40,000 miles and the unsolvable puzzle

note:  this post is my heart pouring over, through one of few outlets i know — my writing. i’ve always promised honesty & transparency (when possible), because i want people to know they aren’t alone, and that they matter. grab a glass of wine (or coffee, beer, tea, hot cocoa – whatever suits your fancy), and i hope you enjoy.

a rollercoaster and a puzzle. a puzzling rollercoaster. the rollercoaster puzzle. ok stick with me with here, and i’ll explain.

agh, 2017. what a time. i don’t know where to start, so i’m just going to dive on in.

‘ashley’ by big sean + miguel, and the most important ‘i love you’ is how i started my year. from there, lots of things. lighthouses. parks. disney world. engagements. babies. weddings. beaches. basketball. football.

40,000 miles traveled. 20,000 in my car, and almost 20,000 in the air. this year was full of ups and downs, and while i’d trade a few of those, i’ve learned so many amazing things about others, this crazy world and the unique people in it, and whole lot about myself.  

I read this a few days ago, and it’s really stuck w. me:

“for the highs and lows and moments between, mountains and valleys, and rivers and streams; for where you are now and where you will go, for ‘i’ve always known’ and ‘i told you so,’ for ‘nothing is happening,’ and ‘all has gone wrong,’ it’s here in this journey you will learn to be strong. you will get where you’re going, landing where you belong.”

I don’t have all of the answers in life, and i certainly don’t claim to, but in my 26 years of livin’, this year has been one for the books (i’ve probably said that in previous end-of-year blogs, but i really mean it this time!). despite some serious sadness, i had a lot of turning-the-corner moments — came into my own at my job, got my first magazine placement, built important relationships, friggin got promoted, yada yada yada. through all of that though, there were still struggles. it still presented moments of doubt, cloudiness, etc., and what i’ve learned in that, is that things can’t be perfect all the time, no matter how hard i try. we’d drive ourselves completely and totally mad if we tried to reach unattainable perfection. the best we can do is all we can do, and that’s enough. I assure you, it’s more than enough.

Our life — it’s all one enormous puzzle. I hope you find your pieces. I hope as put them together, they fit so beautifully that you’ll never have to look at them twice to be sure because you’ll just know. I hope when you build your puzzle, as time goes on, that you put each piece down with glue, so it doesn’t fall apart. Our lives, this puzzle, it’s our masterpiece. it’s our triumphs, our successes, our failures, our moments, experiences. hang on tight to the ones you want, the ones you can’t live without, no matter what. Just as i think i’m beginning to put the final pieces together for mine, i realize some are missing. but it’ll all come together, in time.

One of the biggest pieces to every one of our puzzles is love. that one relationship that keeps you from drowning everyday, that one person — your person. someday, someone’s going to choose you (and me). they’re going to choose you everyday and never, for one single second, doubt it. or you. believe that. until then, choose yourself. choose to give your love to your family and friends, who keep you afloat and bring you joy, even when you may not want it. Your day ones, the gals, guys, cousins, moms, dads, siblings, etc., who have your best interest at heart. choose them. choose adventures, that bring you to the other side of the country writing a blog about life at newport beach. choose to find the good in everything. choose happiness and joy.

I want to say thank you (especially if you’re reading this and still with me here). thank you for following me, for sending me messages, for listening to me sing (even when i’m two glasses of wine in and my shyness dissipates lol), for welcoming my loud laughter and excitement about… well, everything, for liking my pics, telling me my eyebrows rock and being kind. It doesn’t go unnoticed, i assure you. I appreciate you. you is kind, you is smart, you is important.

i’ve switched from medium to large coffees in the morning, i’m more a pinot noir than a pinot gris gal these days, and i’m re-watching gilmore girls for the 3rd time. I watched This is Us after a breakup and i would advise against that for anyone who’s heart is a little achy. You’ll just cry all. the. time. (but can’t wait for its return on JAN 9!!) the balancing of milo ventimiglia’s roles in both shows is also very challenging, but i’ve managed. first world problems.

2018 marks another year of travel, surprises, love, laughter, work, adventures, weddings, engagements, babies, and so much more. I can’t wait to see what 27 has in store (and more room for growth, wisdom, understanding, and figuring out how to be in my late 20s… WHAT?!). I can’t wait to see what life has in store for YOU! It’s going to be great. 

my boss ended her holiday card to me with ‘I just KNOW that 2018 will bring your smile back full time.’ i hope she’s right.

make the miles count. make the time count. make your love count.


something about nothing (or everything, who knows)

hey y’all. it’s been a while. six months is a long time, but don’t you worry. i’m here with my thoughts and reflections, and ready to share them with you (per usual).

since the last time i’ve written something that wasn’t work-related, i’ve turned 26 and somehow feel as young as ever (minus the hip pain i get from time to time). i’ve been doing a lot of reading and soul searching as of late, simply because as you get older, you get wiser (or at least you think you do), and you grow to realize the importance, or lack there of, in certain facets of your life.

need to shoutout my girl kelsey dacus, who has been brutally transparent and honest in stripping the layers to share what’s in her soul. it’s inspiring, and reminded me that i needed to get back to what i loved doing–blogging about life and how i’m figuring it out with the rest of you.

despite being in my job for over a year now, there’s still a sense of discomfort and newness to it all. conn isn’t nj, and i’ve promised myself that i will continue to explore and put myself out there. but what happens on the days when i can’t? when i feel shy, anxious, or too tired to put my best foot forward? unfortunately, it happens more times than not, but i’m working to change that.

insecurities are debilitating, fear is paralyzing.

all of that sounds pretty intimidating. but it’s what i’ve tried to remind myself each and every day.

you can’t put restrictions on your life simply because you aren’t ‘feelin’ it’ that day. there will be days, i assure you, but it should be out of the ordinary; not the norm.

now, more than ever, i’m learning that life really is happening so fast. babies are coming, expensive ass rings are being bought, and here i am deciding whether i want ice cream or pasta, and sifting through the netflix catalog. but that can all change, in an instant.

you never know what’s planned. you never know what the universe, or God, or both have in store for you. so you better be prepared, smile on your face and helmet/shoulder pads on, ready to tackle whatever comes your way. there will be good, and there will be bad, but in both of those things comes lessons, experiences, growth, sadness, hell–maybe even tears. but isn’t the goal to fight through the rain ’til you see the rainbow?

i’m a huge fan of ‘take me as i am, or watch me as i leave,’ but that saying (that i sometimes say a little too emphatically) is the very shield that is made of the very insecurities and fear that i so gravely despise. so when is it time to put the shield down, and let life happen? when you’re fully in control, or when there’s no one left to fight it?

the answer is neither.

because you will have lost out on anything good or right if you reach any of those options.

being in control–fully and totally–will never be realistic. expecting someone to fight for you, your friendship or your love will only get exhausting.

sometimes, you have to let life happen. and that could mean nothing to you, or it could mean everything for you. but i’ve learned that in keeping a shield up, i’ve lost a little bit of myself. i lost the optimistic outlook i had on anyone and everything. i lost hope in things. i lost my innocence–being naive to circumstances and automatically having a tough exterior.

but that ended in the last few days.

i’ve learned that living your fullest life means that sometimes people are going to let you down, but that should only be after you’ve given all your love and trust and very being to make it all you wanted. especially if there’s great people in your life.

don’t let your fears paralyze you. don’t allow your insecurities to debilitate you.

put the shield down. ignite whatever high spirits or inner happiness you need to tackle each day with a smile and the notion that it WILL be a GREAT day. and before you know it, it will be.

every. single. day.

insecurity & uncertainty.

every year, around this time, i find myself reflecting on the year i had. up until this point, it was usually filled with insecurities about my weight, or my shortcomings, or simply me just trying to figure myself out.

the latter is still very much a constant, and i think it always should be. we aren’t progressing or moving forward or growing if we aren’t becoming newer, different and better versions of ourselves.

2016 was filled with promise and hope for me, and that’s the first time in a long time that i’ve felt as though things fell my way. one phone call in january changed my life, and i will forever be grateful. that’s the thing about life– it’s the small moments that make the big ones. i still remember watching keeping up with the kardashians after a flight home from work & seeing my phone light up with a california number. disney was calling to make all my dreams come true–so magical and cheesy, i know.

but i sobbed. i hung up the phone, and curled down into a ball on my living room floor & i cried my little eyes out thinking ‘finally.’ all i wanted was change. i prayed on it and wished it to whatever higher being is up there making sure we are all following our path with grace. fast forward a month and tragedy struck in an unforeseeable way, and this time i was on the phone with someone who was crying with me. not tears of joy and happiness, but the type of tears that make you wonder how someone so delicate, bright and charismatic could be pulled from the earth before she got her chance to fully shine. that day in february wasn’t a fun one. and while it didn’t hit directly home for me, it did for a lot of other people that i love and care about.

life comes at you fast. and not one single day is promised. i learned that a while ago when i lost my friend josh, and again this past february when cara passed away. but we find strength, somehow & someway, to carry on while remembering that others don’t get the chance to. we shed tears, we hold people’s hands, we hug it out, and we believe that it all has a purpose–the good, bad, ugly, sad.

i mean.. it has to, right?

even if solely serving as a reminder to never live dully or a step behind. or to give us a boost or a tap on the ass to be alive and in the moment.

the uncertainties in life can swallow us whole if we forget to do just that – be in the moment. everyday there is an unknown, from the weather to who you’ll talk to, to how your day will actually go. but you make the choice to wake up, be present and conquer whatever comes your way.

so.. fast forward to march, and i’m in my living room again, but it’s as movers take my things away. i accepted my dream job & two very kind men are coming to take my belongings to connecticut. i asked for change, and i got it. a new place, a new space, a new job – happy 25th birthday to me. i, to this day, am still adapting. because we wish for change & something to make us feel more alive, but forget that we must adapt and conform in order to not only accept the change, but to actually be the change.

i think in wanting change, we sometimes stand in the way of our happiness. i know i certainly was, because it took me a really long time to shake the insecurities i have of myself & the dirtbag men in my life to be accepting of something bigger than myself – things that i ultimately can’t control. things that we as people can’t control, because truthfully & wholeheartedly, you can’t help who you love. and you can only fight it for so long before someone calls you out of your bullshit & tells you to chill (thank you, taylor garrett).

i allowed a lot of things to happen this year, some okay, but mostly good. things i normally wouldn’t allow to happen. you see, when you finally get out of your own way, the universe (and hopefully good karma) takes its course. when you open your heart, you allow love & happiness in to fill the void. when you feed your soul, you give yourself the chance to smile for no reason.

i’ve made mistakes, and i am most certainly not perfect. but if i had to choose one thing i’m most proud of in 2016–it’s allowing myself to love again. (though my job is a very close second)

a cringeworthy sentence for sure, but hear me out. self-love is an obstacle. it took me years & years to be comfortable with who i am. learning to love yourself is one thing. being able to love someone else, and do that selflessly, is a whole other battle. but we learn, and make the choice to love the people who we hold close to the vest each & everyday.

2016 taught me a whole bunch of stuff- things i’ve written about and stuff that i haven’t. but my hope with whoever is reading this is that you find your happy, and that you believe it’s yours for the taking and the keeping. if you’ve followed my writings, you know that the last seven years has been anything but glamourous. but the one thing that has never wavered in the belief and hope that ‘someday’ it would all be worth it. someday the grueling 4am wake up calls & heartbreaks & tears and sacrifices would be worth it.

my someday came, and i hope, no i know, it will for you too.

money will come and go, jobs are jobs, bad days suck & good days are awesome, but no amount of money or accolades will ever equal the joy of being able to share that with someone, and the family & friends you love most.

people say time is an illusion, and after a conversation this past week, i’m led to believe that we should never put time constraints on what we want to accomplish & achieve. the key to that, however, is understanding that time doesn’t stand still and we should never stop chasing, hoping, believing and working towards tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

uncertainties and insecurities- that’s how i’m labeling 2016. because they were the two things i learned to overcome. we must have blind faith in times of fear & be forthright in our journeys. we only get one shot, but we live our lives the right way, once is enough.

trust. breathe. believe.

here’s to 2017- with cheers & smiles & the hope that we become better versions of ourselves, each and everyday.

what living alone means for me


that word carries so much darkness & fear, for some weird reason. the second i started to type it, i was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. i can’t imagine ever feeling truly alone, until i realized that’s how i live my life nowadays.

i spent 24 years of my life living with my family, then in a dorm, then with more family, then a roommate. when my 25th birthday hit, i packed my bags and entered a place that, for the first time, was solely my own. nothing to share, no one to fight with and not ever having to wait for the shower.

life in motion is one that always means there’s change and transition involved, in my opinion. you wouldn’t be growing without that. i’d be lying if i said living away from my family and friends is easy. throw a long distance relationship in there and it makes day-to-day life a bit of a struggle. for me, it means not seeing those people for days and sometimes week on end, hugging my mom once or twice a month, going what feels like a lifetime without seeing (and sometimes talking) to my best friend and watching my cousins sprout tall like trees right before my eyes.
that’s been my response to a lot of things, because i refuse to dig any deeper than that. and i won’t, because the second i’m overwhelmed with emotion, tears somehow manage to fall out of my face and ain’t nobody got time for that. so instead, i’ll write.

i write for a number of reasons, and until now, i haven’t written anything for quite some time (or at least that wasn’t an email or a press release). again,

being alone isn’t fun. you’re forced to make weird decisions like what to eat (alone), when to wake up (alone), where to go (alone)… get my drift? you can only hide from that solitude for so long, because you’re essentially hiding from yourself, and you’re not here to treat YOURSELF like a fuckboy.

i accepted, and found comfort, in my solitude a really long time ago. it’s the only way i knew how to live, until it wasn’t anymore. inviting people and things into your safe haven is hard. i trust far and few, i love deeply but only in time, and i’m the HBIC in my life. as walls come down, i find myself building new ones and wondering what the hell i’m actually doing.

with that, i blame trust & faith. i explained the former, but my faith in humans is both high & low. expect the best, prepare for the worst. what a letdown to be built up, only to be torn down. who wants to go through? not i, and honestly, no one. so what do peeps like me do? push it all away.

i’ve read that there’s a difference between being alone & loneliness. i didn’t really get it at first, but i think i do now. alone is solitude, maybe even temporary. i equate loneliness with feeling empty. maybe we feel both simultaneously? i’m not sure.

whatever the case may be, for you or anyone you pass this along to, know that this girl right here feels you. truly. some days are great, others just suck. but i’ve found comfort in knowing that i’m never truly alone (or lonely) if i keep my head up and keep trucking along. we’re all we’ve got sometimes, and that has to be enough some days. it won’t be on others, but that’s what pizza and wine are for.

life is also a whirlwind. and while it may be hard or difficult, i’m ultimately where and what i want to be, working towards the next step, whatever that is (if someone knows, lmk).

smile at a stranger, put your phone in your pocket when walking around, smell a flower, skip to your apt door… something. find delight in the little things and let that fill the holes that leave you feeling less than fulfilled at night.

trust & faith. 
find it. in yourself first and in humanity second. it’s present in some way, shape or form. awareness is so incredibly important. we have our doubts, as i know i have mine, and some days you won’t feel like trusting anyone or having faith in a damn thing. treat tomorrow like a fresh start and another chance to get it right — just don’t let it slip away for too long. god will only keep things in front of you for so long before it becomes a missed opportunity, and that feels incredibly worse. trust me.

be strong. fight courageously. take charge.



the process of life, and how to deal

it’s no secret that i’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. anyone with eyeballs and ears knows that i’ve been (sometimes overly) transparent about the struggles and triumphs of my life–mostly as an outlet, but also to let people know that they aren’t the only one feeling the way they do. *cue we’re all in this together from high school musical*

it took a long time for me to understand that
1- it’s okay to be who i am, quirkiness included and
2- i’m allowed to feel the way i feel

if anyone tries to tell you differently, just yell “LET ME LIVE” and keep it moving.

i’m always on here ranting about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but like… it’s not easy. for those who manage to work hard (or not) and get what they want, kudos. For those who have to work uber hard and chase that paper, kudos. the reality of life is this–some people are lucky, and others sometimes aren’t. we all struggle, some just struggle more/less than you. but it’s all real, ya feels?

for the first time in a long time, i can legitimately say i’m friggin happy. and this isn’t a “content with life” type of happy, this is a “cheer when I see the sun every morning” type of happy. i’d be a liar if i said i didn’t experience some darkness to get here (and sometimes still do).

when i say life is a process, trust me. i moved some 250 miles away (if you think that’s not far, try sitting in the car for 4 and a half hours by yourself) in march with zero intention of looking back. and i haven’t, with the exception of johnny but that’s a story for another day. i keep my family and friends closely stitched to my heart, but the fog of a small town and the woes that come with that sort of dissipate in the grand scheme of things. remember where you came from, but don’t become it. that’s me in a nutshell. i don’t want to claim this ‘rough’ childhood, because my mom would whoop my ass if i did. i grew up in a loving household with a mom who wouldn’t let me leave the table until my homework was finished, and a brother who was cool in his own right and never steered from that. i think that’s where i get the courage to be myself from. My brother loves video games and rock music (among other things), aka the opposite of me. I’d poke fun at him sometimes, but he’d always brush me off with a ‘whatever’ and leave it at that. The kid was totally okay with being who he was, and in that, along with his momma’s boy ways, is the coolest kid i know. we bonded, and still do, through sports and j. cole. he cried when i got my new job, because we’d stay up at all hours of the night talking about our dreams, and mine was always that–this, i should say.

I am living the dream – my dream – and while some dreams didn’t come true (aka that one time I was almost miss nj), i wouldn’t trade anything that led me to this moment for the world, and trust me, it’s a lot of shit. bad boyfriends, torn friendships, countless nights of zero sleep, lots of books, ice cream, a plethora of weird hairstyles and so much more (you get the idea), i am here. I am present, with a new pair of warby parker glasses, seeing the world so much clearer than before, and i have “the process” to thank for that.

here’s the newsflash i have for everyone: every masterpiece takes time. I like to think that we are all ice blocks: giant, heavy, cold ice blocks. the good stuff keeps up strong and sturdy, and the bad stuff chips away at us, piece by piece. but in those moments, we become more shapely, more defined. chip by chip, we are broken down & chiseled until we look/feel like those gorg ice swans at weddings.

you don’t rush art, and you shouldn’t rush life.

i’ve learned more about myself in the last three months than i thought i ever could. you take a girl 30 minutes from all her friends and a quick drive from home and move her to a completely different state, living alone, and that will happen. but i’m grateful. so grateful. I get nervous and excited everyday when i go to work, because  i know i’m going to be challenged (and possibly see someone really cool while i’m getting lunch). I have a boss that respects my ideas and wants to learn from me, and some pretty stellar colleagues. my heart is so full because my friends check up on me, and i get to talk and spend time with a pretty great guy who’s changed every single opinion i’ve ever had on the male species (ladies–there are a few good ones left).

i’m happy. it wasn’t always this way, but it is now. maybe it took removing myself from a world i always knew and placing myself in unknown territory, but it happened. it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone, but it certainly was the case for me. there’s something so gratifying about knowing that every moment, every person, every situation in your life attributed to the day you could say finally.

with that being said, the hard work isn’t over and the newness of life is and should be treated as a daily gift. take the challenge, choose to smile and know that this world doesn’t have to be a scary place if you understand that it’s very much a process. we live in a world where everything is instantaneous– but that doesn’t necessarily apply to your success. work hard, play hard, appreciate the moments and make the choice to pursue happiness, however you define it. don’t forget to follow your dreams and thank everyone along the way. blessings or lessons, people and things serve a purpose. the roads you travel, no matter how many there are, can only lead the way — so long as you’re always moving forward. 

not a regular mom, but a cool mom.

we wouldn’t be here without them. the women that carried us, held our hands (mine still does), brushed our hair (or in my case, kept my head in check with tight ass braids and buns), molded us, hugged us and clapped for us through the good and the bad.

my mom is pretty awesome. i’d be a liar if i said we didn’t have our ‘moments’–mostly my fault because i thought that during my high school days i was the boss. boy, was i wrong. but i’m here, and i’m standing because this selfless, beautiful human decided it was a good idea to bring another human into the world (hey mom, it’s me!).

i sit here teary eyed, because i sincerely mean it when i say i literally would not be here if it weren’t for my beautiful mother. she has gone above and beyond, to this day, to ensure that i have everything i need to succeed. from calling her in a panic because i only had 3 dollars in my bank account and couldn’t buy a metrocard to go to the internships, to being my backbone through the life changes i’ve encountered (and there have been a lot). she’s my favorite gal pal, my #1 lady and my bff.

today, and always, i am grateful for my mom. i can only hope that i’ve been the daughter she always wanted, despite her calling me annoying at least once a day.  from snapping her HILARIOUS rants, teaching her how to FaceTime, group texts for “the gossip” and texting me to make sure i brushed my hair and put deodorant on daily, she really is the best. my shoulder to cry on, my person to lean on and the cosigner on my student loans–not sure what i’d do without her. she always laughs at all my jokes, even when they’re not really funny, she thinks i’m famous and she has never once told me i couldn’t do something.

“what’s for you will not pass you.”

that’s what she’s always said, both directly and indirectly.

as i’ve gotten older (holy crud, i’m 25), i’ve had the privilege of not only having my birth mom, but a ton of other women who have taken a motherly role in my life when my mom couldn’t be around (including my bingo-loving, wine-drinking aunts, and my Titi who forced me to like veggies. you guys rock). i’ve moved a few times and i’ve worked about 30 different jobs, but along the way, i acquired awesome ladies who have named me their “honorary daughter.”

so to those women, who fight for their rank when we’re all in one space–thank you. thank you for not only raising beautiful girls and boys who have been my friends (especially becky and dawn), but for loving me and supporting me all the same.

it’d be a laundry list and i’m literally doing laundry so i can’t name every single one, but know that today and always, i am thinking of you and everything you’ve done for me (you know who you are). from feeding me (or not feeding me–CAROL), welcoming me into your homes (and staying there for several months–Rosemarie), giving me a job and making sure I’m always well-dressed (Lynn!), you have been a pivotal part of my growth and success, and i am indebted to you forever.

honestly, we’d all be lost puppies without our moms. so hug them, love them, answer their calls, check on them, cook them a meal (i have groceries now, mom. please visit), buy them wine and thank them for putting up with your ass for so long. they’ll never leave you, even when they want to yell at you for being so crazy.

to those without their moms today, whatever the reason may be, i am thinking of you and praying for you. you may not have your mom, but you probably have other women who serve as honorary “superwomen” in your life. or maybe you are “superwoman” yourself. stay strong and know you are loved.

thankful for all the moms out there, especially mine 🙂

happy mother’s day to you!

-faint february-

I’ve been very hesitant on commenting/sharing my feelings, because you always hope for the best in certain situations. I am overly optimistic in my viewpoints and look of life, so after hearing Cara had brain surgery, I simply thought she’d wake up a few days later and joke that they shaved her hair off. I was even on the prowl for a stuffed chihuahua to send to the hospital because the girl loves Taco Bell.

This morning, I woke up and knew it was going to be a bad day. I just had a feeling–and I looked at my phone and only saw one text from Cierra that simply read “Anna” and my heart sank. I remember the very first conversation I had with Cara (over pizza at a Miss NJ lunch), where she told me about moving to NJ from Arkansas and how her viewpoint on pageants changed over her year as Miss Island Resort. Little did she know that her life, and the lives she encountered, would be forever changed just a few days later. Her vibrant spirit and unique humor made her extremely likeable, and I knew in that very moment that she’d be Miss New Jersey (because after all, who could carry a candelabra on the Miss America stage but Cara?)

We walk through various avenues of life, and I, for the third time in my short 24 years, find myself overly emotional at the thought of another friend lost. It doesn’t get easier, and you don’t deal with the pain any better, but instead find purpose and meaning in knowing that God’s plan sometimes doesn’t match the one we have for ourselves. After reading the news, I was overcome with emotion, but picked up the phone to call Devon and said “she donated all of her organs. How amazing.” You see, you make these connections with people and you’re bound to them for life. That’s how this pageant world works–you meet these girls and they become your ride or dies–no matter the distance, the differences, the schools, the opinions. This sisterhood, this sorority–our hearts beat in unity for one another. Today, our hearts are beating a little slower and ache a little more for girl who never stopped smiling, cracking jokes or making situations less awkward. In all the pictures I’ve seen come across social media, there isn’t one single photo that fails to capture Cara’s radiant persona.

My heart hurts, my eyes aren’t dry and I can’t help but think of all the things that Cara had in front of her. Her future and her life was cut short– but what she accomplished in 24 years is what some people strive to accomplish in a lifetime. I remembered talking to Cara before I left for Hoopeston, and the message read like this:

Anna Negron, you have the most beautiful soul. Just read your blog and am sending so many good vibes and wishes with you to Hoopeston – but know that you’re not going to need luck if you’re just yourself. So go get ’em, girl!!! I for one am already so so proud of you. XOXO

Cara is immortalized. Seeing her face on posts by Cosmo, Perez Hilton, Huffington Post, Fox News, NY Daily News and others only reiterates that her beauty and accomplishments deserved to be known by all. May her legacy and her light live on forever. RIP sweet girl.

*written february 22, 2016

Dear 2015…

Dear 2015,


Yours tru…

Kidding. You didn’t think I’d write you off that easily, did you? I have to say, despite the ups and downs, I think we did okay–you & me.

While we didn’t avoid heartbreak or disappointment, we grew. We flourished. I learned. I fought. I cried more than I would have liked to, but well.. Life.

With that, I say thank you–this year started off pretty crazy with one (or five) too many  consecutive days and nights in bed, but I got it together. we got it together. Not fully of course, but enough to start to put the pieces back together again. The glue was only temporary and not as sturdy as I’d wished it was, but the beauty of falling down and being broken is rising up and building yourself again–better, stronger and wiser.

This year, you taught me to let love loose and run free in all that I did. I hope everyone learns to do that–to live independent of their fears and dream a little bigger, smile a little wider and open their minds to things and people that are unknown until the word “hello” is spoken. (that one’s for you, Adele)

From cramming for my GREs, to moving back home and preparing for Miss New Jersey, to getting accepted into Syracuse and everything in between, there wasn’t a day I took for granted. While there were moments I was at my lowest, the sun never stopped shining and the fire in my soul never stopped burning. The bigger picture was always the motivation, and still continues to be.

Thank you for bringing new friends into my life and taking away some others. I firmly believe everyone and everything serves a purpose in my life–whether it be a lesson or a blessing. People disappeared, energy was [at times] wasted, but the spirits and lives that surround me have proven that sometimes you need to weed out bad apples and allow people to walk away in order to facilitate a positive circle. I learned to appreciate all of it and take the good with the bad.

Speaking of the good with the bad, holy shit there was a lot of that this year. If I knew then what I know now, I would go back to February and hold him a little tighter. I would go back to June and tell myself that things have a way of working themselves out, even if some of my dreams didn’t come true. I’d probably take a few text messages back, too. But hey, everything happens for a reason, right?

I’m grateful. Riley Curry brought laughter, the Curry family gave a new definition of #RelationshipGoals, Chrissy Teigen tweeted unapologetically, and emojis got DeAndre Jordan back to the Clippers. A loss was redefined as a victory the second I landed in Hoopeston, IL and gained friends I can now call my sisters. Movements were established, lives were lost, and awareness was raised for issues that are unfortunately still present in today’s society. 2015 was about raising our voices and striving to be heard–I hope people start to listen

I don’t want to dwell on my problems. I don’t want to be a girl who needs fixing. We all have issues, we all deal with shit. I want to be great, and I want to be viewed as such–as someone whose ambition and drive is overwhelmingly inspiring. I want to give people hope, spread love, make writing cool[er] and make every single person I meet feel welcomed and alive.

I’m not perfect, but no one is. I can’t right my wrongs, but I can commit to making better choices. Everyone can. Sometimes all you have to do is try (before it’s too late). 

I pray that people’s ‘I love you’ texts get answered and that holding back is a thing of the past. Because I believe that speaking your truth, shining your heart and making your existence matter is a thing of the future. No more living in fears, in shadows and in doubt. Let the sun shine through your smile and your heart with every person you meet and every conversation you have. Leaving people better than you found them–that was always the prerogative.

So, what’s next?

The ‘new year, new me’ flex is alive and well on social media, but I wonder if those pictures and tweets are posted/written with vengeance and tenacity, or simply fear of being left behind. I’m sure you know, but 2016 will be the judge of that.

I’m thankful–for the family who never stops cheering me on, the friends who hold my hand and keep me up, the job that pays my bills, and for God who allows me to wake up everyday. Life is short, but you’ve taught me to appreciate every moment.

Goodbyes are never easy, but it’s time to leave you, some people and some memories behind. Growth comes from breaking out of certain shells and following the journey less traveled. For too long, I have marveled in the past. But it’s time. Right now, in this moment, to bid adieu to you. You were good to me, but all good things must come to an end.

Be sure to tell 2016 to be treat me right, and I’ll promise to do the same.


One Man Can Change the World.

After throwing all of my belongings into bags and suitcases Friday evening, I slowly slumped onto the hardwood floor in the bedroom of my apartment, looked in the mirror and started to get teary eyed (I don’t cry, but water was forming around my eyeballs.

My thought: I don’t look good. I’m not going to fit into my clothes. This isn’t going to be good.

Instead of keeping these thoughts to myself, I sniffled a little, grabbed my phone and texted my go-tos—Mom and Cierra (Devon doesn’t know how to answer her phone anymore). I communicated those exact sentiments, to which the responses were realistic but very much tailored to my mindset.

“Negative thoughts out. Everything is going to be fine.”

I shrugged that off, put the phone down and told myself to GET IT TOGETHER.

In that moment, the song switched to ‘One Man Can Change the World.”

Aghh, Big Sean. Saving souls.

“I hope you learn to make it on your own
And if you love yourself just know you’ll never be alone
I hope that you get everything you want and that you chose
I hope that it’s the realest thing that you ever know”

My girl Brenna Jo spoke so highly of me in her last blog, but in moments of weakness, where I fall victim to my own insecurities and the ridicule of others, I start to doubt the very thing I preached about just a few weeks ago. I refuse to give into the critics, but how do you fight the floating thoughts that linger?

“Oh god, if my gown is tight, people will probably compare it to Miss New Jersey week.”
“I shouldn’t be going”
“I’ll probably be the biggest girl there.”
“Making Top 15 isn’t even an option because my swimsuit won’t be the best.”

I don’t take many things to heart, because being unapologetic about who I am has and always will take precedent. If you aren’t real, than what’s the point you know? However, what I have learned is that the reality of someone’s being versus the  perception you have of them, or what you think they are, aren’t one in the same. Here I am talking about the one thing that holds no real correspondence in the grand scheme of my life (or yours, to be honest), but it’s important to address it. I read on Twitter that a study showed that men prefer “skinny” women over “curvy” women. Guess what? Neither of those words describes a person’s drive, ambition, goals, personality, heart, mind or soul. I don’t care if you are deemed “attractive.” If you don’t have a heart/mind that is humble, colorful, understanding and open, you ain’t it. #sorrynotsorry

I have been doing a lot of reading and reflecting this summer, and what I’ve learned is that caring less about the negativity and more about your personal growth is and also will be the most important thing in this life. The people who love you, support you and appreciate your presence will be there. Hell, they’ll even book half a plane, fly 800 miles and drive two and a half hours to stay in the middle of nowhere to watch you compete in a pageant when you are no longer relevant in pageant world. That’s what matters.

Like Myra always says, you can’t win them all—but if you learn to derive the necessary, purposeful and meaningful lessons from your experiences, you can never really lose. Amirite?

You can’t grow and flourish as a person and contribute to society if you stay stagnant in your thoughts and actions. I am not the same person I was two months ago, and I sincerely believe that I am better because of everything I’ve gone through—both this summer and in my 24 years of livin’. With that, I am still living, still breathing and still working to be and do better. I thank God for the hopes, goals, career, friendships and family that keep me on my toes and always striving for more.

I am SO excited to be representing the people, community and state that have molded me into the woman I am today. I have been to Hoopeston, Illinois twice as a spectator and admire each and every girl who competed. I CAN’T BELIEVE I GET TO BE ONE OF THEM THIS YEAR!

My mindset, after a few clouded thoughts hindered my almost-always optimistic noggin, is that this is an honor, a privilege and something I essentially worked to get to. I am certain that this experience will bring me memories, laughter, love and 40-something amazing young women who I get to call my Sweetheart sisters.

This is it for me. It’s hitting home, and the heart, pretty hard. I sat up yesterday skimming through five years of photos thinking “this is it.” I know the whole ‘once you’re in, you’re never really out,’ but I’ll never be a contestant again after next week. I’ll never get to cuddle with 12 girls in one bed while slowly nibbling on one cookie before a swimsuit prelim and talking about life. I’ll never have to do two-a-days for three weeks straight to strut in a swimsuit for 30 seconds ever. again. I’ll probably never get to wear a sparkly crown as a ‘princess’ and visit the Children’s Hospital again. So with that, I plan on taking advantage of every single aspect of this experience—because when push comes to shove, I’m not going to be talking about how I looked a little chubby in my swimsuit while I hold and talk to my future kids and grandkids. I’m going to talk about the amazing, talented, exuberant young women I met, who taught me about tenacity, goal-setting, perseverance and selflessness—the women who, in my 20s, pushed me far beyond my wildest expectations simply by being who they are day in and day out. The women who became doctors, teachers, journalists, senators, legislators, mothers, businesswomen, etc., all while serving as catalysts for change to make this world a better place to live in. After all, One [Wo]Man Can Change the World.

I ask for your kind words, prayers, smiles and hugs as I enter this ‘final phase of competition.’ I hope to make you all proud of the sassy, opinionated gal that you decided to put on a plane and send to the cornfields of Illinois. My heart is already full and I am grateful to end this chapter on such a sweet note.

Hoopeston, hope you’re ready for the
“Fresh Sweetheart of New Jersey.” 


A Work in Progress

Jumping into July. That’s the title of my ever-so-daunting to-do list, filled with errands, meetings, tasks, reminders and a grocery list, because walking across the street for pizza is no longer suitable for my bank account or my waistline. This whole adult life—not too sure how I feel about it. Sure, I’ve always had a job and bills to pay, but you tack on a rent, utilities and heightened responsibility and suddenly you wish you were still living at home with mom, greeting you with a good morning and a short stack.

I’m going through some pretty life-altering changes and transitions that sometimes send me to my bed at 7pm with no hope of moving until I have it figured out. I am a thinker, a lover, a dreamer. I have always looked one step ahead and up until a month ago, I thought my plan was pretty awesome. At that point, I’m sure God laughed and said ‘wait til you see what I have in store for you.’

Shift change. I knew at some point, the vision I had for my life was going to shift and take a different path. We can’t have it all figured out all the time. For five years, I set out to break barriers and set an example for women everywhere. I thought to myself—“How cool would it be for me to be the girl that made history? To be the first Hispanic Miss NJ and open a dialogue about diversity in this organization and in this state & country—maybe even the world.” I wouldn’t deem myself totally crazy, but that’s a hell of a lot of responsibility for one person, and I fought like hell to be that person. I want[ed] every single woman out there to know that you are never too young or too old to dream big, even if circumstances force you to shift that dream a bit. I read a few days ago that there are 7% less women in sports journalism this year in comparison to last year. There’s my shift. As a woman getting ready to embark on a new journey, I have found a new statistic to combat and another avenue to not only make my dreams come true, but provide relatability to young girls who were told they couldn’t be or do something.

And with that, I am slowly coming to the realization that competing (in a pageant, at least) is no longer a part of my future. I’ve identified with the consistent schedule of

  • Compete in a local
  • Win a local
  • Complete a year of service—driving up and down the state too many times to count
  • Prepare for miss new jersey
  • Drive myself crazy
  • Miss NJ week

(and a whole lot of living in between all of that)

With the exception of #5, I never have to abide by that rigorous schedule again. I think I’m okay with most of it, but what makes this all the more frightening is feeling like I’m no longer going to be important or relevant. How silly, right? I think of all the moments I’ve colored with children at the hospital, spoke with their families, seen kids too shy to speak because “I’m a princess” or people who have stopped and screamed “HEY MISS (insert title here)!” The little kids who run up and smile, the teenagers who want to take selfies and learn about your life, the adults who share their memories of the Miss America pageant—that’s what I’ll miss the most. I can live with never wearing a crown or sash again, but I pray every single night that I am able to be as influential, inspirational and motivational without it.

What’s love got to do with it? In the midst of all my reflecting, someone said to me “you know, something really amazing is going to happen to you this year. I hope you find love.” To this I laughed hysterically, because I have little to no luck in that department. Then I said to myself, “How thoughtful and kind for someone to wish that for me.” I have found some form of success in every aspect of my life, even in my failures and defeats. Boys—good lord. I found hope once, not too sure where it went. You share conversations and insight with people, and all of a sudden you’re staring at your phone waiting for a sign that something is there. I’ve been told I’m intimidating. I mean—who would want to date a driven college graduate with a background in sports, dance and communications who just so happens to be a beauty queen (I’m mediocre at best). Day in and day out I work to give the best version of myself. What I really want is someone who will tell me stupid jokes, talk about books, news and poetry with me, who maybe wouldn’t mind eating pizza in bed while watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Sportscenter. There’s so much more to that, but I believe that a bond between a man (not boy) and a women (not girl) is established when you smile at the sound of their name, find their insight and outlook to be intriguing, but more so when you understand that it isn’t one-for-another but one-for-both –aligning passion with drive and vision and letting nothing but love and support guide that.

Use your words for good. I started a small writing project a few weeks. Fidel Garcia once told me a story behind what it means to ‘pay it forward’ and I sincerely fell in love with the idea of acting in a kind manner, in an effort to repay the universe and those around you for your blessings. I am a firm believer in ‘throwing it to the wind’ and letting what needs/must happen to simply happen. As most of you know, my post-Miss NJ blog made its way to and through the pageant community in a way I never thought possible. Before all of that, however, there was the actual writing. I can’t say it was easy, and that I didn’t stay up staring at an empty screen in my Notes app. Life just sort of happens and you’re forced to deal with it—head on—whether you’re ready for it or not. In these moments, particularly in my own experiences, I had to put my trust in someone to essentially read my feelings and correct the grammatical errors—judgement free. That blog was not a short read, and my friend read it on his phone and sent back screenshots of every single page with every. single. thing I missed—word for word. Once my blog was fine-tuned, published, and getting unreal feedback, I thought to myself, “How do I pay it forward for all the people who sent me messages of encouragement and love in my encounter with defeat (we’ll deem it that for lack of a better word).” In that moment, I found myself writing again—an affirmation of sorts, providing reassurance of life and its pursuits. I won’t go into detail, but that night I sent an e-mail to my ‘proofreader’ that not only instilled words of hope into his existence, but provided me with the understanding that if you use your words for good, you can never truly go array. There’s something so satisfactory about knowing that your thoughts and positivity resonate with people. Being quoted on Twitter is also pretty awesome in my book.

Amidst the affirmations, I was putting myself in a vulnerable position, as my feelings (I have those for boys sometimes) began to take the wheel. This ‘proofreader’ has been my school girl crush for the last couple years. It’s cheesy to think you can continuously have those silly, not-so-logical feelings towards someone, but they happen and you deal.  However, sometimes we fall for people who have no intention of catching us, and instead watch us fall into confusion or ambiguity as they walk into happiness. Like real life Miss New Jersey, he never picked me—no matter how many times I tried. And he very well may never choose me. I was never going to be the first round pick of his girlfriend-draft. (Take the friendship, dull the rest).

Find your home. You’re gonna like/ love things and people more than they love you. Feelings aren’t always mutual, and reciprocity comes far and thin nowadays. We live under societal implications that give women authority to think that “swerving” a guy is cool, and men the power to think that having a laundry list of women to pick from on any given day or night is even cooler. To that, I call foul. BUT… At no point should you ever stop loving those things. They serve/d a purpose, and at some point, when things come full circle, you’ll know who and what to give your love to because it will be welcomed, accepted and returned. The home we all long for isn’t just the white house with a picket fence, but the one that is surrounded by red walls and a constant beating to remind us that we are still alive and very much loved.

Life. My advice to you, now and always, is to choose YOU first. The day someone else chooses me, I’ll be sure it’s a choice they never regret. People won’t text you back, Facetime calls will go unanswered, you won’t always land your dream job, and you may even get rejected from your dream school. Understand that you will never truly arrive at a place of knowing it all, but YOU are an expert of your own story and your own life. Own that, own yourself, and you learn to pick up pieces along the way to create the bigger picture. Each piece of the puzzle, no matter how rough the edges may be, will be exactly what you need when you need it and very rarely when you want it. You don’t have to remind someone that you’re worthy of their time. Focus your energy on who and what matters.

“Our hearts are so big. It’s our biggest strength and our biggest weakness.”

I am a work in progress. As a woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mentor, and in love, my career, my dreams and my goals—I am trying. That’s all I can do, right?!

But I am working. Every day. To be better and to do better.

A work in progress, working to progress.