This Is Just A Page In The Chapter I’m In

As with any other significant period in life, your 20s can be somewhat of a roller coaster. Much of the last five years of my life has been a series of ups and downs, of three steps forward and seven back, of feeling the weight of life suffocating me, of drowning in doubt, sinking in my own insecurities, of settling, of feeling stuck in my own perpetual existential crisis. I use that phrase rather often; it’s the only description I feel truly encapsulates the experiences I’ve had in the last few years. That’s not to say that there haven’t been beautifully blissful moments, because as we know, storms often end in rainbows. The fog always comes and goes. Sometimes, I feel lighter, more settled, more hopeful. Sometimes I’m stronger. Sometimes I’m energized and eager to take on whatever comes my way. And then sometimes, the noise is too much. Sometimes, it’s too loud, too strong, too much to bear.

I had to turn off the noise for a little while. I had to disconnect from this little piece of the internet and figure out what the hell was driving me right into the fog. I needed to sort myself out, to gain a little bit of control and perspective on the situation, and then revisit this place. So much has changed in that time. So much of who I was has grown into who I am in just a matter of a couple months. Part of me thinks it’s wrong to back away from a spot that I created in order to express myself, but another part of me knows that sometimes writing everything out in an attempt to piece together a puzzle doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, you have to piece together that puzzle on your own.

I have a fearless, nothing-can-hurt-me exterior, and I often come off as stone-cold, frigid, emotionless. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Underneath it all, I’ve always been sensitive to the world – I just choose not to bare it all. Life is never without a range of emotions and a collection of emotion-provoking situations, and I fall victim to being unable to deal with these emotions all the time. It always strikes me at the most inconvenient times and in response to the situations that you wouldn’t look to as emotional. Who could predict that when I left a job in retail of over nine years I would feel a little lost? That without a rigid schedule and something to do other than homework, go to class, or intern, I would lose a part of my identity. Who knew that having a little bit more time would turn into more free time to think, to observe and subsequently compare, and to feel inadequate?

In the month and a half after leaving that job, I was stuck. I was doing what I had to do in order to get ahead in my career, but I didn’t feel like it was enough. I was (and still am) working tirelessly at this goal – the goal that ends in a Master’s Degree, and hopefully a job. But I felt so far removed from everyone around me, and despite my best efforts to not compare myself to others, it’s so so so hard. I’d like to think it’s human nature to crave what others have. I was stuck in a rut – stuck feeling like the co-dependent, clingy friend who needed her friends more than they needed her. Stuck feeling like everyone has someone, everyone has their own agenda, everyone’s got something and I’ve got nothing. I was concerned about doing enough internship hours to graduate, passing exams, getting licensed, finding a job in the field and eventually making it on my own, while I have friends who are concerned with when their boyfriends are proposing, friends who struggle with their rent, friends who juggle school, work, and children. I struggled because I couldn’t relate to their struggle, and vice versa. But in retrospect, it was the most ridiculous low I’ve had.

At the point of breakdown, nothing in my life had changed, except for my job. Isn’t that odd? I suppose it was a domino effect of suppressed feelings. I found that no matter how self-serving it is to feel any of the aforementioned feelings, sometimes, you can’t help it. And it’s okay. It’s okay to be jealous (so long as you’re not green with envy) of the people who seem to have their shit together while you are struggling just to get to the halfway mark of your own race. But don’t ever let what you don’t have keep you from achieving more. Don’t ever let what you don’t have destroy what you do have.

I owe a lot of who I am to the company I keep. If I didn’t have the friends that I do, I would be drowning in a sea of my own self-pity. My friends keep me in line. They remind me of the important things in life. This was no different. I’m grateful to my best friend who listened to me bitch about how stuck I felt, how alone I felt, how shitty I felt that everyone was moving on and doing these great things. She listened to me talk about how sad and lost I was, but she didn’t allow me to stay fixated on it. She reminded me of the things I do have, and to get my shit together. To not let the fog win. To never overlook what I do have. I mean it when I say that everyone needs at least one, if not two, good friends who challenges you as much as she supports you. It’s one thing to love your friends and to be there for every up and every deep, dark, low and agree with them on everything – even when they’re wrong. But friendships that force you to look at your own shortcomings, friends that tell you to cut the shit and get it together, friends that tell it like it is – are so much more important in life.

So, I dropped the pity-me act and the fog started to lift. And one of the most important things I’ve learned throughout this entire situation, is to keep trudging through it. Even when the noise is loud, even when the odds are against you, even when you feel lost and pathetic and hopeless in your own affairs, don’t stop reaching. I was sad, and bitter, and angry at the hands I had been dealt, but I never stopped working. I still busted my ass in school, I still aimed high, and in that process, I found meaning in my own life. Trust the process. If you are working towards something and are dedicating yourself to that goal, trust that whatever is meant to be, will be. I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe in unearned gifts. I do, however, believe that light trumps darkness and that if you keep working and leave it up to fate, you might get exactly what you want.

My life is so different than it was a couple months ago. My schedule is the craziest it’s ever been. I’m as busy as all hell, interning full time, going to school full time, and working part-time (the biggest change thus far), but for the first time since I was 15, I’m enjoying my weekends. The friends that I am used to seeing every single day, I see a little less. My heart aches sometimes missing those moments – the moments when we were all in the same place at the same time, but on the other hand, my heart has never been so full. My friends are still my friends family even when we don’t see or hear from each other daily. I am so happy and hopeful and eager for my future. I’m so so so SO incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me recently and as cheesy as it sounds, I am excited about my work every day. I’m happy for myself, and for my friends who are all equally succeeding in their endeavors, and I’m excited to see what’s next for all of us.

And isn’t that what life is all about? Growing old with the people who go from being friends to truly being family, but never growing apart from them? Cheering them on when they take on big life changes and getting excited for their triumphs and good news?

My life isn’t perfect. Your life isn’t either, and we can’t expect perfection. We can expect that what we put in, we’ll get out. So work. Be present. Be appreciative of what you have. Be grateful. Be humble. Love the people who love you. Leave bitterness behind. And trust the process. Bust your ass, and you’ll reap the benefits.

I made it through the fog and I’ll be back to posting regularly. Thanks for hanging around while I figured it all out. xo

 “I think for the most part, if you’re really honest with yourself about what you want out of life, life gives it to you.” -Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

The title of this post is from the song, “Road Between” by Lucy Hale
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It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn

If there was a support group for addicts of fictional characters, I would attend every meeting.

I love when fictional characters and plots weave their way into my life and find a way in my heart. I become addicted to these characters. I relate to the characters. I see pieces of the characters in me. I root for the characters. I am consumed by the characters. And I think that’s why I love reading and writing so much, but also why I chose to go to school to become a Mental Health Counselor. I’m a fan of character development; I love watching (and in work, helping) a person grow, change, and develop over the course of time. I find that the characters in fiction that I latch onto and really obsess over most are the ones that come to me with stories and life lessons when I need them most.

My friend (shout out to Summer!!) told me to watch How I Met Your Mother awhile back. I watched a couple episodes of the first season and I wasn’t into it. For the exception of Friends, it’s really hard for me to connect and commit to a sitcom. I love dramas. I love gut-wrenching, tear jerking plot-lines and character twists. I promised Summer that I would finish watching the first season and if I didn’t like it, I would stop. During the tail end of my spring break, when most students are scrambling to finish up papers and assignments due after the break, and studying for midterms, I binge-watched HIMYM on Netflix. Somewhere between the third or fourth episode of the first season and the season one finale, I got hooked. It took me three weeks from that Sunday when I sat down and watched the entire first season to finish the entire series. Nine years in 21 days.

I said before that I love a good drama. But what I love even more are what I call “dramadies.” Sitcoms with heart. Shows that make you laugh your ass off, but have profound and heartfelt moments. The cheesy stuff, that’s what I love. I think the show came to me at a time when I was struggling with a laundry list of my own demons. Nothing out of the ordinary, but just stuff that makes you think and reevaluate some things. With all the shifts and changes in my life as of late, I was bound to fall into some sort of backwards cycle of self-doubt and self-deprecation and the constant worry of, “what if I took a left instead of a right turn, where would I be now?”

I fell into the show as a means to quiet the noise inside my head. To calm myself down and laugh it off, if only for 208 episodes. What I found was a show where the characters really spoke to me. Their storylines spoke to me. Their growth, development, their hardships, their heartbreak, their love, their journey all spoke to me. I don’t want to give away too much, because I know a few of my friends haven’t finished the entire series yet. But I will say this – as with any show that is on air for nine seasons, there were some parts that I didn’t agree with – some stories that dragged on entirely too long, or episodes that we didn’t need altogether (the rhyming one in season nine is the absolute WORST). But regardless of that, I think the way the show was so well-written and the direction it went and framework behind the episodes – the flashbacks and flash forwards and stories that intertwined and weaved their way into each other made the entire show. I think that was the point of the show – to tell the story of life as a 20 something and 30 something, to viewers who are currently going through it.

In an interview I watched, Josh Radnor (Ted Mosby) talks about how he met a fan of the show, in his early 20s. This particular fan told Josh that he loved the show for more than just the comedy, but for the way that the story is told. It’s an older man looking back on his life and his life being told in present time. The fan said because of the framework of the show, it taught him that 30 years from now, that’s what he’ll be doing and to be more present in his day-to-day life right now. Because our stories that we tell in 30 years are what we do now. This fans reaction to the show really spoke volumes to me, because he’s right.

Life is right now. All the stories we tell our kids are the ones we’re writing right now. It’s incredible how a sitcom can teach you that and remind you to be present and be in the moment. It was a show, but it portrayed real life, even in the weirdest, most outrageous ways. Through the character’s story lines, the show reminded us that life isn’t perfect, but that the universe works in mysterious ways. There are people in our lives who come to us when we need them, and who stay in our lives until we are ready to let someone else in. Not everything goes as planned, not all careers, or dreams work out, sometimes we don’t get what we sought to find, relationships don’t always work, but the ones that are meant to work, do. That there is a fine line between the love of your life and soulmate, and the girl of your dreams. That people get sick, that friendships, no matter how hard you want to cling onto them change when you settle into adulthood, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for each other’s ‘big moments.’ The show echoed that at the end of the day, the pieces fall where they’re meant to and that if you have a little faith in the universe, the universe will lead you to where you need to be.

I’m really such a sap, but I’m a huge fan of inspiration and find I’m most inspired by quotes. (If you couldn’t already tell – I end each post with a related quote). So many of the life lessons taught through the years on HIMYM were through their profound quotes. These are obviously only a few of the hundreds of quotable and profound lines said by the characters of what I can now say is one of my favorite shows, with the most influential story lines and characters that I could just relate to.

“And that’s how it goes kids. The friends, neighbors, drinking buddies, and partners in crime you loved so much when you’re young, as the years go bye, you just lose touch…. You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why, when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.” – Future Ted

Why not say goodbye to the bad things? Say goodbye to all the times you felt lost. To all the times it was a no, instead of a yes. To all the scrapes and bruises. To all the heartache.” -Lily

Somewhere along the line, I forgot to pursue my dream and now I’m old and I’m a mom and it’s just too late for me.”

“The great moments of your life won’t necessarily be the things you do, they’ll also be the things that happen to you. Now, I’m not saying you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life, you have to take action, and you will. But never forget that on any day, you can step out of the front door and your whole life can change forever. You see, the universe has a plan, kids, and that plan is always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings, and it starts to rain. It’s a scary thought, but it’s also kind of wonderful. Al these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there.” -Future Ted

The show is about having blind faith in a world where hope is sometimes all we have. It’s about believing in fate, believing that there is something greater out there for us, believing that there is a plan for us, in our careers, in our friendships, in our relationships. It’s about believing, even when the cards are stacked against you. The characters were dynamic, but always real-to-life (maybe for the exception of Barney). I think we know all too well the struggle that Ted went through over the course of nine years, going into terrible, sometimes even destructive, relationships, on his quest for the one. We can relate to all of the characters when they faced difficulties in their careers. I can definitely relate to Lily’s desire to pursue a dream that is bigger than her current occupation, and wondering is it too late? I can relate to Robin on more levels than I can with the others – with being career driven, with putting work before love, with being unsure of feelings and pushing emotions to the side, with clinging to friends, but with also the struggle of realizing everyone’s got someone or something and that even though friendships change, they don’t have to fall apart. I relate to her on the desperation to make her dad proud and I relate to everyone and all of their different issues with their family. I loved the show. Loved the messages it sent, loved all the hysterical twists and turns, and love Summer for introducing me to a show that I love so much I had to write a huge blog post about.

If you ever find yourself stuck in a rut, like myself, and want to find something that’ll entertain you and keep your mind off of it for awhile, catch HIMYM on Netflix. I laughed at every episode and cried at a few too. Either way, the show is definitely one of those shows that helps turn the noise down and slow life down a little bit.. if only for 208 episodes.

You can ask the universe for signs all you want, but ultimately, we’ll only see what we want to see, when we’re ready to see it.” -How I Met Your Mother

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine
(This song marked a turning point in Ted’s life at the end of episode 17 in season 7)
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It’s A Beautiful Day, Don’t Let It Get Away

I’ve always been a huge fan of fall. Honestly, nothing beats the crisp air, the feeling of crunchy leaves under your boots, the first sip of a pumpkin spice latte, cozy sweaters, apple picking, warm apple cider, and of course, my birthday. I love how beautiful the fall foliage is, how cozy all home decor is, and how the world around me is always decorated in beautiful shades of orange, brown, and red.

Today, I fell in love with spring. I fell in love with the way the world suddenly comes alive, with how much changes in only one day. I fell in love with the warmth, with the sunshine, and with the way in which I was relieved from my own stress, even only for a few hours. In my humble opinion, I live in the most perfect part of New Jersey. I am a ten minute drive to the beach, an hour train ride into the city and for the more adventurous people, unlike myself, an hour and a half away from the mountains and skiing. The best part is that no matter which season you’re partial to, there’s a place for you to go, and for me, that place is the beach – any time of year.

Today was a beautiful second day of spring and an even more beautiful day on the Jersey Shore. In the spring, the world comes alive. There are more kids playing outside, more homeowners tending to their yards, more color all around. There’s more life, more sun, more hope. And because of my perfect location, I can take a quick drive down to the beach and see it come alive.

I sat along the boardwalk with someone I hold near and dear to me today – someone I’ve known her entire life, someone I consider more of a little sister than just a friend. We talked about everything and nothing, as girls normally do. We got into life, our plans for the future, our demons, our struggles. We talked and watched people pass by on the boardwalk – a family with little kids skipping down the boardwalk, a trendy girl skateboarding with her face in her phone, an older woman riding her beach cruiser, a couple walking their puppies. It was the perfect setting. The perfect conversation. And the perfect reminder that sometimes, we need to stop and restore ourselves. Sometimes even a conversation can rejuvenate and revive us. And sometimes, the beginning of spring can help bring that full circle.

Today was just a reminder that even in the midst of raging storms, even when hope seems lost or dreams seem scattered, or even when it seems as though you’re alone in everything you’re going through – there is always hope. There’s hope in conversations with old friends, hope in sunshine, hope in a flower blooming, hope in the waves crashing along the shore. Hope in the beginnings of seasons.

[ DON'T FORGET: I'm hosting a giveaway for my blog's 2nd birthday that ends next Wednesday night! Click here for more details! ]

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” -Ernest Hemingway

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Beautiful Day” by U2.
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My 2nd Blogiversary & My First Giveaway!

I thought I was clever two years ago when I decided to launch my blog on the first day of spring. I thought I was witty by wanting to spring my way into blogging. This, my friends, is why I am not a comedian. But I make up for my lack of wit with my charming personality… yes? No? Two years ago today, I eagerly sat at my laptop and pounded out my first post. I was nervous, I was excited, I was hopeful. And during the last two years, I’ve experienced different thoughts and feelings towards my blog, towards the act of blogging, and towards my writing. I’ve experienced fulfillment in ways I hadn’t before – getting a comment saying what I’ve written changed someone’s perspective on life, hearing someone say they shared my post to someone who really needed it, seeing people quote something I’ve written and make it their Facebook status. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve felt unaccomplished, unmotivated, unwilling to write. I’ve struggled to find balance, and struggled to find inspiration. I’ve taken breaks in search of inspiration and meaning behind what it is I want to do here. But in the end, I am always led back to this little corner of the internet, and lately, I’ve been more excited than ever to produce content and to write.

It’s been a difficult road trying to figure out why I’m here. I’m not a fashion blogger, or a food blogger, or a mom blogger, or a book blogger. I’m not even a lifestyle blog, although I feel I fit somewhere under that umbrella term. I feel that categorizing myself in a genre that I don’t entirely fit does a severe injustice to who I am and what my blog is about. To me, this is my coming of age tale. It’s a place I can share my thoughts and revelations while I navigate my way through life. It’s not a typical “20 something” space to rant and rave, because I think that what I have to say can be heard and understood to any age group – teenagers, college students, 20 somethings, 30 somethings. I think that life lessons don’t apply to certain age groups. I think wisdom can be shared with everyone and I want what I write about to be shared with anyone who will listen – not just other 25 year olds. So I think identifying a theme for my blog doesn’t help because it locks me in a box. I can say it’s inspiration, but there are times I’m here to just rant and rave. We can say it’s a personal blog, but I’m not here to tell you about my daily routine. I think that’s been one of my main struggles here – finding an identity for my blog when I really don’t even think I need one. But not everyone would agree. Some people need a theme in order to test the waters and see if this is a blog they’d be interested in. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong here, but to me, I’m here for more than just food blogging or fashion blogging or blogging about my day-to-day. I’m here with my own stories, my own anecdotes, my own thoughts. I’m here with my own questions that need answering and my own lessons to be learned.

Aside from the struggle of genres and themes, it’s been hard for me to maintain this blog. I’ve fought with listening to other bloggers advice, telling me the importance of producing content – quantity vs quality some say. I’m not sure I feel the same about that bit of advice for myself – I feel that posting every day works for certain blogs, but it doesn’t necessarily work for mine. I’ve tried writing every day, I’ve tried writing sporadically, and I’ve tried writing only when inspiration strikes. I’m still finding my way, but what I’ve been doing lately has worked for me.

Two years in one place is a long time. I’m still here learning what type of writing I like and what type of writing suits me. I’m still here trying to make use of all of the opportunities that land in my lap and I’m still here trying to pursue a hundred and one wild dreams. Even after all the times I’ve struggled with this blog, with finding my voice, with locking down a schedule, with the incessant voice in my head that’s asking who is reading this, why are you writing this, who do you think cares? I’m still here.

In honor of my blog’s second birthday, I’m doing my first giveaway. I’ll be giving away a copy of my favorite author’s latest release – Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover and a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Maybe Someday came out earlier this week and on the day of its release, I woke up at 6 am eager to purchase it and read it – in one sitting, of course. If you’ve read her other books, or even if you are new to her work, this story will blow you away. Not only is the story so different from all the other NA books out there, her writing is so crisp and engaging and the entire concept behind Maybe Someday is the most innovative thing I’ve ever seen. In her Slammed series (my favorite from her), Colleen infused music and lyrics and received good feedback from readers that it inspired her to continue with using music in her work. She did the same with Maybe Someday but was able to do it with an original soundtrack just for the book. The soundtrack was written and recorded by American Idol season 12 alum, and cover model of Colleen’s Hopeless, Griffin Peterson. That’s not even the coolest part – the album is attached to the book.. and not in the way you think. In the e-book version, there’s clickable links that lead you to the website where the songs play every time the song pops up in the book, and in the paperback, there’s something your smartphone can scan that will bring you to the website with the music. I can’t get over how cutting edge this is. It’s not just a novel, not just a book, not just a story, but a literal experience.

The giveaway is open internationally (if you win the GiftCard, that will be delivered as an e-card). Because I don’t have a self-hosted WordPress site, the widget for my giveaway isn’t compatible with my site and won’t show up here, but you can click the link below and it will bring you to it. (I suggest you open the link in another window :D) The giveaway closest next Wednesday night! Good luck, and thank you for the last two years. Here’s to another year of Buitiful Confessions!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

xo Jackie

These Are The Moments I’ll Remember All My Life

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago about milestone birthdays. He told me he didn’t think turning 30 was a big ordeal, or a reason to celebrate a “milestone.” He thought of birthdays later on in life as more monumental – turning 50 and being able to say you are half a century, turning 60 and being so close to retirement, turning 70 and gracefully aging into your golden years. What he said made sense to me, but when I started really thinking about it, it reminded me of the post I wrote earlier that week about age and how we need to stop measuring our worth by how old we are. Shouldn’t we do the same with milestones? What then, is the measure of a milestone and how exactly does your age equal a milestone?

If you think about it, unless there are circumstances of terminal illness, or sudden death, life is meant to be long. You are meant to see the monumental ages of 17, and getting a license, or 21, and being legally allowed to drink, turning 25, a quarter of a century, turning 30, 40, 50. That’s not to say that life isn’t cut short or that some people don’t think they’ll reach these milestones, but in general, that’s the assumption – that we’ll all see the day we blow out 30, 40, 50 candles on our birthday cake. But when did these ages become rites of passage? When did we take years and place heavy weight on them, thus making these certain ages more important than the last? What if the time between 24 and 25 was empty? What if you accomplished absolutely nothing between 29 and 30? What if you failed miserably in your year between 39 and 40? I don’t want to sound negative, because that’s not what I’m here for. But like I said in that post two weeks ago, if we stop looking at age as definitive factors for what we should have in life, our lives would be more abundant. We would worry less about what we don’t have and revel in what we do have.

I think the same could be said about birthdays. Maybe age has nothing to do with milestones. Maybe age is just a reminder of the life inside of us, of the years we’ve spent adding another mark to our tally. But it’s what we do between each year that we should really consider to be a milestone – the accomplishments, the achieved goals, the dreams. Maybe birthdays are really just days to celebrate the love in your life with cake and cocktails and maybe age merely means growing more into ourselves. Maybe it’s what we do between each year that tells us what the milestones are.

I think milestones lie somewhere in the doing. Milestones are your first kiss, the first time you fall in love and the first time you get your heart ripped out of your chest. Milestones are the day you get accepted into college and the day you graduate. Milestones are the first day on the job and the day you get the promotion you’ve been working so hard for. Milestones are the day you get engaged, the day you say “I do,” the day you purchase your first house, the day you become a parent, the day you become a grandparent. And these things can’t be measured by milestone ages, but by milestone moments. 

Maybe a milestone has nothing to do with age, or the calendar year, or how many lines you have around your eyes. Maybe milestones can be tallied by the things you’ve done, the things you’ve accomplished, and the ways in which your life is abundant and full. Maybe a milestone is looking at the house and family you’ve created, the glimmer in your son’s eye, the employee of the month award, the dissertation you just submitted, the framed Master’s diploma you have in your office, the time you saw your published book on shelves for the first time and seeing these big moments as just that – milestones. Maybe a milestone has nothing to do with waking up to see another birthday, and everything to do with the big moments in your life.

[ Don't forget! I'm holding my first giveaway starting TOMORROW and giving away a copy of Colleen Hoover's new release, "Maybe Someday" and a $25 Amazon GiftCard. Come back TOMORROW to enter! ]

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “I could not ask for more” by Edwin McCain
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I’m Friends With The Monster That’s Under My Bed

Little girls are a blank canvas for the world to color on and fill with knowledge, and wisdom, and an abundance of stories. Little girls learn by being taught. When they cry in the middle of the night, they’re taught that monsters aren’t real – that the shadow they see in their closet or the noise rattling from under their bed are figments of their imagination. When their mommy’s read them old-time classics, they’re taught that fairy tales exist. When they look up to a man who calls them his little girl, they’re taught that their daddy is their hero. They’re taught that life is like magic, that they’re princesses, that a prince is out there ready to save them. But the question is: why do we need saving, for we are no damsels in distress.

The irony hits me a little hard thinking about this in retrospect. Did they know all along that some of us need to be saved? Did the man who was your hero, the man who called you his little girl, know what would become of your relationship? Did he assume you needed saving? Did he assume that his darkness would suck you in so deep that you needed rescue?

We’re taught as little girls of the beauty of life, and never the emptiness. We’re taught of the reasons to smile, and never the reasons to cry. And sure, some of the sentiments that little girls are taught are true. Life is beautiful. Fairy tales do exist, if only you open your mind to them. There certainly are princes out there, and each one of us is a princess. But the lesson that strikes me most odd, that leaves me uneasy, and a little heart-heavy, is that monsters aren’t real. Because they are.

I don’t think that anyone is born a monster. I don’t think anyone is born with hatred so deep, or a heart so dark, or a soul that swallows you up every time you make contact with it. But somewhere along the line, something happens, something changes them. And that’s what I want to know. What is it that turns heroes into monsters? That turns the light of your life into someone so dark, so frigid, so ice cold? How does someone become so jaded that they make it their life mission to do the same to others? To take out their light? To steal their happiness? To turn them into monsters?

Fighting a monster is an uphill climb and a battle that no one wins. The wrath of the monster grows with time, deepens with age, and tires you out more than any other aspect of life. Monsters choose their words wisely, they use them to belittle, to betray, to dig you into the ground. They’re smart. They’re tactful. They’re wise. But the one thing monsters don’t have against us princesses is mental strength and hope. They lost all their hope for a brighter future when they sold their soul to the devil and made a deal with the dark side. They’re so mentally weak that they take out their stress onto the innocent. So despite how emotionally draining it can be fighting a dead end fight, despite how little you feel, despite how emotionally damaged you are, you’ll always have one up on that monster. You’ll always be ahead.

You might be be fighting a monster, you might continue to fight that monster, but never forget, as I never do – you’ll always have one up on them. You’ll always have hope. You’ll always have strength. You’ll always have the light. And all they’ll have is darkness.

[ Don't forget! I'm holding my first giveaway starting this THURSDAY and giving away a copy of Colleen Hoover's new release (it came out TODAY), "Maybe Someday" and a $25 Amazon GiftCard. Come back THURSDAY to enter! ]

“There are no heroes…in life, the monsters win.” -George R.R. Martin

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Monster” by Eminem ft. Rihanna
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I Hate These Blurred Lines

I never really take to this space to rant and rave about current events, mainly because I tend to stay neutral when it comes to topics that will cause political or social uproar, but today will be an exception. Sometime  last week at the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, there was an incident where someone threw up on Lady Gaga during her performance. I don’t pay too much attention to celebrity “news” that isn’t newsworthy (I consider newsworthy celebrity news to be inspiring stories of them doing good and giving back), so I didn’t read on about it. It was my assumption that a concert goer got wasted and threw up on stage – typical music festival stuff.

But it wasn’t until I saw headlines about a “Twitter war” between Demi Lovato and a YouTuber that I used to watch a few years ago, Kingsley, involving said SXSW incident, that I read up about the person who threw up on stage. In all honesty, when I read that the woman who vomited on Lady Gaga was a “vomit artist,” I didn’t read too far into it, so if you want to read more click here. I don’t really care to learn more about this “artist,” nor do I car to delve too far into what she chooses to make of her life. But, as a woman, as someone who has watched eating disorders destroy lives, as a [future] mental health professional, and as someone who deeply and passionate loves art, I have an opinion.

There’s blurred lines, I think, when it comes to this situation. Millie Brown calls herself an artist. Lady Gaga is friends with this “artist” and says that they’re starting a movement by creating artwork from what they want and going against societal norms. But others are lashing out, saying that this is romanticizing bulimia. There’s controversy about this incident because Lady Gaga has struggled with eating disorders. The thing is, I genuinely don’t think Lady Gaga intended to glamorize eating disorders. I don’t think she would purposely put herself in a situation that could trigger her own demons, nor do I think she would do anything to trigger any of her fans who could potentially have similar issues. But all of that doesn’t mean Millie Brown, the vomit artist, doesn’t make it look appealing. That doesn’t mean that some of the younger audience members aren’t going to think it’s cool to starve themselves for two days and drink a specific soy milk to create art. Let this be a reminder that your body is meant to be nourished and fed, not starved. Sending out that message that starving yourself for two days for the sake of art is debilitating to those who listen. And don’t get me started on the damaging effects of vomiting regularly.

With that said, I believe deeply and passionately about art, in every form. All I have are my words, but I so envy visual artists – artists who interpret life through colors, and designs, and pictures. I envy photographers, singers, dancers, designers. I love art and I wish there was more art around me, but what I don’t love is seeing anything that mocks mental health issues.

Articles say that Millie Brown is a cutting edge artist. In my humble opinion, what she is doing isn’t cutting edge. What she’s doing is sending a message that this is okay. And I understand that the weight of being a role model is sometimes too heavy for some people, and perhaps that was never her intention, but as soon as she dipped her feet into the pool of Gaga’s Little Monster’s, she started treading widely popular water, which means she was crossing lines that she could be very influential.

Cutting edge to me, is starting a bigger movement. It’s using your art and your voice on a bigger level. It’s coming up with new trends that doesn’t involve any form of self-harm. It’s building people up and showing audiences that art, in any form, can be a way to recover from these mental illnesses. Cutting edge to me is doing something that is life-altering in a positive way. Cutting edge is not vomiting onto a canvas and dubbing that art. If that were the case, would all forms of self-harm be art? Would the scars up and down her arm be some mystical form of art that portrays pain in a profound way? Would the decay on her teeth from all the times she threw up be considered a rare and beautiful art form? Would the burn marks he put on his chest be considered this cutting edge form of art? I didn’t think so.

Everyone has to have an opinion about this situation, right? What do you guys think about this “eccentric, cutting edge artist?” Do you think this is art or do you think she is sending out a wrong message, albeit unintentionally, we would assume? As someone who loves art, but also is working in the mental health field, I would love to hear your opinions and take on the art. Sound off below! :)

PS: I have a huge announcement! As this week is my blog’s two year birthday, I will be hosting my first giveaway! It’ll be up this Thursday, so make sure you check back and enter to win a copy of my favorite author’s newest book – Maybe Someday, coming out tomorrow or a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Thank you so so much to everyone who reads and spread the word about this giveaway!

“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, not lifestyle choices.” -Demi Lovato

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke
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Cause Now I’m a Warrior

Life can be beautiful. It can be filled with hope that breeds eternal light into the future, with love that shines brighter than the moonlight, and with laughter that manifests itself into faint, well-earned lines around your mouth. But it can also be painful. It can be cruel. It can steal that bright light from inside of you. I firmly believe everyone has a story. After all, no one gets through this life unscathed. Every single one of us has something that weighed heavy on our hearts at one point or another. Some of us still carry this around with us, whatever this may be. Some of us have wounds that are healing, wounds that open up ever so slightly at a triggering word, or an unwelcome memory. Some of us have bruises left on our shattered hearts – stories we’ve never told a single soul. And some of us are a little rusty, a little bent, but okay. We’re working on it and working through it. But getting to that point and being past that point doesn’t take away from the sting of the darkness. It doesn’t take away from your own truth – your life’s story.

The beauty, I think, in carrying such a burden and holding so tightly onto a story that occasionally digs at you, as a reminder that it’s still there, is that when you get to the end of that proverbial tunnel and get a chance to look back on the road it took you to get to the other side, you realize that it wasn’t all that bad. The journey might’ve been treacherous – hell, it might still be a difficult climb every day, but you’re better because of it.

The song “Warrior” by Demi Lovato is one that I will hold near and dear to my heart for the rest of my life. As I mentioned earlier this week, there are some songs that you just need to hear live – songs that you need to feel vibrating through the walls of an arena. “Warrior” was that song to me. I can’t even begin to explain how I felt when I first found out that it was on the set list. I was mind-blown, a little worried, but a lot excited. It’s a song that means just what I spoke about above – it’s a story about darkness and pain, but it’s a story that turns into hope. It’s a story about finding the light in the darkest of situations.

“Warrior” is such a heavy, important song. Even to only say it is important is doing a huge unjustice to the powerful words that hold a permanent place in my heart. It’s a song that needs to be heard by anyone who’s ever struggled – and that is every single person reading this. Every single pair of eyes. We’ve all struggled. The lyrics are deep; the story is a hard pill to swallow. It’s a childhood locked up in a vault, begging to be exposed, it’s a past hidden and shoved into the back of her mind until it gnawed at her, desperate to see the light of day. It’s a little triggering for certain individuals – a little painful to take in at first, but getting through the song brings about a brilliant sense of hope. It’s a reminder that this life is your own life. It’s a story of coming out of the darkness, and peering at a looking glass into the past and having that “aha, I made it” moment. It’s about accepting the things that were a part of your past at face value, but conquering life. It’s a story of worthiness. And strength.

My favorite thing about music is that every single song means something a little different to everyone. The reason that Demi wrote this song is certainly not the reason that this song means so much to me. Her struggles are not my struggles, just as my struggles are not yours. The reason why I connect to this song on such a profound level may not be the same reason why someone else connects to it. Our stories don’t have to match completely for us to love the song – for us to feel the song. This is the beauty in stringing words together so eloquently – they all take on a life of their own and a meaning of their own to the person listening.

Demi’s childhood story is not the same truth that I’ve lived. Not even close. We don’t all have the same story, but we all have a story. We all have our own truth. Your deepest, darkest secret might not be as paralyzing as mine, or maybe it is. My life could look like a fairytale in comparison to yours, or maybe it doesn’t. No matter what’s happened to us, or what we’ve been through – none of that owns us. This song is a constant reminder that you own your own truth. It’s a reminder that the past is just that – the past. As she said in her speech prior to belting out the song, “it works if you work it.” It’s up to you, but you can take back what’s been stolen from you. You can rise above and put in the work and get to the end of that tunnel.

I sometimes listen to this song and reflect back on my life. Somewhere along the line, with no warning at all, I grew from the bruised, stone-cold, angry child-turned-teenager into who I am now. We’re all a little bruised, but I’m nowhere near the person I was before. It amazes me that there was never a pivotal moment for me. It’s an evolution of life, of growth, of learning to rise above. Now, I look back on my life, and all the shit that I went through, shit that others put me through, and even shit that I put myself through and I realize how far removed I am from all of that. How my life has changed so much in such a short amount of time and how, even though I am no longer that girl, I am better because of it. And that’s what this song means to me.

It means taking back a stolen light. It means healing old battle wounds. It means sometimes being a little jaded, a little broken, a little bruised, but being better because of it. It means being a warrior.

Credit to the YouTube user Chelsea Veronica for this video.
( I needed to get a video from the show I went to :D )

“There’s a day when you realize that you’re not just a survivor, you’re a warrior. You’re tougher than anything life throws your way.” -One Tree Hill

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Warrior” by Demi Lovato
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Cause I Don’t Wanna Dance Alone

A month ago, I went to see Yellowcard’s Acoustic Ocean Avenue show for the second time. At the beginning of the show, the lead singer, Ryan Key, said something along the lines of. “I want you guys to f!@#$%^ put your phones down and watch the concert with your eyes, and not through your cell phone or cameras.” His words really stuck with me.

Even before that show though, I took my sister to see Megan & Liz headline their first tour at the end of the summer. After following their career and seeing them play smaller shows, it was a surreal experience to see them headline and perform to a larger crowd. Naturally, my sister wanted to document the experience. But she spent the majority of the time recording the songs and not experiencing the concert for what it truly was. I understand she’s young, and I’ll admit that for a long time, I was just like her. It sounds ridiculously cheesy, but I love to scrapbook. I always took pictures, because I always wanted to scrapbook every moment and every memory. Somewhere along the line, perhaps in the middle of technology advancing and overpowering every aspect of our lives, and my getting a little bit older, thus a little wiser, and also realizing – why spend money on concerts if you aren’t going to be fully present, my perspective changed. When M&L performed their latest single, they requested everyone put their phones and cameras down to have a, what they called, “good old fashion dance party.” What they said that night struck me too. They said something along the lines of, “I know it’s hard, but trust me, life is more fun when you’re not looking through an iPhone screen.”

Those two concerts put a lot into perspective for me, and I wanted my sister to listen to those rules when we went to see Demi Lovato last Friday, so I made a deal with her. I knew she couldn’t possibly see her idol and not take any pictures or videos, so I told her she could record the slower songs and take a handful of pictures, but I wanted her to get up and have fun. At home, she’s wild, carefree, and fun, but in public, she’s reserved and quiet. I wanted her to go to the concert and have that experience – I wanted her to let loose, go crazy, and have a good time – not just record the show. To my dismay, she actually listened to me. We both took some pictures and recorded some videos, but I also got to watch as my little sister let loose and genuinely have the time of her life singing along with and dancing along to her idol.

It might be rather cliche to continue to rant about using our cell phones and social media in general, so I won’t. What I will say is this – you don’t know what you’re missing out on if you’re not paying attention. Life is about moments and even taking away those moments and looking through a screen, you’re missing what’s right in front of you in plain sight. In all ten years that my sister has been on this planet, I have never seen her get up and dance and have fun in public like that.

Even though having photographic evidence that you attended an event might be a memory to you, the moments that stick out to me are looking over at my sister and seeing her glittering eyes while watching her idol perform on stage. It was seeing my sister actually get up and sing and dance along to some of her favorite songs. It was seeing an arena full of people put lights up when she sang Warrior. It was hearing my sister thank me for getting such great seats. It was the feeling of so much love on the late car ride home, listening to my sister talk about how that was the best show and how she was glad she stepped out of her comfort zone.

I did get a few pictures, but it’s those moments that I just talked about that mean more to me. Those are the moments I live for.

“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.” -Oprah Winfrey

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Don’t Wanna Dance Alone” by Fifth Harmony
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Please Don’t Stop The Music

There is a difference between music and live music. There is something so captivating and magical about being in the crowd at a concert. I always find myself so entranced at concerts, and so in tune with the crowd and the artist playing. I always think about how incredible it is to see an artist, whose music has influenced me, perform and sing the lyrics that speak to me. I wonder what that feels like – to stand on a stage and perform in front of thousands of people the songs that you worked your ass off to write and record – music, words, and lyrics that they put together because they were going through a breakup, experiencing a rough patch, falling in love, going through the motions, observing someone else’s life.

I am a lover of all kinds of music, all different genre’s, and all different artists. I know that not everyone will agree with me, and that the argument over which genre is better is a heated debate, but for me, it’s not about that. What it comes down to is what the music means to me – what the melody, what the harmony, what the beat means.. to me. Music is a universally healing tool. There are songs that uplift and inspire, songs that are relateable on a deeply profound level, songs that you cry to, songs that you find comfort in listening to, songs that make you lose control, songs that get you up out of your seat. No matter what I’m going through – positive or negative – I know there is a song out there that I can connect to. So to me, it doesn’t matter if it’s rock, or rap, or country, or pop – what matters to me is what the story is behind that song and how I connect to it. How did it affect me? When did I hear that song? When did it come on my shuffle when I needed it most? That’s what music means to me.

Concerts are a way of feeling the music. You can listen to the songs on your headphones all you want, but hearing them being sung and those lyrics vibrating through the walls of an arena or at an outdoor venue during the summer is an unexplainable feeling – only one that you could understand if you are a concert-goer. I look at concerts as more than just the act of getting to a venue and watching the performance. From the day I find out about a tour, it’s an adventure. It’s the excitement of purchasing the tickets, of deciding what to wear, of compiling a playlist of all their songs, of preparing for the day of the concert, to the actual day of the show. It’s an entire experience. It’s not just hearing an album live.

Over the weekend, I was reminded of truly how magical music is and how incredible it is to have that experience – especially because I got to share that with my little sister. Because she is so much younger than me and because of how, in today’s world, kids are so driven by having things. I have strived to, instead of giving her things, give her experiences. While her friends have iPhones, iPads, and laptops, she has a long list of concerts and meet and greets that she’s attended. I don’t know about you, but at 10, I had neither. The live music experience is one that trumps technology at that age, in my opinion.

It’s pretty obvious being in the mental health field of study that I am always drawn to people with a story. When I was in college and did freelance celebrity news writing, I was intrigued by Demi Lovato. She’s a few years younger than me and I wasn’t into that Disney era, but I had heard a few of her songs that I really connected with. (Quiet was my JAM when I was in really dark places. And my all-time favorite old Demi songs are Here We Go Again, Everytime You Lie, and Everything You’re Not – boy issues, much?) My fascination with her grew, along with my interest in her music. To this day, I have never connected with a song more than “For the Love of A Daughter.”

Two years ago, I took my sister to a Demi Lovato concert at an outdoor concert venue. My sister was eight then and fell in love with Demi and her music. When I say that one show turned her into a super fan, I mean it – she idolizes her more than I can even put into words. Fast forward to last Friday, when Demi played a completely different show than the last – a full-blown Neon Lights Tour experience. She played a sold-out show to one of the largest crowds of her tour thus far, 15,000 people, in a stadium that far exceeded that smaller outdoor venue two years earlier. I go to a lot of concerts, but this one ranks up there in my top three favorite shows, along with Pink’s Truth About Love tour and Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away tour. Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue Acoustic tour comes pretty close though.

What I’m trying to say, in an excessive amount of words, is how important I think it is for music lovers to go to concerts. It’s something everyone needs to experience. There are certain artists, certain songs, and certain lyrics that transcend just the radio – there are songs that you need to hear live. And you can make snide remarks all you want about the depth of a pop-musician, because trust me, I’ve heard them all, but that’s not why I’m here.

I’m here because music is healing. It helps. It feeds the soul. Without it, I know I would be lost. It’s a way to cope with love, with loss, with life. Later on this week I’m going to talk about that one song that I needed to hear live, but for today, I’m leaving you with a few of the great pictures I got of the show.

Who are some of your favorite artists to see live?

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“When words fail, music speaks.” -Hans Christian Andersen

xo, Jackie

The title of this post is from the song, “Please Don’t Stop The Music” by Rihanna
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