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14 September 2010

The 14th of September, 2005

Ep30_carrie This day has come and gone many times over the years, and I never really notice. To be precise, it's happened five times, and for some reason, I've either ignored it, or simply not remembered. 

I suppose part of the reason I ignore the 14th of September is because it's easy to make it about something it's not. But it must be said that this day isn't the anniversary that I broke up with an ex-boyfriend - it's the day the rest of my life started. 

September 14, 2005 started like any other day. I don't remember much about the morning, but I can tell you that my boyfriend at the time had the day off, and I didn't have to work until 3 or 4 as I was working the closing shift at the Starbucks store I was a manager at. 

I wore a pink tank top and a brown zip-up sweatshirt that had flowers stitched on it. I think I had a dangly pink beaded necklace. Jeans. Probably my favorite pair of JCrew flip-flops were on my feet.

I had an appointment with my therapist at 1 or 1:30. 

My ex-boyfriend and I had spent the previous week or so fighting. Proper fighting. Screaming and wailing until the wee hours of the morning kind of fighting - or rather, it was me that was screaming and crying while my Chihuahua puppy bit at my fingers and anything else she could find around me. I was at my wits end. 

I had worked very hard over the last two years not only on our relationship, but specifically in the last year, I had spent a lot of time on myself. Healing wounds, working through issues...I was finding myself. Sure, it was costing me $35 in co-pay every time I paid a young psychologist named Laurie to help me find myself, but it was worth every single penny. 

And because I had worked so hard on myself, I was realizing where there were major, horrible holes in my relationship. Holes that I could't fix, but that the other person in the relationship could...and he refused. Refused to seek help for his issues, refused to see that there was a problem, and on and on and on. 

I had come up with every creative solution for these issues and problems that I could. Therapy. Self help books. A vacation. God. Medication. Screaming. All of which I was met with a resounding NO. So when I got in his car that morning and promptly sat on a meditation CD that "Jen" at work had suggested would help him with his "stress", I wanted to take out the CD, break it in half, and then stab him repeatedly in the face with it. 


I managed to not stab him with a CD on the way to the bookshop (the only thing to do where I used to live) and later,  as we walked through the aisles of books, me sucking down a Frappaccino of some sort, I saw Dr. Phil's beady little eyes staring at me from one of the shelves. And then the words Relationship Rescue. 

"Hey - what about this?" I was serious. But more to the point, I was desperate. 

I was met with laughter and a roll of the eyes. Yes, the guy who was willing to listen to a meditation CD in his car for his "stress" was laughing at Dr Phil and my suggestion that we buy a book to save us. Because Jen's suggestion of light percussion and the hum of wind chimes makes so much more sense.

It was then that I knew my appointment with my therapist was going to be an interesting one. And boy, was I right. 

Fast forward to a couple hours later, I'm sitting in my therapist's comfy armchair, and the words "You're going to break up with him, aren't you?" send me into a full blown panic attack. I'm heaving, sobbing, hysterical, and on the verge of passing out. I actually saw stars.

I drive back to our apartment, walk in the door and announce that I'm moving out. 

"You mean I'm going to have to be alone?"

I grab a bag, my dog, and my car keys...and I'm gone. I call in sick for work. 

I move back home. 

Although technically, this wasn't "home" as I had never lived in this house before. My mom and my stepdad and my sister moved in a couple years prior, and I moved in with my boyfriend. At 18, it seemed like a good idea.  At the time, it made sense. 

I felt sick. Sick, hollow, scared. Wondering how I could possibly be so upset, so devastated about something...and yet, have it be self-inflicted and within my own best interest. I knew this was the right decision. I was giving up cold turkey, and voluntarily going through the withdrawals because I knew it was right. 

That night, my sister and I went to Target and Best Buy. 

I bought season one of Sex and the City, a Fiona Apple CD, a blanket for my new/old bed, and some snacks. We sat up and watched a couple of episodes. I had some toast, and that's all I would eat for a long while. 

And then it was just me and my dog. In a house I had never lived in. A house with it's own issues and standards and ways of functioning I wasn't aware of until then. I didn't know it's creaks and cracks. I couldn't find my way around in the dark. But there I was. A bag, me, some DVDs, a new blanket and a Chihuahua. 

Where was I going to live? What was I going to do? Who was I going to be?

I knew nothing. I had no idea. 

But this day - the day that I was brave, and sad, and scared and freaking the fuck out - changed the rest of my life. I became free this day. Independent. I sent myself back to my parents house, free from both rent and freedom, to figure my shit out. 

That was five years ago.

Shortly after, on September 21st I got my very first laptop that was my very own. I can remember the date, because I remember fawning over my new Dell while there was an emergency landing going on at LAX on all the news channels.

This laptop was so important because I knew I needed it if I was ever going to stop this barista crap and become a writer. 

From that night on, my sister and I would sit up until late with our laptops in the living room, watching episode after episode of Sex and the City. If we ran through a season, I'd buy the next one. My goal was that by season six, I would be OK with all of this. I would have a plan.

I became obsessed with what I would be. A new city to live was my number one focus. For a while, I thought that my next move would be Napa. I was a coffee master for Starbucks (for real, I even still have my black apron), so the quest to become a sommelier made sense. Coffee and wine aren't all that different...

Or maybe I would rethink going to college in Hawaii, and pick up where I left off two years ago? They have Starbucks in Hawaii, my Uncle lives there...

I'd lay awake dreaming and panicking over my future. I'd smoke cigarettes listening to Cash and Presley and wonder why I never became a country music singer. Maybe I could still be June Carter. Maybe I could take surfer lessons and be Gidget. Maybe my Chihuahua and I would move to LA...never mind that I don't really like it there. 

The reality was, there was nothing for me where I was living. Not really. Nothing I wanted. Nothing that would challenge me. I knew if I stayed where I was, a future of unhappiness, studio apartments and shitty roommates awaited me. 

I wanted to write. I wanted to travel. I wanted to be loved and love properly, fiercely. And it killed me that the most creative things I was making on a daily basis were wet lattes and soy cappuccinos....

September 14th is the day I broke out. Broke away. I broke up with my old life...made myself uncomfortable enough in a safe situation to figure my shit out..

I'm sharing all this because I've had a hard time measuring things, lately. Measuring success, growth, and achievement...I don't really know what they look like. I don't know how I personally measure these things in my own life. Which is a problem. But I do know that you can't measure these things without understanding what fuels them, what motivates them....

So I've been retracing my steps. 

Once upon a time I had 17 people subscribe to my blog on Myspace. I thought this was a really big deal. At one point, after noticing these people were from different countries, I refereed to myself as "the International Funny Girl" and died laughing. 17 whole people were reading my dribble on Myspace! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! 

I barely knew what a blog was. HTML boggled my mind ("Myspace templates are so confusing!!!!"). I couldn't get on Facebook as I didn't go to college. I had never been to Europe. For god sake, I was only on season two of Sex and the City. I had never before heard of a canapĂ©, and actually had no idea what a real Cosmo tasted like. 

The best part is, however, there's nothing I wish to say to the 20-year-old Me from five years ago. She did everything right. She did the best she could. And without her, I wouldn't be here...sitting in my cramped office in my flat in England...surrounded by stacks of press releases, lookbooks, samples, business cards, lanyards from conferences, and gadget after gadget after gadget, and a half-drunk cup of tea.

Part of me never wants to see how far I've come, as I don't want to get too impressed with myself. I don't want to accept that I've earned a certain level of success and accomplishments through fear that I'll get lazy, comfortable, and complacent. However, working myself into the ground and brushing off the compliments, feedback, or mirrors people try to hold up to show me where I am...who I am....it hasn't really worked. 

I'm trying to understand where I am now, in my own life - not the Internet, not Twitter, not through lists, numbers, Retweets, "friends" or the unfollowed - and how far I've come. I think appreciating that will help me understand where I am, what brought me here, and how that same thing can take me even farther.

The last 1800-odd days have been incredible. Hopefully I can continue to see them for what they are. 


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It really is incredible, and you should be very proud of yourself. For the next five years, start with thinking about what success should look like to you, and how it will feel. It's really the next level of what you did five years ago. I hope you enjoy it!

Really inspiring x

I really love this post. I just started reading your blog maybe two days ago? And this is exactly the kind of thing I needed to get me thinking. Thanks!

Cate this is truly inspiring! As I said to you on Friday night, I really admire all that you have accomplished. Its amazing how one day, one moment can completely change your life. Sometimes I wonder if I've already had that one day and missed my window or if that moment is still waiting in the wings. You write so beautifully and are such an inspiration. Take that moment to look at what you have accomplished b/c I highly doubt you would ever let yourself get lazy!

You kick ass Cate. And it all started with a big leap into the unknown. x

I love you, Boo.

And if it didn't sound patronizing, I would say I am proud of you for living your dreams and aspirations successfully.


we are seriously long lost sisters. I broke free of a horribly unhealthy and abusive relationship around the same time, just before coming to Paris (and meeting hubby). Fiona Apple was the only person that got me through 3 years of yelling, screaming and lying (of course, it wasn't me lying) and episodes of Sex and the City gave me hope.... then there's the whole Starbucks factor we have in common, but that's another story.

It's amazing to look back on all we've accomplished since making a change for the better and I don't know about you, but that whole mess of a relationship seems like it happened to someone else.

You needed him to get to where you are now, as I needed my loser to get where I am. Thanks for sharing your story!

V interesting and inspiring lady! I'm gutted you're only 25 - you certainly look it but with how much you've achieved I was sure you must be older! *feels old* ;)

I don't know what to say except that you are a writer. A real one. Your narrative and words in this piece are so vivid and persuasive that it brought tears to my eyes. You've made me feel emotional on a Wednesday morning at work...
Write a book! Now!

What a post. Thanks for sharing CS, it's tough to write things like that - really tough - but you've done it with honesty and a heck of ca lot of class.

Thank you for this post. 14th September is a big deal for me but for a different reason. 14th September would have been my Dad's birthday but he died 3 years ago. Every year, on his birthday, I sit and think about him and wonder if he'd be proud of the steps I'm taking towards finding my own life and my own voice.

I admire your post tremendously as it takes an enormous amount of courage to step away from something familiar, however uncomfortable it seems to be and to give yourself real goals and dreams and to take baby steps you think will never end towards a goal that sometimes seems to far away.

I really hope you reach your goal, and never give up hope of finding it.

Truly inspsiring and so very much sounds like my life/relationship status right now.... wow...... Part of me wants to print this out and keep reading this for inspiration and motivation..


I've always been slightly suspicious of women called Jen. Seriously though, it's good to celebrate new beginnings. Even if it takes something bad for you to realise they need to happen.

So inspiring, Cate. Thanks for sharing - I think you'll hit a nerve with many women (and men) who make tough decisions and dare to dream. I totally empathise with your difficulty in quantifying 'success,' but hope you can be as proud of yourself as I'm sure your friends, family and followers are...

You guys, thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I really appreciate your feedback, and the fact that you even read what I put on this blog.

I want to respond to all of you individually...but I'm feeling a bit at a loss for words.

So, for now, THANK YOU. xxxx

Thanks for sharing lady. You do, indeed, kick ass.
The 17th October is my change date.
Mine was also 5 years ago - at aged 29 I had a nervous breakdown. My endometriosis, ridiculously unbalanced relationship, part time MA and senior role in a design agency all took its toll. As I realised the panic attacks were getting worse, the bf told me I was going nuts - helpful. He also fell in love with our ballet dancing friend as I lost my mentalitu - also helpful. At least fall for a heffer?!
Anyways, in a month I lost my job, substantial income, my mind, my boyfriend and my warehouse living London Fields pad.
I went to live with my dad and stepmum, and had to literally learn to leave the house on my own again.
A lot of fags were smoked, a lot of tears cried, and I was homeless, unemployed and broken.
Fast forward to now, and I have my own successful business, 2 beautiful daughters and an amazing partner who loves me for who I am, broken bits and all.
Leap and the net will appear so they say, and the darker times are often the crossroads to amazing new possibilities.

Mwah xx

Jo. I LOVE YOU. I got all goose-pimply and teary eyed reading that. I just love you. xx

Mind-blowing. Seriously.

You just made me cry. At work. Thank you for your text, it's powerful and incredible.

you are a great writer.


It was so nice to read this post. I have the same issues and at times I feel really alone. I've wanted to write a post like that for a long time, but I could never put it into words. Thank you for such a great read.

Leila xx

Hi lovely,
I felt moved to write my '05 story today too.

Big up to changing lives :)


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