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on saying yes.

On Wednesday, we had a girls’ night at one of my new favorite events here in New York City — Changemaker Chats. I learned about this awesome organization from a sorority sister a few months ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few of the Chats since then. The Changemakers are active in eight cities, and if you have a chapter where you live, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Once a month, they bring a butt-kicking female leader, influencer, or entrepreneur to speak casually about her experiences in work and life, and it’s just a really cool opportunity to listen to a successful person share their insights. I absolutely love these events, and it’s been fun sharing it with my friends, too. Even my mom has gotten in on the fun! She took the bus in for just a few hours on Wednesday so she could join us for the Chat. This month’s event was hosted at HBO HQ, so there were obviously photos involved.

One of the best things about Changemaker Chats is that the conversations are off the record, which makes them all the more honest and comfortable. Because of this rule, I’m not going to share the details of Wednesday’s event (you’ll just have to come check out the next Chat to see what it’s about!), but the amazing speaker did get my wheels turning with one simple thing she said, and I wanted to tell you about it.

JUST SAY YES.

It’s a philosophy I’ve heard from several inspirational writers and speakers over the years (as a diehard Housewives and Bethenny Frankel fan, I devoured A Place of Yes when it came out a few years ago), and each time I’m reminded of it, I realize how important it is. It’s taken on a whole new meaning in the adventure I’ve been on this past year.

I’ve been pretty honest with you lately about the moments of doubt I’ve had, the growing pains I’ve been experiencing as a person working out on my own, and the many questions I’ve been asking myself about whether or not I’m using my time wisely and pursuing the right things. Last night’s words of wisdom felt like just the advice I needed, and I’m going to try to keep them front of mind as I move into my second year of writing.

Saying yes to opportunities that come my way instead of overthinking whether or not they’re the “right” opportunities. Saying yes to meeting new people and hearing what they have to say. Saying yes to sharing my story with people who are interested. Saying yes to jumping headfirst into whatever work is on my plate each day. Saying yes to meetings and coffee dates. Saying yes to new projects and opportunities, even if they feel overwhelming or out of my comfort zone. Saying yes, yes, YES. It’s an easy philosophy to remember, and one that I think is going to lead me in the right direction with my writing. And if it leads me to a wrong turn now and then, at least I’ll have tried a lot of things. Right?

JUST SAY YES.

It’s my new motto, an easy-to-remember little mantra.

Say YES to a great weekend, everyone. You all are awesome, and I can’t wait to see you back here next week : )

 

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eleven month recap.

This week, as I celebrate eleven months of writing and working for myself, I have to admit that my spirits are a little low — a serious contrast to how I was feeling last month. I think I speak for the vast majority of this country when I say that the events of these past few days have felt like nothing short of a punch to the stomach. I’ve been glued to the news since Saturday afternoon, and it all kind of seems like a bad dream in slow motion. It’s hard to believe that such hate is not only so deeply rooted in our society, but also that it continues to grow. I am disappointed — in people, in our leadership, in the fact that so many seem to have taken so few lessons from our history. If I’ve learned anything from the ways these events have unfolded, it’s that words matter. Hateful words matter and unsaid words matter. As humans, we have the right and the responsibility to communicate with one another, and when we don’t do that appropriately or respectfully, there are consequences — some serious. This week, let’s be intentional with our words and use our voices to be clear and kind. 

Jimmy Fallon can do no wrong in my eyes, but I especially appreciate what he had to say about what happened this weekend. Before I switch gears, I want to share this clip with you. If you haven’t watched it yet, I hope you take a minute to take it in now.

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Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week as I try to focus on my to-do list in spite of the chaos around us is my work from home routine. It’s been a crazy summer for me personally, and as it winds down and I look ahead to calmer days, I’m excited to ease back into a more predictable, more consistent daily rhythm. As you know if you’ve been following the blog for a while, I’m constantly adjusting how I approach this whole work from home thing. It’s not a perfect science, and this lifestyle allows for so much flexibility that I feel it’s important to consistently look for opportunities to adapt my habits and optimize my time. Working from coffee shops was especially effective for me earlier in the summer, but it’s just not my preference right now. Spending the first hour of my day working from bed was a great way for me to build momentum a few months ago, but I’m trying to move away from that now.

When I think back on the things I’ve tried that are no longer working for me, I remind myself that making adjustments to the routine are not a sign of failure or of being “bad” at being my own boss! Part of working for myself is learning to motivate my team (ME… hah!) to do my best work. I’m learning new things about how to get the most out of this freelance lifestyle each and every day, and trust me — I am no closer to being an expert simply because I’ve been at it for eleven months now!

I was especially inspired this week by my friend Casey’s most recent post on The Intentionally Good Life (if you love images of beautiful food and amazing travel adventures, you should check out her Instagram feed, too!) Casey is a fellow freelancer and WFH-er, and in her latest blog, she shared some of her own notes on creating a work routine based on focus and intentionality. While some of her suggestions aren’t the perfect match for my personal situation, Casey has definitely motivated me to step back and reconsider my own habits, and I’m excited to move forward with a few changes inspired by her routine.

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  • I’m going to get more consistent with my wake-up time. While I’ve always been up and working by about 8:30 AM, my specific wake-up time has varied over the last few months — and since I’m usually awake by 6 with Matt, this inconsistency seems a little silly! Moving forward, I’ll be getting out of bed at 6:30 when Matt leaves for the office every day so I can get to work.
  • I’m going to put on my gym clothes as soon as I get out of bed. There are a lot of schools of thought across the working from home community about whether or not you should work in your pajamas. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with doing this for a few hours in the morning (especially if it gets you working earlier!), and it’s been perfectly OK for me for the last few months. That being said, I’m going to reclaim one of the “rules” I set for myself when I first started freelancing and put on some “real clothes” right after I get up each morning.
  • I’m going to change up my morning work spot. love my home office, but I find that starting my day there often makes me feel isolated and un-focused. It’s a small room tucked in the back of our small apartment, and there’s just something about the energy of the space that doesn’t feel suited to the start of the day. Instead, I’ll be kicking off my workday with my materials spread out on the kitchen table, next to a big window that looks out onto the street.
  • I’m going to try to make my break times more consistent. I take one break from work every day to go to the gym (which is part of why I get started so early!), but for the last few months, the time at which I’ve done that has been really inconsistent. Assuming I don’t have calls or meetings, I’m now going to try going to the gym at roughly the same time daily.
  • I’m going to force myself to focus on one thing for certain increments of time. This is one of my favorite of Casey’s suggestions. In her blog post, she references listening to a podcast featuring a blogger/writer who said that he sets a 30-minute timer for himself when he’s feeling especially fidgety. For those 30 minutes, he’s only allowed to work on a single task — or, if he’s still struggling to focus, to think about that task. If I’m having trouble working on a particular assignment, I’ll typically just move on to something else. I can see how blocking out my time more intentionally will improve the quality of what I do, so I’m going to give that a try.

So excited to put these new habits to work in my own routine! Thanks so much for the inspiration, Casey!

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for all my ladies.

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Yesterday was a pretty incredible day to be a woman. Every time I checked my social media feeds, it seemed there were a hundred more amazing testaments to International Women’s Day — tributes to family members, inspirational quotes, photos of powerful female friendships, and articles (by women and men!) featuring amazing stories and reflections about ladies in our society. In the midst of so much political disagreement and tension, it was pretty amazing to see people in my life from all opinions and backgrounds agreeing on one fact: women are worth celebrating.

It was also a relief to see that the fundamental message of International Women’s Day wasn’t overshadowed by the controversy about this year’s Day Without A Woman protest, because I think if it had, the tone of the whole day may have turned more fundamentally negative. I run with a pretty outspoken crew of liberal lady bosses, and still, almost everyone I knew went about their usual business and went to work like it was any other Wednesday. It made me fall in love with these women all over again to see them making a statement with their presence instead of their absence. We all have so much to contribute to our workplaces and communities, and while I respect anyone who took part in the protest, it was inspiring the way so many people took the opportunity to lean in (cliche, I know).

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the wonderful things I saw and read yesterday, and it fills me with so much hope in these weird times. I love seeing people come together for something positive — to celebrate all that’s already good and to speak constructively about how we can keep moving forward. I have my own serious concerns about how our current political administration is (or, really, isn’t) going to support women. It was hard to watch the first potential female presidency slip away, and it’s been even harder for many of us to wrestle with what comes next. But on days like yesterday, I remember that it doesn’t have to be so uncertain. When I see the grace, confidence, creativity, and intelligence that the women who surround me possess, I actually feel pretty certain that politics isn’t what’s important. We are what’s important.

I’m grateful for the confidence that’s been instilled in me by the incredible women in my family. A girl couldn’t ask for a stronger female tribe — my mom, stepmom, and grandmothers, in particular, push me to always do my best and (even more) to be myself. My four younger sisters inspire me every day — to set a good example, and also to be imperfect. And when it comes to friendship? I hit the jackpot. I wouldn’t want to figure out this life with anyone other than my incredible girlfriends.

My hope for all of you as we wind down from the excitement of International Women’s Day is that you can find grounding in your own support systems. When we have each other, we have it all, and we can do amazing things. Let’s get ’em, ladies!

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tuning out today.

This is me in 2009 at President Obama’s inauguration.

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Please try to ignore the poor photo quality and my hilarious outfit choice, and pay attention instead to how excited I look.

I was eighteen and a freshman at George Washington University. One of the reasons I’d decided to go to college in DC was because I knew I would have the chance to be part of the 2008 inauguration festivities. It made it all the more special that we got to celebrate Barack Obama, who so beautifully tapped into the imagination of me and my fellow students. I remember how cold it was that day. Under that hot pink coat, I probably had on three layers of sweatshirts, and even though I genuinely thought I looked adorable in that white hat, I really was wearing it to stay warm. We woke up when it was still dark and trekked to join the crowds coming from all directions, my new friends and I buzzing with excitement as we waited in line to get through security. It was the first time in my life that I truly felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve felt that way since. There was an incredible energy in the crowd, as if a huge weight had been lifted and everyone just wanted to dance. I’d felt great the previous November about my vote for Obama, but on that cold day in January, I knew I’d made the right decision, and I felt confident about what was ahead for our country.

Today, we’ll witness another inauguration. (I wrote briefly about my feelings regarding the election back in November.) For the past two months, I’ve been constantly engaged with the news. After placing my vote for Hillary and watching as Donald Trump secured a victory, I’ve felt a compulsive need to see what happens next, perhaps more than I ever have in my life. My choice for the rest of today, though, is to disengage. I will not be tuning in to watch the inauguration coverage. It’s important to be informed, but it’s equally important to know your mental and emotional limits. Most of the time, I believe that we should pay attention to milestone moments — even when we don’t agree with them — simply because they are history, but for me, part of the historic nature of today is my personal choice to take a break. I’m going to share this blog, send a few e-mails, stay off Facebook, spend the rest of the day outlining my book, and maybe even sneak a little trashy TV in there if I need it. I am protecting the magic of my experience back in 2009 and choosing not to engage in any additional negativity.

I shared this last week on Facebook, but I’m going to post it here today, as well:

When I was a freshman at GW, I voted for the first time in the gym of a Washington, DC public high school. My ballot was cast for Barack Obama. At the time, I was writing for the college newspaper, and on Election Night, I was assigned to cover a party at the RNC’s HQ at a fancy hotel downtown. I was entirely out of my league — and so excited. Like the rest of the country, I waited anxiously for the election’s results. When the networks declared Obama the winner, I quickly interviewed a few sad Republicans and took off for campus as fast as possible. I’d heard that my friends were meeting outside the White House to celebrate Obama’s victory, so I took off my heels and ran barefoot to Pennsylvania Avenue. I had never seen anything like it. I jumped and danced and screamed with people I didn’t know, totally overwhelmed by the sense of joy and hope around me. I wish I had photos from that night, but I don’t — I was too caught up in the excitement. As I watched our president’s farewell address last night — and again this morning — I was struck by how very blessed I feel to have come of age in Obama’s America. When I ran shoe-less to the White House back in 2008, I had *so* much to learn about “real life,” but eight years later, I know without a doubt that my faith in President Obama back then was the furthest thing from misplaced or naive. Regardless of your politics, I think that many of us can agree that the future feels scary right now, but I am infinitely grateful for this man and the standard he has set for his office. Thank you, Mr. President.

Times are weird, but we have each other. I appreciate that I’ve been able to witness such strong leadership, because it gives me hope for the future and for where we can go next. Let’s love, love, love. Always love.

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You’ve made me proud to be an American, President Obama. Thank you.

 

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four month recap.

I hope you all had a fantastic long weekend! A few months ago, Matt and I had talked about taking a little vacation over MLK weekend, but we decided instead to stick around in Brooklyn and treat ourselves to a few extra fun dates. My favorite parts of the staycation? A delicious brunch at Rucola — it’s two blocks from our apartment and I’m practically kicking myself that we haven’t checked it out sooner! — and a night out at the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. Maybe I’m just super behind the times on this whole concept, but it was by far the coolest movie-going experience of my life. Since I’m not very good at sitting in the same place for a long time, I don’t usually love going to the movie theater, but Alamo has a full menu (including meals, booze, and even milkshakes!) and full restaurant-style service, plus really comfy seats, so the whole thing feels more special. We saw Jackie, which had been on my list for a while (totally recommend!), but now that we have the Alamo on our radar, I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more movies.

It’s now been over four months since I quit my job and became a freelancer. Honestly, where did the time go? I guess life seems to move a little faster around the holidays, but it still feels like it’s all happening so quickly.

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Usually, when I share my monthly recaps (check out my other recent installments here, here, and here), I have a long list of observations, but at the four-month mark, I really only have one major reflection:

I made it four months, and into 2017. 

When I first made the decision to totally redirect my plan back in September, Matt and I identified the start of the new year as a sort of “soft deadline” for figuring out whether or not it would make sense to keep going with freelancing. If 2017 came and I had yet to earn a single dollar as a writer or was feeling restless or defeated, we would need to reconsider our options. As supportive as my husband has been of what I’m doing, we both know how important it is to look out for our financial well-being, plus I am not the type to feel comfortable being 100% financially supported at this point in my life. Having just made a decision to leave a job that was causing me to feel depressed and anxious, I also didn’t want to set myself up to go down another long road of negative emotions if being a full-time writer wasn’t ultimately going to be the right fit for me.

The new year has come and gone, and we never had to have a conversation about whether or not I should start looking for another “real” job. Thanks to lots of hard work and a little luck, I picked up enough momentum in the fall that I can continue to pursue my writing — and, better yet, make a career of it. As I reflect on the four-month milestone, I’m incredibly humbled by the whole thing. There have been (and will continue to be, of course) moments where I’ve questioned my decisions, but as of now, we’re still going strong. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that four months feels pretty good. : )

My plan for these recap posts was to continue to share them monthly until either the six-month or one-year mark. What do you think? I’d love your input!

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a love letter to nyc.

This weekend, I played host to my sister Katie and her best friend, who were visiting Brooklyn for the day to celebrate Katie’s 18th (WHAT! when did that happen?) birthday. My family hasn’t had a chance to explore my neighborhood very much yet, so I love any opportunity I get to show them some of my favorite places. Matt and I took the girls to check out the amazing views at Brooklyn Bridge Park (plus Jane’s Carousel), we had (a very un-memorable) lunch (sorry, Katie) near the water, and then we hopped over to check out the indoor Brooklyn Flea Market, which is currently set-up in a super cool old building with a ceiling so beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring. We finished up the day with (in my opinion, anyway) the most delicious hot chocolate EVER from One Girl Cookies and a few hours of holiday-themed cooking shows in our apartment.

I had such a fun day with these two amazing girls, who are both in the middle of all of the senior-year-of-high-school craziness that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Experiencing Brooklyn with them reminded me of all of my own visits to New York City when I was a teenager, and the way I was so dead-set on building a life here for myself one day. Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened. In other ways, my life is entirely different than what I expected, but I did manage to get (and stay) here, and that feels like a big accomplishment.

New York City gets a bad rap, and believe me — I get it. Most people who are visiting this town only get as far as Times Square and the theater district, and I have pretty negative feelings toward those areas myself. Add that to the widespread stereotype that New Yorkers are nasty (i.e. the woman who kicked me out of Panera a few months ago), and I don’t really blame other people for steering clear. What you learn when you live here yourself, though, is that everyone ends up with their own version of New York apart from the crowds and tourist attractions — and I have to say, I think my version is pretty great.

New York City — You’re not always easy to love, but maybe that’s what makes me love you a little harder. This is the only place where I know a life that’s all my own, and that life is one filled with incredible people, constant learning experiences, and delicious food. I’ve fallen in love so many times here — not just with Matt, but with the friends I’ve met who continue to make this place so special. I don’t know how long I’ll be a New Yorker — there are days when I wish I could just get out, and other days when I can’t imagine living anywhere else — but I promise to stop saying mean things about you. You’re pretty amazing. — AHK

With the end of the year coming, I’m obviously feeling a little extra reflective : ) So, to cap off my little tribute to NYC, scroll down for a few of my favorite pictures from my New York experience these past four-plus years. I had so much fun looking through old photos to pick these out, so thanks for bearing with me!

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My first holiday season after moving to the city. Matt would take the bus in from PA to visit me.
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I lived about as far east as you can get on this island (and about as far away from anything convenient) with these two.
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Thank goodness for NYC for reuniting me with my journalism camp bestie. Seriously — thank goodness.
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Nights were (and still are) the most fun with my two middle school loves.
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Getting ready to run my first Brooklyn Half Marathon!
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I have so many amazing memories of exploring this city with my mom. Here we are with my favorite cupcakes at Molly’s in the West Village.
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At my old apartment, we had a cat neighbor who would sit in the space between the wall and the open door and watch us come in and out. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
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Sometimes, my fellow suburban transplant and I like to pretend we are housewives shopping for home goods back in PA.
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The night we got engaged, right here in Brooklyn!
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The night we signed the lease to our new apartment.
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Our first night in Brooklyn! What you see on the counter is pretty much everything we had ready to move in at this point.
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Hosting my precious high school family for boozy brunch. Who says you can’t fit lots of people in a tiny NYC apartment?
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Trying on my wedding dress for the first time! Even as a little girl, I always imagined I’d buy my dress in New York.
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Another holiday season with one of my oldest and most special friends.
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At home, in my element.
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The first (and possibly last) time I successfully convinced Matt to run the Brooklyn Half with me.
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This is NOT a cute photo of me, but my bestie was such a beautiful bride, and here we are together on her wedding day, in this weird little place we both call home. (Photo credit: Lauren Gibson Photography)
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A few of my beloved NYC girls squeezed into one photo. Always grateful to this city for my friendships, most of all. (Photo credit: Bri Cibene Photography)

 

 

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thoughts on the election.

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At this point, I’m hardly the first to add my voice to the dialogue started by this week’s election — in fact, it feels like I might be one of the last.  I decided to take a beat to absorb the weight of the last two days before making any sort of bigger statement.  I’ve laid low on social media, alternating between trying to stay away from it entirely and then obsessively scrolling through my feeds trying to make sense of every post, relate to every opinion.   I’ve spent the last two nights – each emotional in a very different way — surrounded by friends who feel like family, drinking wine, crying, and having intense conversations about what it means to be in our mid-twenties in these crazy times.  We talked until it felt like we had genuinely stepped back and looked at things from every angle.  My brain hurts from spending so much of the last two days thinking.

Yesterday was the first day in almost two months that I’ve HATED working from home and spending so much time alone.  All of the news from late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning was so raw.  I stayed up all night to watch the election coverage, so when I woke up yesterday morning (after just an hour or two of sleep), I initially decided that I needed a total break from the media.  The problem is that I was by myself and felt incredibly disconnected in the midst of such an historic moment.  It seemed like I had no choice but to turn on the news again, just to check back into humanity.  As soon as I did, I couldn’t turn it off.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like there’s been a bizarre shift in time and space.  Life here in my sweet little Brooklyn feels like it’s moving in slow motion.   Everything just seems surreal, and I’m comforted by the fact that so many others also aren’t quite ready to be OK just yet.

This is not a space where I want to get too deep about ideology and political affiliation.  I have too much respect for everyone’s freedom of opinion for that, and I think that one of the biggest lessons of these last two days for all of us is that sometimes, what happens in “politics” has absolutely nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican.  Some of the people I care about most in this world are Republicans.  While it’s never fun to be on the losing end of something, under other circumstances, it would have been a lot easier for me — and many other people, I’m sure — to accept the results of this election and move on.

All that I really want to say is this:

What upsets and worries me about recent events is the way it has empowered hatred and negativity in our world.  Do I think that every person who voted for Donald Trump is extreme or hateful or negative?  No.  Although there may be plenty of more moderate conservatives out there who voted for Trump simply to align with their party, I think the real problem here is the ugliness that his campaign has brought to light, and the way it seems like that ugliness is now somehow acceptable because he has been elected our president.  Hate begets hate, and my greatest fear is that this week’s results have changed the course of history well beyond what happens in the White House.  I feel that the more extreme voices of sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and more now have a stronger platform because their candidate has won.  This has absolutely nothing to do with your “typical” Republican, but I do think that all of us — no matter how liberal or conservative, moderate or extreme we are — will now have to bear witness to the inevitable shift in the mood of this country.  It has less to do with Donald Trump and more to do with what his candidacy, campaign, and now election have represented.

I’m not out there in the streets of New York City protesting.  The way I see it, demonstrations  happening right now are against the election itself, and that’s not what I have a problem with.  We all had the opportunity to make our voices heard on Tuesday, and while I am disappointed that so many others misunderstood what I believed so clearly to be hateful rhetoric, the decision has been made and we all do have to learn to put one foot in front of the other for the time being.  I respect what Hillary Clinton said yesterday about having an open mind, and even though I’m still working my way through my feelings about all of this, I hope I can get there eventually.  If the time does come when predictions about extreme policy changes affecting our rights and equality should come to fruition, however, you can bet that my protesting voice will get a whole lot louder.  I will stand up for what I believe in.

As challenging as all of this has been to understand, I know a few things to be true this week: I am unfailingly proud of my convictions, and of the way I express them.  I am proud to be a free-thinking American who is curious abut my country and the people who wish to lead it.  I am proud to be a WOMAN, especially within a community of equally strong, spirited women currently showing so much support for one another.  I am proud of the people who I surround myself with, who challenge me and question me and comfort me and feel things as deeply as I do.  The messages out there right now about unification and coming together in love are well-taken, but hard to absorb.  I do think that our collective nation will have regrets about what’s happened, but I also KNOW that there are massive forces out there of respect, kindness, and progress.  I only hope that as our county negotiates our way toward positive progress, the voices of hatred and exclusion lose power and we somehow keep each other feeling safe and valued.

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