Finding My Inner Strength

Finding My Inner Strength

Spoiler alert: nobody else was involved in it.
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"Strength" has varying definitions when looked up by the Merriam Webster Dictionary. My favorite, however, is "vigor of expression." The past few months have torn me apart, while simultaneously building me up. They have tested my strength both mentally and physically. However, it is through the trials and tribulations that I have found my own inner strength.

The 2016 election showed me just how different society sees me. As a liberal Democrat living in the Bible Belt, it can be extremely hard to find my own majority. I was a part of the outspoken majority of Americans against Donald Trump. My words commonly got twisted and blown far out of proportion as the election progressed into the circus it became. Expressing my political opinions showed me how different I was.

Being the "different" one is nothing new to me. Growing up, I was called the "ugly duckling that never turned into the swan." From the start, I was not destined to become the next Miss America. It was not just my looks that sent people away, but my passionate stance on politics and how the world functioned. A combination of those things meant that I was alone for the majority of the time. To quote Glee, "When you are different, when you are special, sometimes you have to get used to being alone." I spent the majority of my childhood in front of the TV alone, with my imagination as one of my only friends.

It was in the times when I was alone that I subconsciously found my own strength. I think that strength has allowed me to find my purposes in life, whether they be to empower people, or to be the next ceiling breaker. Whatever they be, I know that I will continue to leave my lasting impact on the world.

I am not writing today to ask for a pity party, but I am here to use my story to inspire people everywhere. If I can fight my internal battles and still at least appear strong on the outside, so can you. No battle is worth your livelihood, whether it be inside of you or with another person. Do not let other people, their pettiness, or their words deter you from finding yourself. Or, better yet, don't let those things define you as a person. You are more than other people give you credit for.

Let's face it, life can sometimes suck. Find a role model. Whether they are fictitious characters in a small town, or real women inspiring the world, does not matter. The fact is, find someone whose message you can adhere to. Or maybe, create your own message. If you have a story, tell it. The world is waiting for your voice that will emerge from the inner you.

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An Open Letter to the Best Friend I Didn't See Coming

Some people come into your life and change you forever—thanks, bestie.
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Dear best friend,

I wasn't expecting you when God placed you in my life. I had my friends. I had my people. I wasn't exactly open to the idea of new meaningful friendships because I had the ones I needed, and it didn't seem like I really needed anybody new.

Thank God that was false. Sometimes you meet people and you just know that you're going to be good friends with. Sometimes you meet people and you realize that there is no such thing as chance. I think God has a funny way of making it seem as if the things that happen to us are by chance, but honestly, that’s a load of crap. If the biggest moments of our lives were left up to chance, then I believe that would make God out to seem as if he didn’t care. It would make it seem as if He was truly abandoning me and making me face some of my most important seasons fully isolated. But you, best friend, are a true testament to the fact that God doesn’t just leave such important aspects up to chance. Thank you for taking a chance on our friendship, and thank you for allowing me to take a chance on what I didn’t realize would be the most impactful friendship in my entire life.

Thank you for being real with me. Thank you for not sugar coating things. Thank you for telling me when I have a bad attitude. Thank you for loving me through my mistakes. Thank you for supporting me in my decisions, even if it isn’t always the decision you would make. Thank you for wanting the best for me, and for making that your true intent behind the words that you say to me, whether they be constructive criticism or encouragement.

Thank you for being a goof with me. Thank you for putting me first. Thank you for seeing the importance of our friendship. Thank you for making time in your schedule for us to just sit and do homework, eat Mexican food, or sit on the porch and listen to music that emotionally wrecks you.

You’re one of a kind. You’re a shoulder to lean on. You’re a safe place. You’re a free spirit. You’re rough and tough, but your heart melts for the people you love and it’s obvious. You’re more than meets the eye. You are worth getting to know. You are worth loving. You pursue people. You are passionate about your future. You are everything that a person needs, and I really thank God that for some reason you continue to choose to be in my life. Thank you for literally dragging me up my mountains of fear when I want to stay exactly where I am at and wallow in the sadness. You bring joy—true joy—wherever you go. You are my best friend, confidant, and biggest fan. You will be the Maid of Honor, Godmother, and fun Aunt.

I used to think lifelong friendships weren’t really a thing. It just seemed like people always grew apart and forever was never a point that was attainable. Best friends forever is a cliché phrase that is continuously overused nowadays (sometimes, I even used to make light of it), but thanks for making that a reality. You are truly the best friend I could have asked for. So thank you for it all. You make life more fun, and I couldn’t thank God more for making an incredible human, friends with me.

I love you, pal!

JQ

Cover Image Credit: Julia Dee Qualls

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Enjoy Your Family While You Can, Because Family Is Everything

Make as many memories as you can with them.

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We often hear family means everything. And it is. There's nothing like family. They're your automatic people. They're stuck with you and you're stuck with them, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, or a lot of the time, they annoy the crap out of you. You fight. You make up. They annoy you again. But the commonality with all of these things, the reason why you can never stay mad, they're your family. And you love each other unconditionally.

My family and I are incredibly close. We always have been. For as long as I can remember, my entire family has always been there – parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. We truly embody the big family. And I couldn't be more grateful for that.

I have always been the type of person to hang out with my family. From movie nights to Disney trips, even game nights, I more often than not choose to hang out with my parents, sometimes more than my friends. I will always choose the road trips, filled with laughs and spontaneous bursts into song. The truth is I want to make as many memories with my family while I can because no moment is promised. There's no doubt that I also love my friends, and thoroughly enjoy my time with them too. But if I'm home or have the opportunity to be with family, I'm definitely biased.

Throughout my life, I've lost loved ones. I've seen those close to me lose the ones they cherish the most. It's easily the most difficult thing to go through. I know the pain of letting moments slip through your fingers, of wishing you have more time with your family. And I don't want to waste a second.

My parents are dorks. They drive me nuts sometimes. They embarrass me from every once in a while. But they're my dorks. They're my favorite people in the whole world. I wouldn't trade a moment with them for anything. I choose to spend my nights, my weekends with them because I value them, I cherish them. They have sacrificed everything for my sister and me, and I don't take that for granted.

I dread the day that I won't be able to call my mom and tell her all about my day. Or to laugh until I cry from my dad's unparalleled humor. This is why I want to indulge in all those little moments, those things that are not promised and I will not have one day.

If this last year has taught me anything it's that we need to embrace our loved ones while they're here, laugh as much as you can with them, make as many memories as you can with them. That's what I will be doing. Family is the most important thing to me and I will love them until the end of time.

Cover Image Credit:

Nicole Cantore

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