Life Lessons Learned and Highlighted in Year 26

I turned 27 last week during a trip abroad. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my 26th year. It was an incredible year, filled with a lot of change and growth. That’s not to say it didn’t have its low points… every year does. Let’s be real… every week does!!! But overall, I’d have to say that 26 was epic. I’m grateful that it’s the highs that stick out, the lows (which felt pretty low at the time) have seemed to fade away, and my memories from 26 are almost all positive ones. There were a lot of things I learned this year and a lot of lessons that were highlighted throughout the year. I wanted to share the lessons that have really stuck with me, as well as some of my favorite photos taken in my 26th year.

girl behind camera

Be authentic and you will always be ahead

Being in an industry largely based in social media, at times, has been really  hard for me. I want you all to know who I really am, and I want to build a meaningful, trusting relationship with ya’ll! It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game in this industry. What I’ve realized is the only thing that really matters is being authentic. Sure, I may grow slower than the girl next to me and surely, I’ll grow slower than the girl buying all these fake followers…. But if you choose to be you and stay authentic, you will always be ahead of those who are not. In this industry and all across the board. Stay authentic, be proud of what you’re doing, and don’t let others fake behavior bring you down! 

It’s ok to not have everything together

I know, especially in watching people’s lives on social media, that it can seem like some people have everything together all the time. Let me assure you… they do not. Nobody does. I’ve realized that it’s OK not to have everything together. It’s OK to say, “I’m not having the best day” in response to “How are you?” instead of always saying “I”m great!” It’s OK to be stressed and overwhelmed. Nobody can have everything together all the time. On the days that seem so messy…revel in it! Enjoy the mess, remember that you’ll have things together better the next day.

Fake it til you make it!

Going to be totally honest here… nobody knows what the hell they’re doing at first! Each new thing is a shot in the dark. I remember listening to a fab woman speak at a conference this year. She holds an extremely high executive position as McDonald’s (definition: boss ass bitch) and is killing it in her career. She told a story about interviewing for one of her first larger jobs quite a few years prior. She really wanted the job and during the interview they asked her if she knew how to do X, Y and Z. She said, absolutely you can count on me, when in her head she was thinking OH CRAP, I have no idea how to do this so I’m sure going to have to figure it out quick! Moral of the story, everything is untouched ground until you’ve done it once. Nobody started as an expert, so keep your chin up, smile like you know what you’re doing, and fake it til you make it, girl!

Be true to who you are and you’ll always be proud.

It’s ok to say no to things that you can not stand behind. If you’re being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, uneasy or question your morals, just say no. Be true to who you are and what you believe, and you will always be proud.

Take every opportunity & worry less about the cost.

Money will come and go, but an incredible opportunity may only present itself once. So I say, book the ticket, take the trip, visit your family, attend the conference! Whatever it may be… DO IT. You may have to work a little harder to pay for it later, but that is ok. You only have one life… so live it!!! You know what they say: work hard, play hard!

joshua tree reflection

Say YES to things that scare you, and learn to say NO to things that don’t benefit you.

Change and new things can be scary for sure! But chances are, in the end they’re going to be great and are going to help you grow and move forward. Take a deep breathe and say YES to the things that scare you. On the flip side, learn to say no to things that don’t benefit you. It’s OK to pass on a night out or a favor for a friend that’s totally going to stress you out that day. There’s no shame in saying no to something, especially if it’s best for your mental and physical health.

People may no longer be apart of your life and it’s ok to not feel badly about it.

This is something I really struggled with this last year. I lost a good friend for a reason that, for a while, really hurt my feelings. I felt misunderstood, hurt, upset and confused. I tried my best to mend the friendship, calling frequently and texting weekly to try my part to be a good friend. Their negative energy continued to be draining, and finally I realized…. you know what, it’s ok. There must be a reason this person is no longer a positive part of my life, and maybe I just need to let it go. After months of trying, I stopped calling and texting and didn’t receive any communication in the other direction. I realized, friendship is a two way street. If she was willing to drop me as a friend that easily, then she probably wasn’t a great friend to begin with, and there was no reason to continue to be drained by her negativity. Since I accepted that it was ok, I actually felt much better. There were no mean words or actions exchanged, no falling out… we just grew apart, and I learned that it’s ok that it happened, and it’s ok to not feel badly about it.

Do what you LOVE. If you don’t love what you do... time to make a change. 

I can’t stress this one enough. You have ONE life to live. If you’re unhappy in what you’re doing, it’s time to make a change, ya’ll. Yes! Change can be scary, inconvenient and difficult, but it’s almost always worth it! You deserve to enjoy each day and be happy and proud of what you’re doing. So, if you’re not, I challenge you to face yourself and face what is making you unhappy. Once you’ve figured it out, eliminate said things and make changes in your life accordingly. If you’re one of those people who dreads every Monday…. I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’re doing life wrong.

Take RISKS!

Great things rarely come from comfort zones. So take leaps, take risks and make moves! It’s not easy but it’s almost always worth it.

joshua tree acres

Love hard and don’t settle!
Decide what you’re looking for, put yourself out there, and don’t settle!!! Be exactly who you are in life and in a relationship. If the person you’re seeing doesn’t appreciate you, let them go. Don’t change yourself to please someone else, especially in the beginning! You will find someone who loves every part of you. I always found it so silly to not text or call because you don’t want someone to think “you’re crazy” or “overbearing”. If you have something to say, say it. If you want to text or call, do it. If they don’t want to hear from you, you probably don’t want to date them anyways. So, I say, put your full self out there. If someone doesn’t appreciate it, it’s better to get rid of them sooner rather than later so you can find your person. You deserve to be treated beautifully, and I fully believe that you will receive what you give. So love hard and don’t settle. Isn’t that what you want in return?

Smile. Every. Single. Day.
Life is way too short to have bad days all day. Of course, every day is not going to be made completely of rainbows and unicorns. Some days are going to be really hard. Some days you’re going to cry and feel down, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. Life is all about balance, and if everything was always perfect, life would be really boring. I challenge you to, even on the worst days, find a smile. Think of something you’re grateful for, look at photos of a happy memory, call someone you love, and let yourself find at least one little smile, even on the worst of days.

Work your ass off!
Nothing is going to be handed to you, ya’ll. If you want something, WORK FOR IT. Set goals, big ones, and work your ass off until you reach them. I like to set smaller daily and weekly goals which help me work towards the bigger yearly goals, or as we like to call it, “the five year plan”. It’s a lot less daunting to be able to reach lots of little goals on the way to those huge ones, versus setting one gigantic goal that takes years to reach.

Live as if you can’t make plans for tomorrow.
This one sounds cheesy but couldn’t be more true. You DO NOT know what the future holds. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. Don’t go to bed angry, don’t say: I’ll do it tomorrow, don’t hold a grudge. Do everything when you have the opportunity to do so. Say “I love you” a lot, be a person you’re proud to be, and live a happy life. Piggy-backing on one of the above points… if you’re not happy, make a change!

Learn about new places, people, cultures.
In my opinion, it is so important to learn about the world outside of our little bubbles. One of my favorite quotes is by a French novelist named Gustave Flaubert. He wrote: “travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” This quote has always resonated with me. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the “stress” and “busy-ness” of our privileged lives that we forget how privileged we are. This world is HUGE and our way of living is far from the only one out there. I challenge you to learn about (visit if you can) new places, talk to new people, learn their stories and explore their cultures. Accept new perspectives and opinions, and open your heart and your mind to other ways of life. Always remember what a tiny place you occupy in this world.

joshua tree acres

EAT EVERYTHING! Life’s too short to count calories. 
Disagree with me if you want…. but one of life’s greatest joys is FOOD. I hate nothing more than a picky eater, mostly because it angers me that they are allowing themselves to miss out on this great joy. Try EVERYTHING! When you travel, embrace the local food; it’s a huge part of culture and chances are… you’re going to love it! My great uncle in his adorable, broken english always said: “When I happy, I fat. When I sad, I skinny.” Point being, just eat the food. It’s going to nourish your soul.

Take time to be selfish and do things for YOU! Self care is so necessary. 
It’s really easy to get caught up in doing everything for your job and for the people you love. Sometimes I go days or weeks and realize I haven’t done something for myself that doesn’t relate to work. I used to feel badly about taking time for myself… But I’ve realized, that self care is so necessary for our well being and our sanity. I challenge you to find that time every day to do something for yourself that you truly enjoy. That could be going for a long walk with your kids or dog, making it to your yoga or pilates class, doing a 10 minute meditation, calling your best friend, cooking your favorite meal, treating yourself to a few minutes alone with your coffee or taking time before bed to talk about your day with your partner. It doesn’t have to be something big like a spa day or trip… but everyday, it should be something.

Remember- you are stronger than you think. Keep swimming, babes.
Nothing you can’t handle is going to be sent your way. No matter how bad things get, how low you are, what tragedy you’re mourning…. you CAN and you WILL get through it. Remember that you are not alone. Lean on those around you. If you need help, please please have the courage to ask for it. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. EVERYONE has difficult times. Even if you have to look past your direct circle, there are people who can and who will help you. I promise if you keep swimming, one day you will look back on your lowest lows from a place much higher with a smile on your face.

Love ya’ll so very much, and I am so grateful for another year around the sun with you.

Thank you for being my people.

xx Ali

Photos by: Sam Grant

The Perfect Friendsgiving

A big thanks to Cupcake Vineyards for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

cupcake vineyards friendsgiving

Every year, while I’m still deep into my Thanksgiving food coma, I look forward to my Friends-giving the following Saturday! While the actual turkey day is delicious, there’s something special about being with friends that have become our family! There are three families that have known each other since childhood that all get together for food, fun and laughter, and it is the best reunion! We have an annual white elephant gag gift exchange which is always hysterical! My abs already hurt from laughing in anticipation. I am so thankful for these relationships and can’t wait for Saturday!!

Friendsgiving outfit and food
Friendsgiving drink ideas Cupcake Vineyards
Cupcake Vineyards holiday drink ideas

Like any holiday (and Friendsgiving is totally a holiday, DUH), part of the fun is, of course the outfit! This year, my whole look is from one of my favorite little Chicago boutiques, Alice & Wonder. The pop of sequins adds the perfect amount of fun to an already fun occasion! And there’s no better excuse for sequins than the holiday season! I went with a simple, cozy short sleeved sweater on top and the perfect white holiday season coat which makes the outfit look and feel so luxe!

Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco

Something that’s always important when attending a holiday in someone else’s home is finding an appropriate hostess gift! I always love to give what I’d love to receive, and that’s a great bottle of bubbles! My current favorite is Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco! This bottle bursts with aromas of white peach, honeydew and grapefruit that will go splendidly with the Friendsgiving meal we’re bound to devour! My mom always told me no matter the occasion, big or small, there’s always a reason to pop the bubbly and celebrate life! I couldn’t agree more, and the best gift is always something delicious to all enjoy together!

Friendsgiving outfit ideas

Cheers to each and every one of you! Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for your love and support always, but especially, this week.

xx Ali 

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