Strength in Numbers: A Celebration of Individuality

For those who know me well or have been following my journey via my blog andmy blog’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MelissasMorningMusings/), self-esteem, body image and self-worth have been constant battles and struggles for me. Through all I have weathered throughout my life, I’ve always looked to those who choose to rise in response to naysayers, or those who may judge them. People like UCLA gymnast, Katelyn Ohashi who just the other day stepped forward to confront the judgments, criticisms and evaluations surrounding her body and physical appearance, are a source of inspiration and strength to me.

just be you

With her body considered to some as being more curvy in comparison to other gymnasts, Katelyn proudly stepped forward to reclaim her individuality, saying goodbye to self-hatred, or relying on others words to confirm her worth. To me, her declarations are an inspiration, a symbol of beauty and strength and the epitome of all I hope to embody someday, as I weather through the self-defeating thoughts and emotions quite regularly.

gymnast quote

How noble, brave and courageous to greet adversity and the naysayers in the eye and declare her vow to as she states, “Today I stand with a love that penetrates deeper than any wedding band, because I am my OWN size and no WORDS or JUDGEMENTAL STARES will make me compromise.” She ends her thoughts with an even louder declaration that still makes me smile and feel such joy even at this very moment – “Today, my self-hatred says its GOODBYE.

be yourself

In my mind, Katelyn is representative of all it means to be who you are, to recognize your differences and that makes someone unique. Uniqueness is not something to be hidden or concealed, or pushed aside to meet the expectations or needs of others; it is an honor to be different and it deserves to be shared with the world, as Katelyn did. Thank you, Katelyn, for your bravery and for standing your truth and reminding us all that to BE YOURSELF, bravely in a world that encourages us to be something or someone we’re not, is a beautiful thing.

be as you are

 

Advertisements

Where and How we Land: Letting Happiness Find YOU

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced the reality of this perspective/saying on numerous occasions. Many of which I am truly grateful for. A couple instances in particular stand out to me; when I graduated college over 8.5 years ago, in the months to follow and even prior to graduating, I interviewed for countless jobs. During many of the interviews, I felt I might have had a chance, albeit a small one, yet in the days/weeks to follow, the rejections mounted. Sometimes, a rejection never came at all, but rather an assumption that they had moved on.. without me.

Keep on quote

The month of October of that year arrived and still, I came up empty. Realizing time was of the essence with student loans approaching repayment and my desire to make a difference growing each day, the job posting came without warning. As someone who has consistently read the tangible newspaper each day, since the 4th grade (when my teacher instructed us to choose articles for current events, each week), the job listings were one area I regularly scanned. That day, a posting stood out to me for an organization with a goal and mission calling to me. The job was one, however, I questioned if I could do and it surely would be a challenge at that, but one I felt I could take on.

Given the obstacles I’d encountered and overcome in the years leading and following my high school graduation, I felt moderately inspired to submit my application for the position and hope for the best. Much to my surprise, while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, the call came from that very organization requesting an interview. In minutes, with the interview secured, I focused on that day. Still to this moment, I recall that very interview day; a day in late October, with the sun abundantly shining, a crisp Fall feeling in the air, and a smile on my face. For some reason that day, as I entered my car to drive to the interview, I felt different; more confident and composed, ready to take on the inquiries thrown at me.

In the hours following the interview, a second one was quickly scheduled for the next day and during that second interview, the job was secured. The key point of this memory is the notion that because I didn’t land all those jobs I’d interviewed for prior and after graduating college, I was able to secure the one I speak of today; my first professional job. It was one where I met co-workers who became dear friends; the entire office becoming like family. It was a place, where despite it being work, felt like I was coming to a second home, each morning.

With that being said, we never know what is ahead, we never know what is in the works for us, or that every “no,” or “door closed,” could be leading to an exceptional life, filled with chances and possibilities. With every no, rejection both personally and professionally, I make it my goal to tell myself that what and who is RIGHT for me, will never pass me by.

Things Going Our Way Quote

So I hope for you, no matter how challenging it can be at times, or how excruciating supposed “defeat” may feel, you can persist and appreciate and remember your worth and how much more you deserve. Stay strong and keep on, because you are WORTH IT.

My Conversation Heart

Everywhere I turn, I’m constantly looking for inspiration, even in the smallest forms and yesterday, while innocently reading, I stumbled across a potential source of inspiration I hope to experience soon:

As someone with a deep connection to magazines, yesterday while reading the April 2018 issue of Glamour Magazine, I stumbled across a short article with book suggestions specific to “Self-Help.” The concept of self-help books has always been of interest to me, so I paid close attention to their words.

Glamour April

Released during the February/March timeframe, “Heart Talk,” by poet/writer, Cleo Wade, is one that stands out to me and is now on my “to-read” list. In the article detailing her book, Glamour specifically mentions a poignant quote closely resonating with me:

YOU are the only person who truly decides who YOU are. If you want to be a singer… think like a singer, say you ARE a singer, and of course, sing your song. We spend so much of our lives waiting for others to qualify us. Authorize YOURSELF. Step into your power right now; give yourself your own credentials, and you be the one who qualifies who YOU are.”

Cleo Wade

This quote rings true to me in more ways than way. More times than I care to admit or acknowledge, I’ve waited for others to qualify me – former bosses, friends, guys I’ve dated, even family, believing I needed them to TELL me who I was. As I grow older, I realize more and more this is the furthest from the truth. Nobody can tell us who we are – unless we allow them to. Even if someone attempts to tell us who we are, or how they believe we are, we don’t have to believe them. We don’t have to accept their supposed “definition” of us. For me, it takes effort to reclaim power over myself, though over the past ten years, it’s been a work in progress; most important things in life require some amount of effort and I recognize that. There have been many times where I’ve been told, I wasn’t worth what I was being paid in a job, or that I’d “be prettier if I wore my hair up,” or that I lacked the ability to navigate the concept of mathematics in school and was ridiculed for my struggles in the middle of the hallway. During this occasions, sometimes I’d crumble into a ball, crying myself to sleep in my room, punishing and isolating myself for being what I felt was a “misfit”. Though, as I grow older, my perspective shifts and I realize their thoughts only have power over me if I allow it; they are not facts, they are opinions.

Who am I? I’m Melissa, a woman on the brink of entering her 30’s in a couple weeks, a writer who yes, sometimes is too wordy or uses too many adjectives (what can I say, I love words), who wears her hair down because she likes to, wears heels and wedges because they boost my confidence and make me happy, and loves to help others because everybody can use a helping hand or listening ear; all of this – this is who I AM.

Therefore, my hope is that during the times when others attempt to tell you, whomever may be reading this who you are, or who they think you are, ask yourself, Who am I? Only you know that truth.

Power to Prom: “Promenade” without Limits

With the Spring season beckoning upon the horizon, it brings not only increasing warmth (hopefully!), sunshine (fingers crossed!), an abundance of blooming flowers (highly anticipated) and throughout much of the U.S., Prom season! Perhaps the memories conjured by mentioning prom are pleasant, neutral, or an affair to forget, though with that being said, where I hail from, prom is not only considered a pivotal high school event, but also a community event, involving/summoning an array of residents, if they so choose. The local school district where I reside within, Pennsbury, is highly-regarded as the “best prom in America”, which would honestly be a challenge to debate given the media uproar and coverage it summons each year.

Prom Night photo                     Prom Disco

Arrivals at the Pennsbury Prom span well-beyond the scope of traditional limos, vehicles or “party buses.” For Pennsbury students, prom preparations and the actual Prom event often involve hours of effort and preparations, ensuring the event transpires without a hitch. One-by-one, students arrive in unique, outlandish vehicles such as fire trucks, fancy cars, and even homemade parade floats. The high school gym is decorated so impressively that open walk-throughs are held the day of, so that other members of the community can check it out. Media coverage of the prom is often expansive, with local news stations staked out, hoping to capture the exhilarating arrivals and now with the expansion of social media, arrivals and the prom event are bound to be “live-streamed” on one medium or another. Once inside, students are often treated to performances from famous entertainers such as Ryan Cabrera, Questlove, and John Mayer. Given it’s uniqueness and rising popularity, back in 2004, senior Sports Illustrated writer, Michael Bamberger even wrote a book  (Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School) about it!

Prom Wonderland              Party-Dancing-Vector

Having one’s prom be made into this big of a spectacle may seem fun, but it also can place a vast amount of pressure on teens who feel that they need to live up to the hype or go beyond what has ever been done before. Planning for prom night can be stressful enough without having to worry about when you should start designing your “arrival float.”

Prom Choice

Reflecting back on both my junior and senior proms, personally, I did not attend either.  Having attended a rival high school to Pennsbury (I grew up in a town about 20 minutes away), my reasons for choosing to not attend prom were not completely centered around how I was going to arrive, or actual prom preparation, per se, though the pressures of how I would look and plan for the evening definitely contributed to my decisions. Now, there are plenty of ways to make planning the night easier, from booking rides to renting suits online. Back then, many of the preparations often felt too overwhelming. Coupled with issues with friendships and health issues sidelining me for much of my senior year, I opted out of each prom.

Dance on Your Own

Like many high school teens, at the time, I was often consumed by what others thought of me and placed significant undue pressures upon myself as far as appearance, academics and personal friendships/relationships. This lead to feelings of inadequacy in comparison to others who, on the surface, appeared to be gliding through life unphased by any and all hardships or at least, could handle and channel them better than I could. Of course, now as an adult, I realize that everyone faces their own struggles and that these people may have been dealing with theirs in different ways. Though for me, and perhaps others can relate to as well, when you’re in high school, it’s often hard to see things through any other lens.

Prom 1
If asked if I regret my decisions for choosing to not attend prom, I’d say in some ways I do, though I try my best to not have regrets about it. Back then, I felt it was the appropriate choice for me and I made the choice for a reason. Rather than look back and judge myself, I try to be kind to my high-school self and recognize it was my right to act upon what I felt would work best for me. There is no sense in berating myself for the choices I make, but rather I can offer my experiences to others and acknowledge how to perceive our situations differently.

Prom 2

With that being said, sometimes I feel that attending prom, my junior prom in particular, could have been a pivotal point for me; giving me the chance to stand my ground, own my individuality, and embrace what makes me uniquely me. At the same time, having skipped each prom, I respect I made the choice I felt was best appropriate for me at that time given the circumstances and can only move forward from here and offer my perspective to others.

So to anyone out there who is prepping for prom season, take a breath, think about what you want, emphasize what is most important when it comes to prom; having fun; being who you are, feeling comfortable inside and out, not wearing something because it is popular or expected, not arriving in a form of transportation because it “looks good.” Rather, do what feels right for you, not anybody else. This is your time, your event, your moment – you’ve earned it. No need to worry if your “prom-posal” didn’t go viral; you are worth more than the price of a fancy dress or tuxedo. Have fun, be safe, and know that there are better things to come.

Enjoy Life

Aging Gracefully

As I’ve noted numerous times in prior posts, since the months leading to and subsequent to my 29th birthday this past May, I’ve struggled considerably with growing older. Perhaps it’s really not the age or number itself I fear, but rather all I feel should go along with it. In my life, there are often a lot of “shoulds,” “I wish,” or reflections upon situations I could have handled differently. Too often, I compare myself to others of a similar age, longing for the “characteristic” life I feel they have or portray, without acknowledging their own struggles or hardships. It’s similar to celebrity singer and actress, Selena Gomez, who appears in ads, concerts, and magazines flaunting her pristine hair, makeup and clothing, but privately struggling and ultimately undergoing a lifesaving kidney transplant. From looking at her, I, myself, never would have guessed she was in kidney failure, or even ill with lupus. That’s the thing, though, people so often look at someone and based off their appearance deem them healthy or not. Shiny hair, pristine makeup and clothing, a bubbly personality – none of that is an indicator of health, or at least certainly not always. What appears on the outside is not always indicative of what’s unraveling inside.

With that being said, I recently started to contemplate a news story I heard and was intrigued by. One of the magazines I closely followed and read in the past, Allure Magazine, proudly declared last month they would no longer use the term “Anti-Aging.” So often, I’ve read seemingly countless articles instructing women and even men, on all the latest products and techniques specifically formulated to “combat all signs of aging.” In these articles, without so many words, it suggests aging is something to be feared, or to be disguised and avoided at all costs. A wrinkle around your eye area? Lines around your mouth? Sagging skin? All of these aforementioned supposed, “signs of aging,” come with specifically-formulated products to help avoid, disguise and discourage and are often touted in magazines and store shelves.

Growing Older Quote

Feeling as though they’d finally had enough, Allure Magazine took the first steps towards what I see as progress and a notion I wish I embraced many years ago, but most specifically in the months leading to and after my most recent birthday. In their words in last month’s issue of Allure, they stated, (via – https://www.allure.com/story/allure-magazine-phasing-out-the-word-anti-aging)

Allure Magazine – August 2017:

“This issue is the long-awaited, utterly necessary celebration of growing into your own skin – wrinkles and all. No one is suggesting giving up retinol. But changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we TALK about aging. With that in mind, starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term, “anti-aging.” Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle.”

If there’s one inevitability in life, it’s that we’re getting older. Every minute. Every second. We produced a video recently that featured 64-year-old gray-haired Jo Johnson, who made the poignant observation that aging should be appreciated because “some of us don’t get an opportunity to age.” Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.

Language matters. When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: “She looks great…for her age” or “She’s beautiful…for an older woman.” Catch yourself next time and consider what would happen if you just said, “She looks great.” Yes, Americans put youth on a pedestal. But let’s agree that appreciating the dewy rosiness of youth doesn’t mean we become suddenly hideous as years go by.”

Courage to Grow Up

After reading this statement and their stance on aging, I couldn’t be happier or more proud. Throughout the years, I’ve been an on/off reader of Allure, but after reading their declaration, their concept resonates with me beyond words. It summons a quote I read not long ago, which read: “Do not fear growing older, it is a privilege denied to many.”

Growing Older Quote 2

Isn’t it true though, when thinking about it? Countless infants, children, teens, young adults, even adults in middle-age, have succumbed to accidents, illnesses, and beyond; ultimately denied the opportunity to age. Instead of fearing aging, it can be seen as a chance to “ripen,” to gain knowledge and understanding. Instead of fearing aging, it can be embraced, wise words can be shared with younger generations and even our own generations. We all have stories to tell, experiences waiting to be recounted, and growing older gives us this opportunity.

 

A Wristful of Words: Wear it, Share it, Believe it

Note: This is the first blog post of a three-part series, which will continue through the week (identified as “Believe It” – Blog Post #1, “Share It” – Blog Post #2,Wear It” – Blog Post #3) Please check back for the two other posts detailing the company (Little Words Project) and my experiences with them.

Little Words Project “Believe It”Blog Post #1

Since childhood, jewelry has always stood out to me. Not only is jewelry something to adorn myself with, but it is of much personal meaning. In my early childhood years, I can recall accumulating shoeboxes and shoeboxes full of costume jewelry, filling my arms with charm bracelets, character necklaces, and beyond. More importantly, the jewelry I wear and choose has evolved through the years as a means of communication and self-expression. Some of the jewelry I own can take me back to poignant moments in my life, such as my graduation from college, my first professional job, and my sister’s wedding. Therefore, one frigid afternoon this past Winter, I unexpectedly received a special delivery in the mail which proved to impact me on levels beyond my expectations.

It was a day this past Winter season filled with much sadness and reflection. The job where I’d been employed for several months dramatically came to an abrupt end. With that being said, I was left feeling at a loss, contemplating and wondering where my life path would take me. Lacking confidence and courage at that moment, I heard a knock at the door and reluctantly made my way to open it. A small brown box sat outside my doorstep, with my name imprinted on the front. Unsure as to what it was, given I was not expecting a delivery, I carefully opened it and revealed a surprise gift from one of my favorite cosmetic companies, IT Cosmetics and another small box with a beautiful, sparkling bracelet, which read: Confidence in block letters. A couple weeks prior, I’d entered a contest, not anticipating a win, and hadn’t received a winner notification. Therefore, that afternoon, the delivery came as a surprise, a much-needed and appreciated gift at that moment, when life felt particularly difficult and near impossible to navigate. Though I was excited to have won a small jar of an IT Cosmetics cream, I was more intrigued by the bracelet and interpreted it as a sign. For me, confidence has always been a trait to aspire to. So often, I criticize and chastise myself for everything I believe I’m not and cannot do, rather than celebrating and owning all I can do. Seeing the word confidence on a bracelet with a band of sparkling crystals was all the sign I needed to know that maybe life truly was going to be okay. Perhaps this was merely a stumble in the road or my path to where I truly should be and that really, all I needed to move forward was this very word, now covering my wrist – Confidence.

LWP Confidence

A small gold medallion dangled from the bracelet with a name imprinted on one side and a code on the other. Curious as to what it read and eager to learn of the company behind this intriguing bracelet, I closely examined the medallion and read – Little Words Project. Immediately, I headed to my phone to research the company and was enthralled with all I read. From that moment on, I knew Little Words Project was both a company and initiative I’d wholeheartedly support and come to be quite fond of.

By now, you might be wondering, what exactly is Little Words Project? Without further adieu, here is a brief synopsis of not only a jewelry company, but a movement of many calibers, uniting women of all ages and beyond:

Little Words Project Symbol

Website Information: The official website; littlewordsproject.com provides extensive information regarding company history, product information, and host of other resources.

Little Words Project (LWP) Origin (via littlewordsproject.com): Started by Adriana Botti, the idea which later became LWP began as a project initially conjured during her high school years to provide her with positive reminders as inspiration and reassurance. As the unfortunate subject of bullying through the years since the 4th grade, Adriana realized much of the cruelty persisted even through later years as young women and adults and made the choice to join a sorority. Through joining the sorority, Adriana credits her experience of learning the meaning friendships and bonds. As a result, Little Words Project was born during Adriana’s sophomore year, as bracelets with encouraging and supportive words, such as “Be Fearless,” “Smile,” “Strength” and “Be Happy.” Seeing the bracelets immediate popularity within her sorority, upon graduating, she officially launched Little Words Project as what Ariana hopes will “inspire a culture of kindness among women young and old.”

LWP Girls

LWP Mission: As described on the official LWP website, their mission exists as a means to, “Unite women of all ages in one common goal: to be a go-to company for jewelry that’s uplifting, to be shared with yourself, your loved ones or anyone who could use some extra kindness.

LWP Bracelets: At the heart of LWP are the bracelets available in a vast array of bands, words and symbols, each with their own unique color, style, meaning and number as means of identification and tracking.

LWP Bracelets

  • When purchasing a LWP bracelet, you’ll receive much more than the Swarovski crystal-constructed bracelet with an inspirational word. Though beautiful and delicately crafted in itself, its mission and culture only adds to its beauty.
  • Upon becoming a LWP bracelet-owner, you’ll enter the official Little Words family and as the LWP website states, “Being a member of this community connects you to women of all ages who have already engaged with our movement and have found comfort in our mission.”

LWP Project Info

LWP Buying and Selection Process: Intrigued yet? Here is a step-by-step process of how exactly making a Little Words Project purchase works:

LWP Pick   LWP Register             LWP Pass

  • Choose from one of the many inspiring words, bands and colors available via the official LWP website (littlewordsproject.com) or one of the retailers supplying the bracelets as listed on the website.
  • Upon purchasing a LWP bracelet, be sure to venture over to the “Register Your Little Word” section on the LWP website or app and register the unique number found on your gold tag (attached to the bracelet)
  • Wear your bracelet for as long as you want.
  • Upon meeting someone who might need the word on your bracelet, pass it on and advise her to register the bracelet for herself.

Follow along your bracelet’s journey by checking the tag’s status and witness the powerful impact your word (and purchase!) can make.

Social Media: As a company and initiative, LWP is extremely active and communicative on their various social media accounts and prides itself in being open and interactive with their followers and customers (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram):

  • Facebook = @littlewordsproject
  • Twitter = @littlewordsproj
  • Pinterest = @littlewordsp
  • Tumblr = littlewordsproject.tumblr.com
  • Instagram = @littlewordsproject

Official App: LWP even has their own app available for download in the App store with loads of information, the ability to register your LWP bracelet, interact with other Little Words owners, sales, news and much, much more! When downloading the app, you’ll receive not only pertinent information but also will become a member of the LWP community.

My Personal Reaction: Learning more and more about LWP as a company that very day upon receiving my first LWP bracelet, I knew they’d secured me as not only a customer, but as a true believer in their goals and initiatives. As someone who has personally battled through my own issues with self-esteem, harsh criticisms and poor body image, learning of a company like LWP who strives to support, encourage and advocate for women, is comforting and reassuring to me. To be able to look down on my arm and physically see an encouraging or supportive word reminding me of my strength, courage and capabilities, is a gift to me in more ways than one:

Little Things Mean the Most

Second Blog Post (“Share It”): With this being said, it leads to me the topic of my second blog post. Later this week, join me for an insider look at how Little Words Project is truly giving back to women and society in more ways than one.

In this next post, learn more about the reasons why LWP resonates so deeply within me. Without disclosing the heart of this next post, prepare to be overcome with emotion when discovering a purchase of a LWP bracelet not only affords you with a beautiful piece of custom jewelry, but a means to grow and support organizations and people in need (“Little Words that Give Back“)

LWP Inspiration

Words that Heal

Perhaps you’ve had days like me, where words someone says or doesn’t say can dramatically impact your thoughts, feelings and overall demeanor. They can repeat and circle endlessly within the mind, never ceasing, not if for a brief moment. Sometimes, they even stretch beyond what they initially were, eating away at us, suffocating our willingness to take chances, limiting our confidence and ultimately, can silence us. With that being said, there is also the ability for someone’s words to have a dramatically opposite effect – one that lifts us, one that inspires us, or simply makes us feel noticed, acknowledged and recognized. These words can come in the simplest of ways – an acknowledgement of our style, a talent, a facial feature, anything, really. Though, no matter how “small,” these words or acknowledgements may seem on the surface, what they can do for us inward, is a whole other impact, one that just might change someone’s life.

To better explain what I mean by this, I was simply scrolling through Facebook this afternoon, when I stumbled across a quote my friend shared. It was a quote/series of thoughts that deeply resonated with me, so profoundly so that it inspired this very blog post, prompting me to share it with those of you who might be reading. This is what I mean:

compliment-poem

After I read this, I contemplated all it meant to me for awhile. It led me back to my first job out of college, where I worked at a nonprofit organization facilitating various programs and doing a bit of grant writing. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to meet countless amounts of people who are filled with greatness, intelligence and talent. One woman in particular, a member of the community coalition affiliated with the organization I worked for, stood out to me, but not only to me, my fellow coworkers, as well. We agreed she embodied strength and an undeniable aura of kindness and reassurance. From merely chatting with her for moments, I could sense the compassion and depth within her. When she spoke to others, she connected in such a way that had the ability to make nearly anyone she spoke to feel heard and recognized. Though I didn’t know her well, certain words and conversations she and I shared still cross my mind, today. Every Thanksgiving, I think of when she told me of the tradition she and her friend share: visiting the hotel directly located within the path of Philadephia’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and sharing tea together, with a view facing the parade. From my understanding, they lived a distance from each other, but would always visit in that hotel restaurant each Thanksgiving, delighting in each others’ company and sharing in the Thanksgiving Day parade festivities.

Meeting her brought a newfound confidence to me, in talking and complimenting others. Sure, I’d issued compliments to others such as great shoes or hairstyle, or outfit, but at that time, it was hard for me to recall ever really complimenting someone other than my family, about their personality and ability to connect with others. With this particular woman, it was different. In one of our few conversations, I wished her well, as she made her way out of the office to continue to her day, but before she did, I complimented her on her optimism and compassion, her willingness to help and to hear others, to give them a voice,  to allow them to share and to truly recognize all they were saying. Having the ability to make someone not only feel listened to, but HEARD, is a rare quality in itself and I felt it was necessary for me to take the chance to compliment her on this.

admire-beauty

So today, I urge you, if you haven’t already, to issue someone a compliment, no matter how small it may seem to you, to them, it could brighten their day – it could very well be the only positive thing they hear today, or almost any day. Even when we don’t feel our best, we can always do something to make others feel good, because I know for myself, when feeling down, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.

compliment-quote