Starting Over

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If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that circumstances and expectations do not have to define you. I moved out of my mom’s house a month before my 28th birthday, a fear of flying kept me from traveling for almost 10 years, my grades were underwhelming at best, and I played it safe by going to UCSB–a school 90 minutes from my hometown of Los Angeles.

It’s fair to say that no one expected me to pack up my things, move across the country, and start a new company.

It was always understood that I’d go to community college after high school since my grades were anything but impressive. Looking back, it’s clear how lost I was, but when I struggled, there wasn’t really anyone who sat me down to talk about my interests, what I wanted to do, or how to get there. I was told I wouldn’t amount to much–words I’ve had to work very hard to move on from. After floundering at community college for a few years, I was convinced that I’d never figure my life out. But I transferred to Cal State Northridge, finally turned my grades around, and transferred to UCSB with an 3.89 GPA. The good grades continued at UCSB, and things almost felt like they were turning around.

Then came graduation and real life. I was everything from a nanny, assistant at a PR firm, to an executive assistant in the entertainment industry and assistant at a graphic design firm. I was never the girl who knew what I wanted and couldn’t figure out where I belonged in both my personal life and my career. Living at home in your mid-late 20s is not something I’d recommend, and my rocky relationship with my mom didn’t make things any easier. Then there was the ex-boyfriend who I knew in my heart wasn’t a good guy but stayed with anyway because I was young, stupid, and had zero confidence. I can’t believe I put up with that idiot. If you’re dating someone you know isn’t for you, please walk away. Especially if they don’t treat you well.

In 2007, I started blogging and shortly thereafter, redesigned my blog. A reader offered to pay me to help with her blog, then another, and before I knew it, I had a wait list–one that was steadily maintained for years. It was a mix of luck (the timing was perfect), marketing, and a crazy amount of time in front of the computer. I wasn’t excited about anything else and decided to give graphic design a try.

After reading blogs for two years, I felt inspired to visit a few blog-friends. This meant flying. So I got some xanax, almost passed out while boarding my first flight, and overcame my fear. These days, I walk on a plane like it’s nothing. I visited TN, TX, and IL, and hoped I’d feel inspired to move to a new city. I was sold on Nashville until a two day trip to Chicago. I’m not sure what it was, but something pulled me toward this city and in February 2009, I left Los Angeles for a sublet in the west loop.

As my month in Chicago came to a close, I wasn’t ready to leave and extended my temporary lease another two weeks. Then I went home to LA where I was miserable. I missed Chicago which meant I had to move which meant leaving everything I ever knew (except Buddy) behind. I’d be completely alone.

Here I am, six years post-move and happier than I’ve ever been. That’s not to say it’s been easy or that I’m always happy because that’s not the case at all. I’ve dealt with anxiety, loneliness, break-ups, loss, sickness, surgery etc. But things have, for the most part, been good. And at the end of the day, there have never been any second thoughts about the move, unless it’s 4 degrees outside. The cold weather will make you question everything.

My reason for sharing this is that I’ve had a few people tell me how inspired they are by my story, which is hard for me to process since no one ever really believed in me, including myself. I was not a happy person and turned my life upside down in an effort to find happiness. It’s easier to stay in a city you don’t love, get stuck in a bad relationship, and to hold on to people who don’t treat you well, but life is far too short to treat yourself that way.

Moving to a new city is the equivalent of hitting the reset button on your life. Your day-to-day becomes completely unrecognizable and it takes a while before this new life feels like it’s actually yours. But when it finally does, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.

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  • "Moving to a new city is the equivalent of hitting the reset button on your life. "

    I couldn’t agree more. Little less than a year ago, me and my husband decided to leave everything back home (on the other side of the ocean) and start from the ground up, here in Chicago. I must say – moving to another country felt so exciting yet so terrifying at the same time, but it was the best decision we’ve ever made.
    Even though I’m still building my way up to the life I want to live, I am confident that I’m moving in the right direction.
    Thank you, Danielle, this was so inspiring!

    Ivana, @coffeeandcinnamon

  • Thank you for sharing this. Being on the ‘search for happiness’ myself, stories like this make me remember that it is important to just hold on and pay your dues. Happiness is created and takes time. Unlike popular opinion, it doesn’t just happen overnight and/or is dependent upon one factor. And unless you’re not happy with yourself, the really good things will not happen as your own self-doubt/issues will in the end make things difficult. I’ve always been an avid reader of your blog, and blogposts like this one is why. Your honesty & sincerity is why I keep coming back.