Single Girl Travels!

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I have been going through a really tough period over the course of the last few months, and it got so bad that I finally did one of these:

In a whirlwind of an afternoon of frustration at work, I decided to take an entire weekend off (unheard of in a job where you only work nights and weekends) and go on a mini-road trip by myself.  I am a planner by nature, but in this case I was so over everything that was going on that I did the absolute least amount of planning I possibly could (a.k.a. I booked a hotel) and then didn’t think about it again.  It turned out to be exactly what I needed!

I took off on a five and a half hour road trip at dinnertime on Friday, bound for Chicago.  My family had been several times when I was a kid because my mom grew up just north of the city, but I had never been back as an adult.  In fact, I have a vivid memory of the last time I was there, because the fifth Harry Potter book came out the day after we arrived, and I made my mom find a Border’s (RIP) so we could wait in line at midnight to buy it.  Then I missed the rest of the trip and the whole drive home, because I immediately read it three times in a row.

Anyway, Chicago!

I love road trips, and this one was perfection.  There were hardly any other cars on the road until I hit the Chicago city limits.  It was clear skies and in the upper 50′s, which felt like summer compared to the temperatures in the teens and the wind chills below zero that have plagued us for the last few months.  To top that off, I was driving into the sunset for more than a half an hour, and it was glorious!

I faced a lot of fears on this trip, which surprised me.  I thought traveling alone was the only thing that would push me out of my comfort zone, but I was wrong!  I was in such a “screw it” mood that I didn’t plan or think about anything, even while I was there.  Not thinking means that you can’t overthink, which is one of my biggest enemies.

The first fear I faced was driving the Dan Ryan expressway through the outskirts of the city.  It’s basically eight lanes of terror and confusion!!  However, blasting “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift with your windows rolled down, singing at the top of your lungs will make driving into any major city pretty magical, no matter how nervous you are.
The next day, I took the train into the city with the mindset that I would just see whatever I could before dark.  I had a list of places I wanted to see in my pocket, a starting place in mind, and that was it!  Here are some of the things I saw:

I started at Millennium Park because I’ve never seen the Bean.  As luck would have it (ha), the park was closed because of the St. Patrick’s Day parade!  This was as close as I got; it was still neat to see, especially since I got a good skyline picture in it without a zillion tourists around it!

Next stop, Sears Tower!  I wanted to see the glass balconies on the Sky Deck, because they hadn’t been built the last time I was in the city.  I stood in line for a few minutes, Starbucks in hand, listening to the small families around me chattering and the excitement in everyone’s voices.  Something in that moment made me so overwhelmingly happy that I started to tear up.

I ended up buying a City Pass, which gave me fast passes to five of the major attractions in the city.  It was perfect, because the wait time to get on the elevator to the top was more than two hours, and I only ended up waiting 10 minutes!  I know standing in that line would have started the thinking process, and this way I was able to just do it.  The views from the top were gorgeous, as expected:

Without thinking about it, I got in line to go out on the glass balcony.  It was a bit of a long wait, but I chatted with the ladies ahead of me in line, and the fact that they were more scared than I was made me feel even braver for doing it!  It was terrifying to go out there with only a piece of glass between you and a 103 story plummet to your death…

I took that picture with my eyes closed.

I was shaking for a good 10 minutes after I came back in, partly from delayed nerves and partly from sheer exhilaration.

Basking in the glow of my fear-conquering, I headed back toward the southern side of the parks, where all the museums are.  I grabbed a sandwich for lunch and sat on a bench outside the aquarium to eat.  What a lovely view!

Next stop was Shedd Aquarium, which is the largest indoor aquarium in the world!  It was pretty fabulous, though I didn’t get to see the whole thing.  Somehow I didn’t use my City Pass correctly and I think I snuck in by accident…whoops!  It was fun and relaxing to walk around the first-floor exhibits.


After the aquarium, I headed to the planetarium.  I was giddy at the fact that this was a thing I could do, because I am fascinated by space and astronomy, and I’ve never been to a planetarium before!  I loved learning more about the history of astronomy, and the things being done today to discover more about space.  There was a chalkboard wall for people to write messages, and I found one of my favorite quotes by Carl Sagan:


(Also, it was Ultimate Pi Day, hooray! 3/14/15 @ 9:26:53 …it only happens once a century, folks!)

One of my favorite parts about the whole day was seeing a show in the planetarium.  It was so wonderful I cried more than once…I wish I could have gone to all the shows they had!

After the planetarium show, I headed to the Field Museum, which houses Sue the T. Rex.  I was really excited for this museum, because natural history museums are so fun and interesting!  Unfortunately, I got there too late and the museum was closed.  Bummer!  I contented myself with this outdoor dinosaur, and debated about where to go next.


Navy Pier was the next thing on my list to see, and one of the only ones that was still feasible to do before the sun started to go down.  It was a little under two and a half miles up the lake from where I was, and such an enjoyable (if chilly) walk!


I walked a lot during my day…I started to map it out to see what my total distance was, but I did so much “wandering” in between attractions that I actually have no idea where I was all day!  On my way to the Pier, I saw Trump Tower from down the river, which was pretty cool.


I finally made it, and then realized I didn’t know what I was going to do there!  I decided to wander around to see what there was to see, and ended up at the Ferris wheel.  Being that I’m scared of heights, these things scare the bejeezus out of me.  I haven’t been on one since I was probably seven or eight years old because they make me cry.  Following the theme of the day, I somehow found myself buying a ticket and hopping on before I had given it a second thought.  I immediately regretted this decision when I was halfway up the first side…I spent the whole ride listening to the Frank Sinatra piping through the speaker in the car, hanging onto the side, and swearing like a sailor on leave.


It was not enjoyable in the least…I hated every second of it, and it cemented the idea in my head that Ferris wheels are the worst contraption known to man.  But I am happy that I can say I did it!  Riding the Ferris wheel didn’t bring the exhilaration with it that the Sky Deck at the tower did, but I’m happy to report I at least didn’t die, and I faced another fear in the process!

The sun was starting to go down at this point, which meant it was time to start the long walk back to my train.  I only got “lost” once, and I was pretty proud when I ended up back in an area of the city that I recognized from walking around earlier in the day!  I saw a few things up close and personal that I’d only seen from afar earlier:

The Chicago Theatre

Trump Tower

The end of the day was just as perfect as the beginning.  I rode the train to the hotel, grabbed a beer and a burger from the Bar Louie at my hotel, and fell asleep reading a book in bed.  Perfection!

My last hurrah before leaving town was a meet-up with a fellow Trash the Dress online support group member, Alyssa.  We’ve known each other in the group and been Facebook friends for a little while, but it was so lovely to meet in person and have breakfast with her and her daughter!  We had some pancakes, some laughs, and an overall great time.  That made me want to come back to Chicago just as much as all my sightseeing and fear-facing from the day before!


I learned a lot of things on this trip.  It’s the first time I’ve ever traveled completely alone, and it was amazing!

I learned that the best thing about traveling alone is that you can do what you want, when you want, and you don’t have to worry about what anyone else wants to do.  No more of this: “What do you want to do?” ‘I don’t care, what do you want to do?’

I learned that you can’t ever get lost if you aren’t going anywhere in particular.  If you have the chance, visit a new city and just wander.


I learned that living life is so much more fun if you aren’t trapped behind your smartphone/camera screen.  I snapped a few pictures and I checked my map a few times, but otherwise my phone was out of sight and out of mind the whole day.  I saw the scenery, I noticed the details, I did some people-watching, and I loved every minute of it!


Lastly, I learned that a rain coat is always appropriate travel attire…especially if your rain coat is green and it happens to be St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  You’ll fit right in!

Now…go have an adventure!

My new Huffington Post blog: 18 Inspirational Tattoos That Celebrate Divorce

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Trash the Dress members share their divorce tattoos. Read 18 Inspirational Tattoos That Celebrate Divorce on HuffingtonPost.

This is hope

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Trash the Dress member Diana is a mom!  She gave birth to this beauty, Scarlett Rose on March 3rd and happily reports,”She’s absolutely perfect!”  Diana continued, “I love her more than I imagined was possible. She has the best daddy ever, and he will become my husband in June. Without my divorce I would have never met the greatest man I never knew existed, and would have never had the opportunity to meet my daughter. There is SOO much life after divorce, just one step/day at a time.”

Congrats, Diana!

Ladies, let this photo inspire you during your divorce process. Your new life is just beginning.

Bling, Bling, Tara made a necklace out of her ring!

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Trash the Dress member Tara recycled her old jewelry into wearable gems. The photos above details how she upgraded her high school class ring with her wedding band and then had her engagement ring made into a pendant.

Love this idea!

Love yourself

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Where Are They Now? | Ashley’s Story

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In my book, “Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s,” young divorcees speak out about why they got married and divorced and how they celebrated their new beginnings. In our new “Where Are They Now?” column of this website, catch up with twenty-something divorcees as they share details of their fabulous post-divorce lives years later.


How old were you when you divorced? 28

How old are you now? 29

Do you feel like you truly moved on from your divorce?  If so, how long did it take you and what factors contributed?

I don’t think im 100 percent moved on. There are still a lot of triggers for me: cigarette smoke, the smell of liqour, and a couple other things, but I will definitely say I am in a much better place than I was when I was going through the divorce.

Is there anything you learned along the way that you wish you knew back then?

Listen to my gut. And as annoying as it was, to listen to people around me that had been divorced and knew deep down that I probably needed to get divorced.

 Have you accomplished any particular goals since your divorce?

Yes, I quit my job at a facility I was unhappy with and moved back home to CA with my daughter.

How did you manage financial struggles (if any)?

Luckily, I had help from my parents that fully supported my divorce and at the time I was making decent money.

 What were your biggest fears about divorce and how did you deal with them?

Being alone most definitely. I still have issue with it, but I’m learning day by day that it’s ok to go out and do things and be by myself while I do them. And going to therapy really helped

Did you divorce through a lawyer or did you DIY divorce (and if so, how?)

I luckily had a very very good and hardcore attorney. I hated that it had to be that way but my ex-husband made it very difficult for a while.

Are you living in your own place?

I used to, but leaving my career and going back to my home state I currently live with my parents.

Are you single or in a relationship?

Single!  I am definitely not ready for that yet.

How did you conquer post-divorce dating fears?

I haven’t started dating yet. I’m too worried that they will all be alcoholic abusers and that makes me sad that I feel that way.

Advice for new divorcees?

Stay strong. There is a reason that this is happening. Whether you are the divorcee or the divorcer, it’s in the plan for your life. You just have to hold on! And, in my opinion find a good therapist or counselor.

How are you celebrating post-divorce life?

Being me! Doing the things I like, eating the foods I like, and being the best mom I can be now that neither one of us are trapped by sadness.

Anything else you would like to add?

Divorce is a hard and scary thing, but it happened to me for a reason. I look back on my life before I got divorced, and my marriage was good in the beginning. But, then I started making changes that I thought would help my family–going back to college was one– and then everything started falling apart.  I’ll never know why because my ex-husband cannot give me an answer as to why he made certain choices. Please don’t mistake– I’m not totally innocent either– but the choices he made were way more detrimental than mine. Sometimes I wish I knew the answers, but then again, I think, maybe I dont need to know.  sSometimes that’s the best you can hope for.


Know your value

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Divorce Sucks! Find a Support Group.

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Before I found Joelle’s AMAZING Trash The Dress site, I was really struggling to find, well anyone, to talk to that could really relate to my divorce. All my friends were still in the dating game, and my parents have been happily married for 27 years. As wonderful and supportive as everyone was, no one fully got it.

Along my journey for my depression treatment I met a woman also going through a divorce. Someone in her circle suggested a local divorce support group at a church downtown. At first I thought she was crazy. No way would I go to a support group! First, I would be the youngest one there. Second, I would probably be ostracized because I’m 20 and getting and divorce. Like, really, what’s wrong with me? Third, I wouldn’t get anything out of it. I don’t have kids or martial property. What advice and support would I get that’s helpful?

Well, somehow I got talked into going. I grabbed myself a Starbucks and held my breath in as I walked into the church. Around me were historical and beautiful religious artifacts. I walked into the room and saw smiling faces of people much older than myself. I was told to write my name on a name-tag, fill out the contact info sheet, grab some coffee and a cookie, and take a seat. We sat in a circle and the facilitator, a licensed therapist, introduced the group, the brief rules (confidentiality, dating is discouraged, safe place, etc) and had some of the seasoned veterans of the group start by sharing their week. Then us newbies told our stories. It reminded me of groups I ran during my counseling internship in graduate school. Was this divorce AA?

I was picking at my cuticles, tapping my feet, and feeling the churn in my stomach. Was I next? I took a deep breath and the plunge and spoke. I told my story, in all of it’s honesty, good and bad, and waited for reactions. What was everyone going to think? The group smiled. The facilitator thanked me. A few people interjected and told me their relatable stories. They all said, “we are so happy you are here.” A wave of relief crashed over me. My body calmed and my heart rate lowered. I smiled. I was accepted. When group wrapped up, multiple people came up to me and thanked me for being so brave.

Since, I have gone to the group weekly. It’s my safe haven. And, although, many group members don’t know what it’s like to divorce so young, every divorce is different and every divorce is the same. We all have stories of betrayal, heartbreak, grief, anger, triumph, and healing. Although we all experience these facets, they are all slightly different for each of us. But we can attempt to make sense of it all and take baby steps towards healing by sharing our stories. So go for it. Find a local support group or join one online (shameless TTD plug). Tell your story. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 60, divorce sucks and somebody somewhere knows what stage of suckiness you are in.

A Tale of Divorce, Depression, and Discovery

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It’s really late and I still can’t sleep. My doctor would tell me to put down the coffee and stay away from the laptop screen, but the silence of sleeping scares me and my bed is big and empty. I scroll through pages and pages…young and divorced, divorce in your 20s, I do. I did. I’m done!…and on and on. There are two types of articles I stumble upon: 1) I’m an old blogger who writes about the downfall of the sanctity of marriage and how the internet and instant gratification is ruining America’s youth and 2) Badass chicks who found themselves, learned who they really are, and got sassy tattoos and epic vacations when their husbands peaced out. But there’s no articles about me, a 26 year old girl struggling with depression as long as she could remember whose husband left the marriage after two years telling her he never really loved her, and was having a relationship with a woman 20 years his senior. Where’s that damn article?

My ex and I met when I was 18, he 17. We actually met in study hall and went to prom together. After meeting him, for the first time, I felt love and worth. See, my entire life I’ve felt like nothing. I’m not sure when it started or where it came from. Nobody abused me. Nobody touched me. I suppose a combo of genetics, personality traits, and never feeling good or loved enough lead to a long history of mental health challenges.

When our relationship went full steam ahead, a whirlwind of co-dependency, jealousy, and control came forth. I needed him to silence all the self-abuse my mind hammered into me daily. You’re ugly. You’re fat. You’re stupid. You aren’t worth a damn thing. No one will ever love you. Oh wait! He does. Maybe you are okay. But neither of us recognized either of those issues because we were kids going on 40, moving into our apartment together after high school graduation and starting a joint checking account. We justified the insanity by saying how mature and ready we were for adult life. We didn’t need to make friends in college. No, no, we had each other and that’s all we needed.

Our marriage proposal wasn’t even that. I told him I wanted to get married so we went to the jewelry store that afternoon to purchase a ring. Now, the non-traditionalist in me said fuck norms and I can pick out my own ring, but that had nothing to do with it. After 5 years of dating, I needed marriage to bandage all the self-hate.  We got married. It was everything I wanted. On the outside it looked perfect. But behind closed doors no one knew that I wrote my and his vows. He refused to write them. He never told me I was beautiful on our wedding day. On our wedding night we didn’t have sex. I came up with so many excuses…he was nervous, he’s shy, he doesn’t know how to express his emotions, it was a long day…but they were just that, excuses.

We went on and continued as a married couple. We moved 3 hours away from home to start our big kids jobs. Our first year in the new city was great. We explored and experienced a diverse and liberal culture we only dreamed of. But once the exploring stopped, we looked at each other and no longer saw a married couple, but roommates. I asked for marriage counseling to help get that spark back. He refused and said nothing was wrong. He said he was just stressed with work.

And then everything stopped. No longer did I hear I love you. Affection was obsolete. Negative and hurtful comments were made about my weight, appearance, and above all things, my running routine and schedule. No matter what I did, I could never be good enough.

It started again. He was slowly tearing away the bandaid he once put on my self-hatred. Blood began to ooze out, so I put on more gauze, more excuses for the shitty behavior. One night, when I came home from work, his phone lit up with the words Love You! on the screen. I confronted him. He ripped the bandaid off, no warning, no soothing gel, no comforting phrases. A relationship was happening with this woman and he said he didn’t love me and never really did. After a few weeks of separation, accusals, fighting, screaming, begging, pleading, he asked for a divorce. The blood came.

My wound was gaping and each day he was gone salt was thrown into it. I couldn’t sleep for days. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t laugh, or even crack a smile. I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. My mind wouldn’t stop. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why is a woman, 43 fucking years old, better/sexier/prettier/smarter than me? I mean he’s in his early 20s and she’s married with kids! I’m worthless. I’m stupid. I have nothing left. My life is over. I’m nothing without him. I don’t want to go on without him…  

An unexpected, dear friend came to my side. He ended up moving in with me for a few weeks, living out of a backpack and laundry basket. We binge watched American Horror Story and cooked fancy dinners. He taught me to crochet and I made way too many scarfs. More importantly he was there to hold gauze over the wound until I saw the doctor. He never taped the gauze down, but held it until I could stand on my own feet and get the help I needed.  And in all actuality, I did see a doctor. I started receiving intensive treatment for my depression.

Eventually my hopeless thoughts stopped. I started eating. I slept. I learned that my pain was two fold: a grieving cycle over the end of a long term relationship and my self-hatred. During times of high distress I wasn’t able to distinguish the two. I would often think, my relationship ended because there was something wrong with me. But that isn’t true. My relationship ended. It just ended. It ended because it was a co-dependent abusive hot hot mess (and let’s be real…it wasn’t hot). It ended because he chose to start a relationship with another person before he ended the one with me. And more important than all that bullshit, I have so much worth and beauty that is completely separate from that relationship.

So what did I learn from my divorce? I suppose that’s how you are supposed to end these things. I learned that my worth isn’t defined by another person, but by what I believe and do. My beauty isn’t defined by a number or silhouette, but by my kindness, womanhood, smile, and eyes. If you look deeply in my eyes you’ll see flecks of gold embed in the brown. You’ll also see a story of a girl who is so very privileged, yet handed struggle after struggle to only learn she can and will overcome anything.  Although I can’t find a 20-something divorcee article that I can fully relate to, and have yet to get my freedom tattoo and vacation, I’m on my way. Maybe in a few months I’ll be a badass chick who found herself, but until then, I’m me, and I’m pretty fucking great.

9 Reasons Why Your Dog Should Be Your Valentine

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