Life Update: Aikin to Yates

It’s Gonna Be May

First things first… I finally got married on May 4, 2021 and everything turned out amazingly beautiful. Everyone had fun, it was everything I could have hoped for. Married life is awesome, but here are some mountains we’ve climbed shortly after we tied the knot.

Lost Job Turned Promotion

That’s right. The week after the wedding went along the lines of something like this: I was trying to get some help at work for my health issues, when I had come to find out that my position would not exist in about a month. So my options were either apply within the company for a new position or take a demotion. I quickly applied for a new position within the company, and shortly received an email from the building manager asking me if I had to for a quick visit. I went over to a building I had never been in before for the interview, and received the job offer a few days later – which I eagerly accepted. I then trained half a day in my new building and spent the other half at my old building. By June 1st, I started my promotion and a few months later I still love my job.

Mini Vacay Turned Nightmare

Before we went on our “mini-moon” or mini honeymoon – my dog, Sugar, (one of my Shih Tzu) wasn’t feeling so well and there was blood in her urine. My mother-in-law encouraged us to leave for our mini-moon, that she would take Sugar to the vet while we were gone. The vet found that Sugar had two bladder stones the size of hard boiled eggs and had to have emergency surgery to get them removed. She came home for one night before my in-laws had to take her back to the vet the next day. This was going on while we were on our trip.

We got a call Monday morning, my mother-in-law was crying and I knew Sugar had passed. Before we got that call… Let me explain something, I saw her in what I call my “happy place.” In my subconscious, my happy place is the house that I grew up in, it’s where I’ve visited loved ones who have passed away. So seeing Sugar there, I was confused – I thought she was there because I was so worried about her. In my happy place, we played and had a good time; I gave her treats and lots of hugs and kisses. Then I woke up, and we got the call a few minutes later.

On the way home, I called my sister and my dad to tell them what happened (I had already told my mom as soon as I got the call.) On the drive back, I had decided to order a pillow with sugars photo on Esty. Once we got back, not having Sugar there to greet us made it all real. We went to the vet, said goodbye to the sweetest fur baby I’d ever had the pleasure to call mine.

House Hunting

Let’s just face it, the house market is trash right now. Mainly for first time home buyers, anything thing we can afford is in a bad neighborhood, bad condition or we get out bid. Needless to say, the house hunt is to be continued… stay tuned.

Phrases to Push You Forward

Each day I come closer to better understanding myself. Every day, I get a better idea as to what truly motivates me, what truly peeves me, and most of all how to cope with these realizations and apply them to being a better version of myself. I’ve found that self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

I mean, Sheryl Crow says it best, “Everyday Is a Winding Road”

Most recently, I’ve grasped that niceties, frequent compliments, telling me, “Awe it’s going to be okay” – none of that motivates me, none of that means anything to me. It will go in one ear and out the other, the same as when someone apologizes to me. When someone apologizes to me, just the simple word, “sorry” has me shut down. I’m not listening to you anymore, I’m taking your words with a grain of salt, they mean nothing. You’re sorry? Cool story, bro.

I’ve understood that I’m very actions-based (my love language is acts of service obvi), and the only time words motivate me are when they’re unexpected or blunt. But nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do it.

Some phrases in particular, mantras if you will, that I’ve found myself saying on a loop in my head, that push me forward:

Pick your pain.

This phrase comes from Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I read this book in January and this is the phrase that has stuck with me since. When I’m having an exceptionally terrible day, thinking about quitting everything and shipping off to live off the land as a hermit… I remind myself that pain, hinderance, it’s everywhere. It’s the biggest sign of life. You can’t get away from it, but you can pick the pain you want, choose which pain is most manageable.

I usually follow up this mantra with, “The devil you know.”

Cheat death.

This came from graffiti I saw on my way to work one day. I was having a super rough morning, one of those, “I need to take a mental health week…” type of days, and there was something about seeing this phrase that just gave me the kick in the ass I needed that day. Like hell yeah, let’s cheat death today, gurl.

I’m doing it for me.

There are times when someone takes ages to complete a task, and I’ll find myself annoyed AF and just do it for them. I’m pissed the whole time, adolescently slamming things and huffing as I do it, “Why am I doing this for them, they don’t do it for me.” Then one day it just clicked: They’re not doing it for me, and I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing the damn thing for me. In order to make myself more at peace, this task needs done ‘now’ – so I will do it just to bring myself some peace.

Sometimes I need to make a selfless situation feel selfish in order to boost my mood, it is what it is.

No one’s coming.

I recently came across this video about parenting yourself and it hit hard, because it’s true. As an adult, no one is going to come and force you to go on a walk, force you to go to bed at a certain time, and no one is going to tell you that microwavable mac and cheese is not dinner. No one is going to just automatically come and help you. And I’m not telling you that you’re alone in life, but if you do need help you have to ask for it.

It’s not personal.

I’ve typically always taken everything personally. If someone says an idea I have is stupid, I think that they’re telling me I’m stupid. If someone yells at me on the phone, because of something I can’t control, 8 times out of 10 I’ll start crying because they’re yelling at me. But it’s taken a long time, and I’m still working on it, to just not take things personally. Almost everything that anyone does, isn’t personal to you but it is personal to them – so leave it that way.

Not everything is about you. You aren’t stupid, but maybe your idea isn’t as well thought out as you envisioned (and that’s okay.) The person screaming at you on the phone is definitely just mad at the situation it puts them in – it has nothing to do with you (they don’t even really know you.)


What’s important is to understand what type of communication is most effective for you, the above phrases may be completely toxic to you and get you in a negative headspace. You have to sort that out for yourself. I’ll say it again: self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

A Meditation for spider body

I miss you, my darling

For the world is waking up

I no longer feel like I need to make apologies anymore

I thought my heart died alongside him

I thought other people were the inspiration for why I made up words,

But it’s radically becoming obvious- I am in tune with myself and the way my legs are spread like a spider every day upon waking up.

My thighs are one with my cushion

and everything is rooted

breathing once or twice

Thinking of the power of my body

where I so tightly held my fear

the fear of the cartilage in my kneecaps

would slowly disappear

but my security was restored after my mother outlined what I thought was missing and mysterious bone, and she told me it would be okay.

It’s going to be okay!

The fact I think I’m in love again, but yet I have the grace to understand I’m in love with the visible petals on the flower right now-

but his dirt and roots are what I’m attracting to.

I’m never more in love

or aware of gardening and growth metaphors

Until I can feel my own stomach growl,

Because I know what she needs

and I’m waking up to finding the energy to sustain

the power I hold in my own body and mind.

Physical attraction and the sleepy satisfaction

of realizing the weight of my own body on the bed,

and the thoughts-

and silent prayers of appreciation said in ten minute increments,

and the imaginary trace of his presence,

perhaps maybe on a good day of which I will decide,

he may get a glimpse of who I was and who I am-

My body is mine

She’s free again from the weight of sadness and criticism, but she still prepares for waves of grief

and holds gratitude for the vices of yesterday I put in it.

Moving forward exists in the faith I am now putting in it,

to guide me to yet another time and place

of where time and intimacy and touch,

and confessions on an ordinary Thursday night

where I thank him,

but only after I thank myself,

for validating the sappiness within the heart,

and gratitude for the satisfaction of living again.

Immortalizing the Days: March

So March is over?

As mentioned in my January article, for 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gives me a little thing to look forward to each day and is the little push on certain days to just do. Then it becomes fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what March looked like for me, I’d title it, “Moody March” beware those ides, am I right?

. . .

The next fun adventure on my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday.

You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough.

Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm, maybe a new song that struck a chord with me, or a perhaps there was a day so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day. March starts with Shut Me Up by Mindless Self Indulgence (LOL)

. . .

Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 4/1/21:

So, uh, my playlist got SUPER weird this month – so if you’re following the music journey with me… I have no explanation other than it was a moody, angsty month.

The video? Vibes. This month was so busy, there was a lot of times I nearly forgot to take a video (which maybe is a fun sign of life.) Either way, there’s been a lot of learning curves I’ve taken at full speed, I got a title change (aye-oh), and honestly – I feel like I’ve been in a constant state of yikes. Sum of March: I need a vacaaaaaaaaaaay.

Five things learned in March:

  • If you can’t handle the heat, there is no shame in leaving the kitchen
  • Early birds are not better people than night owls. Just because someone is a morning person, it doesn’t automatically make them better at life or adulting than you, my dear night owl. If anything, it just means their freak outs start hours earlier 😉
  • Stop trying to make flourless banana bread happen. You remembered the banking soda and it’s still weird, but not in a good way.
  • If you don’t take yourself seriously, how do you expect others to?
  • You always have more people rooting for you than you think. It’s easy to think the world is out to get you, but don’t forget about your secret cheerleaders, prayer warriors, and vibe senders – they got you.

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Wedding Planning: COVID Edition

“…they can eat corn dogs and sit in their cars.” ~ Iliza Shlesinger Unveiled Netflix special

That’s pretty much how I feel right about now when it comes to wedding planning. It’s overpriced, overrated and would not recommend. One star. Before I go any further talking about wedding planning during the second part of a global pandemic, let me go back to August 2019.

The Proposal: August 31, 2019

Eric and I have been together a little over a year and a half. I had moved in with his family the month before, right after my parents had moved to Florida and I had started a contract job hoping it would lead to a full time position (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

At some point, one of Eric’s family friends had given us tickets for a cruise on the Belle of Louisville which we had been saving for a fun date night. He finally had a Saturday off, so we seized the day and got ready for a day on the river. We didn’t have the lunch cruise ticket, so we got some snacks on the concessions and ate lunch – we’re pretty low maintenance.

We were sight seeing on the boat and I was talking about angles for photos, when he abruptly told me I might what to put away my phone. I turned around and there he was on one knee, proposing to me with my mom’s ring. I was so happy, I immediately said yes. Then I FaceTimed with my parents a few minutes later and then my little sister when she was on break; I just could not contain my excitement.

When we got back to the house, we drank sparkling juice and went out to lunch to celebrate, our friend Libby (who gave us the tickets for Belle of Louisville) came out with us to celebrate the news. I soon found out the story of how he had asked my parents permission about five months earlier, I was so happy and touched. We then told our remaining family and friends before we made the official announcement on social media later that day.

The Planning

The original wedding date would be our three year dating anniversary, January 2, 2021. That would give us a year and a half to save up. Then March 2020 happened: COVID came to Kentucky.

I was unemployed for almost six months when I started a retail position at the end of March; so I had to train for a new job while being six feet away – which is probably as awkward and effective as it sounds. Through all of the societal changes though, we were still planning the wedding as usual. Hoping things would be better as it got closer.

During the summer, we had our original plan and a back up plan in case COVID was still a thing come 2021 (Spoiler alert: it is.) I was having a Sunday call with Mom, she could tell I was overwhelmed and stressed about essentially planning two weddings. So Eric and I talked and we decided in October we would make the call if we should move the wedding to a new date or not.

October came and we decided on May the Fourth for our wedding day, for obvious reasons – the wedding and reception is Star Wars themed. So having the wedding on May the Fourth (aka Star Wars day) made sense and felt serendipitous. We decided to have the reception that following Saturday. I know this means I would have to do hair, make up, wear my dress and all that jazz twice, but we have to adapt.

We decided to have a small in-person ceremony and live stream it for our other guests. I created a group for the virtual wedding on Facebook and I created an account on a streaming app. Then I just share the link so guests can sign up for notifications on when it starts. (Reach out if you want pointers on how to do this!)

The Nightmares

THE VENUE

We had three venues we liked. The Louisville Planetarium, my church, and the Olin Guest House. The planetarium still isn’t open, due to COVID they may not open until the fall or spring of next year. The church will be in the middle of remodeling during that time. So luckily we still have the guest house.

THE FOOD

I am so tired about hearing about issues with food. Yes, I want people to have good food. I wanted a pasta bar, well there was an issue with people not wanting to get red sauce on their nice clothes. I compromise and say, okay I’m doing a taco bar. No body wants to eat finger foods at a wedding reception. Mexican food and pasta are my favorite foods (not at the same time though.) Here’s my thought… eating food can be messy, accidents happen sometimes people spill food on selves and that’s why it’s called accident. You can be the cleanest person and still have a drop of queso on your shirt, it happens.

THE NEW SOCIAL RULES

I think this speaks for itself, *ahem* CDC guidelines.

What I’ve Learned Throughout This Mess

You can’t make everyone happy. It’s our day, I want to do want makes us happy. And this experience pointed out it’s important to be flexible and I’ve learned to adapt, like really adapt, to challenging situations. In the end it’s about Eric and I getting married and wanting to spend the rest of our lives together, not the venues or food. I just want to be happy and have a good time. That’s all.



Evolution: Embrace It

“People don’t change,” whispers a scornful, bitter friend.

We’ve all been told vehemently that people don’t change, “If they sucked then, they’ll suck now,” and all that yada yada. Which in all fairness is true for some people – some people really do just suck (forever), but for the vast majority of the population: we are not doomed to suck forever.

To be the same forever goes against the grain; we aren’t meant to rinse and repeat our entire lives. This isn’t to denounce routine by any means, but it is to embrace growth. You shouldn’t be the same person you were at 17, or even the same person you were last year. Every day lessons should be learned, every day we should be striving to be better than yesterday.

When you move to New York, the first thing that people will tell you is to remember that there is always someone better.

This is meant as a warning that the dating scene is hard because in the back of your mind (and your date’s mind) is the lingering thought, “Hmmm… is there someone better? Is this investment worth it?” Not to mention the whole competitive job scene has an underlying tone that you are replaceable (which isn’t necessarily a lie.) But it’s true, in life there is always someone better, but there is always someone worse too. It’s a double-edged sword.

So let’s take that knowledge introspectively: there is always a worse version of myself and a better version, and it’s in the power of the present version of myself to decide how I pan out.

To break that down, lately before I do something mildly destructive I audibly tell myself, “Girl, don’t do that to future you. Don’t put her through that. Don’t give her chores for later.”

The tendency to coddle our present self is in and of itself: self-destructive.

Present you is already having a bad day, case closed. Done. Past you already wasn’t equipped to deal with it, so what are you going to do for future you? How are you going to try to set her up better, make her more equipped to handle a similar mess in the future? How are you going to e v o l v e from this?

If you don’t evolve, if you reject the universe telling you that your current state of being is not sustainable – you are doomed to rinse and repeat. If you don’t learn from the bad day, that bad behavior, or that explosive encounter with someone more woke than you – then these things will always happen to you like groundhog day. You will get stuck.

Change is an old friend that comes when you least expect it.

Sometimes we get to embrace the change with open arms, but other times… the change is too much and not our cup of tea. That being said, we all change way more than we give ourselves credit for. Just last week I was able to talk myself out of hitting snooze everyday simply by asking myself, “Will the ten extra minutes change your day? Is it worth it?” Each day it was a clear answer, the snooze was not hit and I got out of bed earlier than usual.

But this week, I’ve not seen the same rationale and argued that yes, ten more minutes will actually make or break my day. Yet instead of that extra ten minutes domino-effecting my morning, I cling to the beneficial mindset I made last week and make compromises. Meaning if I sleep longer then this is how my routine will get altered, etc. Really, I’m refusing to allow myself to ‘sleep in’ without holding myself accountable for the effect it will have on the rest of my morning.

So you see, the person I was last week, I’m not her today, not completely. The person I was last year? Don’t know her. This is to say, if you knew me in high school or even college, and our friendship didn’t withstand the test of time: you don’t know me, nor I, you.

“You’ve changed,” whispers a scorned, bitter friend.

“Funny how that happens, isn’t it?” I say with a smile.


Dropping this Affirmations playlist as a reminder to embrace your evolution, but also don’t be too hard on yourself today ❤


The Universe Screams Perception

Perception. Life is all about perception.

You know that weird thing that happens where the universe starts to send you the same message over and over again, but it takes the third, fourth, or millionth time for the message to actually come through? The message finally hits home hard enough, reverberating in your mind, and you finally say to yourself and the universe, “Okay, okay – I get it…

Lately the universe has been screaming out one word to me: Perception.

Where it started:

Late at night, as I’m trying to go to sleep, my brain loves to torture me with embarrassing things I’ve done throughout my life, dangle the tasteless words I’ve spouted at others, and really just hammer in that I’m a terrible, heartless person. After I hear a dizzying bout of my own words, I then take a deep dive into a vicious wave pool of the hurtful things friends and family have said to me (or about me) throughout my life, “Nobody really knows who you are,” “You don’t have much of a personality,” “You’re a two-faced bitch,” “You’re soulless,” all of which effectively drive the point home.

Yet, as I flail about the torrent of self-loathing, I take a minute to refocus – to reel it back in. None of that matters, what matters is where I am now. Not the big picture macro-now, I mean the micro-now. I focus on the task at hand: relaxing and getting some rest. I remind myself that the past is done, those people probably don’t remember these moments anyway. In this precise moment the past doesn’t matter, only the micro-now matters.

Where it went:

Nobody really knows who you are.” This is the late night phrase that has been sticking to me like static-y cellophane throughout even the daylight hours. I’ve just had a hard time shaking it lately. This was something casually said to me in high school by an incredibly close friend. They said it offhand, and I remember being completely jarred by it.

I always felt a tad out of place in high school, all of those kids had grown up together, I randomly showed up freshman year and most people assumed I was older because they didn’t know me. But a little over halfway into my high school career, I had become involved enough to genuinely feel like I was leaving some kind of footprint with my classmates, and like I was becoming a part of this general air of familiarity carried between these hundreds of kids.

Then my friend made that statement and it completely altered the perception I had of myself. My gut reaction to their statement was that they were wrong. But my audible response to them was, “Well, I still don’t really know most people anyway, so that’s fine.”

But it wasn’t fine. That one offhand, careless statement made by a friend… I gave those words so much power that they still have a hold over how I see myself in the eyes of others. Consistently throughout my life, well since sophomore or junior year of high school, I have always assumed people don’t know me. All because a trusted friend, an ally in life, told me so.

Where it’s going:

What has been most difficult lately is trying to understand why that memory decided to resurface so fiercely and persistently. Why has it been the ringing in my ears? Is the universe trying to communicate something to me?

Then today, the universe screamed its violent message at me, using my cousin as a catalyst. My cousin posted a video and somewhere in there she said, “Everyone in the world has a different perception, even if they’re seeing the exact same thing.” What’s comical is that this message from the universe landed like an edible – aka an hour later.

An hour after watching my cousin’s video, I sat up in a stark realization: I let the perception of another impact my own perception of myself. Which is incredibly unfortunate, I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed due to this lack of clarity in myself? So within the time I’ve been writing this article, I’ve been tumbling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of realizations. Most importantly, I’ve come to understand that I stopped believing that friend’s statement long ago, their words have not been my truth for quite sometime now.

Since moving to New York and starting my career nearly four years ago, I’ve slowly been coming into my own power and understanding the impact that my voice can have. I have come to understand that I am incredibly capable of commanding a room, that I have an infallible confidence if I so call upon it, and that I have the power to decide whether I am noticed or whether I hide. I am in charge of the perception I project – whether it’s yours or mine.

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Immortalizing the Days: February

Well you guys, February is a wrap… which means I’ve got a video & some lessons learned to share with y’all.

As mentioned in my January article, for 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gives me a little thing to look forward to each day and is the little push on certain days to just do. Then it becomes fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what February looked like for me, I’d title it, “The Wintry Month of Growth”

. . .

The next fun adventure on my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday.

You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough.

Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm that day, or a new song that struck a chord with me, or a day that was so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day. February starts with Ready Now by Dodie 🙂

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Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 2/28/21:

So, I’m still smitten with my playlist. Now if you remember from my January article, that video had me feeling lame and dejected. Well when watching this video, I found that I actually felt quite impressed with myself this month. As I mentioned in this article, February is when my seasonal depression is always at its peak and only travel can really dull the SAD. So I’ll be incredibly honest, since I didn’t travel anywhere this month, I’ve been struggling to the max and feeding the depressive beast. Which is why looking back and watching my February moments, I’m impressed with myself. Through the despair I’ve felt, I still managed to hardcore create and cleanse – which that SAD beast typically doesn’t allow for.

Five things learned in February:

  • Adapt to the directness of others.
    • It’s so easy to shut down when someone is painfully direct with you about problems or things that you do that are bugging them. But don’t shut down, just listen and return the directness. Whether it’s with a, “Woah man you’re coming in a bit hot here, can you tone it down? Your aggression is actually kind of upsetting me…” or something like, “Wow, yeah okay I hear you. Thanks for being direct, this sets the tone and now I feel I can be more open with you as well.”
  • If you want something, just ask for it. It’s better to be annoyed by rejection than beating yourself up for years to come and have regrets about never asking.
  • Flourless banana bread is weird, but easy to make. Don’t forget the baking soda next time… maybe it will taste better.
  • Don’t impose the standards you hold yourself to onto others.
  • Some people will never understand, and that’s fine. Don’t take it personally nor judge them for it.

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Getting the Weight Off My Chest

I have big boobs, but a little over a year ago I had BIG BOOBS. I was in the 8th grade when I got to the point where without a bra, I was in absolute agony and holding my arms tightly over my chest all day. And they only got larger from there. I wore a size C bra until I was a junior in high school, and it took an entire day to find a store that could measure me appropriately. My life up until a year ago was horrific when it came to anything that was going to be covering my chest: bras, bikini tops, t-shirts, button up shirts. Nothing fit correctly.

I assume at this point you’re asking for just a *crumb* of context, wondering, “How big were you? It couldn’t have been that bad…” and “Dating must have been easy! Guys must have been all over you, right?” Well, it’s these assumptions I’ve come to put in the same dumpster as my titties before I set it on fire.

First of all, let’s explain how big I was versus how big I am now.

I recently discovered a boob-to-pancake batter calculator, so we’re going to do it that way.

From the age of 13 to 25, I was carrying around the equivalent of 86 pancakes on my chest every day. Can you even fathom that many pancakes? I know I can’t. Now imagine, a young teenager, only five foot three inches, stumbling around the halls of junior high, with all of those hormones and angst and cringe… but now she’s carrying 86 pancakes worth of batter in a fanny pack. Not only does that sound horrifically embarrassing, but it’s just down-right cumbersome.

I’m now only carrying around a svelte 86 pancakes, which an adult body can carry better than young teen. It’s still way too many pancakes, but it is infinitely more manageable.

Here’s the chart so you can find out the grotesque amount of pancakes you carry around daily:

You would think that any well-meaning adult would want a young child to carry around an appropriate amount of pancakes, right? Wrong. I can’t tell you how many GROWN ASS WOMEN would tell me, “Oh, people pay good money for what you have!” or, “At least let them catch you a man first” or, “You’re so lucky; I wish I had boobs, but I’m so flat!”

I was literally a child, wearing ill-fitting bras that hurt me and left scars on my torso, or I was spending a whole measly Pizza Hut paycheck on a $66 bra, because at the time, there were no cheap options for people like me. I had to special-order my bikini tops from Britain. I longed to shop in the bra section at Kohl’s, but I had to trek my ass thirty mins away to the FancyPants Mall in Richpeoplestan to go to a freakin’ Nordstrom’s in order to buy something that would only scar me a little bit.

While my friends got to buy phones and video games and eat out after school everyday, I was saving money so I could have a backup bra for when mine wore out because my bra was carrying around 86 sweaty pancakes incased in meat sacks everyday. I wore a sports bra to bed at night because if I didn’t I WOULD SAG. I was 16 and if I didn’t wear a bra 24/7 I would look like a 68-year-old who burned her bra in the 70’s and didn’t care that her nips touched her knees.

But as a 16-year-old I cared quite a bit, if you can imagine. Not to mention, if I went bra-less and had to walk up stairs or move any faster than a walk… my boobs would cause black eyes for everyone in the tristate area.

This also made dress shopping an actual nightmare. I wanted to wear cute dresses that were strapless, or had fun open backs, or literally anything other than a tank top with thick straps, but it was not to be. I wore the same style of dress to everything, and while I still looked cute, I missed out on all the sassy clothes only teens can pull off.

In the picture below, where I’m in the car, notice the rut in my shoulder from the plastic clear strap of the bra I was wearing, which was four cup-sizes too small for me. I adopted the pin-up girl look, because those A-line designs were the only thing that didn’t make me look like a boob with legs. In the rock climbing picture, I’m wearing a bra that fits, but you can still see just how aggressive those things were on my chest. It honestly probably made my rock climber’s shoulder worse than it would have been. The last photo is of one of my many underwire scars from the night before my surgery.

. . .

The worst thing about having big boobs, for me at least, was how difficult they made it for me to do the things I loved to do.

I stopped riding horses and rock climbing. Rock climbing had extra challenges because my torso was three inches farther from the rock face than everyone else’s. Paired with the fact that I’m so short, it was kind of a wonder I was able to climb up to 5.10 when I was climbing regularly.

I didn’t realize how much I loved to be outside and active until after I had four pounds of tissue removed from my chest. Four pounds of pressure on my upper back that I no longer had to deal with– four pounds lighter to move around with more ease, and probably two inches slimmer in my chest. Clothes aren’t a pain in the ass anymore, at least no more so than they are for other women in general.

I get that women who are “flat-chested” want boobs, and that they would look at me and think how perfect my life must be because I have such great boobs. But it’s the same thing as hair; if you have straight hair you want it curly, and vice versa.

I know if I had started out flat that I most certainly would have envied some women and their chesticles, but let me tell you that it stops being fun and flirty at a point and starts being a literal pain in your back.

Before my surgery, I woke up everyday at a four on the pain scale and went to bed at a six. EVERYDAY. From the age of 12, my back ached constantly. I rarely took pain killers because I was so used to the pain that it didn’t seem worth it to get the few hours of reprieve, especially when I knew it would just come back and feel worse once everything wore off. My surgeon was floored that I was just now getting a reduction at 25, seeing as I had been enduring pain like that since I was 12.

To top this whole catastrophe off, I’ll answer the last question: No, my boobs did not get me boyfriends.

They only garnered me the unwanted attention of men, because especially for younger men, the bigger the boob the bigger the slut until proven otherwise. By the time a guy knew me well enough to know that I was just the unfortunate nerd host to these sentient meat sacks of pain, I was no longer a sexual interest, but also not even a romantic one. It seemed that once I was one, I couldn’t be the other to a lot of guys.

I remember one of the football players in high school that was in my journalism class had pulled me aside one day and abruptly apologized for what the football team was saying about me. I hadn’t heard anything, so I asked what he was talking about, to which he nervously looked down quickly and whispered, “You know, about your… boobs.” I had not heard what the football team was saying about me, but I’m guessing that I’m glad I didn’t. I thanked him, and I thank him everyday for being so considerate of someone he barely knew over the people he played and worked with everyday.

I didn’t start dating until I was 22, and I think my boobs had a lot to do with that. Not that my love life is on fire now, but I think that I had integrated my boobs into my personal identity, and I knew what type of attention they drew to me. So I tended to steer clear of romantic and sexual attention, preferring to sit like the heroine of a YA novel – waiting to be swept off my feet by three different men while I saved the world from, I don’t know, zombie rabbits, or something.

My big take away from my year with less boob is this: a singular body part should not define who you are.

It should not be so deeply ingrained in your psyche as “a part of you” that it keeps you from doing the things you love to do. A body part shouldn’t effect your dating life or draw unwanted attention from people simply because it’s there. And you shouldn’t have to listen to people telling you to keep a part of yourself that is causing you harm, simply because others would “love to have that” or “wish they could have that.”

You should be able to remove, or add, the things to your body that you need for your survival, both physically AND mentally, whether that be adding insulin, removing a tumor, or adding boobs. So take that statement where you want to take it, because you deserve to feel like you.

. . .

Somewhere in Rainbows

My parents met in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University in the mid 90’s. My mom was in a sorority, my dad a fraternity and they hit it off at a Greek mixer. I came into existence in 1995, they subsequently dropped out of university and moved to Louisville to raise little ol’ me. Two and a half years after I was born, my sister came into the picture, and a year or so after that my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Kentucky, but my mom needed to move to Indiana to be closer to my aunt and nana.

Every other weekend, every summer, and alternating holidays would be spent at my dad’s in Kentucky (this schedule not strictly followed as I got older) and all schooling would take place in Indiana. The driving distance between my parents was a lengthy three hours; which is short enough to be doable, but long enough to be slightly painful. The divorce wasn’t easy on anyone. It was never a smooth, simple thing. It was uncomfortable and it always felt like someone was deeply hurting more than the other, no one ever on the same wavelengths, and everyone seemingly took turns over-vocalizing the pain in what was usually not the most constructive way. Essentially, none of us made it through unscathed.

When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my mom soon found the Catholic elementary school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson, that seemed like the best fit. Quickly upon starting school, I was also signed up for this afterschool program called Rainbows which took place every Tuesday. A few other kids and myself would all get a ride over to the slightly larger Catholic school in town, we’d dash out of the car for bomb milk and cookies, then talk about our feelings for an hour or so in small groups.

Pretty quickly, all of us kids realized the common denominator between us was that we all lacked a nuclear household.

Rainbows created this community of kids and a safe space that essentially validated our feelings. All of them, every single emotion we felt… we were told it was normal.

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember nearly any of the particulars in those little lessons we had within the small group talks. I was in Rainbows for years, yet I genuinely don’t remember what we talked about each week. I just vaguely remember the constant undertone of reassurance that nothing was our fault, which I understand is a common thing for kids with divorced parents to feel. Though I did (and do) feel responsible for my parents marriage, never in my life have I ever felt to blame for my parents divorce.

The primary memories that stick out from Rainbows are the relationships that it created. There were so many adults that felt (and still feel) like an extension of family, and the best friends I had in that lifetime have transcended into adulthood. All of the friendships, even the ones that didn’t quite withstand the test of time, were/are priceless and heavily impacted my life. They’re the people who just got it. It’s always felt like yes, we’re all in our own boats, but we’re still in the same ocean weathering similar storms.

Rainbows encouraged a deep level of empathy.

We were this group of mismatched kids, varying in age, personality types, and all with different stories: some kids lost a parent, some lived with grandparents, some parents were divorced but still lived close to each other (these were the ones I was most jealous of), some kids didn’t know one of their parents at all – the list goes on. Yet throughout the lessons, we were made to feel that yes, our situation sucks and our story may seem harder than the person’s next to us, but that doesn’t invalidate that person’s pain.

All pain is valid, we are not here on this Earth to decide who gets to feel and what it is they feel.

. . .

In deciding to write this article, I googled Rainbows for the first time ever. Finding out that Rainbows was founded by a woman was not surprising, but it did bring a smile to my face (#girlpower). Rainbows, actually fully named Rainbows for All Children, was founded in the mid 70’s by Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys. She was devastated when her marriage ended and found solace in a support group. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her sons could also greatly benefit from such a group, but her search for this came up empty. Thus, Rainbows for All Children was born.

“Working with other concerned parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for the children in single parent homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. Suzy knew more needed to be done. She started working on a curriculum, the foundation of Rainbows for All Children, for children who experienced loss. The curriculum was designed to provide grieving elementary school children with an understanding of their new family unit, to help build a sense of self-esteem and to give them the tools to properly cope with their loss.”

Rainbows for All Children

. . .

Ultimately, it seems Suzy understood that relying on a child’s resiliency isn’t always the best or only answer. Just because kids have the ability to quickly bounce back on their own, doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices to do so. I mean, think about it: why do adults go to therapy? Typically to finally unpack all of that compartmentalized childhood trauma. So when you think your kid is “getting over it” and “bouncing back” – it’s possible that they’re really just saving that pain for later.

Rainbows is very much still operating today – head to their website to learn more!

Finding My Green Thumb

I come from a family of green thumbs. My nana’s house has always felt just a few steps away from becoming a greenhouse with wispy vines flowing down shelves, succulents covering the window sill, and stalks of bamboo or money trees as table centerpieces. My mom has a love of botany and we frequently planted quite successful gardens with her growing up; gardens of pumpkins, tomatoes, sunflowers, and more. Then even my dad’s side, my papaw always had an ever flowing garden of vegetables, typically gathered by my mamaw, my cousins and myself, following which we’d all snap the green beans together.

My papaw also took special care in the front yard landscaping, artfully planting specific flowers in very specific spots. Truth be told, I only assume his landscaping was this meticulous perhaps it wasn’t and he really just planted whatever wherever – but reflecting on a story no one can seem to forget, yet I don’t have the capacity to remember, his planting all had to have been pretty methodical: evidently when I pulled a tulip out of the ground, Easter of 1998, I practically detonated a bomb in the Smith household.

So not only here is evidence of the purple tulip that nearly ruined Easter and ‘destroyed’ my papaw’s meticulously landscaped yard, but here is evidence of me killing my first (and certainly not last) plant.

I didn’t automatically inherit my family’s green thumb. And truth be told, while this has whole “green thumb” thing has always been talked about like it’s either something you have or you don’t, my adult life has taught me that isn’t really the case. Having a green thumb stems from understanding, receptiveness, and a will to learn. If you have those three traits and simultaneously have a desire for some greenery to take root in your space (pun intended) then you can certainly become equipped with a green thumb.

It’s only been since moving to NY in 2017 when I’ve felt this incessant need to bring an abundance of plants into my home. I also was given the responsibility of “mothering” the plants in our office, which I excitedly took it on. I quickly began boasting that I come from a family of green thumbs, telling people to watch these babies thrive – when suddenly, they all started to die. Everywhere, in rapid succession. In the office I was killing an orchid a month or so on average, succulents were drying up or even getting floppy and it was all just a disaster to be honest. It took one of my colleagues with an exceptional green thumb of giving me some succulent pointers like, “Water only when the soil is completely dry, and when these little leaves fall off stick them back in the soil – they’ll grow.” Then with the orchid, another colleague said to water them with ice cubes only.

These little tips and tricks were working, I was incredibly receptive not only to the advice, but I in turn began understanding those plants a bit more. It was great. But then I became ballsy and got involved with different plants that I would go on to kill (herbs, aloe, and air plants I’ve not synced the vibe with yet.)

But if you’re someone like me who so desperately wants to have green vibes in your space, but you haven’t quite solidified your green thumb enough to be confident in your plant choices… I got you. Below are some ways I’ve greened up my space while managing to minimize my casualties.

Bamboo

I invested in one stalk of bamboo as a trial run this summer. I was shopping with my mom at Home Depot, actually looking for some herbs that I could start growing but then would subsequently kill a month later, when I came across this guy and his brethren.

Why did I buy him?

On his little tag, there was a breakdown of the meaning behind the number of stalks you have and what they bring to your life. It only listed the meaning of up to two stalks: 1 Stalk = good fortune and 2 Stalks = love. But really the more you buy, the more meanings there are behind them, I later discovered.

Your girl just wants some good fortune, and not really in the mood to tempt fate with killing not one but potentially two stalks of bamboo.. so I went with just the one. And it’s been successful! He’s super low maintenance, I just keep him on my window sill, change his water and clean the vase every week or so and he’s golden. Golden, growing, and makes me think I could maybe handle taking care of a fish…

Succulents

Alright, I am well well aware that there are different types of succulents that all thrive in different environments, yadda yadda – but these dudes, whatever they are, I’ve somehow managed to keep alive for like three years.

When I lived in Chinatown, around the period when I was killing plants about as fast as I’d buy more, I invested in this fun monthly box, Succulent Studios, and they would send me 2-3 succulents a month. Which was great, but I kept this subscription for quite a while… totaling in some 20 succulents or so.

And I killed all of them except these two. Honestly I think they’ve been near death a handful of times but I’ve somehow revived them.

The trick is to just simply not overwater, maybe decide on one day a week where it’s watering time and that’s the water they will thrive on, make sure they’re in a spot with decent sunlight too.

You’ll also notice there is an air plant lying on that same platter. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

Dried & Fake

Whenever I feel the need to buy fresh flowers for myself, I always buy eucalyptus and baby’s-breath. Not only for their refreshing scents and subtle decor, but because they dry really well. If dried in a space with little sun, they’ll even maintain their color perfectly. I’d also like to note, I don’t do anything special for the drying, I keep them in the vase and boom, works great.

I also really love the smell of lavender and I found that you can buy dried lavender from Amazon and it’s awesome – there’s so much and it comes packaged in pretty paper, definitely a great, albeit messy, investment.

Amazon is also a great source for other fake greenery, it’s where I got that ivy you see hanging in the photos and also the eucalyptus mixed with the lavender in the three vases is fake as well (the eucalyptus in the lone black vase is real and dry.)

. . .

Ultimately the biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to understand and accept that every plant can die. While there are no magical plants that simply can’t be killed, there are plants that are just harder to kill. So if you want to dive into the plant world, the green life vibe, but everything you touch dies… take it one step at a time. Get one or two real plants to attempt to keep alive (team bamboo over here) and then buy some fake plants off amazon.

Basically, fake it till you make it.

. . .

Literary Wellness To Pass The Time

For those aspiring toward self-betterment, or those simply looking to cope with mental illness: keep reading. When I moved to the ‘big’ city, I left my therapist behind. After switching companies twice and health insurance three times, I never found a new one. Maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s laziness. Who knows. Instead, during an especially desperate, depression-spiral induced shopping trip to Barnes & Noble two years ago, I started buying self-help books. These are the ones I’ve found and what I’ve learned from them.


First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson

This was the first self-help book that I purchased in my shopping trip of desperation and it’s also the one that’s been the most impactful. This book helped me reframe my depression and anxiety – my beast – into something that wasn’t so intense and scary. Wilson uses her own life for the spine of the story, sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t in her experience. But most importantly, anxiety and depression isn’t showcased as some supernatural horrific, plague-like thing. It’s just a part of you, something that can be made livable, or even beautiful.



Unf*ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN

This book was a secondary purchase just in case the FWMTBB:ANJTA didn’t work out. Unf*ck Your Brain looks at what causes our brains to go ‘chemically batshit’ which results in anxiety, depression, you name it. If you prefer hard facts, straight to the point, no bullshit formatting over personal storytelling, then you should try this book out. I felt like this book gave me a good foundational knowledge on the ‘why’ behind the feelings, which is just as necessary as knowing how to work through them.


Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle

I purchased this book on a whim without reading the back – I thought the front cover looked interesting enough. I only started reading it after realizing that a friends’ emotions were causing sleepless nights and emotional stress for myself. This quick read is packed with useful information as well as a C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method for working through your emotions. Boyle, the author, was in an extremely emotional and traumatic point in her life when she began writing the book which made it easier to relate to. I think that it’s never too late to learn how to cope or deal with emotions.


Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

This book is a part of the design-thinking phenomena created by Burnett and Evans at Stanford. Formatted around the idea of ‘reframing’ your thinking to create a life you enjoy and like, it’s a good tool for those who may be more apt towards ‘workbook’ type learning. There are small prompts, check-in dashboards and more to help you stay on track towards creating a better life. While I’m ultimately not a fan of ‘feel good’ books like this, it was an interesting read and did help reframe some destructive thought patterns. I think that creating physical dashboards for love, health, play and work can help to keep you focused on your goals.


What’s your favorite feel good book?