Musings + Essays

New Circles.

By: Jen Shoop

I recently discovered the Instagram account of a free spirited actress who goes by @sam.moooves. She has a radiant, contagiously happy energy that has felt reassuring these past few weeks in particular — it is a gift to be around people who consciously reach for joy. During a recent AMA, a follower shared that she was contemplating moving to a new city but terrified at the prospect because she did not know anybody. Sam replied by saying that when she was younger, she had the opportunity to move to New York City but was similarly trammeled by fear of the unknown and her lack of an East Coast network of friends. Her father sat her down and drew a circle on a piece of paper: “This is you, in your circle of comfort.” He went on to explain that the goal of life is to build as many other circles as you possibly can; when you have the chance, start a new circle. I was taken by the imagery. My father has offered permutations on this advice throughout my life: “Take the job,” “Move to the new city,” “Don’t look back,” “That’s a hell of an opportunity,” he’ll say. On the eve of accepting every single new job I’ve ever had, I’ve gone to him riddled with doubt, and he’s said: “This is going to be great for you. No question.” One of the things I remember most about the blurry chaos of moving from NYC to Bethesda was asking him, “Do you think I’ll feel isolated in Bethesda? Like, after living in the city for so long?” Without a beat: “Nope. You’re going to love it.” The response felt automatic — to the point that I wondered whether he would have said the same thing if I was asking the inverse: “Do you think I’ll feel overwhelmed in Manhattan? Like, after living in the suburbs for so long?” I have a hunch he would have said: “Nope. You’re going to love it.”

If I have learned anything about myself as an adult, it is that I am more adaptable than I think. Negative fifty five degrees outside during the Polar Vortex in Chicago? A protracted quarantine in a small Manhattan apartment with a dog and two young children? A mouse-infested “garden level” apartment in Lyon? You can thrive anywhere with the right attitude. Through it all, I have leaned on my father’s “get up and go” mentality more than he will ever know to get me through the bumpy patches, but especially while setting out at the daunting crossroads of new beginnings.

So, I am sitting here today, and I am reminding myself to continue to take chances, start new circles, chase down the next thing. I am settled here, and it feels good, but I am still hungry.

Perhaps you are sitting on the edge of a new beginning today. Perhaps you find yourself riddled with doubt. Channel my Dad as you surf through the waves of indecision, knocking out each tremulous “but what if…?” with:

“Nope. You’re going to love it.”


+You are enough.


+In case you’re “in it” as a parent today.

+And in case you need a reframe as a parent today.

Shopping Break.

+Cutest lamp on sale.

+These best-selling pants were restocked recently. Word out is that you must buy a full size down in this style. (Run large.)

+Am I the last person on earth to know that one of the key makeup artist secrets to achieving a really fresh face/open eyes are Lumify eye drops?!

+Is this not the chicest and sleekest black jumpsuit ever?

+I am newly obsessed with the brand Antik Batik, which I know has been around forever, but I found a trove of their pieces on sale at Smallable and j’ai besoin. I need this dress in particular, and maybe these shorts, too?! Also found this fab top of theirs on sale at The Outnet.

+People LOVE this $6 makeup brush. I have been using Artis’ oval brushes almost exclusively but just dropped this into my basket.

+This rattan desk would be so attractive in a guest room.

+Alice Walk’s new linen collection has some great elevated basics, like this linen shirtdress. Wear over a swimsuit or with Supergas to the farmer’s market.

+A must-order for your next trip with overstuffed, checked bags.

+A reader just wrote in to rave about this mineral sunscreen FOAM for children. I’m intrigued! Sounds for some reason easier to apply?

+The back of this dress is, just, spectacular.

+And this dress is just a straight up party. Love the mild 70s flare.

+If you struggle with oily skin, this inexpensive blotting tool gets great reviews.

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14 thoughts on “New Circles.

  1. I just love this message and imagery. It’s so helpful to me personally to keep an optimistic attitude wherever possible — and I’ll be remembering your dad’s words of encouragement!

    I LOVE looking at Smallable for clothes for myself — it’s such an unexpected place to search, I think, and I’ve had good luck finding items on steep markdown at this time of year. I recently bought a pair of AGOLDE jeans that I’d been looking for, at a 30% discount, when most US stores still have them at full price. Their shipping is really reasonable, too!


    1. Agree! And they currently are offering an extra 10% off sale items! Hard not to pick up a few more items for myself…

      Glad this post resonated, friend!


  2. I went to the same college and was in the same sorority as Sam, and I think a little context on her background makes her even more inspiring.

    Even though I was in the same house as Sam and passed her in the hallways many days of the week, I didn’t know her well. She seemed quiet, even shy or unreachable, to a lot of people who didn’t know her well (she was also an athlete at a university where athletes were some of the best in their sports, so that increased the distance).

    I was so surprised at first to see her so free-spirited, with a welcoming, wide, joyful smile, on Instagram. I’d bet many of us who were close in proximity but not in friendship to her in college feel the same surprise. But I am so happy for her, and think she’s a beautiful example of the transformation that can occur when you intentionally share your joy with the world.

    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful and inspiring writing. It’s a great way to start my days 🙂

    1. Oh I love this so much! Thank you for sharing – it’s so beautiful how people can evolve and change.


  3. “Nope. You’re going to love it.” I almost teared up at this post – my father, the eternal optimist, is the same way and I couldn’t be more grateful. Every time I have ever moved, he is right there with a U-Haul and more patience than a saint.
    How lucky we are to have such supportive, positive men as fathers.

    1. Amen amen amen!

      I am so touched by the number of women who have written me to say “Thank you so much for writing this,” not only because maybe they needed to hear it, but because it reminded them of their own dads, some of whom are now deceased. Makes me feel so lucky to have been able to thank him for this gift now.


  4. This post spoke to me so much. I feel like I’m always second guessing a decision, especially the “big” ones. Your father’s attitude and encouragement are such an amazing and important to remember. My mom always told (tells) me something similar when I’m worried about making the “wrong” decision – usually moving or a new job. She says it’s not “right” or “wrong”. It’s just a decision. You make it and adjust.

    How many amazing experiences we wouldn’t have had and people we wouldn’t have met if we hadn’t taken that leap of faith-whatever it may be!

    1. I love this, Katie — especially your mom’s insight about decisions not being wrong/right.

      I agree – I would have passed on so many experiences and opportunities were it not for loved ones encouraging me to take the leap.


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