Wow, I turn 30 in less than a week, and while some people may have heartburn about a milestone like this, I am taking it in stride. I think it’s important to reflect because it helps you appreciate the things that happen in the future, and allows you to do a bit of personal inventory, to take care of the things that matter to you. I thought that it would be fun and heartwarming to share some pivotal moments of my 20s because these years have truly shaped me. I think those close to me may have chosen other moments, but who’s telling the story here? 🙂
Harsh reality. Spring 2007, I learned that I was being kicked out of SJSU. Yeah, I’ve never made that public before and I hope I don’t regret admitting it now. I don’t even think my closest friends at the time knew. I mean, how the hell could I admit that when I was supposedly keeping up with everyone else? How did it happen? Well, I got my first taste of freedom and guzzled that down. I was so happy to be away from home, and trying to avoid the grief over my mother’s death. I didn’t throw a pity party. I did cry a little, but I accepted what I allowed to happen, and worked HARD in my summer classes to get reinstated for the fall. I’m pretty sure I told my grandmother that I was working on some “preparatory program for my department,” which in a weird way, I guess I was because I started my junior year a few days after my 20th birthday taking all classes for my major and kicked ass. My hard work was recognized by my professors later down the line.
Bars were great and all, but the best thing about being 21 was Barack Obama’s presidential win. He won two months and two weeks after my 21st birthday. The next day the Journalism and Mass Communications department announced that they would be going to the Inauguration via a road trip along the Civil Rights Trail. I applied, and I prayed that I would be selected. Then it happened. I got called in to talk about my application and as I knew I would, I had to address the grade thing. I explained and shared the promise to myself. My hard work was validated and I was accepted. If at that time you would’ve told me I’d be representing our school live at CNN Atlanta, I would’ve called you a liar. But it happened, and a level of self-doubt went away forever. I got to witness history with 10 of my classmates in the freezing cold with a million others and the news packages we produced, plus written works and lectures following earned us all the Dean’s Award. What I wouldn’t do for a chance to do it all over again.
I graduated college on my grandmother’s 86th birthday, and four months later, I said goodbye to her. I don’t think I was fully ready for how my life was going to change. Unlike my mother, my grandmother and I had planned every detail of her funeral and arrangements, from the casket to the flowers to the hat she’d be buried in. She wanted it to be easier for me than when we were scrambling with my mother, and in many ways it was, but damn, it really tore me up. Even when my mother was alive, my grandmother and I had a special relationship and while I’ve learned to survive without my mother since she’s been gone longer, I miss my grandma in a completely different way, every day. And she told me I would! She told me, “Kachet, you’re going to cry. You’re going to cry a lot. But that’s okay. I’ll always be there.” Yup. I did cry a lot, and still do. She was right.
This was my post college “slump” and this was the most broke time of my life, but as I sit here and type this, I can’t say that I was unhappy. It really is about how you spend your time, and who you spend it with. I worked two jobs that didn’t equate to full time at $11/hr. No benefits. I had no financial backing from family. I was able to hold an apartment on my own with a rent of $525 (Sac folks – it’s near South and The Coconut and now rents for $1100, go figure). I was able to stay well clothed with a combination of Target and Salvation Army finds, and I was able to keep my belly full. Because of these times, I know that I can live off of a $50 trip to Grocery Outlet and the Farmer’s Market every two weeks.
Guess what I started doing when I was 24. I started blogging as The Lipstick Giraffe with no pictures, just words. About three months later, I started a “Fashion Friday” series where I would share a killer deal that I found thrifting or on the sale rack. That was the beginning and before I knew it, I was a Closet Case. I remember the excitement and pride I had when I first started blogging. I still have it, but the taste is different now. It was solely to fill my time when I was home from work. I couldn’t afford cable and that was before smart TVs and Chromecast’s. If I wasn’t watching a DVD, I was blogging. There was something so pure about creating content in the early days that I treasure and hope to get back in the coming months (don’t cheat and go to 29).
I spent my 25th birthday in Cherokee, North Carolina with my new boss (and still a friend of mine) on a work trip after starting my job at BBDO San Francisco a week before. I was so nervous I could barely stand it, especially since I was still trying to make a good impression. The final stop was New Orleans for a shoot and I ate, drank and danced my face off with my team and client. I’ll never forget how on the day we went home, I overslept and had 20 minutes to shower, pack and head to the airport with my art director, and I’m pretty sure I was still drunk from our night on Frenchmen Street. I couldn’t believe it was real life, and in hindsight, it was a great way to “start” my career at a big shop. I ended up learning SO MUCH about advertising, branding, and production working there (SO MUCH!) and met one of my best friends ever. 25 was a good year.
Not that I wanted to make this about birthdays, but my 26th birthday is memorable for two reasons: one, I had a huge birthday party that was hosted by a very loving family and two, I invited my father to come, which was really hard for me given that I shut him out of my life for years prior. It was a big step for me, and I was in an environment where I felt supported enough to take it. Thank God I took it. I moved back to Sacramento a few months later.
This was the year when I really got a glimpse at what The Lipstick Giraffe could be. After coming home, in my mind, I finally started to “get established” in different areas of my life. While working as a marketing manager for DSP, I was asked by a partner of ours if I offered styling services. I gave a long explanation, not a simple yes or no because I didn’t think I could hack it. Fast forward months later, and I styled my first job for Macy’s and have been an active vendor with them ever since. By representing their brand on TV, I have been able to parlay that experience into many of my brand pitches.
What couldn’t be seen behind those wins was that my heart was crumbling like crumb cake! A long term relationship finally ended, and I couldn’t stop crying for months. I don’t know if I cried harder because it was over, or that I allowed myself to be in that situation for years. Only later did I realize that it was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me: I was finally awake after being in cruise control for so long. It opened me up to the possibility of loving again, and that I did. I met CJ at the midpoint of 27 and our relationship is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Just a couple months shy of turning 28, I launched my freelance business and learned more about myself than I could’ve imagined. I learned that if there is no way, I will make a way. I also learned that I do not work well without being surrounded by people. I learned that it is hard for me to separate emotions from business and that I can’t do everything alone. CJ and I also moved in together this year, which meant that a lot of change was happening fast. I wanted everything that was happening, more than anything I did, but I realize now that I should’ve taken my time. Sometimes you can get caught up in the excitement and all of the possibilities, but the fact remains that you have to do the work, you have to lay the foundation, or your little mansion will fall. Sometimes you have to say no to say yes later.
This has been a boss year in every area of my life, and I am so grateful to be in this space. I can’t believe it’s happened. I formalized my business with the help of Trevor Carson. I went to Alt Summit and cultivated friendships and brand partnerships that have taken me to another level. I started an organization for others like me in Sacramento, when we didn’t have a place before. I expanded my styling business and make the scary decision a few weeks ago to resign from my current freelance clients to open myself to more projects and opportunities that play into my personal brand. I’ve even fallen deeper in love. Interestingly enough, CJ and I have lived separately since December 2016 and our relationship has only grown. I’m not going to act like we don’t have bad days. There are moments when I can’t stand him, and I know he feels the same about me. 😉 But, what we have now that we didn’t have before is a greater appreciation for each other (as individuals), respect, and better communication. We laugh at the fact that we had a few hiccups this time last year, and we both never want to get there again.
Now that I’ve shared so much about my 20s, I’ve realized something. I think the most pivotal moment of them all is the fact that finally, after years of struggling, I really like who I’ve become, and I’m looking forward to learning more about me in the coming years. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time out to walk down memory lane with me. 🙂
Photos by Mae Batista