smiles for miles

2018 was pretty incredible.

I’m going to let myself be a little vulnerable with this post. I hope no one reads this and I hope everyone reads it. Vulnerability is a fascinating thing. Why would anyone subject themselves to an opportunity that could embarrass or hurt them? Why would anyone show an emotion that could label them weak or put a spotlight on their insecurities?

The answer is: embracing the uncomfortable will make you feel alive.

Vulnerability is the first thing I look for in people I meet. Let me into your guts, teach me WHO you are at your core. Show me the raw, gritty side of you. I think that being vulnerable is the most beautiful thing a person can be because within it lies truth and we spend so much time trying to hide that. There are SO many jerks in the world but if you sat down with one and they allowed themselves to open up to you, I can guarantee you would no longer think they were a jerk. Being vulnerable connects us to each other and aren’t connections the essence of existence? Be courageous to show your authenticity, and surrender to those that show you their soul.

Go outside, alone, and dance in the rain for the simple reason that it feels good. Don’t dance like someone is watching and you have to look good or be cool. Dance like no one, not even yourself, is watching, and see how that feels. Let your body move where it wants to move. Sing. Sing the wrong words. Don’t judge yourself for singing the wrong words. Make up words. Sing the right words. Scream. Let yourself open up emotionally and tear down the walls that society has forced us to build, boxing us into this little square space where only “perfection” is allowed to be seen.

Vulnerability is not weakness. Quite the opposite, actually. If you can embrace your weird, your truth, and appreciate the fact that there is no one else in the world like you, then own that, because that is strength.  If you can stop judging yourself for what you deem as your own flaws, happiness will start seeping into you like sun rays that sneak through branches of trees, and then you automatically stop judging everyone else for [what you had decided are] their flaws.  When we’re upset and someone asks us what’s wrong, and we respond with, “fine,” all we are doing is numbing ourselves to the emotions we WANT to feel, because society has taught us to “be strong,” “be perfect,” “be chill,” “keep up that poker face,” because “perfect” people don’t have flaws. I love flaws. It makes us human and it makes us unique and I will always be drawn to that.

I have learned so much about myself this past year.  Throughout my entire life people have told me that I am too nice. I too often go out of my way for someone else. They said these things to me as if they were flaws, but never in my 27 years have I seen this as a flaw. This was always something I took pride in. I always wanted to be there for other people. Yet somehow, I realized this year, that I have never allowed myself to be kind to myself. For about as long as I can remember, I was never fully satisfied with who I was as a person. Never pretty enough, smart enough, cool enough, athletic enough… the list goes on and on and on.  Then this year, something clicked and it became clear that if I allowed myself to be proud of everything that I am, and be proud of everything that I am not, I will be free.

I have a lot of theories on how this sudden change in my atmosphere came to light, but one thing is for certain:

This day in Iceland was the day I realized it. And this was just the tip of the iceberg. Once this happened, it opened the gates to a whole new level of growth.

Dylan and I had been living in a van for over a week. It was a blast, but it was definitely a challenge. Showers were scarce, hairdryers didn’t exist anywhere and air-drying is not an option for me because my hair would just never dry, and I had accidentally left my bathroom kit (including dry shampoo, face wash, lotion, EVERYTHING) at our first campsite on Day 1.  I definitely felt a little grimy by the end of the trip.

Our last day on the island we met up with Sam Wolsey. I had met this sweet, Irish angel on Instagram and we quickly became friends. We realized he would be in Iceland the same time we were, so we wanted to meet and he so graciously offered to take some photos of us.

I have never considered myself photogenic.  I don’t really like photos of myself. I never have. Add a week of #vanlife and I had some reservations about standing in front of a camera. My hair was starting to dread, my skin was a wreck. I had done my makeup that morning without a mirror (the mirror in the van was less like a mirror and more like a silver piece of shiny plastic).

And then I took a breath, looked out into the ocean, and thought to myself, “How cool is this? I’m in Iceland with my HUSBAND (still not tired of saying that), my absolute best friend, having a wild time, and now we get to document it. All because this special human and I made a connection and he wanted to give us the gift of a permanent memory.”  In that moment, I stopped caring what I looked like. Which is a pretty big deal when you’re about to have a photo shoot that literally captures forever what you look like.  I let myself be vulnerable in front of the camera, in front of Dylan, and in front of Sam. I understand this is a surface level accomplishment when it comes to being vulnerable, but you have to start somewhere.  I didn’t care if I looked stupid, or if I smiled so hard that one eye closed, or if I tripped on a piece of an old shipwreck and that was captured on film forever. I wasn’t trying to look good.  I didn’t care that Sam was photographing my physical flaws… because really, that’s not what he was photographing at all. He was photographing the connection between Dylan and me. He was photographing our laughter; the fresh air we were breathing; the wind we were feeling; the sun on our skin; the lightning in our eyes for each other.  He photographed a feeling.

These are my favorite photos of myself, and of us. In these photos, I do not see flaws. I see a couple in love. With each other and with life. I see two best friends. I see happiness. I see two happy humans, connecting with each other, and that’s what life is all about, right? In the ten years we have been together, these photos are most representative of us.  If I had been concerned with how I looked, I would have been focusing on that and these photos wouldn’t have turned out the way they did.  If I hadn’t been vulnerable, I wouldn’t be able to see how beautiful being vulnerable can be.

My message to all of my friends and to all of my strangers: I encourage you to embrace your weird and allow your authentic self to be known. Life is a lot more fun when you fully love yourself and stop fearing of what other people think of you.