This post is very different than what you’ve seen me share here. The biproduct of what you are about to read has humbled me and has taught me. Bringing this group of women together to share and hopefully empower others has turned out to be bigger than I realized. It turns out, we are all very similar. It turns out that we have all stumbled – and for that, we remember the many times we got back up. This piece focuses on a group of women who are very special to me. Just like I stated on Instagram, collectively I have know then for almost 200 years. You will find a collection of their thoughts, experiences and lessons. And though I had every intention to publish this piece so that it moves one soul or many young girls out there, I had no idea the impact they all had on me. For that, I am grateful and I remain inspired.
Now, please enjoy these beautiful words by these incredible women.
I must have been in grade 3 or 4 when I first made friends with Ashleigh. She was shorter than I was, with blonde straight hair and had a cool mom who chauffeured her around in a red sports car. She wore fashionable clothes, was quite popular and my 8 year-old-self wanted to be just like her.
Nearly 30 years later I still vividly recall one specific outfit Ashleigh would wear. A simple white t-shirt with rainbow studded letters dotted along the chest reading “Levi’s Blue Jeans”. I remember I used to feel like there was nothing I wanted more than to have that exact same t-shirt.
For weeks I searched through shopping malls and department stores trying to find an identical top that I could start wearing.
Of course, no addition to my wardrobe was going to make me like Ashleigh, or convince my mom to start chauffeuring me around in a sports car for that matter.
In my adolescence I often found myself envious of other girls around me. We all did. I think in a way, we all look to others to get a sense of who we should be.
For me, I would always fixate on a thing someone seemed to have that I didn’t – and it would claw at me with envy – if only I had that same pair of shoes, or watch, or Levi’s t-shirt, I could be like them.
But looking back now, I realize no amount of fashionable clothing or a sports car diving mom would have changed who I have grown up to be – no more than it changed who those girls have grown up to be. They weren’t better than me, and I no better than them. I was my own person then just as I am now. I just hadn’t grown to realized it yet.
Today, the most important thing for me is finding things that I’m authentically interested in, and fashion that I genuinely like. I no longer piggy-back off of someone else’s interests or fashion sense. I make decisions for me, and my well-being. And it feels good to recognize this. Having confidence in myself and my own desires is something I wish I’d discovered sooner.
Dear younger Krysten, if I could tell you anything, give you advice or give comfort for your future it would be to get out of your head and go for your dreams. Know that what you might have in mind or planned may not always be what actually happens but it’s okay because all things will work out for good. You need to listen to your heart and know that the ups and downs will work together to show you the right path and shape your future.
You may not understand what’s happening in the immediate moment but you will know what’s happening and why it’s happening later down the road. Not only will it then make sense but it will become part of your testimony.
Think outside the box a bit (remember being different is cool!) and don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance along the way. There are always people who are willing and eager to help others. In turn, don’t forget to give others advice and share information that will help someone else’s journey, too. A little bit can go a long way to make someone’s day.
You may be scared to take a leap of faith or jump into something new but remember you can start now and perfect later. Don’t let the littlest things stop you from going for your dreams. It’s the overall picture and goal and sometimes you have to get scrappy to get there but guess what? You will! You got this!
Love, (much older, wiser but still eager to learn) Krysten
I wish I could read this letter to my younger self not because I would change anything about my journey but perhaps I might worry less or not sweat the small stuff so easily. I know we can all be our own worst critic and get in our own way. I think once we can figure that out and get the ball rolling faster it’s like unlocking a big secret to adulting and our life’s adventure.
One of the beautiful things about growing older is gaining wisdom and a broader perspective on life. I have a few nuggets of wisdom to share from my journey thus far.
First, I would say, don’t underestimate the power of a smile! It can brighten your whole day and those around you too!
Secondly, some of the best times of my life, where I am most happy and mentally healthy, is when I am thinking of and serving others. Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I truly believe this and I am always working on cultivating this mindset in my own life. Nothing good ever comes from completely focusing on ourselves.
I would also tell my younger self to be the person who you desire to be today. We are not guaranteed tomorrow and like is fleeting. Don’t wait to BE that person someday. Be her today! Finally, something else that changed my life is when I gave my heart to Jesus in 8th grade. My relationship with Him has been the rock of my life. His death and Resurrection give me freedom. If I can tell my children one thing, it would be to surrender their lives to the creator of life and let Him fill the spaces of your heart. He will change your life for the better, guaranteed!
From the journey of trying to conceive, to the moment we found out we were pregnant, to growing a baby inside me for 9 months, to the experience of child birth; these moments have come and gone but will forever leave an imprint in my mind, body and soul.
The day my first born made it into this world, beautiful and healthy, I held her in my arms and we looked at each other; just like that our journey starts the next chapter together as Mother and Daughter.
I’m now a Mother and all of sudden nothing else mattered but My Family and their well being. It’s funny, because so many little things that used to bother me before I was a parent are almost non-existent in my mind now. It’s either I have no time to worry about them between making meals and changing diapers or that motherhood has simply brought a new perspective in my life. Parenthood changes everyone in different ways. Although one commonalty we all share is that our children’s happiness is the end all and be all to our own happiness. Motherhood is the most tiring and rewarding full-time job. There are no dos and donts, rights and wrongs to this job opportunity, it’s something I learn along the way, especially with the help and support of my partner. It’s an exciting adventure that helps me learn about myself and my growth as a person. I am truly blessed.
There are so many experiences in my life that have shaped me and the person I’ve become today. There isn’t one particular moment in time that defines me or that has shaped me; instead, it is a series of choices and decisions that have led me to here and now.
I grew up feeling like I was a caged bird that was anchored down by both legs, and had both wings clipped. My creativity, and everything I loved was rejected and oppressed. I grew up with negative energy, anger, abuse, and trauma. I was broken, I was bruised, I was unloved and unrecognizable.
As I went off to University, I made the decision to leave the comfort of staying local and ventured off to a school that was three and half hours away so that I could gain independence, live sanely, and start to hear my own voice again. I experienced a lot in University. I experienced my first love. I survived student life. I also had to face my deepest fears and some of the darkest moments in my life. I broke once, I broke twice, I began to see a glimmer of light in me.
I went through a few years of deep healing, self-reflection, and I took the time needed to understand my values and what mattered to me. The next phase of life was all about building a family and career. I met my amazing husband, and my son Kyle was born. I healed, I grew, I loved, I forgave, I started to become recognizable.
As I gained confidence in who I was, I started to experiment and explore different creative outlets. My daughter Cassidy was born. I uncovered my first form of creativity and art, through baking my daughter’s first birthday cake. I awoke. I uncovered my true self. I created. I loved.
I dove into one entrepreneurial adventure after another, to explore and express my creativity even further. I left the comfort of a full-time job and ended my 15 year Corporate career to pursue entrepreneurship full time. I became fearless. I created. I trusted. I loved. I thrived.
Today I am grateful for waking up every morning knowing that I get to define each day, and create the adventures that I want to experience. I in turn support and celebrate Kyle’s and Cassidy’s individuality, and appreciate their unique characteristics and personalities. Together, we create a world where we share joy, we accept the gifts that the universe brings us, we are free to be who we want to be, and we are open to new possibilities. I accept and love every part of me – all of it. I see the scars and bruises. I feel the spectrum of emotions that life has brought me. I see beauty. I feel peace. I am human. I am complete. I will never stop creating. I will always be free.
You deserve to be here. If I had a time machine and could go back to a few key moments of my life, this is what I’d tell myself. I remember landing my first role as a series regular on a television show. I put on my bravest face for my first day on set, but inside I was withering. It felt as if I was the most green of all of my cast mates and I was terrified that I’d be exposed as second-rate.
This has been a recurring feeling with work — this fear, this insecurity every time I embarked on something new or did something outside of my comfort zone. And with the twists and turns of my career, I felt it often.
My first time doing theatre in Europe. My first team meeting managing a staff of 15 as Director of Sales (which also involved purging all my belongings and living at sea). My first day launching the Canadian office of an international company.
To be honest, sometimes, I still have the urge to cry when I feel overwhelmed with new challenges. But now I tell myself four things.
- The things I’ve felt most emotional about were the things that pushed me to grow the most.
- I remind myself that everyone faces their firsts — Olympians have their first races and losses, pop stars grace their first stages. And every one of those firsts takes you to a new place.
- When fear draws away your power, great friendships, genuine relationships can energize you. You don’t have to accomplish everything yourself. You can ask for help, advice, wisdom. You can call on other women and people who have walked ahead of you.
- Finally, I remind myself that it’s never been more important to believe that I am worthy of my seat at the table. The world still tells me that as a woman, and a woman of colour, I don’t always deserve to be here. I don’t want my daughter to doubt her place. I don’t want her to shrink from opportunities because she’s afraid she’s not good enough. I don’t want her to skip the first day, first job, first step because it’s not safe. I don’t want her to silence herself when someone talks over her.
I can’t go back in time. But I can share these lessons with my daughter.
I tell her that she’ll have to work hard. People won’t always believe in her and she won’t always believe in herself. But do the work. And you’re not doing it to impress your boss, to quell your critics, to please the masses. You do the work for yourself — to stretch yourself, to grow confidence, to live a life of authenticity and courage. You do it to fully occupy your space, to have your voice heard and your soul seen.
You deserve to be here. From day one to day 1001 and beyond, you are always enough.
Things you wish you knew as a young girl.
That I alone was enough to create the life of my dreams.
Experiences that shaped you: Heartbreaks and disappointments. They are a part of life. When I was younger, I saw every heartbreak and disappointment as painful. Now I see every heartbreak as a golden opportunity to I form a better relationship with myself.
Advice for younger generation.
Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Take your time. Enjoy all the experiences.
Believe in yourself. You have nothing to prove to anyone except yourself.
Know that you are more than capable to achieve anything you put your mind to.
Everything you need to be happy is already within you.
One thing I have learned in my 30’s and first year of my 40’s, is that people care a lot less about what you do than you think. I have come to realize that trying to please everyone is fruitless, and not being your authentic self is a waste of energy. Your people will find you. They will love you. They will support you. They will lift you up, and when necessary, they will bring you back down to reality.
Do what makes YOU happy, what fulfills YOU, what satisfies YOU. But never tear someone else down in order to do that.
Be with the people who make you smile and forget that the world can be a scary place. Use that energy to spread joy and positivity to everyone around you…its so contagious.
Always leave the space you’re in better than it was before you arrived, and people happier than they were before they met you.
When I was in high school I thought I knew everything, that I knew better. So when my parents told me no, I dramatically swore that it was because they were determined to ruin my life.
My priorities back then were hanging out with my friends and having a whirlwind romance with my first ever boyfriend. Spending time with my family was at the bottom of my list. Looking back, I would have told the younger version of myself to spend time with my parents and now that they are gone I only wish I had more time.
You know sometimes when it feels like you are walking around with a storm cloud over your head? Well it felt like I had a full on typhoon just causing pure havoc in my life for a span of 10 years. It felt like I could never catch a break at times life just seemed so unfair.
In 2005 my mom was diagnosed with slight dementia and early Alzheimer’s.
In 2009 my dad got into a really bad car accident, he suffered a c5 injury to his spine that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
In 2012 my dad passed away succumbing to his injuries and in 2013 not even a year after my dad passed my mom passed away, I know it was because of the Alzheimer’s but I like to believe it was because she missed him so much that she wanted to be with him.
These monumental losses would shatter anyone, so I’m often asked how did I get through it?
Truthfully…I don’t know. Sometimes I think maybe I didn’t grieve enough or process it fully, but if I’m being honest, I cried a lot. Until I couldn’t cry anymore. And then I just kept moving forward. Knowing what my parents went through, that they were free from their sufferings and that they were together…it gave me peace. I know that they would want me to keep going because when someone dies, it doesn’t mean we die too. If given the chance to be back here with the people they love they would. Losing them opened my eyes to truly see what’s in front of me, to tell the ones you love you love them and living, I will never take it for granted. In 2016, I gave birth to the greatest joy in my life, my son. That profound love that everyone talks about, it’s real. He is everything, every reason, my soul purpose. I live for him, but I also live for me. Every moment, every breath, every chance I get I’m going to live.
If I could tell my younger self something, it would be to take premarital classes. I know these are requirements for certain faiths, but I am not religious so I wish I knew that this is a thing, and that I had the resources to find these classes. I’m sure there must be someone out there who offers this type of relationship course! After 14 years of marriage, I know now that marriage is hard and I think being prepared for a lifelong commitment and getting a dose of reality when you are soon to be a newlywed couple is extremely important.
I confess I’m a perfectionist. When I’m left unchecked, I get into my own head and become a big ball of anxiety. This carries over from my work as a graphic designer and extends to every aspect of my life. Taking risks are simply the opposite of my being but I’ve learned from creating @eatbolo that getting out of my comfort zone is the cure.
Cooking for friends and family has been my passion ever since I was old enough to cook. Even though friends have encouraged me to start my own food business, I’ve always talked myself out of it as I didn’t have any formal training or extensive restaurant experience. While I had been working on my ultimate fried chicken sandwich recipe for a year, I hadn’t done anything with it until my friend and business partner @Joeyngoy signed us up for @smorgasburg tryouts.
With an actual deadline, I hunkered down and worked day and night on it but if I am completely honest, the sandwiches I made for the interview are nowhere close to the current iteration served at our first location @glendorapublic market.
However, good enough and done is better than perfect. We got into Smorgasburg despite the fact and even opened our first location last year! It brings me such joy to see people’s expression of food bliss when they have their first bite of Bolo and it hit me, none of this would be here if I had continued to work on the recipes till it was “perfect.”
If you want to express yourself, just take the first step! Perfection is unachievable but you owe it to yourself to cultivate your passions. You never know where it may take you.
Thank you for reading. We hope you have taken something with you from these amazing stories.