Loveli Valentine

Everyone wants to enjoy Valentine’s Day, but it’s fair to say that for a decent portion of the population, this day sucks. Unless you’re in a relationship, the holiday isn’t always full of romance and bliss. Instead, it feels more like a day to reflect on everything that you are missing. I can’t speak for the single men who are (more than likely) joyously enjoying their lack of V-Day responsibilities, but often single women spend the day avoiding cute posts on social media, watching The Notebook and/or eating their weight in chocolate. On a day where couples are tasked with creatively condensing all their love into 24 hours of pure magic, it seems like there’s no love left for you.

For me, Valentine’s Day was the most fun in elementary school. Why? Because no one was left out. It didn’t matter if you were a nerd or ugly or super shy, everyone got a Valentine. In middle school things started to get a little too competitive. At my school there was a tradition to send mini boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to all of your Valentines and they would be delivered in their home room on the 14th. Needless to say, if you didn’t get any doughnuts, you felt some major V-Day shame. High school was rather uneventful for me during this time of year, but someone did attempt to be my Valentine once. My Dad called me to the door because “some boy” had candy for me… And, if you know my Dad you can be sure that this exchange of candy at my front door was the extent of that attempt. 

Since then, I’ve never had a Valentine (with the exception of my Dad, Brother, or Grandparents of course), and every year I would get myself down in the dumps about it. I was either very single or in that awkward middle ground of “talking” that our generation loved so much in college which meant I would spend the holiday alone. One particular year I thought I would have my first real Valentine (despite the fact that we weren’t official) and boy did that backfire. Thinking that I would have grand V-Day plans only to discover nothing would actually happen was about a thousand times worse than just sitting on the sidelines the years prior… Somewhere between that experience and now is when I decided to try to put some of my own love into Valentine’s Day.

For those who don’t have anyone to celebrate with, yes, this holiday can be absolutely terrible, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s plenty of love in your life to celebrate even if it isn’t manifested in a breathtaking date with Mr. Right. Celebrate your love for your family, your friends, your pet fish, but most importantly yourself. 

It’s not easy. From one serial single Valentiner to another, I know. But, my Loveli Valentines, our time will come. Until then, embrace the holiday. Show love for all of the things that you love in your life, make someone smile, and think positive thoughts. But, if you’re not ready to embrace the 14th… Pretend it’s a normal Tuesday and resist the urge to text your Ex. 

…But actually, you will regret it later, so just put your phone down now.

– Loni

Sister-Cousin

She was perfect and I absolutely hated the way I looked…. We were both skinny, spoiled brats, but when it came time to “grow up” her legs got longer and her chest got bigger and I didn’t change at all. High school junior… still without a period, 98lbs, flat chested, with an overbite my braces did not cure. And, it was all I thought about. Constantly, I had to ensure my legs and arms were covered (I reluctantly gave in to my Dad buying a uniform skirt my senior year of high school, I preferred to hide behind the other school uniform options of khaki or black pants), I always crossed my legs when standing to try to hide their size, and most importantly I always needed a new way to make my chest appear larger. I was so unhappy. 

Luckily, she was my best friend. 

It was a weird dichotomy of feelings to have. She was asked to school dances, I wasn’t. She needed to go shopping for bras and tampons, I didn’t. Her self-esteem was always through the roof, mine wasn’t. She still had her mom… I didn’t… I wanted to hate her for being given the life she had, but I just loved her so much. 

Now, since we’ve graduated high school and college, she constantly reminds me how proud she is of me and how much she has always looked up to me. It was something at the time I never would have understood. She had everything I wanted and all the while she saw things in me that she wanted as well. I always thank her and tell her that she doesn’t need to look up to me and that she’s doing just fine, but I’ve always been too ashamed to tell her that she was someone I wanted to be just like all my life. After all, I was the older cousin, I was supposed to be helping her through life. But, it just didn’t go that way in my mind.

Talking to you yesterday briefly on snapchat brought me here. 

In your early teenage years you became beautiful, yes, but you were confident even before that. Confident during the braces and the baggy jeans that you always had to take in at the waist. I looked up to you for that.

You were an extrovert with ease. You did solos at dance recitals, talked to anyone without being awkward seconds after meeting them, and never had to force a smile. I looked up to you for that.

Boys were crazy for you! But… you paid them no attention if they didn’t know your worth. If you only knew how much I looked up to you for that. 

You weren’t afraid of anything. You lived life to the fullest everyday, you accepted things that happened to us with grace, and you could see the beauty in all situations… I needed to look up to you for that. 

Truth is, Monie… you had your life together hours and days and weeks and months and years before I could even stand to look in the mirror and like anything that I saw. You’re not just my sister-cousin and PIC, but my confidence and a shoulder to cry on when I didn’t have any “good things” inside to have for my own… The role model I always needed. 

So, thank you

Love, 

Loni.

Beyond Life Friends

My friend and I went to North Carolina to visit one of our close friends this weekend. It was a gloomy drive, but we had an awesome weekend once we arrived. Driving back to Atlanta yesterday it was raining quite hard and my copilot fell asleep, so it was the perfect atmosphere to be alone with my thoughts. I couldn’t believe we spent roughly 12 hours in a car, the latter five and a half practically swimming down 85 South, just to be around a friend. We didn’t do anything particularly special, the weather wasn’t even that great, but it was totally worth it… And, I couldn’t help smiling a very familiar smile to myself. 

My Mom and Dad had really good friends that my siblings and I grew up to know quite well ourselves. They would come around for holidays and birthday parties and have us over to their houses to just relax or have dinner. Although I appreciated them, I didn’t really give much thought to their friendship until my Mom passed. My Dad’s friends became like second, third, and fourth sets of parents without being asked, but even more shocking to me was the continued presence of my Mom’s friends in our lives even when she was no longer physically present. There is never a birthday that passes without a card or gift, my graduations were just as important as those of their own children, and to this day there isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t receive a call, text, or Facebook message full of well wishes on everything going on in my life. They don’t have to do any of this, they just do… And they do so ten years later, still bearing that same smile. 

When I was younger I didn’t really understand why they did the things they did. Majority of my friendships at this point (teenage years) were surface level and heavily determined by the homeroom we were assigned, who was of similar popularity, and/or the brand of clothes I wore. After some time you naturally come to the realization that your relationships are becoming more mature the older you get. But, I will argue that despite this, your true friendships really start to blossom when you’re an adult. When you’re done with school and other kinds of forced social interactions, it’s easier to see who is still around for you and who you are willing to go out of your way to spend time with.

Whether I understood the friendships of my parent’s or not, I knew that I always wanted that for my life. And, I know it sounds silly, but each time I get that smile, accompanied by that deep, happy, warm feeling, I’m reminded that I now have it. The people who have helped me through insecurities. The people who have given me second, third, and fourth sets of parents. The people that will drive across Atlanta in rush hour traffic or even across state lines to spend time with me. The people I do life with. But most importantly, the people who give me my parent’s smile. My beyond life friends.

– Loni

Content

Lately I’ve been feeling very single. It’s similar to the feeling that you get when you go to a restaurant by yourself, except you experience it everywhere. Instead of hanging out with bae or going on dates, I have all this free time to, you know, live life… but when I leave my house all I see are couples and engagement rings. And, to make things worse, I can’t even get in any retail therapy because all the stores already have their Valentine’s Day gifts and candy out on display. Woe is me. However, I’m trying to remember that it doesn’t matter how badly I may want my life to mimic how I feel when I listen to Sure Thing, it’s just not for me right now. 

It’s hard to say something you want isn’t right for you at the moment. Being content with my current season of life is one of my biggest struggles. I’m a planner. Whether it’s relationships, work or school, I like to know how things will go. I enjoy having a checklist, and I especially enjoy checking things off of it. When I look at my life plan, it simply didn’t include long seasons of singleness in my mid-twenties. This alone can make it easy for anxiety to creep it. Trying to determine how your future will go when you saw your present going differently is a breeding ground for worry.

Well, I’m happy to inform you, that unlike a blueprint for a building, if your measurements are a little off your life will not come crashing down. Instead, be thankful for the ability to gain insight and to make adjustments! This could be time for you to enjoy or even avoid something that is being completely overlooked because you’re too busy thinking two or three seasons ahead about things you can’t even control. It could be that my next relationship will be my last, and I have some major growing to do before that can successfully happen. Maybe this season of unemployment is to direct you to your true purpose in life. Or it could be that you need to learn better budgeting skills before you are blessed with that new car (and the car payments that come with it).

I personally need to spend less time planning and more time praying. Putting things in God’s hands is so much better than worrying. With all the other things going on in the world, why carry that extra weight? He has something way better in mind than I could ever plan or even imagine, and that’s definitely worth the wait to me.

That may not change the fact that I don’t want to be single or that I have no idea how long this season will be, but I’m learning to be content and to do all of the “living” I need to do while I’m in it… But, just in case, I’ll avoid listening to Miguel and running into any department store holiday displays.

– Loni

Computer Love

As a single young adult, it is expected at some point during any holiday you spend with your family to be asked (or if your family is anything like mine softly interrogated) about the status your love life. You would think that the lack of a Christmas plus-one or even the hint of a cute text would tell them everything they may ever need to know, but of course it doesn’t. So the questioning begins. “You’re a beautiful young woman with a nice job, I’m sure  you have suitors. Why aren’t you seeing anyone?” Rather than trying to explain that I don’t think anyone uses the word suitor anymore and that I’m seeing people but haven’t really been on an official date in months (thanks to this amazing phenomenon of “talking”), I go for the easier option of, “Things are just different now.”

To us the world can feel so small. All you need is a phone and you can be halfway across the planet by simply watching a Snapchat or live stream. We have access to anyone that we can google search, and because of this, some of us know the lives of others just as well as our own. It sounds creepy, but it’s almost normal to “know” a person without ever having to know them personally, let alone ever see them in person. I have hundreds of followers I’ve never met, but could say that we’re almost friends through the years of exchanged likes and comments.

Seeing as we don’t even know a large percentage of the people we come into contact with daily, we often have our first impression of someone via social media hours, days, or even months before we meet them (if we ever do)… Already forming our opinions of them before they get the chance to plead their case. To say that you’ve decided whether or not to pursue someone based on what you’ve seen or heard is hardly untrue nowadays, and especially so with the popularity of online dating. These decisions are often made within seconds and solidified by a simple swipe of the finger. This may be counterintuitive, seeing as one would think having the entire pool of eligible bachelors at your finger tips would make things easier, I feel it only makes dating more competitive than ever. There’s always someone better looking, more wealthy, and more intelligent a few clicks away.

So, on the other side of the screen, we are busy making the best version of ourselves visible to the public eye. Who knows who will stumble upon your page today! Posting only your best selfies, ensuring to capture our latest successes, and heaven forbid we go somewhere cool and forget to get a photo-op. And, for those people who are Instagram famous, I’m sure it’s a full-time job to stay relevant. We do all of this only to get discouraged over the assumptions people make about us and the type of attention we attract, all the while refusing to do much reflection on the type of person we are presenting to the world.

Now, when we do enter into relationships we are bringing all of this junk into them with us. Right from the start there can be great disappointment because we aren’t getting all the things we perceived via text or social media from our partner (in person). Some things you can only learn from interaction, like the fact that your new beau may be quick-tempered. From there, Snapchat goes from only being good for the cute dog filter to a GPS/tracking device for your significant other. Casually viewing snaps can turn into obsessively searching for the slightest hint of the presence of an attractive female in the background. Instagram is less fun now too, because you can’t explain it, but you feel like his love for you is somehow depleted with each like he gives to another girl.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but when you factor in all of this, piled on top of everyone else’s opinions (because, yes, just like everything else you put all over social media, they have access to every single detail of your relationship…), piled further on top of all the normal relationship stuff we haven’t even touched here, it’s easy to feel like there’s more going wrong than going right from the start. You’ve managed to successfully sabotage our relationship before it ever really began. From then on, you’re never as happy as the other couples you reluctantly like pictures of, who in turn may not even be that happy themselves.

Yet, we continue the cycle, and later wonder why our relationships fail more often than not. Dating with all the added distraction, jealousy and insecurity can make you want to have options waiting on the side, and it can definitely make you want to keep the new people you meet at arm’s length until you’re sure you can trust them. Doing something over and over again is draining in itself. Now, doing something over and over again with the same negative result… well that can make you extremely pessimistic. Despite all of this, I’m going to ask you to try one more time.

However, not using the same methods as before. Instead, let’s for the first time in a long time, do something the way our parents did. Old school. And no, I don’t mean change the font on your phone to EXTRA LARGE and announce to everyone in the room every time you’ve “twittered”. I mean trade in “talking” for courting, opt for an actual date before you Netflix and Chill, and maybe hold off on your judgement of someone against your long list of standards for long enough to view their potential. Let’s make first impressions back into an in person experience! Mostly, I hope as we get older we realize all of this social media stuff is very similar to your favorite celebrities butt; it looks great but it’s probably overstated and not real.

I’m not telling you to take everyone that slides in your DMs on a date (it’s human to not be attracted to everyone), rather try making one of the checks on your list into a question mark and give someone you may normally overlook a shot. Ladies he may not have the six-figure  salary and the car that comes with it yet. Fellas, she might not be an amazing cook but is willing to learn. Maybe she’s not a social butterfly. Maybe he’s not your ideal race. This could just be the hopeless romantic in me, but there could be something there that you’re dismissing simply because of how things appear to be.

We want everything to be instant like our Amazon Prime deliveries, mac and cheese, and video streaming, but that’s not how dating works. It never has (maybe it feels like our parents did less aimless wandering because they weren’t so distracted by every gorgeous face on Instagram). Not every relationship will work out, and although it sucks a lot, that’s life. But, some of my best “gifts” came without the influence of social media via the most unexpected packages… and I plan to keep it that way.

-Loni

Get up. Get well. Get over. Get happy.

“The scariest moment is always right before you start.”

Probably, the most accurate statement I’ve ever read. But, I went for it.

Christmas of last year I decided to share with my family that I had started to write book, and as the supportive people I know and love, they offered encouragement and asked what about. My desire to be a writer wasn’t a foreign concept to them, but knowing that the subject matter was, I slowly went on to explain how I was always incredibly insecure growing up and now having overcome that wanted to write about all the lessons I learned as I worked to overcome it… As my eyes moved from face to face they were pleasant, smiling even, but their eyes returned messages of confusion. “The girl that everything came easily to, couldn’t figure out self-confidence…” I mean, could I blame them for not understanding? I had been hiding a major part of my life for over 20 years, and all they knew of younger me was the girl who loved to bake cakes, played first chair flute, graduated with a 4.3 GPA and wanted to be an Engineer.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? How you can keep the people closest to you completely unaware of the biggest parts of your story if you want to. It was never hard for me to keep my strongest emotions inside. After all, I was an introvert and when my family assumed I was just being my normal quiet self, my mind could be going a million miles a minute somewhere very distant. Writing for me was like living life in my own personal soundproof room. I spent most of my life screaming at the top of my lungs on to sheets of paper that would later be discarded or lost. Stories of myself and of a girl much like me, stories of some made up love and of my own personal tragedies would pile up in my journals to never be heard by anyone. Simply because I was ashamed of the emotions I felt and what others would think of them, which was a direct reflection of how insecure I was about simply being me. Everything I wrote I quickly dismissed as too sad, too dark, too optimistic, or too racy…It was as if I needed some sort of justification for the way I felt and even more so to tell those things to the world.

In the 7th grade I obtained my first copy of On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft by Stephen King from the library and it easily earned a place on my bookshelf next to stories like Beloved and Invisible Man, but for completely different reasons.  Unlike the stories of Morrison and Ellison that I loved to read, it gives you the pep talk that every aspiring writer must hear to go forth and confidently create those stories that everyone else loves to read… But, even with this added confidence writing remained the door I left unopened. It just wasn’t the safe option and it most definitely wasn’t the easiest. I took the path that guaranteed a nice paycheck without the need to escape my comfort zone, and I never looked back. I packed away my journals, my daydreams stayed little clouds of inspiration instead of being developed further into poems or stories, and never questioned being a writer again… That is, until my sister bought me a new copy of On Writing for my birthday last year (it has way less character than my damaged and stained version, but what it lacks in character it made up for with perfectly timed motivation). As I skimmed through the pages while sitting by the pool one day, I landed on one of the more popular exerts:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. …this book…is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.
Drink and be filled up.”

And, right then I decided to go for it. I had once told myself that the world would be OK without ever hearing anything I had to say, but would I be OK? From there the idea transformed over the past year from a book about my Mom, to a book about overcoming my insecurities, and finally to this blog where I’m bound to touch on those items and more. But, the underlying message is that I’m going for it for real this time. Now, unlike other blogs, I will not guide you to the Perfect Lipstick Dupes and the 15 Reasons Why Your Boyfriend Can’t Stand You, because to be completely transparent, I haven’t figured any of that out. I don’t have the answers (if anyone really had all the answers to life, we wouldn’t need to read those blogs would we?). I’m also not here to sell you anything or to make you subscribe or any of that. Instead, this is 100% for me. My release. The refining of a craft and revitalization of a passion that I have left behind time after time for safer options. A blog that is truly self-help… for myself. But, if you happen to get some inspiration along the way, I’m glad you found your way here too.

I wouldn’t have made it to this point on my own. Sometimes you can will yourself right to the very edge, but still need a little push as you jump. So, thank you to my Mom for always being there as whatever it is that I need at any given moment. Thank you to my Dad who (as a younger me was far too prideful to admit) is the biggest blessing I was ever given. Thank you to my Grandma who… just gets me. Thank you to my Sister for the unintentional motivation. Thank you to my Aunt PJ who isn’t afraid to speak her mind through her many published works – a true source of inspiration; I promise to write my book some day! Thank you to my friends (D., O., and G. especially) who liked the real me before I even really knew who she was and constantly support all my endeavors. And, thanks to you for reading. I hope you continue to.

Here’s to a 2017 full of getting up, getting well, getting over, and getting happy. Happy New Year.

– Loni