Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Driving Cross Country: California & Arizona

One of the greatest recommendations I could give someone is to drive cross country. At least once. I've now done it four times and I can honestly say, I've appreciated it more and more each time. Maybe it's because I'm different. I'm older. I've learned. I've lived. And each trip cross country was made for a different reason.

But the way it feels to drive from one state into another. From one time zone into another. To cross the Continental Divide. To enter the territory of Native American Tribes. To look several hundred feet to your left and see another country. To watch the temperatures change. And my favorite - to watch the landscape of this country grow and twist and shift. The colors, the textures. I can't even put it into words.

Cross country trips are exhausting. Physically and mentally. But, even after the thousands of miles, gas station/truck stops, traveling with a cat (that I'm allergic to!), checking in and checking out of hotels, seeing two horrific truck accidents, and drinking two V8s for dinner because there's nothing else to eat/drink, I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

The drive from San Diego to the Arizona border is one of my favorite legs of the trip. You wind through the mountain range [okay, so the lack of guardrails did not make me the happiest driver] and then as soon as you come out of the mountains, boom... it's pure desert. I love the desert. It was at this point that I took my hands off the wheel [and may or may not have crossed my arms at one point] because it's literally a straight drive along the 8. You look to the right and see the black wall that separates the U.S. from Mexico. You look to the left and see the beautiful, pure sand dunes. No one else is on the road. It's just you, the road, the blue sky, and pretty sand!

Oh, and there was also a hay fire. Naturally, as soon as I saw the smoke from far away, I shrieked, "Is that a tornado?!" It's to be expected coming from the girl with recurring tornado nightmares. It was instead a horrible hay fire.

The first stop was just across the border in Yuma, AZ. A town where the super friendly gas station worker said the employment rate is so high he's just lucky to have a job. Another reason why I love driving cross country. The people you encounter. Their stories. Their communities.

After getting back into the car with my Arizona iced tea [when in Arizona, do as the Zonies do] reality started to sink in. I said to my cat, "Stella, I have a feeling we're not in California anymore." The sun started to set as we approached Phoenix. Looking in the rearview mirror at the jagged mountains pressed against the orange sky... it's heavenly. The Border Patrol officers and their adorable dog weren't a bad addition to the already gorgeous surroundings. Just saying...

We got a late start to the trip [I mean, did you see all of those boxes in yesterday's post?!] so Phoenix was the stopping point for Day One. I slept for about two hours that night due to Stella going haywire in the hotel room after being pent up all day and staying up to read. I'm crazy, I know. But Day Two was going to be the day I most looked forward to!

The drive through Arizona is a long one because you drive halfway across, all the way up, and then halfway across the other side. However, Arizona HAS to be one of the most naturally astonishing states. You start with the desert, get up into the mountains, then hit beautiful Sedona, into Flagstaff, and then level out into the old, sleepy historical towns such as Winslow, Arizona.

We took a quick trip off the road to drive to the 50,000 year old Meteor Crater. We didn't pay to get the tour but it was still so interesting to drive to the top of the crater! The picture below doesn't do it justice. I loved the drive from the crater back onto the freeway. Nothing but nature!

The final stop in Arizona was in Winslow! I totally recommend stopping in this tiny, tiny town. It's a blast from the past [it was right along Historic Route 66.] Winslow is best-known for being mentioned in The Eagles' song, "Take It Easy."

"Well, I'm standin' on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona..."

That song just so happened to come on my Pandora station during the trip :)

Well, that's it for California and Arizona! To read about and see pictures from my trip through Arizona last year, check out the post here. Stay tuned for the highlight of my trip...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Peace Out, California Love

I can't believe I used to live in San Diego. I can't believe it's a thing of the past. A story to tell. Memories that I made.

Last Monday, I drove away from my house in San Diego and headed East toward my new journey. Soon, I'll share some pictures and stories during the cross country trek but for now, here are some memories from a few of my last moments in SD.

Wonderland. The most perfect place on Earth.

Wonderland is an "ocean pub" in OB that has the most stellar view in all of San Diego, if you ask me. Some people like their fancy schmancy places. I prefer a laid-back, fun environment like this one. This place is so cool that they even do a nightly "sunset toast" and on this night in particular, we toasted to the mermaids. Sigh.
I will miss Wonderland, OB, and this view.

It's no secret by now that OB [Ocean Beach] was my favorite spot in San Diego. It's edgy, eclectic, and has my favorite sunset at the Pier. So, I had to make a few more stops prior to leaving. OB also has the best spot for tacos! South Beach Grille.

I had my first and last California bonfire [until I go back!] My friends kept asking me what I didn't get to check off my list while living there and having a bonfire on the beach was one of them! So, a wonderful farewell bonfire was had and it was everything I dreamt of and more :)

I had never felt so torn leaving a city before. I invested so much of my heart and soul into San Diego. I had no idea that the Universe would have other plans for me. I left San Diego with so many wonderful, everlasting memories and friendships. San Diego helped me realize what I need in my life and what kind of people I want to be surrounded by. The pictures above encompass all of those things.

Until next time, San Diego.
World Peace & California Love.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My San Diego Story: A Montage

A couple days ago, as I started packing up my place in San Diego, and saying my sad goodbyes, I started looking back on the months and months worth of pictures I had taken during my journey in Southern California. I wanted to document the joy, lessons, friendship and everlasting memories that this wonderful beach city has brought into my life. Join me while I look back :)

Song: "I Lived" by OneRepublic

Thank you, San Diego and Southern California for the most memorable journey.
I lived :)

Follow me on Instagram [@chelseasunset] to see my journey cross country as it unfolds, starting today!

Friday, October 18, 2013

What I Will Miss About California

The people:

I think it goes without saying that people in California and Southern California specifically are, well, different. I will miss these people. The laid back, beachy, anything goes, but I still have a valid, educated opinion attitude. I hope that I find a similar crowd of like-minded people in DC but I'm skeptical. I truly think this is the thing I'll miss most about living here. I always felt at home. I felt welcome. I felt like finding myself was encouraged here. I never had to fit inside a box. Some of the world's most open, loving, and accepting minds are in San Diego. And, because of them, I can honestly say, my life has been forever changed.

The views:

I moved to San Diego because of its pure, natural beauty. The ocean, the valleys, the mountains, the city. We have everything here. Even after every sunset I saw, the next one was even more captivating. Nature inspired me more than ever here in San Diego. I was inspired by the palm trees cast upon stark blue skies just as much as I was inspired by the colder January months accompanied by the chilly bay breeze. 

The food:

San Diego is known for its Mexican food and I have to say, San Diego also knows how to do sushi better than any place I've been. I branched out a lot in California and tried a great variety of restaurants, even before I went vegan. I was opened up to a whole new world and I have been inspired to find new cuisine and restaurants in DC that I love equally as much!

The neighborhoods:

SD was also the first city where I really branched out of my social/dating circle. I got to see all parts of San Diego County. The DC area is even more spread out so it really takes a lot to get to know all parts of town. Being in San Diego, it didn't take much to understand the vibes of each neighborhood. Little Italy differed from Hillcrest and that differed from La Jolla, Coronado, Gaslamp, Mission Bay, etc.

The fashion:

I never knew I'd miss guys wearing black socks with Vans so much. It goes without saying that California fashion differs from the rest of the world. Fashion trends are born here and, sadly, many never make it around to the rest of the world. I am going to miss men wearing tank tops. Who knew?

The breweries:

I learned more about beer in the one year of living in SD than in all my other years of living. Craft beer is a culture and SD knows what's up. I will always be partial to Ballast Point but so many of the other local breweries (Stone, Coronado, Green Flash, etc.) will always be my favorites. It is SUCH a unique city to live in for this very reason.

The slang:

In San Diego, I never was judged for saying words such as, "Dude," "Wonky" and "Homie" all the time. I can see why that is not going to fly in the streets of Georgetown. Doesn't mean I'm going to change the way I speak...!

The pace of life:

I grew up in the most political and governmental city in the world. It's no wonder I moved to carefree California. Meeting so many native San Diegans who literally just went with the flow and took life as it came, helped "mellow" me out (another word we San Diegans use a lot.) I promise myself I will keep this pace of life as I go onward, never getting stuck in the crazy DC hustle and bustle. 

I think that no matter where we live, we can create and thrive in the environment best for us. Don't listen to what others tell you is "right" or "in your best interest" for you and your career. Just do what feels most in-tune to your nature and your path. Find the people in your city who will lift and support you. Most importantly, create a life that lifts and supports your own goals. I will never live a life that doesn't support my true self ever again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Door Has Opened: My Next Journey

After moving to San Diego, I never became homesick. I missed my family, yes, very much so. But I settled into my new surroundings and remained excited about the adventure before me. I loved the palm trees, the perfectly blue skies, and the multitude of beaches and baysides where I could spend my afternoons.

San Diego is where I found myself. I moved here as a single twenty-something woman, ready to tackle what ever may be thrown my way. I checked so many things off my bucket list, especially the most important of all...

Finding my purpose.

But as time passed by, as the pages turned in my novel of life, my intuition became stronger and stronger. I took a trip home to the DC area in August for my dad's birthday, my niece's belated birthday celebration and because, well, I needed a break from the West Coast. While I was home, an overwhelming feeling came over me that I was unable to shake. It had a strong grip on my heart. It was the feeling of home, of belonging, of my future. And it was right there in front of me. In the brick houses that lined the cobblestone streets of Old Town, in the history of my family along those same streets, of the humid air that filled my lungs on a warm, August night. It was there and it overwhelmed my heart.

I returned home to San Diego. "Home." It was my new home, the life I had created for myself. But I started noticing all the cracks. The cracks that needed to be filled. The cracks that grew in length and depth. San Diego, like my East Coast hometown, wasn't perfect either. My life here presented many mental and emotional challenges to me that I'm sure I wouldn't have experienced had I never moved here alone. 

I always have believed that everything happens for a reason and that nothing is just a coincidence. However, it was once I really "started to do the work" (a phrase I use a lot) that synchronicities really started to show up and become apparent to me. Like novels often do, my life in San Diego started to take a few turns. Doors started to close. In yesterday's post, I mentioned  some synchronicities that started to occur and I knew I had to pay attention to them. In a matter of 24 hours, I received the closure I had been looking for in the love department, I told my landlord I was moving out and was going to move into a high-rise downtown (or so I thought at the time), and then, just a few hours later, my company conveniently told me they couldn't pay me any longer.

So, as I said yesterday, when I got home that evening, I hit my knees and said, "Alright, Universe... let's do this!" I truly had no idea what my next step should be. Twenty minutes later, my 3-week course with Gabby Bernstein on fearless living began, a class I had previously signed up for after feeling the prompt to do so. Talk about timing...

I knew not to be scared, not to panic, not to make any moves yet. Instead, I just needed to listen. This was the Universe re-organizing things in my life. I knew I had no control and to just trust the process and listen as the doors opened. I prayed every night to be led to what was right for me; where I was meant to go next.

I thought, I prayed, I read, I wrote, I continued on with Gabby's class where, during the second week, we did a meditation to expand into intuitive knowing. It was in the last minute or two of that meditation that I was completely overcome with joy and tears filled my eyes. I knew in my heart what I was supposed to do. I knew it was the path I was meant to take.

Now, let me backtrack. A few months prior, as I was spending a lot of introspective time getting to really know myself, my dreams, my passions... I finally found that one thing I bolded up above. My purpose. After all the jobs I didn't enjoy, all the career paths I almost went down, I finally realized what I was given the gifts and tools to do in this life.

For months, I kept asking myself "Why would the Universe give me this loss?" Not in a "Why me?" way but in a "What am I meant to do with this?" way. I knew and trusted that there had to be a reason I was given those trials in my life. Instead of turning outward to drugs, alcohol, food, etc. to help me out of those painful events, I turned inward. I wanted to live a happier life than I had ever lived before and thanks to an amazing counselor, the life wisdom of people like Mastin Kipp and spiritual junkies like Gabby Bernstein, I got myself into the best physical, mental, and spiritual shape I've ever been in.

My blog made some transitions that paralleled the changes in my life. I found my heart was pouring out with words and paragraphs and blog posts about life. About the trials. The lessons. The failures. The achievements. The pain. And the happiness. I put it all out there. And eventually, an email would pop up in my inbox. Followed by another and another. People reaching out for help, advice, support. They explained their stories to me and I felt the pain through their words, especially since so many of their situations sounded so similar to my own. I found myself sitting there for hours exchanging emails and it was in those hours that something ignited inside of me. One day, a few months ago, it finally hit me. All the workshops I had done, books I had read, blog posts I had written, prayers I had said... they all came together and I finally felt the light go off.

I was going to be a life coach.

So, now I can finally announce some of THE most special news I've ever had. In November, I will be starting my new journey as I earn my Life Coach certification. I already know that this is going to be the greatest year of my life as I learn, study, and start to do the one thing I feel most passionate about. In November, I am off to Florida where the first part of my program takes place. That part I have known about and planned for the past few months. However, it wasn't until the past month when all of these synchronicities started to occur that I knew where I was meant to live during this next journey. So, as my certification program continues, I will be working in... DC! :)

California has always had my heart. This was the place where I found myself and it will always be my second home. I am so sad to say goodbye to the places and the people who have played a role in helping me become who I am today. But, as I saw these synchronicities taking place and as certain doors were closing and others were opening, I knew I had accomplished what I needed to in San Diego. It was time. My purpose is calling and I have to honor it. So, this weekend, off to the East Coast I go to start yet another new life, finally, as the woman I am confident to now be!

Because of how much I love this blogging community, all the comments, emails, and tweets I have gotten that make MY day, I want to give back! So, this is where you come in! I am offering up TWO free life coaching sessions while I'll be in Florida. These sessions will be laid back, over the phone and last 45 minutes to an hour. I have one session on Saturday evening (Nov. 16th) and one on Monday night (Nov. 18th) These spots have already filled up BUT I will be accepting paid clients at the end of November!

I am so grateful for all the doors in my life. The doors of tragedy that go smashing shut and the doors of hope that open when you least expect them to. I encourage you to watch for and pay attention to the synchronicities that occur in your life. They're there for a reason. We all have our purpose here and it is truly one of the greatest feelings to know I have found mine. Finally.

Love and light to you all!

Chelsea :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When One Door Closes

I am about to embark on a new journey. At the beginning of December 2012, I made the trek from Virginia to California to my new home, San Diego. I "knew" a couple people through blogging and had some memories here as my brother called this same city home for a few years, but that was it. It had been a dream of mine for nearly a decade. I quickly fell in love all over again with America's Finest City.

It was in San Diego that I learned to love myself. I learned to forgive myself. I learned to open up my heart again. I learned to try new things. I learned how to be completely uncomfortable. I learned how to conquer fears. I learned more about myself in almost a year than I had my whole life. I prefer the road less traveled and feel inside out and upside down when I'm on any path but that one. And the best part is, I've finally accepted that about myself. It's never felt so good to not only accept myself, all my quirks, flaws, and lessons to learn, but to love myself for them.

It's kind of like finding your own written signature. Growing up, you're taught how to write: How to hold the pencil, each letter of the alphabet, how to write your name, how to write in cursive, and then eventually, you start signing your name. In most cases, this signature of yours changes a bit throughout the years until you find something that really sticks. Then it's you, it's yours. That signature is you.

Well, throughout my life I was guided and taught. By my parents, my siblings, my friends, my mentors, and by life. About two years ago, when I was at a huge crossroad in my life, I found a counselor who, looking back, helped me create a breakthrough during the most painful part of my life thus far. She challenged me, listened to me, made me question things I had never thought about, and through our time together, I really woke the hell up. 

Aside from helping me develop my process of healing, she also helped me tremendously with starting to finding my purpose, something I had struggled with. Through some extensive journaling, exercises, and discussions about my Myers-Briggs Profile [INFJ!] I realized that I really had not been living to my truest potential, my truest calling, my truth! I played around with the idea of going into certain INFJ-appropriate professions since the event planning/marketing route just never felt very "me" despite my crazy attention for detail and need for having everything planned. However, those ideas never really panned out. I trusted that when it was right, it would come to me but, for the time being, I needed to move. I needed to stop putting off my dream to live in San Diego.

I moved to San Diego. With my cat, some belongings, and some memories already made in this new city of mine. I spent a great deal of time studying, reading, and in seminars about finding my purpose, my true potential, and living a life of positive vibes and energy. I was being given all the "life tools" I needed and finally developed my "signature." 

I started making some new friends, and met a dude who intrigued me, challenged me, and started to open my heart up for the first time in years. After applying for many jobs, I began an internship coordinating events in the surf industry, the industry I wanted to work in since I was little. I'm sure it sounds exhilarating, and don't get me wrong... working surf events really was a dream come true for me but I started to notice how out of harmony my life was becoming. "Work" started to consume my life. I was working about 60 hours a week. My runs through Balboa were no longer existent, I was getting sick, had no social life, and my meditations and reading practices I had established weren't happening anymore. There's a period on my blog back in April where all I seemed to write about was the importance of balance.

I realized the importance of living a life in harmony with your values, your dreams, and your purpose and this "internship that might turn into a full-time job" was taking top priority and, because of that, everything else started to shut down. Since this was a start-up company, taking a long time to start up, I decided that if I wasn't going to get paid, it was time to find something else. However, the company decided they could pay me but that didn't change the fact that if something doesn't feel right, it's not right. I suffered with insomnia and migraines for two weeks straight after I started getting paid. I felt so conflicted and uncomfortable working for this company. All the harmony I had worked so hard to instill within my heart felt like it was being ripped apart with a chainsaw.

Long story short, the Universe loves to teach me lessons the hard way. Mainly because I'm stubborn and that's the only way to really hand it to me. I knew deep in my soul that this was not the career path meant for me. I had known for some time. I knew where I should be headed instead but yet there I was, still working, not in harmony. The longer I worked for this ego-driven company, the more conflicted I felt. I knew I needed to leave. But then there was the worry of not having a paycheck. Well, like I said... the Universe always seems to handle the rest. I had been feeling pretty intuitive that something was going to happen on the job front and sure enough, one day, just as I was about to head home for the evening, my supervisor decided to show up and tell me the company is too in debt to afford me any longer. And that was that.

And it was in that moment that I felt my faith. I smiled, packed up my office, and left 5 minutes later, never to return again. I left, completely unaware of what was going to happen now but with total trust in the Universe. I remember saying that in my head as he delivered the news. I kept saying, "I know the Universe has a plan. I know it." I was relieved. I was at peace. I was happy to be on my way out the door that day KNOWING the Universe had a BETTER plan for me!

As soon as I got home, I shut the door and dropped to my knees in the middle of my living room and said, 

"Alright, Universe. Let's do this!" be continued.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Two Lessons On Living Fearlessly

This week is a big one for me. It really is. I wanted to start the week off by reflecting back on a class that I started four Mondays ago. It was a class/workshop that I felt compelled to sign up for. I knew I was going to learn so much from it and knew, deep down, how badly I needed that wisdom and guidance.

The workshop was taught by Gabby Bernstein, whom many of you know by now, is a wonderful spiritual thought leader who has helped me tremendously through her books and workshops. This workshop in particular was about living fearlessly. Removing the fear from our lives and making room to empower ourselves to have beautiful, genuine, fearless relationships!

Well, I didn't know it at the time but the day the workshop began ended up being the day when I needed guidance on living fearlessly the most, as you'll read more about tomorrow.

In just the three-week span of this workshop, I identified my fears. You know, the fears that are buried beneath so many layers you don't even realize they are there. They have just become a part of you.

Between amazing meditations that brought me to tears (I know. What doesn't bring me to tears?), thought-provoking homework exercises, and pages and pages of notes, I'm not able to sum it all up for you. But, I can tell you this:

"The Universe can do for you what you cannot do for yourself."

Just sit and reflect on that for a moment. Think about a time when something beyond your control was put into motion for you. When a door closed or opened when maybe you least expected it to but needed it most. The Universe continues to make things happen in your best interest if you allow it. And then there are the relationships in your life, the people you meet which leads me to another of Gabby's points and a huge lesson in A Course In Miracles:

"Relationships are Assignments"

I was overcome this weekend, thinking about the people I've met here in California. The people I talked to for just a few moments and the people who have now become some of my greatest friends. They each impacted my life, however big or small.

Go back now in your mind and think about the people in your life. Even just this past year of your life. Think about the people, the relationships, and how they've impacted you, how they've taught you something. It's really pretty incredible and it makes me so grateful to know and understand and trust that people will be brought into my life for a reason. They each have something different to teach us.

It's a beautiful, beautiful thing when you see it that way. It really is :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Soaking Up All That's Around Me

I know that many of you know that big changes are happening over here in my life. And, yes, I've been pretty quiet about what exactly those changes are. I'll finally be talking about the next phase of my life starting next week.

For now, I'm in total limbo.

My intuition won't shut up lately and while I'm so grateful for having the gift of strong intuition, it sure keeps me up at night and wraps my thoughts around and around like an endless vine.

Life is so bittersweet and melancholy all at the same time right about now.

But it reminds me about the precious gift of life. And how we never truly know when a day will be our last. So, for now, while I soak up all the wonderful things around me, I challenge you to view the things around you differently too.

Today, this Friday, is the last one of its kind for me. 


As I move forward, I work on being the best woman, the best sister, the best daughter, the best friend, the best colleague, the best mentor, the best girlfriend that I can be. Period. I just want to be a light. 

I am beyond grateful for all the gifts and lessons that I've been given to this day. They've helped me get where I am. I know without a doubt that the people who have been placed in my life, even if just for a moment or two, were placed there for a reason. I'm grateful for the ones who broke my heart, hurt my feelings, and let me down because they made me even more grateful for the people who never did. For the jobs that made me realize what I hate doing and for the apartments that made me realize how much stronger I am than my fears, well, take that.

Life is to be lived. And I think it goes without saying that I have lived one hell of a life thus far and I can't wait to see what the future holds. A huge thank you today to my family, friends, and the ever-so-amazing Universe for never giving up on my never-ending dreams.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do Your Thing

Three words that seem so simple yet so many struggles occur when we try to just do our thing. I pinned this quote on Pinterest yesterday and it spread like wildfire. Everyone was repinning it. And after seeing that, seeing several blog posts from others, and the constant thoughts about it in my everyday life, I wanted to write this blog post.

About doing your thing.

In a world of hate, a world of criticism, a world where some of our harshest critics and biggest haters are strangers we've never met sitting behind a computer or cell phone screen, bashing us -- I still say do your thing.

In a world where the girls who gossiped about us in high school and took pleasure in saying, "You can't sit with us" follow our every move as our Facebook "friend" or invisible blog follower, waiting for us to fall -- I still say do your thing.

In a world where the people we love most just want us to play it safe, not take the risk, do things at a certain pace and in a certain order -- I still say do your thing.

Because the truth is, this is a world where anything is possible, regardless of what anyone else tells you or makes you believe.

Find your thing and do it.
No matter what.

Follow me on Pinterest!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My California Home

It's hard to believe this place has been mine for a year now. My home. In San Diego, California. This home has been full of blessings and challenges all at the same time. It's one of the greatest dreams I've ever had -- to live in San Diego. I'll never forget the feeling of having those keys in my hand for the first time. It was the start of my most important life journey.

In the Spring, I spent a lot of time out in my backyard. Below is the table where I photographed all of my jewelry for After Sunset. It's where I wrote many blog posts and applied for my job. It's where I was sitting when I received many texts that put such a big smile on my face and where I was sitting when the wonderful guy who took these pictures told me he was booking his flight to come visit.

This home is the place I'd return to after going for a run in Balboa, laying out on the sand in Mission, or watching the sunset at Tourmaline. It's the place where I felt a flood of emotions as my life here in San Diego really started to develop. It is the place where I spent countless nights writing, reading, Netflixing, crying, not sleeping, thinking, dreaming, achieving.

Stella settled in well and found one of her favorite spots to be on the little sliver above the clock on the wall. She and I really bonded here. She's been a part of my life for two and a half years now but here in San Diego was the first time it was ever really just the two of us. She sleeps by my side, at my toes, or above my head on the pillow each night and I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is also where cooking became a new hobby of mine. Baking has been something I've loved for years now, but I spent a lot of my time here trying new recipes which quickly turned into some of my favorites. It's where my lifestyle changed from pescetarian to plant-based vegan and where I've concocted the most delicious green smoothie elixirs ever.

And it's the place where I later found out, thanks to the medium my dad visited, where my mom comes to visit often. She's here with me and Stella. She's seen the challenges, heartbreaks, and pains that have come throughout the span of this year living out here on my own. She's seen the breakthroughs, successes, and happiness too.

When I signed my lease one year ago, I had no idea what was in store for me and my new life in San Diego. Looking back, I went through such an elaborate spectrum of emotions within these four walls. I've never been more scared, confused, enlightened, happy, and excited than I have been here.

This may not be the house I grew up in but it's the house where I grew.

All photography credit goes to the one and only Jonathon, one of the greatest lights throughout my life.
To see his portfolio, check out his website.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Advice for the Single Girls

Oh, the single life. This is the longest I've steadily gone, well, not steady. Get it? I'm enjoying my time, learning about myself, and getting my life (and body and spirit) in the best shape ever. But, back in the day, things were a little different. It started back in elementary school, receiving notes with instructions:

"Will you go out with me? Check yes, or no."

So bossy. And then guys started surprising you in middle school with carnations delivered straight to your classroom on Valentine's Day. Or a bouquet of flowers at your locker in high school from the guy you seriously thought you'd end up marrying and the two of you already had your kids' names picked out. No? Just me?

Then it was time to move away to college where, for many of us, it was the first time we really dated anyone from outside our hometown. Some couples ended up graduating and getting married while others, like myself, continued on with the dating game. While I'm not an expert, I've had my fair share of being in a relationship, being single, and even being married (if even for a short while.) I learned a lot and thought now would be a good time to pass on some of my "wisdom" (since I'm getting married soon.) Just kidding!

1. Enjoy your "you" time:

Take yourself out to dinner or lunch or out to coffee where you'll spend the day people watching. Start a new journal. Volunteer. Adopt an animal. Go on vacation. Take the time to love yourself again. Break-ups can be hard and it does take a while for your heart to mend. Instead of rushing right back into a relationship, embrace your time alone. Find how empowering it can be to just be you and be beautiful and know that you are enough.

2. Define what being "single" means to you:

Being single can seem like such a negative thing sometimes. Especially once you see so many of your friends getting married and having children. Being single does not mean you are broken. And I really think we need to stop viewing it that way. Find the beauty in being single. The world is your oyster.

3. Date:

Once you have healed from your breakup and feel ready to get back out there, just date. Get to know some different people. Break out of your "type." You could end up with someone you'd least expect or you could find you were spot on with the kind of partner you wanted. Just see what's out there and don't have a timeline.

4. Throw away the timeline:

You know what I'm talking about. When I was younger, I had the age I wanted to be married by, have my first child by, etc. Throw that out the door because it will get you nowhere. Focus on baking the best cake you could ever imagine (the cake=your life) and then when the time is right, the right partner for you will come into your life and be the icing on top!

5. Challenge yourself:

While you're enjoying your "you" time, defining what single means to you, going on dates, and throwing away the timeline, find some ways to challenge yourself. Maybe you haven't been much of a cook. Find a recipe a week that you want to try! Maybe you haven't been much of a reader. Get yourself a library card and spend the day browsing the shelves, taking home a stack of books to dive into on the couch each night! Maybe you hate running. Put those running shoes on, find somewhere beautiful, and go for a run, breathing in the air around you.

This time of being single is so special. It really is. As wonderful and exciting as it will be once we find our soulmate, hold our first child, buy our first home, etc. how cool is it to have the whole world at our fingertips? It's all right there for you! Take advantage of this time. Soak it up. Enjoy going to bed whenever you feel like, singing in the shower, browsing the aisles at the grocery store for something new, spending all afternoon in the bathroom just to try new hairstyles, learning new things about yourself. What ever helps you embrace being single, being you.

So, single ladies, I want to hear from you! What things have you been embracing while single? :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Visiting Old Hollywood

Growing up, it was no secret that I loved acting, Hollywood, and Marilyn Monroe. Just ask my college friends... my entire bathroom was Hollywood/Marilyn themed. I swear, my previous life was during the Old Hollywood glamour days. I'm absolutely sure of it. So, whenever I'm in Los Angeles, Grauman's Chinese Theatre (recently renamed to TCL Chinese Theatre) is a must!

Grauman's (it'll always be Grauman's to me) is home to nearly 200 Hollywood celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs, hosted many movie premieres, as well as the Academy Awards back in the 1940s. (And, yes, I did do a project on this Theatre back in college. Just in case you were wondering.)

While the majority of visitors are bombarding the most recent additions, (this time it was Harry Potter and Twilight. Seriously?) I spend my time over where the classic Hollywood stars are, starting with my girl, Marilyn.

One: 2006 | Two: 2013

I find it quite funny that this was for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes :)

Then, I had to go visit some of my other old friends!

Cary Grant was such a dreamboat and I'll never forget my mom's love of Doris Day. Growing up, I remember her always singing Que Sera Sera to me, a song that's so special to me today :)

There's always something so magical in the air when you're in Hollywood. Again, maybe it's just all that deja vu from my past lifetime, but it's such a special place for me to visit. Knowing all the history there. All the dreams. All the monumental moments. How wonderful it would be to take a step back into time and walk Hollywood Blvd in the early 1950s...

Have you been to Grauman's before? Who's your favorite person to go visit?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Being Vegan in L.A. the best. When I was vegan on the East Coast, I got those weird looks when someone found out. San Diego is pretty vegan-friendly (Thanks, California) so I love that servers in restaurants actually give me awesome vegan substitutes and suggestions when ordering off their menus. But L.A. has a plethora of straight up vegan restaurants. On Saturday, I decided on only two after doing some extensive research and Yelping.

For lunch, we went to M Cafe de Chaya off Melrose. Awesome, clean, bright vibe immediately upon entering as I was greeted with a smile, which is always nice! I had looked at the menu already online so I had a general idea of what I might order. I decided to take a gander at what they had behind the display glass. And let me tell you... I saw vegan sushi and desserts galore. Hold me back!

After asking for a recommendation (and seeing those Yelp pictures) I went with the Macro Burger which also came with the freshest, most delicious sweet potato fries I have ever had. Ever. And that sauce? My mouth is watering. Here's the description of the delicious burger in case you're not already hungry: house-made whole grain brown rice & vegetable patty, special sauce, lettuce, soy mozzarella, tomato, pickles, onion, and alfalfa sprouts on a toasted whole wheat bun. I've had a lot of veggie burgers in my day and this was... the best! Hands down.

To top it off, I also had the choice of which green tea or lemonade I wanted. I went with the most popular choice, the watermelon mint lemonade! Are you kidding me? Talk about refreshing! Angels were singing after my first sip. I wanted so badly to try one of their green juices but I had plans for later... And I was pretty full after that meal!

After spending the afternoon in Hollywood, there was one more vegan stop I had to make before heading Downtown for Dane's show. Ladies and gentlemen, Cafe Gratitude! I had seen this place all over Instagram thanks to some of my fellow green juice junkies and enough was enough, I had to try it for myself! There are four locations in California and we went to the L.A. location, on Larchmont Blvd. This building is absolutely gorgeous. I didn't get a photo of the entire outside, but I was able to find a beautiful image that a photographer captured.

We were seated out on the eclectic deck where our server greeted us with the "Question of the Day." I was in love already. Another reason why vegan, raw foodies put the biggest smile on my face. So, the question for us to ponder was:

"What are you overcoming?"

I wish you could have seen how bright-eyed I got in that moment. My mind was flooded with thoughts and ideas of things that I was currently (and still am) overcoming, as life had quickly taken a turn recently.

After we ordered, I just started to take it all in. I looked inside where I saw the chalkboard with the question written on it. I looked at the other patrons on the deck; some with their dogs, some with friends, some with dates. I noticed the pretty lipstick shades the two ladies next to me were rocking and the fun outfit of another girl nearby. There I was, in the middle of the City of Angels. A city so large with people from all walks of life. There's truly something for everyone there and I found my place. In those moments, as the sun sunk down into the California horizon and I excitedly anticipated my order, I felt at home.

It's crazy how you can find "home" in so many different cities. But not every city.
Certain cities speak to certain souls.

Finally, the drink I had been talking about for days arrived for me at my table. And again, angels sang. He got the Marvelous (I think) and I got the Cool. (The way the menu works is that each item is named a different adjective and it starts with I Am... So, when you order you say: "I Am Cool.") Pretty fancy, huh? :)

This delicious treat that I had been dreaming about was a mint chocolate chip milkshake with Vitamineral green and raw cacao nibs (100% raw, vegan, and delicious of course!) I loved how the mint was REAL mint, not the mint syrup you get at most other places. It was so absolutely tasty that I tried my best not to inhale it but, well, you know how that goes...

Sigh. I am grateful for Cafe Gratitude and their positive vibes all around. Even their vintage milk jars filled with water with the words "Love & Gratitude" etched into them were a beautiful added touch.

Moral of the story: I can't wait to live in Los Angeles. Job well done.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What L.A. And Dane Cook Taught Me

This past weekend left me feeling all sorts of inspired. I ventured up to Los Angeles; the City of Angels. I was inspired by the city, yes, of course. Cities inspire me. Especially that one. But it was at the end of the night that I was truly moved.

The main reason I went up to LA was to see my favorite comedian, Dane Cook, on his Under Oath Tour. During his encore skit at the end of the show, he started off as he often does, telling us a story. It was the story of how we first got started. As a guy who grew up in Boston, he finally got a gig in a rinky-dink place in NYC. He got the 3am slot and was liked enough, even if it was a minuscule audience, to have been asked to come back, and this time... to start at 2:45! That night, when he was leaving (walking, because he couldn't even afford a taxi) he stopped in front of Madison Square Garden and said, "I'm going to play you one day." 

The crowd went wild.

Because, if you're familiar with Dane, he was the second comedian to ever sell out Madison Square Garden, where he performed Rough Around the Edges back in 2006.

But at the beginning, he continued going back to the small venues time and time again where he was called "Dance" Cook because the guy working there didn't even know his name was Dane. He bombed night after night but never gave up because he knew stand-up was what he wanted to do. The night I saw him, at the end of his line-up and a "Thank you so much, Los Angeles!" he looked out at us and I saw something. It was different from the normal bow and run off the stage you often see. He was there, thanking us. You could see him take it in for those few short seconds before touching his hands to the stage and exiting stage right.

While he was up there, talking about the struggles his family went through, the repeat failures he endured at the start of his career, not knowing whether he'd make it or not, I thought pretty in-depth about it all. About success. About passion. About purpose. About perseverance. About the naysayers.

These days, we see a lot of overnight success. We see the viral YouTube videos that make it onto the news. We see the fashion bloggers who get sponsored by big-name clothing companies in less than a year. We see the contestants on American Idol who never took a voice lesson in their life and end up with a record deal at the end.

But let us not forget about the ones who worked their butts off. Year after year. The ones who FAILED. Over and over and over again. Katy Perry for example, while trying to make it in LA said, "It was five years of living in L.A. with no money, writing bad checks, selling my clothes to make rent, [and] borrowing money." She had three record deals fall apart before finally signing with Capitol. You'd never know it looking at her now!

LA is a city of dreams. A city where people flock from all over the world to follow their passion. It's where many dreams live and many dreams die. But I left Hollywood and the City of Angels knowing I am only just beginning...

That night, while watching Dane, I made a couple decisions, like he once had done, about things that I am going to accomplish one day. This brand new month of October holds a bunch of huge, exciting things for me as I step out into the world of my dreams. I'm making some big moves before the journey officially begins in November. I'm bound to get discouraged or doubtful but when those moments happen, I'll remind myself of this past weekend and the proof that true success comes to those who never give up on their dreams. Thank you, Dane :)