Goodbye, Rhode Island

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Fall, 2016. The first time I’d visited Fort Wetherhill in Jamestown, Rhode Island. It’s still one of my favorite places to go on weekends.

God knows it’s been awhile since I first drove down through Carolina, by way of the isle of quiet winding pine woods onto East Beach Road, past raised, bleached houses that were delicately hidden behind rolling dunes.

It was winter of 2016 when I first drove down to the south shore. Charlestown’s wind-swept beaches offered me the chance to witness the steady roaring of crystalline blue waves buffeting fine white sand. Away from the busy chatter of the city, the cool breeze off the ocean tossed tendrils of my hair around my face and bit through my thin jacket. I fell in love.

I’d been living in Providence for about five months at the time. I couldn’t tell you (and still can’t tell you) the best places to dine in Federal Hill or what coffee milk tastes like, but I can navigate the rough crags of Fort Wetherhill in Jamestown and tell you when the tide rolls out to sea, leaving hidden coves along the shores of Beavertail Lighthouse.

I was young when I moved here two years ago. I still am. But Rhode Island has offered me something beyond what I could’ve hoped for- a chance to make my life my own. A chance to make my own mistakes, a chance to learn.

When I made my first solo trip to Boston two years ago after moving into a four story house on Olney Street on the East Side of Providence, I glanced up at the towering skyscapers above and wondered who worked there. Too afraid to take the train up from Providence (how did it work?), I paid dearly for parking that January day and wandered the streets until I found a museum with free access- it was Thursday, one of my two days off at the dealership down in Warwick.

Clutching my phone tightly, I walked one block and turned around. The sun had long since disappeared and I felt vulnerable. I returned to the steamy underground parking garage, found my car, and pressed the start button a little too quickly than the occasion called for. The ignition roared to life and I silently sat in my car, glancing past the steering wheel to the brightly lit dashboard.

48,656 miles.

I drove home, the thought that I’d be working a few blocks away in less than one year’s time never crossing my mind. A year and a half later, I stare down at the streets of Boston from the 16th Floor of 125 Summer Street remembering the time I’d wearily driven home, not having visited the Contemporary Institute of Art that Thursday- in Seaport, as I now know.

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Unedited photo I took while down at Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown, Rhode Island. If you’ve never watched a storm roll in from the southwest while on the coast, it’s amazing.

To date, my Ford Escape has about 65,000 miles on the odometer. Hundreds of miles have been spent driving down to the frozen beaches of Newport, Jamestown, Westerly, and Charlestown during the winter of 2016. The beaches were blissfully empty during those months, but as I began to see shoots of flowers emerge from the undergrowth, so too did people begin to emerge- both in my life and on the beaches.

Gone were the days when I’d go twenty-four hours without speaking. The road down to the southern shore remains a familiar friend as I play the same music as I always had, but now I take friends and family down to the places I’ve grown to know so well.

Oh, there’s a river that winds on forever/ I’m gonna see where it leads/ Oh, there’s a mountain that no man has mounted/ I’m gonna stand on the peak.

Two years later, I know I’ll see these beaches less, but somehow I know I’ll always be able to guide myself over the cool, salty rocks that have been here long before me and will long survive me. I feel timeless as the sea foam floats eerily through the air around me, the sun beating down on my cheeks.

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Blue Shutters Beach, Charlestown, Rhode Island. I took my parents to my favorite Rhode Island spot last summer before they swung up to Acadia, ME.

I never realized how young I was when I graduated from college and I never knew I could experience true happiness while in solitude years later. Moving from Wisconsin offered me the chance to figure out what I value most in life, my loved ones and a sense of adventure.

It’s been one of the hardest, yet easiest choices I’ve made in my life. Getting here was the easiest part- I had supportive parents and a friend who offered me the spare room in her apartment. The next part was the hardest. I had to find a job to support myself.

Post-college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew what I loved and was passionate about, but had few connections that led to anything fruitful. I’d spent hours shooting off my resume to random job sites and recruiters to no avail, becoming more and more discouraged at each turn. How could I have a four-year degree that offered me nothing?

After a jobless four months, I managed to connect with someone who put me in touch with a manager seeking to fill a position at a car dealership. Since that time, I’ve learned acquiring a new job is twofold: it’s about who you know and being patient. This is how I acquired my most recent two jobs as well as ended up switching career-paths. I’ve also learned no job is beneath me or my education. If it pays the bills, it pays the bills.

With the ability to support myself monetarily (still with some help from my parents), I began to explore. Ocean to the east, mountains to the north and west, friends to the south. I now felt a freedom like I’d never before. No longer in my college bubble, I began to find myself. I went out on dates, began caring less what others thought of me, and confronted demons that threatened to bring my delicate, newfound life crashing down.

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The first time I visited Blue Shutters Beach, Charlestown, Rhode Island. Though I look cold, it was an unseasonably warm January day.

Though I know I’ll never be cured of my mental heath illnesses, I am very aware what I’m able to do to manage them. While surrounded by sun bleached trees, softly chirping birds, and a trailhead, I began to challenge myself to live unapologetically a year ago. I am me, that’s all I can give. I might as well learn to tolerate myself if I want to experience everything I can about life while I can, I thought. My world became a much less depressing place as I acknowledged the beauty of the sea glass on the ocean’s shore, the sheer magnitude of the mountains in the Pemigawasset Wilderness, the soft colors of the sunlight filtering through the pine trees on a winter day.*

Shedding much of the negativity I had brought with me to Providence, I let the sand beneath my feet guide me and sky overhead remind me of how incredibly lucky I was to be alive. These fleeting moments never cease to bring me out of a funk, even if only for a short while.

I began taking up hobbies my parents so graciously introduced my siblings and I to as kids. I hiked, biked, and ran more. No longer mindlessly doing these tasks or performing them with volleyball season in mind, I consciously began learning to savor each movement of my body and how lucky I was to be able to perform each exercise. I climbed summits, pedaled through vibrant green fields aglow with wildflowers, and started enjoying the feeling of running for time, not distance.

It’s taken time (two years!) and I’m still learning to like myself. I’m taking each day for what it is and I’m working on becoming less stressed about my future.

As I leave Rhode Island for Boston (I know I’m being dramatic, it’s not that far- but still, it’ll be a two-three hour drive to get to the destinations that now take a half an hour), I feel more prepared to continue my life out on the east coast than I had two years ago. There’s been hard lessons to learn and will still be in years to come, but I’ve never been more excited to begin a new chapter of life.

So although I’ll be farther away from the crashing of the ocean waves on Blue Shutters Beach or the tangled vines that twine around the fences of Fort Wetherhill, I know part of me will always be amongst the salty air, waiting to return to the places I grew from a recent college grad to a young (functioning!) woman. The move I’m about to make is far less about distance than about the person I’ve become since moving here in August of 2016. And I wouldn’t change a single moment of the past two years for the world.

Goodbye, Rhode Island. Living here has been a pleasure.

xx KH

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My favorite photo I’ve ever taken while at Moonrise Kingdom in Jamestown, Rhode Island. If you haven’t already seen Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson), I highly recommend doing so- some of the movie’s scenes were filmed here. 

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*Let me make this clear…I am in no way hinting depression or any other mental illness can simply be cured by sitting in the middle of the woods. It doesn’t work that way. Though it has greatly helped me by being “in nature” while depressed/anxious/obsessive-compulsive, it doesn’t replace meds or therapy. Trust me.

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Beavertail Lighthouse, June 2017. Nothing makes me happier than when I’m able to make it down to the coast while it’s shrouded in a thick layer of fog- it’s beautiful.

General Life Update: iPhone Tripod Pics and Self-Reliance

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Hey guys, I’m back.

In all seriousness, it’s been awhile since I last posted. I figured I owed the world an explanation as to why I seem to be posing in front of inanimate objects at an increasingly (and alarming) speed on both Instagram and Twitter (it’s because I was shown no love as a child and Uncle Scar killed my father to rule the kingdom…oh wait, that’s Lion King. Nevermind).

So while I love a good iPhone tripod and the horrified stare of those around me struggling to justify my existence in this world as I set a self-timer and frolic in front of monuments and paintings, this does little to describe the inner workings of my life. I told you, my social media pages can be likened to a fan’s crappy highlights mixtape of Steph Currey’s three-pointers from a few years back. All smiles, all the time.

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Me Pondering: Am I trying to find a Taco Bell in the distance? What is consciousness? Was Tupac’s death faked? Is he still alive?

So other than spending a good handful of my time trying to figure out how Kylie Jenner’s waist to hip ratio works (where does she fit her organs?!), I’ve spent a lot of time alone.

Awww, poor Kristin. Someone play me the world’s smallest violin, already!

At heart, I’m an extraverted introvert. Regardless, I’d say my time alone has overall been great and it’s worth it despite this fact.

My homeboy and Transcendentalist, Thoreau, would’ve also encouraged you to do get in some alone time- in fact, he’d probably try to help build you a cabin out in the middle of the woods somewhere to get you started. So while yes, I have actually had to bum it at various KOA campsites in the fall when I was literally homeless, I don’t recommend going that route unless you have a home to go home to with a shower and refrigerator in it (you can only survive on PB&Js and communal showers for so long, people).

Now that I have a place to sleep at night, I’m able to travel around the East Coast without the stress of knowing the AirBnb or campsite I’m staying at is completely draining my savings account.

And it’s been wonderful.

I spent a day drinking rosé and sitting in front of some of Degas, Monet, and Whistler’s greatest paintings in Boston. Another day, I drove three hours north to the White Mountains because I’ve never seen them before. Later this summer, I bummed it on Cape Cod’s beaches, eating ice cream and watching seagulls bob around in the blue-green surf. I also had the fortune of traveling to San Francisco and every Ivy League school with Brown Volleyball this past fall. Even as I drive home each day through the heart of Providence, it’s some of the most normal moments like these that remind me of how lucky I am to have somehow “made it” here. I’m living, people!

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Me Pondering: where is that quarter I dropped? What is the meaning of life? Where am I?

In my time out here, traveling has served as an escape for me, especially this fall and winter. It’s also taught me a lot about myself. It’s just been, like, the year of realizing stuff. (Lol, if you recognize that, I’ll love you forever).

Though being alone has caused me to grow up a lot quicker than staying at home would have, I’ve also experienced some rough moments in my time here that are harder to capture in photographs.

Fighting depression, anxiety, mixed states, obsessions and compulsions can be a challenge in itself, but when you’re twenty hours away from home, there are many times when you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.

Not pictured on my Instagram are the torn layers of skin around my nails, infected and bloody from ripping them apart out of anxiety. Also missing are the days I wake up with puffy eyes from crying the night before over something so minor I can hardly ever recall what it was. Other things are too abstract for photographs: thoughts of panic gripping me, what are you doing? Why did you think moving was a good idea? I had spent four months desperately looking for a job and watched my savings account go from thousands of dollars to just $33.48 before I got my first paycheck in late November. 

Much of this past fall was filled with days where I fluctuated in a mixed state. The only way I can justifiably describe this to those who have never been through this themselves: you are never certain which of your thoughts are ingrained in reality and which are not.

So when this winter came, I welcomed back depression like an old friend after months of struggling in a mixed state.

Because I’m Bipolar II, I spend more time in the depressed state than the hypomanic state and find it much more familiar and much more manageable than being too “up”. It’s easier to feel suicidal now for me than it is to feel manic only in the sense that I’ve learned to acknowledge these thoughts as just thoughts and as a reminder I’m not well instead of thoughts I need to act on.

After seeing my family over the holidays for a whopping forty-eight-hour whirlwind adventure, I was motivated to help myself again. I started working out as an attempt to get myself out of the “funk” I now found myself in. I made myself a goal: to get in shape again so I’d be able to hike in the Adirondacks this spring and summer.

For the whole month of December and much of November, I had limited myself to 800 calories a day and wanted to cut the deficit to a lower amount. My obsessions had gotten worse for some time and I was extremely unhappy with the way I looked. It felt good to punish myself- I sucked at my job and felt like I was annoying everyone with my lack of knowledge. My position used none of my talents, I felt trapped, and it was hard enough to even show up to work much less try and remember details about leasing or financing a car (for those unaware, I work at a car dealership).

As January continued on, I tried to work out and travel more. I became less depressed and obsessed with my daily caloric intake and sometimes I’d feel happy, truly happy- not manic and out of control, but the real genuine thing. I spent less days dizzy, miserable, and light-headed and more days active and reflective.

Loneliness no longer bothered me to the extent it used to. I felt alone, but I learned to truly embrace it. For the first time ever, I decided to go to a fancy restaurant by myself in Boston a few days ago. People around me definitely stared, but I pretended not to notice. This wasn’t like your run-of-the-mill Panera or Starbucks, everyone there was dining with someone sans laptops and it was obvious I was alone. After a few minutes, I ordered a brie and turkey sandwich and ignored wandering eyes. My very existence felt defiant, so when asked if I wanted to see a dessert menu, I said “hell yeah”, much to my waiter’s chagrin.

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You bet I used a tripod. Me frolicking around the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

It was then that I truly realized that being alone doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely.

In fact, I’m often reminded of the Kristin I used to be as a child. I was always content reading a book rather than socializing. As I grew up, this changed. Everyone’s self confidence takes a dive as a teenager. We all looked weird as f*ck and were trying to figure out our place in the world. At the time, being with others helped me feel wanted. I had to be an okay person because others would hang out with me, right? I read less but had a lot of fun making new friends.

Although I’m always game to go out on a Saturday night, I’m also perfectly happy reading a book or driving around in my Ford Escape listening to NPR. It’s a balancing act now.

It doesn’t bother me as much anymore when I’m traveling and see couples and friends laughing and talking with one another because I also know the time I spend alone is giving me another chance to build a positive relationship with myself. It sounds silly, but it’s something I’m incredibly proud of because I’ve never truly liked myself in the past (I’ve always joked that I’m working on my positive self talk, but it’s hard when working with an idiot).

Bottom line, all the sh*t I’ve been through (both good and bad) this fall and winter has taught me a lot. I’ve learned to like myself a little more and enjoy the perks of traveling wherever, whenever. I also determined I’d rather build up my self worth internally than rely on another person’s opinion of me, whether it be positive or negative. While it’s great to be loved, it’s even better to have a good relationship with yourself that you’ve worked on yourself. Even if you have to go through what seems like hell and back to get there, I can promise you it’s definitely worth it in the end.

So here’s my challenge to you: pick a nice restaurant and eat alone. Order dessert. Get that $15 sangria. Take your time and try not to bring out your phone. Self-reliance has more than just a place in American Romanticism, enjoy it and learn to embrace it.

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Smiling because I’m liking myself more now. Also maybe because I see a taco floating in the water.