I Am That Woman.

I am that woman.

The one who doesn’t just do things even though they terrify her, but because they terrify her. The one who goes rock-climbing and rappels off cliffs no matter how scared she is of heights, the one who craves the shaking hands and choppy laughter with the realization, “Holy shit, I did it,” against all odds. I am that woman who pursues not only her dreams but her fears.

I am that woman.

The one who buys a plane ticket at 10:00 at night for a flight that leaves tomorrow afternoon, with no clean clothes or any idea what there is to do at that particular place. The one who buys plane tickets to a different country for three-day-weekends to someplace she’s never thought of traveling: who says yes to the adventure without worrying about the destination. I am that woman who doesn’t need permission to “go.” I am that woman whose permission is that she is alive and there is breath in her lungs.

I am that woman.

The one that will always be met with, “When did you go there? I just saw you last month!” Greeted with, “Where in the world are you now?” The one whose people’s eyes will always widen at when she says she went alone. I am that woman who is bid goodbye with the hope that she always returns. I am the woman that never, ever really returns.

I am that woman.

The one who somehow lives in both her daydreams and memories and also completely in the present. Who carries with her the new stories, perspectives, and vivid imagery from all of the places she’s been with her in day to day life, making it much more interesting than it would be otherwise.

I am that woman.

The one who will always be begged to stay. The one who will get a thousand love poems but want to write her own book, who will get hundreds of flowers but want to plant her own garden. Who will go out with handsome men, but instead of gaze at them will turn away and daydream toward the horizon. I am that woman, the one who will never, ever stay.

I am that woman.

The one who is always perceived as running away from something, because so few know what it’s like to be in constant pursuit of your dreams. I am the woman who is always running toward something, who doesn’t need you to catch her and would prefer if you didn’t. Because whether she’s falling or flying, whether intentional or accidental destination, when she arrives will soak up everything it has to offer. I am that woman who craves an intimate experience with everything around her.

I am that woman.

The one who prefers randomly strewn rocks in a river as stepping stones getting her where she wants to go instead of a man-made ladder and blueprint. I am the woman who would rather sleep in a hammock and wake up to lions roaring than breakfast in bed at a five-star resort. I am that woman that identifies with the wild because she is aware of, proud of, and celebrates her primal self.

I am that woman.

The one feasting over rice and beans in hostels with strangers as if it’s a gourmet meal, laughing and dancing in the streets with old men to salsa and merengue, sun-burned and salty-haired while drinking rum on the beach with pirates. I am the woman who rides a horse bareback in a swimsuit down the surf at sunset. I am the woman who lives without boundaries.

I am that woman.

The one who sees couples in airports and wishes she had a partner to see the world with but knows that instead of sitting around in the meantime, she will do as much of it by herself that she wants. The woman that makes friends wherever she goes, who gets lonely sometimes but pushes through to do what she wants to do. I am that woman who, no matter the circumstances, honors commitments with her dreams, her life, and herself.

I am that woman.

The one who lives in the proud pronouncement of herself and who she is. I am the woman who lives the words, “OWN YOUR JOURNEY” and tells her story with purpose and duty. The one who wears her life proudly in her scars and tattoos, the intensity in her eyes, the conviction in her voice, the reverb in her steps, the power in her posture. I am the woman who has owned her journey.

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The Confession.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”

My voice shook as I spoke.

“It has been two years since my last confession.”

“Go on, my daughter, and tell me your sins.”

The priest’s voice was low, quiet. Unfamiliar. That was by design – I’d driven 20 miles from my apartment to a church in the middle of woods. It was easier that way. I took in a deep breath, but only a squeak came out.

Get it over with, I told myself. Just say it.

“Father, I’m guilty of gossip. Jealousy.” The venial sins came out first, as they always did. It was almost easy to confess them.

“And…” My heart beat faster. My hands grew sweaty, slipping against the wood. I stared at the divider between us. White, cloth mesh. The priest’s dark outline, on the other side.

“I did something terrible, a year ago.”

Silence.

The kneeler bit into my legs. The stuffy heat pressed into me. He has to accept my confession. Has to absolve me of my sins. Right? As long as I am genuinely, heartily sorry… which I am. The mesh swam before my eyes; the shadow behind it shifted.

“I hit someone.”

Once I’d lanced the wound, it all came bursting out of me. “I knew I had too much to drink. I knew I shouldn’t have been driving. But I did. I sat behind that wheel, started my car, and –”

“Who was it, my daughter?”

His voice was surprisingly calm. No scream, no gasp, no groan of horror. I wondered briefly how many confessions he’d heard like this. Confessions past the normal realm of jealousy, anger, infidelity, theft.

How many murders had been confessed within these walls?

“I don’t know. That’s — that’s the worst part, Father. I just kept driving. I didn’t… even stop.”

My voice cracked. Tears burned in my eyes. “I didn’t check if they were still alive. Didn’t call an ambulance. Didn’t…” “I understand, my daughter.”

It was out. I’d told him everything. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I sobbed. Gaining composure, I said in a shaky voice: “Those are my sins, Father, and I am so sorry.”

Silence.

It stretched into seconds, then minutes. The hot air pressed into me. My knees ached. Finally, I spoke. “Aren’t you going to absolve me, Father?” His voice came from the other side, loud and clear.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“What? Why not?”

“Because I’m not a priest.”

Horror thundered through me. “What do you mean, you’re not a priest?” No reply.

Who is he? A police officer? A man, waiting to do something terrible to me? Somebody… I lifted myself up from the kneeler, legs shaking, and peered around the divider.

I froze.

No one was there.

“What the hell?” I whispered.

“Wherever you are, I’m going to –”

“Kill me?”

The voice came from behind me. I reeled around – a shadow flickered across the mesh, now on the other side. Where I’d just been kneeling.

I immediately ran over to the other side. But the kneeler was empty.

“Where are you?” I yelled.

“Everywhere,” the voice echoed back.

In a panic, I ran to the door. Grabbed the knob. Turned it as hard as I could.

Locked.

“Let me out!” I screamed.

The doorknob slipped and slid under my sweaty fingers. “Please, let me out!”

“No.”

The voice was low and raspy – right in my ear. I whipped around. Nothing there. Just that vague silhouette, behind the cloth mesh. It was standing, now. As if, at any second, it would dart out and grab me.

“Help me!” I screamed, banging my fists against the door. “Please! Help!”

“You know what you did.”

The voice seemed to come from every direction. Echoing, reverberating, growing louder and louder in overlapping whispers.

“You deserve this.” I threw my entire body against the door. It shook underneath me. Thump. I reeled back and threw my body against it again.

“Nothing can save you,” it continued. “You are beyond redemption. Worthless.”

“No!” I screamed, throwing my body against the door again. But I was weaker, this time. The guilt pulled me down like a weight of lead. “No… please…”

“Even if you get out that door, I will follow you. Wherever you go, I will be there.”

The voice was dark and low. The shadow was pressed up against the mesh, now. It looked wrong – misshapen, twisted, different. Like something trying to look human.

“No!” I screamed and flung my body against the door.

It flew open.

I fell onto the floor. Coughing. Gasping. Spluttering. “Are you alright?” a voice asked.

A priest stood over me. He extended a hand. Slowly, I climbed to my feet. I glanced back at the confessional — the room was empty. The shadow was gone.

I wanted to run. Out the door, into the parking lot, into my car. I wanted to drive and drive until I was miles away from this place.

Miles away from what I did.

But no matter where I went – it would follow me. It would flicker across my rearview mirror on the open road. It would live in the mist on the hotel bathroom mirror. It would lie in the spare bed, roiling and twisting under the sheets, as I lay wide awake.

“I will follow you anywhere.”

Raspy whispers filled my ears. A shadow flit at the corners of my vision. But I forced myself to look away. Forced myself not to listen.

I locked eyes with the priest.

“Father… I need to make a confession.”

Confession Booth

“Needy” Girlfriend.

I have always been that “needy” type of girlfriend. I want to feel loved 24/7 and know that my partner’s always in my life. Most of the guys I’ve dated have not been OK with me being needy, though. Still, I’m OK with being that girlfriend who needs time and attention. For better or for worse, my neediness is a part of who I am. It just comes with my compassionate, loving personality. I’m fine with being the needy girl because it makes my relationships feel like an adventure. When you spend quality time with your partner, it brings you closer and keeps things exciting. My partner knows that since I’m the “needy” girl, I’m always thinking of them. I want to know they are constantly thinking of me, too.

I’m the type of girl who needs to feel affection at all times. If I’m not feeling my partner’s love, I break down and worry that there’s something wrong with me as a girlfriend. I automatically doubt myself and fear that my own limitations are what’s pushing my significant other away. I just want to consistently feel like my special someone wants me. I don’t feel like that’s too much to ask. Yes, I need attention, but it is simply part who I am, and, quite frankly, I love being this type of girl. My passion and desire for intimacy brings so much to the relationship, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s important to love and want to be loved in return; that desire for attention is what builds the foundation for a great relationship. People often say that I’m too needy, but I always respond that I’m proud of who I am, even that needy part of me. Just because I’m the needy girl doesn’t mean I’m not “girlfriend material.” Being needy is what makes my heart whole. People try to say that girls like me are too high-maintenance, but we’re not! We just have desire more love. We’re the hopeless romantic type, and we’re always compassionate towards the people we love. My neediness is just part of the woman I am; take it or leave it.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a needy girl, and, honestly, I love it. There’s nothing wrong with girls who need love. Showing a person unconditional love and wanting the same in return is not a problem. So, needy girls, let’s embrace our passionate, beautiful souls, and love our neediness, too.

Having Strong Roots To Withstand The Storms Of Life.

Think of a current problem causing you distress. Imagine it as best you can without getting caught up in the details. Have you given any thought to why this experience is happening? I don’t mean the nit-picky details but the deeper lessons contained within the event? Perhaps you haven’t arrived at that point yet or you are still trying to make sense of it. Every experience, particularly the undesirable ones, come into our lives to teach us valuable lessons and insights about ourselves. We may experience frustration and turmoil because the situation occupies attention in our mind, as we come to terms with it. What do I mean by having strong roots to withstand the storms of life? It’s said, the tallest oak trees bury their roots deep into the ground to gather nutrients and stability from the external elements. Violent winds and Mother Nature can impose itself on the oak tree where it can topple over. We can take a leaf from Mother Nature (if you’ll pardon the pun) and create strong roots ourselves to weather the storms of life. None of us are immune to the ravages of life. There may be seasons where we experience joy and happiness and then suddenly we are neck-deep in despair and tragedy. Life may seem unfair and unexplainable when months earlier everything was going our way. Have you experienced this before? If so, what were your anchoring mechanisms to overcome it? What lessons or insights did you learn about yourself?

Sometimes, we don’t understand the lessons until months or years later, so it’s difficult to make sense of what is taking place. Other times, the storms blow upon us with great intensity, wreaking havoc and destroying our lives. It may seem like a disruption to our lives where we feel uncertain about the future. It is my experience that trying to explain unfortunate events adds to our pain and misery. I often counsel clients to avoid looking for meaning to their misfortunes but to flip the coin and look for the lessons contained within the experience. Meaning is subjective and depending on our outlook, we may interpret the event negatively or positively. If you asked those close to you, they might have a different explanation of the event. Rather than explain why things happen, it is best to look for the lessons that cultivate our personal growth. Are you comfortable with the idea that the storms of life needn’t damper our spirit, yet how we interpret it determines how we move forward? Sometimes, it may require revisiting lessons from the past to reinforce our understanding of an event. Sometimes, lessons reappear in different forms until we learn what we need to. It may be frustrating since there is no guide or teacher to tell us when the lesson will appear. We may have to revisit the same experience until we have enough and give up. However, in letting go we may finally learn what we need to. No two journeys are the same since we are all on different timelines, depending on our level of consciousness. For those who are awake and aware, they may realize the lessons sooner than those who are asleep. The more aware of what life is trying to teach us, the less pain and suffering we will endure.

With this in mind, I’d like you to return to the opening question in which I asked you about a current life problem causing you distress. After you finish reading this article, write a list of five lessons the experience is trying to teach you. You may find it difficult at first because your focus will be on the negative aspects of what is taking place. I invite you to push past it because it will help you release your resistance to what is taking place. Once you’ve written five lessons, sit on it for a day or two and place it somewhere you can see it, such as your bathroom medicine cabinet, bedroom mirror or fridge. Continue asking the following question over the coming days: “What does life want me to know about this experience?” Be attentive to what shows up in the form of an impulse, a feeling, images, words or otherwise. Life communicates to us in familiar ways, so pay attention to your surroundings. It is when we create strong roots to withstand the storms of life, that we will learn what we need to about our life’s narrative.

KOS, GREECE – JUNE 03: Lightning strikes over the Greek Island of Pserimos on June 03, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Migrants are continuing to arrive on the Greek Island of Kos from Turkey who’s shoreline lies approximately 5 Km away. Around 30,000 migrants have entered Greece so far in 2015, with the country calling for more help from its European Union counterparts. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

What’s Your Purpose?

I hope you remember your purpose. That inner voice that speaks to you every single day. The voice that doesn’t take “no” for an answer and believes in everyone’s best intentions. I hope you listen to it and follow through with every promise you make. I hope you believe in yourself just as that voice believes in you. It speaks your words into actions and forces you to follow your dreams. To apply for that position. To adopt that dog you’ve been eyeing for ages. To rise to your full potential. I hope you remember your purpose. The force that drives you in the right direction and blows wind into your wings. That force will never let you down. It will keep you inspired and motivated until you reach all your goals. It might feel like a small push or like a giant wave of courage flowing through you, but make sure to listen to it when it comes.

Your purpose is eternal and destined only for you. No one else can accomplish the things you’re meant to accomplish. Thus don’t compare your purpose to someone else’s. It’s yours and yours only to achieve. And you have to know that. I hope you remember your purpose. It’s the one thing that keeps you alive and well. It follows you day in and day out and makes you who you are. Don’t let fear and comfort zones to dim that light that’s within you. Fight for your purpose and don’t let it die. You won’t get another one. Nobody’s destined to fulfill your purpose – you’re the only one who can do it. And I know you will. You’re strong, powerful and successful – no one can tell you otherwise. Whether your dream or purpose is inventing the cure for cancer, spreading positivity everywhere or helping others grow, never stop doing so. It’s the only thing that will save you and keep you alive. The only thing that you should aspire for throughout your life. I hope you remember your purpose.

Because if you don’t, what else is left?

Pretty Privilege Check.

The old saying goes “beauty is only skin deep;” however, one could argue that the importance of beauty is deeply rooted in our culture, a social currency much like gold within a superficial society that judges harshly and often. Our perception of what is beautiful influences not only what we are attracted to, but how we are treated, and more importantly, how we treat others. While there are body positivity movements shaking the foundation of our Barbie doll culture, we cannot ignore that within a society with impossible standards of perfection, to be pretty is to be privileged.

Beauty isn’t everything, but it sure fucking helps. I pride myself on my intelligence and unparalleled sense of humor, but when I walk out of the house looking homeless, I am treated noticeably different. And no, I am not treated differently because I feel differently; I am treated differently because my skin is blotchy and I’m not wearing eyebrows, so I appear continually apathetic. I am treated like a second class citizen, because whether or not we want to admit it, how we look initially matters, unfortunately. I am in no way worth less because I’m not wearing makeup, but I’m almost certainly going to hear “Are you sick?” more often than usual. Contrary to Beyoncé’s beliefs, girls do not run the world—pretty girls do.

I want to clarify: Privilege does not imply that everyone else is sentenced to a mediocre life of hardship. It only means that some may find that life has a few less barriers. We all have ways in which we are privileged and ways that we are oppressed, for lack of a better term. Some face oppression due to their socioeconomic status, some due to their race or immigration status, some due to their sexual orientation, and some because their aesthetics differ from what society deems beautiful.

Truth be told, looks are not everything. There are many incredible humans that have achieved more than most could hope for, like people that have graduated from Harvard or hiked the Pacific Crest Trail after age 30, but let us not pretend that graduating Harvard while looking like Gal Gadot doesn’t come with a few added perks.

While, as both a feminist and a human being, I agree that our society’s emphasis on looks is shallow, I do not feel that I have the right to discredit another women’s experience. I agree that we should love ourselves as we are, but I also acknowledge that societal pressure is a bitch. We have all struggled with insecurities at some point, and they were never cured by someone saying, “You’re a beautiful person, who cares what other people think?” The answer: almost everyone. We are social beings, and to pretend we are not impacted by outside feedback is ridiculous. I believe that women should feel free to change what they dislike without criticism from privileged women that look like they could be on the cover of Vogue.

No one struggling with weight wants to hear a skinny woman tell them to “just love yourself.”

No aging women feeling insecure about her skin or body wants to hear from a twenty-something-year-old about the importance of aging gracefully.

No women struggling with her changing body after pregnancy wants to hear “You’ll bounce back, just cut your carbs!” from a person with abs, a tight ass, and boobs that aren’t lactating through their lululemon sports bra.

If you are privileged enough to love your body the way it is, then congratulations! You have beat the unreasonable beauty standards set in motion by the patriarchy and Sephora — you have won. But understand that others are not made for the cover of Sports Illustrated and have the right to do what they wish to feel okay about themselves without scrutiny.

I personally am not a huge fan of breast implants. Having large breasts myself, I never understood the need or purpose of breast augmentation, and if one of my partners ever suggested it, I promptly pointed them toward a woman without cleavage. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty proud of these D cups, and for that reason, I get to shut up when it comes to another woman’s decision to change her body. I do not know what it is like to wake up every day, look into the mirror, and dislike what I see, so I do not get to judge.

If a woman wants to wear makeup to cover her acne scars or get Botox to slow down the effects of raising screaming children and working 40+ hours a week or get a tummy tuck after having said screaming children, it’s not our place to demonize them. We protest when men in positions of power tell us what to do with our bodies, but then some of our own gather after yoga class to make ugly, holier than thou remarks about the woman that got liposuction for her 40th birthday. As feminists, we are here to support each other, not burn each other at the stake.

Should we as human beings be reduced to simply how we appear? Of course not. Is the media to blame for setting such an unreasonably high bar of perfection? Almost certainly. Does focusing on appearance create issues, such as depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders? Undoubtedly. But we would be foolish to pretend that beauty does not matter and insensitive to discount the experiences of individuals struggling with what beauty means to them.

They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so shouldn’t each one of us be given the freedom to decide how we wish to appear? Changing hair color, wearing makeup, dieting — none of which mean that we hate ourselves, only that we all love ourselves differently. And so before we sit on our thrones of self-love and tell others to just accept themselves as they are, we must recognize our privilege and understand that each one of us has the right to feel okay in our own skin.

For those that wake up flawless, completely natural, and smelling of lavender, we salute you, but some of us need some concealer and mascara to feel sassy and we should not have to apologize to the self-righteous powers that be. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline, and maybe it’s none of our damn business what another woman does to feel beautiful. Before shoving our unsolicited self-confidence down the throats of other women, we should first check our privilege.

One More Time.

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but you can get through this. You can dig yourself out of this hole. One more time. 

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but you will be able to walk with a smile on your face every morning again without thinking about the pain you’re enduring or the weight you’re lifting or the burdens you’re carrying.

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but God is listening, somehow, somewhere, he sees what you’re going through and he is not going to leave you in this mess alone. He won’t leave you unattended. He will not let your prayers go unanswered when He’s your only hope.

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but someone out there is making their way to you to make your life a little bit easier or carry some of your burdens with you. Someone out there wants to be by your side, so you don’t have to face it all alone. Someone out there wants to make up for all the things that you were deprived of and all the people you lost. Someone out there wants to make you happy.

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but whatever is hurting you will soon just be a bad memory. Whatever you think you can’t get over, whatever you think you can’t replace, and whatever you think you can’t handle won’t be a constant in your life. Maybe it’s been the same cycle or the same pattern, maybe it isn’t getting any better, but it’s all about to end soon.

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but the things that aren’t making sense to you are about to form a certain picture that you can see clearly when the time is right. The dots are about to connect so you can solve the riddle. The closure is coming to you. The lesson is being learned. You’re on your way to better and bigger things.

I know it doesn’t look like it right now, but you can still fight. One more time. You’re so close. Don’t give up now. It’s always the last key in the chain that opens the door and it’s always the hardest few seconds in the race that makes you a winner. It’s right before the happy ending that everything goes wrong so you can try to make it right. So you can safely say the worst is over and it can only get better from here. I know you’ve said and done it all before. But I need you to say it and do it all over again. You’re almost there. So believe and prevail. One last time. 

Because the truth is, we will all get our share of the good and bad days. We will have our breakthroughs and our breakdowns. We will all get our twenty seconds of fame and glory, and we will get our twenty seconds of misery and disappointment. We will all get our share of joy and sorrow but the trick is not to let our sorrow linger or let our joy delude us. The trick is to bounce back quicker than we fall and look forward to a brighter future instead of dwelling on a darker past. The trick is to keep believing that you’re stronger than your pain and you will surely overcome it.