Sunday, October 9, 2016

on turning 26

I turn 26 on Friday, October 14th. Five days. It's almost weird to think of how different life is now than I would've guessed a year ago.

I recently came across this photo that was taken in April of 2015. I was 24, had just been dumped and was on the tail end of recovery from a stomach surgery that (ultimately) wound up making life 1000x better. 

I've never shared this photo before cause, in all its half naked glory, it actually makes my heart sting a bit. This was literally my lowest point. I was leaving for my very first Coachella the next day. I was at a spray tanning salon and removed my clothing only to be shocked when I saw reflected back at me. 

I remember I wound up crying in that little room after the lady left. 

I feel like it's hard to pin point rock bottom, but I'd be willing to put money on the idea that this moment, half naked in a tanning salon, can easily embody me at my lowest - both physically and emotionally. A part of me desperately wants to push myself through the image and give the girl in the photo a hug and tell her that everything will wind up the way it's supposed to.

I survived 24. The last six months of that year wound up being some of the most important six months of my life. I discovered a different sort of love, a massive love for my "I seriously can't live without you" friends and the beginning of my own self-love that made an enormous impact on how I viewed both the world and myself. And then I turned 25 and I survived that, too.

If 24 & 25 were about love and survival, I feel like 26 is going to be about HOPE. 

One of my favorite books in the world is called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. A complete and utter masterpiece, this piece is divided into 28 "musings" from a Prophet who visits a town and gifts them with his wisdom on a variety of topics that we all deal with throughout our lives. Love, death, beauty, time, good and evil - the list goes on. If you've never read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy as soon as you possibly can.

That being said, I wanted to assemble a little list of my own musings. We all know that hope can be wishy washy and you need staples of reason to lean on. Here are some lessons that I know to be tried and true throughout my 26 years, all assembled with some treasured photos from throughout the past year:

Be Kind. That old idea that everyone you meet is fighting their own battle is entirely accurate. You never know what others are going through, whether it be good or bad, and you have the ability to make a positive influence with your attitude. Always be kind. ALWAYS. The ability to be nice to people and to always greet them with a smile will take you incredibly far in life. 

Work Hard. Don't EVER make excuses for your lack of success. The only person who stands in your way is you, every single step of the way. You can make it as far up as you're willing to let yourself go.  Work the shitty jobs, answer the phones, sit in a car for three hours a day - DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. No one owes you anything. I really can't emphasize this more. It takes time and a lot of blood, sweat and tears - but ultimately, it'll start paying off. You'll start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and you'll realize that it was ALL worth it. But try and do it all with a light heart. Don't let the climb up the ladder turn you into someone you don't want to be.

Siblings are the best gift your parents will ever give you. My sister and I didn't get along that much growing up. We'll both be the first to admit this. However, as we've gotten older, she's become someone I need. I actually NEED her. Sometimes I feel like we're connected on an entirely different level, a person who will ALWAYS understand what the other is going through. She's become my person in so many ways. From the girl I love to go see movies with in the middle of the afternoon, to the person who I can count on to pick me up off the ground when I can't seem to find my way back up. She's always going to be there and life is literally better because she's in it. Plus, she's the best/most hilarious wedding date a girl could ask for.

Your friends are your real soul mates. "Where you invest your love, you invest your life." My friends are my people. Find people who will be honest with you. People who will tell you the truth, even when the truth is hard to say. Find people you can travel to the opposite side of the world with, people who you can say "I love you" to and know you mean it. It's true when they say that friends are the family you choose. These are the people who accept you exactly for you who are and who will be there for you at every step of the way. Don't trade them for anything. And seriously don't bail on them for a shitty date.

Travel as much and as often as you possibly can. I told my dad that I wanted to spend 2016 "dating  America." I wanted to go to city after city and just explore what this world has to offer. From Austin to Vegas, to New York to Portland - I've certainly been all over this year and I'm already mapping out where I want to go next. Travel is easily the best gift you can ever give yourself. 

Embrace your body, exactly the way it is. You may need to lose a few pounds. Go lose it. But never hate yourself because of the way you look. Your body is the vessel you need to get you through this life, so take care of it and embrace what makes you unique. I've learned that I'll never be a 5'10" model with long legs. That's just not me. But I know that my body reflects my Colombian background and that's something I'm incredibly proud of. I got my curves from my maternal grandmother - a woman who immigrated here as a child and worked hard to achieve her own version of the American dream. That's something to never hate on.

Family is key. Maintain relationships with the people who don't live close to you. Cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. We're all stuck together for life - so be there for them when they need you. Plus, family parties are ALWAYS the best parties.

Try your best to develop honest and true relationships with everyone you encounter. Some of my favorite people on this planet are people I met through work or through friends of friends. You never know where you are going to meet people who will literally change everything about your life. Guaranteed, I would not have gotten through so much of this past year without my work sisters - the girls who I see every day and who give me honest advice that comes from life experience. Life is hard enough as it is. Pick up as many good people as you can throughout the way.

Embrace new things as much as possible. I'll use baseball as an example. I'm not a fan of sports. I could really care less of any sort of athletic activity. But this year, I went to six Dodger games. That's six nights of sitting in a stadium, surrounded by die-hard lovers of the game. That's six nights of drinking beer and eating hot dogs with friends and family. That's six nights which lead to me following the team for an entire season - looking up scores to make sure my boys in blue were on track. I've got a long way to go and I seriously want to learn more about the sport, but it's a start to something new and I'm excited to see how October pans out for us !

Celebrate other people's victories and be there to catch them if they fall. Your friend gets the job she's been working for years to get? Celebrate the hell out of her. Your friend from college gets married? Be there with her every step of the way. Your friend takes over the internet (again) cause he's a filmmaking genius? Promote him on every social media platform you can possibly find. But be there for the tough stuff, too. Let them cry over FaceTime about a broken heart. Be there to comfort them if they just need to vent about a shitty day at work. Approach without judgement. Be there, be present and know that a little bit goes a long way.

Dye your hair pink if you feel like it. I feel like this one is kind of self-explanatory. 
Do the things that scare you. I mean, I auditioned for The Bachelor this year knowing full well that I would most likely NOT be cast. The entire blog/writing process scares the shit out of me the majority of the time, but sometimes it's all about standing at the end of the cliff and just making the decision to take the plunge. Honesty is scary. But for me, with this blog, honesty has been the reason for so much of my own personal success. From being invited to radio shows to actually landing jobs because of this little blog, facing my fears and being 100% authentically ME has completely paid off.   The next scary thing on the list? Move to LA in the next couple of months and then take over the world, obviously. I'm scared shitless.

Be okay with being alone. I think this is probably the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn for myself. From going from a part of a "unit" for seven years to being a single girl in my twenties for the first time EVER, I've had to spend a lot of time teaching myself that it's more than okay to be single. In fact, it's necessary at some point. 25 was the first year I've been completely single since I was 17 - and it was an electric year. More has happened with friends and my career than I could have ever imagined, and I owe it to the fact that my focus, for the first time, was able to completely be on myself and my own goals for the future. 

I have so much that I'm hoping for this upcoming year. So much that I'll be wishing for as I blow out the candles on Friday night. And what's the most surprising to me is that, for the first time, I'm not wishing for anything involving a guy. I used to always make a wish to "Be Happy" as I pictured my significant other's face in my head as I blew out the candles. My idea of happiness for many, many years always was centered a relationship.

Now, as you can see, my idea of happiness has changed drastically. My hope is that happiness comes in many, surprising ways this year. I hope I can be a good person. I hope that my people succeed as much as they possibly can. I hope to FINALLY be able to hand out a business card with the title I've been working since college to achieve. I hope to attend concerts and travel as much of the world as I possibly can. I hope to take photos of my loved ones during the moments that I want to remember for the years to come. I hope to hug my grandparents again this year. I hope to keep writing and keep being as honest as I can. I hope to cry over things that hurt, cause it reminds me that I still have the ability TO hurt and haven't become so jaded that I won't let people in. 

I hope to finally take the plunge and move to LA, finally transitioning into becoming the independent, single girl I've been working at developing into for the past year and half. 

But hoping can be a bit of a fickle thing. It's hard to bet on hope. You can't be sure that these ideas will ever come true. You have to prepare yourself constantly for the idea that everything could potentially come crashing down around you and you'll have to start from the beginning, all over again (and be okay with it). You have to prepare yourself for failure and know that it's always a possibility.

Despite that, you have to know that your hope is stronger than anything bad that could possibly happen. You have to know that you want something SO badly that you're willing to take the gamble and to throw yourself into the unknown, with the HOPE that everything will work out the way it's supposed to. 

There's so much I'm hoping to accomplish this year and I'm prepared to be let down a lot, but I also know that as long as we just hang on, there will be far more good days than bad and that, my friends, is a roaring success in my book.
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