A Strong Female Lead

I was scrolling through Netflix recently and one of my top recommended categories was “Emotional Movies Starring a Strong Female Lead.” I stopped and reread this category ironically smirking to myself asking, “is this a metaphor for my life in 2017?” As I continued to scroll, many of the other categories were variations of this same title, “Witty TV Comedies Featuring a Strong Female Lead” and “Independent Movies Starring a Strong Female Lead.” There I was in black and white on Netflix. Who knew a site that was meant for mindless binging could actually reflect my real life situation so accurately.

Since this Netflix typecasting, I’ve realized that all the while I thought I was using this site as an escape to take me to places and scenarios so different from my own, I was actually choosing to watch characters who maybe mirrored many of the qualities I have gained this year.

I’ve been struggling with how I wanted to reflect back on 2017, and truthfully a lot of the experiences are so fresh, maybe I’m not far enough from them to make real judgments about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. But I want to do it, so in a year I can look back and be proud of all the things that I’ve survived this year.

I had to step into the role of strong female lead so many times this year I probably can’t even recall all of the moments. But here are some that stuck out:

When I decided to go head on into activism leaving my full time job and taking on a role helping to plan Women’s March Los Angeles.
When my mom was admitted into the hospital in February and I went to visit her for the first time, knowing how difficult it was going to be.
When my mom experienced her “dry run” where we thought she was going to receive the lung transplant we had waited for so long and then didn’t and later pulling myself out of the fog of depression days afterwards.
Helping my sister with her depression.
When I came to terms with my own mental health and finally went to therapy.
When I began to regularly practice yoga as a form of self care.
When I visited my mom in the ICU almost daily and then weekly for almost six months.
When I let myself date again and open myself up to the possibility of a relationship.
When I got the call about my mom’s lung transplant in July and was a pillar of strength while waiting 12 hours with my dad and sister anxiously waiting for the surgery to be over.
When I updated friends and family about my mom’s condition and what was going on even when I didn’t feel strong enough to do so.
When I visited her in the hospital following the surgery and held her and tried to calm her down as she cried in pain and faced the affects of the difficult recovery process. I was there when no one else was.
When I decided to move home to help out with my mom and take her to appointments.
When I finally opened up about my sexual assault that took place 4 years ago #MeToo.
When the Thomas Fire broke out and my family and I were forced to evacuate.
When I worked to spread information about the fire and ways to help the victims.
When my family and I decided to end my dog Nina’s suffering by putting her into a forever restful sleep.


I originally mapped out this post as a reflection of all things that happened in 2017, but it was much too lengthy and long winded. After all, I don’t want to dwell on the negative. A friend and fellow writer Sarah Doyel (The Feminist Vegan) recommended I frame this reflection as 10 questions to ask myself what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. I got the idea from Cait Flanders here.

1. What makes this year unforgettable? 

In short, EVERYTHING. Getting the opportunity to help plan Women’s March LA, my unforgettable trip to Mexico City for Zona Maco, the huge chunk of time I spent visiting my mom in the hospital, the incredible friendships I relied on in tough times, turning 25, almost losing our home in the Thomas Fire, losing a best friend (Nina the German Shepherd), my own transformation and growth into the woman I am.

2. What did you enjoy doing this year? 

I enjoyed finding my calling in activism. Tough times really are times for trying and I felt like I really stepped into my purpose. I’ve been given the gift of a voice and leadership and I feel blessed to be able to use it.

3. What/who are you grateful for? 

I am grateful for my incredible support system. My immediate family, chosen family and friends who kept me going when I thought I couldn’t anymore. I have never seen/felt it before like I did this year. True love and friendship is when friends reach out and support you when you are in too dark of a place to pull yourself from. I was surrounded by that throughout this entire year, so thank you to everyone who showed me love. I appreciate it.

4. What’s your biggest win this year? 

At the risk of sounding cliché, SURVIVING. This was a year of experiencing trauma, but not succumbing to it in a way where I inflicted serious self harm. There were lows, but I was able to find a way out. I’m a survivor and I’m proud of myself.

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year? 

It was the year of the WOMAN for me personally. I listened to diverse female powerhouse artists on a GRL PWR playlist I made, a lot of 70s classic rock and my favorite Janis Joplin because so many lyrics from that era signify a time for change which parallels the time we are currently living in.

I watched a lot of women-centric tv shows (a lot of them foreign) including Ingobernable, Las Chicas del Cable, Land Girls, Insecure, The Crown, Broad City, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and my forever favorite Jane the Virgin.

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

This pretty much speaks for itself. I worried about my mom’s health while she was in the hospital, and my family falling apart. But GUESS WHAT, we f*cking made it!!! And by some inexplicable miracle, she received a new set of lungs and a second chance at life.

This was also my first year as an independent contractor figuring things out completely on my own and I really struggled with finances. Being on top of this is an intention for 2018.

7. What was your biggest regret and why?

Not taking care of myself and my mental health sooner. I waited until my depression was all consuming to get help. I was putting my mom and my family and basically everyone else before me. When I first started seeing my therapist she asked, “when did you lose yourself?” I’ll never let that happen again. Because now I know that if I am not whole and healthy, I’m no use to anyone else fight their own battles.

8. What’s one thing that you changed about yourself?

This is a tough one! I feel like I changed a lot of things, but one that stands out in particular is that I cut out bullshit. I stopped doing work that I felt dispassionate about, I stopped talking to guys who made me feel less than and most importantly, I learned to be honest with myself.

9. What surprised you the most this year?

I know this kind of goes along with some of my previous answers, but I really just can’t believe how much I overcame and accomplished this year. My own strength surpassed what I ever thought I was capable of, and here I am ready to take on the new year ahead.

10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

Woooo so many things. Stop talking to that boy, he’s a waste of time, find some consistency in work before everything feels out of your control, things are going to get very hard but don’t feel like you have to support everyone, take care of yourself, remember your self worth, move home sooner- it will help with some of the stress, and most of all, inspite of all that’s going on, everything is going to be ALL RIGHT.

Looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything about 2017. It was the year of transformation. The year I transformed into a butterfly and I am now migrating into the direction of the rest of my life. Drifting forward forever more, never looking back.

Happy New Year! I hope you have a joyful, peaceful, loving and hopeful 2018.

xo Aly





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