Strength Isn't About How Strong You Are

Strength Isn't About How Strong You Are

To hold your fists up to block your face as life reals back for another punch.
"You're strong for every reason and you matter to so many people. So how could you think you're weak when every time you fall you come back stronger than before? You're brave, my sweet friend, and that's what makes you so godd**n beautiful."
-r.m. drake

I recently had a friend remind me that "a big part of being an adult is caring about your image," and I found myself incredibly floored by such a thought. At first, I found myself arrogantly in denial, responding quickly that I didn't care what others thought of me because they didn't walk in my shoes every day. But the thought lingered in my mind for the rest of that afternoon.

What did others think of me? How is Mikaela York described to individuals that have never met her? I'm sure it starts off as something like, "you know, she's blonde, blue eyes, super talkative and a little loud..." But what do they say beyond that?

When I turned twenty-two last year, my best friend gave me a bracelet from the Little Words Project with the word "strength" inscribed on it. The purpose of the bracelet is for you or someone else to visually portray how you or they view you. So she chose strength, and I was speechless.

How could a simple, beaded bracelet proclaim such a profound viewpoint on an individual? How could a single bracelet tell my story in what she believed to be the most accurate light? But most importantly, how could I be strong if I felt like shattered china?

I still wear that bracelet every single day.

What surprised me; however, was that she was not alone in describing me with the word "strength".

A month ago I participated in an activity with my sorority sisters that entailed over 100 pieces of paper taped to the walls surrounding us. On each piece of paper, a different member's name was typed out in bold cursive, but nothing else. A clean slate. We were then challenged to go around and write words that we believed to best describe whatever person we chose to write about next.

When I finally reached for the paper that contained my name, two words stood out over and over again:



At first, I admit I was a little annoyed. Why did people think I was so "strong"?! Is that a cop-out because my dad died? Because I recently decided to proclaim every weakness I have to the universe and anyone that cared to listen?? Aren't I more than that?

And then it hit me. I was receiving one of the greatest compliments from people that interacted with me every day. I'm not just Mikaela York, a Biology major at the College of Charleston, or the blonde haired, blue eyed girl that talks too loud in the library. I was me.

The girl who watched her father die 6 days before his 45th birthday. The girl who had back surgery at 16. The girl who didn't ask for help when she ran out of money for food. Who didn't tell anyone she was suffering, and instead acted as if nothing was wrong when in reality her entire world was crashing.

But you see, my strength didn't come from hiding my weaknesses. Instead, it came the day I decided to speak out about them. To humble myself and use social media as an outlet to broadcast the negative lights in my life instead of simply the positive.

Strength by its very definition does not come from how much weight you can lift or carry. Nor does it come from your ability to stuff any and all emotion out of your own subconscious and remain steadfast, stone-faced, in the middle of a hurricane.

It comes from your perseverance to stand again. To hold your fists up to block your face as life reals back for another punch. To take another step even if all you can do is limp. To crawl when you can no longer walk.

Our strength comes from our decision to find joy in life even when we struggle to see it at first. To search only for the good in life. To remain positive regardless of what negativity drags us down. To become the light others reach for in life. To bear our scars with pride because they make us who we are.

In all honesty, I was shattered china, but I refused to believe that was the end for me. And so I filled my cracks with gold and slowly pieced myself back together into my new "normal".

I am strong because I know my weaknesses, fearless because I learned to recognize the illusion from the real and I am brave because I decided to take another step anyway. And if I can learn to be all of these attributes, I have full faith that you can too.

So here's to the moments that tear us down, for they are what lead us to who we are destined to be.

Cover Image Credit: Mikaela York

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To The Kids Who Voted Me 'Most Basic' In High School, I Beg To Differ

To say that I am “basic” is to strip me of my intelligence.

At the end of senior year, everyone is excited to see what they are voted as in the yearbook: “Best eyes,” “most likely to be a millionaire,” “most likely to be famous,” and so on. It's the time to be able to see what everyone thinks of you and maybe even receive validation from your peers.

Laughter and a general feeling of excitement filled the room as the principal announce the winners of each category. Students smiled and blushed when they found out that they had received the most votes for “best hair,” or “best dressed.” Then they came to a category called “most basic.”

What do Starbucks, denim jackets, brunch and blonde hair all have in common? At first glance, not much. However, all of these things are considered to be “basic.” Everyone has heard the term thrown around whether it be to describe an action or a person. If you haven’t heard the term you are probably over the age of 30.

“Basic” in its modern sense is used to describe things that are generic. To be frank it is mainly used to describe white females and things that they like. It’s a way to label them as not unique. They look like everyone else. They like the same things as everyone else. They are unoriginal.

It is true that a large number of females love Starbucks or white Adidas sneakers, but it is in the same way that lots of guys like video games or Buffalo Wild Wings. However, these males aren’t torn down for their tastes and interests. Why do women have to be criticized for liking something that is popular?

Another layer of the word is that it is usually used as a negative term or insult. It’s never a good thing to be called “basic.” If you call someone “basic” it is like saying they don’t have a mind of their own. It is gender and race-specific and plays off of the stereotype that blonde haired white girls are dumb and can’t think for themselves.

I understand that I should not equate calling a white female “basic” with calling a black person the n-word because one has a long history of historical racism and prejudice.

But we do need to recognize the fact that using the word “basic” is a way of demeaning white females.

While everyone laughed and smiled about their label I went to the bathroom and cried. What was most troubling about the situation was that nobody seemed to understand why I was so upset. My friends dismissed it as me not being able to handle a joke or me being too sensitive.

Except the problem wasn’t with me, it was and still is with the word “basic.”

I am a smart, outgoing, hardworking, white woman. To say that I am “basic” is to strip me of my intelligence, to strip me of my accomplishments and label me as a drone just based off of my race and gender.

Next time you call a girl “basic” think about the way you are demeaning her. Just because she likes something or looks a certain way does not mean that she is “basic.” “Basic” is you labeling someone without taking into account their accomplishments and personality.

To the kids who voted me “most basic” in high school: you essentially voted me “most un-unique white girl” and I beg to differ.

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It's Easy to Feel On Top Of The World At 18, But Remember Your Life Lessons And Where You Came From

On Top of the World: Becoming 18

Turning 18 brings about many mixed emotions. It's easy to feel on top of the world and at the top of the social food chain for a short time. College is beginning, you're excited to finally be an adult and move on to a new chapter in your life, but the actual idea of growing up is heartbreaking. The days of leaning onto others to take care of responsibilities are winding down, and you must become accustomed to "Adulting". As I go through the transition of turning 18, I've been reflecting on the life lessons I've learned and will keep with me for the rest of my life.

1. The Golden Trio

My dad has preached a life lesson to my brother and me over the years that will stick with me for the rest of my life. The Golden Trio, which means God first, family second, and self last. While it seems a little vague, I've been ultimately happier since I prioritized these three things over the little stressors that can make me unhappy.

2. Pretty is as pretty does.

Many people I know have a pretty face, but an ugly attitude. One thing my mom always told me growing up is that if I kept a positive attitude and was kind to others, it would complement my physical attributes. I still practice that to this day.

3. Perfect practice makes perfect.

When I was swimming competitively, I was always told that practice doesn't exactly make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. Swimming is a sport of repetition and technique, so if you do something wrong over and over, it will become habit. I always try to do things with 100% effort, so I can build up good habits and virtues.

4. Always stay humble and kind.

As the Tim McGraw song says, "Let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind." This lesson stays with me cause even in times of success, I have to remember that I must remain grounded and humble. I only succeed because I have worked hard towards my goals and had a wonderful support system behind me.

5. Five for Five Rule

Many people use this rule, but it definitely one I apply to my daily life. The Five for Five Rule means that if it won't matter in five years, don't spend more than five minutes worrying over it. This saves so much emotions and energy from avoiding negative situations and feelings.

6. Healing is not linear.

Over the past year, this lesson has become one of the most important. I've dealt with a large amount of grief, stress, and transitions in my life. Remembering that healing includes many ups and downs helps me stay hopefully as I go forward in life.

7. Self care is always important!

I've gotten really into self care over the past few months, and never truly realized how important it is! It's crucial to take some time to relax and benefit yourself. Do a face mask, watch a good movie, or just spend some time writing or listening to music. It'll reset your brain to take on more responsibilities with less stress.

8. Real friends will always be there for you.

Friends come and go, that's just a given in life. It was difficult for me to learn this lesson, ultimately because I grew apart from some friends I thought would always be in my life. However, the people that God plans to be in my life have stayed over the years and been by my side no matter what. It's important to recognize who those people are in your life.

9. Don't be scared to express your opinion.

For so long, I was always scared to voice my personal opinion due to the fear of being wrong. I soon learned that the purpose of having an opinion is that it's sometimes wrong. I've also learned that every opinion matters, no matter right or wrong. I've become an ultimately better person since learning to voice my own opinion, while learning to respect others'.

10. Boys are not worth the time and energy.

Of course, there may be one guy who you believe is the one and your true soulmate. There's no way to tell if that's true or not, but it's important to recognize when it's time to let go. Dealing with a toxic guy is exhausting and makes you unhappy. I've had much better experiences with relationships overall since I began putting my own feelings before anyone else.

11. Surround yourself with positivity

Between sticky notes with positive quotes, to listening to upbeat songs when I'm feeling upset, surrounding myself with positivity has improved my day-to-day mood drastically. Having an overall positive mental attitude has an affect on myself, my productivity, and my family and friends. It's important to be able to allow positivity into your life, especially in negative times.

12. Do what makes you happy

Don't let other people judgement's refrain you from doing what makes you happy. Personally, I enjoy reading and writing the most. While others may make comments on how I'm odd for reading and writing for fun, it relieves my stress and makes me happy. Your happiness prioritizes many things, so it shouldn't be taken away from you!

13. Send the risky text message!

This life lesson seems odd, considering how stressful certain "risky text messages" can be. However, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. If you don't reach out to someone, tell them how you truly feel, or give up on other opportunities, you could come to regret it in the future. Even if the outcome isn't what you expected, take it with that positive attitude from lesson #11 and move on.

14. Spend extra time with your family

Your family is the foundation of who you are as a person. Don't push them aside for irrelevant things. Instead, make it a priority to spend time with the people who love and support you endlessly. Life is too short to not be with those people as much as possible.

15. Social media isn't the center of the universe.

While it's obvious that our generation is ruled by technology and social media, it's important to take time to remember that social media isn't the center of the universe. Take some time away from your phone or laptop to center yourself instead of being glued to a screen all day.

16. Some people will mature slower or faster than you, and that's okay.

There's scientific evidence to prove that between men and women, women mature faster than men do. However, each individual person may mature and grow up at a different pace. It all depends on their way of life, how they were raised, and how they've learned to handle situations. Be patient with others, for they have certain ways of living their life that don't match your own.

17. When in doubt, clean your room.

This definitely sounds very strange, but if you're a neat freak and insanely organized like me, you find joy in cleaning your room. On days I feel particularly unmotivated and keep procrastinating, I clean my room and tidy things up. The organization of my room and completing this bigger task helps me be more productive in other areas. It also helps declutter my brain when I don't have to worry about a mess. Plus, who doesn't love a freshly cleaned room?

18. Enjoy being young while you can.

This especially goes for those still under 18. Becoming an "adult" is intimidating, and a lot of things in life change. Enjoy being free with little responsibilities while you can. Becoming 18 is an exciting experience, and I'm excited to continue growing as a person, but I always make sure to remind myself of these important life lessons.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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