“Go do something crazy, random, spontaneous. That’s when you’re going to have the best time of your life.” #P2P Vol. 5: Krystal Penrose
Krystal Penrose could be an inspiration to us all. She’s a 25-year-old writer and blogger who recently quit her job to pursue her true passions. A Clinton Township, Mich. native, six months ago she took one of her many risks when she picked up her things and moved to Austin. She was not moving for a job, but rather because she visited Austin in July and felt as though she had found her new home. By the end of August, she and her friend Rachel were all moved in.
This speaks to Krystal’s spirit of finding what makes you happy and pursuing it with nothing holding you back. Ever since she and I met, she’s always been an inspiration to me. In fact, she is one of the most inspirational people in my life. When I conceptualized this blog series, Krystal was the first person I wanted to speak to (I had to wait until this travel enthusiast returned from a trip in Thailand before I could). Keep reading and you’ll see why.
So, how’s Austin?
“It’s great! I really love it out here.”
Everything you wanted it to be?
“Yeah! My life is so different. Nothing about my life in Michigan is comparable to my life today in Austin. Nothing’s the same. It’s been amazing.”
Why is that?
“There’s so many people who have the same thoughts I have. I can sit back and enjoy life more. Everyone here is not focused only on work, but they’re focused on enjoying life. Sharing their beliefs, sharing things in common, meeting similar people. That’s why Austin is one of the biggest cities in the world for conventions. It’s a community. People are so passionate about their beliefs, getting together and talking about them.”
It sounds like a great community for you.
“It is. People always ask me why I moved to Austin. I respond that I wanted to move there and live my life around creative people, and then they laugh at me. They say I’m a hippie because I moved only because I wanted to. I didn’t move for a job, I picked up and moved because I wanted to. Why would you move only based on a job, or because someone wanted you to move? I moved somewhere because it fit my personality. I didn’t know anybody. It takes a lot of courage to give up the familiar and move somewhere you don’t know.“
I bet. You moved so spur of the moment!
“Yeah! It sounds horrible on paper, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I truly believe that quitting my job has started my career. For most people, it’s backwards. And I love that I can embrace a career that is made up of things that no one ever does.”
A career of inspiring people?
“Definitely. I want people to live their damn lives. I grew up in the Midwest. I was watching my friends grow up and do things because their parents did it or because they think society wants them to do it. Society wants you to get up, go to your job at 9 a.m., come home at 5 p.m., watch depressing news, go to bed and do it all over again. Watching everyone I know do that, and being able to walk away from that, is what has shown me that so many people are in need of that inspiration. I’m not trying to be famous. I’m not trying to say I’ve had the worst life in the world. I’m just trying to say it doesn’t matter what your past was, it only matters where you want to end up in life and what you want to do with your future.”
Rising from the ashes.
What in your past has been your biggest defining moment?
“That’s a tough one to talk about. There’s so many. I guess I would probably say when I tried to kill myself, but it wasn’t defining to me then. It’s defining to me now — do you get what I’m saying?”
How do you mean?
“Well basically I used to be lost. I was a lost person and I never really knew what happiness was my entire life. No one in my family was happy, my parents weren’t happy. I never saw happiness or knew what it meant to be happy. I never understood what love was. I never really saw it first hand. Being deprived of all of that made me an empty person. So, I always hated myself.”
Why do you think you began to hate yourself?
“I was taught to hate myself. You know, in magazines and in the media, with boys and school and everything, we’re programmed to hate who we are. Between that and my childhood, I was a lost person who didn’t know how to accept herself.”
You were depressed.
“Depressed and medicated. When my grandfather died, I couldn’t even cry. I was on so many medications that literally kept me from having emotions. Doctors give us these pills and expect those to fix us, but they didn’t fix me.”
And that led to you attempting suicide?
“Right. It sounds like something an emotional teenager would do, but when I tried to kill myself I honestly didn’t think I deserved to be here. I didn’t understand my purpose. I didn’t understand why God wanted me here. So I gave up. After being depressed for two years, taking depression medicine for a while, I decided I was done. I was 16 years old. It was June 24, 2005. And I swallowed way too many pills.”
“Yeah. It was crazy.”
But you survived. How did you come back from that?
“When I went to the hospital to get my stomach pumped, there was a woman right next to me who took close to the same amount of pills as me. She had literally done the same thing, but she had drank also. She was right next to me with a curtain separating us and she died that night. I wasn’t very conscious, but I remember thinking ‘Holy sh*t. There has to be meaning here that I made it and this woman’s life was taken.'”
And that’s when you started to come out of it?
“Even after that I don’t think I had started to become happy again. I just continued to grow up in unhappiness, but at some point I realized there is happiness outside of my circumstances. Once I started to meet people outside of my world who inspired me, once I started to get out and see what love was, I started to realize who I was.”
“Yeah, and there’s been so many times where I’ve been on the brink of death. Through everything I’ve been through, I’ve almost died ten times. Bike accidents, car accidents, skin cancer, it’s always something. It’s crazy I survived it all. But I think the reason why I had such a horrible life before is so I could appreciate it now.”
That’s a good way to look at it.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m incredibly ambitious. That’s why I don’t want to go a day without seeing something new, experiencing something new, finding meaning, achieving a goal. I feel like a day without a goal is a day wasted. Finally realizing who I am has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life and that’s why I like to share my message with people.”
You think going through what you’ve been through has given you a story to share.
“Yes. People take things for granted. If you never experience things that are horrible, it’s hard for you to appreciate the good. If you’re always handed everything in life, that’s your expectation. You’re programmed to think you’ll always have these things. But if you earn your way up and earn who you are, you’ll appreciate it a lot more.”
Spreading her wings.
It’s such a powerful thing to talk about. It makes you vulnerable, and that’s brave because not a lot of people would do that. So tying into that, how do you try and spread that inspiration?
“I never really thought this was a mission of mine. Everyone thinks their lives are normal. So I thought if I had it sh*tty, everyone had it sh*tty. I remember my English teacher in high school always believed in me being a writer. And one of my last days of high school, he said to me ‘You’re going to be a writer someday.’ Ever since then, I knew I needed to be a writer. It sounds stupid, but I went to a tarot card reader a few months back and she told me the way I’ll be most successful is telling people about my fears and sharing my vulnerability. It made sense to me.”
And that’s what you do now?
“There’s only been a few times I’ve written about my fears and my life, or what makes me me. I wrote about my life three times for my job and those have been the most popular blogs to date. I feel like that’s why I’m supposed to be here. I’m supposed to share my story.”
You hope to inspire others with your story from here?
“I do. I don’t think you have to have the worst life in the world in order to deserve to share your story. It’s what you learn from it. It’s what you learn from your unfortunate path that helps you create your destiny. So it’s not just about telling people what I’m afraid of, it’s telling people that you have another chance to have the life you want. Just because you had a sh*tty life doesn’t mean you have to have a sh*tty future.”
“Everyone’s always saying ‘If only I had more money’ or ‘If only I quit my job,’ but what you have is exactly what you need. You just need to make due with what you have. When I went skydiving — and I’m sure when you went you noticed it too — everyone said they wished they could do it. And like, you can! Make it a priority. Turn off your TV. Don’t waste your time texting. Spend your time doing things that are meaningful for you. That’s when you’ll live the life that you want to live.”
What’s the message you want to leave with people?
“The message I want to spread is to live the life you want to live. My favorite quote in the world is ‘Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it’s inspiring.’ Take away the TV shows and your job. What meaning is left there? That’s what is going to be left when you die and it’s the legacy you will pass on to your family. How will you be remembered? I think it’s important to think about dying every day, because that is what will force you to live.”
So what’s meaningful to you?
“The most meaningful thing in my life are those random experiences you can only have when you completely let yourself be in the moment. When I am with my friends and we just turn off our phones, turn off the TV and decide we’ll go for a hike instead of go to the bar to see what happens. I think it’s sad that so many people don’t do that.”
Sad that they don’t live without being connected?
“Right! A lot of my friends are always on their phone, or they’re playing Candy Crush, or they’re watching the latest season of The Bachelorette. That makes me so mad. You’re only given so many days to live your life. Why don’t you want to experience something out of the ordinary? Don’t get stuck doing the same thing every single day. Go do something crazy, random, spontaneous. That’s when you’re going to have the best time of your life.”
Learning to fly.
Is travel another thing you find meaning in?
“Absolutely. I don’t even know how I found traveling. No one I knew traveled, I never even met someone who traveled. One day I heard about studying abroad and decided I’d go to Italy. That literally changed my life. I feel like when you take where you know and you throw it out the window to go somewhere where everything is different — from culture, to the language, to the food, to the time zone — and you need to adapt to a new environment, it helps you build character. It forces you to learn something new in every moment that you’re walking, breathing, or talking.”
How was your first trip?
“The first day I landed in Italy on my first trip, I was bawling my eyes out. I was so scared. I didn’t know what people were saying or where to go. I ordered a fish at a restaurant and it was like a real fish. I thought it would be a horrible trip. And then I ended up finding out that traveling is my true love. It’s so scary to go somewhere new. It’s terrifying, but it makes you a better person.”
Is that why you love it?
“Definitely. I feel like I became smarter through traveling. I learned about places I never knew existed. I learned about an island in Italy that only had 600 people living on it that you can only visit for six months out of the year, and I actually got to go there. It was so cool. You can’t even see that island on a map. It’s not book smart, it’s not a math equation, it’s not a business term. But to me, that’s the most valuable knowledge.”
Learning about the world we live in?
“Yes. The world we live in should be the most important thing you can learn. It’s beautiful. Ever since my first trip, I love the feeling of experiencing something new. You get to meet people you’d never meet before from different cultures you may have never heard of before. I’ve met some pretty weird people and I’m so glad I’ve met them. It’s been so interesting. Those interactions and experiences are priceless.”
When was that?
“My trip to Italy was May 2010. So, it’s only been four years since my first trip. It feels like I’ve been doing it for so much longer.”
Where have you been since then?
“I’ve been to Italy, Ireland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Thailand, all over the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Spain, England and pretty much every country in Europe. I love Europe because it has so much history. I’m interested in a lot of authors and writers who lived and died there.”
What’s your travel secret?
“When you get away from the tourist things, you have a better experience. I don’t want to go to restaurants 800 people have gone to and written a TripAdvisor review about. I want to go to that one restaurant that no one has heard of underground that’s made of ice with a waiter that has one arm.”
Are you going anywhere else any time soon?
“My next journey is to places nobody ever thinks to go to. I’m planning to go to India and Iceland. I want to see the aurora borealis there. It’s going to be amazing. If you look up pictures of Iceland, you’ll sh*t your pants. The waterfalls, the hot springs, the geysers — especially the Northern Lights. It’s so crazy that all of those things are happening in the sky and we can’t see them because of the development in the world.”
“I’ve found a lot of meaning in yoga. It just helps me understand why I am the way I am for a lot of reasons. It’s hard to explain.”
On her favorite place to travel.
“Definitely Rome. I’ve never eaten so many carbs in my life and been so skinny. It’s because they actually have real food there. It’s not filled with preservatives and all of that bad stuff. I went to a little Italian restaurant that looked like a hole in the wall and had the best Italian food of my life. I thought to myself ‘There’s got to be a little Italian grandma in that kitchen.’ So I looked and, right there, was a little Italian grandma cooking! I thought it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Grandmas know how to cook, especially Italian grandmas.”
On traveling alone.
“I feel like traveling alone is one of the scariest things you can do. You’re left with your thoughts, emotions and feelings — and that’s a good thing. It’s so crazy but the one person you never really get to know that well is yourself. Most of us are always so distracted by everything. I think it’s so stubborn of people who are older who don’t want to learn anything new and think they know everything. That will never be me. That’s why I love traveling so much. Every single time you travel, you gain more knowledge. You grow and learn more than you ever thought you could.”
What’s next for you?
“Well, I just quit my job and I’m planning a trip for September. I’m going to get a one-way ticket somewhere and I’m just going to travel. I’ll see where life takes me. If I meet someone and I end up traveling to a few countries with them, I’ll do that. If I stay alone and end up in the North Pole, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Wow! That’s huge. And frightening.
“Yeah, I’m really excited about that. It’s going to be the spiritual journey I’ve been waiting to take my entire life. I’m going to be left with my thoughts. I’m going to go through that spiritual attic in the dark, banging my knees around on a few things I didn’t know were there and figure out who I am.”
You’re so fearless.
“Aww, thanks. I’m excited to continue finding out what message I’m going to leave this world with. It’s amazing. The craziest thing about it is that I feel so happy, and it’s only the beginning.”
Krystal’s story is a part of #P2P, a recently launched blog series that profiles the choices, risks and lifestyles of influential people I come across. For more on my personal journey with #P2P, subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter or subscribe to me on Facebook.