Live Your Best Life: How To Be You + Be Free.

{ Manhattan Square Park in Rochester, NY at Party in the Park, Thursday, 6/23. }

BE YOU

live your best life.

BE FREE.

Freedom is many things. It is an innate right, + it is incredibly oppressed. It is sought after, + it is sabotaged. It is died for, + it gives life. It is exciting, + it is terrifying. Freedom is elusive. Freedom is precious. Freedom is essential to living our best lives. Freedom should be as natural as it is innate. But Freedom, is not. Thankfully, given the right circumstances, Freedom is attainable.

Because even when we live in “lands of The Free,” our own lifestyles, emotions, thoughts, actions, relationships tear this freedom down, instead of reinforcing it. Building it up.

I’d like to share 3 tips for how I am discovering + uncovering my own freedom.

trauma can happen, + it does not have to control our freedom.

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Walking to Party in the Park Solo at the newly opened Inner Loop, Rochester, NY.

Helllll nah, I was not always this free. The freedom I speak of in this post? It’s been a lifetime in the making. Just recently, it’s truly spread its wings. You’re going to have to wait for the publication of my memoir{s} before fully understanding the trials + tribulations I have endured throughout my life. For now, I’m going to highlight 3 choice experiences.

The goal is to show you that trauma can happen, and it does not have to control our freedom.

1. Food By Oppression. I started counting calories around 1997, when I in the 7th grade. This evolved into carefully portioning-out my food. About 2004, the Disordered Eating manifested into an Eating Disorder my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t until 2008, when I had a major mental breakdown my 2nd semester studying graduate school at Columbia University, that I fully began to heal.

  • how does this limit freedom? Your mind, body, + soul are trapped in a set of beliefs + actions that prevent it from enjoying everything. You are riddled by guilt, shame, fear, self-hate, + a slew of other deamons that have 0 place in your heart + soul.
  • how am I doing now? Much better. I attribute this to therapy and lots + lots + lots of work on self-love. As well as the mental breakdown, because tbh y’all, my mind started itself back-up in “safe mode.” I know not all of us are lucky enough { see what I did there } to endure a mental breakdown. But for me, it truly was a beautiful thing.

2. Assaulted + Charged with Assault. April 20, 2012 I went to the Fun. concert at an establishment I will not name here, but one that has a past riddled with sketch + shade. I was with friends. Not doing drugs. I’d been drinking, but we also took a cab, + I was 27, so. Unfortunately, I’d been separated from my friends the majority of the night. Long-story-short, by the night’s end, as the concert let out, I was afraid + alone + tiny skirmishes started to break-out. That’s when a huge man came up behind me, grabbed me, + started dragging me back into the hall. I panicked. I 100% believe I was going to be raped. I struggled. Another man accosted me from the side. They beat the shit out of me. I felt excited to see the police standing before me. Until the police threw me to the ground, yanked my arms akimbo behind my back, + shoved my head through the back of a cop car. I’d been assaulted by 2 bouncers who then charged me with 3rd degree assault. I’d just been hired into a new job the day before. I lost that job. I was also per diem substitute teaching at the time. Not only did I lose those 2 teaching jobs, but apparently, when HR in education reads — 3rd Degree Assault { b/c who really knows which is worse, 1st or 3rd } — they call you up, personally, to chew-you out, as well as write you very mean letters. I spent my full-savings on a lawyer. When the DA, who was also a young woman, saw the pictures I documented of my bruises + contusions, she assured me that, under no circumstances, would I be charged. The bouncer who pressed charges never showed-up to court. The establishment refused to furnish video footage. I endured 3 separate court appearances across the next 5 months before I was cleared.

  • how does this limit freedom? It makes you feel unsafe everywhere you go. It makes you feel like you have 0 right to be anywhere. It makes you feel you will be accosted, accused, charged, fired, ridiculed, + drained of all your money, even when you do nothing wrong. It seriously tugs on those Victim strings.
  • how am I doing now? Recently, much, much better. I have transformed . { Because of the tips I promise I’m about to share! }. But I can say it still affects me. In October, 2015, I saw a Joywave concert at Anthology. I don’t consider myself to have PTSD, but for whatever reason, 3 years later, I flashed back to the old venue. My panic attacks where so severe that I could no longer recognizes people’s faces. I felt too scared + vulnerable to walk home alone or to even call a cab. That’s what fear does. It takes away all of our choices + all of our options.
    • { post-edit} … And now — today this day, over 1 year later — instead asking — Hey, were you okay? — I just get a lot of passive-aggressive, underhanded comments + side glances. { You know who you are. } That makes you look insecure + pretty ignorant, quite frankly. Not me.

3. Creep Factor. I cannot even begin to describe to you the number of creeps I’ve encountered. What’s more, these 3 experiences pale in comparison to other stuff I’ve endured. Here we go: 1) My 1st semester in NYC 2007, I went on a date with this guy who very seriously engaged me in intimidation tactics. He even carried a duffle bag that he said was filled with batting practice equipment. When I told him he could not come back to my apartment, he followed me into the subway and yelled at me the whole time as if we were long-lost lovers. 2) Around 2012, a UR PhD student took me on a date one summer. I wasn’t feeling the vibe, but one night he still insisted on walking me home. When I refused to let him in, he pressured me by reminding me how nice it was he walked me home in the 90 degree heat + insisted I owe him a glass of water: that I must let him inside. He did not get a glass of water. 3) Most recently, I walked down Goodman Street one weekend night about 1 month ago. I was nearing Monroe Ave between Park + Monroe. A younger guy crossed the street. We made eye-contact + said a simple hi. He walked-on, only to double-back, slap / grab my ass, thereby hiking-up the hemline to my underwear. He then ran away.

  • how does this limit freedom? Feeling unsafe everywhere, at every time of day. Not being able to do what you want or go where you want when you want to. Having to be resilient enough to shrug-off people’s judgements when they make horribly base assumptions, which really reinforces their ignorance, about what you were wearing + what you said, etc.
  • how am I doing now? Almost 0 fear. In a responsible way. { See how I had to qualify that. } How was I a few months back? A mess. I work with the public day-in, day-out. It used to be that 1 wrong look from a client sent me shame spiraling. Well, no more.

be well. be free.
trust yourself. trust your life.

I truly am living the best life I know, right now, in this moment. This past week I socialized with friends, I went to a bar by myself to watch the Copa game — unafraid + uncaring of others’ judgements — and I even let myself shoot a few hoops at 1AM { gasp! } on a Wednesday as I walked back to my apartment from Good Luck. My point? I finally, finally, have the framework + infrastructure to do what I want, when I want. I trust myself. I trust my life. That is freedom. Here’s how to do it:

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Playing hoops solo at the Merriman St. Playground around 1AM on Wednesday.

I finally have the framework + infrastructure to do what I want, when I want.

1. No Judgement. At the root of all of this — we have to stop judging ourselves. Why? Because only when we self-love { which means being judgement-free }, can we make the best, most pure choices for ourselves.

  • counterpoint: Should every woman walk alone to a bar or Party in the Park or shoot hoops at a city park at 1AM? No. Duh. Absolutely not. Just as every woman shouldn’t get married or have babies or backpack the world alone.
  • point: We have to be comfortable + confident making our best decisions given each moment + circumstance. We are capable of this.
  • recommendation: Read The 4 Agreements. Practice it as you read. And then read the Companion Book. Practice that, too. Really, truly practice it. Live it.

feed your feelings healthy “foods” / thoughts.

2. Practice Every Damn Day. People go to the gym regularly. People make it a habit to eat healthy. No one questions this. People talk about this every single day, all of the time. So practice doing these same healthy, holistic habits with your mind + soul. Some of my favorites:

  • recommendations:
    • Sing in the car. Unabashedly! Loudly! Freely! If you cannot express yourself freely while driving in your own, separate vessel … then when can you be free. Anyone else who is near you is driving by, anyway. They are gone from your lives forever. Be free. Sing.
    • Journal. It is not a 4-letter word, frands. Quite literally. It is a very simple practice.
      • Make lists.
      • Draw pictures.
      • Vent.
      • At the very least, practice gratitude.

Really pissed about something? Make a Gratitude List. It does not mean that you are not allowed to be pissed or upset! Yes, you are. Feel. Feel everything. Feel your full range of emotions. What it does mean is you still get to feed yourself positivity, even when you are negative.

  • Toast Yourself. Fill your cup with milk, or whatever, Cheers to you. Acknowledge what you have accomplished. Celebrate it. Big or small.
  • Smile at Yourself. Step 1) Look in the mirror. Step 2) Smile. Optional) Put your hands on your hips, breathe deep, peel those lips. Smile. Recommended) Do a butt-wiggle. Bonus points?? Compliment yourself.

Every single time you look in that mirror, say something nice. You said something critical, too? No worries. Let that go. Follow-it-up by saying something nice. 

if you cannot express yourself freely, while driving in your own separate vessel … then when can you be free?

3. Root Yourself. This is a bit higher level, + that’s why it’s #3. Progression. What is Rooting Yourself?? It is taking ourselves from all of the assumptions + what-if’s. It is coming back to our minds, our bodies, our true light, + our present moment. Rooting Yourself is placing yourself within the present moment.

  • recommendations:
    • Practice Mindfulness. I talk about it here. You can start by reading it here. Very simple. Very solid. Very whole.
    • Practice Chakra Healing. This has been 1 of the most transformational elements of my life these past few months. I really enjoy the affirmations + information on this website. When I am stressed or fearful, questioning or critical, I quiet that destruction + replace it with the wholesome “food” of chakra affirmations.
    • Affirmations. Chakras not your thing? Come up with your own phrases to say over + over + over again. Re-hone and refocus. Quiet + heal.
    • Be a Kid. Walk barefoot in the grass. This is very healing + rooting. If you practice chakra healing, you know this balances the Root { grounding } + the Heart { childlike spirit + connection with nature } Chakras. By being a kid, we honor + practice our most root freedom.

Swing on a swing. Play a sport. Go to a park. Do bounce ball soccer or trampoline exercises. Climb a rock wall or play some volleyball. In Rochester, alone, there are a million ways to honor your inner-kid.

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Swimming in Lake Ontario at Charlotte Beach, 1 of my favorite places to get away + go alone.

Thank you for taking the time to read with me + about my experiences today. I’d love to continue this conversation + hear what you guys have to say! My thanks for your energy.

#bewell.

#belocal.

#befree.

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Instagram: Instafun! How to Be in the Know, Be Present, + Be Local.

SUMMERTIME IS

Instagram.

HERE.

You might say Social Media is the Antithesis / Antichrist of all things … Social. Like: Being Present, Being Active, Living your Real Life, just to name a few. Au Contraire. Social Media, when used responsibly, enhances all things Social. I’m going to provide 3 Simple Guidelines { because who like Rules } + use Rochester, NY to tell you how! Because, after all, #YOLO.

Vibe With Your Community

How does one strike that delicate balance between SM junkie + SM savvy?? Listen here:

1. Be Discreet. Only check Instagram when on the toilet.

  • Insta picture junkie, I am + I admit. I have a very narrow filter for when I do + don’t post pics because, well … Instant. { However, anything that requires major editing, I wait. }
  • Scrolling / Liking / Commenting junkie, on the other hand, I abstain. I save the big-read for very private, alone times. Such as when I first wake-up. Or when I pee and … Just kidding! But you get what I mean. { And also, don’t do that. That’s gross. }

Why is this important? We don’t want SM to consume our actual social lives. Talk to your friends. Listen to their conversations. It’s fun. Promise — real socializing is pretty great.

2. Be Free. Let Instagram reflect the most pure you.

  • No one’s judging. Unlike Twitter, Instagram has no lists. Give yourself permission to be select with who you do + don’t follow! It’s okay to Unfollow. It’s also okay to Follow individuals who post incredible content, even if you don’t know them.
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s also okay to Like! Tap that heart, baby. Leave comments when inspired. Don’t be shy. This is what SM is for.

It’s for getting to know your fellow community.

{ And for anyone — me! — who is confused about Post Notifications + the new Inst-algorithim-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or Understood, … read here. }

Why is this important? For several reasons. The biggest being: Social Media should enhance our identity + individuality. You have control over that. Harness SM to hone You. 

3. Follow Local. Restaurants, Organizations, Stores, Events, Local Bloggers — follow, follow, follow!

Why is this important? Because the more you know, the more you grow. The more you share + interact, the more your community grows.

So get on it! 
Follow your community on Instagram.

And Follow Me! Because Child, there’s even more than that happening in the Roc this week!

  1. South Wedge Sip & Shop: This Thursday!! And every 3rd Thursday until October. { Thank you Thread for this Insta. }
  2. South Wedge Third Thursday Concerts: Also this Thursday + every 3rd until October. { Thank you South Wedge + Star Alley Park … next to Lux. }
  3. Lux Lounge Events: Always a Party! Game Nights, Dance Parties, PB+J, B Movie Wednesdays. { If you’re bored, you’re boring because Lux + Chill. }

So … Go Out, Get Out, Insta-Responsibly, Be Present. And, always, Be Local.

#YOLO.

#bepresent.

#belocal.

Around Town: #ROC Your Weekend.

{Photo: Look for Wall \ Therapy Ts this Saturday at The Public Market!}

KNOW YOUR CITY:

#ROC YOUR WEEKEND

ARTS | FOOD | DRINK

DONATE | CELEBRATE | DISCOVER

Scenic views of the beach. Walks in public gardens. Shopping in boutiques. Eating in great diners + restaurants. World class Cinema. Not enough? Rochester has you covered. A unique cultural scene means something for everyone at turns you never knew existed. Need to know? Check out The Rochesteriat! This burgeoning website has up-to-date, easy-to-follow ideas + reviews detailing the full spectrum of Rochester’s urban scene. (I could look at it for days + always learn something new.) Need ideas for this weekend?? You’re in luck! Starting 6pm Friday through to 6pm Saturday, Rochester ravishes your artistic, cocktail, educational, + … oh, fun … cravings.

FRIDAY

ROCHESTER BRAINERY: 6-9PM FIRST FRIDAY LET’S ALL GO TO THE MOVIE

FREE art exhibition with snacks + refreshments.

Who says no to that?

HUNGERFORD BUILDING: 6-9PM FIRST FRIDAY

FREE art viewings + exchange of information with chances to buy.

Don’t wait until next month!

CURE BAR: 9PM-MIDNIGHT 2nd ANNIVERSARY BBQ 

$20 for Grill, Chartreuse Cocktails, Eat Me Ice Cream + a DJ. 

Everyone Loves a Birthday Party…

SATURDAY

WALL \ THERAPY FUNDRAISER: 8AM-2PM PUBLIC MARKET AT THE YARDS 

FREE Learn more about Wall Therapy + Public Art.

Final Shot to Donate to Wall Therapy Indiegogo! Donation Match through Saturday!!

WALL \ THERAPY ARTIST\THERAPIST ECB: CHARLOTTE NEIGHBORHOOD

FREE Check out German Artist ECB in Action. Check out Website for latest updates!

Therapy for the eyes + the soul + for your city.

SPOKES + INK: 12-6PM GENESEE CENTER FOR THE ARTS & EDUCATION

FREE Admission for the whole Family.

Live Music, Bike Demos, Art, Food, Letterpress … Scavenger hunt??

THE SHOW ON MONROE: 12-6PM SPOKES + INK BUSKERS SCAVENGER HUNT

$10/Team. Still Spots to Register! Check out Facebook for the latest updates.

Monroe Ave just got weirder + cooler.

You guys know where to find me this weekend.

What are your plans??

#rocisrad

#rocyourweekend

#shoplocal

XO.

Spokes + Ink Festival: June 7, 2014.

{Photo taken from Spokes + Ink Website.}

SPOKES + INK

SAT JUNE 7

BIKE & POSTER FEST

WHO: HOSTED BY GENESEE CENTER FOR THE ARTS + EDUCATION

WHAT: “ON THE AVE. OFF THE CHAIN.”

WHERE: 317 WILCOX ST. {That’s my last name. Please do not excuse the enthusiasm.} MONROE AVE, BETWEEN OXFORD + RUTGERS.

WHY: FOR THE FUN. FOR THE FOOD. FOR THE MUSIC. FOR THE RIDE. FOR THE #ROC.

WHEN: SATURDAY, JUNE 7, 2014. 12PM-6PM.

SPONSOR: DOGTOWN

12-6PM | WILCOX ST | MONROE AVE | FREE

“It’s a Monroe Ave block party mashup of cycling enthusiasts, local artists, cold beer, live music, unique vendors, and stuff for the kids.” –Facebook Event

I have been to Genesee Center. But I’ve never been to Spokes + Ink! Both are just down the street from where I live. Genesee Center for the Arts + Education (GCAE), member of The National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts + a community based non-profit on Monroe Ave {near 490}, “transforms lives” and our Rochester community. Celebrating its 4 year this June, I am seriously excited to finally check out GCAE’s Spokes + Ink’s Festival! Aside from general dopeness, here are my Top Pics:

SPOKES + INK TOP PICKS

LOCALLY MADE POSTERS

WHO: Locally produced prints by local graphic artists, letterpress artists, + photographers.

WHAT: All $20! This year’s? See examples HERE. {ALERT : High Level of Pure Talent.}

THE PICKPOCKETS

2-4PM

WHO: The Pickpockets

WHAT: Bootleg Ass Cassette Mixtape. I gotta find out more about these guys.

WHERE: 1st saw them live at 1975 Gallery for an event in partnership with The Little Theatre.

WHY: True musicians. Haunting music … that makes you dance!

SHOW ON MONROE

1-4PM

WHAT: SCAVENGER HUNT. Sign up now!

WHERE: All along Monroe Avenue. Get your FUNK on.

ROC CITY SKATEPARK

WHO: Skateboards. BMX-ers. Fathers. Athletes. KRUDCO. Community.

WHAT: Fundraising Initiative + Advocacy Group.

WHY: To get a “well-let, safe, outdoor, community center for the entire family” up in Rochester, NY.

EAT ME ICE CREAM

WHO: Amber Odhner + Catelyn Augustine

WHAT: Local + Organic artisan ice cream. Gluten free + vegan options! So delicious!!!

WHERE: South Wedge Farmers’ Market, Thurs 4-7 | Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, Fri 6-9 | Brighton Farmers’ Market, Sun 9-1 | Abundance Cooperative Market  | { My 1st time? At Rochester Brainery‘s Brainery Bazaar. }

LETTERPRESS ACTIVITIES

WHO: Printing + Book Arts Center

WHAT: Classes + Studio Access for “letterpress printing, bookbinding, book arts, paper making, + calligraphy.”

be a spoke, leave your ink

Spokes + Ink Festival spins the wheels of collaboration + creativity within Rochester, NY. Each organization, each shop, each band, each business that contributes to this fest is another spoke in the wheel of Rochester. Growing. Thriving. Connecting. Moving. Spokes + Ink is more than a festival and more than a block party. Spokes + Ink is a lifestyle. Spokes + Ink links us to our greater Rochester community. Ultimately, Spokes + Ink helps us to spin the wheels that keep Rochester moving.

Thank you to Genesee Center for the Arts + Education and to Communications Specialist Kate Edgerton for this indelible festival!!

See ya there!

#spokesandink

#printmaking

#bicycle

#artlocal

#printlocal

#ROClocal

XO.

Sustainability + Activism: Why Shop Local?

(Above: Danielle Ponder of Danielle Ponder and The Tomorrow People live at The Bug Jar, 4/5.)

MAGIX

VINTAGE | DESIGNER | BOUTIQUE

SOUTH WEDGE

CLOSED JULY 2013

Magix is why we Shop Local. Magix, a unique clothing boutique that sold an affordable and eclectic array of designer, boutique, and vintage items, was located on South Avenue, directly across from Thread, in the heart of the South Wedge shopping district. I discovered Magix during my 2nd Southwedgeucation. Southwedgeucation–you know–City Newspaper’s  late summer evening that buzzes with shoppers, strollers, businesses, food trucks, bars, music shops, boutiques, and more to celebrate the South Wedge . A September evening that bustles with the volume and energy every single other weekday night, certainly weekend, should generate. I found Magix. I found glass beads straight from Ghana. I found vintage and thrifted items. And shamefully, even I–the Shop Local Campaigner–even I seldom returned. Magix, which closed this past July, might have closed for any number of reasons. But it’s safe to surmise it was due to a lack of awareness. A lack of Shop Local know-how. Every single person I revealed the magic to about Magix? None had been before. Not necessarily because we don’t know. Because it’s not familiar.

HABIT

Don’t let habit dictate your Shop Local. Habit. What is habit? Most habits are bad, no? Habit is the unthinking actions we ascribe tendencies and routines because we either have to (brushing teeth), we don’t think about it (tapping fingers), or we need to cope (smoking).

Why let shopping–why let life–be just another habit.

Make shopping and living a conscious action. Think about it. Shop Local is still convenient. It’s just that Shop Local is also conscious. Shop Local is affordable. Shop Local is unique. Shop Local is activism.

CONSUMERISM IS ACTIVISM

The Shop Local Campaign in Rochester, NY is sustainability. Shop Local is sustainable for entrepreneurs. Shop Local is sustainable for community development. Shop Local is sustainable for cultural identity. Shop Local is sustainable for individual budgets. Shop Local is sustainable because it preservers local talent and nurtures sustained growth. (See Go Buy Rochester’s explanation of the Multiplier Effect.)

Why not turn your consumerism into activism?

Shop Local in Rochester, NY for your every single day needs, every single day. This is why we Shop Local. So that good things–quality businesses with character, that enhance our cultural identity and work with our daily budgets–so that good things stay alive. So that they thrive. So that we thrive.

And don’t just #shoplocal…

MUSIC LOCAL

DANIELLE PONDER AND THE TOMORROW PEOPLE

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Danielle Ponder and The Tomorrow People Saturday, April 5 at Bug Jar. Incredible Local Music venue. Watch for review on Liana Gabel’s “Rest and Heal” album. Saw her too. Loved it!

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(watch me to watch some seriously good music)

(SISTERS WITH FORMER OWNER ELIJAH PONDER ACCORDING TO ROC WIKI)

Know a good spot? Have a cool routine? Please share!

#shoplocal

#musiclocal

#gobuyrochester

#sustainable

XO.