February, March and April were – and will continue to be – filled with new adventures, travel experience and growth. I can officially cross two more of my 2023 wishes as complete!
I’m still discovering a passion, but I’m making significant strides in healing. I wrote what I call “burn letters” early last month—which really helped me get my feelings out and heal. I wrote letters to friends who haven’t been there for me, Juan and people who have recently hurt me when I trusted them most.
Linley has been a big part of my healing progress. We’ve gone on some familiar trails, he’s been my buddy at work and we’re planning some new adventures together!
The cooking, reading, saying “no” and “yes” at the right times, setting boundaries, creating new adventures… it’s all happening and I’m setting the foundation so it continues to happen. I’m really excited about this—and it’s needed to happen for so long now.
And as far as community goes, I have the best coworkers-turned-friends in my current job. I LOVE IT HERE! There are certainly some difficult days with clients or our partners, but I never expected to “belong” as much as I currently do (I felt like I had to change to “fit in” elsewhere). Don, Giacomo, Baylen, Justin… are all becoming close friends, and Catherine and Veronica already are! KP and I even saw Don and his girlfriend Jennifer in NOLA over the weekend, where the Viagra Boys tee shirts from Thursday evening made an appearance!
Things are difficult and turbulent and hard and beautiful and hopeful and bittersweet, but I’m slowly seeing the clouds parting. I’m seeing who my truest friends are – and were this entire time – and I’m feeling like the best is yet to come. 💛
On New Years Eve, I sat with a couple girlfriends on the west side of Michigan, as we wrote down our “resolutions” (I put that word in quotation marks because I like to think of it as more ‘aspirational’ than specific, quantifiable ‘goals’). January has been an exceptionally hard month: seeing my ex-husband for the first time since our divorce and leaving Chicago, losing my dad’s best friend who we weren’t able to see prior to her passing, no longer being able to trust one of my male friends because he led me to believe he was someone he wasn’t, and my depression overall rapidly getting worse. Each month, I’m going to track my progress on each of my wishes for no one other than myself — but feel free to tag along if you wish.
Wish #1: ???
I decided to keep this one to myself for now, but plan to write more about this when the time is right.
Wish #2: Travel to South Africa, & plan other trips…
One of my best friends and her husband recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia from Johannesburg. Andy and I have worked together since the spring, and we became extremely close after all the project managers got together in person in August. Andy and Shawn are the kindest, funniest, most supportive people I could ask for in my life right now — both as individuals and as a couple. They’ve both been through difficult divorces in the past, and inspire me and give me hope that my true love exists — and that I’ll find him someday soon, without settling or compromising my beliefs or self worth. I visited them in Atlanta last weekend and I seriously needed all the laughs, time outdoors, lazy mornings watching TV and meeting more of their South African friends in the area.
Coincidentally, I’ve wanted to visit South Africa since I was about 10 years old. Andy and Shawn really want me to tag along with them the next time they return home. Whether that’s this summer or sometime in 2024, I look forward to my time with them, and to the other adventures abroad that are on the horizon for 2023.
Wish #3: Figure out my health bullshit!
As it turns out, I did indeed have a kidney infection, NOT a gallbladder or pancreas issue. Thank goodness I visited the Women’s Hospital of UofM, or else I probably would’ve had my gallbladder removed unnecessarily. If I still experience symptoms, I’ll be returning to the urologist for further testing, but for now I should be in the clear and my levels – and pain – are stable. I also made an appointment for my back problems and although my spine will never look the way I’d like it to, it was a relief to know that it “isn’t noticeable” to the average person — and now I can start planning for a new tattoo.
Wish #4: Find home in a physical place the way I have found home in myself…
I love who I am: I love how I look, I know what I deserve and I wouldn’t change anything about who I am as a person. HOWEVER, I do not feel at home here in Michigan. I left Michigan for a reason (or, several reasons…) and just because Chicago wasn’t my home either, doesn’t mean that I have to settle for less than I deserve here. Sure, some really good things have come out of me being here again, but my time here has been full of letdowns, false problems, and physical, emotional and mental pain. Maybe I’ll receive a permanent residency permit so I can live in Toronto. Maybe I’ll move somewhere closer to one of my best friends on the east coast. Maybe I’ll move to Charlotte, North Carolina because I had the best time with some of the best people this summer. Or maybe I’ll go somewhere totally new. The overwhelming possibilities are endless, but not all those who wander are lost.
Wish #5: More ink!
As previously mentioned, I’m planning my next tattoo, but am also working on finishing my foot/ankle and really want to get my dog’s paw print on my other ankle soon.
Wish #6: Find a passion – new or old.
I’m definitely getting back into music. As a kid, I was able to play three or four different instruments and found that music was a great outlet for me. Maybe I’ll get back into the piano or play something totally new — either way, I’m excited to explore this more. I also want to start swimming laps at a local gym every day, but am waiting until I relocate because figuring that out is like swimming laps in and of itself!
Wish #7: Heal from my marriage, time in Chicago, friendships ending…
It’s nearly impossible to put a timeline on this one. Progress isn’t linear with this one! Some days I feel on top of the world; others I feel like I’m drowning in my own depression, feeling like the universe is kicking me while I’m down. Seeing my ex-husband earlier in the month was necessary for my own healing, yet it was one of the saddest, heartbreaking things I’ve done. Being around someone you loved and who loved you for nearly a decade… and not being able to be with them in that capacity anymore… unless you’ve tried remaining friends with the person you thought was your soulmate is… hard to explain. It’s soul-crushing. I would give anything to go back to the good times where we both were happy — but my ex-husband doesn’t exactly feel the same way. I had to stare acceptance in the face and truly accept that things will never be as they were. Typing that even now – nearly a month later – feels daunting and depressing.
However… I am opening my heart where and when it needs to be open. I’m not only setting boundaries, but am finally adhering to them. I’m creating space for new friendships and new love, and although I’m losing hope, I haven’t fully given up yet. I wish I didn’t have to struggle this much and feel all this hurt within my heart — but I can only hope it all has to be worth it on the other side.
Wish #8: More bonding experiences with Lin!
I majorly need to step this one up. Because I live with my parents at the moment, Linley has shared the love between all three of us — making it hard to have that quality time I need with him. I hope to plan more adventures with Linley: before, during and after we relocate somewhere new. He’s the best dog in the whole world, and is my favorite adventure buddy!
Wish #9: More reading, cooking, exploring, saying “yes” and “no” when I want…
Saying “no” – even when it’s best for me – is still something I feel extremely guilty about. This is probably one of my biggest personal hurdles I need to jump leaps and bounds over this year. The good news is that I’m reading and cooking much more than I have in the past, and the exploring is still going strong! Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, my dad and I made homemade gluten free calzones and fish and chips. I’m excited to try even more recipes with the people I love most!
Wish #10: Finding community who loves and accepts me for me…
For the first time in my 29 years of life, I finally have this at work. I can be myself, crack my jokes, bring my personality to all of my projects, consultants and client teams, and feel valued for my contributions. I have never had community in my own family, or in my physical location. I hope to find this when I leave Michigan as well; I want to find that group who I feel deeply connected with and not for the sake of “fitting in” — but truly belonging as I am.
Although I am grieving my marriage and what I’d hoped was “home” in Chicago – and despite some of the hardship I’ve endured since being back in Michigan – there are several moments and people I am beyond grateful for.
It’s been challenging to put all of my emotions into words lately (both positive and sad), but I will say this: If you made me smile or gave me hope in these last few months, thank you from the bottom of my heart! 💛
Linley is always my best friend, but lately he hasn’t been my “little white shadow!” When we moved back in with my parents in September, I knew he’d be sharing his love between my mom, dad and me; however, I’ve missed his and my bonding time that we had so much of in Chicago.
My parents left for Florida on Monday and return today, as they always do between the holidays. Linley was back at my side 24/7, and we had quite the fun and relaxing week full of snuggles! I even took him into the office and through Starbucks for a much-needed pup cup this week, where he made a new friend Sugar.
We’re super pumped to see my parents later this afternoon, but I’ll miss this little guy right at my side.
Media taken December 27 through December 30, 2022.
29. Divorced. Living with my parents. May not be able to afford a home. Don’t know where I want to live, or if I even want to stay in Michigan.
“If I stay in Michigan, am I settling? Am I a failure if I stay here? Am I a failure if I move away again and hate it? Did I cause my marriage to fail? Will my heart ever be whole again?”
All of these feelings are flooding my mind lately. I have been feeding “the bad wolf.”
BUT I have also been feeding “the good wolf.”
“Maybe I need to be surrounded by some of my best friends and parents in Michigan right now. Maybe if I were living by myself I would feel even more alone. Maybe I don’t have to have all the answers on where to live yet, and maybe I can travel a bit to figure that out. Or stay put. I don’t have to do a damn thing if I don’t want to!”
Although being here (‘here’ means being around certain people) reminds of me times that I’ve been hurt, I’m also finding new and old friendships pulling me out of despair and into a feeling of inclusion and, dare I say, home.
Chicago probably isn’t in the cards; I gave that place and experience my everything. But if I stay in Michigan, I’m not a failure. If I move away and hate it, I’m not a failure. If I move away and love it, I’m not a failure. If I ever find love again and it doesn’t pan out the way I want it to, I’m not a failure. I’m not a failure for spending thanksgiving with another family other than my own. And I’m certainly not a failure for feeling all these conflicting emotions while I’m healing my broken heart. ❤️
The first month being without a husband, the first full month of being away from Chicago, the beginning of losing people left and right, my body shutting down on me and my first full month of not being at peace with my current circumstances.
HOWEVER, what an exciting month it has been! AND what incredible people I have in my life—who have showed up like none other.
Here were some of my favorite memories last month, and hope this kind of support and hope continues into November.
The past two or three weeks have dragged on and the days feel as though they’re blending together. I’ve been passed around from doctor to doctor – including a six-hour stint in the ER – to figure out whether I have kidney stones or a kidney infection, pancreatitis or gallstones. Every day I wake up feeling hungover even though I can’t drink, and have experienced similar symptoms to a UTI or kidney stones for the past 30 days or so…
On top of the health stuff, this period of limbo and transition has been extremely difficult—and eye-opening. With all the negative comes many positives, and I am grateful for the moments and people who have helped me through these past few weeks.
As we enter my favorite month of the year, I’m going to focus on:
I was in Michigan for the week and returned to Chicago yesterday evening. My week didn’t go according to plan, but it went better than expected in more ways than one.
The original plan was to meet my team on Tuesday through Thursday, with team building dinners and activities in the evenings. However, our get together was postponed to next month, but I still wanted to visit the office—as well as friends and family.
I took Monday off and spent the afternoon on the river with one of my best friends, Donna. We floated down the cascades in Ann Arbor – one of our favorite pastimes – and exchanged deep conversation and support for one another. We have both been struggling with one-sided friendships and overall relationships in general, which made our quality time even more meaningful. We used to spend every Monday or Tuesday evening together, and I can’t wait to pick that back up sometime soon. We ended the evening with some dinner and gin cocktails near my parent’s house—our go-to routine.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in the office. I haven’t felt like myself at work in… probably ever… and being around new and some familiar faces was great. I met my boss Justin, my friend Ray, my teammate Jeff and others for the first time, and was able to see Heather and our CEO Jason in person—which hasn’t happened since 2019. My favorite coworker was William, Ray’s dog, who was my buddy the whole day!
Tuesday evening was great because I grabbed dinner with Veronica, a new and quick friend from work. We both started in May and have quickly found that we have a lot in common. We both are obsessed with Whose Line, Seinfeld, Anthony Bourdaine, The Twilight Zone and so much more. We’re even going to see Whose Line live this November! It was awesome meeting Veronica in person and we’re both amazed at how quickly we’ve connected over these past couple of months.
Wednesday was just Justin and me in the office, but it was really nice because we were able to get to know each other a little better. Justin has been incredibly supportive of me – personally and professionally – and I have so much respect for him as a leader. We enjoyed a nice lunch together, and luckily he also laughed at my silly jokes throughout the day!
That evening, I was finally able to spend quality time with my brother from another mother Ter Ter B! We spent over three hours laughing, tearing up, and hugging at one of our favorite Mexican places in town. Seeing him again was much needed and even though we usually talk on the phone four or five days a week, being in each other’s arms and presence again was insurmountable.
Thursday was such a happy, heartwarming day! I worked from home but drove Linley down to his former doggy day care—his home away from home. When we moved last year, his favorite camp counselors were heartbroken to see him go, so seeing some of his favorites was fun for both Lin and me. When I scooped him up after my work day, one of his favorite employees Sam had given him/us a toy, some treats, Camp Bow Wow swag and wrote me a kind note. I teared up reading it on the way home! I love and miss that place for Lin as much as he misses it for himself.
The four of us wrapped up our day with a concert in downtown Fenton, which played all of our favorite 60s and 70s music. I absolutely loved dancing around and enjoying some vodka lemonades with my parents. It was the perfect end to a fulfilling day. ❤️
After work on Friday, my parents and I grabbed dinner and drinks at their favorite place in town. I enjoyed a gin watermelon drink and some vegan drunken noodles. We chatted about life and it was just nice to be with them again. Really the whole week had been nice, business and all.
What was really fun and surprising was hanging out with a coworker Ray in Ferndale (who owns our office dog!). We hopped around a few bars in the area and had a nice time together.
Saturday morning was spent with my Little Sister Aniya, who just graduated high school, and her mom Marcion, who just celebrated her 37th birthday. We grabbed breakfast in Saginaw and shared some tears and lots of laughs. I love them so much and they have truly been a second family to me. ❤️
The rest of my weekend was spent with my parents. We spent some time outdoors, watched some Twilight Zone and even shared some moments of profound conversation. As difficult as things are right now – and as confused as I may feel – I know I will be okay thanks to the support I have back home. ❤️
Allow me to explain… and disclaimer: this is my personal experience, not a generalization of the city or Chicagoans as a whole.
During yesterday’s therapy session, I was vulnerable with Erin about my grief. Grief of my marriage/ten-year relationship coming to an end, grief of a city I’ve always wanted to live in and will be leaving soon, and grief of a life I wanted to live and share with the love of my life.
For several months, I struggled with emotionally and physically absent loved ones, manipulative and rude coworkers, a few friends who have proven to be more about status and materialism than the “warm hug” feeling I receive from my friends who live elsewhere, and not feeling a sense of community or belonging here in Chicago—despite all of my efforts. All of these situations and feelings caused me to question the validity of my marriage, my newfound friendships, and decision to move here in the first place.
When I was six years old, my mom, brother and I took the train to Chicago from Flint to see my dad who worked here at the time—as we did most weekends. I saw big city lights, lots of diverse people, the bustling streets with seemingly important and busy people heading to work and looking stylish, and heard new noises as we approached the city. I turned to my mom and said, “I’m going to live here one day.” Despite many of my favorite childhood and college memories taking place in this incredible city, it has lost all its magic.
“What does it feel like to you, Cate?” Erin asked me. “Why do you need Chicago so much?”
To which I answered, “It feels like I’m relearning that Santa isn’t real and never has been. And I guess I needed Chicago because this used to be my happy place, and I’m sad that it isn’t anymore.”
BUT the world is my happy place. The memories I’ve shared here with friends and family (including Lin of course!) can never be replaced—and nothing can ever take that away from me. I have also had incredible memories in the 24 countries I’ve visited (three of which have held addresses in) and the over 30 states I’ve explored within the US.
I look forward to reclaiming this city as a staple favorite when I move—whether that be one, three, six… months from now. Tomorrow I will start by kayaking downtown with a Michigan friend, but today I need some space from her (her being Chicago, NOT my Michigan friend haha!).
As a 28-year-old young woman now, I would hug six-year-old me looking out the Amtrak at the big city, and say “You did it. And now it’s time to go on even bigger adventures.” 💛
Learning that consistency is one of the best qualities anyone can possess. My friends who have been supportive, encouraging and consistent — not just now, but always. My support system who have helped me pivot from self-deprecating thoughts and into better boundary-setting. Going on adventures in Chicago with friends, new and old. Having friends who even want to go on those adventures with me.
Walking away from people who aren’t serving me — who aren’t showing up for me physically or emotionally. Not having a relationship with certain family members who would certainly bully me and verbally abuse me because of my personal life right now. Having the courage to even stand up to/walk away from those individuals and groups of people anyway. Finding my chosen family; feeling like I belong with my friends and some of their families (e.g.: Donna’s siblings and parents).
Having the courage to move out here despite the circumstances. Finding my way back to the healthiest work environment I’ve ever experienced — albeit in a rather roundabout way. My health and my body, even though I may not love her and appreciate her everyday. My mobility and the freedom I have to explore and keep going on these fun adventures.
Linley. The fact that he is such a great travel, hiking and adventure buddy. The fact that I have him right now, when all else seems fleeting. Lin getting me out of bed and out of the house everyday; teaching me that there’s insurmountable beauty in the simplest of moments and things.
The fact that I even have things to be grateful for as my heart breaks.
Yesterday evening we ventured over to the AIDS Garden Chicago, memorializing the HIV epidemic and honoring those who live with the disease today.
I hadn’t had a good cry in a while, until yesterday. I’ve been putting a smile on for my new team at work, my neighbors, myself… and the tension I’d been feeling was building up to more I could handle.
Darkness covered us as we enjoyed some cheese and crackers along Lake Michigan when Juan started talking about all our good times together. Knowing that we may not have more of those times together broke me in ways I couldn’t imagine possible—and I just cried. Cried so hard and didn’t have any support from him—not even a hug. I was angry and hurt and scared and alone… until Linley comforted me. He sat right next to me and gave me a hug (yes, my small dog can give hugs!). I made me laugh so hard, and even during one of the saddest moments I’ve had in quite some time, he gave me hope that things will be okay—even if they aren’t right now.
When people say things like “animals don’t have feelings” or “animals aren’t that smart,” I wholeheartedly disagree. I was never allowed to have a dog growing up, but I’ve had my fair share of rodents, and even those little critters had personalities! But Lin is different. He’s the most intuitive fella I know. Others (Airbnb hosts, my friends, complete strangers…) even say that he knows me so well, that we’re a good pair. Even as I type this as I sit at my desk, this is how close he is:
I don’t know a better way to channel my love – and receive it – than being with this guy 💛
Media taken Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, 2022
First and foremost: thank you to those who read my latest post and left beautiful, compassionate comments. Opening up about my mental health was scary and messy and awkward—but incredibly necessary.
It’s increasingly difficult to remain positive during personal and circumstantial times like these: yesterday’s horrific school shooting in Texas, my closest friends suffering from burnout and depression—while I’m trying to be there, suffering the same sorts of feelings, my car had to be towed a couple nights ago, leaving Juan, Linley and I stranded and taking a Lyft back home, family-related anxiety, work ramping up… But I do want to focus on the positives while acknowledging the heartaches.
Last Thursday, my friend Andrea and I took Linley on a four-mile stroll along Chicago’s infamous Riverwalk. He absolutely loves it, as do we. We spent a few hours walking, talking, laughing and ended our time together with some much-needed gelato and ice cold water.
Last Friday, I took Linley to our local dog beach (clearly our favorite spot!) and we had a great time. Lin was playing in the sand bar, pulling on his leash, whining and “talking” with the other pups… it was such a great afternoon! But the rain suddenly approached the beach—creating swirls in the water and the temperature to suddenly drop by 20° at least. Between Lin grabbing leaves from the lake and the rain on our way to the car, he was soaked!
In no way is this intended to minimize what’s going on in the United States, my friends’ lives, my life… but rather a reminder that there is hope and that I always need to find light in the darkness. 🤍
Media taken Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20, 2022