keep going. it gets better.

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello and Happy 2018!

I know this is a little late in the month to be wishing you well for the new year, but I decided I needed to step away from the blog for a minute to do some New Year’s reflecting.

I turned 43 over the holidays. There’s a piece of me that thinks I should not be posting that information to the internets. But given the current epidemic of sexism and discrimination in this country, there’s a piece of me that feels it’s more important than ever to stand up and be who you really are. 

As I was thinking about all this and whether to “out” myself as over 40, I realized reaching this point in my life has some distinct advantages. Like the fact that I finally accept and love myself. But, good lord, has it been a long road getting here!

Image: Olaiya Land

As a chubby bi-racial kid growing up in white America, I always believed I had to be better-than to get by. So I stayed vigilant. I demanded straight A’s of myself from the first grade on. I wanted to be beautiful, skinny, popular. So I worked multiple after-school jobs to buy myself the “right” clothes. I joined the pom pom squad so boys would notice me. I got up 3 hours before school to straighten my hair. I started dieting and jumping rope in our basement late at night for hours each week like some sort of brown, female version of Rocky Balboa. When dieting didn’t work as flawlessly as I’d hoped, I started making myself throw up. 

Attending the hallowed (and uber-privileged) halls of Yale University didn’t help things. I excelled at school by white-knuckling my way through every class, obsessively pushing myself to study just a little harder. On the outside, I looked like I had my shit together. I had friends. I was getting good grades. My professors liked me. On the inside, I was a self-hating wreck with abysmal self-esteem and a crippling eating disorder.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Twenty years later, talking about this time in my life still makes me cringe inside. But I’m sharing this because I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having felt this way. There are thousands of other women out there, if not more, who have at some point felt the same pressure to do it all. To be beautiful and sexy and capable and smart and strong and independent and earn money hand over fist. I look around me and I see women silently pushing themselves to the point of cracking under the pressure for perfection and fear of judgement. I’m pretty sure social media isn’t helping. 

So I’m writing today with some advice for anyone out there feeling this way: Muster as much self-kindness and love as you can and keep going. It gets better. 

Stand Up and Be Who You Are-43.jpg
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

For some of us, happiness is a gift we’re born with. But most people have to work at it. That’s another thing I’ve learned in these 43 years; happiness takes work. 

It involves trying lots of things. And failing miserably at some. And forgiving yourself when you fall down. I think of it like a spiral staircase. We want to take an express elevator from the ground floor to the penthouse. But life doesn’t work that way. Instead, we take a verrrrrry long spiral staircase, looping around and around making the same mistakes many times over, but learning something new with each time around and always finding ourselves a little higher than we were before.

Image: Olaiya Land

At 43, I feel more creative and engaged with my own life than ever. I’m excited about the possibility each day holds. I care less about what people think and so I’m free to like myself the way I am. I’ve learned how to say no to toxic people and pointless obligations. I’ve learned how to trust myself. 

Which doesn’t mean I’m walking around Cloud 9 with a shit-eating grin on my face. I make mistakes and get mad about things that aren’t important. I swear like a sailor. Sometimes I’m jealous of what other people have. My feelings get hurt. But at most moments of most days, when I think about my life, I am happy.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

For a while now, I’ve been feeling the need to pivot this blog towards something more meaningful than new recipes. Because I am who I am, there will always be food. I still think cooking for others and gathering friends around your table is one of the most life-affirming things you can do. And taking the time to feed yourself delicious, nourishing food is deeply satisfying.

There will also be posts on how to travel better and more often. Experiencing new cultures and connecting with people who are different from us, leaves us more open-minded. Shaking off our day-to-day routines provides fresh perspectives and insights. Tasting new flavors and seeing unfamiliar sights leaves us creatively energized and we come home our best selves, refreshed and inspired to try new things.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Stand Up and Be Who You Are-25.jpgImage: Olaiya Land

There will be posts on making your house (or apartment or RV or yurt) feel like a home. There will be posts on engaging with the beauty of art, design, fashion and nature. There will be ideas for how to take better care of your body, mind and soul. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Going forward, I’m envisioning this blog as an offbeat lifestyle magazine devoted to helping foster meaningful human connections through food, travel, art and design. 

I’ve got a new name in the works to reflect the shift. I’m also dreaming up ways this space could feel like more of a community and help like-minded people come together for discussion, friendship and inspiration. I’m thinking: forums, meet-ups, dinners and retreats devoted to sparking the creative genius inside all of us. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

This blog would be nothing without all of you. So I want to hear back in the comments from every single one of you (yes, my fellow introverted lurkers, even you) about what sorts of topics, events, workshops and retreats would bring more joy to your life this year! 

Because I want to devote this space to helping women from 23 to 83, and every perfect age in between, design a beautiful, creative, more satisfying life.

Image: Olaiya Land