The End

It's been a minute since I posted anything.
Frankly, I've been having a hard time putting my thoughts together over what the past few months have been like.

I've been up and I've been REAL down.
Depression is a tricky thing. It makes you feel like you are all alone in your thoughts and your feelings and that no one can understand. It forces you to retract from people you know can help because it doesn't feel like something you should talk about.
It's selfish, really.
Depression makes you so wrapped up in your own feelings of how you feel like shit that you forget you have family and friends and people who actually care about you. It makes you so awkward that those people don't always reach out because they don't know what to say. So then no one is talking to anyone. And you end up feeling more alone because you are just this asshole focusing on yourself.
Depression sucks.

You know what sucks even more?
Panic attacks.
Have you ever woken up having a panic attack? Then proceeded to alternate between crying and sweating profusely because you are so ridden with anxiety?
Yeah, that happened a couple months ago.

I've been thinking about writing about this for awhile. Because no one talks about it. No one talks about how being depressed is almost a comforting thing. That being in the dark can feel like a warm blanket and you want to leave, but you don't really want to leave. That leaving means you feel like you aren't being REAL with what you feel. Being depressed can feel like the ONLY real thing. And when you think about not being depressed, it feels like you are somehow lying to yourself.
Darkness can be comforting.

Over the past few months, I've struggled with depression in various ways. Drinking. Sleeping a lot. Overeating. Under eating. Lethargy. Insomnia. Hiding out. Going out.
It's like a roller coaster of feels.

As many of you know, I went through a pretty intense breakup. Then I lost my job. Then I got some various jobs. All along questioning whether I was doing the right thing or not.
I've dated. I've met a LOT of people. In fact, I've made more friends over the past few months then I ever have.

One day, I woke up having a panic attack. I was questioning whether what I was doing for a living was the right thing. I was a mess of anxiety. I ended up having lunch with my old boss and he said to me, 'Nicole, if anyone can do this. You can. I've seen more passion in your conversation in the past 2 minutes then I did the entire 7 years you've worked for me. '
It was a light in the dark.
Because even when you can't believe in yourself, someone else does.

And one day I woke up and thought 'Fuck it. Just apply with a temp agency and get a finance job. You can't do this. You are believing in a pipe dream.'
That very day, I got offered the best job I could possibly ask for working in a kitchen.

Life is funny. It throws you a bone when you think you are starving.

Two weeks ago,  a friend of mine didn't show up for work.
He talked to our chef and said he didn't feel good.
Me, being who I am (ie. I'd do this for any of my friends), I decided to run to by his house after I got done with food truck prep just to check on him.
We were good friends and I had just seen him the day before.
I saw some strange stuff at his place and had a bad feeling so I called my friend to come with me and call the cops.
We stood outside when the cope came out to tell us he was dead.
Her name was Jamie McMann. I remember reading her name tag numerous times because she was so gracious.
There were 3 of us. 3 Nick's.
We stood there in shock and made all the phone calls.
We wandered the yard and smoked a lot of cigarettes and kept looking at each other in disbelief.

We saw our friend get wheeled away in a body bag.

I can't explain what that has been like.
How vivid that day is in my head.
How much I remember how sunny and perfect it was and we stood in the shade of a tree holding each other and watching our friend disappear.
How much I hate I had to tell one of his closest friends to call his wife and tell her that her husband was dead.
How much I hate that I had to call his boss and tell him why he didn't show up for work.
How much I can't believe he's gone.
How much I miss him every day.

Grief is a powerful and terrible thing.
It can throw you into a downward spiral you don't even recognize.
It can shock the shit out of you so that for a few days you can't even function socially.
It is also a really clarifying thing.

Grief can remind you of what you DO have.
That there is life left to live.
That you can be gone in an instant and maybe you should just hold real fast to the people you love instead of playing games.
It reminds you that you have SO MUCH left to do and you don't know when your time is coming.
Grief reminds us of life, how perfect and awesome and amazing it can be if we just engage.

I've said this before and I'll say it again- I don't know what 6 months from now looks like for me. I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing. I want to believe that it will all be positive things.
I can say this for sure- I'm going to do my damndest to make sure it is.

I won't be writing here anymore.
Lately, I've felt the need to write more for myself.
A lot of journaling.
A lot of poetry.
If I decide to share it, it will be on a different platform.

I will say this- this blog has served it's purpose.
I started it because I needed a place to share life and share experience and I've done that.
I want to LIVE life and LIVE experience.
I want to focus on the new things I'm learning and the people I've chosen to be the closest to me.

Life is so fucking fleeting.
None of us knows what will happen tomorrow.
I have been thinking of shutting this down for awhile and just hadn't gotten the words right to do so.
After my friend passed, all I've wanted to do is close up. Hold fast to the things that matter.
Forget this social media bullshit and just dig into life.

I know this is rambly and random but it's the sum of my thoughts over the past few months.
I have some pretty freaking amazing people in my life- family, friends, adopted family and coworkers that I feel so thankful to know.

Thank you.
For your phone calls, your texts, and spending time here reading the things I've written.
I'm so thankful for all of you in my life.

It's never a goodbye. Just a 'See ya later.'

I must speak. As I have a very limited time to enjoy the industry that I make my living on... I greatly appreciate the passion that comes thru when people really care about the craft. For a select few of us, the process is the most important aspect, we have to leave our mise knowing that we did our best. 
We are in the business of taking care of on and another. To ignore that is our peril.

- Will Carvalho, June 14, 2015


Spring Thoughts Part I

As is typical Iowa weather, we've had some incredibly warm weather following a brutally cold couple of weeks. It's been sunny and warm during the daylight hours.
Following the daylight savings adjustment, it feels like the heavy blanket of winter is finally lifted. Birds are chirping, spring flowers are poking their head through the dirt. We are shedding our scarfs, our jackets and those pesky winter pounds.

It feels like change.

Last week, I got in a couple of early morning runs along the river. It was right about when the sun was coming up and I left my headphones at home and just breathed the crisp spring air and watched the world come alive. I didn't think about my distance or what I had to do that day, I just emptied my mind and connected my feet with the pavement. Felt my body adjust to the natural movement it's so familiar with.

It was absolutely glorious. Those types of runs are my favorite. The ones where you forget what you are doing and you just ARE.
I started back at my old gym last week too and although I'm not at the level of fitness I was before, I felt my body respond to the familiarity of working hard and it felt really good.

I've not usually been a huge fan of spring. I much prefer the warm, hot days of summer and the cool, winding down of fall.
But this year?
Spring is lifting my spirits. It's bringing me back alive. I feel hopeful and like this is a fresh start to leave the past behind and move forward.

This changing of the seasons feels like I'm closing the door on a season of life and entering a new phase. I have new opportunities, new goals, new chances to make it right.

I was walking down the street last week to get an iced coffee. I was in between loads at the local laundromat and thought I'd steal that opportunity to get some vitamin D and a caffeine fix.
I saw a man walking down the street. He had his eyes half open, with his face turned up toward the sun and he was smiling quietly to himself. It was if he had no cares in the world and for that moment, walking down the street, he was just enjoying the fresh air of spring and the sun's rays against his face.

It made me smile thinking about how often we take these little moments for granted. How the change in weather can remind us that not everything is lost. We can thrive in a single moment.

I've been walking every day it's been nice enough too. Taking time to just observe the world around and be in the moment.

May spring continue to be a reminder of fresh starts, happy moments and sunshiny days.


Clear Eyes. Full Heart.

**Disclaimer: no one freak out. I'm okay. Really. Just want to shed light on a yucky time and how I'm working on digging out.**

It's one thing to self destruct.
It's a completely other thing to watch others watching you self-destruct.
It's an even weirder thing to indulge in self-destructive behavior, recognize said behavior, recognize others recognizing it in you...and not caring.

December was probably the hardest month of my life to date.

I really hate making statements like that because I feel like I'm just setting myself up for disaster, but it was pretty awful.
Between losing my job, being unemployed, the holidays and trying to figure out what the fuck I'm doing with all areas of my life now....let's just say I wasn't dealing well.

After I wrote my last post, I spent the next few days in a weird place.
I don't even know how to describe what it's like to be so oblivious to how much of an emotional wreck you are.
I don't know how to describe how I didn't even recognize the state of absolute denial I was in.

I thought the day I lost my job was the worst...then Christmas rolled around.

It was a good wake-up call for me.
I can't keep in this pattern of 'feel-don't want to feel-drink/distract myself to sleep-wake up-start feeling-do it all over again. '

This is not how one positively recovers from an emotionally traumatic experience. If anything, you are just delaying the inevitable.

I don't think I was depressed. I don't think I'd given up completely. I think I was simply delaying my feelings because when you allow yourself to be open to dealing with your feelings and you stop masking them with distractions (pretty much anything self-indulgent), you get real sensitive.

Let's fast forward to New Years.
I actually had a great New Years Eve. I spent time with some new and old friends, danced a lot, laughed a lot and generally just had a blast.
On New Years Day, I went to see Wild at the Fleur Cinema with a friend visiting town.

If you haven't read Wild or seen the movie, you are missing out.
First of all, the book is amazing. Cheryl Strayed's writing style is raw and real. She doesn't withhold details or try to paint herself in any kind of light other than who and what she is. I admire her bravery in sharing intimate and possibly regretful details of her life. In a way, I understand her need to put it out there, to confess those things she's done she's not proud of. Someday, when I care less than I do now, I'm going to write a memoir about this time of my life. The good, the bad and the ugly....

Anyway, I went to see this movie with a friend of mine. I had already planned to go by myself because T and I had started a tradition of going to the movies on New Years Day, but my friend offered to tag along.

Reese Witherspoon was amazing. She portrayed Cheryl so well and there were so many scenes that felt reflective of my life as of late. I could relate on so many levels.
I think I cried for about half the movie, although I tried really hard to keep it together. I was in public and really didn't want to add to my list of embarrassing moments over the past few weeks.

The movie ended and we left.  I told him it was good to see him, gave him a hug and then practically ran to to the car.
I knew I was about to start crying uncontrollably and didn't want to lose it in a packed parking lot of movie-goers.

I cried the whole way home. And when I got home, I cried for about 2 hours straight.
It was overwhelming emotion. It was like all the feelings for the past 4 months were just coming out at once.
It was cathartic in a way.

I have barely shed a tear since September.  I've told everyone over and over that "I'm fine" and smiled my way through it. I don't know what is a healthy amount of times to cry in a year, but it felt like something that was really overdue.

I tend to over analyze my feelings and where they are coming from and what they mean. These past few months, however, I had been purposely avoiding that. I'd been stuffing and masking and erasing and trying pretty much anything NOT to feel. Avoidance felt like a safe place.

Then, just like that, something reminded me it is inhuman not to feel and I was finally able to let it go.

I still don't know how I feel about everything that has gone on in the past few months.
I think I got a little lost for a couple months.

Parts of me seemed to just fall off. Things I enjoyed and cared about seem to just slowly slip away. I don't know how to describe how I've felt of late. It's so strange to realize that I completely discarded stuff I really love. Not because I don't love it anymore, I have just had such a lack of feeling about anything. I've felt clouded and empty. I've felt a lack of connection to my spirit. It's painful to feel so removed from parts of myself that used to be really important to me.

I made a promise to myself that this year I would work on finding that again.

Now I feel like I'm looking at all the pieces of me lying around and I'm slowly picking them up. I'm re-examining each one to see if it's something I want to keep or leave discarded as part of the past. I'm growing new facets of me too.

Everyday I get a little closer to getting back to me.

Clear eyes. Full heart. 

It's a motto I came up with to remind myself of who I am.
I've had a clear purpose for the person I want to be. I'm a person who is passionate about life. I'm a person that loves a lot and is loyal and strong and determined.
I don't want to forget who I am and who I've worked so hard to become because of a blip in my story.

I've attempted some crazy, all-or-nothing goals (Banuary anyone?) , but I'm finding that now all I can do is take it one day at a time.

Instead of saying. "I'm not going to drink for a month and I'm going to eat super healthy and cut out gluten and workout every day for 2 hours and meditate and write for one hour daily, etc. etc...",
I'm saying I'm going to try to do some of those things a little. That I'm going to give myself some space and grace to figure it out. The idea of cutting out something completely or forcing something additional into an already busy schedule is just plain overwhelming.

I got some really good advice from a friend of mine, Jon.
He told me to give myself a break. Just take a deep breath and take it bit by bit. Baby steps. He said instead of doing what you always do (extremes), just Take Care.

I like that.
I like the idea of just taking care of me- however that may look.
Maybe some days that looks like sitting around a dirty apartment and zoning out to something on Netflix after I get home from work.
Maybe some days it looks like workouts and coffee dates and having a beer with a friend.
Maybe it looks like making a cup of tea, putting on some music and writing in my journal.

All I know, is it looks like giving myself space to think and feel.
It looks like recognizing this hole I have inside and not stuff it full of anything less than something good.
It looks like seeking the things that fill me with light and love and allowing the past to be the past.

It looks like clear eyes.
It looks like a full heart.

I got this fortune the Sunday after New Years. I believe in signs. 


My Burning Bush

Have you ever had a series of seemingly bad events in succession?
Have you ever had major life changes happen in such a short span of time that it feels like a divine message?

Me either.

Until 2 weeks ago.

In the past year, I have:
- Tried to repair a failing relationship
- Changed jobs 2 times
- Left a super stable job for a start-up
- Ended the failing relationship

Then, two weeks ago, my start-up job ended.
For the first time in my life, I found myself without a person to lean on, without a job and seemingly without hope.
For me, it felt like rock bottom.

I've never lost a job.
I've never spent the holidays without a 'person' in my life.

The first thing I did when I left my job for the last time was call my Dad.
I literally didn't know what to do. I was borderline panic attack.
My dad was going to leave work because I was that upset. He actually told me to stop driving a car. To know my family is to know this is pretty serious. I was really upset.
Instead, I went to my sister's house. She stays home with her girls so I called her and drove over.
I cried all morning and felt sorry for myself, ate some of her leftovers and then slept all afternoon.

I hung out with my friend Mandy that night and we talked about everything that had been going on in my life as of late.
I've had multiple friends tell me I need to 'deal' with my feelings.
And I haven't wanted to. I have half-assed it. Took a couple days to be 'normal.' Started some self-help type books. Medidated. Exercised. But mostly, I've preferred to spend my time sleeping or buzzed and forgetting all about how my heart is broken.
I prefer to not acknowledge how I feel like I don't have a plan and I'm a little lost.
It's uncomfortable for me.
I always have a plan.
I always know what my next step is.

For the first time in my life, I literally have no idea what I'm doing.

We talked about how I've been dealing with break-up and subsequent feelings. And the fact is, I haven't. I've masked it as much as possible. Which, in a way, is super weird for me. I'm normally a 'let's address this now' kind of person. But for whatever reason, I keep thinking I shouldn't be upset about ending a 5 year relationship so I find myself stuffing it down. Masking it. Hiding. Escaping.

My job ending at the start-up was a slap in the face. A wake-up call.
I told Mandy, "This is my burning bush."

I can't deny it anymore.
Something big is happening in my life.
I look back over the past year and all the events leading up to this time and it's like I'm being FORCED to take a hard look at myself and what I'm doing.

On the day my job ended, one of my friends said this to me:

Situations like this always have two outcomes: a dangerous destructive spiral, and a silver lining you never saw coming. My first instinct would be to go out, get fucked up, and self loath...Please don't choose that. You've never owed it yourself, more than you do now, to really pursue what makes you happy. This is hard, and will take time, but I believe in you

It was the perfect advice. I re-read it often. Because sometimes I need to be reminded that all is not lost. That I CAN do something amazing. That I am worthy of something good.
It's always a reminder to me to never give up. 
But I KNOW I can't. 
I don't ever ever ever want to reflect on my life and say 'Aw man, I wish I would have done x.' 
I remember being at this conference a couple years ago and the speaker asking us, 'Think about when you are 90 years old and sitting on your front porch and reflecting on your life, what are the things you want to remember?'
I was crying while I was writing my answer because all I could think about is how much I had put on the back-burner or never pursued because I was too scared. 
All the things I kept as 'hobbies' because pursuing them as a career seemed too unstable. 
How much I sacrificed for a comfortable life. 
Writing. Food. People. All the things I love and am passionate about. 
The things that drive me. And feed my soul. 

So, I got up the next day and updated my resumé. Applied for a job. Filed for unemployment. Stopped crying. Took a deep breath and reflected.

What do I want to do?

I've always wanted to own a coffee-shop or a restaurant.
I love to cook. I love people. I love to food. I love to take care of people. I love making people happy and having a good time. I love the community of a restaurant. I love how everyone is family. I love how cooking and serving is something they love, but they are all unique and have cool, interesting things outside of the restaurant. They are artists, musicians, DJs, writers, crossfitters, barbers, moms, dads and the best of friends. I love the hustle and bustle.
I love Des Moines deep in my heart. Like deep.
It's my home and this city is freaking amazing. (see this FB post).

I want to do something to contribute to the growth of this city and to have a place that I can call home.
So I decided that ultimately, I want to open my own restaurant.
Problem: I have ZERO experience in this area.

I talked to everyone I know that works in the industry. They all said 'Get a job in a kitchen.' Learn from the ground up.

So I reached out on FB. A friend told me about an opening so I reached out to the owner. And out of pure luck and ambition, I got a job.

Next week, I'll start working at a new place opening up in downtown.
I'll also be helping out a friend that is an insurance agent.
And doing taxes at H&R.
And still selling Arbonne.
Hustle life.

I don't even know that all these jobs will be enough to cover my bills.
But you know what?

I. don't. care. 

Because, for the first time in my life, I'm not taking the safe road.
I'm reaching out to do things that interest me and seeing what happens.
I'm getting outside my comfort zone and pursuing passion over comfort.
Maybe 6 months or a year from now, I'll decide it's too much and go back to a safe, high-paying corporate job.

But I highly doubt it.
If I did that, I'd get comfortable with the money and just be miserable and stay there.
I'd never chase my dreams.

When I left my stable corporate job, I told everyone 'I'd live in my car before I'd go back.'
And...that may still happen. :)

All I know is this:

Life is too short to be unhappy in what you are doing.
Life is too short to be safe.

You only get one shot at this.
Do the things. Try everything. Make the mistakes.
Get swallowed up, spit out and drag yourself off the ground and GET UP AGAIN.
Be slapped in the face with life. Recognize your burning bush and take the opportunity to do something you've never done before.
You may go down in a blaze of glory.
But at least you can say you tried.
Don't live life with regrets.
Don't look back and wish you would have done it differently.

For me, life will always be putting it all out there and seeing what happens.
Maybe that means I'll always have to deal with disappointment and hurt, but at least I can say I gave it my all.
I got a big heart and big dreams and I'm not about to change that because of one or two or three setbacks.

One of my favorite lyrics says:

I'm a own so many belts the only place they can hit me is below em

My aunt said to me the other day, 'Don't fall off the deep end.' 
And maybe I was close. 

I know as long as I live, I will always fight back. 

I have no idea how all of this is going to play out. 
Maybe in 2 months you'll get another post from me saying it was a terrible idea and I'm back at corporate life collecting cash and being another cog in the wheel.
I hope not. 
In fact, I seriously doubt it.

Stay tuned friends.



One Month

It's been a month since I broke up with T.
I had a realization after the last break that nothing was really going to change for us.
It had been a year since the wedding/engagement was called off and I realized I couldn't see a future for us anymore.

So I made the decision to call it.

I know it was the right decision and I made it for the right reasons.
BUT, that doesn't mean it was any easier.
I've been unpleasantly surprised by how much it still hurt. And how angry I've been.

I'll be honest.
I haven't been the best version of myself this entire month.
Sitting home alone late at night is the hardest. Too much time on my hands to think.

Luckily though, I have some really amazing friends and family that have kept me busy.
I've been going out with friends and enjoying being free to make all my own decisions.
I've been meeting new people and trying new things and just giving myself some space to figure out the life I want to lead.

I want to say that I'm not feeling a little hardened by this experience.
But I can't.
A couple weeks ago I spent an entire Sunday in bed feeling sad and angry.
I spent a year trying to be patient, gracious and understanding.
And I feel like I got shit on.

I've felt a little lost.
A little off kilter.
Like I'm just not quite sure what my next move is.
Its hard to wrap your head around how many decisions you were holding off on making or not making due to another person's presence in your life.

I'm a girl with all the feelings.
I can't help it.
I really do love people and if I care about you, I'll be there for you no matter what.
So like I've said before- having big love for people means having big vulnerability.

Life can be sort of fucked up. I'm trying not to get too jaded about it.

Because life can be sort of awesome too.

People can constantly surprise you and everyday is a new opportunity to be the person you want to be.

I know who I am.
I know what I want for my life.
I know that when I'm doing the things that I love and the being the person I'm intended to be- I attract the right people to my life.

Here is to new adventures.