Cultivating Community

I never fit in growing up. I was always the outcast wearing secondhand clothes and not eating lunch because we couldn't afford it. I was also a straight-A student, loved poetry, painting, writing and didn't know what Abercrombie was until I was made fun of for not wearing it. Indeed, on top of it all, I had an unusually quirky personality. I was easy to bully, was spit on, my hair cut in class. The most popular boy in 8th grade asked me to the dance and excitedly, I accepted (only to have someone point out that he and the whole 'popular table' were all erupting in laughter at me.) I was teased for being poor. Teased for having an accidental short hair cut, braces and acne all before the age of 14. I didn't fit in anywhere. I experienced anxiety and depression at an early age from a desire to be liked, that affected me well into my adulthood.

As I got older, I studied magazines and learned how to fit in. I started my first full-time job at 15 years old and discovered secondhand stores that sold namebrand items that I could finally buy myself. I grew my hair long and dyed it bright blonde. I straightened it with a clothing iron (because hair straighteners weren't a thing back then. ūüėā) I figured out how to apply makeup. I got my braces off and whitened my teeth. I dumbed myself down and averaged A's, B's and C's.
I was exactly who I had wanted to be.

Except I wasn't.

When I graduated, I quickly found that outside of high school was a whole different ballgame. There was a place for everyone! People liked my quirkiness. My style. My designs. My writings. My personality. My character. People liked me... for me.

I moved to the beach, stopped bleaching/straightening my hair, and settled into things that made me happy: making unusual jewelry, songwriting, thrift store shopping, and running a company that focused on individuality and empowering women through self-confidence (circa1910 jewelry.)

I dreamed of someday owning a store that avoided the Bless Your Heart society of Lilly Pulitzers and political-driven, small town faux-kindness. I vowed to stay away from Mean Girl Gangs and Cool Kid Cliques. I knew I'd one day open a shop where anyone- everyone- felt comfortable to be themselves and thrive in it. Where people walk in and immediately know they're accepted; no matter color, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, background or bank account size.

I'm so happy I get to work at a job where I'm accepted as the misfit I am.
I'm even more humbled I get to talk with people every day who are probably also misfits too.

Because people like us make the world more bright and joyful.
We're the 120-count crayon box that colors this monochrome world. And I'm damn proud to be part of such a cool communi-tree of unusuals.

Thank you, you beautiful Crayons! For loving me, for me. And for loving this special place and all it brings to the table.

Keep coloring!

Girl in Long Antique Striped Linen Dress
My name is Kayla, and I'm the owner + founder of Amidst the Alders.

I drink iced coffee all year long, drive a 1965 Mercury Comet (when I'm not driving my manual transmission Honda Element), can sail a boat, build furniture, and love the Oxford Comma.

I love writing and enjoy proper grammar; I'm awful at simple math.

I'm drawn to all genres of music, but my favorite is folksy-style acoustics with a good guitar riff. Throw in some mandolin, violin and banjo- I'm sold. I moved to Nashville at age 20 to pursue songwriting. I came back home when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I founded my first business, a wholesale handmade jewelry company, when I was 23. I began working for myself full-time, and haven't worked for anyone else since. In its prime, my jewelry company, circa1910, was sold in over 100 stores nationwide and in Australia.

I have a special power where I can guess pretty accurate measurements by looking at something. I can also make the ugliest faces you've ever seen. I do them often to freak out friends.

I'm one half Italian. I also married a full Italian.

I love playing pranks on people.

I laugh at inappropriate things more than a 12 year old boy.

I don't like mainstream, well, anything. 'Trendy' is my least favorite adjective.

I love artsy, different individuals. They're usually the nicest ones.

I am very open-minded and love all people, but especially fellow cool ones who share in my open-mindedness.

Dogs! Did I mention dogs?? I love 'em. I have 4 rescues, all with shady, sad pasts. They're all properly spoiled now, like the 40-70lb angels they are. (Adopt don't shop!)

I don't care who you are, if you're kind, I love ya and I want to spend time with you.

I loathe small talk. Tell me about your dreams, your goals, your childhood. There's not enough of that these days.

Old people are our future. Literally, figuratively, physically. Listen to their stories. Reach out to the lonely ones. They've had it harder than we could ever realize, and they need strangers to step up and care. You'll be amazed at what you learn. Humbled, too.

My favorite genre of clothing is the early 1900-1910s, specifically from the West: wide leather belts and lace up boots, long full skirts, neutral colors, crisp white high neck button down blouses neatly tucked in. Swoon!

I have a neat collection of antique clothing that I someday hope to muster up the courage to wear in public.


Thanks for reading my nonsense. If you can resonate with any of the above, we're probably going to be best friends.

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