Dear DiaryDress Up

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I put writing this post off for as long as I possibly could, likely because on some subconscious level 2017 seemed too difficult to sum up… but as I sit poolside in Palm Springs with a group of amazing, strong women, sipping lemonade made with lemons I *just* picked from the tree, I find myself flooded with the need to put it all down.

Better late than never right?

Though it had small, short-lived pockets of truly amazing, the past year overall certainly wasn’t my best. 365 days is a lot to sum up in a blog post, especially with most humans’ attention span being so short when it comes to digesting online content, but having been a writer my whole life, putting everything out there on “paper” feels like the best bookend to start a new chapter with newfound clarity. Last year I pushed myself to share the intimate details of an abusive relationship I was in, and it was amazing to see the support and connection it created – hopefully we can go into 2018 feeling just as connected!

So what made my 2017? I always read these wretchedly vague posts from bloggers this time of year that promise to be personal but shed little light on actual details. So I say bring on the TMI!

My 2017 was:

Over 3 months spent exploring California
6+ attempts to quit smoking (I think I’ve finally done it though!)
3 trips to New York
2 adventures in places I’ve never been before (NOLA + Havana)
Tried casual sex twice (spoiler alert: I AM TERRIBLE AT IT)
1 weekend spent in a tiny home on a vinyard
2 mended friendships
6 times deleting all of my online dating profiles (and just as many re-building them)
1 book pitch to a publisher
11 hair colour changes
1 new nephew (honorary nephew, but still!)
All the career success
5 heartbreaks.

But what about my #2017bestnine? I didn’t post it this year because honestly, it wasn’t correct! My biggest post of the year by a landslide was actually about my most recent breakup (for those of you who operate more visually, there was a rainbow and legs dressed up for a wedding involved). Though I still absolutely stand behind everything I said in that post about my frustration with men, dating, and lack of commitment, I realized that using one boy as the visual for that sentiment simply wasn’t fair – that relationship was wonderful up until the end, maybe one of my best ever, and though that boyfriend was the catalyst for the post, he certainly didn’t define the problem. I want to continue voicing my concerns about modern dating and trying to build a family on your own, but perhaps with a less “attack” direction on just one person (is this how Carrie Bradshaw felt sharing her dating stories?) In case you were wondering where that one went, now you know.

Keep reading if you want more

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If I’ve learned any one lesson this year, it’s that women can do whatever the hell they want. We are challenging society like never before, demanding that what we’ve come to accept as normal (aka #metoo) be acknowledged as what it really is: a total nightmare. With the momentum we’ve found coming together in 2017, I can’t wait to see what change is around the corner in 2018. No rain, no flowers, right?

2017 had a LOT of rain for me, so I’m making 2018 all about the bright, beautiful flowers. Personally I find the more I make my goals happen professionally, the more my personal goals seem to flee in the opposite direction (why is it that balance is always so difficult for women?) This year, everything personal takes precedent – what feeds my soul? What do I love? It means less parties, less material, and much more truth. I did a little survey on my page and all of you seemed to want more personal/dating stuff, so that starts here – get ready to get REALLY personal with me this year, likely in a lot of ways you didn’t see coming. I am preparing to take control of my life on the personal front in a BIG, terrifying way (guesses welcome) and I can’t wait to share the challenges and triumphs with you guys – I promise it will be unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever done before, and I hope you guys will be on board with the ups and downs.

Someone recently said to me “2018 is going to be your best year yet, because life is what you make it”, so let’s live up to that prediction – let’s make 2018 our wildest, best, most love-filled year YET!

Happy NYE everyone. See you on the other side.

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Dear Diary

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It’s impossible not to feel it with each passing year – the pressure. Yes, things move slower than they did in my parents and grandparent’s generation, with more focus on career and less on family life, especially here in the city, but the nagging anxiety is always still there.

I don’t often open about my dating life here, because in all honesty I feel so far behind my peers that it can be difficult to continue sharing heartbreak and Tinder date horror stories as the clock ticks on. For the most part, the blogging world is a place for ultra-cute couples, for engagements, weddings and baby showers. I feel proud to be a young, strong, single business owner (yes, I’m single again), but the tick tock sound gets louder and louder, threatening to overcome the roars of success and growth in my mind. As much as single life is glorified in the media, pop songs and beyond, I’m the first to admit being single is HARD, especially as I pass over the threshold from mid-twenties to the dreaded “late” spectrum.

A little mini tour of me, pre and post Instagram

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SKII Skicare just released a short film dealing with this very subject, and to say it hit home is an understatement. Originally intended for the Pan-Asian market, where pressure on women is perhaps even more predominant, it’s a global message that reaches all of us. The idea that women are undesirable after a certain age, or “expire” is a fear I’ve seen echoed in my friends, my sister, my mother and so far beyond. Between our biological clock and the battle against wrinkles and grey hair, it’s easy to get lost in expectations and forget to enjoy our reality.

I don’t know if I’ve ever really said this here before, but here goes: I love my life, but more than anything I want a partner, a wedding and above all, a family of my own. Each social post showcasing yet another happy couple with a sparkling ring or an adorable baby bump stings in its own little way, and for the first time EVER I’m hoping my birthday this Summer will slip by unnoticed, instead of my usual week-long celebration. I’m hitting the age that my mom already had both my sister and I, owned a home and was married to her soul mate. It’s easy to slip into the dark hole of thinking I’m running out of time, that my most beautiful sparkling days are behind me – but that’s no way to live.

As the short strives to communicate, we as women don’t expire – we get to decide our futures, and our value is based on so much more than being wanted by someone else. I recently saw a tarot reader who told me I need to stop trying to be so strong, to stop fighting, and just be here in this moment instead of throwing everything I have at building a future. I’m not a big believer in mystical prophecies, but ever since that night I’ve been trying to slow down, to enjoy everything I’ve built instead of trying to force what I want. After all, you can’t control everyone, but you can change your own destiny.

Header image by Jen Peters for DesignLoveFest

This post was sponsored, but all opinions are my own. To inquire about sponsored posts, please email jess@shineinfluencers.com

Dear Diary

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One of the hardest things to navigate as a blogger is where to stop, how much to share, when to block people out and when to let it all out. In a lot of ways blogging is about living your best life, especially a sparkly happy little blog like mine, so being real about the shit you’re going through can often seem nearly impossible.

That said, I think as bloggers we have a unique responsibility to share our pain, to let others know that they’re not the only ones questioning why life can be so hard and how to get through the next week. I try to be as honest as I can when it comes to daily posting, but the fact of the matter is, in a lot of ways, my life and my brand bleed together, and it’s become harder and harder to stay honest in recent months.

Sometimes, things are just too sad to say out loud, never mind write down. But I think it’s important to talk about what I’ve been going through the past year and a half. To hold myself accountable and ensure it never ever happens again.

I used to think I was invincible. Confident and strong with rock solid values and a great sense of self, I pictured myself as my own little planet with all of the mess of the world orbiting, but never actually touching me. I was happy with myself, my life, my friends, and everyday I woke up feeling, well, blessed, for lack of a better word.

But then something happened, something I can’t really explain in a logical way. In short, I let someone take my magic. I promised to protect it, and I failed. Despite all of my self value and strength, I ended up in an emotionally abusive relationship.

2016 taught me a lesson – no matter how successful and sparkly you are, how strong and full of conviction you feel, it is always possible to fall victim to abuse. If you let the wrong person in, it’s surprisingly easy to lose yourself, and honestly it was a terrifying feeling. There were days where I barely made it out of bed, days where I refused to call my mom because she’d sense something wasn’t right, and so, so, so many days spent crying in restaurant bathrooms. And yet I stayed, and the longer I stayed the more guilty I felt for letting myself and my loved ones down. It was a special circle of hell that I never imagined I’d find myself in, and no matter how I tried to convince myself to get out while falling asleep each night, each morning I went right back to the same toxic routine.

By the end of November this year, I had nothing left. I was a shell of who I used to be, and the sparkle others had once told me could light up a room was gone from my eyes. In my world, crying was received not with support and love, but with anger and punishment. I was too emotional, too over the top, too depressed and not “chill” enough. I was too much for him to handle, I was “stressing him out” with my feelings. No matter how hard I worked to be less sensitive and to act exactly how my partner wanted, it wasn’t enough, and the more I tried to be his ideal, the more I realized that didn’t really include any of the traits that make me… me.

I started to doubt everything – my passions, my job, my personal style, even my sanity. He wanted me to “just be normal”, to dress more basic and to stop caring so much. So I tried everything I could think of – I stopped bleaching my hair so it would grow longer like he wanted, I started waxing, I bought black and grey clothing over baby pink. I stopped letting my dog sleep on my bed. I vacuumed obsessively to try and erase any trace of hair so he’d want to spend time at my house. I loaded up on antidepressants to try and be “happier”. I stopped working out (until he pointed out I was getting “bigger” and eating too many treats), stopped seeing friends unless they were the friends he wanted to see, and worst of all became a bitter, judgemental, negative person that I had never ever been. He once pulled over his car and made to look at myself in the mirror as I cried hysterically, his voice beside me saying “Look at yourself, this is how you look every day.” The person in the mirror was someone I no longer even recognized.

On some of the darker days I didn’t know if I’d make it out of this whole mess alive. Every time he ended things (which was almost monthly) I’d start to feel better, but he’d always find a way to manipulate me back in, though we both knew he didn’t really care for me all that much – certainly not in the way I unconditionally loved him. I was totally trapped, like a robot programmed to follow, and he was happy to have full control.

But a few weeks ago, I finally did it. I got away for a week with my best friend, and of all the people I’d hidden my situation from, I couldn’t hide from her. She saw right through me, and helped give me the power and support to understand how damaged and lost I had become. On the last day of the trip my partner decided to tell me at 1 AM that “I made him the worst version of himself”, and that was it, I finally snapped. I had loved this person harder than anyone before, had showered him with gifts, paid constantly for meals and adventures. I adored his family, fell in love with his friends, and every morning when I woke up at his house I scrambled to clean his apartment for him so he could arrive home later that day not feeling stressed. I was a doormat, a person who lived to serve and only asked for love and commitment in return. And somehow, some way, I made him the worst person he could be?

That night I cut contact. I was paralyzed with fear. How could I be without him when I no longer even felt like myself? My confidence was shot in every capacity, my belief in true love and romance was shattered. No one even knew the extent of what had been going on because I’d hid it in the hopes he’d get better and we could have a happily ever after. I felt like a fool, and it seemed too hard to face the time I’d wasted and all I’d lost.

But over the past few weeks I’ve remembered how much I really do have. All of my friends welcomed me back with open arms and big hugs, and I started to feel inspired by my work again. A dark fog lifted from over my life, and I found everything was still shiny and colourful, just as I’d left it. For the first time in a long time, I felt light again, and that sparkle in my eye got stronger by the day. I even met a few truly magical new people who would change my life for the better in ways I never could’ve dreamt up. With newfound energy, I started making moves: I changed my flights home for Christmas so I no longer had to be on a plane with him. I sent him a final note explaining he would never hurt me again, finally ending things on my own terms. I returned his things and had a friend pickup mine. I apologized to the people in my life who had been affected by my absence and negativity.

And then, I booked a one way ticket to LA. I had always begged my partner to go on a trip with me, offering to pay in full if he’d tag along on an adventure, but he always avoided it, and I grew more and more restless. Now that I’m free I’ll be spending my new year in places like Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and maybe even Hawaii or Mexico. I’m on a short list to go swim with Killer Whales in Norway. My Staff wants to meet up in New Orleans. The world is literally my oyster, and for the first time since that first date last summer I finally have the dream world that I so carefully crafted BACK.

So that’s that- there are a lot of BIG beautiful changes coming up fast, and I hope you guys are around for the ride. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not just suddenly amazing, I’m human after all. There are days where I still miss him, where I just want to call and ask “why” or “how” he was even able to break me down like he did. What did he gain? Why me? In the end though, I know he doesn’t have anything to say for himself… he never did. So I’ve simply closed the last chapter and started on a new book. I’ve got a feeling this next one reads a lot more like a fairytale.

I wrestled with writing this at first, but in the end I think emotionally abusive relationships are so often glazed over, hidden for the sake of the partner. I refuse to protect someone who did so much damage to my life, and I hope if anyone out there reading this is in the same controlling, cruel situation, you feel the support and inspiration to free yourself too. It’s not your fault this happened to you, it could happen to anyone.

Last Christmas, I gave him my heart. When I got up the courage to say “I love you” he acted as if I hadn’t spoken.

This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.

Cover image via. Pinterest