Singing With Self-Love: Open Mic With Jordan Serra

My good ol’ only-ever jam partner Jordan Serra and I performed our third ever singing open mic concert series back in Rhode Island last week. We’ve messed around holding “band practice” in his basement studio for about an hour or so before each performance, and more than anything we’re just having fun– Jordan more so than myself in our first few performances, where I held way too much pressure on myself to even enjoy in the slightest something that my soul deeply loves.

It’s about the one year anniversary of facing my open mic singing-in-public fears, and the evolution of my voice, confidence, intuition and ability to open and exercise my throat chakra is due solely to my newfound self-loving practices. My active self-healing and loving journey this year has transformed my life in every single way, and I believe that was evident beneath the spotlight at Perks and Corks that evening.

Our blast of an experience and the renouncing of my perfectionist standards was only exemplified by my excellent support team of friends who came to watch and my stage partner, who always emphasizes the fun factor behind a solid jam sesh.

Thank you all who have continued to support my feeling, healing and revealing, and I can only hope that these videos inspire you to get after something that makes your soul sing, too. Also, go give yourself a huge love-hug. Because you are magnificent. XO

 

The Jordan and Olivia Experience’s cover of ‘Valerie,’ by Amy Winehouse last week (August 2017).

 

The Jordan and Olivia Experience’s cover of ‘Alaska,’ by Maggie Rogers last year (December 2016).

 

A Jordan and Olivia Experience’s cover of Aaliyah’s ‘Are You That Somebody,’ last year (November 2016).

 

For more giggles and listening (including me trying to multi-task singing Beyoncé and tapping a tambourine, check out the YouTube channel. More than anything though, smile and have a little fun 🙂

Forgive To Fly

Let’s talk about forgiveness. Not too long ago, I was in a darker place. I was not surrounding myself with kind, insightful, loving thoughts, and that reflected in the life I led, my notion of self-worth, my dreams and the low-vibrating, also struggling, like-minded company that I kept. I was stuck. And I knew the health of my well-being and spirit desperately needed to spread their wings to fly and soar into a space of love.

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@Goodgrateful: With self-love, I found forgiveness. And now, I am soaring.

Fast-forward to my present, and Good & Grateful‘s blossoming in the beautiful San Diego. I found that space of love, but I did not find it in California. I found it in myself, though distance from the negative associations of my prior helped allow for my discovery.

There is an important distinction here in running from problems that are within, and removing oneself from an external environment that no longer serves us. I am sure, as I continue on this learning-journey, I will find that my environmental struggles were only mirroring my unhealed internal, as everything comes back to the self. I am sure, as I continue on this learning-journey, I will be able to return to those once-places of pain, and lend enough love to them in order to rewrite their scripts. That, I believe, is true growth.

But back to forgiveness. In this current life-chapter, I have focused intensely and intimately on self-love. I am, like many, often too hard on myself. I hold myself to unrealistic standards of perfection that only perpetuate a mindset of not being, and never being enough.

Intensifying healthy, loving scripts and positive mantras have helped me to shift my thought-patterns. Meditation, exercise and conscious eating have aided me in a newfound understanding of self-care. Treating myself magnificently, and humbly, remembering that I am the full moon as I am the mud that hosts the lotus, has taught my new company to honor, respect and love me in the same ways.

But at the core of it all, I am relearning that we are all and only human. If we are the universe and the earth, then we are every piece of it. We are the full moon and the sun, as we are black holes and vast emptiness. We are the flowers and the trees and the ocean, as we are tornadoes and dirt and the tectonic plates that crack and shift. We are everything while we are nothing. We are light and dark.

A flower isn’t perfect with its curved stem or curling petals, but it is beautiful. The sunset is only as spectacular and special as the clouds that blur and shape it. We humans were not made to be perfect. We are breathtaking and magnificent only because we are not so.

In this space of love, within myself, I have come to forgive myself for my shortcomings, my mistakes and my pain of the past and current. I am freed from the suffering that I clung to for so many years. And remembering that I’m trying my best and that our best is all we can do has helped me to heal painful relationships of the past. I am able to forgive others and accept that they are on their own journey– one that I may never understand– and they are learning and trying, too.

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Self-love has permitted me and encouraged me to break free from the past. I am ever-growing with deeper learning and loving, and I am ever-releasing myself as pain’s prisoner.

With forgiveness, I have tasted unwavering joy and contentment. My relationships with my self, and others, have peacefully heightened and become more enriching.

We are much less defined by the outcomes as we are the way we handled things in getting there, for it is never the destination: it is the journey.

And I plan to continue making this joyous journey beautiful: to be ever-learning, ever making mistakes, ever-falling and ever-getting-the-heck-back-up, gently and lovingly. And now, once again, I am soaring.

And now that I am here within myself, I can finally say:

I forgive you. I forgive me. I love you, and I love you, me.

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@Goodgrateful: Sunset over Pacific Beach in San Diego, California.

Surf, Sunshine & Sisterhood

Three weeks ago, I went, slightly impulsively, on a women’s surf, fitness, yoga and adventure retreat in Lagos, Portugal.

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Surfing on Portugal’s West Coast. Hannah Edy Photography

Envision: 7 a.m. beach circuits, learning how to surf in warm, green waves, the most delicious, locally sourced meals thrice a day every day, bottles of Portugal’s famous vinho verde, and the most amazing, encouraging group of women all living together for one week.

 

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Day 1 began with a sunrise run on the beach.

 

Read: the healthiest, most inspiring and well-intentioned week of my life to date.

 

 

 

It was a food critic’s most delicious dish yet, and an artist’s palate of all things brilliant and beautiful: green wine, 50-shades-of-turquoise blue water and fearless red energies of first-times mountain biking, horseback riding and jumping off a 30-foot dam. Add in constant sunshine, orange sunsets and purple zinc painting the faces of every unstoppable surf-chick-warrior in our tribe.

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Purple zinc became our chosen markings.
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Paella! Photo courtesy of Courtney Brokaw

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the divine meals and wine, we got a taste of the life of the unmatchable Sophie Everard, (who actually oozes radness) and was the chief-organizer of the Mad To Live Women’s Retreat in partnership with Lagos’ very own, The Surf Experience.

Fearlessly fit: featuring iconic Portuguese hand-painted tiles.
Fearlessly fit: featuring iconic Portuguese hand-painted tiles.
Sophie treating me with all of Portugal's delicacies.
Sophie treating me with all of Portugal’s delicacies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie is a traveling, writing and endlessly-exploring fitness blogger, sponsored by great organizations and companies for her own drive and very greatness. She alone was an inspiration in embracing unconventionality in part of one’s pursuit of truth. How can I ever thank you for providing a space that turned into the best week ever for so many of us?!

Photo by brilliant, Hannah Edy Photography
Photo by brilliant, Hannah Edy Photography

There is something to be said about the power and brilliance of a group of women who have come together as a team. I have experienced it before within my own group of girlfriends, and even more so on athletic teams in high school or college.

Women are intuitive and capable, instinctually maternal and because of this (evolutionarily speaking) created to take care and to love. We women are vessels with complex depths, and it is this empathetic intelligence that is both the essence of our magnificence and at times, the root of our aching.

Thus being, there is a special type of community, companionship and comfort in a group of women that has chosen to support and encourage each other’s depths. There is a wholeness in feeling understood by one of your own.

Hannah Edy Photography
Hannah Edy Photography

It is the understanding that you are not alone. You are not crazy or small in this world; rather in your safest space, surrounded by reassuring people who understand and appreciate your depths, you are grand. You are undoubtedly the very best being for everything your heart dreams of doing.

Yet we live in a world, swarming with distorted representations in mass media, that aim to keep us women apart.

It is oppression stemming from fear, and the imbalance of energy and the suppression of the Sacred Feminine over centuries that now requires many years of healthy, perpetual restoration from both male and female counterparts.

Humans have a less-than-grand history of making certain groups of people feel small out of fear of their potential to be great; perhaps even greater than the fearful themselves. But a true partnership in this life is bringing the other up to their fullest potential, understanding that they could never fill your particular role in this life-web; only you can do that. Lifting someone up to their greatness could never take away from your own, for they could never succeed in your role; it is not, nor can be for them, just as their role is for them alone, and could never be for you.

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The surfing, dancing, jumping, purple-zinc tribe. Hannah Edy Photography

I’m learning that it is not a man’s role to understand those depths of a woman, or to mirror them. The Chinese principle, yin and yang, the union and dance of opposites, honors exactly that: the differences between the two energies.

 

And I believe that a true man is not threatened by equality of the sexes; rather, he finds discomfort in the privileges he experiences in a system without it.

First-time mountain biking was exciting, especially when it led us to this view of the Algarve.
First-time mountain biking was exciting, especially when it led us to this view of the Algarve.

There was divine energy among the group of women collaborating with intentions of being healthy, driven, open-minded and full-spirited that week in Lagos.

In the very most, this is a prayer for the rejuvenation of feminine sacredness and a restoration of male-female balance. In the very least, it is my whole-hearted hope for all women to experience the community that a women’s retreat offers, as a stepping stone to a life system where all of us have each other’s best interests and spirits in mind and heart.

A wise friend of mine recently said to me, “there is perhaps nothing more powerful than a group of women dancing together– so long as they have each other’s backs.”

And during our time in Lagos, Portugal, we danced. And we laughed and explored and cheered each other on and saluted the sun and ran and fell and stood up once more every time. And it was not until the very end of the day when it was time to rest that we finally stopped– only until the sun came out again the very next morning, and we were ready to take on the world all over again.

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Magnificent sunset after a beach yoga session.
Hannah Edy Photography
Hannah Edy Photography

 

Check out below for Sophie’s video compilation of all of our fun activities during the week! Disclaimer: there is a clip of me being dragged on stage from the bathroom and free-style singing in front of a crowd before a DJ was to come on. My hands were wet. Enjoy! 😉

 

 

 

Tears Dry On Their Own

The legendary, soulful sound of Amy Winehouse first delighted the world on this day, September 14, in 1983. She would have been 33 years old today.

My appreciation for Amy’s work began at a young age and stemmed from my magical, fiery Auntie Denise who lived in Switzerland.

While other kids grew up listening to their parents’ old Beatles CD’s, I would spend summers reading Harry Potter in the backseat listening to ‘Back To Black’ with my mother and my visiting auntie.

Like many of her fans, I credit Amy Winehouse for my fondness of jazz, r&b and soul music– but I also credit her for being a lyrical and vocal role model in finding my own voice.

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20-year-old me having found sanctuary in a jazz café in Florence, Italy, during a semester abroad.

To me, Amy is a legacy of passion, feminine empowerment, deep-rooted pain and emptiness, and then, manifesting one’s own identity and truth. She was a torn, beautiful being who exuded emotion and talent. But then again, aren’t we all?

From shower sessions and solo car rides to the 8th grade talent show and humming at work, singing became the simplest and most soothing practice for my throat chakra to find it’s use. Sometimes they were my own words, sometimes they were Amy’s, or Frank Sinatra’s, or Taylor Swift’s. But every time, a heaviness deep inside of me found release.

So as this summer draws to a beautiful close, and New England weather reminds me just how sweet and sunny September can be, I knew I had some things to say in achieving my final goal of the hot season: singing at an open mic night.

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Perks and Corks has a book of house-made martinis… the cucumber one was delicious!

This past Monday night, I gathered with support from some dear, clear-eyed, independent queens at Perks and Corks in Westerly. We got martinis, grilled cheeses and girl time, and I got excitedly nervous. I was the last performer to go.

It was a small crowd, but seeing my friends (when I actually opened my eyes) and hearing the strength and feeling in my own voice as I got comfortable under the light was all that I needed.

At the end of the first song, the event manager gave me a verbal pat on the back. I hardly remember saying, “can I go again?!”, like a child on an amusement park ride, but he granted my wish.

Exposing my vulnerable voice and emotions to the outside world was the right kind of terrifying. Allowing myself to share my secret passion with the world was an act of self-love. Holding myself accountable to this fear-facing goal was a form of self-care, and great practice in putting myself first.

It was listening to my very soul, the essences of me that were screaming to be let out, and acknowledging that I deserve to be heard, in the way that each of us do. And in doing so I felt that same rush of adrenaline that I got from skydiving, and the best high I could ever feel in this life.

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Facing more fears and skydiving this past March in Santiago, Chile!

I’m no professional, but singing is something that I absolutely love to do. I’ll leave the rest to the videos. Thank you to all of my family and friends who have shown endless love and support!

‘I Heard Love Is Blind,’ by Amy Winehouse.

 

‘Stay,’ by Sugarland.

Patagonian Present

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A rainbow welcomes us into Patagonia on a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales.

Humans have long recalled the healing effects time spent in nature has on the mind, body and soul. It is a concept that has been explored by classic novelists, poets and more recently, scientists and neurologists.

While perhaps still unexplainable, the refreshing, rejuvenating qualities of spending time disconnected from the real world and connected to our real roots is undeniable.

Though I believed I had loved and appreciated and felt nature’s healing properties before in my existence, it wasn’t until I spent a week fully plugged into the wonders of camping in the Torres del Paine National Park of Chile that I finally understood.

Seven days without a shower. Six mornings of oatmeal for breakfast. An average of 20 kilometers of trekking per day. Living in tents, permanent dirt under fingernails, glaciers, wild horses, guanacos, sore knees, friends, turquoise lakes, golden fields, autumn foliage and blistering, snow-crested, looming dark grey mountains.

And the whole time, I was present.

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A guanaco lounges in the grass before looming dark skies and mountains.
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Campers’ tents at Refugio Grey on April 7.

I wasn’t thinking about who did this or achieved that; who landed a new job or started a business, who got engaged, started dating or went to the raging party last night.

I was disconnected from this “real world,” and these thoughts that had nothing to do with me nor affected my truth or being. It was just me and nature and my own, honest thoughts. And no one, especially not nature, was there to judge me.

We are not naturally programmed to concern ourselves with what others are saying and doing. It is a social construction taught to us, induced and reinforced by the media in commercials, movies, songs and advertisements. It is a concept that has found its most influential platform, today, through social media in particular.

We are living in a world and culture that is driven by consumerism and monetary gains- gains that flourish from honing in on human fears and egos.

These all-surrounding, mass-broadcast thoughts, are distractions in the simplest form. They are the fears and concerns that we consume and allow to pull us away from the truths that we know about ourselves, our wants, dreams and needs.

They are the elements of seeming complexity that we inhale and tack on to our self-knowledge, making it deceivingly difficult to decipher what it is we really want to do and how we want to live our lives.

These distractions are the ones that take our dedication and desire to travel the world or pursue our dream career and mix them with Johnny getting accepted into a rigorous graduate program and Jane opening a school for civil war refugees. Shouldn’t we be doing something like that instead?

“I should travel right after I finish university because I won’t have the time or money or health to do so later on. I should get into the workforce right away or I’ll fall behind my peers. I should be in a relationship, be engaged and pregnant, I should make that career change, move cross-country, volunteer abroad and exercise more so I can look like him or her.”

Distractions, fears, comparing ourselves to others- they are merely thoughts of negativity that prevent us from listening to the honesty of our hearts and souls; the parts of us that know the answers deep down inside. (They also create a market for corporate consumerism to feed and profit off of).

And they are not natural. When disconnected from these thoughts, nature is an honest, healthy, kind old teacher and friend. She will listen and demonstrate the lessons and knowledge that you are seeking. Nature is the truest and most beautiful reflection of our very selves.

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The glorious Grey Glacier, observed from a suspension bridge in the park.

In that week, I was free of all the layers of distractions that wouldn’t ever naturally infiltrate my mind. I knew only my own, unadulterated thoughts and my only concern was the best version of me that I could be.

Through hail, snow, sun and winds, I was stripped down of these negative distortions, being reset back to the truths I knew about me in the first place- a clearer understanding of myself and my life.

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A. marching into our week-long trek on day 1.

I’ve deleted the Facebook application from my phone. I engaged in deep self-reflection in those hours of walking that have guided me to the next steps in living my life truthfully after this trip. I’ve addressed feelings that I’ve avoided for longer than I can remember, and I know how to shine light on them now. I’ve kept these lessons from my Patagonian experience and enlightenment close to heart, and I don’t plan on going another 22 years without the clarity that only nature can bring me back to. On top of it all, it was the most beautiful place I’ve seen on Earth. What could ever compete with that?

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The famous Torres, glowing at sunrise on our final morning in the park.

 

Bailando, Bailando

I am 100% a proponent of getting out of one’s comfort zone. I believe in the truth that is humbling oneself, and growing pains and expressing oneself and taking actions in ways that may be unfamiliar, but honorable to the higher self that is calling.

That being said, I have not always been the first in a group to do something outlandish, and I am, in my most natural state, a creature of comfort.

 

Malécon of Lima, Peru

 

The magic and at times, exhaust of traveling is that it pushes you endlessly further outside of your circle of “known.”

And on this continent of South America where I speak little of the official language(s) and dance even less of the local movements, there have been times where I’ve found myself feeling a bit out of place!

To counter these feelings of discomfort (paired with the mysterious, nearly constant feelings of light nausea- from brushing my teeth with faucet water?), I decided it was time to do something that really made me feel like me again. For any of you who have read this past post, you shan’t be surprised… I set my eye and heart on checking out the botanical gardens on my handy city map of Lima, Peru.

I grabbed my journal and a cold botella de agua and headed to my park, only to find that with my limited Spanish speaking skills, I could not confirm with the man at the information desk whether or not the gardens were still open and if they were indeed worth the 20-minute taxi ride.

Alas, my next move was simple: set up in Kennedy Square, a park full of bright scarlet sages and orange zinnias and- to my pleasure- stray cats and kittens!

Cats in Kennedy Square in the Miraflores District, Lima

 

Upon approaching the park I found a circle of people and some Latin music sounding. I was hoping to stumble upon a live concert, only to see pairs of elderly couples dancing salsa and meringue in a small rounded pit surrounded by the crowd! Feeling warmth in my heart, I decided to watch a few songs.

 

At the start of the third song, I was startled by a Spanish offer.

Granted, Spanish-speakers communicate ridiculously fast and my comprehension skills are below the average first grader’s, I could only assume that this man was asking me to willingly volunteer myself as token gringa in this dance party of wiser, older, more coordinated Latino hip-swingers.

While my own dear gringo man and world-adventure partner has been so kindly coaching me in meringue movements whenever we’re out (he’s a much better dancer than I am; I told him once and he’ll never let me forget it), I was by no means feeling confident enough to showcase my skills amongst these naturals.

“No, no, no,” I said in my best Spanish accent, shaking my head and gesturing at my full hands.

But whether it was my already existing cultural discomfort (what more do I have to lose!), the young Peruvian man’s incessant requests, the middle-aged woman grabbing the water bottle and journal out of my hands and waving me to go, or a combination of the three, what finally came out of my mouth was an exhaled, “Ok… Vamos!”

Into the pit I went, where I discovered the song required Cubana dance skills (which I also didn’t have) and I giggled half-nervously, half-without-inhibition for the next three and a half minutes, making smiley eye contact with other dancers and older folk who were sitting on the surrounding stairs.

Whether they thought I was crossing barriers of age, skin tone or dancing skills, or imposing on cultural traditions or merely a Sunday evening routine, we were all laughing.

Because, when honest with yourself, it is impossible to see someone throwing themselves humbly outside their comfort zone without it affecting you as well.

The good-natured heart in us all knows deep down the courage and strength that vulnerability takes, and the beauty of that alone is infectious.

I found that that song alone was enough to fuel me in my pursuit of comfort, which was really after all a need to feel the greatness that I have, and have had in me all along.

In doing something that felt a lot less of me, I felt a lot more of me, because I was feeding the parts of expansion, the parts of myself I didn’t yet know were there.

I thanked my partner and the kind woman who guarded my belongings and I walked across the park. I sat myself beside a bed of scarlet sages and cats, opened up my journal, and I smiled. Because I realized that no matter where I am in the world, I can find a little bit of me, and I can fall a little bit more in love with it every day.

Parque del Amor, Lima

 

The Revelation of Acceleration

Greetings, all, and happy 2016 from good & grateful! As some of you may know, I embark on the next chapter of my being come daylight. I have condensed my material possessions into 80 liters-worth (think this and this), made a conscious decision to wander off the corporate-career-crazed path (I promise I’ll get a 9-5 soon, Mom and Dad) and booked a one-way flight to South America with a golden soul with whom I share this very dream of seeing the world.

Like many of my peers who walked the stage this May, I returned home under my parents’ roof to reestablish my finances and my footing in the vastness that post-graduation life offered. Sweet summertime flew by, a high-energy, “work hard, play hard” period that certainly seemed to still embrace those college values and routines that we (I) were not yet eager to let go of.

By the time a slower autumn came around, I was feeling stagnant at home and out of school; I was itching for the next experience to learn and grow. The idea to backpack South America, formulating over playful breakfast talks, evolved to be just the adventure I was craving. But I was still feeling stuck where I was, counting my days away. I didn’t like this not-good-nor-grateful mentality one bit, but I couldn’t seem to break it.

That’s what deep talks with good friends are for, right?! A conversation with some close college friends regarding this plateaued post-grad life led me to a new understanding:

Just as it doesn’t serve one to dwell on the past, it is equally unfavorable to wish away the present.

I believe that the universe is alive and conscious and always taking care of me. The time given is presented in just the way and in just the right amount that is needed for each of us to do exactly what we need to do; whatever that may be.

 

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With deeper reflection I realized that there was a reason I was still here at home, and there were things that I had left unfinished that needed to be addressed for my further and future growth. We are always right where we need to be. As much as I wished for the day of my trip, I had unfinished business to see right here at home.

These two college buds helped me reach another revelation in that talk around a bumper pool table in Pittsburgh, Penn., that weekend. I had written once about my developing mindset away from life as a linear, single path of progression to reach an ultimate destination, and more toward something inclusive and encompassing of twists and turns and unpredictability. The second revelation: maybe life is like a roller coaster after all.

Just when you’ve nearly stopped at the top of a loop and you’re plateaued, hanging upside down, feeling stuck? Everything is only just about to begin. It’s all about to accelerate.

With a flight to Quito, Ecuador, at 5 a.m., I think it’s safe to say it’s all beginning. In just the right time and in just the right way it needed to.

We’ve got some serious plans to be immersed in our travels, but I’ll do my best to steal his Kindle every once in a while to post some blog updates! Stay good & grateful amigos! Adiós! (I’m working on it).

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(A sneak peak at my life in 80-or-so liters)

How To Be Simple, Not Basic

There is a new female identity emerging in American pop culture. She attends all the local Zumba™ classes, drinks Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, and lives vicariously through “Sex and the City” reruns, all while wearing her leggings as pants. She shares all unoriginal interests and characteristics of her best friends. She is, according to mainstream society, the “basic b**ch.”

Urban Dictionary, the online cultural dictionary, defines basic as, “… someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.”

A simple Google search will equip one fully with, well, the basics. Blogs define the term, BuzzFeed entices readers with quizzes to implore their own basic qualities, and Cosmopolitan encourages full identity conformity with articles addressing, “The Best Things About Basic B**ches.” Accompanied with the humor and slight truths common to all stereotypes, the Basic B**ch identity’s sweeping coverage proves difficult to escape. The following are a few simple alternatives to being a basic that aim to relieve the pressure on females today. Isn’t it time to stop being basic and start being individuals free of inhibitions? It’s as simple as that.

Basic: Dressing as a sexy             for Halloween
A primary showcasing of basic b**ches undeniably occurs at the end of October. As early as high school, basics all around sip their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and brainstorm their Halloween costumes- the more sex appeal, the better. Around this time of the year, one sees the irony of unoriginal creativity that underlies all of the artificial hair and facial products. Sexy nurse, sexy police officer, sexy… lobster?

Simple:
It may seem difficult to escape the conundrum. The matter at hand becomes whether to partake in spooky festivities the way the society expects, or feeling confident meeting a new partner in a non-sexualized costume. The simple female’s solution: dressing however one wants, regardless of sexual appeal. There are many resources to finding alternative, non-sexualized costumes.

Sure, a silent film actress may not be loud enough to capture the attention of the male in the SWAT Team gear, but sparing oneself wasted time with a partner whose primary interest is superficial physicality has its rewards- more airtime for a non-basic partner. Plus, one has more opportunity and accessibility to tear up the dance floor without tearing the little fabric covering the body. Of course, if a sexy lobster is one’s true spirit animal Halloween costume, that’s allowed too.


Basic:
Selfie Taking
Paralleling the basic b**ch identity, the masses have undertaken the selfie as their primary means of self-definition. Social media platforms of all kinds are teeming with kissy faces and staged bathroom pictures alike.

Simple:
This alternative is a little less posed and a lot more generous. Instead of taking a selfie, the simple girl’s alternative is to take pictures of others. Whether it’s of friends, family or strangers, everyone benefits. Focusing the lens to the outside world allows for the capture of genuine moments rather than staged ideals. The photo blog, Humans of New York, is a predominant example. Ironically, if everyone is taking pictures of others instead, one is still bound to get a great new Facebook default picture. Perhaps this alternative’s most appealing aspect- the new default picture will get even more “likes” because someone caught in their natural, unsuspecting existence is much more beautiful than posing in the bathroom mirror with a kissy face.

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Basic: Excessive use of artificial beauty products
Too often, women and girls are forgetting to leave the house without an overdose of makeup, hair spray and artificially bronzed skin. The beauty industry is booming, and girls are beginning to partake in it at increasingly younger ages. Women spend over $426 billion a year on beauty products and the average woman spends nearly an hour daily primping herself- time that amounts to 2 weeks per year, according to surveys conducted by The Huffington Post and NBC, respectively. Besides the alarmingly high costs of the beauty industry, the obsession over appearance can lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety and eating disorders- what’s so simple about that?

Simple:
A simpler approach: ditching the foundation and applying a smile and a confident aura. These accessories match one’s natural pigmentation unfailingly and always make the eyes pop. This simple alternative may not be the easiest lifestyle change, but it outweighs the opportunity costs of participating in an industry that profits off one’s low self-worth. BuzzFeed staff writer, Erin La Rosa, shares her experience in an article about not wearing makeup for a week. Though she admits discomfort at first, she discovered she was more approachable, accepting of her flaws and respectful of the courageous women who renounce the artificial products every day.


Basic:
Living vicariously through reality TV, or other drama-inducing programs
One notable quality of a basic is their zeal for reality TV and dramatized programs as a whole. Including, but not limited to: “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, “Real Housewives of [various locations]”, “Real Divas of [various locations]”, “Glee”, Lifetime movies, Oxygen Network movies, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”, it is a miracle these individuals make it out of the house into actual reality to express their newly acquired TV-based characteristics.

Simple:
Acknowledge the difference between reality TV and reality. According to a 2013 study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture, exposure to reality TV negatively affects viewers’ perceptions of the world, including increased acceptance of catty behavior and backstabbing. A survey by The Today Show says reality TV viewers are more neurotic and claim to have a lower self-esteem. Simply put, reality TV and other drama-inducing programs offer more drawbacks than benefits. Going out and living one’s own life is much more simple than the time and energy it takes to mirror a star- a star who is only “acting” like their real self to begin with.


Basic:
Calling other females basic
Lastly, one of the most degrading characteristics of the basic identity is in fact, labeling other females as basic. Perhaps it does feel good to dress up and apply some mascara every once in a while, and it’s possible that a hot, pumpkin flavored beverage is the perfect accomplice on a chilly autumn day. Can an individual be simply and accurately defined by their comparability to culturally determined standards- or by anything for that matter?

Simple:
The paradoxical solution may be that the only way to accurately comprehend an individual is in realizing the absurdity of attempting to do so. Isn’t this, after all, humanity’s defining challenge? Accepting that there is no universal way to define a person is one of the simplest challenges there is.

The female’s ultimate challenge to the basic identity is uniting under the practice of individuality, not a homogenous cultural category. Instead of embracing the trending interests, partake in a declaration that will never go out of style- being one’s true self. Conserve time, money and energy and live simply. Embrace the innate, uncanny qualities within and encourage others to do the same. The first step may just be taking a minute to appreciate the inspirational quotes that flood Pinterest. As nonconformist icon Maya Angelou stated simply,

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”


The original article was written by Olivia Morrissey in October 2014 and has since been revised. She loves pumpkin-flavored-anything and leggings as much as the next individual.

Continue reading “How To Be Simple, Not Basic”

Planting Seeds

A few months have passed since my college graduation (woo!!) and like many of my fellow grads, I have returned to my parent’s nest to rebuild a savings account for my next life adventure. I was not originally pleased about this backtracking, as I tend to imagine life as an ever-progressing straight line, but now I’m thinking it’s more like this, and being home is okay for me at this point.

Regardless, I made it my goal to recreate what seems like a frozen-in-the-past lifestyle that I’ve fallen victim to each summer I return home. I slip back into child role under my parent’s tending to (who wouldn’t take it if it’s there?– thanks, ma), I go to the same bars night after night (ily omist), and I forget about all the positive growth I made by challenging myself while away at school.

So, as my undergraduate reminder of all I’ve overcome and all I’ve learned I’m capable of overcoming, I chopped off 11 inches of my hair on my last day in the city that became my home throughout college. The rationale for cutting my hair is true, though obscure to most, as it is with most of my decisions made, but that may have to be a blog post of its own.

July hit yesterday as a second reminder, and I realized it was time to cultivate that healthy growth and newness I felt at school in this environment that seemed all too familiar.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with flowers. Mesmerized by their natural beauty, I’ve filled paper gardens of doodles, enhanced my tardy reputation inhaling their sweet aromas on my walk to class, taken countless pictures of sunlight striking them in different ways. I’ve learned some of my favorite life lessons from flowers.

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms. — Sensei Ogui, Zen Shin Talks

I used to love receiving them on special occasions, such as graduations or birthdays, but I’m starting to see that having something beautiful of your own isn’t nearly as fulfilling as being beside something beautiful of its own. It’s that way with people, too, I’m learning.

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I knew I loved everything about flowers, but it seemed silly that my admiration should stop at eyesight. When you’re passionate about something or someone, isn’t that the case? You yearn to know more about them. The way they like to be taken care of, what makes them tick, what makes them smile, what makes them live.

Thus, I discovered my new summer goal. I set out to invest in some tools and knowledge, and I’m well on my way in learning to identify the beautiful life that colors our earth and fills our air with sweet scents. The very same world can be so different when you’re seeing it in a new perspective lens. My backyard is much less just the space where I grew during high school than it is full of Sassafras trees and varieties of Rhododendron and Hosta.FullSizeRender

I also bought this beautiful little succulent called Hens and Chicks (named Suca) that marks the start of my future garden in my future adventure. I can’t be sure that its location will be here at home, but like my favorite little teachers, I know I’ll have the strength to soak in the sunshine with the rain, withstand uprooting and transplant myself away from toxic areas to those which will nourish my living to a greater extent. But most importantly, I’ll never forget that I am always capable of, and meant to grow. Now that’s some flower power.

Duties vs. Dreams: When Life Gets In the Way

Alas! As if it were a test from the universe, I have become so caught up in “obligations” a month and a half into good & grateful that I’ve forgotten to make time for the very passions that brought this space into fruition: writing, encouraging others and replenishing altruistic energy into this world, among the many. It’s as if identifying and vocalizing my passions wasn’t enough.

It’s easy to preach to others and to pass words without backing them up, hence the phrase, “easier said than done.” For me, writing to spread positivity comes as innate enjoyment- a fun and natural way to pass the time. But what about those instances when life just seems to get in the way? When we lose ourselves in that which mainstream society deems valuable- grades, meetings, work, money, expectations, to-do’s- that we forget to make time for the things that we find intimately worthy? It seems to be one of modern humanity’s defining battles, not to mention a great source of the unhappiness that exists today. Lately, I found myself wondering, how can I inspire others and restore truth and goodness if I allow my own passions and dreams to be swept aside by society’s demands?

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For a few weeks now, I’ve been taunted by an unshakable feeling. My courses picked up right after spring break, mandating my best-attempted nosedive into a whirlpool of responsibilities. As a senior in my final semester of college, I’m finally getting that “real world experience” we all think we’ve been craving. Trying to balance 6 courses, 4 clients, an internship, a part-time job and a (rapidly diminishing) social life, I am the busiest I’ve ever been. While I’m beyond appreciative of these opportunities, the long-awaited moments when my head hit the pillow in darkness were met with unsettlement: something felt wrong.

It was the feeling that I was straying from my true purpose, and spending my time and energy in ways that didn’t serve my soul.”

Though I have come so far in discovering my true self, passions and dreams, I’m realizing that it is an on-going journey, and one that requires discipline, direction and dedication. I was so busy and caught up in the hours and minutes of each day that I had no time to enjoy the present moment, never mind engage in something that fulfilled me. I was stressed, frustrated and overworked. I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what to do about it; I needed a sign and a push in the right direction.

Today, amidst my speed-walk to class after a flustering client meeting, a flier caught my eye. It read “Dream Job Revolution,” noting a seminar by life coach, inspirational speaker and best-selling author, Mitch Matthews, that was to occur later that night. It was just what I was looking for, but disheartened, I told myself I didn’t have a whole 2 hours to spare on leisurely activities.

Later that evening when I parked to go to the library, I looked at the flier one last time. It suddenly hit me that I was being ridiculous, that I wanted to go to this presentation more than anything and that this was the nudge I needed and had been asking for to get back on the path of my dreams. So I followed the signs of the universe, and was rewarded.

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The event was incredible. Anonymously, each participant described one of their “BIG dreams” on a bright green dream sheet and hung it on the wall to be commented on and encouraged by others. Surrounding myself with other passionate individuals was the return to consciousness that I needed! Mitch Matthews’ presentation inspired me to get back on track with my passions, despite the pressing obligations that were distracting me from doing so.

I’m beginning to see that there will always be a “reason” to set your dreams aside. If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find it. Duties, expectations and obstacles are going to get in your way. Life is going to get in the way. Following your dreams isn’t a simple feat, but the most rewarding journeys aren’t. There will always be things that need to get done and things people need from you, and there will never be enough time to do it all. But sometimes you need to take a moment to say yes to the things that serve your truth and pass on those which do not. As Mr. Matthews said beautifully tonight: “crazy things happen when we allow ourselves to dream.”

Become familiar with the sound of your own truth- how whole you feel when you’re doing something you innately love- so you know when you have wandered from your path and you know how to get back on it.

Take a minute to reflect. Where are your time and energy being spent? Are they going toward that which fulfills you most, your passions and dreams? If the answer is no, think about why are you distracted by these other obligations. Who are you doing them for if not for yourself?

So yes, I do still have a 20-page paper to finish by the morning, and I still have to balance all of my responsibilities for the remainder of the semester. But tonight, I made a point to make time for myself and my passions, despite all of these distractions… and dang, my soul feels good & grateful for it.

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