The Magic of Living: Part 2

Part 2: How I’m Embracing, and Remaining My Inner “Yes Woman”

The waves were small and the water was chilly. The air was 50 degrees when my alarm went off at 7:20 a.m. I wanted so badly to snooze a little more until waking up to spend my day typing cover letters. But my surf partner and I went out into the ocean anyway.

And the universe rewarded us. Also playing in the small, friendly waves were none other than a pod of dolphins. After a solid five minutes of me slapping the water in disbelief, cupping my jaw-dropped face, paddling out closer to them, inquiring if their presence indicated that sharks were also around, whispering, “oh my god,” incessantly, and wondering why these so-called-waves had to be in my viewing way, I decided to do like my finned-friends and try and catch one, only to paddle back out and repeat the process.

I continued on this way for another 10 minutes. My poor surfing partner was probably experiencing his own disbelief in that someone could have such a reaction to a wild animal, but he tolerated it all the same.

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Post-surf photo from March 3, 2017 shred session.

There were few others in the water to witness my enamor and accept the sea’s smaller feat, but after the dolphins left, one nearby surfer caught my eye. He was seasoned, with a white beard, turquoise eyes and tan, weathered skin. He paddled on his long board only on his knees and pursued each small but promising curl in the same manner he would have as if it was the biggest wave he’d ever seen. He reminded me of my father.

After a few catches and misses, I called over to him.

“That’s quite the paddle, I’m not sure I’m there just yet.”

The man laughed and told me it took years of practice. “You should turn next time,” he told me, in regards to my last attempted ride.

I learned that while a self-proclaimed surf-bum now, he was also an avid skier and climber in his years, and had worked as a guide in Switzerland, set rock-problems all around the U.S. while living out of a van for two years, has his Masters in Chemistry, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and now has it under control and spends his time living in San Diego funded by his work as a researcher and online course professor at Vanderbilt University.

I looked at my new friend in awe. “Well, I’m 23, I just moved here, I have a degree and no job at the moment. What advice do you have for me?”

Darrel looked back at me and though beginning with, “I’m not sure I’m good for dishing out advice…,” he continued, letting the gentle ocean-waves wash over his surfboard and nostalgia-waves wash over his memories.

“Don’t get into debt,” he said after a moment. “Don’t fall for the illusion of things. Don’t spend your money on a big, fancy car… You don’t need stuff. I had a fancy home and things all back in Nashville. I even have a closet of fancy things here that I never look in. I don’t miss it.”

A wave rolls by.

“Do it while you’re young. Be good to your body. Don’t drink hard alcohol, it takes a toll. If you want to have a beer every once in a while, all right. If you want to get high, smoke weed. But don’t smoke it, bake it. Bad carcinogens.”

We float over another set of baby ocean-movements.

“Get a lot of skin.”

“As in tough skin?” I interjected, in due parts because I’m soft as a flower petal and because I wasn’t sure that’s really what he meant.

“No. You know,” patting his wetsuitted-arms, “affection, touch, love. That’s science…

And if you don’t like something, don’t do it.

“And this.” He looked at the water around him and ahead of him. “Do more of this.”

And whether he had more to share or felt he was done, I’ll never know. Because my transfixed state broke when Darrell spun around faster than I might ever be able to to catch the wave that was upon us. I made it over and looked back to see if he had caught it. He must’ve, I thought, going after it with the same energy of a pro at Maverick’s.

But he hadn’t. And it didn’t make a difference to him, because he was already on his knees paddling back out to catch another.

He didn’t need to put that last lesson into words after all: go after life like you want it badly. Go after it with full force. Pursue it and lean into it wildly. And if you miss? Get up and try again.

So living my new life in San Diego, I will go outside. I will walk around alone. I’ll look up. Smile at people. Make eye contact. Engage in conversation. Say “hi” to strangers. Accept invitations. Invite people.

I will say yes. Say yes to life. Because when you start saying yes to life, life starts saying yes to you.

And just like that: magic had happened.

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San Diego sunset March 1, 2017.
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San Diego sunset March 2, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check out the prequel to this piece– Part 1: How I Found My Inner Yes Woman.

The Great American Road Trip: Part 2

The second stop in my cross-country move to San Diego.

Washington, D.C./ Arlington, V.A.

On January 19, 2017, my babe squad and I collected ourselves from our time in the Big Apple, drove disappointedly through Newark without finding any New Jersey bagels, gained another college best friend on our weekend mission and got settled into to our Arlington home with our incredible host for an empowering next couple of days.

Four of my closest girlfriends were joining me on the first stretch of my cross-country road trip to march on the Capitol for the Women’s March on Washington, the largest demonstration of human rights in history.

The night prior to the march, the babe squad broke out the glitter. And the cardboard, Sharpies and paints.

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@Goodgrateful: One side of the 5 double-sided signs we made for the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.

 

When Beyoncé’s “Formation” sounded our alarm the morning of January 21, we made ourselves sandwiches and put our game faces on to fight for what we want. Because we very damn well can do both.

My girlfriends and I marched our way into the Capitol and screamed, shouted, cried and danced our way among nearly 500,000 like-minded human rights activists. There was an overwhelming feeling of solidarity and togetherness in the capital of the United States that day.

 

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Four of the five members of the babe squad marching in front of the Washington Monument.

 

Amongst all of the recent fear and heartache infiltrating our media and minds, there was consoling joy in realizing we weren’t alone in being afraid and demanding change. There was a blissful freedom in being surrounded by kind, good-natured, loving individuals who were on our team. Our human, heart-pumping, blood-flowing team.

Marching alongside a record breaking amount of women, men and children gave a sense of hope, happiness and faith in the togetherness that the next four years will demand of us.

There was something magically empowering about utilizing our voices, bodies, passions and devotion to goodness with close, caring girlfriends and thousands of equally-minded strangers. It was a record-setting highly-emotional, highly-charged day in my life, the lives of my good friends and the lives of everyone who participated. We made history that Saturday, and my children and grandchildren will hear about it.

 

 

However, the work has just begun. Despite my cross-country adventures distracting me from the “real-world” and filling my active mind with awe-some people and places, this journey to nationwide goodness and equality will require persistence. Stay tuned into the national organization of Women’s March on Washington for their campaign, 10 Actions in 100 Days to continue our communal efforts for change.

Take 5 minutes out of your day to call your government with the organization, 5 Calls. Their platform is based on the effectiveness of calling our representatives to voice our demands. 5 Calls provides appropriate government phone numbers based on location and offers scripts for those unsure of exactly what to say. We’re already on our phones- let’s take one minute to dial instead of swipe right.

This great American journey has shone light on all of the wondrous people in this country that we’ve been lucky to share time with. From our incredible hosts and hostesses to the strangers that have given us their “locals-only” city tips, to complimentary treats and beverages, to souvenirs and keepsakes, we have been reminded that amongst all of the darknesses brooding, there is still goodness and light everywhere in this world. There is still goodness and light in this country, too. Let’s channel that in ourselves, and let’s bring that out in others we encounter.

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The whole team including blogging flight attendant, artist and photographer @alwaysinairplanemode, @es_jessa and @deveneywilliams, respectively.

 

Check out our talented photographer and videographer friend @DeveneyWilliams, and her capturing of our experience at the march: https://vimeo.com/202389845

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: #WhyIMarch

Today, we celebrate a day that puts the present and future of our country into eye-opening perspective. Today, on the third Monday of January, we celebrate the honorable Martin Luther King Jr. and his fearless efforts to lead a life in pursuit of justice, truth and equality: racial equality.

He has been activists’ and aspiring activists’ role model for more than half a century. His legacy and life has been defined by the utmost courage, service and peaceful action that is still essential in hopes of victory among similar present-day struggles. The work is not done. It is not done for racial equality, sexual and gender equality, religious liberation and equality, for immigrants and those of varying political and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Though there are different forms of fear and violence occurring in face of present-day battles, the plight for racial equality and desegregation during the escalated tensions of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States was met with extreme physical dangers and hostility.

Today, we remember a man who demonstrated exceptionally relentless courage, compassion and most importantly, nonviolence during combat with opponents that presented him with minimal reciprocity.

He dreamed of peace, healing and community: noble values that the wellbeing and health of our country is in desperate need of today.

Today, and this week particularly, we continue the battle for equal human rights for all.

This Saturday, January 21, 2017, there will be what is projected to be one of the largest human rights demonstrations in the history of the United States: the Women’s March on Washington.

There have been criticisms that regard the march as non-inclusive or another act of “white feminism”.  Skeptics have defined the march as culturally appropriating or as women’s backlash in response to the first female president not being elected.

I have been volunteering with the Rhode Island Chapter for the Women’s March on Washington since the 2016 election, and I will be marching in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

I’ve spent every Sunday for the past 10 weeks with a group of passionate, intelligent women and men volunteers who are devoted to equal human rights. I’ve learned the short history and structuring behind the upcoming march, and that the four co-organizers are Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, a white woman, African American woman, Puerto Rican woman and Palestinian-American-Muslim woman, respectively. I’ve learned that these women have been listening to the needs, concerns and fears of participants in this march and trying their best to accommodate everyone for an event that is fully inclusive, supportive and welcoming of all in favor of human rights.

While there are still countless critiques, and four individuals cannot offer a full representation of the women in our country, it is a start.

And a start is what we need right now.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

The national mission, the Rhode Island chapter mission, and my personal mission are in alignment: that women’s rights are human rights but also, perhaps more powerfully, that all groups that were or were at risk of being silenced and marginalized in lieu of recent events in our country have a voice of their own, even if that means using mine to help.

I am marching for the groups of people who are at risk of being compromised by both directly hurtful or negligent, non-inclusive mindsets. I am marching to demonstrate that I will speak for them when they aren’t being heard, fight for them when they cannot fight for themselves and stand together with them to ensure that the progress our country has made in the last century is maintained and not destroyed. I am marching for Mother Earth and all of its inhabitants, because we owe them our gratitude and protection for all that they have given to us humans.

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Volunteers wrote postcards of support and love to the Islamic Center of Rhode Island during one of our RI WMW Chapter meetings.
I am marching because as a woman, I want it all. I want social justice, rights and ownership to and of my body, parity, respect and equality for myself, for the women who have fought before me, and for the women that we will be bringing into this world. I want this world to be a greater place when my own daughters and sons enter it, because that’s what my predecessors did for me.

And as a woman, I expect my male friends and family to do the same, with and for me and my female peers.

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Empowering artwork by local Rhode Island talent, Jess Cabral. Work available on EsJessa.com!
There is prevalent, underlying and at times blatant racism, sexism and discrimination throughout our country and as a white woman I can, at times, be blinded. I admit that. It has not been my socioeconomic plight that allows me to recognize intersectional discrimination in all its faces, but it is in my heart to do all that I can with the privileges that I’ve been born with.

There will be controversy, suspicion and disagreement regarding any movement of this size and subject, but there are good people behind this march who are trying to do a good thing.

There are people– people aspiring to act in ways that Martin Luther King Jr. did– people fighting the good fight, who are behind this march.

And what this country needs more than anything right now is community and coming together.

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” – Coretta Scott King

It was the honor, humility and dignity with which Martin Luther King Jr. fought that is most memorable and renowned, and it is those qualities that I will bring to my own battles, including the one this Saturday.

Let’s ‘Make America Great Again’ not by building walls to keep others out, but by embracing all of those within our reach already, and keeping them close and safe. Let’s redefine America, and remember that love trumps hate.

Stay good, and stay grateful.

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The Sweetness of Paying It Forward

It’s another beautiful day in the world, and I just had an experience with a stranger that deserved a mini blog post! I was just walking to class (in a delightful mood because I substituted some stress for some fun with friends last night) when I heard cheering from the sidewalk. A group of girls were selling popsicles for $1 and had caught the attention of another onlooker who, mid-walk, yelled excitedly, “Do you take debit cards?!”

The girls laughed, their faces contorting to exaggeratedly sad expressions, and called back that sorry, they do not, and the popsicle-craving passerby accepted defeat and proceeded. At this point we happened to be walking next to each other and before I knew it I had asked, “You really want a popsicle, huh?”

Though she giggled “no” (presumably out of politeness), my hand was already reaching into my easily accessible lanyard-wallet (that my friends make fun of me for) to get her a dollar. She accepted my offer graciously, smiley and thankful, told me I was her spirit animal (is she a butterfly too?), and the two of us parted ways.

Of course, this all happened in a matter of 30 seconds, but the reverberating contentment I felt from this simple act of kindness set in motion the positive energy that would carry me through the rest of the day and perhaps longer. I probably won’t see this stranger again and I have one dollar less to my name, but contributing to her joy (AND supporting the very specific band service sorority!) gave me a feeling much sweeter than any popsicle.

As the stranger and I headed in opposite directions I had called back, “pay it forward!”, and she replied happily that of course, she will. And I believe her.

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