How I spent my 21st birthday this year was miles away from how I would have imagined it would be like a year ago or for that matter, ever. 20 especially was a time defined by mental madness. With my hair unkempt and eyes bloodshot, I spent my 20th birthday locked in my room alone working to the bone on a freelance project that lent to me not sleeping for 48 hours straight. At the time, this was a typical state I would find myself in that grew out of a habit of burying myself in work in an effort to avoid and run away from some very dark mental places my mind would often elope to. I had thoughts where I didn’t think my life was going to amount to anything, and that all that would be in store for me was suffering and sadness. Fast forward to January 8th, 2019 where I’m looking out into the clouds on a plane headed to New York. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears, but this time these tears came not from despair but from a place of satisfaction in seeing what a difference a bit of patience and having faith in destiny could make.
The one thing that gave me the desire to keep going and staying on the path I was undertaking despite the doubts and the inner turmoil was the idea of returning to New York City. Ever since I visited New York for the first time my sophomore year of college in 2017, a passion was ignited. While that first visit was only for five days, I fell in love. Even for the short amount of time I was there, I felt a belonging that I didn’t feel anywhere else in my life. It was a place where I felt a liberation in that I was genuinely limitless in the fact that I could go wherever and be whoever I wanted. Ever since that visit, a space in my mind was always there for me to return to when I sought out hope and asylum. I had an intense longing to go back and be immersed in that feeling again and through god-sent people and opportunities that entered my life, 2019 would grant me my ticket to finally make that return.
This particular trip to New York proved to be more immersive and impactful than the last. This trip made New York become a place where I could envision prospects. Through my school’s fashion and business program, this trip involved participating in the National Retail Federation’s Program and Expo, presenting and pitching a project proposal to New Avon, as well as visiting and being exposed to various types of companies and sectors of the fashion and retail industry. With all that I experienced and witnessed on the trip, I could write an endless amount of posts unpacking every detail of it all but for now I’ll keep it short and sweet with the most important stuff. With going to The National Retail Federation’s Expo at the Javits Center, I was able to gain mentorship and insight from retail and fashion’s greatest innovators and leaders. Perhaps the most insightful was the closing Keynote speech by Jo Malone of Jo Malone London. Listening to her story on starting a fragrance empire through the humble beginnings of crafting recipes and serving clients in her London flat, the trials she underwent of selling her business and likeness and having to start all over again, to overcoming cancer and other personal hardships, I was taught what being self-made and traveling on the road to success really entails. With presenting to Avon’s executives on the 25th floor of a skyscraper, I learned what it meant to truly blossom. From once being a little girl with intense social anxiety and shyness that hid behind adults and existed in being seen and not heard, this was a place that once again, was light-years away from what I ever thought I would have achieved in my life. In visiting Jussura Lee, a small boutique owner in West Village, listening to her story on how downsizing from once working and owning businesses in fast fashion and re-prioritizing her values on creativity and contentment in living simply, I resonated with a message on what I really want in 2019.
Above all, this trip really taught me what love for a place really means. Before I ever stepped foot in New York, I was in love with an idea in seeing all the glamorous fashions and iconic sights. However, the more I go I start to deconstruct New York from a mere idea to a reality. Like with loving people, with a place, you learn that you truly love it from seeing it through both its positive traits as well as its shortcomings. While yes, the beautiful skylines and the abundance of shopping destinations are part of New York life, seeing piles and stacks of trash on the streets to seeing rats scurrying in subway stops are also part of New York life. Through even the latter, I can still say that New York is still the place I love and the place I want to be a part of my future. With New York being where I turned 21 and made the rite of passage into adulthood, I see this as a new era and time in which maintaining my focus and keeping this dream in my frontal vision as crucial more now than ever.
Thanks for reading and following my journey.