Last year, in the spring, a little voice spoke to me.
Move back to Philadelphia, it said.
At the time I was living in Asheville, North Carolina. Along with my then-boyfriend, I rented a wonderful house in West Asheville with three bedrooms and a big, gorgeous lawn. I loved that house. I was teaching yoga, and I had possibly the best friend group I've ever had.
But here's the thing. I saw the writing on the wall about my relationship ending. I also knew, in my heart, that Asheville wasn't my forever place, in spite of my deep love for it.
Move back to Philadelphia, the voice said. Louder now.
I had lived in Philadelphia before, for a year, from 2012-2013. I lived in a beautiful loft apartment a block away from the Reading Terminal Market, and I loved it. I loved the Philadelphia apathy, the dirtiness, the pulse, the...realness. It felt real in a way that New York City hadn't felt real to me for years.
Oh, and it was affordable. I learned that I could, conceivably, BUY A HOUSE for under $200,000 in Philadelphia.
Move back, the voice said. It was getting insistent now.
I tried to ignore it, because I was wary of being escapist. Shouldn't I be trying harder with my relationship? Still, I kept on googling real estate listings.
OK, so now here's where I ask you a question that might make you think I'm kind of a nut:
Do you believe in signs?
Cheesy as it may sound, I do believe in signs. I believe that the universe, or whatever you want to call it, sends me little nudges. For instance: whenever the song Africa by Toto plays, I feel serenely certain that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in the world.
So, during this time, I asked the universe to send me some signs:
- I asked it to send me signs that I was supposed to move to Philadelphia
- I asked it for signs that I was doing the right thing by ending my relationship.
Now here's where you'll think I'm really crazy. For moving to Philadelphia, I said "Hey universe, send me a sign that I can't ignore." For my relationship, I said, "Universe, send me a turtle if I'm supposed to save this relationship. Send me a flamingo if I'm doing the right thing by getting out."
Here's what happened.
Soon after my Meeting With The Universe imploring for signs, I went to the library. Now, my method of finding a novel to read at the library goes like so: choose a book which has a title and/or cover which I find intriguing, open the novel and read a page or two or the synopsis, then make my decision.
So, I went to the West Asheville Library, and I took a book off the shelf at random. It was set in Philadelphia. I got little goosebumps. A sign!
I kept browsing, and found another book that interested me. Guess what? Set in Philadelphia.
Two more books in a row were set in Philadelphia. Four books in a row, all set in the city I was considering. Now that felt like a sign. I was listening.
And then there were the flamingos.
I started seeing flamingos...EVERYWHERE. On cards, on apparel, on posters. Soon after the libary incident, I took a walk and saw a lawn with an ironic flamingo. OK. Thanks, universe.
Then, a few blocks later, I walked by another lawn with two flamingos. OK. Cool.
Then, I walked by a lawn in West Asheville that, no joke, was jam packed with flamingos. Some were even dressed up. I was listening to headphones on my walk, and I took them off. I looked to the sky. "I GET IT!" I said, loudly. If anyone heard, they probably thought I was crazy.
Honestly, I thought I was crazy.
But still, that night, I clicked the "inquire about this home" button on the realty site I was browsing. The woman who would end up being my realtor, Jeanette, contacted me like 5 minutes later.
Something that you need to know about me is that it doesn't take me too much to get from "what if" to "let's go". So within a few weeks I was driving back and forth from Asheville to New Jersey, staying with my parents, and driving to see houses every few days.
I saw some nice houses and I saw some that smelled like cat piss. Then, I saw the house that for got knows what reason spoke to me.
It was a fixer-upper for sure, but it was on a nicely maintained (if not very cool) South Philly block with rainbow lights. I loved it at first sight.
In spite of the fact that just about everything about the house was (let's be honest still is) janky I loved it and made an offer. It went back and forth but eventually I got the place.
I did what I have learned and continued to learn in the past year or so was a supremely badass move as a single female with an untraditional career: I bought myself a damn house.
The day I moved in nothing went right. My ex helped me move, which was really nice of him. But otherwise it was terrible. The sofa didn't fit thru the door, the mattress didn't fit up the stairs. Also, I didn't really know anyone. I'd lived in Philadelphia for a year, five years before. I didn't have deep connections.
Still, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
I went on a date where the guy asked me what I did during the day. I said "I wake up earlier than anyone you know and I like to write and draw and do yoga and take long walks and look for signs in the writing on the sidewalk". Once again, I remind you: I'm really kind of an oddball.
The signs were positive. They said they loved me, and I loved them back.
I found a yoga studio in South Philly called Palo Santo. I revisited the yoga studio where I'd first started doing yoga, when I lived in the city in 2012, Dhyana yoga. That was where I started. And I kept growing.
In the past year, I have grown in so many ways I can't even list them. But really, what I want to share with you is the big takeaway: I decided it was finally time to be done with disordered eating.
While I have been in recovery for many years and operated from a "pretty good" place, some of the food thoughts and behaviors still persisted. What I began to realize is that being a food writer was a big part of what was holding me back from full recovery.
So, this was the year I decided to no longer do CakeSpy, which was my business and my life for the past 11 years.
And then, I changed my diet. As much as I love food, I realized that I needed to take a break from it as entertainment. So, I adopted what I guess you would call a version of the ketogenic diet. Now, I'm the most boring eater ever and no fun to go out to eat with. The majority of my intake comes from fat, meat, and vegetables.
I haven't had a sweet since March or so, and I feel great. I don't think about food in the same obsessive way I used to. I don't know if I'll stay eating this way forever, but it's been such a welcome break from having to worry about food, so I am sticking with it for the foreseeable future.
Over the months, I have kept on seeing flamingos and see them as a sign that I'm on the right path. But recently, there's been a shift, and for whatever reason, I've started seeing lions. Could it mean that in a Katy Perry-esque way, you're gonna hear me ROAR?
Anyhow, this long ranting and crazy post isn't about me trying to make you ask the universe for signs. That's my crazy thing. However, it is about following your heart or what you feel you're being guided to do. Sometimes, it doesn't make sense to leave a perfectly good situation. But sometimes, it's exactly what you need to do to save your life. Because if you don't take the leap, what will start eroding inside of you?
From here, I am more recovered and more happy than I have ever been in my adult life. I have fewer wrinkles at 36 than I did at 32. And it was all because I trusted my instinct.
The other day I went to a party at one of my yoga studios and I was greeted with SO MUCH familiarity and love. I had a tarot reading at that party, and the reader told me that I thought I'd had this big life shift and new beginning and that was that, but really, I had no idea how far it was all going to go. What I thought was my big beginning was, well, just the beginning.
Look, another sign. I wonder what a difference this next year could make...?