Category Archives: Beauty

Lesson #365: The final lesson.

7/20/15.

The day I started this blog, I was on my closet floor crying because it felt like my life had become a continuous bad day.

Now I’m sitting here on a mocha-colored couch outside of a coffee shop all the way across the country in California, typing my last lesson, and still crying.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

When I woke up today, all I could think was:

“Mia. It’s been 365 days.”

I couldn’t grasp the number. Trying to process it was like standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the vastness, and becoming overwhelmed with fear.

Except I had already done it.

Four seasons, twelve months, 365 days.

I can’t begin to explain the amount of joy, the depth of gratitude, the undeniable sadness, and the expanse of excitement I am feeling right now.

It’s been 365 days, and my life has changed in ways I never thought it would, or could. I have experienced so many things and seen so much in just a single year, and I’ve gotten to express every part of it.

A few months ago, someone told me something. I never wrote it into a lesson because something seemingly more prominent stole the day, but I remember scrambling to write it down, and hoping and praying that the right time would come along again to share it with you all. And I think today is that day.

It literally felt like everything I knew was falling apart in that moment and in the moments that followed—and I’m sure you’ve all experienced the feeling. I walked to work sobbing, and although I cleared my eyes in time before checking in with my boss, she knew something was wrong. After confiding in her, she told me something I’ll never forget.

“The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever—I promise.”

And after this year, and this blog, nothing in my life has ever rang more true.

It just so happens that I started this blog during a dark time in my life, and now it’s ending during the best.

In the nowhere-near-linear process of this turn around, I’ve learned so, so much. Perfection isn’t real. Money can’t buy you happiness. It takes time and guts to heal. Run with full abandon towards what you love, and cut loose what you don’t. Culture and beauty is everywhere. You are seen. People are shitty. People are fantastic. Life is great—or at least it can be if you make it.

From New York to Maryland to North Carolina to Florida. From my beloved hometown of Virginia Beach, VA, to my second life at school in the mountains of Harrisonburg, VA, to landing my dream internship in Los Angeles, California.

It’s been 365 days since I pressed the little blue button to create this account, and hit “publish” on a lesson for the very first time. If I’m being honest—I cannot begin to tell you how utterly happy and relieved I am that I don’t have to come home exhausted at the end of every night and write a lesson. But I also can’t begin tell you how truly sad I am to let this piece of my life go. It’s not every day you get to say you documented each day of your life for an entire year, until you do. And now that it’s over, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do without my little escape, my outlet, and my canvas for words.

There are truly no words for how bittersweet this is. And if there is a step beyond having no words, then I really have none for how extremely grateful I am.

First, I am always completely and entirely thankful for my God. I know that none of the events in my life go without reason, and that my main man has been by my side through it all. Many times throughout this year my head was more focused on my feet than the sky. I loathed how distracted, busy, and cloudy minded I could be—but He never once left me. I am grateful for the good. I am grateful for the bad. And I am continually and eternally grateful for the grace of God. Even though this (literal) chapter of my life is ending, I am excited to see where He will guide me next.

To my wonderful parents, my special friends, and some really great family members—thank you. Not just for giving me great moments to learn from, but for always pushing me and encouraging me. Nights got HARD. Some days I had so much to do that I wouldn’t be able to start my lesson until 1am. My three options were usually to 1) suck it up and write, 2) cry and write, or 3) go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and then cry and write because now I was behind on a post when I “promised” I never would be. But your constant love and support has been something that’s carried me through, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. All it took was one little comment on the blog or on Facebook or walking across campus to make me look forward to writing the next one. It’s the simple things. You each had a hand in inspiring all these people as well. And I thank you. You know who you are.

To the not so great people—I want to thank you too. After this year, I have a better idea of the kind of people I do and don’t want in my life. I’ve learned that people can teach who you don’t want to be and what you don’t want to be like, and those lessons are just as important. You all have been blessings in my life as well.

To the guest lessonists—thank you for being apart of something so special. Thank you for telling your story.

And of course—the readers. You are all so special to me. Thank you for lending a listening ear. I hope you have all learned and grown in some way. If you remember just one thing from these 365 days—then I’ve done my job.

I thank this blog for allowing me the space to not be perfect. I thank this blog for teaching me about self control and dedication—but for also teaching me about the fact that shit happens. Living comes before anything else, and you have to momentarily leave all guilt and thoughts if you’re going to do it fully. I thank this blog for teaching me how to be scared, but doing it (or writing it) anyway. I thank this blog for teaching me to live with thicker skin, but to be open, honest, and vulnerable.

Most of all, I want to thank this blog for challenging me to look for the best in each and every single day—especially when there was no “best” in the day—for confronting it, expressing it, and turning it into something meaningful.

I will miss this so much.

I no longer have an excuse to find the best in each day—but I hope this year has taught me how.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

But it’s good to know some things do.

This blog has added so much color to my life. It been more than a blog for me; it has been a journey. And I can’t believe I did it.

It feels weird coming to the end. It feels like I’m not finished; like there’s so much more to say.

And that’s because there is.

The lessons we learn are perennial. They will continue to arise in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

It all branches on one big tree. They stem from the root of life, and they turn out to all be a part of the same foundation. I’ve found that all lessons all come back to the same core concepts, and this is what I’ve come to know.

Do what makes you happy,

be passionate, compassionate, and kind,

and always, always, always keep learning.

The world will keep telling us this time and time again.

And so will I.

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Day 365.

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Lesson #357: Get her to the Getty.

7/12/15.

As soon as the museum director said “There’s a great power in observing anything” in the orientation video, I knew it was going to be a good day.

Today we took a trip to the Getty Museum.

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When we looked up from the bottom of the highway, we spotted the large white museum sitting atop a tree-scattered mountain with a beautiful view. If ever a building could be majestic, it was this one. Upon riding the tram up the mountainside and stepping into each of the massive buildings, we found the interiors rich with paintings, busts, sculptures, photos, and decorative antiques lining every wall and corner of each room. Outside of the gorgeous stone and marble walls, we zig-zagged down a staircase into the garden. There were bright green trees, plants, flowers in full bloom, and a small stream running through the garden that dropped into a waterfall. Everything about the museum was pristine, well designed, and absolutely breathtaking.

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Although we stuck together as a group at first, we quickly realized that the only way to really experience the art was to experience it ourselves. As certain pieces of work caught our eye and certain exhibits drew our attention, we began to split off and explore the mysteries of the museum on our own.

I stopped and viewed many of the paintings, sculptures, and antiques, listening to the stories behind the art on an app for the museum through headphones. The last exhibit I went to and the one that captured my heart, was the photography exhibit, “Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography.”

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I strolled through the wooden-floored rooms, taking in the pictures of birds with their wings spread and the moon floating through the night sky. I was pleased with the pictures; they were beautiful, but it was easy to just look at them, appreciate them, and quickly move on. Then a small corner room in the back of the exhibit really captured my attention. All of the photos in the room were by a photographer I had never heard of named Matthew Brandt.

I walked over to a series of photos by him titled Rainbow Lake. For these photos, Brandt soaked the prints of the shots he took of a lake in the actual water from the lake. I thought they were fascinating and interesting, but another piece of his was drawing me from across the room.

The first picture of the day that I was completely and utterly enthralled with and completely stopped by, was his photo titled Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971. At first glance, it’s only a photograph of a building falling over. But something about it was magnetizing to me. I immediately typed in the code under the painting and listened to the picture’s story on the Getty app; I now understood I felt that way for a good reason.

Brandt’s voice filled my headphones, telling me how he looks up old photos in the Los Angeles Public Library Archive. When he finds a photo he likes, he takes it. This specific photo happened to be of a department store being torn down in Pasadena, California.

He went to the site in the picture that exists now, and swept up the dust from the ground there. Brandt didn’t go in with his camera or any other tools. Just a small bin to put the dust in.

He brought back the dust to use as pigment over the picture.

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00036082-3 “Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971”; Matthew Brandt, American, born 1982; Pasadena, California, United States, North America; 2013; Gum bichromate print; Image: 110.5 x 143.5 cm (43 1/2 x 56 1/2 in.); 2014.17

Brandt said he did this because he was fascinated with the “conflation of time.” I’ve always been fascinated by time and its mysteries and wonders as well. It was at this moment that I fell in love with the photo even more.

To be completely honest, when I got to the previous paragraph, I realized I still had no idea what I wanted to say in this lesson. I knew I wanted to talk about my trip to the Getty and my fascination with the Matthew Brandt photo, but I had no idea what the actual lesson was. The photograph was riveting and captivating and genius—but what did it teach me?

I originally thought: “Ooh, this could spark thought and discussion about time and the past and the present and how the two join together sometimes.” But it quickly dawned on me that from the very beginning, I knew what this lesson was truly about.

When we are captivated by something; when we are fascinated and floored and curious and in awe—we should chase after those feelings and capture them.

We should explore it, and think about it, and discuss it.

To me, that’s the definition of appreciation: loving something and caring enough to recognize it and acknowledge it.

We won’t always know or understand why we are so drawn to something.

And in a sense, it doesn’t really matter.

But what matters is that we give it the appreciation it deserves,

and then we share it with the world.

It’s like a smile for the soul.

I don’t know about you—but I think we could all use a little more of that.

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Day 357.

Lesson #350: Don’t go chasing waterfalls?

7/5/15.

TLC, don’t hate us.

We didn’t stick to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to,

because today we hiked to see a waterfall in Malibu.

Unlike the last hike to the Hollywood Sign, though, we were much more mentally and physically equipped this time—with the right shoes, an actual plan, and a larger crew.

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Escondido Falls, Malibu Beach

What we weren’t prepared for?

The waterfall being old, dusty, and completely dried out.

When we started on the trail through secluded streets behind beautiful Malibu homes, we were looking forward to be rewarded with a cool pool of water at the end of our hot, sweaty hike.

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We began navigating through dirt paths and then onto rocks that started stacking higher and higher. Before we ventured too far, we ran into a couple and asked them if we were going in the right direction, since we had come to a fork in the trail a few moments earlier. They told us yes.

They also told us—

waterfall?

Yea.

Not really a waterfall.

They forewarned us that the water was non-existent other than a slight trickle that dripped of the edge of the stone.

Not going to lie.

We had a serious WTF moment.

But what I love about our group is our serious can-do mentality.

We literally let nothing stop us, like, ever.

So we took it as a challenge.

A lack of water never hurt anybody, right?

(Don’t answer that)

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All 11 of us climbed the mountain. We helped each other along, and gave each other guidance and support on the ropes and sliding rocks (but also laughed at each other when we fell because we’re obviously great people).

In the end, we made it to both falls. The higher one, with a breathtaking view and beautiful stained stone, but no running water. It had a lower plateau with a big rock we could stand on, and access to an inside nook of the once bumbling waterfall. The lower one with just enough trickle, and extravagant green foliage and moss that tucked the cliff-side into its own comfortable corner.

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Once again, our hike through the unknown was absolutely priceless.

And truly beautiful.

I guess you could say today’s lesson should be don’t go chasing waterfalls.

But as much as I think I have the right to say that’s true right now,

I know it’s not.

The true lesson here, is this:

Just because something doesn’t turn out beautiful in the way you expect it to be, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful at all.

Beauty isn’t just in the eye of the beholder. It’s everywhere.

My advice to you?

Definitely go chasing a waterfall sometime.

The adventure in itself is worth it.

Dreams are hopeless aspirations in hopes of coming true.
Believe in yourself, the rest is up to me and you.

-Waterfalls by TLC

Day 350.

Lesson #340: These are my confessions.

6/25/15.

I’m not Usher.

And I really don’t know how to say any of this today,

but I’m going to try.

I am not perfect.

I don’t know the last time I said this and actually meant it—really, really meant it.

And it feels so good to say right now; to really own it.

I am not perfect.

I’m not talking about my appearance: the pimple on the bottom right of chin, or my lanky legs, or my short torso. I’m not talking about the fact that I’m clumsy, or that I suck at math, or that didn’t floss today (or yesterday), or that I just ate an entire frozen pizza for dinner. I’m not even talking about my regrets or mistakes.

I’m talking about the things that are actually hard to talk about.

The kind of imperfections that I bury deep within myself and choose to overlook, in hopes that one day, they might just disappear.

These are the kind of flaws that I don’t want to admit to—because then it means they’re really true.

And it means I have to face them.

But here’s the truth today.

I am not good at not getting what I want, or what I think I deserve.

And I hate it.

I’m not spoiled. I’m not “privileged.” I would never cry because “Daddy didn’t get me a Mercedes Benz,” or the “new iPhone 6.” I don’t get upset when everyone chooses here instead of where I wanted to go.

I’m not a brat. I don’t have melt-downs. I don’t start screaming, or yelling, or throwing things.

But in the most mundane way possible, I internally just don’t process it well when I am determined to get something, or when I work hard for something, or when I envision something—and I don’t get it.

Yesterday was a perfect example.

But people would never know, because I rarely ever show it or express it.

Determination is good, but it’s also my downfall.

What makes my imperfection ten times worse is that I’m very hard on myself—to the point that when I say or do something wrong or stupid—I beat myself up about it way longer than the average person should. I repeat it to myself over and over; I replay it a million times in my head. I know that everyone says they do this—but sometimes I wonder if they’re anything like me. I wonder when enough is enough.

I bring this up today, because my imperfection was put to the test once again.

When someone else got to do something that I had the same opportunity to do and wanted to do so badly instead of myself—I was extremely upset. Internally, of course. But upset, nonetheless.

Lucky me, I couldn’t go anywhere, or get my hands on something to distract me from my own mind. I had no choice but to sit there and reflect on how upset I was, even though it was the last thing that I wanted to spend my afternoon doing. I had to address this certain imperfection. I had to face what I’m not proud of. I had to confront what I want to change. I had to dig deep, yank it out by its root, and examine what and how and why.

Of course it stings at first. But in the end, it was the most alleviating thing I’ve done in a while. It honestly feels as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel a lot more clear-minded just by acknowledging it; by finally saying to myself: “Hey, I do this. And I need to figure out how I will handle it better.” It’s like airing the dirty laundry, or unloading the dishwasher.

A few months ago, I attended a wonderful poetry reading by an incredible poet, Kamilah Aisha Moon. She read from her moving and phenomenal book of poetry, called She Has a Name. The collection sheds light on her sister who lives with Autism, by taking on different perspectives of various people in her sister’s life. It explores the human mind, love, appreciation, and life.

During the Q&A, I asked Kamilah: “As someone who has a cousin with Aspergers, I know this book must have been hard to write at some points. Was is it challenging? Was it cathartic? Or was it a little bit of both?”

She answered with this, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it:

“Claim the truth, so that it has no power over you.”

By acknowledging an ugly truth about myself today—I claimed the truth.

And when you claim the truth, you give yourself power and control over it; over how you will let it affect you.

I feel as if “I am not perfect” is something we tell ourselves to convince ourselves that we are not.

We tell ourselves we aren’t perfect, but do we really, truly accept it?

My question for you today is this:

What truly makes you imperfect? What are you keeping yourself from acknowledging, but really want to or need to accept?

I know it’s probably the shittiest thing you’ve ever been asked to do—sorry.

But sometimes, we need a perfectly rude good awakening.

And the best kinds are the ones we bring upon ourselves.

So will you challenge yourself to that?

This is just one of my many imperfections.

But today, I learned this.

I am not perfect.

I’m truly not, and I know this.

But I am working every day to learn from it, handle it, accept it, and be happy with it.

Day 340.

Lesson #336: The only way to it, is through it.

6/21/15.

Of course,

today’s lesson is the exact opposite of yesterday’s lesson.

That would happen.

At 5:00am, seven of us woke up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise at a little park in the Hollywood hills called Griffith Observatory. We sped to catch the sun, got re-routed about three times (the freeway exit was closed), and finally arrived at the park.

Surprise.

We ended up doing a three hour hike for 7.2 miles through the mountains, all to make it to the Hollywood sign.

This was not planned.

We had no water. We hadn’t eaten. Some of us had one or two hours of sleep. We sure as hell weren’t in proper hiking shoes.

But when saw the incredible view, acknowledged the fact that we were already there, and realized that we had the whole day ahead of us—we decided,

“Why not?”

As soon as I saw the “Beware of rattlesnakes” sign, I knew shit was about to go down.

It started out as a dirt road.

Then it became a winding dirt road.

Then it became an upward winding road.

We had no idea where we were going, and we didn’t start out at the traditional entrance that headed to the sign. Basically, we were on one of the mountains nearby, we saw it, and we decided to head for it.

We asked people along the way which direction to go, and got different answers each time. So  we just kept heading towards the electric tower near the sign, determined to find a way to get there—whether it was up, around, down, or through.

Seriously.

We started scaling the mountain.

The path was carved out, but the trail was pretty thin. We were ridiculously high in the sky, so much that we could look down at the city through clouds of fog.

People were passing us in full-on hiking gear, meanwhile we’re grabbing rocks with our hands and sliding down drops on our butts.

But the view was absolutely beautiful.

Houses, lights, meandering roads, clouds, hills, greenery—it seemed like the world was endless.

After an hour of panting, stopping, and sweating, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain hike, and raced onto the normal path.

But we weren’t done yet.

We had another thirty minutes of walking uphill, tackling the last mountain.

Finally, we reached a gate.

The Hollywood sign was right in front of us, facing outwards towards the city. The letters were huge and white, even bigger than I had imagined.

We made it.

There were times that we actually doubted we would—but we did.

And it was honestly one of the most rewarding moments of my entire life.

It’s sounds so incredibly cheesy, but really, we did it all together. And that’s what made the experience so cool. We helped one another and kept each other going and it was great.

We got to the top and took pictures and hung out for a second, taking it all in. It wasn’t the view we initially imagined—but we soon realized that it was even closer.

The hike back down was even harder than coming up. We decided to head home towards our apartment, since it was closer than where we started. When we saw the new mountain we had to go down… I couldn’t even begin to tell you some of the looks on our faces. It was HUGE. And steep. Even steeper than the first. Since I was in a pair of converse and we were going downhill, I was sliding everywhere. I slipped and got a huge cut on my ankle and elbow, and scratches on my leg.

I guess I could call them wounds.

But I think I’ll call them battle scars instead.

See what I did there?

When the morning began, we thought it would be a nice, clear day—but there was a ton of fog. We thought we would reach the front of the sign—but we were behind it. We thought we were simply going to watch the sunrise—then we went on the most unexpected, challenging, hilarious, and incredible hikes of our lives.

So today’s lesson?

It’s all about perspective and perseverance.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s lesson, planning is important.

But when it comes to planning, things go wrong.

And when things go wrong, you have to be flexible.

And when you have to be flexible, being positive about it helps.

And when you’re positive about it, your perspective changes.

And when your perspective changes,

you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Believe me—this trip was not perfect. Aside from the physical hardships and barriers, I’m not going to pretend like it was all roses and daisies. There were definitely some emotions happening; some resentment and hesitation on everyone’s part.

But in the end,

we had each others back,

we changed our perspective,

we persevered,

we had fun,

we made memories,

and we made it.

And that’s what matters.

The next time you’re forced to face a mountain in your life (literally or figuratively…ha)—remember:

The only way the get to it, is to get through it.

Day 336.

Lesson #313: “I tried hard.”

5/30/15.

Today at dinner, my friend Kandace and I found ourselves standing next to a another young woman waiting for her food. Her hair was perfectly curled, she wore a blue and white sundress, and she was rocking a pair of cute leather booties. I told her how much I loved her outfit, and she thanked me with a huge smile on her face.

“I could lie and pretend like I just threw this on—but to be honest—I tried. Really hard.”

Kandace, me, and the girl fell out laughing. I told her she was my new favorite person for that.

When people compliment us, we either humbly or shyly deflect the comment, or we just smile and say, “Thanks,” because quite frankly—we know how hot we look.

But what this girl said was so honest. When we look at other people or even objects, we seem to always focus on the end product or finished appearance—which is good—but we don’t ever really pay much tribute to or acknowledge the work it took to get there.

That’s probably how it’s supposed to be.

But still. It’s good to remember just this:

Nothing starts perfect.

It takes work to get to where you want to be. It takes a little bit of time and effort.

Recognize the journey, celebrate the destination.

And when you look damn good—flaunt it.

Day 312.