About Stevie Taylor

A nomad soul looking for home. I write to connect, to express, to feel, to help, to grow.

I Was Ghosted by a Job Recruiter, but I Came Out Stronger

Recently, I was offered a managing editor position. (Exciting news!) It was for a women’s lifestyle website based here in L.A.

Phone interview with CEO and Marketing Director. Check.

Edit test. (A mandatory step for any editorial job.) Check.

The hiring manager (we’ll call her Sabrina) offered me the job. It was the best feeling in the world. Small reminder of my background: I was laid off from my last editorial job in January 2017. I have spent the last year hustling in LA as a freelance journalist and traveling the world. (I even got to live in Italy!)

It’s been one heck of ride. To land an editorial job within my second month of returning from abroad to America was great news! It felt like all my hard work had paid off, and the finish line for the endless marathon I was running was in sight.

The hiring manager wanted me to start in four business days. (Red flag!) Then, the figurative floor was pulled out from under me. I responded the next day to the job offer asking about start dates and about the possibility of coming in to meet the team because I had not done so during the interview process (Another red flag!)

I did not hear back. So much silence you could hear a pen drop from China! (Big red flag) A week later, I followed up and to my pleasure, I received a response. The hiring manager connected me with HR for the brand’s parent company in New York.

I spoke with the HR coordinator two days later. (We’ll call him Ernie.) To my surprise, when Ernie called me, instead of giving me information about start date, pay rate and meeting the team, he called with questions for me about these things. He said that he would find out the information ASAP.

No answers. No information. No details.

I followed up with Ernie the next day thanking him for taking the time to speak with me and asked his timeline for when he might have information about start rate and pay. Another week and a half passed, and I heard nothing from the hiring manager in LA or Ernie in NYC.

Nothing.

Much to my pride’s dismay, I followed up ONE MORE TIME, this time CCing Sabrina and Ernie. Ernie responded, and he gave me a call two days later. The information he relayed was disheartening and confusing: He said the CEO has another candidate in mind she would like to consider and asked if we could “press pause,” while she considers this other candidate.

When I explained to him my confusion about this other candidate and I relayed that I had already been offered the job, he got quiet. He didn’t even know I had been offered the job. He apologized for the miscommunication amongst his team, and he said he would get back to me ASAP about the status of the position and the confusion.

I haven’t heard from Ernie in three weeks. I was, for lack of a better word, ghosted by this HR coordinator, the hiring manager and the CEO.

Ghosting.

A commonly used twenty-first century phrase. Something that millennials and Gen Z’ers poke fun at, but many (if not most of us) are guilty of having commited this crime of poor communication at one time or another. I am included in this group- I have definitely ghosted a guy or two and a friend who I believed was no longer a healthy fit. (Not my proudest communication moments.)

For those readers who are my parents’ age and older, ghosting essentially means falling off the face of the Earth. Mostly found in dating scenarios, it is when a guy or girl stops responding without explanation or reason. They disappear like a ghost.

Other words for it could be scapegoating, avoidance, dodging, ignoring or stonewalling. It’s a way of avoiding communication, of avoiding difficult conversations and conflict.

While I knew this behavior was common in the dating realm, I did not know that ghosting can even happen in the job market. When I was ghosted in the job process, I honestly did not know how to feel. I was offered the job, and then, I was given little to no communciation about why the team changed direction. They did not even officially rescind the offer (That’s the professional thing to do!) They literally just disappeared.

Nothing. Disappeared into thin air. Gone.

I have never heard of something like this happening in a professional or work environment. So I did not know who to turn to. I was frustrated, confused, disappointed, hurt and let down. I did not know how to process how I felt. To say I was upset (in my Drake voice) would have been an understatement.

It seems that our social media and Internet culture has greatly altered communication. On one hand, it has made it fast and easy to connect with people around the world. You never have to miss a thing happening in your friends’ or family’s lives who are far away, but it has also made avoiding communication (a part of which is healthy conflict) possible.

If you don’t want to break up with that girl face to face, then you can shoot her a Facebook message. (I have heard of this happening.) If you don’t want to go on another date with a guy, then you can just stop answering. Apparently, if you change your mind about a candidate, then you can ignore her too.

Let me be 100 percent honest- This is not OK. Conflict, hard conversations and honesty moments are a part of healthy communication. No friend, family member, boyfriend, girlfriend or job recruiter (specifically when they have offered you the job) should be falling off the face of the Earth. It’s lazy. It’s unfair to the person on the other end of the closed off communication channel.

I say all of this not in exemption of myself. I am learning hard conversations should never be had over a text. I need to call that person up or speak in person. I don’t get to stonewall you and go silent. It is unfair and immature.

This job situation sucked, BUT it absolutely made my resolve stronger. I love LA, and I want to be here. I want to work in women’s media as an editor. I am no quitter. I am tough. One opportunity gone sour will not detour me nor shake my confidence. I choose to allow it to make me stronger.

In hindsight, I know the job was not for me. If it was really mine, then it would have been offered to me, no ghosting or lapses in communication necessary. A coworker of mine made the best and most hilarious analogy. He said basically this company wanted to make me their side piece while they decided if this other candidate was the best fit. (A side piece is when a guy has a girlfriend but also has another girl on the side- super pathetic.)

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anyone): “When money and your livelihood are involved, it can be easy to settle, which is all the more reason why you should not. Don’t settle.”

I don’t want to be anybody’s side piece! No ma’am, not me. I need to respect myself in the professional realm as I would in a dating relationship or friendship. While I am sure the other candidate is a badass in the editorial world, so am I. I am valuable. I am a talented writer and editor.

Whatever your dreams or goals are, I encourage you not to settle. Do not settle for being second choice or for second-rate communication, pay or benefits. Ask for what you’re worth. Know your value.

Lastly, do not ghost people. To put it simply, it’s lame. Hold yourself accountable. Communicate why you are walking away from something or someone. That is the adult thing to do, communication, honesty and transparency. Treat people how you would want to be treated.

With hope,

Stevie

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If It Smells Like Pride and Looks Like Pride, It’s Probably Pride

Honesty moment: I recently realized a personal vice of mine, pride.

My form of pride does not present itself in the typical form, which makes it harder to spot.

I am not like the Kims and Kanyes of the world. The over-indulgent, self-absorbed, selfie-loving, me-focused personalities. It’s a quieter, more subtle kind of pride.

My form of pride is one where I choose to withold things, whether it be my gifts or talents, my emotions- good or bad, my thoughts and opinions. I withhold communication because it’s easier to shut down than do the work of being honest and, most uncomfortable of all, vulnerable. (Yikes!)

I have always thought that steering clear of the spotlight was a commendable trait. I thought it was a form of humility, especially when it comes to talents. I thought it was better to always allow other people to take center stage and for me to step back. I thought this was normal, healthy and even admirable.

I am an artsy person, which makes living in LA such an adventure. It’s a city of creatives- actors, dancers, singers, writers, musicians and artists. It’s such a gift living in a city full of passionate people.

Talking to my artsy peers, I have found that they share a common struggle as me, wanting to withhold their gifts, talents and passions. Why? Because it’s so much easier than putting yourself out there-for ridicule, for rejection, for judgment and to be torn apart by people’s opinions.

I love to sing, but rarely, have I shared this gift. I love to write, but it took almost seven years for me to actively share my blog with people. Why? I did not want the attention but more so, the possible failure that could come from sharing my passions.

Here’s what I am learning- My gifts, my talents, my passions are not for or about me. When I withhold these things from the world, I am limiting what God can do in and through me. Diming my own light won’t make anyone else’s shine brighter. Only by shining do I give other people permission to shine. Only by sharing do I encourage other people to do the same.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Diming my own light won’t make anyone else shine brighter.”

I am still learning that sharing is a part of the human experience- the good, the bad and the not so pretty. I write this blog “Life as Told by an Upcoming Twenty-Something” so I can allow other people into my story, the wins, the losses, the failures and the beauty from ashes moments.

What I know is my story, my life, is not all about me but about the people journeying with me. Humility says, “Hey, this is me- the good and bad. The strengths and weaknesses. I want to let you see me.”

Here’s to identifying pride- even the sneaky, hard to spot kind.

With hope,

Stevie

Cliques, Mean Girls and Old Friends: Revisiting High School 10 Years Later

One of my friends said it best. “So much has changed. Yet, so much has stayed the same.”

Last weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. (For my high school in Michigan. I split my high school years between two states- Michigan and Oklahoma). I woke up at 6 a.m., did my hair and make-up, put on a gown, and hopped on a plane at LAX to Detroit. I went straight from the airport to the reunion.

Fresh 6 a.m. makeup did not last!

Can I just say, I had the absolute BEST time. While I have seen all of my closest friends numerous times throughout the last decade (I lived with one of them and another I came home for her Master’s graduation last year), it was nice to be in the same place at the same time with a big group of my peers.

It was nice to see people I grew up with excelling and doing well. To see them happy made me happy. It felt good to just hug a few necks and swap life stories- even if only for a moment.

Lets call it a nice little pit stop on the journey to adulthood.

I laughed so hard this weekend. Friends recounted old stories, some embarrassing and all hilarious. (Most of which, might I add, I do not remember!)

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Maturity is not something that comes with age. Maturity is a journey you choose to embark on.”

The weekend was well spent. The class officers from my grade did a really good job planning a classy event. It was overall a win.

The only downside- when you revisit the past, you find some things and some people stay in the past. After 10 years since graduating high school, there still seemed to be the cliques, the haves and have nots, the popular and not popular, the mean girls.

I was reminded that not everyone grows up just because time passes. I was encouraged by my peers and friends who have grown and who are doing amazing things, who are working toward a purpose.

I was surprised by others who had not changed at all. I am reminded that maturity and wisdom (taking your mistakes and learning from them and choosing to do better) is a choice.

Ten years changes some things, but some people and things don’t change. I think one of the greatest joys of growing older is just not caring. Not caring about what people think, or about the number of likes on a photo, or who is dating whom, or who is wearing what.

If there’s anything I could tell high school me 10 years ago, I’d tell her, “Care less about what other people think and to use your voice to speak up for other people more. Laugh more and enjoy your friends- not all will be here 10 years from now. Mean girls may always be mean girls, but shake off the haters. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them. Other people’s opinions are not your business. You will attract the type of people you are.”

Cheers to revisiting the past from time to time but always, always moving forward!

In loving memory of one of my greatest friends, Felicia Diane Robinson.

With hope,

Stevie

I Am a Woman- and I Won’t Apologize

I am a woman.

I won’t apologize.

I am black. I’ve got curly-kinky hair and hips that don’t lie. I am a millennial, a twenty-something still figuring it out.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am intelligent. Sometimes I use big words in conversation without meaning to, and I know more about sports than some men. I am a book nerd and always eager to travel and learn. There’s so much I don’t know.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am quirky and dorky. I am one of the clumsiest people I know. I trip on things I see, and I forget things people just told me, but I have learned to laugh at myself. Authenticity is better than pretense.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am a girls’ girl. Some of my very best friends are women. I have never had a sister, but I have friends who are like sisters. I cheer them on in their successes and hold their hand in their pain. I try to show up as often as I can, and when we don’t see eye to eye, I try to make amends.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

Some women don’t like me. All women do not get along. This is a reality. Whether competition, miscommunication, or lack thereof, women don’t always like each other. That’s normal. I am OK with not being everyone’s cup of tea.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am fiercely independent. I will probably research how to repair something rather than ask for help. I like to do things for myself. I have no problem moving heavy boxes or fixing a flat tire on my own, but I have learned it’s OK to ask for help too.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am a feminist, but I love men. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive.) I am learning to build up and honor the men in my life up with words. Yet, I will never play small, shrink back or diminish my intellect or value for a man. I believe I am just as valuable as the guy next to me.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am tough. I have had my share of hard times, loves lost, and friendships fade and come out stronger on the other side. I know it’s OK to not always be OK and that there’s beauty in vulnerability. I am both sensitive and strong.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman, and it’s beautiful.

Finding Joy in the Imperfection

Perfection.

A lofty, unattainable, always fluctuating bar to reach for.

I am a recovering perfectionist. There has always been a goal, a dream, a next step to look to in my career, relationship status, zip code or bank account. In today’s fast paced, hustle culture, this goal-driven attitude is seemingly a good thing. There’s always #goals for relationships, friendships, career, fitness and dating.

I like goals. I like lists. I love planning. (I love planning parties for friends!) While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things, this mindset of always wanting the next thing can be detrimental. Focusing on tomorrow can rob you of being content today.

My friend Kelsie reminded me of this fact. In her not so subtle but loving way (Kelsie is known for being blunt), she showed me myself, that I struggle to be happy in the now. In my first two years living in Los Angeles and the last few months in Italy, there have been a lot of hard things. (Roommate drama, boy drama, a job lay off, friend drama, heart break, cultural barriers.) Adversity has a way of making it easy to long for a new chapter, a clean slate, a better tomorrow.

Here’s what I know:

There will always be hard things. Every season will have its mountains to climb, battles to fight and hurdles to jump. Each and every one. If you are so busy romanticizing what was or will be, then you will miss the brilliance of today.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “If you are so busy romanticizing what was or will be, then you will miss the brilliance of today.”

Today, with its unanswered questions, uncertainty, hard things, it is beautiful. I challenge you to see that, to see the beauty in hard things.

I know this idea of contentment, of resting and finding joy is counterculture. It also isn’t easy or even normal, especially in the 20s. You are taught to hustle, to strive, to push for more. The irony is oftentimes you romanticize tomorrow hoping for what will be. Then one day, you look back in nostalgia missing what once was.

I don’t know what this season of your life looks like, what hurdle or uncertainty or pain you are facing, but I challenge you to find the joy in this moment. Today, your today, is good.

The things that bothered me a year ago, I don’t even remember now. I know the battles I am facing today will pass too. Instead of wallowing in the lows, I want to find joy in my todays and dance (dare I say, revel) in adversity.

The 20s, like every decade, has its highs and lows. Find joy in your today.

Here are some things bringing me joy right now:

Volunteering with kids

My church family

Friends welcoming me home to LA

With hope,

Stevie

Detroit Women Exemplify Sisterhood and Success

Sisterhood. Community. Tribe. Your people. Best friends.

I pride myself on being a girl’s girl. I love to see women win and to come alongside them and be a cheerleader. Whether it’s the first woman to be the head coach of an NFL team. (Shout out to Jennifer Welter!) Or it’s little girls who tell me they want to be brain surgeons or doctors. (I’m obsessed with hearing about girls pursuing STEM careers.) Or maybe it’s just a friend who has overcome some major adversity, and I’ve gotten to see her battle her demons like a warrior.

I love to see women win.

Yet, for someone who is such a “girl’s girl,” I have certainly had my share of girl drama. I absolutely hate it. Girl drama makes me want to grab my running shoes and throw up the deuces.

You know what I’m talking about it. Those moments when you find yourself with tension with another woman, and you don’t even know why. Even worse, there are the scenarios when you watch a best friendship tether and fall apart.

Actresses Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gabrielle Union recently sat down for a chat on the video series Red Table Talk to talk about women, friendship, cattiness and specifically about their 17-year beef, a feud that neither of them could explain.

As the two women sat down and hashed out the details of their separation, something in my heart healed just watching. In the words of Jada, sometimes women are mad at each other but don’t even know why. Although difficult and uncomfortable, working your way to healthy relationships with other women is one of the most empowering things you can do.

I am not living in a fairytale. I get it. Sometimes, women don’t get along. Personalities clash. Interests conflict. Insecurities cause competition and comparison. Misunderstandings happen. Assumptions are made. Communication falls by the wayside.

I do believe, however, that a woman surrounded by the love and suport of other strong women is nothing short of an unstoppable force. I know five women who embody this idea. Some know them as the “Fab Five.” Others may see them as a clique. I know them as Sharron, Shanelle, Jasmine, Jazzmin and Dajai.

These girls embody sisterhood. Five women with more than two decades worth of friendship under their belts collectively, lots of college degrees and even more ambition.

Their story is inspiring and one worth being told. So often you hear stories of women tearing each other down (especially with women of color.) Stories like their’s, of enduring female friendships, deserve more shine. I am so happy to have grown up with them and watched their stories progress. I am even more excited to share their story and talk about the importance of female friendship.

Shanelle Covington

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Pharmacist
B.S. in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science, University of Michigan; Doctor of Pharmacy, Hampton University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Overachiever
I’ve always strived for perfection and basically if I don’t reach it, the world is over (more specifically when it comes to school and grades) Sometimes, I just never feel like I’m not doing enough in life and always want more. This can be a blessing and a curse lol”

Your friend group in three words:
Loving, loyal, motivating

Sharron Sanders

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Lawyer
B.A. in Psychology and Communication Studies, University of Michigan; Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal doctrine and analysis, Michigan State University; Juris Doctor, Michigan State University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Comedian
“I am definitely the silly/crazy friend in the group. I always aim to make my friends laugh and have a good time.”

Your friend group in three words:
Supportive, loyal, ambitious

Jasmine Spratling

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Mental Health Therapist
B.A. in Psychology, Bowling Green State University; Masters in Clinical Mental Health, Walden University; Currently completing a Ph.D. in Human and Social Services with a focus in Mental Health Facilitation, Walden University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Fashionista/Protector
“Of course one of us has to know how to dress! However, besides that I am also the friend who comes to the rescue when things go wrong.”

Your friend group in three words:
Sweet, funny, encouraging

Jazzmin Taylor

JazzminTaylor

School Psychologist
B.A. in Psychology, Michigan State University; Ed.S. in School Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The mom
“It’s funny because I’m the youngest in the group, but I’m also the most laid back and responsible (in my opinion.)”

Your friend group in three words:
Ambitious, successful, silly

Dajai Livingston

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Certified Nurse Midwife
B.S. in Nursing, University of Michigan; Master’s of Science in Nursing specializing in midwifery, University of Michigan
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Socialite
“I’m always meeting new people and mingling. They tell me I always know someone. I also make sure that when we all hang out we have a good time. I bring positive energy to the group and always make sure that if something isn’t right I talk to whoever is in charge to resolve the issue. I am the one who will ask for the manager and get us a free meal.”

Your friend group in three words:
Beautiful, ambitious, driven

Tell me about the dynamic of your friend group.
Dajai: Our friend group started at Detroit’s Renaissance High School and evolved freshman year of college. We each have different relationships with one another. Shanelle and Sharron have been best friends since elementary school. Jasmine, Shanelle and Sharron were all “Bates kids” (an elementary/middle school in Detroit). Myself, Jasmine, Jazzmin and Shanelle became close on our high school’s cheer team. Myself, Jasmine and Jazzmin were in midnight golf our senior year and became even closer. We all had times when we hung out during high school, but freshman year of college the five of us had a girls night in Ann Arbor and the annual get together became mandatory.

“We each have different relationships with one another.”

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What has life been since graduating from high school?
Jasmine: Life after high school has been full of ups and downs, but I am continuing to learn from all my experiences for my personal and professional growth. After Renaissance, I headed straight to Bowling Green State University sadly without any of my best friends by my side. I went even further away after college and moved to Chicago for a few months to begin grad school. Then, I moved to Atlanta, which is where I have been since 2013. Living in Atlanta has been an amazing experience and I absolutely love it! However, being away from my family and my girls is the hardest thing. Since the beginning, we have always uplifted one another. Our circle of friendship goes beyond the norm, and at the end of the day, we are family more than anything. I feel that has also been tested since some of us separated after high school, but it’s like no matter how far we are from each other, our friendship continues. I love my girls!

“At the end of the day, we are family more than anything.”

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In society, women are often pitted against one another, especially black women. What does it mean to have a solid group of female friends?
Jazzmin: This group is so full of positive energy and encouragement with anything any one of us decides to pursue. We are all good with providing one another with advice. Believe it or not, having the support from my friends provides me with the confidence I don’t always have in myself. That’s why having friends who are always there to uplift you is so important!

“Having the support from my friends provides me with the confidence I don’t always have in myself.”

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What does it mean to you to be a part of a group of girlfriends who has been friends for so long?

Shanelle: Having these amazing women in my life is truly everything!! It’s sooo important to be able to have people in your life who you can truly trust and know without a doubt will always have your best interest at heart. Seeing them succeed just makes me want to push harder and do more. They are so inspirational in their own individual ways. I never feel alone or like I don’t have anyone to talk to, which is so essential with the way I stress over everything lol. It’s a blessing just to have one person to count on. I don’t know what I did in life to have a whole group of women who I know will always be there for me.

“I never feel alone.”

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How do you guys maintain your lifelong friendship?
Sharron: We don’t always stay in constant communication. We are adult women with our own lives. We all have that understanding, but if one of us needs something, the rest are always there. Also, we have our group chat that we use to communicate. We could go a month without talking, and then, randomly someone will post a meme and the chat is lit again.

“If one of us needs something, the rest are always there.”

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Tell me about how you all deal with rivalry, disagreements and the natural misunderstandings that happen in friendship (particularly with women).
Sharron: I’m really at a loss for words. I can’t really think of a time where this has happened. The personalities in our group really suit each other well. We don’t fight. We don’t compete with each other. If there is a disagreement, then we talk through it. I’ve always seen other “cliques” where girls would act like sisters but then talk about each other behind their backs. Having a tight knit group of friends that I know have my back no matter what, means a lot.

“We don’t fight. We don’t compete with each other.”

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How have your friends impacted you personally and professionally?
Jazzmin: Whenever one of us starts a new project (grad program, job, etc.), there is nothing but love, encouragement and positivity given from the group. When one of us is going through something, we are all their to empathize with that person and be a support system. We all live in different places, but we stay connected via our private group chat and that works for us. Our group chat often turns into therapy sessions. They also turn into random, silly girl talk. We always try to get the full group together at least once a year and every time we do, we pick up exactly where we left off.

“There is nothing but love, encouragement and positivity given from the group.”

I hope you are encouraged to love your sister friends, your tribe, your people. I also hope you are encouraged to reach out to the woman who maybe you have had a falling out or enstrangement with. Because women are powerful, and when we stand alongside one another, we only get stronger. If there’s anything the 20’s has taught me is that life is hard and unpredictable, but it is brighter with true friends doing life with you.

“Real fierce and fearless women celebrate and compliment other women, and we recognize and embrace the notion that their shine in no way diminishes our light and it actually makes our light shine brighter.” – Gabrielle Union from the Essence Black Women in Hollywood event

With hope,

Stevie

Reverse Culture Shock: Adjusting to Life Back in America

I touched down in America almost exactly a month ago, Monday, May 7 at 1 a.m. I hit the ground running.

My friend (shout out to Dilara!) picked me up from LAX in the wee hours of the morning. I stayed the night at her place, and the next morning, I picked up my car and started unloading things from my storage unit into my new apartment. (Side note: Some of my Italian friends were so intrigued by American storage units, which one lovable Italian character I met referred to as “garages for your things.”)

Since being back in America, I have felt all the feels. (For my Italian friends reading, no that is not proper English. The feels just means a lot of emotions.) I have felt excitement to be home, exhilaration to be back in Los Angeles (the city I love), nervousness for the job hunt, fear of starting over (four months away from L.A. certainly feels like starting over), stress, newness, uncertainty.

Like I said, I have felt all the feels.

I left L.A. and took on the challenge of life abroad after a year of job hunting and experiencing major burn out. I am reminding myself that starting over is not a bad thing. A fresh start, a new chapter, a second beginning can be an amazingly beautiful thing, a gift. I am back in L.A. ready to do what I love and create impactful media and write! (Gah, I am such a words nerd and I love it!)

Since returning to the states, there have been a number of “very American” things that have stood out to me like a sore thumb after living in Italy. Reverse culture shock is real people. Even though I am American, there have been several things, some good, some bad and all funny, that I have had to adjust to.

-The fashion

It is impossible to live in Italy and to not have Italian style leave an imprint on your personal closet. Since living in Italy, I am obsessed with neutrals and blacks, clean, crisp lines and simple but eloquent looks. When I arrived in New York in May, the first thing I noticed about Americans is that we literally wear anything. Flip flops, Ugg boots, leggings, running shorts, over-sized tees. We mismatch all of these items together and call it fashion. Americans dress more for comfort and less for style. While Italians are always stylish (even when they do not try.)

– The food

My body has literally been rejecting food. American food has so much sugar, additives and hormones. You hear people talk about how bad American food is, but it wasn’t until leaving for a long-period of time and returning that I actually understood. American food tastes so different- the texture, taste and flavor- from food in Europe. I could eat pasta every day in Italy. That is not a thing in America!

– Friendly strangers

My second day back in Los Angeles, I went to my favorite coffee shop and a man greeted with a hello and a smile. This man was a complete stranger. Now this may sound unexciting, but I felt my heart do a mini cartwheel. In Piemonte, the region of Italy where I lived, the culture tends to be more aloof and distant. People don’t tend to smile and make eye contact with strangers. Of course, none of this is to be rude, but it’s just not normal there. The people of northern Italy are not overly warm or friendly. So if a stranger smiles at them, they are more likely to be concerned than see it as a greeting. It is nice to be back in America and to have strangers on the street smile, make eye contact and speak to me.

– Understanding the language

It is funny to be back and completely understand what people are saying. I got used to walking around Bra or to coffee shops or the train station and speaking the little Italian I knew. I learned to tune out words because I did not understand most conversations happening around me. To hear conversations from a distance that I completely can understand was a bit of a shock. It has also made ease dropping a lot easier!

– Not being stared at

One thing I always laughed about is how I often got stared at in Italy. While I’d love to think it was just because people thought I was pretty, it more so had to do with being a foreigner and speaking English. One thing I have had to adjust to in America is nobody looking at me, like at all. I’m just another person walking by. It’s quiet ironic!

– Driving

I did not drive for four months- FOUR! For the three months I was in Europe and the month before that I traveled around America, I had the pleasure of being driven around by others or taking public transportation. In Los Angeles, all you do is drive! My parallel parking skills have suffered a lot since being gone. I also have grown unaccustomed to L.A. traffic. (It’s a beast!) My road rage has grown in my time away most definitely.

How I have changed since living in Italy:

– I understand the value of speaking different languages.

I am currently working on fluency in Spanish. I was super impressed by the Italian people I met who were fluent in English, French, German or some other language. Language is a powerful tool in connecting people. It’s a big world out there, and I realized how much I am limiting myself by only speaking one language. I want to connect with as many people as possible and part of that is learning languages.

– I have learned to question my country’s leadership and the importance of being politically active.

Even though Italy is currently going through a rough political climate, one thing I respect about the Italian people I encountered was their willingness to question government and political leaders. They even question American government. “Why is gun control such an issue in America?” is one question I got a lot. I realized in my time away, often Americans are more focused on patriotism and loyalty that we neglect to educate ourselves on issues and to hold our leadership to ethical and altruistic standards. Americans get a little lazy when it comes to politics, and we lose sight of facts, research and questioning.

– I love Nutella.

I had my first taste of peanut butter (which is super American) the other day. And oh my! Nutella is leaps and bounds better.

– I talk with my hands.

When I am excited for something, annoyed or confused, I watch my hands automatically fly in the air. Italian people talk with their hands. They use big gestures, and they talk fast and with lots of passion. The hand gestures that used to make me laugh, I now find myself doing.

I am more aware of how much we let go to waste in America.

In Italy, every home I visited, the families recycled. There was a section for plastic, paper, food and waste. Also, no light was left on or used unnecessarily (like in the middle of the day when the sun is out.) I have never been one to leave a light on (hello, light bill?), but now I am super aware of conserving energy and how much we let go to waste here in the states.

– I want to travel more.

Even though my time in Italy wasn’t picture perfect (because what in life is ever perfect?), it was an adventure! I would do it again in a heartbeat. I plan to go back to Italy. (I didn’t see Rome or Sicily!) I also want to travel to other countries. I’ve got the travel itch, and it needs to be scratched!

My time in Italy challenged me in so many ways. It definitely taught me a lot. I will always hold my experience and the beautiful country of Italia close to my heart.

Check out these photos from my last week in Italy:

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Daniela sent me a goodbye photo from Bra!

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Nicanor came to visit Bra and showed off his Italian skills.

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Nicolo tolerating my need to take a selfie in the middle of the street.

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Daisy planned a goodbye lunch for me with all the professors.

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The empty halls of the Licei di Bra on my last day as a teacher assistant!

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We went for aperitivo (basically an American happy hour) on my last day in Bra!

With hope,

Stevie