J2SI//Part III: Taking Turns: I Decide

Now that I've rid myself of unnecessary toxicity and reclaimed my voice, the world is mine to navigate. Around the age of 23 was when I remember feeling like I had gotten over the hurdle of coming into my own and was able to truly embody the life I envisioned for myself, but it's a constant discovery that evolves unendingly.  

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In February 2012, at the age of 21, I moved to New York City with one friend. We shared a room in an apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn for $500 each. We knew we were being ripped off, but we were grateful to be out of Las Vegas and onto better ventures. For the first few months, we lived parallel lives; we interned with a designer in Park Slope, went to karaoke every Tuesday at Bar 4 (RIP), and explored the city together. Having a friend there helped coax the transition of moving and gave me perspective. When a few months later they decided to move, I stayed in the city to see what I could make of it on my own. I moved to Astoria, Queens where I grew the remaining 2.5 years I lived in NYC. 

Brookstones in Park Slope, BK 

Brookstones in Park Slope, BK 

Once I received my autonomy, I was able to finally make my own decisions without regarding another person. My navigation of my life was up to me. I made mistakes, surely; I had to redefine my boundaries and that meant testing them. But I always picked myself up again (Cue: Aaliyah's "Try Again"). I learned a lot about myself through the next few years of healing. I didn't go to therapy for anything I went through - I knew in my heart I would be okay so long as I tuned back into myself. I had to work to build back that relationship with myself. I had betrayed my identity, but now I had another shot at consoling those hurt feelings and redefining my future. During the toxic relationship I was not taking care of myself. I gained weight and felt depressed and anxious. I remember eating fast food for every meal on purpose cause I had given up feeling good about my body; I hated myself then. When I moved to New York, I started sorting things out mentally and emotionally first, then physically took action. Around April 2013, a health assessment blood test showed I had high triglycerides- nothing immediately worrisome, but it became the pivotal moment when I decided my health was more important than my careless, sometimes intentional, consumption of fat and sugar. I made a switch in my brain and was committed to changing my lifestyle for the benefit of my health. Now that I was free, I wanted to live!  (Cue: Cat Power's "Nothin But Time") 

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I started looking for ways to lose weight. I wanted to see what it would feel like to be my healthiest self. The internet provided many helpful suggestions on dieting transitions, but also revealed confusion through marketing and food crazes; there is money to be made in manipulating the masses. Through it all I learned about how to eat nutritious foods that fuel my body rather than deplete it. I made a conscious lifestyle change that I was committed to sticking with. I made the dietary shift, removing red meat, weaning off chicken and turkey, and finally settling on plant-based with the inclusion of fish. Just cutting out meat and reducing dairy made significant improvements to my mental and physical health. With the addition of constant walking around the city and the development of a home yoga practice, I lost 50 pounds and finally saw my body without the excess fat. I became stronger and more confident in my capabilities. I realized what the shift looked like to make lasting changes and connected to myself deeply.

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Realizing I got myself into and out of these situations was empowering and I wondered how I might apply my story to help others. Needing more than just a personal account to truly coach, I sought out schools for holistic health. I found a school in Portland, OR, and though it operated online, I was in need of a change of scenery. I made the decision to move West for awhile. I purged the previous three years and in September 2015, I started over once more- this time with fresh eyes filled with new experiences and an invaluable awareness of the world and myself.

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I chose a Master's Degree in alternative medicine and wellness coaching (I'll be all the way done in December of this year) and foresee exciting opportunities to apply what I'm learning. Two years later, I feel I've found my footing in Portland (thanks in part to a bike- that's a pedal joke) and am eager to explore and uncover in the next year. I feel healthy and happy knowing I am in tune with my body. 

My journey to self-improvement is far from finished. But I now have the confidence to know I am going in the right direction. I've started listening to my body, my thoughts, my emotions, and let them steer my ship. Every move I make influences the next. We, in nature, are constantly evolving. We don't exist in static, or a vacuum, or a bubble. We are intertwined, connected, and affected by the decisions of those around us (and far away).

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Taking ownership of my life, my body, my choices, have been liberating- rather than victimizing myself by blaming others for my unhappiness, I get to step back and assess where I am imbalanced and take responsibility for where I need support. What I learned about getting out of controlling, manipulative, and oppressive situations is realizing that I have the power to decide how I live my life as well as the freedom and strength to act on it. Rather than mapping out and planning my life, I instead am discovering it. I am keeping an open mind, learning, growing, and analyzing. Each move is a crossroad, an opportunity to make a choice. I pave my path with each step I take and it is entirely my own.  

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Post-it written in April 2013; age 23. Photo taken in June 2013; Central Park, with Erin. 

Post-it written in April 2013; age 23. Photo taken in June 2013; Central Park, with Erin. 

If you missed Part I and/or Part II, check out the whole scoop! 

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