Life As I Know It: January 2020

Style Blogger Stephanie Hill reveals her Life As I Know It January 2020

I can vividly remember struggling to get out of bed about 10 years ago. 

Newly laid-off from my exhaustive job of professional ballet dancing, my roommate suggested I see a doctor. She could sense something was off. No, not like the flu. 

So, I went. 

The doctor asked what my symptoms were and within minutes, I was crying. You know, the uncontrollable kind… 

Since day one, I’ve been inspired by my grandmother, a professional flamenco dancer. And anytime, I heard music I’d naturally twirl around the house — oftentimes to the same song on repeat. I’d get to class as early as I could (and stay even later) just to stretch, practice my form and make sure I nail the choreography each time. It was my daily ritual…all I’ve ever known was dancing ballet, so I didn’t have time to consider any other passions outside of that.

…but after losing my job, I knew it was time I needed to reinvent myself (and my life) but I had no clue how I would do that. 

To make matters worse, all my friends from high school were already graduating college. Some of them had boyfriends, a new puppy and cute apartments with entry-level jobs. I, on the other hand, was behind…really behind since I put college on hold to pursue ballet dancing. As I browsed through their Facebook pages, feeling defeated, I made the choice to return back to college and finish my degree. 

Around that time, I got a retail job working in sales. Retail was the closest thing to “working in fashion” in West Palm Beach and quite frankly, the only other industry that brought me some semblance of happiness aside from dancing. Fortunately, I had a rent-controlled apartment (don’t ask me how that happened, I got lucky) so I could afford to work minimum wage, go to school and live downtown. I didn’t have a car (due to a car accident that wasn’t my fault) and couldn’t afford another one so I walked everywhere (of course, this was pre-Uber). 

Style Blogger Stephanie Hill reveals her Life As I Know It January 2020

Stephanie Hill reveals her Life As I Know It January 2020

Although my apartment was spacious, it was absolutely dreadful. Downright dreadful. It had original carpet from the 1970s, a terrible mold problem, a broken A/C (that coincidentally shut down during the hottest months of the year), a shared (and dirty) laundry room with questionable neighbors who always asked me, “Do you live alone…do you have a boyfriend?” One time my underwear went missing from the dryer… don’t get me started on jeans. It was a recurring theme. Nonetheless, I didn’t feel super safe. And aside from the one piece of furniture on Craigslist that I splurged on for $75 (a pale blue chair from Pottery Barn a la 1995), everything else I owned was given to me by friends. Think: lots of mismatched furniture from garage sales and Ikea.  

I was also in a relationship with someone for a few years. I cared for him, but truthfully I didn’t know who I was at that time. I entered the relationship thinking, “Maybe I’ll find myself here… with him,” only to realize years later that I needed to be alone. Ironically, the beach, palm trees and beautiful weather turned into a constant, dreadful reminder of what I didn’t have any more – happiness. Which led me back to thinking that all my hopes and dreams of dancing ballet professionally, all the sacrifices I made during my childhood and teenage years felt like they were for nothing. 

I eventually graduated college (later and much older than the other students). My friends moved onto their second jobs, got engaged and bought their starter homes while I worked as part secretary-part public relations executive because my former boss didn’t believe I was capable of being a full-fledged executive (like the other girls in the office) or that I could write and had a firm grasp on social media (true story…). 

Then, one lonely night in 2014 during the Super Bowl, I made myself a cup of canned tomato soup, curled up like a ball on my second-hand chair and turned on the TV. I didn’t have many friends, so no one invited me over to their homes to watch the game — I was simply alone. I was miserable. I started crying. Sure, I was grateful to have a job that paid my bills (hardly) and a “new direction in public relations” but I still wasn’t happy with myself.

I looked up at the TV again, “Build a website for $50!” the commercial said. Intrigued, I wiped away some tears, jumped down from the chair to the icky carpet and listened closely as a cheesy GoDaddy representative explained how easy it was to start a business. I laugh now, but given my vulnerable state, anything remotely inspirational spoke to me. And for whatever reason that night, that silly commercial pulled at my heartstrings and caused me to say, “fuck it” and go for it. 

I spent hours, while the Super Bowl played in the background, laying on that dodgy carpet floor and researching pretty words on the internet. Then, I came across the word “ bungalow.” I thought, “Hmm, that sounds cute. Maybe I’ll add “style” in front of it and call my blog The Style Bungalow…” and within minutes I bought the domain with the little spending money I had in my bank account. 

My life changed that night. 

However, I also call this time in my life, “The Dark Years.” Because just when I thought things would turn around with the purchase of a new domain, it actually got worse. Way worse. I went from broke to more broke to barely surviving as a first-time freelancer. Dealt with some intense heartbreaks. Made a few bad career moves. Got into another car accident. Went on some bad dates. At one point I was told I may need a pacemaker for my heart (sadly, the list goes on). It was painful, trust me, but I’ll spare you the details (or share them with you when I’m ready). I wish I could say my 20s were the “best years of my life,” as my friends today claim. But man, when I look back on that decade, I think, “I can’t believe you pulled through.” I had every reason, opportunity and excuse to feel bad for myself, but some voice inside of me held onto that small ounce of hope and the idea of being happy again, which helped me (with all my might) to persevere through my many setbacks. During “The Dark Years”, I cried myself to sleep almost every night wishing things would change… angry at myself and my failed ballet career…riddled with anxiety and uncertainty about the future…desperately seeking meaning in other areas, like my past relationships, in hopes of finding myself again. 

*Pausing to wipe away some tears. When I think about this time in my life, it always has a way of churning up so many emotions because it’s shaped me in significant ways.

But damn, if I could get through that… “I can get through anything.” 

Fashion Blogger Stephanie Hill reveals her Life As I Know It January 2020

Over the holidays, many influencers I follow published their “Year in Review.” Sharing Stories of their beautiful trips, highlights and more of 2019, which I loved. So, I thought about doing the same, but I personally felt that sharing my “Year in Review” would only scratch the surface. In order to understand why and where I am today, you need to see how much has changed for me in this past decade, because as a whole, it reveals a different kind of story that may not necessarily say, “I’m so proud of my collection with…,” but rather a different side: “Everything that happened to me in my 20s led me to where I am today which is pretty damn wonderful.” 

Today, The Style Bungalow is an itty-bitty company. Ok, maybe not with something big to show for like a billion followers or a brand, but I do own a small piece of real-estate on the internet and I’m proud of that. The Style Bungalow goes beyond just a sense of style, it’s become a state-of-mind…an approach to life. 

Stay with me. 

“Bungalows are petite and cozy (at times historic and classic) with intricate details (original tiles, arched doorways and fireplaces) that make it so singular. When you’re nestled in a bungalow, you’re detached from the main house or mansion (or metaphorically speaking, the rest of the world). Because of its classic nature, they don’t necessarily follow the trends, but happily exist on their own without feeling the need for more. Some would argue mansions are the complete opposite of a bungalow – the popular choice; filled to the brim with things and objects that attract a “certain” discerning crowd.”

Like a bungalow, I’ve always been very petite and drawn to classic details. I’m captivated by timeless features that bring an air of romance, a feeling of escape or getaway – whether it be through my clothing, home or travel. Trends aren’t necessarily a guide for me nor do I follow them, I tend to create my own path (and style) while happily existing. 

From my experience of living in South Florida, I find that the most intriguing homes are inspired by people with a blend of individual style and good stories. They’re the kind of people that can turn something small and overlooked, like a bungalow, into a remarkable place inside, which also serves as a parallel to the way I style my looks (architectural shapes, silhouettes, vintage, etc.); pulling (timeless) pieces that fit my tiny frame and complementing it with a new perspective. One that invites people to see beyond the clothes and feel the life lived within these outfits – a memorable, meaningful one.  

Call it serendipitous?

Trust me, I would have never imagined that laying on that 1970s’ icky brown carpet would change my life years later… for the better… or that I would stumble upon happiness again, but only after years of hard work and personal growth. 

So, if you’re experiencing “The Dark Years” like I did in 2014, unsure of what the future holds for you and your dreams – please, don’t fret and remember that you’ll get through it, I promise. I know it’s kindergarten advice and something I’ve said before, but nothing lasts forever and dark times are simply bad chapters in your book. They’re never the entire story.

I have no doubt in my mind that these next ten years will stretch me in ways I’ve never experienced, whether through a bad chapter (let’s hope not) or through a new venture, I have faith that I will come out alive and thriving, like I did this past decade and once again, surprise myself with just how much I’m capable of and how resilient I can be. 

And with that, you have “Life As I Know It” not just the January edition, but this past decade… 

Xo, Stephanie

(and because you will ask, lol)

Blouse: (c/o) Sezane

Pants: St. Agni

Necklaces: (c/o) Tiffany & Co. and Missoma

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