Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: Just right

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Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

When I know something is right, I get a unique feeling in my stomach. Since my curly, frizzy-haired childhood days, I have been known to follow this feeling, this gut instinct.

I describe this feeling as a pinch that awakens you to the reality that stands right before you.

So, do you say yes, or no?

In my younger years, these decisions existed on a smaller scale. For example, whether to sneak out or not, whether to take the buzzer shot or to pass it on, whether to trust what I felt at that very moment or to deny it all together.

These previous decisions now seem miniscule compared to the instinctual choices I have found myself making lately.

Times have changed. Well, almost everything has changed, excluding my curly, frizzy hair, and I am enjoying this transition.

Now, my decisions are which house to sign a lease on, when to stay and when to go, which opportunities will prosper and which ones will lead me astray.

Although the circumstances are more life-changing now than in my childhood, the most important decision to make is when to say yes and when to say no.

As you get older, you realize more and more that your gut decisions don’t just affect the moment, but many moments that follow thereafter. And most importantly, you realize that your these choices can greatly impact those around you.

Being the sole woman figure in the household has altered my gut instincts.

I have always had a motherly nature within me, and now with my mother gone, I never make a decision without considering my family first.

I am learning how to balance my decisions, how to balance when to say yes and no, because although I am not the mother, I still serve as a pillar of guidance for my family.

I have told you numerous times about my spontaneous character and, while I am quick to say yes, I never jump into anything without doing my research. My mom instilled in us to never go into a situation — whether it be a political debate, interview, basketball game, or even a blind date — without doing our homework.

She would say, “If you do your homework, your gut instincts will almost always be right.”

With that being said, upon my move to Denver, I did my homework thoroughly, almost to the point where I could have written a case study on the Denver neighborhoods, their demographics and the cultures that resonate within them.

I would stroll through the streets of my favorite neighborhoods, a pen and pad in hand, and a camera in the other.

I recorded the pulse, vibes, feelings and stories that each one gave me. I dropped in on nearly every locally-owned business, introduced myself to the employees and essentially interviewed them on their thoughts of the area.

Let’s just say I was seeking a small-town feeling like the one I feel at home, where around every corner is a familiar face and a warm hug.

Remember that gut instinct I was describing to you, that pinch and that awakening?

I felt this reassurance immediately upon entering the front door of my now new home. After all my homework, research and interviews, I knew, like my mother always told me, that this house was right.

I pulled out the very pen I used to take countless messy notes and signed the lease on the spot. Now, the key is on my key ring and every time I look at it I feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of my mom.

“There is nothing more rewarding than hard work,” I said as stood on my tiptoes to reach the back crevices of the cupboard of my new kitchen with my cleaning rag.

It was a moment that brought me nostalgia, reminding me of when I reached in the back corners of my mom’s cupboards for her famous recipes. It is these simple moments when I miss her, when I wonder how I will ever do life without her.

And then, I think of how I can make her feel closer and, at the same time, make me feel at home. So, I put her recipes in the very top almost unreachable corner of my cupboard.

The house is far from modern, but close to home. I am falling in love with its imperfections. I love the way each door has a unique creak and the way the windows are slightly rusted because they have seen years of season changes, the way it smells and the way it feels to rearrange dishes and pictures until they feel right.

And, after a long day of moving, I love collapsing on the hardwood floor of my empty living room, closing my eyes and imagining the stories that will fill this space.

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