XXIV: All About Energy?

en•er•gy

/ˈenərjē/

1. The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.


Energy, something we could all use more of and something we could benefit from lessons in. I, for one, could benefit from lessons on the energy that I put out into the world and from lessons on how I receive the energy that others put out into the world.

I took a short trip this weekend and, leading up to the trip, I was surrounded by nothing but bad and negative energy. I was angered by it and saddened by it. I let that ruin my outlook on how the remainder of my trip would go and I let it ruin my outlook on myself, as I often do. I wondered why the people in my life act the way that they do towards me when I do everything in my power to be there for them whenever they need. These are things that I often internalize, but I am just now realizing the dark cloud that tucking these things away can place over my day-to-day actions and feelings. 

Although I cannot be conscious about this energy and the negativity for others, I can control my reaction to it. People tell me over and over to just accept the fact that the world is not full of helpful people, or honest people, or good friends, or loving family members. It's just not. People aren't being raised with those values anymore, so it is time to shift my expectations to reduce my disappointments. But really, it's just time for me to change the ways that I receive their negative energy. 

Now, regarding the energy that I put out into the world: I love to eat and I love to laugh. If I can do those two things, then I am as happy as can be. In-between those things, I am working or at school/stressing about school. This means that I am not walking around smiling and joking, but this does not mean that I am not happy. 

Because this is such a confusing area for some to understand, I have step back and consider whether or not I am putting out negative energy by having others question my happiness when I am not waltzing around with a smile plastered on my face. 

At this point, I feel as though it is important that I do not put out the same energy that I receive from many others in the hopes that it will influence or inspire one other person to do the same. To start a trend of caring for others, being there for others, and actual good vibes would be epic at this point. So, let's consider this an energy check and a call for action!

XXIII: So, You Had Your First Trial Experience?

This past weekend, I got to experience, first hand, what it will be like to prepare a full trial and then to argue it. 

Now, at my job, I currently get the experience of preparing for trials, watching depositions, writing briefs, responding to all types of correspondence and so much more. The thing that I don't get to do, however, is argue a case in front of a judge. In fact, my job makes it seem near impossible to argue the case even after all of the preparation because you just never know what will come out of the client's mouth and you never know what tricks opposing counsel has up his/her sleeve (also, some clients struggle immensely with telling the full truth.)  But, I'm going to walk you through my experience:

The preparation

Preparing for this trial was difficult because we were literally preparing for the unknown. Throughout the semester, we were walked through the various parts of trials during a lecture and then we were given an additional class to demonstrate what we had learned. Each demo-class gave me about as much anxiety as the actual trial did. I have never experienced the physical symptoms of anxiety and fear that I experienced on the days leading up to this trial.

Also, my partner/co-counsel and I are both very shy students with insane stage fright. We do not like talking in front of people! So, to have that anxiety weighing heavily on us on top of being afraid of looking unprepared, let's just say that we had a very unstable couple of weeks leading up to the trial. Luckily for us, we understand each other and although I'm sure I got on his nerves, I am beyond proud of my co-counsel!

We both prepared the ways that we knew how and brought it all together prior to the big day. 

The trial

By the morning of the trial, I had already accepted the fact that I was going to have to go through with the trial. There was no backing out (I would never do that to my co-counsel), there was no changing my arguments, it was showtime. 

Now, it's true what they say, dress for the role you want. But, instead of the traditional women-in-a-suit while entering the courtroom, I went for a more modern day take on it. I wore a pure white dress that had beautiful yellow, orange and green sunflowers at the bottom with a tuxedo blazer from the Tracee Ellis Ross Collection and black and white Nine West heels. The three male attorneys, of course, wore suits ranging from blue to black. 

I think the worst seconds, minutes, and hours of the trial were the ones immediately before we retired to the judges chambers to argue our pre-trial motions. The unknown. The unexpected. The unwanted.

Once we got past the motions, we were introduced to the jury and then began our voir dire. I'll fast forward through all of the specifics and say that: opening statements came after the jury selection, we (prosecution) then gave our case-in-chief and then defense gave theirs, there were closing arguments and then the jury retired to deliberate. However, due to unfortunate events of the day, the jury was not able to deliberate long enough to reach a verdict, but the judge did offer us feedback. 

Overall, the trial experience was not as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, it could get confusing or bogged down with what seem like outlandish arguments, but you become very invested because it is still your job to put on your case. Although you are arguing for fake or imaginative clients, you still want justice for them. In reading the facts over and over, you begin to picture the parties involved, the scenes that will be discussed, and you want to win because you've now seen these things. It was definitely a great experience. 

The celebration

There's nothing like celebrating being done with something that you and your fellow classmates found difficult or uncomfortable. 

Entering the world of law introduces you to some very interesting people that you (maybe) wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to meet before. We all enter one way and then slowly become these law-obsessed weirdos with dark senses of humor, so just imagine what our celebration looks like!

We literally sat at a bar at 4 p.m. and talked about law for hours and it was FUN! After that, we'd decided that we would go home, shower and change to go out once again. By that point I was quickly reminded that we're all old weird nerds and staying up past 8 p.m. is hard. I didn't even make it out because, by about 8:30 p.m., I was knocked out on the couch.

So, I guess law students celebrate big things by getting the rest that they missed out on leading up to the big day(s)!

Overall, the experience was invaluable. 

XXII: What Are Your Top Five Classroom Pet Peeves?

As a law student who experiences irritation on a regular basis, I thought it'd be fun to list a couple of classroom annoyances. I spend a good chunk of my life (for now) in a classroom or at work, so why not complain about it?

Number 1: The loud chewer

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You know, the person that basically waits until class starts to eat...

I cannot lie, this is usually me, but I try to step outside to eat when I know it'll be loud. 

Either way, nobody wants to hear the chewage especially if you aren't sharing, so pass the peas or wait until after class. 

 

Number 2: The loud typer

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There's always one person in the class that types as though they've just discovered the cure to cancer. 

Now, if you did, then that's amazing! But since I know that you did not, I'd like for you to learn to introduce your fingers to the keys of the keyboard on your laptop in a more polite manner.

Thanks. 

Number 3: the person that can't keep the facts, the facts

I get it, we all want to be the most creative law students. But, when the professor gives us a set of facts and you change them just so that you can know the answer, you only confuse everyone else.

So, stop it.

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Number 4: the know-it-all

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You know what? In law school, I actually enjoy this person. 

For many law school classes, the professors teach using the Socratic method which means that they'll lob a question or a hypothetical to you randomly and you'd better have the answer. But, when the know-it-alls are enthusiatic about answering, the professor won't tell them 'no!' They'll let them answer which saves me from being called on.

Thank you, know-it-alls. Y'all are the real MVPs. 

Number 5: The Outside-the-boxer

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These are the people that get a normal hypothetical and take it to unknown, unimaginable lengths. 

Their thinking seems so twisted that you forget what class you're in! I love these people in everyday conversations, but, in a classroom (where I am usually already confused) you just add to the confusion.

Save that creativity for later, my friend. 

XXI: Need a Hobby? So Do I.

Spring Break is officially over for the students of McGeorge School of Law. This means that, all of the fun that I had doing random things (and nothing), is over. But, I've decided that, in order to keep my sanity and peace of mind, I will pick up a hobby that keeps a smile on my face.  

Although my days are filled with all of the things that I should be doing, I long for a vice or a hobby most days. I've been trying to pick up new and different interests just to keep things spicy, but so far, I haven't found that one thing that adds a little zest to my life. As of right now I regularly workout, am a ballet dancer, and I work. 

What Am I looking for?

I am a visual perceiver first and foremost. I love to see things and that's how I connect with them. As someone who has had a difficult history and diagnoses surrounding their eyes and eyesight, I try not to take for granted the things that I see. Hence the photography obsession. 

So, in a hobby/vice, I am looking for something to "wow" me. I am looking for something so beautiful that I can't look away. And this doesn't have to be a picture or a sunset on a beach, it can be a show, a concert, or even a musical. Just something different. 

Another thing that I wouldn't mind adding to my list of regulars is something regarding food. I eat the same things over and over (and honestly I don't have a problem with it), but it would be great to be excited about new tastes, new flavors and beautiful plating. 

Why Now? 

Why am I looking for a hobby during the busiest part of the semester and of work? Because I am at the point in my law school career where I am no longer excited to spend days or even hours in the library. My attention span is now almost completely non-existent when it comes to sitting down and actually studying. And, as far as work is concerned, the piles are not going anywhere. No matter how hard I try, it is just not enough. 

So, it's my belief that a hobby would help to keep me motivated when the Self-Check doesn't fully reset me. 

So, What'll It Be?

That's the thing, I have no clue!

I think I will start by buying tickets to a couple of shows, and from there I will just be sure that I've attended, at least, one show per month. That should keep things spicy for now. 

Here are some of the tickets that I currently have:

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March

Carmina Burana (Sacramento Ballet)

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March

Giants vs. River Cats (Exhibition Game)

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April

Finding Neverland (Musical)

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May

An American In Paris (Broadway)

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September

On The Run II Tour

XX: Need Answers to A Couple of Common Misconceptions?

We have all been misjudged at some point about one thing or another. I, for one, experience this often just based on my demeanor and my presence.

This post is all about addressing those common misconceptions and, hopefully, opening the door for people to get to know us more. Both Anete & myself will list out some of the thoughts held at one point or another by onlookers and add whether or not we believe them to be true.

Biased? Absolutely.

Let's dive in: 

BREE

1. I Am Mean.

I will start with the most obvious one because I completely understand why people feel this way about me. I don't have the most inviting face, unless I walk around smiling, and I do not make it point to engage much, unless I feel like it.   

This leaves many thinking that I am just a mean girl. But, that couldn't be farther away from the truth. I am actually a very nice, caring, and giving person (definitely too nice, caring and giving.) The problem is that, when you are too nice or too anything, you leave yourself wide open to those that will just take advantage of you. I know this all too well. And, I've experienced it way too much. So, mean? No. Closed off almost completely? Yes, for the time being. 

2. All I Do Is Eat.

Yep. You got me. 

Food is literal happiness. Although I am a very picky eater, I still manage to find foods that I thoroughly enjoy. I love trying new takes on the same ingredients that I've tried a million times. 

Like recently I had a quesapizza. I've had a quesadilla before and I've definitely had a pizza before, but when you put those two together you've got magic (thanks Goldfield Trading Post)!

3. I Am Weird.

This is my favorite because it is completely true! I am weird. I am definitely like no one you've ever met before. I socialize differently; I have completely different ideas of fun than most; I laugh at the most random things ever; and I have hobbies that you wouldn't imagine. 

I'm able to face the fact that I am absolutely weird because I know that some day someone will either match my weirdness or have a full love and appreciation for it. I welcome that day. I look forward to that day. 

So, here's to never being normal and forever embracing my Weird!

4. I Work Out All The Time.

Now, this is wrong, in my opinion, because I know that there are people with way more time that work out way more than I do. 

I literally hit the gym when I can and when it helps. Anytime I know I'll have a long night of studying, I have to go to the gym so that I'll be able to stay up all night and focus. 

Another reason that I work out is because I am not as vocal as I should be about my feelings. So, when I am disappointed by yet another person, I work out. When I am sad, I work out. When I am happy, I work out. When I am overwhelmed, I work out. 

Forget the science behind why working out helps me in ways that people can't. Forget the perks that come from working out. I could lose the "glam muscles" any day and still feel the same amount of pain I felt before if I weren't able to release it all in the gym. I work out because I need it, so it's okay if it seems like that's all that I do. 

5. I've Put Up An Impenetrable Wall. 

This is no misconception. This is totally true. I have a huge wall up and not by choice. 

I have given away, to few people, the things that make me weak. I've shared my insecurities. I've shared my  downfalls. I've shared my mistakes, and the people from my past have taken all of those things and used them to wage a war against me. The very people that I trusted enough to be vulnerable with are the people that made me build that wall. Person after person and brick by brick, it gets higher. 

I hate that wall. I fear that wall. I know that this wall will only prevent me from friendships, relationships and possibilities. But, to take the wall down would put me in the vulnerable spot that I do not want to be in again. 

I'm grateful, however, for those of you that pay enough attention to know that it exists and I am beyond grateful to those of you that have tried to combat it.

A huge part of me wants you all to know that I never want you to give up trying to knock it down.

ANETE

1. I Am A Total Extrovert.

I can see why people think this. I do well with public speaking, I seem outgoing and talkative in social situations, and I'm not shy in making introductions. But none of these things automatically make someone an extrovert.

I spend the majority of my free time alone, in my own home, doing activities that require absolutely no interaction with other human beings, and I LOVE my solitude. I need to be alone to recharge. Being in public and being around other people drains my energy, and I find myself wishing I could just be back at home. I hate small talk, I hate forced networking, and parties are only tolerable for short periods of time. It might seem like I flow through social situations with ease, but on the inside I am often screaming for peace and quiet. It's important to remember that even a 'social butterfly' can be introverted. 

2. I Am Cold And Lack Emotion.

Deep down, I am a huge bundle of nerves and emotion, but I don't like to show it because it makes me feel weak. If I cry, I only cry in private. If I am struggling with depression or other emotional/mental issues, I steer conversations away from how I'm doing because I don't want to discuss it. I hate asking for help or advice, so I can see why people might get the impression that I have a cool exterior. 

I was raised by a stoic mother who braved many horrible events in her life, and I rarely ever saw her exhibit her true emotions. In her poise I saw strength, and I often found myself hiding behind my own emotional barrier to avoid letting others see my tender, vulnerable interior. But the emotional side is definitely there, more than most people might ever imagine.

3. I Am Weird.

I am joining Bree on this one, because it is 100 percent TRUE! Anyone who truly knows me is well aware that I can be quite strange. I say weird things, I make even weirder gestures to go along with the things I say, I am a total nerd in more ways than you might ever expect, and I am constantly laughing at myself.

I love being weird! Life is boring if you can't embrace your eccentric qualities. All the best people have their quirks.

4. I Am A Dumb Blonde.

A certain irritation exists when people fall victim to preconceived notions, and this is a common one. Some say, 'Oh, that's just a stereotype and everyone knows it's not true.' But you would be shocked how often it comes up in ordinary situations. When every verbal mishap starts being attributed to a 'blonde moment,' the joke gets old and tiring.

Once people get to know me they realize the opposite, but there is sometimes an inherent assumption that I might be gullible or that I might not know something simply because of my hair color coupled with the fact that I am female.

5. I Am Arrogant Or Standoffish.

Some people judge by projecting their own insecurities onto other people. The people I am closest to know where I come from. They know who I was when I was young. They are aware of some of my biggest struggles, and they know that I have worked hard for everything I have. For those people, I am forever grateful. I come from humble beginnings and a family with grounded values. I have nothing to prove.

It took a long time to build up my confidence, and sometimes that sense of confidence can be mistaken for arrogance. I'm the complete opposite of that, though. I would never let my ego overpower my personal relationships, because I know how it feels when someone constantly tries to break down your spirit. I will always treat people with respect and kindness, as I was raised to do. I love doing nice things for others and bringing joy to the lives of my friends and family members.

My philosophy is that you should be kind unless someone gives you a reason not to be. I apply this rule to my daily life, and I try to be as approachable and friendly as possible. If I ever seem standoffish, it's because I have RBF and I'm not aware of it, or you simply haven't gained my trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Common misconception.

Misjudgment.

Confusion.

Whatever you want to title it, we all have things that people observe and then believe about us. Sometimes these things are fun to address, and, other times, not so much. But, they all help us understand each other and they help us understand ourselves. 

I am curious to hear from the readers what misconceptions people have about you.

XIX: What Are Your Current 'Must-Watch' Movies?

I am a huge fan of the cinema! I just love the places and mental spaces that movies, both old and new, take you and I love feeling as though I can escape daily pressures for 2-3 hours of the day.

Here are some escapes that I've loved and that you shouldn't miss:

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It's Complicated

If you have not seen this movie, you are completely missing out.

This movie gives an interesting perspective about life after divorce. It is not your typical love story which is why it is so great. 

Do yourselves a favor and watch this movie. You'll laugh and you'll definitely fall in love with it. 

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Tristan + Isolde

Now, this is a love story like none other. You've got gore and lot's of fighting, but from all of this, you get love!

This has been a favorite of mine for a while. I would definitely give this movie a try if you have not yet seen it. 

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Peter Pan

This is my all-time favorite movie. Nope! I am not kidding, this is my favorite movie. 

1. I love Jeremy Sumpter

2. Who doesn't dream of staying forever young? 

Definitely watch this version of Peter Pan if you haven't seen it. You will not regret it. 

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Curly Sue

Say hello to another gem from my childhood. I watched this movie over and over and over and over and over again. 

Curly Sue is this cute little sassy girl that helps her father scheme for money and food until the duo meets the perfect kind-hearted woman to change the tide of their lives.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Lucky for you guys, Amazon has everything! 

 

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Black Panther

Now you KNOW that I have to mention the movie of the decade (yes, I said it), the Black Panther!

If you watch this movie and do not like it, then the fact must be that you did not watch it at all. 

The Black Panther was beautifully done, excellently executed and super Black just like I like it!

I could sit here and type my heart away about this movie, but it'd be useless. There are simply no words for how amazing this movie is. The best in the Marvel Universe, hands down.

Do yourself a favor and watch it! And then watch it again.

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Star Wars Episode II

This is still my favorite Star Wars movie. I grew up watching these movies all thanks to my Uncle Jeremy (HAPPY BIRTHDAY UNCLE JEREMY!). He is a huge Star Wars fan and even subjects his family to long car rides listening to the Star Wars soundtracks (as he should.)

Anyway, I suppose that since I am so anti-love in the real world, any good love story on the television just steals my heart. Anakin and Padme had a beautiful beginning and I just love watching them in this movie! 

 

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The Greatest Showman

We all know that I've thoroughly enjoyed this movie! I loved it so much that I even wrote a review about it (click here to read).

Musicals are pretty few and far between, but when they come around, they are usually great. 

This musical was a complete game-changer. Every song was brilliant, the acting was on point and the costume design was to die for!

Definitely watch this if you haven't already. 

 

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My Girl

Be prepared to cry if you're watching this one.

I would not consider this a "favorite", but I did watch it a lot when I was younger. I have no clue why TBS loved this movie so much, but I do know that each time it came on, I watched it!

 

 

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Les Misérables

Anyone that knows me, even a little, knows that I love a good musical. 

Les Mis is a musical with so many mini stories included. It follows the life of Jean Valjean who was imprisoned after stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. 

Once freed, he reinvents himself and starts a life anew. 

If you're a lover of all things musical, like me, then check this one out!

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Just Wright

Now, if you can get past Paula Patton's horrible acting, then this is a great movie! 

I have no clue why I love this post-Love & Basketball movie but I think that it is brilliant.

I love Queen Latifah in pretty much any movie and her love chemistry with Common was believable. 

If you haven't already, give this one a chance. 

There's no way that I could make a complete list of all of the movies that have had a lasting impression on me, but I hope that this short list gives you a feel for what I like. 

What are some of your must-watch movies? What movies currently have you obsessed? 

XVIII: Seattle!

As promised, Let's Be Breef has chosen travel locations for the year and now, we are checking them off of the list. This week, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting a friend during a beautiful stay in Downtown Seattle!

I will admit that it is difficult to capture moments and locations while also trying to live in each moment, but I did my best! Here are a couple of photographs of my visit to Seattle. 

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Flying into Seattle is absolutely stunning!

Although I essentially left behind the sunshine and cool breeze of California for the clouds and frigid cold of Seattle, the sunrises and sunsets that you get make all of the cold worth it. 

Thank you, Southwest for flawless travels even in light of a couple of delays. They worked overtime to make sure that everyone made it to where they were supposed to be within good time. 

 The Westin - Seattle (28th Floor) 

The Westin - Seattle (28th Floor) 

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Seattle is such a food hub!

But, there would be no food without amazing chefs. 

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The Crumpet Shop

1503 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

 As someone who literally collects Starbucks cups from every city, state, and country that she visits, there was no way that I would come to Seattle and  not  go to the first Starbucks ever!  This Starbucks is located centrally within the Pike Place Market and is surrounded by plenty of delicious bread stands, ethnic cuisines, and cheese! Lots of cheese! 

As someone who literally collects Starbucks cups from every city, state, and country that she visits, there was no way that I would come to Seattle and not go to the first Starbucks ever!

This Starbucks is located centrally within the Pike Place Market and is surrounded by plenty of delicious bread stands, ethnic cuisines, and cheese! Lots of cheese! 

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Seattle, the city of love.

I have never seen so many people excited to buy bouquets of flowers for loved ones. Everywhere you turn and every market that you enter has a wide assortment of fresh flowers! 

This is unique, for me, because I do not see many people that do little things to make others happy here in Sacramento.

When I do things for others, they either end up confused as to why someone is so nice and thoughtful, or filled with guilt enough to make them want to buy me something in return.

Can we bring back thoughtfulness, or should I just pack up my belongings and head to Downtown Seattle now? 

 My Seattle Playlist on iTunes. 

My Seattle Playlist on iTunes. 

  Tati | Alexis | Bree   From Cabo to Downtown Seattle! Traveling brings many together and, for this union, I am forever grateful!   @Yoga_Warrior_Goddess 

Tati | Alexis | Bree

From Cabo to Downtown Seattle! Traveling brings many together and, for this union, I am forever grateful! 

@Yoga_Warrior_Goddess 

 So long, for now, Seattle. I will definitely be returning.

So long, for now, Seattle. I will definitely be returning.

XVII: Can I Just Tell You All The Ways That I Am NOT Killing It Right Now?

As much as I am sure you'd all like to believe someone else has all of their stuff together, I can assure you that 9 times out of 10, they do not. Let me forever be the first to make it known that I am flourishing in nary an area of my life at the moment. No, I'm not joking. Let me explain... 

Work

Have you ever rode on a stationary bike? You worked hard on that bike, no? But, when you got off, you were in the same spot you were when you started, weren't ya? 

That's me all day at work. I feel like I work so hard sometimes that I break a sweat! No, I really sit at my desk sweating (for no reason, mind you) and just typing away in an effort to reduce the piles of work on my desk and in the inbox of my emails. When five o'clock hits, all of those piles are still there and my emails are still in the double digits. 

This has really started to weigh on me. It causes me, instead of working harder, to feel as though I am stuck whether I'm working or not. I look at the piles and instead of becoming motivated, I become discouraged. I begin to think that, even if I work my butt off, it will never end this cycle. And so begins the downward spiral. At that point, I am no longer filled with the joy of waking up to report to a job that I love. Instead, I dread waking up and heading out to another day of not being good enough. But, I was told that this is just another part of life that I am tasked with getting through. I've accepted that challenge and am working hard to keep my head above the rough waters that my job has been throwing at me.  

School

I will preface this by saying that I am handling school so much better this semester than I did last semester. I had no idea what was going on last semester and the first time that I actually opened up my books was to study for finals. 

This semester, however, I know where all of my classes are, I attend them and I've read some books. But, let's be real, it is law school. There is not a day that doing the bare minimum will get you by. So, in short, I am simply not killing this law school thing right now. Blame it on the exhaustion. Blame it on the burn-out. Blame it on me actually wanting to have a life for a little while instead of giving in to the guilt of not studying. 

Whatever I choose to blame it on this week, something's got to give, because with the fast-paced environment of law school and its competitive nature, you just can't take time out to feel sorry for yourself or to feel tired/burned-out. 

Dating

Wait, what is that? 

No really. I took a year and some change to just completely be out of the dating game. This meant no talking to men (unless it was business), no entertaining men, no flirting, nothing beyond basic conversation. It was a great year! But it also took away whatever minimal ability I had to do these things before.

I was awkward in social situations then, but oh if you could see me now, you’d be amazed. It’s almost like watching your parents try to compose a text, or my favorite, watching your parents create a Facebook post. It's painful for everyone within a 50-foot radius, let me tell you. 

Although I am back in a space where I am open to having an adventure buddy and someone to go eat at random places with that won't judge my portions, I am also in a space where the prospects are slim to non-existent (blame it on my year of non-social activities). I am also deeply opposed to any form of "social dating," so if you slide past my profile on a dating app I can assure you that you are being Catfish-ed. Call Nev and Max immediately!

Curse me and my belief in an old-school attachment. In holding out for that, and even in trying to create that attachment, I very easily become discouraged at the thought of venturing into this world of vulnerability. One day I am super excited to be this open and vulnerable, and the next day I am cursing to the wind about how stupid it is. 

Will I ever figure this out? Who knows, but just know that I am currently not killing the dating game. 

Working Out

I have never been one to spend hours in the gym. I do not believe that a good workout takes half a day. I think that you can get in, get it done, and get out. I have no clue what the people that spend an hour and a half in the gym, with a notepad, are doing, except being in the way of the people that don't need to look at pictures to use the equipment (Hi! That's me).

With this said, I used to have a strict workout regimen, and it worked for me. I’d wake up in the morning, go for a run, go to work, go to class, go home, do homework and go to bed. The only alterations I’d make to that schedule were to change my morning run to a lunch time run. It worked for me until it didn’t work for me. 

Nowadays, I find it harder to wake up in the morning, even harder to get out of bed, and please believe that I am in bed earlier and earlier every night. I make all kinds of excuses for not working out knowing that working out is the only thing, at this point, that keeps me somewhat sane. 

The worst part of all of this is that my lack of physical activities is starting to show. Those that know me know that I maintain somewhat of an athlete's body. I've grown to love this little fact about me, but these days that athletic build is turning into mush. I have love handles. I am losing every row of abs that I previously had. My arms are turning into flab, and for the first time in my life, I think I have actual back fat. 

So, as far as working out is concerned, I am not even close to killing it, but I am slowly but surely working my way back to where I once was.

Friendships

I am so sad to say that, this year, I am having more lights shown on the faces of more fake friends. The shadows that this casts is uncomfortable to say the least. More so because I keep hope that they will change or get better (as if fake is a curable disease). 

With every realization, I am left feeling emptier and emptier. Let's just say that, once I allow you in, I put way more faith in you than you likely deserve. Losing a friend usually hurts me as much as losing a "lover." I am not one to form relationships with just anyone. I take the process very seriously, so whenever I find out that I was not as good a judge of character as I'd intended, it usually breaks me down. 

This all leaves me passing out way more side-eyes than smiles which is just not a way to live your life. How pleasant can life be when you feel as though you have to constantly watch your back with those closest to you just to make sure that they don't stab you (as if you could stop it)?

I am, however, optimistic that getting rid of the old batch of friends will bloom new and beautiful connections that I couldn't have projected while in the shadows of the fake friends. 


So, although I am not batting a perfect .400, or even a .300, I am optimistic that all of the walls that I've seemed to hit lately will yield beautiful detours to breathtaking ends. 

This is me creating my own light and good fortune. We shall see how long this lasts... 


Strive, forever, to be the ‘Selfless’ in the land of the Selfish.
— Brianna J.

XVI: Living Life Through Our Screens — Is Social Media Harmful or Helpful?

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, and I’m often left wondering why I allow a little icon on my phone to be the bearer of so much anxiety, self-doubt, and information overload. How does one maintain sanity in the digital space?

Sometimes I’m glad to be on social media, but other times I just want to delete every form of it and live my life without the constant need for validation from followers on a phone screen. My emotions always teeter between these two extremes, and here’s why:

The Cons of Social Media:

1) Social Media is an Illusion

These days it’s all about ‘living your best life.’ The thing is, by doing so, our social media accounts become less about ‘living’ that life and more about ‘showing’ people that we’re doing it. We go to restaurants to eat and enjoy great company, but we can’t do it without posting a photo of our delicious dish. We go on vacation, but every time we see a fascinating new location we have to Instagram it. If we explore the newest bar in town, we have to update our story because everyone else just has to know we were there. If you went and no one saw it on Snapchat, did you even really go? It starts to feel like life is more about capturing moments than actually living them.

Also, by portraying only the good things, we fail to be authentic. We forget to be exactly what it means to be human. 

I’m guilty of this too, and that’s why I hate it. For example, last summer I went to Italy and took numerous beautiful photos, posting about each location and its wonderful history as the journey progressed. But what I didn’t mention on social media is the varying degree of health issues, hospital visits, and horrible jet lag that accompanied the trip. In one of my favorite profile photos, no one would have guessed that I was wearing a heart monitor with electrodes strapped to my chest under my scarf, because I had been experiencing crazy panic attacks to the point where I couldn’t breathe. Judging by all my photos, you could never tell that the trip was anything but butterflies and roses.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REALITY. Remember this the next time you feel down because you’re not living life like the rest of those online celebrities do.

2) It’s the New Way to Be Passive Aggressive

Want to give your friend the cold shoulder? Easy. Stop liking their photos. They’ll notice your passive aggressive stance and then you’ll feel satisfied, because boy did you show them! Seriously, when did we start resorting to memes and vague “It’s not about you” messages in order to solve our conflicts? Why do we avoid real conversations? If you and your friend had a fight and he or she starts posting ambiguous quotes, or if the person you’re interested in ignores you but suddenly starts liking all your best friend’s photos, is this the way to be a mature adult and approach personal conflicts? I don’t think so. We’ve apparently lost the ability to be grownups and solve our problems directly.

3) Opinions Are Like Assholes . . . and You Know the Rest

Social media has become an echo chamber. Everyone is an armchair warrior. Everyone becomes an expert in everything, and if you offer a contrary opinion you suddenly become the enemy. People start deleting or blocking anyone who provides an opposing viewpoint, and before you know it the newsfeed has become a happy place where the only opinions you see are the ones you agree with. By constantly reinforcing only one perspective, while blissfully ignoring all the other ways to look at the world, we confine ourselves to a state of willful ignorance—the very opposite of being informed.

4) There is a Fine Line Between Vanity and Narcissism

There is a time and place for a great selfie, but if the only things you post are photos of your nearly naked body in all its perfectly toned (sometimes surgically altered) glory, while including an inspiring caption to make it seem like it’s not all about your body, then I have no desire to keep that content on my feed. I just don’t see the point. Fake 'Instagram model' personalities and brand worshipping add absolutely no value to my life. I enjoy seeing photos of friends going fun places, I enjoy photos of their pets or their children, and I will totally support my friends if they post a great swimsuit shot or a picture where they’re rocking an amazing outfit. But if someone’s account is comprised of nothing but narcissistic self-importance, then . . . meh. I can do without it in my life. The hard part is sifting through all the bullshit to find the content you actually want to see or read.

You might be wondering, “So why don’t you just delete it all?” Well, that’s because there are also reasons why I love social media. It certainly has its benefits.

The Pros of Social Media:

1) It Can Be Powerful

Social media is FAST. When news breaks of a kidnapping victim or a missing person, people share content quickly. At times, this has led to the recovery of victims who might have otherwise been gone forever. Social media has been responsible for, or at least assisted with, the exposure of large-scale corruption and wrongdoing. Also, platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are the source of many laughs and interesting articles. I enjoy following pages that brighten my day with illuminating, mentally stimulating content. Additionally, building your personal brand in a digital space can be great way to network professionally and find like-minded people who can help you make connections in your field. Oddly enough, the same things that make social media annoying also make it successful.

2) You Can Connect With People From Around The World

Social media’s intended purpose was to connect people. This, in my opinion, is still the main reason why I keep it around. I have friends and family all over the world, and just recently I reconnected with a relative I met when I was 10 years old while visiting family in Latvia. I hadn’t seen this particular girl in 16 years, and suddenly I found her on Facebook. It was incredible to think that I could so easily get in touch with someone I thought I might never see again. During my adult life, I have also made wonderful friends from other parts of the world, and it’s so easy to keep tabs on them through Facebook or WhatsApp. Without social media, I wouldn’t have the ability to do that.

3) You Can Share Cool Hobbies and Things You’re Proud Of

Many of us move away during our adult years, and we become busy with our own lives and careers. Since we don’t see our friends in person anymore, it’s only natural to want to share news of our accomplishments and milestones on social media. I don’t fault anyone for that. If you just started a cool project, you just had a baby, you got married, or you graduated from a difficult program, it’s completely understandable that you would want to spread the great news to your social circle. No one wants to hear constant boasting, but there is nothing wrong with sharing accomplishments and moments of great pride. I actually enjoy seeing my friends doing well and reaching goals. It brings me happiness to know that their lives are going in a positive direction. Sometimes, our careers even call for some social media engagement, and that's perfectly OK. 

So what’s the solution to finding balance in the midst of this love/hate relationship? Taking a break? Deactivating? Here are the steps I’m taking.

How to Find the Happy Medium:

1)      I start my morning WITHOUT scrolling. I’ve noticed that my days are much happier when I don’t start off with the ol’ timeline scroll. I have less anxiety and I feel more productive. Sometimes I sit down and write instead, or I just relax, breathe, and focus on my surroundings.

2)      I limit myself to a few minutes of social media catch-up time, and then I return to real life. The truth is, I don’t want to be up in everyone else’s business all the time, and I don’t feel the need for everyone to be up in mine. It’s nice to just get out and enjoy life while keeping my random thoughts where they most often belong—in my own head and off the newsfeed.

3)      I delete any app that I feel has more negatives than positives for me. I already got rid of Snapchat a long time ago, considering that I never watched or posted stories anyway, and I might delete another app soon.

4)      Most importantly, I’m embracing the idea of depicting my life in a genuine way and living in the moment more often. When I asked my sister about her views on social media, she explained that she no longer uses apps like Snapchat as much as she used to. I asked her why, and she said, “Honestly, I am so busy having fun now that I worry less about what other people are doing." And THAT is exactly what I’m striving for.

“I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.”
— Charles R. Swindoll

XV: So You Went To The Barrister's Ball?

This past weekend, the students of McGeorge School of Law took a break from studying, reading, and crying to dress up and pretend to have a life! The night was filled with laughs, food, friends, dancing, and of course, a ton of pictures. 

This week, I am sharing some of my law school babes with all of my readers! I hope you enjoy!

I am so proud of the beautiful and handsome people in these photographs (and those that I missed). Law school is no easy feat and yet here you are. You are working hard to make a name and reputation for yourselves while attempting to maintain some sort of a personal life. 

I admire each and every one of you. I watch many of you study on lunch breaks while working full-time; I watch you workout after 13 and 14-hour days; and I watch each of you support one another. As hard as it is, I encourage you all to enjoy these moments and enjoy each other. A couple of years from now it'll all be over and we'll be wishing for a Barrister's Ball to take our heads out of our work! 

With this, I hope that Barrister's Ball was as memorable for y'all as it was for me!

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.
— Peter Pan

XIV: Three Months Into Blogging, What Do Ya Think?

I have officially had my blog for three months and I must say that having it, running it, and writing on it gives me a number of feelings: 

1. I am so happy about the continued support of my close friends and family.

Three months of supporting someone does not seem like it would be a very difficult task, I know. But, in having this blog, I've learned that, being there for others is hard in a world full of people that are only concerned about themselves (I say this over and over and will continue to until it changes). 

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I am very pleased, however, with those that have been here from the first post and are still here at the fifteenth post. When someone supports a dream, hope or aspiration of yours, it creates a brighter space to create content. Knowing that someone, even if it's just one person, is waiting for content from you is enough to inspire you to create something (hopefully) worth reading. So, I am beyond pleased to continue on this storytelling journey, and I am exceedingly grateful to those of you that still tune in every Monday at 8:23 a.m. to see what the ladies of Let's Be Breef have to say. 

2. I am shocked, week by week, at the cities, states, and countries that my blog reaches.

Now, this alone means the world to me. When I started this blog and website, I said, 'I just want to reach, change, or inspire 100 people.' That was all I wanted. I believe that the blog reached 100 views over and over within the very first hour that the site was live! Again, the support has been crazy. 

When I look at the site analytics and see that there are people reading the blog in places like:

Hungary; 

Dorchester, United Kingdom;

Islamabad, Pakistan;

Kenya;

Woodstock, Georgia;

Riga, Latvia;

Brooklyn, New York;

Redfern, Australia;

East Lansing, Michigan; and,

Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada it completely takes my breath away (and that was just in the last seven days!) Never could I have imagined having this type of impact. I hope to continue to create content that keeps you guys reading from around the world.

3. I am nervous about the struggle to balance creating content, law school and working full-time. 

One thing that law students working full time do not have is time. The days are not long enough while readings are too long. Not to mention, we wake up early just to stay up late!

Don't get me wrong, I love law school and I love my job even more, but I'd be lying if I said that things do not get rough. As deadlines and midterms sneak up on you, the pressure builds and it becomes harder to create. Creating content while stressing about meeting a deadline or about all of the reading that you have to do is quite difficult. Law school oftentimes acts as a complete wall between me and my Creative which, of course, makes me very nervous as a content creator. 

Luckily, I love my blog, I love my school and I love my job, so I am always willing to push through the wall, knock down the doors and get it done! 

4. I am anxious to open up more to my faithful readers. 

The number of people that view the site regularly should, by now, have a pretty good grasp on the creators at Let's Be Breef. By now, you all know that I am a barely optimistic, pessimistic cynic with hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel will change my views on things. And you also know that I am a very selective quietly-outgoing shy person that would much rather write to you than talk to you. 

You may also know that Anete has a deep rooted love for fashion that potentially goes deeper than just surface appearances. She shares many people's obsession (yes, obsession!) with all things food and adventure and loves to be inspired by it all which she'll showcase in her writing over time. We also get the interesting opportunity of following her on her exciting quest for love in a sea full of sharks. This site has provided Anete with the opportunity to open up as well as the chance to be real and raw about the ebbs and flows of life. 

And, finally, I am sure you all picked up on the fact that Nicole is an amazingly artistic mother with the biggest heart and even better intentions. She has the ability to write all of the words that elicit emotion in our readers based on her past loves, losses, heartbreaks and mistakes. Although she is very modest about her talents, they shine almost as brightly as her personality. 

In just three months, you've gotten a closer look into our lives and our experiences, and I, for one, look forward to sharing much more!

5. I AM READY FOR ANOTHER THREE MONTHS OF CREATING CONTENT AND OTHER CREATIVE THINGS. 

Although there are days where my creative tank feels as though it is completely on 'empty', looking at how far my website and blog has come pushes me into a state of 'Let's Get It Done' that I am okay with entering. Receiving likes and comments from the readers about how much they loved a post, or could relate to a post is what really keeps me going.

With that, I am so grateful to everyone that has ever read, liked, and subscribed to this blog and website! I am ready for many more months of blogging with readers like all of you! Thank you for an amazing three months, from Let's Be Breef.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
— Aristotle

XIII: What’s A Day-Cay Like In The Bay?

This weekend Bree & Anete decided to spend a total of 12 hours in the Bay Area. Here's what resulted:

We started our weekend with a hockey game! Now, ice skating is a love of mine, but never have I actually been interested in hockey (odd because I prefer hockey skates over figure skates, but I digress). After watching my classmate play, I am absolutely certain that this will not be the last time I watch a hockey game. Great job NorCal Ice Raiders & excellent job, Simon!

 
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 Thank you so much, Simon. You are beyond amazing! 

Thank you so much, Simon. You are beyond amazing! 


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San Francisco, Ca.

Union Sqaure

Museum of Ice Cream

Bota - Tapas and Paella Bar

Next stop: The Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco! Now, people have been ranting and raving about this place and for good reason. The location is perfect, parking was not the nightmare that I thought it would be, and there was ample food and shopping nearby. 

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Clouds & Cherries.

 

 

Neapolitan Near the Ice Cream Vault.

(Check out the beautiful gold utensils in the background)

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Lollipops & Gummy Bears, Anyone?

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Orange Dreamsicle.

I just wanted to bring it home.

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Sister, Sister!

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Ever Lay In A Pool of Sprinkles With Your Bestie? 

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Saying Our Goodbyes to the Ice Cream Museum. 

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Next Stop... 

Food!

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final Stop while in S.f.:

Bota, Tapas & Paella Bar


We had an excellent time while in San Francisco. I hope you all had an excellent weekend as well!

XII: Makeup Monday? I Think So!

Hello Makeup Enthusiasts!

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As I previously mentioned in my introduction post, I absolutely LOVE all things makeup.

I didn't fall in love with the art of makeup until around 2013. This occurred shortly after graduating from college and becoming exposed to different makeup brands. It was not until recently that I made the decision to venture out and begin applying a full face of makeup. For the most part I've stuck with doing eyebrows, light eyeshadow and eyeliner. Now I've branched out into wearing foundation, lipsticks and even lashes. So, let's get into this week's look:

The look you see was a 'just because' face and I've been working diligently on perfecting the “cut crease” technique (that small section in the fold of the upper eyelid). I've listed the products I used for inquiring minds and if any of you beautiful readers have suggestions on ways I can improve my overall face and application techniques, please feel free to comment.

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By no means am I a makeup professional -- I didn't go to school for it, but I like to try my hand at varying makeup techniques. That being said, all you MUAs out there, be nice!

 


Here's how I created this look: 

I start off with a freshly washed face, clean, and then apply a face primer or a pore eraser (product list below). I apply foundation to my entire face and then, using the dipbrow pomade, draw on my eyebrows. I use a mix of the listed concealers to clean up my brows and use enough product to cover my lid to act as an eyeshadow primer.

I apply the base eyeshadow to the lid and then, using the same concealer mix, apply concealer to my eyelid ONLY. This is essentially “cutting your crease” -- giving that dramatic transition from the crease of your eye to the eyelid.

After cutting the crease, I apply eyeshadow to the lid where I applied the concealer -- along with liquid eyeliner, white liner on my waterline, mascara and false lashes.

After I finish with my eyes, I then highlight and contour. Some people highlight/contour their entire face. For this look and the majority of my makeup, I only apply the concealer mix to highlight under my eye and contour the cheekbones. I sometimes apply a gold shimmer highlight to the cheek area and use a loose powder to lock everything in place. However, for this particular look, loose powder wasn't used.

Eyes

Morphe Vegan Brush Set for application

Morphe 350 Palette

ELF liquid eyeliner in Black

Maybelline Scandal Eyes Mascara

Eylure Lashes No. 126

Salon Perfect Dipbrow Pomade in Dark Brown (Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart!)

LA Girl Pro Concealer in Toffee and Toast (I mix these)

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NYX pencil in White for Waterline

 

Face

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser

MAC liquid foundation in NC 50

Makeup Revolution Contour Palette

LA Girl Pro Concealer in Toffee and Toast (I use for highlight)

BH Cosmetics Carli Bybel Palette for highlight

 

Lips

NYX Suede Matte Lip Liner in Club Hopper

NYX Liquid Lingerie Lipstick in Ruffle Trim

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The Cut Crease

Here is a more dramatic cut crease. 

I hope you've enjoyed my first dive into our Let's Be Creative section of the site (coming soon). 

XI: Sleigh Bells, Snow, And... Living Single?

Ah, the New Year… A time of engagements, winter weddings, kisses with that special someone, and picture-perfect Instagram posts of smiling couples celebrating these joyous milestones.

Do I sound bitter? I hope not, because I’m genuinely happy for those people as long as they are genuinely happy. Or at least I try to be happy for them while I lounge in sweatpants, ugly-eating a Chipotle burrito and either Netflix binging or reading smutty novels. But I digress.

On the opposite side of the relationship coin you’ll find people like me—the ones who are just trying to find that ultimate happiness, but are dealing with struggles of their own in the process.

You know how there are different tax brackets in the hierarchy of society? Well, relationship statuses seem to have developed their own social order with singledom shoved down toward the bottom. Singledom quickly becomes the ‘black sheep’ of the relationship family, especially as we age and our friends settle down. I can’t help but wonder why, though. Is it truly such a shameful thing to be alone, at least until you find your special someone?

"How are you single?"
"You could have any guy you want—why not give [so-and-so] a chance?"
"I know someone you might like."
"You should get back together with [so-and-so]."

NO. Just, no. I’ve grown tired of hearing these comments, even if people mean well by them, so I’m using 2018 as the catalyst for a fresh start in dating. These coming years will be a time for change in the romance department, for me personally, and hopefully for anyone else out there who feels the same level of frustration. This is my plan for effecting that change:

1) Self-evaluate. Reflect on your own truths and embrace them, even if it hurts.

Bree once discussed the process of conducting “Self Check,” and how it can help you stay on track and avoid the lonely spiral down the hole of negativity and cynicism. Well, I believe this concept can also be applied to our notions of romance. For a long time, I wondered why I felt so unsettled; why I couldn’t just be content in my long-term relationship and get married; why I broke it off only to launch a bad luck streak with other men. Then I realized I needed to step back and engage in some serious introspection. What are my expectations, and how am I portraying them to the world?

During a recent dinner outing, after I poked some lighthearted fun at my perpetual singledom, my date made a thought-provoking comment.

“I know why you’re single,” he said. “When people see you, they see that you have this goal set out for yourself, and you’re just really going for that goal.”

I didn’t quite understand why that would influence someone’s dating potential, but then the lightbulb gradually came on. He was right. My intense focus in other areas, like my career and my schooling, made me unavailable to a certain portion of the dating pool. But in the process of conducting the dating “self check,” I realized that my intensity and ambitious nature were important parts of who I am, and whoever I ended up with would have to accept that. Remember what you value most about yourself, and don’t compromise those qualities to appease someone else.

Unfortunately, my own personal quirks and my desire for independence and solitude sometimes overshadow my ability to show another person that I actually crave his closeness. I rarely initiate outings, concerned that I might be ‘bothering’ the other person by doing so. If I stay at someone’s house overnight, I’ll rush out of there the next morning for fear that I’ve overstayed my welcome. Even my own long-time struggle with mental illness has clouded my ability and desire to be open and vulnerable with other people (you might read more on this later).

We all have areas where we can improve. These happen to be the areas I need to work on, because they are products of my own self-consciousness and inner issues.

2) Learn to let go when you know it’s not going to work. Don’t force it.

In her list of lessons she learned in 2017, Nicole emphasized that at some point you just have to let go of relationships that are past their expiration date. “The proof is in the pudding,” as the saying goes. If you’ve been sleeping with someone for a long time hoping that he’ll finally make you his girlfriend, it’s probably not going to happen. If your marriage or relationship is past the point of repair and you’ve tried absolutely everything to make it work, it might be time to let go. The list goes on, but the concept is the same. Stop watering those dead plants.

Many of us grow up believing that we’ll be settled into our careers by 23, happily married with a house by 25, and have babies not long after, but strangely enough I never expected that to happen to me. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted that to be me, honestly. And now, at 26, I can openly admit that this timeline just wasn’t meant for me. I’m a late bloomer, I suppose.

Deep down I’m definitely a hopeless romantic who dreams of being swept off her feet by the proverbial ‘Prince Charming,’ minus the white stallion, because that would just be SO extra and I would feel bad for the horse.

But in all seriousness, like every other red-blooded woman out there, I want to experience that spark with someone—a palpable chemistry where I just know it’s mutual. Unfortunately, reality has not yet subscribed to this wishful storyline. The rare times that I felt that ‘spark,’ it turned out that he did not want me the way I wanted him, or a relationship just wasn’t feasible for one reason or another.

Does the one really exist? Or do we encounter a series of ones throughout our life, depending on what stage of self-discovery we are in? I have no clue, but from personal experience I can definitely say that one universal truth remains: You can’t force it. Chemistry with another person might come once in a lifetime, or it might happen with multiple people. It might be apparent right away, or it might manifest during the get-to-know-you phase. Regardless of when or how it happens, I know I need that chemistry in order to go all in, and I intend to carry this train of thought with me into 2018 and beyond.

I’ll confess that I’ve given my body to the wrong people under the guise of ‘hookup culture,’ hoping (naively) that it would lead to something more.

I’ve sacrificed my time for people who wouldn’t do the same, hoping it would spur them to reciprocate.

I’ve failed to follow my intuition even when it screamed at me to let go and move on.

But that’s the good part. It’s a new day, a new year. I won’t make those mistakes again, because I’ve learned from them.

3) Make peace with the inevitable. Focus on your own life, and the rest will fall into place.

Our social media-dominated culture and dating phenomenons like “ghosting” and “benching” have made it more challenging than ever to find something real between all the bullshit. The ‘grass is greener’ mentality has only become more prevalent in this era of endless options. Sadly, this dynamic is here to stay, but from now on I choose to remain optimistic and cling to the belief that true relationships are not a lost cause.

Even being engaged to my long-term ex, I always felt off kilter, like something in my heart was sorely missing. Unfortunately, one thing no one ever tells you about love is that it hurts just as much to break a heart, as it does to be the one getting it broken. Sometimes I still wonder if I made the right choice—whether I should have just stayed in that safe zone. But I’ve also learned unforgettable lessons during these few years of singledom, which have allowed me to mature into the woman I am now and break away from the common path. This change in my life was inevitable and necessary, even if it was painful to go through at the time.

I’m still figuring myself out and figuring out what I need in a partner. Contrary to the pressures imposed on us by societal norms, there is no mandatory deadline for ‘putting a ring on it.’

Am I crazy for giving up a potentially ‘safe’ and comfortable life in favor of being alone and searching for that greater something? I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone is crazy for following his or her intuition, both in love and in life.

It’s time to accept that not everyone is set up for the characteristic pattern of engagement, marriage, kids, grandkids, and so forth. The nuclear family is not a requirement, and people don’t have to follow the same curriculum. Tying the knot is not the be-all-end-all, and having children is not a biological imperative.

By no means am I saying I don’t want those things—I do—but I don’t think they’re necessary in order to lead a fulfilling life. If I do get married, and if I do have children, then it likely won’t happen until I’m well into my thirties. And you know what? It was a hard pill to swallow at first, but I’ve come to terms with that revelation. Making peace with the inevitable is crucial, otherwise you’ll always carry around the weight of your unhappiness while watching everyone else move forward.

Put simply, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for relationships. To those who have found that long-awaited chemistry with your ‘one,’ I wish you all the best and I hope that happiness lasts a lifetime. But I hope you can also return those positive vibes for people like us, the ones who are still searching, still hoping, still dreaming.

To anyone who shares these sentiments, let’s embark on this journey together and make 2018 a fresh start. Don’t settle, and don’t waste your time on people who don’t deserve it. Just keep focusing on doing the things you love and being with the ones who bring you joy.

Everything else will fall into place.

No human being can really understand another, and no one can arrange another’s happiness.
— Graham Greene

A Little Christmas Fun For Everyone?

Happy Christmas to all!

Because I am so against flooding social media during the holidays instead of flooding your family members with love, I've decided to keep this week's post fun, short, and sweet.

This week, I am posting 25 questions that the ladies of Let's Be Breef will answer simply and honestly. I have placed a letter next to each question so that the readers know who is responding to what. (B) is for Brianna J., (A) is for Anete, and (N) is for Nicole. So, try not to judge us for whatever happens next: 

1. What is your favorite past time? (N)

Reading

2. What is your favorite color? (A)

Red, with purple as a close second. 

3. Whales or Llamas? (N)

Whales.

4. Favorite Movie? (B)

Peter Pan, Wolverine, & Les Miserables. I cannot pick just one. 

5. If you could be any animal, what would you be? (N)

Cheetah

6. Favorite movie snack? (A)

Popcorn, of course!

7. Make-up "must have(s)"? (A)

Mascara and lipstick. Even on a plain-face day, they bring life into your look. 

8. What is your shoe size? (B)

Huge. Just kidding, but not really! I wear a 10 in Nine West heels (my go to heels), and a 9.5 in Vans, Nikes, and Timberlands. Those are basically the only shoes that I wear, so I have no clue about my sizing with other shoe types. 

9. Vogue or Elle? (N)

Neither. 

10. Favorite clothing brand? (B)

Worthington at JC Penney's, Old Navy, and Zara. 

11. Guilty Pleasure? (A)

Reading smutty romance novels.

12. Marriage and kids vs. Single and career? (N)

Marriage and kids.

13. Big house vs. little house? (A)

Somewhere in the middle, but more on the little side. I want my house to feel like a home, not a museum. 

14. Future son and daughter names? (B)

Jazale Lynn ___ & Joel Kylo Kendricks ___.

15. Hard wood floors or carpet? (N)

Hardwood floors.

16. Dream destination? (B)

Anywhere, I just like to take in new surroundings, new people and new things.

17. What podcast are you currently obsessed with? (A)

I'm not really a podcast person, but "Serial" was a good one. 

18. What book are you currently reading? (N)

The Bible. 

19. Best movie this year? (B)

The Greatest Showman, hands down. 

20. Song/playlist of the year? (B)

21. Favorite TV show? (B)

Living Single, I am pretty sure that I am Maxinne Shaw.

22. Michael Jackson or Prince? (B)

Both, I win.

23.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? (A)

My penchant for overthinking everything and second-guessing my decisions.

24. What do you want for Christmas? (B)

To eat, smile, and spend time with family. 

25. Favorite Star Wars Movie? (B)

Episode Two - Attack of the Clones


Thank you so much for reading and Happy Holidays to you all!

The Greatest Showman (Review)

With such a great film, it is difficult to decide where to start. This movie was flawlessly done, from the cinematography down to the imagery and the costumes, this movie exudes excellence! Because it is so difficult to find a starting point, I suppose we can start with the beginning:

Opening

There's something about that classic 20th Century Fox Films Fanfare at the beginning of the movies that just tells me that I will thoroughly enjoy what's to come...

We open the official movie with the upbeat opening number "The Greatest Show". The image of Hugh Jackman posing with his back to the screen, long lapels, and a cane in a beautiful red coat. This creates an intense feeling of anticipation. The audience of show-goers ready to be handed happiness by none other than P.T. Barnum himself! All of this, a day dream, of course, of young P.T. Barnum staring into a shop window at the beautiful three-piece suit and top coat that he would one day wear.

The costume design by Ellen Mirojnick for this movie was insanely brilliant. The long lapels, double breasted coats, undone bowties and thick threading of every trench coat, pea coat and three piece suit fit flawlessly with the old-timey feel of the movie. 

One of my absolute favorite costumes of this movie belonged to young Charity Barnum while in boarding school. It was a Tiffany blue school girl uniform with a black neck-tie and white accents. 

Every costume and outfit was clearly thought out to match the character's back story. From Lettie Lutz's décolleté, dark satin purple dress to Phillip Carlyle's torso-hugging pure white button-up shirts with a perfectly laid white bowtie, undone of course. Mirojnick considered it all, and it shows. 

Lettie Lutz.png

This Is me

This powerful cry, better yet, scream could bring tears to the toughest person in the movie theater. 

This number was a testament to those who have ever been looked down upon or treated negatively for the things that made them different. 

Every time I hear this song, I can imagine the cast walking through the grand room of the theater with the upscale show-goers staring at them in disgust. Lettie leads her fellow showmen with her voice and her confidence which, in turn, creates confidence in them as they all stomp past those that do not understand them. The power of this scene is euphoric. I feel its power every time I hear this song. Keala Settle is a powerhouse and I hope she continues to create magnetic bliss with her voice the way she has in this film. 

Themes

You can tell how great a film is by how well they can tie many themes into one storyline. This film was full of meaningful themes. Some that I did not even catch until my second viewing, and many that I probably still have not caught. 

This film covers racism, classism, discrimination, love, humanity, and so much more. Each theme subtly tied into the other. The forbidden love shared by Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle dealt specifically with racism, classism and insecurities. It was beautifully shown in the eyes of Zac Efron and Zendaya in scene after scene. 

We even learned a lesson or two from the theater critic himself, James Gordon Bennett played by Paul Sparks, but I won't spoil that story for you.

Dancing

Every dance number was memorable! When does this happen? NEVER. 

Ashley Wallen.jpg

Ashley Wallen of Queensland, Australia has created musical magic once again

The up-to-date dance moves in this film were insanely brilliant and memorable. From Anne Wheeler's hair pat in the final number to the footwork in "This Is Me", Wallen created modern musical gold.

Each number had fast paced footwork that hit every beat of the music. The intensity and energy of the characters in conjunction with it was vibrant, to say the least. I can never listen to "From Now On" without at a minimum giving it a solid shimmy (I owe this much!). 

For this movie, and so many more, Wallen should go down in history as one of the best choreographers to ever do it. This may just be my opinion, but when I go see a movie over and over (paying full price, mind you) just to get down the choreography so that I can properly dance to it at home, I think that is the impact that many choreographers strive for when they create a number. He managed to do this with every dance number in the film. Never have I been so inspired to figure out how to move these two left feet of mine! 

 

Zendaya.gif
 Let's discuss Bay Area's own, Zendaya as Anne Wheeler:   I initially had  no  idea that Zendaya could sing. I believe she came to the Disney Channel when I was already bitter about no longer having my Boy Meets World, my Even Stevens, and my Lizzie McGuire's. When I downloaded The Greatest Showman soundtrack about a week or two prior to the movie's release and listened to "Rewrite The Stars" I remember Tweeting how sad I was to have missed out on her talents for  this  long.   Anne Wheeler's character is this tough and beautiful African American woman who performs alongside her brother W.D. Wheeler as trapeze acts. What immediately caught my attention was the fact that they did not do what typical movies do, which is, take the clearly beautiful woman and make her the clearly beautiful woman (same with Keala Settle). They hardened her, gave her a tougher and less graceful walk, they made her a more rigid but insecure character. I could see parts of myself in this character which is what made her so relatable and also made the movie that much more magical for me.    Also, we cannot discuss "Rewrite the Stars" without at least commenting on her amazing body and her intense and believable connection with Zac Efron's character, Phillip Carlyle. These two together are musical genius. Their eyes meeting is magic, it's breathtaking. I could blame that on Zac Efron's great acting or on Zendaya's perfection, but whatever the cause may be their love is believable.   Finally, I am not sure if Zendaya just loves butterflies or not but, her butterfly dress while at the theater in the movie and also the Moschino dress that she wore on opening night of The Greatest Showman were stunning. I am oddly, and probably irrationally, afraid of butterflies, but, seeing her in these beautiful dresses with her perfectly made-up face just makes me want a pet butterfly (I'll name him Carlyle).   Moving on, because I could talk about her for hours. 

Let's discuss Bay Area's own, Zendaya as Anne Wheeler: 

I initially had no idea that Zendaya could sing. I believe she came to the Disney Channel when I was already bitter about no longer having my Boy Meets World, my Even Stevens, and my Lizzie McGuire's. When I downloaded The Greatest Showman soundtrack about a week or two prior to the movie's release and listened to "Rewrite The Stars" I remember Tweeting how sad I was to have missed out on her talents for this long. 

Anne Wheeler's character is this tough and beautiful African American woman who performs alongside her brother W.D. Wheeler as trapeze acts. What immediately caught my attention was the fact that they did not do what typical movies do, which is, take the clearly beautiful woman and make her the clearly beautiful woman (same with Keala Settle). They hardened her, gave her a tougher and less graceful walk, they made her a more rigid but insecure character. I could see parts of myself in this character which is what made her so relatable and also made the movie that much more magical for me.  

Also, we cannot discuss "Rewrite the Stars" without at least commenting on her amazing body and her intense and believable connection with Zac Efron's character, Phillip Carlyle. These two together are musical genius. Their eyes meeting is magic, it's breathtaking. I could blame that on Zac Efron's great acting or on Zendaya's perfection, but whatever the cause may be their love is believable. 

Finally, I am not sure if Zendaya just loves butterflies or not but, her butterfly dress while at the theater in the movie and also the Moschino dress that she wore on opening night of The Greatest Showman were stunning. I am oddly, and probably irrationally, afraid of butterflies, but, seeing her in these beautiful dresses with her perfectly made-up face just makes me want a pet butterfly (I'll name him Carlyle). 

Moving on, because I could talk about her for hours. 

Rebecca Ferguson & Loren Allred

"Never Enough" was performed by Jenny Lind when P.T. Barnum brought her to America based on her reputation. He had planned their national takeover but when it came, it hit him like a ton of bricks. All of the fame came to be based on one song, "Never Enough".

This song, sung by Loren Allred, is another one of this movie's powerhouse songs. It was very unexpected as it was not one of the heavily advertised numbers, but it was one of the movie's best kept secrets. 

The emotions that went through me each time I watched this movie, this scene in particular, were vast in variety. We can start with the chills that you get when watching the flawless lip-syncing by Rebecca Ferguson and we can finish with the angelic voice of Loren Allred. This number will make every hair on your body stand on end and bring tears to your eyes. It did for me.   

Hugh Jackman & Zac Efron

Finally, I want to discuss our two musical veterans. I will start by saying that I love these two together. Not just because they are both handsome with amazing voices, but also because they are both passionate about every project that they do. 

Hugh Jackman literally becomes each and every character that he plays. Two out of three of my favorite movies have Hugh Jackman in them and he is completely transformed in each movie. That type of versatility in one person, one creator, one actor -- is timeless. 

What also stood out for me, since Les Miserables is another favorite movie of mine, was the fact that Hugh Jackman sounds differently in each film. His vocal range and ability is stunning, to say the least. Along with that, his acting is always exactly as it should be. He is P.T. Barnum through and through just like he is Logan and he is Jean Valjean. 

Zac Efron, you have come a long way from your Summerland days, but that is how I knew you best. When I saw Efron make the move to the Disney Channel and into musicals, I was nothing short of shocked. I fell into the High School Musical craze just like everyone else and have probably watched that movie a million times. Efron went on to make more films aligned with his age, but, in making his return to musicals this year, he leaves everyone questioning why he ever left.

Phillip Carlyle, a well-to-do and handsome young man becomes partners with P.T. Barnum and his circus. Carlyle shocked me the most because he turned out to be the complete opposite of who you would have expected him to be. His heart was as big and beautiful as his eyes throughout this movie and if you are able to watch this movie and not fall in love with Zac Efron doing musicals then you can knock me down with a feather because I believe he was born for this. 


I find it difficult to put this movie into few words (as you can see). And I have so much more to say on it, but I'd rather you see for yourselves. 

 If you wait to see it, you will regret having waited. If you rush to see it, you will see it time and time again. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you will be happy.

The noblest act is that of making others happy.
— P.T. Barnum

Because I was interested in the man behind the film, I purchased and began to read the autobiography of P.T. Barnum. 

Read with me and let's all discuss: 

X: Could We Have Saved Them?

Consider me lucky... 

When I was younger, I was so sheltered that I had no idea what suicide was. I knew the basics: you need this to survive, you live "right" by doing that, be kind, read the Bible, respect your parents and your peers. 

If I went online, my grandmother monitored me closely to make sure that I did not stray away from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network's website. When I watched television, it was Naruto (which, come to find out, was more "adult" than we thought), Psalty The Singing Bible, Veggie Tales, Diff'rent Strokes, or The Nanny. I was watched very closely and, for that, I am now grateful.


Suicide is the act of taking one's own life intentionally. It is planned. It is calculated. It is deliberate. It is unbearable to think of an adult forming the thought of suicide, and now children are exposed to and also committing suicide at higher rates than ever before. My heart breaks when I hear yet another story of a child taking his/her own life before he/she has even lived. 

It is difficult to shelter your children from the bullies at school, the bullies on social media, and even the bullies under their own roofs, but it has to be done. With puberty hitting boys and girls at earlier ages and hormones, emotions and dating placed on top of that, these young children struggle with keeping their minds at ease. This is where the parents work must begin. 

Now that we have adequately been placed on notice of the threat of mental discourse, emotional instabilities and overall thoughts of suicide of these teens, the conversations must be had. Discuss bullies/bullying, discuss self-love, discuss something with your children to help them value their own lives and the lives of others. Children that bully learn this behavior from somewhere. If they learn it at school, then they are not learning to refrain from falling prey to that behavior at home.

As parents, you are the first teachers in your children's lives. You have the job of teaching them compassion, love, manners, respect, and the list goes on. If you drop the ball, then everyone else suffers.

To families like those of Mallory Grossman, a teen who took own her life due to bullying; Tysen Benz, who hanged himself after hearing news that his girlfriend committed suicide (which happened to be a horrible joke); and to the family of Imani McCray who committed suicide after being placed on timeout and seeing it done on the news, we owe much more than our condolences. 

Parents, you owe a watchful eye and lessons of love. Children, you owe it to yourself to ask for help. Peers, you owe respect, at the very least. Humans, you owe humanity. We have to do better.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has an easy-to-use website that provides warning signs for those potentially at risk of committing suicide as well as counseling for those assisting someone with thoughts of suicide. This is a 24-hour lifeline that you are able to call and/or chat with to receive suicide prevention help. 

I encourage all to use the readily available resources. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Blessings to all on behalf of the Let's Be Breef team.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/teen-girls-committing-suicide-alarming-rate-article-1.3384601

IX: What I've Learned, Thus Far, From 2017? (Part Three)

This has been a year where I sat back, observed and did things for me. I usually spend my years thinking of others, being with others, and doing for others, but this year, I took time with just me in mind. In my observations, I've learned a few things: 

Positivity Is Not the Only Key

A year or so ago, the trend seemed to be "positivity". Everything was "positive vibes" this and "stay positive" that, and I hate(d) it!

I literally watched people put on airs all over social media about how positivism will get them through all types of preposterous things. Earthquakes, 'Oh stay positive, it'll never happen again.' Death in the family, 'Well you know, you guys should have just been more positive.' Wanting a promotion, 'Oh, I'll just stay positive and it will come.' 

I have learned that "positivity" is just another thing that people use as an excuse or a crutch. Anything to keep from actually having to work hard, right? But hard work is what gets you across that finish line and then to the stars.

Positivity is just another minuscule thing that helps you towards the finish line, but it alone could never get you to the heights that you could reach with hard work. 

Not All Rings Are Worth the Wringer

Throughout college and post-graduate life, I watched friends and family members rush to marry who they thought was the 'love of their lives'. I've even watched old friends marry people who they know aren't the loves of their lives. And so begins the trend of marrying just to marry.

The sad part about this is that one person will always end up hurt, devaluing themselves, and putting up with a ton of things that will only leave them bitter in the end (because it will end). When marriage happens just because you both can afford rings and are both off on Monday when the courthouse will be open, you should know that it will not last. In these instances, there may be pain, infidelity, and more pain, but you have to also know that you are worthy of more than what he/she has decided to put you through. If you take the time to know yourself and love yourself, then you will know when you are truly able to know and love someone else. 

Putting yourself first is lonely, but it is necessary. We’ve said in posts prior to this one, take the time to be alone, and appreciate and learn You before you try to become “One” with someone else. Without the proper foundation, you are not able to compromise, to emphasize, and to love selflessly the way you should in a marriage and neither is your partner.

Rushing into marriage just for the title will lead to pain. Take time out for You before attempting to give yourself to someone else. 

There's No Way That One Is The Loneliest Number

Again, do not be afraid to be alone. There are plenty of movie scenes and television shows that depict the model "popular girl/guy" surrounded by a group of people only to learn how lonely and misplaced she/he feels inside. Being surrounded by people does not make you feel any less lonely especially if those people are not truly your friends, or if they do not truly support you. 

I have embraced being alone because it has helped me weed out the majority of the bad and fake friends in my life. I am now left with about four people that I can actually count on, and I would not change that at all.

It's not always the numbers that matter. Get to the meat and potatoes of the person and decide whether or not they are aligned with who you are before calling them 'Friend'. Let's all strive to not be the lonely person amongst a group of people. 

Nothing Is More Toxic Than Remaining Close To The 'Victim'

This one is fairly self-explanatory. I am sure that many of us have encountered at least one person in our lives thus far who lives in a state of "Woe is Me". This person wants to be the victim in every possible situation and it is, in my opinion, sad. However, we have to also take a look at what brought us to be in this type of person's line of communication to determine what we are doing wrong. 

If we are, essentially, a reflection of who we surround ourselves with, then how did I end up with a Chronic Victim as a friend? That is certainly not my title nor is it my role, but I did find that I enabled this person to play the victim around me by either coddling this person or giving the dry nod and "mmhmm" that I do all too well. These types of friendships and relationships are toxic for both you (for enabling), and the Chronic Victim (because you are neither helping them nor changing them). 

If you are not going to help this person out of the Chronic Victim role and into a better role then you are hurting them and yourself. The choice is to either help them reflect on why they choose this role, or leave them be completely, but do not remain in this toxic space because it will surely bring you down as well. 

You Cannot Learn & Grow With Your Mouth Open

My parents always say, "I cannot tell you anything because you always think you have an answer". This may be a typical Black parent thing, or it may just be a typical parenting-past-the-teens thing, but either way, I hear it all too much and it leads me to my final lesson from 2017.

Now that I have seen this first hand, I can fully agree with my parents when they talk about how annoying it is to not be able to talk to a "Know It All". This type of person only listens enough to pick out their favorite word from your sentence so that they can then turn around and tell you their opinion and then everything that they know about that word! It's annoying, to say the least. But, most of all, it keeps that person from learning. 

As someone who is constantly on a mission to grow, change, and inspire this is an important lesson for me to keep in mind daily. It is difficult, in many instances, to actively listen because a lot of the times people's opinions cloud the actual facts. But, still in all, it is more necessary to listen than to talk. 

A closed mouth may not get "fed", but it does allow for an opened ear. 


In closing, 2017 may not have been the most memorable year for me, but it was full of lessons. All it takes is a little time to reflect on them, a little application and a lot of hard work to ensure that, next year I am learning bigger and better lessons, and not these same ones all over again.

Thank you all for reading our first three-part series. Thank you for adding to the reason that we continue to create content, and thank you for providing a listening ear and a hand of support.

 

VIII: What I've Learned, Thus Far, From 2017? (Part Two)

As we near the end of the year I find it benefits us all to reflect and more importantly, self-evaluate. What did I learn? What are the areas that I need growth? How can I better handle unexpected situations going forward? These were just a few questions I ponder before deciding to create this post.

For me, 2017 has but nothing short of a rollercoaster ride and throughout all the pain and joy I’ve experienced, I’ve learned a lot about myself and even adjusted my perspective on life. Here are just a few of the things that I chose to focus on:

Parenting 101

I’ve accepted the fact that there is no way to learn how to be a parent. There’s no rulebook or self-help guide that can mentally and emotionally prepare you to tackle the task of parenthood. As delicate as the lives of our children are, unfortunately, parenting is trial and error. You learn as you go. I think back to my potty training stages. I read several blogs, joined support groups and purchased books that were supposed to help me successfully potty-train my daughter. That was a mistake! All it did was stress me out. The authors were basically putting deadlines on when your child should have grasped the concept of using the bathroom on their own. There were schedules and intricate techniques on ways to get your child to use the bathroom. Luckily, I had my mother to guide in the better direction which was to let my daughter get it on her own. “Stop trying to force her and get yourself frustrated when she doesn’t perform like everyone else says she should. Society establishes these timeframes but you don’t have to ensure she follows suit. She’s a baby.” That’s what my mother would tell me. I was so overwhelmed with trying to train her, I finally decided to just let go. Let her get it on her own. She’s perceptive, she’s articulate, she will get it eventually and sure enough, she did. Slowly but surely, she would tell me she wanted to use her own potty and that she no longer wanted her “diappy.” So, I’m encouraging the parents out there to accomplish the child-rearing milestones in your own time. Be patient. Enjoy the journey with your child. Don’t be so hard on them, they’re children. I know there’s a lot of frustration that comes along with the job, but I’ve also learned to release the stress in the form of laughter. It takes less energy out of you in comparison to disciplining.

Sometimes, It’s just Over

“Stop trying to breathe new life into dead things”, a quote that resonated with me from Bishop T.D. Jakes. I am so guilty of trying to bring back things from the past, trying to relive them again, or trying making it work. You know, ‘make things how they used to be.’ Unfortunately, some situations and some relationships are just dead and over with. I’ve learned that, as hard of pill as that is to swallow, I have to let go. People and opportunities will continuously enter and exit our lives, and I’ve come to accept that as a necessary occurrence of life.

As it pertains to people, most come for a reason and a season – after that, they’re gone. Same with opportunities, they come and they go. The key is learning to adjust. Learn from that relationship or that opportunity, grow and continue to move forward. I have truly struggled with letting people go and trying to make things right or to make them okay, but I learned that it won’t be. That relationship/opportunity served its purpose and now I need to move forward. So, if you feel you’re continuing to entertain a relationship – be that a platonic or romantic, if it’s lingered a little longer than it should have, let it go. Move on and look forward to new possibilities.

Love Yourself

I believe that we are all out here in search of someone to love who will love us in return. I did discover however, that it’s impossible to love another properly if you don’t fully and unconditionally love yourself. I know I can be extremely hard and critical of myself. Not liking certain aspects of my appearance because someone else decided they didn’t, or feeling like a failure because I didn’t accomplish all I should have based on society’s rules. Or even, not liking like my own character or things that make me me, because someone else has continually condemned those things. I have also succumbed to allowing other people to use me as their punching bag because they don’t like themselves either. All that has done is tear down my self-esteem and self-worth. I wasn’t loving myself when I continued to tolerate emotional and verbal abuse. I literally had to check myself I had to learn to love myself enough to say ‘no’ and walk away from those situations. It was hard. We, as humans, get comfortable and we romanticize certain situations in the hopes of creating a better outcome than what we’re really experiencing. I had to literally tell myself, “No.” “No Nicole, you will not settle and you will not tolerate mistreatment. You’re going to love yourself.” I had to tell myself, “I love me” out loud, throughout the day. As crazy as it sounds, the more I said it the more I believed it. For the things that I didn’t like, it became a matter of accepting them or doing what it takes to change them. Under no circumstances was I ever going to neglect myself the way I had ever again. If you’re experiencing or have experienced similar situations, I don’t care who it was from – whether it be from a spouse, friend, family member, or whoever, just tell them “no.” Walk away and learn to love you.

As the New Year approaches, hopefully you all will take time to reflect and focus on those areas that we know require improvement. If nothing else, here are a few things I encourage all of you to do. Learn to be gentle. Be kind. Be patient – with not just others but also yourself. Run your own race. Love freely.  Experience new things. Learn to let go. Laugh often. Set your own timeframes for accomplishments. Most importantly, enjoy the journey!

VII: What I've Learned, Thus Far, From 2017?

Resolutions never meant much to me. The last time I made a resolution, I was 16 years old and vowed to quit drinking soda for an entire year. I managed to avoid that delicious carbonation for all 365 days (minus one accidental sip of Sprite—oops!), but it really didn’t make much of an impact on my life. While I may not subscribe to the “New Year, New Me” mentality, I do believe in the constant growth and wisdom that only come from time and experience. Every year brings new lessons for us to learn, and while not all of them are good, they are all equally important. So, without further ado, here are five essential lessons I learned in 2017:

1) Trust should come slowly, but it can disappear in the blink of an eye.

The truth is, people are going to let you down. Friends, people you thought were your friends, romantic partners, even family—some of the people you hold closest to your heart will end up compromising their loyalty (assuming they had any to begin with) and losing your trust. It’s an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of life.

I’ve learned that it’s best to keep your circle as small as possible because not everyone has pure intentions. Only let in the ones who are deserving of your trust and have proven that they are worthy of knowing you on such a deep level. This is easier said than done, especially in a time where people have become frighteningly talented at hiding their truth behind a façade of care and compassion, but just be careful. Have as many acquaintances as you want, meet new friends, and enjoy life, but at the end of the day remember who is really there for you in thick and thin. 

2) Stop giving chances to people who don’t deserve them.

I'm going to be completely honest here. I am SO guilty of this. With men, with friends, and with people in general. But I’m finally learning that being too patient is a real thing. One of the biggest mistakes I made was believing in people's potential, when I should have been looking at what their actions were communicating instead. This year, I reached my breaking point when I realized how much crap I was taking from someone who had absolutely no regard for other people’s feelings. Something inside me finally clicked, and I thought to myself, WHY am I putting up with this behavior and allowing it to influence how I feel? 

Yes, it’s OK to purge toxic people from your life. If someone is bringing negative energy into your world, or constantly letting you down with no apologies and zero regard for your emotions, then let that person go. Take care of yourself, and stop condoning the behavior. YOU ARE IN CONTROL.

3) Keep reaching for the stars, even if the people around you don’t have your back.

Not everyone is going to be happy for you when you succeed. This is just an unfortunate fact. I wish we lived in a world where life wasn't viewed as a constant competition, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I try my hardest to be happy for everyone in my life when something great happens (whether it be a new career move, a new relationship milestone, or their latest travel adventure), but not everyone returns the favor.

The green eyes of envy can put a chink in even the strongest armor if we let them. Remember that life is not a contest. Be happy for your friends when something good happens to them, and hopefully they will offer you the same support. There is already enough negativity in the world without the added pressure of tiptoeing around our accomplishments, just to appease the fragile egos of others.

4) Take calculated risks, because they might pay off in the future.

Life begins at the end of our comfort zones, right? This can be applied to anything, whether it be dating, fashion, travel, food, or careers. Taking risks can sometimes bring its own rewards. This year, I took some chances in all those areas and so far I haven’t regretted them! Did all of those risks pay off? Perhaps not right away, but sometimes we don’t see the benefits immediately. Delayed gratification is the name of the game here.

So, that person you have feelings for, but you can't seem to get the words out? Tell him or her how you feel, even if you get your heart broken. Go on that date, even if you're nervous. Wear that daring, colorful dress you've been eyeing. Take that new job, even if it's in a different city. End the relationship if it's destroying you, even if it means being alone for a while. The lesson here is, whatever you are hiding behind, whether it's your own fear of the unknown or your worries of embarrassment, just STOP. Stop thinking about the what-ifs, because they will drive you crazy. Do the things that take you beyond your wheelhouse, because they might bring you exactly where you are meant to be.

5) That trip you've been talking about for years? Stop talking about it, and be about it!

This year, I finally put an end to my travel excuses (not enough money, not enough time, blah, blah, blah) and I booked a long-awaited trip to the beautiful country of Italy. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I met an awesome Italian student in my second year of law school, we became inseparable during her time in the U.S., and she and I finally put our heads together to plan my summer trip to her home country.

Just to be clear, I realize how difficult it can be to pack up and go. There is a lot to consider, like finances, childcare issues, or work obligations, but I also believe that where there is a will, there is a way. I used my tax refund for plane tickets, I saved money from each paycheck, and I planned the logistics far enough in advance that the pricing worked in my favor. It was one of the most AMAZING experiences of my life, and while it pushed me out of my comfort zone financially and physically, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Life-changing and unforgettable, in more ways than one. Take that trip, and satisfy your wanderlust.

Sometimes we learn things the hard way, but each lesson is a valuable stepping stone on our path to enlightenment. Thank you, 2017, for teaching me exactly what I needed to learn, and for giving me all the right tools in this journey of self-improvement.