I’m packing up my Chicago home for the move to West Virginia and am filled to the brim with emotion about it because this is a time in life where a new chapter is truly beginning. One I never thought I’d experience actually—leaving the Chi. I’m scared and excited, sad and elated at the same time, all in very powerful measure. I am doing my best to stop and breathe, find some peace in the swirl, soak it up (the good and the uncomfy) and experience this series of moments in all of their bittersweet flavor (feels like sucking on a lemon half the time, if I’m honest).
Funny thing is, I felt exactly like this 16 years ago, when I sold my Ford Bronco, said goodbye to my great love (who is back in my life, whew), packed up my kitties and left the east coast to move to Chicago. Waaay back then, I was ready to take on the world, aggressively going after jobs at all the top Chicago design firms, not letting anything stop me—even a bank account filled with more tumbleweeds than rent money. I was going to do something impressive with my life, I was going to win awards, have art shows, fabulous/inspiring friends and moving to the city was where I’d find it all.
I have always been someone who is pretty motivated by the desire to avoid the “what ifs,” so I did everything and more that I set out to do upon my Midwestern arrival (I’ve been a fire performer, had clothing/jewelry/costumes in fashion shows, sold some paintings and I even catch myself pronouncing my “a’s” in true “Chic-eeeah-go” style sometimes). This town, and the people I have met along the way (so much love for them), have made me feel more at home than ever before in my life. A city that once was huge to me, now feels intimate. I have a treasure chest full of sparkly experiences, but I have burned myself out along the way—extreme adrenal fatigue. Bummersville.
But as I have said before, sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places, and I can’t help but think that many of YU are experiencing this very same “new chapter” feeling about transitioning to a plant-powerful life. You may have spent years dieting, taking medications, or you have been battling illnesses, big and small, for as long as you can remember. It’s important to recognize that you are not alone. Around here, we are all in this, at some stage, together. What may seem vast to you now—transitioning to a plant-based diet—will eventually become intimate and close to your heart. I promise YU that. Trust in the journey.
Yesterday while driving around, I realized that I had at least one experience or memory (or 5) about almost every block I drove past, from Roger’s Park to Pilsen. More importantly, I noticed that I was only thinking about the memories—laughs in narrow bars, meals shared, snowball fights, loft parties, character-building-eyelash-nosehair-freezing waits for the bus, friends playing saxophone and banjo and drums at The Hideout. I wasn’t, and haven’t thought about, the “accomplishments” listed on my career resume to-date. Truth is, I haven’t thought about them for years now. It’s the spectrum of memories of this town that I cherish… all of them.
I got run over while jogging when I was 24 (maybe 25?).
Which left me with a bit of a limp. So, I somehow ended up at the office of Diane Miller for some newbie acupuncture. One of the first things she told me was that in order to heal, I had to stop drinking milk. What? Why? This was unheard of to me at the time. The simplicity of her response is something that I will never forget, “because you are not a cow.” I sat on her antique blue couch blinking hard in silence. Stunned. That statement got my wheels turning and they haven’t stopped since. I can honestly say that Diane (and getting hit by that impatient man trying to get a coveted parking spot) was one of the major catalysts that led me to YumUniverse.
Rewind, though. In 1997, I was completely set on working for a dream design firm and winning respected awards in the design industry. I wanted to be in all of the compendiums and books that I had studied in school. If I could be in Communication Arts, Print or the sadly-now-defunct Critique, THAT was living and that was the fire under my ass that brought me to this awesome city.
I had a very strange experience, however, when I won my first award. I didn’t feel any different. Any better. At all. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting (how was I supposed to feel?), but there was an unsettling emptiness lingering and it never went away, even after I landed my dream job a few years later. Instead of feeling fulfilled as the resume beefed up, there was a rumbling under the surface to get out. I. Was. Not. Fulfilled. Talk about a scary feeling–I didn’t want what I had built anymore. Now what?
My instincts have always led me to great places, and don’t get me wrong, I loved my design chapter and the people involved. I am beyond grateful for every single experience, BUT I have no doubt that my personal journey has played out so far EXACTLY how it was supposed to. I was supposed to have the design career (and the intermediary “partytime”, fashion, dance and performance chapters) so I could discover and appreciate the fantastic and sustainable chapter that is YumUniverse.
YU were supposed to have the road that led you here, too—with all its twists and turns. Instead of focusing on the numbers on the scale as you move forward, connect with how you feel when you eat more nutrient-rich food. When you get your buns in bed by 10pm. When you hire an assistant to help you calm and organize your life (note to self). Notice how your body shape changes and the lightness and strength you begin to experience. Feel, feel, feel. This is how you will grow to love clean foods, instead of resenting them. Great recipes help as well (wink).
So, my heart should be the leader this time around, and I know it. My time and effort in life should be spent doing what I love to do, what comes naturally, and what fills me up with light and joy (versus doing what I am supposed to do according to everyone else). Sharing my creativity, helping others who need it and bringing community together is what I need to do with my life. And I know it because every cell in my body buzzes when I do these things.
Old habits die so so so hard though. And as some of YU know, my main hurdle is stress management. I am a doer, and driven, but to a fault. More simplicity, free time and calm is the plan. Leaving Chicago is one of the steps I need to take until I can learn to police myself better. I need to remove myself from the myriad restaurants, events, gyms, jobs and potential projects/collaborations—Chicago you are electric! Yes, I will duck back in every few months, but the homebase needs to be the one where I can wake up and walk barefoot out to my garden every morning.
The tomboy in me is delighted about it (I have always loved running around barefoot):
Today, I can see that what I needed in my early 20s doesn’t serve me now. Those years were motivated by a need to prove all of my family naysayers wrong. That a living could be made doing something creative. See, since I was little, there were certain members of my family (who still loved me very much) who just didn’t get creativity. There was no respect for it. When dollars were handed out to the grandkids for every report card “A,” art—a.k.a. “basket-weaving”—didn’t count.
In college, (with a hug at least) I got the heart-warming “when are you going to stop taking all those art classes and get serious?” But creativity was my gift, how could it be something with no value? Ah, the confusion/frustration of the early years. Good times.
Diane (she got rid of my limp BTW) used to also say to me:
(Same goes for your old beliefs about food)
That empty feeling that haunted me with each achievement in my design career, is going going gone, now that my focus has shifted inward. With every correspondence and interaction with my YumUniverse family, my heart fills up and I know in my bones that I am doing what I am supposed to do. Without question. My approach to food and wellness has gradually informed the way I live my entire life. Creativity is in my bones and I can use it any way I like. I have to honor this gift by creating the strongest, smartest foundation I can, to continue to serve the beautiful people who have come into my life thanks to this site, all while taking care of me, too.
I want to share in my way, on my terms, for the people that need it (not big corporate clients).
As a child, I just wanted to be heard and recognized. I see clearly now that we are all in that same boat, and it is my mission to make sure that I hear YU, and do everything I can to make your life as full and rich and inspiring as I make my own, because journeys are always better shared.
Thank YU for joining me, inspiring me and helping me find the right path. So much gratitude, I just may pop.
What are some big changes that YU are making for the better? The kind that make your body buzz with that “this is the right move” feeling? Tell me with a comment below.
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