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lifestyle

Oh F**k

Oh F**k: The Preface

The purpose of this segment is to talk about the word “success”. Not only do I want to talk about how we view it in the workplace and in our personal lives, but I want to change the way we discuss it in general. Success is not and should not be considered a one size fits all category. Speaking from the perspective of a working member of the United States, as well as being born and raised here, we seem to have the idea that if we are not what we culturally view as successful, then we are nothing worth celebrating. 

The reason I wanted to delve into this topic is twofold: 

I don’t know about you, but I’m so sick of people asking the question “what’s next?”. I just spent five years of my life working and going to school, finally graduated, and tied in first place with “Congratulations” is the question “So, now what are you doing?”. If we could change the discussion on progression, work or personal life wise, we could change the way we view our own lives, was well as others. Let me give you an example. Instead of asking the question “So, what’s next?”, I would ask the question of “What have you been working on recently?”. Not only does that question allow the other validation of the things they have accomplished in the past, but it allows them to go into the discussion of what’s to come on their own terms. 

I believe that in phrasing the question in this format, it would also reduce the negative thoughts that come with comparison. When you ask someone what’s next, it’s really all hypothetical. They can tell you just about anything, whether it be that it’s genuinely happening or that they’re just hopeful that it’s going to happen. With this comes the inevitable moment where we hear all about how perfectly this other persons’ life is lined up, followed by a swift kick in the gut of jealousy and anxiety over not being in that same position ourselves. When we ask the question “what have you been working on recently?”, or anything of the sort, we get to hear an explanation about the work they are doing, or have done, in order to get to where they are now, which allows for a much more realistic form of communication and decreases the chance that we can directly compare ourselves to that individual. This leads me to my second point.

Not only would I like to change how we ask about an individual’s success, but also, how we portray that success. Success does not have to mean you’re sitting at the dining room table of your massive estate, surrounded by hundred-dollar bills, maids and chefs at the ready. Although that may be some individual’s definition, some people view success as where you are right now. Whether you’re currently a college graduate, a doctor, a teacher, a janitor, a student, etc., there are people everywhere who would love to be in your exact situation. Let’s stop downplaying certain titles, such as the stigma surrounding only holding a minimum wage job. In order to break the stigma surrounding career choice, I want to talk to individuals of all career types that can be viewed as successful. Not only am I  going to celebrate the victories of how they got to where they are today, but I am going to highlight the moments where they never thought they would get to this very moment. The moments where their idea failed, they lost their job, they were told no, they had an unexpected turn of events, or plain old just had no idea what they were doing or why they were doing it. These are what I like to call the “oh f**k” moments, hence the title of the segment. 

I want everyone to be able to celebrate where they are in life right now, at this very moment. I want us to look back and see the things we have accomplished in the past week/month/year, rather than the things we failed to get done. I want it to be clear that every single one of us struggles in many different ways but still come out successful because we are still here, trying our best to be the person we’ve always dreamt of being. Let’s start looking at the similarities in our stories rather than the differences. 

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My “Feministic” Views: Addressing a Few Misconceptions

Don’t get me wrong, I love men. Some of my closest friends are guys and I value their relationships more than anything. I have many men in my life who I look up to and admire very much. I’m grateful for all of them and am so lucky to hold a relationship with them with such a mutual respect and understanding. 

However, just because I have guy friends and male figures in my life that I admire, doesn’t mean I can turn a blind eye to inequality amongst males and females in America. To be clear, me recognizing this inequality does not mean that I hate men in any way, does not mean that I think less of men in any way, and does not mean I’m unable to have open discussions pertaining to this inequality and/or lack thereof from any other person’s viewpoint. 

My viewpoint comes from years of observing, experiencing and learning about this topic. I still continue to learn about it every day. 

I wanted to address why I made a post the other day about a tweet that I saw. If you didn’t see my Instagram story, I put a picture of myself with a new short haircut and brought up a tweet that I saw saying “only women with long hair are attractive”. My response to that was “men ain’t sh*t, you’re hot no matter what”. I also mentioned the fact that, in our society, men are raised to view certain things as attractive versus unattractive. 

I got a response from a guy that said something like this: don’t generalize all men because of what one man said, understand his ignorance and move on.

After responding that I didn’t find it acceptable to stay silent on an issue that affects the way people feel about themselves and ultimately live their lives, I got a rather aggressive response that led to him stating the following: there is no pay gap between males and females, women deserve to be paid less due to pregnancy, there is no ideal woman anymore as this isn’t the 1900s, and to top it all off, white privilege doesn’t exist. 

Man. Oh. Man. To be clear, I did not address any of those issues in my story except for the image of an ideal woman on the most basic level. I was told that I was just trying to “make myself feel better” and that none of what I was saying was correct. When I tried to have a discussion about the issues he was addressing, I got berated and was told to “keep coming at me with your feministic views.” 

Here are the top two reasons I chose not to ignore this man’s ignorance: accountability and awareness. 

When I say that society has raised men to behave and to think a certain way, I am holding all of us accountable. I’m not blaming this one individual male who made one comment about a female’s appearance. In America, the image of the ideal partner, and the ideal self, has been formulating in the minds of every individual since they were children. We are shown images, told repeatedly, of what our society identifies as “beautiful”. The further we stray from these ideals, the more damaging it is to our self-perception and ultimately our self-value. 

My favorite example of how harmful this unrealistic standard of beauty can be comes from an experience by Dr. Brene Brown. She did a project with a class of hers that had three parts. The first was to bring in their favorite magazines and cut out images that fit their “ideal look”. She noticed how every participant was taking bits and pieces of different women in order to create one ideal look. The second part of the project was to find themselves in these magazines. After flipping through magazines and finding only bits and pieces of themselves (a similar haircut, skin tone, etc.) the students gave up in frustration. The final part of the project was to ask the students “how does being invisible feel?”. 

The answers that were given were all self-blaming. They said they couldn’t find themselves in these magazines because they weren’t good enough or, even worse, because they didn’t matter. They blamed themselves for not fitting the pictures they had created based on a learned idea of beauty. Based on a learned idea of value. 

In just one sitting, these students went from cutting images out of a magazine to convincing themselves that they don’t matter in this society. 

To go back to the tweet that said “only women with long hair are attractive”, I hope it might be a bit clearer the consequences these statements may have, and also why I chose to address it rather than to remain silent. We are reinforcing ideas that are demeaning to many individuals. We are reinforcing ideas that take away value from people who matter, which is every single person in this nation and on this planet. Beauty is, first and foremost, a cultural construct. Let’s work towards constructing a cultural view of beauty that looks at more than the surface. One that adds value to every individual rather than taking it away.  

I didn’t get to touch on a lot of other subjects that were brought up, so if anyone would like to discuss anything else with me, please feel free to reach out! 

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On My Body

I didn’t have much time to write this (aka pls don’t judge me for how poorly it’s written) but I did want to take a minute to acknowledge something really important to me. 

The female body has been viewed and commented on by so many. Opinions fly from every mouth about what it should look like, what it should dress like, how it should act. 

I started doing yoga at a young age. When I first started, I enjoyed the physical challenge behind it. Twisting and contorting my body in ways that were unfamiliar to it, attempting at every class to be able to move on to more challenging concepts. I was completely focused on the physical feat behind it. I wanted to master my body at this point in time. I wanted to be able to control it, be able to push it to its furthest point. 

I took a break from yoga for a while when I began college. A break makes it sound like I took a week off but if I’m being honest, it was years before I got back on a mat. I just recently came back to it, breaking myself in with a hot yoga class. The class hit me, and it hit me hard. However, I found myself being able to do things I hadn’t been able to do, even when I was trying my hardest and practicing regularly. As I hadn’t been to a class in a while, I had to start fresh. I had to listen to every word the instructor was saying, watch the other members of the class, listen to myself as I exhaled deeply through the pain of starting over. This time around, I had focused not on pushing myself, but on listening to myself. On talking to my body, moving deeper into poses with each exhale. 

I accomplished much more in the exchange of talking and listening to my body, than I ever was able to when I was just telling my body what to do. Having a conversation with it, telling it where I wanted it to go but allowing it to lead me there at its own pace. I didn’t rush to get to the end, to master the pose right away. I took my time in getting there, acknowledging how my body felt at every single moment throughout the process. 

It takes time to learn how to listen to yourself. It takes time to acknowledge the fact that your best and most beautiful version of a pose, will look completely different than someone else’s. It took me years to wrap my head around what seems to be such a simple concept. I grew out of the idea of only picturing myself at the end. I now take the time to appreciate where I’m at, every single day. I acknowledge that it doesn’t matter how you look, but how you feel.

Listen to what feels right from the inside, not to what people tell you is right from the outside. Enjoy the strength that you find within, recognize the power that your body uses to push you through every day. That power is so much more valuable than any other person’s opinion.

This is just a small reminder to anyone who needs it.

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Blogging 101

Little hacks from someone who still has no idea what they’re doing.

I recently got the opportunity to attend a workshop in the Short North district of Columbus, Ohio. The workshop was led by Stephanie (@bohemiancrown) and Becca (@girlwithoutfilter), two blogging beauties in the Ohio area. Throughout our time there, we got the opportunity to ask some of the questions that we haven’t been able to figure out on our own (aka through google) and I wanted to share some tips I learned! Quick note, I know I have only the bare minimum figured out, but if you have any questions about how I do something or what else I learned from this event, PLEASE feel free to reach out to me!

Helpful Hints for the Amateur Blogger: 

  • Use both general & specific hashtags to promote your posts
  • Don’t use over thirty hashtags (Instagram will think you’re a spam account & hide your content!)
  • Watch out for banned hashtags! This will also bury your content. The list is pretty obscure and has things you would never expect, so do a quick google search of “2019 banned hashtags Instagram”.
  • Look at what is working for other accounts you follow. Watch what hashtags, promotions and other content works best for them and try it on your own account!
  • Use apps to help plan your posts (I use UNUM, which allows you to import images and see how the layout will look on your instagram page before actually posting it)
  • If going for a certain aesthetic, Stephanie & Becca both recommend using Lightroom (desktop version has better options but phone app works too). My favorites include: VSCO (A2 filter), Snapseed (brush tool to lighten exposure), and Facetune 2 (whitening tool to lighten the background of photos).
  • If you have a business account, take advantage of it! Look at the statistics given to see what time posts are most successful, which posts got the most attention, which posts didn’t take off as well as planned. Use the promotion option for posts you would like to get the most reach.
  • Stephanie’s Key to Success: Spend at least two hours a day interacting with people on social media. Starting conversations, replying to comments, answering direct messages, reaching out to other accounts. Interacting with other people in your network is essential to building your brand (whether personal or business). Take the time to build genuine connections with others.
  • Becca’s Key to Success: Networking! Joining Facebook groups relevant to your interests or areas of expertise, talking with other bloggers, going to local events to meet people with similar interests are all great ways to get more reach. Although her rule was similar to Stephanie’s, Becca also encouraged the “real” aspect, showing your true self to your followers and not being afraid to show up on your story dressed in a robe, no makeup on, hair still wrapped in a towel. People can relate to that!

If you’d like to keep reading, here are a couple more in-depth lessons to consider whilst on your blogging journey.

We’re All Learning

The biggest take away I had from this workshop is that we are all constantly learning. Both Becca and Stephanie reiterated how constantly the social media game is changing, especially since they had started out. There’s always a new rule to follow, there’s always a new algorithm to be aware of and you’re always going to be one step behind of someone else. At the end of the day, you’ll never be able to keep track of all of it. Don’t get caught up on the small stuff!

Ask Yourself Why You’re Doing This

When asked why you are doing what you’re doing (whether it be blogging, starting your own business, etc.) the answer should pop into your head immediately. You should be doing this because it’s something you’re so passionate about that you can’t help but want to share it with others. If the first thing that pops into your mind has anything to do with followers, endorsements, or money, you might want to reconsider. This should be something you love!

Make Connections

As we can see from both “keys to success”, building a community is essential. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people! Reach out to other accounts, bloggers, business owners, whoever it may be that is similar in interests. Start conversations, ask questions, build those relationships. It can be intimidating to reach out to people who seem to already have everything figured out. Remember, we all had to start somewhere. At the end of the day, we’re all here to support one another.

Authenticity

Always, always, always be yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in being what you think others want to see. Be nothing but yourself and show the real you. Don’t be afraid to post embarrassing photos, show your average daily routine, post ten pictures in a row on your story of your dog. People relate to this! If you’re true to yourself, your followers will be true to you as well.


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The Art of Self-Care

Sometimes, you just need to take a break. I know, easier said than done. Here are a few quick tricks to fit some time for self-care into a never-ending busy schedule. 

Take a Deep Breath (Or a Couple…)

This sounds too simple, right? If your day is jam packed with work, whenever you have a break in between meetings, classes, etc. , stop for one minute, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths. Listen to the sound of it and focus only on the air going in and out. If it helps, count each time you exhale a breath. If you need (or have more time for) more than three breaths, keep going! It sounds silly but it really does help.

Smile 

Ninety-nine percent of the time, if I’m smiling, I’m happy. It’s a natural reaction for your energy to change when you smile. Muscle memory associates the act of smiling with the emotion of happiness. It’s a natural trigger. With that, find a reason to smile at some point today. Look at a funny picture you took with a friend, a text that made you die of embarrassment originally but now makes you giggle when you talk about it. Speaking of, f you’re in an especially stressful situation, call someone and tell them about it. Every time I go through a particularly frustrating situation, I call my friends with the intent to rant about the situation until I feel I’ve made my point about how unfair my life is and beg the question of “why is the universe doing this to me?”. This usually ends in me laughing it off because talking about it makes me realize how insignificant these events really were. Sometimes you just need to hear it out loud to be able to put things in perspective.

Plan Ahead 

In one of my recent reads, I came across this genius idea of planning little surprises for yourself. I know that I always feel more motivated when I have something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be a week-long excursion or a bank breaking appointment of some kind. It can be as little as scheduling a coffee date with friends at a café you’ve never been to before. This past Monday, I was in the middle of a crisis while looking at everything I had to do in the upcoming week. I stopped everything I was doing, google searched nearby spas, and booked facials for myself and my roommate. The facials were relatively inexpensive, and it was something we had been wanting to do for a really long time. It was completely worth it. It feels good to treat yourself occasionally! You deserve it!

Eat a Donut

…Or a baked good of any kind. Get on yelp and search “best bakery near me”. Click on the one that looks the most appetizing, has the cutest décor, or the highest rating (whatever floats your boat). Even with the splurge on calories, I can promise you that by the time you take that last bite, you’ll have a huge smile on your face. Baked goods are magical. 

Act of Kindness

I don’t know about you but doing things for others makes me genuinely happy in return. Go out of your way to do something kind for someone else. Hold open a door, offer a ride to your roommate, give someone a bigger tip than usual, pay for the person’s drink behind you. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything huge. If you want to take it a step further, go for it! It can never hurt to build up good karma! 

Hit the Breaks 

Put your phone down (unless, of course, you’re reading this article). Start small with intentionally putting away electronics for five minutes. Set a timer if you’d like. No, it doesn’t count if you do this while napping… Take a break from social media. Even if you don’t think you have a problem with it, try it and see how you feel. I deleted snapchat recently, planning on re-downloading it the next day. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t missed it one bit. Instead of taking on more stressors through social media, tackle some stressors you currently have in your real life with that spare five minutes. 

And if none of these suggestions help, look up pictures of tiny animals. Tiny animals are always a good idea. 

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Valentine’s Day 2019

Although Valentine’s Day is widely recognized as only a “Hallmark Holiday”, it is still one of my favorites. Not only is everything a shade of my favorite color, pink (I know, typical girl, gag) but it’s also taking an entire day to just appreciate the people you love. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s never the gift itself that matters. It’s the quality of the meaning behind the gift that speaks far beyond the physical quality.

Now that we’ve covered the sentimental aspect, let’s cut to the good stuff… shopping (insert little smiling devil emoji here). This year I went to the one and only place that can take all of my money, without me knowing it and without me being upset about it. The culprit is someone we all know and love. The place where space, time and money have no true meaning. Any guesses?

Yup.

You would be correct.

Hello, my dear friend/enemy/true love, Target.

If you are looking for a one stop shop for Valentine’s Day, this is truly it. Not only does their discount section have everything you could possibly need, but their candy section is insaaneeely amazing.

This year, I decided I wanted to not only send cards out, but I wanted to spice it up a bit and add some candy or goodies as well. If you’re thinking about mailing a card out, here are some tips to add a little something extra!

  • Think flat: although this seems obvious, it’s really easy to get carried away with items that are bulkier than you may have thought.
  • Shortcut list of flat items: single tea bags, small valentines, sticker sheets, enclosed candy (I chose fun dip & Haribo gummy bear packs), polaroid or regular photos.
  • To add a little pizazz: Scour the discount section at the front of Target, there are so many cute options!!! I landed on small heart confetti (sorry to anyone receiving my cards, I know you’ll hate me for getting it everywhere but look how freaking cute it is!). Something that may be a little less messy would be petals of flowers, which would come with the bonus of a fresh scent when opened! Or you could pull an Elle Woods and spray a fresh scent on the card before you seal it up. No regrets.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not mail anything chocolate in a card!!! Let me tell you, this seems like a staple but I promise you will pick up at least one bag of chocolate and have to deeply contemplate why this feels wrong. Trust your gut. It’s wrong. It will melt and inevitably be even messier than the cute confetti you’re blessing your friends/family/loved ones with.

Here are some things I came up with, all found in one sitting at Target!

See, look how cute the little heart shaped confetti is!! Told you. You thought I was lying.
These little scratch offs decide whether or not the receiver is your galentine (there are losers, so look out!)
There are so many sticker options… So. Many.
My personal favorite are the puff stickers! Use them to decorate the card or send a sheet to let the person receiving them have a little fun!
Last, but definitely not least, is the candy. I tried to pick one thing everyone usually enjoys and one thing that was a bit of a throwback!

I’ll give you a quick breakdown of my purchases so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it!

  • Heart Cards (6 pack) : $5.99
  • Sticker Sheets : $1
  • Heart Confetti: $1
  • Fun Dip (24 ct) : $3.49
  • Haribo Gummies (25 ct) : $3.49

That about sums up my Valentine spending this year! Sorry for the huge spoiler alert to anyone getting a card from me in the upcoming weeks!! Hope this is a good reminder that it doesn’t take much to reach out to someone you love on this holiday. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Do. Not. Even.

What’s my biggest fear in life, you ask? Fantastic question. No, it’s not the clown from IT or those monstrous, too large to even be in my nightmares, spiders that they have in Australia (although those are very high on the list as well). My biggest fear is, and forever will be, settling. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. The thought of describing my life as “average” gives me absolute chills. I just picture myself on one of those suburban streets, where every house looks exactly the same, all of my walls the same shade of eggshell white, describing my work as “fine” and my husband as “he’s always just there”. I’m literally cringing while writing this and may or may not be a little nauseous. 

Let me define “settling”

Settling (v.) : forcing oneself to be content in a situation; ignoring literally every thought in your head telling you that you can do, and deserve, better; fear of the unknown, forcing one into a perpetual state of mediocracy 

For a quick example, I once had the following conversation with a friend of mine. 

“Okay, honestly, why are you with him?” I asked, referring to her current boyfriend. “Well, he doesn’t make me worry,” she said. That’s all she said. 

If ever asked why you are committing your time and effort into anything, whether it be a job, relationship, even a hobby, the response as to why you are committing your time to this should never begin with an explanatory phrase (such as “well…”). “Well, it pays the bills” or “well, she doesn’t ignore me all the time”. Not only does this indicate that you don’t already know the answer, it indicates that you are trying to convince yourself that your statement is true, as well as whoever is asking you the question. 

When I ask why you do something, the answer should be declaratory. The response that should happen when I ask why you are with someone is “they make me the best version of myself” or “I love the way this person takes care of me”. Referring to jobs or hobbies, the response should be “because this is my passion” or “I truly enjoy what I learn from doing this”. If those aren’t the answers, or if an explanatory response is the first to pop into your head before a declaratory one, something is in need of change. 

I realize that the definition I gave for settling is not in a dictionary anywhere (and may be a bit intense) but tell me that it isn’t true. This isn’t my biggest fear because it looks terrifying aesthetically or haunts me in my sleep. It’s my biggest fear because I’ve seen the way it creeps up on people, pulling on their insecurities and tricking them, brainwashing them, without them ever realizing it.

I want to take a turn and look closer at the effects of settling into an unhappy situation for a second.  

We’ve all been there to see this happen. I’ve seen the change. It starts off small. They start to take on the likes and dislikes of the person they’re with. They work their significant others’ name into conversation as much as possible, even when unnecessary. Plans start being canceled with friends, white lies start being told. 

It creeps up.

You finally get ahold of your friend, finally make a date to hang out. You realize every sentence begins and ends with this person, the conversation drifting when any other topic is brought up. You laugh, forcefully, wanting to be happy for them. But how can you be happy, when it’s not really them anymore? Where had your friend gone and who the hell is this person now sitting in front of you?

It consumes.

They look exhausted. The zip in their step is long gone. You’ve gotten at least one call a day, your friend miserable. Guess whose fault? “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t even be upset over this. I’m overreacting”. They aren’t overreacting. 

Inevitably, it destroys.

You can’t listen to the pain in their voice anymore when they talk. You can’t hear the same story of them being torn to pieces. You tell them again and again how much more they deserve, remind them how things were before, point out all the faults they already see but refuse to acknowledge. “But we’re in love”. No, you aren’t. 

Here’s a reminder: someone who loves you is not capable of causing you this type of pain. Someone who loves you is not capable of seeing you at your worst, in no rush to make things better. Someone who loves you is not capable of ignoring you, hurting you just to get a reaction, keeping you hidden from the world. Someone who loves you would not change the person you are for their own benefit. 

Here’s an even more important reminder: Someone who loves you will make you laugh, even when you never thought you’d smile again. Someone who loves you will light you up in every single way possible. Someone who loves you will support you, even when you’re on some crazy ass kick of only drinking ginger shots and eating kale. Not only will they be the first to support you (and your ridiculous ideas), but they will be the one by your side, doing it with you the entire time. 

Settling is my biggest fear because I’ve seen what it turns into, a toxicity that people cannot escape. It doesn’t have to be a relationship. This toxicity can occur in any form of settling. It could be settling at a job you absolutely loathe. Hey, gotta pay the bills somehow and how tiring does it sound to spend hours applying for another dead-end job? Settling on friends who couldn’t even answer what your favorite color was, let alone be there for you when you really need them to be. But hey, they have the coolest Instagram, so many followers and so many connections. So, it’s worth it, right? Settling comes in all forms, shapes, sizes… freaking terrifying right????

“Do not let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game”. Yes, I did just directly quote Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story. Do not let the fear of being along keep you in a relationship that you describe as “eh” to your friends. Do not let the fear of stepping out of your professional comfort zone keep you at a dead-end job. Do not let the fear of being “less cool” keep you from avoiding the people who could turn out to understand and care for you better than your current “friends” ever could. To sum this up…

Do. Not. Even. 

Do. Not. 

Do. Not. Even. 

Write it down, stick it on your bathroom mirror, think it, say it. Most importantly, believe it. Believe you deserve better and you will. If you’re having trouble reminding yourself, or find yourself slipping into old habits, reach out to friends. If your friends are the problem at the moment and you’re on the hunt for real ones, reach out to me in the meantime.

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Sidebar, Please

One of my favorite questions has always been “you believe in that kind of stuff, don’t you?”. I’ve had it asked to me in so many different contexts, so many different conversations. Yet, the answer I give without fail…

“Yes,” I respond, firmly, each time.

One quality about myself is that when I believe in someone or something, I believe with every bone in my body. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember, even all the way back to Santa Claus. I believed in Santa Claus until I was in fourth grade. Yup, that’s right, fourth grade. I can vividly remember being in fourth grade, sitting on the steps in our elementary school library. One kid from my class, Julian, came over and ever so bluntly stated, “Santa Claus doesn’t exist”. 

Excuse me?

Excuse me??

You, sir, are most definitely getting coal in your stocking next year just for saying that. Oh, and you’re a stupid head. My eleven-year-old brain was running. I can still feel my cheeks getting hotter, visibly turning pink from working myself up in thought. I’m getting heated again just talking about it.

(Sidebar, my argument tactics really haven’t changed much since fourth grade. I will for sure still call you a stupid head and feel completely satisfied. I one hundred percent just won that argument.)

Still reeling from the debacle that had occurred on the steps earlier, I jumped into my mom’s car, ready to get the heck away from school. My mom was on the phone, talking to my best friend’s mom about how their Christmas had been and did her daughter end up liking the laptop she got her. Hold. The. Effing. Phone. I looked straight at my mom while she was still talking, “I thought Santa gave her the laptop for Christmas?”.

When I tell you my mom’s face dropped, I am not exaggerating. She was sooooo busted. Hand caught straight in the cookie jar, crumbs and chocolate lining her mouth kind of busted. She told her friend she had to go and hung up the phone. She told me it was time that I knew Santa wasn’t actually real and that he wasn’t the one putting presents under the tree. She told me it had been her and my father all those years. I sat there for a second and let the life shattering information settle in. 

Look, I led a very fortunate life when I was younger, I’ll admit. This shit was shattering. After silently staring out of the window for a few minutes, I began to come to terms with it. 

“Wait…” I started, scared to finish my sentence. “Does that mean there’s no Easter bunny… tooth fairy… nothing?”. My mom just laughed and shook her head no. Jeez Louise, someone hand me a juice box, stat, I’m about to hit the floor at this point. 

My mom did something very important after that. She reminded me that even though the person wasn’t real, it didn’t mean the thought or spirit behind it wasn’t real. I think a lot of parents forget to say that part, when in fact, it’s the most important part of the entire experience. It was never about the actual person behind Santa Claus, never about the physical present left with his signature on it. It was about spending hours with my family decorating the tree, placing every ornament in its most perfect position. It was about helping my nana bake every single type of dessert to ever exist, taking extra precaution to not mess up her classic baking perfection. It was my nana yelling “Tim!”, and pretending to chase him with a rolling pin, as my papa ran away with all of the cookies we had just made (there wasn’t a hiding spot in the pantry that he couldn’t find). The spirit behind this holiday, that’s all anyone was ever trying to convince me of. I was convinced. 

That was my first encounter believing in something I couldn’t see. Let me continue to connect the dots.

As I got older, I always enjoyed all of the small stuff, like reading my horoscope in Seventeen magazine, watching psychics on television, all that good stuff. That’s not to say I took everything literally. I can promise you my Seventeen horoscope was not accurate at all, because my seventh-grade crush and I are not happily married right now. Annoyed. But I think it’s important to note that being open and being willing to envision things on a larger scale is a part of who I am. 

This is taking a sad turn for just one second, a millisecond, I have to include it, it’s crucial, don’t hate me. Okay, just a couple of years ago my papa passed away. It was sudden and very unexpected, but we were able to turn it into something very beautiful in a very short amount of time. At his funeral, the wife of one of his closest friends came up to chat with us. She mentioned that she forgot to bring a white feather and we all kind of turned to look at her. Were we out of the loop or? She explained that it had been her husband’s custom. He would place a white feather on every casket or give one to the family that he knew. She apologized for not bringing one, but we assured her it was more than okay and told her how much we appreciated the gesture. 

I don’t remember who was the first to find one. Suddenly, they were just everywhere. We all kept finding them. First in explainable places, under our pillow, next to our bed, on a piece of clothing. Then they started appearing in stranger places, at stranger times. 

My mom was trying to decide to if moving to a new state with her boyfriend was the right choice. As the prior residents moved out and cleaned up their things, my mom and I walked through the house. She found white feathers in the corners of almost every room of the house. 

My uncle was trying to buy a car. He drove hours away from home to look at this car he had found online, got to it, absolutely loved it. He told them this was the one and he’d be back tomorrow to buy it. They drove all the way back the next day, only to find that another employee had just sold the car an hour before, not knowing that he had intended to purchase it. Him and my aunt started their drive home, when they passed this little dealership with a similar model. My aunt made him stop and look at it, which turned into him loving it and buying it on the spot. On the way home, my uncle reached into the glove box of his new car to read the manual (He is literally the only person I know on this planet who reads car manuals. He knows he has google on his phone but no, no, he will read the manual. Love you, dork!). When he opened the glove box and went to reach for the manual, he glanced down and saw a long white feather sitting on top of the manual. 

I was sitting on my floor, pouring my thoughts onto paper as my entire world collapsed around me while reading Maxie McCoy’s brilliant book. I can’t even express the amount of anxiety I had about publishing what I had written for others to see. I couldn’t even text my family to tell them what I was doing because I was so nauseated just by the thought of it. I got into bed, only to realize my roommate’s cat had knocked all of the pillows off of my bed. I reached down and picked them up, ready to place them back in their normal spots. I noticed a little white feather underneath the position the one pillow was normally situated in. I put the pillow on top and went to sleep. The next three days I worked on my writing, trying so hard to convince myself to share it. Each night before I went to sleep, I checked under the pillow to see if it was still there. I was just curious. It was there, every night. I finally made the website, posted the piece, turned off all phone notifications, and went to workout for what ended up being over two hours. When I finally looked at my phone on my way back up to my room, I saw the overwhelming amount of support I was receiving and immediately felt the weight of the fear and anxiety I had been carrying, lift off my shoulders. I got into my room, cat asleep in my bed, everything in its place except one pillow that had been knocked off my bed. I picked it up, placing it back in its spot on the bed. I realized the little white feather was no longer there. It was no longer needed. 

Let me reiterate what I have known since I was in fourth grade, what I wish I could make everyone believe in as passionately as I do. It’s not the object. It’s never the object. It’s the meaning behind the object. You can tell me I’m foolish, childish or stupid for believing that my papa placed those feathers in all of those places. I would shrug and allow you to believe that, because I know you’ve missed the point.

Santa might not have been the one to put the presents under the tree every Christmas, but his spirit was the one who brought the entire family together for that one special day, every year, without fail. My papa might not have been the one to place those feathers in our rooms, in our cars, in countless other places. However, his spirit is the one who brings the feeling of safety, of comfort, of familiarity, all in the face of the unknown. 

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A Letter To My Father

Part 2

I was sitting on my couch at my apartment, studying for my calculus final (that I was sure I was going to fail. We all know I’m terrible at math, nothing surprising here). Stressing over the inevitable doom that was my final, I was so very happy to hear my phone ringing. Any distraction is a good distraction in those situations, right? 

Wrong.

It was your wife, my stepmom. I answered and she told me in an unsteady voice how you were in the hospital. It had finally been too much. You couldn’t talk, couldn’t move. Your brain had basically re-booted and they weren’t sure how long it was going to take to get you back to normal. “One more binge like this and he’s not making it back” they had told her. The next day you started to speak again. She called to update me and relayed, in confusion, how every time they asked you what the date was, you responded that it was April and told everyone to be careful because it was probably snowing outside. It wasn’t April. You were stuck on the day I was born, April 2, being in a similar room back then, but for a very different reason now. You were there for three days. 

After that, everything was different. A curtain had finally been shifted, door finally opened, light finally shed. You changed, slowly, but in such a significant and wonderful way. 

I can’t say enough that everything happens for a reason. The universe had allowed you a second chance with my step brother, who was young enough to need your guidance, your love. I saw you trying harder, paying more attention, taking the time to explain things to him. When I came home from breaks at college, I saw you packing his lunch every morning. You even gave him extra cookies to trade at lunch for other snacks from his friends. You know all of his friends’ names. You know what he likes and dislikes. I honestly can’t express how happy it makes me. 

When I talk to you now, I know you actually care about what I’m saying. You tell me how proud you are of me, of how far I’ve come, of where I’m going. I love my step family and couldn’t be more grateful to have each of them in my life. 

Sitting and watching Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen every time I come home. Listening to my little brother explain for the umpteenth time that no, hiding in the tree until you’re one of the last players left in the game is not the correct way to win Fortnite. Taking our dog for a nightly walk during the summer, you holding Cammie’s leash, my stepmom and I walking side by side, my little brother whipping circles around us on his scooter. These are my favorite things about being home now. These are the moments I would choose again and again. This is what I am eternally grateful for the universe giving back to us. 

I hope this doesn’t hurt you and I hope you can forgive me for telling my version of the truth. I’ve held onto it for a long time and I think it’s time now. Everyone deserves to heal, and I think it’s only fair that we get a chance at that too. I love you. 

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A Letter To My Father

Part 1

Before I start, I would just like to say how immensely proud of you I am, for getting where you are today. I admire you and I love you. I always have and always will. 

It’s funny thinking back to what I heard from everyone around me. Mantras of “you know he loves you right?”, “he’s proud of you, I promise”, “your opinion means more to him than you know”. I used to compare those to what I heard from you, which was only and always “good job, kid”. I filled in the blanks with their words. 

Going back in time, I remember being in awe of you growing up. You took the time to play with me, put your big hat on my tiny head and helped me learn how to have fun. When you’re little, you have this extra special skill of only seeing the best in people. I only saw the best in you. 

Your favorite baseball team was the Indians, so my favorite baseball team was the Indians. Your favorite number was two, so my favorite number was two. I listened intently to the stories of you and your friends growing up, how you were a superstar at anything even remotely athletic. I absorbed it all, thinking you were the coolest human being my six-year-old self had ever come across. 

As time passed, the play time quickly started to fade, along with any time with you at all. Your patience with me grew very small. I realized I was going to have to try harder, step up my game in order to get your attention, your love, back. I used to watch you and your friends play poker, I saw how happy it made you to be around them. This was my in. I pretended to be a waitress, asking you and your friends if I could bring them anything, refilling chips and pretzels, accepting quarters as tips, all just to be around you. It didn’t work. Your attention never lasted long. My favorite memory from that should be helping you win the tournament against all of your friends. But it’s not. My favorite memory is helping one of the guys who was at the table win the tournament, because you didn’t trust me enough not to give away your hand, passing me off to someone else instead. 

The best part about that is I didn’t get hurt by you not trusting me. I took it as I hadn’t proved myself to be good enough yet. So, ask me what I did. 

I learned every single rule of the game Texas Hold’em. I learned how to deal, what a straight, flush, full house, three pair was. I learned what it meant when someone said they had “ace high”, they were “all in”. I learned to fold when the cards were down. At this point, the only thing I hadn’t mastered was the infamous bridge. I had seen all of your friends do it while shuffling cards and I knew this would be the skill to win you over. It was so freaking impressive, how could it not?? I asked you how to do it, what the secret was. You responded by saying “I don’t know, you just kind of fold the cards and do it”, then walked away. I sat there, flopping the cards again and again against the stupid green table. I wasn’t going to give up though. After about twenty minutes of miserably failing, I finally got it. I did it. I literally felt the surge of adrenaline rush through me because of the excitement. I screamed out to you to come look at what I had just taught myself. You came in the room, I reshuffled the cards, focusing in fully on bending those cards in the perfect formation to allow them to make that ever impressive bridge. The last couple cards flopped, but overall, I was pretty proud for it only being my second time doing it. I couldn’t wait to hear your response, positive you would recruit me immediately to be on your team during the next tournament. “Cool, could still use some work though” you said, walking out of the doorway. I put the cards back in their pack and left them on the table. 

Ironically enough, I still do a bridge every single time I shuffle cards today. Except now, I do it perfectly, without even one card slipping out of place. 

At around the age of twelve, I started to realize that I hadn’t been alone in fighting for your attention this entire time. They always say it’s hard growing up in the shadow of someone else, but they never mention how impossible it is growing up in the shadow of something else. 

Just as I waited for you to come home and find out that I had already completed all my homework and gotten A’s on all of my assignments for the week, something else waited for you at home. I guess I never thought much about the pack of beer that was constantly being restocked in the fridge. Before I could tell you about my grades, you’d ask me if I’d want to take a ride with you down the street to the beer distributor. They had suckers there so of course I was in. Before I knew it, we were back at home, you in the garage with a whole pack of something to hold your attention, me in the house holding the tests I wanted to show you. I waited for mom to get home and showed her instead.

Now that I knew what my competition was, could see what I was up against, I was more determined than ever to beat it. At this point I was in competitive sports. My coaches always described me as hard working, but I always thought I could do better. I remember my swim coach saying, “she’s the smallest one on the team but can lap everyone here”. I quickly moved my way up in the lanes, swimming and competing with older kids in practice. I was always the anchor, the pressure on to be the fastest one to close the gap and win the race. I put so much pressure on myself to win every single time. I was never happy getting second, getting anything after that I didn’t even want to talk about. 

I would be so nervous before every race, biting my nails down to nothing. I couldn’t talk to anyone in the moments before I swam, I had to focus, I had to be in the moment and had to do my best, no distractions. My least favorite stroke was butterfly. My arms and legs were too short to be able to get the distance other girls could. One meet, my coach called my name and told me I was swimming the fifty-yard butterfly. I have never felt my heart drop so hard. I started to tear up, knowing I wasn’t getting this one. I sat next to the two other girls on the bench I was competing against, both having more than a few inches on me, easily. 

I got up to the block, you were timing me. I bent to grab the block, heard the beep and dove in. I can’t even tell you how much of a blur this was. I knew that I had to give literally everything in me, had to push myself to the max. I swam as fast and as hard as I could, hearing the screams of parents each time I came up for air. I hit the wall and looked up, seeing no one else around. I sat there thinking everyone else had finished and gotten out of the pool already, completely embarrassed and disappointed in myself. You kept saying “You did it!” and I realized the other girls were half a lap behind me. I tried to get out of the pool and realized I couldn’t lift myself and I couldn’t move my legs. You had to lift me out of the pool and put me on my towel. I didn’t even care that I had literally given every single ounce of energy that thirteen-year-old me had because I had finally made you proud, had finally got your attention. 

Funny how I had to get my body to the point of complete and utter exhaustion to get your attention and approval. All the beer had to do was sit in the fridge. 

It felt like every time I pushed harder for your attention, the more you pulled away. By the time I was in high school, I had all but given up. I knew I had been defeated. I was exhausted, confused and disappointed. I stopped playing sports because I couldn’t take seeing that look of complete and utter disgust from you one more time, after I missed one out of ten shots at my basketball game. I stopped showing you things, stopped telling you things, stopped trying. The worst part is, you didn’t even notice. Or if you did, you didn’t even care. 

In the middle of my high school career, mom and I sat at home, waiting for you on Christmas. We were just going to spend time together, watch a movie or something. After a while of not hearing from you, we decided to go through the drive thru at McDonalds and treat ourselves to a couple dollar menu sundaes. On our way home, we passed the bar down the street. There was your car, only one in the parking lot besides the workers. There you were, only one in the bar besides the workers. You weren’t alone though. You had your beer to keep you company, better company than we could have offered you at that point. We drove home in silence. 

This part ends in a whirlwind of dinners without eye contact, my family separating, a lot of crying, a lot of hurt, and a lot of pretending everything was fine. 

Please don’t stop reading yet. There’s always a silver lining and we have to make it through the bad to get to the good. 

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