NYC Part 2: What To Do

Now that we've gone over some of the amazing places you need to eat at in NYC: Part 1, I want to share with you some of the things you can and should do when visiting New York City.  I had almost five days in the city when I visited, and while there was definitely a solid list of things I wanted to do, I wanted, even more, to just enjoy the city for what it had to offer.  I wanted to wander, explore, and  stumble upon anything that was already happening, and I can honestly say now that I did just that.  I mean, I ended up being a part of a random photo shoot in Bryant Park when I was waiting for my friend to meet me!  So my first piece of advice would be to just let New York City happen to you, because that's the best way to experience one of the best cities in the world...

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NYC Part 1: What to Eat

Last month I had the chance to spend almost five days in one of my absolute favorite places: New York City.  I stayed with my sweet friend Ainsley and her husband, Justin, and I had the best time.  What I loved most about this trip was that I hung with them about half the time I was there and then ventured solo for the other half, which was really fun to do in what is literally the biggest city in the US.  It's going to take a few posts to share all the things I want to, so let's start with one of the best things: the food.  I've tried my best to arrange this list by neighborhood, and I very obviously did not stick to my usual gluten- and dairy-free diet because vacation, so no judgement, k?  Okay, let's get started!

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To My 15 Year Old Self

Back in February I wrote a post about choosing to love myself, and while it was pretty challenging to get all of my feelings into words, it was such a cathartic process: admitting that I've been my own worst enemy and publicly declaring "no more."  It continues to be a daily battle  consciously choosing to ignore the lies and instead accept, love, and take care of the vessel I'm in  and yet it has also being a huge learning experience, because as I've been reflecting on the past 15+ years of bashing my body, I've realized something pretty significant: I missed out on a lot of what life had to offer because I was so consumed with my personally-perceived imperfections.

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This struggle was probably at its worst when I was fifteen years old.  As a sophomore in high school, I was pretty much your average teen, including that I was consumed with my physical appearance and what people thought of me.  As a result, I had low self-esteem, and — because of some things at home and a strong belief that I couldn't express my emotions — I briefly struggled with depression that eventually led to a short season of self-injury, which ultimately brought me into counseling by sixteen.  

For the last few months, I have been thinking if I were able to go back and chat with that insecure, precious girl — what I would say to myself in that season of life: what words would I use? how would I approach her? would there be things I'd tell her to do or not do? would I just give her a big hug and let her in on the fact that things were going to be okay?  Here is what I believe, if given the chance, I would share with my fifteen-year-old self:

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Sweet girl, there are so many things to say yet not enough time, so let me start with this: you are so beautiful.  In spite of how you feel or what you think other's might think or say about you or your body, you are so beautiful.  You might not be a size zero, but you've got muscles that keep you moving and fighting like the badass you are.  You might not have the perfect fill-in-the-blank, but you are more unique than you could imagine.  You might not be the girl that all the guys want, but don't sweat it, because and I'ma be honest here  they're pretty much all a waste of your time and emotions, and you've got way to much ahead of you to be concerned with them, especially right now (learn to say "boy bye").  And hey, you look good regardless of whether or not there's a guy next to you anyway.  But above all else, your beauty far extends beyond what you look like.  You are strong and compassionate and kind and weird in the best way.  You fight for others, always believing in them because you see their infinite value.  You are in tune with your emotions, which is a true gift, and I want to give you the permission to express them in healthy ways.  You do not need to bottle them up for fear of no longer being considered "bubbly" and "joyful," and despite the isolation you may feel, you are not alone; you can absolutely talk with those you love and trust about the pain and the confusion you are experiencing.  Please don't buy into the lie that only way you can relieve the emotional pain is through scratching, burning, or cutting yourself.   But hey, even if you do those things, the grace is reaaal.  And here is a bit of where you're headed:

You will learn to own all of who you are, including the weird quirks that you've always secretly loved.  You will come to a place of accepting and loving your body no matter your jean size, because you'll know that — girl — you look gooood.  You will smile that crooked smile and tear up every dance floor, not giving a rip with people think, because you've realized how awesome it is to fully be yourself and live in love.  You will figure out how to process and express your emotions in healthier ways, owning your feelings instead of apologizing for them, and understanding your resulting gift of empathy.  And even though you may bear some physical scars, they will be a daily reminder of how far you've come - how far God has taken you - and how much farther you're destined to go.

So precious girl, remember that you are beautiful, unique, and so loved, and that no matter what comes your way, you are strong enough to face it.  And remember that love always wins.

 Your twenty-seven year old self (who is still a mess, but owning it)

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Let's Be Real

While I was in New York last week, I had the chance to meet up with a friend from college late one night after I saw a Broadway show.  I wasn't sure what to expect from our time together, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of that trip, all because our conversation was some of the most real stuff I've been a part of in a long time.  This was a girl that I hadn't seen or really connected with (apart from mutual likes on Instagram) in over five years, and yet we so easily and freely shared some of the deep, hard stuff in our few hours together.  And all I can say is that it all just felt so good and so right.

If there is one thing that I've learned over the last few years, particularly while I've been living in Nashville, it's that true authenticity is absolutely key to the best kind of relationships, and some of my closest friends out here are the ones that I am able to be 100% real with.  They know my good parts and they know my crap, they embrace my quirks and my weirdness, and they know too many of the thoughts that I should probably keep to myself... and they love me anyway.  Why?  Because authenticity breeds authenticity; when one person chooses to be real and show both the good and ugly sides of themselves, the door is then opened for others to do the same.  This means less hiding, less feelings of isolation, and a hell of a lot less faking, which is something that needs to be celebrated.

What I keep going back to from my time with that NYC friend is the necessity for vulnerability, honesty, and trust in any close relationship, especially in the face of a world clamoring for the perfect social media post (complete with the ever-ironic #liveauthentic hashtag).  This means being true to your story, your feelings, and your heart, and not being afraid of the potential of rejection in sharing those things with the people around you.  Life is beautiful and hard, and as fellow human beings -- and especially as followers of Jesus -- we need to be willing to dive into the nitty gritty of life with one another, because it's in that place that we will all flourish.  When we make the decision to be honest and vulnerable, we have no idea how our willingness to be real may impact or influence those around us.  Authenticity is a domino effect, and I hope that you choose to believe that being true to yourself and your story really does matter.

So let's be real.
 

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