I feel like I’m hitting a wall. It’s a frosted glass wall where after a year of shit, I can finally start to see the other side- the frost is thinning, the glass becoming more clear, but the other side still feels far away. There also feels like a weight is being pressed upon my back and shoulders, pushing and pulling in different directions until I break. And today I did. I cried- sobbed actually for the first time in a long time as the feeling of defeat overcame me. I’m actually not sure if that’s the right word, maybe it’s combined with a sense of relief or maybe even catharsis. For some reason today, my ongoing fight with sluggishly slow internet at my parent’s house was enough to make me crack.

This year has been unimaginably hard, so much so that it is too painful to even bring up some of the memories of events or even to look at the past reflection of myself. I am a person who has a flair for dramatics and extremes but this is no exaggeration. Thinking back to my birthday last October SO much has happened: I quit my job, discovered my passion, worked on Women’s March, was interviewed by multiple platforms, won a couple awards, began to start a business, hustled hard being financially stable and then unstable learning that activism doesn’t pay bills (especially not student loans); overcame difficult bouts of depression hitting my lowest of lows by accepting I needed therapy and then consistently going; I lost myself, found myself, learned self-love and the importance of self-care; was a pillar of strength for my mom, my family and myself supporting my mom through a chronic illness, six months in the hospital, a double lung transplant and all the brutally tough moments in between; I opened my heart, stopped talking to fuckboys (knowingly), gained friendships, rediscovered yoga, wrote a lot, began training for a half marathon, and most importantly GREW as a whole. This is the year I evolved and grew into an adult or the person I am meant to be. Although my bank account doesn’t reflect anything impressive, my passion and strength of my heart proves so much more.

I have been living back at home for nearly a month and each day has presented its new set of challenges and obstacles. I forgot what living and working with a tight-knit family unit is like, it’s a lot of work. Especially in my mom’s recovery process from a double lung transplant. Many of our arguments are about who is going to make the grueling drive to take her to one of her almost daily doctor’s appointments at UCLA. This means blocking out my entire day, or my dad’s or whoever is able to take her just to sit in traffic in the commute on the 101 freeway to and from Ventura. No one knows what it’s actually like to deal with a family member healing from a major surgery unless they’ve gone through it, because you are learning to heal and how to re-do a lot as well. The person recovering is essentially stripped of all their basic everyday things that make life easy to live i.e: being able to walk, cook for yourself, go to the bathroom, drive, etc. Fortunately, my mom is strong and working hard to get better physically but it is a really long process. Last week I was overjoyed when, we went to a physical therapy appointment and she was able to walk on her own to and from the car and not have to be pushed in a wheel chair. These kind of small victories are what keep us going and have been throughout the entire duration of this illness for the past 8 years.

I am happy to be able to be back at home with my family and spending time with my mom, there is however the fact that I am turning 25 in a week and am having somewhat of a crisis about it.

Ventura is an escape as a safe, mild tempered beach town where at least half of my high school class still resides or has moved back to “start a life.” I moved back for all the typical reasons a struggling millennial might have for wanting to live a life free of the chains of rent or at least (some) bills. It’s a change of pace from Los Angeles and has allowed me to clear my head a little, but it’s not where I’m meant to be and frankly I am really afraid of being “stuck” here.

I have been pouring my heart and soul into my business Don’t Call Me Pretty for the last 10 months, trying to figure out what I am going to do with it. Actually, if I think back to when the idea started as my senior thesis project in college, it’s been about 2.5 years in total. One of my plans while living at home was to really get it off the ground and while I’ve worked on it a little, it’s been hard with everything else getting in the way. Life never stops so you can start something. I’m learning patience is a virtue I really need to work on acquiring. And its been especially hard putting so much into something that doesn’t have an immediate financial pay off.

Last week, I was spending time with a friend who was telling me that she put all cash down for her brand new car and she doesn’t have to make payments on it. Of course I was happy for her, and I know she works incredibly hard, but it definitely dampened my mood. Earlier that day I had finally submitted the TED Fellows application I had been working on for weeks, and although it wasn’t a new shiny car, it felt good to me. Several of my friends are starting to make investments like that and comparison always rears its ugly head as it reminds me that I am still driving the same 2004 Toyota from high school, and probably will be for a while longer. But in those moments, what I don’t take into account are the hours I spend jotting down ideas and notes and working on graphics for Instagram, and coming up with workshop ideas and researching noteworthy women from history who I think would be inspiring for others to see. This is all for Don’t Call Me Pretty.

For a long time, if not my entire life, I’ve known I was going to do something different and I really wanted to make my mark on the world in a positive, impactful way. I remember when I was little and was discovering how much I loved art and music and writing and thinking to myself, “why do I do I have to choose only one thing for a career?” Later on in college, I chose to study Interdisciplinary Studies which allowed me to design my own major comprised of many other majors. It was much more difficult because it pushed me to think outside the box by doing a lot of self-guided work, but in the end I was glad to have taken that path. Because of my flexibility, I have had great successes in my career for being so young. I can sit in a board room with a team of marketing executives and show them a social media plan and then also meet one-on-one with a celebrity client to snap photos for her Instagram. Because of this, I have been able to develop a career path where I can work with multiple clients from home on a daily basis. These kinds of things make me feel proud of the person I am and a little more at peace with all the nagging voices swirling around inside my head.

So even if I can’t afford to buy a new car, or travel to place I desperately want to visit, or even move out of my parents house, I can take a step back and be proud of what I have accomplished and what I’ve made it through. Earlier this week, my mom and I were in the car together in the commute from one of her  appointments and she looked at me and said in a convincing tone, “Aly I think this is going to be your year.” I think that sentence even convinced me.

“This is your one and only life. What do you want to tell people about it?” – Jessica James


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