Musings + Essays

Ampersand Moments.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image via.

Earlier this week, I wrote on Instagram that visiting NYC almost exactly a year after we left “was a big ampersand moment — meaning I miss it and I know we are in the right place for us right now. The older I get, the more I realize that a lot of big life decisions are multi-valent, containing many, often contradictory, emotions. That’s OK. Don’t let the complexity frustrate or tie you in knots. We don’t need to reduce our reactions to one clean tag line.” I immediately received a flurry of notes from women perched on the precipice of or swimming in the aftermath of major life changes. Oh, Magpies: change is hard. So often, I want to control the narrative in these moments of flux. I want to see my movements as pre-ordained, or correct, or otherwise secure. I want to understand my decision as an intact part of a larger trajectory. This is natural. Confirmation bias means that we will always seek information that confirms our preconceptions — e.g. “it’s a sign! I’m doing the right thing!” But it is also exhausting, and gives me the distinct impression of performance, e.g., “I am sublimating all else to deliver only one angle!” And that feels like a lot of wasted energy spent muting the wide gamut of emotions I am experiencing when making my way through a big transition. (I write this keenly, still reflecting on our move from NYC a year later.) At the end of the day, you do not owe anyone a pat and seamless explanation of your motives or experiences. Not even yourself.

When we moved to Bethesda, we had many friends and family asking how we felt about leaving, and we always said: “Good and bad. We left on good terms with New York. And we were ready to leave. We are happily ensconced in Bethesda. And we miss New York.” Life changes are about ampersands. I have found that very little in life is all good or all bad. I hope I spend the balance of my hours focused on the good, but it is also healthful and necessary to address the unfavorable. Mr. Magpie and I call this “letting out the poison”: venting about all the petty and unpleasant and ultra-minor grievances on our minds, especially while in the throes of change. Often, I have a near-physical reaction to this bloodletting: it feels as though I’m actually vacating parts of my mind to make space for the more significant and positive pieces that matter. But more often than not, those less pleasant bits stick and are simply part of the tradeoff of a given arrangement. I miss being close to my sister and best friend in New York. I miss my daughter’s school and its community and the fact that she had a true best friend there. I miss the convenience of things, like the ease of deciding at 3:11 p.m. I’m going to run around the corner for an afternoon latte, or the fact that literally anything can be delivered to your doorstep in under an hour. I miss the electric feeling of walking out the door of our apartment, dressed to the nines, on our way to dinner on Friday night. I miss the people watching and the way New York can invite you to dream bigger than you ever thought possible. I miss the significance of New York. (I realize D.C. is significant, too, of course, but there is just something that signifies there in a way I’ve never felt anywhere else.) I don’t miss the trash, the grit, the crime, the density of people, their general briskness. I don’t miss the complexity of logistics. I don’t miss the scene-y-ness of the restaurant world. I don’t miss the tight quarters. I don’t miss the constant noise. I could go on and on and on in endless pro and con fashion, but the point is this —

I have observed that every big change in life is “big” by virtue of its many inputs. I am balancing intersecting agendas, motives, interests, possibilities and making my best bet at what will yield the best outcome for me and my family. There is no possible way in which each one of those intersecting lines will be perfectly and happily accommodated. There is going to be give and take. There will be some inputs that play second fiddle to others, and still others that will be entirely disregarded. The result demands a mindset of abundance, one that acknowledges that this is not a win-lose/either-or situation, and one in which I can accept that I will feel many, often discordant, emotions at once. Make space for them all. Let them hang out. Tell yourself that you are ready for this ampersand moment.


+My Dad has an even more bullish take on change.

+More on an abundance mindset.

+The headwater of a Hail Mary. This post still makes me a little weepy.

Shopping Break.

+J. Crew new arrivals alert! Love this sweater (esp in navy or chocolate), this tweed blazer, and especially these cord bootcuts! Such a great shape!

+Great staple for late summer into fall: this striped tunic.

+I’ve been on a whimsical shopping kick lately — it started with my new The Jacksons bag (which arrived and je suis obsessed — best $100 I’ve spent in awhile). How fun is this textured Marni tote in hot pink?! I’m loving hot pink mixed with camel or navy for fall.

+Chic crochet dress.

+These pants are on my mind for fall – pair with a simple navy sweater or crisp white button down.

+Speaking of great fall patterns: this top from Courtney Grow’s collection for Dillard’s is beyond fab!

+My favorite water bottles for the kids. They are expensive but they insulate and hold up perfectly. Only gripe: a bit heavy.

+These pink NBs brought a smile to my face.

+My best friend gifted me one of these Fendi eyeglass cases awhile ago and I use it to keep all my keys — car, parents’ house, house keys. I love seeing it in my bag. Brings me joy!

+This puff sleeved denim jacket is incredible and such a good price.

+Absolutely obsessed with this look, as exactly as styled on the site, including jeans, turtleneck, and navy sweater wrapped around shoulders.

+This gauva-colored dress is on sale for around $100 – perfect for end-of-summer cocktails.

+This heart bracelet is currently in my cart. Would love to add it to my daily stack.

+In love with these feather earrings! Not just for brides — would be so fun heading into winter. I’ve seen lots of feather-trim accessories (like this fun bag!) and dresses (like this wild and fab La Double J and this Staud) this season.

+OMG how cute are these for a lunchbox surprise?

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4 thoughts on “Ampersand Moments.

  1. “The result demands a mindset of abundance”

    Going to be carrying this with me today. Something I am working on!

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