Dear Younger Me,

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You are a giver.

You have a fierce passionate to love and be loved. If you could hold up a bandage to stop the bleeding of the world, you would.

You’ve got your grandmother’s heart. She’d be so proud.

Hug her a little bit tighter. Cherish those days standing at the sink on her stool drying as she hands you clean dishes, bubbles blowing by and the scent of Palmolive filling your nose.

Before your 16th birthday, she’ll be gone.

You have your mother’s sass. Your father’s quirkiness. Embrace both.

Allow those things that make you unique to make you into the ‘you’est version of you.

I know your brother gets on your nerves sometimes, but he’ll love you through some really tough times. He’ll always have your back.

Before you turn 18, your mom is going to get sick, really sick. You won’t see it coming. But ┬áthis won’t break you. You will rise, my sweet girl, rise to the occasion.

At 20, you will get your heart broken by a guy, and it will feel like you’ll never recover. But your mother will sit with you in it. Through the tears, you will see a glimmer of who she used to be.

A few months after your 25th birthday, you will move to California and pursue those writing dreams. It’s going to be hard. There will be some really low lows, but the highs and the sweet moments will make it all worth it.

Friends will come and go- some you never would have imagined. In the moment, your heart will feel like it can’t love again, but hold them with open hands. Learn to love without expectation. You’ll set boundaries, and find your voice. New friendships are around the corner. You will love again.

I want you to know it’s okay to be hurt and sad. I say this because I know you, and you will try to wear a brave face.

It’s okay to feel pain. Don’t run away from hard feelings. Give yourself space to breathe. You don’t have to save the world.

Today, just save yourself.

With love and so much hope,
Your older self

 

If It Smells Like Pride and Looks Like Pride, It’s Probably Pride

Honesty moment: I recently realized a personal vice of mine, pride.

My form of pride does not present itself in the typical form, which makes it harder to spot.

I am not like the Kims and Kanyes of the world. The over-indulgent, self-absorbed, selfie-loving, me-focused personalities. It’s a quieter, more subtle kind of pride.

My form of pride is one where I choose to withold things, whether it be my gifts or talents, my emotions- good or bad, my thoughts and opinions. I withhold communication because it’s easier to shut down than do the work of being honest and, most uncomfortable of all, vulnerable. (Yikes!)

I have always thought that steering clear of the spotlight was a commendable trait. I thought it was a form of humility, especially when it comes to talents. I thought it was better to always allow other people to take center stage and for me to step back. I thought this was normal, healthy and even admirable.

I am an artsy person, which makes living in LA such an adventure. It’s a city of creatives- actors, dancers, singers, writers, musicians and artists. It’s such a gift living in a city full of passionate people.

Talking to my artsy peers, I have found that they share a common struggle as me, wanting to withhold their gifts, talents and passions. Why? Because it’s so much easier than putting yourself out there-for ridicule, for rejection, for judgment and to be torn apart by people’s opinions.

I love to sing, but rarely, have I shared this gift. I love to write, but it took almost seven years for me to actively share my blog with people. Why? I did not want the attention but more so, the possible failure that could come from sharing my passions.

Here’s what I am learning- My gifts, my talents, my passions are not for or about me. When I withhold these things from the world, I am limiting what God can do in and through me. Diming my own light won’t make anyone else’s shine brighter. Only by shining do I give other people permission to shine. Only by sharing do I encourage other people to do the same.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Diming my own light won’t make anyone else shine brighter.”

I am still learning that sharing is a part of the human experience- the good, the bad and the not so pretty. I write this blog “Life as Told by an Upcoming Twenty-Something” so I can allow other people into my story, the wins, the losses, the failures and the beauty from ashes moments.

What I know is my story, my life, is not all about me but about the people journeying with me. Humility says, “Hey, this is me- the good and bad. The strengths and weaknesses. I want to let you see me.”

Here’s to identifying pride- even the sneaky, hard to spot kind.

With hope,

Stevie

Cliques, Mean Girls and Old Friends: Revisiting High School 10 Years Later

One of my friends said it best. “So much has changed. Yet, so much has stayed the same.”

Last weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. (For my high school in Michigan. I split my high school years between two states- Michigan and Oklahoma). I woke up at 6 a.m., did my hair and make-up, put on a gown, and hopped on a plane at LAX to Detroit. I went straight from the airport to the reunion.

Fresh 6 a.m. makeup did not last!

Can I just say, I had the absolute BEST time. While I have seen all of my closest friends numerous times throughout the last decade (I lived with one of them and another I came home for her Master’s graduation last year), it was nice to be in the same place at the same time with a big group of my peers.

It was nice to see people I grew up with excelling and doing well. To see them happy made me happy. It felt good to just hug a few necks and swap life stories- even if only for a moment.

Lets call it a nice little pit stop on the journey to adulthood.

I laughed so hard this weekend. Friends recounted old stories, some embarrassing and all hilarious. (Most of which, might I add, I do not remember!)

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Maturity is not something that comes with age. Maturity is a journey you choose to embark on.”

The weekend was well spent. The class officers from my grade did a really good job planning a classy event. It was overall a win.

The only downside- when you revisit the past, you find some things and some people stay in the past. After 10 years since graduating high school, there still seemed to be the cliques, the haves and have nots, the popular and not popular, the mean girls.

I was reminded that not everyone grows up just because time passes. I was encouraged by my peers and friends who have grown and who are doing amazing things, who are working toward a purpose.

I was surprised by others who had not changed at all. I am reminded that maturity and wisdom (taking your mistakes and learning from them and choosing to do better) is a choice.

Ten years changes some things, but some people and things don’t change. I think one of the greatest joys of growing older is just not caring. Not caring about what people think, or about the number of likes on a photo, or who is dating whom, or who is wearing what.

If there’s anything I could tell high school me 10 years ago, I’d tell her, “Care less about what other people think and to use your voice to speak up for other people more. Laugh more and enjoy your friends- not all will be here 10 years from now. Mean girls may always be mean girls, but shake off the haters. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them. Other people’s opinions are not your business. You will attract the type of people you are.”

Cheers to revisiting the past from time to time but always, always moving forward!

In loving memory of one of my greatest friends, Felicia Diane Robinson.

With hope,

Stevie

I Am a Woman- and I Won’t Apologize

I am a woman.

I won’t apologize.

I am black. I’ve got curly-kinky hair and hips that don’t lie. I am a millennial, a twenty-something still figuring it out.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am intelligent. Sometimes I use big words in conversation without meaning to, and I know more about sports than some men. I am a book nerd and always eager to travel and learn. There’s so much I don’t know.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am quirky and dorky. I am one of the clumsiest people I know. I trip on things I see, and I forget things people just told me, but I have learned to laugh at myself. Authenticity is better than pretense.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am a girls’ girl. Some of my very best friends are women. I have never had a sister, but I have friends who are like sisters. I cheer them on in their successes and hold their hand in their pain. I try to show up as often as I can, and when we don’t see eye to eye, I try to make amends.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

Some women don’t like me. All women do not get along. This is a reality. Whether competition, miscommunication, or lack thereof, women don’t always like each other. That’s normal. I am OK with not being everyone’s cup of tea.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am fiercely independent. I will probably research how to repair something rather than ask for help. I like to do things for myself. I have no problem moving heavy boxes or fixing a flat tire on my own, but I have learned it’s OK to ask for help too.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am a feminist, but I love men. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive.) I am learning to build up and honor the men in my life up with words. Yet, I will never play small, shrink back or diminish my intellect or value for a man. I believe I am just as valuable as the guy next to me.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am tough. I have had my share of hard times, loves lost, and friendships fade and come out stronger on the other side. I know it’s OK to not always be OK and that there’s beauty in vulnerability. I am both sensitive and strong.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman, and it’s beautiful.

Finding Joy in the Imperfection

Perfection.

A lofty, unattainable, always fluctuating bar to reach for.

I am a recovering perfectionist. There has always been a goal, a dream, a next step to look to in my career, relationship status, zip code or bank account. In today’s fast paced, hustle culture, this goal-driven attitude is seemingly a good thing. There’s always #goals for relationships, friendships, career, fitness and dating.

I like goals. I like lists. I love planning. (I love planning parties for friends!) While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things, this mindset of always wanting the next thing can be detrimental. Focusing on tomorrow can rob you of being content today.

My friend Kelsie reminded me of this fact. In her not so subtle but loving way (Kelsie is known for being blunt), she showed me myself, that I struggle to be happy in the now. In my first two years living in Los Angeles and the last few months in Italy, there have been a lot of hard things. (Roommate drama, boy drama, a job lay off, friend drama, heart break, cultural barriers.) Adversity has a way of making it easy to long for a new chapter, a clean slate, a better tomorrow.

Here’s what I know:

There will always be hard things. Every season will have its mountains to climb, battles to fight and hurdles to jump. Each and every one. If you are so busy romanticizing what was or will be, then you will miss the brilliance of today.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “If you are so busy romanticizing what was or will be, then you will miss the brilliance of today.”

Today, with its unanswered questions, uncertainty, hard things, it is beautiful. I challenge you to see that, to see the beauty in hard things.

I know this idea of contentment, of resting and finding joy is counterculture. It also isn’t easy or even normal, especially in the 20s. You are taught to hustle, to strive, to push for more. The irony is oftentimes you romanticize tomorrow hoping for what will be. Then one day, you look back in nostalgia missing what once was.

I don’t know what this season of your life looks like, what hurdle or uncertainty or pain you are facing, but I challenge you to find the joy in this moment. Today, your today, is good.

The things that bothered me a year ago, I don’t even remember now. I know the battles I am facing today will pass too. Instead of wallowing in the lows, I want to find joy in my todays and dance (dare I say, revel) in adversity.

The 20s, like every decade, has its highs and lows. Find joy in your today.

Here are some things bringing me joy right now:

Volunteering with kids

My church family

Friends welcoming me home to LA

With hope,

Stevie