This Is... Summer 2019 Edition
Becca Johnson Plus Size Self Love
HEALTHY Taking My Mental Health Into My Own Hands
Opinionated My Autoimmune Disease Is Not a Fad Diet
Self Love Issue
Learn how to love yourself for the goddess you are! Read about Finding self worth while struggling through an eating disorder, Laugh at LOL Worthy self care stories, Find Out Wtf PCOS Is , And more!
Photo By: Mary Jo Photography
table of [Me]
Letter from the Editor
Plus Size Self Love
You are a Strong Woman My struggle with bulimia
Cracking the code
Reframing Failure as a Young Professional in the Social Media Age
From Private Jets to Whole Foods: Choosing MY Career 40 I’m “Mom” & “Wife” But Who Am I? 45
How to look out for #1 (in business) 50
For the self love of travel A solo trip for self love
My Autoimmune disease is not a fad diet 34 The dating game 37
Studio life: Creating Space
treat yourself 96
Throwing a milestone birthday 97
girls who rule 57 earthly mana 68
What’s Trending Made for Brave
Seaweed SEAsoning for Your Summer Snacks & Soul My body image journey wtf is pcos taking my mental health into my own hands
self care stories
70 73 76 79
Tropical Trip Attire Crazy Plant Lady
A letter from the editor.
As I was driving to work recently, I realized I was basically picking myself apart as I was listening to a podcast because I was wishing I was as captivating as a celebrity the hosts were talking about. And then I checked myself. Sure, maybe according to my definition of beauty I'm not as head-turningly beautiful as Amber Heard, but first of all: the construct of beauty is not universal. What's beautiful to me may not be beautiful to someone else. In fact, what's beautiful to my husband doesn't even always align with what I think is beautiful. So, I had to remind myself that no matter how hard I try, or anyone tries, I'm not going to please everyone, nor will I make everyone's head turn at my beauty. Not even Amber Heard will. So why beat myself up about it? Then, I went below the surface and I realized I shouldn't be aiming to be someone else because I am just as valuable and worthy as she is - because we are each our own, individual, unique selves and we each offer something to the world no one else can because we're not the same. So, I started thinking about what makes someone beautiful below the surface and I realized that my desire to be like someone else was actually making me less attractive. Not because I did my makeup differently or I wore an outfit that wasn't flattering, but because I wasn't appreciating myself and walking in the confidence that I am worthy because I am myself, not despite being myself. The most beautiful women - no, the most universally beautiful women - are those who are confident. And that doesn't mean they don't have insecurities, it means they know they have something unique and valuable to offer the world: their unique individuality. And because it's theirs, no one else has the power to take away their worth or their beauty. So just because Amber Heard may have more voluptuous lips than I do, if I'm walking in my worth, then I can appreciate her lips without feeling like they retract from what I have to offer the world. I am sharing this story with you because while every issue aims to remind you that you're worthy, this one is focusing on it big time. We’re focusing on it so much that we named the issue after it – you’re embarking on The Self Love Issue. If you’re not really sure what self love means or what it looks like, I want you to know you’re not alone. In fact, my friend Lindsay texted me as she was writing her article (check it out in The World section!) and she was frustrated. After reading her text, I was really fucking frustrated. Her text said, “So I’m finishing my article right now, well trying to, and I keep repeating the words self love to the point that I’m annoyed so I looked up other words for self love. NO WONDER WE ARE TOLD TO BE SELFLESS. The thesaurus’ other words for self love are conceited, egoistic, individualist…” So, if you don’t know what self love means or what it looks like, don’t blame yourself. Blame the world we live in that has taught us that to love ourselves is to be selfish and that to be selfish is a negative thing when in reality loving yourself and being selfish can actually be a quite positive thing and sometimes a necessary thing. Within the pages of this issue we hope to illustrate to you what it means to love yourself, what it looks like to fail and succeed at it and the journeys many women have gone through to achieve the ever-elusive “self love.” And so, This Is.. The Self Love Issue. Happy reading & loving!
Plus Size Self Love with becca johnson
Photo By: Mary Jo Photography
By: Tatum Garino An image stylist, a public speaker, and a plus-size model, Becca Johnson welcomed me into her home on a Sunday morning for us to chat over coffee about her ongoing journey to loving herself unconditionally. Fresh faced in sweatpants, a white tee, and a flowy cardigan, Becca sat before me equal parts humble and confident, vulnerable and strong, selfdeprecating and self-loving. None of these characteristics are mutually exclusive and Becca is living proof of that as she flows between the multiple facets of her personality right before my eyes as she recounts stories of pain, confusion, realization and healing. Tatum Garino: You’re a model. You’re an image stylist. You’re a business owner. You’re all these things – walk me through the story behind how you got here. Becca Johnson: Oh my goodness! So I started Fashion Design & Merchandising school at 20 and got my degree in that and that launched me into being in the fashion industry. Alongside that, while going through college I was working at 24 Hour Fitness so I got an interest in the health and wellness industry and in that time I was dating someone who had an interest in bodybuilding so I found myself around that industry, as well. So my career has been a parallel of the fashion industry and health and wellness/bodybuilding and fitness. And in that, at 22 I started exploring modeling and three years ago I started my own styling business - so it’s been an evolution for sure. I’ve always loved fashion and styling but I didn’t realize how much I did until I got into my twenties. I thought it was just a personal preference.
TG: Was there a turning point that made you realize you were meant to do your own thing? BJ: Oh sure. Later in my career, when I was 26 or 27, I was working at a company that rented out designer handbags and I was Director of Customer Service and Fraud Prevention for them. I loved my job, but I realized that I wasn’t getting the creative outlet - I wasn’t hands on. I love people and I wasn’t having that interaction because it was an ecommerce company. This is so extreme, but it really felt like my soul was dying because I was good at the stuff I was doing but I wasn’t in my passion, I wasn’t in my purpose. Through that I wanted to start my own styling business but it took a couple years before I really took the plunge, so the turning point was in getting fed up and finally just trying to figure out how to start. The ultimate turning point was when I then turned to another job where I had a really, really turbulent boss and I’d never had one of those. It was a very emotionally taxing situation and that was my bottom. It was my swift kick in the ass and God telling me that I didn’t have to have all the pieces together I just needed to start my business and I did. And I didn’t do it the “smart way” – I didn’t have savings, I didn’t have all my ducks in a row I just did it and it’s been three years since I started my styling business. The modeling has been alongside that. When I was 22 I got accepted as a plus-size model to a local modeling agency in downtown Seattle and I honestly went out for that audition because one of my peers in school had encouraged me to do so and looking back I understand now that it was me testing my own self esteem and confidence in my body. I went out for it because I knew I wasn’t as con-
fident as I wanted to be in my body and I wanted to challenge that, I wanted to improve it. I wanted to do something where I could cultivate more confidence, so I went out for that and in getting accepted to that agency I saw a different side of modeling at that time. This was 13 years ago and at that time it was said that the plus-size was the “healthy way” to model, and I saw that that wasn’t necessarily accurate. I heard from another model in a similar position as myself, that if she got too small she was asked to hop off the treadmill and eat a cheeseburger. That was not my lifestyle, that was not something I believed in – I was always health first. The thing that really got me was that because I was on the smaller end – I was a size 12 to 14 - they positioned me in my test photoshoot to look more like a size 16 or 18. What was interesting in that was even though I could identify that I didn’t feel great in my body or where I was lacking self confidence, I didn’t take that on personally, I took that on morally. I did not like that I would then be used to tell another woman that is a size 16/18, “This is what you should look like,” when in all reality I was a 12/14. Morally, I was not down with that. It definitely struck my core values and because of that I walked away from it. I didn’t want any part of it. TG: Good for you. BJ: Thank you. I don’t know where that wherewithal came from at 22-years-old but I’m very thankful for it. So now I’m in a place where because of everything that has happened with the modeling industry in the past five years it seems like it does align with who I am, what I believe, my core values, what my business is about – positive body image, all of those things.
TG: So let’s talk about that term plus-size. First, how does it make you feel, how do you think it’s manipulated, as you briefly illustrated, and what do you think it should be? Do you even think it should be a box that needs to be labeled? BJ: I’m a pretty emotionally sensitive person and I pay special attention to words – I will tell you plus-size isn’t a phrase that’s really affected me and made me feel bad or worse or whatever. I think that it’s just a term. I think there’s a lot of weight that’s been put on it that I don’t think is necessarily needed. But for me personally it’s never been something that has affected me in a bad way, I didn’t take anything negative from it. I just saw it from the business standpoint of they were trying to identify what was different. The whole debate around plus-size is fascinating. I think if it is used in a way where we’re trying to draw more attention to the need of what’s not being met, identifying this group of women or sizes not being met, I don’t have a problem with it. TG: So on that train of thought, how did it make you feel in that moment when you’re a size 12/14 being made to look like a size 16/18? Did you feel represented as a size 12/14 woman when it seems like you were too small then? BJ: That’s such a good question and that’s actually been the struggle of pursuing the modeling career – trying to figure out where I fit. When I had walked away from that modeling agency I thought, “You know what? I am just going to continue to work on my body in a way that makes me happy and then when I have my physique and figure in a place where I’m confident then I’ll go back and see if there’s a place in
the market for me.” And that didn’t quite happen because my body was always changing. So, back to your question, there’s been a huge gap I would say above a size 8. I think it’s come a long way and that the fashion industry has made leaps and bounds in terms of who they’re representing and the fashions they’re providing. But at that time, I felt like it was something where they were missing the mark. They weren’t properly serving a size 16/18 and above, and they weren’t serving my size either. TG: On sizing, with the inconsistency in how brands size things, how do see sizing or have you felt sizing play into this kind of complexforming insecurity? BJ: Yeah. I think it’s exactly what you said – it’s complex. I think about it in the way we do our weight – it’s just a number. And there’s been all this emphasis put on this number that you see on the scale and then that number becomes your identity and that becomes a factor of your value and your worth. I think the size of clothing is the same thing. I had to learn it’s just a number to identify what size of jeans it may be and understanding that it’s going to change from brand to brand. This is something I talk to clients about all the time – there are no sizing mandates. Every brand can have their own sizing range and that’s just something they decide on to categorize and figure out the different things they’re going to offer. So, I think psychologically we have to pull back and understand how so much emphasis got put on that size and then separate it from ourselves. I always think about why, for whatever reason, we put so much power into these material things – into the clothing, into the size, whatever –
but really, you’re the one who holds the power. So, I may go somewhere and be a size 10 and then go somewhere else and be a size 14. I don’t give a shit. Either way, I just want my ass to look good. Right? I just want to feel good, but I will say I haven’t always been that way. Growing up I always felt bigger, I was more curvaceous, and it was challenging. My biggest size I’ve been at was a size 18, almost a 20, and that definitely was tough because of the whole emphasis on, “Oh gosh, I’m getting bigger,” and this was before I auditioned for that initial modeling agency. It was definitely something I had to go through and undo the conditioning of what I was taught and what that meant. I think that’s just part of the work that we all have to do, it’s just part of the society we’re exposed to. And I need to be able to separate and identify that I’m not going to give away my power to a material thing. If clothes don’t fit me, man that’s its loss – it doesn’t get the right to sit on my body and that’s okay. TG: That’s awesome. That’s a great perspective to have and I know I don’t think that way and I haven’t been enlightened to that perspective, so I love it. It’s very encouraging. I would love to dive a little deeper into what you mentioned about how it hasn’t always been this way for you where you have this self confidence and the undoing of the conditioning and how you went on that audition to help with your self confidence. I’d love to know more about Becca growing up and the struggles she faced. BJ: [Laughs] Okay, let’s get into it, let’s get deep about it. I call it my body confidence journey. I’m one of seven children, five boys and two girls, and I’m in the middle, and growing
I m ay g o somewhere and be a size 1 0 and then go somew her e e lse and be a size 14. I do nâ€™t give a shit. Either way, I ju st want my ass to look good.
Photos By: Mary Jo Photography
Photo By: Mary Jo Photography
I’m not going to give away my power to a material thing. If clothes don’t fit me, man that’s its loss – it doesn’t get the right to sit on my body and that’s okay. up I felt like I looked like my dad and my sister looked like my mom. My mom had seven kids and she has always been in tremendous shape and my sister looked very similar to her. And I looked like my dad, which is like a linebacker. I always felt like I was just big. I never saw myself as fat, I never labeled myself like that. I just felt big. I was tall – I was 5’ 9” and 175 pounds by the time I was a freshman in high school. I can’t tell you the last time I saw below 175, I don’t even know if that’s physically possible. All that to say, growing up I just remember being “thick.” And, growing up in a small farm town where it’s predominantly white and you think about middle school and high school, girls were really small and thin. Abercrombie was really big back then and I just remember
thinking, “Man, I would be lucky if one thigh fit into an Abercrombie t-shirt.” Again, I never felt fat I just didn’t understand my body – I didn’t understand the shape, I didn’t understand the power of it, I didn’t understand how cool the curves were and why it looked different. Because of that, I was always trying to figure out where I fit in. I definitely went through feeling like I was big and I can go back and think about those memories and I can feel the feeling at that time – I can feel my uncertain posture and I can feel where I physically was at. I was trying to hide. I don’t know if I was ashamed but I definitely was not confident and I was trying to hide and blend in as I felt like I would stick out and I thought that was a bad thing. I always make the joke that I had an ass
out of the womb – I was curvaceous! [Laughs] Through high school and into my early twenties, before the modeling thing, I was trying to figure out how to dress my body in a way that I would feel comfortable but I did put myself down thinking that my stomach was too big, I never wanted to show it, and I thought I had a mom pooch – that’s what I used to call it. And I saw it as, because my mom had seven kids and I’d always been around babies, I saw having that “pooch” as a privilege because you’d had babies and so I thought, “I haven’t earned this, I haven’t had babies.” TG: Wow. BJ: And I would think, “Why am I 13 or 14 with this pooch?” And I would always try to hide it. I would cover
my butt. I would cover my hips. I was not confident at all. And I think that was just because I didn’t see anyone else that looked like me. And maybe there were quite a few girls that did look like me but I didn’t see it like that – I got stuck in the comparison game of, “Well I don’t look like that. I’m not straight up and down like that. My legs can’t fit into shorts like that.” Also, back then, it was a question of what’s appropriate to show? And understanding that if you’re more curvaceous, if you’re more voluptuous you fill clothes out differently, it looks different. Now, with the body confidence movement it’s so cool that there’s so much more acceptance around that but that’s where I think the unwinding of the conditioning is and understanding what we were told to look like and what was appropriate and what wasn’t appropriate and if you showed your stomach and you had a little fat roll that wasn’t appropriate, that was showing too much. Or if you had some thick thighs and your shorts were too short and you had something hanging out, that wasn’t appropriate. And now I believe there’s absolutely a sophisticated way to show skin if that’s your thing, it’s a personal choice. So again, I didn’t see my body represented so therefore I didn’t have a lot of confidence in what it was, I didn’t understand it. TG: So then how did you go about unwinding that conditioning? BJ: I’m still doing it! [Laughs] TG: Yeah? BJ: Absolutely! I think it’s going to be a continued journey – which now I look forward to because I think about how much I’ve done in the past three years since I’ve started my business. What I practice is
what I preach, what I preach is what I practice. It has been a lifelong journey and I think it will continue to be. I think it’s just awareness. As I was getting into my twenties and I was around the fitness industry I really took an interest in taking really good care of myself and knowing that I just wanted to do the best with what God gave me. I didn’t want to fit into any box of what I was supposed to look like. I think the body is an absolutely amazing machine and I wanted to see what mine could do. So, I took an interest in working out and taking care of myself. Also, at twenty I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and so I went on a journey of really understanding how I could manage my physical health to have a life that I really loved and could enjoy without being on a whole bunch of medication. How I started the unwinding of the conditioning was just constantly getting curious and aware of my insecurities and understanding if it was something I could improve, where it was coming from – is that mine or did someone give that to me? - and asking do I still believe it and what do I want to do with it? When I started working I used to wear really baggy clothes and roomy sweats because again, I thought it was inappropriate to show my body in a certain way and to wear really form-fitting things. And, I thought because my body wasn’t like a fitness model, I shouldn’t show a certain amount of skin when working out, so I started challenging that and asking why not? Why don’t I feel good in that? I’m 35 and I would say in the past 10 years that’s something I’ve worked really, really hard on – to get more confident, to feel better and just to break down those walls. TG: Okay and do you do that on
your own? Do you see a therapist? BJ: Yeah I’ve seen a therapist, I think they’re amazing. TG: So do I – I love ‘em! BJ: Everyone should see a therapist! I’ve gone through times I’ve seen a therapist and I would say the therapist and other healing work helped me on a much deeper level of accepting my whole. We’re not just talking about the physical we’re talking about what my personality is, my characteristics, my strengths, my weaknesses, how I view my weaknesses and what I want to do with those, how I interact with other people. I think through therapy and doing a lot of personal development and doing A LOT of healing work of really just understanding who I am as a whole, that gave me the most confidence and then it’s from the inside out. If you under-
stand who you are on the inside and you love that and you appreciate that, even on your shit show days, it starts to come out on the outside and you start to give more appreciation and get to a point where you just give less fucks. You know what, if I have
cellulite, I have cellulite. My concern is always is it a health issue? If not, cool – let’s just rock some lumps and bumps and let’s just have it out there. I would say my process has been therapy, really getting to know who I am through personal development and evolvement work, and healing work – lots of healing. TG: Then what would you say, or do you have anything you wish you could say, to pre-teen or teenage Becca? BJ: [Laughs] Oh Lord have mercy! I think about this often, especially in my business, this is actually an an-
I just wanted to do the best with what God gave me. I didnâ€™t want to fit into any box of what I was supposed to look like. I think the body is an absolutely amazing machine and I wanted to see what mine could do.
chor of why I started my business, I constantly think about the things that I went through as a teenager and as a young woman, and I think, “What could I have been told that would have helped me to understand the power of my body and my essence?” The first thing I would tell myself as a 13-year-old is, “Your ass is bomb. It’s not something to hide, it’s not something that is bad or wrong just because you may not see anyone else with it and thank God – no one else has your exact body and thank God.” That’s where I would start and then move on to understanding how unique you are in terms of every part – your spirit, your soul, your heart, your mind, your body. Then, like I do in public speaking, I’d talk about why we sit here comparing ourselves, you and I, when there is no way we are even a little bit close to having similar DNA and yet I’m looking at you for your body to look like mine and vice versa. I wish someone would have gotten in my head about that. TG: Okay so you mentioned public speaking, so I want to switch gears a little bit and hear how you describe what it is that you do. You’re a model, you’re an image stylist, you do public speaking, you’re a business owner across the board – so how would you describe what it is that you do from the literal side of what it is you do but also what’s your purpose in doing all of those things what are you trying to achieve? BJ: Yeah, good question. So, what I do is help people create and define their unique style and then implement it throughout their wardrobe, helping them to show up as themselves through that process, promoting positive body image. I want people to OWN their body and style! I think that when we’re really
empowered to just step into who we are, that’s when we really show up. And as much as I love fashion and I love clothes and I love style, I also know that we don’t have to worry about it all the time. So if someone could put clothes on in the morning and dress for how they really feel that speaks to who they are on the inside, then they’re going to be on their way the rest of the day and now they can put their brain power into what they’re doing – what their passion is, what their purpose is rather than thinking about, “Does this fit? My jeans are too tight, they’re falling off my ass. I don’t know if this is appropriate for this situation.” Blah, blah, blah. My passion and my purpose is to really do just that. My journey has been embracing who I uniquely am. I really want to encourage and empower – empower is my favorite word empower other people to really be who they are and to embrace and love who they are and find a style that they can express that through. Personal style is so cool because it’s self-expression. There’s a lot of pain and suffering around body image and what we call the physical experience. I always think about the quote that says something to the effect of we’re all spirits having a physical experience and I think that’s beautiful - there is so much suffering around life and I don’t think there has to be. I think that the opportunity to be alive is amazing and you have this one body, this temple and that’s your one vehicle for your life, that’s the one thing that at the end of the day it’s all that you really own - that’s beautiful. And I like to help people to really unravel the suffering around that so they can really live a life of joy and purpose. And my purpose is tied into that, I just want people to be who they are. I
was encouraged to do that by my father and my mother, and I think that we’re all put in this world to do something very unique and you have to be confident, you have to be selfassured to do that. So, let’s come up with a unique style, which is from the inside out, work on accepting who you are on the inside and then properly express that on the outside. I say “properly” because a lot of time it’s just misaligned. Sometimes we think we’re expressing ourselves authentically but it’s not really aligned with all that we truly are on the inside and then whoever we’re coming in contact with can’t take us in the right way. And that’s really powerful. Clothes, style, body language are such powerful non-verbal communication that tell people who we are. And I think when you can dress yourself in a way that is authentic and unique to you, that’s when you’re on your way. TG: So then, who are you? BJ: [Laughs] TG: In your words! Because you keep talking about how you were always encouraged by your parents to be who you are, you want to empower people to be who they are, so in your words, who are you? BJ: I feel like I struggle to articulate that. I can tell you right now, 35-year-old Becca is an empowerer, an inspirer, a healer in a sense. I am funny – sometimes at very inappropriate times [laughs]. I am an expression of love – as cheesy as that may sound. I am a lover! I feel I was put on this earth to love, I love life, I love people - people are my lifeline. That is where I gain a lot of energy. I would say that who I am is a person that really connects to people and creates space for others to feel comfortable to be themselves. And
it’s so interesting because as I continue this journey of identifying, it’s no wonder I do what I do. I didn’t even fathom it would be like this though. When I started my styling business I simply wanted to empower women to understand the shape of their body. Which is still absolutely true, but now I’m doing it on such a deeper level – we’re talking about getting to the nuts and bolts of what you think about your body and why you think that. And there’s a lot of trauma that comes up in that. TG: I can imagine. BJ: And by no means am I a therapist or a doctor – sometimes I honestly feel unqualified because of the stories I hear but I do know this, I do have the heart and empathy and the ears. People just want to be heard and I will listen to anyone who wants to tell their story.
So I would say challenge it. Like why is that there? The stomach is a great example. This is amazing to me that with all the women I’ve met throughout my life – modeling, my clients, fitness, speaking and all these different things – the stomach is something that every woman has had insecurities about, she thinks it needs to be flat and that no matter what size she is, no matter what shape, race, no matter who she is, she usually has an issue with her stomach. And so now I challenge that with, “What is it supposed to look like?” And usually it’s supposed to look flat or supposed to have abs. Okay, who said? Like where’d you get that from? And it’s not saying you’re wrong, but let’s just dive into why you think it’s supposed to be a certain way. Why is it that you think your hips are supposed to look a certain way? And back to the comparison thing – you see a model and their hips don’t look the same way - yeah, because they don’t have the same parents, they’re not from the same blood line – you guys aren’t even related to each other! So, I always encourage challenging why is it “supposed” to be that way? And, what happens if you were to really love and embrace that thing that you think is a flaw? What could you free yourself from then? Instead of thinking about how uncomfortable you are in your body or how big your stomach is or how much your arms flap or whatever it may be, what if you really, really loved and embraced that part of
what it means to unconditionally love myself is when I identify my “flaws” to really just take those in and embrace them and understand that those are there for a reason and it doesn’t mean that I need to be fixed, it doesn’t mean that I’m bad, broken or wrong
TG: That’s awesome. So, as I briefly mentioned, this is the Self Love Issue so I want to know what does it mean to you to unconditionally love yourself? BJ: Mmm. Unconditionally - that’s a deep word. I think the thing is the meanings are always changing. Right now, what it means to unconditionally love myself is when I identify my “flaws” to really just take those in and embrace them and understand that those are there for a reason and it doesn’t mean that I need to be fixed, it doesn’t mean that I’m bad, broken or wrong, it just means that it’s there and I get to be on a journey where I get to identify why it’s there and now, does
it serve me? Is it something that I still need? Because I know all these things, good and bad, they served a purpose at one point. Like procrastination, does that still serve me? Probably not! [Laughs] And that’s a tough one. But uncovering why it’s there and not beating up on myself – that would be unconditionally loving myself. And understanding that it’s just my human – I’m just human
and it’s just my humanity and it’s actually quite beautiful. TG: What would you like to say to women who are maybe feeling unworthy or they don’t feel like they can do something, or wear something, or maybe even say something because they don’t look a certain way? BJ: I would ask why. I’m very inquisitive. I always tell people, “You give me whatever your challenge is and I’m going to have questions and I’m doing it from a place of love.”
Photo By: Mary Jo Photography
you? How would you feel then? How would you be in your body at that point? You would stand up taller, you would feel better – you’re talking about raising your energy and your vibrations. So, I always encourage people just to challenge it. TG: The comparison game. You’ve talked about it a lot, it’s huge in society, especially right now with Instagram and just social media in general. And as we’ve talked about, it’s obviously gotten a lot better than it used to be as far as how advertisements are being portrayed and all of these things but, when it comes to the comparison game I think we all get lost in it and I think you’ve brought a great perspective with the idea of not even coming from the same blood line, different DNA. But, you also come from the perspective of you compared
yourself to your sister growing up, where you do come from the same parents. So, my question is about that side of things. When you are related to somebody and it’s your sister, you have the same parents, you have a same parent, whatever it may be, how do you embrace your version of that DNA? BJ: Such a good question! Yes, she has similar DNA but then she’s still not me and I’m still not her, right? I wasn’t created to be her and she was not created to be me. We were both created for different reasons and different purposes so we’re not going to be exactly the same. I think she and I are a beautiful example because we are literally as opposite as you can get – in looks, in personality, in body shape, in everything – and I think it’s a really good example of really loving who you are and loving who that person is. I don’t want
to try to be her, she only can do her and I only can do me. And then really embracing her uniqueness, she’s to serve as a different person in the family, in the world, in her business, and so am I so I don’t want to try to be her. Growing up, I just didn’t realize how I was doing that. It was definitely a subconscious thing because again, I saw my mom and my sister and those were the women around me so it was natural - of course I’m going to compare myself, it’s just something we do, it’s the way our brains are wired. I think that it’s just something that you have to build awareness around and learn how to not do. And to your point about social media, that is ever-growing and we have to be careful to look to people that can inspire us and empower us without taking on, “I need to be like them.” Let me take the attributes about them that I really ad-
mire and appreciate and then figure out how to do it my way. Because what’s interesting about this is yes, I’ve compared myself, yes, I’ve felt bad that I didn’t look like other women or other girls but at the end of the day, in my core, I don’t want to be anyone else. There’s a part of me that’s always been different and I appreciate and I love that. So then why am I getting stuck in, “Why am I not like other people?” And I think that’s where you have to really ground yourself in who you are and just get to know yourself. Self love is really understanding who you are and getting into the bits and pieces that are a mess and that we think are messy but are really quite beautiful because it’s your humanity, it’s part of who you are. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty fucking cool is what it is. Self love is really just embracing all of that. Embracing your truth. TG: I’m curious if any of your insecurities growing up came from specific experiences involving other people saying something to you or treating you differently based on how you looked? BJ: Oh yeah! One example was when I was walking into a grocery store, I was probably 16, and I was with my girlfriend who was very different in terms of body shape. She was short – like I said, I was 5’ 9”, I was quite tall – and she was very slender and very petite and we were walking into a grocery store and I remember there were two boys in the parking lot and one yelled out, “You look like a whale” to me and then they said that she was a mouse or some derogatory thing putting down her image, as well. And I remember I was so hurt by that. However, what I will say is that the majority of what I felt was on me. It was more self-imposed. And yeah, I can say I got it from so-
ciety and whatever these influences are, but it wasn’t so much outside, it was more internal than external. And, what’s so powerful about this is when I started my business and I got on this path of really understanding how passionate I am about this and my own journey with my body, as I started to embrace more of who I was, one day I had this thought of, “You know what? Maybe God just intended for you to stand out. Who are you to minimize yourself?” And, when I started walking in that more like, “If I stick out then I stick out” I noticed a change. In the past I had a habit of dressing myself down because I wanted to fit in, I thought I was doing it out of being appropriate, being kind, being proper, having manners - like you go to a wedding and you don’t wear white, something like that – it was etiquette. But then I realized that was bullshit, it was all bullshit. That was me just minimizing who I was because I was not comfortable with it. When I let that layer off, if you will, and said, “You know what, I just need to step into who I really am,” I decided I wasn’t going to dress down because I feel like it’s not appropriate for an event or something. If I want to wear something because it makes me feel a certain way, then I’m fucking wearing it. And then people would come up to me and say, “Oh my goodness, you look so good! What diet are you on?” I would tell them I was on the self love plan. They were seeing the transformation. And I am a firm believer that when you really accept who you are and your body, when you really become friends with your body – we’re talking best friends - your body works for you. I was releasing things that I didn’t need and it wasn’t about needing to be a certain weight. And when I accepted that and walked in
that I showed up as a bigger version of myself. What was so interesting is that I had thought if I wore that bold dress or wore those pants that showed my ass and were super form-fitting that it would be arrogant, it would be egotistical, that I would push people away. It ended up being the exact opposite. I was more attractive because I was me. And I don’t mean just in terms of attracting romantic partners, I mean in terms of being attractive to your people. Now because I’m showing more of who I am and I’m really stepping into that and showing up with that, now the people that were coming to me were seeing more of that – you know you attract your tribe. But you can’t attract your tribe if you’re not you. I’ve always been me at my essence but it’s almost like I was in the closet about it. You know, in my twenties maybe I didn’t show it to everyone or maybe I showed it 20% of the time where now we’re talking as often as I can. I wouldn’t say 100% because I’m not perfect. But I would say a good 80% of the time it’s more at the forefront rather than at the back. And I’m always pushing myself to see if there’s more. And I know there’s more. I’m just getting started. And that’s where the modeling comes in. They say that beauty is an inside job – that is the truth. And it’s amazing the response I would get. On my 31st birthday I had this bomb dress that I wanted to wear – white, super form-fitting - the most bold thing I had ever worn. I was waiting for the right time to wear it and I previously planned to wear it for the guy in my life at the time. That ended up not happening. When I bought the dress several months prior, I didn’t fit into it and I thought instead of making my body fit the clothes I was going to make the clothes fit
my body so I was going to go get it tailored. Time had passed and I decided, “Yep, I’m going to wear it for my 31st birthday.” That guy was no longer in my life, and it ended up being a blessing – it was a very toxic situation that thankfully I was pulled out of and as a result of that ending I lost weight. That was not my intention – back to that release, when you come from self love you release what you don’t need to carry. I ended up releasing some weight and then fit into that dress without getting it tailored. Here’s what’s funnyas much as I loved that dress and it fitting, I still had the hesitation of, “Oh I don’t know if I want to wear this. Maybe this is too bold for Seattle.” Because we know how casual Seattle is. I’m so thankful that in my moment of self-doubt my girlfriend said, “No. You’re wearing the goddamn dress.” When I put that dress on – and it was so tight that I literally couldn’t wear anything under it, nothing – I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “This is me. This is who I am! This dress embodies who I am and if I don’t get one compliment all night I will be good
because I don’t need it. I’m dressing for me.” That’s empowerment. Now with the unwinding of old conditioning, in the past when I would go out, I was always afraid to show my body in a certain way because “you don’t want to attract the wrong attention.” I will tell you that when I really owned my body and my image that night, I didn’t get one cat call, I didn’t get one dude coming to me sideways, I didn’t get one inappropriate comment whereas before when I was insecure and not confident I got it all the time. I was attracting that same frequency. But when I’m really standing in who I am, now the man that is going to approach me, he’s going to be on it. He has to come to me in a certain way because of what I’m putting out there. Now I’m demanding a certain type of attention. And when I wore that dress, man I could have ruled the world that night. [Laughs] It was good, it was so good. It was me not caring about all the other shit that I thought I needed to before – like oh that’s provocative or other women are going to think I’m cocky or whatnot. You know what?
That was the exact opposite. It was super cool. TG: That is so cool. Is there anything else you have to say about loving yourself? BJ: Back to your plus-size thing, a term that is used now is “curvy model” and I’ve kind of played with that and what that means but I think we need to remember that women in general, women all together, have curves. It’s just a matter of what curves you have and embracing those. If you’re a 0 or if you’re a 20 or if you’re white, black, purple, pink, round, square, whatever it may be, embrace your body and own it and rock the shit out of your curves. And, we need to be really careful that we’re not putting down another woman because we think that she may not have the same struggles that we do. Just because a woman is a smaller size or weight does not mean she’s had an easier journey than you have. We are all exposed to this culture and society. None of us, women nor men, are immune to body image issues and I think we have to be really, really
we need to be really careful that we’re not putting down another woman because we think that she may not have the same struggles that we do. Just because a woman is a smaller size or weight does not mean she’s had an easier journey than you have. We are all exposed to this culture and society. None of us, women nor men, are immune to body image issues 13
Photo By: Mary Jo Photography sensitive to that. TG: I love that because I think we’ve gotten to a place where, while social media can be great, we’ve seen the negatives of people being willing to say things they wouldn’t say in person because of that barrier of their computer, their phone, whatever it may be, that piece of technology, and it’s gotten to this point where sometimes it feels like you just can’t be good enough for the outside world. Because if you are thin, you’re too thin – you need to eat a burger. Or if you’re larger, you’re too large – you need to eat a salad. It’s exactly what you’re saying and I think we can get lost in our own mess that we forget that everybody
is dealing with something, even if it’s not our something. BJ: Absolutely. You have to do your work about understanding your worth and your value and understanding that we all fight the enoughs. Am I enough? Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Wherever that comes from. I think we have to remember to yes, love ourselves, and then in that give love and kindness to other people no matter what that may look like. You don’t know someone else’s journey and I know we all know that but when you’re going through your own struggles, especially one as intimate and vulnerable as body image issues and you’re talking about your body and the things you feel
are flawed about it, be careful that you’re not taking away another person’s journey where you think that maybe they haven’t gone through it, they wouldn’t understand. You have no idea where that person has come from and you have no idea what they’ve walked through. I see it often where there will be a curvaceous woman and she’ll look to like a size 4 and say, “Oh, she doesn’t know what it’s like” or, “She doesn’t understand the struggle.” I would actually argue that often those women have more of a struggle because they have traditionally been in the magazines so they’re having to combat a different type of pressure of what they’re supposed to look like. And again, you don’t know
This Is... Photography Person: Mary Jo Raab Biz: Mary Jo Photography IG: @maryjophoto Website: http://www.maryjophotos.com/ Makeup Person: Pia Imkamp IG: @pimkamp Website: http://piaimkamp.com/ Hair Person: Sarah Girello Biz: The Hair Lounge IG: @sarahatthehairlounge Website: http://hairlounge.com/about-thehair-lounge/hair-stylist/sarah-girello/ Styling Person: Becca Johnson Biz: Becca Jae Styling IG: @stylistbeccajae Website: beccajaestyling.com Co-styling Person: Denisha Coston IG: @denishamarie Website: https://www.denishamarie.com/ Swimsuit/Bikini Person: Haylie Ingman Biz: Toasty Swimwear IG: @toastyswimwear Website: https://toastyswimwear.com/
what someone’s been through and that’s where it’s really important to share stories and talk to each other from a place of being in our positive, in what I call our positive femininity – the nurturer, the supporter, the uplifter. The things that we’ve been given as females, which are so awesome, and that we use those for other people and then, of course, ourselves is super important. And talking about what self love means in terms of your body, thank God we have the models that we have now because there’s so much more transparency with the body positivity movement. But the way I see it is, self love and respecting your body does not mean you have to be complacent. It does not mean that
because you love your voluptuous thighs that you can’t change it. If you want to change it, cool. I’m all for health and wellness goals, they are a huge priority to me and a pillar of my life. The important thing is how you do it – are you doing it from a place of self love or are you doing it from a place of self loathing? Are you doing it to fight your body or are you doing it to work with your body? It’s really important that you have health and wellness goals but it’s also really important that they’re done from a place of self love, that you’re taking care of your body, that you’re friends with your body – you’re not enemies. Do it from a place that is right for you where you’re not trying to “fix it”
because your body isn’t broken. If I were to measure my body fat percentage, my weight, I’m probably – I say this with love – in my “worst condition” and I will tell you that I feel the most confident and love my body more than I ever have. In saying that, there are some things that I’m like, “Okay! I might want to firm up the back of my arms a little bit.” And I’ll try. But if it doesn’t work or maybe I don’t like the regimen I have to do to keep that up or whatever then I’ll let it go. It’s about doing it from a place that you want to improve but doing it from love. I think that’s super important.
YOU ARE A STRONG WOMAN
Dear Younger Me, The story I’m about to share is the most vulnerable story we carry within ourselves and our only “secret” but truly the darkest time in our life. At fifteen we were mentally healthy, emotionally happy and physically whole - but this is the story of how all that changed because our heroin-addicted boyfriend abused and raped us. You’re laying in shock in the back of his car, you can feel the numbness receding and the emptiness settling in. Your boyfriend is cleaning himself up and your body feels heavy and paralyzed at the same time. You can’t move; you can’t speak. You slowly gather your clothes and redress. Your mind is in disbelief that someone who said they loved you could hurt you so deep. You are confused as to why the word “NO” didn’t stop him from taking the one thing that doesn’t belong to him. You were a virgin and now you’re not. You changed your mind and said that you weren’t ready but he said, “It’s normal to be scared” and that you would enjoy it - but you didn’t. You were angry because your body couldn’t identify all the emotions flooding through it. The drive home was longer than it ever has been. He drops you off and he says, “I love you.” Those words have never felt so empty upon hearing them. You smirk and shut the car door and run inside. Your parents are home but you don’t go to them because they hate him. Instead, you run upstairs to take a shower and lay down in your bed. You think if you close your eyes and fall to sleep, the overwhelming confusion and emptiness will stop and be gone in the morning. Instead, you lay there watching the light leave as the darkness settles in. It couldn’t have been rape because he’s your boyfriend and he loves you; plus, you got in the back of his car, you got undressed, you thought you were ready. But he helped undress you, he pressured you and ultimately he didn’t listen to the word “NO.” Okay, I know you’re going through the motions in the oncoming days and still the anxious stomach is staying. You’ve started to walk through the days in a defensive armor that you placed yourself in. All the thoughts you had while laying there a couple nights ago are still streaming through your mind. You have justified his actions and refused to acknowledge them for what they were. You can’t break up with him because you don’t understand the feeling that lies inside you or why you can’t sort through it and make your feelings make sense. In your 15-yearold mind, you rationalized staying with him would be the right choice because you don’t break up with someone over just a feeling. Your pride blinded you and made you feel as if you couldn’t fail at a relationship that no one else approved of. You were going to make this work, because that’s what people that are in love do. People that are in love stay through the good and the bad times and maybe that feeling you’re feeling is just a bad time. Over the next few weeks you become an island. The man you are so determined to make it work with starts to tell you that your guy friends are starting to make him feel uncomfortable and that their flirting with you is disrespectful to him. As his girlfriend, you shouldn’t flirt with people and put yourself in a situation for guys to flirt with you. He asks you if you love him, because if you did you wouldn’t talk to other guys anymore. So, you decide you shouldn’t text your friends anymore - even if you’ve been friends since you were little. You are determined to show him how much you love him. You are loyal and you won’t let anything ruin this relationship. You. Will. Not. Fail. Bit by bit, his isolation controls your life and numbers start to be deleted from your phone and text messages from you to others start to become rude. “Stop texting me, I have a boyfriend.” “I don’t want to be friends anymore, it just isn’t good for my relationship.” You start to find any reason to tell your guy friends you can’t be their friend anymore because you have to prove how much you love your boyfriend. School becomes the bleakest part of your day. No one can look at you as you walk by, no one can talk to you without him getting angry and even friends can’t say “Hi” or hug you to start your day. Your new normal starts to set in. There is no eye contact from you unless it’s towards him, there are no conversations where he isn’t the only one talking back and no longer can you try to maintain friendships because his impatience is quick to anger. Your grades are slipping, you can barely pass, sleep is no longer for you alone because he steals it by calling you and staying up all night on the phone and yells if you nod off. What’s important to you now is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep your head afloat even though you’re almost drowning. Things you can’t identify or
This Is... explain start to happen. After school your personal time as a couple starts to become a chore. He won’t drive you home right away - he has to go give something to a “friend.” Later you will discover these were drug runs and you have unknowingly become part of the “deal.” His anger is starting to grow and he is starting to lose control over it - that tends to happen when you can’t afford your addiction. You had a deep gut feeling there was something other than you causing his irritability and anger. You soon got your answer one night sitting in his car by the river. He started to smoke something. It isn’t a typical green plant packed into a pipe, but instead it’s a small piece of brown sticky stuff that he had unwrapped in foil. You’re holding the foil as he lights the heroin and inhales the high with a straw and asks if you want any. You respond, “No, that doesn’t look right, what is it?” His response, “It’s a muscle relaxer.” You have no idea what it is but you know that’s not the truth. Your relationship starts to deteriorate and weeks later things start to unravel and are only held together by lies and fear, but you can feel your patience cracking and your anger starts to seep through. You’re fighting because you just saw him walk out of a bathroom with a friend and there are used needles left on the counter, you start to confront him about what they were doing. Your voice starts to rise as you are begging for the truth even though your gut already knows it. In the middle of screaming at him he shoves you. You pause, and go silent. A sentence your mom used to always repeat to you finally makes sense. “You’re guilty by association.” You demand to be taken home immediately. You run to the car and as he is taking you home he is being relentless in all the horrible things he is saying to you. You start fighting back with any words you can think of to hurt him like he is hurting you. He pulls over at a park at dusk and yells at you to get out. As you get out, he starts to peel away and you are stranded at a park in a town you didn’t grow up in that is known not to be the safest past dark. You start crying because you’re stranded and none of your friends could help. Panic and disbelief come over you once again. How could your boyfriend treat you like this? How could, again, someone who was supposed to love you kick you out and just drive away in an unsafe area? You start to come to your senses remembering all the awful feelings you’ve been experiencing over the last few months and you are starting to feel a boiling level of fire in your soul. “You will fix this,” you keep telling yourself. You are stronger than this, you do not deserve this. This isn’t love anymore. As that fire inside starts to consume you a car pulls up. It’s him. He has come back to take you home. You get in the car. As he is driving, you sit there in absolute silence. He is saying something but your ears stopped working. You’re ignoring him - all you want is to make it back home. Your silence strengthens you but it infuriates him. Out of nowhere physical violence breaks through your concentration. He punches your arm to make you answer him. As he’s driving on the freeway, he pulls his fist back away from your arm and red flashes before you. You snap into action and lunge at him – you’re hearing him scream at you to stop but don’t care. You realize that you’ve unbuckled and you’re hitting him with all the force you can find in your body because in that moment he needed to hurt too, even if that meant you wound up next to him in a hospital bed. He wasn’t going to hurt you anymore and you would never need a car ride from him again. Our friends may ask why I’ve decided to write this letter to you ten years later and that’s because I’m not the same person I was at fifteen. I’ve finally learned and come to terms with the fact that my younger self wasn’t a failure. You were just a naive girl who thought she knew what loving a partner through everything meant. You were a young girl taken advantage of because you never realized how much you clung onto wanting to have your own happily ever after. You held onto your pride for way too long because you thought you knew best, but in reality you were just a child. This wasn’t your fault. You were living in a life that no woman, especially a young teenage girl, should ever have to experience. Over the next ten years you will have had countless breakdowns, breakthroughs and break-ups. You will do the “soul searching,” the therapy sessions and go through the healing process. As another wise woman, and our dear friend points out, I locked that part of ourselves away until I could face the fears of reliving and knowing I was finally ready to acknowledge the truth of what we went through. I’m telling you and the world our story because it’s important.
This Is... A few things that are certain about your future. You have fought a ten year battle with yourself trying to rationalize why everything happened and how you were going to show the world that you were strong and brave enough to overcome the darkest time of your life. Today, you surround yourself with strong and resilient woman - people you view as incredible role models and safe souls. You dove back into your friends and you made it very clear you’d never treat them like you did once upon a time. You respect your mom and dad - to the point you sometimes still try to make up the darkest years to them. You have been working your ass off for the last five years in the business that you work for and you’re actually about to hit your biggest career goal. As for your love life ten years later, you found that guy you always dreamt you would. I won’t ruin the who or the how or the where you met. You deserve to be surprised. You’ll no longer safeguard yourself after you meet him. The world has become brighter, your smile bigger and your heart fuller. You’re finally able to rest because you’ve found someone who will take care of you and let you finish healing all the wounds you’ve patched over the years. He will comment in awe of all the qualities you embody everyday because you are a badass. You are resilient, but most importantly you are a strong woman.
Sincerely, Older You
My Struggle With Bulimia
By: Mandy Reilly Photo By: Melissa Morgan Photography
y gateway to bulimia was a 90s made-for-TV movie starring Amy Jo Johnson, also known as the Pink Power Ranger. Being born in the 80s, I spent many afternoons emulating Kimberly and remembered just putting the movie on because she was acting in it. “You can eat what you want, and not gain a pound.” I don’t remember much about the movie except that quote introducing Kimberly...er, Andie, to the world of bulimia. Her friend also showed her how to use a toothbrush to induce vomiting. After that scene, I snuck into the bathroom and grabbed my toothbrush. Maybe this would be the ticket to thinness. The long piece of plastic faintly tasted of mint and scratched my throat. I used it to “tickle” my uvula and I heaved suddenly. I remember my mom calling out to make sure I was OK, and I told her I just wasn’t feeling well. I was 12. I’d just started middle school, and it was clear that I wasn’t like the other girls. After gym class, I realized the one towel that the school provided would not fit around my body. I hobbled through the locker room being careful to not show my butt and couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be skinny. You see, this isn’t the first time that I thought that. And it wasn’t the last. I had undiagnosed anorexia when I was seven. A boy in my class jiggled my arm and called me fat, so I took measures into my own hands. It wasn’t uncommon to not eat breakfast in my house and I’d tell my teachers I was too full from break-
fast to eat lunch. I would then tell my parents I was too full from lunch to eat dinner. Lather, rinse, repeat. I got caught by having a sock drawer full of money I should have been spending on lunches. My parents immediately took me to my doctor, but the doctor said I was “fine.” He also told me that I “could start a diet if I was feeling low.” Again, I was SEVEN. Just five years later, I put my toothbrush back wondering how anyone could do that to themselves. I found friends that accepted me for who I was regardless of my size. The movie that starred the Pink Ranger as a gymnast soon became a fading memory. It was all a faded memory until it wasn’t. One Thanksgiving evening it became an all-consuming reality. I was a 20-year-old newlywed dealing with the sudden death of my beloved godfather, still not over losing my grandmother who I’d helped home hospice. I was going to college full-time and working more than part-time at a new job. I helped take care of the stepson my godfather left behind along with my special needs brother. I never realized just how much I was going through in that season of my life until I wrote it out just now. I used to love Thanksgiving. Filled with family traditions and recipes, I have fond memories of sharing the table with those I loved. But this year, it was different. Nana wasn’t there to help me prepare the meal. We’d gained my godfather’s family who tried to change our traditions and recipes. Our table transitioned from a safehaven to a burn book.
Instead of opening my mouth to talk, I kept opening my mouth to eat. The more I ate, the more I forgot what ailed me. Mashed potatoes and gravy weren’t a cure all but they certainly filled the cracks in my heart. Somewhere between my second and third piece of pie, I realized what I’d done to myself. And suddenly, the guilt set in. Not only had I lost control of my favorite holiday, our dinner table and the evening, but I’d lost control of myself. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I had every intention of going in there, having a good cry and heading back into the celebratory abyss. I wish I could go back to that moment and stop myself. I looked over at the toothbrush in the holder, and suddenly I was 12 again watching my beloved Pink Ranger make herself vomit. I traded my toothbrush for my fingers that night. I turned the fan on in the bathroom to stifle the sounds of my purging along with my crying. I didn’t just purge my dinner, but my worries and anger. I may not have been able to control what happened in my life, but I could control what went into my mouth. And more importantly, I could control what came out of my mouth. I turned the movie off after she had purged for the first time, so I was on my own without my childhood hero to follow into the great unknown. I didn’t know what was to come. I didn’t know about how my face would look with popped blood vessels. Or how sore my throat would get after purging the third time in a day. Every once in awhile I can still find a faint scar on my knuckle from
my teeth cutting into it whilst I purged.
My son’s first day of second grade. The spots around my eyes are actually bursted blood vessels from vomiting so much the night before. This photo is very much edited but still won’t hide them all.
I didn’t know about how I’d have to find the nearest bathroom and come up with reasons to get there as soon as I could after eating. I had learned how to purge quietly and, numerous times, I would use “clean” toilet water to rinse the vomit off my hands. I’d have to remember which excuse I’d use for my tear-streaked and red eyes. Did I have a coughing fit or think of something sad this time? Lying had become second nature, which looking back terrifies me. I hadn’t begun bulimia for weight loss, but it ended up being a welcomed side effect. And with each compliment, I held the reins a little tighter like a puppeteer because I could control this. Control became the name of the game. My husband caught me after about eight months because I hadn’t flushed the toilet properly. I was mad. Yeah, I was mad at him for catching me but I was mad at myself because it was such a rookie mistake. The rug was pulled out from under me and control was taken from me. I went to counseling and continued until my therapist moved. I thought I was “cured” so I opted not to see another therapist. Now I realize that there is no cure for eating disorders. I didn’t realize what true recovery was then either. I relapsed but stopped purging after becoming pregnant with my son. I didn’t want to explain to my obstetrician that I had an eating disorder, and didn’t want to harm my unborn baby because of my quest for control.
My first Facebook photo. This was shortly after I became bulimic and went to the bathroom after this photo was taken.
I should have been monitored for postpartum depression better, especially having a history of “regular” depression and taking antidepressants. I definitely had the post baby blues, and I returned to an old friend to help me through. I spent most of my 20s in an ebb and flow of dieting and eating disorders. Believe me when I say that I wouldn’t wish this all on my worst enemy. I remember catching a glimpse of myself directly after a purging session and being absolutely disgusted by what I’d become. I wanted off this sick cycle carousel but having all the control meant that I was the ticket taker, ride operator and the only rider. I created the hell I was in and I had no clue how to escape. The key to my escape all along was self love.
Middle school years. This was right around the time that I watched the movie that inevitably changed my life.
You can #selflove all you want, but it’s nothing but a hashtag unless you live the life. It’s loving yourself through the good,
This Is... bad and the ugly - especially the ugly. There is so much beauty in the ugly. It’s realizing you can’t do this on your own and enlisting all the help you think you need (and adding even more). It’s realizing that the ultimate self care is going to the therapy appointments and taking the medication regardless of the stigma behind it all. Self love is finding your worth and realizing you’re worth more than scarred knuckles and bloodshot eyes. Self love is realizing that you want to live so you must stop hurting yourself before you die. Self love is saving just a sliver of the love that you give so freely to others for yourself and accepting it even when you don’t think you deserve it. I’ve been purge-free for over a year now. And while I say that I’m recovered, I will always be in recovery. I will never be cured and there are hard days when I want to retreat back to the comfort of that bathroom stall. And that’s when I realize the ultimate act of self love is not acting at all.
The first time I posted a photo of myself in a “real” bikini.
cracking the code
By: Erica Sullivan
This Is... “Megan, I’m either going to throw up or make this Lyft turn around.” My high school best friend who lives across the country was no stranger to texts like these when I was heading out to meet a new guy. And that’s really how my big ahha moment began. I was running 20 minutes late, had just chugged a glass of wine in my kitchen and was on my way to another first date with a guy I matched with on Bumble. I remember sitting in that Lyft, being worried that I might be “too much” (I wasn’t) or too tall in my booties (I kind of was). I thought maybe I should have changed my outfit or that it looked weird to show up to a first date in a Lyft or that it might be real obvious I had just downed a glass of sauv blanc the size of my face. See, the thing is, it had been about seven years since my last “official” boyfriend. I had been on several dates, kissed multiple losers and even had a couple great conversations at backyard parties in college. But I knew how it always ended with just me, myself and I to rely on. What I forgot as my ride pulled up to Laurel Tavern was that this time was different. And while it did have a little to do with the guy waiting (oh, so patiently) for me inside, it had so much more to do with my relationship with myself. For so many of those single years I felt like I was just trying to fit the mold. I thought I needed to be a little more “toned down” and care a little less about my career. I was always told that opposites attract, so I figured I was going to find someone quiet, but who could handle me - because not everyone is going to like a girl who is known by her grandma as “the crazy one”
and who has no in between when it comes to loving or really disliking something.
ing too loud.
In my eyes, as much as I hate to admit it to their faces, my three older siblings have always been the coolest people I know. They’ve been my best friends and my partners in crime for 26 years, and sometimes we annoy each other more than we love each other. But I’ve always wanted to be just like each of them, even though we are each so different. So I got this idea in my head that if I could find someone who would fit in with my brother and the men my two older sisters dated, then that would be it - I would have cracked the code!
And you know what I learned through all of that? That “mold” I had been trying to fit into - it doesn’t actually exist.
Safe to say that over the years, I did not crack the code that way. Instead, I found myself having crushes on guys who were all kinds of wrong for me and allowing terrible “situationships” with guys waste my time. It took getting pretty crushed by one who could never decide if he wanted me around or not to encourage me to take a little time off from it all. Because clearly I was doing something wrong. So I stopped dating for almost a year and a half. And I spent a lot of time hanging out with me. I let myself be as focused on my career as I wanted. I was enthusiastic about the little things, like getting all the chords down to a new song on the guitar, taste testing as many margaritas in Los Angeles as I could and picking out the perfect nail color that would go with my dress for an upcoming wedding. I allowed myself to feel lonely sometimes. I went on a lot of solo hikes (sorry mom, not safe!), made an awesome group of girlfriends and spent so many hours in therapy. Seriously. But I never worried about being “too much,” toning myself down or be-
It. Was. Awesome.
I created the entire expectation in my head. No one had ever actually told me what kind of person to date. It was not law that I would have to date someone quiet. Plus, the guys my sisters dated didn’t always work out, even when they looked the part, and my brother is going to be cool with any guy who treats me well and makes me happy. We create these mental checklists and get so caught up in them that we forget about the important things. Ah-ha! I’m just supposed to be confident in who I am and spend my time with people who make me feel like I’m the right amount of whatever I want to be. I did crack the code after all, but I had just been trying all the wrong things before. The code was really, deep down, loving who I am: passionate (especially about Taylor Swift and The Bachelor), loyal, a little dramatic, and awkward in a “will dance out of rooms when I don’t know how to end the conversation” way. So my big ah-ha moment is exactly why things were different walking into the bar for that first date. Because when you know who you are and when you love who you are, you attract good people. Like the guy who was waiting for me at the bar, who I’ve learned, over the last year and a half, is passionate (especially about Liverpool and The Bachelor), kind, a little loud, and weird in a “really does not care what you think about him” way.
This Is... [Failure]
Reframing Failure as a Young Professional in the Social Media Age
By: Allie Wang 27
ow many of your young professional friends are entrepreneurs who connect with clients online? How many are freelance creatives who agonize over Instagram engagement? How many friends in traditional careers curate some staged, public content in case an employer comes searching? And of these young people connected digitally to the world, how many of them have expressed feeling selfconscious, competitive, or exposed to failure when marketing themselves online? If they do much of their self-presentation and outreach via social media – as I do, and as many in my circle do – chances are that a ripple of anxiety runs beneath the digital veneer of competence and confidence that doing good business requires they maintain. That veneer is the foundation of one’s online “personal brand,” something we’re increasingly told is instrumental in making audiences see us and our work the way we want them to. We need to cultivate good personal branding, according to advice disseminated by LinkedIn articles, TED talks, career coaches, and the like, because a personal brand is marketable. A personal brand is not quite us, it’s a performance and a persona. It’s an elevated version of us, failure-free and accomplished, and a glossier, more hirable mascot. To many young professionals, social media looks like the ideal tool for building such a brand. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook in particular give us apparent control over the optics of who we are and what we do, right down to the option of filtering, targeting, or sponsoring a
post. With social media, we’re able to advertise the appearance of being interesting, attractive, successful, and well connected…everything we think will make people follow us, consume our content, and work with us. Indeed, the popularity of doing business through social media is currently exploding and driving a growing cultural emphasis upon building online personal brands. Just look at Instagram’s saturation with micro-influencers, people who don’t “influence” full-time but curate stylized lifestyle imagery for their followers to see. That branding explosion presents us with a mixed bag of ramifications. On the one hand, social media has democratized the very concept of publicity. Conventionally, we might hire a PR firm to put our names out there. Now, armed with smartphone apps, we can be our own in-house PR and marketing team, able to reach audiences of unprecedented size and without the expense of hiring help. On the other hand, the pressures of utilizing social media for personal branding cause us considerable stress over visibility and perfection attainment. This can make us anxious and reactive, competitive and insecure, and dissatisfied with whatever we achieve. Let’s break that down.
Social media engagement makes us anxious and reactive. Notifications pique curiosity. When we see a fresh alert representing an incoming like, share, follow, or message, we naturally want to know who it was from or what it was. When stakes are low – when we’re checking personal accounts – our curiosity is fairly uncomplicated. After all,
it was probably just a friend liking a group photo from dinner the other night, and there’s no real pressure in that. When stakes are high, however – when we’re checking social media for business – it’s not simple curiosity that we feel when assessing our engagement. It’s stress. When building and protecting fledgling careers, we’re emotionally invested in receiving flattering engagement so that our digital footprint embodies “great branding.” This leads us to scrutinize metrics, notifications, and mentions to find out how we’re doing, as well as how we appear to others: we refresh our Facebook business pages, research ideal times of day to share, check our LinkedIn views, fight to increase follower counts, and analyze comments on our articles with bated breath. Did someone important tag us? Did one of our posts under-perform? And what are people posting about us? A few friends of mine recently Googled themselves and were miffed when they discovered a stranger had entered their project in a database, only to down-vote it there. “And we’re not allowed to delete the rating!” one of them lamented. In all these cases, the personal brand-conscious person must keep looking to extrinsic signs of validation to know where they stand in the eyes of others, creating a perpetual, pins-and-needles sense of vulnerability and inadequacy. We feel simultaneously over- and underexposed, like there are too many eyes and not enough eyes on our work at the same time. There are emotional ups and downs associated with reactivity to engagement. We get a little boost each time a like or comment makes our
phones buzz…then we see it’s a bot. We’re excited to see that a flood of accounts have suddenly followed us… then they all unfollow. These boosts aren’t worth pursuing in themselves, because the flip side of deriving validation from engagement is the emotional harm done when we don’t measure up to expectations, or when the engagement feels hollow. Additionally, if an arbitrarily large number of likes, shares, comments, or re-tweets indicates success, it follows that gaining a smaller number can feel like rejection, especially if we fear that our “flopping” is publicly visible and permanently recorded online. Sometimes the fear of public online failure drives us to coordinate engagement with friends. In several of my social circles, we rush to save each other from flopping: we comment fire emojis on photos, up-vote each other’s career updates, RSVP to each other’s events, and post expressions of over-the-top pride in each other (“killing it!”). These behaviors can often be productive: when carried out properly, rallying behind someone creates a supportive working and sharing environment. But when carried out improperly, rallying behind someone might manifest in flooding a brand with biased feedback or trying to hide more critical perspectives, which is like digitally surrounding each other with “yes-men.” It leaves us all the more vulnerable when we do eventually receive some harsh, realistic feedback from an unbiased stranger. What’s more, even friends’ support can ultimately feel unsatisfying to us. Writer Ruth Whippman notes
that social media has made her evaluative of friends. “Buying, promoting, or sharing your friend’s ‘thing,’” she writes, has become akin to “a tax payable for modern friendship.” And when that tax isn’t paid in full, she resents the offending friends. “I find myself auditing [their] loyalty based on their efforts,” Whippman admits. “Who bought [my book]? Who shared it on Facebook? Was it a share from the heart, or a ‘duty share’” (“Everything Is For Sale Now”)? And I’ll admit I’m no better: when I landed my first freelance writing gig and shared the resulting article on Facebook, barely anyone acknowledged it. I was moody for days, feeling that no one had “cared enough” to validate my work. In situations like these, we read failure even in our friends’ support or perceived lack of it, which is not only unnecessarily painful to us, it’s also damaging to our relationships. When we’re anxious and self-conscious about what our social media image says about us…
…We get competitive. Since the achievements of our peers are ultra-visible via social media content and engagement, it’s tempting to check up on people’s updates. Initially, as with notifications, it might satisfy harmless curiosity. What highbrow periodical just hired your old roommate? What big journal published your high school friend’s study? And so on. Everyone seems to be doing just amazing, all the time. But consider the complicating matter of the curation that social media enables. When people get a life or career “win,” they’re not compelled to publicly share any rejection endured, embarrassing mistakes, or
the less glamorous details of their booked gigs. They omit the ugly stuff and trumpet the good parts, sneaking in a humblebrag or three. Most of us are similarly guilty of achievement curation, but we tend to forget about our own bad habits when we see others showboating instead. Something has also shifted in our culture to tolerate and even foster the embellishment of achievements and credentials. It’s as if economic changes have made young people so skeptical of markets and institutions that we now regard opportunity seeking as a rigged game that demands some craftiness. A 2014 survey of millennials found that three-quarters of the subject base “[saw] things in gray versus black and white” when it came to morals, and a major “example of a ‘moral issue’ mentioned was résumé padding, which millennials…indicated was something they had to do in order ‘not to fail.’” In the same study, 68% also felt “they have ‘to work the system to get what’s fair for [them]’” (Novellino). It’s exhausting to see a steady stream of others’ achievements, exaggerated or not, when you’re already at 500% each day trying to juggle the stresses of your own work and personal life. Frustratingly, it no longer seems enough simply to do a good job in isolation; now we wonder if we can measure up to (or surpass) others. Where’s my highprofile position? Where’s my journal publication? With enough input from other people’s curated feeds, that questioning eventually swells into something more destructive: the competitive evaluation of what we’ve achieved against impressions
of other people’s success. Moderate comparison can be helpful, because it’s how we know if we’re improving at something, or whether we have a marketable skill. Self-critical comparison, however, is a performance-killer and detrimental to mental health. University of Texas professor Raj Raghunathan writes that not only does comparison make us “less happy,” studies on incentive-driven, individual puzzlesolving done alone versus done in a room with others nearby found that “participants performed far worse when they were under [external] social pressure than when they were not” (55, 68-69). What’s more, comparison leads us to engage in cycles of one-upmanship with our peers: when we see someone sharing something impressive, we tend to respond in kind, matching the announcement with material of a similar tone and caliber, and the behavior ripples out to an even wider group. Thus peacocking about the great things we’ve done gets reinforced as a method of social and professional survival in a sea of peers all trying to shine the brightest. It’s worth noting about peacocking that “social media blunts our ability to make…distinctions” between appropriate and inappropriate ways to talk about ourselves. While “in real life, people tend not to brag about their possessions to those who can’t afford them, [or] about their career achievements to their colleague who has…been laid off,” we don’t have control over the timing or circumstances in which our self-aggrandizing “mass-marketing” hits online newsfeeds. And yet done online, self-aggrandizing is normal-
ized. Whippman offers an analogy to illustrate the absurdity of it: if a party guest bragged about himself to everyone else in attendance, other partygoers would understandably dislike him. But if the same guy were to brag online, we would unfairly hate ourselves after comparing ourselves to him (America the Anxious 174-177). I don’t know a single young person who doesn’t already know that conventional wisdom and social science both say that comparison is a self-esteem killer. So why do so many of us otherwise reasonable and intelligent people sabotage our mental health anyway, and indulge in comparison? I think it’s because when we thirst for engagement and are exposed to aggressively curated success…
…We become insecure. …And when we’re insecure, we cling to whatever reassures us that we’re higher up a pecking order than someone else is. Uncertain status prompts us to “tether our self-esteem to being superior” (Raghunathan 46), and comparison is the tool we use to win that boost of superiority, even while research says it hurts in the long run. And all that superiority seeking does more than erode our stability and self-esteem; it can make us unpleasant to be around. For one, superiority-seekers “tend to be ‘takers’” (Raghunathan 54): people who prefer to “get more than they give” and put themselves before others (“To Give or Take”). Understandably, superiority-seekers aren’t as popular as they might think, and Raghunathan posits this is because they don’t always treat others kindly, “particularly when
they don’t get the respect they think they deserve” (55). Recall my previous discussion of sensitivity surrounding friends’ shows of support. The superiority-oriented person might frequently be unhappy with their friends, as it would be difficult for friends to boost that demanding individual to their consistent satisfaction. Superiority-seekers aren’t only unpleasant when they’re taking without giving, or when demanding support. They also can grate when seemingly already on top of the world. They may be prone to bragging and believe that others are a willing audience, since empathy can be a blind spot for someone preoccupied with their own accomplishments. Studies actually show, however, that audiences find selfpromotion unappealing. Researchers from City University London, Carnegie Mellon, and Bocconi University had subjects make social media profiles for themselves, with “half told to make themselves likeable” and the other half “given no guidance.” The study found that not only did self-promoters think they would get more positive responses to their posts than they actually received, they also received worse responses than did non-self-promoters (Stillman). Some superiority-seekers may additionally “reinforce the need for superiority” by “feeling hubristic pride and taking credit for all the success,” minimizing the contributions of others (Raghunathan 76). Why would we hang out with someone who has decided they’re beating us at something, and who is a pain when climbing to the top and a pain when they get there? Why would anyone hang out with us if
we behaved that way? In the end, chasing feelings of superiority is futile because those feelings slip away. Reliably…
…We grow unhappy with what we have. Surely our efforts at picture-perfect personal branding – our measured blog posts, calibrated Tweets, timed Instagram photos, cultivated networks – will eventually pay off, and we’ll reach a blissed-out state of ultimate success. We’ll have made it. We’ll be unassailable leaders in our fields, people we’ve never met will idolize us, and cash just will flow in. At that point, we can finally cool it on the hustling.
cessful project and become disappointed when something even better doesn’t immediately get lined up, despite our efforts. Then we try harder and invest more deeply in our next moves, hoping to compensate. On platforms like Facebook, “the like is a constantly inflating currency,” with users craving more and more to feel satisfied. Writes Whippman, “I’ve…become a validation junkie. Six likes used to give me a solid hit. Now I need fifty just to feel normal” (America the Anxious 171). The same goes for views, connections, follows, features, gigs, and more. We hustle hard to reach a satisfaction point, but the reality is that it’s impossible to “check a never-ending number of aspirational boxes” (Petersen).
Except that point will probably never come…at least, not in the way we imagine it. Psychology says we become accustomed to improvements in our circumstances almost immediately. Spending habits adjust to match raises. A spacious new house is exciting at first, but it feels less impressive as we grow into it. The Atlantic’s Joe Pinsker notes that research shows “lottery winners are no happier, a year later, than even people who just as recently suffered serious injuries.” It’s like building tolerance to medication.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that leveraging social media for branding exposes us to factors that make us believe we’re forever one tiny step away from public failure, or from seeing proof of our inferiority to someone else. So we’re always self-consciously looking over our shoulders, checking our notifications, and comparing ourselves against other people or against our own unmet expectations.
Likewise, the affirmation we get about our online brand’s success, as well as the addictive rush we get when we experience it, requires escalating levels of input. We strive to outdo our past selves (as well as outdo others) with ever-growing engagement and feats, and if we can’t, we feel robbed. “Why didn’t my post get more likes? My last one got double,” I’ve heard many a creative friend wonder. We might also get hung up on a previous suc-
If this breakdown sounds negative, know that it’s actually a productive process. Product designers say that the first step to solving a problem is reframing the problem itself: that is, thinking of it in different, more productive and generative terms. When we use social media – for any purpose, but especially for those connected to our careers and sense of self – I want us to “reframe” what we feel when we believe we’re flopping or failing. The first part of reframing
is to analyze the mechanics of how social media makes us feel vulnerable and anxious, which we’ve just done. The second part is to redirect and defang our destructive feelings. In months of conversations about social media with other young women, a group particularly vulnerable to the harm of external and internal judgment, I’ve landed on two failure-reframing perspectives that are helpful in curbing social mediatriggered feelings of professional and personal inadequacy. Core anxiety one: “Why does that person seem to get everything I want for my career and brand?” Reframed: “That person is very effective. Can I learn something from their strategies, but make things my own? I know that one person’s success does not diminish my potential.” Core anxiety two: “What can I post about myself and my work that will impress my audience and get a response?” Reframed: “What can I offer that someone might need? I find value in experiences, people, and pursuits in themselves, and maybe I will post about them later if I still want to. I know that my work and I are better off if my online presence is incidental to my brand, not its focus.“ These two reframed questions together are the foundation of social media self love and care. Conventionally, we think of “self love” or “self care” as getting a massage, going for a run, or treating ourselves to dessert. But they also entail being kind and forgiving to yourself, and breaking free from thinking traps that destroy self-esteem and productivity…in short, the things that make you feel like a failure. Ad-
Photo By: Nathan Haley
This Is... ditionally, when we mindfully reframe our fears and anxieties, we process events and interactions and let them happen pressure-free and without the compulsion for control and evaluation. We will become more stable, confident, and content, as well as more able to grow, learn, and produce.
getting you down, don’t be afraid to “mute” them every now and then. “The goals that other people pursue are literally contagious”(Markman, qtd. in Raghunathan 250), so reducing your exposure to ones that derail your mental health can be helpful.
Other things we can do to separate our professional, personal, or creative self-worth from online pressures and preoccupations: Stay focused. • Next time you’re at an important event, or next time you receive good career news, enjoy it in the moment. Avoid dropping out of the experience to share it on social media until later, thereby decoupling the emotional high of achievement from the high of online validation. • Periodically redefine your ends rather than your means. What concrete goals do you want to work towards in your career? Personal life? Creative life? Focus on clarifying those goals to avoid getting distracted by the medium (whether it’s online engagement or something else) through which you’ll achieve them.
Value other people. • Before you share online, ask yourself: is this something I would say in person to someone? Is this something I’d want to hear someone say to me? • Experiment with sometimes calling your contacts rather than sending emails or DMs. Hearing a human voice helps us regard others as people, rather than as means to an end. • Practice active gratitude when you get a “win.” Remind yourself of the circumstances and people that helped get you to this point. Focus a portion of your online presence on your support structures as well as on your audience – after all, it’s good for business! The Forbes Coaching Council warns against branding so aggressively that one “communicat[es] only the ‘me’ instead of ‘you’,” which “turn[s] off prospective clients.”
Unlearn the habit of evaluating yourself using signs and metrics. • Switch off real-time social media notifications and instead check them on a set schedule. • Unsubscribe from retail profiles, especially high-end ones. The less you’re exposed to that material, the less likely you are to become acquisitive and comparison-prone over time. • If the competitive online behaviors of certain people are
Avoid comparison with others. • Take yourself – and superficiality – out of the equation when you notice something great about someone else’s brand. Think: “that blogger’s fitness routine has made her so strong,” rather than “that blogger’s fitness routine makes her look better than I do.” • Adopt an “abundance” rather than “scarcity” oriented perspective each time someone
shares an achievement that makes you anxious (terminology borrowed from Stephen Covey). Success is not a zerosum game; there are many opportunities to go around. Carve out time to explore new hobbies or interests that you enjoy, and not necessarily ones that you can gain material reward or online validation from.
Lastly, we should practice being resilient and realistic. We won’t always be told “yes,” and we won’t always get gushing, complimentary feedback or strong engagement all the time, which is fine. We won’t always be on a rapid upward climb of successes and triumphs, and that’s also fine! Not consistently achieving in a stunning, public way is not a shortcoming, just room to learn and improve. What’s more, insisting upon escalating engagement and a stream of shareable accolades, and perceiving anything less as rejection or failure, can drive people away and demolish your sense of self. Doing well is not a race against anything but your own time and will, and competitively evaluating your success against the success of your peers does your accomplishments and capabilities a disservice. So shut that down that critical internal monologue next time you compare follower counts or website hits, see a friend get a promotion at a big-name company, or get an email about a pitch rejection. The online triggers and setbacks that feel like failure to us have nothing to do with our value. We’re people, not brands, and there is leeway for a person to be less than publicly perfect in every way, and there are a myriad of ways to meaningfully achieve in our digital age.
Refrences: Forbes Coaches Council. “12 Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Personal Brand.” | Novellino, Teresa. MTV's Millennials Master Shares 7 Secrets of a Complicated Generation. | Petersen, Anne Helen. “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation.” | Pinsker, Joe. “Why So Many Smart People Aren't Happy.” | Raghunathan, Raj. If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy? | Stillman, Jessica. “Your Self-Promoting Is More Annoying Than You Think.” | “To Give or Take? The Surprising Science Behind Success.” | “What Is Personal Branding? A Freelancer's Guide – Shopify.” | Whippman, Ruth. America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks. | “Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us.”
My Autoimmune Disease is Not a Fad Diet By: JL Rosa
This Is... I was diagnosed with Celiacs Disease in August of 2018. Celiacs is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Essentially, when gluten enters my body, my body reacts by attacking and damaging my small intestine. Untreated, this can lead to a laundry list of other illnesses, some life threatening. In fact, per the Celiac Disease Foundation website, due to not being diagnosed until 30 years old, I have a 34% chance of developing another autoimmune disease. Studies have found the older you are when the diagnosis is made, the higher this percentage grows. Physical symptoms of being “glutened;” the term used for ingesting gluten, usually by accident, varies by person and even situation. While the severity of these reactions can range from non-existent (asymptomatic) to hospitalization, internal damage is done with every exposure, and this can happen from even the tiniest amount of gluten. And I mean tiny. Once I purchased a drink from Dunkin’ Donuts and while I confirmed it was gluten free, I did not account for “cross contamination,” and got sick after a donut touched the lid of my cup. I shit you not (bathroom pun fully intended). So essentially, gluten is my kryptonite and all exposure to it poisons my body. In the few weeks leading up to my diagnosis I remember thinking, and likely verbalizing, my need to keep gluten and spicy jalapeño popcorn in my life. I thought of every reason why it couldn’t be gluten - I’d be much sicker, I eat it all the time. I couldn’t narrow down one specific thing or situation that would make me sick. And in fact, I associated Celiacs Disease with only having an anaphylaxis or immediate food-poisoning-like reaction, which is very much not the case. After my diagnosis, I figured that I was asymptomatic, meaning I had no obvious external reactions to gluten. I would
dream about eating things like pretzels, seeing I wasn’t sick after eating them, and thinking maybe I don’t have Celiacs! In January I attended a birthday party where the hostess, who is very educated on gluten free diets, personally planned my meal and claimed to read every label before allowing anything to be served to me. With my guard down, I enjoyed my meal and continued to enjoy the rest of my night. The next morning, I woke up sicker than I have ever been in my life. I could not keep water down or even keep myself awake! I slept for a total of 22 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, only waking up for small breaks in between, tried to drink water, got sick every time and went back to bed. And while some people might think it’s a dream to sleep for 22 hours, my “brain fog,” a real side effect of being glutened, left me feeling exhausted and out of it for days. I also experienced muscle pains and body aches on top of that and it took a good few weeks before I was semi-recovered. I politely reached out to the hostess letting her know about my sickness and inquiring about the food. Turns out, I was served meatballs, which I ate in full and really enjoyed, that were not approved by her and were full of gluten. I’m telling you, my whole life I didn’t think twice when people told me they had food allergies or were gluten free. I didn’t get it because, selfishly, it didn’t pertain to me so I didn’t have to. I didn’t know what cross contamination was and thought “gluten free” was a marketing buzzword when I saw it on packages such as chocolates and chicken - aren’t these always gluten free? When I learned that gluten can be a hidden ingredient in everything, I also started noticing the glares
from people in line behind me at restaurants, specifically when I ask that a food server change their gloves prior to prepping my food. There were impatient foot taps when I requested an allergen menu or inquired about the seasoning on chicken. My favorite was how annoyed people became when I questioned dedicated fryers and separate grills, cutting boards or knives for gluten free meal prep. People just don’t get it, and I say that in the nicest way possible. If your gluten filled food touches my gluten free food in any way, I cannot eat it. So, if a crouton is on my salad, I can’t just pick it off. In fact, if you touch croutons, and then make my salad without croutons but without washing your hands, shocker, I still cannot eat it. I haven’t been doing this for long, but I feel like I’ve already heard it all: “We use the same fryer, but the gluten is killed off due to the high temperatures”- Wrong. “All of the crumbs fall to the bottom of the fryer, so it shouldn’t stick to the other food”- Also wrong. “I think if you take any dish on the menu and swap it out with rice, you’ll be okay, do you want a table?”That’s going to be a no. “All of our menu items are gluten free.”- Said to me at an airport sandwich shop...thank god, I was educated enough not to take this guy’s word on it! “I feel bad for you, the way you have to eat is unhealthy”- Regarding my gluten free muffin. “You can cheat just once”- No really, I can’t. As much as I’d love to indulge in some of my absolute favorite foods just one last time, ignoring the damage it would do to my body, the unbearable pain is never worth it.
This Is... same level of cleaning or testing as a certified gluten free item does. Cross contamination on these items run high. Gluten Free Menus A lot of restaurants tend to be highly uneducated when it comes to preparing a gluten free meal. It seems like it always comes back to cross contamination but that’s a major issue. If you toast your buns on the same grill that you make your burgers, I can’t eat them. And you technically shouldn’t consider that gluten free. If you serve me a taco on a corn tortilla but have used bagged shredded 22 hrs of sleep later and cur- cheese and taco seasoning withrently on the hunt for the out checking the ingredients, this waitress who fed me gluten may not be gluten free. I tend to filled food interrogate the restaurants I go to prior to ordering. I’m going to “You literally have to check the in- ask a lot of questions and, based on gredients on everything?” – Fact, their answers, this will show me how and God I wish I didn’t have to. Trust educated their staff is and help me me, angry person in line behind me, to decide if I’m going to risk eating it annoys me as well. there, because unfortunately, any meal that I do not personally cook in I get it, I really do, for whatever rea- my own kitchen is a risk. son it’s super trendy to be gluten free! Now why anyone would want “You’re going to be so skinny.” to deny themselves of something if While some people lose weight gothey don’t have to is beyond me, but ing on a gluten free diet, usually due somewhere someone thought it’d be to the lower carb intake and reduca good diet. And here we are today! tion of bloating, other people gain Let me bust some myths for you: weight. Apparently, as my doctor de“It must be so easy to be gluten free in our generation, there are so many options!” Yes, there are many gluten free options at the supermarket. And many of the gluten free alternatives out there aren’t bad tasting. However, being gluten free and certified gluten free are two very different things. Gluten free items can be made on shared lines and do not require the
scribed it to me, when your gut begins to heal, your body absorbs more nutrients, i.e. absorbs more calories! Lucky me. Additionally, gluten free alternatives, like breads, pastas and cookies, tend to have more fake ingredients and ultimately are higher in calories. After my initial diagnosis, it took me about 4 months to lose just 5 pounds. And I’ve never been one to struggle with weight loss (when I ate well and worked out with
no cheating). So, this will be a whole new journey for me. While my doctor is pleased with my recovery, the next concern is managing my weight - always something. “It’s life changing, you’re going to feel so much better.” Truth, it’s life changing. But I’ll let you know when I reach the feeling “so much better” part. After my diagnosis, I went cold turkey and gave up gluten. I didn’t even have one last hoorah. No one prepared me for the “gluten withdrawal” I would experience as my body detoxed. Headaches, stomachaches - the works! Shortly after the detox, I noticed that other food categories were making me sick. Dairy being one of them. Apparently, it’s very common to uncover other food intolerances once going gluten free. And per my doctor, as you recover your body is very sensitive, at times reacting to any inflammatory food. I’ve been told it could take up to one year after going gluten free for things to settle down. Most days I’m so thankful that this is a condition that can be managed by diet. I usually hate when people say it, but it really could be worse. Other days, I imagine and remember how much better it could be, how much better it was. And some days I get overwhelmed and cry, those are the days I’m out and hungry, unable to find a place to eat or the fear of getting sick starts to control the situation. But good day or bad day, I will work towards not letting this define me. I will not think about the overwhelming feeling I get when I think about the fact that I have to do this for the rest of my life. And like they say, I will take it one day at a time. I will have enough patience to share some with those who do not get it and I will forgive the others who pass judgement. Even more, I will forever have gratitude for the people who try to educate themselves and assist in my healing.
The Dating For real, itâ€™s a game.
By: Michelle Preston 37
Michelle Preston is the founder of The Offline Movement, a social movement aimed at getting people offline and present in the real world to start the conversation.
hhh the prospect of finding love online! What a novel concept: you upload a couple of pictures, say a couple of words and bam! There’s your face, spread to thousands of people, all looking for love! In theory it is a great idea; when used properly, as a means to meet people and date, I’m sure it has the ability to work. We all know at least a few people who have met online and have a successful relationship. But today, online dating seems to have changed. Fewer and fewer people actually meet in real life, texting seems to have taken the place of a real life exchange and users seem to have become less engaged overall. I have a lot of theories about why and how online dating has changed over the last several years, but one thing is for sure: people are fed up with all of it. From the women who claim men only want a hookup to the men who grumble that women only want someone to pay for their meal, the complaints are endless. “I matched with this guy and he never messaged me back!” “I asked this girl to get a drink and she ghosted me.” “He sent me a dick pic! Gross!” “She seems crazy!” Sound familiar? I want to digress here because I think it’s important to point out where our time lives in today’s society. Social media has taken over our lives - connection to strangers via photos and stories, unrealistic images of men and women “living their best lives” that are staged to the nth degree, photos of celebrities or athletes pimping products not because they believe in them, but because the company paid them thousands of dollars to post about it. And we
eat that shit up. Our lives are an ad and we are a marketing company. Online dating is no different; it’s a platform to sell yourself, the best version of yourself. The best, most flattering photos, complete with filters; the catchiest taglines and most charming descriptions you can think of (that you may or may not have paid someone else to write); the carefully curated blend of key words to grab the attention of a potential mate. But it’s all for not, because what people really use online dating for is validation. Online dating has become a game a game of validation, popularity and the quest for attention. And here’s why: we, as a society, are becoming complacent. Complacent is one of my favorite words - it says so much by saying so little. Complacency is laziness and lack of care. In other words, contentment with the way things are. No drive for better, no ambition to improve - just fine. Settled. Apathetic. Indifferent. Complacency is bred by contentment. In other words, we become accustomed to the way things are and we don’t necessarily want them to change. Over time, our online dating habits, and the habits of everyone involved in online dating, have become one big experiment in “group think.” What others do, we do. Because that’s what you do, right? What other people are doing? Yeah, that’s it. So when the majority of people out there have experienced the negative effects of online dating, they perpetuate that negative ex-
perience onto others because, “It doesn’t matter. This is just how online dating is.” It’s like we’ve allowed ourselves to lower our expectations of what is out there because we’ve accepted that “it is what it is.” So now, we use online dating as a means to seek validation (as in, how many “likes” we have) or attention (all these guys want to talk to me). And the purpose of online dating, to find a potential partner, is lost. So instead of putting in real effort, we half-ass the whole thing. Swipe on people who don’t fully meet our criteria and text endlessly because it’s something to do. We get caught up on how many people “like” us or “match” with us. It fills our lonely days and nights just enough to keep us satiated. Validation from strangers fills our tanks and that works for most of us. Hear me out: we all need validation. And it’s not a bad thing - it’s a human thing. We need to feel valued, special and desirable. Attention is getting harder and harder to come by these days, as our lives have become consumed by technology that keeps us from receiving the kind of attention we get from human connection. And that’s where dating apps kill it - they allow us to receive attention in the most simplistic way. I think you’re hot, you think I’m hot, we’re both hot. At the most primal level of physical attraction, our superficial attention requirement is met. And guess what? That’s good enough for most of us. And that’s why online dating is a game. When you are given just enough attention to stoke your fire, you become complacent with the results. You feel good about yourself because you’ve matched with x num-
ber of people this week - ever notice how some apps quantify this number, or send you alerts on how popular you are online? Interesting, no? But you have no desire to seek better. You’ve experienced failed online dates and probably feel like online dating is really just a waste of your time but you continue to swipe, mindlessly, to get that match, like a fiend trying to score another hit. And that’s just enough for you. After all, the results of the date aren’t ever what you want anyway. But at least he thinks you’re hot.
From Private Jets to Whole Foods: Choosing MY Career
By: Marisa Di Frisco
oday was the first day where it truly felt like summer might eventually come to New York. Today the scrawny Manhattan trees showed off their bright baby leaves and everyone held their heads a little higher (…but obviously still looked down because this is New York). Today, I walked from my office to Whole Foods to get lunch. Today, this was my self-love. I assume most do not associate Whole Foods with joy or self-love (although have you ever been to their mochi bar?). But these little walks to grab lunch mean so much more to me than just a bottle of Kombucha and a bunch of organic kale. Today, taking that lunchtime stroll to wait in that ridiculously long color-coded line was my joy. ______ I’m 34 years old and up until last year, for my entire career, I was an Executive Assistant. I’ve worked for some of the best humans, and some of the not-so-best-Devil-WearsPrada type humans. Regardless, each boss was a learning experience. It was never my intention to be a career-EA. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to those who have chosen it as their lifetime profession. I have extreme respect for Executive Assistants, as I was one for so long. It’s one of the most difficult and most under-appreciated jobs at any company. Depending on your boss, the experience can be extremely soulcrushing or extremely rewarding (or both simultaneously). But my personal goal in taking on EA jobs at each company I worked for was
to get my foot in the door, prove to my bosses that I had a tremendous work ethic and could contribute to their success beyond my EA role, and eventually be promoted into something more senior (admittedly never knowing exactly what that was). Most recently, I had the fortunate privilege of working as an Executive Assistant within a very large music entertainment company. The word “perks” hardly describes the unimaginable experiences I was lucky enough to have in my six years working there. Our team was responsible for booking and producing largescale concerts around the country, multiple times a year. Sometimes we were required to fly somewhere at a moment’s notice, a demand that commercial airlines could hardly accommodate. More than once I found myself white knuckling the armrests of a private jet in the company of the CEO, willing the nerves to drain from my face and the bile to settle in my stomach, lest I vomit on the pristine airplane carpet, giving away that I don’t normally fly private. Upon arrival, we would be swept off the tarmac in a black SUV with tinted windows and brought to a gorgeous hotel in someplace like Santa Monica or South Beach, where we would work for countless hours in one of the fanciest suites of the hotel, doing emails and ordering room service to keep us going. The views were gorgeous, but the work was incessant and demanding. While we could see the ocean from the balcony, the workload was such that that’s the closest we’d ever get. At the time, though, that was fine. My need to lay on the beach was eclipsed by my desire to never miss a behind-the-scenes moment at
our events. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with music, and I’ve been in rooms most music fans only dream of. I’ve stood on arena stages as the world’s biggest pop artists ran their soundchecks. I’ve sat in closed door rehearsals as rock & roll icons tuned their instruments and tailored their setlists. I’ve spent countless listening sessions with my favorite musicians, giving them my personal opinion on their unreleased music. Once I was even invited to a megastar’s New York City apartment, where I was encouraged to take pictures with her Grammys and hold her two cats, Meredith Grey and Olivia Benson (…I’ll let you guess who I’m describing). Any concert I wanted to attend was within reach. From the biggest stadium to the smallest basement, I had the access. One of my greatest joys was when the lead singer of my favorite band began to recognize me at shows. He’d say “I know you!” before we were introduced, and I’d all but explode with happiness each time he went in for a hug. I was heavily involved in the day-today executive operations of my department and had the responsibilities of someone with a much larger title. My job description ran the gamut; I answered phones and went on coffee runs, but also developed executive presentations and sat in on confidential budget meetings. Being that I worked in the executive office on the national team, I was required to not only know, but protect, highly confidential information daily. And as we’ve all learned from Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility. And boy, was I constantly aware of that responsibility. All. The. Time.
The term “plugged in 24/7” gets thrown around a lot these days, but I can confidently say I embodied the concept. I was on call at all hours of the day, every day of the week. I had two cell phones – one for personal and one for work – and you could often find me clutching both in one hand, springing into action with each vibration, talking business on my work line and recording notes from the conversation on my personal. The list of common human behaviors I simply did not engage in on a daily basis was long. “Taking lunch” was not something in my vocabulary. The thought of taking 30 minutes to leisurely walk to Whole Foods, fix myself a salad, and slowly savor it as I people-watched or read a book, was totally foreign. I ordered lunch in each day and ate it at my desk. When I took two minutes to go to the bathroom, I had to tell someone I would be away from the phone, in case it rang while I was indisposed. No one ever told me I couldn’t take a vacation, I simply didn’t. In my mind, there was no one who knew the information I did, and rather than try and explain to someone how to cover for me, it was less stressful for me to just do the work myself. For six years I tricked myself into thinking I was on vacation by disguising “working remotely” in a relaxing spot as taking time off. I wasn’t in the office so
that counted, right? During a busy few weeks, I vividly remember once alerting my team that I was going into a yoga class and would be unreachable for the next hour. It was a Sunday at 10am. As my list of unforgettable music industry moments grew, so did my workload. I had cemented myself as a critical part of my team. I was capable and dependable. From my peers to my bosses, everyone loved me. I don’t say this to be cocky, but to demonstrate job security. Had I wished to continue in that role indefinitely, I certainly could have. The position was mine for as long as I wanted it.
that creeps into your hands and feet when you least expect it and makes your heart hiccup for seemingly no reason. One of my greatest fears was becoming jaded or resentful, yet I found myself groaning at the thought of attending “yet another free concert.” No amount of “Selfcare Saturdays” could combat my “Sunday Scaries.” When music became a chore, I knew it was time for a change.
Over time, however, the priorities in my life began to shift. When I started in 2012, I was 26 and single, going out multiple nights a week, just for the sake of partying. By 2018, I had met my partner, Chris, and traded tequila shots for dry red wine. Not only was I getting older, but so was my family. With two grandmas in their 90s, I began to hate missing family functions for work trips and late nights at the office, regardless of the 5-star destinations and special guests. As I emerged on the other side of 30, meeting rock stars from my favorite bands was no longer acceptable currency for the stressors I accumulated seven days a week.
One day, a friend and mentor on the distribution side of the music industry contacted me about an open position at her company. My fear held me back. I hesitated. The company was small and independent, the complete opposite of the giant I’d invested six years of my short life with. My days of private air travel would be gone, but so would the knot of stress that lived permanently below my rib cage. I’d finally be in charge of my own schedule, be empowered to make my own decisions, and I’d never need to tell anyone I was taking a weekend yoga class again, unless it was to ask them to join me. My opinion would be asked, and my voice would be heard. The company pursued me for my value, as a potential asset to their team. They wanted me to be a Director. The more I considered the change, the more I saw the benefits of trying something completely new. It was time to shift my perspective.
My career in music meant a lot to me. Every day I worked incredibly hard to further my position within the industry. As time went on and I wasn’t advancing, I became irritable and anxiety ridden, snapping or crying at any moment, as I dwelled on how I was trading time with Chris and my family. It was that crippling kind of anxiety, the kind
The position came with more money and responsibility, but that wasn’t all I needed. Most importantly, this new job came with balance. For six years, I had been living a life that didn’t belong to me. For six years, I had been giving myself so completely to something else, there was barely any me left for me. There’s a reason they tell you on airplanes
to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping the person next to you. If you can’t breathe, how can you expect to help someone else do so? I needed to breathe, and this new position promised me air. I took the job. I write this now almost a year into my “new” position. I have not set foot in a private airport or had an artist meet and greet scheduled in my honor since my departure from my old company last June. My stays at the Ritz have been swapped for the Courtyard Marriott, and I hear new Taylor Swift music the day it’s released just like everyone else. But I don’t have to tell anyone when I’m going to the bathroom. These days, the popular definitions of self-love and self-care seem to revolve around face masks, bath bombs and yelling “YAS QWEEN!” as you try on your new swimsuit and finally accept your thighs the way they are. These are certainly aspects of that type of self-love that I practice and endorse (although I’m still working on that thigh acceptance thing). But for me most recently, self-love was pushing myself to do something uncomfortable. It was gathering the strength to reevaluate myself and what I want from both my career and my time when I’m not at the office. Self-love was accepting that my priorities have changed, and allowing myself to celebrate that I’ve grown, without even realizing it. I still work very hard at my “new” gig. I’m learning part of the music industry I’ve never been privy to before. I’m incredibly proud of my position and I love the staff and the artists I work with as if they’re my family. I’m truly very excited to see
where this next step takes me. I won’t say I don’t miss the VIP perks of my previous job, because of course I do. Every time I fight the general public for concert tickets online, I fondly remember what I once had. I miss my old coworkers and bosses daily, but fortunately, our projects overlap sometimes, and we still get to hang. With almost a full year between me and my decision, I can confidently say that taking on a new position was both a responsible and necessary act of self-love. I’ve come to learn it’s not only ok to take a real vacation, but it’s vital to avoid becoming a complete psychopathic ball of stress. I’ve learned that even though I only have one cell phone, I’m still doing my best work. And while holding a Grammy in an Instagram photo taken at the home of one of the most famous women in the world is awesome, I’ve learned that it can be a true joy to not tell anyone where you’re going, and step outside the office on a beautiful spring day to walk to Whole Foods.
I' m " M om " & " W i fe " But W ho A m I ? By: Taylor Carns
Growing up when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I always said “I want to be a mom.” I remember writing my mom notes when I was little asking her to have more babies. I would ask the tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter bunny, whoever I could to have more siblings. I swear that’s the reason my mom has 5 kids! I have always had the natural mama instincts being the oldest of 5. I have always loved to take care of people - it comes natural to me and it is my greatest joy to help people. When I found out I was pregnant at the young age of 20 I was terrified. Even though I knew this was what I wanted, I didn’t know if I was ready. My boyfriend at the time was in bootcamp and I remember feeling shame and embarrassment for being pregnant and not being married and being so young and unestablished in my career. I just knew I was meant to be a mom. When I first became a mom, it changed me in so many ways. I grew in my faith, I matured, my body looked different, everything felt different, my heart grew, and I felt like a whole new woman. There were so many things that changed about me that I loved but I also felt like my identity became “mom” and “wife” and I lost who I was as Taylor. I remember thinking, “Well I’m a mom, now I have to dress frumpy. I don’t want to draw too much attention to myself.” I lost who I was because I was so focused on being what I thought a “mom” had to be. I wore clothes I would have never worn before because I thought that’s what moms should wear. I didn’t color my hair or wear very much makeup. I took out all my piercings and was super embarrassed of my tattoos I got when I was 18. I remember going to Old Navy and buying this su-
per ugly green moo-moo dress and some way oversized t-shirts thinking, “Well this is me now.” Fast forward to my second pregnancy and I started to grow in my confidence. Right before I became pregnant with my second child I had lost a ton of weight and got into really good shape and felt really good about myself. My family had just moved to California (on Navy orders) and we were “living the dream.” This was one of the best times in my life. I finally learned that it was ok to start to be myself, but I still carried so much guilt and shame from my past. I had a lot of undealt with insecurities and felt like I still needed to be “mom” and “wife.” It wasn’t until my second child turned one that I started to feel like it was ok to do stuff for myself. I had to ask myself, “If I take away the title of “mom” and “wife” am I happy just being Taylor?” And the answer was “no.” I was insecure just being me. It took the last few years (my son is now five) to really start to love myself and give myself grace. I started to look at my insecurities as a gift. Something I’ve always been insecure about was my birthmark on my face, I would never leave the house without makeup. So, I looked at it as an opportunity instead of a curse! I started to become really great at makeup and it was something I loved and gave me confidence. Something else I’ve always been super insecure about was my weight. But, I started to work out and find workout routines I liked. I learned about eating healthy and how I can love my body where it’s at but still work hard to make changes and become healthier. I had to stop living my life to please
others. I love taking care of people, I love helping others and I love being able to do things for other people. But, there came a point where I had to say, “Taylor, if you don’t take care of yourself eventually you’ll run out of energy to help everyone around you.” It’s almost like a car, if you run out of gas or oil in your car and you’re running on fumes you’re going to do more damage to your car than if you were to just fill your tank back up. You have to take care of yourself and you have to know yourself. At the end of the day only YOU know your true thoughts. You have to spend time with yourself, get to know who you really are, love yourself and everything else will come so much easier! Something that has helped my self love journey has been my blog. I started my blog when I first became pregnant with my second child. So, a little over 5 years ago now. I did it as a way to keep everyone back home in the loop since my husband was in the Navy at the time. I loved connecting with other moms through the blogging/Instagram community. In a time where I felt so alone and insecure it gave me confidence when people would like what I posted or would ask me for advice on #momlife stuff. I loved blogging but in between when I first started and now I had to take a two year break. I felt like God wanted me to take the focus off of making myself look good on the outside to making myself good on the inside. When I finally felt like I was ready to start blogging again it kind of took off and grew way more than I expected it to. I feel like since I took the time to heal myself and find security in who I was everything else came so much easier. Because I was able to fill my cup up I can now pour out
there is a huge difference between having insecurities and your insecurities having you what I have to others.
Now I am 29 years old, I wear whatever I want, I don’t have to tone down who I am because I’m “mom” or “wife!” I am 100% confident in who Taylor is. Sure I still have some insecurities. News flash: we all do and if you say you don’t you’re lying! But there is a huge difference between having insecurities and your insecurities having you. My message that I always want to portray to moms is that you can still be your true fabulous self and be a kick-ass mom! You don’t have to conform to what society says a mom should be. Heck, I don’t have a perfectly clean house, a snatched body, healthy meals on my table every night and I sure as heck yell at my kids and let them watch too much TV. But that doesn’t make me a bad mom, it makes me real. It’s easy to think “I don’t have a story” but every single person does. Everyone has gone through things that have made them who they are. Don’t ever compare yourself to people you see on the internet. There are still moms that make Pinterest-worthy meals, dress their kids in matching outfits and have a beautiful makeup look that are still killin’ it even if they don’t post it on Instagram. I never want someone to come across my story and think, “Wow she really has it all together.” I want them to think, “Wow, I can relate to her!” Remember that YOU are enough! You are special, you are loved, you are smart, and you can be the best version of YOU possible! Comparison is the thief of joy. You are meant to be who you are meant to be and nobody can take that away from you but yourself. Only YOU know the true, authentic, raw and beautiful you. Let the world see that!
How-To Look Out for #1 (In Business) A note to self
By: Krista Bridges
MEMO To: Self From: The Former-Underpaid/Overworked/Say “Yes” to Everything Self Date: July 1, 2019 Re: How to Look Out for #1 (in Business) To The Self-Employed, Independent Contractor, Side Hustler Self: •
Know your worth, and be okay asking for it. This is hard. You’ve always felt “guilty” about money and feeling confident in knowing what’s appropriate to ask for. You charged parents $4 an hour to babysit their kids and never raised your prices when the younger girl down the street asked for $10. Get a grip. You are talented. You are worthy. You are valued. Own it. Research your industry, your title, competitive salaries. Know your skill sets (and those you are working on improving), evidence against this, prove it with examples, demonstrate you’ve got the skills to flawlessly execute the expected and then overdeliver on the unexpected. Clients who value and recognize your skill sets will gladly pay for your time and talent.
Track your $#*%. It’s a harsh reality but no one is going to do this for you. You have to look out for yourself. If you’re not being compensated on time - by an employer, a client, a co-business owner - speak the F up. Keep records.Start a Google sheet. Do NOT let this sit. Do NOT brush this under the rug. Fight tooth and nail for the money you worked so damn hard for.
Ask the hard questions. You cannot get what you don’t ask for. Feel strong in knowing there are others, just like you, who want to know the same things you want to know but are too afraid to ask. Get comfortable being in those uncomfortable conversations. That is not easy. And I know you hate that. But the more we step into that discomfort, the less awkward and more professional we become.
Stand up for yourself. As it relates to knowing your worth - and being confident in your skills - do not back down if you are due a paycheck, paid time off, maternity cover or whatever it is you are after. Respectfully bring it to the attention of your manager, client or HR department (if you are lucky enough to have one). Write down your thoughts on paper and send a clear, concise email addressing your concerns. If the email is not acknowledged, follow-up, follow through. Do. Not. Quit. Get answers.
Set Boundaries. Try to establish available time for clients and available time for you. What is important to you? Want to get that workout in? Need a little digital detox time? Meeting a friend for lunch? Super. Set up a meeting with yourself; block it out on your calendar and Do. Not. Break. It. Would you change a meeting last minute with your most important client? No. Absolutely not. So, why are you cancelling on yourself over and over again?
Say “No.” You’ve made great strides over the past few years with this, but there is still room for improvement. I know as an “empath” it’s hard. You don’t want to let anyone down. You are not a disappointment if you say no to someone for something. Find power in the word no. Ignite the fire and strength inside you to say “no” to things that don’t serve you or your goals. Bigger picture - let go of the little tasks and asks that quickly stack up and stress you out. Not worth it. Overcommitting, accepting, and settling because you want to be a people pleaser is not going to bring you joy.
Remember, you have to look out for you every once in awhile. It is an act of self-love to look out for your own welfare and sanity. Sometimes you have to come first. The world can wait. Be okay with that. Keep up the good work. I know you’re trying really hard and have come a long way. Sincerely, Me
For the Self Love of Travel By: Lindsay Dye
This Is... s it cliché to start an article with a quote? Well, good news then because I’m starting this with a question instead: What do you do for self love? Buy yourself flowers? Take time for rest and rel a x a t i o n? Or even start your day with two minutes of meditation? These days, it seems so hard to find time for self love on a daily basis. No matter how much I want to be that person that wakes up and meditates, then writes in my gratitude journal as I drink my freshly juiced celery juice, I’m just not a morning person. My form of self love and self care is getting away from my daily routines and commitments (waking up way too damn early, scrambling to the gym, then going to work for way too long) and exploring life outdoors and in new places! One of my favorite quotes is, “You often feel tired. Not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what lights a fire inside you.” My daily life makes me tired and is quite repetitive. However, being out in the world is self-exploration and gets me out of my daily comfort zone where I can discover different cultures, which lights my fire within. Traveling to new places, having no routine, talking to new people and taking in new experiences is my favorite form of self care. But, I didn’t know this until after college. Growing up, I always had a routine of soccer, schoolwork and other
extracurricular activities. Post-college, I had the whole world ahead of me. Well, that’s what they always tell you. But I had no work experience or any idea what I wanted to do (hell, I still don’t), so I just went and got a job like society norms tell you to do. I’m still working for the same company, but every day I’m there, I feel like I’m missing out on what the world has to show me. I have this burning desire to travel. I don’t necessarily need to have a long time in each city or country, but each time I’m gone, I realize the love I have for the adventure and the unknown burns deep within me. My life will never be perfect. I’ll never be perfect. The paths I should or shouldn’t take won’t always be clearly marked. But as long as I keep moving, I’ll figure things out along the way, because I’ve got to keep moving and experiencing life. Another one of my favorite quotes is, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.” Hey, if there’s something that freaks you out, you should probably do it anyway. When you commit to something, especially when you’re afraid, you grow. Maybe it’s camping, maybe it’s ditching your phone for a day or maybe it’s saying “no” for once. Whatever your “limits” are, learning to push beyond them is one of the most empowering feelings in the entire world. You being you and doing what you want to do - that’s creating individuality. That’s loving yourself. I’m still learning and growing. When I asked Tatum about this article, I told her I was having a hard time ending it because I’m still working on how to balance my daily routine of what I have to do with the adventurous side of what I want to do. I get so excited to go explore new
places that I don’t even realize how much I ignore myself the other days of the year until I’m doing a selfcare activity like traveling. Then, I come home and spiral into a form of depression asking myself, “What am I doing with my life?” When I come home from each trip, I get travelsick. Most people would say they get homesick when away but I’m the opposite. I get travel-sick when I’m home, even if it’s after only two to five days in a new place. I spent five days in Iceland and fell in love with the country. I spent five days in Costa Rica and fell in love with the animals. I spent four days in London and fell in love with the people. I spent three days in Copenhagen and fell in love with the culture. In the world we live in today, we are constantly connected to the internet. For me, traveling is an escape from this. You see it with your own eyes instead of just seeing photos of it on Instagram - you experience it. You get to reconnect with your mind and soul; you’re in the moment. I believe the best way to spend our lives is in beautiful places, creating beautiful memories and experiences with beautiful people. You can learn from anybody and everything. Since I didn’t start this article with a quote, I’m going to end it with one. “If you let go of your passion and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion. Happiness is the joy you feel moving towards your potential.”
A SOLO TRIP F o r S e l f L o v e
By: Ashley Wiesner
ometimes you need a getaway; a mental reset, self reflection and serious relaxation. Sure, a beach vacation or mountain camping trip may fit the bill, but what about the girl who is prone to sunburns and hates bugs? Hello, New York City. Now this might seem counterintuitive, a mental reset in the city that never sleeps? Yes, stay with me here. There is something about being amongst millions of strangers that really isolates you. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by NYC, especially when you only have 48 hours to spend there. I know what you’re thinking, “Only 48 hours?!” And yes, only 48 hours. It is the perfect amount of time to lean into the hustle and bustle of the city and allow your mind to just be. So what exactly did I do in this whirlwind 48-hour trip? I totally just let myself be. I wandered aimlessly, taking in the sites. I window shopped, letting myself play into all my fantasies. I took in lots of art, and even more food. Here’s a little peek into my city getaway and the ways I let my mind be at ease.
Day 1 There is no better way to start a New York trip than stopping at an Insta-worthy coffee shop and getting a photogenic latte for your morning caffeine dose. I would Recommend Cha Cha Matcha or The End Brooklyn. Once you have your drink in hand it’s time to hit the streets, or subway if you forgot to wear comfortable shoes, and go shopping. Now, shopping might not
sound like the most relaxing thing in the world, but I swear it is. When you can mindlessly look around and daydream while window shopping, you fall into a meditative state of fantasy. There is no shortage of shopping here, but my top recommendations are Beacon’s Closet, Glossier and The Strand - I know these choices are all over the board but you easily spend an hour in each one and walk away with a one-of-akind souvenir. Come the afternoon it’s time for a change of scenery, and food. This is when I ended up at The Whitney, a modern art museum surrounded by some amazing lunch options. If you aren’t into museums, well you’re crazy, just kidding - but seriously, art museums are my go to relaxation spot. You can zone out and appreciate the beauty of what is in the world and let yourself fall into a daze. The Whitney also offers some amazing views of the city. Now is your time to trek up a few flights of stairs and see the city from a new perspective - not to mention, it’s a great spot for a new profile picture. When you’re done at the Whitney head to the street, turn around three times, and go into whatever restaurant you’re facing. Okay, maybe you can skip the spinning part, but it’s lunchtime and you’re surrounded by a ton of amazing restaurants, so pick one and go eat. The sun is setting and the city is just starting to thrive. Just because I said this was a relaxing trip doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little nightlife. I recommend a comedy show, there is always one going on and you are guaranteed to laugh (even if it’s someone you have never heard). So head to show at UCB, The Com-
edy Cellar or any other place you may stumble across, grab a glass and relax into a night of laughter. By the time the show is done you’ll be ready to hit a Bodega for a snack and crash into your comfy hotel bed.
Day 2 Here we are, with another museum visit. This time, to the MoMA. Let me repeat myself, art museums are so damn relaxing. Take your time here - there are a ton of iconic works of art here. People are going to tell you certain pieces of artwork are overrated (*cough* A Starry Night *cough*), but it is inspiring to see a painting with such a reputation. When you have soaked in every last piece of work in the museum make sure you pop into the gift shop. I’m not normally a gift shop kind of girl, but this shop had some amazing and unique items. When you head out the doors of the MoMA the city is at your fingertips. 5th Ave is nearby, Central Park is north and all the exterior shots from 30 Rock (shout out to Tina Fey) are south. If you want to wander aimlessly while seeing all the sites, this is the time to do it. And let me tell you, you need to do this. There is no better way to zone out in NYC than just wandering around, taking in the craziness and letting your mind go on autopilot. I recommend going north first, then looping down onto 5th Ave (hello, over the top window displays) and then wandering until you run into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the library, etc., etc. - just take it all in. There is something really peaceful about just existing in a city with so much going on. The sun is starting to set and that is
your cue to head to the airport, but before you do, make sure to stop at a bakery for a midnight treat on your flight (Erin Mckennaâ€™s or Levain are my top picks). As you grab your ride and head to the airport take a breath and bask in the traffic. Feel how small your existence really is and put your stress into perspective.
There really is something beautiful about being surrounded by so many people that allows you to blend in and lean into who you really are.
[Inspiring] By: Alana Lima
girls who rule
Inspire & Be Inspired By Radiating You Editor’s Note: You’ve probably seen Alana Lima on these pages before as she was the Newsworthy Feature in our Winter 2019 Acceptance Issue, highlighting her passion and purpose in the form of her business, Radiate Healthy Living. Since then, she has created a program where she works with women and girls to help them feel healthy and empowered to do what they love. All the girls who join this program have a goal of something they want to creat - to write a book, create a business, build a non-profit, etc. - and Alana helps them through the goal setting process and through their limiting beliefs and things that are holding them back to help them take charge of their life and health. Alana had five girls in her program share their experiences of turning something they’ve dreamed of into a reality and working through their limiting beliefs and reaching self love in the hopes of inspiring you to do the same! Have you ever thought of loving yourself so much that you allow yourself to surrender to your dreams and turn them into reality? Yes, self-love is the first step towards turning your goals into reality. Self love is a foundation. Have you ever heard of the saying that what you most desire is
what scares you most? There’s a natural resistance to “follow our dreams” because there is an aspect of vulnerability to it. So many of us choose to “postpone” taking action towards something we’ve been dying to do (It’s ok, we all do it!). And when is it ever the right time to start something? *hint hint* It’s NOW. Because at the end of the day, it is all we have. There is no “right time” to take action towards something you’ve been thinking about for weeks, months and years. There is just now. When we love ourselves we are saying yes, we deserve the chance to see where things will go, we are saying yes, we are okay with letting go of the outcome, we are saying yes, we accept and we love ourselves through our accomplishments and our mistakes and we give ourselves permission to move forward and feel empowered shining our light. Here is a collection of stories from girls around the world that together have said “yes” to their dreams and goals and are taking action to turn them into reality. These girls are the perfect example of “women empowering women” as they have supported and uplifted each other along the way. Breaking down in-
ternal walls and limiting beliefs can only be achieved through acts of self love - and a little support from each other is always helpful, too! Each of these women have a unique mission, a different background and a personal brand that allows them to share their story and their intentions with the world. Here are their stories, their experiences with self-love on their journeys, their personal and collective missions. Together they are the founding members of the Radiating Souls Community, a place where they are there to uplift and empower each other to rise higher while they pursue their own authentic goals. “Everyone and every girl deserves a community that supports their growth! We are here to be your cheerleaders.” - Alana Lima Get to know their stories and mission as they open up to the world and feel free to reach out and connect! I invite you as you read through their journeys, to reflect on your own passion, goals and aspirations, and ask yourself what action you can take today that will get you one step closer to your goal. You are exactly where you need to be. You have everything you need to start.
Surrender Sweet Soul By: Rachael Palandati
My name is Rachael Palandati, I am a 21-year-old resident of Maryland. I created a brand to help me express my passion for writing and the precious powers that using your courage and voice has. I founded “Surrender Sweet Soul” as a creative portal to express myself through writing and jewelry. Surrender Sweet Soul’s mission is to be a safe haven for women amongst the chaos of this world. I believe that compassion, peace, love and harmony all start from within. Empowering women is something I am wholeheartedly passionate about. It is my mission to inspire young women to “tap into the garden of their minds” and explore the depths of their creativity through healing forms of expression. Over the past few weeks, while working with Alana, I have created a project I am so excited about. I will be selling dried flower necklaces that promote healing and harmony. I will also be creating poetry and
writing material that I have finally found the courage to share. My passion for writing is the reason I started my business. It’s truly magical how this program has helped me become aligned with my true, authentic self. In the future, I would like to expand the business and offer a program on healing through expressive writing. It is something I found so peaceful and powerful in my journey of recovering from trauma.
offered me so much support, love and inspiration in every step of the program. The program highlights the importance of alignment and listening to your mind, body and soul. Being able to collaborate with these Radiating Babes has helped me in ways I could have never imagined. I feel confident to be myself, courageous in following my dreams and eternally grateful to be able to connect with such bright and beautiful souls.
To me, self love is giving myself permission to be unapologetically myself. By shifting my mindset and priorities, I have been able to blossom as a young woman, entrepreneur and writer. This has always been within me, and by tapping into my endless supply of love, my dreams have started to flourish.
If I could give advice to a girl who has been wanting to do what I am doing but has let fear stop her time and time again, I would say “simply surrender.” Surrender to all the inspirational miracles life is offering you. Surrender to love. Surrender to light. Surrender to hope. Surrender to compassion. Surrender to your creative flow. Surrender to acceptance. Surrender to freedom. Surrender to everything that inspires your beautiful soul. ALWAYS listen to you heart and follow the signs that the world is giving you to
Working with Alana and her Radiate Healthy Living program has had such a huge impact on my journey. She, and the group of girls I’ve had the pleasure of working with, have
follow your dreams. If you’re reading this right now, take it as your sign to do what you’ve always wanted to do. The universe within and outside of you is always speaking to you, ask yourself, “Am I listening?” Close your eyes and look within. It’s truly amazing what you are capable of as soon as you make the active decision to pursue the life you have always imagined. If you have any questions or would like to connect you can reach me through any of my social media platforms!
Protect you Peace By: Rachel Palandati Develop a soul connection, with your inner child. Glance closely at her amongst the wild. The garden near the trees she calls her home. Silently searching the universal unknown. Her feminine feet graze the ground, she feels at peace. No one is around. Just the bees, as they buzz towards the delicate flowers. Like her, they harvest nature’s natural powers.
Connect with Rachel & Surrender Sweet Soul Personal Instagram: @rachpalandati Biz Instagram: @SurrenderSweetSoul Email: email@example.com Website: www.surrendersweetsoul. com
She wishes and wonders, as she looks to the sky. The clouds are her allies way up high. She hears the birds chirping making their sounds. She can’t help but think thoughts so clear, so profound. Will my words be heard? Will they listen to me? Is my passion the only thing that will set me free? Everything else has led me astray… with my pen in my hand, I find my way.
MODDOW By: Allie
Hey friends! My name is Allie, I’m 21 years old and currently live in San Diego. I’ve recently created my brand MODDOW, which stands for Mom’s Old Deck and Dad’s Old Wagon. MOD is the feminine energy while DOW is the masculine energy, representing balance and love. This will serve as a creative platform dedicated to the duality of boys and girls through skateboarding and art. My mission with my work is to spread a message that we’re all authentically one. I am a feminist preaching equality. I believe in the power of my own feminine energy, as well as the power of masculine energy. There is a reason the duality of these energies exist in the world together. We are meant to work together, not against each other. Along with our unique differences, we’re essentially all the same. I hope to encourage other girls and guys to get after what they’re passionate about. Even if it’s not skateboarding or art, my goal is to spark something in them to find their own
Connect with Allie & mODDOW
light. I would love for this to go from skateboard lessons and meetups to skateboard events with lots of other like-minded artistic businesses to collab and have a good time. To me, it all starts with self love. If you’re gonna start anywhere, I believe it should be the work you do within yourself. If you want the world to be a better place, start with bettering yourself, for you and everyone else. MODDOW teaches people to act out of love instead of fear. When we act out of fear, we fill our minds with limiting beliefs. Fear triggers mental blocks in everything we do. When we can understand this and become aware of this pattern, we can slowly shift out of that negative mindset and flow into pushing past the fear. Letting go of fear of the unknown brings us to a place overflowing in positive abundance and flourishing dreams. When we act out of love, we fill our minds with positive affirmations that manifest into reality.
After joining Alana’s program, I started to create my vision of MODDOW. Through working with Alana, I’ve experienced endless internal and external breakthroughs. I always had so many ideas going around in my mind but I could never figure out how to make it all real. With Alana’s guidance, the whole process became really clear. I was the only person stopping myself, and as soon as I realized that, MODDOW was born. My advice to someone who feels overwhelmed with what avenue they want to take their brand/business is to sit down and take some time to get clear on the roots of your desires and passions. Why do you want to create this? Who is it for? Where do these passions stem from? Once you get it all written out, you can have a better understanding of your purpose on this mission. Next, that purpose can become your drive. Cheers to letting love drive.
Instagram: @m0dd0w Website: m0dd0w.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 61
Sunshine Soulz By: Zoe Alexis Wong
Hello! My name is Zoë! I am an 18-year-old vegan chef, entrepreneur and mental health advocate! I currently live in Orlando, Florida.
ety. So far, I have laid out designs for inner peace, love, and meditation bracelets and I am hoping to be adding more in the future!
What I have been working to create over the past couple of months has been releasing my “mindful mantras” bracelet line. A fun fact about me is that I am super geeky when it comes to the spiritual and crystal realm, and through learning about the healing power of crystals from my mom, I felt inclined to use my knowledge of crystal healing to create bracelets to empower girls and help them heal not only their relationship with their environment, but with themselves, as well. Each bracelet is made with a set of crystals that have different properties. In addition, each bracelet comes with an affirmation that ties back to the main purpose the bracelet is meant to address. For example, the inner peace bracelet has an affirmation that helps to target cultivating inner peace and dealing with anxi-
My goal is to be able to help young women navigate their intuition and find the confidence to speak their truth. Having been in recovery from an eating disorder for over three years, I understand that there are some moments in our lives where we can become so disconnected from ourselves that it is almost as if our body and our consciousness go to war with one another. My product and my brand seeks to help girls unite their mind and body, find peace within themselves and thrive! There are so many things I want to do with my brand, I don’t know where to start! For one, I plan on expanding my “mindful mantras” line to go from just bracelets to necklaces and rings, as well! I would also love to create an online class where I can help individuals
reclaim their voice, as well as connect back to that little cave of self love that I believe exists within all of us. Somewhere down the road I plan on hosting a retreat in which I can communicate my knowledge of crystal healing, self-love practices, yoga and meditation on a more personal level! In my own journey, self love has always been more than bubble baths and face masks. Going back to my struggle with an eating disorder, a huge contributing factor to its onset was my lack of self love. When I chose recovery in November 2016, part of showing myself love was actually fueling my body with nutritious food that left me feeling happy and healthy! Accepting that my worth is separate from my physical appearance has also been a major step towards strengthening my sense of self-worth. A great exercise that helped me was choosing someone I looked up to and listing up to five things that I admired
about them. You might be surprised to realize that none of the characteristics I brought up were attributed to their physical appearance! The journey towards really putting my brand out there has in itself been an act of self love as through choosing to pursue my passions, I am making a statement to my inner critic that I do have something to contribute to the world and my voice deserves to be heard! Being a part of Alana’s program has impacted me on my journey in so many positive ways. For one, I was able to meet a group of like-minded girls that I know are there to support me and help me grow, and in turn I am there to help them on their own unique journey! I find it amazing to see how much one’s motivation to do better and to really embrace their passion increases when surrounded by like-minded people! The advice and layout Alana provided throughout the program also aided in me gaining a clearer idea as to how I can move forward with creating my business in a timely fashion and understanding
what I need to do in order to stay on that path. Regardless, it has definitely been an experience that I will cherish forever and I cannot wait to see what I continue to create with such an inspirational group of women! Advice: JUST DO IT. Yes, it is going to be scary, and there are going to be tons of reasons your ego will give you as to reasons not to do it. But use the saying “If not now, when?” to get you to move forward. What I always ask myself when I have doubts is, “10 years from now, will I look back and ponder what might have happened if I did ____?” If it’s a yes, I know I need to take action! I would also remind you that yes, there are going to be other people that are doing things similar to you, but you know what? How YOU bring it to the table is going to be different than how they do it. So don’t worry so much about not being able to stand out! Your take on your brand, whatever it may be, is something worth embracing and putting out there!
Connect with Zoe & Sunshine Soulz To connect with me and my work: I am currently working on creating a website with a blog, delicious vegan recipes and more items to sell through my Etsy shop, which is projected to launch this summer! I also make YouTube videos on eating disorder recovery, veganism/plant-based living and spirituality on my channel zoealexis. Personal Instagram: @zoealexiswongg Business Instagram: @sunshinesoulz
Inner Freedm By: Kora Burchard
My name is Kora Burchard and I’m 20 years old. I currently live in Santa Barbara, California, although I am originally from the Northern Bay Area. Growing up watching my mom cook, I learned a lot more than I ever anticipated. Once I moved away to college without much experience, I realized I had picked up many of her kitchen tips and found that I love to be in the kitchen and even moreso, I love to share my food. I continued to learn through social media, books and podcasts and was always surprised by how intrigued and excited I would get learning something new about how different foods can affect the body. I would make soups, Mexican dishes, Asian noodle bowls, big salads, pasta dishes and share them with all our friends in the apartments around me. I am a 20-year-old that gets excited to find a new magazine on how to garden or what herbs and spices benefit which part of your body. I am a 20-year-old with ‘vegan cookbooks on my Christmas
and birthday lists. I am a 20-yearold that listens to podcasts about gut health and your microbiome not once, but twice to take notes to send to her friends and family. Unfortunately, my junior year of college my personal health took a huge toll on my school work, social life and mental and emotional health. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called IBS-C which made me become suddenly intolerant to many different foods I previously loved. I was learning about new foods that my body couldn’t handle every day and if I ate something my stomach didn’t agree with, I was sick for as short as four hours to as long as two days. My appetite was the lowest it had ever been, and so was my energy. I felt defeated and exhausted. I was either scared to eat or not hungry at all. After only a few months I had lost 22 pounds and knew I needed to do something about it. I took it upon myself to get a functional medicine doctor, taking
a more holistic approach, to get all sorts of tests done, and to keep asking questions. I am so thankful that I did. I am in no way “better” or finished healing, and I don’t know if I will ever fully be back to what I was. But that’s okay. Through this journey I have found many new perspectives, I have met amazing people going through the same thing or just who are ready to listen, I have learned the importance of listening to your body and, last but not least, I have learned to love the many forms she comes in. Opening up about my experience has shown me how many people deal with this and how little it is talked about. With my passion and personal experience, I hope to create a blog that shares health and information with women and people all over the world. Everyone can benefit from health and I want to share my knowledge and insight with who-
ever it may benefit. We all have so much going on that most of the time we donâ€™t realize how impactful each forkful of food can be to our lives. I want to share blogs with recipes, health tips, recommendations, gardening, environmental information, gut knowledge, hard times, good times and simple life updates. Hopefully my words will be able to help many people work towards being their healthiest, happiest selves, whether you are in perfect health or living with IBS. I hope to create a community of people who are able to help and support each other through difficult times as well as happy ones. This is something that I wish I had stumbled upon and I am excited to be able to provide that platform to other women and people. Eventually, I want to go through an official holistic health certification program and grow this platform and community to do amazing things together; to possibly create a retreat, write a cookbook, start a program to help spread awareness in low income communities about the importance and
simplicity of eating healthy and what that really means. There are endless options from here and I am excited to see where the road leads me and how this platform is able to grow and create connections. The Radiate Healthy Living program that Alana has hosted for five weeks has been magical for my body and mind. I joined the group mostly hoping for another outlet to get information and to help with my own health situation. I went into the program knowing that a blog was something I would like to someday achieve but I have come out of the program with the knowledge that I can do it no matter what limiting beliefs I have. Alana has given me not only tools to build up this blog and to feed my personal body type, but also a group of girls that are always there for me whether itâ€™s to give me ideas, opinions or supportive messages after a paragraph about how hard my day was. I wouldnâ€™t have a blog started without this program giving me the tools and confidence to go for it.
Connect with Kora & Inner Freedm If you are interested in hearing more about me and my story, visit me at my blog on innerfreedm.com and on instagram at @innerfreedm.
Livewliz By: Elizabeth Shutt
Hello friend my name is Elizabeth Shutt, but everyone calls me Lizzie! I am a native of South Florida and I currently attend the University of Florida, studying Horticulture. I am 20 years full of fun. I’m currently working on creating an online platform in the form of a website and blog to educate and inspire people to view their body as a living ecosystem. Drawing from the relationships found within nature, I explore the human lifestyle and create connections for people to care for their body, mind and environment. I will also continue to expand my lifestyle insta: @livewliz sharing daily recipes and ways to live dirty and eat clean! The mission is to foster a connection between oneself and nature. Through showcasing plant-based recipes, home projects (fermentation + gardening + zero-waste living), spiritual realizations and mindfulness, I intend to educate readers and open a conversation within themselves (or with real peo-
ple, too). Readers will receive “food for thought,” but just enough to keep them coming back for another taste! I am always growing and learning and my blog will reflect those changes. I know I want to evolve into hosting in-person workshops for people to create projects like herbal medicines, meal prepping and zero-waste home products. Possibly a Youtube for much more viewers to learn, too! Self love means being alone and nourishing myself, which in my dayto-day life is a blended rainbowfilled bowl (usually smoothie bowls) enjoyed in the sunshine. If I’m lucky, a ride with the ocean’s energy on my 9’ 3’’ longboard does the trick, too. Making time to connect with the Earth reconnects me to my true self. Self-love is crucial in those times when I’m overworked, frustrated, doubtful. Once I catch myself in the negative thoughts I often talk to
myself in third person, “Lizzie, just breathe everything will be okay.” It always is. Making time for myself is very important for my creative projects to develop and keep me from “burning out.” Accountability, inspiration, and empowerment were the ingredients I collected throughout Alana’s program. She is a humble goddess warrior that opened our tribe to endless possibilities. The program broke down goal-setting, health and mindset - all big topics - into understandable fun activities! It was always cool to see other girls’ perspectives on how they interpreted the lesson and to learn from each other. Advice: Girl, you are more qualified than you think! Grab your pen or laptop and just go for it. I now keep a little journal on me constantly as a way to release my daily ideas and create attainable to-do lists. #bethechange There’s no better time than NOW - baby steps still count!
Connect with Lizzie & LivewLiz Find me on instagram! Lifestyle: @livewliz Personal: @lizzieshutt (Checkout website on bio) Email works, too, if you want to chat or adventure with me:) email@example.com I also help run the global #unlitter movement encouraging people to find ways to reduce their environmental impact and have fun doing it; check it out @unlitter. This quote encompasses my daily mindset to keep fighting for what I believe in because every action builds up into a chain reaction:
â€œNever doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever hasâ€? - Margaret Mead
EARTHLY By: Lorin Sisco
nspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. The most beautiful concept to me is how we, as individuals, have the power to learn how this world works and what this life has to offer us. The world is so big and there are millions, if not billions, of opportunities out there for us to learn, grow and make a difference. Depending on how we look at it, we can be looking at as little as making a difference in ourselves, our community, or something as big as making a difference in the world. The story behind the creation of Earthly Mana began with an overflow of creative energy that didn’t have a place to be released. I had so many ideas that I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with, so I first decided to start writing about what I loved most: traveling and nutrition. I created Earthly Mana with the intention of spreading knowledge of the Hawaii lifestyle that I fell so deeply in love with and the sense of community that we have here on the island. The word “Mana” in Hawaiian means spiritual quality. In Hawaii, mana is used as another word for energy and to have mana is to have influence, authority and efficiency in all situations. The slogan for my business is “aloha āina” which means to care and to have love for the land. Community was what I really wanted to target in my business and to show that people are greater, and we are stronger, if we work together. Hawaii was the biggest inspiration
with creating Earthly Mana. Hawaii to me is where I grew most as an individual and it gave me every opportunity I have today. Hawaii introduced me to the people who showed me that being a young entrepreneur is possible and helped me create a brand that reflected everything that I love the most. Because a lot of the people I surrounded myself with at the time were trying to establish themselves as well. It helped me get ideas of how I wanted to start this business and how I was going to grow a sense of community out of it. I
of merchandise that was cheap and not what I wanted, or times where I would go to a pop up shop in the middle of Waikiki and only make $25. With mistakes comes lessons and I learned to never half-ass anything when it comes to your business. The cool thing about failure is it allows room for improvement. Starting a small business is solely a test of self and how quickly you’re able to roll with the punches when they’re thrown at you. No matter what field or what business you’re trying to get into or create, my only advice is if you absolutely love it, try it and knock it out of the water. If you fail, try again. The world is continuously changing, and you have to move with the waves in order to succeed in this world. My business has been changed, edited and redone so many times because people always want new and different things. To be successful you must realize that you are the controller of your own destiny. We can choose to fall when we fail or we can choose to get up and change what failed the first time.
ended up making Earthly Mana into a store once I realized that people actually liked my ideas and were reflecting on my story. Creating a business so young in life made me realize how much trial and error there is in the business world. I never studied business or really had a lot of experience in the business world before creating my own. But, with a little bit of courage came a long ride of success and some bumps of failure. The best thing about starting this business as a college student is that it gave me a lot of room for failure. There were times where I would buy a lot
Earthly Mana is something that I am so proud of and something that I care about so deeply. I know that it is going to go through another major shift this upcoming Fall with products, blogs and merchandise; but one thing that will stay the same is the sense of community that it has established here in Hawaii and it’s aloha āina. I’m grateful for Earthly Mana for the ability to share my personal story and the places I’ve been blessed to travel and to inspire those who wish to change their life.
By: Camila Agurto
Seaweed SEAsoning for Your Summer Snacks & Soul
[ H e a lt h y ]
re you someone who cannot stand the taste of seaweed? Find it “fishy” or too strong of a flavor and maybe wish you liked it because you keep hearing it’s good for you? Or are you someone who loves seaweed so much that you want it in everything and are always looking for ways to incorporate it into your everyday life? Wherever you may fall on this spectrum, here is a fun recipe to try that you will want to use on everything! A little over a year ago, I was the person who wanted to like seaweed and I just could not adjust to the taste unless it was mixed with something. You see, I found the taste too “fishy” in a way I did not like, yet I WANTED to like it because of the health benefits! I love the beach and wanted to love something that reminds me of the feeling of standing in front of the shore, listening to the waves crash on the sand, the sound of the gulls overhead, all while the salty breeze caresses my sun kissed cheeks - and here I have it. Seaweed is loaded with nutrients including B vitamins such as B12,
minerals including loads of potassium, some iodine and a low amount of selenium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids! All living creatures need potassium to survive for things like nerve function and muscle movement. Lack of potassium could appear in fatigue, water retention, and a hankering for salty foods! Potassium is beneficial for you if you experience these symptoms along with irritability and restlessness during PMS like I do. Iodine is another beneficial nutrient our bodies need. We began adding iodine to salt because of deficiencies seen in those who weren’t living near the ocean, thus not able to eat foods like seaweed. Kelp has the highest amounts of iodine out of any food! Yes, there is concern about radioactive iodine in which case it is wise to use seaweed from the PNW for example. Plus, studies in Japan have shown that regular consumption of seaweed reduces the uptake of radioactive iodine. Selenium, also found in seaweed and an important nutrient for thyroid health, is important as well because it balances out iodine in the body. Incorporating seaweed into my diet
has been pretty life changing for me even if that sounds cheesy. So much so that I am wanting to spread the word with an easy way of introducing it into our diet - powdering it and mixing it into your salt! Potassium naturally tastes saltier than sodium. Therefore, a little goes a long way when using it in cooking and your salt intake will also go down. The varieties of seasoning mixes are endless! Try out this recipe and adjust it to your liking and put it on EVERYTHING! Recently, I mixed it with nutritional yeast and dried nettles for an extra nutritional boost. One of my favorite ways of enjoying this blend is mixing it with ghee and tossing it with popcorn or tossing freshly fried chickpeas (in olive oil, they get crunchy) with the mix and finishing it off with lime juice. I simply measure out my ingredients, put them in a blender, vitamix, or nutribullet and mix it all together! Enjoy :) You can find seaweed at most grocery stores and can use kombu or kelp and powder it yourself or purchase it in powder form. I would love to hear about your experience! Connect with me on Instagram: @thisplantmami
References: Kreischer L, Schuttelaar M. Ocean Greens: Explore the World of Edible Seaweed and Sea Vegetables: a Way of Eating for Your Health and the Planets. | Nesterenko, Nesterenko, Yablokov. Chernobyl's radioactive contamination of food and people. | Minoru Irie, Child Science and Great East Japan Earthquake
P o w d e r 2 TBsp kelp
2 tsp black pepper
3 TBSp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSp nutritional yeast
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Grind all herbs to a powder and mix well. Store it in a jar or wherever you keep your salt. Enjoy over your favorite foods and snacks!
By: Jessica Clark
“Your ‘body image’ is stored in your brain cells, not in your fat cells.” - Ashlee Bennett Some days are better than others, but my body image issues started when I was in middle school. Specifically, sixth grade. There was a picture of me on Facebook (which I can’t find anywhere) that had me thinking that I was overweight. I remember exactly what I was wearing that day - a teal Zine zip up from Zumiez and some True Religion flare jeans. I’m assuming I went back and deleted it because of how ashamed I was. From there, I started surfing the internet to find out how to lose weight and how to lose it fast. Well, I hope we all know that Pinterest is not the place to go if you’re searching for a workout/meal plan. If you didn’t know, now you know. Pinterest will tell you to either cut out all carbs or to go on an all banana diet. How confusing, right? Well, I listened to Pinterest and I started eating around 500 calories a day. I lost five pounds in a very short period of time and then gained it all back right away because once I lost the weight, I thought I’d be okay to go back to eating like a normal human. Here’s a picture of me freshman year of high school that triggered several body image breakdowns.
Let’s fast forward to senior year. I went through a lot of different life changes and was extremely stressed out with everything going on. I lost around 15 pounds from eating nothing but salad and protein bars. I lost my appetite due to stress and once I started losing the weight, I felt like I couldn’t stop. I was getting addicted to seeing the changes in my body and the number on the scale go down. People started noticing and the people who weren’t my close friends didn’t realize that my weight loss was not healthy. So, when people would compliment me it would actually fuel the fire. I played volleyball at the time and I remember there was one tournament where I started seeing stars and almost fainted due to not eating or drinking enough water before. We had to call a medical time out and this is when I knew I had a problem. I guess the good news is that we took first place.
In November of senior year, I got my first job at the best gym in my
home town (I’m biased), Thrive Community Fitness. I am forever thankful that I had this opportunity. It led me to meeting so many amazing people in the fitness industry who have taught me a lot of what I know today about fitness and nutrition. Fast forward to May of senior year, I made the decision to prep for a bodybuilding show. I gained 14 pounds during my bulk and lost 23 pounds during my cut.
The pictures show an amazing transformation on the outside. On the inside, not so much. I wish I could explain the thoughts that went through my head the entire prep.
Every time I went to the bathroom, I would lift my shirt to check if my abs were still there. After the show, I struggled with “post show blues.” I realized my abs were slowly fading and it was killing me on the inside. After restricting myself from foods for almost six months, I started to eat everything. For example, if I were to eat one cookie, I would think to myself, “Well, you’ve already cheated, might as well eat junk the rest of the day” and this is exactly what caused me to gain the freshman 20. After a few months of bingeing every other day and doing extreme amounts of cardio to punish myself for the binge, I was so ready for a change. It was not until Summer of 2018 - two years after graduating from high school - that I realized that it’s okay to enjoy the foods you love in moderation. It’s okay to not have a full on six pack every day. It’s okay to go out to eat with friends. I am happy to say that I am finally at a point in my life where I feel like I actually have a healthy relationship with not only my body but with food.
Transforming my relationship with food did NOT happen overnight. But, here are some tips to help you if you’re struggling with body image: 1. Stop COMPARING yourself to others. If you need to unfollow people on social media to help you with this, then do it! Also, people need to understand that those “fitspos” you see on social media ONLY POST THEIR BEST FULLY FLEXED PICTURES. 2. AFFIRMATIONS. Some may think these are silly, but they have completely changed how I think about myself. Wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say, “I am beautiful. I love my body. I am successful.” You can say whatever you want but I always started out by telling myself that I am beautiful. Eventually, you will start to believe it. 3. WEAR CLOTHES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BEAUTIFUL. I used to wear baggy clothes everywhere I went because I felt like it hid my curves. Once I started to change how I dressed and
actually buying clothes that fit, I started to love my body more and more. 4. RESPECT your body at whatever stage it is at. Stop judging and criticizing your body for how it shouldn’t be. 5. Do it for YOU! Don’t let anyone else get in the way of your self love journey. If you don’t do it for you then you will never ever be happy. Trust me, I’ve tried to do it for other people and it actually made me more unhappy than I was when I started. This is YOUR journey, so don’t let anyone else get in the way of it. Every person has a different journey and it is completely normal to have bad body image days. Take it one day at a time and stay patient. Always remember that you are BEAUTIFUL and you are LOVED no matter what chapter of your journey you’re on.
“It’s difficult to heal your relationship with yourself while wishing parts of yourself away. Call them back in. They want to come home.” - Ashlee Bennett 75
By: Andy Bucher
“What the fuck is PCOS.” Yeah, don’t worry, that’s exactly what I was thinking too. Well let me tell you. It’s simple really in layman’s terms - PCOS; Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a “disease” where your body doesn’t produce the right hormones like everyone else. It’s essentially lazy! My body doesn’t produce the essential amount of estrogen needed to be able to ovulate normally, regulate my periods, control my weight, pimples or insulin, oh and in some cases it creates little cysts in your hooha making it hard to reproduce. You know, the little things. But don’t worry guys, it over produces on testosterone so if I ever wanted to grow a beard, have male pattern baldness, or not reproduce, this would be awesome! But it’s not. It totally and utterly blows! In the last year or so I have struggled, like really struggled, with losing weight, sleeping, fighting cystic acne, which I never had before, fatigue, scatterbrain, confidence, self love - you name it I struggled with it. I was fighting with doctors on a regular basis to give me some kind of answer, some kind of hope to hold onto. What was wrong with me? Now don’t get me wrong, I have struggled with weight my entire life so it’s not surprising that I gained a few LBs. But, to be honest, when you gain over 50 pounds in a matter of months, you better be shooting off the smoke signals because something is not right. And I knew it - I knew it with every fiber of my being that something was wrong but no one could tell me what. I saw all types of specialists. All of them telling me to take more tests, go see this other doctor, do this, do that and all of it would come back normal. Honestly, at that point in my life
you could have told me I had cancer and I would have cried tears of joy to know I wasn’t crazy and making it up and that something actually was wrong with me. Dramatic? Yes, absolutely. True? 100%. I just wanted an answer. I finally got to a point where I was crying every day, I hated looking in the mirror, I stopped taking pictures with people, I didn’t want to be naked in front of my husband anymore. Sex? What sex? That wasn’t happening. I was defeated and I didn’t know what to do. During one of my many rounds of blood work my doctor finally noticed some hormone level abnormalities. Plus, I had done a vaginal ultrasound (this is where they stick a long rod/ stick like device to essentially give you an ultrasound of the inside of your lady bits, not the outside like those cute little pregnant women get) and at the same time suggested I go see the endocrine specialists (this is someone who specializes in your body’s glands, hormones and your metabolism, making sure everything is talking to each other the way they should be). While I was there, she noticed discoloration on the back of my neck indicating that I could be pre-diabetic and that my body wasn’t producing the right amounts of insulin to help my body digest food. DING DING DING! We have a winner! Finally! This one moment helped the doctors figure out that PCOS is in fact what I had. Between the baby cysts they found inside my princess, the hormone level abnormalities and the insulin deficiency I finally got the answer I was begging for. Now, I was happy to have an answer but the struggles that came along with this answer have been far from easy. Remember in the beginning when I mentioned I had cystic acne?
Yeah, well try having blood blister cystic acne popping up in between your legs and on your chin. Remember in the beginning how I talked about weight? Yeah, well not being able to produce insulin properly prevents me from being able to lose weight like most people. This means I have to work twice as hard as most people to get this thing under control, because the ironic part is in order to “maintain” or have less risk or symptoms of PCOS you need to be at a “healthy weight.”Yeah, I’ll get right on that even though my body can’t do it normally. Oh, and the “best” part of all of this - remember in the beginning when I said it would be hard to have babies? Yeah,well try being a 24-year-old married woman ready to have a baby and be told it’s going to be hard. Not impossible, I wasn’t at that point in my PCOS journey for it to be impossible, but just really hard. So what? Now I got the answer I begged for yet the next day I woke up and I was still overweight, not able to have babies (at least that’s what I told myself in my head) and I was feeling ugly because of all this acne popping up. Apparently instant gratification was too much to ask for in this case but nonetheless I was uncomfortable, and honestly feeling like a failure as a women not being able to reproduce. It was a really hard pill for me to swallow in those days/months after hearing my diagnosis. I wasn’t sure what to do, where to start, how to get where I needed to be. Did they create a time machine yet? I’m pretty sure I told my husband at one point he could leave if he wanted because I know how bad he wants to have kids. It was a dark point in life, like really, totally, overwhelmingly pitch black dark. I wasn’t sure how I was
“Look in the mirror and tell yourself you are worthy of everything you want and need in life. Only you can choose to be happy and only you can choose the path to love yourself.” going to get through it. I knew I already had family weight issues, now add this steaming pile of shit news to it - I truly never thought I could get down to a healthy and normal weight and back to a normal human being. So basically I sat there and did nothing and moped and felt sorry for myself, got divorced and live with my cat all alone now. JUST KIDDING! That’s not how this ends! I decided after being told if I don’t get this under control I can’t have babies, that I was going to cut out all processed foods from my life, start working out again, and start really looking at myself in the mirror and finding that person I knew was still in there, that loves herself and feels good about who she is and how she looks! Did I mention I own a styling business? (Shameless plug Bucherstyling.com go check it out). Try not feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin, body, and clothes but trying to help other women feel that way. I practice what I preach, not preach what I don’t believe. So getting back to me was what I needed to do more than anything. I’m a firm believer that the glass is always half full, there’s always a silver lining, and your attitude can change everything. And, like my Nana always says, you have to choose to be happy. So that’s what I did. Every day was hard, I didn’t always feel the
love when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t always feel like going to the gym, I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to eat the slice of pizza everyone around me was eating or get the popcorn at the movie theater but I knew I couldn’t, and I didn’t. I finally started realizing that where I was at in my weight was okay, and that I needed to learn to feel good and confident where I was at because realistically it might not change. After months, I finally started truly feeling good about myself again, and to be honest I saw changes going to the gym and working out with my trainer. Clothes started fitting differently, they started feeling comfortable and not forced. I was starting to feel sexy again. I might have even gotten naked in front of my husband once or twice in this time. Yeah you heard me naked in front of my husband! And I didn’t shutter away from it. I started feeling a little more like me every day. Every day I tried I felt myself coming back. It has officially been a year and a half as I write my story for you, and as I sit here reflecting on one of the lowest points in my life, I realize that I needed that moment in my life to happen. Without that diagnosis and finally having an “answer” I would never have gotten the motivation and push I needed to get my life back on track and take it back into my own hands. Today I am down almost 25 pounds, I have my acne under control, I take my medica-
tion every day, and guess what? My husband can’t keep his hands off of me! To be honest, even at my lowest weight in high school, I never felt this good about who I am and how I look. I got me back. I got a better version of me. I got my self love back. I wear my clothes with confidence, and I walk around flaunting my hard work with pride, because I earned every ounce of muscle on my body, and I feel good about where I’m at. Now is my journey anywhere close to being done? Absolutely not. This will be something I struggle with for the rest of my life, but today, in this moment I am happy, I am healthy, and I will continue working on losing weight and being the healthiest version of myself I possibly can. One day my husband and I will have our little baby Bucher’s running around and I’ll be there to catch them. PCOS is just a word, it’s just a thing, it’s just something I have to live with, and something a lot of women have to live with. I learned I’m not alone in this. But I will never let it define me again or let it make me feel unworthy of love not only from my husband but from me. I encourage you, if you’ve made it to this point in my story, to look in the mirror and tell yourself you are worthy of everything you want and need in life. Only you can choose to be happy and only you can choose the path to love yourself. So love yourself. It’s the best medicine you can give yourself.
Into My Own Hands
Taking My Mental Health
By: Branigan Wright
or as long as I can remember, I have grappled with anxiety. You can bet that any topic imaginable I’ve worried about it, spent an excessive amount of time stressing over it and I’ve been overcome with unrelenting feelings of angst because of it. For so many years, I would talk to my family and close friends about my worrisome thoughts of the day, and like always, I would hear, “It’s going to be ok,” “This won’t even be on your radar a month or a year from now so don’t let it get to you,” “Stop stressing out over something so minute,” “Don’t worry about what you can’t control,” the list goes on. Every time I would hear the same piece of advice, I always knew they were right, but I couldn’t turn the anxiety switch off in my head. When you’re dealing with deep rooted feelings of anxiety, it simply doesn’t work like that, because trust me – if it was that easy, I would have switched these feelings off decades ago. After hearing the same advice over and over, I would always wonder how many times in the history of mankind someone has managed to do a complete 180 with their feelings just because someone else told them not to worry about something. I’d bet a pretty penny that that number is a big fat zero! So, why do people think that type of advice is the answer for those who struggle with their mental health? What seems to be so hard for people to understand is that those who suffer from a mental health disorder truly do not find enjoyment being on a tumultuous, emotional rollercoaster every day of their lives. We are not like this because we thrive
in chaos. We are not like this because we love always being in an uneasy state of mind. And we damn sure aren’t like this because we find an ounce of enjoyment in wasting precious time on our worries and fears. Who would enjoy living like that by choice? Fighting these every day feelings has never once been a choice for me. They have always just been a part of who I am, and I’ve begrudgingly accepted my anxiety as my form of normal. But, finally, after more than two decades of living with these feelings, I decided that enough was enough. Earlier this year, I took matters into my own hands and found the help that I needed to be able to live the life I was always meant to live. I met with a psychiatrist and laid everything out on the table from my unbridled, everyday stress to my unanticipated anxiety attacks. Did I sound like a basket case? Maybe. But I was ready to find a solution to combat my anxiety. I didn’t want my anxiety to be in charge of my life any longer. It was time to cut ties with an old foe and take back the reins. So, I did just that. After meeting with my psychiatrist, I was prescribed antidepressants for my anxiety - and guess what? After five months of being on this medication, I feel like a completely new person. I am now the person I should have always been for the past 28 years! I no longer stress out over the most miniscule things. The feeling of butterflies fluttering rapidly against my rib cage are long gone. My heart being on the verge of popping out of my chest from unexplainable, rattled nerves is long gone. Sure, some of my biggest fears still make me a tad bit anxious, like flying, but in my own eyes, my
transformation has been astounding. Sometimes, I can’t believe that I waited this long to seek help, but it’s never too late to change your life for the better. For a while, I’ve toyed with the idea of telling my family about my decision to go on antidepressants, but I’ve been apprehensive. Not that this is anyone’s business (except for mine), but I tend to be an open book with my family. However, when it comes to discussing mental health disorders, it seems like such a taboo topic. But why? Why should I feel ashamed or embarrassed for one second? Why have we allowed society to lead us to believe that discussing mental health disorders is such an interdiction considering nearly 450 million people in the world suffer from these conditions? That cycle has to be broken! Don’t people realize that? Due to this hush-hush mindset, it has led people to suppress their true thoughts and feelings, which in turn leads them to not seek the help that they so desperately need to be able to overcome their mental health disorders. Sadly, those same people allow their feelings to torment them for years, and/or they turn to food bingeing, isolating themselves from the world, drugs, drinking alcohol or taking their own life just to make the feelings go away. Believing that discussions about mental health should be swept under the rug is a travesty when you look around and see how individuals and even their loved ones are affected by these disorders every day. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to live with the suffocating, draining, unwarranted feelings of anxiety or depression any longer. Don’t be afraid to express your feel-
ings and to talk about mental health. You don’t have to feel like you’re a canary trapped in a cage that has no hope of breaking free from a confinement that it has no control over. You do have control of your own life. Mental health disorders are not a fad, a joke or a false narrative. These disorders stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain that is caused by having too many or too little of certain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters. A chemical imbalance in someone’s brain is not their fault, and who these disorders affect is not black and white, either. The CEO of a fortune 500 company, the high school cheerleader, an A-list actor, your 6th grade Biology teacher and even your own family and friends could be suffering from some form of mental health disorders. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and you should never feel ashamed for being one of the 450 million people that struggles and lives with a mental health disorder. Instead, be proactive and take matters into your own hands to find the solution that is best for you. If you just need a shoulder to cry on or need serious, professional help, seek it unapologetically. There is someone out there who will listen and help you! Our mental health is vital for a happy, healthy life. Don’t feel scared to speak up and don’t think that you’re a loser or a failure because of
the anxiety, fear, depression, etc. that you’re feeling. For me, seeking professional help was the best option for my mental health. It has truly worked wonders. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would take anti-depressants, and I would feel one hundred times better, at that. But I do, and I’m proud of it! By no means do I walk around like a medicated zombie now, but I truly do see life through a clearer lens, and to me, that is invaluable! Mental health disorders are not a one size fits all and neither are the ways for reducing these feelings. There are a plethora of ways to help combat anxiety, stress and depression. If you don’t feel comfortable taking medications or you just want a more natural approach, try meditating, listening to soothing sounds (ex. rainfall), exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, taking deep breaths, eating well-balanced meals or simply talking to someone about how you’re feeling. I whole-heartedly encourage you to take charge of your life and find the resources to make your life the best that it can be. By doing so, that displays a true testament of self-love. It’s exactly what I did, and I am so grateful for it.
Self Care Stories
When I went to the hospital to get checked to see if my first baby was ready to be born, they first took me to the triage room. I had come off a 12-hour closing shift at my retail job two days before Christmas, which basically means I stunk. I changed out of my clothes into the gown and tried washing my feet with the paper towels and water from the sink before the doctor came in.
I was getting a Brazilian wax at a nail place one time and the lady had me get on all fours lay my face on the pillow and spread my cheeks so she could get my butt… Sincerely, -Mortified Asshole
I had to put my legs up in the stirrups and I apologized for how gross I probably was after working. She laughed but I was still really self conscious about it. Anyway, I have my legs up and she has to check up my vag. It’s like a bigger version of a pap smear so she had the metal clamp thing in that was holding me open. She walks to the side of the room to grab an instrument and I clenched on accident and it shot the instrument inside me straight out and on the floor. She just gave a polite, “Ohp!” Then went on to compliment how I must have some strong muscles and that will help me when I push this baby out. Mortified. Sincerely, -Stinky Feet & Strong Vag
Years ago at a pap appointment the male doc was doing his thing and right in the middle of my exam he asked me if I ride horses? What! NO! Then he said, “Oh, you just have a pelvis like a horse rider & you are well positioned!” It was soooooooo weird!!!!! Creepy and just plain awkward! Sincerely, -Pelvis Like a Horse Rider
Senior year of college I was seeing this guy. Long story short, one day I noticed a red bump on my crotch and my mind told me it was an STD. I then googled STDs (I recommend never doing that) and was panicked. I made an appointment at my school’s health clinic where I was basically in tears and told the nurse I had an STD. After being examined, which was humiliating, I was told by a laughing doctor that I had an ingrown hair. Not sure what was more embarrassing - sitting with my legs in those stirrups spread eagle or being 21 and not knowing what an ingrown hair is. Sincerely, -Home to a Sexually Transmitted Ingrown Hair
My mom asked me if I wanted to go to a spa after work one day so of course I said, “Yes!” Who doesn’t need a spa evening after a work day? No better self care than that! So, we get there and walk in. They handed us matching shorts and shirts for after the treatments and our locker keys. At this point it’s obvious that everything is in Korean and I’m the tallest and the only blonde person there. They told us we had to shower before we went to use the spa facilities. So, my mom and I showered butt ass asked right next to each other then went into the pools, naked. Then the sauna, naked. Then two ladies came out in matching swimsuits and I asked my mom why we couldn’t wear swimsuits - well it’s because they worked there and they were giving us Korean scrubs. My mom and I were then laying naked on two tables next to each other as two ladies were just scrubbing away at our dead skin and we were trying not to laugh as they had our legs spread, just scrubbing. My lady even poked my butt and said, “You workout?” After laughing I replied, “Yes, I do!” to which she said, “I will always remember you. You tall, blonde and big butt.” Sincerely, -Tall, blonde, big butted & beautiful
I was at City Sweats (if you’ve never been, you need to go!) and just stepped into the infrared sauna, completely naked. One of the employees mixed up what room I was in and totally walked in on me and didn’t notice me for like five seconds! I think she was more embarrassed than me. I couldn’t stop laughing. Sincerely, -Naked & Afraid
Photo By: Joy Marie Photo
Studio Life: Creating Space By: Tatum Garino Originally intended to be a terrarium building store, Studio Life is all about “Creating Space.” A noun and a verb, “creating space” is the motivation behind why Studio Life exists and what it exists to do. The amazing women behind Studio Life, Kristi Brumbaugh and Brooke Anderson, founded Studio Life in order to create a space in their lives for themselves and it exists to help others create space in their own lives while literally being a creating space as it regularly hosts creative workshops in addition to its plant shop forefront. When you enter their creating space, you feel at home. Sure, the bright, airy, rustic-chic decor and abundant plant life help give the space that homey (or rather dream-homey!) vibe but it’s Kristi and Brooke that make you feel at home. Maybe it’s because they’re moms and when they founded Studio Life it became another child to them so that’s how they treat anyone who walks in their doors. Maybe it’s because their business was founded on a friendship that they vowed to put first and agreed not let business get in the way of it so they welcome you as a new friend when you enter their space. Maybe it’s because they’re some of the most genuine and genuinely kind people I’ve ever met. Whatever the reason, I’ve loved them since I first introduced myself to them, shared my story and they told me they were proud of me - and meant it! After sitting down and telling them my story, we sat down again in their creating space so I could learn more about theirs. And as they answered my questions while finishing each other’s sentences and laughing at their original idea to create a terrarium building store, it quickly became clear to me that these women and their mission are newsworthy.
Tatum Garino: What’s the story behind StudioLife and how it came to be? Brooke Anderson: Well, Kristi and I have been friends for a long time. We have a really neat group of friends, we live in the same neighborhood – a lot of history. So, I think that’s a piece of our story, you never know what’s going to come out of long-term relationships. Kristie Brumbaugh: Yeah, I would have never pictured this, but it also makes a lot of sense. BA: So, we both were stay at home moms for a good amount of time and Kristi describes it as we got “itchy” for different reasons. KB: It was when both of our youngest kids were going off to Kindergarten and it was this itchiness that was like, “What’s next?” Which sounds funny to say because we were in the absolute throes of being moms so it’s not at all like we were sitting around bored wondering what we were going to do with our time. [Laughs] In fact, it was a joke when people asked, “What do you do now that your kids are in school?” we were sort of fighting this urge to punch them in the face because it gets more busy. BA: But you don’t know that either. You think when your kids go to school that you’re going to have all this time and then for some mysterious reason that’s not how it works. KB: Right. I had quit work when my oldest was born and I stayed home, which was awesome and – BA: - a privilege. KB: And we’re so glad we were each able to do that. But, I felt like there was a season of sort of being swallowed up becoming a mom. And not that that was even all bad but just that my own identity as a person was vanishing. And you can’t help it to some degree, especially if you
don’t have a career that you’re actively pursuing. I think that it’s just a kind of inertia that happens and I think it’s so much easier to invest in others than in yourself. And so, kids are the perfect scapegoat for investing in them. It’s the classic, “My story doesn’t matter as much as their story.” BA: And you don’t even have time for your story - their story is your story. KB: Exactly. None of it’s conscious, it’s just sort of this thing that evolves and that had evolved. And so fast forward, our kids are getting ready to go to school and we both had a similar desire, itchiness. But we had no idea what that meant, what that was – we hadn’t had the “aha” moment that we would sort of joke about. Brooke’s joke was, “Maybe I should go to work as a grocery bagger.” BA: It was something that sounded so relaxing to my brain because it was so different. KB: In all honesty we were just joking with a lot of those ideas but we didn’t have any desire to go back to grad school. Then we had the intention of getting together to meet and talk about those ideas but then life would crowd in and it wouldn’t end up happening so we started setting aside time on our calendars so we could meet. So, we were creating space to do that and started creating space to be a little bit more. And as we started to do that, the tagline sort of evolved - the idea of “creating space.” And there needed to be some margin for us as humans in order to sort of have some space to germinate a little bit and so that’s what we used that time for. We started brainstorming about what a space would look like and this idea of creating a space for creativity and community grew into this idea of a
creative space, a community space. We both love plants so there was a plant element for the retail portion of it. It was all super random and when we would talk about it at first - well, first of all we didn’t talk about it at first, we were in the closet with this idea. BA: We have really good mutual friends and most of them didn’t even know we were doing this. It wasn’t even on purpose, we were kind of frozen. It wasn’t really a decision to keep it a secret it was just, “I don’t know how to talk about it. This feels new, I’m not comfortable in my skin yet. I don’t know how it feels or what it is. I don’t know if it’s going to happen.” KB: It just felt vulnerable. And so I think we both thought, “Well, we’ll just keep going with it until this is not going anywhere and then we’ll stop.” Well, what happened in that awkward moment when a lot of our friends didn’t know about it was we identified our space and it wasn’t available but then the owners contacted us in January of 2018 and said they were moving to a bigger space and asked if we were interested and of course we were like, “Yeah, we’re interested! What do we need to do?” And they were like, “First get us your LOI and we’ll get the ball rolling.” And we’re like, “Okay…” and then Googling What is an LOI? [Laughs] BA: You don’t know what you don’t know. KB: We went from being like, “Are we really doing this?” to we almost broke up. That was the closest we got to a breakup when we were at the point – BA: - decision time. It was easier to talk but then once it was out there and we had to commit it was like cold feet for a bit and then it vanished.
KB: Well and the reason it vanished goes back to having supportive people in our lives. I went home to my husband, Dustin, and she went home to Ryan and we both had similar, “I don’t know. This is stupid. What are we even doing?” And both of our husbands, separately, said, “Oh my gosh, you have to do it. This is just cold feet, you have to do it.” So we were like, “Okay!” BA: And it’s been really really rewarding. I feel like most days we’re here our brains hurt from feeling like they’re literally growing. It feels really good. It feels really good to go from one phase of life to another and to see that you can do it and there’s lots of challenges but having the mentality of, “We’ve been here before, we got through it. Challenges will come.” KB: I feel like one thing we both really enjoy is there are so many aspects of this, there’s the aspect that we get to dive into and get to know this creative community in terms of our teachers, what classes we’re curating, who’s coming in the door and even then just learning the retail portion, figuring out our website – BA: Who our wholesale providers are. KB: There are so many different aspects to it that it feels really fun but it constantly feels like a fire hose. And so, we’re approaching our year anniversary of our July 7th opening day but we’re in that whole idea of your first year how learning everything feels like it’s in hindsight and also having enough under our belt now that we realize you just sort of figure it out. BA: Everybody does. KB: Yeah and not letting it stop you because you think, “Oh, they must have it totally figured out,” which has turned into a sense of empow-
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Photo By: Joy Marie Photo erment. BA: I think it’s a muscle that you grow that we didn’t have before – that you’re growing slowly of like, “Well, this feels familiar” in that regard of we didn’t know how to do it but we’ve done it before. So those experiences building on one another it feels like we’re gaining a wealth of experience. And we had gone into this with the mindset of not putting anything into it that we weren’t willing to lose, just like if we were going to grad school. Like you would pay for that and that’s okay so let’s do that and it has felt like school. It’s felt like active, interactive school. And it feels so organic. I always had this hope that whatever I did would feel like it was a really natural thing that was going to grow out of whoever I was at the moment.
And I don’t think that organic means that it feels easy and natural isn’t really the right word either because I feel like you have to contend for it. Changing and growing and doing new things is always difficult and super vulnerable KB: - and tiring and so much work. BA: But I think this to me feels like it hits on so many things that I hoped would happen someday, but I didn’t have what was in the blank, it was just a blank space. But it’s in our neighborhood KB: - yeah, because we both live here the location was really important to us because we wanted to really invest in our neighborhood. None of this came out of boredom from being home. Life at home is so full and amazing and crazy but it was just this sort of idea that we felt
like there was something brewing so it was a response to that along with having supportive people in our lives. We did get a lot of blank stares initially, mostly because we were really bad at our elevator pitch. Because we also were building the plane as we flew so it wasn’t like we could succinctly say what was happening. It was murky as we were sort of trying to tease it out. So we did get a lot of blank stares from the general population when we would talk about it but our close friends and certainly our husbands were such cheerleaders. TG: Brooke, I know you said that organic and natural might not be the right words, but I find it funny you used those words since the space doubles as a plant shop because
how organic and natural can you be? But how would you describe what StudioLife is? Let’s hear your new elevator pitch! KB: New and improved! So, we say we are a creative retail and workshop space and I would also say a community gathering and building space. And we have a retail portion of the shop that’s plants because that’s an area that brings us both life – we both love to spend time in our gardens - so the retail portion is plants and then the workshop space ranges from crafty more activitybased type workshops to these really deep, soul-searching, contemplative workshops. We had one recently where both Brooke and I were like, “Whoa that just got real.” TG: Like a therapy session. KB: Yeah and people were crying.
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TG: Oh! KB: And I would have never been able to picture that moment happening a year ago. And so it has felt so organic in the sense that it’s become itself and it sort of feels like we’re along for the ride. BA: Yeah, we get to be a part of it. I do feel like that’s true. TG: I know you mentioned how the tagline Creating Space came about but tell me more about what it stands for. BA:: Our tagline of creating space is all about self love for everyone that walks in the door. KB: And that’s our hope and we’re trying to do that for ourselves. BA: So each person, if you can just create space in your life for yourself to have a place to have a minute for creativity. Also, something that is kind of sweet, too, is with creating
space being our tagline, there was a phrase that Kristie and her husband used for a while, “Kristie you need to take up more space” in your marriage, in your home, because you had been doing everything for everyone. KB: Which is such a natural role for a mom - you sort of lose yourself and so he was encouraging me to take up more space for my own. BA: Your own part of the equation. And that’s what is so sweet about that being our tagline, it all does fit. TG: And I love the double entendre of it’s literally a space that you’re creating in. BA: Yes! It’s a noun and a verb. You have to create space to be in this creating space. TG: Yes, I love it. KB: And actually, every class we
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say, “We’re glad you came.” And it’s weird to say this but, “We’re proud of you, good job.” But we joke that I wouldn’t have done this, and we see people do it and I’m like, “Good for you!” and it’s so powerful. And it’s funny, I’ll sign my kid up for whatever camp or whatever class because they’re worth it and it’s so funny that it’s such a struggle for people to do it just because - not because you’re going to be a painter for a living but maybe just because you want to connect with people with similar interests or maybe you just don’t have a reason.
a synonym to self love sometimes when it’s used in the right moderation and instances. BA: Well and it really does a job, too. The people I’m drawn to are the people that are interesting and that takes a certain amount of input in your life. KB: And I think to be a selfish person or a self-caring person you have to have a confidence. Because if you don’t feel like you’re worth it then you’re not going to invest in yourself, you’re going to invest in your kid or your friends or your husband.
TG: Or maybe just to do it for yourself as you time. KB: Yeah, so that’s really cool. Self love is an atrophied muscle for a lot of people and it’s a privilege. So, it’s walking that line of what’s the balance? What’s putting on your oxygen mask before caring for others? What’s not tipping toward I’m just being this selfish, narcissistic person or totally self-forgetting and out of touch with my own needs? BA: And our line is probably a little too conservative on that for most women. KB: Yeah, I think for women in particular.
TG: Which is so funny because when you talk about that doesn’t it sound so obvious? Like the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you so if you have all these people that you’re surrounding yourself with that you think are worth it – like your husband, your kids, your friends – well, they’re a direct reflection of you so how are they all worth it and you’re not? KB: That’s a great point and we have a very good friend who I think of often who is the best celebrator of other people and yet she thinks she has nothing to offer and it almost makes me mad at her because it’s really just this huge blind spot.
TG: And I think it’s funny because a lot of times you do get those polar opposites of either completely selfish or completely not doing anything for yourself. And selfish doesn’t have to be a bad word, it is
TG: And it’s easier to see it when other people have that blind spot than when it’s our own. But this concept of a creative space where you have various artists come in and host workshops wasn’t always
the plan, right? KB: No, in fact, that’s the funny part! So, what we have completely omitted now but was originally part of our muse was this idea of terrariums, which is also why we got the blank stares. Because we would say, “We want to be a terrarium building store.” And then people would be like, “Huh.” Or people would be like, “Oh I love terrariums!” Because they’re great and super trendy right now. But you’re not going to like walk in and build something and then carry it around the U District. BA: And on top of that we started to enjoy that less. And so, at the same time we started to reach out to more local artists – so both things started happening at the same time, the waning of one and the building of another. So, reaching out to local artists around Seattle and getting to know them and asking them about teaching a class. KB: And creating this awesome community that we have. BA: Oh, and that just floored the other stuff. KB: And they’ve been so generous with things like, “This is what I know. Try this, try that.” BA: And there seems to be a space in the Seattle equation of artists doing really great things and being excellent people and a need for space and support of different types. And so our hope would be that we get to provide a platform for artists to do what they do, to be themselves and we can bring what we bring to
it, which is a certain skill set and a certain space and all of that. KB: A certain vibe. We’re setup to be a creative space but we’re also sort of a blank slate. BA: And I think naturally Kristie and I are both creatives so we both like creative things but neither of us consider ourselves full on artists or have a specific medium but we both enjoy watching other people create and figure out who they are, be themselves and do what they do best. So it’s really fun to have a platform. KB: And there are really magical moments in every class where it’s like people get lost in what they’re doing or you sort of see there’s something happening that feels intangible but really cool. TG: I’m curious what is it like working as a pair. Because they always say being roommates can ruin a friendship so how is it being in business together? KB: It couldn’t be going better from my standpoint – [turns to Brooke] let me know if we need to have a conversation about that [both laugh]. BA: I think it’s amazing, I feel so happy – I can’t seem to overstate that - I feel so happy that we seem to be on the same page all the time. KB: I think we have a similar level of “get stuff doneness” in our personalities so we have a shared list that we work off and we each have our to-do lists and stuff but there’s
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something so satisfying about pulling up a to-do list and something being checked off that somebody else did or vice versa. When class registration comes in we have this race that we will do BA: She always beats me [laughs]. KB: - to like add people to the registration list. But anyways, it’s just kind of a funny and really natural team. And I cannot imagine doing anything on your own. BA: That’s a big job. KB: There’s zero way this would be happening by myself. BA: I think from the incubator stage I would be unsure about something but she might be more confident in it or I would pretend I would be confident and maybe Kristie would be confident – there is just a neat thing about partnering and a healthy partnership and it’s been so fun and I would have backed out or I would never have kept going forward without someone else investing in this. KB: And even like early on when we were first starting you look around and you see people doing things and you think, “Gosh, they have it all figured out,” and it’s intimidating and I don’t know how you leap from not knowing anything to like oh, you now have all this out there and simply doing it. And I think initially we went back and forth on well, is this a fake it ‘til you make it kind of thing? And that felt like it took too much energy and we both were like, “No” and on the one hand it’s so not
professional but on the other hand it has felt so authentic. BA: And I think authentic is the new professional – people want to be authentic. KB: For sure. And I think it would have been so tiring to both of us if we had to put on this veil or mask of actually knowing what we’re doing because it’s so far from the truth. And yet, we are learning so much that it’s really fun to speak confidently about things that we’ve learned really well. There’s plenty more that we don’t, but I think it’s hard, too, when you are figuring it out it’s vulnerable to put out, “This is what we have to offer” and people can take that or not. TG: I think it’s awesome that you guys have had such a positive experience. I mean, I know you’re only a year in – KB: [Laughs] Yeah, we’re still in the honeymoon phase. Actually, we need to add this to the list, but somebody gave us the advice because we’re 50% owners and there’s no way to break a tie, even though we haven’t had any issues that I can think of – but this person suggested that we create an advisory board and we each pick another person and agree on a third so that if we ever come to an issue that we don’t agree on we send it to the advisory board, so it’s people we trust, and they decide. And the idea is we do this before we find ourselves with an issue we don’t agree on, which is what we
need to do while we’re still in this honeymoon phase. I don’t have a concern for our friendship or any of that in general, but I know that’s a real thing, I’ve watched people go through that and it would be foolish to be like, “Oh, that’s not a problem.” Also, we have decided from the beginning that we were only willing to put into this endeavor what we’re willing to lose. And I don’t think either of us thinks our friendship is worth losing and finances, too, whatever we’ve invested if we had to close our doors tomorrow we’d be willing to put that in. We’re not going to get loans and we’re going to figure out how to do this. BA: Those have been two guiding principles from early on that have been so great – not to do this on credit and to only put in what we
were willing to give up. TG: So even though this pairing has been going so well, I’m curious how you guys maintain your individual identities when you’re a part of this pair, running a single business – because you guys are two halves to a whole, essentially. KB: I would say I think there are certain things that one of us tends to do more, not officially – like we haven’t assigned roles - but we kind of float into things based on our personalities. BA: Maybe it’s still early on for that, but I think we’re both growing and changing and being pushed in positive ways all the time here that one mantra I have when I’m feeling insecure, which is a lot with what we’re doing here because it’s at the edge of my learning curve, is I have to
remind myself, “Be yourself. Don’t stretch the truth ever, just be yourself.” And if I can stay in that, in the “me” version of this, then that feels good. Let Kristie be Kristie and let me be me – I can’t jump ship personality-wise but I can be stretched and I can grow. KB: And I think that I trust her and her skills in the sense that if she chooses to handle something I trust her decision. More often than not we’re not having to sidebar and be like, “What do you think?” There’s some sort of cahoots that’s happened and if it is a bigger deal, we even have the same sort of thermometer with what things we need to sidebar on. It has felt weirdly natural. BA: It has, and no stakes are super high. I think that’s the other thing – we have a lot of leeway to experiment on this level of responding to new scenarios that come up. KB: And we’ve built it into our schedule that we’re both here together on Wednesdays and we’ve done that on purpose so that we can regroup and touch base if there are things that we need to be on the same page about or knock out together. Like taxes for example. We needed to figure that out and neither of us wanted to or wanted the other person to have to own that and we wanted to be able to understand it so we were going to do that together - or we were going to hire an accountant, together. BA: Which is what we decided. [Laughs] TG: Smart. On that idea of identity, how do you guys juggle all the roles you fill as friends, wives, business owners? KB: I would say that this creating space idea has made me a better person in all of my roles. I think I
had some portion of me that had sort of been stuffed whether in my mom role, my wife role, my friend role. And I think because I have this as a boundary I have been more intentional about those roles that I’m in and I think when I didn’t have this it was really easy for me to say “yes” to things I really shouldn’t say “yes” to just because I could. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just sort of not tending to myself and I think this has allowed me to be more intentional. In my family we talk about it being another family member that’s taking up space, so that has affected everybody, I would say mostly my husband but my kids, too. But I think that’s actually better for everybody in the end. I would say overall it’s been a net positive for all of the roles. TG: It’s kind of that concept of you can’t love someone else until you love yourself so investing in yourself and making you your best self by filling that hole you had made you better in everything. KB: Yeah, totally. And I think it’s good for our kids to see us doing this. My daughter was at an after school thing the other day and the teacher was teaching the class and when I came in she was like, “I feel like I recognize you.” And she put it together and was like, “Do you own that Studio Life?” which makes it sound way bigger than it actually is, but I was like, “I do.” And I could tell my daughter was so proud, which is cute. So, I think there’s a fun, healthy pride piece. And there’s pride in being a mom, too, and I think I maybe would have been mad reading this before this all happened because I felt that itch and wanted to do something like this but that was my path and my journey so if that’s your reaction then there might be something brewing for you. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not content where you are, it’s just listening to your desires in a way that’s appropriate. BA: And desires can brew before circumstances align, too. KB: Most of the time they do. BA: And I think that makes sense. We both have similar stories about this but one of my stories from my stay-at-home mom years – and I really enjoyed them, too, so I want to be clear – KB: - we do not want this to come across as disgruntled. BA: Right, every season of life you’ve got the good things and the hard things and one of the hard things about that season was you’re raising babies and lots of kids and I was thinking, “I know my kids are doing pretty well and are invested in but am I dying? I’m not sure.” And I was gardening and I was digging somewhere and I found a wiffle ball and I found like a bunch of plant bulbs and I remember thinking, “Oh dear God, please let me be the bulb and not the wiffle ball.” KB: Like am I planted and I’m actually a forgotten, buried ball and nothing’s going to happen? BA: Or am I a bulb and something’s going to grow? KB: That’s an interesting crossover that we’ve had – a huge pic-
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ture for me has been bulbs and how during a certain period of time as a bulb you have to actually be underground in the dark and cold and forgotten for a long time and yet so much is happening that needs to happen for that bulb to reach its potential. Those hardships and those seasons that are hard have such a profound effect on how we are expressing our true identity as a tulip or whatever that happens to be. So, it’s just a reminder for when hard seasons are happening that it’s not wasted, there’s a piece of this that may never make sense in part of the journey, but it’s not wasted. TG: It serves a purpose. So, with this being the self-love issue, I want to know what does that mean to you guys? KB: I think putting my weight down on the reality that I am worth whatever fill in the blank - whether that’s time or money or inconvenience or anything like that. I think I would so much rather be on the giving end of love because that feels easier and I would rather be the one taking the meal to the one who’s sick but I actually think self love is being able to accept and realize that I am worthy of receiving that from somebody else. BA: My husband says when you’re skiing you’re supposed to look down the mountain and not at the trees you’re trying to avoid and that’s a principle for living – looking where you want to go rather than looking at the things you want to avoid. And I think sometimes, whether it’s people pleasing or smoothing things over unnecessarily, I’m trying to manage the things I’m trying to avoid and making sure I’m pleasing my husband, my kids, my friends rather than just being like, “Where do I want to go?” And so I’m trying to shift my mentality of identity to be if we’re really being ourselves, whatever that means, our own
bulbishness, just by being yourself you’re going to bless people that way rather than focusing on what to avoid and the problems. So, I’m trying to experiment with that idea and that’s what Studio Life does for me. But at the same time, I’m maybe not in the same habits with my kids or keeping up with certain friends so I feel that tension a lot of feeling like I’m letting people down. And I think I’m going to get there and I’m going to trust that the spray coming off of me as I’m moving forward is going to fill whatever buckets I need to fill. TG: I’d love for you guys to expand on that concept of how Studio Life serves you in your self love journey? BA: I just love running a business, it’s so fun! It’s strategic, it feels like we’re learning so much – it feels like an investment in ourselves. I love being in this place, I love my hours, I love plants, I love the workshops. KB: The people we’ve met, the expanding – it’s like a whole different world. BA: We get to be in our community in a new way. TG: And how do you think it can serve in anybody’s self-love journey when they walk in the door? KB: Well, again, I feel like we’re learning from people who do walk
in the door because they’re doing what I would call self love - they’re investing in themselves by taking a class, doing something they enjoy, buying something beautiful for the sake of it’s beautiful. BA: To have a date with friends. KB: Yeah, connect with people. So I feel like I get to watch that a lot so that teaches that to me. BA: Making space for themselves. KB: Yeah and I think it’s a huge honor when somebody comes back for a class and another one and another one. It’s been happening recently where we have people who are repeat people and they’re talking and creating a relationship or crossing paths. It’s cool. BA: Kristi, you’ve said this is something you would have bought a gift certificate for and people buy gift certificates and that’s one thing because it’s easier to give that away. KB: Yeah it is easier to give that away than to be like, “I’m worthy of doing this.” TG: But how cool that if that’s where it starts? I get a gift certificate so then I come here for the first time but then I realize it’s helpful and therapeutic so I come on my own the next time. That’s a beautiful path in and of itself. KB: Yeah someone was telling us recently in regards to people posting
and sharing that some people may not post because they’re self conscious that they’re actually doing it for themselves. TG: Did you ever expect or anticipate that you guys would have such an impact on a deeper level with what you’re doing here? KB + BA: [In unison] No. TG: Like did you expect people to be crying in your studio? BA: No. KB: I was so humbled by that when it happened. And not that superficial experiences are bad because those are good too, we have a lot of those and we have a lot of fun, but just the full spectrum happening is awesome. BA: Yeah and we have a series going on that’s a known series, it’s called the Artist’s Way, once a week for twelve weeks and the feedback we get from those folks in that workshop is this is serious stuff we’re impacting – KB: Like soul work. BA: Yeah, soul work, and so that feels like if a space holds magic the more experiences we have here can add to the magic of this. TG: I think it’s pretty magical in here.
Connect with Studio Life Website: studiolifeseattle.com Current Classes: studiolifeseattle.com/classes Instagram: @studiolifeseattle Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 5236 University Way NE, Seattle, Wa 98105
Treat Yourself By: Crystal Rausch Bubble Bath at Home I'm all about having a quiet night at home and indulging in a bubble bath. To make it even more of an experience, add some candles, a relaxing playlist, a glass of wine and some netflix or a good book. I asked for this wooden bath caddy for Christmas a few years ago and it's the best! It holds my iPad, my drink and candles.
Coffee Shop Date When is the last time you went to a coffee shop by yourself with no to-do list? If you want to spoil yourself on a budget, ask a friend to go meet up at a coffee shop to hang out for a couple hours with no agenda. OR, if you're really brave, go to the coffee shop alone with a good book or crossword puzzle and leave your phone in the car. It's amazing how great it can feel to have an hour or two, 100% to yourself with nothing to do but just be.
Sign Up for a Subscription Service I love getting gifts, even if I’m buying myself something, but I can’t afford to shop as much as I would like. I signed up for Le Tote, which is a clothing rental subscription. I get one box at a time with three pieces of clothing and two accessories. I can keep clothes and buy them at a discount if I love them, or I can mail them back (for free!) and my next box will be sent. I get to pick what comes in each box. It’s like going shopping every week, but only paying $59 a month! Talk about treating yo’ self!
Mani/Pedi Appointment I don’t think there’s any woman (or man) that doesn’t love some time at the nail salon. Find yourself a salon that gives you champagne or wine when you’re sitting in the pedicure chair enjoying some pampering. I go every three to four weeks for a gel manicure and get a pedicure every other time. If you’re on a budget, you can just get your nail polish changed at one appointment, then do the whole mani/pedi thing the next time and keep switching like that every time. Spa Day Book yourself a treatment or two at your local salon. You can go to a day spa by yourself, get your treatment and head home after or you can really spoil yourself and go to a spa like the one at Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, Washington and enjoy a full day of pampering. The really fancy spas have relaxation rooms, steam rooms, spa pools and so much more that you can enjoy however long you want before/after your treatment. If you’re on a budget, look for morning or weekday specials to get a discount.
Throwing A Milestone Birthday
Photo By: Andrea Michelle Photography
You deserve to be celebrated every day, but especially on your birthday and especially especially on a milestone birthday. Turning 30, have a golden birthday or think birthdays are milestones regardless of your age? Take a look through our guide to the milestone birthday for some party planning inspo.
Venue: @studiolifeseattle Clothing: @shoprollick Makeup: @sweetp_beauty Desserts: @seatownsweets Grazing Table: @thehollowsloth Signage: @chalkboss Tablescape + Planning Checklist: @theeventists Photography: @andreamichellephoto Drinks: @seattleciderco + @soundseltzer Models: @thecarlamarie + @crystal_rausch
Photos By: Andrea Michelle Photography
Photo By: Andrea Michelle Photography
The Eventists’ Party Planning Checklist
1. Set a Date and Guest List: Find the perfect date and time where all your nearest and dearest friends can absolutely make it! Don’t forget their plus ones! Everyone loves a party where they can dress up and bring a date. 2. What’s your Budget? We all know you love your friends and family, but how much are you realistically wanting to spend on your guests? Remain logical and don’t overspend - your friends and family love you just the way you are! Think about the things that are important to you: drinks, food, entertainment? - Pro Tip: Save money on food by having a potluck! BOGO wine (and champagne!) from BevMo 3. Where’s the party at? This could something as simple as your apartment complex’s common area/roof top or your favorite restaurant/event space. - Pro Tip: Keep your budget in mind! The bigger the venue the bigger the $$$. Smaller venue = a more intimate setting and more face time with your guests 4. Invite your peeps! Whether it be snail mail, evite or a quick text we recommend giving guests at least 4 weeks’ notice. - Pro Tip: You can expect between 75-80% acceptance rate. Let your guests know if food will be provided or if it’s potluck style – no one should drink on an empty stomach. Check out minted.com for cute and easy printable invites in any theme 5. What’s the plan? What do you love most about
parties that you attend? Is music your favorite part? Have fun creating a unique playlist or if the budget allows hire you favorite local band. - Pro Tip: Keep it casual and rent some fun games from one of our favorite vendors - Off the Block! 6. Decorations! This is our favorite part! Already have a theme in mind or struggling on where to start? We will always recommend Pinterest as a resource to make your party dreams come to life! - Pro Tip: Find cute and disposable party ware from Martha Stewart Collection at Michaels. Don’t stress this! No one will re- member the centerpieces, but they will for ever remember the fun they had! 7. Last Minute Details. Because there is always something that slips through the cracks! Create a check list for items such as ice, serving utensils, last minute grocery items, décor, party favors, etc. 8. Execution. The party is finally here! Give yourself more time than expected for set up, remember you’ll have to get yourself ready, too! - Pro Tip: Party prep is always better with a glass of champagne in your hand! 9. Have fun! This day is about you and all your hard work! Enjoy every minute with your closest friends and family and don’t forget to stay present! - Pro Tip: Handwritten ‘Thank-You Notes’ always go a long way for those who bring gifts
Photos By: Andrea Michelle Photography
Photos By: Andrea Michelle Photography
Photos By: Andrea Michelle Photography
What’s Trending By: Carla Marie
Happy Box The ultimate gift for your BFF, sister or co-worker comes in the form of a Happy Box! Created by two sisters after one of them was going through a breakup, a Happy Box is a care package with items handpicked by you! Choose from candles, candy, beauty products, accessories and more!
Port and Polish This is NOT your grandma’s pill box. Port and Polish is a sleek and chic, modern pill box. It comes in navy, pink, white, gray or black. Each pill case has a mirror built in - way different than the ugly plastic one grandma has!
The Clue App There’s an app to help uncomplicate our periods - FOR REAL. Log your periods, cramps, headaches, cravings, bowel movements, mood and more. The app then helps track your cycle. It lets you know exactly when your period is coming and when you’re fertile. Download for iPhone or Android. Bandolier The struggle of wanting to have your phone handy but not literally hold it in your hand is so real. Bandolier solves the problem. It’s a leather case that has card storage on the back with a purse strap attached. Wear it over your shoulder or cross-body. It’s perfect for concerts, shopping, vacationing - ANYTHING.
Baiden Mitten Shed that skin, baby! I thought I had soft, exfoliated skin and then I used a Baiden Mitten and watched my skin fall off. Scrub your body with this mitten and you’ll see layers of your dead skin come off. It’s great to use before getting a spray tan! And it’s on Amazon!
The Beachwaver’s Make Waves Collection The same amazing sisters who brought us The Beachwaver, the curling wand that rotates and gives you Victoria Secret model-curls, have brought us hair care products! The Make Waves collection has shampoo, conditioner, and pre-braid prep that helps you achieve the ultimate beach waves.
Little Words Project Little Words Project takes the bracelets we had as kids and levels them up so hardcore. The all-time greatest gift to give any female in your life. Each bracelet has powerful words to inspire. The point is to pass your bracelet along to someone who you believe needs the word more than you. Use the unique code on the bracelet to track where yours has gone!
The Makeup Eraser
Full Moon Market
You’re welcome. The Makeup Eraser is one of those products that will change your life. It’s a reusable cloth that needs only water to remove your makeup. And YES, IT WORKS. I haven’t used a lotion or soap to remove my makeup in years! Pro tip: Get the black cloth, it hides your makeup so you won’t be grossed out by a dirty stained cloth in-between washes.
Instead of spending all of your hard-earned money on your wedding dress, shop for one at Nearly Newlywed. You can buy new and used designer wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses and jewelry! Save your money for your honeymoon!
Not just for Seattleites. On the weekend of every full moon you can shop the market that showcases Seattle makers. Find woodwork, clothing, jewelry, soap, home goods and more! You can shop the market by following on Instagram as they highlight each vendor every month!
Made for Brave
By: Tatum Garino
“What makes you think your story matters?” That’s the question Alyssa’s Galios’ voice in her head used to taunt her with until she decided it does to at least one person. That’s the also the question she introduced her book with when she decided to share her story in the hope of reaching that “at least one person” it matters to. Titled Made For Brave: A Journey Through Devastating Loss to Infinite Hope, Alyssa’s book recounts losing her husband to cancer at 26-yearsold, making her a widow and single mom to their 9-month-old daughter. Instead of letting her grief prevent her from a future she deserved (although no one would have blamed her for that), Alyssa chose the path of infinite hope that has led her to becoming a writer, a speaker, and a coach working “on helping people discover better, braver, and healthier versions of themselves through faith, family and fitness.” Her latest step on her path has been securing a publishing deal for her book, which I sat down with her over appetizers and wine to discuss. Tatum Garino: You wrote a book about your story. So, without giving too much away, but I don’t think we can give too much away in a magazine article compared to an entire book, what is your story? Alyssa Galios: Made For Brave is the story of me basically facing the worst loss I could possibly imagine and losing my husband and best friend and then how through that loss I very unexpectedly discovered infinite hope, which sounds insane. But I grew up in a house where my parents were Christian - like we went to church every weekend and I felt like I had a strong faith and understanding of life, I felt pretty in the know and my life was good, everything was good. So, I went away
to college, I got an almost full ride scholarship to a division two school to play soccer TG: Oh wow. AG: - yeah it was really cool, I was a total nerd growing up too, so I was that annoying 4.0, freckled face with glasses and braces – the whole thing, it was great. TG: So stereotypical nerd. AG: Yes. And I loved books. TG: But you also played soccer really well. AG: Yeah I played soccer, too, so I had like a little extra something cool. [Laughs] But that did pay off! I got the scholarship, so I went to school and I really loved it and I felt like I had this perfect life plan of what I was going to do. And my plan was I was going to be this kick butt career person. I was going to start out as a nurse because I wanted to help people – that’s all I knew, that I wanted to help people. Then I was going to work my way up through the corporate side of the medical stuff and eventually be a hotshot and get married when I was like 35 - that was my original plan. P.S. I’m 31 right now, so still not to that age and I’m married with two kids. TG: Oh, how funny! AG: Yeah so that was my plan and I thought it was perfect. I literally was on my path and then in the middle of my freshman year of college soccer - I had just earned my spot as a starting midfielder, which was a really big deal as a freshman, I was in a really good spot, I was super pumped, I was getting good grades, I had grown out of my braces, I turned down a total of one date - I got really sick. So, this was a twister and there’s more of this in
the book but basically I ended up getting really, really sick when I was 19 and the doctors had no clue what was wrong. TG: What the hell? AG: I know. And it was really bad. I was so sick and my fevers were so high that I was delirious for days on end in my dorm room. Really scary. Missing soccer games, missing school. Eventually, long story short, my parents convinced me that I needed to come home and see Seattle doctors. I was seeing all these doctors in Idaho. So, I moved back home and testing continued. I was tested for everything under the sun and nothing came back positive. They were like, “We have no clue what’s wrong with you,” but it wouldn’t go away. TG: That’s so scary. AG: It was really scary. Years later we figured out it was an auto-immune disease but that was the first tick where I was like, “Life isn’t really going the way I wanted it to but that’s okay.” They ended up putting me on steroids and I worked my way back up to health and got my feet back under me and I started getting my strength back so I enrolled in a local community college and went back to school. I ended up earning the captain spot of the community college soccer team. I ended up working two jobs to pay for a really crappy apartment in Everett but I got myself an apartment, I got my life going again and I’m like crazy, crazy busy and that’s when I met Nick. Right after meeting Nick at 19-years-old a whole onslaught of other stuff happened. My parents, after 27 years of marriage and being totally in love, so I thought, and being a stable family, they ended up getting divorced and
Photo By: TAustin Photography
a lot of other stuff came out. My world as I knew it crumbled. I had already moved out of the house but my little brother and sister were still at home, they were in high school. My parents ended up losing their cars, losing their house and my family got kind of dispersed everywhere. So, my mom moved into her friend’s summer cabin, my dad moved in with his best friend, my sister moved in with friends from school, my brother ended up moving in with Nick and I – it was like a whole thing trying to figure out where everyone was going to live. So that was kind of the second tick of like, “Okay, plan is not going correctly.” Throughout all of that, Nick and I fall in love really fast and we got married a year after meeting. TG: When you were 20?! AG: Yepp, when I was 20 and he was 21. And it’s crazy because how we got setup was a blind date that I almost refused to go on. And he was
incredible. He was my rock through my parents’ divorce and everything to me. So, we got married and fast forward to three years after we got married, we had been working our tails off. We both worked kind of corporate jobs and I had worked my way up to COO of the startup company I was working for and that had been my original goal when I was younger to work my way up, so I got this hot shot title and my life was everything it should have been, so I thought. We had the house, I had my adorable husband – TG: You got married a little early for your plan. AG: I got married really early according to my plan, that was the only thing that was off and my book talks about that - I talked myself through it. I was like, “I can still make this work. I’ll have the killer career, I can have the husband, we’ll just wait on the kids until we’re 35.” I made allowances. But then about
three years in we kind of realized that we had neglected to make each other a priority. And the slap in the face that helped us to realize that was that Nick suddenly got sick. He had always been extremely healthy, had always played sports growing up, literally the picture-perfect image of a beautiful human being with also a huge heart and a super positive outlook – like everybody loved him, literally the best guy ever. He basically went from being completely normal to one day he had stomach pain that lasted for about three or four days. He had only been to the doctor one other time in the four years that I had known him but suddenly he was like, “I really need to go to the doctor.” So, he goes to the doctor and they decide to do a CT scan and they tell us that his appendix burst and they’re like, “You need to go to the ER right now,” because they assumed it was appendicitis. Long story short, we go to the hospital and it takes them ten
This Is... days to tell us it’s not appendicitis but in fact he ended up with a tumor in his stomach that they didn’t even see on the scan because it was made of something like Jello. It’s a super rare cancer, it’s appendix cancer. It originates in your appendix but can spread and it’s really, really rare. Normally it affects people in their 50s and he was 25 when he was diagnosed. They basically told us he had six months or less and
Photo By: TAustin Photography
he needed to get his ish together, as in his will, and that was kind of it. From that point forward he decided he wanted to fight. He was like, “There’s no way I’m giving up on us, there’s no way I’m giving up on you.” We had firmly decided that was our wakeup call even before we got the diagnosis. But we were like, “Why have we been fighting so much? Why have we been working so much?” Each of us was working
60 to 70 hours a week, sometimes 80, and we just never saw each other. And then because we bought a big house we lived really far from where we worked so we were commuting, and it was just nuts. But in the following two and a half years he ended up fighting the disease and at one point he was in remission. TG: So he was given six months but then fought for over two years.
This Is... AG: Yes. We traveled all across the country thanks to community members that helped us because we couldn’t get local treatment here in Seattle so we had to travel across the country to find doctors that would help him. He ended up getting a surgery that has saved many, many lives but he was supposed to be sort of the golden, poster child for it because the cancer at time they thought was low grade and he was 25 and otherwise healthy. So they said, “You’re going to be fine, this won’t come back for 10, 15 years and if it does come back this surgery will be even better and we can do it again and then you’ll have another 20 years.” That was kind of the plan and so during that remission time was when we got pregnant with our daughter, Austyn. And it was amazing - it was the best thing ever even though it was such a surprise. Right before that, too, we did experience a miscarriage so it was a crazy time. TG: You’re life has been so easy. AG: Oh, you should see the messages – sometimes I actually get messages like, “You’re life is perfect!” and I’m like, “Ohhh my gosh you’re hilarious, read my book.” TG: I said that with complete sarcasm, for the record. AG: [Laughs] Yeah I know, I know you did. So, when I was 15 weeks pregnant with Austyn, Nick had been completely cancer free. We had to travel back to Nebraska every six months to get a scan on this special machine and we had been six months prior and he was completely cancer free, even his blood markers – there are tumor markers in everyone’s blood that basically tell you if there are any cancer problems in your body – and his were that of somebody that had never had cancer, which is insane. TG: So you thought he was back to normal and completely healthy. AG: Yeah. Because most people who have had cancer, their blood never goes back. So, his blood went all the way back and they were like, “It’s like you’ve never had cancer! You’re great.” His scans were clear, everything was good, he was feeling great. We had gone on vacation, we celebrated with our friends and family at The Cheesecake Factory, we had a party – we were like, “Cancer free! Cancer free!” We finally were having a baby that made it past 12 weeks and we were so excited and then 15 weeks hits and all of a sudden his pain hits just like that, just like the first time all of a sudden he’s in a bunch of stomach pain. We ended up flying down to Nebraska and they find out his cancer’s back and it’s way worse than before – it had morphed from like slow-growing to fast-growing to aggressive. From that point forward it was just crazy. It was him doing everything he could because that was his personality, always. Stubborn, too, as heck. That was a huge thing for him – he was like, “I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on my girls.” We had found out that Austyn was a girl and we were thrilled. He ended up living to meet Austyn, which was great because we weren’t sure if he was going to make it that far, but we started hospice care when she was five months old so I ended up
taking care of him at home. It was a crazy, crazy thing because for me I was 25, 26 and I never obviously expected to be faced with mortality or figuring out what I believed, for sure, about the afterlife because I knew what I was raised to believe but suddenly it really mattered what was actually true. It was like okay, my parents told me there’s a heaven and a God, but I need to know now because Nick was, you know, everything. I was like, “I actually need to know where you’re going if we’re going to come to that place.” Which, it took me a long time to get to a place where I was like, “Oh, you’re actually going somewhere.” For the longest time I refused to believe it. TG: I can’t imagine. AG: But eventually he passed away. Our daughter was nine months old and it was the worst. I can’t put it into words because I’ll bawl all over the table, that’s why I wrote it in a book as I cried. The worst but also the best therapy in the world was writing that story out. He changed my entire outlook on life. Before he died, he actually recorded a video, it was supposed to be for our daughter and at the end of it he decided that we should publicly post it on YouTube because he was like, “If this changes even one life for the better and somebody gets excited about working less” - because we talked a lot about that after his diagnosis like crap, we wasted our only three healthy years that we had to spend a bunch of time together and go on date nights and we didn’t go on a vacation until after he got diagnosed because we were working. From there I had to rework everything about my life – my past, present, future – everything changed. I was 26 and a single, a widowed mom to a nine month old
baby girl and I gave you my perfect life plan before, right? This was nowhere in the vicinity! The age was off, the kids were off, the husband that passed away was off – every single aspect was off. And at this point, I had started my writing career – I forgot to tell you that part of my original life plan was to retire when I was like 50 so I could write a book because that was my ultimate life dream. TG: Well you’re early on that! AG: Yes! So when Nick got sick I decided I wanted to start my own content creation business so I could start writing because I was sick of working to work for a paycheck, I wanted to work for something I was passionate about. So, I started content creation. After Nick passed, I ended up moving to Florida. It was in part because of the cost of living. I moved down there and started get my feet back under me and started figuring out what do I believe, what is my life supposed to be like, and do I even want to live it? I honestly went through that whole thing of is this even worth it? I didn’t know if I believed in God, I didn’t know if I believed in prayer, I didn’t know any of that. Without giving the rest of it away, we fast forward to today where I’m in the most incredible version of my life that I could ever imagine. I’m remarried, I have a second baby and a third on the way, I have an incredible business, and I just wrote a book, which was my main goal ever and I’m 31. And the whole story is nuts from there because I didn’t expect the ending that it came to but to me the reason the story is so crazy is that I was the person that least expected it. I didn’t expect it to come around and it’s not the material side of it – I can say, “Oh I’m remarried and I have
kids” but that doesn’t make my loss better, that doesn’t make it okay. But it’s the inside part that changed before I even found my second husband, before this second life kind of found me. It’s the inside change that I experienced from really diving into what I believe about God, what I believe about this life and that’s what I think really matters. That’s what I sort of do in the book, I don’t push my beliefs on anyone at all but I kind of walk people through, “This is what I considered” and hopefully help other people consider it before they’re faced with an existential crisis. TG: So that’s what I want to ask about because this issue is the Self Love issue and you’re remarried, happily, but I think a big thing for widows is that whole concept of getting remarried – how did you come to terms with and accept the fact that you were worthy of being loved again? AG: Oh my gosh, that’s such a good question and something that I talk a lot about in the book because grief in and of itself, in any form, whether we’re grieving a parent, a friend, a grandparent even, it rocks not only what you imagined but who you are at the core. And you start questioning, who am I? What do I believe? What actually matters? And you might not even realize it at first. What’s crazy is when you do lose a spouse – and I have had two miscarriages so I’ve lost babies but I haven’t lost grown children and I’ve not lost a parent – but losing a spouse is really interesting because they’re the person that you’re spending every day with, day in and day out, sharing all of your dreams with, the person that you picture every future thing with. And so, for me it all went back to figuring out what truth meant to
me, figuring out what real truths were to me. I go through a lot of those details in the book but before Nick passed away, when he first entered hospice care, he told me that he wanted to talk about a few things for when he passed. And I actually refused to let him speak, I was like, “We’re not going to talk that way.” Hospice care technically means that you’re not receiving any more treatment for your disease and I was like, “I don’t care. We’re not talking about it.” Before he finally passed away I did let him talk and he told me that I was made for relationships, he said, “Alyssa, I’ve know you forever. You were made for relationships. There is a reason that you’re wired the way you are and one day I want you to get remarried. As long as it feels like something you’d want to do that would make you happy and you feel like God’s got your back through it, I want you to do that.” I listened and I bawled but I refused to picture it and believe it, just because I couldn’t imagine it – there was no desire at all to ever get remarried or find someone else. And so, at the end of the day that conversation with him and then some other things that you’ll have to read in the book, those things really led me to believe that there was a path that was laid out for me that there was no way I could ever have prior understood. When you think purpose in life, so many of us are looking for our purpose, for our calling that’s deeper than the day-to-day and our jobs but so often we find those things as we’re taking a step at a time. You take one step and you have to take that step in faith, and I’m not talking religious faith, when you take that step in faith of, “Okay I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’m going to take this step and take this crappy night shift” and it turns out that that crappy night shift was leading to meeting the person who knows the person who gets you the dream job. So for me, after losing Nick, it was as step-by-step process of taking one step at a time of like, “I just need to get through the next day” or “I just need to do this one thing that I
know I’m supposed to do” and then it kept snowballing and leading to the next thing then the next thing then the next thing that led me to a place of feeling worthy and of being able to love myself enough to even consider starting another relationship. But I was so strong in who I was as a person and in what I deserved and in what I thought I was worth and what I thought my daughter was worth that I didn’t even need another relationship. I was so solid being a single, kick-butt mom – like I was going to be the bad assiest, single mom ever and I was like, “I’m going to totally rock this” that when Jay came along it was like I was already whole and I didn’t need anybody to complete me. And I think that sometimes it’s easy as a widow to feel like “ I lost my other half so therefore I’m broken for the rest of my life.” And then it’s really hard from that point forward to find a future or to create one with another person. TG: Because they’re never going to fit that exact puzzle piece if you’re thinking that that half is broken off. AG: Right. And that’s such a hard place to be because whether you’re single or not or widowed or not, we have to learn how to be happy on our own. You cannot walk around saying, “Oh, my so-and-so makes me happy” – if they make you happy that’s great, but that cannot be your sole reason for happiness. You need to know how to be happy in and of yourself and if you have a good time with them, that’s a different story. But for them to be the source of your happiness, you don’t want to put your happiness in somebody else’s pocket. It’s not up to them whether or not you’re happy, it’s not up to them whether or not you’re content because you’re going to have a slough full of issues, even if you’re in a relationship, if that’s where your happiness lies. So I think the answer is kind of true for widows or not. It’s like I had to find love for myself, I had to find wholeness before I found my second chapter.
you don’t want to put your happiness in somebody else’s pocket... I had to find love for myself, I had to find wholeness before I found my second chapter.
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Photo By: Nicolette Bardos Photography
TG: Absolutely. So let’s go back to my first question where I said you wrote a book, because you wrote a book – that’s major. So tell me a little bit about that and that process. AG: What’s cool about this day and age is with all the avenues to publish a book, literally anyone can do it. I was in the process of self-publishing my book when my publisher found me. But what’s really cool about the process, if I could sum it up, is it’s been busier than I thought it would be, there have been more edits than I ever thought possible – like every time I thought my book was as good as it could get, which that’s the great thing about working with a publisher, they point out something where I’m like, “Oh crap, you’re right, that makes it way better.” The process has been hands down, amazing. For me, it’s a dream come true seeing that come to life and this story is so close to my heart and we’re giving away a large portion of the proceeds. I wanted to keep it true to my main mission, which is to just tell this story. I need this story to go as far and wide as it can because I honestly believe that there’s more hope available to those that feel hopeless than you could ever imagine because I have been in the deepest pit and if I could find my way out from what I endured then anyone can find their way out from what they’re going through. So for me, telling my story is part of it but then we have two non-profits that we’re partnering with and both of them help families that are being directly affected by cancer right now, which I’m really passionate about because we had so many community members help us out financially at the time and my husband and I aren’t struggling to put food on the table, so I’m not like a saint for giving the money away or anything. But it’s so amazing for me to be able to give back in that way and we obviously haven’t sold a copy yet, so I don’t know how much we’ll be able to give back, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to raise some incredible dollars for these families. So for me that’s a double whammy – the fact that I get to write a book, I get to have something tangible to give my daughter to tell her all about how I met both of her dads, because Jay has now adopted her, and I get to give all this money to these people. TG: You might be a saint. AG: No, I’m not! One of the non-profits was created by my friend Dawn Green, whom I met through Nick’s cancer, so she had the same cancer as Nick. She ended up passing away six weeks before Jay and I’s wedding, but she was an incredible human being who started
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a non-profit when she was sick to help other people and that inspired me so much. There are so many people who take bad and turn it into something amazing and I think we all have that ability if we’re willing to be open to the idea. For the longest time after losing Nick, I was so certain that my life was going to be crappy and I was not going to be a kick-butt single mom but a drunk single mom and just a shitty mom and I was like, “Whatever, that’s just who I am going to be because I lost my husband.” And nobody could have blamed me. Like if I ended up failing as a mother then nobody would have blamed me, they would have been like, “Well it makes sense, this happened to her when she was really young” blah, blah, blah. But, I decided firmly and put my foot down and said, “No.” And I decided if there was any way possible, which for me I had to pass it up to my higher power because I wasn’t going to be able to do this out of my own strength, so I passed it up and said, “If you can go something awesome with this, go right ahead.” I kind of actually was sassy and was kind of like, “I dare you. I dare you to make good of this because this is really crappy.”
it. I get to tell this story and I got to live it, which sounds so insane to the old me. But I got to live it and as hard as it was and as gut-wrenching and soul-wrenching as it was, I got to live it. And I put all of that in the book, I tried not to make it too depressing, but I promise that if you read the whole thing through, you’ll feel better, in the middle you might need some tissues but eventually you’ll feel good about it. But I get to share this story and hopefully show
mentioned bawling your eyes out as you typed some parts, so what was the hardest part of the process? AG: The hardest part emotionally was reliving it. Every time we edited it, as I read it, I got into it and I got emotionally invested. So every time I edited it I would put myself back into my own shoes and relive it, so that was hard. But I have such a supportive husband in Jay. From the very beginning he’s known the whole story, and there’s actually a twist – he was friends with my first husband and that’s actually how I met him, so he knew Nick, too. On certain days I’d be like, “Okay I’m editing chapters 10 and 11 today” and he’d be like, “Okay we’ll leave you alone and you do your thing” because those chapters were really hard. But I think that the hardest part actionwise was probably getting started at the beginning. Because I wrote four versions in total and it was this last one that ended up making enough sense. The first three sucked – they were really bad and they were like pulling teeth. They took me years to write and it didn’t make sense and it was frustrating. Eventually I handed it up to God and was like, “I can’t do this. I feel like you told me to write a book but it’s not happening so I’m done.” So I gave it a rest for like two years and then all of a sudden I felt like it was time. I actually felt like I had those words whispered to me one morning, “It’s time.” From that point forward, this version I wrote in three months and I was six months pregnant with my second daughter so I was huge and it was like the worst time in my life
we were created to face our hardships bravely and even though it’s hard, we were made to face it, we were made to do hard things, we were made to be brave
TG: [Laughs] You were sassy to God – I love it. AG: I was super sassy to God and he still loves me. But that’s what’s so crazy, it’s literally turned around to be something that every single day I’m humbled that I’m a part of
people that they were made for brave, too. So that’s the whole point of the book – we were created to face our hardships bravely and even though it’s hard, we were made to face it, we were made to do hard things, we were made to be brave. And when you remember that when facing the hard stuff it’s amazing the tsunami of good that can crash. TG: You mentioned that writing the book was therapeutic, you also
because my coaching business was sky-rocketing, I had just gotten married, I was pregnant, my daughter was starting kindergarten but hadn’t started yet so she was still home so I was like, “Are you freaking serious? I’ve been trying for all these years and now?!” But I wrote it and it flowed and it made sense. I think the hardest part for me was trusting that it would happen at the right time because I tried to force it and it didn’t help anything and it just made me frustrated.
ing that I never thought it would be possible for me. I hope to help so many of the women out there that have struggled with, “When is it going to me my break?” or “How do I chase my dreams?” Especially because I used to see women getting published and I’d think, “Well there won’t be enough room on the bookshelves for me.” But when you change over into that abundance mindset of there’s never going to be enough you can realize there’s never going to be enough hope, there’s
TG: So now that you’re coming up to the finish line, what has made it all worth it? AG: I feel like there are so many parts that make it worth it. The number of hours put into this book I don’t even think I could add up – it’s so much work it’s ridiculous – but at the end of the day knowing that there’s at least one person out there that’s supposed to read this and that will and that I’ll get at least one message from somebody saying, “I’m so glad you wrote this book because” and they’ll give me their reason of why they lost hope and why they found it again, that totally makes it worth it. And then on top of that, I get to show my kids one day and be like, “Mom wrote a book! And I thought I couldn’t write it and I faced this big hard thing in my life that I thought I wasn’t going to get through and not only did I get through it, I thrived through it and here, read how.” And they’ll need to be older obviously but eventually I get to give them that and hopefully they’ll be able to chase their dreams, too, know-
never going to be enough stories of life. And I think all of us have so many stories that somebody can relate to and if you go into it with the right mindset of this might impact one life and would that be worth it to you? Like when Nick first said that about the video, I was like how could you say that? This has been the craziest journey and you’re dying and you’re saying it’s worth it to impact somebody? And he was like, “Yeah.” And I thought he was nuts and now I get it. Hope, once you find it, it’s worth insane amounts of
pain – inhumane amounts of pain – because you never know how far that ripple effect is going to go. TG: So talking about all those other women that you saw and getting started and women that may not have started, as I mentioned before this is the Self Love Issue, so what do you have to say to those women who don’t think their story is worthy to be shared or valuable enough to be shared with the world? AG: I think it’s really important to remember that you probably haven’t even met all the people that your story is going to impact. So you’re always in the process of becoming, I don’t think you ever arrive at any state where you’re good enough – but as you’re learning to love yourself better and you’re learning how to become more whole you’re going to be meeting people along the way that you’re impacting and that you’re inspiring so you never know who your story is going to impact. So whether that’s sharing vulnerably on social media, or doing an interview with you, or writing an article or writing a book or just talking to somebody at the grocery store, whatever it is, I think sharing our stories is so much of what makes the human experience worth it and what makes us connect as people. Social media has turned into this thing for some people where it’s like a picture and a quote, which is fine and I do that sometimes too, but I think where we have the ability to impact more people is when we get really real and we get really vulnerable. And it
I knew that there was at least one ‘me too’ out there so I kept moving forward.
This Is... might piss some people off or it might alienate some people and they might be like, “I totally don’t understand you and I don’t understand your story and I can’t relate to what you believe or what you think” but those people don’t matter as much because they have people that they can relate to. And we all have those mean girls in our head that tell us mean things all the time, that tell us why we don’t matter, why we don’t measure up, and I had a mean girl in my head who used to tell me all the time, “What makes you think your story matters?” That’s actually the first line of the introduction to my book because I had to turn that around completely and look at it and decide my story matters to at least one person. And I knew from social media, only because I was brave enough to get vulnerable in the first place, I knew that there was at least one “me too” out there so I kept moving forward.
Book Updates https://AlyssaGalios.com/Book
TG: That’s awesome and extremely inspiring. So where can people get the book to continue being inspired and to read the rest of your story in detail? AG: We don’t have a publishing date yet but you can go to alyssagalios.com/book to get the latest updates on the book and subscribe so they come straight to your inbox. Alyssa’s Note on Coaching
Made For Brave Shop
I lost my best friend and husband when I was 26. I became a young widow right about the same time I became a new mom. How do you come back from that? It's the story I aim to tell in detail in my book and one that I really think is worth reading, but it started with a desire to pursue wholeness and happiness from the inside out. I had to start with learning to love myself again, how to take care of myself again--mind, body, and soul. Within 3 months, I reversed the effects of the autoimmune disease I'd been fighting for 8 years, was sleeping better than ever, and finally felt like I was making real headway with my grief. Now, every month, I run online accountability groups designed to share what I've learned and help other women find better and tangible ways to take care of themselves! My aim with #MadeforBraveCoaching is to help women create the lives they long for through a solid foundation in faith, fitness and family. I won't ever stop trying to spread this message, because I believe every woman deserves to reach their summit, no matter how low the valleys they've walked.
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This Is... the Summer 2019 Self Love Issue of This Is... Magazine.