My journey with fashion.

Fashion and beauty have been a true journey for me. I grew up as a total tom boy. For the longest time, I rocked Starter jackets, Jordan jerseys, and basketball shorts. Kindergarten through fifth grade, I went to a catholic school and we wore uniforms. The need to be cute just didn't register at the time. When I wasn't at school, I was outside playing with friends. The times were simpler back then. 

In middle school, everything changed. My dad got relocated with his company and we flew South with the birds. Talk about a fish out of water. Not only was I "yankee" (their words, not mine) in the deep heart of the south, but I was now the newest member of the public school education system. Sayonara uniforms. 

It quickly became apparent to me how much value clothing and "things" had on the life of an eleven year old, and it was then that I became fixated on fitting in and feeling accepted.

When I showed up on day one of 6th grade wearing Lee jeans, white sneakers, and a cream crew neck sweatshirt that said "South Carolina" on it, I knew my old "play clothes" from our favorite Pennsylvania department store wouldn't cut it anymore. I was clueless in a new town as I was totally nailing the tourist look and seriously lacking any knowledge of what was "in" at the time for kids my age.

I remember my dad one day telling me that if I got good grades they would take me to American Eagle and let me pick out a new shirt. American Eagle...a store I hadn't even heard of just weeks earlier, was now pivotal to my existence on planet middle school. 

So, I worked really hard over the next few weeks, and off we went. I will never forget that day. I will never forget how I felt walking into that store for the very first time, and I will never forget what the shirt looked like. It was red short sleeved shirt with a blue and white stripe on each sleeve and the words "AMERICAN EAGLE" stitched into the front. I loved that shirt. It was the shirt that I thought would change life as I knew it in the land of the unpopular. 

That Monday, I went to school donning that red shirt proudly. I still remember the confidence I felt walking in that day. I felt so good. 

After some time though, the kids began noticing how often I wore "the" shirt and it was at THAT moment that I realized that it wasn't just about having one "cool" shirt, it was about having lots of cool shirts. 

Owning a big wardrobe full of the best and most current clothes quickly became a big priority for me. When we moved back to Pennsylvania at the beginning of my ninth grade year, I remembered being determined to not let clothes be a reason that I didn't fit in. I would go months without wearing the same thing and felt an insane amount of pressure to look perfect every day.

Each and every morning of high school, it would take me a solid two hours to get ready. If I was having a bad hair day, it. made. me. so. angry, because inside I felt worthless. If I didn't look good, I wasn't enough. My worth hung in the balance each and every morning of the perfect outfit and the perfect hair.

Being made fun of at such a young age is something I have held on to for a really long time. I laugh it off most days when the stories get retold, but the damage it did to my self-esteem and confidence is undeniable. Last year, I turned 32 and sadly it has taken me all these years to address some of the issues that I have been carrying with me since the 6th grade.

Becoming more mindful and self-aware has given me permission to take back control. It has taught me lessons that I should have learned back then about being an individual. It taught me that "fitting in" isn't what is important in life... It taught me that perfection isn't necessary or possible even, and it has taught me that showing up as myself, without the pressure to be picture perfect every single day can be incredibly freeing. 

It has been so fun over the last few years to really dig in to my style. I am so classic. I love black, and most importantly, I love being comfortable. On most days you can find me in jeans and a t-shirt with a ball cap on and honestly, it's those days that I feel at home in my own skin. 

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When the ball caps are off, you can still find me in jeans and a top, but when I have the time, I love nothing more than spending 30 minutes putting on a full face of makeup and sassing out my mom hair. Curling my hair and putting on makeup while I listen to podcasts is like meditation to me. But, these days, I do it because it makes me feel good, and not because I have this need to fit in. 

All those years, I thought that the key to friendships and acceptance lived inside clothes. I thought there was a game we all played and if we showed up and did all the right things according to the Gods of childhood, that it would somehow mean that I had value and worth. 

I was just so wrong.

I love my style. I love how effortless it is to chose an outfit in the morning, I love that I can feel put together yet still get on the floor with the kids, and I love that I am finally embracing who I am at my core. 

Learning to love myself both inside and out has been such a journey for me. Anytime the self-critical thoughts come into my head, I quickly replace them with healthier ones. My go to lately is that who I am on the outside is a direct reflection of my family that I am so proud to be a part of. My hair color that is just like my moms, my squinty eyes that are just like my dads, it all reminds me of them and I love that. 

My biggest sources of motivation are the two girls who watch every single move I make. I want them growing up with that unwavering confidence that I didn't have. I want them to look their reflection in the mirror and see pieces of their own family members...pieces of me and of Joe. A family who will forever remind them of their greatness and the importance of showing up in the world exactly as they are. 

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There is nothing like the feeling you get when you are content with who you are. When you are proud of who you are and where you came from. The feeling of being accepted because of what is inside my heart and not because of an outfit I have on. It's an incredible gift, and I wish it for everyone.