WhyDid Wisdom: Paris 102, A Guide for the Intermediate

By |October 15th, 2017|WhyDid Wisdom|

kirsten smith paris france

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein…

I imagined myself penning some of my best work eating oysters and sipping muscadet at La Closerie de Lilas.  Instead, I write this in an airport lounge.

I’ve fallen in love many times.  Sometimes serious.  Sometimes fleeting.  Sometimes it was merely the love of an idea.  Sometimes it was truly and painfully to the core.  This time I had fallen in love with not a person, but a place.

paris perfect rentals

It had happened the first time three years ago as I’d wandered through the avenues and rues, across the Pont Nuef and traversed the Tuileries.  I’d never set foot in this city before, but I, a usually timid and overly cautious individual, had marched along like I owned the place.  It was like meeting someone who you felt you already knew.  Maybe in a past life, maybe on another plane.  Sure, it’s trite to say you fell in love with Paris.  Who hasn’t fallen in love with the city of lights?   Every young woman, poet, and romantic alike has been seduced by the city and the Seine.


I fell in love with the dark meandering streets.  Quiet and empty always before two am, full of mystery of what “might be.”  Looking up at the windows of buildings still lit.  Imagining what the going’s on of the current occupants.  Wondering what their lives were like.

And I fell in love with the light– even on days the locals complained of grey, I was captivated by the way the Lutetian limestone buildings always managed to cast a golden glow.  Very different from the grey days in Manhattan where one can’t tell the difference between dusk or dawn.

I fell in love mostly with the discovery of something new at every turn.  A giant door propped open just enough so you could see the building tuckedbehind it.  An intricately carved column prettier than art in most museums.  A hidden garden held captive by ancient iron gates.  There was always something new to see and experience so long as you were open to it.  I felt like I had finally found a place, a city, a home.  Somewhere I was safe.  Somewhere I was understood.


I fell in love with a man like this once.  I also had felt as if I’d known him long before the first time I looked into his brown eyes.  He was familiar to me though I hardly knew him.  It was the same sensation I’d experienced walking the streets of Paris.  I hadn’t needed a map.  And should I get lost, I didn’t mind.  I’d find my way back and enjoy the unexpected surprises as I did.  I immediately felt he understood me much the way Paris had.  I didn’t need to be anything different than I was.  Moody, romantic, daydreaming in a field of flowers.  He seemed as amused by me as the city, itself, had been amusing to me.


But who hasn’t fallen in love?  It’s easy to fall in love with any new place be it Madrid or Marrakesh, Stefan or Stephanie.  There is mystery in the unfamiliar, so I decided to test my love.

Whizzing through museums packed with masterpieces only once seen in high school history books, eating at cafés where famed writers once took their afternoon apéros, gazing at the twinkling lights reflecting off the Seine.  Anything can feel romantic, special, and captivating in small doses.  Everything can feel like magic when it’s not your reality.


So, I stayed.  I stayed much longer than I should have.

I spent time alone, writing in brasseries while I waited for the rain to stop, trying to make human connections where I hardly spoke the language.

I wanted to see what it was like once the magic wore off.  I wanted to know how I would feel in the morning when I woke up alone, realizing it all was only a partial reality.  You see, it’s quite simple and slightly selfish to think that something is special to us and only to us.  A city, a person, a song, a smell.


What makes love of a city, a person, a song, a smell different to some than others is the willingness to stick things out.  To accept the rainy mornings, the sleepless nights, the frustrations, the setbacks, all after the magic has worn off.  Then and only then will you know– when the golden glow is gone, that you are in love.


 Dress: Reformation, Apartment: Paris Perfect  


WhyDid’s Words: Alice in Dreams

By |September 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|


She came to me in my dreams one night.  A tiny little thing with big blue eyes and long flaxen hair.  She looked like a real life Alice in Wonderland.

She plopped herself down haphazardly in the chair across from me.  We were in a cafeteria.  It reminded me of my highschool.  She looked me straight in the eyes and blinked a couple of times before saying anything.  She began to speak and then giggled.


“You know none of this is real, right?”

“What isn’t?” I asked, confused.

“This!” she nearly shouted as she threw her little arms above her head.

I looked at her puzzled and she frowned in frustration.

“What don’t you understand?  All this stuff you worry about doesn’t really even matter.  It’s absolutely absurd!” she laughed, eyes wide.


I continued to stare at her in half amusement, half disbelief.  She was turning around in her chair– left and right, looking at everyone around us as if sizing up each person in the room.  A man then walked by us, he looked like an authority figure (remember, this is just a dream).  The little blonde held her hand up to him in the gesture of a high five.  He smiled and met her hand with his own.  She turned back around to me.

“See?  It’s all absolutely ridiculous and the sooner your realize that, the happier you’ll be.”

It didn’t occur to me until after rubbing my sleepy eyes that morning that the little blonde was me.  Me before I had ever worried about all of the things I do today.  Me before I forgot that life is totally absurd.


WhyDid’s Words: Morning Glory

By |August 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|


She rarely slept past 5am.  Sometimes it felt as if she’d lived an entire day before nine in the morning.  She wasn’t sure if it was the thin blinds she’d installed to block the early morning summer sun or the lucid dreams that left her feeling emotional long past opening her pretty blue eyes.  Maybe she was still living in a different time zone from a lifetime passed.  Maybe she just loved the solace of the dawn.  Maybe her golden hour happened hours before what others deemed it to be.

Whatever it was, it was the only time of day she truly felt completely alone.  Entirely disconnected from the outside world.  But that was her time.  It was her favorite time.  She knew most people would consider her odd.  By society’s standards she was odd, but that wasn’t something that bothered her.  She cherished that.


No one ever knew why she was tired, but no one would ever know the magic of her morning hours.

WhyDid’s Words: Happily in Your Head

By |August 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|


“You see,” she said, “the problem with being a hopeless romantic with an active imagination is that you turn everyone into a storybook character. That asshole with reckless tendencies who keeps you on the hook? He becomes a brooding sensitive artist type with insecurities who is in love with you but is just ‘scared.’ He speaks in riddles so as to leave everything open to interpretation.”


A wind blew the picnic blanket up knocking over a striped paper cup of prosecco and spilling it onto the already wilting salad.  She dabbed at the bubbling puddle with a gingham cloth napkin then tossed it back into the wicker basket once realizing her efforts were in vain.  She looked back up, eyes clear.

“Suddenly the damsel becomes the heroine. The princess who should be fought for gets busy trying to save all these half assed imaginary characters.  She’s confused the villains for the white knights, the fire breathing dragon for Prince Charming.  And instead of a ‘happily ever after’ she’s left with her own tragedy.  One nobody can write her out of but herself.  Unless, of course, she wants to spend all of eternity locked in a tower with seven dwarfs and a singing candlestick.”


Her friend laughed out of courtesy because it was the truth.

The intended audience stabbed at a chunk of tomato with a plastic fork and took a deep breath wondering if she’d been constructing her own fairytales in her head well past the days of dress up and jungle gyms.

“Listen, you are a fairy princess.  We all see it– and I’m not talking about your fairy princess hair and flowy dresses.  You’ve got the biggest heart and maybe that’s your problem.  You can’t seem to accept that sometimes people are just– bad, so you find the tiniest sliver of goodness in them and focus on that– which, as I say it doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but that’s why you get hurt, bamboozled, left in the damn dust scratching your pretty little head.

You can’t rewrite real life and you can’t fix everyone– well, my spiritual adviser would correct me there, but… anyway, sometimes an evil stepmom is an evil stepmom and a flying monkey is just that.”


The wind picked up again and the hammock began to swing.

“Enough with Jafar and his harem.  Where the eff is Prince Eric?”

They both laughed and then were quiet for a moment enjoying the warm summer breeze.

“Wait… should I change my bio to ‘fairytale princess?'”

Photos by Michael Stiegler

WhyDid’s Words: Wear Your Wounds

By |July 13th, 2017|WhyDid Wisdom|

wear your wounds

“I’m ok,” I said, brushing back a loose curl.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m totally fine,” forcing a smile to show just how “fine” I was.

He looked back for only a second, unconvinced, as he went through the door.  I waited for it to click behind him before I melted to the floor.  The rush of hot tears came without being called, leaving big wet polka dots on my silk turquoise robe.  They started off silently, but my sobs grew louder and more violent– noises that surely would have elicited concern from neighbors in any other city than New York.

I laid there for a while, allowing myself to feel all of the things that I was feeling and when I felt that there was no more, I slowly made my way to bed and prayed that the moonlight would be gentle with me.

This wasn’t my first heartbreak and it wasn’t my worst.  As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the first time I had found myself in a puddle of tears on an apartment floor.

why did wear your wounds

When I’d arrived back at our house in Sunnyvale to pack all of my things, I was surprised to see that he had already packed everything for me.  It was a fortress of brown cardboard boxes.  A literal wall of stuff separating us.  On one hand, I was relieved that the work was already done.  On the other, I couldn’t believe how relieved he was to be rid of me.  It was as though he was erasing me and all that we had shared for the past two years.  I never saw him again.  He only sent me a check six months later for the diamond earrings he’d bought me and later regifted to his new girlfriend.

When I later unpacked those same boxes in my West Village apartment with my mother, I found a garage door opener to our house, catnip that had belonged to his cat.

When she saw my face, she asked if I was okay.  I just smiled and said, “I’m fine.”  I probably cracked a joke.


They say some people are like a drug.  I always thought that was terribly cliché (and he would too) until I met him.  I, a seemingly well adjusted individual, found myself staying up late, waiting for his calls.  What I once deemed late at 3am, was now considered early when I welcomed him home at 5am.  What used to anger me, merely became annoyances, and I watched as my boundaries slowly faded away.  He was both a man and a boy at the same time.  Part of me wanted to protect him, while the other part felt frightened by him.

After one particularly memorable meltdown in a motel somewhere outside of Newport, I swore I’d quit my habit cold turkey.  Like any junkie, it didn’t take long before I needed another fix.

Late into the next day, he got up abruptly and said he had to go.  He always had to go.  I never knew where.  And every time he walked out the door, I never knew when I would see him again.  I was sweating.  I didn’t know what he had given me the night before.  He asked me if I was okay.  I murmured, “I’m fine.”

After he left, I crawled to the bathroom where I spent the next three hours on the cold tile floor.

wear your wounds nyc

I walked into his office smiling.  I’d been to several doctors before for the same reason.  He didn’t smile back.

He said, “How are you feeling today?”

“I’m fine,” smiling again.

He asked me to briefly describe my symptoms: dry skin, fatigue, change in hair texture, bloating, weight gain- which I prefaced feeling guilty even saying because I was still considered small by “American standards” (he brushed this off).  After taking some notes and a brief pause, he asked me, “So, what’s stressing you out?” and motioned for his assistant to grab a box of tissues from the shelf.

I looked at him stunned for a moment then cocked my head.

He raised his eyebrows as if to signal for me to proceed.  I rattled off a few mundane details: delinquent clients, family drama, boy troubles.

“What is your addiction?”

“My addiction?”

“We all have an addiction.”

“Well, I think I probably drink too much wine.”

“No, that’s not it.”

“No?” I was both relieved that I could carry on with my wine habit but also puzzled.

“You’re a love addict.”

“A what?”

Love addict.  You really just want to be loved.”

I was silent.

His assistant handed me the tissues.

wear your wounds

“You know we would have never been friends if we’d just passed each other on the street, right?”

Christine had been cleaning my apartment for three months and in that time we had become very close.  I’m not sure how we started talking, but once we did, it was endless conversation spanning everything from religion to dating to the everyday drama of living in the city.  Two young women from two incredibly different backgrounds forging an improbable bond.  It was like a poorly scripted Lifetime movie.  She was from the Bronx and had three young children.  She was raising them on her own and had had a very tough childhood, growing up in foster homes and finding a way to stay close to her sisters when they were split apart.

I grew up in what appeared to be a picture perfect home with two loving parents and two older brothers in a beautiful home with all that I could have asked for from the outside looking in.

We laughed after she said that.  I said, “Oh yea, you’d be like, ‘Look at this prissy white girl and her white dog!'”

She snorted and scooped up the dog, “No, I’d never make fun of Smitty.”


We started laughing again.

Her phone rang and she asked if I it was okay to get it.  It was her sister.  I said of course and she went into the bathroom to take the call.

She came back a bit more somber and I asked her if everything was alright.  She said, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

I knew she wasn’t.  I knew her mannerisms by now and I knew that she always kept a strong facade for everyone else, but I didn’t want to push.  We were quiet for a bit and she went back to cleaning and then she started to sing.  She has the most beautiful voice.  Something like an angel. Part way through the song I heard her voice waver and I looked at her and I saw that she was crying.

I went to her and we sat down on the floor and I held her and we cried together.  I didn’t ask why.

wear your wounds new york

I woke up insecure and groggy.  I looked over half squinting.  The old “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me trick.”  My hair, a halo of golden curls like the ones I despised as an eight year old girl overtaking the white pillow.

“How did I get so lucky?” he said.


“To wake up to someone so beautiful and booksmart?”

I smiled, “I look like a crazy person.”

“No, I love your hair like this.  You should never wear it straight again.  This is you.”

This was the same hair that I had battled as a child and was disappointed to see return recently along with all of my other recent symptoms.  I suddenly felt safe.

We got up and walked arm and arm to get coffee before he went to work.

“You gonna walk home?” he asked.


He kissed me goodbye.

Who knew we’d end at the beginning of this story.

kirsten smith

I was talking to my dad one day because I couldn’t remember much from my childhood, which frightened me.  I told him that I really just remembered being a shy little girl hiding behind my mom’s skirt.  He audibly laughed.

“You?  You were the furthest thing from shy.  You had all the boys in the neighborhood including your older brothers following you around like puppies.  You were the ringleader.”


“You’ve gotta be kidding.  You were the same little girl who used to stand at the top of the stairs and yell, ‘Catch me!’ and jump hoping somebody caught you– We always did, by the way.”

I hadn’t really ever thought of myself that way.  I’d engrained in my head, instead, that I was shy and awkward and I’ve lived a lot of my adult life as such– despite what my Instagram may suggest.

I started to wonder how such a brave little girl had become the scared, insecure, beaten down, self critical woman I am today.  And I realized that we (I) have created impossible standards for ourselves.

We say we are more connected than ever and that may be technically true, but I’ve never seen a society so disconnected.  People no longer know how to communicate.  No one bothers to strike up conversations with strangers– most likely because they don’t even see the stranger next to them since they’re looking down at their phone liking a photo of a stranger in Siam.  There is no real sense of community and there’s a reason why young people are incapable of commitments and IRL quality time.

We’ve become a culture of  “okay.”  When people ask how we are, we always answer “I’m fine.”  And in most cases, we are anything but fine.  We spend so much time making our digital lives look perfect that we forget to check in with ourselves and each other to see how we are really doing.  Heaven forbid we say, “You know what, I’m having a really bad day and I’m really struggling.  I need your help.  Plus, I have this pimple and that sucks too.”

So that’s how Wear Your Wounds was born.  I got sick of making myself physically sick trying to live up to the unachievable standard of perfection. WYW was created in the hope that we could all just be really honest about who we are, how we’re feeling, and what we are dealing with.  The more honest we are, the less scary it is to just be ourselves.  The more we are ourselves, the more we can see we are all the same.  I lived for years feeling like a fraud and worried that someone would “find me out,” but finally realized that I didn’t really care anymore.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not always “fine” and there were times I reached some very scary, very low points.  I was fortunate enough to have loving support to get me through those times and now it’s my turn to do that for you.

Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is be brave for someone else.

kirsten smithSHY Short Sleeve Tee 

Photos by Michael Stiegler