6 Ways to Self-counsel

Man, it can really be a doggie dog (dog eat dog) world out there for someone trying to stay POSITIVE. Some days it’s like trying to ward off those gremlin-looking monsters that shoot at you in video games. But I still believe you do so much better by at least trying, by smiling at evil and maintaining your cool in every situation. It’s so hard, but it’s all about that fighting spirit I’m always talking about.

Here are six self-counseling approaches I take to warding off negativity, especially on the really hectic days. And yes, it includes a lot of talking to myself which I believe, contrary to popular belief, is incredibly helpful in navigating your way through life. It all goes back to that concept of being your own #1 supporter, your own best friend. Try them sometime. I think they can help you too!

    1. “You are SONIA. This situation does not define you. These people do not define you. You are smart. You are capable, and you can do anything.”
    2. “You did your best today. Tomorrow is a new day to make it better and shine.”
    3. “You will never please everyone. Accept it!”
    4. “I am not better than anyone, but certainly, no one is better than me.”
    5. “You can’t do it all at once. One thing at a time, you will get there. Be patient with yourself.”
    6. And finally, after a bad day, I just try to go out and do something that centers me and brings me back to who I am.  I do something I’m passionate about or have a lot of fun doing.  I reach out for support, and meet up with a friend. I remove myself from the negative situation or thoughts, and get back to my happy place.

So, tell me, what do you do to center yourself after a bad day?

Success is My Only Mofo Option, Failure’s Not

Yes, I just quoted Eminem. He’s a little hood. I’m a little hood. He comes from nothing. I come from nothing. He dreams big. I dream big. Plus, let’s be honest. Papi is just plain SEXY (don’t judge me). Also, can I say mofo on my blog? Hey, at least I kept it classy and didn’t use the real word. But anyway, let’s not get too far off the path here.

In all seriousness, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is one of my all-time favorite pump myself up songs, raps, whatever you want to call it. It’s real. It’s honest. And boy, can I relate. Why? Because I’ve always felt as if I had no option but to succeed, but to work harder than hard, dig deeper than deep. Because if I didn’t? I’d be totally, completely and utterly SCREWED.

Coming from a very low-income family with little formal education and a whole lot of dysfunction, I never had much support growing up like a lot of my peers did. And when I talk about support, I don’t only mean financial support, although money has definitely always been a significant factor in trying to get where I need and want to be. When I talk about lack of support, I also mean a lack of mentorship, of direction, of guidance – all those things I hear folks talking about having; all those questions and situations I’ve always had to answer and navigate for myself.

So growing up broke as an incredibly poorly told joke, things always seemed just a little harder. But I never let that stop me. I’ve worked a million jobs since I was 15, and I’ve always found a way to make it happen. Even if I barely make it, I’ve always made it. I’ve attained an incredible education, and built a pretty descent career and life for myself – full of a lot more progress and HAPPY than I could have ever imagined.

Still, when you start off at a disadvantage, that sucker balls up into the nastiest, meanest snowball you’ve ever seen, and it builds and builds. It builds up so much that even after three degrees, and 28 years of HARD work and hustle, I still find myself in an overwhelming amount of debt (guess that education has something to do with it), and always stressed out about money. I make more than a fair living now, and I am beyond grateful for it, but it can still be hard. I’ve never had anybody to count on in that sense or much help, and I still don’t. It’s just me, and just that can make you feel incredibly alone and overwhelmed at times.

But I keep fighting, every day, because it’s my only option. And in a weird way, especially for the last few years, as I’ve matured into and embraced this amazing lady named Sonia (yes, I just called myself amazing – it’s the greatest love of all, Whitney said so 🙂 ),  I am so grateful for the hardships. I’ve always had this insatiable drive and need to do more, do it bigger, make it farther, work a  little bit longer, and I’m pretty sure I owe that all to the situations and lack of that I’ve faced throughout my life. I’ve always known that if I don’t do it for myself, I might end up under a bridge (I kid, but not really), and that has driven me to my current success.

But that’s not all. In addition to money issues, there are always people obstacles to fight your way through. You know what I’m talking about. Those people that are constantly trying to put you down and tell you you’re not enough, you can’t do that, you’ll never make it there, you’re not worth it. And for me, unfortunately or maybe fortunately because it’s made so STRONG and such a fighter, that person was and is a very close family member (something I will definitely discuss more at length when I’m ready). Whether in the past or the present, it hurts like hell, and it is something I have to work through every single day, but you know what, I’ve fought through that sucker like a damn Gladiator, and I can stand tall and PROUD. I’ve proven time and time again that I am so much more than I was made to believe I was, and that is what you have to do too.

There will always be people, whether its family, colleagues, or even toxic friends that will try and question your aspirations, slow you down, make you feel like you cannot reach your destination. But you know what I say? Screw that! Always know who you are. Tell yourself as often as you need to. Write it on a damn mirror if you have to. But just keep it moving. And don’t focus so much on proving anything to them; focus on proving it to yourself instead. Nurture that relationship with YOU more than any other, because it’s the only one that you can count on unequivocally, forever, at all times.

If you’re not happy where you live, where you work or with your career, with your friends or your relationship, etc., trust your gut and make a change. Fight through the obstacles – they will only make reaching your goals taste that much sweeter. And always know you’re worth, know your talents and your strengths, know what you have to offer, and make those things work for you. Don’t let critics make you doubt yourself. I know it’s so hard. I still have to work at it too. I’m pretty amazing, but I’m not Superwoman here. Well, maybe on a good day. But anyway, are you catching my drift?

Even if you have been fortunate enough to have a little more help or guidance than I had, even if you have someone or something to fall back on right now, make success your only mofo option (Oops, I did it again. Dang, I think I just quoted Britney). Go out and create your very own, hard earned success. When you encounter “no” and violent opposition, and you will, find a different path, another option, and trust me, you’ll get THERE.

As for me, I’m going to keep chasing these dreams, trusting that I know who I am and that what I have to offer is valuable. No matter what anyone says, I will make it happen. I will keep it moving. I will fight through the bullshit, and I will come out the other side on top, sort of like Bey. Will you join me?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

P.S. And just as a final little note, I’d like to give a little shout-out, as the kids say, to my friend Gaby who told me today that I’m doing something worthwhile by writing these blogs, and that I have a voice people can relate to. That right there is what’s it’s all about folks. Take your talents, go out into the world, and make a dent. It’s so worth it.

Holdin’ On to Hope On Monday Morning

This morning I came into the office ready to attack the day, be productive and SHINE. I worked for a few hours last night, and felt like I actually got a pretty good handle on things, setting myself up for a successful week. But, as my buddy Forrest Gump once so eloquently said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get.”

Monday took no pity on me, and Hectic Harry came a knockin’ promptly around 9:30 a.m. As I was heading down the elevator for a meeting, that silly ol’ thing got confused and took me all the way down to the first floor, when I actually meant to just go down to the fourth. I began to feel frustrated when a familiar face suddenly hopped on the elevator (let’s call him M for short) with his always positive demeanor, bright smile and general good vibrations. The convo went a little like this.

M:          “Hi there!”

Sonia:   “Hi! How are you?”

M:          “Good, good and you?”

Sonia:   “Well you know it’s Monday. You never know what the week will bring, but I’m still hopeful.”

M:          “Yes. That’s how it always is. But you must never lose hope.”

And there my friends, is what I’m talkin’ about. That nutty elevator took me to the wrong destination because I needed to hear those simple, but resonating, words to start off my week. Motivation and friendly faces that perk up your spirit are every freakin’ where. Just open your eyes, perk up your ears, listen up, take it in, and keep it fresh in your mind throughout the day when you encounter stress. Because like M says, you must never lose hope, especially not on a Monday morning.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

4 Reasons to Move Somewhere You Love

About two and a half years ago, I packed all of my belongings in my ’06 Jetta Volkswagen, and drove 18 hours and 1,400 miles from Miami to Chicago. It wasn’t easy (I definitely underestimated how hard it’d be to leave family, friends and my whole life behind), but all this time later, I still wholeheartedly believe that was the best decision I ever made, and the absolute best thing I ever did for myself and my HAPPY.

I had moved back to Miami from Gainesville in December 2007 after finishing my first master’s at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). I worked as a marketing project manager for the YMCA, enjoyed being homework-less for the first time, well ever, re-connected with old friends, and everything seemed just dandy. I had fallen in love with Chicago back in 2007 when I had visited a good college friend for the first time, but I couldn’t move there, could I? Miami seemed better than I had imagined it would be, and sure I had moved to Gainesville at 17 when I had even less of a clue what the hell I was doing, and I had done just fine, but Chicago? Nah. Other people do big things like that. Not Sonia.

Then 2009 rolled around. I had gone from living with my older sister (that did NOT work), to an efficiency to a pool house, and I was growing increasingly restless with no advancement opportunities at my job and a salary that barely kept me afloat with all of my poor girl debt. On top of that, I went through a heart-numbing falling out with a man I had loved, and who I had dated on and off in a twisted, unofficial, intense, unreal mess of a relationship, if you could even call it that (I’m fairly certain you can’t), for three years.

Then, Miami and I were just not vibing – not one little bit. I didn’t like the culture, the atmosphere, the lifestyle. I didn’t fit in, I was bored, and I was incredibly restless. Even though I lived alone, I still felt an immense amount of pressure from family to be what they needed me to be at all times, and I didn’t feel in control of me or my life. I felt so stuck, so broke (despite extracting small luxuries from money I was making freelance writing), so down, so sad, and so completely, horrifyingly empty. It was then that my complete and total obsession with getting the hell out began. Chicago, the only place that had ever made me feel so exhilaratingly in love with mere geography, would be my destination.

For most of 2009, everything I mustered up the energy to do in my sadly sad state had to do in some way with my escape. I spent hours, weeks, months job searching online, sending out hard copy resumes and cover letters to a long list of companies in an effort to stand out, and making follow-up calls. In August of 2009, I visited my friend in Chicago again, and set up appointments with employment agencies. I even got close a few times. I had a few great interviews with the agencies and even one phone interview with a hiring manager for the United Way in Chicago, but I kept running into the same problem. I was not local, and although they liked me and felt I was highly qualified, I was not at a stage in my career and certainly not in that economy, where people were willing to relocate me.

I was getting desperate, but I continued pushing. At some point, I even applied for a $10,000 loan from the bank (crazy, I know). I thought if I could get it, I could move without a job and stay afloat for three or four months until I found something. I’ll never forget the day I received that rejection letter. I thought that was my last hope, and now it was gone.

But then, as I always do, I fought through the tears and desperation, and I kept trying to think of other alternatives. What other avenue could I take to get to Chicago and the hell out of my present situation? Then it came to me. I had always wanted an MBA, as my prior education had been mostly creative-based. Ideally, especially since I had just finished a master’s degree not even three years earlier, I would have waited a few more years before pursuing it, but life was telling me I had no time to wait. Yes. That would be my ticket to Chicago, to opportunity, to HAPPY. I could live off of financial aid for a bit until I found full time employment.

So I began the application process. I used my entire tax return that year for application fees and the GMAT. I’m terrible at standardized tests, despite being a pretty smart and successful gal. No, seriously. I have three degrees, two of them advanced, but if you took a look at my standardized test scores, you’d wonder if I even speak English. I completely bombed the test the first time, and again, I was completely heartbroken, but I had come too far to give up now. My amazing friend Sofia lent me the money to re-take the test, and I was able to pay her back for half of it with money from a freelance job. She never let me pay her back for the rest. She said it was her gift to me because she was so proud of my perseverance. I will never forget it.

I did a little better the second time, and I was accepted into Loyola University Chicago’s MBA program. I was at lunch one day, at work, and when I got back to my desk I had a voicemail on my cell. I listened, and at that very moment, my whole life changed. My heart exploded with a HAPPY I hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever. I had been accepted. I had been freed. I had done it. I never gave up, and now I was on my way to Chicago, baby! That was around April 2010. For the next few months, I saved every penny I could, figured out my living situation with my college friend in Chicago, planned the trip, and let everyone know I was OUT!

Two and a half years later, I am the proud owner of an MBA (and what a wonderful experience it was), I have a great job and make a great living (despite the debt that still haunts me, but that’s a topic for another post), I have friends that are like family, and I’ve managed to build a pretty sweet life here. I have experienced more HAPPY than I had probably felt in my entire life. I have met amazing people, and learned so much about myself, about life, about all the opportunity that is out there. Plus, I feel an undying sense of accomplishment, because damn it I had to work hard to get here, but I got here.

OK. So that was my intro. Couldn’t you have kept it a little shorter, Sonia? Sorry! I had to set the stage. You know what I mean jelly bean? Just go with it. Thanks!

Here are four reasons why you, too, should find a place you love, and move there.

1. Even the worst days are better days

When you live somewhere you love, somewhere YOU chose to live, even the bad days are not so bad. You can always find energy and reinvigorate your HAPPY by simply admiring your surroundings, and reminding yourself what a huge, huge thing you did by picking up and taking a chance.

2. An incredible, lasting sense of accomplishment

After more than two years in Chicago, I still feel this incredible sense of accomplishment almost every day. Whenever I have a bad one or feel a little unsure of my badass-ness, I remember what I did and where I am. I remember all the rejection I fought through and all the nay-sayers I ignored to get here, and I am reassured, every time, that I am strong, I’m a boss and I can do anything I set out to do – no matter the obstacles. Plus, the simple pleasure of knowing you’re living a life you built for yourself, on your own terms, is pretty damn sweet.

3. Opportunity Awaits

For whatever reason, Miami was just not for me. Things did not work out the way I wanted there, and I felt like I was always swimming against an immense, unforgiving current. Chicago, on the other hand, has been nothing but lucky for me. I’ve continually been on the up and up here, financially, intellectually, spiritually, and all that good stuff.  If you’re just not feeling it where you are right now, maybe there is a place out there that is better suited for you where opportunity undoubtedly awaits.

4. You’ll never have to wonder what could have been

I can’t imagine a more nagging feeling or thought than, “What could have been if I had really done it?” Please, don’t torture yourself. If there is somewhere you want to go, GO, try it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always move back, but at least you will know you tried, and you will never have to wonder what could have been.

And finally, just remember, nothing is ever perfect, but it can always be so much better.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Savor the Good in Every Day

Today has been a rough day, a stressful day. Meetings galore, rampant confusion and pressure up the wazoo. Through it all, I’ve kept traveling in my head back to this morning. I pulled over to the side of the road to get off and drop my rent check in the big blue box. The snow was piled up on the corner by the mailbox. As I carefully made my way through the fresh heap, trying to ensure I didn’t slip and fall on my ass, because let me tell you, that’s pretty likely if you know me (clumsy Florida girl here), I heard a stranger’s voice call out to me with enthusiasm.

“Do you just need to drop that in the mailbox? Let me help you!” she said as she reached out her hand to me. “Yes! Thank you!” I said as I accepted her offer and handed off the envelope. “Sure!” she exclaimed. Then we exchanged a friendly wave, and off we were.

It was such a small thing, really. But it took me by surprise. It always does. A stranger sees an opportunity to help in a small but meaningful way, and she goes for it. These are the things I like to focus on. All the good that exists in the world amongst all the cruddy every day stuff we all deal with. It renews my faith in humanity, every time. It makes a difference. Shoot, it is now hours later, and I’m still finding comfort in that two second exchange.

Even when you think it won’t matter, reach out your hand. Help a stranger if you see that you are able. It will make a bigger impact than you think. It will offer them warmth and hope. And , in doing so, remind yourself the many small ways in which we can all help each other more, and make this thing called life just a little easier.

Savor the good in every day. It’s alive and well all around you if you just take a second to look up and accept it.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

14 Roads to HAPPY: Simple Ways to Be Happier Now

14 Roads to Happy: Simple Ways to Be Happier NowAs someone who spent too many years feeling sad, being down, drowning in the negativity I grew up around and was made to believe was normal, I now think and talk a lot about chasing HAPPY, and finding small, meaningful ways to be happier every day. I can’t pin point exactly when the light bulb went off in my head, but I just know I suddenly jumped up and thought, “This is bullshit.” Happiness is out there, I deserve it, and I’m going to find it. Sure life is supposed to be hard and complicated, but it is also meant to be lived, enjoyed and celebrated.

I know it can be hard to stay on the fast track to HAPPY with so many Negative Nancys and Nellys roaming the streets of our lives and our hearts, so here are 14 things that have helped me find and nurture my HAPPY – try ‘em!

Ways to Be Happier #1: Believe in yourself

I grew up hearing I’m a piece of shit. So what! Am I? No. I am anything but. Always believe in yourself and your talents. Believe that you can do it, you can make the impossible possible. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t. Just show them and show you that you can. Go where they say you can’t go, make the leaps they say will be too hard, make the changes they say are impossible. Believe that you are smart, worthy and beautiful, and tell yourself that every single day.

Ways to Be Happier #2: Nurture your friendships

We all need people. Make the time to stay in touch with friends, make dinner dates, go out for a drink (alcoholic or not), plan a fun outing. Let people in, and take care of each other. Don’t keep everything bottled up. Take perspective and input from others you trust. Get out of your head a little, laugh a lot, connect, and nurture those relationships. They will be your savior more than family or romantic relationships, because when those sometimes go sour, who will still be there to hold your hand without bias and judgment? A good friend will.

Ways to Be Happier #3:  Practice positivism

Smile when people are cursing and fussing. Be nice and genuine even when people are being terrible. Believe things will work out how you want them to, and more often than you think, they will. Consume positive media, and surround yourself with positive words and people. Every time you feel a negative thought creeping in your head, say no to it. Fight it. SMILE!

Ways to Be Happier #4: Be and love the authentic you

As long as you’re not hurting anyone, be you. Believe what you believe. Say what you want to say. Do what you want to do. Listen to the music you want to listen to. Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re wearing the wrong thing, or chasing the wrong dream, making the wrong decisions. But, pay attention, and learn to decipher when it’s good advice you should listen to, and when it’s just someone trying to change you or put you down.

Appreciate all your gifts and talents, and put them to good use. Laugh at yourself often, and know that while you are not perfect, you are enough. You are worth it. You mean something.

Ways to Be Happier #5: Remember to be grateful

Sure life is hard. Less than desirable situations come our way all the time, and sometimes we feel unlucky. But don’t let yourself drown in that cesspool of negativity. Take time to reflect on all the good in your life every single day. Focusing on the negative just takes away from all the good things I know you have and often take for granted. No matter how small the positive might seem in light of a bad time, take time to list it out, in your head or on a piece of paper, and remind yourself, as often as possible.

Ways to Be Happier #6: Be more self-aware

We all have flaws. Be open and honest with yourself about your not-so-great qualities as much as your best qualities. The more realistic you are about your limitations and issues, the easier you can find ways to make the best out of the negatives and leverage the positives. When you mess up, apologize. When you know you’ve done good, celebrate.

Ways to Be Happier #7: Have excellent follow-through

Don’t just say you’re going to do something. Don’t let dreams die. Want to start a business, run a marathon, learn how to cook, move to a new city? Whatever it is that your heart wants to accomplish, follow through, make it happen. Research online. Figure out how others have done it. Make yourself a list of action steps. Talk to people who have accomplished similar things, and gather motivation, insight and advice. Don’t listen to people who say dreams are for quacks. People make their dreams come true every day. Why shouldn’t it be you?

Ways to Be Happier #8: Be corny

Yes, revel in corny! Listen to positive music, seek out motivation, reach out to and connect with believers, doers, dream chasers. Believe anything is possible, because it is. Laugh at yourself. Share your feelings. Be open. Let people know when they’ve touched you or made your day. Show appreciation. Smile, a lot. Offer hugs, give love, offer compliments.

Ways to Be Happier #9: Celebrate small victories

Celebrate more. Whether it’s a good day, accomplishing a small goal, finding the perfect pair of jeans, a sunny day, a great song, a new friend, a new job, breaking a bad pattern or habit….CELEBRATE. Make time to go out with friends more often. Share your triumphs. Celebrate the good days with a treat. Dance more, have fun, just celebrate, damn it. If you’re alive and well, celebrate! There is no need to wait for something huge just to rejoice.

Ways to Be Happier #10: Learn to be more selfish

Learn to say no more often. Do more of what you want to do, and not everything everyone else wants you to do.  Of course it’s great and necessary to sometimes put others before yourself. Be generous, be kind and stay giving. But don’t be manipulated into never taking care of you, going where you want to go, eating what you want to eat, making the decisions that make the most sense for your well-being.

Ways to Be Happier #11: Know when to reach out for and accept help

Don’t be too proud to reach out for help. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Reach out for help when you know you need it, whether it’s from a friend, a family member, or a professional. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to offer you their hand, their expertise, and their time. Then, one day, when they need a little push, help them right back.

Ways to Be Happier #12: Take better care of yourself

Eat healthier. Exercise more often. Nurture your heart with friends and positive relationships. Say no to negative people and nay-sayers. Let go of people who do not accept you for who you are. Surround yourself with all the positive you can find. Be productive. Chase dreams. Find your passion and follow it. Be your own best friend. Talk to yourself. Love yourself. Appreciate yourself. And most of all, be hard on yourself, expect a lot and don’t let yourself go, but don’t over-do it. Always make time for fun – whatever that might mean to you.

Ways to Be Happier #13: Listen to your gut

Is your gut telling you this person in front of you is bad? He/she probably is. Listen. Get away. Do you have a feeling you’re making the wrong decision? Listen. Reevaluate. Gut feelings are your body’s way of giving you information. Don’t throw it out. Use it, and make better choices with it.

Ways to Be Happier #14: Fight for it

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking HAPPY will just come, it just happens. No sir. You have to fight for it, every day. There are too many people and situations out there that will try to take it away from you, and try to bring you down, because they are unhappy, and they want a pout buddy. Fight. Stand up for yourself, and what you want and believe in. Say no to negativity, and fight off the bad feelings with activity. Starting to feel down, someone say something that made you doubt yourself? Go to the gym, go for a run, work on a project you’re passionate about, buy yourself something nice, call a friend – fight. Don’t let the other side win, ever.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

© Aydindurdu | Dreamstime.comHappy Zone Sign Photo

Livin’ la Vida Hyper Emotional

You thought I was going to say, “Livin’ la vida loca,” didn’t sha? Well, sometimes I live la vida loca, but mostly I live la vida hyper emotional. I know I can’t be the only person out there who feels every single little thing with the same fervor and passion I’d say most people reserve for the big, life-changing situations, so I thought I’d write a little somethin’ something’ about it.

The older I get, the more I learn to embrace the fact that I am most definitely, without a doubt, what some might call an emotional slut, an emotion-aholic, and my least favorite and perhaps least accurate, a drama queen.

Here again, I am pulled back to that concept of constantly fighting to be your authentic self. We live in a world where masking emotions and pretending you are super, unrealistically together all the time is acceptable and for the most part, encouraged. But how can you live an authentic life if you continuously pretend just to fit into the masquerade ball we live in?

It’s not that I don’t think my hyper emotional character isn’t a tad problematic at times, it definitely is. It is without a doubt one of my least and most favorite things about myself, although I’ve learned to manage it pretty well. While overwhelming amounts of passion, worry, internal analysis, and self-reflection can be incredibly exhausting to the say the absolute least,  it can also give you an immense amount of power over your life and add great color to your every-day, hum-drum experiences.

When you feel more, you can also appreciate more of the little things like finding a great parking space, having a nice conversation with a stranger, or finding a quarter on the street. I might get hurt and disappointed more often than others, but I also love harder, dream bigger and celebrate more. I can make myself laugh, talk myself through a hard situation, and feel passionate about my day, and my life, with more ease.

So what if you’re emotions are a little promiscuous? Try and embrace it as a strength and stop punishing yourself thinking it’s a weakness. The ability to really feel and communicate those feelings to others takes an incredible amount of strength and self-awareness that a lot of people simply do not have, or constantly try and diminish for the sake of looking like Hercules on Xanax.

Be a little more cliché, and smell the damn flowers, smile more, cry when the tears come, allow yourself to be angry when there is something to be angry about. The more honest you are with yourself about how you really feel, the more you can enjoy the good emotions when they visit, and work through the not so thrilling ones when they barge in, like, “I’d really like to kick that guy in the face.”

So yeah, I’m definitely livin’ la vida hyper emotional, but I get more out of it that way. If you are too, put your arms around that sucker and hug it, instead of trying to run from it. And if you’re just completely on the other side of the spectrum livin’ la vida emotionally suppressed, let those poor bastards [your feelings] out for a breather once in a while. They are begging you for the break.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

The Fight for Authenticity

eat your yogurt with a fork Like to eat your yogurt with a fork? Do it!

Do you constantly feel like you have to defend your choices to other people? Heck, do you often feel you have to defend you very personality, the very core of who you are to others? It sounds crazy, but you and I both know it happens all the time, probably at least once or twice a day. It’s a constant battle for authenticity out there, and it’s a topic this noggin’s been churnin’ on for quite some time now.

Why is it so easy for people to comment on what you’re wearing, bash your choice of lipstick, let you know you’re too skinny or too fat, too loud, too quiet, too this, too that, not enough here, too much there? It is almost mind boggling to me that we live in a world where being yourself has suddenly turned into some sort of crime that a pesky, unsolicited jury is endlessly trying to find you guilty of. In reality, individuality is the spark of life, and possibly the most fascinating thing about the human experience.

Yes, it’s definitely a scary thing to be you, in every way and in all situations, but if you’ve tried it, you know it can be exhilarating. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but the undeniable truth is that people will judge you no matter what you do or say, so why not do and say things that are true to who you are, that just feel right to you?

How many times have I been told I should act a certain way or leave out certain things to impress guys, companies, family, and others? How many times have I heard I share too much of myself, my clothes is too bright, my lipstick is too red, or I’m trying to accomplish too much too soon? I’ve heard it all hundreds of times, but guess what? I’ve rarely listened, and things have turned out pretty fantastically for me in life, friendship and career. It is by being my authentic self that I have always landed jobs and other opportunities, built deep and lasting relationships with people, built trust, and most importantly, learned to love who I am. And those who I haven’t won over by being me? Those people or situations were simply not meant for me, and that’s OK.

You see, there is a certain wondrous consistency that people come to expect from authenticity, and as much as they might fight it with their – be this, do it that way, you’re going too fast, no wait, too slow – authenticity is something people can sense and cherish in others. I don’t believe in masking certain parts of yourself to make others feel more comfortable or accept you more. After all, I’ve never known a greater feeling than the certainty that comes with knowing you showed YOU, all of you – the good, the bad and the sometimes very, very ugly – and they still chose you. Whether it’s as a friend, a colleague, a tenant, a business partner, a girlfriend, a mentor, etc., they chose you. They did not chose the pretend you, but the real you. Plus, doesn’t it sound absolutely exhausting to have to continue whatever act you might have pulled someone in with if you had chosen to be anything less than authentic?

Now don’t get me wrong. Being authentic does not in any way equate to being totally off color or offensive, breaking rules, and going buck wild on the count of you’re just being yourself. Life does not work that way my friends. Being authentic is being the most honest you, with tact, in all situations. It is saying and doing what you feel is right, but always with a spoonful of delicacy. It is dressing the way you feel comfortable, loving who your heart chooses to love, going for yours the way you feel is most effective, decorating your apartment the way that makes you happy and inspires you, and leading your life in the way that fits best for you. Not for Pepe, Juansito or Maria, but for YOU.

Whenever I’ve had people down my throat trying to tell me how much or how little of myself to be, I have quite a few simple tactics that quickly get them on their way, and help me get back to what actually matters. Ask a few simple questions. Am I you? Do you pay my rent? Do you subsidize my bills? Are you my keeper? If this your face or your body? Suddenly, they start to realize, oh wait – no, no, no, no – and off they go to take a closer look at themselves. Mission accomplished.

So what’s my point? My point is this is a life full of battles, and so many are not worth fighting, but the fight for authenticity? The right to be me, be happy, and be true to the first and last unwavering friend I will ever have? That is a fight I will never give up, and it is my humble opinion that you shouldn’t either. A world of clones is undoubtedly a dreadful place to live, so come on, help me out here, and just do you. Especially if you’re working towards your HAPPY, the fastest way to fail is to lose sight of your authentic self.

Now, tell me, what does authenticity mean to you?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

It’s Time

Young Author

When people ask me what I do for a living, I always find myself responding with writer first and marketer second. Sure there’s a lot more to what I do at work every day than writing, but WRITER is who I really am, who I’ve always been meant to be. And lately, more so than I have in years, I feel more and more pulled back to that burning desire to write, and find a way to help others through my words. So here we are at Word Share Junkie. Please allow me to explain.

My first words

I remember being in first grade, and rather than asking with my spoken words, I wrote my teacher a note asking about a costume we had to wear for an upcoming tango performance my class was putting on for the school talent show. The details of that note escape me now, but I know my mother had sent me to inquire about the outfit I needed, and I chose to do it in the way I’ve always been most comfortable, through the written word.

So I hand my teacher this note, and she’s astonished. Apparently, at 6, I was not supposed to be able to write such an eloquent, clear note. I then remember my teacher sharing her surprise with other teachers, my classmates, and then my mother. I remember being confused, and even thinking maybe I had done something wrong. Did I say something inappropriate? Was I in trouble? Turns out they were just shocked I was able to communicate in what they deemed to be a mature manner at that age. And, yes, that note was nothing earth shattering. It wasn’t a story or a fancy poem, but it is what I remember as the beginning of a life-long passion and talent I’ve come to cherish and almost need in order to survive.

I’ve always loved a good story 

Then in the fourth grade, I decided I wanted to write short stories. So there I went. No one asked me to, but every weekend, I remember I’d write a story, and make a little book out of it. I’d cut up sheets of line paper in half and staple them in the middle like a book. Then, I’d fill the pages with my story and even draw my own illustrations to make it come alive. I promise you the stories were always better than the pictures, but I digress.

Every week, I’d take my little book to class and my teacher, Mrs. Anderson, would let me read it aloud to my classmates. She loved the idea, and soon turned my hobby into a weekly assignment for the entire class. Needless to say that didn’t make me very popular, but she found it to be a positive creative exercise, and although writing wasn’t exactly everybody’s thing,the kids grew to enjoy our weekly story sharing ritual.

A young author is born

Those short stories were actually later turned into a book, not actually printed, but manually written and illustrated in a hard cover shell, and placed on the shelves of my elementary school library. I remember feeling like the coolest kid in the world the first time one of my friends actually checked that book out from the library. I later wrote another book (pictured above) that won first place in a young author’s competition at a local fair during my sixth grade year, and at the end of that school year, I’d receive the shiny Young Author’s Award pictured above. I can still vividly remember the incredible sense of pride I felt as I stood on that stage holding my trophy. Whoops. I just gave myself the chills.

This is it

You see, if I’m truly honest with myself, I’ve never felt better than when I’m writing something I care about; expressing myself through my greatest gift: words. I also never feel prouder than when someone comments on that ability, because, as it has come to my attention, I am a WRITER. For now, that talent has mostly been used to write marketing materials, blogs, presentations, and the like for work and school, because hey, a girl’s gotta get an education and make a living, right?

But I can’t wait anymore. Today, with this blog and three chapters deep into, My Funny, Sad Life, a book I’ve had the title of floating in my head for probably a decade now, I work towards being more than just a writer. I begin my journey as an author.

This blog is my commitment to write more often, whether its a poem, a quote, or a reflection of some emotion, a bad day, or simply a thought. It is also my commitment to stop keeping this talent and this burning desire to share, motivate and engage others all to myself. After all, what good is talent, if you cannot use it to help others in some way?

Sometimes I’m emotional, sometimes funny, sometimes inquisitive, but always, and I promise you this, always, interesting and worth reading. With that said, I’m beyond excited, and I hope you are too. And if I end up with just a handful of readers who find some kind of connection, answer or hope within this blog, I will have accomplished something big. But just for the sake of my ego and my larger than life dreams, let’s hope I have a harder time counting. It’s time.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie