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The Best Changes We’ve Ever Made

  • Allison: Changing My Hair Color

    I was blonde for the first 25 years of my life. My hair is also very curly. This combination is swell on children and cherubs, but on a grown woman it invites comparisons to Shirley Temple and Cabbage Patch Kids. Not cool. (You might think that a person would eventually outgrow these things, but I assure you that a person does not.) When I was twenty-five, I saw a colorist and said one single, glorious word: Chocolate. Being a dark brunette changed my life and how people perceive me. No one has asked me to sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” since.

  • Renae: Made Time for the Things I Love

    One of the best changes I ever made wasn’t really a change at all; it was a journey back to things I love. Shortly after I graduated from college, I moved to Washington D.C., where everybody was a young professional and everybody wanted to change the world. I, too, wanted to change the world, but after a few months of being there and working at a human-rights NGO, I realized that not only was I far from “professional,” but I also wasn’t going to do myself or anybody in the world any good if I wasn’t acting from a place of inspiration and joy (I know, I know, get Oprah on the line). For me, that meant making art and carving out time to enjoy others’ creative endeavors—things I hadn’t had the time for during college. So I moved back to Northern California, got a far less prestigious job at a coffee shop, and allowed myself to decompress. I relearned how to paint and I taught myself how to bind books, crochet, and silkscreen. I read books that had been on my list for years but had always intimidated me and I found writers whose brilliance and silliness inspired me. In this time, I learned what it is that makes me tick. Now I know that whenever I’m feeling stuck or disconnected, I know it’s time for me to break out the paints, sewing machine, or pen and make a big ol’ ridiculous mess.

  • Amy: Broke Up with a Great (But Not Right) Guy

    Breakups are never easy, but they’re especially painful when you can’t fall back on self-righteous anger to propel you out of a stale, unhealthy, or otherwise “not-right” relationship. When you have to tell someone you love there’s something crucial, yet indefinable missing, all while not being totally sure you even know what it is, you’re left to deal with a whole cocktail of emotion: guilt, sadness, dread, fear. I approached my last breakup knowing full well that while it was the right thing to do, I was also leaving a wonderful person who loved me in a way I had never experienced before or since. It was perhaps the first grown-up (read truly hard) decision I had ever made. I finally pulled the plug on the dying relationship right around New Year's 2010, which afforded me a fresh start that ultimately led to the kind of independence and happiness I always sought. A couple months later, I moved, got promoted in my job, and generally felt enthusiasm about life. It’s possible that those things could not have happened while with the wrong person.

  • Devon: Moved Across the Country

    Little changes in life can make all the difference. I, however, don’t roll this way. If I’m going to color my hair, I must go from black to blonde (it’s been done). Get a haircut you say? Sure! I’ll chop off eight inches (this is no joke). And the same is true for the big decisions in my life. With graduation came the time to find a job and somehow try to leap into a whole new era of my life, filled with nothing but change. And leap I did—from New Jersey to San Francisco. Moving out west was by far the best—and most extreme (although going blonde was pretty intense)—change I’ve made in my life. There’s no denying it gets hard at times, but the new experiences, friends, and memories I make trump any homesickness that may peek in now and then.

  • Rebecca: Prioritized Travel

    Combine a career spent mostly at start-ups (hello, underpaid) and the constant fear of being laid off with an inability to save and you end up with a person scared to spend money on travel—me. But six years ago, I watched my most broke friend take a spectacular six-country vacation. I learned that travel was not optional for her; it was as vital a line item on her personal budget as rent and food. I decided then and there that if she could do it, so could I. I sold my car. I stay out of malls. And lunch is often a two-dollar taco. (I have three.) But I’ve surfed in Indonesia, I’ve lounged on the Côte d’ Azur, and I’ve eaten a lobster roll in Maine—and it’s all been worth every pair of cute shoes I didn’t buy.

  • Amy: Chopping Off My Hair

    I like to punctuate life transitions with makeovers. And no transition or makeover has been as extreme as celebrating my impending college graduation by chopping my long locks into a sophisticated bob. At the time, the short, sassy ‘do seemed to mentally prepare me for the next chapter in my life as much as my degrees did.

  • Rebecca: Started Bikram Yoga

    I used to put people who practiced yoga in the same category as healing crystals and forehead headbands. But when my knees started to routinely hurt, I abandoned the treadmill and signed up for a Bikram yoga class. At the end of ten hot, humbling classes, I felt amazing and I’d dropped ten pounds—I was sold. Two years later, I still practice four days a week and the benefits keep coming: I’m rarely sick, my body is stronger than it’s ever been, and I even have (a tiny bit) more patience and focus. (Okay, not much.) Every day is still humbling (are there really people who can do the standing splits?), but I don’t mind because it could be worse; I could be wearing a forehead headband.

  • Katie: Moved Out of My Parents' House

    After college, moving back home was the rational thing to do. I was broke, jobless, and homeless. The first few months back home were pleasant. I had a fully stocked fridge full of tasty foods for my consuming pleasure, a washer and dryer that wasn’t coin-operated, and best of all, my loving parents didn’t make me pay rent. Not too shabby. But something about living at home made me feel like I was waiting in limbo between youth and adulthood. Maybe it was the stuffed animals on my bookshelves or the drawers filled with clothes I long outgrew or my mom’s regular maternal nagging (apparently my flip-flops are destroying my feet and I will not be able to walk by age 40, but only if my Red Bull addiction doesn’t kill me first). As months turned into a year and my bank account grew thanks to a new job, I decided to make the biggest change of my life and flee my nurturing nest for good. I put my apartment hunting in overdrive and a mere few months later was settled into a cute apartment in the heart of North Beach in San Francisco. So here I am, in the real world, paying my own bills, doing my own grocery shopping—all those fun things. I know that growing up involves more than moving out, but this transition was certainly a great start.

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