Before I can start sharing alllllll of the exciting things I’ve been learning about myself, about Chicago, and about life, I want to set the scene.
I don’t know about you, but I can really taste the sweetness of where I am today when I take the time to reflect on my past and where I’ve come from.
And besides, nothing cultivates gratitude like remembering all of the past versions of us that lived and died in order for us to exist as we do in the now.
[If you’re new here, welcome. My name is Andra Renee and if you want to know what this blog is all about, read my introductory post here.]
Alright, so I’m going to go back about 20 years and talk about little Andra who was fresh out the 90s and living her best life.
Most of the memories I have from this time in my life are a blend of reality and stories I’ve made up from pictures, but one thing I know for sure, is this Andra was in her fucking element.
I’m a Cancer sun and self-proclaimed homebody—though I’m discovering just how much I enjoy hitting the streets and getting to know the city.
I LOVE cooking and eating and watching food documentaries and scrolling through recipes on Pinterest.
It brings me deep joy and that is what I see in this picture.
It’s what makes me feel so much like myself and always has.
It’s also the very thing decades of unprocessed emotions, fear, and shame buried—what has felt like—deep beyond reach.
Years of depression, anxiety, compounding grief, and feeling very alone in the world turned me into a shell of a human.
Being too afraid to try anything I wasn’t 100% sure I would be “good” at, aka perfect, meant I either didn’t try a whole lotta things OR I quit a whole lotta things once I proved to myself I wasn’t good at it.
I used to dance Tap and Ballet, until I quit.
I used to compete in spelling bee competitions, until I quit.
I used to be a performing arts extraordinaire, until I quit.
I used to sing, until I quit.
After weeks of conditioning, I was SO excited to try out for my high school’s softball team, until I quit.
I was a French major in undergrad, until I quit.
And eventually, I dropped out during my senior year, with a full-ride academic scholarship and only two and a half semesters left to graduate…
Looking back, I realize how much of my “quitting” was my language—my way of communicating what I was experiencing.
It was my way of saying I was afraid, that I didn’t feel safe, that I didn’t believe in myself, and that I felt like nothing I did would ever be good enough.
I’m currently exploring a lot of the root causes that contributed to why I thought and felt those ways (and still do sometimes), but in the meantime, The Pleasure Experiment is a love letter to myself.
It’s my way of reclaiming my joy and showing a deep empathy to myself, an empathy that will heal and free me, over and over again, of guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
For so long, I’ve been stuck in a cycle of helplessness: wanting my world to be different, but feeling incapable of doing anything about it.
Well, until this year.
[Disclaimer: The resource I share next is not sponsored, but it is hands down one of the most transformative, grounding, and fun experiences I’ve ever had.]
I don’t know that I would be writing this blog, at this point in my life, if it wasn’t for my friend, Dayka.
Over the summer, she launched Unapologetic, her online program designed for women who want to embody their truth and step into their sovereignty through radical honesty, exploration, curiosity, play and a whole bunch of other brilliantly practical tools.
Listen, it changed my life.
It’s one thing to know you have habits and attitudes you want to change or a deeply joyful little girl inside that you want to nurture back to life, but it’s another thing entirely to feel empowered and equipped to actually do something about it.
The list of things I learned about myself through the program is LONG, but I can sum it up like this:
Dayka helped me exhale.
As it turns out, I’d learned to hold my breath and repress my emotions—fear, joy, and everything in between—way back when I was that little girl in the picture.
But through the beginnings of a labor of love, and support from people like Dayka, that’s not my story anymore.
I’m extending my narrative, moment by moment, choice by choice, and creating myself anew.
Yes, my story is heavy with mental and emotional struggles and challenges, but it’s also filled with joy and passion and creativity and possibility and pleasure.
Now, instead of only doing things I’m “good” at, I’m focused on doing things that feel good to me.
And that’s the (very brief) story of how The Pleasure Experiment has come to be.
It took a LOT of slowing down to get here, but now I’m unearthing my complexity and learning to see myself through a lens of total acceptance, deep compassion, and radical love.
À la prochaine/Until Next Time,