When Anxiety & Stress Kick in — Walk them Out.

One of the things I miss the most about living in NYC is the walking. Yes, ALL of the walking.

There was something so exhilarating about walking in the City. Whether I was stepping out to my favorite playlist, or just let the natural song of the streets become the pace for my steps, in some way, it made me feel more alive. 

It heightened my senses. I noticed things. I felt it all, you know?  I was more aware of where I was going and what I needed to do to get there. Watching one foot go in front of the other has a funny way of doing that.

My favorite time to walk in the City was right before daybreak. It is such a transitional time and it was the closest to peaceful the chaotic streets ever seemed to get.

Construction workers were gathered around cups of coffee, suits and ties were waving down cabs, the last of the club kids stumbled to the nearest subway stairs, bars were locking up, and bagel shops opened their doors—it was the most significant exchange of the City's day.

Observing it all made me feel like I was in on some great secret—like I was a part of something much bigger than myself.

Losing that daily ritual made it incredibly hard to adjust to living in Arizona again. Phoenix is wide and spread out and HOT. When you see people walking through intersections around here, it's not uncommon to assume that they just don't have a vehicle because who in their right mind would want to walk the streets of the desert willingly?

As for neighborhoods, those people are either old folks power walking their heart strong, people with dogs too big for their own backyard, or stroller clad new mamas finding a way to make gossip healthy. In other words: wealthy or crazy white people.

For the majority of the time, I believed this all to be true. That is until I recently became one of those crazy people myself. (Hopefully, wealth is a mandatory part of the frequent walkers package that will be delivered soon. In that case, I will now be checking my mail daily.)

Working on my blog and other web-related jobs all day means that I spend a lot of time indoors. Over the past few months, there have even been days that strung together that I did not see the light of day. I had work to do and, other than the occasional restroom break and turkey avocado sandwich (not simultaneously—promise!), I decided that it wasn't a bad idea to not leave my room for long periods of time.

I mean, I've always considered myself nocturnal. Not to mention I am half vampire half hibernating winter bear, so, why not just fully commit to the role?

I had my coffee, my music, my laptop, and my desk slash busted TV tray that I stole from my 9-year-old roommate. (Hey, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do! No office = TV tray desk—it's a no-brainer, really.) What else did I really need?

A little thing called fresh air and perspective, that's what.

You see, when you stay inside for extended periods of time, you discover that there is not enough room for things. Especially things like anxiety and stress.

A single room just does not have enough room for all of life's worries.

Even when I would take deep breaths and try to release whatever was stressing me out at the time, it just seemed to recirculate. Sometimes it even came back stronger than before. The walls seemed to be soaking in my problems and closing in because of their weight.

I needed space—wide open ones. And that kind of room can only be found outside of our rooms. 

This week marks one month that I have been taking walks almost daily now. It may seem like a small victory for some, but it is a big one for me. I've found that even small steps can lead to bigger worlds. 

It started simply: I needed to go to the gym to relieve some serious stress (as well as more than a couple tortilla chip calories) and I didn't have a way of getting there. No one goes during the off hours I prefer, so there went the idea of having a gym buddy pick me up. What was I going to do?

I looked down at my two feet and thought: Hey! You guys still work, right? Well, let's find out.

I googled the distance to my gym: 1.25 miles. Totally doable. If I can spend an hour on the treadmill indoors, then I can walk my happy ass a mile and a half to the gym. The only problem was another number involved in the equation—the temperature. 

Even mid-morning summer temps can be considered unbearable to some in Phoenix. There is a good reason it's called The Valley of the Sun—we're living on its surface. But, I was determined. I put on my sneakers and some sunblock and hit the road, Jack.

Guess what? You know how we can do hard things? Well, we can also do hot things.

Sure, I was sweating like Jenny Craig in a donut shop once I fell on the gym's doorstep, but it just so happens to be a place where sweaty, red-faced people are celebrated instead of rejected. So, I worked out in the glorious air conditioned facility with all of the LuLu some kind of citrus fruit soccer moms and then headed back out the door for my victory lap home.

And, Sweet Jesus, it really was victorious once I finally arrived!

The most surprising part about it wasn't that I had actually survived the walk (though there was some element of shock at the time), it was that the gym wasn't what relieved the anxiety I was originally trying to Elliptical away. It was the walk itself!

As it turns out, there is all kinds of room for our problems outside. The sky really is the limit! 

Taking that walk brought back all of the old feelings of being on the streets of NYC. Only now, instead of construction workers and corporate employees and skyscrapers and industrial sounds surrounding me on my walk, I am surrounded by the wonderful things and people that make up my current neighborhood.

I  greet the sweet elderly woman that always wishes me a good morning and God's blessing on my day. I pet a few excited dogs and offer a smile to their owners. I look up to the open sky. I cheer on the hardworking ants that carry things 10x the size of themselves. (They inspire me to carry heavy things that pay off in the end—like my commitment to a healthier lifestyle. If that damn fire ant can carry a thick cut french fry, then I sure as hell can eat less of them!)  

Most of all, I feel the calm and the promise of a new day. An offer of another chance to take the reins of my life and stop leaving it to just that—chance.

I talk to God. I dance beneath the underpass of a lonely bridge. I sing out loud to my favorite playlist of songs. Once in awhile, I'll even shed a few tears. Because, sometimes, sweat and tears let the same stuff out. It's also a bonus that they happen to look exactly alike!

I've learned to leave my problems on the pavement. It's taught me to send my stress above where it belongs. There is room for it out there. And not just mine—everyone's. We must take advantage of the sky's infinite ability. 

When we speak our worries into the outdoors, it comes back with the resounding and beautiful echo of new possibility. 

So, the next time anxiety or stress decides to kick in your door, do yourself a favor and walk them right back out.

Personal Success: Stop Trying to Prove Them All Wrong & Start Focusing on Proving Them Right!

Today was a good day. And not just because I didn't have to use my A.K.

Today was good because it is the starting point for a new little life journey of mine. If you're reading this on my website, then you probably already know that CLW has just received a major facelift. (Not that she really needed it. I mean she is only two years old.) If this is your first time on the blog, then let's just pretend that it always looked this fabulous, shall we?

I really love the new look and hope you do, too! If you don't, well, I am going to need you to keep that shiz to yourself today. I busted my imaginary balls off on this site and would prefer to pop my bottle of sparkling rosé on Cloud Nine, thank you very much.

In addition to a new look, there is also an entire new element to CLW—the SERVICES section. That's right, I am now offering personal writing services! It is my newest brainchild of the bunch and I really, really like this one. My heart is poured all over it! (To read more about why I started offering services—you know, besides the fact that I really need to be able to afford mediocre bottles of wine and add guac to my Chipotle orders—click here.)

As excited as I am about the launch of the new site and services, I have to admit that the process wasn't all sunshine and unicorns. 

Like any new venture, it came with a large serving of anxiety and an extra side of self-doubt. (Don't you love how all of my analogies pertain to food? I am obviously on a die—I mean, Lifestyle Change or what the eff ever. Both mean "hungry b*tch" in my book.)

So, yeah. My new mini-business endeavor was trying to make me hate myself, but that's OK. I just so happen to have some well-practiced strategies for that department—especially when I am the source of the problem and the solution. Bring it on, Brainchild.

Redesigning a new website and attempting to put a small business into motion turns you into a mentally unstable zombie. Let's just start there.

Fortunately, you only become this zombie for the duration of the creative/editorial process. Unfortunately, you are very much a semi-functional and slightly repulsive corpse during this time. By the end of my work day, I looked like Britney circa 2007 (pre salon razor) had landed a guest appearance on The Walking Dead.

I was overcaffeinated, underslept, a sparrow was most likely nesting in my top knot, and I spent more time in my Betty Boop robe than in adult clothing. Combine that with moments of oh-my-god-I-am-brilliant-this-is-going-to-be-the-greatest-thing-ever and oh-my-god-I-am-an-idiot-I-cannot-do-this-what-was-I-thinking interrupted by bouts of reputation threatening dance moves and manic laughter.  

You get the point—It wasn't my best look.

Want to know what triggered the low points throughout the process? It was when I thought about all of the people that I'd like to prove wrong that really set my crazy off the charts.

Once I started to dwell on how wonderful it was going to be to shove my first homemade success pie in their faces, well, let's just say those mental moments of pleasure were short-lived.

When I began to think about the people I'd like to prove wrong, I also began to think about all of the reasons they would question why I had the right to start this whole thing in the first place.

So-and-so always thought I lacked determination. So-and-so never expects me to follow through with anything. So-and-so would laugh at the thought of starting a small business for a blog. So-and-so said this, and So-and-so said that. Oh my gosh. WHAT IF SO-AND-SO IS RIGHT?!

My thoughts continued on like this for a couple of weeks.

Luckily, like I mentioned before, I had some strategies for them and was able to continue working on the project despite the ongoing thoughts of self-doubt. (Cyber high five for progress in self-care!) Even though I was able to keep them at bay, I still needed to address them. 

It wasn't until I had lunch with four of the women that I love most in my life that I knew what I needed to do to show those thoughts where they could stick it. 

It was a birthday lunch for my sister at my aunt's house when I decided to tell them my plans of offering custom writing services. I was nervous to say the least. Even though these ladies love me to Pluto and back, they are all very successful business-minded women. They are also not afraid to tell me if I should give something a little more thought before taking action. 

This is what I admire most about them. We are honest in our love for each other. Even when telling the truth hurts, we do it because we want to make sure we are striving to be the best versions of ourselves possible. This makes them my tribe. 

So, I put all of my plans out there over tea sandwiches and red wine. When the moment came for their feedback, my breath was baited. What if they didn't see what I SAW in all of this? Would I have to go against their advice and follow my heart? Because I couldn't even begin to think of thinking of something else while awake in bed at night. I wanted this—badly.

Thankfully, I didn't have to answer any of those questions. 

They all gave me their honest opinion and pieces of advice on where to start, but the consensus was the same: Yes, yes, yes, and YES! I was so overwhelmed by their belief in me that I had to excuse myself and go to the restroom to splash some water on my face. While in the bathroom, I could hear them continue to sing their approval and excitement for my new idea. I took a long moment to soak it in. It felt good to be so encouraged. It was then that a thought struck me:

Why would I waste an ounce of my valuable time focusing on proving people that DON'T believe in me wrong when I could be dedicating it to proving those that DO believe in me right?

That's the question I needed to ask. And it gave me the answer I needed to confidently move forward in the direction of my new goal.

When you think about it, why do we give so much of our energy to those that don't value it? It's more than a little ridiculous that we allow ourselves to throw a positive mask on such a negative thought process and call it motivation. I'd much rather have my personal drive come from a place that began with pure intentions.

Wanting to get a promotion so we can feel above someone. Wanting to lose weight so that we can make someone else feel fat. Wanting to be successful so that others feel less than. It's ALL for the birds!

Even if we do get somewhere because we were fueled by negative motives, can that really be counted as a complete success?

Maybe, but I'd prefer to think not.

I want to make the support system I have been blessed with my mental gas station. It is there that I want to tap into my potential and grab an extra tank of fuel for the hard days. Not at the mental dump of shitty decisions and people that is waiting for me around the corner. We never find the answers we think we will there. Just more trash.

If you think that you do not have anyone on your side that wants to see you succeed and that you want to prove right, you are very wrong. You have YOU. We have ourselves. You are the most important person out there that can believe in what you are trying to do.

There isn't any success that can be compared to the certainty that you have your own back— 100%. And if you still don't believe that you can do that for yourself, well then, congratulations. You've just found the first person you should take the time to prove wrong.

Thoughts On: Reality, Alternate Universes, & the Inbetween.

I was recently interviewed for a podcast that is dedicated to women and is all about our thoughts on life and the different ways we empower and inspire each other. (I will let you know when/where these episodes can be found in the future or you can follow the podcast HERE for updates!) When I was asked to be interviewed, I expected that there would be some great questions since the host, Andrea Chesley, is a very intuitive and creative person.

However, these questions went beyond my expectations and, a week later, I am still contemplating their meaning and my own answers. Today, it's this question in particular that I can't seem to shake:

What does your alternate universe look like and when did those pivotal moments take place?

Yep. That's not a loaded question at all. Are you sure you don't want to know what my herbal tea preference is instead? Okay. Just checking.

I won't be discussing my answer today. (You've got to tune in for that one!) To be honest, I will probably have to listen to the episode to remember what I even said. Interviews are a whole new ball game for me!  

What I do want to share are my thoughts on the idea of our alternate universes and how healthy, or unhealthy, it is to choose to explore them.

I mean, have you ever been in the middle of doing something when you suddenly have an overwhelming need to analyze where and how in the hell you have arrived at this very moment in your life? Well, you're not alone.

(This would be a good time to refill that wine glass. We're about to dive in.)

I have had these moments while standing in a crowd of hundreds, and I've had them during the most mundane of daily routines. They have no requirements for our outside surroundings to show up because they are very much the product of our insides—no matter how far we think we have buried them.

Suddenly, the dishes you are rinsing belong to someone else and you are standing in a strange place that you are supposed to call home and you're not even sure if you really know the other people standing in the rooms with or around you—including yourself.

Questions begin to surface: Who am I? Who are they? Do we really belong to each other?

For me, many times these moments have brought on physical feelings that are comparable to panic attacks. Shortness of breath, uncomfortable amounts of weight on the chest, sensitivity to light, feelings of claustrophobia—the list goes on and on.  

When we sense that we're losing control (or question if you have ever really had any), it makes sense to take on the symptoms of anxiety. Especially for those of us that have, or still, struggle with it. Because as much as we despise all of those reactions, they are what we know. And we know them oh so well.

They are familiar and familiarity is what we naturally relate to getting back to a state of comfort—even when it causes discomfort. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but haven't you ever hear of the term comfortably miserable? It's the same thing.

Depression and anxiety can make us feel safe in a strange way. And that "safety" is one big, fat, HUGE lie.

So, why do we keep trying to comfort ourselves with it?

When I began to reflect on the question of what my alternate universe would look like, I immediately assumed that it was better than where I was currently. You see, my mind is a natural depressive and I can't really blame it because that's what it knows best. My mind loves to overanalyze and wallow and whine and sulk and all of the other pass-the-tissues sort of things.

But my heart? My heart is OVER it. SO over it. It has also had an ongoing membership at the gym of positivity and self-care AND has been attending regularly! My heart is ready to roundhouse kick my mind's ass—and I am getting better and better of staying out of its way.

Here's what I decided to do: I decided to let my mind have its moment—but only momentarily. 

Yes, in my alternate universe I could have made choices that would have landed me in situations that are more financially favored or in a city I desire to explore or with children or with a closet just for shoes or a credit line at Barney's or blah, blah, insert other fancy blah here.

Yes, that all sounds amazing. But, you know what else is pretty effing amazing? MY life. My current reality. The one I am actually living and breathing and not just painting on the romanticized walls of my mind.

It's easy to say that the lives we could have been living would be so much better because we aren't actually living them.

We don't know what kind of problems would have popped up or what roadblocks would have interrupted our fancy imagined lives because those are not as much fun to dwell on. Pity parties do not invite reality in for tea because reality is the ultimate pooper of the pity party. There is absolutely no path in life we can choose that can guarantee exemption from the difficulties that are bound to show up in life. 

Sure, there are definitely paths we can choose that are not going to have as many issues as others. But I'm hoping we can chalk those up to common sense for the time being. You know, like the decision to smoke crack or not smoke crack. Let's just assume, for the sake of this blog post, that we all know that choosing not smoke crack is a better general life decision. Crack is wack, hugs not drugs, wine not lines—let's move along.

If you have made some decisions that you regret making, do yourself a favor and don't get so damn down on yourself for them. Listen to that Elsa biotch and let that shit go! We're human. We f*ck up—sometimes royally! But that doesn't mean that our current circumstances aren't worthy. You are in that circumstance and guess what? YOU are worthy so it is too. Love yourself back to a path you are proud to claim. Put in the work, but fuel that tank with grace and humility and love. Love triumphs and it heals—always.

Once I recognized that I was looking at the answer to this question about my coveted alternate universe negatively, I needed to pinpoint why. It was only because negativity felt natural and it was a habit I allowed to continue in my life for much, much too long. Once I was able to step outside of that comfortable misery I caught a good glimpse of what it really looked like. And, let me tell you,.from the outside it didn't look as much like comfort as it did misery. 

There is another way we can choose to respond to these moments of that scream who-what-when-where-why-am-I-this-person-figure-it-out-immediately-I-don't-care-if-you-are-in-the-middle-of-target-do-it-now! We can recognize them as brilliant little (or big) moments of clarity.

It is your body and mind's way of being so aware that you are alive and breathing that they demand your attention. ALL of it! It is our way of forcing ourselves to drop all of the acts we learned along the way and have the chance to say this:

"Wow. I'm here. Right now. In this big and beautiful and endless and crazy blue marble with LOTS of questions, seeking LOTS of answers. At this moment, I am uncontrollably and miraculously ALIVE."

When you think about it in that context, it's really kind of beautiful how unpredictable life can be. It means that we have unlimited choices and the freedom to decide where our feet land next and the chance to change the life we are living at any given moment.

Why are we trying to stress ourselves out over this fact? We should be grateful for it!  

Maybe if we started to welcome these moments (Dare I even say look forward to them?), we would no longer feel like they were attacking us. Let your mind wander into the land of what could have been without getting lost in the idea of what should have been. Looking back and dwelling on where we think we should be is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. Because if we were meant to be there, then guess what? We already would be. 

Trust your own timing. Don't try to dig up old wrongs that you have already made right. Trust that the people in your life are there for a reason, whether it is a lesson in love or one of loss. Trust that your alternate universe was never meant to manifest, because you had better places to see and learn and love and grow even if it sometimes doesn't feel that way.

Wanna know where that place is? Just look down. It's wherever you're standing. It's wherever YOU are.


That Summertime Sadness

For many, summer is a welcomed and awaited season. It holds the promise of freedom and vacations, swimming and cookouts, long afternoon naps, extra time to be spent with family, and the chance to relax and refuel before the carousel of holidays and a new school year begin once again.

Sounds lovely, right?

I don't know about you, but all of that sounds a whole lot like my childhood and young adult summers—not so much my mandatory you-are-now-officially-an-adult-you-still-have-to-take-care-of-sh*t ones. For most of us now, the increasing rise in temperatures does not signify the release of jobs, bills, stress or general responsibilities.

In some cases, they may even increase. Instead of picking up a summer hobby or sport yourself, you are now driving around a truckload of children and their friends and their friends' cousins and their friends' cousins' neighbors to their select summer activities. (Whose idea was it to sign up for that community carpool again?) Or summer might be the slow season for your job, which makes for plenty of time to pick up a second one so that you can afford said activities.

Well, damn.

I have always been a bit nostalgic with each passing summer. Once you realize the days of laying around with your siblings, watching mindless television, eating junk, extended sleepovers with best friends, and waiting for mom and dad to finally take you on vacation are over, it's easy to get a little melancholy. But, for whatever reason, this time around I seem to have a full-on case of (cue Lana Del Rey) summertime sadness.

You see, I am currently living with a 9 and 13-year-old, and these boys are currently on summer vacation. And I am just a teensy  bit jealous of how carefree their lives currently are. (Currently, currently... now it doesn't currently sound like a real word.) Maybe jealous is the wrong word for it because, really, it just makes me miss my own School's Out For Summer days.

Those days were great and, like the majority of them, they were also taken for granted. (My deepest apologies, Mom and Dad. I was a real asshole.)

I am always trying to find ways to express to the boys  just how much they should be enjoying having sit on the couch and eat an entire bag of Doritos or play with my friends outside as the only dire life-choices they have to make for the day as well as for the remainder of their summer.

In fact, any time they claim to be "SO bored" it takes everything in me not to go all Billy Madison on them and squeeze their faces until they learn to appreciate these times. ( Don't you say that! Don't you ever say that. Stay here. Stay here as long as you can. For the love of God, cherish it. You have to cherish it!)

But I don't because, well, they're kids and it is kind of their job to not really know just how good they have it. Otherwise, how else are they going to look back and realize how amazing being a kid really was and want to kick their own asses for not realizing it sooner? I can't rob them of that painful epiphany.

There are other memorable and adventurous ways to live out your summers as an adult, I'm sure. Traveling overseas, foreign excursions, lengthy family vacations or staycations, and catered retreats are just a few that any successful adult would enjoy partaking in during the summer.

And if I just described one or two or all of the things happening in your summer months, well then, congratu-freaking-lations. You are adulting the right way so hard right now.

But, if you are like me, and only have hopes of being able to escape this hell on a summer's day heat for more than a handful of times, we've got some work to do.

All aboard the struggle ship! Don't worry—there are plenty of cocktails to help drown your sorrows! They may not have the little umbrellas, the wine is boxed and the liquor is definitely not top shelf, but they will still lower your inhibitions, get you good and drunk, and blur life's demands for awhile.

Let's be real—backpacking through Europe is not an option for me at the moment, but I sure as hell would like it to be in the future. In order for that to happen, I'm going to need to put in some honest hard work. Because watching an entire season on Netflix in one day is not going to get me any closer to tasting warm crepes in Paris—even if it is a series dedicated to warm crepes in Paris. 

I am going to have to be the kid that has to take summer school or the kid whose parents made them get a summer job. On second thought, I need to be the kid who has to do both!

This summer is going to be more work than play, yes, but that doesn't mean it has to be filled with sadness. 

Something that I discovered about Lana Del Rey's song Summertime Sadness, is that she is singing about the way it feels to mourn the freedoms, relationships, and moments that could have been had in a summer that was now ending. She is droning on and on about time and opportunities wasted—a season heated by regret.

So, I am in luck! I've caught the blazing blues early. And I have plenty of time to figure out how to treat them.

I like to believe that it is possible to get shit done and enjoy life simultaneously. It might not be ideal on the tough days, but there has got to be some sort of balance. After all, if you can't find outlets for joy in the place you are currently living, it might be more than just a vacation to somewhere else you should consider.

I have my family here. I have friends here. I have books to help me travel. I have places I can go that feel like a temporary escape. I have the option to donate my time to help those that are already in my community—the ones that aren't asking for a summer vacation, but rather a break from life's hardships.

Long conversations with my grandma, a short trip to see my brothers, "just because" dinners with my best friends, a great summer reading list, taking advantage of the beautiful places that already surround me, volunteering my spare time to others in need—these are just a few things on my Suck-It Summer Sadness to-do list. 

These may not be the ideal ways to spend a summer for some or worthy of likes on Instagram or shares on Facebook, but they are worthy of me and my time. I want to try and do things this summer that will enhance my relationships and increase my love for others—it might be the best way to elevate the love we have for ourselves.

I do not want to waste any more of my time missing the kind of summers I once had. I also do not want to pout about and pine over the kind of summer I wish I was having or think I deserve. Those days will come.

No, I think  this summer won't be focused on how much it sucks to have to take the heat, but rather how much of it I can create and preserve to keep me warm. Because life can still decide to bring on the cold—even on a hot day in July. And we all know the weather has nothing to do with that kind of storm.

Chasing Those Picture Perfect Smiles

There is a picture on my desk that I look at every time I sit down to write.

I seem to be about four or five in the photo with amazingly terrible early '90s bangs. I am wearing a pink floral romper and holding on to a matching Easter basket. My sister is also in this picture with her arms draped around my shoulders, a matching romper, and rocking the same unfortunate bangs.

We are standing outside of the home we grew up in. The same home that my father was raised in. The home that I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to describe to my nieces and nephews and future children.

If I could only keep one photo of us, there is no question this would be the one. 

Like many sisters, our mom dressed us in matching outfits for holidays. I'm not sure at what age it stopped, but I guess you can't match with your sister forever. (Although, I do still bring up the idea to my sister every year and she just laughs. She thinks I'm joking but, the truth is, I would wear matching pink rompers until we were 90 years old if she wanted to.)

The thing that stands out the most in this photograph though is our how undeniably happy we look.

My sister's smile is wide with pride and a hint of a protection—she was a mother long before she had children. Mine was widened with a bit of recklessness and lit up by an anxious kind of hope. I seem to be saying Bring on the day! While my sister's expression says Yes, but let's take our time.

Not much has changed.

As far as we were concerned, this was the best day of our lives—at least until the next holiday or special occasion rolled around.

Recently, I saw that same kind of smile on my sister's face. It was just like the one that is framed on my desk.

I was at her house for a barbecue, and we were sitting on the patio listening to music and drinking wine while the kids played. (Yes, her home is that Leave it To Beaver—it's just missing the white picket fence and we talk about real sh*t instead of the weather.) Our attention was redirected when my 4-year-old niece Lyla, put on her favorite song and announced that she was going to "dance for Jesus".

I don't care what religion you do or do not claim, if you saw this little angel dancing, you'd believe it really was for Jesus Himself.

We didn't reach for any cameras or phones. We just watched a little girl dance her heart out and right into our own.

Halfway through her little dance, I looked at my sister. She was watching her baby twirl and prance in the name of the purest kind of love and that's when I recognized that proud and protective smile on her face again. 

It was one of those moments that really does slow time down, even if just for a second. Lyla ran and hugged my sister when she was done and I could've sworn I saw that same girl that had her arms draped around me in the picture.

I thought to myself: That little girl would be so proud of the woman she became.

When I sat down to write about this beautiful little moment, I picked up that picture and took a good look at myself. Would that wild and hopeful little girl be proud of who I have become? What kind of woman would she think me to be?

When we are little, adults like to ask us what we want to be when we grow up. Ballerinas, firefighters, animal doctors, superheroes—these are the usual answers. We see no limitations when we are young. We do not place barriers on the things we want. I think this is why adults ask children that question: to remind themselves of what it was like to think that way.

When we are teenagers, we are asked where we see ourselves in 10 years or what our future looks like at the age of 25. Fresh out of college with a degree, married or engaged, raising children, living in a beautiful house, traveling the world—these are the more common answers. We believe that they are going to happen because that's the way we have been taught to believe.

First high school, then college, then marriage, then babies, then travel—it's just how it goes.

So, what happens when it doesn't work out as planned? Do we torture ourselves with guilt until we are back on that track? Are we undeserving of the smiles we see in our old photographs?

I used to think so.

Let me note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with living a life that worked out in the order that you planned for it to. It takes a great amount of effort and discipline to get the things you desire early on in life. On the other hand, there is also nothing wrong with not knowing exactly what those things are. It's even more OK to change your mind on what those things are!

When I saw my sister's smile while she embraced one of her miraculous little creations, it made me wonder when I would rediscover my own. 

You see, I don't have the house or the dream career or the kids or the husband or the patio or the traveling funds. Those things are not in my life even though I am at an age where they are expected to be. It makes it really easy to forget how to put on that hopeful smile when I look at it this way.

But, just when you think you have every reason to sit in your own pity, the universe has a way of reminding you otherwise.

My youngest niece, Lane, came up to me later that evening and said, "Will you dance with me, Aunt Char?" I don't know about you, but an invitation from a 3-year-old to accompany them to a concrete dance floor is just about the greatest invitation one can receive. We were going to have to dance in the puddle that used to be my heart!

So, we stood in front of the stereo and we danced.

She grabbed my hands and we began to spin so fast that her little feet went up in the air. Everything around was a blur as we spun around and around—everything except her smile. She stared straight into my eyes the entire time laughing and squealing. She focused on me. I was the source of her joy.

And that's when I saw it. There was that wildly hopeful smile. She had borrowed it, and she was wearing it well. And, at that moment, I didn't need a mirror to know that mine looked just the same.

My niece didn't care that I didn't have all the things adults are expected to have.

To her, I was a worthy dance partner—the one she preferred, nonetheless. She simply knew that her Aunt Char likes to do silly things and make funny noises and go down little slides with her that were not made for her big booty. She saw what I have been beating myself up for so long just to get a glimpse of—that wild, hopeful and happy little girl.

Now when I look at that picture, I am going to do my best not to ask if she would be proud of the person I became, but rather the person I am becoming. Because I don't think that little girl cares about all of the "stuff" life has to offer. I think she would be proud to know that I am still searching for the good stuff of which life is made—still chasing the very dreams she dreamt.

By creating my own path and in my own time, I plan on giving the little girls in my life (including that little girl in the picture) plenty to smile about.


How You Know You're Ready to Join The I-Don't-Give-a-Sh*t Club

Are you stressed to the max? Does your weekend calendar look more like a local politician's required campaign trail stops? Do you have trouble not committing to helping out with every party that is being thrown within a 20-mile radius? Do you ever find yourself wishing for the courage to shake that ass on the dance floor?

Well, you're in luck! The I-Don't-Give-a-Sh*t club is accepting new members! In fact, it's doors are always open—join at any time!

I couldn't care less. My give a damn's busted. Save the drama for your mama. Here's a quarter—call someone who cares. No, I can't bring Peppa Pig cake pops for everyone. 

These could be your new and improved go-to answers to all of your substance abuse inducing questions! All at the low price of free-99.

On a serious note: Not giving a sh*t is actually THE sh*t. I've been in the club for awhile now and it is F-wording awesome. 

Whenever I spend a good amount of time with a new girl friend, it is inevitable that she will look at me at some point and say, "You really just don't care what people think, do you?" Ninety percent of the time, it is coming from a good and interested place and I do my best to encourage them to join me.

The other ten percent just look really concerned. But, that's probably just their permanent facial expression as a result of the large stick up their arse. Either way, as an IDGAS club member, I don't got time for that other 10%.

Here are a few ways to tell if you might like to become a member or already are a member—you just don't have the glamorous title yet.

1. YOU DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING. Some people think they are doing this, but, they're really not. They look over their shoulder to see who can see them, they count their steps and slightly sway their hips back and forth. This does not count. Not even if it's to a song about dancing like no one is watching.

In this club, you dance like the dance floor just became your bathroom mirror. Why? Because you can and you feel like it, that's why.

You do the chicken because it makes the kids laugh. You shake your ass because you have a fabulous one. You take your shirt off, twist it round yo head and spin it like a helicopter because Petey Pablo said to. (OK, maybe just do the motion on that one—unless you're at a Petey Pablo concert, of course.) You dosey  doe with your Nana because it will be one of the best damn moments of your life.

Lose yourself in the music. It gives life to, well, your LIFE! Try it out sometime. And if anyone judges you, take T-Swift's advice and shake that shit off.

2. YOU DON'T HAVE TIME FOR FAKE FRIENDS. I could go off on this topic forever, but I will keep it short and sweet—just how I like the ceremonies of weddings I attend. There are a lot of tests you can perform to sift out the flakiness in a friend.

This happens to be my favorite:

Try on a dress that you KNOW you look bootylicous in. Then try on the one you wore to Aunt Sue's funeral. Now, ask which your friend thinks you should wear. Did she pick the faded fleece turtleneck dress that Aunt Sue bought you? That bitch. Kick her to the curb! Real friends want you to look fabulous—fake friends want you to look like a frump-opotamus.

Unless, of course, you ARE going to a funeral. Then she's just being a good friend by reminding you that a funeral is no place for desperation. She's a keeper.

3. SAYING "NO" IS NO LONGER HARD. This one is the most complicated easy decision you will ever make—saying "no" when you do not want to (or cannot) do something. 

This one is tough because (most) women are natural caregivers and nurturers—these are beautiful things. The problem is that we get these two mixed up with being "pleasers" and "fixers". Stop that shit. It's not the same thing. You can be a nurturing person to others, but you can't forget to take care of yourself. Guilt may be the biggest bully in town, but you can outrun it—promise.

Want a life-changing tip on this one? After you say "no", don't offer an explanation. The reasoning is your business—not theirs. You don't owe anyone an explanation for the way you live your life. This one is tough though, not gonna lie. I am still working on it—daily.

4. IT DOESN'T BOTHER YOU IF SOMEONE DOESN'T LIKE YOU. People who don't care about what other people think of them know that they are fabulous and beautiful and worthy. If someone disagrees, that is their loss. We have better things to do that don't involve spending our precious time trying to change someone's mind. Simple as that.

5. A BROKEN HEART DOES NOT MEAN A BROKEN LIFE. This relates to #4 quite a bit. If someone leaves you, it's going to hurt—there's no denying that. Getting your heart broken is a terrible thing. Take the time needed to grieve it by getting so drunk that you throw up in your best friend's lap and have to use her Forever 21 top as your personal hankey—that's what she's there for.

However, do NOT let that person's absence become the reason for yours in others' lives or your own. You are SO worthy of a great love. Recognize this and you will be holding the door for anyone who thinks otherwise.

6. THE NUMBER ON YOUR SCALE DOESN'T MEASURE YOUR HAPPINESS. Our bodies change—Constantly! Babies, breakups, beer, burgers—those Bs are some real bitches. But putting your life on hold will not change them. If you are turning down invitations or refusing to wear a swimsuit or avoiding seeing someone you care about, all because you are busy bashing your own body, shame on you. Seriously.

Did you ever stop and think that your presence may be the greatest gift you can give to others?

They invited you to that event for a reason. Your kids or nieces or nephews or grandkids do not want someone else to take them down to the beach. That person you care about wants to see you because they care about YOU—all of you!

Give yourself permission to feel beautiful when you do not meet society's beauty standards. It is that kind of beauty that changes the standard. If you give yourself permission to live a life that is dictated by the size of your heart and not your jeans, the heaviness will lift in a big way.

Dance, love, leave, eat, run, show up, create—LIVE—just the way you are and you will be pleasantly surprised when you end up discovering exactly who that is. 

So, wanna join the club? Awesome. I'll meet you on the dance floor! 

This club is not for you? That's OK, too. You'll just have to watch me dance. Either way, (Yep, you guessed it.) I don't give a sh*t.

The People We Keep Close Are the Ones We Hurt Most

Why is it so easy to hurt the ones we love the most?

Seriously! It is too easy.

Think about it: If you wrote a list of those whom you considered closest to you in life, and then wrote a list of those that take the brunt of your mood swings and frustrations, how different would they really be?

For me, the titles on these lists might as well be interchangeable. This is not something I am particularly proud of, but it's the truth.

Why do I choose to wrongfully punish the ones I hold close? Because I consider their love unconditional. So, I challenge those conditions—a lot.

Have you ever been in the middle of a bitch fit (I'm soooo frrrreakin' pissed!) when you turn to find someone you love with that why-are-you-yelling-me-what-did-I-do-to-you look on their face?

Yeah, me too.

Mostly, I like to blame these moments on Mother Nature (Sorry, babe!), but there are moments when there is no one to blame but myself.

There are too many times that I have found myself irritated with someone—or a situation—and, instead of addressing it head-on, I choose to pass the bitchy buck to an undeserving loved one. What's worse is that there are times I can recognize when I am doing this and still continue. I do it because, well, I know they love me.

I might have my logic backward, ya think?

Recently, I discovered a new & improved way to release my frustrations on someone close to me. In fact, it was the person that I am closer to more than anyone else on this planet: Myself!

I was a part of a group conversation and it was headed toward becoming uncomfortable for everyone involved, so, I decided it was my responsibility to stop that from happening. What better way than to remind everyone of something embarrassing that I did in the past and let them all take a few jabs at me for it? Sounds fun, right??

I can handle the embarrassment. I won't let it turn to shame. This way I can keep everyone else comfortable. So what if it doesn't feel awesome? No one else will be hurt.

At least I wasn't taking it out on someone else, right? That was how I chose to justify it, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

We hurt ourselves often, unfortunately, but most of it is unintentional or because we are blinded by love or sorrow or another emotion. I was well aware of what I was doing, it just took me awhile to understand why I was doing it.

I've discussed in the past the fact that I am a classic "fixer"—a recovering one, but also a repeat offender. I've found that my favorite tool for "fixing" an uncomfortable situation is by highlighting my own faults and shameful moments. And, let me tell you, it is the shittiest tool in the box.

In fact, that tool has GOT to go.

Choosing to hurt ourselves is not a fair trade for the comfort of someone else.

Doing this makes me the reverse narcissist that I am working on leaving behind. I choose to take on the hurt because I think I can handle hurting better than anyone else can. (There's your textbook example of reverse narcissism.)

Guess what? That's not my decision to make! (Oh, my old therapist would be so proud!)

Maybe that person needs to feel the sting. Maybe it is what they need to change or grow as a person. It might be something they need to feel or hear in order to finally remove a negative source from their life.

Who am I to prevent that from happening? Especially at my own expense!

We tend to hurt those we keep close the most.  It is a fact, but it can be made fiction.

If we choose to confront the proper source of our disappointments and stop transferring our frustrations, we can start giving those we love more of the love they have earned and deserve—including ourselves.

So, next time you have a bad day at work or someone says something that bruises your ego, stop and think about where you want to direct that resentment. Decide how much of the rest of your day you are allowing to let it affect. If you really feel the need to grieve it, then designate a time—not a person.

Even if when you are 90% done writing a blog and your crap computer deletes it for no particular reason, without saving it, don't punish yourself by crawling into bed to pout. Do not swear off writing for the rest of the day. Do NOT take a sledgehammer to your laptop. (Even though you really, really want to. And, yes, this did all just happen about an hour ago.) Choose to love yourself through it instead. Take a deep breath and write anyway.

If any of this hits home for you, whether it is toward yourself or others, then join me in making a commitment. Let's try our best to ensure that the ones who do the most for us, no longer receive the least of our love.

Thoughts On: Trendy Baby Names & Princess Charlotte

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that the royal couple has announced the name of their new baby girl. Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana—if that doesn't scream gimme my damn crown then I don't know what does.

When the Duchess of Cambridge called me and told me I would be the namesake for the new princess (we prefer to keep our bestie friendship a secret), I happily gave her my blessing. I also sent apologies since I would not be able to attend the birth (I am a very busy person, after all) and told her to give Will my best. 

Let's step back into reality now, shall we?

What really happened is my lovely mama tagged me in a post on Facebook and said, "I have a Princess Charlotte, too!"

Awe. My mom thinks I'm a princess! Take that Buckingham Palace.

When I saw the name choice, my immediate thought was that I am now a princess by association, obviously. My second thought was: Oh balls. Now everyone and their grandmother is going to have my name.

The name has been gaining popularity over the past decade anyway, but now that the name is associated with being a princess—game over. That's like Oprah announcing her all-time favorite book—it's going to be everywhere.  My name will now be the next Emma, Olivia, Ava, Sophia or Rose. (C'mon. You know you know 22 of them.)

Well, damn.

But, you know what? My irritation with that fact was very short-lived. 

I started thinking about growing up with my name and recalling the names of my classmates. Back then, my name was uncommon. I was the only Charlotte in my K-8 school for the duration of my education and met only one other person in high school with my name—and these were not small schools!

When I was a little girl, I remember hearing the attendance being called and being so jealous of all of the Jennifers, Sarahs, Britneys, Jessicas and Amandas—it was like having a built-in bestie!

Where in the eff was the Charlotte S. to my Charlotte C.?

To top it off, I got the shaft in the souvenir department.

Not one damned amusement park, beach town,  truck stop, or gas station ever had my name on a coffee mug or seashell. If my Grandma went on vacation, I got a keychain that said 'Charles' or 'Chad' and a, "Sorry, honey. That's the closest they had."

Unless someone was painting it on a grain of rice, my name didn't make the cut. (I am so glad this new batch of Charlottes will not have to endure this first-world agony. I am obviously scarred for life.)

So, because of these reasons, I began to resent my name.

I even tried to change the way it was spelled in 5th grade by turning my papers in with an 'S' replacing the 'C' because others kids had trouble pronouncing it. Another time I turned in a paper using one of my nicknames, Charlie. My teacher held me after class at the end of that week and ask me why I had been attempting to change my name.

I explained to her that it had always been difficult to sound out for the other kids and that I didn't feel like my name fit in. She kindly nodded and soaked in my explanation. She then took my hand and said this:

"Charlotte, you have a beautiful name. Sometimes, being a little different is what makes you the most beautiful. One day, you will love your name. Now, start spelling and using it correctly or I will not grade your papers."

Yes, ma'am! Mrs. Nowling was a wise woman. I still think of her often—even to this day! (Why aren't our country's teachers the ones living in mansions again? Capital B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T.)

So, after Mrs. N dropped some serious knowledge on my little ass, I learned to love my name. And I hope all of the rugrats chillin' in their mama's tummies right now love it one day, too—even if there are 9,000 others with the same name in their class. (That just means they get keychains and built-in besties!)

There is a lot of love that goes into a name. For whatever reason, our mother's held us for the first time and our name came to mind. And you can't knock a mama's love—because they will knock you out.

Now that I have really thought about it, I can't wait to meet all of these little Charlottes. I was named after a family member that my mother admired and, whenever I saw her, I swelled with pride. We shared something really special and she always made me feel a little less alone. It was like we shared a secret that only Charlottes could understand.

       This is me with my never aging Aunt Charlotte—I hope the genes come with the name!

       This is me with my never aging Aunt Charlotte—I hope the genes come with the name!

I hope I can be someone like that to the all of the mini Charlottes I meet along the way.

Now that I know there is an army of them coming, it really inspires me to try harder to do our name justice—to live a life another Charlotte just might be proud to live. Because, when it comes down to it, it's not about the name we are given as much as it is what we give back to that name.

How to Deal When Girls' Lunch Becomes Moms' Brunch

So, I am sort of at a weird stage in life. I am 28 and I have no children. This may seem like it's not a big deal (and probably isn't), but it is kind of clashing with my social life.

Out of my group of friends, I'd say 90% have babies, are trying to have babies, are currently pregnant, or most likely popping one out as I am typing this blog. You know what I really think about that? It is absolutely AMAZING. (My 21-year-old self would so kick my ass for that statement!)

Seriously!

Babies weren't always my "thing". For a long time, I swore I didn't want any at all. But now—after falling in love with all of the squishy cuteness I have in my life—I might even wanna bake a couple of my own in my built-in easy bake oven.

I only have one bone to pick with all of these squeezable kiddos—my girl time.

Mainly going out to eat with my girls which, in the past, was practically mandatory on a weekly basis. Now that we are old responsible bitches (or at least attempting to be), none of us got time for all that.

BUT, that doesn't mean we can't make the best of the rare get-togethers we do manage to pull off. Here are my thoughts on balancing these soirée—for the momma's with single friends and vice versa.

These get-togethers started in our early 20s. When we were unable to eat lunch with our besties every day (like the good ol' lunch period days), and we needed to figure something out to take its place so that our social lives would not completely suffer.

Introducing: Girls' lunch.

Girls' lunch ruled. It was a time designated to nursing hangovers, drinking bottomless mimosas, complaining about who we wish we did/didn't sleep with the night before, talking shit about who we heard slept with whom, and then making plans to do it all over again the following weekend.

It was a great time—a bit self-destructive, yes, but mostly great.

But, once mid-twenties came along, girls' lunches took a major hit. You may have noticed things like fewer attendees, less hangovers, not as much sleeping around talk, and not everyone was as stoked on the idea of bar hopping post girls' lunch.

WTF.

Before you know it, you and your girls are in your late 20s/early 30s and girls' lunch has officially transformed into "Moms' Brunch".

Now, your friends are requesting a kid's menu, inquiring about the restaurant's juice selection instead of wine, drilling the server on whether the chicken is organic (Seriously? I once saw you eat a hot dog that you found on the street corner), and they're ordering water—on purpose!

Moms' brunch also has a new language.

Foreign words like colostrum (Do they sell that supplement at GNC?), episiotomy (New spa treatment? Sounds relaxing!), APGAR (Is that a test I was supposed to take in college?), jaundice (oh, I love his new album!), and cesarean section (Ugh, I almost got pulled over speeding through one of those the other day) are being passed around more than the fussy 3-month-old at the table.

All of these combined will have any Queen B loving, and self-proclaimed single lady, feeling like her very own round of 18-hour labor has just begun.

So, what is a single girl to do? And what about the mommas? How can these coinciding friendships last when so much has changed?

I don't have all of the answers to those loaded questions. However, I do have a few places to start in the brunch department.

First off, whose idea was this brunch? Is she a new mom or is this not her first baby rodeo? Does she typically have on-call babysitters? Does she bring her kid(s) to most events?

These are all important questions because they prepare you for the atmosphere you are about to enter. If she is a new mom that is not yet comfortable leaving her little at home (and there is nothing wrong with that), then don't get your panties in a wad when she invites you to brunch and brings her kid!

Also, some moms do not have as much help as others. And they really don't need to feel any more pressure on this issue than they already do—much less from someone who is supposed to be their friend. So, don't be an asshole and make them feel like they are missing out on something just because they can't find a babysitter.

I've also  found that moms that are more experienced with their title, tend to be more open to the "no kids" brunch. Mainly because their sanity depends on the time where they can have conversations with people that have more than a 20-word vocabulary. Plus, the idea of having to buy 3 of the $9 brie and apple grilled cheeses from the "kid's" menu at your uppity brunch spot, isn't their idea of fun.

On the other hand, if you are a mom and you have been invited to what is obviously more of a single girls' lunch & not a Moms' Brunch, do yourself a favor and don't be the only one to bring your kids.

No offense intended—just think about it: Everyone will be drinking more excessively than usual, swearing more freely, talking about how their friend with benefits has finally discovered their G-spot, and discussing how much they love being single.

Does attempting to cover your kid's ears while being stuck at the end of the table with a highchair during these conversations sound fun?

If it does, then by all means, go for it! Just don't be surprised when your friend's random naturally-skinny-resting-bitch-face of a friend pulls her chair to the opposite end of the table so that she can avoid sitting next to your heaven-sent bundle. (Don't worry, she'll get her sear at the uncool table one day too.)

Was this lunch invitation not sent by a fellow mom? If this is the case, let me let you in on a little secret: Unless they have requested your child's attendance, they really hope you don't bring your kid.

Now, before you go making plans to cyber kick my ass for that statement, let me clarify one thing: It is not because they don't love THEM—it is because they love YOU.

Seriously! Us single ladies miss having your full attention now and then.

We want to know how you are doing and what is really going on in your life without a sticky little hand trying to pick your nose. We want you to be able to sit down and not have to spell out the "F" word and enjoy your glass of pinot grigio without having to worry about a crayon landing in it.

When you became a mom, we went way down on your priority list (and for good reason!), so you can't blame us for trying to steal you away once in awhile. It comes from a good place—promise!

With all of that said—if you are still having difficulty balancing your girl time situation—do you want to know what I've found works best? Taking a break from them. Instead, invite your friend over to partake in the madness that is your new life as a mom. Or show up to your new momma friend's house for a night in.

Why? Becasue going over to your best friend's house with some cheap take-out, having a dance party with her kiddos in the living room, helping her give them a bath, letting them read you their favorite story before bed, and hearing "Good night Auntie" in their innocent voices is more priceless than any bottle of afternoon champagne.

Once the kids are down, go on the patio and drink too much wine with your best friend. Ask her how she is doing. Tell her how much you miss her. Laugh until you pee by talking about the past. I promise you, these dates will trump any over-priced panini on a trendy patio any day of the week.

Where You Are isn't Who You Are

When these little blasts from the past first started popping up, I really liked them.

I would be scrolling through my news feed and a nice photo of me and some friends would pop up. The little "time-hop" photo would inform me of what I was doing three years ago on this very day, as well as who I was with. It was nice, really.

It was nice until it wasn't anymore. 

A photo popped up a few days ago that was from my NYC days. The girl in the picture (above) looked so full of hope sitting among that beautiful city's street lights. She looked lighter in spirit (and in the physical sense—I was a twig!) and brave and ready to take on a city where she had no roots to claim.

And I thought to myself: What happened to that girl?

That girl had spunk. That girl had dreams. That girl was really going places.

So, where in the hell did that girl go?

The weight of failure and regret came over me something strong. I loved living in the city. I loved how busy it was and how inspiration could be found just by looking outside your tiny apartment window. I loved how creative everyone was and how it wasn't uncommon to hear someone speak about following their dreams.

New York City was alive—and it made me feel that way, too.

After I had come to the conclusion that my life completely sucked in its current state, I decided to go ahead and dwell on it by pulling out some of my old journals that I kept while living in NYC.

I was ready to crack open dusty pages of goals and aspirations and dreams. I was ready to read about how happy I was and how everything made more sense now that I was living in the city. I was ready to unveil that girl in the picture.

That girl in the picture was definitely there. But her thoughts did not match the description of that girl I had in my mind.

Instead of finding pages filled with tales of success, fulfillment, and happiness, I discovered rants of confusion, depression, and frustration. 

But, wait—I thought I was happy when I lived in the city. I was! Wasn't I?

The answer to that is yes—and no. 

It's funny how we can trick ourselves into believing that our past selves are more worthy than who we currently are. I guess when I wrote that blog on comparison (read The Social Thief of Joy here) I forgot to add a really important person to the list of people we shouldn't compare our lives with—ourselves!

That's exactly what I was doing, after all. I was comparing myself with, well, my damned self! I was justifying stealing joy that I had already experienced. I was acting as the thief of my OWN joy.

Not cool.

Don't get me wrong—there were plenty of pages of how much I enjoyed living in the city too.

I still miss walking the streets, the incredible and diverse food and culture, and I especially miss the active creative communities that reside there. (Most people here look at me like I might need some help when I tell them my blog is my job.) But, even with all of those amazing things surrounding me, I was STILL lost—in many ways!

So, if you find yourself face-to-face with an old photo or status update that makes you want to do the idiotic thing of comparing yourself with yourself, take a step back. Don't just look at the moment that was captured or described without remembering the moments that led up to that particular one. They count—they matter—too!

You may have looked thinner or seemed happier or more motivated or inspired when you look back but, guess what? YOU ARE STILL THOSE THINGS.

We like to forget that we are still made up of the very same things that made us who we used to be. Those thoughts still came from you. That bravery was found inside of you. That kind of happiness is still yours for the taking. It is, and always will be, up to YOU.

Do you want to know where that girl in the picture really went?

She went home. 

I remember when I first came back from NYC, I felt like a complete failure. I tucked my tail between my legs and licked my wounds the entire car ride home. I was convinced that I would never be able to reach my full potential if I wasn't living in a place that was pulsing with it.

I thought I needed the Big City to chase my Big dreams.

I could not have been more wrong.

What I needed to chase those big dreams was a big dose of reality. Limiting my level of success based on my current city limits only showed the great distance I had left to learn—not to travel.

While I was working in a bookstore in NYC, I opened up a book that I was restocking and found a handwritten quote. It read:

Wherever you are is the starting point. -Kabir

I kept it. I knew that someday it would mean more to me than it already did—even in that sweet moment of its discovery. We were meant for each other, me and that note. It is still pinned on my corkboard and it continues to be one of my favorite reminders.

I came home from that big city with my big dreams and, eventually, learned to appreciate my roots—even love them. 

I'm not sure if I will ever live in that great city again, but I do know that not living there will never keep me from becoming great. I also am not going to get where I want to be any faster by comparing myself with where I was or who I used to be.

I guess the best starting point really is where you are—even if it is exactly where you've always been.