Health As Wealth

It’s 2020, a time when social obligations, material possessions, personal status and so many other concerns are at the forefront of what we’ve been taught to value in Western culture. We have an ingrained belief that money can fix and reverse all problems because the goal of having the nearly unattainable idea of success trumps all. A success that looks like the now antiquated version of the American Dream including owning a home, cars, assets, having a substantial 401k, taking brag-worthy vacations, etc. Capitalism has taught us to create lives where we work so hard and tirelessly that we often ignore our most valuable currency of all, our health. 

Right now, in such an uncertain time it feels like much of what’s going on is out of our control, however one thing that we can control is how we invest in our own wellness. What if we looked at our wellness like we do an investment or a savings account? Where what we put in grows interest and will pay off in the long run. Right now we are being stripped away of all the things that we associate with who we are as individuals and are reduced to being just well, human. Humanizing in this way is terrifying because it reminds us of the lack of power we have over our own destiny. 

For so long “woo-woo” culture and New Age theories have been looked down upon by people who practice “real medicine” because we’ve normalized accepting diagnoses without question and believe that taking a simple pill will be a quick fix to whatever ailment we have. When in reality, what these band aids may be masking are bigger issues that dig much deeper into our psyche and when unsolved often manifest themselves into long-term chronic illnesses. 

What if the world collectively experiencing a pandemic of this scope is causing us to migrate back to our roots, literally? Slowing down, checking in, and being ultra conscious of our role as global citizens and how we play (and pay) into the Earth as a whole. 

What if we treated our physical and overall well being as importantly all of the time as we do during a pandemic? What if we learn to value time with ourselves, time with people we love and prioritize taking immune boosters to help our system work and be its best consistently? I think what a lot of us are learning amidst this time of panic is that there’s nothing woo-woo about valuing our health and our trifecta of balanced well being: mind, body and spirit.  

I went on a walk yesterday evening in my predominantly white middle class suburban neighborhood and noticed something really interesting, I saw entire families going out on walks together, and an elderly couple joyfully strolling with their dog during a break in the heavy Spring showers. What if this virus is really just causing us all to slow down in order to prioritize things that really are important? 

I do understand the harsh realities of being unemployed for the next couple weeks (I filed for unemployment today), or what getting the illness can actually mean to a lot of us, especially those with compromised immune systems or without full coverage health insurance. But also, maybe this is an overall lesson, maybe it’s a time to go inward and listen to our bodies on a truly fundamental level. Listen to ourselves when we’re tired, thirsty, hungry or hurting. “Trust your gut” may hold some water after all. If we do voice our need to rest, we deserve to be given the space and financial support by our employers, peers, and communities and even people we love to take that rest. Maybe it means it’s time for us to become more connected with the ways in which our food is produced and where it comes from. We might rethink how we conduct ourselves when we travel in crowded spaces and live in highly populated areas, that we’re not the only ones in a hurry or dealing with something, we’re all dealing with something. This virus is an equalizer and a reminder that we are in fact never alone regardless of our socioeconomic status, where we live, we are human. Our humanness makes us one in the same, not our language or where we’re from. Our ability to contract a virus, an infection, or a disease and utilize the magic of our bodies in order to heal themselves and believe that we are equipped to handle things and that we’re also not alone if we do have to deal with it. 

What we aren’t talking about enough in this situation is our mental health and wellbeing. I’ve seen first hand when my family experienced our own pandemic three years ago when my mom was in the hospital in the ICU fighting a rare chronic lung disease that your mindset can help to mend your body. I’m not saying that thinking positive thoughts is going to keep us from contracting an illness, but I’ve seen the power it has in fighting it. I’ve seen what serious illness can do, I’ve seen death, I’ve seen someone I love die and in the debilitatingly harsh stages of dying. I almost watched my mom die, walking in to see her in a hospital room after doctors had installed an ecmo machine (life support), my vision blurred and I felt my stomach get queasy seeing her yellow lifeless body laying on the bed clinging onto the strength of her fighting soul that wouldn’t let her leave this world just yet. Death is a peaceful reckoning and a full surrender to our creator. And I can’t say that I’m that afraid of death itself, I’m more afraid of what it leaves in its tracks. I think in Western culture we have a bizarre unmatched fear of death because we are terrified of the unknown and more importantly, the relationships we have with ourselves on a soul level. 

I’ve witnessed the miraculous healing of my mom’s body and how her soul chose to rebound itself to a body that had failed her for so long and make it anew. After her double lung transplant nearly three years ago I’ve learned to believe that there’s nothing our bodies can’t do if our spirits stay strong. All this to say, I think that our biggest tools during this time are our compassion and empathy. We often think we’re the only one’s who’ve experienced or are experiencing certain types of trauma when in reality we’re all collectively experiencing this exact thing in this moment and whatever we’re feeling or going through is valid.

What if those of us who have the ability to take these weeks or months off from work, school, etc. can provide for families who don’t have a safety net and are forced to work even if they shouldn’t be? What if the bigger lesson in all of this is how to redistribute our resources in a more fair and just way and investing in other’s health is just as important as investing in our own. 

“In a land of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended.” 

Reminder that you are never alone and we will get through this. 

xo Aly 


Suggested reading and watching during social isolation: 

“Heal” on Netflix

“Lockdown” by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM 

“The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. 

“At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh 

“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert 

“Everything Is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo 

“The Five Minute Journal” Gratitude Journal by Intelligent Change

Trusting The Process

For a long time when I heard people say the phrase “trust the process,” I thought they were full of it. I didn’t know what it meant to just let go and at the same time truly believe that whatever was going on would work out for the better.

2019 has been a lot about me learning to let go. Letting go of the societal pressures of where I think I “should be” at 26. Letting go of trying to rush my path and most importantly learning to make the best of my current situation even though I’m not where I want to be in many ways.

A lot of my friends are in committed relationships with partners they’re likely to spend the rest of their lives with, rent or own beautiful homes, have 401ks, and some even have started family’s. I don’t have any of these things, which in the past I would’ve fixated on (and still do sometimes) but since I’ve started to incorporate a gratitude practice into my daily routine I’ve realized what I HAVE created for myself in a fairly short amount of time.

I have freedom. This year, I took the steps to get health insurance so I could go to therapy and heal. I somehow was aligned with the most incredible therapist who was the first person I called in my search. Getting matched with her felt like true divine intervention. She helped me heal from depression, learn to manage my anxiety and let go of a lot of pain I didn’t need to carry with me any more. I also started consistently practicing yoga at a studio I really love, this has helped me feel into my body and learn to appreciate it more for what it can do than just what it looks like. I’ve learned the value of investing in myself and my business by hiring various business coaches, my current coach who I love and am going to see and work with in the UK is Laura Rose. I bought myself a brand new car! This was my first big purchase and I’m really proud that I was able to do it on my own without a co-signer. Lastly, I’ve learned to really lean on my friends. I’ve been blessed to have several long-term relationships as well as a few new ones come into my life that make me feel supported and safe and I’ve learned to let go of any that don’t make me feel this way. A lot of these women pushed me to take the leap of faith and book this trip to London.

Next stop… London. My flight leaves in 6 days!

The truth is I’m really scared. My old shell is cracking and I feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia letting go of comfort and familiarity, but at the same time I hear that voice from deep within the depths of my soul telling me it’s time to move forward. I’m scared of moving to an expensive place and having to live off of my savings without a consistent income. I’m scared of leaving my family, especially my mom after all that we’ve endured over the past couple years. I’m scared of having too much freedom and trying to find meaning in a new place so far away. And lastly, I’m scared of spending so much time alone even though I’ve really grown to love my alone time.

At the same time a lot of these things excite me. I’m excited that I’m gifting myself this time to really explore myself and discover what it is I want out of life away from anything that feels familiar and frankly a bit complacent. I know I will be fine, because I traveled to Europe for a similar amount of time six years ago and I spent the most glorious and inspiring summer in Spain. Travel teaches us a lot about ourselves and strengthens our confidence in our different abilities and aspects of ourselves.

I know 2.5 months doesn’t seem like that much time, but it does when you’re leaping into something and you don’t know how it will turn out. But somehow I feel okay and trusting. I feel like I’m finally living as the truest version of myself, really not caring what others think and just listening to my inner guiding light.

I’ll be sharing more updates here and on @aly_nagel while abroad.

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” – Henry David Thoreau

A Time to Heal

My heart has been heavy all day. December 4th will forever be marred in my mind as a day associated with pain, sadness and loss. A year ago today at around 7:30pm, my family and I heard news of a fire that had started near my sister’s riding school in Santa Paula 14 miles east, about a 20 minute drive from us in Ventura. The next several hours are honestly kind of a blur. We lost power and received numerous texts from friends closer to the fire that it was time for us to start packing our bags. It wasn’t until 10:30pm, that we received an amber alert on our phones that said we were in a mandatory evacuation zone. At the time, I was getting calls and texts from friends saying that they didn’t know where to evacuate to because every hotel in town was at maximum capacity. My friend Jessica who lives about 15 minutes away in a town south west of us offered sanctuary at her place. Our biggest concern was for my mom’s new lungs, which we had been gifted only six months before and was very sensitive to bad air quality.

My sister and I began to frantically load her car with valuables and a few changes of clothes. We could see bright orange flames creeping up over the hill directly behind our house and were doing our best to just stay focused on what we needed to do. Once everything we could think of was packed, I thought of our sweet German Shepherd, Nina. She had been suffering serious neurological issues since my mom had been in the hospital earlier that year having had countless seizures and wasn’t herself at all. I found her outside in the backyard and began screaming at her with tears rolling down my face telling her that it was time to go. My mom finally came out and told me to just leave her if we had to, she wouldn’t budge from where she was lying on the grass, it’s like she knew what was coming and had just given up. I thought I would never see her again.

*We ended up having to put her to down a few weeks later, the day before New Years Eve because the vet thought she had a brain tumor and irreversible damage.

After arguing with my parents trying to convince them that it was time to go, and that risking my mom’s health after having gone through so much with her transplant wasn’t worth it, their stubbornness was unwavering. They had built their entire life in this home for the last twenty plus years and weren’t willing to leave it just yet. My sister and I got in her car and I began to drive. As we got down the hill from our house, Sarah said to me, “Aly, don’t look back,” and as I did, my stomach dropped as I watched walls of flames engulf the hills of our neighborhood, our street, maybe even our home.

The traffic was so thick with people in packed cars trying to flee flames and smoke. We finally made it down to Jessica’s house and immediately began calling my mom trying to figure out when she was going to evacuate. I regretted not forcing her to get in the car with me, looking back I wasn’t thinking straight- none of us were. A kind neighbor called me and told me that she and her husband had made sure my mom got out and she was driving down to meet my sister and I. After being so terrified to lose here in the hospital before and during her transplant, we weren’t willing to lose her now, which may sound dramatic, but it felt that way in the moment. My dad and dog were still at home. My dad is a Scorpio and the most stubborn and proud person I know. He and his brothers had saved their home from a devastating fire in LA in the 70s and I think he thought he would do it again now.

We didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. Since the power was still out nearly everywhere, the only updates we could really get on where the fire was and what was happening was from social media namely VC Scanner on Twitter. We watched videos from neighbors posting videos of fires in their backyards and on the hill sides a block from our home. We were so worried about my dad being there, but he would give us updates every hour or so saying that he and some of the neighbors had put out spot fires before the firefighters came to the rescue.

The following days were continued hell as we moved to my grandma’s house and received news of countless friends who had lost their homes. We cried a very steady stream of tears that day. One of my closest friends lost everything including her car, another wasn’t allowed back up to her neighborhood to see if her home was still standing or not. It was devastating.

When we finally returned home after a couple days, Ventura looked like a war zone. The air was so thick with smoke that the sky was permanently tinged a murky yellow. Something that will always stick with me, is the way the sun casts eery orange shadows on the ground when there’s smoke in the air.

My sister and I decided to walk a few blocks taking in the devastation in  total disbelief. We were wearing n95 masks but in hindsight, it wasn’t great to be out in that air. We passed homes that were still smoldering and some  that had nothing left at all. We walked by electrical workers trying to fix power lines and we stomped out smokey spots in backyards as we looked on at scenes from battles people had fought with rakes and hoses. In many places, it looked like fire fighters and civilians had stood on back porches and stopped the fire from within a foot of their house.

For weeks after the fire, it felt like we were living in a strange purgatory with no end in site. There were military personnel blocking off certain streets to keep looters out of decimated vacant neighborhoods. There were exhausted fire fighters camped out all over town. I can’t remember when the smoke began to dissolve, but it must’ve been close to a month or more.

Now’s the time to add that the night before the fire started, my family and I had been at UCLA’s Annual Heart & Lung Transplant Holiday Party and reliving trauma from that experience. Hearing tragic stories of people losing loved ones and what it means to be from a donor family. These stories were hard to digest to say the least.

2017 was full of pain and tragedy that I am still not ready to relieve, but because of those experiences I learned things like grace and strength and resilience that really can’t be taught. I remember getting back into our home with my mom after we were positive that the fire was heading away from us and looking into her eyes and saying, “I think God saved our house because we couldn’t have handled anything else this year.”

In a way, I feel guilty recalling my experience of the Thomas Fire because we still have a home while so many people I know lost everything- and especially after this year’s recent Woosley  Fire and devastating Camp Fire. But I know from personal experience that finding community in traumatic situations can be healing, and I hope someone who needs to read this will and know that they can rise from the ashes to start a new.

Healing is often depicted as beautiful and romantic in movies, tv shows or  books. But it actually happens in those moments when you summon the courage to crack your heart back open and work through what made it hurt so much in the first place. I’ve done a lot of inner work this year, in fact it’s been my sole focus and I can say that I am a better and more emphatic person because of it.

I hope that my sharing can inspire you to do the same.

xo Aly



Twenty Something

I just spent the last two hours trying on countless outfits, in search of the perfect birthday look. Nothing felt right, nothing felt like me. While drifting in and out of various chain stores on a Sunday evening, the day before my birthday- the looming weight of another year began to settle around my shoulders. Self deprecating thoughts began to seep into my mind asking the ominous, “what are you doing with your life?” Ah the Quarter Life Crisis has resurfaced (I thought we were leaving him behind in twenty five).

Before this shopping trip, I had had several unsuccessful shopping trips in the past few weeks. Shopping is a vice that usually offers me solace and escapism from other areas of my life but now it just amplifies the fact that I am entering my DUN. DUN. DUN. LATE TWENTIES. My current crisis has been grappling with what’s appropriate for a professional woman my age to wear. I seem to fall somewhere between the Free People floral crop top and the tailored Calvin Klein pantsuit. I texted my sister during the trip and told her that I was having an identity crisis (ha).

Waiting until the day before my birthday to shop for an outfit I’ll need to wear the next day is classic me. I wait until something is so close that the mountain of anxiety I have about the event cripples me, and makes me feel like every area of my life is spiraling out of control (anyone else)?

I think I have always felt comfortable shopping and buying new clothes because these new items that adorn my body have helped me to reinforce the idea that my value is in the way I outwardly present myself to the world. However, I’ve been working really hard to unlearn this (I talk a lot about it here on Don’t Call Me Pretty).

Aside from the shopping trip, I’ve spent the last week listening to my stream of consciousness evaluate what I’ve learned and accomplished in the past year. It keeps hitting me in waves and the recollections come knocking one by one. First it was, “wow I haven’t dated in over a year, I must be wasting my youth, what’s wrong with me?” followed by the more free-spritied side of me who retorted with, “but think of how much you’ve been working on yourself. You’ve worked so hard to heal a lot of past trauma and have learned love and accept yourself.” Followed by, “Aly, you’re almost twenty six years old, how are you STILL living with your parents?” Like I said, this back and forth has consumed me for days and without the distraction of the new season of Las Chicas Del Cable, it probably would’ve driven me bananas. But in those moments of back and forth, I realize that the moments where I learned something proved to stick with me and make me feel the best, so I’m going to list some of what I’ve learned and experienced during my twenty fifth trip around the sun:

  • I learned that the only validation that really matters is my own, seeking validation and approval from others – especially a romantic partner doesn’t serve me
  • I learned that I should nourish my body instead of always being at war with it
  • I learned that my “Soul’s Purpose” is to amplify the stories of women – especially women with stories much different from my own. It’s what makes my heart sing and my eyes fill with water
  • I worked really hard on building Don’t Call Me Pretty and started my own small business!! Can’t wait to see where this takes me in the next year!
  • I again took on a full time job and learned how to balance working on my own business and other clients all the while working from home
  • I learned to forgive (or I am in the process of forgiving) forgiving myself and forgiving others who may have wronged me
  • I learned that healing from pain and trauma is not linear and some days are really great and some days are tough and acknowledging how you feel in a certain moment is really important
  • I learned to ask for help and to set boundaries
  • I learned that it’s okay not to answer texts, emails, calls right away and people who really care about you will understand if it takes a while for your to get back to them and vice versa
  • I rediscovered spirituality and a belief/faith that God/Goddess/The Divine exists and really cares about what happens to us
  • I got to experience the joy of celebrating my mom’s one year anniversary with her new lungs which was a triumphant win for my entire family
  • I learned that loneliness isn’t necessarily a bad thing
  • I learned that being vulnerable is being strong and that vulnerability and truthfulness are the foundations for strength
  • I learned that in moments where I feel combative, that I need to try and step back from the situation and lead with love
  • I learned not to give my time to people who are not dedicated to my growth and mission
  • I’m learning that growth is discomfort and sometimes much slower than we’d like
  • I learned self love and it’s unconditional and a PROCESS
  • Probably the biggest thing I learned during The Shift Retreats which has really been ingrained into my core is how to change my thought process from “Why is this happening to me?” to “What can I learn from this?”

Looking forward to all this next year has to offer. Thanks for coming along with me.

xo Aly

Living Authentically

At this moment, right now I am living the most authentic version of myself I ever have. It’s taken me so long to get here, but I am here and damn, it feels good. It’s just like a weight has been lifted from my physical and spiritual body and where feelings of distress and fear once clouded my heart, feelings of peace a optimism have replaced that same space.

I haven’t felt really compelled to share publicly because I believe, experiencing true transformation is a private process (at least for me). In March, I decided to invest in myself and signed up for a transformational women’s retreat in Joshua Tree hosted by my now Coach Brandilyn Tebo. I went into the retreat not knowing what to expect, but knew that I needed to experience healing and transformation in multiple areas of my life. Within a safe space made up of brave vulnerable women with vastly different backgrounds, I was able to pour open my heart and revisit past trauma that I had buried so deep, I didn’t know it was still causing me pain. I apologized to my inner child for being so cruel to my body and hating myself as a teen and I learned coping mechanisms for how to deal with challenges by changing my mindset from “why is this happening to me?” to “what can I learn from this?” I let go into my subconscious during meditation and felt the healing powers of  plant medicine during a cacao ceremony where we made music and danced under the desert moon. I made peace with a lot of trauma and people who had caused me past pain in that magical incubator in Joshua Tree and returned back to “real life.”

Post retreat, I realized doing one-on-one coaching with Brandi would be beneficial as I still felt unfulfilled in my job, living situation and inadequate in numerous other ways. For those of you just tuning in: to summarize, this time last year, I was experiencing depression, exhaustion and was really just tapped out mentally and physically. My mom had just been in the hospital for almost 6 months before having surgery to receive a double lung transplant and had just been released home and she was incredibly weak. At the time, I was living in LA and barely working because of my depression so I was completely broke, I felt it was my job to move home to Ventura to help rehabilitate my mom and to take some of the strain off of my dad and sister. The fact that I was moving home “because I was broke” felt like defeat. But at the time, I didn’t have the ability to take a step back and look at the entire situation to realize I was in desperate need of a spiritual recharge. I had lost so much of myself during long hours at the hospital, going out and partying to numb the pain, and not eating enough or regularly, and had lost all inspiration and drive to push myself forward. I was just going through the motions. Moving back home and being around a supportive group of girlfriends I had known for years was a blessing but again, I was blind to that at the time.

Fast forward to the months of April to June working on my transformation with Brandi. She helped me identify different areas of my life that needed improvement and gave me homework after each Skype call to work on creating actual effective change. I read books, changed my morning routine, worked on relationships with people close to me, began practicing yoga regularly again, explored my spirituality and developed a gentle and understanding approach to myself and others using the mantra, “lead with love.” It’s amazing how in situations of frustration or anger repeating this mantra and knowing that I would feel better afterwards if I approached a situation like this is so affective. I also sometimes remind myself that I’m vibrating on a higher level now and don’t need to go back to a place where I feel that I need to be reactive or combative, which doesn’t align with who I am as a person (libra’s are super non-confrontational and all about balance).

This Mercury retrograde has brought A LOT of feels (I know I’m not the only one) and this past week has been full of ups and downs. On Wednesday, I woke up and had a shit mental health day. I couldn’t really explain it, or where these feelings were coming from, but I felt inadequacy creeping in evoking anxiety ridden questions like, “why hadn’t I again moved out of my parents house and branched out on my own?” I let those feelings marinate inside me for most of the day, but then on Thursday I got right back to it. I wrote down my intentions for August inspired by all the possibility for the month and cried happily to my sister as I realized how close I am to achieving some of the goals I’ve been manifesting for my brand Don’t Call Me Pretty.

Listening to the universe and all that it has to offer instead of resisting it is the biggest thing I’ve learned this year. I looked forward to the monthly check in call I had scheduled with Brandi on Friday. I gave her all the positive updates I had and then we spent a good chunk of time brainstorming all the possibilities for where I can take Don’t Call Me Pretty including a series of workshops I’m planning to host on college campuses in the Fall. And although I am not quite where I want to be, I am finally content with where I am in this moment and I am excited about all the abundance I am ready and open to receiving.

Living authentically for me right now means spending a Friday night in reading a good book in my favorite kimono and not feeling bad about not going out, it means practicing yoga to nourish my body, it means feeling proud of myself and not needing outside validation for recognizing how far I’ve come. It means not beating myself up when I do have unproductive days. It means not feeling bad about creating boundaries. It means listening to my intuition. Most importantly it means, loving myself unconditionally.

Life shows up for us when we start listening and stop resisting.

xo Aly

Time Alone

If I’ve learned anything in the past several months, I’ve learned that the ability to be alone and comfortable with yourself is a gift. When you get past the point of no longer needing constant outside stimulation from other people in order to avoid time with yourself, you have made a monumental gain.

Time alone is a time for reflection and introspection. It’s a time to acknowledge the noise, but to choose to brush aside societal pressures and to listen to the truth inside your heart. It’s a time to ask yourself questions like, “What needs mending?” and ” What can I work on inwardly in order to live more fully outwardly?”

For many of us, being alone is terrifying because we don’t do it often enough. Real honesty, especially with one’s self is terrifying.

We live in a culture that capitalizes on the expectation to be constantly social and when we’re not, we’re deemed things like “loner” or “un-lovable.”

What if, in Western culture, we chose to accept those traditionally negative labels, and turned them into something positive by proving that time alone creates strength and love inwardly that can then be transmitted to others?

For a long time, if not most of my life, I thought my own worthiness of love, abundance, and happiness was completely based on what I put out or allowed to the surface. Such as, if I changed something about my appearance, I could more easily find love. Or if I held a certain job title then I would gain the respect I craved from family and peers- which in some ways, is still true. But, I have seen first hand people who live on a surface level instead of purposefully who choose to never face their possible inner demons and never find peace, love or happiness in a way that feels truly fulfilling.

Being alone does not have to feel lonely. In fact, you can find peace in being alone within a group of people. For example, while practicing yoga in a class setting or participating in a group mediation. I am able to see my most true authentic self in those situations, and I think now for the first time ever, I am at peace with myself. And although I am still learning how to heal wounds from past trauma, I am finding that I am okay with this strong, beautiful, colorful and more importantly, whole person I am.

Last week during a group mediation/coaching session, I said that, “I see myself becoming the woman I want to be,” to which I received the response, “what if she’s always been there? What if you’ve been her since the time you were a child? You’re just choosing to accept and see her now.”

And I really believe I am. 

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