4.08.2015

Why I Quit New York


 lost myself a little when I became overwhelmed with the idealized version of what being successful at a young age looked like. Growing up I was a pretty well-rounded, creative kid. I invented worlds to conquer in my very own backyard, hosted talent shows for the neighborhood kids and performed songs I had written at local art gallery crawls. I took on new hobbies as they came to me and eventually broke out of my shy tendencies thanks to them. I didn't do all those things because I felt I had something to prove. I simply lived life with the belief if I dreamt it, I certainly was capable of accomplishing it and was lucky enough to have been raised in a family who supported that notion.

When I was studying in college I wanted to be really good at one thing so I made fashion a priority, majoring in just that. Since I was about 10, it had been my dream to move to the Big Apple and create a career for myself there. I was inspired by shows like What Not to Wear which showed me how a makeover could completely alter someone's self-confidence and revive their self-esteem. At 21 I stuck to my ambition and moved to New York City with the upmost optimism to pursue a career in fashion. For six months I put in the dirty work and worked humbly as an unpaid intern. There'd be days where I felt like a slave to fashion and others where I felt I had learned something of value I'd never forget. I had left the comfortable life I knew behind and spilled my guts out for a shot at making it big in a fast-paced, cut-throat industry. But somewhere along the way it all became less of a creative outlet and more of a mindless emotional bog I had pinned myself down to.

Finally, I was ready to move past the intern life so I found my way to Fifth Avenue, assisting clients with lives most of us only dream of. To put it in perspective, clients would leave with a pair of pumps to strut around the city in what literally cost more than two months of my rent (which trust me, is NOT cheap) all to be worn on grimy pavement. As I became more involved in participating in charitable work outside of my job, I grew more aware that what I was witnessing was the pieces I had so long admired as art being distorted into overpriced and frivolous consumptions. I like pretty things just as much as the next female, so a little splurge every now and then seemed reasonable (I'm not here to bash fine craftsmanship, which of course comes with a price tag), but watching the overindulgence by those of which who consumed on a more regular basis had me thinking "when will you be satisfied?" And when would I say enough is enough? While many women I came across were kind and seemingly more down to earth, the ones who came in weekly to bury their insecurities and loneliness under Gucci are what made me truly realize that designer doesn't buy happiness, it just suffocates the problem and believe it or not, even Jimmy Choo soles wear down eventually.

photo cred: mountainsoftravelphotos.com
But how could I walk away from one of the most prestigious avenues in the world without feeling like I was a complete idiot for having given up a taste of a life of luxury? And should I have been embarrassed I was rocking some reasonably priced TJ Maxx designer? Well first, before I made any rash decisions, I had to consult with the big man upstairs. Yep, you know the One. So, when I was trying to gather my thoughts I made an effort every day during lunch to find my own space (typically a large rock to sit on) in Central Park and we had a meeting. I thought of it as my sanctuary upon the rock where I could let the endless demands of the day melt away. It helped me begin to envision the kind of person I saw myself as in two years if I had remained right where I was like expected of me. To be honest, I didn't like that girl. She was out of touch with reality and was willing to starve herself to fit in to that D&G gown. But me, I had always been a meat and potatoes kind of gal with a little curve I wasn't keen on shaming. I had always seen fashion as a daily opportunity for self-expression, a way to help others feel good about themselves, and a tool to show one's best self to the world. But I was coming to the realization that I had surrounded myself with successful people who, astoundingly, I didn't want to become like after all. Not that I didn't want success, I just craved more substance, so I respectfully made my exit. From there I continued to work on projects on a freelance basis and kept fighting. Because if you want something bad enough, especially in New York, you've got to fight for it every day. And I wasn't ready to give up on what I thought the fashion industry should be.

While all the glamour seems well...glamourous, there's a lot of dirty work that goes in to making people look great, trust me. All of this had me realizing there's a fine line between having fun dressing yourself and others up and believing the latest designer handbag is going to fill a much deeper void than your empty pockets (not to get preachy, but only He can mend that void). That acquiring more and more things will present yourself to others as being more successful, more attractive, more desirable. And in some ways it will, but only temporarily. All over the city there is this heightened desire to work harder, earn more, buy more and repeat. While flattered, I was not interested in taking the invitation to an exclusive material girl club that only serves Evian. I wanted to be beautiful in a way that doesn't fade, a way that inspires other girls to fight for what they believe in too, because the real strength comes from the woman who's wearing the clothes. Clothes are nothing until someone lives in them and creates memories.

Gif cred: The Devil Wear Prada
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. New York has helped me become the tough-but-grounded chick I wanted to be. It's taught me diligence, faithfulness and most importantly, it's given me my story. Because I'm more than a city. I'm more than legs in a skirt. New York is really just a state of mind and something you can carry in your heart. This is why I'm quitting New York.

Not completely, of course I'll visit. But I've decided I'm taking what I've learned with the upmost gratitude and moving on to, dare I say, greater things. Why the sudden shift? It hit me when I was last at home visiting that the life I so wanted to break free from upon graduating is calling me back as if to say, "I'm not done with you, there's something for you here." I guess you could say I've had a change of heart. This is why I've decided to move back south to Charlotte, NC. I didn't think I'd ever say that, but I think that when something calls you that wasn't in your plan, you've got to listen. I suppose when you're being shifted in a new direction it can come without warning and will have you reexamining everything. In my case, my revelation had hit like a ton of bricks.

Did I personally want to be 30, single, living with roommates and living from paycheck to paycheck, all while being consumed by work? NO. But it seemed inevitably this is the kind of life I was setting myself up for. And the truth is, I'm ready to work towards building a home, I want to have a backyard and I want to use my talents to help people see their true potential. I don't want to miss out on being a part of my nieces' and nephew's growing up and I'm waaay over spending so much time traveling underground via dirty subway stations.

I'm embracing change and believing in new possibilities. I believe everything happens for a reason and taking risks is what makes life interesting.

I'm a dreamer, a hopeful romantic and learning the growing importance of not letting those who touch my life go without knowing they do so. I'm not perfect and I'll never claim to be. At times I'm broken but I believe vulnerability is a form of beauty and a part of the healing. My past is not my burden, but serves as a reminder of my strength. I am in control of my reality and I choose happiness.


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