I turned 29 last week and the evening before my birthday I began reflecting on the past year. I genuinely enjoy birthdays because I feel they are a great time to evaluate how much I have grown and to set new goals for the future. I have never cared much about age in terms of the number, but the fact that I am now in the last year of my twenties is astonishing. I feel as if the past five years have flown by and I still remember my 24th birthday like it was yesterday. I’ve been questioning, “How did I get here?” And while that thought lingers in my mind, I can’t believe that this time next year I will be embracing a new decade.
Overall, I initially felt that I had a wonderful year, but when I sat down to reflect I realized that it was one of the most difficult years I had in a long time. I believe there are specific trials, tribulations, and blessings that we experience until a specific lesson is learned. I also believe every individual has unique encounters that contribute to either “making” or “breaking” them. For me, constant evolution is a must, therefore I do my best to recognize patterns and crack the code to overcome whatever the lesson may be. Ironically, last year on my birthday I was ill with food poisoning, and little did I know that this event would foreshadow how the better half of my 28th year would unfold. In August, I began experiencing extreme sensitivities to a large variety of food and chemicals that I never had issues with before. I experience allergic reactions to things like eggs, nuts, aerosol, perfumes, and bleach, among many other triggers, some I am still discovering. My reactions result in swollen lips, rashes, hives, and headaches. The symptoms can vary from a few hours up to several weeks at a time, depending on the amount or strength of food and chemicals that infiltrate my system.
Throughout the vast hardships I experienced with my health, I also had many triumphs. It is safe to say I was truly “living my best and worst life at the same time”. Last March, there were many changes that transformed my blog and Instagram. I cut my hair into a short bob and began playing around with new editing styles which amplified my growth. I took a huge risk by leaving my part-time job to focus on growing my blog as a business. Finally, after three years in the industry, I hit 10K on Instagram in June and within 12 weeks I doubled my following. By November, I matched my previous part-time salary which was one of my biggest accomplishments. As you can imagine, quitting my job was a huge risk and sacrifice, but I truly believed that I could succeed in the influencer space. I attained these goals all while I was enrolled in school full-time and earning straight A's.
These milestones were a culmination of years of effort finally paying off and I was one step closer to fulfilling my dreams. This was also when my symptoms were at an all-time high because I had not learned the extent of my triggers until I did an elimination diet several months later. During this time, the brands and agencies I was working with were pressuring me to complete campaigns before the contracts stated the work was even due. I felt cornered and revealed that I was having health issues and needed the full allotted time until my symptoms subsided, but the pressure did not waver. Although I had a doctors note excusing me from work and school, I was forced to find ways to maneuver around my mangled lips. I hid behind my hair or extensively edited photos. I felt like my dream career was slipping through my fingers. These circumstances put a strain on my business partnerships, I was unhappy with my content, and my engagement was falling. Throughout the entire holiday season, I was going through my longest flareup which lasted two months. You can only imagine how difficult it was to produce quality content on deadline.
I have never been an overtly optimistic person and I consider myself more of a realist. However, one thing living with chronic illness has taught me is the impact a positive mentality has on recovery. I was pushed far beyond my limits mentally and physically for the better half of my 28th year. There were weeks when my face was unrecognizable, and I barely left my bed because I was in so much pain and discomfort. I was also ashamed of my appearance and did not want anyone to see me in public. My blog was suffering and I missed a lot of school which was scary considering how close I am to graduating after a decade of pursuing my Bachelor's Degree. Regardless of what I looked or felt like, each day I woke up and thought to myself, "Today is going to be the day that my skin looks better! Today will be the day my lips heal!" Most days, I did not look better, but it never stopped me from hoping for the best. I learned that I had to be patient and work around the circumstances I was granted. Living with food and chemical hypersensitivities has taught me the increased importance of having a positive mindset, to set clear intentions, and repeat positive affirmations to myself. It also reignited my relationship with yoga, meditation, and prayer which I strayed away from for some time.
This past year has taught me that regardless of what is going on outside my bubble, I have to focus on what is best for me as an individual. I have gone through several impactful phases throughout my twenties and now my health is taking the front seat. I understand that many people feel that their twenties are their selfish years, but I feel I am only entering that phase now. For so long I prioritized my former job or the way other people felt. Whereas now, I am much more selfish about how I spend my time, money, and energy. I am putting myself first and not letting outside factors influence my emotions or actions. It has become easier for me to “let go" of people or experiences that no longer serve me or are toxic to my health and I don't feel bad about it. As a highly empathetic person, this can be difficult at times, but I need to be selfish for the sake of my body and mind at this point in my life.
The hardest thing about living with extreme food and chemical sensitivities is that it is very lonely. Most people don't understand the extent of my allergies and I find myself constantly explaining why I can't do certain activities or ingest particular foods which is exhausting. I am already an introvert, but dealing with this situation has caused me to retreat into myself even more. I can't fully enjoy most social gatherings that include food or drinks and I am also often reluctant to commit to attending events because I fear, "What if I have a flareup?" on the scheduled date. My goal for this year is to focus on healing and to slowly rebuild relationships with friends and family that have stood by me for the good and the bad. I spent a lot of my 28th year isolating myself or pushing myself away from people, but I miss having certain connections. Although I still experience flareups, I do have a better handle on my sensitivities because I have learned what my main triggers are and how to treat a flareup naturally with healing foods. I am feeling more open to new experiences and meeting new people, in addition to nurturing the positive relationships I already have.
Although I had a rough year, I hope you enjoyed learning about my experiences and what I look forward to in my 29th year of life. I understand that sharing these intimate moments on the internet can make me vulnerable, but I feel it's important to share my reality. Food and chemical hypersensitivity is rare and a newer occurrence so I feel that sharing my health issues can open the discussion to others experiencing the same symptoms. When I had my first reactions, I was misdiagnosed by several doctors and nurse practitioners and there was barely any information about what I actually have on the internet. I feel that sharing this information is helpful for anyone who has gone through something similar. I know how lonely it can be and I want you to know that we aren't actually alone. I am the kind of person who finds written expression therapeutic and liberating so I appreciate you taking the time to be apart of my journey by reading this blog post. I am sending you all virtual kisses and I want you to know how grateful I am to be surrounded by such a supportive community.
I love celebrating the New Year!
New Year is truly my favorite holiday. For many years I have focused on growth and evolution in my personal and professional life, so I genuinely enjoy looking back and setting new goals each year. For me, 2018 was full of high-highs and low-lows. Considering my general luck in life, the twists and turns are no longer a surprise. For many years I questioned why I could never catch a break, but the older I get, the more I try to stay positive and remain calm when the roller coaster reaches its peak.
This Time Last Year
We started the New Year in New York. We were there for about 5 days and it was a much-needed vacation. Mario and I had been hustling with little to no breaks for months. Shortly after we returned to San Francisco we adopted Rosie. She was just two months old and five pounds *cue tears* She is the sweetest, smartest, most athletic pup I know. She has changed our lives forever and we love her so much!
In March, I decided to leave my part-time position in retail to pursue blogging more aggressively. Mario and I decided that in 2018 we were going to focus primarily on growth for my network and monetizing my blog. By June, I had been blogging for three years on-the-dot and finally hit 10K on Instagram. Within 12 weeks, I doubled my following to 20K. All my dedication and sacrifice was paying off!
In the beginning of August, I began experiencing flareups on my face. It was torture because the reactions lasted for weeks at a time. My skin was in so much pain- swollen, cracking, burning, itching, red. At one point, I did not leave the house for three weeks. As you can imagine, it greatly interfered with my school attendance and blog work. I felt trapped in my body with no answers from doctors for months. After many visits, I was told that I was initially misdiagnosed and what I was experiencing was allergies. Since I learned this, I began eliminating and reintroducing various triggers to my diet and skincare routine which has helped me figure out how to manage it.
Milestones Part Two
November was interesting. It was the first month that I matched my pay as an influencer to my former part-time salary. It's a busy time of the year and the campaigns were coming left and right. At this time, my flareups were peaking and I had to figure out clever ways to complete contracted campaigns under the tortuous circumstances. One particular flareup lasted nearly 6 weeks. It was such a struggle to take decent photos, my engagement was low, and it killed me inside for so many reasons. I was so excited to finally get the work and recognition I was working toward, but now that I reached that point I could barely take decent photos. In addition to my face looking terrible, my insides felt terrible. I was extremely exhausted and in constant discomfort. Some days I barely left my room. I just wanted to feel better and have my life back, but it felt like my hard work and health were sinking into quicksand. Regardless, I did my best to stay positive and have faith that I would get better. This mindset gave me the strength I needed to push through my blog work and classes.
And now we are here, the last days of December and it’s time to reflect and create positive intentions for 2019. I made a mood and manifestation board at the beginning of the semester so I will continue to reflect back on it for the beginning of 2019. When I made it, I made it with the intention of going into the New Year. One of the goals on my board is to do yoga or meditate at least once a week. During a recent meditation I said to myself:
“I am a light in this world. I am a positive influence in this world. I absorb light. I give light. The light in my life will help me heal inside and out.”
As I reflect on my experiences this past year I come back to this moment. That's the energy I want to bring into the new year. I've never been an overtly positive person, but I do recognize the importance of staying positive and spreading kindness. I want to make a conscious effort to approach my everyday with a more optimistic thought process. I feel our mind is so powerful when it comes to healing and what you attract in this universe. As I enter the last year of my 20’s in 2019 (I’m 29 in March - cue more tears*) all I want to pursue in my life is peace.
Thank you for all the love and support this year!
Thank you so much for all the love and support in 2018! I look forward to sharing this journey as it unfolds in 2019. I hope you have a wonderful New Year filled with lots of light and love!
Some of this year’s top photos:
Last week was rough to say the least. In fact, I wrote this post while I was locked out of my house after an already stressful morning. To be honest, I’m not the kind of person who is naturally overtly optimistic. I don’t consider myself incredibly pessimistic either, but instead more so of a realist. I spent a lot of time wishing I was engrained with a different mindset rather than what naturally felt right. However, a few years back I decided to just accept who I am and act accordingly, rather than continue trying to put on a front for others. After all, it’s sort of in my nature to prefer “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” in all aspects of my life. This decision was incredibly liberating and helped relieve a lot of my anxiety. I understand that we all have struggles and I am not being melodramatic, but sometimes I feel like my life is a soap opera. At times I have an outer body experience and I’m just like- Really?! Seriously?! Why?!
Ever since I was little, life has thrown hurdle after hurdle my way which has made me a resilient and empathetic person. In challenging moments I tell myself “this will pass” or “it could be worse” and “this is just a test of patience.” However, at times I can’t help but feel beaten down. I mean... I’m only human. To an extent, I do believe that strong people are dealt a more difficult set of cards because we can handle it, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to constantly suck it up. Sometimes I just want things to be easy. Sometimes I just want to bask in my happiness without being surprised with something challenging or upsetting.
I believe in feeling the feels, so once I release the tension and come out of my frustration, I am able to accept once again that this is just how my life is. There's something between the chemistry of the universe and I that won't let me escape this pattern. Therefore, I've learned to just ride the waves as they come like the Pisces that I am. I remind myself that I have to continue pushing through it and I’m learning to not get worked up as quickly when something goes wrong.
I recognize on a deep level that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react and how we handle situations. So, I’m doing my best to learn how to continue pursuing a more positive mindset, regardless of what’s happening on the outside. At this point I have accepted that is all I have control over. With that being said, this doesn't mean I'm going to be super bubbly all the time, but I am doing my best to calm the storm when it begins to brew.
The reason I am sharing this is because writing is therapeutic for me and I hope that sharing my experiences can help others who are in the same boat, but may feel alone. Now, let's pray that this week is better than the last!
Wearing Principle Denim:
Use code Vanessa25 for 25% off at principledenim.com (ad)
Life is full of surprises. Sometimes we receive wonderful news that we never expected, and other times we hope that the bad news is a blessing in disguise. Earlier this week I received some relatively bad news. I say relatively because in the big scheme of things it could be worse. However, considering the circumstances I felt cheated and heartbroken.
Ever since last semester, I had been sharing with my audience that I was on track to graduate once the fall semester was complete. I don't like jinxing myself so I would always add, "If all goes well,” but this declaration wasn’t enough to shield me from the bad news. On Tuesday, I went to a graduation workshop to learn how to properly apply for graduation and to triple check that all my requirements were fulfilled. That’s when I learned that I was short 11 units. Some of you may be wondering, “How did you not know that?!” Well, I met with two professors for advising last semester, one of which being the department chair for my major, and both professors told me that I was on track to graduate the following semester.
So, you can imagine the horror I felt when I learned that both of these professors were in fact wrong. I couldn’t hold the tears back and suddenly found myself mourning the future I had been planning. Everything I had in store is now going to be held back by at least five months. Five months may not seem like long time, but I am 28 years old. At this point, I am beyond ready to start my life outside of college, which is why this news came like a punch to the gut. I wanted to take this negative experience and share how I deal when life throws me a curveball.
1. Feel the Feels
Although I am a very sensitive person, there are times that I set my emotions aside in order to put on a straight face- especially in a professional setting. However, when something big happens in my personal life, I believe in releasing the emotions. The first thing I recommend doing when life surprises you with negative news is to let the feelings out. Once the emotions have been released you will be one step closer to moving on.
After the graduation workshop, I had class. I was so upset and heartbroken that I couldn’t hold it in as much as I tried. I sat and listened to the lecture with tears running down my face for a few minutes because I had to let myself release the anger and frustration. I gave myself a few minutes to quietly cry in the corner then I was able to suck it up until I got home later that day.
Once you release the emotions and understand the gravity of the situation the second step is to accept the circumstances. Although I feel it is important to feel the feels, I do not believe in dwelling in a negative space. Once you accept the position you are in, you will be able to start thinking about how to move forward.
When I got the news, I frantically texted my loved ones and shared the bad news because I needed some comfort. When I got home later that day, I cried in my boyfriend’s arms. Once I was done feeling sorry for myself, I was ready to accept the situation for what it was.
3. Make a Plan
Once you reach acceptance it is time to transform your pain into power and begin planning the next steps. Although we cannot predict when life will surprise us, we do have control over how we handle the situation once we receive the news. Do not remain stagnant, instead create a plan.
For my situation, the add/drop deadline ends on 9/17 so I began searching for any last minute classes I could add, sending out emails, and scheduling meetings. I am currently in conversation with several resources to try and solve this problem as best I can before the deadline.
4. Move forward
Once the emotions have passed and you create a plan it is time to move forward and execute the plan. Regardless of what life throws your way, you always have the capability to move forward. Moving on will look different for each scenario, but pushing yourself to do so will be empowering.
Right now, I am still in the process of moving on. I am still researching and exploring different plans. I want to find the best way to right this wrong and regain some of the time and money I have lost. I hope to be in this phase by early next week.
5. Don't Be Surprised When it Happens Again
The last step is to realize that it wont be the last time life throws you a curveball. No matter how much planning you do, or how good of a person you are, it is inevitable that life will continue to surprise you. As I mentioned in the beginning, life is full of surprises, and the best way we can prepare is to be emotionally ready to repeat these steps when the next one hits.
Change is the only predictable thing about life. Although I hope there will be no additional surprises when it comes to completing my degree, I am also aware that there will be many more times when unpredictable scenarios are thrown my way. The fact that I have been able to move forward in the past, allows me to feel more prepared regardless of what the next situation will be.
I hope that sharing my experience and tips can help you deal a little better the next time you are surprised with news you didn't expect. How do you deal when life throws you a curveball?
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for 10,000 followers on Instagram! I’m so grateful for the experiences thus far and am thrilled to see what the future holds. Whether you have been with me since the start, or joined me recently, I am so thankful to share these special moments with you. In leu of this long-awaited accomplishment, I felt like sharing some of my thoughts and experiences up until this point.
Although I only recently hit the 10K mark on Instagram, I have been blogging for some time now, and have been so eager to reach this milestone! My journey first began as a sporadic hobby around 2010-2011. This was before Instagram was popular, Tumblr was poppin’, and I also had a Facebook Like Page. My Tumblr was full of re-posts, selfies, and personal mementos, while my Facebook was focused on fashion styling lessons. Most of my original blogging accounts have since been deleted or abandoned, but my interest in documenting photos and expressing myself through writing has never wavered.
In June of 2015, I was going through a hard time, and felt like I needed to re-channel my energy into an artistic outlet. I made the decision to commit to blogging and began taking photos as often as possible. Although I had been blogging on some level for a few years, my posts were sporadic up until that point. However, that summer I hit the ground running. I began taking outfit photos weekly, bought a point and shoot camera, networked at events, and collaborated with lots of brands and photographers.
Although I was working consistently, my growth was stagnant for several years. I struggled with constructing a “theme” and cohesive editing for the longest time and only got into a groove this past March. I am by no means an expert, and am constantly working to learn more and perfect my craft, but this was the first time my feed began coming together. I had recently chopped my mermaid hair into a bob, found a new filter on VSCO, and began experimenting more with editing techniques on Snapseed. The combination of these changes resulted in the perfect recipe for the most growth I have seen in my entire blogging career.
Part of me feels like I've been on this journey for a while, but the other part feels it has just begun. I am so happy that I persisted and trudged through those first few years because I finally found my mojo. Following my heart resulted in one of the best decisions I have ever made and brought new purpose into my life. I am very excited for what the future holds, and so grateful that you've decided to join me along for the ride.
I hope that sharing some details on my journey inspire you to pursue something you are passionate about, regardless of what that looks like for you. Blogging hasn't always been easy, but it has changed my life for the better, and I would love to encourage others to follow their hearts just as I did. Cheers!
As a full-time student, puppy mom, and blogger, I'm always on the go. I'm the kind of person who prefers to make coffee at home which is why I am so excited to add this Asobu travel bottle to my collection. (ad) I make an effort to stay hydrated and also like to use it for water when I'm out and about! It keeps cool liquids cold for up to 24 hours and warm liquids hot for up to 8 hours by utilizing a design that incorporates copper and vacuum insulation. The travel mug is also leak proof which I really appreciate, because I had a mishap several months ago with another mug, and spilled coffee all over my brand new foam mattress! The other mug I had, had a complicated design that resulted in a faulty and insecure lid. However, this one has a simple design which is easy to drink from and clean.
I chose the Le Baton style in a white and copper color combination, but there are many more colors and designs available on AsobuBottle.com. Which would you choose?!