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

The Reasons Why We Travel

Travel. Why do we do it?

Honesty moment- traveling abroad is not easy. When people post pictures on social media, travel looks glamorous, but it is actually quite challenging. It is expensive and can be exhausting at times. It is also one of the most testing and stretching experiences you can voluntarily sign up for. You are surrounded by a foreign language and culture daily.

They say that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. In my opinion, if you can live abroad for any amount of time, you have the grit, the ingenuity and willpower to do just about anything. Travel truly shows you the stuff you are made of, the good, the bad and the ugly.

We travel because we are curious. We are curious to see the world, to not just read about it online or see photos on our timelines. We are curious to learn about other ways of life and curious to see our own ability to handle adversity. There is a curiosity in each of use like a well run dry that can only be satisfied with the refreshing of travel.

I came to Italy, plain and simple, because I wanted to grow. I was eager for a challenge. I was curious about a world outside of my comfort zone and what that would look like. I am a twenty-something who does not have it all figured out. My time here has taught me so much about myself and about other people. There have been lessons of empathy, lessons of forgiveness and letting things go, lessons on flexibility, lessons on openness and acceptance and lessons on being present and enjoying the moment.

Once I am back in America, my travels won’t stop. Each year, I have a goal to travel to at least one new state in America. In 2018, Utah is my state of choice. My goal is to get to all 50. (I am currently sitting at 30 states.) Why? Because I am curious. Each state has its own uniqueness, and you can easily travel from the west coast to the east coast and feel like you are in a different country. I travel simply to learn and to better understand people.

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Nice, Italy

Don’t just take my word on the value of travel and living a curious life. I asked some of my fellow WEP teacher assistants and friends why they travel, and they had a lot to say. A lot of them have traveled around the world prior to our time in Italy, and I have so much admiration for each of them. Every time I am with the teacher assistants in my program, I learn something from each of them.

My friend and fellow world traveler Tiffany White explains it most poignantly when she says, “At the end of the day, we are all humans, and we all have stories to tell. So, I travel to see the world, but with my heart just as much as my eyes.”

Keep reading to meet some of the other WEP teacher assistants and read the reasons why they travel:

Griffen, MacLeod, Chino Hills, California

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“The reason why I travel is that this world is so much bigger than just ourselves. I am searching to make myself, and whoever I encounter, have a better life, in whatever capacity. Learning, teaching, experiencing, seeing, and, overall, enjoying life as much as possible in the world we are blessed with.”

Zuzu Hamel, Seattle, Washington

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“I travel because it gives me a sense of independence I’ve never felt before. I love getting to experience and meet new people. As I see more and more of the world, it allows me to appreciate other cultures and makes me miss and appreciate home in ways I hadn’t before.”

Tommy Do, Dallas, Texas

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“I believe that in order to make an impact upon the world, you have to go out there and see it. Traveling gives me the opportunity to meet people from various backgrounds who all have a story to tell. We can all learn from and help one another. Being able to make these meaningful connections inspires me to travel, to have an open-mind and leads me to love my experiences that much more!”

Taylor Gersch, Portland, Oregon

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“I travel because it gives me a chance to learn about other cultures and an opportunity to teach others about my culture and way of life. Traveling also allows me to explore other parts of the world that are incredibly beautiful.”

Jonathan Sambucci, Mullica Hill, New Jersey

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“Travel isn’t about stamps in a passport. It’s not something you ought to do in your early 20’s because ‘You’re only young once!’ Travel is a mindset. I am currently in Italy, and I am traveling, but when I return home, I won’t stop. I’ll try a new dish I haven’t before. I will go to a new park and make a new friend. It’s an attitude driven by the never-ending question of “What exactly is behind that corner?”

Cara Costello, Boston, Massachusetts
*Please note that Cara sent so many good travel photos, it was hard to choose.

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“I travel because despite all of the terror going on all over the world right now, especially in my country with politics and social madness, I want to experience the beauty that surpasses the negative. The world is a big place. I believe experiencing its different cultures and exploring the unknown is imperative if you want to grow as a human being. Travel not only to live the world but to live in awe of all of its beauty.”

Nicanor Basabas, Wellington, New Zealand

“The reason why I travel is because I enjoy learning languages. The fact that if I go to a country and I can converse with the people in their language, I feel more of a local. Your experience becomes more real compared to just being a tourist.”

Tiffany White, Allentown, Pennsylvania

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“I travel because I’m not just a citizen of the United States but of the world. I’ve traveled for sports, for study abroad and now for cultural exchange- While my reason for traveling may change, the outcome is always the same. Each time I learn something new. Those that say traveling is the best classroom are undoubtedly correct. While I experience new cultures, I am also able to reflect on my own being and my own culture. The challenges we have to overcome abroad teach responsibility, problem solving and flexibility. It has all surely helped me grow as a person.”

Find Your Tribe: For Paul Walker

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The twenties are all about finding yourself. You try some things. You make some choices. You take some chances. You fall. You bruise. You get back up and try again. What a roller coaster ride!

At 24, I am constantly becoming more aware of who I am, my likes, my dislikes, my passions, the things I value most, the things that can use some changing, the things that I hold valuable and other things that I can lighten my grip on. The twenties are one big decade of learning, and a big part of that journey to self discovery is finding the people who will make the journey with you.

I recently saw Furious 7, the seventh installment to the Fast and Furious franchise. I had read reviews that said there hasn’t been one dry in eye in theater after the movie’s ending, and I was no exception to that. Typically, when characters exit in a film, you can walk away knowing it was just acting, but this film leaves you with a gripping sense of finality. As most of the world knows, one of the lead characters, Paul Walker, died in a car crash November 30, 2013. The movie had not yet finished filming before Walker’s tragic death, which makes its message of brotherhood, friendship and solidarity ring all the more true.

The film franchise has been criticized at times for its sometimes predictable story lines and not so stellar acting. Even if fast cars, action and muscle aren’t you’re idea of a good time, there is a message we can all take from, not only the Fast and Furious films’ message, but the people behind it: the value of true friendship.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Life has little to do with the destination. The destination is but a mere, hazy mirage in the distance. Life is not all about the journey because even that can seem unbearable at times. Life is mostly about people, the ones who run along side you and make the journey ahead not as hard.”

Vin Diesel has been quoted recently as saying that the friendships seen in the movie are not just acting, but they are the real thing. Paul Walker was not just his co-star the last 15 years, but his best friend, a brother, not by blood but by choice. And that my dear readers is what life is all about, finding your tribe, finding the people who will take you good and bad, love you at your best and love you through your worst.

“This movie is more than a movie. You’ll feel it when you see it. Something emotional happens to you. When you walk out of this movie, you’ll appreciate everyone you love. You just never know when the last day is that you are going to see them,” says Diesel in a USA Today news story.

People. Life is all about people, they are what fill the pages of your life with beautiful colors, laughter, joy, tears. Though difficult and trying at times, people are what make life worth living. I have learned and am still learning that we are built for community. Friendship is a gift, a rarity. True friendship is a bond that can’t be contrived or forced.

If you haven’t found that true friendship yet, don’t worry. The best way to find it is just by being your most authentic self. So don’t bend and break in an effort to find it, but when you find authentic ones, ones where you are safe to be 100 percent yourself, yet dangerous enough that you are challenged to grow, hold onto them with all you’ve got. Because friends, authentic friends, are the family we choose. They’re what life is all about (and they make any journey, especially the twenties, worth the ride.)

Be sure to watch the video for the movie’s single, See You Again. It’ll be sure to get stuck in your heard.

-Stephkt

Color Outside the Lines

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Crash and burns, falling outs, mishaps, mistakes, failures…..

The twenties are  full of them. If this decade could be nicknamed anything, then I’d name it trial and error. You think when you are a kid that by your twenties you’ll have everything figured out. WRONG!!! So miserably, terribly and wholeheartedly wrong.

In your twenties (and for a matter of fact, every chapter of your life), you are bound to fail at something. Maybe you got that degree but didn’t land your dream job right after college. Or maybe you never finished college. Maybe your love life is a mess and that relationship you thought would be always and forever suddenly ended. Maybe you had to unexpectedly move back in with mom and dad. Maybe you set a personal goal for your twenties that you failed to reach. Maybe you dropped the ball and have more mess ups than you can count. If so, welcome to your twenties.

Here’s what I’ve been learning: Mistakes are bound to happen, but whether or not you rebound from them, that is up to you.

Thinking about my own mishaps and blunders in the first half of my twenties, sometimes I cringe from embarrassment and other times from pure horror. But then I stop and think, maybe there are lessons to be learned from them. Maybe these mistakes are all a part of a masterful painting called my life, where the mishaps blend so gracefully into the strokes that make the masterpiece.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“No one ever discovered anything new by coloring inside the lines.”

Thomas Vasquez

Something else I’ve been learning: Don’t last your past failures stop you. Whether your mistakes pertain to career, relationships, or personal goals, don’t let them stop you. The twenties are all about learning. So keep learning. Keep trying. Keep going. Keep making mistakes and keep learning from them. That, my friend, is what we call progress. Otherwise, you will just be living in fear.

Writing this blog every week for me is a constant “putting my foot in front of the other” thing. In the early days, there were definitely a number of posts that weren’t so good and that I would deem as mistakes. Sometimes I wonder if people are even reading. What if no one cares what I have to say? But I write anyway. It’s an act of faith, to keep trying and doing something I am passionate about despite any shortcomings thus far.

Forward motion. Growth. That is probably the best thing we can ask for in our twenties. So you had your heart broken once upon a time. Say yes to that date anyway. Ask that girl out for coffee anyway. Didn’t get the job you imagined? Get some more experience and apply again. Or better yet, apply to another position you are just as passionate about and qualified for. To be great, you must first dare to make mistakes and blunders.

I am sure Picasso colored outside the lines a few times as a kid before he ever mastered his art. Do the same. Make mistakes and learn. Try again.

-Stephkt

The Twenties: A Time to Deal

Aaah the twenties! Such a formative decade, full of ups and downs. Full of growing pains. This blog is all about chronicling my life as a twenty something and my lessons learned. Hopefully, all you twenty somethings can relate to the embarrassing moments, life lessons, love mistakes, job woes and friendship growing pains, I divulge each week and that you find them to be both entertaining and inspiring.

Awhile ago, I heard someone say something that piqued my interest. They said something along the lines of,” Your twenties are a time to work through all the issues you’ve developed since childhood, grow and learn how to take the good into your adulthood.”

Here’s what I took from that statement, your twenties are a great time for counseling, whether unofficial or official. I don’t say this in humor or in jest. Get some counseling, whether with a professional in an office with a leather chair and polished furniture, at the foot of the bed with your head in your bible or in long talks with a trusted friend. Start learning to deal with things now. Whatever that looks like for you, start processing through the last twenty something years of your life and deal with stuff.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Your twenties are a great time for counseling, whether unofficial or official.”

Between the ages of 20 and 29, you are kind of in the in between. You’re no longer legally a minor, bending at the word of whatever adult is in charge, but you’re not quite an adult yet either. You’re still figuring out how to balance work life, bills, travel, family and friends. You’re taking baby steps, but steps nonetheless, on the road to becoming a full fledged adult. Why not use your “in between” to take the stuff that’s happened to propel you forward?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun.”  Whether you are a spiritual person or not, you can still find some relevance in this statement. This verse and really this whole chapter explains that there is a time for everything under the sun. I guarantee you, as a twenty something year old, you probably have your share of baggage, little secrets and parts of your story that aren’t so pretty. There’s a time to deal and to tear down old walls, and that time my friends, is now.

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Each of us has a story. Maybe your childhood was all bunnies and roses. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe college for you was full of nothing but studying, acing classes and volunteering in the community. Or maybe it was full of heartache, wreckless nights, and stories you may never feel quite comfortable sharing with your future spouse. Whichever is true for you, it’s okay. It really is.

The best service you can do yourself and the world around is to use this time in your early adulthood to grow, to mend, to learn how you think and why you think that way, to understand your triggers, to reflect on how your parents’ shortcomings or struggles may have affected you, to heal from past hurts, to figure how who you are and who you want to become.

On the path to becoming who you are meant to be, you have to first deal with the person you have become. Take sometime to reflect. Take a little rest and relaxation to deal with what life has handed to you. Sometimes reflecting back helps you find the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

– Stephkt

A Life of Purpose: One 20 Something’s Story

Authenticity is such a rare and beautiful thing. For today’s blog post, Marialicia Coates, founder of We Are Beautiful and Beautifully You magazine, shares her story. This young lady has such vision and purpose, but what strikes me the most about Marialicia is her realness as a person. Through sharing personal struggles, weaknesses and insecurities, she and the team of women at We Are Beautiful, are working to shift the cultural perspective of beauty and to encourage women to pursue lives of purpose.

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Getting to know you a little better……

– How old are you? 27 almost 28 (OMG)

– Where are you from originally from? Ecuador, South America

– Where did you attend college and what did you study?
San Francisco University in Quito, Ecuador.
I majored in Film and Advertising. I also went through 2 years of bible school at Victory Bible College and a year for a Masters in Ministry at Southwestern Christian University

– How did you end up in Tulsa?

I had been working in an Ad Agency as a copywriter for two years and I liked it, but I knew my life was not supposed to be a “regular” one where I had a job everyday and then went home. I always had a feeling I was meant to do something greater, but I needed to find out what it was so I decided to get closer to God and just leave everything and pursue Him and His word so I moved in 2009 to Tulsa.
– Describe yourself in 5 words.
Passionate. Driven. Funny. Loving. Crazy (in a healthy way though)
– What is the biggest lesson your parents have taught you?
To be a woman of integrity and to love everybody with open arms.
– What was your dream job when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a singer or an actress or some kind of celebrity.
– What is your favorite quote?
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
– If you could pick a character from your favorite movie/novel who you relate most to, who would it be and why?
Beauty from Beauty in the Beast because she saw beauty in the ugliest. She loved regardless and ended up bringing out the real beauty in others.
– Who is one person who always makes you smile and why?
My husband. He knows the way to my heart, but honestly just seeing him walking by makes me smile. I’m in love.
– Where are you currently working? What are your long-term career goals?
I’m working part time at a law office as a legal assistant, but the purpose to work there is just to open up time in my schedule to be able to work in my passion, which is We Are Beautiful, a non-profit organization that helps women realize how amazing they are and how impactful their lives can be if they dare to believe that they are valuable.
– Since you recently got married, tell us what it’s like to be married in your twenties so far? Any advice for 20-somethings considering marriage?
Being married in my twenties is very fun because we don’t have kids yet and we have lots of fun together. We sleep in together, which is a wonderful feeling. No, I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about sleeping, snoring, cuddling, or just feeling someone is next to you. It’s the best feeling in the world. Praying together is definitely one of my favorites. Seeing how real is God and how he answers prayer lifted by a couple is very amazing. Hanging out with other recently married couples is also a really fun and good thing to do because it makes you realize you are not crazy! The last thing I like about being married in my twenties is that we have a lot of dreams and right now they seem so big, far and impossible, but dreaming time is good. We are gearing up to strategize and go for those dreams. When you’re younger, you think about things less and you just go for it which is yes, risky, but that spark is essential to succeed. How much more amazing if you’re doing it with the love of your life?
My advice for twenty somethings considering marriage is to know that love is a choice. Love is not a feeling. When you start sharing life with the person you love, you realize you really don’t necessarily “love” everything about them right away. There will be things that bother you, but you have to learn to love no matter what. Of course, communicate if there are things that are not acceptable, but in the great majority of circumstances, let go and try not to control.
Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“Don’t be afraid of big dreams. Go for it! What do you have to lose?” Marialicia Coates
– Explain the purpose of We Are Beautiful and Beautifully You and how they are different.

We Are Beautiful is an organization dedicated to shift today’s culture, teaching women who they really are and encouraging them to live a life full of purpose. Beautifully You is just one of the strategies we use to reach women with the message of identity and purpose. Beautifully You is a magazine designed to reach ANY women, ages between 15 and 35, and bring them the message of identity. We Are Beautiful also has conferences, websites and soon curricula to help women lead in helping other women realize their value and purpose.

– How did the two get started?

Everything started from We Are Beautiful. To know how WAB started check out the story: http://www.beautifullyyoumagazine.com/about/

– Has your college degree been helpful in the work you do with WAB/ Beautifully You? How so?

Definitely. Back when I was in school, I couldn’t understand why I was feeling led to study advertising and film. I mean, film? C’mon! It was just crazy, but honestly all the creativity that flows through my brain was pushed to its highest potential while in film school. Advertising taught me standards when it comes to design, writing and consumer behavior. Bible School, on the other hand, helped me find my purpose because it helped me realize who I am and how much God has put inside of me to really change the world. I thank God I went to school and graduated with both bachelors’ degrees and that I have a ministers’ license because they definitely prepared me for what I do now. There are so many things that I would have to pay others to do, but I am able to do it by myself because I know how to. Of course I don’t know it all, which is why I have a team of amazing people that help We Are Beautiful grow every day.

– When you were in college, did you expect to be doing what you are doing now?
Not at all.
– Did you always have a heart for women?
Nope. Not at all. It all started in 2010 in that “crazy experience in my room,” mentioned here: http://www.beautifullyyoumagazine.com/about/
– What is your hope for WAB/Beautifully You in the future?
To become a movement. To become a very influential part of women’s society generation after generation.
– As an upcoming, twenty something, what is the greatest lesson you have learned so far?
“I am what I am by the grace of God, and his Grace to me was not without effect.” 1 Corinthians 15:10
There’s no way I would be where I am today if it wasn’t by finding my purpose and destiny by asking The One who created me. He created me not because he was bored, or because it’s just fun to create humans. He created me because He has an assignment for me on this earth and so I owe it all to Him. Without Him, I am nothing. I do nothing.
– What advice do you have for other twenty somethings with big dreams?
Don’t be afraid. Go for it! What do you have to lose?
** Photo courtesy Amanda Watson Photography, http://www.amandawatsonphoto.com

20 Something Advice from 2013

There’s only a few more hours left until the new year! There is something exhilarating about the beginning of something new. The end of one thing and the beginning of the next is refreshing, empowering, enlightening. New starts are what life is all about. If 2013 was a great year for you, I hope that carries over in to 2014. For those of you who would say 2013 wasn’t your greatest year, I hope you can take whatever lessons you might have learned from the lows and use them to become a better version of yourself in the next year. Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned this year and wise words that were passed my way. Happy 2014!!

2013 Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody)

Don’t ever let failed attempts get to you. Work ten times harder to succeed.

“If you aren’t at least a little afraid that you’ll fail, you haven’t aimed high enough.” Rachel Millner, Levo League

Be open to the opportunities that present themselves to you. You never know where life will take you.

The choice to change is yours in every moment.

Be hungry to succeed, not thirsty for attention. The most accomplished people keep low profiles for a good reason.” Lauren Maillian Bias, Levo League

In order to grow, you have to be challenged constantly.

When you leave home, you miss family, friends and familiar places. It’s hard but you grow, and that is the best part.

“Do the best you can with what you know and when you know better, you do better.”  Maya Angelou

“Surround yourself with dreamers, doers, believers and thinkers. Most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness in you.” Edmund Lee

Every situation perceived properly is an opportunity for healing.

When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Shauna Niequist

An educated woman is an unstoppable force.

If a pair of shoes doesn’t fit today, they won’t fit tomorrow. Neither will that guy or that job. Don’t settle.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react to it.” Charles R. Swindoll

It’s good to be successful and take care of business, but make sure to enjoy life too.

When it comes to your career, refuse to put yourself in a box.

You have to flexible and open. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Woody Allen

We are each a product of our environment. But there comes a point when we have to take personal responsibility for who we have become.”

Be persistent. Nothing that is worth doing is ever easy.

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Some of my favorite memories from 2013

Have the best New Year’s Eve. See you in 2014!

– Stephkt