Italy.

Ride a scooter down the Venice Boardwalk

Venice Beach Boardwalk can be…crazy. But I found it really nice on a weekday afternoon. It is definitely a more tourist stop – but it holds a lot of cultural history for everything from music / art to skating and poetry. I had flashbacks to watching Lords of Dogtown in 5th grade and sitting in class writing on my Vans with sharpie. And if you can’t pack a skateboard, you can at least ride a scooter.

Joe’s Pizza

Right off the boardwalk – cheap NY style pizza that is actually good.

Gotta Have It (thrift)

I will always recommend thrifting while travelling because you can find unique places that may tie to local fashion different than that of where you live. Plus this store has a great view of the Venice sign.

The General Store

Lots of lil treasures and local artists featured in this boutique.

Melrose / Fairfax-ish

Okay shoppers, Instagram lovers, foodies – this is the spot for you.

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. And yes this is the store with the “canyon” selfie room.

Alfred’s Tea Room

Iconic, cute, a must.

Wasteland

My heart is still broken because I left here without anything…so many vintage Levi’s…and Reformation pieces…it was like shopping my Depop feed.

RCNSTRCT

Listen, I get that a lot of “vintage” stuff is overpriced BUT do I justify it because it is usually better quality and a more sustainable AND unique alternative? Yes. So I told myself I could buy once vintage piece in LA and this was the spot for that.

Neon Store: First LED

This was a total lucky find – but I picked up this neon heart (which I have always wanted a neon sign) for $40 and had no issue travelling with it! They also have an online store and the owner was so sweet and helpful.

The Grove

Lots of stores and entertainment / events. Not a must see but it is in the area if you want to shop in a non-mall setting and many of the shops aren’t all around the US. I think all the food options and is close to the farmers market.

Look for Pop Ups

There is always something going on in LA – including pop ups. When I was there I went to a Benefit one that had free ice cream with purchase, lots of photo ops and freebies.

Walk through show rooms

From luxury to street wear, Melrose and N Fairfax Ave and surrounding area is the place to window shop (mainly because I do not have the money for actual shopping). But seriously the visual merchandising and aesthetics of many of these stores are incredible and display products like art in a very interesting way. Stores like Fred Segal, Posers, Suru, American Rebel, Sorella Boutique, Golf Wang, Supreme, and more.

Walk Melrose Ave and find all the street art

Walls, alleys, the sidewalk – this area comes alive from the street are. Some is poetic, some politic, others simply artistic but it is all worth walking around and taking a look at.

Downtown LA

The Broad (Museum)

Best part – it is free! But reserve tickets ahead on the website. Their collection has an incredible collection of modern art, graffiti, collage / conceptual art, pop art and more . Some of my favorite artists featured are Jean‐Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, Barbara Kruger, and Roy Lichtenstein. It is a must visit and a nice, cool break during a busy day,

Grand Central Market: Wexler’s Deli, Eggslut and more

Just gonna be straight up – I did not go to Eggslut because the line was whack BUT Wexler’s Deli had great egg & cheese bagel sandwiches and lots of other options. The whole market is an experience and a great place to stop even if just for a snack.

Angels Flight Railway

A cute lil functional landmark and it is only $1 each way!

The Last Book Store

Records, books, collectibles, art and more. Some of the best visual merchandising I have ever seen – the upstairs loft area features tiny shops and studios from local artists.

Explore Little Tokyo

around Burbank / other

Universal Citywalk: Voodoo Doughnuts

Citywalk in a fun way to experience all things Universal without having to pay to enter the park itself. It is a good night activity when you aren’t ready to go home but don’t really want to “go out”. But easily the best part is a chance to get Voodoo Doughnuts.

Lemonade

It is easy to forget to eat meals, especially healthy ones, when traveling. Luckily LA has many healthy and veggie options but my favorite has to be Lemonade for salads, sandwiches, bowls and of course lemonade.

Republic of Pie

Thanks to Kika I went here like every morning. The atmosphere is lovely but the PIE is even better. They actually have an extensive menu – it was the perfect place to start my day.

Amoeba Music

I am bad at geography so just know this is in Hollywood. But anyway this store has been on my record store bucket list for years. The outside and decor has a throwback vibe and is one of the largest independent record stores carrying everything from vinyl and CDs to tshirts, books, posters, memorabilia, movies and more. Even if you aren’t a collector or music lover, I think you’d appreciate this spot. It also hosts in store performances and carries exclusive art / vinyl.

Griffith Observatory

This very well be my #1 recommendation next to Malibu. Maybe it is my obsession with the La La Land soundtrack or all things celestial but I think Griffith Observatory is pure magic. Sitting like a castle at the top of south facing Mount Hollywood; the location offers a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. At sunset the entire sky lights up in gradient shades of pink, orange, and violent that eventually fade to show off the city lights. Tourist take their selfies with the Hollywood sign, photographers come with their gear to capture the perfect moment, couples bask in each others company, and everyone seems to genuinely be in awe of the atmosphere that surrounds this place.

Don’t forget to go inside and maybe learn a thing or two, pay for a Planetarium show.

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

Instagram

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

Add To Cart: Best Stuff I Bought from Amazon

Amazon: because sometimes you are too tired and lazy for a Target run. But honestly, this is just a list of things I found on Amazon that have proved to be useful. Amazon changes prices literally daily so I would definitely use Honey to “watch” products and get alerts for when you can get the best deal. Honey is a free browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout for over 30,000 shopping sites. You can join with my link below (literally non spon but HMU honey):

joinhoney.com/ref/kyo09cb

Echo Look ($50 / varies)

Straight up, if you post a lot of OOTD pics or sell clothes (like on Depop) this is so so helpful. It connects to an app on your phone and you just say “Alexa, take a photo” and it counts down from 3 AND has a flash. I will include some pics mine took.

Caboodles

Issa vibe.

Pink Jade Roller with Vitamin C/E Serum ($10)

I have a bad habit of scrolling on my phone when watching Netflix, but now I make use of the time and jade roll. It is supposed to decrease puffiness but honestly idk it just feels nice and releases tension. The serum is also really nice and makes your skin glow. Even better if you leave it in the fridge overnight so it is nice and cooling.

Wallet Case for iPhone ($10)

Fits about 3 cards and a cute lil polaroid picture of your boyfriend (sup Pat). Also you can still stick a pop socket to it.

Heated / Vibrating Car Seat Cushion ($44)

This is a LIFE SAVER in a Midwest winter but also really nice if you take long drives.


Rope Hanging Wood Shelves for 2 ($24)

Kinda hard to hang but super cute.

Collapsible Kitchen Colander ($15)

Carbs.

Cavallini Papers ($25)

I love love love these as wall art. I have just the poster but I had to use the command strips so these allow you to keep them longer / move them.

Weighted Blanket ($69)

15 pounds is a lil too heavy, I would suggest like 5-7 but it is really nice for relaxation / can help with anxiety and insomnia.

Prints on Dictionary Page ($12)

Cute gift – there is a ton on Amazon.

16 Sheet Masks ($11)

Also good gift or to share!

Blue Light Block Glasses ($18)

Very good if you look at a computer screen a lot. They help by reducing eye strain and make your eyes less “tired”.

Crave Detangling Brush ($10)

A curly hair MUST.

Cute Blackout Curtains ($26)

Dead Sea Mud Mask ($12)

Good price and lasts forever. Has rave reviews.

Blind Spot Mirrors ($7)

I literally would not want to drive or parallel park without these.

Out Of Focus

Welcome back, baby! One thing I wanna do with this blog is showcase art, especially art I have an experience with. I love going to art museums for the peace and connection it brings me; I always try to read those little plaques next to the artwork to understand the artists and the context of the piece. I truly believe storytelling is so important. I used to scroll on tumblr looking at the art made by people my own age like it was a lil virtual gallery. I think the accessibility or transparency of art and the creative process behind it can give us a greater appreciation for it all, particularly for the artist themselves. For me it also helps break down the insecurity to also create because you end up realizing how human and messy the journey to the destination we end up seeing really is. I think the “ugly photo location” trend was a good example of this. It’s realistic and flawed and there is a lot of beauty in that. It’s why I love bands like The Maine who have shared the story of how some of their records were written, recorded, and produced even when it was difficult or just demos.

I have found vulnerability crucial to having deeper relationships with the people and environment around me. Even in the smallest, simplest ways.

I think this series will be a lot of things but today it is the tales of moments captured by the magic maker that is Audrey Lew. We have been internet pals since 2016, both hustling within the music industry in different ways while we were going to college. I would look for opportunities to use her photos in articles I was writing and it would always make me feel like my words were brought to life. As a writer I always strive to be as visually descriptive as possible but there is something about actually seeing the colors and expressions and everything captured that helps you feel there.

The first time me and Audrey ever got to hang out was last April. I had just moved to Chicago and the city was finally starting to thaw out. And so was I. Finally letting go of what was holding me back despite being terrified of what embracing change felt like. I was finally more afraid of not growing at all. So in a very metaphorical way the places we shot were perfect. The conservatory was this warm, welcoming, growing place full of life and potential and the promise of summer. A season I needed so desperately. And the Sky Deck, up high in the clouds in the middle of this city that was now my home. Only a layer of glass between me and the ground 1,450 feet below. The whole shoot I felt invincible for the first time in a long while. Days after that shoot I took the job I have now and gave myself permission to walk away from what was making me compromise my energy and self-love.  

Audrey was this donut loving ball of light from the internet that was somehow sweeter in person. It can be intimidating meeting people you know from “online” since people can just chose to just act friendly, so it is always a relief when you meet someone that is authentically themselves. The entire time we were waiting to take pictures we were catching up and people watching and just talking about how wild figuring out this whole 20s thing is which made me feel a lot less alone. As a photographer Audrey is the biggest hype woman, constantly giving feedback and advice to who she is shooting. I think she takes some of the best portraits because she makes people so comfortable even if they’ve never been in front of a lense before. So often when we try to capture ourselves we get caught up in our “flaws”, but when someone else really does try to capture us they tend to focus on the soul of us. Our light. Our expressions. And I think that can make us more confident and help put our self-image into perspective.

Sadly, me and Audrey went until January without seeing each other. But we both got away to the sunshine state of Arizona – escaping winter back east to be surrounded by friends and music during 8123 fest put on by The Maine. Since April we had both grown in so many ways. For me, I was finally in a mindset that was mostly happy and optimistic. We were both now standing on what felt like more stable ground, in pure relationships, with a sense of freedom and need for creativity that I feel like only really comes from knowing the opposite for some time. It’s such a relief to be able to feel and I remember feeling so much on that lil trip. The sun on my skin. The love of my friends. The feeling of being lucky enough to have someone to miss even when I was busy. The community created by authentic music rooted in transparency and passion. The sense that things still grow – even in the desert and winter. The words “You Are Okay”. We just wandered around this area of Phoenix catching up and smiling while Brenden helped hold our stuff (thanks). We found ourselves drawn to the same: flowers, pastel buildings, streets lined of palm trees, bright street art. They matched us so naturally and the whole thing was really on a whim with no planning right before the fest was starting. Casual magic. Ok expect Audrey’s editing is ACTUAL magic.

And now it’s March. Once again the world around us is thawing out. This time I went to Audrey in NYC. I was just so looking forward to exploring with no real plan. We met up at a neon store in SoHo, a place of technicolor lights amongst the white cast buildings. It’s nice just genuinely catching up with someone and falling right back into place. I am not a big texter, and I am learning that communication within friendships is different for everyone and I just value in person connection a lot more. And I appreciate that I have friends where we have that healthy dynamic of understanding we both have our own crazy day to day lives but when we are finally able to get together we get to be fully present.

I didn’t even expect her to have her camera but Audrey literally finds inspiration everywhere. Like a random theatre pop up off of Broadway or a hotel entrance way on Howard. It is enlightening to watch someone love what they do that much and that energy is so contagious. It reminded me how important it is to surround yourself with people who fill you, not drain you. Who constantly think in terms of collaboration not competition. To have people you can bounce ideas of off – going back to vulnerability; as any sort of creative it is easy to get caught up in our insecurities instead of presenting our art to people we trust in order to have that corrected. We need each other. Even if we live thousands of miles away, or met online; all this is valid. The images Audrey captured of me this day really are some of my favorite – partly because they are taken by a friend just doing what she loves and also because I know they captured me at a time where I think about the future with a heart full of potential instead of fear for the first time in a while.

Maybe you’ve seen these photos before on Instagram or Twitter and scrolled past or liked them but I hope hearing about everything going on around them bring some greater connection to our humanity or whatever. But really, social media is so quick and doesn’t usually offer context – you would have never known that first series of photos were taken as I was coming out of a very dark, anxious and unstable time. And I think it does help to know. So here it is – a bit out of focus – to give you some perspective and to help show that value behind having moments in your life captured by someone who wants to do that. Magic. I think it really can be magic.

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”
Paul Caponigro

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”
Paul Caponigro

Thanks Aud for helping capture my journey, pushing me creatively, putting a smile on my face, and helping me define what pure friendship can look like.

Follow her socials:

https://www.instagram.com/thatgrlaudrey

All Inquiries: audlewphotos@gmail.com

https://www.instagram.com/audlewadventures

Portfolio

Supermarket Meditation

Exhausted from building IKEA furniture (or trying to) (or watching my dad try to while handing him the wrong screws because why did they make so many types of screws) I realized I needed a MEAL. OK well a Wendy’s 4 for 4, but when you’re moving across the country anything not gas station snacks and a large Coke (not pop, sorry) kinda qualifies as a meal. I am an east coast rat through and through. I spent summers on the boardwalk eating snowballs, fall at pumpkin patches and corn mazes, winter sledding and waiting for snow days, and spring taking claritin everyday to try to survive lacrosse season. Eventually I was going to Philly or DC like every month, taking the hell of a thing that is the Greyhound bus to NYC (that is A WHOLE DIFFERENT STORY we just don’t have time for (but i can smell tuna just typing this), and just trying to be the best DJ / co-pilot I could. So the Midwest is a totally new concept to me.

I love the east coast. And i appreciate it so much more now. The gas stations in the north east are everything. I spent so many humid summer days walking to Royal Farms (see also: RoFo) for chewy ice and those dang western fries. I stopped before too many college classes to get slurpees. I don’t think me and my friends ever took a road trip without stopping at Wawa or Sheetz. Especially after a gig, you literally are required to go to whichever one is closer (or which one you prefer but like I am not trying to fight anyone on this especially you jersey kids i respect you but MAC N CHEESE bites come on!! And TOTZ ugh ok ok not now but listen I respect the Wawa teas hard).

So what is this about exactly? My first blog post and I am talking about…grocery stores, actually. That is right. Ok well kinda.

This is partially about my strong connection and adoration for the magic and culture that is Chicago grocery stores and how my (almost) year here in the windy city has been tied to them because I think it is just a really human thing to talk about and it can be kinda a relief to just feel really human.

Let’s go back to that first day. Early March ‘18. Me and my friend Jena went out to get Wendy’s but also decided we needed fruits or vegetables, but we got so much more. Pete’s Fresh Market. Their fresh produce boasted the most color I had seen in days. I explored through the bakery, the hot bar, the wine section, past the gelato and mochi, and through the check out to the sit down section. I remember – very distinctly – staring at a $6 loaf of fresh baked Brioche bread and thinking once I am making enough money I am going to buy this bread whenever I want.  

I moved to Chicago without a job which I cannot say I recommend. After starting to settle, I decided I needed to make some sort of money while I did interview after interview and cried from rejection after rejection. So I signed up for Instacart knowing nothing about the city and having had my driver’s license for all of 3 months. By some glitch in the matrix I was approved and was excited for what seemed like a very simple pickup then drop off situation. Wrong. My first day I ended up downtown on State and Lake crying in my car that I could not park for long enough to deliver 8 bags of Whole Foods to a 23rd floor apartment that had orange and lemon water sitting out for its residence. It was my hell. But I got up the next day determined to cheat the system and drove to the area I thought might send me to the pick up goal: Mariano’s.

Mariano’s quickly became my spot of choice. It had a community feel and the workers started recognizing me enough to put aside samples of cookies or milkshakes or muffins. I was relieved to be living off more than my savings account but there was something defeating about delivering bags of fresh groceries while I was trying to figure out if a can of soup could stretch to two meals. But I persisted, pulling over my lil red rocketship of a car to take phone calls about jobs I would not end up getting while other people’s dinners sat in my back seat.

It was the end of April when I finally got a job. And that first grocery trip after getting a real paycheck had me like a kid in a candy store, but thankfully I was more practical. I remember feeling guilty buying the name brand waffles. But it was my full circle moment, where I was like ok I made it this far. The food store was my safe haven. It’s where I would call home and give myself permission to admit when I did not have it all together – after all, these places have all already seen me at my worst. In pajamas listening to Post Malone out loud while struggling to car 8 bags to my car. It is where I could zone out and listen to podcasts or full albums as I wandered the aisles and people watched. And I think in retrospect the reason I keep going back for longer than necessary is because it is where I can feel the most human when I do feel so disconnected from myself and the world around me. Moms telling their kid to put the Oreos back. Couples trying to figure out who is buying the laundry detergent this time. Magazine covers with the latest headlines about politics and celebrities and tragedies. The flower section with arrangements for funerals and birthdays right next to each other. My therapist told me this was healthy, even if I cried in the chip section or started laughing to myself at misplaced items – a bag of lettuce in the ice cream fridge. I was connecting and feeling and thinking and being when I had been going numb for so long just going going going don’t stop don’t think too long to stop too long to feel it feel everything don’t be quiet too long to hear your thoughts don’t think too much about how you got here or how you’re doing or what come next just go go go and it is okay right it is okay because you don’t have time to realize it’s / you’re not ok…

Oh but that’s the problem – just because you’re not processing it mentally doesn’t mean it is not happening. And the thing with numbing the pain? You numb the good too. You don’t flinch at the sound of the door slamming or the glass shattering or the phone call ending but you also don’t feel your heart beat faster when your hand is touched and the sun is on your skin and the song starts with the beat coming through the floor. You don’t feel anything at all. And I never want to do that again. So much is going to hurt like hell but it’ll heal it’ll heal it’ll heal. You will hate watching them lose you but my God will you love finding yourself again. You won’t have to use rainy days as permission to feel and cry and scream. You will feel it all. You will be here and feel here and maybe even love it here and I hope so because it is where you’re supposed to be.

And if you ever need a break and or permission to stop and breathe for a second, I say go to the grocery store. Maybe try Cermak and learn about all the different international foods. Maybe go buy some daffodils from Trader Joes. Or try to find the best off brand name at Aldi. Life goes way too fast and we rarely get time to stop and check in with ourselves. As crazy as it may sound, the grocery stores in Chicago are what helped me adapt to this new and changing environment. Really it can be anything or anywhere that time just slows down a little. A record store. The passenger seat of a car. A gas station mart. And empty parking lot. A playground at night. A bowling alley. Wherever that is for you – don’t feel silly. We need the little things more than anything and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So there it is. Scatterbrained as ever blog post 1. I never wrote because I wanted to so much as that I have to – if you know, you know – it is just part of who I am. Hopefully some of what I share helps you or heals you or just makes you stop for a minute or maybe even teaches you something new. But I hope you feel. That’s what I hope. (and yeah my sign is Cancer see ya next week)

Barack Obama

“I miss Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, not shaving, getting into my car with my girls, driving to the supermarket, squeezing the fruit, getting my car washed, taking walks.”

*disclaimer: being able to grocery shop at all / where I do shop is a privilege