My college roommate once stood before a mirror staring at a single blemish that had recently started forming on her face. Distraught over the tiny bump, she was fashioning a wall of concealer and foundation to block it from saying hello to society. I, in turn, stared at her without sympathy, feeling the burn of the mountain range-like cluster of pimples that had taken up permanent residence on the side of my face.
We were preparing for the first round of sorority rush, and heading in, I was feeling less than confident. The entire time I was making conversation and attempting eye contact, I had a sense that the potential future sisters had their eyes locked on my blistering blemishes. Uncomfortable and hating their perceived judgment, I ended up dropping out after the second round.
Eventually, after a slight shift in my developing hormones (apparently, I was a late bloomer) and giving lots of attention to my skincare routine – a gentle cleanser and light moisturizer, morning and night, even late nights when I desperately wanted to fall into bed – my skin began to clear and my self-assurance was on the up and up. I was able to look those sorority sisters in the eye the next time rush came along with enough self esteem to know they should be excited to welcome me with open arms. Added bonus, I could talk to boys – though calling it flirting might have been pushing it.
Content with my routine through graduation and as I entered the working world, it never occurred to me to make a change. My skin felt relatively stable with only a small blemish here and there. That is, until the working world took its’ toll. Late nights at the office combined with the stress of making sure every piece of work I tended do was my absolute best resulted in a second wave of skin dilemmas.
During one of many facials I’d started getting, my aesthetician mentioned that my skin could really benefit from regular exfoliation. There wasn’t a chance that I would let the spa technicians talk me into their over-priced products. I’m just not that kind of girl. So I set off to the drug store in pursuit of an affordable exfoliant, despite not having a clue what I was looking for. I wound up with the tried-and-true staple, St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub.
In my late 20s I no longer worry about feeling judged by petty sorority girls – just some clients, cute guys on the train, and sometimes the cashier at the local bodega. Mostly though, I don’t even have time for that. Deep down I know that working out, healthy eating, and tending to my skin (Cleanser, lotion, exfoliant, repeat) leave me feeling pretty good. Now, instead of keeping my eyes to the ground, I go about my day, head up, feeling vibrant in my own skin.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
While there might be a wee bit of confusion over who actually uttered these words first (a quick Google search indicates it could have been philosopher Lao Tzu, former UK prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, or grocery store owner, Frank Outlaw), this quote is the TRUTH. It’s clear that the key to our ultimate success — or failure — is through learning to control our thoughts.
In other words — positive thoughts lead to a positive life, and negative thoughts lead to a negative life. But whatever you want to call it — karma, The Secret, the golden rule — it’s all easier said than done.
First of all, you should know that it is not in my nature to act like one of those holistic, New Age, mindfulness gurus. I am a normal, 29-year old female who lives in a mid-sized city, has an 8-5 job, and turns to frothy Starbucks beverages far too often to solve the problems of the world.
Second, while I’ve read all sorts of articles about “how to become a more positive person,” it seems these articles always encourage people to start their day by clearing their mind through yoga and end their day by journaling about their moments of gratitude.
And this is where the positivity articles and I part ways.
I mean, come on. When I do yoga, I am solely concentrating on not slipping in puddles of my own sweat, and at the end of each day, I am much more interested in reading the Huff Post celebrity section than journaling.
But, like many of my peers, I would like to find a way to acknowledge positive moments and dwell less on negativity, gossip, anxiety, and worries. So, the question is: how can I shift my thoughts to be more positive without being all “namaste” and sappy? Here are a few experiments I’ve been trying lately to improve my outlook:
1. Surround myself with people who make me laugh. I’ve found that people who can make the everyday funny help me to appreciate normally mundane moments as “good moments.” For instance, there is a woman I work with who genuinely likes everyone she meets and finds ways to make anyone’s annoying habits seem quirky, funny, and delightful.
2. Verbalize my appreciation. I know I am guilty of not always fully thanking people, whether it’s a co-worker who goes above and beyond for me, or the checkout helper at the grocery store who makes sure to carefully bag my eggs. Telling someone out loud that you appreciate them doubles the happiness. Plus, it’s easier than journaling. Win-win!
3. Fake it ‘till you make it. When I feel negative thoughts starting to creep in, I try to imagine how my body language and facial expressions appear to others. Usually I’ve got a disgruntled, raised eyebrow and pursed lips — a testament to the fact that our thoughts really do become our actions. Realizing this, I’ve been trying instead to take deep breaths, lower my angry eyebrows, and uncross my arms. The result? I actually feel a tad more pleasant.
4. Acknowledge the moments that make me happy. There are little moments every day that I look forward to — whether it’s my drive to work, talking on the phone with my mom, or having a quick Gchat with a friend. And just because these things happen every day doesn’t mean I should simply disregard as them as “the usual.” I must acknowledge routine moments that bring me happiness.
While these little tricks aren’t quite second nature to me yet, my goal is to work hard to recognize the positives in my life, so gratitude and joy become a habit. Just like anything else, happiness is something we must work at to be successful — and for me, the end result is worth working for.
What are some ways you’ve learned to stay positive? How do you recognize gratitude?
Join the #NeverBeDull conversation! Tweet your thoughts to @Quarterlette and @StIvesSkin.
“London is our Never Never Land.”
This is how a late friend of mine described our experience living in the best city in the world. It’s undeniably true.
Living as an expat gives you the opportunity to grow up without growing up. It has provided me an escape from the “expected” path and the ability to carve out my own adventurous one.
A few years ago, as a mid-20-something living in the states, I was desperately craving something more…something different. I hated routine and wanted adventure. While most of my friends were busy checking items off of the “adult” checklist – getting married, having children or buying houses – I was dreaming of seeing the world.
When I was offered the opportunity to move to London for a job, I said yes immediately. For me, going to London was the first step in creating the life that I wanted, instead of the life that everyone expected me to live.
Moving abroad has been a constant source of excitement and wonder. Within the first month of being here, I was off to Beijing and Shanghai for business, on my own. Traveling in China alone was difficult, but amazing nonetheless. One of my favourite moments was visiting The Great Wall and standing there by myself looking over the hills. That memory is mine and no one else’s. I knew that trip would be the first of many, and I was on my way to finding what I was looking for.
Since that first month in London, I’ve travelled to 22 different countries, and over 65 cities. I’ve advanced my career as a global marketer and have been given opportunities that I would have never had if I had stayed in Philadelphia. The people I have met here – who are all in on the secret of this never-ending adventure – are now life-long friends with whom I’ve bonded with in a powerful way.
As I sit here today, on the verge of my 30th birthday, I realize that if I were still living in Philadelphia, I would never have reached my full potential or become the woman that I always wanted to be. Looking back on these past two years brings a huge smile to my face, but also so much anticipation for what’s to come next.
If London is my never, never land, then I never, ever want to grow up.
The world is full of certain irrefutable truths. Yes, you will at some point wear white and find yourself on a collision course with red wine. Yes, you will probably spend quite a bit of time over-analyzing a text only to respond with an underwhelming smiley face. But the very best of those irrefutable truths is the fact that through all of these little lumps in life, you’ll be fine.
I’ve been more than guilty of all of the above, and then some. I’ve been frightened about my life, worried that the things I want are too big. Somewhere in the thrum of the everyday, and all the chaos that we humans tend to create, I realized I’d lost some parts of myself that I loved the most. The fearlessness, the spunk. For so long I’d been dwelling on expectations rather than staying true to that drive.
One day I woke up and it all clicked: the only person I will ever hate to wake up to every day is me, and I better be happy with who that person is. Once that alarm sounded in my brain, it was as if someone turned the movie from black and white to Technicolor.
We have a choice, every single day: we can choose to drag our feet in this life as if we’re just punching a time clock, or we can dig into every moment. Being brave doesn’t always match the dictionary definition. Sometimes it means laughing when you spill the wine, jumping in headfirst, and celebrating the fact that you aren’t even capable of being dull.
“I’ve never been much of a morning person, so I’m always up for any help I can get. I love the boost I get from St. Ives Energizing Citrus and Vitamin C Hydration Lotion. The vitamin C brightens my skin and wakes me up, getting me ready for the day.
Photo by: Liz Teich
My favorite quote from the Academy Award winning costume designer, Edith Head, is: “You can have anything you want in life, if you dress for it.” I’ve always believed that fashion is an essential part of self-expression – my motto being, “Half of what you wear is how you wear it.”
Design and creativity have always played a significant role in my life. There was never a question in my mind that I would have a career in the fashion industry. I took art classes and attended summer programs and seminars that focused on art and fashion. I majored in fashion design in college. I made almost every decision with my goal of working in this industry in mind.
Landing what I thought was my dream job at a large, well-known designer brand a year after graduating from school was a great feeling…for a short time. But after awhile, I found myself feeling restless, desperately in search of a more creative outlet. I needed a project that was truly my own.
Working on my senior thesis collection, I found myself drawn to the details: embossed leather belts on the dresses, patterned bows on heels, fabric covered headbands. After finishing the collection, my interest in accessories continued to grow. A few years after college when I finally decided to take the leap and create my own line, accessories felt like a very natural starting point. I decided to call my company Nona E Rose, named after both of my grandmothers.
Producing a line of fashion accessories is exhilarating. It gives you the opportunity to design and create every season. I love how just one piece – a belt, necklace or bracelet -can completely change the look of an outfit. Within the first few years of running my business, boutiques and department stores I admired placed orders. Having my work on the shelf next to famous designers I had looked up to for years and selling to a whole new client base has been incredible. It’s great to go into one of the stores and see a customer excitedly trying on a new piece, sometimes in a way that I hadn’t even thought of!
Having a fashion line today is about more than making a product. It’s telling a story. I had to push myself to decide what else was going to be a part of the Nona E Rose Brand. It was a multi step process, from rebuilding the website on my own to launching a bespoke bridal division. It has been quite a journey and a true balancing act.
Pouring energy into evenings spent writing pitches and balancing budgets while still being on my game at 9AM Monday – Friday for a full-time job requires drive, focus, and too many cups of coffee. And, somewhere in the mix I have to find time to exercise, (try to) eat healthy, be a good friend and family member, be good to MYSELF, and maybe even get eight hours of sleep every now and again. But I wouldn’t give it up.
After 20-something years of living and breathing fashion, I realized that what I love most about style is the confidence it gives women. It’s tough to fit everything into a 24-hour day, but when a client tells me how great she feels in my work, I know it’s all worth it. The ups and downs of the creative process and building a business can be unnerving, but for me they have been a necessary part of becoming the confident designer and woman I want to be.
“Between running from the metal caster to the sewing room on cold New York mornings, the Oatmeal Shea Butter Hydration lotion keeps my hands hydrated and smooth for afternoon business meetings.”
I’m a runner.
Not by nature; it took me 25 years to morph myself into one. But I am a runner.
Truthfully, I spent most of my childhood dreading runs – especially the warm-up runs my coaches would put us through. My tennis coach keeping our runs as short as across the parking lot to the baseball fields and back was enough to make me love him. We were required to run as our field hockey off-season training. I interpreted that as subscribing myself to two-mile runs once every other week. If there wasn’t an object to go after, I was not interested. So I totally get it when people look at me, bewildered, and ask what makes me want to run.
It took living at home in Connecticut, commuting two hours in and out of NYC and no longer having a gym membership for me to fall into the arms of running. It was a slow love that started with forcing my feet into my sneakers every Saturday morning – the only time of the week I truly had to myself. Then I would talk myself into driving down to my favorite part of town, a quiet harbor and beach road in Southport. Once there it was the road, me and a week’s worth of pent-up stress. Two-mile walk-runs gradually pushed themselves to five-mile runs. One week at a time. I would come home glowing and reenergized. Like something had been reignited in me. It’s true – those runner’s highs are addicting.
With a little push (and financial help) from my parents, I finally took my advertising-assistant salary and moved into the city. Dropping four hours a day of commuting can have a religious effect on someone. It was as if I had the time to do anything I wanted. I went from running once a week to four times a week, particularly loving my pre-work runs that left me glowing and feeling vibrant all the way to the office. I am ever grateful to still have those morning miles to myself.
A little encouragement and peer pressure from fellow runners led to challenges of signing up for races and, eventually, being talked into a half marathon. I will say the process of getting to that start line is the hardest part. It takes dedication to weekly training runs (Lesson learned, I can’t skimp on dinner, sleep 5 hours, slug down a few beers and expect to run 10 miles in the morning. Never going to happen.) and mental preparation to get through the pain and self-doubt (Lots of looking in the mirror and saying “yes, you can run 13 miles today.”).
My completing a half-marathon was immediately answered with expectations to run a marathon. It took six half-marathons and a friend agreeing to sign up with me, but I finally took the plunge to commit to a full marathon and then took on a second one. Did I break any records? Ha. No. But I crossed the finish line each time and had the time of my life.
Truthfully, anyone can run. Like tennis, it’s 90% mental and all in how much you can take. My mind is what kept me going. I had friends in the crowd with me who I knew were sticking with it, friends and a boyfriend who ran alongside me and a fan club waiting to see me.
There’s something about the culture of the race that keeps you moving forward. We’re all working through the distance with individual goals in mind, but really we’re all tackling the sucker together – motivating each other with every step. You may not know the person starting next to you, but you sure as heck get excited when you see them emerge through the crowd after losing them for 3 miles.
Or perhaps, it’s just that it’s hard not to feel like a rock star when thousands of people you don’t know are cheering you on and screaming the name written on your shirt.
“On long runs I can’t help but think about how I’m going to recover after it’s all over. First I’ll start with a good stretch while lying on the floor, then I’ll drink a bottle of chocolate milk and, finally, I love to cover my body with St. Ives Energizing Citrus & Vitamin C Fresh Hydration Lotion. It makes me feel like I could do it all over again.”
Arriving in New York City fresh out of college at 22 years old, I couldn’t wait to jump into my new life and begin making my mark on the city. It didn’t take long for me to realize that even though I was now a real adult (kind of), this was just like any other life transition – I was starting over.
We go through this countless times – just as you finally master the complicated dynamics of middle school, you’re tossed right into the larger, even more complex world of high school. The same happens from high school to college, from college to the real world, and that cycle repeats each time we get a new job, move to a new city, or embark on any kind of new adventure.
Going from being a big fish in the small pond of my beloved college to a very small fish in the ocean of New York was overwhelming. Those first few years are a bit of a blur that looked something like this:
– Work around the clock at my first post-college job
– Run around from bar to bar with my girlfriends
– Sleep a few hours in my charmingly rundown basement apartment
I could go for days without seeing daylight.
For those first few years, it was all about me. And that was ok; I was just getting my feet on the ground. But as the years marched on, and I moved from my first job to one with more reasonable hours, and from my first dungeon-like apartment to a nicer one above ground, I realized that I wasn’t making my mark the way I had imagined. I hadn’t quite found my place.
I had started to feel a bit anonymous – like I was just part of the big gray mass of city dwellers streaming in and out of office buildings, subways, bars and restaurants. The city itself was constantly growing and changing for the better, and I was just along for the ride rather than being part of that amazing energy. I also realized that my entire life consisted of working and socializing, and that wasn’t enough any more.
So, when a friend mentioned that the mentoring organization he volunteered with was recruiting new mentors for the upcoming year, I jumped at the opportunity. Minds Matter takes in smart, motivated high school kids who come from low income backgrounds, and gives them the help and resources they need to get into college and ultimately be successful there. Volunteer test prep and writing instructors help the kids academically, preparing them for the SATs and improving their writing skills. As a mentor, I get to spend every Saturday afternoon with my mentee – an incredibly smart, sweet and poised 15-year-old girl – helping her navigate the world of high school, applying to college, and working to build a better life for herself.
Being a part of giving these kids a chance to go far beyond their own expectations and the confines of the situations they grew up in is so inspiring. Working with them has helped me to find my place, and finally feel like I am making my mark.
“With my dry, sensitive skin, moisturizing every day is a must-do. I like St. Ives Naturally Indulgent Coconut Milk & Orchid Fresh Hydration Lotion – the scent is like having a little bit of tropical vacation injected into every morning!”
Standing in the middle of a desert in the outskirts of Dubai last October, I felt more like myself than I had in awhile. Even though I was approximately 6,833 miles from my home.
I love to travel but I definitely won’t claim to have traveled all over the globe, because I have not. I wish I could be that person who runs off to a new exotic location every month, but no, that’s not me. While I have been lucky enough to explore a variety of destinations in my twenties, there are still so many places I dream about visiting…and months of saving that need to happen before I get there.
But regardless of how long it takes me to save, I try to make it a priority. Because leaving home and visiting somewhere new makes me feel energized in a way that not much else can. From rappelling down waterfalls in Costa Rica to dancing with friends through the streets of Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong to skiing down the powdery slopes in Colorado, travel brings out the adventurous, light-hearted, curious, live-in-the-moment side of myself.
It also brings out my independent side when I have to go exploring on my own. I’ve roamed through the streets of London, the ruins of Rome and the Souks of Dubai by myself while my travel buddies are busy doing other things. And there’s something so exhilarating about that, just grabbing your map (I love maps) and getting lost in the best possible way.
I think that travel is so special to me – and I’m sure for most people – because it’s an escape. It’s an opportunity to step out of my day-to-day life for a period of time and learn about other people, uncover new food, see picturesque landscapes, shriek (happy shrieks) during challenging and adventurous activities that I wouldn’t normally do, and simply not have to worry about too much besides soaking in the surroundings.
To me, never being dull means figuring out what gets you all giddy with excitement – in my case, travel – and finding ways to integrate that into your life. Maybe, if you’re lucky, it’s something that you can experience every day…like running (ok, who runs every day…I mean every few days). Or maybe it’s something special that you only get to experience once or twice a year, but with which you come away with incredible stories to share.
“The Naturally Soothing Oatmeal & Shea Butter Fresh Hydration Lotion keeps my sensitive skin feeling super soft – whether I’m on the ski slopes or just walking around my neighborhood in NYC. And I’m kind of obsessed with the spray feature!”
Coming out of the winter season, it’s easy to feel a little dull. Snowy days, grey skies, lots of time indoors, and strong heaters wrecking havoc on our skin can definitely have us feeling drab.
As we gear up for spring, we’re excited to help you get into the anti-dull mindset by introducing you to an awesome new partnership we’re launching with St. Ives. We’ve always been fans of the St. Ives skincare products (um, who didn’t use the Apricot Scrub growing up), but mostly we feel aligned with St. Ives’ new brand message: Never Be Dull.
We’re going to be honest with you, there are times when we definitely do feel a bit dull and not too exciting. Who doesn’t? It’s normal. It happens. It means you’re human!
That being said, we try our best to make those moments infrequent. Because the truth is, even if you spend all winter hibernating indoors or you spend every weekday living out the same 9-5 routine, there are still intricacies about you – your personality, your past, your experiences – that make you unique, vibrant and one-of-a-kind. Nobody is like you, and for that alone you’re never dull.
Once we started thinking about this, we realized that we wanted to hear from some of you about your own stories. So over the next few months, we’ll be doing just that by showcasing stories from fantastic women who try to live their lives with passion and purpose.
To kick it off, the Quarterlette ladies are going to share what never being dull means to us starting next week. Let us know what you think and be sure to join in on the conversation by tweeting at us with the hashtag #NeverBeDull.