As part of my self-discovery journey, there are two things I’ll be doing this Thanksgiving which I highly encourage you to try. First, I plan on peeling off more layers; by writing this post, journaling on a daily basis, and speaking my truth, I intend to become more comfortable with my vulnerability. Second, I’ll exercise gratitude throughout this day (and every day going forward) for each obstacle, challenge, and hard-learned lesson life has thrown my way.
How can you join me? By doing the same. Open up, write it down, be honest with yourself, and be grateful for everything you’ve experienced. If you feel like sharing what comes out of this exercise, tag me and use hashtag #VulnerablyBeautiful, and I promise I’ll give it all the love it deserves. K, here we go.
In the past, I’ve talked about being comfortable in your own skin and the beauty of self-expression. After the reality check of a year that 2017 has been for me, I realized there was still a lot I needed to work on in terms of openly accepting and embracing my vulnerability; I had to dig deeper.
As part of my kundalini yoga practice—which I began back in August—I’ve learned how Hinduism teaches us to be thankful for the situations and individuals who have challenged us the most as they pass on to be the best teachers life could ever give us. These experiences also help us build the strength and resilience needed to surmount life’s most demanding challenges.
It's funny because, in hindsight, I’ve left myself little reminders of these "rites of passage" in the form of tattoos. The photo series which accompanies this blog post captures them perfectly.
Yes, I have six tiny tattoos and each one holds a special meaning—somewhat like a friendly reminder. To peel off as many layers as possible, I thought it would be best to start from the outside looking in. I truly have to thank photographer Junior Jimenez for capturing the essence of these "life lessons in ink," and now it's my turn to crack them open.
Vulnerably Beautiful Reminders
Time Will Tell
I've always joked I should've gotten this one tattooed on my forehead but the left wrist will do. 'Time will tell' was my very first tattoo. I got it back in 2011 while I was doing a study abroad in Madrid. At the time, I was still getting familiarized with the notion that nothing is permanent in life and change is the one constant element which will never fail us. In my idealistic world, at 21 years of age, 'Time will tell' was a hopeful reminder that just because things didn't work out in the 'now,' it didn't mean they couldn't work in the future. Today, I envision it differently.
Peel-off: In essence, time has taught me a great deal. Things grow and they fall apart. Change is inevitable. Time has also taught me that what's meant to be shall not pass you, even if it's only meant to be for a brief period; acceptance is key when it comes to life's uncertainties.
I can proudly say I got the infinity tattoo on my upper back before it became wildly popular. You can't imagine how many people have asked me if I got it because of the show 'Revenge.' Bye. Alright, alright, in all seriousness, this tattoo was a promise I made to myself in 2012. A night out with my gal pals ended up in a solid realization: No matter where I am, what I'm doing, or who I am with, I should always put myself first. Period. And after a long chat and a couple of drinks, I got this tattoo.
Peel-off: I've always been a giver, and this isn't a bad trait to have at all! The problem is when you take it to extremes and end up giving way too much of yourself to people who don't value or reciprocate this. Whether with friends, family, or partners, you should be mindful of how much of yourself and your time you are willing to give to others and what exactly are they giving you in return. Because you're way too valuable to be anybody's doormat.
The cross happened shortly after I moved to NYC. My first few months in the city were loads of fun! Going out almost every night, meeting new people, exploring the wonders of a cosmopolitan city; all very island girl meets Carrie Bradshaw. But the craze and newness of the big city life had me feeling a bit all over the place. Though I'm not religious at all, I've always been very spiritual. My family is Catholic, I attended private Catholic school growing up, and religion was a big part of my upbringing. I guess that in times of instability you tend to look for something to anchor yourself to—or at least I do—and faith (in the sense of believing in a higher power which I could turn to and who had my back) was my thing.
Peel-off: I've always felt the need to have something to center myself in. Acknowledging where I came from, my roots, my culture, and traditions have given me a sense of inner peace and belonging which I wasn't able to find anywhere else but within myself. Having the cross on my right rib cage felt like the perfect reminder. Today, I still look at it and know that no matter where life takes me, everything will be ok.
Heart on my Sleeve
This one is pretty self-explanatory. With me, what you see is what you get. Anyone who knows me can attest to this—I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm not ashamed of it. But being comfortable with my truth didn't happen overnight, it was a process. Over time, I just got tired of the bullshit. Then one day, back when I was a dandy ol' auditor for PwC, I was on a business trip in Seattle and decided to just go for it and got this tattoo. My honesty with myself and everyone around me is one of my favorite traits about myself and I wanted this to be as visible as possible.
Peel-off: Even though I'm all about speaking my truth, I have to keep in mind that not everyone is on the same wavelength. I carry this little heart tattoo with great pride but it also reminds me that just because I'm willing to give 100% honesty, it doesn't mean everyone else will do the same. Hence, forever and always protect your heart.
I got the paper airplane at the same time I got the heart tattoo. In summary, when things get real, travel light. Cut out the excess fat, drop the extra baggage. Life is too fragile and brief to be carrying unnecessary weight. Let. It. Go.
Peel-off: Letting go is an art in on itself, and the faster you master it, the more bearable life's challenging situations will get. If something is toxic, drop it. If something doesn't serve you, lose it. Latching on and sticking to what's comfortable, even when it's shitty, will only prolong the pain, suffering, and/or discomfort.
'Surrender' is my most recent tattoo and probably my favorite one. I got it about two months ago and it's in my handwriting. Learning to surrender has been the biggest lesson of 2017; surrendering to what is, what isn't, and to all which you can't control. Surrendering isn't a sign of weakness because there is an unimaginable amount of strength in accepting and embracing life's way of making things unfold. Surrendering is hard. Take it from the queen of making plans and having everything go exactly her way! I've gotten better at it because I've learned that life DOES NOT work this way. Releasing my need for control is something I’m consistently working on. Some days are better than others but what helps is reminding myself that the only thing I can control is ME and how I react to my environment/circumstances.
Peel-off: Surrendering to the now is probably one of the most challenging things for me to do but it is also one of the most liberating actions I've ever taken. Life is about choices, and though I can't control everything that happens to me or around me, I can always control how I chose to see it, experience it, and how it affects me. Always.
On Thanksgiving Day, It is vital for us to take inventory of how much we have in our lives: friends, family, our health, a roof on our heads, work, enough to eat, and so many other blessings. Let's be thankful for this and for the experiences which have molded us to be who we are today. Writing this post has been quite the experience. This is my truth and I'm glad I can share it with all of you in this space. As always, feel free to email, comment below, or share with me your thoughts. I always appreciate your kind words and honesty.