I stumbled across Stephanie’s blog, A Life En Route, a while ago and to say I was blown away by her writing is a serious understatement. Stephanie has an absolutely incredible way with words that resonate with you so deeply, even if the specifics don’t apply to you. She makes you feel like you are reading about yourself. Or your best friend. Or your sister. You can’t help but become emotionally invested when reading her posts. She was kind enough to let me interview her and pose for some portraits and I feel SO lucky to have met her. She is deep, moving and sometimes serious in her writing - yet light, hilarious and so easy to talk to in person. Talk about multifaceted!
When did you begin writing?
I started writing in the summer of 2016. Privately. I had left a really emotionally abusive job and started to do more to invest in myself. When I started that self-care work, I realized there was so much about my life I needed to process. So I just journaled in my computer, usually buzzed on rose. I didn’t post my writing publicly until this past January, when I launched my blog.
You write with such a raw intensity and seem so self aware. Do you feel like writing allows you to have realizations or epiphanies about yourself?
Yes, of course. Most of the time when I sit down to write, I usually have an idea of what I want to say, because I have already had a realization. Either through talking to my friends or therapist, or from something I read. Once I have some big realization, there is something in my head I need to get out. And I usually just write out everything I think. If I think what I am saying has a point and it will relate to people, and I can tie it up nicely, then I share it. But sometimes, I just write to process what’s going on in my head and I can usually still come up with a “thesis” or tie it up nicely, which helps me think through the problems I am facing. Other times, I don’t come up with anything poignant to say and I just word vomit my stream of consciousness.
Who is a writer or blogger that resonates with you?
Glennon Doyle. I learned so much about myself and life and love reading her memoir, Love Warrior. It really changed me. That was the first time that I realized my story has value and I can create a platform for myself to share that story. I think she also has an incredible writing style and I really admire how she’s chosen to devote her time to anti-oppresion work now and is really trying to create a world with more love.
What is your goal for your writing?
I’ve had a lot of dark times in my life, when my self-worth was so low I didn’t think it mattered if I lived any longer. All of those times were caused by different life events, but what they all have in common is that I felt alone. I felt like no one loved me, there was no one like me or dealing with what I dealt with. My depression disconnected me from the world. So my goal for my writing is to let people know that they’re not alone. I want readers to connect with my experiences and emotions, not because I am exactly like them, but because we all have the same fears and insecurities and its what makes us human and beautiful, and how we can connect with others, which I believe is the only way to live an authentic and joyful life.
You’ve written about how you’ve always had something to say and that hasn’t always served you well in corporate America. What advice do you have for making your voice heard as a woman in the workplace?
Oh god. I wouldn’t be the right person to ask. I got fired from my last job. But maybe, know your self-worth. Start by knowing you’re amazing and talented and you are capable of excelling at your job, and that your point of view matters to the organization. Never doubt that. That was hard for me to realize because I got so much negative feedback and I believed it all of the time. So I didn’t have confidence.
From there, I would create boundaries with your workplace. Decide what kind and how much feedback is appropriate and if you find yourself in a place that you don’t feel amazing in - leave. Try to find another job. But also, don’t be afraid to go out on your own. I think we are seeing a huge increase in women entrepreneurs right now. Especially solopreneurs. Becuase I think a lot of women are sick of the bullshit we face in the workplace.
You write frequently about your love of travel. What is your favorite place you’ve visited and why?
Ah. I don’t know. Havana, Cuba was a big trip for me. It was scary because I was alone and there is no internet there. That trip probably pushed me the most. I’ve had the most fun partying in Berlin and Ireland. But Hawaii was obviously dope af. So beautiful and fun. Oh and Mexico City is fantastic!!! Gorg city and amazing food. Sorry, I can never choose one.
What advice do you have for a woman who wants to gather the courage to travel alone?
Do it. Just do it. It's not as bad as you think. Start small. Do a weekend trip to Montreal. Then take 4 days to Costa Rica.
Don’t worry about the language barrier. Everywhere is different of course, but so much of the world speaks english and even when they don’t you will figure it out. I promise. If you’re scared of getting lonely - just go for a short period of time and bring a lot of podcasts and books.
I guess safety wise, just be smart. Almost everywhere has Uber, so its safe to get around.When I travel alone, I don’t go out and party alone. I might go to a bar to have a drink alone and I usually meet a group of people who are also traveling and then I will go out party with them. But I don’t get nearly as drunk as I do here in Cleveland. I try not to be in vulnerable situations when I’m abroad. I don’t walk alone past 10/11 usually. If I go somewhere at those times, I take an uber directly to where I want to go. Other than that, just be smart. You’ll have fun!
Your post ‘How I Embraced Fear & Got Started’ is incredibly empowering and motivating. What is one piece of advice about overcoming fear and taking control of your life that you want people to leave with?
If you feel yourself wanting more out of life but don’t know where to start - start small. My first trip solo was on accident - my friends bailed, but I still really wanted to go. I took a really cheap flight with an 8 hour layover to Nicaragua, where I was only there for three days. It wasn’t the most glamorous trip. But I had a great time and it got me started. I realized after that I could travel alone and I started traveling more, doing longer trips, and it made me feel alive. A lot of times, we have an idea or a goal in our head but we’re scared or overwhelmed to start going for it because we have such picture perfect idea in our head. Try to forget that picture and just do something small in the same direction and grow from there.
You’ve written candidly about being a sexual assault survivor. How did you find the strength to tell your story?
I don’t know. I’ve spoken openly about my experiences with sexual assault throughout my adult life. Since telling my story on stage at Take Back the Night in college, it’s been fairly easy to speak about. After I got some momentum with my writing and saw the direction of my blog, I felt like that story was a natural fit. It just made sense. I understand that its different for everyone though and that’s certainly not the case for everyone. For me, it was very natural.
Was it therapeutic for your to get the words out?
Not exactly. Maybe writing the essay itself. Being assaulted is something I’ve been talking about in therapy for ten years so it didn’t change much for me. I am very grateful for everyone who reached out to me after to tell me how much it meant to them. It was less empowering and therapeutic than I anticipated because it brought up a lot of familial issues. My mom was not thrilled about it. My dad won’t speak to me now. Mostly, it was very painful to see the impact on my brother. We are extremely close and he was incredibly supportive of me posting this. He is the person I spoke to about it the most before I posted. He helped me think through all the implications. I asked him to read it before anyone else saw it. He had a really hard time reading it. There were a lot of details in there he didn’t know. Finding out what exactly happened to me and the implications it caused throughout my life, gave him a lot of pain, which I wish I could have prevented.
As a Cleveland transplant myself, I loved your post ‘What I Love and Loathe About Cleveland’. You say, “I love it. But I wont die here.” What city would you like to move to next?
New York City has been my goal since I was seven years old. I applied to colleges there, but didn’t get in. I’ve applied to so many jobs there since graduating undergrad in 2011. I think I’ve been there like 8 times for an interview, but I never get the job. I am still somewhat hopeful I will get there someday, but not so sure at this point. That’s the only place domestically I would move if I left Cleveland. I would also welcome any international opportunity too!
If people are just coming to your blog for the first time, which post would you like them to read first?
I probably get the most love for ‘How I Embraced Fear & Got Started’, which makes sense. It’s a great essay. It’s the first thing I wrote that wasn’t written like a journal entry. But I think Daydream Dating gives a lot of insight into how I think about dating, sex, love, and myself. I actually think I was more nervous to post Daydream Dating than any other essay. And I really love it. I think its very illustrative, relatable, and vulnerable.
Where can people follow you online to read more of your work?
Now for some quick, lighter questions:
Favorite binge worth tv show: OMG SO MANY. But probably Veep is what I have on the most.
I wish I could swap lives with: Any of those Mormon mommy bloggers like Amber Fillerup or Taza. Except without the kids. So maybe, Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam.
My biggest fear is: being ordinary
5 things always in my bag: Not counting my phone/wallet because that’s boring. A notebook and colored pens for my to do lists and random ideas that hit me. The book I am reading. NYX matte lip gloss (favorite colors Budapest and Rome). Marlboro lights.An emergency medicine container with ibuprofen, imodium, etc.
Place I’m dying to visit: Vietnam
Woman that inspires me: Michelle Obama
Thank you SO much to Stephanie for taking the time to answer my million, fangirl questions! Go to her blog NOW and get sucked into her writing!
All photographs by myself, Caroline Pivovar. You can find more of my work or session inquiry information at www.cgrecodesign.com.