One topic that has been requested a lot lately are my more open and personal posts, ones that sum up my thoughts or feelings on life at the moment. I had planned on doing monthly reviews where I’d talk a bit more about my life, and while I still have those in mind, I’ve also known when I need to step back and reflect more within myself before sharing. But now as we begin a new year, I can’t help but want to share a bit more truth with you.
“2019 was the worst year of my life. And yet, 2019 was the best year of my life.” I’ll never forget writing those lines in my journal one night, and then taking a step back to realize it wasn’t completely true. I crossed out “worst” and changed it to “roughest”, and I crossed out “best” and changed it to “most transformative.”
We all hear the same phrase every January 1: “New year, new me!” Honestly for years I would roll my eyes at that statement. As human beings, we change and evolve throughout the year. Things happen to us that cause us to have to redefine what we thought we already knew. It shakes you up. You’re already a new person in that moment as you find your way through this new path that the universe has created for you.
When I think back to the person I was at the beginning of last year, I am horrified. “New year, new me.” Well I didn’t like that version of me. I am filled with the most indescribable cringe when I look back at that time when my life completely changed, and then I do what I do best – I blame myself and punish myself. I have this tendency to continually blame and punish myself over everything, and forgiving myself is not something I am likely to do. Even now, despite years and years of therapy, that is one act I find extremely hard to do.
I can sometimes be an impulsive person, but for the most part I can be extremely indecisive and take too much time dwelling on thoughts or topics. If I am to make a decision on anything, I want it to be made intentionally. But with my mental health challenges, it makes decision making extremely frustrating on a level that sometimes feels like a black hole. “What if” fills my head with a million different scenarios, and each day I will pick a different scenario and dwell on it hard. Then suddenly I am overwhelmed and all I want to do is retreat. But I live a fairly public life – retreating is pretty much a kiss of death for my job.
This is where feeling lost began to creep in even deeper. Social media makes everything look pretty and perfect, am I right? No one likes to post negative images about their life or really post the complete truth. My page is supposed to be a source of inspiration – a bright vision or Pinterest board for style and travel – not a page of darkness. So I kept posting images of me frolicking around Napa or Canada in pretty dresses as if life was normal, deflecting from my personal life and just becoming a nameless, faceless figure for Instagram. But life wasn’t normal, and the more I posted, the more I felt like a fake. A liar. A fraud. A joke.
On top of those anxieties, I began to receive hateful messages on a daily basis. Some messages were so hateful and damaging that I contemplated quitting my website and social media a few times and going into hiding. I no longer had protection from these haters, and I was losing a ton of followers at a crazy rate from those who realized they were no longer going to get an extra look at my ex on my page anymore. I then suddenly felt like I was only good enough because of who I had been married to, so the “lost” sensation really began to eat at me. Who was I? Was I even worthy anymore? Was I ever really worthy? What did I truly have to offer that was so darn special? I was a divorced former pageant queen surrounded by people much better than her and I was doing a job that everyone else seemed to be much better at.
Navigating this new path alone at times was also detrimental. A lot of people I had considered close friends now turned their backs on me (which showed their true colors to me in the end), my readers were disappointed with me, no one in my family lived anywhere near me, and I even worried my own business teams were no longer happy with me. I was just an empty girl sitting alone in her bedroom with her two cats in a city that drove her mad. I used to feel strong. I was telling myself I was strong earlier in the year. Now suddenly that strength was gone. I was lost. And all I could do was blame myself and then quickly punish myself mentally. You deserve this, fraud.
Professionally during all this, my blog posts pretty much came to a complete halt. I wanted to keep posting about lots of topics, and I’d initially get excited about them, but I felt my magic touch was gone. Plus, I wasn’t ready to share much about my personal life or my thoughts. I am, after all, an Anglophile who is slightly obsessed with the royal family so I thought about adopting their motto of “never complain, never explain.” I stayed quiet as if nothing was wrong. With each passing month, I felt I was continually letting everyone down. Around the height of my lost sense of self, that was the time I escaped to Asia on my long awaited trip.
Travel enriches my soul. It makes me take a step back and truly appreciate the world we live in. It makes me feel like all the sadness and drama in my personal life truly means nothing in the grand scheme of things because we are each just tiny pieces in this big, big world full of breathtaking nature, hundreds of cultures, and numerous diverse languages. I notice whenever I am feeling down or overwhelmed, my first thoughts are immediately about travel. Planning for my first trip across the Pacific was a way to escape physically and mentally. That isn’t to say that my lost feeling didn’t follow me to Asia. There were a few mornings I took walks by myself at sunrise by the water in Hong Kong. In Cambodia, I watched the sun come up over the horizon as I sat alone by the pool. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing my own form of meditation. I was doing exactly what I had been encouraged to do – I was taking time for myself. And that’s what I needed to start doing more of. And I needed to start doing things for myself.
When I got back to Los Angeles, I moved out of my home of 4.5 years and into my own apartment for the first time ever. My old home began to feel toxic and negative. What used to be a bright, cheery house had now felt dark and full of shadows. It no longer felt peaceful or even felt like home. As someone who has a tendency to turn agoraphobic during severe anxiety episodes, I now found myself looking for all kinds of excuses to not be in the house. For those who also suffer from mental health issues as I do, “home” is extremely important. Prior to my marriage, I had either lived with a roommate or with a boyfriend. I had never had a place to myself before. I never had a place that was 100% mine. At first the thought terrified me when I moved into my new apartment. Will this just add to my loneliness? Instead, it ended up being a huge turning point but in a positive way. Having a space to call my own helped clear my head. Having to be 100% responsible for myself and having to answer to my own needs? Who knew that would be therapeutic? Plus having my fur babies with me helped me immensely with that transition. A reboot, so to speak. “New home, new me.”
At the end of 2019, I began to feel myself come back to life a bit more. I could feel myself accepting how transformative this past year was. Sure, the first half of the year was dark and depressing. But life was never meant to be easy, and if anyone ever tells you that life is easy then they are lying to your face. Everyone has hardships. Everyone. And everyone grows from those hardships, big or small. I really did want to take back control of my life, and when the tears finally stopped flowing down my face and I realized what my potential could be, suddenly things became more clear.
I can’t change the past. I can’t see the future. But I can be here right now in the present. And dwelling on the past was keeping me so lost. Why can’t things just go back to the way they were? Because life doesn’t work that way. When I finally uttered the words, “That part of my life is over now” to my therapist, it was a revelation I had been waiting for. This is a new part of my life. All the other parts of my life in the past may be gone forever but they helped shape me, and later on down the road this part of my life will be over too. And we can mourn those parts of our lives that are gone now, but we can also celebrate them.
Spending more time in Hong Kong has been beneficial to my health. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I made the leap to spend more time here. I made a lot of sacrifices in making that big decision. A lot. Some of those sacrifices deeply broke my heart, and there are moments I still need to pause and breathe. I still have days where I feel sad. I still have days where I feel I’m just a complete mess. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my transformative year of 2019 was always expected to flow into 2020. Starting the new year in a new city has felt like a bit of a rebirth. I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it really is true. Despite the heartache that 2019 was, it really was a year that I began to learn more about myself, and learning more about myself in a new city was something I didn’t realize I really needed to do. I started out last year feeling lost and alone, and that carried throughout most of 2019. But even acknowledging I was lost has been a good step towards a happy, healthy new life so I can continue to grow and work on what I need to.
If you’re still here after reading all that, thank you. Thank you all for your amazing support and understanding as I start on this new path. It means a lot to me that you’ve been rooting for me in private messages and emails over the last year. I have not been able to respond to them all, but please know they’ve all been received and touched my heart.
For those who are also feeling a bit lost, dealing with a heartbreak, making big sacrifices, or struggling with anxiety and depression, please know you’re not alone. Do not be afraid to be selfish and do something for yourself. Do not be afraid to take a step back and unwind. Do not be afraid to speak to a friend or family member or therapist. Do not be afraid to acknowledge what you’re going through. Do not be afraid of the future. And lastly, do not be afraid of who you are.
Orseund Iris top (less expensive version here), PAROSH tulle skirt (similar here), Casadei heels (similar here), Cult Gaia bag (on sale here), Dior mitzah/scarf (I turned it into a belt), Stila lipstick in Baci
Photos by Lydia Hudgens.