I went for a run last week for the first time in years. In high school, I used to go for runs to escape from my thoughts for a little while because when you’re working out, sweating, and focusing on your body, you can quiet your emotions. I walked by so many little kids heading back to school after what has been the hardest year any of us have ever experienced from Covid-19 and our new normal to the economy changing in front of our eyes. I cannot imagine having a school-age child right now and sending them back to school, hoping they’ll keep their mask on, wash their hands, and sanitize. It’s hard to picture little kids wearing masks and immersing themselves in the school experience way differently than I did when I was a little girl. I never saw a world that looked like the one we currently live in. I applaud all moms and dads who are working so hard to keep their kids sane, healthy, and happy during a difficult time. My baby boy is still way too young to even understand what this year has consisted of, which I’m honestly happy about.
As children and young adults head back to school in different forms this month I wanted to take a moment to walk down memory lane and provide my young readers with advice from a woman whose been there. I remember every beautiful and every heartbreaking moment of high school…it wasn’t the happiest of times for me. Although, I did meet one of my closest friends the summer before entering into freshman year and my other good friend I met freshman year. It’s crazy how long we’ve known each other and they literally watched me grow up, which is something you can’t replace. I still remember my first love, my first crazy, sleepless night, and my first wild party like it was yesterday. I can still smell the perfume I wore every day to school, hear the songs that were on my Spotify playlists (so much Lana Del Rey), and taste my drink of choice when I went out with my friends on a Friday night. I did so much growing up and although it wasn’t always pretty, it was reality.
I learned, grew, and changed a lot during my high school years. I don’t relate to the girl I once was, but I love her. I love that she got me to where I am today. I love how fierce, passionate, and emotional she was, always. For those who don’t know, I was raped just after finishing my sophomore year of high school which catapulted me into a darkness so dense I never thought I’d feel sunshine again. I was no longer naive and I was forced to grow up in that moment, knowing that it was the only way to survive and move forward. I had to figure out how to not only love again, but also how to have sex again without having a panic attack. It was a long, painful journey. I remember lying beneath my first love and crying as soon as he touched me. He looked at me with this doe-eyed, worried gaze and I then had to tell him what had happened to me months before, which I was dreading. I had to explain to him that I wasn’t the same girl I was when we met freshman year and that I was barely holding it together. I was struggling with existing and there’s nothing scarier than that. When I say I’ve been there, I’ve been to the darkest places. I’ve also been to the most beautiful and I appreciate every page of my story because it’s made me who I am today.
I emerged from the darkness a stronger, better version of myself and I want to be that strength for others. I want to continue to remind young people that you have no idea how insanely strong you are. You’re amazing and can get through anything life throws at you. No matter how many rainy days you’ve made it through the sunshine is just around the corner. One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Gossip Girl, which I watched religiously in high school. I cried when the finale aired and I have always connected with the show because of my personal connection to New York City. I’ve sat on the Metropolitan Museum steps where Blair Waldorf and her band of followers ate their yogurt, I shopped at Saks and Barney’s where the Upper East Side princesses bought their wardrobes, and I’ve sipped martinis at famous Upper East Side restaurants, just like Blair and Serena. I watched Gossip Girl today and thought about my high school self…sometimes I miss her. Sometimes I wish I could talk to her and tell her that the most gorgeous chapter of her story is waiting for her just around the bend. I wish I could tell her that she will be an amazing mom and that becoming a parent will change her life. I wish I knew then what I know now.
Life is short and it’s beautiful. Your strength will sometimes be the only one by your side, but it’s a light that will never burn out. When you’re little you look for your shadow as you’re walking down the road, but instead of looking for your shadow, look for your strength. It’s always there. Don’t worry about what others think about you, or what they say, because there’s literally nothing you can do to control that. What you can control is who you surround yourself with and how you let others affect you. Be you. Be unapologetically yourself and never regret your decisions, even the bad ones because in the moment it was exactly what you wanted. Let your walls down and wear your heart on your sleeve. Your heart will get broken regardless of what you do to protect it, but hearts are wild creatures…our ribs are cages for a reason. Hearts are fierce and will always recover from heartache. Learn from the tears and the pain but don’t run away from it. You need to feel all of the emotions to grow and move forward. Don’t be afraid of your emotions. Every feeling is natural and demands to be felt. Hang on tightly to the people who make you feel loved, alive, and happy. They’re the good ones.
Live wildly and without boundaries. Listen more than you speak…you’ll learn so much about life and other people if you open your heart, eyes, and ears. The most inspiring conversations you’ll ever have will probably be with strangers, and that’s okay. Even strangers are put in our path for a reason. Never judge a person. You have no idea what keeps them up at night, or what they’ve been through. It doesn’t matter how much money a person has…money doesn’t buy happiness. Money doesn’t buy true love, laughter, or inspiration. Be the kind one. Be the sweet one. Be the compassionate one. We need more people like that. Hold the door open for others, ask about everyone’s day, and smile. Let your smile fill the room with warmth and positivity, even on the darkest of days. Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, enjoy the peacefulness of the rain. Dance and laugh more often. When you’re doing the laundry, cleaning, or getting ready for your day put on your favorite song and sing along. Soak in your favorite lyrics and let them inspire you. Go for a drive and roll the windows down on a cool, fall day. Watch the leaves change color in autumn, decorate for the holidays, and light some pretty candles. Read good books, eat good food, and enjoy a strong drink. Find time for you and workout, meditate, and unwind. No matter how tired you are, go for a run, a walk, or do a quick workout routine at home. It’s never fun to exercise, or easy but it’s so good for you. Be thankful for every breath you take and never take a day for granted. Be thankful that you can walk, run, and workout. Appreciate your body. After I became a mom I learned how incredible and strong my body is.
No matter how low you’re feeling, this too shall pass. The pain is real, but so is the light. There’s light in every single day…you just have to find it. Sometimes, it’s the little things that are everything. You’re here for a reason. There are only so many tomorrows. So, say “I love you” more, kiss with passion, and laugh loudly. Get a cup of your favorite coffee in the morning and sit in a pretty spot while you drink it, inhaling the entire moment. Watch the trees on a windy day and feel the sun on your skin on warm, summer walks. Moisturize your skin as much as you can, wear sunscreen, and take vitamins. Eat colorful, healthy food, but treat yourself to pizza and French fries sometimes, too. When opportunities come your way, say yes. Get drinks with good people, stay up late some nights just to sit under the stars, and open up to those who love you about your goals, fears, and passions. Live your life with passion and purpose and never give up. This is your story. Write the sentences you wish to read.