Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Chronicles of a Fashion Woman: The Reunion

I got off the plane with sleep in my eyes and a hint of deja vu. I had done this so many times before, it didn't even feel exciting. It just felt like it was time.

Until, of course, I actually got my ass off the plane and into a Lyft on my way to the leasing office to sign onto my new apartment. I stared out the window in awe as my driver took me through the streets of my new home, a borough I never thought I'd call such a thing: Brooklyn.

When I lived in New York before, I was in Manhattan. That was always the definition of New York to me: Manhattan. The rest of the state was inconsequential. Manhattan was my world and it was the only place I wanted to live - until I realized how much rent was. I (reluctantly) ran straight for Brooklyn.

The drive from JFK to Brooklyn showed me parts of the borough I'd never considered before. In my (one) experience, Brooklyn was overly hipster and ironic and everything I hated about everyone who tried to be "different" where I come from. It felt phony and forced, which was an unfair judgment for me to impose on a place I'd been exposed to for a grand total of three hours in 2016. This drive gave me a different perspective. The buildings were old yet beautiful, begging to tell a story. I instantly perceived how much quieter it was than Manhattan, but that brought me a sense of peace and a reminder of home. I felt at ease - not that I had much of a choice. This was my new home.

My driver dropped me off at the leasing office for my building. Signing the lease in person was the only way it could be done, so this had to be my first stop with my big red suitcase, my giant coat, and my crippling exhaustion and hunger. I felt a flutter of nervousness as the driver pulled over, signaling the ride had come to an end. My mother had flown here from Idaho earlier that morning, and she was already in the leasing office waiting for me.

Getting the slightest bit nervous before seeing my mother was a new feeling, something that was brought on by the simple fact that we've been living in different states for almost a year now and haven't seen much of each other. It's a strange feeling, not living with your family anymore.

Although I can feel my mother's love from any part of the globe, it's an entirely new experience to go from seeing her every single day to only every few months or so. Although things go back to normal once I've seen her and said hello, the initial reunion is a shock every time.

I walked into the leasing office, a small room decorated very minimalist-chic with exposed brick interior, sleek white tables, and Mac computers. All of the men were wearing yamakas and talking fast. There were two women - one of whom had to be my realtor, because the other was my mother.

I was sleep-deprived, hungry, and anxious to get my keys so I could get out of there, but all of these nagging urges were pushed aside for the moment I saw my mother. She sat there with the same smile on her face I've seen on her every single day. She's a glass half full kind of woman.

I was desperate to hide the annoyance on my face; I didn't want her to think it was directed at her. "Hi," I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I'd spent so much of my adolescence making it very obvious how much she annoyed me and interfered with my life, as we all do to our parents at some point, that it was of utmost importance to me that I showed her I've grown up without actually saying those words.

The truth is, I was amazed by her devotion to me. When I decided to move to New York, I was unsure who would support me. I had been struggling quite a bit in California, and almost everyone's facial expressions when I told them I wanted to move to New York told me the same thing: You're an idiot.

Everyone in California thinks New York is impossibly expensive (it's actually about the same cost of living if you consider the car expenses you'll no longer be shackled to), therefore it wouldn't be wise for someone with almost nothing to her name to move there without knowing a soul.

When I told my mother I had gotten the job and wanted to move across the country within one week, I sensed the hesitation in her voice. She was nervous for me, as any good mother would be. She and my dad weren't in love with the idea of me moving so far away from everything I knew and moving even FARTHER away from their home in Idaho, but they knew it was something I needed to do. The day after I purchased my plane ticket, my mom purchased hers. She was going to go with me to New York for one week to help me settle in.

I was tremendously touched by this gesture. Of course, I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. She's my mother and she's always loved me and wanted the best for me, but I've always resented that. I've been filled with doubt and fear for what feels like my entire life - doubt that anyone really gives a shit about anyone but themselves, and fear that if I let myself believe someone cares about me, I'll be crushed.

Somehow, it all clicked when I walked into that leasing office. My mother would drop her entire life for a week to come out and help my get settled in my new apartment. My mother would call me every single day for months on end just to talk to me about insignificant little isms, just to hear my voice. My mother would bottle up the entire world and give it to me if she could. I've been so lucky; I just never allowed myself to see it. No one has a Lori Engle.

The next week was possibly the best we've ever had together. It was the only time we've been alone for more than a couple days - except that probably isn't correct, and my mother will tell you. I am the queen of forgetting things, and many of my childhood memories are a blur. As soon as I say I've never done something before, my mother will swoop in with a triumphant smile to remind me that I have, actually, done that thing before and I was with her when I did it and I was two and don't I remember it happening? This used to bother me so much, but I now realize it's just her excitement to share with the world how much our relationship has always meant to her.

We spent the first two days scouring the neighborhood for things I would need around the house: a cheap set of plastic dressers, a mop and broom, some coat hangers for my closet, a laundry basket. The third day would be my first day of work.

We stopped for lunch and dinner each day after hours of exploring. I quickly came to love my new neighborhood. It's in an area of Brooklyn that is home to a lot of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, which is close enough to the culture I was ensconced in back in California.

I come from a Mexican lifestyle - my mother's side of the family is Mexican, everyone I've ever dated is Mexican, and most of my friends are Mexican or at least some type of Hispanic. Mexican culture isn't as rich in New York, which made me sad to think about. However, there is still a thriving Hispanic culture in my neighborhood (you know, bachata bumping in the front yard while kids play games and parents look on, sipping on Modelos and Coronas) that reminds me of home on days I need it the most.

Being surrounded by these familiar sounds and smells and my mother all at once felt so beautiful. I had been on my own for quite a while and was unused to the careful nurturing my mother is so capable of.

Aside from all of the many ways she helped me settle into my first New York apartment, she also was just such a lovely companion. I've always been told that, growing up as a woman, you go through stages with your mom. First you think she is the best thing in the world. Then, you begin to resent her and be annoyed by her very presence. Then, you start to realize how much she has done to you. Finally, she becomes your friend.

I appreciated her, on this little week we had together, just being my friend.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Chronicles of a Fashion Woman: How It Happened


On April 9 at 5:45 a.m., I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket and a suitcase. I was headed to JFK Airport and I was never coming back, at least not to live. I was never going to live in Orange County again. It felt strange.

But maybe I should start this from the very beginning.

I had been working in Irvine at a job that barely paid the bills and did not make me happy. I didn't feel fulfilled or like I belonged. Every day felt like a struggle, and at the end of it, all I could think about was New York. In my darkest times I cried out to the City, promising it I'd be back. I didn't know how, but I knew I would have to. It was killing me to live anywhere else.

New York City has always felt like a soulmate to me. Ever since I first visited at age 12, I knew. It's a dream I've talked about for years. I know some people have thought I was just a too-ambitious, naive kid with a ridiculous notion. My dreams have always been impossibly large, but I knew that nothing else would fit for me. It was going to have to be New York.

After I graduated college, I felt stuck. I was in a job I wasn't that passionate about and living in a town I hated. Although I had so many loved ones that I will cherish forever and always keep in my life, I was miserable in Orange County. It wasn't for me - it never has been and it never will be.

In December, although I was struggling financially and having an emotional breakdown almost daily about how scary it was, I made the irrational promise to myself to at least visit the City sometime in 2018. Even if I couldn't move just yet, I could at least get a little taste to sate me until I was ready. Luckily, my best friend Adam was one step ahead of me.

We planned our trip for mid-March--my birthday (on the 17th, mark it down in your calendars people. This is a national holiday as far as I'm concerned). It was such a beautiful experience. I got to be in the City, MY city, with my best friend. Although it wasn't permanent, it was a full four days of New York living.

I decided if I was going to take the time to travel across the country, I might as well make it worth it. I began reaching out to editors and writers in the City, hoping to get at least one response for a coffee meet and chat about their career. I was desperate for advice and direction--desperate to begin setting a path to my future.

As luck would have it, I lined up two meetings: one with a writer at New York Magazine's The Cut and another with a feminist author who inspired me to learn more about and pursue feminism back in college. Meeting with these two women felt like more than enough, until I got the email.

One day before I was ready to board the plane, I got an email from someone at Harper's Bazaar, the esteemed (and the United States' oldest) fashion magazine I had interned at that glorious summer in 2016. I had submitted my resume to them after graduation, letting them know I was interested in any and all open positions and I would love to be kept in mind.

I had interviewed at Harper's Bazaar back in March and did not hear back, presumably because it was over the phone and I was out of state. It's rare that someone in New York will hire someone out of state for an entry-level position, which made my permanent move feel even more unreachable. How can I move 3000 miles away when I don't have a secure job?

This email came from a different department at the magazine. The woman writing to me wanted to know if I could come in for an interview that Thursday. I was flying there on a Wednesday--I was incredulous in my genuine response of, "Yes, I can."

It felt surreal to be in the Hearst building again after all that time. I was about 60 pounds heavier, two years older, and an entirely different woman. I rode the elevator up to the 25th floor, a move that immediately felt routine to me. I was ushered into a conference room and instructed to wait for my interviewer. I sat there, feeling right. Hoping to God this was it. Knowing deep down...it was.

One week after the interview, I got the call. I was on my way home from the gym. The editor had told me she'd call me, but I wasn't sure what that meant. The possibilities raced through my mind, but a second interview seemed most likely.

The phone began to ring as I was turning left onto Chapman, about five minutes from my apartment. 

"Hi Taylor, this is ______," the voice on the other end said. It was the editor who had interviewed me.

"Hi!" I said, too anxious to say much more without bursting into laughter or tears.

"So, I wanted to wait until _______ had a chance to jump on the call with us, because I really wanted her to meet you. But she trusts my judgment and the fact that you've worked here before is a huge plus," she must have said. It was something along those lines. Meanwhile, my mind was sprinting laps. I felt it coming. Sayitsayitsayitsayitsayitsayit, my brain was screaming.

"When is the soonest you'd be able to start?" she said, interrupting my thoughts. I almost dropped the phone.

"As soon as possible," I said instinctively, refusing to give up this once-in-a-lifetime chance. The rest I'd figure out later.

"I know you're still in California and need to figure things out. Moving is a big deal; I don't want you to race out here and not even have a place to stay. However, we do need someone as soon as possible. If you could make it here before May, that would be great."

I told her I'd be there in one week.

With this deadline set, I knew I had to hustle. No more being a Californian; I was going to be a New Yorker, and no one was going to make this happen but me. 

That week was perhaps one of the most stressful of my life. I didn't stop moving, not even for one second. I put in the one week's notice at work (which my boss was completely gracious and supportive about. Thank you forever, Carl Fillichio) and began frantically looking for someone to take my room over at my apartment before rent was due (which was in three days), someone to buy my car (which was crucial as I had to use that money to put down the deposit on my New York apartment), and a place to live in New York. 

I bought a plane ticket for the following Monday, cementing my decision. Not finding a renter and a buyer wasn't an option--I HAD to get this done. 

After showing my car and room to countless inquirers, I was able to sell my car to a former coworker and lifelong friend and rent my room to someone I went to high school with. I found an apartment in Brooklyn with a few roommates, one of whom has two cats (which is very exciting for me). I'm still not sure how, but I did it. Everything worked out perfectly.

I said goodbye to as many people as I could. I was thrilled to leave California and to start my life, but quite heartbroken to leave certain people. However, I knew it was time to do this.

An emotional car ride with the best friends I have ever had brought me to LAX with my one-way ticket and my big red suitcase. I said goodbye, and I don't know if I will ever get the image of Millie's face right before I turned away out of my mind, but I had to go. 

I boarded the plane with a giant coat Millie had given me and an edible to ensure I wouldn't be conscious. Six hours later, I awoke to my future. 

More on my first week as a RESIDENT of New York later. Until next time...

Taylor

The Chronicles of a Fashion WOMAN: It Was Not, In Fact, The Final Entry


Hi Brainiacs,

Devout readers of Taylor's Brain may recognize this series, although when I first began writing it in 2016 it was under "The Chronicles of a Fashion Girl." Although I was legally a woman in 2016, I don't believe I really became one until May 4, 2017 (the day I decided to recover from anorexia). I was just a naive girl running around a concrete jungle and trying to make sense of it before I wasted away.

I wrote what I believed would be the final chronicle on August 13, 2016--the final day of my internship and my stay in New York City. I had no idea when I would be back and although I was hopeful, I wasn't 100% certain I would ever move here permanently (I've always been an optimist, but a realist first).

As luck (and an exhausting, seemingly never-ending amount of work) would have it, the bitch is back and here to stay. But I wouldn't feel right if I disappeared to live my new life without writing about it to share with whoever finds it to be interesting.

Over the next...however long I feel like it, I will be chronicling my time here in New York. My wild experiences on the subway, in night clubs, at work, in the fashion scene, and in recovery in a new environment (because that is something I'm still doing and will never abandon or forget).

Read if you care; I hope everyone will get at least a little something out of my journey.

Love Always,

Taylor

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Final Step of Recovery: Trust in Yourself


I always knew this day would come. In fact, I arranged my entire life around it. I worked the two jobs at once, I went to school full time. I did the internship and a made a promise to the City and to myself: I will come back.

This past year has easily been the hardest of my life (I clearly haven’t been through much). I came out of my internship and back into my senior year of college with every intention of going straight back to New York upon graduation. Of course, you can’t always plan things so definitively.

Life got in the way, which is a super vague and tactful way to say I was starving myself to death and I needed to stop before it was too late. Instead of moving to New York a few days after graduation like I had hoped, I had to dedicate the next year to recovering and becoming healthy again. This isn’t something that was decided by anyone but me—I knew I couldn’t go to New York until I was fully ready, and although I had no idea where I was going to start, I knew I needed to at least eat a little more.

Recovery is something that can’t be understood until it’s experienced, which is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Recovery is stripping back every single piece of you that you thought you knew (but it isn’t the real you: it’s the anorexic you) and teaching yourself to love what you see.

We all handle it differently. Some of us can’t quite see the end of the dark, dark tunnel that is recovery and so we quit. We relapse. And the cycle continues on, and on, and on. I recognized this when I started, and as hard as it was, I did not let myself slip back.

With this in mind, going to New York sounded terrifying.

I had to change my plans. Although New York has always been my dream (and the only place I’ve ever truly, truly felt at home), it was also the place where I got really sick. Of course, I had been on a two-year downward spiral into apathy and appetite abstinence, but New York sealed it in writing: I needed help.

Of course, I’m not blaming my mental illness on a city. However, it didn’t help that I was completely isolated from the people who knew I wasn’t naturally that skinny, walking everywhere I went, and eating less and less each day. I knew if I were to move to an anorexic wonderland like this when I had barely starting recovering, I would have been in trouble.

I made the hard decision and stayed. I took a job nearby to get me started in my career and I dedicated every single day to working out less and eating more (doesn’t that sound ridiculous?). It felt impossible. I couldn’t see an end.

About two months ago, I recovered. Of course, not entirely. I still have issues in regards to body dysmorphia, depression and anxiety. However, I recovered physically. I stopped feeling weak, faint, exhausted and overwhelmed by the hormones that were coming back to my body. My period finally normalized. My appetite felt human again.

I got hired as a fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar last week, a gift seemingly rewarded to me for recovering and doing it well. I am 13 months into recovery now and I feel extremely ready to do this.

Jumping back into life and re-adopting the person you were before your eating disorder is a difficult thing to accomplish. It’s hard to know which version of myself I should be, so I’ve decided to become a new one entirely.

I’m not the person before I was before anorexia, nor am I the person I was during it. I am a woman now, and I’m ready to get moving.

I’ve had a few people express concern about me moving to New York when I haven’t been recovered that long. Most people saw the weight I lost when I was there before and they’re concerned I might go back.

Of course, this is a possibility. It’s always a possibility. But recovery is something I had to choose. In fact, it’s still something I have to choose. I did not have to get better, and I did not have to stay better. That was purely me: my own will to live a happy and healthy life. I choose recovery every single day, and I can’t box myself out of life-changing opportunities for fear of what I might do wrong in the future.

I know I’ve messed up in the past. I’ve hurt myself what I thought was beyond repair, but I still managed to bounce back. I have hated my body and myself and I’ve wanted nothing more than to waste away. But I trust myself now.

On March 4, 2017 I chose recovery. I chose life. I chose to pursue what makes me happy, regardless of what my body looks or feels like. I promise to always choose recovery.


You have to have faith in yourself to stay well.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Best Trends at Paris Fashion Week

I'll be honest - Paris didn't really wow me this season. 

The week started off with a few awkward transitions in creative direction, resulting in collections that were a bit all over the place. However, classics like Miu Miu, Chanel and Stella McCartney brought us back to where we needed to be: dripping in the royal purple, leather, feminine and sexy emerald-y wonderland that is Fall/Winter 2018 (You heard it here first: Emerald is THE color of the season).

As usual, I picked apart each runway presentation and gathered all of my favorite runway trends. Although Paris was the least impressive week in my book, there were still some looks served:

1. Velvet

Fashion Month spent time paying tribute to the nineties this season, but no one did quite like our Parisian designers. Velvet has come and go since the nineties in all forms: as booties, chokers and crop tops. This fall encourages going head-to-toe in the soft, sleek material.

Versus Versace

Dundas

Talbot Runhof

2. Plaid

Further proof that Paris was inspired by the nineties this season. Plaid makes you think of winter, scholarliness and warmth.

Christian Dior

Loewe

Lacoste

3. Multi-fabric

Many collections experimented with using more than one fabric per garment in an obvious, almost exaggerated way. This is either next-level or catastrophic.

Tome

Off-White

Louis Vuitton

4. All White

The only color combination to incite anxiety all day long for the wearer, that still doesn't take away from the fact that it makes you look damn good. Pack a stick of Tide-to-Go and enjoy all the attention your outfit gets.

Valentin Yudashkin

Ralph & Russo

Akris

5. LBD

Quite the opposite effect of the purity and officialness that comes with wearing all white is the mystery that comes along with the provocative little black dress, something we need in our closets year-round, forever, until the end of time.

Balenciaga

Saint Laurent

Alexandre Vaulthier

6. Leather

For the days we want to feel like bad asses. (We all have them).

Yang Li

Lanvin

Haider Ackermann

7. Legs

Because showing what God gave you is a look in itself.

Mulberry

Sonia Rykiel

Isabel Marant

8. Bright blue

Although emerald and royal purple dominated the runways this month, that didn't stop byzantine blue from being a huge hit.

Dundas

Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood

Alexis Mabille

9. Chokers

Remember how these came back for like, a week last year? They weren't going away so fast.

Versus Versace

Christian Dior

Koché 

10. Sunglasses

The right pair can complete any look.
Elie Saab

Dries van Noten

Lanvin

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

XOXO,

Taylor

Sunday, March 4, 2018

My One Year Ana-versary


One year ago today, I was the slightest bit willing. The slightest bit. The rest of me was still in denial.

One year ago, I couldn’t stand for very long without feeling sharp pain in my knees. I couldn’t lift a case of water. I couldn’t stay awake past 9 p.m. because I was often delirious with hunger by dinner time (which I barely ate).

I couldn’t cry because I didn’t feel any emotions. I didn’t have many friends and I noticed people actively begin to dislike or avoid me because of how mean I’d become. I only left my room when absolutely necessary. I pulled the skin on my arms, legs and stomach all day, every day, furious with how “disgusting” and “fat” I was.

The hair on my head was the thinnest it’s ever been. On the contrary, I had extra hair growing all over to compensate for my lack of body fat. My wrists were the size of a small child's. My greatest form of exercise was swimming—in all of my clothes (which were never bigger than size 00).  Oh, except I still went to the gym seven days a week, minimum three hours a day.

One year ago, my family didn’t know what to do anymore. They were scared but I was furious. Furious every time they tried to talk to me, furious every time they tried to feed me, until eventually everyone just stayed quiet and let me starve in infuriated peace.

One year ago today, I decided to become the slightest bit willing.

Today I stand on two big legs—legs I got from my mother. They’re thick and strong; they get me where I need to go without pain or injury. My feet are two sizes bigger (or rather, back to their actual size). My wrists are no longer tiny and dainty—they’re sturdy. They don’t make me nervous.

In fact, no part of my body makes me nervous anymore. I’m not afraid if I brush my hair too much it will fall out—now when I brush it, it grows in abundance, shiny. I can sit on any surface no matter how hard, because my ass is officially phat enough to handle it.

Today I go out with friends because I have the energy to do so. I’m also nice enough to make friends in the first place. Today I try new foods, go to parties. I get through the day without obsessing over food. It is, slowly but surely, not that important anymore.

Don’t be fooled—it still isn’t easy. Don’t think because I’ve gained the weight back and am living a much happier life that I’m over anorexia. It still lives in my head, which is quite arguably its most lethal residency.

I can get through most days without feeling massive or like I need to starve myself, but there are always going to be triggers. However, I choose to confront my triggers rather than avoid them. It’s never great for me to listen to others talk about their strict new diet or their rigorous workout routine, but I believe it would be even worse to cover my ears. 

Facing triggers is terrifying. The voice in your head, the voice that is begging you to fall back into the darkness, wants you to give in. To adopt a crazy diet of your own, just to see what it’s like. To go to the gym a second time because that person’s workout sounds way more intense than yours was that morning. But real power is telling that voice to go to hell. Gaining confidence back and truly recovering looks like resisting every urge your body has to destroy, destroy, destroy.

I’m one year into recovery as of today, and to say I haven’t felt this great in years would be a lie. I definitely felt better when I was young, before I was anorexic, when I was just a healthy kid who ate what she wanted and lived her life. So no, this isn’t the best I’ve ever been, but it’s the wisest I’ve ever been. It’s the strongest I’ve ever been. And if I keep working at it, one day I'll look back from an even stronger, wiser and happier standpoint.

I will never lie to anyone—this shit isn’t easy. But wherever you are in recovery, know that it’s doable.

A year ago today, I wanted to die. My biggest fear was gaining weight, but here I’ve done it. I’ve faced it. But I’m nowhere near done mentally healing, and I have to keep pushing forward. I promise you can too.