Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, They Are Alive

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Not all those who wander are lost. It’s a line from the poem All that is gold does not glitter, written by J.R.R. Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings. I’ve never actually seen any of those movies, I know, GASP, but I came across the quote somewhere in social media land today, and I thought, aha! Isn’t that the beauty of the digital age we live in? You can catch small, but meaningful gems at every random click of your mouse. I’m corny, and I know it. Also, I love it. Anyway, here it is:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

That line is so true. Not all those who wander are lost. Some of us have a “nasty” little habit of constant daydreaming, planning, searching, looking – for a little spark, for a new adventure, for a fresh accomplishment, and that some of us is definitely, unequivocally, me. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m lost.

All my life, I’ve heard things like:

“You’ll just make yourself unhappy by expecting so much out of life.”

“You have food, water and shelter. What else do you need?” (I’m so serious. I was totally told this at 17.)

“You’re restless. That’s bad for you. Just sit.”

“Oh, stop being crazy. Stop trying to be a hero.”

Despite the nags, I’ve always pushed for more, questioned things, searched for progress, and I strive to move forward in some small way every chance I get. If you’re anything like me, and people also tell you to stop daydreaming, or just settle for what you have, stop being ungrateful, or that you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment, I invite you to take a stand with me, and yell, not all those who wander are lost! 

Try new things. If they don’t work or you fail at a new venture, try something else. Keep moving forward and searching. Make a little tweak here. Make a little tweak there. Never settle. Don’t listen to fear or failure. They are your teachers, your friends, and your road to glory. They are not your enemies. Don’t let anyone make you impossible-minded. Always stay possible-minded and forge ahead. Figure out a way to get where you want to go. Don’t let the passing of time without successes deter you. Triumph rarely happens in a day.

And when you achieve one goal, set the next. Always strive for improvement. Always find new things to excite you and fulfill you. It’s not frivolous or ungrateful, and it doesn’t even mean that you’re entirely unhappy with your current situation. But there is so much to experience in life, why stop at the now?

The day you stop daydreaming, planning, hoping and wishing, I suggest you check your pulse. All those who wander are not lost, baby. They are ALIVE.

Happy, motivated Tuesday ya’ll.

Love,

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Reaching 30: Growth Hurts Before it Heals

After the ending of my latest pseudo relationship, I swear I feel like I’ve just been through a war. Good news is, I survived and I’m much, much better for the experience. During 10, long, often bitterly unhappy months (I still managed to ride that sucker out kicking and screaming with my positivity and commitment to the big, HAPPY fight :)), I learned an immense amount about myself, the issues I still need to work through, what I want in a partner and what I am willing to accept, and in-turn, what is absolutely unacceptable to me in the realm of love and relationships, and well, in life.

I also learned that I am considerably stronger than I might think at times, and I bet if you dig a little, you will find that you are too. Sure, that situation bordered on emotionally abusive or perhaps it really was, but I walked away from it, and that is all that counts. I might have stuck around for longer than any of it ever deserved, but the whole time I continued to fight. The real problem was that the biggest battle existed between my heart and my logic. But in the end, and thank goodness, my logic won.

Now I’m in the process of straying away from beating myself up for participating in the whole crazy thing in the first place, and instead, focusing on all the lessons and renewed strength it has given me. You see, that is the thing about growth; it hurts like hell before it heals.

As more and more days go by since that last encounter, I’m beginning to feel more like myself than I have in months. My energy is up, my smile is making more frequent appearances on the Sonia show, and my heart feels about a billion pounds lighter. I find myself laughing more, breathing deeper, finding more things that I love to do, and doing them. Most importantly, I know now more than ever that I am not in fact desperate, and that I still do have hope that I will someday find the healthy, passionate, understanding, lasting love I crave and deserve, with the right person at the right time. Always focus on the outcomes, and not so much on what got you there. Pain often provides great revelations for us and our lives.

And, at times, as we get older, we wish we could be as carefree and consequence-free as we were or thought we were in our teenage years and early 20s. At least I do. But, as I sit here turning down the less-than-thrilling advances I’d gladly welcome just a few years ago, demanding more respect, nurturing my own needs, wants and dreams, and more and more frequently standing up for Sonia, I realize I’ll gladly leave my youth at the door. Because this place, where you know who you are and who you wish to become, where you rather have nothing than accept scraps, where instant gratification has been replaced by the hope in the bigger picture that awaits  – that is a much better place to be.

To everyone out there reaching their 30s as I am (it can be quite a transition I’m finding), when you think you used to be more fun, wilder, or more adventurous, you’re not by any means boring now, you’ve simply experienced growth. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Breathe it in deep, and thank it for hurting so much in return for inner calm, peace of mind, and a stronger sense of self.

Love,
Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Battle of the Chunks: My Struggle with Weight

My Struggle with Weight

This is one of my favorite pictures because although I’m smiling, it was the most physically and emotionally intense workout of my life . That day Eric put the weight back on me to remind me I must push forward.

All my life, I’ve been the chunky gal of the pack, and for the most part, I’ve always been OK with that, because hey, I’m still cute, right? But somewhere towards the end of 2011, that cuteness had quickly become a self-destructive, out of control, big ass PROBLEM. My struggle with weight had reached an all-time high.

After a bad dating experience in which my weight was crudely called out during a fight (don’t fight dirty, folks), something in me just suddenly awoke. Here I was, an educated, independent, successful, kind-hearted young woman, but my weight was allowing others to think it was OK to talk to me a certain way. It was making others believe I somehow deserved less respect, or had less for myself; that I must be pretty weak. I knew the depths of strength I had seen in myself, and I simply could not stand for it any longer. My struggle with weight had to be dealt with.

So I stepped on that scale I had been avoiding most of that year, mostly because I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, and there it was, 248. Those numbers burned into my eyes like tar to a roof. For several days after that, I literally had nightmares with those three, seemingly innocent little digits. Having struggled with weight (although never to this extent) all my life, I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I knew I had to do something.

The next week, I dragged my reluctant, self-conscious butt to the gym, and asked to hire a personal trainer using a fitness benefit I had at the time. I wouldn’t even have to pay for it myself for the first 9 weeks or so, so what was my excuse? I had none. That is the day I met my now dear friend Eric-Todd Rushing. I didn’t know it then, but he’d be the one to save me from myself, and make me as strong on the outside as I knew I was on the inside. I’ll never forget our initial meeting in which he oh-so-confidently said to me, “I’m going to change your life.”

And he did. Over the next four or five months, I logged my foods every day and counted my calories. First 1,800 a day, then down to 1,500 and finally down to 1,200. I did an hour of cardio four days a week, and trained with Eric once a week. Our training session included a weekly weigh-in, and the weight was just melting off. I lost 50 pounds in about four months or so just by working out and counting calories – no pills or crazy gimmicks. Whenever I ran into an obstacle or it got too hard, Eric was there to motivate me back into action. And I never, ever felt better, stronger, more beautiful or more untouchable. Eric had become my hero, my counselor, my mentor, my friend and just the light I needed to make a real change. He had turned my struggle with weight into a triumph.

It was one of the best times of my life. I had finally conquered a life-long struggle with weight, but what I didn’t know then is that the fight had just begun. And it wasn’t just about looking better, but about fighting the emotional demons tied to my weight issues along the way, and breaking down many of those walls.

That’s the thing about losing all that weight. It requires being pretty overwhelmingly perfect, and no human being can really hold that up for too long without taking a break. The issue is I took too much of a break and really starting falling back into some old, devilish little patterns. I gained a pound here and there, and I thought no big deal, I’d still kept the majority of the weight off. Then about three weeks ago I went to the doctor for a totally unrelated visit, and of course they are always waiting for ya with that sneaky little bastard of a scale. Up I went, and so went the tears in my eyes. I was now the not-so-proud owner of 20 of my old, stubborn pounds.

At that moment, I was completely disappointed in myself. I had worked so incredibly hard, and did things I never thought I could with my exercise and food intake routine to lose those 50 pounds, and now I had taken a huge step back. So for the first time in a long time, I quickly and truly got myself together, and began logging my food and calories again; not estimating, not assuming, actually counting. Here we are about three weeks later, and I’ve already lost 10 pounds. Last week I got a little sick, so I got behind, but I’m right back on track. I feel so much better already, and after not losing a pound for more than a year (but gaining many if you recall), I found a way to get back on my game because I never gave up hope that I would, and somewhere deep down inside I had remained that different person Eric had helped me become. I never completely gave up on myself, and I would never let my weight spiral so out of control again.

My struggle with weight is a battle I will unfortunately have to fight for the rest of my life. I am just not one of those people that can slack on diet and exercise for a while, and not pick up pounds faster than you can say, “pick up pounds.” Often, it is our toughest and most daunting battles that we give up on the fastest. We fail and so we feel like there is no point in trying again. But there is a point, a big point. Fail 20 times. So what? If you get up and try again, you haven’t really failed, because you haven’t really given up yet. You really only lose when you’ve given up for good.

So whatever your toughest challenges might be, whether with your body, your heart, your goals, or anything else that weighs on your mind, just keep pushing, trying, fighting. From time to time you will get tired, and that’s OK. But you must never give up on yourself completely. Always remember that each new day is truly a chance to turn it all around, and failure is just really the universe’s way of teaching you something valuable. 

Right now I feel re-energized to work towards a healthier, happier and stronger me, because I know I owe that to myself. What life battle will you be re-energized to keep fighting today?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Life Lessons Over Vodka: My Lowest Point

Vodka Lessons: My Lowest Point

Last week I met up for dinner with an old friend I hadn’t seen in probably over five years, and in true Sonia style, I found great connection in our conversation. I also walked away with a little learnin’, reassurance, and an invigorated sense of my HAPPY. Today, I’d like to pay that encounter forward, and share a little motivation lovin’ with you on this manic Monday morning. 

One of the first things that really hit me during that conversation over drinks and pizza, was a sudden, jubilated, “You just look happy!” Every single time I hear that statement, I’m taken aback for a second, especially when it comes from someone who knew me in my not-so-Positive-Patty days. It reminds me how far I’ve come in my journey through depression, anxiety and insecurity, and reinvigorates my passion to help other not-so-happy folks hear that same statement from an old friend some day. It should also be a lesson that it is very possible, that things do get better if you put a little effort into this life business, and that your lowest points are simply lessons that make the high points that much more delicious.

And speaking of your lowest points, my dinner buddy reminded me of a very important little morsel of wisdom that has proved crucial to staying on the right track to positivity and smiles. I can’t remember the exact quote or who he mentioned it came from, but I think the general gist will do you a great deal of good.

The basic concept is to always remember your lowest point; that point where you really felt like you could not go on, like things were just never going to get better, like the world was in a race to get you, and get you good. Then remember, the next day, the next month or even the next year, when you felt better, when things started to turn around a little, and when you survived. If you got through that, you can get through anything. So when you’re feeling a little low, lost or just overwhelmingly confused, remember that time you got through it, and remind yourself that you will undoubtedly do it again. That’s the thing about life. It always goes on, and so do you; happier stronger and wiser every time.

I remember my lowest point, always, and I keep it close to my heart even on my best days. I remember sitting on my bed in my pool house, efficiency apartment in Miami, rocking back and forth, feeling like a total lunatic, holding my rosary tightly, crying, saying over and over again in a muffled whisper, “I can’t do this anymore. Please help me.”

Dang, that was almost hard to write, and sure brought the old knot to the throat pretty fast, but hey, it’s important. If I got through that – truly my lowest point – to a place where people can actually just look at me and see my HAPPY radiating from my face, then I can make it through anything. And, so can you! If my lowest point can fuel me, it can do the same for you.

I hope that helps with whatever you might be dealing with today. And remember, just keep swimming, smiling and shining! I do, because the great thing about my lowest point, is there’s only one way to go from there – UP! 

Love,
Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Settle & Die (Inside)

How Alive Are You?

OK, so maybe my headline is a little drastic, but you get where I’m going with this. When you settle in life, whether it’s in relationships, in your career, your family life, where you live, your friends, or anything else, you start to die inside a little. You know in your gut the current situation is not making you happy anymore,  you know it’s not enough for you, you know you deserve better, but you stick around, because let’s be honest, that just seems easier. But is it really? In the end, settling for less than what you want or deserve out of life is so much harder. Like SO much harder!

The pain of giving something up that you love, have become accustomed to or are just comfortable with will fade and pass with time, just like everything tends to do in this life. But the pain of holding on, of giving up on yourself, of sitting down and shutting up, will most certainly haunt you forever. It will just build up in the pit of your stomach, churnin’ and grumblin’, until your soul starts to disintegrate piece by piece. And while, on the outside, you might very well seem alive and well, on the inside, where it really counts, you will feel like you’re not really living at all.

So today, I urge you, let go of the comfort, let go of the things or people in your life that make you unhappy, and make room for the things and people you really want, for the love you deserve, the job of your dreams, the life you envision for yourself. Don’t get to the end with a heart full of regrets. Instead, travel your journey with the peace of mind that you have given it your all, that you said, “No,” when it just wasn’t enough, and that you are giving yourself every chance to really live and be HAPPY.

For me this is still quite the little tumultuous battle, but through all of the mental, emotional and spiritual growth I have experienced in the last few years, I have felt the immense benefits time and time again. Once the ouchy fades, I can stand tall and proud, knowing I work every day to do the best I can for myself, to advocate for Sonia, to support her, to demand what she deserves, and I’m much healthier and happier for it. Won’t you do the same for yourself?

With love and hope,

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Confessions of An Achievement Junkie

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This week I’m feeling that old familiar feeling that only really escapes me occasionally. For me, that feeling is restlessness. It creeps up on me often, and maybe it’s the result of many years of school, moving around, constant change, and constant achievement. I always think I want stability, but a few months into a routine, and the dream wagon in my mind begins to churn its wheels again. They are so loud and abrasive that it’s almost impossible to ignore the noise.

For the better part of my 20s, I was always working on or finishing up some degree or other (I LOVE to learn!), starting new internships or jobs, moving, ending and beginning chapters, losing weight, movin’ on up, getting that big raise. And now that I’m here, in a good, stable place, and it’s time to settle into my career, into routines, into life and bills and errands, I am struggling to sit still.

The blogs can’t write themselves fast enough. My book can’t seem to move forward as fast as I’d like. My motivational author/speaker career seems so far off in the distance, although sometimes I feel like I can almost touch it. My professional challenges can’t seem to stay challenging enough to keep me excited. I want more, higher, better, all the time, and it’s hard to keep up.

On the other hand, I get tired, I can be totally lazy sometimes, and I’m not always as motivated as I’d like. After a full day’s work, the gym (when I make it there), errands, etc. it can be hard to put as much time into everything I want to accomplish as I’d like. But nevertheless, my mind is always going, always planning, scheming, dreaming. Sometimes I think this restless nature and accomplishment obsession will be the end of me, but mostly I realize it’s what keeps me so alive.

You see, I never want to get too comfortable. Coming from an environment of mediocrity, complacency and routine, comfortable is my absolute worst nightmare. Although it might make me crazy sometimes, I never want to lose this fire, and this unquenchable need to do more, reach new destinations, experience more out of life.

Sure, I realize complacency might be the easier route today, and sometimes I wish I was more comfortable with simplicity and routines, but in the long-run choosing restlessness will undoubtedly create a much more full and satisfying life. And that’s what we’re all after in the end, no? So as I struggle with my own restlessness, my message to you is to embrace it, fire it up, and let it drive you. Don’t try and quiet it. Don’t put out the flames. Definitely don’t listen to people who tell you you’re asking for too much out of life. They are just asking for too little.

I wholeheartedly believe that restlessness will lead you to something amazing. I know it will get me there. I’m not sure when or exactly how, but I know it will.

Tell me, do you ever feel restless?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

3 Paths to Internal Woosah

Keep Calm

Life is like a really intense contact sport. Living it well requires attention, focus, practice, coaching and hard work. In my early 20s I feel like I was the worst player that ever played the game. As I’ve matured and worked my way through the tail end of what clinical psychologist Meg Jay calls, “the most important decade of adulthood[1],” I’ve come across three crucial paths to internal woosah. By always doing my best to follow these paths, I find I am less anxious, more confident and much happier. Check ‘em out, give ‘em a try, and let me know if they help lead you to a little more delicious internal woosah.

1. It’s not personal.

These three simple words really have the power to change your life if you repeat them to yourself enough and really practice what they preach. Essentially, the,” it’s not personal,” path to internal woosah means you have to stop taking things personally. I’ve talked about this concept before in Say no to HATE, where I strongly believe that 9 times out of 10, when people mistreat you, hurt you or reject you, it has little or nothing to do with you. That is their noise being projected onto you, but it rarely says anything about what you may have done wrong, and everything about the issues they might be experiencing.

Many of us walk around carrying the heavy weight of taking every little thing personal (big offender right here), and assuming that every time we are on the receiving end of hate, or a bad attitude, it’s because we did something to deserve it, or we are not worth any better. When you encounter these things on your daily life routes, practice saying to yourself, “It’s not personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal.” Take a few deep breathes as you repeat it in your mind, and watch how much better you start to feel. It works like a sweet, sweet charm, every single time.

It took me a very long time to realize that the hate in my life was never personal, that I never deserved it, and that it never had anything to do with me as a person, but it’s by constantly focusing on, “It’s not personal,” that hate rolls off my shoulder like butta more often these days, helping me to be much more relaxed and happy.

2. Self-awareness is key.

People have always told me that I am a very self-aware person, and lately I’ve come to realize how much that has helped me on my journey to HAPPY. To me, being self-aware means being honest with yourself and others about your weaknesses just as much as you are about your strengths.

For example, I know I am very sensitive, that I can be overly trusting and passionately emotional. I know the things that stress me out and the things that drive me. I know the environments and the people that lift me up and those that bring me down. I know I’m a good writer, and terrible at math (I can make it happen, but man does it hurt!).  I know what I like, and what I don’t, etc., etc. And I use all of this information to manage my life better. Being self aware helps me play up my strengths and make the most of my weaknesses.

By denying the things that you struggle with or aren’t the best at, you only make your life harder, because then you’re just trying to force things. So don’t be ashamed of your weaknesses. Instead, turn them into strengths by being open about them and managing your life AROUND them, not BASED on them.

3. Apologize when an apology is due.

Every single one of us makes mistakes and lots of ‘em. We are all majorly flawed, and that’s part of the beauty of life. Most people are good and usually not out to intentionally hurt others. So when you fudge up, admit it, and apologize. Constantly being too proud or feeling like you’re above apologizing, only creates negative feelings for you and the others affected by your actions. Don’t bottle up guilt or leave others without the apology they deserve. A simple apology can keep a situation from blowing up out of proportion, and can often help heal those we’ve committed mistakes against.

And if you wholeheartedly apologize for your mistakes when an apology is due, and your apology is not accepted, at least you can rest easy knowing you owned up to it, and tried to make amends. You cannot control other people. You can only control yourself. So do what’s right regardless of the response you receive, and then good or bad, move on knowing you did your best.

Also, it is important to note that sometimes it is healthy to apologize even when we believe we haven’t done anything wrong. Although you might not have meant to hurt someone through your words or actions, perhaps they were interpreted the wrong way, and still managed to hurt their feelings. It might not have been your intention, but feelings are non negotiable, and you can’t tell someone they feel the wrong way. So apologize for the misunderstanding, explain your true intentions, and leave the hurt behind. Don’t let a stubborn heart create an empty life. 

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Say No to HATE

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Can you read that? It says, “Keep breathing people. It gets better. One day at a time.” Hey, even bathroom walls can be inspiring sometimes, and I thought it was a great way to kick off this post! Here it goes.

Some people might say I’m restless. I’ve moved relatively often, and I’m always looking for the next step, trying to make a new friend or find a better opportunity. Then again, I think most of us in our 20s or even early 30s are in this stage of searching for what fits. Fortunately, I can confidently say I’m in a pretty great, stable place right now. I will never stop looking ahead or cooking up my next step, because I’m a dreamer and a doer, and that’s what we do, but I’m content with my job and career, my home, my life, my friends, and my general surroundings, with the occasional tweaks of course.

Now, after a good deal of work to get to this great place, I feel like I’m more of a fighter than I am restless. I fight and hustle for the surroundings I want. I work to be in the places and around the people who bring me up, not tear me down, and I know exactly why that is. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in an emotionally abusive environment. But I’m not a child anymore. I don’t have to accept hate, and I work every day to move away from the sources of negativity that I simply refuse to be a part of. My life won’t be about that. I’ve firmly decided it.

Sometimes we find ourselves in less than desirable situations, and we feel stuck. We feel like we owe something to the people or surroundings that are bringing us down, and so we stick around as our souls slowly deteriorate. We justify staying maybe because it’s easier than leaving, it won’t rock the boat or it will keep others satisfied with us. But you really have to snap out of it, and realize that you always have to look out for yourself. I fiercely believe, and have really come to learn, that if you don’t take care of you, no one else will. Someone I once dated said to me, “If no one will be nice to you, at least be nice to yourself.” Maybe I’ve shared that phrase with you before, but it’s because I found so much power in it. I used to think he was selfish, but now I understand exactly what he meant.

I say if you don’t like me, that’s cool, because I do, and I’ve always got somewhere else to go.There is always a new place to live, a new friend to make, a new person to date, another job, another city, another way. If you don’t feel good or right where you are, don’t stay there for anyone else. You have to fight for the life you want, or it will slowly but surely slip right out of your hands. I’ll never forget an article I once read about hospice workers, and what they heard most often from their dying patients. They said the thing they regretted most was living their lives for others, and not for themselves. And you don’t want to have that regret, do you?

So what if people judge you for leaving, try to guilt you into staying, or attempt to justify the very actions that are making you want to leave? If your gut, and let me tell you, that sucker is very knowledgeable, is telling you something is off, then go. Search for something better, for a place that will bring your spirits up and just fit better. How many, many times have I heard I’m too sensitive and it’s just me, or, “I’m just like that. Don’t take it personally?” I’ll tell you. Too many. Possibly my favorite is when someone tries to tell you the way you feel is wrong. It’s a feeling! It’s not fact, and there is no such thing as a wrong feeling – a wrong idea or action, sure, but never a wrong feeling. The way you feel is the way you feel, and you have a right to express those feelings. People don’t always mean to make us feel a certain way, and I get that, but the feeling is still real.

If someone can choose to be a bully, be hateful, rude, derogatory or downright mean, then I can certainly choose to walk away from it. I don’t have to accept hate, and I never will again. For years, I thought I had to. Maybe I even thought somehow I deserved it. But I don’t, and you don’t either. No one does. That hate is all theirs, not yours, and you can say no to it. A plain and simple, “NO!”

Like everything else on the road to HAPPY, turning your back on hate can be incredibly hard. Hate is often manipulative and can sometimes come from people you love, and that’s why it can be so hard to take a step back and really see it has nothing to do with you. I’ve had to walk away from jobs, family members, roommates, cities and friends, and it hasn’t been easy. The backlash hasn’t always been pretty either. But I’m committed to building a positive life surrounded by positive people, to smiling as often as possible, and to simply feeling good. I deserve it. I know that now. And if something or someone is making me feel uncomfortable in some way, I have every right to walk away. I still work on this every day, because I can be a bit of a people pleaser, and of course I want everyone to love me (we all do), but I’ve come a long, long way from the hate that used to envelope me, and now I can’t imagine life any other way. Unfortunately, life involves hate, and I accept that, but whenever possible, I can walk away from it, and I will.

How will you say no to hate today?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Celebrating Your Own Definition of Success

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This Friday, at the tender age of 28 (OK, maybe not so tender anymore), I will be moving into my first one-bedroom apartment. Since I skedaddled off from Hialeah to go to college at 17, I have had probably a half dozen roommates, and lived in efficiencies, pool houses, and most recently a studio. It occurs to me that this might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people who might have had different situations or might even be looking into buying an apartment at the same age, but me?  I am beyond excited for my new big-girl home complete with an adult couch, dining table and a porch! I’m also so proud of the progression I’ve seen in my life over the last few years. That is why I want to talk about the importance of celebrating your very own definition of success.

Success should never be defined by a certain salary, where you live, the car you drive, or the clothes you wear. Instead, success should always be measured by whatever that means to you, and in the context of your life and the specific cards you’ve been dealt. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others are doing or where they might be in their life, and what society expects of us at certain ages or stages.

In college, I always felt a little down because I had to live in the less fancy apartments or parts of town. It hurt a little to listen to others talk about expensive vacations and spring breaks I never had the opportunity to take, or the tuition or even fun money checks they’d receive in the mail. I was always on my own. Me, my financial aid checks, and my part-time jobs, and sometimes that felt so unfair. Sometimes it still does. Even between degrees, when I was working full-time in Miami and barely making it with a salary a lot of people my age were doing OK on due to less debt and more help from their parents, I felt a little cheated. Moving to Chicago even seemed like it was so much harder for me with the lack of support. And well, woe was me ya’ll.

But as I’ve progressed through my 20s and entered this whole new stage of maturity, understanding, positivity and love for myself, I’ve learned to look at my disadvantages as advantages, and celebrate my own definition of success. I’ve learned to stop worrying about what others are doing, and think about how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am now. I’ve learned to think about my success in the context of my life and my circumstances, not anyone else’s. And that has made me so much happier and more content with what I have.

Success to me means progress, and I think I do a pretty good job of constantly staying on that path. Moving to Chicago, and leaving my less than desirable situation in Miami was progress. Getting a series of paid internships here while I worked on my MBA was progress. Plowing through tough quantitatively based courses (I always joke that past 2 + 2, I’m not much in the math department), and finishing my MBA with a 3.5 grade point average was progress. Getting myself a 54% raise when I finished my MBA? Man, that was progress! Maintaining an above average credit score despite all of my money noise, that is progress. Going from a roommate to a studio to a one bedroom is progress. Even going from having to do my own nails, to being able to get them done was progress for me, and it still feels so, so good. What can I say? This girl likes to feel pretty.

Losing 50 pounds last year even though that makes me by no means thin, that was progress. Sure, I’ve gained a few back (very few, don’t get crazy), but I’m still thinner than I’ve been in years, and although I still struggle with weight, I’ve seen a huge change in myself. I worry about exercise and try to get to it at least a few times a week. I pay more attention to what I eat, and I make more of an effort to maintain. I feel stronger, I like how I look in my clothes, and I no longer feel like an obese person. I just feel like a normal person. That is not perfection, but it is major progress.

Success, to me, also means constantly moving forward in small ways. Finally working on my book and starting this blog, and getting serious about my author dreams now that I’m finally done with school, and I’m in a good place – that is moving forward. This relatively new sense of self-love, appreciation and understanding, and always working to come from a positive place is moving forward. Watching myself become increasingly better able to handle negativity from others without crumbling – that is a major step forward too.

For me, success is really a combination of being proud of who I am and how I treat others. It means working hard, and constantly getting a little better at life, my job, relationships, etc. It means constantly working on my craft. It means being liked and respected by others, and seeing that people know my word is worth something. It means sticking to my dreams and aspirations no matter how hard it gets. It means standing up for who I am, and not letting others make me into their own vision of me. It means being a little different and quirky. It means having great friends, and making the time to laugh, sing and dance regardless of how busy life gets, but also knowing how to have fun with just me. It means living and saying my truth, even when people lash out at me for it.

To me, success means being a person my little 11 year old sister can look up to and respect, and maybe want to be just a little bit like when she gets older. 🙂 It means never treating someone in a manner I wouldn’t want to be treated. And finally, it means putting myself in an increasingly better financial situation little by little, and breaking the chain of my past. I have no dreams of being a millionaire. I just want to be in a place where I can pay down my school debt, pay all my bills with ease, and have enough for the occasional luxury or trip (I’m obsessed with the thought of visiting Africa someday). It means one day being able to provide a much different, but still very much grounded, life for my sister as she gets older, and for my children (now there’s just the pesky detail of a husband!).

It’s really all about that fight for authenticity. That battle we all face to be who you are and live the life you want, to be successful in the way that makes you happy. So please, I urge you. Do yourself a favor, and start celebrating your own definition of success. It’s just another effective path to HAPPY.

And, while we’re on the topic of success, if you need a little help in the area, here’s one of my favorite articles on things successful people do differently. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and you can read it here. Now I’ve told you what success means to me. What does it mean to you?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie