Growing up in Mexico City, creative consultant and art director Isabella Marengo didn’t spend much time alone. “I was born and raised in a hectic city where it is normal to spend the majority of your time with your parents, relatives, and close friends,” she says. “When I moved to San Francisco in 2012 to study fashion merchandising at the Academy of Art University, I learned the importance of being on my own. I understood the importance of giving myself enough space to do things that make me feel good.”
Over treats at Tartine Manufactory and then via video chat, Marengo explains how the adjustment to a different culture, a different lifestyle, and, most of all, a different mindset taught her the importance of self-care. “Living in California, I understood that it is essential not to lose yourself by always having dinner or going out with friends, socializing all the time, and getting distracted about what your life purpose is,” she explains. Marengo worked in brand marketing for sustainable fashion company Everlane for over three years, and though she loved it, she recently struck out on her own; now as a freelancer, she has realized that creating healthy space for herself—even for half an hour—is beneficial to herself, to her boyfriend, to her social life, and to her work.
“In the past six months, I started to introduce certain rituals in my life,” she says. “I began leaving my phone outside of my bedroom; I used to wake up, and the first thing I would do was grab my phone to read my emails and scroll on Instagram. I used to feel already stressed out without leaving the bed.” These days, though, the morning is a crucial part of her day; it’s time to focus on herself through a few positive habits that, she confesses, have changed everything.
“Every morning, I take between 20 and 30 minutes to practice self-care,” Marengo explains. “I wake up around 6:45am, I take a shower, and I listen to Bon Iver; I am obsessed at the moment. Then I make my tea, and I listen to The Daily (The New York Times podcast), and I start working. Mornings are special moments for me; they are my reflective time, where I don’t rush.”
Working from home can make it challenging to find the right balance between the time to be productive and the time to relax, so Marengo makes sure she balances business with a nourishing meal. “Going to Whole Foods to buy what I need to cook at home for lunch became one of my priorities. Every day I set a timer, and at 12:30pm, I cook lunch,” she says. “It could be a salad or soup, but what is important is to set that specific time to make space to eat properly and enjoy my meal. It is part of my willingness and goal to be more present.” She loves eating in restaurants, too, and admits that she goes out to dinner with her boyfriend four times a week—either to discover new restaurants and cuisines, or to go to their favourite neighbourhood spot.
“As I don’t go to the office every day, for me it is vital to go out and enjoy the city after work,” says Marengo. “Once a week, we go to Union Larder; it is our favourite wine bar, and it’s by our home in Russian Hill. We always order the same things: a cheese board and a glass of Txakolina, a Spanish white wine.”
And while they have found success in San Francisco, Marengo and her boyfriend are in the process of relocating to Los Angeles: a city that feels more in sync with what they are looking for at the moment, both in terms of lifestyle and business opportunities. “Los Angeles is a creative hub, and many companies that I am interested in working with are based there,” she says. “And now that I know how to take care of myself and I have my self-care routine, I can live anywhere.”