I remember hiding my face from other tourists, clenching my jaw amidst their sea of smartphones and trying to compose myself. We gazed over the cliffside at red poppies scattered like a Monet painting. I inhaled sharply, sucked in the cold air and wondered what prince or princess centuries ago had done the same; the thought made me feel very small. I knew why I cried—I knew exactly why, in fact—and I couldn’t let myself forget, not even when I returned to the comfort of home.
The plane ride back from my two-week stint in Spain was a strange mix of elation and crippling fear. It was my first trip out of the United States, for an accelerated language program at the end of my junior year of college. I thought it would look good on my medical school application and was happy to get away after a brutal year. I had been working towards a major in biology and a minor in psychology, completing honors requirements, managing a project in a genetics research lab, and holding down two jobs. I was unhappy, but thought everyone was, and believed one day I would be happy. I felt that my anxiety and insomnia were a direct result of being undisciplined and I just needed to deal with it. After all, everyone took me seriously when they heard I was pre-med. My grandparents loved to weave it into my introductions to their friends. My pride and identity were so tied up in being a doctor that I spent the entire 13 hours flying home trying to mentally untangle myself from it…with no luck.
I got home jet lagged and confused, and immediately crashed. I remember waking up, washing my face, looking at myself in the mirror and saying aloud, “If you don’t do it now, you never will.”
I was shaking.
In hindsight, I believe clarity fueled that day’s tearful crusade of cancelling my MCATs and ending a seven-year relationship. Thirteen days in a foreign country was enough time for the voices to die down. It was enough time to visit museums and allow the art to move me again. It was enough time to stand on a cliff beside a castle and realize that this—this chasing, endless, hungry feeling—was what I wanted for my life.
Coming back to reality wasn’t easy. Not having a plan was terrifying. Everyone questioning me and whispering that I couldn’t handle it hurt. But behind the fear I felt hope and excitement bubbling on the horizon, so I put in the work. The effort I had poured into memorizing the cranial-facial nerves was now focused on getting to know myself again. I had ignored her for so long; put her love of art and fashion and theatre aside for practicality and prestige. I needed to know her again.
I began to make an exercise out of remembering the times when I felt most alive. Surprisingly, my shadowing in the operating room never made this list. Instead, I was filled with memories of artists and performers I loved and how their art made me feel so full of energy, so…buzzed.
Chasing that feeling led me in several different directions over three years, and culminated in my latest project, Kindred Bridal. With the mental space left over after my 9-to-5, I created a business that allows me to experience art and connection every single day through bringing independent wedding dress designers to the women of East Tennessee in a space like your cool friend’s apartment.
I never planned on being a business owner—I merely had a pressing feeling that I could not ignore. I had tasted the cliffside and I didn’t want to go back. I learned that the little voice that calls to you at night, in your most honest moments, is always right. If you silence her long enough, she will emerge in a chaos and disrupt everything in your carefully planned path. She will erase the lines you have drawn around yourself and hand you a pen. You don’t have to go to a Spanish cliff to find her, you just have to listen.