By Kelsey Cromie

I grew up in New Jersey, an hour outside of New York City. I come from a huge family, where many of my 24 cousins live within 30 minutes of my parents’ house, and my grandparents live two miles down the road. There was always someone around when I was growing up, always a reason for a family party.

Going away to college wasn’t easy, especially knowing I’d be moving seven hours away from this support system.

I didn’t consider distance from home in my college search, finding the right fit in the school farthest away. I had not thought about what this big move would mean, but as reality set in that summer, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision.

I hadn’t really been to New England before I went to college, so four years in rural Maine at Colby College was certainly a change. But I soon found out that living so far from “civilization” gave me many opportunities to explore — the world around me, Maine, the great outdoors and myself. I could see more stars on a cloudy night in Maine than I ever could on a clear night at home. I loved every minute of it.


“After the initial excitement wore off, I realized I didn’t know anyone to walk to these places with. I felt untethered. And soon I found myself running away.”


Coming home on breaks, my days were filled with family, and returning back to school I was greeted by friends. I always had someone to come home to, no matter which home that was.

After graduation, I looked for jobs in college admission offices up and down the East Coast and once again had no preferences on location. I thought I’d easily find new routines, new places to explore and new hideaways the same way I had in college, no matter where I ended up.

I expected to have friends to come home to after a few weeks of living wherever I moved. I felt so grounded and so at home in Maine and in New Jersey, I thought it would be easy to find that same comfort in my next new home.

I landed in Providence, Rhode Island, working at a school across the border in Massachusetts, and was instantly charmed by city life. I could walk to the grocery store, to restaurants and to go out. But after the initial excitement wore off, I realized I didn’t know anyone to walk to these places with. I felt untethered. And soon I found myself running away.

Each weekend I left, traveling anywhere to make sure I didn’t feel alone. I frequently visited friends around New England, especially back in Maine, and my family in New Jersey. I was exploring other parts of New England, forgetting I hadn’t taken the time to get to know my new city. Every Sunday night I came back to an empty and lonely apartment. The fear of being alone with absolutely no plans was terrifying. It ate at my resolve.

I took this photo towards the end of a large stretch of travel for work this fall. Working in admission for schools, the fall is spent on the road, meeting with prospective students at their schools and at college fairs.

Over the course of those eight weeks, I was in my apartment for less than a week total and lived out of hotel rooms the other seven weeks. It took “untethered” to a whole new level.

I returned to Maine during my work travel and savored the chance to find places like this along the side of the road. In Maine’s familiar landscape, I began to feel grounded, even in my constant state of travel.

On this particular day, the rain from the night before had broken and the road was clear, and I was early for my next visit. I passed this lake along the side of the highway and had to stop. I breathed in the fresh autumn air, and was refreshed and at peace. The leaves crunched under my feet, and the breeze blew across my face as I tried to take it all in. Despite the travel and new hotels every few days, I finally felt more stable in that moment than I had during the previous year.

I had moved into a new apartment closer to work late in the summer and was beginning to meet neighbors who became friends. They had moved in shortly after I did, and we were all in a similar state of transition. Each brief stay at home, I met another new neighbor and grew a little more connected to Massachusetts. I found that living outside of the city, with fewer people around, actually gave me more of a chance to actually get to know them. I started to have weekend plans that didn’t involve running away. For the first time since graduation, I felt like there were people and things waiting for me when I returned from each trip.

Rather than longing for more time in Maine or New Jersey or any other place that felt comfortable and familiar, I began to appreciate the progress I found myself making.

Sure, I didn’t know exactly who I would spend the following weekend with, but I no longer felt the need to bolt. I would sample that new recipe I really wanted to try and visit the bookstore close to my apartment I was dying to check out.

I started to make my own plans, without relying on always having someone there to join me. If I had someone to explore with, that was icing on the cake. I still wasn’t always sure who I would spend my time with, but when I finally stopped “running,” I realized a sense of loneliness no longer sent shivers of terror down my spine.

I’m enjoying making this corner of New England home right now, but I know that when the time comes to set out again, I’ll be a little more prepared to plant new roots.

Kelsey Cromie is an admission counselor in Massachusetts. She loves books and country music, traveling and coming home.



By Bridget Graham

This past fall was one of the busiest times of my life. 

I began pursuing my graduate degree in history and soon realized this program required a different sort of learning, so I had to adapt, quickly. I proved to be successful in balancing most aspects of my life in the fall term, but come winter, I felt the pressure mounting.

I was still a full-time student but had also taken on a full-time job, as well as three part-time jobs. I began working as an archival assistant intern with the Nova Scotia Archives, was a teaching assistant for two separate courses for first and second-year students, and was an event coordinator for the office of sustainability at my university.

I had always been taught to see things through until the end, so that is exactly what I attempted to do. Because of my busy schedule, I had no choice but to focus on the tasks that needed to be accomplished — everything else simply became noise. I realized my life had become cluttered with thoughts, people and things; I began getting rid of what was unnecessary.

It was a comprehensive purge I had actually started after moving late last summer when I was dumbfounded by the amount of things I had accumulated over the last 22 years. I had a room full of stuff that had not seen the light of day in months. Much of it I donated to people who can actually make use of it, an accomplishment that brought me joy. I began to feel lighter.


“Honestly I did not care how the majority of people had spent their Friday evenings.”


Recently I stumbled on a podcast produced by the Minimalists. I was intrigued by much of what they discussed and realized I had been trying to adopt some of these practices in my life without even being fully cognizant of it. The podcast consists of two men discussing their switch to a minimalist lifestyle, and they provide tips and tricks, on topics like travel and finances, for others who are considering doing the same. They champion “living a meaningful life with less stuff” and really encourage listeners to consider what is important to them.

Before listening to the podcast, I often spent my first waking moments with my cell phone screen in my face, just like I did the last moments before I fell asleep at night. But one Saturday morning I realized this is not what I wanted and that honestly I did not care how the majority of people had spent their Friday evenings. Social media was cluttering my mind and hindering my communication. As a result, my presence on some social media outlets became, and has remained, rather sparse.

At times I was met with hesitation when informing a friend that I deleted my Snapchat account for the simple reason that I had no time or interest in seeing what others chose to document about themselves. But my communication and conversations have actually improved with many of my friends since we are, in a way, forced to share and describe events and news instead of simply posting a three-second video.

I feel lucky to be pursuing a job that also lets me be a curator. As an archival assistant at the Nova Scotia Archives, I am constantly helping others to learn and discover. Materials arrive in all sorts of conditions, and one of my tasks is to organize them for researchers. I am given a fair bit of liberty to organize and display the material in the way I see fit. This position has allowed me to explore the ways in which I curate the different parts that make up the entirety of my life. I am able to use my degrees to enrich the work I am doing, both professionally and personally.

Curating my life and striving for minimalism, I feel at peace in my skin for the first time. I spend my time the way I want to, and I pursue activities that bring me joy. Throughout my life, I have struggled with trying to make others happy, but I now realize that this often hindered my own happiness and wellbeing. I have learned to say “no,” and I find this to be incredibly liberating. And much of this is as a result of embracing a more minimalist lifestyle.

I take pride in the life that I am curating, and I feel as though I have become a more positive — and realistic — individual. By worrying and consuming less, I feel rejoiced and renewed.

Bridget Graham works as an archival assistant at the Nova Scotia Archives.



By A.J. Tomiak

On March 3, I celebrated my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend. We made reservations at the new, hip French restaurant in our neighborhood, exchanged cards and gifts, and spent the evening in bed watching the Real Housewives. In the year leading up to that dinner, we had taken two road trips together, met each other’s parents and spent countless weekends “urban hiking” through Washington, D.C. Looking back, the date marked not only our anniversary, but it was also a kind of official anointment of my first long-term relationship.

When we initially started dating, friends from college would ask about the relationship, and I found it difficult to properly synthesize the dynamic — how do you succinctly describe a relationship to someone, especially when they don’t know the other person? I eventually landed on the term “effortless.” As someone who’s very independent, being in a relationship and spending hours with a single human being was a new experience. I was surprised at how quickly I fell into the routine. It was enjoyable and fun, yes, but it was also, wonderfully, effortless.

But this sense of ease in the relationship occasionally brushed up against something less savory. When we were walking to a museum on the National Mall and he reached for my hand, I more often than not pulled away. When he went to kiss me goodbye after getting our morning coffee, I made it a quick peck. When he leaned his head against my shoulder while riding the Metro, I faked an itch to shrug him off. I could see that each flinch, each hesitation, confused him and made him feel both frustrated and discouraged. My reactions had nothing to do with him — he was neither too forward nor too aggressive — or with me not wanting to reciprocate. And these flinches never occurred in private when we were with our friends. It was just that, when we were in public places, I was hyper aware of where we were, who was watching and how we performed these public displays of affection — these physical, visible manifestations of my desires. I became, six years after officially coming out, actively anxious about my sexuality.

This took me by surprise. Where was this insecurity coming from? What was it rooted in?

Yes, homophobia still exists throughout the United States, but we live in D.C., one of the most liberal and gay-friendly cities in the country. We’ve never been harassed or heckled in any way.

But something else was going on inside my head.

I tried to locate where these feelings came from. I recalled one of my earliest recognitions of my sexuality — as a young adoring fan of S Club 7, naturally. I not only owned — and still own — every album from the band, but also religiously watched the TV show.

In season three, the show delved into the subject of romance; the first episode of the season worked through the controversy of band members Hannah and Paul kissing. With the issue of romance breached by these close friends I watched week after week, there was no turning back. With every passing Saturday, I started becoming more aware and invested emotionally in the relationships of the group. I picked up on small gestures, tracked what pair interacted the most and started rooting for my own fantasy couples — specifically, I rooted for Jon and Rachel.

Rachel wore crop tops, was the materialistic “posh” one of the group and was at times very ditzy. Jon gelled his bleached blonde hair in the middle, was the youngest of the seven-piece band and sang the higher, melodic parts in upbeat songs. I, too, gelled my light blonde hair in a middle part, was a year behind in my grade and was teased for having a particularly high-pitched voice. I saw myself in Jon, both literally and figuratively. I rooted for him and Rachel to end up together, and relished in the moments where they seemed to connect or did anything even remotely resembling flirting — whatever flirting looks like to a nine-year-old. If he could get the hot girl, I thought, then so could I.


“When he went to kiss me goodbye after getting our morning coffee, I made it a quick peck. When he leaned his head against my shoulder while riding the Metro, I faked an itch to shrug him off.”


It would be nine years after the end of this season that Jon Lee – the actor who played Jon, the fictionalized version of himself on “S Club 7” – would publically come out in Gay Times magazine, and only one short year from then that I would. Only then did I realize what Jon actually represented to my nine-year-old self and his influence on my sexual development.

Reacting to societal judgment against what I was unconsciously, if not naturally, feeling, I desperately lived vicariously through his on-screen character. It wasn’t just same recognizing same, but a tangible fantasy that my internal fears and anxieties could grab onto. I was looking at the show through a certain worldview and reflecting back on myself through that lens.

And clearly, that worldview of what’s expected of me, what’s “normal,” has left an indelible impression, even after coming out years ago. I know that falling in love and loving another person — regardless of who that person is — is normal. Demonstrating that love is normal.

Those specific feelings of love aren’t foreign to me — but the expression of it is, for some reason.

I guess I never realized that coming out was only half of my battle being a gay man; going through life as a gay man, enjoying my life and whom I love freely, is the other half. After all, there’s a big difference between coming out on Facebook and garnering hundreds of likes, and receiving a bouquet of flowers from your boyfriend in the office; there’s a difference between trolling Tinder while tipsy on wine on a Wednesday evening and meeting your boyfriend’s parents for dinner; there’s a difference between dancing ridiculously to Katy Perry at a gay club and holding hands with the person you love in Asheville, North Carolina. Ultimately, there’s a difference between being comfortable saying, “I’m gay,” and being comfortable being seen as gay.

This yearlong relationship, which has largely defined most of my post-college growth, has opened my eyes to an internal struggle that still needs to be worked through. Every relationship has its own unique set of questions that demand answers: Who’s paying for the next round of morning coffee? What do you want me to do when your sister comes into town? Are we ready to move in together? I’ve just learned that, in this relationship, I’m also responsible for looking inward and asking myself more probing questions in order for us both to move forward.

A.J. Tomiak lives in Washington, D.C., works at a public relations firm and will undoubtedly be listening to S Club 7 this weekend.



By Abigail Voigt

When I was growing up, sadness was just an emotion to me. A feeling that was fleeting and brief. Just like joy, anger, surprise and peace, it was a feeling that came and went — never domineering or all-encompassing. It was simple and still safe.

Now, I’m older. And the sadness I know is of a different kind. This sadness is uncontrollable. It overtakes me. This sadness isn’t just a feeling or an emotion. It’s a monster. It’s a shadow. It’s scary.

About two years ago, I started suffering from depression. A series of catastrophic and difficult events began to plague my life around that time and this planted the seed for the overwhelming shadow.

☐ ☐ ☐

I still remember that time in my life so vividly.

Just choose happiness, I thought, It’s not that hard.

But, I didn’t understand.

It is that hard.

You don’t choose or control depression.

It controls you. 

It’s such a different type of sadness. It’s rooted so deep. So far within me, yet, so heavy. It’s a weight. A cloud. A shadow on your heart. Some days it feels like I should just be able to reach into my chest and rip the pain and the sadness right out. The panic, the anxiety, the heaviness — it feels so tangible. Why can’t it just be removed?

All of me screamed that I wanted to get up in the morning with a smile on my face and accomplish great feats and goals. But, when I rolled over in the morning and opened my eyes, the weight kept me down. It glued me to the bed. It made everything seem impossible.

I lost 20 pounds in two months. I tried my best to eat, but more often than not I would just forget. Sometimes a whole day would pass by before I remember.

Depression made “failure” a repeating word in my brain. It made it difficult not to see failure in everything I tried to do. Failure to sleep. Failure to eat. Failure to feel joy. Failure to be at peace. Failure to dictate my own emotions. And I hated it.


“All of me screamed that I wanted to get up in the morning with a smile on my face and accomplish great feats and goals. But, when I rolled over in the morning and opened my eyes, the weight kept me down.”


This failure to be in control of the depression creates an unbearable and deeply rooted self-hate. And hate and depression feed off of each other. They thrive together.

Every day I wondered how much more I could bear. I wondered how I could become this way. I wondered if the medications or the counselors would help. I wondered why I couldn't just escape the shadow or choose to be free. I wished that I could love myself again. That I could love life. That I could find joy in the big and little things. I prayed hard. I asked God to heal me. I begged Him to lift the weight and remove the shadow. I cried out for Him to give me joy in the sadness.

I know my God. I know that He is great and mighty. And, I even know that in the midst of this darkness, His love prevails. Even when I can’t always feel it, I know it’s there. My God is greater than the shadow. And, while it seemed like a never-ending eternity, I was confident in His saving grace that would someday break the chains that bound my heart and soul.

Depression feels like it will never end. It feels hopeless. It feels scary. It feels lonely. It makes you feel as though you’re hanging on by nothing more than a thread.

☐ ☐ ☐

More than two years later, I can now say that it is the seasons of life where you are “hanging on by nothing more than a thread” where you grow and learn the most. For me, that season of darkness brought forth the growth of new life and inner light I never would have seen without the darkness.

Yet, the darkness was still really messy. Deeply wounded and weak, my prayers to God at my darkest often involved the shaking of an “angry fist” as I was drowning in my own tears and grief. I knew cognitively that God had to be at work, but I couldn’t tangibly feel Him in this time like I could my sadness. Slowly though, I felt God pushing me to look in other places — not in how I was feeling, but in what I could see Him doing. It was in the unconditional love and kindness of family and friends where I started to see God’s gracious and loving heart for me. His providence and care were overwhelming as He used others to carry me from the shadows.

My life really began to change when He provided opportunities for my story — my battle, my struggle — to be shared with others. As the darkest of my dark was brought to light — I watched it bring forth not death, but life.

I know there’s no quick fix for depression. No magical word or medication to take it all away. But, there is hope. Hope that there is much more to life than darkness. Hope that counseling, medications and prayer might be weapons in your battle. And, hope that our lives, our stories, our struggles carry so much more life than they do death.

I still struggle with depression sometimes. But, its shadow is no match for my overwhelming light.

Abigail Voigt is a recent ministry and psychology grad from a university in Saint Paul, MN. She loves tulips, travel and rainy days.



By Logan Hansen

My then-two-year-old son and I are seen here in late September 2012, sitting on a picnic table in my parents’ front yard. The picture is an innocent one; it doesn’t tell you I was visiting home for the first time since I’d left for school a few weeks earlier, or that that school happened to be the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a solid four-hour drive from my hometown and this little guy.

When I said goodbye to him that first time — at the end of August — I didn’t know it was going to be so hard. Sure, I could try to prepare myself by repeating, This is not going to be easy, inside my head, but that doesn’t become real until it’s really happening. I buckled him into his car seat, gave one last hug, and watched him and his mother drive away from my parents’ house, my eyes watering all the while.

His mom gave me one final look before they pulled away though. Her glance seemed to be saying, “This moment didn’t have to happen; you didn’t have to decide to go to college that far away.”

That was true, of course, and in all honesty, it was a decision I made on my own, one that basically forced her to remain up north with our son and take most of his care upon her shoulders. Perhaps to assuage my own guilty feelings, then, I promised the both of them that I would call to talk to him every day I was away.


“It was in January 2010, after a couple of anxiety-filled months, that I found out I was going to be a dad at the age of 16.”


It was in January 2010, after a couple of anxiety-filled months, that I found out I was going to be a dad at the age of 16. My mom cried. I cried. My dad couldn’t believe it for a while. My friends were astonished.

Seven months later, I held my newborn son in my arms for the first time at the hospital. I knew everything about my life was going to be different from then on. I was perhaps the most awkward person around babies and little kids, but I like to think I got the hang of things with my son pretty quickly. During junior and senior years of high school, he would go back and forth between his mom’s house and mine. Then, when I decided to go away for college, things changed.

I arrived in Ann Arbor at the end of August 2012, met my roommate, tried to get my bearings; that initial adjustment period was maybe two and a half weeks. But right off the bat, I was already breaking the promise I’d made to keep in touch daily. I’d get wrapped up in my newfound existence and forget to call before it was past my son’s bedtime each night.

And somehow I thought it wasn’t a big deal.

Yes, I was just an 18-year-old kid with my toes hardly dipped into life’s ocean, but even I should have known not only was it a big deal, it was the biggest deal. At a time when I was constantly bombarded with new experiences and new people and new everything as a college freshman at a large university, I should have known that talking to him on the phone each day wasn’t just for his benefit; it was for mine, too.

When I came home to see him after the first few weeks away at school and we took the photograph above, I was on the precipice of some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.

The year 2012, in fact, was undoubtedly one of the worst I’ve ever had, beginning with my son’s mother and me breaking up badly in March, only two months before I would graduate from high school.

In the months following September, I discovered that I didn’t care for any of the engineering courses I was taking at U of M. I’d snooze my cell phone alarm again and again until I could look at the clock and say, “Well, there’s not much point in going to class now; I’ll be super late.” And so I’d roll over and go back to sleep. I skipped a lot of classes that first semester (and eventually changed my major to psychology).

What was worse, though, was that I missed my ex-girlfriend — my son’s mother. It was weird how it worked: She would want to get back together and I would be unsure about it; then I would want to get back together and she’d be unsure about it. The pendulum swung back and forth like that, and in December I found myself on the crappy end of it, the wanting-to-get-back-together end.

She was not for it, and combined with my complete indifference toward my classes, it was difficult to get out of bed at all sometimes.

Through all of this, I was neglecting to turn to someone that would always want me, that would always be there to brighten my day: my son.

All the things that went wrong during that time, all the things that made me wonder why I should get out of bed at all in the morning, could have been fixed if I had just taken the time to be his dad, to call him each day like I’d promised, rather than whenever I happened to remember. I was having a shitty time at school, but it didn’t mean I had to be a shitty parent.

I don’t know if I’ve forgiven myself for that just yet, but at the start of the new year in 2013, I began taking my promise seriously: I created a reminder on my phone to call my son every day before his bedtime, and I started making those nightly phone calls happen. Even if only for a minute or two, we talked each day, whether via phone or Skype, and on the rare occasion that I missed a day, it actually almost felt like the end of the world — it was that important. Thank God I finally realized that.

I continued to call my son each day I was away throughout the rest of my undergraduate career at U of M, and I still call him any time we’re not together. Sometimes he tells me about something that happened at school; sometimes he surprises me by asking rather astute questions; sometimes we don’t have all that much to say, but we talk anyway. Of course, I try to be with him in person as much as I can, too, which is fortunately quite often.

Because I know now that whether it’s a phone call, an internet video chat, playing catch in my parents’ backyard or basketball in their basement, being there is what counts — not just for him, but for both of us.

Logan Hansen is a recent graduate seeking a job in the field of journalism, looking to be based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.



From the Editors:


Thank you for reading Issue 6 of Cropped — our first issue in a post-“Lemonade” world (we've both been listening nonstop).

This month has been busy for both of us. Maria ran a half marathon, and Marina has taken on some extra creative projects.

As a result, we've been thinking about our own lives, and about Cropped, and come to the same conclusion: We need a little reflection break in order to make ourselves and Cropped the best they can be.

We're going to take the next two months to think about Cropped in depth, the many possibilities for the site and how we can grow this supportive community beyond the issues we publish each month. We'd love your feedback during this time: What would you like to see from us? What would be the best way for you to read Cropped stories in the future?

We'll keep you updated on our thoughts. Cropped isn't taking a break — just the issues are! Please continue to submit your own stories and interact with us on social media; we have some exciting ideas about ways to stay connected during our publishing break.

One way we'd like to stay in touch relates to our personal needs for reflection time. We are committed to taking at least some time each week to fully relax — read a book, watch a mindless TV show, be outside, whatever it might be. It's so easy to schedule a full week of activities with no breaks! We're hoping that making it more intentional is going to help. We'll be posting our “do nothing” breaks with the hashtag #CroppedTimeOff, and we'd love to see your posts with that hashtag, too. We'll re-post some of them to keep us all connected and inspired!

Thank you for reading Cropped, and we'll be excited to deliver an amazing new issue in August. Until then, enjoy some time off (and our latest recommendations below)!

Maria and Marina



I just discovered the podcast “2 Dope Queens,” and I can't get enough of it. It's billed as a comedy podcast, and it's definitely funny, but I feel like I've learned important lessons from the hosts Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, too. Mainly, how important it is to look at life with a sense of humor sometimes, instead of obsessing about every decision.

Another recent discovery that I'm late to: the “Ask Polly” column in New York Magazine. It answers questions about life and love I didn't even know I had. This one is my favorite so far: “You are here. Sit down. Feel your potential in this moment. You have accepted too little for too long. That is changing today. Breathe in. Draw a picture of yourself. Tape it to the wall, with the words: YOU ARE HERE. You are here. Cherish yourself.”


This is a photo series I was introduced to a year or two ago, but I recently stumbled upon it again and was captivated. Since 1974, photographer Lucy Hilmer has been taking a self portrait on her birthday in just her underwear, socks and shoes. I found it refreshing to see this woman — to see her openness, to see her age, to see her as she sees herself. This journey called life can seem daunting, but these photos of someone else’s experience are a nice reminder that the journey is what it’s all about.

Although it’s far from realistic for me right now, I have been thinking lately about what it would mean to purchase property — to invest in a place. At what point in growing up is this possible? Logical? In this essay for Lenny Letter, Jami Attenberg writes about buying a home in New Orleans: “It always feels crazy right before your life changes, but I don't think you should question the crazy; you should embrace it.”