Photo by Michelle Tiffany
Life & Lessons

25 Lessons @ 25

Today, I am 25.

On the edge of 24, I actually tried to write a list much like the one you’re about to read. It started out as things I’d learned over the last year, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish it because I didn’t know if I believed all of it anymore. I was living at a fork in the road, experiencing contradicting wants for my life. I erased them all and wrote this (so goth):

This is the most uncertain I’ve ever been in my life. Every reality seems like there’s another reality to contradict it. A lot of the things I found to be true just five years ago have changed. I don’t think I have the hindsight or authority to KNOW right now. There’s kind of something sweet about that. But I’m just going to ask questions right now. Maybe at 25 I’ll be able to answer them.

The divinity of reading this note the night before my 25th birthday sent chills down my spine. Here I am, 25, in a better headspace with the ability to confidently confirm some of my own questions I had written down just a year ago. I didn’t even realize I wished the answers into existence.

Rules and resolutions are made to be broken, and goals are fleeting. This is why I’ve always had an affinity for lessons. Lessons stick. They teach you about the past in an honorable way, while still pointing like an arrow towards the future. Lessons remind you of how strong you are and how much you’ve overcome. They humble you and gently ask you to do better and be better. I’ve found that many things in this life aren’t yours for keeping, but no lesson can be taken from you. And this year, as I blow out the candles, I’m remembering what I’ve learned over the course of my short lifetime.

These are the lessons that ring clear over and over again. These are the answers I have right now. Hold on tight. It’s detailed, it’s long, and it’s raw as shit.

1. Keep some things for yourself. There’s something to be said about keeping something — one thing, anything — for yourself. Whether that be a memory, a moment, a hope, a secret, an idea, a dream; it’s more meaningful, more beautiful, more intimate. I believe that we’re meant to share with one another. But not everything needs to be shared with the world. Some things remain sweeter left unsaid.

2. Revel in every stage. I remember being a child, playing in our wooden treehouse with the infamous big yellow tube slide alongside my neighborhood friends, looking around, and thinking, “Wow. I am never going to get this time back.” That moment, so specific yet so ephemeral, changed my life. Throughout middle school, high school, college, even now — I’ve done my best to stick with this mindset. It’s gotten harder, especially when that quarter life crisis hits and you’re questioning everything. But despite the frustrations, the obstacles, the “scaries” — live this stage in your life like you’ll never get it back. Because you won’t.

3. Don’t rush anything. Regrets are unavoidable. But I’ve found the best way to decrease the chances is to do everything on your own timeline. I can’t stress this enough. From a very young age, I never understood why everyone wanted to grow up so fast. I played with my Barbies as long as I could. I delayed wearing makeup and shaving my legs until I felt the desire to. I didn’t have sex until 22, when I was ready. Now I can’t speak for anyone else — this is just my story. No one age is right, so do you. But make sure you’re doing it because you want to. Not because it makes you cool or because everyone else is doing it. Enjoy your time until you feel it’s time.

4. Be yourself. I have to be completely and bluntly honest. In a world where it’s apparently hard to do, I’ve never really understood this, because to me it’s the most simple thing in the world. If I tallied up the #1 question I received over my lifetime, it would be, “How are you so happy all time?” It’s because I’ve never pretended to be anything but myself. People teased me for acting “too white” (not a thing, btw?) since middle school. People have called me too ambitious, too loud, too excited, too bubbly, too EVERYTHING. It’s not always easy. But changing myself sounds too exhausting. I’m lazy.

5. Don’t hold yourself to one dream. When I moved to Los Angeles, I remember stepping out of the car and feeling my heart sink to my stomach. “This is it,” I thought. My whole life I dreamed of this and here it was, at my toes. I was scared, because I did it. Now what? When I moved two years later, I was terrified I’d be viewed as someone who “settled” because I didn’t stay. Don’t listen to the voices in your head trying to box you into one idea or one vision you’ve had for yourself. You are allowed to grow. You are allowed to change. You are allowed to have more dreams.

6. You don’t have to make bad decisions just because you’re young. You’re allowed to make bad decisions. But don’t intentionally make destructive decisions just because you’re young. I’ve accomplished a lot of what I’ve set out to do, and honestly, I credit it to a few things: 1) Amazing parents 2) Always having my eyes on the prize, and 3) Valuing doing the right thing.

7. You don’t have to be hasty in making decisions, especially emotional ones. I’ve messed up a lot over the last year by making small decisions too quickly (Overbooking? So guilty). Give your brain the time it needs to process. As far as emotional decisions, I think I’ve hurt a lot of people — and myself —by deciding how I feel too late. I realize now that “deciding how I feel too late” isn’t the issue. It’s the ability to communicate how I feel once I do. Ownership of that is important. I’m trying to get better.

8. Sunlight is restorative. It’s best remedy in the universe. Close your eyes and soak in it for a minute. It’s yours. It’s mine. It’s ours.

9. Real friends don’t just cheer you on from the sidelines. They play the game. The people that hold you close… hold them even closer. They aren’t just in your corner. They are in the trenches when you have to go to war. And you do the same for them.

10. Pit bull on the outside, Golden Retriever on the inside. In 2017, I did an entertainment program where I had to rotate departments. One of them was the most fake, non-inclusive and unpleasant work environments I had ever experienced to date (to put it in perspective, think Mean Girls x5). But I had a supervisor who told me this and it helped me get through it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one.

11. A good movie or a good book is hot soup for the soul. It warms you from the inside out. Seek out amazing stories, and seek them out often. Most of them will be lukewarm. But every once in a while, you’ll experience one that makes you remember why humanity is so beautiful.

12. Flower and plants make everything a little better. Real ones. Fake ones. I put them everywhere and it’s honestly made me a happier person in general.

13. It’s okay to shut off for a little while. I don’t trust anyone who says you should know what’s going on in the world at all times. That thinking is what led the 24 hours news cycle driving our society insane. WE DON’T NEED IT. Turn off the news. Shut down your laptop. Let your phone die and leave it like that for an hour or two or ten. Don’t answer your texts. You have the right to be in your own head, and your head only. With that being said…

14. Take yourself on dates. I had a social-psych professor in college named Eric Pappas. At the beginning of the semester he told us to hold one Saturday for a full day field trip. We trekked to campus the morning of and when we got there, he told us there was never a field trip planned. Now we had a whole day to do nothing. We were allowed to do anything, but we a) couldn’t do anything productive, b) couldn’t use technology, and c) had to do it alone. So I took myself to the Harrisonburg International Festival I saw flyers for, and it was the best day of my life. I danced with strangers, learned about different cultures, was on my own time, and made all the choices myself. Some of my favorite memories since are the things I’ve been brave enough to do alone. Concerts. Comedy Shows. Brunch. Walks. Beaches. When you let go of how weird you might look, you can pretty much never have a bad time with yourself. The best thing I’ve ever done (and have to constantly do over and over) is train myself to hear my own voice again.

15. Make a three month plan. When I was in a really bad spot last year, my mom gave me really great advice. She told me I had three months. In that time I could mope and dwell, or I could make a plan that would get out the hole I was in — whatever that looked like. When I get to the end of those three months, I could start over in a different direction or keep building momentum on the same track. These boundaries gave me motivation. In turn, the universe started sending blessings my way. Three months is the perfect amount of time. It’s also my favorite number, just saying.

16. You can always make a u-turn. My family-friend Cherese once imparted this wisdom on me. So many people don’t leap at all because they’re afraid they will be wrong. But they forget they one thing about our friend called life: you’re not ever really stuck.

17. Work ethic gets you far, kindness gets your further. I work like a mad woman. But I also try my hardest to be kind while doing it. Selfishly, I want to have good vibes where I spend most of my time, but it naturally makes an impression on others, too. My favorite boss ever told me that “I’m a breath of fresh air.” I don’t know why, but this stuck with me. Be the kind of person others want to be around… it just… helps.

18. Sometimes you have to put certain dreams on hold. A coach named Kim once told me: Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you need to do it. Some of the best concepts need to marinate.

19. Do! More! Yoga! Breathing more deeply, stretching my body, and quieting my mind has done wonders. I’m not good at it? But it makes me feel good.

20. Stand up for yourself. Know your value. Fight for it. I can think of a number of times I have felt taken advantage of or talked down to or walked on or even underestimated. A lot of my life I feared fitting the “angry black woman” stereotype if I was upset, so I bottled my frustrations up. But one day, I stopped letting people step all over me. I started commanding respect. I’ve had people get really mad at me for this. Confrontation is not easy. But at the end of the day, you deserve to be treated how you want to be treated. You deserve to feel comfortable. You deserve to take up space. Period.

21. Close your eyes and make wishes. It doesn’t just have to be on candles. Don’t be afraid to ask the universe for the things you want. It’s uncanny, but everything I’ve written down over the past three years has come true. And things that haven’t, they’re coming.

22. Love is more important than anything in the world. When I moved to Washington D.C. right after college, I remember telling my mom, “I’m not looking for a relationship. I’m going to LA in a year, it’s pointless.” And then the most wonderful man walked into my life. We knew it was different, that it was special, so we stayed together for two more years — even across the country. I can’t tell you the amount of times I questioned if I should “break it off” just… because. I should be out hooking up and staying out all night, right? But every night I missed him. Every day, I wanted to come home to him. And it scared me. Then one day I realized: INDEPENDENT WOMEN CAN BE IN LOVE. I had my dream job but I was still so sad because something huge was missing. My friends. My family. My love. At the end of the day, people are what you will remember at the end of your life. Love on yours well.

23. You can have your cake and eat it, too. You’re not a bad person for wanting more; for wanting the best. Yes, it will come at a small price. But in the grand scheme of things, the big outweighs the small. Don’t listen to what anyone says: design the life you want. I personally think you can have all the things that mean the most to you. It’s the people that are too scared to that don’t.

24. Trust your instincts. This one is really hard for me. I struggle with the idea that I don’t know enough. I doubt myself often. Yes, yes, take advice. But I’m learning that only you know what’s best for you in any given moment.

25. Follow your heart. If you follow your gut, you might be listening to fear. If you follow your heart, you will never regret your deepest desires. To this day, it’s never led me astray.

Hello, 25. This is our year. I’m claiming you.

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Life & Lessons, Open Letters

On Decisions | Open Letter Series

Dear Friend-in-Transition:

Today I took myself to breakfast. I sat alone, I thought alone, I ate alone. On the way there, I didn’t turn on the radio, or music, or a podcast. At the table, I didn’t pull out a book or my phone. The funniest part is, by choosing to be alone today, I felt less lonely than I have in a long, long while because I was finally with myself.

Every year around this time, I’ve been in transition. Every. Single. Year. Without fail. After graduation, I moved to Washington DC. After a year in Washington DC, I moved to Los Angeles. After a year in Los Angeles, I decided to change jobs completely. And here I am this year, about to make another huge decision. I laugh to myself because I often feel like I’m living a hero’s journey full of choices and decision and bravery, although I don’t feel like a hero and I definitely don’t carry a sword. Maybe I should.

It’s always the same set of feelings. Excited and hopeful. Mostly nervous, terrified. I think through every possible outcome and doubt every single one, then wait until the very last minute to choose. Somehow, it’s worked out great for me so far. But this time it’s different. It’s different because for the first time, I’m not running away from anything. Not a job I’m not passionate about, not people I can’t seem to cut off. Everything is going great for me, but I feel inexplicably compelled to go; to leap into something that doesn’t promise instant or traditional success and that doesn’t look pretty on the outside. Something I could fail greatly at. And I think that makes this time the hardest of all.

After breakfast I walked a few blocks on Ocean Avenue. I stopped to stare down at the beach from the overlook. I had no clock, no timer, no where to be. I wished life was like this. But then I remember it is.

I started walking down the two-mile ramp to the sand and stop halfway when I remember my beach blanket is in my car. It crosses my mind that I would have no where to sit and would’ve walked a long way for no reason. But it also crosses my mind that I may stumble across something to sit on, even if it wasn’t the ideal beach lay-out I was envisioning.

I decide to keep walking, feeling adventurous. I’d sit on top of my bag, or even on my jeans in the sand. What’s the worst that could happen?

When I get to the bottom of the long and winding ramp, the cement transitions into beach. Right there is a little cafe with beach chairs sprawling across the sand — one that I couldn’t see from the overlook. They were perfect and comfortable and cute and even better than my old ratty blanket in the back of my car. I sat there for hours in total bliss.

I could have written you this letter to tell you how I’ve dealt with change in the past, or how tough it is now, or that we’re going to make the right choice. All of that is true. But both you and I already know all of this. The decision is already made. Our hearts knew the instant it was presented to us.

Instead, I wanted to tell you this story. The story about how I took this confusing, noisy time to be finally be alone, to be grateful, to be present, to thank God for all that was and all that will be, and to love myself before the beautiful storm begins. I wanted to tell you to take the ramp, to pause and look out over everything you’re creating for yourself, and to keep going. Something you didn’t even know existed will be there waiting for you. Something spectacular; something quite possibly greater.

PS. The blanket will always be right where you left it.

In this Open Letter series, I tackle various life topics by writing a letter to an anonymous and real friend who is going through it firsthand. My hope in writing to one is that it resonates with and helps all. This letter is for you, too. If you would like a letter, please email bymiabrabham@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading, sweet friend!

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Life & Lessons, Open Letters

On Heartbreak | Open Letter Series

Dear Broken Friend:

I remember the day I found out. The exact moment, actually. As fuzzy as it all was — I still can recall it as clear as day. Walking to work, breaking down on the crosswalk. The gray brick building with tall white columns crumbling in front of me, the sky falling. When a heart breaks, there’s no way for it to not sound dramatic. Because it is. When you give someone a part of you and they hand it back mangled and unrecognizable, it’s hard for the world not to turn on its head.

I wanted to drown in the pain. I know we’re different and you like to move on by keeping yourself busy, but I wanted to sink in it. I wanted to devour it and savor it and have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wanted to wrap myself up in it like a blanket; I wanted it to protect me and keep me warm. I wanted to feel and feel and feel because it’s all I knew for months and months — feelings. It was then I discovered the opposite of loving someone isn’t heartbreak — it’s feeling nothing. In him breaking my heart, I was still connected to him. It was his last gift to me. If I let it go, that meant that I was letting him go, too. Everything about him.

Do whatever you need to do to get through it. Some days I imagined us together again in two years just to make it until the end of the day without breaking down. Some days I forced myself to recall his lips on hers just to remember how much I hated him. Some days I reconjured the hopeful memory of his hand on my lower back under the soft neon glow of the rooftop bar, repeating the things he said to me over and over in my head. Some days I couldn’t listen to certain songs without crying for an hour. Some days those songs were all I wanted to hear — and I still cried. Some days I needed to see him, so I did, and then regretted it. Other days I wanted to kiss someone else to forget, so I did. I didn’t regret that. It doesn’t matter what you do — as long as you don’t do anything destructive and stay true to you. But do whatever the fuck you have to do. Heartbreak is a war.

But each day it becomes more bearable. The little things he said, you won’t be able to remember. They turn to dust; a speck in your universe. Then one day, while you’re busy minding your business and picking up the pieces, someone else will come along when you least expect it and make you feel loved. Truly, deeply loved. Don’t wait around for it. But look forward to it.

I say all of this because I’ve found that sometimes someone else’s story is exactly what we need. We don’t need serious advice or someone telling us they know exactly how we feel. We just need to escape. Not into something annoyingly happy, or even more depressing. We just want the opportunity to feel something outside of our own pain and still relate to it. To be alone, but not feel alone.

I know he was supposed to be the one. But none of that matters right now. Now. Now. Now. Be here with me now. Hold my hand. I got you, babe. You can make it through this.

As you know, there’s no step by step guide to healing and putting yourself back together. You will wonder how you could have been so dumb; you’re not. You will try to get him back; don’t. You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to be furiously sad. You are allowed to be — at last — relieved. You will feel it all. And as one of my favorite books Tuesdays With Morrie says, don’t stop yourself from feeling any of it. Let the pain flow through you and out of you; let it run its course like a cold. Emotions are thin and fleeting. The bad ones will go. The good ones will come. And soon, you’ll feel like you all over again. And a new adventure will begin.

That day, I dried my eyes before stepping into work. I forgot they were still red and my face, puffy. My boss took one look at me and it was like she knew. “The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever — I promise.” She was right. It gets better. Great, even.

In this Open Letter series, I tackle various life topics by writing a letter to an anonymous and real friend who is going through it firsthand. My hope in writing to one is that it resonates with and helps all. This letter is for you, too. If you would like a letter, please email bymiabrabham@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading, sweet friend!

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Professional & Career

How to land the job || A Resource Guide.

Once upon a time in a far away kingdom, I worked as the Video Student Assistant at the Career and Academic Planning center during undergrad at James Madison University. For three years, I spent countless amount of hours shooting career fairs, interviewing employers and career coaches, and putting together videos on how to land jobs and internships. I became infatuated with and excited by the whole process, and in turn, I transformed into (yes, you heard it here first…) a Fairy Job Mother.

Poof.

My resumes and cover letters (as well as the wisdom and grace of my own Fairy Job Mothers) have landed me internships at E! News and Smithsonian, and jobs with Monumental Sports and Entertainment (AKA the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals… GO CAPS) and now, the NBCUniversal Page Program.

Two years later out in the land of Oz (I mean, Los Angeles is Emerald City except with more ocean and less dairy products, right?), I figured I’d put my magical powers to good use by sharing what I’ve learned from my experiences. As they say – if the shoe fits.

Here is a list of resources I’ve curated just for you on how to land and navigate the job of your dreams, as well as the first video in my Job Search Tip series. I hope you live and work happily ever after. x

Touching up your resume:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/winning-resume/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=11_neversay_interview_us&utm_campaign=aug17_us

https://www.themuse.com/advice/185-powerful-verbs-that-will-make-your-resume-awesome

https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/-34-words-you-can-use-in-your-resume-to-/f-891fb9ea8d%2F

https://www.inc.com/the-muse/words-to-convey-youre-leader-have-leadership-skills-you-can-use-resume.html

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/show-skills-on-resume/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=050718_hiringbonuses&utm_campaign=may18_us

Writing a stand-out cover letter:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/cover-letter-openers/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=050318_hiringcrazy&utm_campaign=may18_us

https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/elevate-your-cover-letter-with-3-simple-tests

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/write-cover-letter-job/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=HowToCL_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

Applying to the job:

https://www.mediabistro.com/get-hired/interview-tips/study-job-listing-to-get-the-job/

Calculating your salary:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/salary-each-stage-application/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=12_companies_remote_us&utm_campaign=sept17_us

How to prepare for an interview:

https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-answer-the-31-most-common-interview-questions?ref=long-reads-0

How to stand out in an interview:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/11-unusual-ways-to-stand-out-in-a-job-interview/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=11WaysSOInt_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

Questions to ask during the interview:

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/top-questions-you-should-ask-on-an-interview-to-raise-eyebrows

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/the-45-questions-you-should-ask-in-every-job-interview/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20comp_bestjobs&utm_campaign=jan18_us

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/interview-questions-to-ask-to-evaluate-a-companys-work-life-balance/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=5WaysHigherSalary_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

How to follow up after the interview:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/how-to-follow-up-after-an-interview/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=7LowStressJobs_Suppress_US16&utm_campaign=Aug2016_US

How to negotiate:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/5-tips-to-successfully-negotiate-a-higher-salary/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=5WaysHigherSalary_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

How to get on a good page with your boss:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/5-ways-to-get-your-boss-to-be-more-supportive/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=17CoWLB_Hiring_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

How to take a mental health day:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/how-to-handle-mental-health-issues-in-the-workplace/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=15_companies_worklife_us17&utm_campaign=jul17_us

How to quit:

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/how-to-quit-your-job-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=HowToCL_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/how-to-give-two-week-notice/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=7CoToAvoid_US16&utm_campaign=Oct2016_US

http://thefinancialdiet.com/4-things-learned-quitting-job-no-plan/

How to find a career that’s right for you:

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-find-the-answer-to-what-career-is-right-for-me 

How to change career paths:

http://thefinancialdiet.com/6-steps-to-make-a-career-transition-when-you-dont-have-the-right-experience/

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Sweet Reads

Sweet Reads || May

Hello again, sweet friend!

I’m a fan of celebrating something on its way out the door. Bidding it farewell. Wishing it the best. I’m here today to say thanks to May and send it off with love, until next year.

There’s something about May. It feels like beginning again, yea? No matter where you’re stationed, the snow is melting and dust is being swept away. Windows are opening, and seemingly, so are hearts. That’s the beauty of seasons. It’s not just about what’s happening outside. Something within you changes, too. And I love to see it on everyone’s faces. Say hi to a stranger in the street. Leave a sandwich on the sidewalk for someone who can’t afford one. Call an old friend to wish them a beautiful day. We talk about sharing material things. Why not share a slice of your happiness with someone else, too?

Here are 10 articles and other fun things that have helped me along this month. Click one or click all. As always, let me know if you have any feedback on how this letter to you can be better for you. Do you like the idea of splitting the reads up by category? Or leaving it as is? Let me know. Leave a comment with your own May favorites and invite a friend over. Welcome to this little corner. Hang up your jacket and get cozy. You’re welcome here. Love you, reader. xx

MAY

May’s Quote:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” ― Steve Jobs

Image of the Month:

Image created by @thefinancialdiet

My sticky says “Create your own show” and it’s clinging to my desk right now. Every day I take a little step towards this, whether it’s piecing together fragments of written ideas or creating YouTube videos as practice. Choose something specific. It makes the idea more tangible and obtainable. Hey, man. Don’t just treat yo self. Inspire yo self. (Will I regret saying this? Probably.)

Music of the Month:

Lizzo. If you haven’t been listening to her, I’m sorry for your loss. She is the definition of feel good music, and her soulful pop tunes can get you out of any and every funk you’ve been experiencing. Check out “Good As Hell” and “Fitness” …you can thank me later. Toot toot. Hay. Beep beep.

Reads of the Month:

+ “If You’ve Ever Majorly Screwed Up At Work, You’re Not Alone.”

I think I almost died while reading this. Seriously. I laughed so hard that I cried tears. Actual tears. There is photographic evidence. I mean, accidentally serving your boss cleaning acid? I screamed. These are some seriously amazing individuals for putting their worst moments on the internet. Thank you for that.

+ “My Friend Is Jealous Of My Success!”

How to identify real friendships is the toughest lesson I’m learning this year, especially after moving across the country. I’m finding more and more individuals around my age are learning this, too. This column helped. “There’s absolutely no rule that says you have to keep messy people in your life. Not one. You are not required to maintain friendships with people who make you feel unsafe or bad about who or where you are. It seems obvious to say that the people you choose to have in your life should champion, love, and support you.” Jennifer Romolini lays out how to take stock of a friendship. And it may require taking some responsibility.

+ “31 Morning Journaling Prompts That Will Change The Way You Think”

This is the perfect article to open before starting fresh next month. While I don’t journal in the traditional sense, I make an effort to self reflect whenever possible; you can, too! These prompts will get you going in the right direction and inspire you to think deeply about where you stand and where you want to go from here. Happy life-ing!

+ “6 Easy Ways To Develop Confidence And Be More Like Tony Stark”

I think Ross Simmonds was in my head when he wrote this article. I mean, I’ll watch a superhero movie from time to time but he just gave me a whole new perspective on the character. Unlike other heroes, Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man) created his superpowers. “The way Tony Stark carries himself has a direct impact on how we as the viewers perceive him.” The exact same is true for all of us.  Slow. Down. Don’t be afraid to pause – to think and speak deliberately. Control your reactions, and don’t let them control you. Understand your strengths, because “If you don’t know what you’re bad at, you can’t truly understand what you’re actually good at.” Even think about dying — this is your reminder that your time on this earth is precious. Yep. All right here, folks.

+ “Mad & Abby Take On The USA”

Full disclaimer: Madelynne is a dear friend who also happens to be a talented writer and certified sweetheart. This documentation of the first leg of her cross-country trip gave me chills. If you’re gearing up for summer, this is the read for you. She reminds me that it’s okay to be obsessed with astrology, keep incoherent notes scattered in your phone, and fling your arms open in the sun. Don’t take this gift of life for granted. It’s not just about making spontaneous decisions, but creating spontaneous moments. When you open yourself up to the beauty of life, adventure finds you. As Madelynne put it: “It felt like I was hugging the universe and the universe was hugging me right back.” It gave me this warm sense of hope, and I wanted to share that same feeling with you all. I promise, you can’t read this and not smile. Fly darling, fly.

+”Exactly What To Say To Customer Service Reps To Save Thousands”

When I was little, I used to get mad at my mom for returning overcooked food at a restaurant or speaking out when service wasn’t great… all because it was embarrassing. As I get older, I’m starting to understand why saying something is so important — you are spending your hard earned money and deserve what you paid for! In recent months, I’ve gotten a refund for an awful flight, a gift card for ruined food, and a month of internet for free after technical issues. Be persistent (but kind!) when you know you didn’t get the service or product you deserved. This article will teach you how to go about the process.

+ “How To Immediately Refresh Your Brain To Restore High Level Thinking”

We calm our friends down when they’re overwhelmed, and hype them up when they’re lazy — so why don’t we do that for ourselves? Thomas Oppong knows what’s up. In this read, he teaches us a few helpful tips. Recognize and name your state of mind. The other week I was upset over a few things at once. I wrote every situation down in a few words, and knighted each with one word (E.g. Jealousy. Love. Enthusiasm. Insecurity). Once I identified what was at the root of each issue, I realized how silly the negative emotions were so they naturally began to dissipate, and I let the positive emotions emerge because they felt good. Sounds hippie dippie. But try it. For real. Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking. As Oppong says, “Idleness is not a vice, it is indispensable for making those unexpected connections in the brain you crave and necessary to getting creative work done.” In simpler terms, your brain solves your most complex issues for you when you give it space to breathe and wander off. Finally: Schedule purposeful breaks. Go hard, but also… go home. Seriously. You can’t practice or work all day, every day. Pace yourself! I’m experimenting right now with doing “on weeks” and “off weeks,” because slaving over the same personal project after work for one hour a day, every single day, every single week made me feel mentally burned out. I’ll humbly admit — I’m impatient. But I’m taking advantage of that. Now I spend an entire week pouring my heart into one project for as long as I can until it’s finished, and take a break the following week by meeting up with friends and sitting in bed (doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING) for as long as I please. Much. Better. I encourage you to find what works for you!

+ “The Making of Meghan Markle”

If this doesn’t make you fall in love with Meghan Markle even more, I don’t know what will. “The choices made in these rooms,” Markle wrote during her reign in Hollywood, “trickle into how viewers see the world, whether they’re aware of it or not.” The role of media and entertainment in our society right now is the most prominent it’s ever been, and Meghan was never shy when it came to speaking up about it. This article highlights that Aaron Korsh, the creator of “Suits,” is biracial like Meghan and wanted to honor her identity in the show. This is why we need more showrunners and creators and writers of varying backgrounds: to lift up members of traditionally excluded racial groups by creating more roles that young people will see and relate to. Equally as important: it gives people who aren’t typically exposed to a certain group the chance to learn about their lives a truthful way. I loved that this article used Meghan as a positive example in the racial identity conversation. “When it comes to issues of race, gender, sexuality and class, how much can Meghan Markle say and do?” Margo Jefferson asked. I’m curious to see how this conversation will fit into Meghan’s new role as Duchess, too.

+ “This Woman’s List Of ‘Realistic’ Ways To Help During A Panic Attack Might Be The Most Useful Thing On The Internet Today.”

May is Mental Health Month! I recommend this list not only to people who suffer from panic attacks, but to anyone with someone close to them that suffers from this disorder (40 million adults in America). I began experience chronic panic attacks when I was in the fifth grade. I remember being terrified because no one my age was having them. I’d have to leave school early and would feel embarrassed when I felt the need to remove myself from a room because of this terrifying, all-consuming feeling coming over me. I couldn’t explain what the feeling was or why I was having it because no one talked about this kind of thing. I thought I was the only one, and I’m glad to know now that I’m not. My mom was always so sweet and helpful although she didn’t quite understand it herself — that is — until she began experiencing them herself in her early 30s. Educate yourself on how to help, because you never know when it could happen to you or someone around you. We got this, y’all. It’s been 10+ years for me, so I’ve gotten quite good at taming them when they do happen. If you need any help or advice or just want to feel less alone about it, leave a comment or email me, and I’d love to chat!

+ “Brain Fog? Back Pain? This Trick Can Help You Be More Productive And Feel Better Fast”

Listen when I tell you I can’t do Yoga for shit. That’s why this is amazing. It truly does help you feel relaxed, and it takes less than a minute! Magic. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

*All quotes by the writers are quoted, bolded, or italicized. I am not earning money from this post, nor is it sponsored.

That’s all for the second edition of this Sweet Reads party. I would greatly appreciate any feedback you have for this new monthly thang. Thanks for reading, sweet friends! Cheers to you.

INSTAGRAM: @yourstrulymia

TWITTER: @hotmessmia

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Sweet Reads

Sweet Reads || April

Hi there, you.

1. Do you ever feel like each month has a personality of its own? A mind of its own? A world of its own? Keep reading.

2. Do you hoard things? Sometimes words or thoughts? Join the club.

3. Did you miss me? I’m back with yet another new idea. This time, a series. Reads of the month. Sweet reads, actually. There may be a more creative name in the near future, but sometimes short and sweet (not intended but I guess now it is) does the best job. I think I like it.

I don’t know if I’m starting this out of fondness or a slight obsessive compulsive tendency. I love my email inbox. It’s one of my favorite places. More and more newsletters and subscriptions fill this space, and I read them all. As a person who loves stories and advice and lists and ideas, I wanted to create a little home where I can document and share my thoughts on these precious pieces and why I thought about them for hours and even days after I read them. Each month I’ll compile a few of my favorites that I’ve stumbled upon.

There’s no rules here. Read them all, or read one that catches your eye (or heart). Share it with friends or keep it all to yourself. Don’t forget to leave some of your own April favorites in the comments and tell me which one of these you like, too. I’d love to hear any feedback you have to make this better. I love you, reader. Thanks for stopping by. xx

A P R I L

April’s Quote:

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” ― Shirley Chisholm

Image of the Month:

Illustrated by @bymariandrew

I’ve spent the past month thinking about a lot of stupid things that, in hindsight, has wasted a lot of my precious time. Tyler, a friend of mine, introduced me to this amazing Instagram artist last month. I love all of her illustrations; she is just so darn cute and relatable. This one in specific got me thinking. No more being angry at my roommate for a week’s worth of unwashed dishes. No more being upset at myself for that thing I didn’t say four years ago. No more gabbing about that one project that I want to do, but haven’t (because I’m gabbing about it instead of doing it). Every time I’m anxious or mad or worried, I’m no longer going to count to ten like a five-year-old. That’s ollllld news. Instead, I’ll count how many hours of my life I won’t get back like the twenty-three-year-old I am. Will it matter this time next year? Absolutely not. Can I take control of the situation? Then I will. We’ve got one life to live, my  sweet friends. And if that’s not true, I’d like to come back as a butterfly please and thank you.

Reads of the Month:

+ 35 Things To Do For Your Career By 35 

This read made me feel empowered to prepare for my future now. Finding my superpower (Did you know it’s not always a skill, but often times a trait?). Making a list of my non-negotiables. Being able to articulate my goals + sell my professional self and ideas. These are things I haven’t put a ton of thought into, but now I will. Thanks, The Muse.

+ First comes the wedding. Then comes marriage.

Hannah Brencher is a wonderful soul. And this is why I can’t get enough of her writing. Readers send her letters and she answers with her own stories and the lessons she’s learned from them. I’m not getting hitched any time soon, but boy oh boy was this breathtaking. This reminds me that choice is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Whether it’s your person, your friends, your faith, or your life. You get to choose every day. My favorite thing she says: “I am learning if I spend every single day seeking to make people feel loved, chosen and special then I can never lose. I can never really say a day is wasted.” Amazing. Also a burger truck and an old library? Ideal.

+ Let it go.

“That’s what you have to do with fear over and over again: you have to learn to let it go.” Clearly I love me some Hannah Brencher because here she is again. In this read, she reminds me to forgive myself like I forgive others, name my fear by calling it out of the dark and into the light (“You can look at it from several angles and know the truth”), and crush my fears by not putting my faith in the enemy – all things I needed to hear this past month. How would our lives look if we built out of love instead of fear? How would our relationships flourish? Would we be stronger? Braver? Happier? Great questions. I’ll get back to you on that, Hannah.

+ How to be more confident. 

This article by Susie Moore had me in my feels, because I sure needed to brush up on this topic. There were SO many gems here. Moore tells us that the most confident people tune out their inner critic and turn up their inner coach. Confident people A) Know failure is inevitable, so they don’t fear it, B) Laugh more because life is short, and C) Have vision for their lives and focus on what they do want rather than what they don’t. “I love. I do. I can.” She says,“When you use stronger, more intentional language, it impacts your mood, your confidence, and even how other people perceive you.” They sit taller, do them, and stand strong. Confidence is your call; it’s a decision because no one is born with it. Confidence is taking control of your own life. Maybe it’s Maybelline. But more than 90% is Confidence.

+ My Boss Sucks Sometimes – Can I Tell Her?

Let me clear: my boss doesn’t suck. I actually like my bosses a lot. But I love a juicy advice column read. This one by Jessica Romolini caught my eye then captured my conscious because confrontation is something I struggle with. I’m either waaaay too confrontational or not confrontational enough. I’m really bad at finding that middle ground and I’m working on it. What is your motivation for correcting someone? Is it because they made you feel small at some point, or because it’s the right thing to do? Getting clear on why you want to correct someone, then focusing on the problem and not the person is crucial – whether it’s inside or outside of work.

+ 4 Big Reasons I Quit My Job To Build Girls Night In

I’ve started getting this newsletter in my inbox every Friday, and it’s a pure treat. Alisha Ramos outlines the four questions she began asking herself over and over, and how she took it upon herself to explore those questions and turn it into a business that could benefit other women. In four months the community grew 17x, 95% of new readers found out about GNI from a friend (word of mouth works, people!), and they receive 3 job applications a week. I’m a real sucker for a fun success story. It reminds me that anything is possible. It gives me hope for my own business endeavors.

+ The 100 Best Movies on Netflix

Thank you, Jason Bailey. This might be the best list I’ve found this month. You will literally never run out of things to watch. Like ever. I mean, there’s 100. And get this: IT’S UPDATED REGULARLY AS TITLES COME AND GO. Is this a dream? (I watched Up In The Air with Dan for the first time this weekend after taking a peek at this list… it was amazing.)

+ There is no that.

“The reward for the work is the work itself.” Mike Coyle writes music to my ears. For any business person, creative, or everyday person suffering from FOMO – you absolutely need to read this. There will always be some seemingly amazing thing happening with seemingly amazing people outside of where you are. But that moment ends for them. And this one will end for you if you’re not here. He says: “I wish someone had told me that it was the work, that the highs would be brief and bright and over, and then it was the grind. I wish they had told me, because there will be times when the grind itself must be the thing that drives you. You have to love the effort divorced from the result.” Is your pay off people? Is it moments? This article reminded me to keep my work honest and to keep doing the work I love. In the end – that’s what you have when you’ve climbed the mountain and return back down. You have this amazing thing you created. That’s enough.

*All quotes by the writers are quoted, bolded, or italicized. I am not earning money from this post.

This party is just getting started, so I would greatly appreciate any feedback you have for this new monthly thang. Let me know below. Thanks for reading, sweet friends! Cheers to you.

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Visual Poem shot and edited by me. Poem by Unknown Author. 

I’ve always loved this poem. I found it on Tumblr about three or four years back and tucked it away in a for a while. I saved it to a folder on my computer. I swore one day I’d make a visual compliment to it. I came across it again recently, and something about it felt even more moving than before. I tried and tried to track down the author, but couldn’t find them. There is a reason I felt stirred by the poem once again.

The first few months living in LA were some of the loneliest times I’ve ever felt, no matter how many people I was around. The fact that I had a dream to move to this city for so long and finally followed it was exhilarating, but no one did (and no one could) prepare me for how it feels to be 3,000 miles from what you know and who you truly love. Something about it felt so final.

This poem is dark. But it’s on the verge of something so good. It’s on its way, but not there quite yet. It’s bursting at the seams, but so full of emptiness at the same time. All the things I felt in those first few months. I know if you’ve been a viewer or reader of mine for a long time, you aren’t used to seeing this type of tone or this sort of video. But I didn’t want this to be another happy-go-lucky video. I wanted to show those in between times; the ones where you’re at your lowest, or maybe most contemplative. When you’re thinking so much that you sometimes wish you weren’t thinking at all. I didn’t wan’t any chronology or anything to mark a specific point in time. I wanted everything to blend together; to be bold but dull all at once. There are hard sound cuts, visual cuts, wide shots that are all stationary and some slightly hand held, but never heavy motion. Still. Silent. No talking. Everything is long, drawn out, reflective: distant.

I didn’t want it to end on a light note either – because that’s the point. Loving yourself isn’t easy every day. Some days, it is. And that’s a blessing. Other days we have to fight for it. I wanted the visual poem for this writing to reflect the want and need for loving yourself, not the pretty ease of it all. Loving yourself isn’t always about confidence or feeling good in your skin. I’m learning that loving yourself, largely, is about learning how to be alone with yourself, training yourself to think good thoughts, and how to go through things (physically and emotionally) without someone always holding your hand, even though that’s nice from time to time.

If you’re going through a hard time, feeling lonely, or are discovering/rediscovering how to love yourself – you’re not alone. You never are and never will be. I’m here for you and my whole heart is with you.

All visuals were shot on my Canon Rebel T3i. Poem recorded on my Blue Yeti mic. Music by Kevin MacLeod.

Click the video link to view more facts on this video.

Thank you so much for watching and taking time to read this. All my love to you. xx