To sum up where I've been (if you don't feel like reading through the entire post): I've been in California, and I've been happy.
If you've been a longtime reader of my blog, you'll know that I lived in New York City for the past several years and that I absolutely hated it there. In total, I spent five years there, and while a few wonderful things happened to me, it was also the absolute worst time of my life, and those are five years that I won't ever get back.
I suffered daily in New York. I don't say that to be dramatic. Those closest to me were concerned for my wellbeing and saw my physical and mental health decline. It's a city that not only didn't work for me, but was toxic to me. Everything about life there was counterintuitive to how I wanted to live my life.
I lived in a tiny Manhattan apartment, the streets outside smelled constantly of hot garbage and bodily fluids, people pushed me daily on the streets and in the subway, it was crowded, dark (even on "sunny" days, the sun was blocked by the buildings), sticky and disgusting in the summers, and cold and truly unlivable in the winters.
You also had to work so hard to live so badly.
The reasons I stayed were:
- When I first moved there, it cost so much just to live that I couldn't save for a move
- I was later accepted to grad school at my dream program, which happened to be in NYC
- I am in a long-term relationship, and he didn't want to leave NYC
In order to survive, I turned to buying makeup. And when that got out of control, I created this blog.
2017 was one of the worst years I've had. I underwent two major and life-changing surgeries, and I found myself in a soulless job where I was expected to give every piece of myself and where I didn't matter as a human. Unfortunately, that was my experience with every position I had in NYC. Toward the end of the year I was battered, and around the holidays I made the incredibly hard decision to leave, knowing that my boyfriend was not coming with me.
At the beginning of this year, I went home. I hadn't been home for any significant period of time in seven years, and it ended up being one of the most healing experiences of my life. I didn't wear any makeup for the duration of that time. All of it was packed away, living somewhere between home and NYC. And I just did not care. I didn't need it anymore because the pressures of daily life that had been causing me so much pain for so long were all of a sudden gone.
I stopped blogging and stopped watching makeup videos or reading anything about makeup online. Instead, I watched people make art or talk about pet care, and I really got into some true crime podcasts. I spent my "winter" going for walks in the sunshine and swimming in a heated pool. It was everything that I needed.
A few months later, I landed a dream job in California. I moved again, and I floated for about a month between a friend's house, an Airbnb, and a hotel before I found my new place. I've been settling in, going to work that I love (which is a wholly new experience for me), and have been social in a way that I haven't been in about six years.
In short, I've been having a great time.
As I've been unpacking and been getting more things back from NYC, I've been utterly disgusted with the amount of makeup that I own.
When I first came to California, I only took some of my custom palettes, which are also my favorites.
Duped Too Faced Peachy Mattes:
Duped/expanded Huda Beauty Desert Dusk
Reimagined ABH Modern Renaissance:
Custom cool tones:
In the time of only using these palettes (when I had not been wearing any makeup at all for the previous four or so months), it felt like I had every color imaginable. So when I got back the rest of my collection, I felt completely overwhelmed. And this is a collection that I curated and decluttered on a regular basis.
And that was the moment when everything kind of clicked with me. That the makeup addiction—and even writing this blog about makeup—were ways of coping with my environmental depression. When I was in grad school, I remember telling my dad that I thought I had a problem with shopping and specifically buying makeup. He asked me why I was buying so much, and I told him that some days I won and some days I lost, and on the days I lost, I would buy makeup. And he told me that all of this was just temporary. And that if I needed to buy makeup in order to make it through the day, then I needed to buy makeup.
My dad wasn't telling me, "Go, be reckless! Nothing has consequences!" Rather, he knew the severity of how much NYC was attacking me and how little I felt I could do about it, and he didn't want me to slip into a worse place. But with that, he and I both knew I would eventually have to deal with the outcome of that time, which is what I did with my blog and am now doing in a healthy life.
I haven't bought a new piece of makeup in several months. I have been—literally—rediscovering what I already owned, and it truly feels like I own a Sephora that is at my disposal. And that's so funny to me because when I left NYC, I felt like I had reached a "manageable" makeup collection—that now feels like all the makeup in Sephora.
I think there are underlying causes to everyone's shopping or makeup addiction, and mine was 100% environmental depression from a location that fundamentally attacked my wellbeing and a feeling that, for many reasons, I couldn't leave.
I remember watching Ingrid Nilsen's coming out video years ago, and she explained that, at a certain point, she took over what she called the construction of her own prison. And in the more than six months that I've been away from NYC, I can really see that I, too, took over the construction of my prison. I wanted to leave NYC from almost the moment that I got there, and certainly within the first year. I was ready to turn in my resignation at work and move away the day I found out I was accepted into grad school—with a full scholarship. And I was ready to leave the second after my graduation until my boyfriend told me he wasn't ready yet and didn't know when he was going to be. So, I stayed.
In the last year and a half that I was in New York, especially, was when I took over the construction of my own prison. And that was also when I started this blog.
The blog has been incredibly healthy for me. Not only did it give me something to look forward to and get me through the day while simultaneously curbing a really unhealthy shopping addiction, it also became a vehicle that inspired other people. I can't tell you how many times people have written to me telling me that I've saved them hundreds of dollars or that they look at their collection completely differently, or even that they want to depot their shadows so they feel less attached to packaging and can create their own dupe palettes. That has been so humbling and thrilling for me.
And it is because of this, exactly, that I feel guilty about the break I have taken. I don't need to talk myself out of buying makeup anymore, but there are other people who would like that little extra push and validation that they don't, in fact, need to buy the new ABH Norvina palette (and you don't, by the way). At the same time, when I've thought about writing a blog post, I imagine that tiny Manhattan apartment, those cold and gray winter days, and that feeling that I was never going to escape it. And instead of writing one, I've been going for a drive or seeing a friend or visiting Target.
To give you a general sense of what I'm talking about, this was one of the last photos I took in NYC:
And this is the first I took in California:
The first picture is definitely "I'm going to stay inside forever and write a blog post" weather, and the second is "I'm never going back inside again."
With all of that said, I'm not going to abandon this blog, and now that I'm a bit more settled and getting into a routine, I imagine that regular posts will gradually return. I still love wearing makeup, but I just don't feel the need to check out whatever is new, and I certainly don't care about what's limited edition. But I'll ease myself back into it in a way that feels manageable to me.
Finally, I just wanted to say that I've shared my story a few times with people I've encountered, and several women have broken down into tears. They said that they, too, were experiencing "something similar," and they were really inspired by my "bravery" to leave the situation I was in. Truthfully, I don't feel all that brave. If I was brave, I would have left NYC a long time ago. I wouldn't have stayed and made myself unhealthy simply because I was afraid of having a hard conversation with my boyfriend, knowing what his feelings would be. In the end, my leaving was the best thing that could have happened for us, and we are working on closing the distance gap that we currently have.
I don't typically share too many personal details, but I wanted to share this specific story because I would have really benefitted from knowing anyone else experienced something similar. Seasonal depression is real, as is environmental depression. You're not "strange" because you feel that wherever you live is killing you. You're not "dramatic." There's not something wrong with you. And the best part is, despite however impossible it might feel, you can do something about it.