2018 Resolutions

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I love New Year's Eve. There's something beautiful about so many people, all at once, shedding their insecurities & bad habits & negativity, and declaring that this is the year they'll become their best selves; that this is the beginning of an immense transformation in their lives. There's something pure about picking a single day to start over — even when that day isn't all that different from the day before it — and holding firm to that commitment. Pulling sneakers out of the closet, opening unused appliances, dusting off journals, and preparing for the year ahead.

I always come up with New Year's Resolutions, but they rarely stick. I write them out in my journal or on this blog & then only a few months later, they seem like distant memories. The Isabelle that looked toward the new year with excitement is buried beneath old habits that die hard (or refuse to die at all). There's a quote that says, "You are what you do, not what you say you do" & my mind keeps returning to it over and over again. My Mom recently found an old journal of mine while cleaning out my bedroom & the first entry, dated January 2015, said: "I think I'm addicted to food." 3 years later, the struggle continues. It's just one example of the many things I’ve been holding on to that I've yet to make a concerted effort to conquer. I've always been "too busy," which is really code for "completely overwhelmed by the size of the journey ahead."

But this year feels different. This year, I'm determined to unify promise & action. My resolutions aren't lofty — they're achievable, actionable items — and I've spent a lot of time researching & meditating on how to prepare for them. I recently started reading "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business," as well as "You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness & Start Living an Awesome Life" & both books have been immensely inspiring (and are highly recommended!) I've been thinking through my goals since October & with these readings & my family & friends' & fiancé's support, I feel geared up and ready to take on 2018. I'm excited to change old habits, manifest what I want in life & watch my goals come to fruition. Because they will. Because this year is the year that I'm putting shit into action.

New Year's Resolutions

While I have two big overarching themes, this year, I'm breaking up my New Year's Resolutions into quarterly goals. Setting quarterly goals is something that we do at work, and I've noticed that bigger goals are much more digestible when broken down into bite-sized pieces. So I'll tell you my 3 main resolutions & what achieving them looks like, & then provide the quarterly breakdown.

1. Become (Even More) Financially Savvy

In 2018, I want to make a significant dent in my student loans (pay off $5,000.00) and save as much money as I can ($5,000.00 minimum). I'm looking at big numbers (for me) that are going to require a lot of sacrifice, determination & patience, but being debt free is a HUGE goal of mine. When I think of all the things I could do with the $300.00/month I pay to Great Lakes my chest hurts, so it's time to start making moves. Putting $10,000.00 toward savings/student loan debt this year looks like:

  • Not buying a car & instead, walking to and from work (40 minutes). 
  • Canceling my gym membership(s). Walking 80 mins/day should be a good amount of daily exercise.
  • Cooking at home/bringing lunch to work 90% of the time. (That's 27 days of the month, man.)
  • Leaving my debit card at home. I have my debit card information memorized, so if there were an emergency, I'd be okay.
  • Getting a library card. (Because my reading habits are expensive.)

2. Practice Mental, Physical & Spiritual Self Care

In 2014/2015, I went to therapy weekly & was the most healthy version of myself I've ever been. To make a long story short, I'm ready to get back to that person. I'm currently 45 pounds overweight, struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder & not working on my relationship with God. Here's what getting my mental, physical & spiritual shit together looks like:

  • Lose 45 pounds. Over the course of an entire year, that's 3.75 pounds/month (although I'm kicking off a more intensive game plan). Jeremiah & I are starting off the year with a round of Whole 30 & I feel really excited to share the experience with him. I'm looking forward to watching us create a healthy lifestyle together. 
  • Start weekly or bi-monthly therapy sessions. Because talking it out and learning best practices for managing stress & anxiety will feel good.
  • Start reading spiritual books again. (I'm starting with "The Four Agreements" & "Living a Life of Awareness," but taking recommendations!)
  • Journal more & especially focus on beginning a gratitude journal.
  • Set a hard bedtime (10:00 PM) and wake up time (6:30 AM). 

A few other things I'd love to do, but that I'm not putting too much pressure on myself to complete:

  • Take more local weekend vacations — Nashville, Miami, Chattanooga & Asheville, I'm lookin' at you.
  • Read 30 books (2-3 books/month)
  • Blog at least 1x/month.
  • Volunteer 1x/quarter.

Quarterly Break Down

Q1 (Jan-Mar.)

  • Walk to work at least 3x/week. (40-minute walk).
  • Start weekly or bi-monthly therapy sessions.
  • Save a minimum of $1,500.00. Pay off a minimum of $1,500.00 on student loans.
  • Lose 25 pounds.

Q2 (Apr.-June)

  • Walk to work at least 4x/week. (40-minute walk).
  • Journal for 10 minutes every morning.
  • Save a minimum of $1,500.00. Pay off a minimum of $1,500.00 on student loans.
  • Lose 10 pounds.

Q3 (July-Sept.)

  • Walk to work 5x/week. (40-minute walk).
  • Save a minimum of $1,500.00. Pay off a minimum of $1,500.00 on student loans.
  • Read 3 books on spirituality.
  • Lose 10 pounds.

Q4 (Oct.-Dec.)

  • Spend 3 weekends completely unplugging. (No cell phone, no email, no phone calls, etc.)
  • Save a minimum of $1,500.00. Pay off a minimum of $1,500.00 on student loans.
  • Maintain my goal weight (especially over the holidays).

And that's that! What are your New Year's Resolutions? 

Recent Reads: July—November

I know, I know — it's been a minute. A long minute. Okay, maybe 5 long ass months. But listen, in that time span I left NYC, took a 2-week road trip down South, moved to Atlanta (and then twice more within Atlanta), started a new job, adopted a dog, and got engaged. So y'all will just have to give me a pass.

Anyway, I'm definitely not hitting my 50 books/year goal, so I'll just have to try again in 2018! I got a library card this weekend (finally!) so I can't wait to get reading. The (very few) books I read in all that time are below!

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The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen | 5/5

I think I say this at least once per book review, but WOW, I really wish I had read this with a book club. This is the second book I've read by Viet Thanh Nguyen and all of his work is incredibly well-written and immersive. In The Sympathizer, we follow the narrator's story - he is a half-French, half Vietnamese communist double agent & army captain, who comes to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life, secretly reports back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. Personally, I didn't (/still don't) know much about the Vietnam War - I actually can't remember ever having been taught about it in history class - and so this book was a way to learn about the dark corners of U.S./Vietnamese history. The novel explores identity, nationalism, and racism, all while the narrator struggles to come to terms with his own participation in the violence that took place in both Vietnam and America. 

hunger roxane gay review

Hunger, Roxane Gay | 5/5

Hunger is a memoir of trauma, food, self-image, and the process of healing and taking care of yourself. It challenges our understandings and beliefs about weight, bodies, and how people navigate through the world in their bodies. As Roxane writes, "People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not. This is not a story of triumph, but this is a story that demands to be told and deserves to be heard." Her writing is heartbreaking, tender, poignant, and commanding. A must-read.

we are never meeting in real life review samantha irby

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, Samantha Irby | 2/5

Before reading We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, I had never heard of Samantha Irby, her blog (bitches gotta eat), or her other books. I picked up this book solely because it received rave reviews, and one of my favorite authors, Roxane Gay, wrote: "Cracked my heart all the way open...As close to perfect as an essay collection can get." So I figured I'd give it a shot. But I unfortunately found that I really didn't like it.

It was difficult for me to finish this book. Irby's writing style and humor is cynical, self deprecating, and dark. And while there were definitely some great moments, for the most part, our senses of humor just don't align. Throughout the collection of essays, Irby touches on heavy topics such as poverty, disability, mental health, racism, alcoholism, and fatphobia, and uses her own life and experiences to open her audience's eyes to the fuckery of the world. But in many moments, I felt as though her humor distracted from the gravity of what she was saying. You know those people who are telling you something super sad, but they throw in a self deprecating joke because they feel awkward talking about their feelings? That's how this whole collection of essays felt to me.

sing unburied sing review jesmyn ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward | 4.5/5

Only a few weeks after I finished Sing, Unburied, Sing I went to see Jesmyn Ward speak at the New Orleans Book festival. She was wearing an oversized sweater with ruffled sleeves and jet black leggings, and her face was kind and soft. The softness surprised me. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a painful and deeply stirring read, and it seemed to contrast the books dark underbelly.

On its surface, Sing, Unburied, Sing is about Leonie, a drug-addicted mother, who takes her children, Jojo and Kayla, to pick up their father from Parchman — one of the most brutal and cruel prisons in Mississippi. Yet parallel to this journey is a story of ghosts, unresolved trauma, and dark histories. The past often bleeds into the present, and Ward lyrically weaves a story about reconciling with the past, open wounds and the dead.

During her talk, Jesmyn said she wrote the book because she couldn’t get the character Jojo out of her head. At the book signing afterward, I asked her, “Do your characters speak to/haunt you the way Given does Leonie?” Jesmyn furrowed her brow. “No one has ever asked me that before. I…you know, I really have to think about that one.” I loved the fact that she didn’t have an immediate answer — I think it was the best response I could’ve received.

I’ve been going back and forth on the book’s rating and right now, I think I’ll stick with a 4.5 out of 5, solely because I think parts of the ending were confusing and could’ve been edited down. Otherwise, one of the most phenomenal books I’ve read this year.

what we lose review zinzi clemmons

What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons | 3.5/5

I read What We Lose in September and gave it a 4/5 on GoodReads, but only two months later, the majority of the book escapes me, which I think is telling. In short, Clemmons writes an autobiographical novel that walks us through her emotions and healing process after she experienced her most painful loss — the death of her mother to breast cancer. Her relationship to her mother is clearly powerful and unique, and I found that the book really resonated with me for that reason. I feel incredibly close to my Mama and our relationship is rivaled by no other, so I can't imagine losing her/what that would feel like. Clemmons plays with form and style — some of which I think hits the mark, while other parts completely miss it — and I like that she took that risk.

The Night Guest, Fiona McFarlane | 3.5/5

I borrowed this book from the library (i.e., why I wasn't able to take a photo of the cover) without knowing anything about it, and it ended up being a really fun read. In short, we follow the story of Ruth, an elderly, widowed woman who lives in an isolated beach house on the outskirts of town. One day a stranger, Frida, arrives at her door; she is supposedly a care worker sent by the government. Ruth lets her in. The story is told solely from Ruth's perspective, and as strange things begin to happen around the house, the reader cannot tell whether Ruth is an unreliable narrator and more senile than we initially thought, or whether Frida is more or less than she appears. The book absolutely had my heart racing, and in some ways, it made me feel really sad/scared about aging. I'd definitely recommend the read!

The Girls, Emma Cline | 3.5/5

I picked up this book from the library because I was looking for a quick, easy, and entertaining read. The novel is the imaginative retelling of the Charles Manson case, and follows Evie Boyd, a 14-year old girl, who falls-in with the cult and becomes infatuated with one of the other girls in it, Suzanne. I found the read to be interesting, easy, and entertaining, which was exactly what I was looking for. While I thought Cline did a great job of describing the thought process/psyche of young girls, it didn't move me in any particular way. I think it'd be a great book to bring along on a beach trip or vacation.

As always, I'm open to book recommendations! I'm currently reading You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (yes - still reading this one; I swear I get through 10 pages/month), Five-Carat Soul by James McBride (so good!!), and I'm soon to start Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward & If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin.

What are you reading?

Want to see real-time updates on what I'm reading? Follow me on GoodReads!

The Garden

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In the summer, the palm leaves reign. Lanky and lush, their branches spread out wide and cast shadows that dance seductively as the sun sets. In the gaps where sunlight peeks through, are vines and flowers. An amalgam of color and texture and shape and size — enticing and enchanting and beautiful.

The garden's cats weave throughout the roots of the trees — barely there — often a quick flash of tail or claw or yellow eye. In the early morning, the squirrels spruce up their homes while sleepily chattering amongst themselves.

Even in the winter, as the garden's blooms begin to wilt and its palm trees shrivel, beauty remains. You catch glimpses of it on November mornings before anyone is awake when it's just you and the birds and the earth and the cold. And you silently thank God, the steam from your breath the only sign you were ever there.

3 Reasons to Love The Afro Hair & Skin Co.

3 Reasons to Love The Afro Hair & Skin Co.

This summer, my boyfriend and I moved to Atlanta from NYC, and, as with most big changes, it was accompanied by stress, fatigue, and imbalance. In the 3 months since we moved, I've completely neglected to take care of my body, skin and hair. Thankfully, The Afro Hair and Skin Co. stepped in and sent me their Minis - Set of 3 kit to try. Equipped with the Flow - Perfectly Balanced Facial Oil, Bloom - Omega Healthy Hair Oil, and Flourish - Totally Nourishing Hair Butter, I was able to completely nourish and rejuvenate my neglected skin and hair!

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8 Black Women You Should Be Following on Instagram

In July, I started working as a social media coordinator and my consumption of media increased tenfold. The long and short is that every day I get to create, curate, and schedule social content for our funky, fun, out of the box clients. Quite frankly, it's an incredible job. But what I've realized is that after being on social all day, I now log on to my personal accounts a lot less frequently. I went from spending at least an hour a day on Instagram, to only checking-in for 10 minutes or so in the evening. Definitely not a bad change in habit, but noticeable for sure.

And something I've also realized is that I absolutely, 100% have favorite accounts, which all have something in common: they're run by creative, badass, free spirited black women. These women inspire me to live as my most authentic, honest, and free self. Whenever I need to be creatively rejuvenated, I check-in on these accounts and immediately feel inspired. So now I'm sharing them with you! And if you have suggestions on other accounts to follow, please let me know in the comments below! 

The Artists & Activists

Amber is a young, black woman farmer and nature-based educator, originating from Brooklyn, NY. As described on her website, Amber works to "guide communities, especially low income and communities of color, to grow food and empower the youth through direct engagement with the earth." I love Amber's Instagram for the way the ways in which she authentically captures her life, both the highs and lows, and lives with intention. Amber heavily influenced my decision to start a garden this summer, and after following her Instagram, I've started to think deeply about where food comes from + how we can uplift our communities through food education.

Instagram: @ambertamm
Website: www.ambertamm.com

Jay Katelansky

black women breathing

I've followed Jay on Instagram (and before that, Tumblr) for years, and have always admired her ability to remain vulnerable and embrace the many nuances of being a black woman in the U.S. Her work "explores collective trauma and the dehumanization of Black folks in the U.S. using the vehicles of science fiction, dystopic/utopic narratives, and Black joy." Jay's work asks you to ask yourself difficult questions. In the many times that I've felt consumed by pain when hearing of another Black person's murder at the hands of the police, I turned to Jay's work: it expressed my feelings when I didn't have the words. 

Instagram: @shiftingself
Website: www.jaykatelansky.com/

Shenel Wright

Shenel is a photographer based in Brooklyn, NYC, and one of my really good friends. Her work explores the beauty and magic of blackness in its every day, authentic moments. All of her photos contain so much depth and feeling; they leave me wanting to know the story behind the moment captured. I also love that Shenel doesn't limit herself to one format or one type of photo - her work ranges from film to digital, portraiture to candids, and everything in between. 

Instagram: @awkwardblackgirl
Website: www.shenelwright.wtf


The Bloggers

Dara Oke

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Dara is one of the most inspiring people I follow. She's multi-talented (she's a photographer, videographer, and coder with great taste in music & clothes) and a truly humble person. For me, sometimes bloggers/influencers don't feel approachable and/or their lives seem far-fetched, but Dara lives her life authentically - she works hard, is the best she can be, and remains in touch with God. Just witnessing her via Instagram or on her blog encourages me to try and do the same.

Instagram: @lovedarbie
Website: www.lovedarbie.com

Latonya Yvette

On top of being an incredible stylist, mother, and blogger, Latonya has a defined and powerful writing voice, and everything she posts is so beautifully phrased and well thought-out that it always moves me. When I first moved to NYC, I reached out to her to see if she was available to connect, and while she wasn't, her response was so gracious and warm that it made me love her blog all the more. I feel like it's truly representative of who she is as a person. After following Latonya, I've learned to better appreciate vulnerability, self reflection, and self care.

Instagram: @latonyayvette
Website: www.latonyayvette.com

The Free Spirits


Shannon Kennard

Shannon and I met at a Black Girl Magik event and remained in touch ever since. She's truly the definition of a free spirit. She's an incredibly introspective person, and I've always felt inspired by the way that she is dedicated to learning the ins and outs of herself and growing into a strong and secure person. Shannon reminds me that it's okay to be vulnerable, and that the more I learn of myself and know of myself, the better I will be. You can read a blog post in. which I interviewed Shannon, here.

Instagram: @whereisshannonk
Website: www.whereisshannon.com

Roe of Brown Kids

Brownkids is one of my favorite Instagram accounts of all time. It's run by Roe and her partner, E, and shows us their journey to live a vegan lifestyle, participate in minimalism, and enjoy simplicity. Roe is truly a phenomenal woman. The way she writes is so warm and inviting, and her dedication to minimalism and living consciously is super inspiring. She was recently on the "hey, girl podcast" and I definitely think it's worth a listen - you can listen here. (It's episode 6).

Instagram: @brownkids

Patrice Jackson

Patrice Jackson is super cool. I could leave it there, but she's also one of the sweetest people I know, has an incredible fashion sense, and always thinks outside of the box when it comes to style and how she represents herself. Both she and Shannon have an online vintage shop, Soft Wild, where they model, shoot, and curate the Instagram/online store, on top of finding incredible pieces. I always feel so creatively inspired by Patrice and almost every time I see a photo of her, I immediately think, "Ah, that's SO cool!" so clearly she's doing something right!

Instagram: @patricejacksonn

So tell me: who on this list will you be following? x

Recent Reads: May + June


Exit West, Moshin Hamid || 5/5

Since it's publication, Exit West has received phenomenal reviews, and as soon as I read its first few chapters, I understood why. This was my first time reading Hamid's work and I have to say that his control of language is stunning. His sentences — which often run on for an entire half page or more — depict such thorough and nuanced understandings of love, fear, loss, etc., that I'd read them over and over, floored that someone can so accurately and fluidly translate emotion into words.

In Exit West, two young people, Saaed and Nadia, meet and fall in love, just as their country's civil war comes to a head. As violence and death begin to ravage the city, they begin to hear rumors of doors that can transport people from one country to another, though each door is varied, and what a person will meet on the other side is unknown. Hamid writes, "It was said in those days that the passage was both like dying and like being born."

This is yet another book that I'd have loved to discuss with a book club, and it will likely be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas || 4/5

I read all 444 pages of The Hate U Give in one sitting. I also read it only two days after the death of Jordan Edwards — yet another innocent, unarmed, black child murdered by the police. Already feeling heartbroken and angry about Jordan's murder, the read became all the more powerful. 

The story centers on Starr Carter, a sixteen-year old girl who lives in Garden Heights, a poor black neighborhood riddled with gangs and crime. In hopes of giving their children the best education possible, Starr's parents enroll Starr and her siblings in an affluent, white private school, 45 minutes away from their neighborhood. In the midst of Starr's struggle to strike a balance between her two drastically different lives, she witnesses the police unjustly murder one of her closest childhood friends, Khalil. As she copes with his death, she also must learn where and how she fits into the fight for justice and equality.

Because the book is written for young adults, it's language is straightforward, and topics such as police brutality, the posthumous demonization of black victims, microaggressions, code switching, etc. are addressed head-on, without much academic jargon. The characters are phenomenally written; their relationships with one another feel authentic and well-thought out. What I love about this book, and Thomas' storytelling, is that she not only fosters a discussion about police brutality and systematic oppression, but also, in many moments, authentically celebrates black life, in all of its forms. I highly recommend this as a must-read.


The Vegetarian, Han Kang || 4/5

As the clerk in Strand Books showed me where I could find The Vegetarian, she told me that it had been her favorite read of 2016. "Dark but powerful" she succinctly explained. After finishing it, I couldn't agree with her summary more. The Vegetarian is a dark, Kafka-esque novel saturated with symbolism. On the surface, the novel tells the story of Yeong-hye, a Korean woman who decides not to eat meat after having a disturbing, gruesome and bloody dream. The decision shocks her husband and family — the Korean culture and diet heavily involves meat — and as her family attempts to force her hand, their own struggles with darkness are revealed.

The Vegetarian is powerful due to its discussion of mental health, and the way it brings light to the different masks that we wear and/or different sides of ourselves that we hide.  When describing it to my friends, I kept saying it left me with a wet and heavy sadness — I finished the novel and felt as though I was wearing a thick sweater in the rain; I was left dripping, soggy, and soaked through. The story stuck with me, and I found my thoughts returning to its different characters again and again. I really like(d) that the book is broken into parts — each written from a different character's perspective. I will say that this book may be easier to read if you have some understanding of Korean culture — i.e., an understanding of arranged marriages, knowledge that the military father's position in the family is strong and he cannot be disobeyed, and working long hours as an excruciating, but "normal" aspect of the culture. (And of course, once you're done, I'd suggest reading the Reddit threads - so much great commentary: 1 & 2).


The Mothers, Brit Bennett || 4/5

In the past few months, I saw The Mothers everywhere — people were reading it on the subwayWell Read Black Girl chose it as their December 2016 read, and its colorful cover seemingly popped up around every corner. I knew that I had to give it a go. The book is mainly told from the perspective of Nadia, a young girl who recently lost her mother, and while struggling to heal, forms bonds, relationships, and friendships that end up affecting her and her community for the next few decades. The book has themes of loss/learning to let go, family (both biological and chosen), and what can ensue when an unhealed past meets the present. Though the story is primarily told from Nadia's perspective, it occasionally moves over to the perspective of The Mothers — the oldest members of Nadia's church, who offer insight, advice, and prayers as the story unfolds.

Only 20 pages into the book, I was completely mesmerized. Brit Bennet's writing style is rhythmic and smooth; in some ways, her voice reminds me of the way one tells a story aloud, which fits with the book's theme of gossip, storytelling, and history. The way in which she presents the character of The [Church] Mothers — simultaneously one entity and multiple women — was incredibly powerful to me. Her depictions of friendship, as well as of church life in a small town, are authentic and believable, and I found myself genuinely connecting to each character, even as they fluctuated between likable and unlikeable. A great debut novel.


When Watched, Leopoldine Core || 3/5

I picked up When Watched because I liked its cover and it kept appearing in my suggested reads section on Amazon. The book is Core's debut collection of short stories, all of which take place in New York City, and often in a single room or apartment. While in the beginning of the book, I felt as though her stories did a lot of telling, rather than showing, as the book progressed, I found her characters transform into more and more quirky, real, and likable people.

For the past year, I've primarily only read books by people of color, and so it was interesting to read the work of a white author again. At first I found it jarring to read about characters described as "beautiful" due to their green eyes and blonde hair; I had major flashbacks to many of the books I read in middle school, that centered characters who didn't look like me as the standard for intelligence and beauty. But when focusing on the meat of each story, I really felt inspired by Core's writing style. Surprisingly, her book spurred me to start working on a few short stories of my own.


Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn || 3/5

Here Comes the Sun had been on my "to read" list for awhile now and recently, I finally got it together and picked it up from the bookstore. While the story centers on the life of Margot — a young woman who works at an expensive resort in Montego Bay, and sells sex for extra income, in order to send her younger sister, Thandi, to an elite school — it also serves as commentary on vicious the cycle of colonialism and exploitation. While the novel was a great read, and touched on a plethora of issues — skin bleaching, rape, prostitution, sexual exploitation, gentrification, colonialism, queerness/the demonization of queerness, love, Rastafarianism — I personally felt that trying to fit all of these topics into one story had the potential to take away from some of its larger themes. At the same time, it's not far-fetched to believe that all of these issues could, and do, plague the lives of many people within Jamaica and beyond. While this is a book that I don't see myself re-reading, I do think that it offers an important perspective on Jamaica and the darker sides of "paradise."

As always, I'm open to book recommendations! I'm currently reading You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. Next up is Hunger by Roxane Gay,  Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (for the sixth time!), The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin. What are you reading?

Want to see real-time updates on what I'm reading? Follow me on GoodReads!

My Loc Journey & 3-Year Anniversary!

So March came and went and I completely forgot to celebrate my 3 year loc anniversary! In the past, I haven't been big on celebrating my locs — or more specifically, their length. It seemed frivolous — birds fly, the sun rises + sets, and my hair grows a few inches every year. But in the past three years, I've been through some powerful and dramatic transformations. I graduated from college, left an abusive relationship, moved to NYC, and rediscovered my self + my light. And throughout the ups and downs, when I felt scared, or lost, or exhausted, my locs were my physical reminder that I was growing. And so this year, I'm celebrating.


Back in 2011, after I did the big chop and went natural, I still found myself caught up in the concept of "good hair." I'd spend hours watching YouTube videos on how to achieve "frizz-free, manageable" curls. Eventually I realized that even though I claimed I was embracing my natural hair, I was still attempting to mold it into something it was not. In the end, I decided to loc my hair. I would celebrate and love my hair for all that it does naturally — kink, curl, tangle, and lock up.




March 24, 2014 — March 24, 2015

My first year of having locs, I almost exclusively wore them in bantu knots. Initially, I had no idea how to style them. After my first at-home wash, I attempted to re-twist them using clips, gave up, let them air dry, and just prayed that my hair sticking out in all directions qualified as "a look." Two days later, I went to have them professionally styled, but the appointment was expensive and they used so much gel that I felt like I was wearing a helmet. My hair texture is extremely curly, but sort of- soft, and so it gets dry/dirty quickly. I knew that I'd probably need to wash my hair more frequently than once a month (i.e., how often I could afford a hair appointment) and so I vowed to figure something out.

Thankfully my good friend, Maris, took me under her wing (as always — she's the real MVP) and taught me how to put my hair into bantu knots. As someone who is styling challenged, getting my baby locs to fit into one, tight ball on my head, all by myself, felt like a miracle. I rocked the style my entire first year and only switched it up when my hair got too long and twisting it around itself became painful.

Spiritually, my locs were the first step in an incredible journey of growth. Before I started my locs, I had a conversation with my friend, S, who is Rasta, and often spoke to me of her own loc journey and self-love process. I told her that while I was excited to start my locs, I wanted to skip "the ugly stage." S is a wise, soft-spoken woman — she is not typically long-winded, and so when she speaks, her words hold weight and power. She told me that all stages of the loc journey are beautiful, and that if I was worried about aesthetics, I should deeply evaluate why I was beginning my loc journey in the first place. I truly took her words to heart and to this day I feel as though my hair, in all of its stages, is beautiful and powerful. My hair has grown just as I have, and I deeply value the lessons I've learned since starting my locs.


March 24, 2015 — March 24, 2016


In the second year of my loc journey, I felt even more connected to my locs. My hair started to do its thing. My signature style changed from bantu knots to two-strand twists, and I swear my hair grew a 10 inches (though it probably just seemed longer because I wasn't wearing it in super tight curls anymore). I loved the way that my locs curled, spiraled, and twirled in all directions when I took out my two-strand twists — they were the perfect reflection of my bohemian, wild child spirit. I stopped photographing my hair as dilligently as I did the first year. Length-checks didn't matter as much to me — I could see the growth of my locs + my self in any photo.



March 24, 2016 — March 24, 2017

  August 16, 2016 - Locs at 2 years, 5 months

This is the year I collected charms from each place I traveled, and strung them throughout my hair. This is the year I took leaps of faith even though I wasn't sure where I would land. This is the year that I truly started to feel carefree and powerful. This year was one of the best of my adulthood thus far, and I truly felt beautiful in every moment. I was on the cusp of blooming into my best self, and it absolutely shows. 



And so here I am now. My locs are falling a little bit longer and I'm holding my head a bit higher than the year before. I'm learning so much about myself on the daily and relishing in each new experience that comes my way. While I can't wait to see where my locs fall next year, surprisingly, I've been thinking of taking a few inches off of my hair. I've been feeling so light and carefree that I want my locs to feel the same. So we'll see. I'm learning that life is full of surprises. xx

Celebrating 24 in Wilmington, N.C.


A few weeks ago, Jeremiah and I road tripped out to Wilmington, N.C. to celebrate my 24th birthday! While he had described Wilmington to me in detail — the cute downtown area, Cape Fear river, its stunning beaches (supposedly the setting of many Nicholas Sparks movies) — I wasn't prepared for just how much I'd love it. It was truly the sweetest place to begin a new year and I couldn't have asked for a more warm, love-filled day. (We also stayed in the most incredible Airbnb, which only added to the experience — the king sized bed, waterfall shower, giant bedroom windows, and well-curated antique pieces really had me swooning.)

We arrived in the late afternoon the day before my birthday, and after setting our bags down and settling in, we decided to visit Wrightsville Beach before our dinner reservations. We were both hungry, so we ordered corn dogs as a late lunch, and then brought all of our food to the beach. (Side note: somehow sitting in the sand, eating a corn dog, and holding hands with the person I love, felt super romantic. I made a short video of the moment + when I watch it now, I think - "There's nothing romantic about this - we're eating corn dogs!" and yet I still get butterflies.) We dipped our feet in the (freezing cold) water and I quickly decided that our initial plan to bring in my birthday by skinny dipping at midnight wasn't going to fly.

After the beach (neither of us had our bathing suits, so it didn't last long), we headed downtown to sit along the Cape Fear river. By the time of our reservations, the sun was setting, and everything was illuminated in the most beautiful, warm orange light. Jeremiah had reserved us a balcony table at River Boat Landing, and so we continued to watch the sun set as we dined.

We were both exhausted, and so we headed back to our Airbnb pretty early. Somehow we managed to stay up until midnight so that we could bring in 24 together, but quickly after, we both fell into a deep sleep. Around 2 AM, I woke up — there was a thunderstorm in the middle of the night, and feeling the roll of the thunder while watching the lighting flash through our bedrooms giant windows felt like the most magical experience. I felt so connected to nature in that moment and the storm felt like a sign that my 24th year will be powerful.


Surprisingly, on my actual birthday, I didn't take too many photos. We woke up early + had breakfast, spent most of the day at the beach, attempted to canoe at Greenfield Lake (the boat house was closed, but we did spot a baby alligator, which was cool!), and then shopped around downtown until dinner. After dinner (I had shrimp and grits — heavenly), we went to a secluded speakeasy — The Blind Elephant — for drinks, live music, and a competitive game of darts. Afterward, we picked up some wine, headed back to our Airbnb, and spent the rest of the evening wine drunk in love. 


Before I left NYC, my best friend, Bella, asked me, "What have you done in the past year that you are proud of, and what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?" In the moment, I wasn't sure, and I'm pretty sure I took a raincheck on answering. But after a bit of reflection, I've realized this:

In my 23rd year I was daring. I took risks. I trusted God. I quit a job that made me miserable with no backup plan; I hustled and landed on my feet. I traveled — I went to San Francisco, and then Portugal, and then Cuba. I didn't give up on love; I didn't give up on building new friendships — I remained open. I gave out positive energy and received it in return. I became more and more of myself.

And honestly, for my 24th year, I hope to continue on the same trajectory. I want to meet new people here in Atlanta. I want to continue to travel anywhere and everywhere. I want to find ways to advocate for others — whether that's volunteering or helping my friends get closer to their own goals. Logistically, I want to focus on my finances + paying off my student loans. And all around, I want to keep focusing on the light. I feel so immensely happy right now and I want to keep this feeling. So 24, I'm more than ready for you. I can't wait to see what the new year brings. x



Saying Goodbye to New York City


My final dinner in New York City was a plate of mozzarella sticks, a glass of red wine, and a slice of carrot cake. Jeremiah and I ate everything in an overpriced diner in the middle of Times Square at 11 PM. As our legs stuck to the hot rubber booth and we sipped from tall glasses of ice water, I suddenly felt immensely grateful. This man across from me, scooping marinara sauce onto chewy, re-heated mozzarella sticks, and simultaneously holding my hand across a sticky table, is the person that holds all of my love. This is the person that I'm starting a new adventure and life with; it blows my mind every day.

I didn't start crying until the morning we left. I think with all of the move's to-dos — packing the moving truck twice, loading everything into the U-Haul pod, worrying about next steps, upcoming charges, and the impending hours we'd spend on the bus to Hampton, Virginia — the tears knew there wasn't much time for pause, and so they waited patiently, with baited breath. Jeremiah and I stayed in a hotel in the heart of Times Square, and as I stared out of the window at 8:00 AM, watching so many people, and cars, and food trucks whir by, the first tears fell. This place has healed, taught, and challenged me more than I had ever imagined. Pieces of my self will always be in this city; I have no doubt about it.

On the phone with my Mom, she said, "Think about where you were 3 years ago and where you are now. There has been so much good. Hold that in yourself. Acknowledge that. Trust that." And when I pause and reflect, I am so grateful to have lived here for two years. It allowed me the space to heal, grow, and be in a place in which I was finally open to giving and receiving healthy love. I think of the girl who arrived — heart hardened, anxiety on 100, and truly not being able to see herself clearly or foster a love for herself. And I think of where I am now — confident, loved, open and bright and illuminated. I am so, so thankful.

The tears officially poured out in the Port Authority bus terminal, after I thought I lost my headphones. I had a sudden feeling of extreme displacement. My things were in boxes, I couldn't remember what I did and didn't have on my person, and I realized I was leaving the only place I felt like I knew. The moment felt terrifying. But as I started crying, there was Jeremiah — eyebrows furrowed, hand rubbing my back, lips kissing the top of my head — and I knew then that the tears were a good thing. A temporary thing. As my friend Tim said, "Yeah, it's always sad to leave. But that's actually a good thing. If you're sad to leave a place it means you learned, you've grown, you've laughed, and you've cried. And so a part of you will always be here."

Thank you, New York, for helping me to find myself. I couldn't have asked for a better gift.

(Early) Birthday & Going Away Celebration


Suddenly, the big move is right around the corner. My room is filled with rolls of bubble wrap, half-packed bins, and piles of clothing; I can't find anything. And honestly, I'm a bit of a mess. I'd like think it's because I'm extra emotional this week (read: irritable + prone to panic) due to it being ~ that time of the month ~ but in all honesty, I think I'm just finally realizing the immensity of this move. In 7 days, I'll be on my way to Atlanta - i.e., 828 miles from where I am right now. And while that mainly feels exciting, I'm also realizing I need to give myself space to cry a little. Big transitions are hard, even when you're fully prepared for them, and so I'm letting the tears flow as needed.

But that's not the point of this post! The point is that in order to see all of my friends, I decided to throw myself an early birthday/going away party. One of my best friends, Bella, agreed to host it at her house AND bake a Drake cake; my brother came down from Rhode Island with way too much alcohol (that all got consumed); I drove around the city collecting flowers, photo booth backdrops, and yellow balloons; and my girl, Shenel, made a playlist (although we essentially listened to Drake the entire time - oops). In short, the party was ON.

Despite the fact that it was cold and pouring outside, everyone showed up ready to have fun and celebrate. The party was supposed to be from 2-7, but most people showed up around 4:30/5, and it went on until around 12:00 AM. Oops.

For me, the best part of the entire party was seeing my friends interact with each other. So many friends from different walks of life exchanged phone numbers, invited each other to upcoming events, etc. It made me realize that I'm surrounded by so much love, that I'm sure will continue forward despite the distance.

This is my family. And I'm already missing everyone so, so acutely. I kept all of the polaroids with promises to mail them to the various 30+ people who came through, along with a letter/note. It's my way of promising I'll stay in touch.

While in some ways, the party made me super sad, I'm reminding myself to be grateful for the lessons I've learned and the people I've met + apply all of this beauty to my next adventure. 7 days and then we're off. Wish me luck. xx

Sometimes the Halal Guy Calls You Fat

Sometimes, the halal guy calls you fat. More specifically, as he leans through his food truck window to hand you a styrofoam tray of lamb over rice, he brazenly asks, "Have you gained weight?" You're suddenly acutely aware that you're ordering food at 10:00 PM on a Thursday night. The other people in line uncomfortably shift from foot to foot and stare straight ahead. You wonder what they're thinking. You wish you had worn longer sleeves.

He's surprised that you're surprised. "You look different" he responds to your reddening face. Immediately your mind jumps to yesterday's number on the scale; he's right - you're the heaviest you've ever been in your entire life. The fact that the halal guy has been in Egypt for the past 2.5 months seems to make him all the more right; you know that he can see your weight gain more clearly because he's been away. You take his word for it. The styrofoam tray of lamb over rice feels excruciatingly heavy.

You say something like, "That's not nice," but the rest is a blur. You get home and sob in your bathroom. You throw away the lamb over rice. You tell yourself you weren't hungry.

The next time you go grocery shopping, you spend $121.24. You shop exclusively at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. As you skip over the bread aisle, you proudly think about how you're doing this for your own health and well-being. As you thoroughly examine spears of asparagus, you think of the cold, uneaten lamb over rice. Your stomach churns.

For the first time in a long time, you update the notes section of your phone:

  • 11:15 AM (breakfast) - kombucha, a handful of nuts
  • 12:30 PM (lunch) - 2 Trader Joe's spring rolls (~400 calories)

The shorter the list, the better you feel. You get home and spend 4 hours planning meals for this week and the next. For a long time, you look at your drawer of gym clothes, but then decide to focus on one thing at a time. You take a picture of your fridge; it's full and mostly green. You get naked and take a photo of your body. It's soft. You realize that you also think it looks strong.

You journal about your body. You try to write about all of the things you love about it. You also write about how much you love lamb over rice and how you think that's okay. You go to the store and buy yourself flowers. You think about being the bigger person and waving to the halal guy the next time you see him (you don't). You decide that while, yes, you want to lose weight, and yes, you want to finally lay out in a bikini without feeling uncomfortable, and yes, you want to stop being McDonald's number one customer, and yes, it'd be nice if your thighs didn't rub together so much, that you shouldn't feel any less beautiful right here, right now, at the weight that you are.

You close your journal and eat a salad for lunch. You're not entirely convinced, but it's a start.


Recent Reads: March + April


For 2017, I decided that I'm going to read a minimum of 50 books. As a means of holding myself accountable, I want to use this blog to recommend my favorites, share my thoughts, and generally let you know what I'm reading and loving. Follow me on GoodReads for more.

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi || 3/5

By the time I got around to reading Homegoing, it felt as though everyone and their mama had already read it, loved it, and recommended it. And I can understand why: Homegoing highlights the power and beauty of our bloodlines + the richness of our history. The novel begins with the stories of two half sisters - Esi and Effia - who live in warring regions and are each destined to different fates; Effia is sold to a white, British Lord living in Africa and kept as his wench, while Esi is captured and sold into the American slave trade. From there, each chapter is written from the perspective of someone in the next generation of each sister's lineage. 

While this novel was surrounded by a lot of buzz + deemed a "must read" by many, I wasn't as taken by it as I had hoped. While Gyasi is a phenomenal storyteller, her writing + style didn't feel particularly moving. And while I understand the power of having each chapter written from the perspective of a new character, I felt as though, in aiming to keep the book concise, a number of the characters were flat. (I particularly hated the way that Willie's story ended; it felt rushed, thrown together, and not particularly realistic). While the novel absolutely kept me engaged and interested, after finishing, I realized that I probably wouldn't ever re-read it (and I'm pretty big on re-reading), which is why I decided to give it a 3/5.

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat || 5/5

This was my second time reading Breath, Eyes, Memory, and it has officially become one of my favorite books. Danticat has such a soft + poignant way of writing, and the stories she weaves are often intricate and hauntingly beautiful. The novel centers on the story of Sophie, a young girl who is left by her mother, and raised by her aunt, Tante Atie, in Haiti. Within the first chapter, Sophie's mother calls for her to be sent to the U.S. to come and live with her, despite their lack of familiarity with one another. As the novel progresses, we learn that Sophie is a child born out of rape, and that this fact haunts her mother on a nightly basis. Eventually, Sophie has her own child and must tackle her own understandings of motherhood, legacy, and haunting.

I love Breath, Eyes, Memory for its depiction of maternal/matriarchal relationships; the protagonists (Sophie, Sophie's mother, Grandmè Ifé, and Tante Atie) are powerful, female, and nuanced. I found that I loved each of them for their strengths and their faults. The book also critically engages with a number of tensions: mother-daughter relationships, custom versus modern understandings of sex, love, and purity, space and place, and the ideology behind returning home. At one point in the book, Grandmè Ifé looks at Brigette (Sophie's daughter) and says, "Isn't it a miracle that we can visit with all our kin, simply by looking into the face?" That line is so incredibly beautiful to me + encompasses the type of intimacy and beauty that Danticat translates into all her work.


Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami || 4/5

This book is another re-read, and I know I'll continue to come back to it again and again. Honestly, I don't think there's really a way to describe Murakami novels without delving into a long, stream-of-consciousness-like rant, that spins itself into circles, and ends with the person on the other end saying, "So wait...what is the book about?" Murakami's writing is dreamlike - a story will seem mundane at first, but then the reader starts to notice small elements that are the slightest bit off, and these components eventually lead them down the rabbit hole of magical realism. In this novel, the protagonist works for Japan's largest data security firm and is requested by a renowned scientist for an off-site, freelance job. The job quickly spins out of control, and we spend the rest of the book following him on an adventure that primarily takes place underground, beneath Tokyo, and also within the confines of his mind.

In Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Murakami examines consciousness + the mind, and pushes his readers to ask themselves what gives our lives purpose and meaning - even going so far as to question 'meaning' itself. If you're new to Murakami, I'd recommend Kafka on the Shore or The Wind Up Bird Chronicle first, as his writing in this book feels a bit more scientific + less upbeat/fantastical, but even then, it's absolutely a must-read.

No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July | 3/5

Honestly, I still haven't finished this one. I had heard a number of great things about Miranda July, and so I decided to give her a shot, starting with a book of her short stories. The first time I tried reading No One Belongs Here More Than You (last summer), I ended up putting it aside halfway through; the stories were interesting, but didn't completely hold my attention. And this time around, I'm having pretty much the same exact reaction. While her stories absolutely have interesting elements, for many, I struggle to find the point and/or greater meaning. And who knows, maybe that is the point. Either way, I personally feel as though this book would be most interesting/powerful to read in a group setting (book club?) because being able to discuss each character and learn about how someone else interpreted the same story provides a bit more complexity + meaning. I actually read one of the stories aloud to my boyfriend + I found it to be one of the most interesting I read, but that's probably because we could each offer our own perspective + opinions on the characters, what their actions meant, etc.

So here we are (pretty much) in May, and I've only read 9 books. I definitely need to step my game up; my GoodReads account likes to remind me that I'm behind schedule every time I log on to see what other people are reading. Honestly, I've been super wrapped up in this move and, in my downtime, choosing Netflix/mindlessly scrolling through social media over reading. That being said, I'm heading to the bookstore this week to treat myself to some new reads.

Any recommendations?

Oh! One more thing - How are you feeling about these book reviews? Would you like them more frequently (monthly?) Do you also want to know the books that I picked up + couldn't finish + why? Prefer a different rating system than out of 5 stars? Let me know in the comments below!

Though I linked to Amazon for convenience, Thriftbooks.com is one of my favorite website to get affordable books in great condition. You should definitely check it out! (This isn't a sponsored post, I just like to share a #gooddeal + help y'all save that $$)

Life Lately, Vol. I

So this is it. These are my last few weeks in New York City. And so far, I'm feeling really good about the upcoming transition. While I do have this weird sense of panic that if I don't get out and do/see everything, I'll have missed out on the true New York experience, I'm taking everything one day at a time. Even more, I don't really know what I actually want to do in my last few days here. My ideas so far have been "visit Chinatown and eat dumplings" and "visit Chinatown and eat dumplings," so clearly I'm deeply invested in experiencing the magic of the city.

That being said, last weekend, Jeremiah, Cyd, Jake and I got out and "hiked" over the Georgie Washington Bridge + into Palisades Park. We ended up walking/hiking around for a good 4 hours, and by the end of it, all of us were exhausted, but also pretty satisfied that our Saturday was so productive. And having a weekend like that felt really, really good. So I'm pushing to have similar, productive weekends while I'm still here.

Anyway, May 22nd is the big day! We'll officially pack our furniture into the UHaul pod, grab our suitcases, and kiss New York City goodbye. In all honesty, it feels a bit surreal. I don't think I'll fully register that we're leaving until our things are packed + our rooms are empty. Even then, it might not truly register until I'm actually on the bus watching the city disappear. Either way, I've felt a huge shift in my emotional state of being recently + I've had new surges of gratitude for the journey to come. I'm moving to a new city with my best friend/the man I love; my Dad is opening his home to us for the first few months so that we can get on our feet; the weather will be beautiful; and for the first few weeks that I'm there, I won't have any serious obligations; what isn't there to be grateful for? 

We actually won't arrive in Atlanta for 11 days; we're taking our sweet, sweet time. We'll stop first in Virginia to visit Jeremiah's two brothers and his mama, who will then join us on a mini road trip down to North Carolina to stay with his grandmama for a few days. And then we're off again to spend my birthday weekend (May 30th!) in Wilmington, NC. I've never been, but Jeremiah worked there for a bit, and the city still has his heart. The plan is to lay on the beach, walk along the river, and enjoy the change of pace. Simple and easy. On my actual birthday, we're going for a 12:00 AM swim; I want to spend my first moments of 24 floating on my back in the ocean, looking up at the early morning stars. The birthday swim idea is actually Jeremiah's; I didn't know how I wanted to bring in a new year and he suggested it. I'm endlessly grateful to have a partner who knows me so well.

And then, after that, we're headed back to Jeremiah's grandmama's for a bit before packing our bags and officially arriving in Atlanta! (Well, not really Atlanta. My Dad lives on the outskirts (45 minutes away), and so for the first few months, we'll be battling the traffic while we get on our feet.) And from there, I have no idea what to expect. I know that I'll be job searching. And I've already decided to take over my Dad's two raised garden beds + try my hand at organic farming. And I know that I want to dedicate my free time to my health (remember when I vowed to run a half marathon this year? It's still happening, I promise!) and working on this blog and generally indulging my creative side. But other than that, it's all up in the air. And thankfully that's starting to feel more exciting than scary!

Honestly, I feel like I'm in a really good place. I'm turning another year older and simultaneously starting on a new journey, and that feels exceptionally powerful. And, on top of all of that, I'm in love. I mean, if you follow me on Instagram, y'all definitely already know that by now. But this love motivates me and excites me and grounds me in a way I've never experienced before. I honestly want to dedicate an entire blog post to it, but I don't know that I can find words to do it justice. Anyway, there's this quote in Jazz by Toni Morrison that says, "I didn't fall in love, I rose in it." I didn't understand what that meant until now. It's truly exceptional.

So that's where I'm at! I'm going to try to blog a bit more consistently, but with so many transitions on the horizon (packing, road tripping, and relocating) I can't make any promises. That being said, I'm planning on taking a lot of photos + videos throughout our entire trip, so stay tuned! x


Building A Nest


As many of you know by now, my boyfriend, Jeremiah and I are moving to Atlanta in a little under two months. The U-Haul has been reserved, my apartment is being shown, and slowly but surely, everything is coming together. Now that we have a set departure date (May 22nd!), I'm allowing myself to daydream a bit. I've been especially mesmerized by the idea of our future apartment — it'll be the first time I'm making a home with a boyfriend, and the fact that we'll be able to mold it into a space that reflects us and our love feels astounding.

Honestly, my nesting plans are a bit premature — for the first few months, we'll be living with my Dad. While we'll be in our own separate space (my Dad's basement is essentially a separate apartment), I know that it likely won't feel 100% like our own. But it allows us the time and ability to save up so that when we do move to our own space, we'll be able to immediately settle in. 

Anyway, I feel a little bit bad for everyone who follows me on Pinterest because I've been pinning everything (and probably giving y'all allllll the notifications). I've got lists on lists of DIY projects, inspiration photos, and articles that I want to re-read later. I keep flipping between wanting to have lots of warm tones (like the two photos directly above) and more clean + airy, lighter colors. All I know for sure is that there will be a lot of  natural light, plants, art, yellow, and books. I've also been intrigued by bedrooms with dark-colored walls, like this one — for me, darker colors definitely provide a deeper, meditative feeling.

So what about you? Are you a planner? Do you daydream about your space(s) months beforehand? And how would you decorate your future space? (No, but really, tell me so that I can get added inspiration from your answers!)