Category Archives: Confidence

A bridge over troubled water

I don’t remember the first time I heard the song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It may have been in my Dad’s hunter green Tahoe listening to a “Golden Oldies” radio station. It may have been in the living room of my grandparents house listening to an album on their record player. (That I now proudly own, *humble brag*)

It’s a song I just… know. That many, many people know. From the mega famous to the ordinary. It spans generations, continents and cultures.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all

The London Gay Men’s Chorus sang it in solidarity with the community of Orlando at a vigil held this week in London.

For obvious reasons, this video moved me significantly. I watched it several times. Thinking about Orlando. Feeling heavy hearted for lives affected, and my own. How my life right now seems like a deep, long stretch of troubled water.

I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

I have struggled to put into words what I have been feeling for months on end. I’ve written several unpublished drafts on this blog. Searching for the right way to explain myself. It’s a lot of confusion and hopelessness. Feeling unworthy of opportunity and acceptance. I have felt angry with myself for failing to achieve certain things professionally — and for failing to be someone I am proud of.

I feel lost. All the time. I never seem to know if I’m making the right or wrong decision. I keep looking for “answers” in people, ideas and things… Expecting to have a moment, an “a-ha!” A “now I understand the workings of the universe” epiphany. But after a talk with my mom that went something like this: SOMEBODY SEDATE ME. She told me I wouldn’t understand any of this until I was on the other side.

I’ve heard that being in your 20s is a rollercoaster. I’ve heard it’s for exploration and self-discovery. I’ve heard it’s for dating and traveling. I’ve heard it’s the time to f*ck up before it really matters.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street

But I hadn’t heard how painful it would be.

Then Orlando happened. And instantly, I am hit with a sweeping wave of guilt. Guilt for failing to appreciate the life I’ve been given. Failing to remember my “troubles” pale in comparison to others. Like the 49 mothers and fathers who will never hear from their child again.

When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

Last weekend my brakes went out in my car and I hit a wall. Like an actual wall. At a grocery store. And that’s just the first *real* wall this year, the irony isn’t lost on me.

I’ve hit many “walls.” Walls in my personal life, my professional life. Walls that I keep hitting over and over again. I feel like a windup toy, stuck in a maze. I keep making the same mistakes.

I grew up about an hour outside of Orlando. It’s a city where people vacation. It’s the home of the “happiest place on earth.” It’s a family town in many ways, with pockets of charming neighborhoods and lakeside porches. The highways are flanked with lush green grass and palm trees.

It is no place for the largest shooting in U.S. history.

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around

I’ve seen pretty gruesome things during my short time working in news. I’ve seen the worst of humanity, not personally, but close enough to rattle my organs and make me question what my purpose is in this life. Questioning the very industry I work in at times — wondering, what is the point?

As journalists, we are committed to you. We are committed to explaining what is happening in the world. And during catastrophic events like Orlando and Paris, we work long hours. That sometime require talking to a deceased person’s family. Keeping accurate counts of death tolls. Verifying pictures of the dead.

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around

We are not doctors or nurses or first responders or police or trauma surgeons. But we see things in exquisite and alarming detail.

In some ways, we are the bridge over troubled waters.

There are times when I resent my job. There are times when I curse those 3 red letters. There are times when I’m *so pissed* I have to to go to work. But there are times when I talk to people who have done extraordinary things, and I’m reminded of the wonderful humans in the world. I come across stories everyday of people demonstrating remarkable kindnesses, and those are only the ones that get reported.

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by

When I read a tiny thing about a tiny person, in a tiny town, that made a tiny difference, it’s like a lighthouse in my brain. Almost instantly, I’m like, “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!” Those stories are the bridge over my troubled waters.

Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine

It’s so easy to think that the world is against you and that the only people here are bad. That people live to see you fall… But I would argue, and I believe in the rawest part of my heart, that they don’t.

Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Life is brutal sometimes. It’s one lesson after another. It’s a struggle. It’s a climb. It’s one that constantly changes when you need it to be still. And it’s one that’s still when you need it to change.

One of the most comforting things to me have been seeing my fellow colleagues, even if silently, work next to me. We are all doing the same thing. We are all tired. We are all, I assure you — heartbroken.

And sometimes during this life, all we can do, is be a bridge.

For each other.

I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

How #ONA15 helped me face my networking fears

Do you like meeting people?

I’m going to be really, really honest here — I don’t. I hate it. (Keep reading.)

Earlier this year, I bought myself a pass to go to a conference in Los Angeles — the Online News Association’s annual gathering for digital journalists and badasses to come together to share industry knowledge — and talk to each other. 

use3

What the hell was I thinking? I can’t even drag myself to a professional event in Atlanta, let alone fly across the country to do it.

I’m an introvert. Before you dismiss that claim because you’ve heard my extreme laugh, hear me out.

I am easily overwhelmed by crowds and I generally err on the side of, uh, complete avoidance when it comes to socializing with people I don’t know.

In the days before the conference, I didn’t have much to say about it. “I’m mostly stressed,” was my answer when questioned. I spent most of the night before my flight thinking, “What have I done?”

How was I going to deal with this? How would I survive this mortal combat known as  — “networking?” I gave serious thought to completely ditching it for the sake of “saving money” — and my scared and fragile psyche. But it was a trip to California, for God’s sake. I wear a compass around my neck with a map of Los Angeles pasted to the back of it most days. (It’s cuter than it sounds.)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

There was only one option — a one way ticket to getting the hell out of my comfort zone. So I committed. I packed my favorite blazer, an enormous stack of business cards —  and an attitude synonymous with “Long Black Road.” They used to tell me boy you ain’t goin’ nowhere…

On Wednesday, after a painfully early flight (of sideways sleeping and freaking out) — ONA hosted a Google event in Venice Beach. There was going to be a presentation, preceded by the scariest words in the English language — “light refreshments and mingling.” Oh. God.

IMG_7747

Now, normally, the mention of a mixer would have sent me running for the hills. With my head on fire.

And I didn’t have to go to it. I was tired. So exceedingly tired. I could have just showed up for the presentation and crawled into my plush hotel bed. But I forced myself to go.

use4

And at first, yeah, I felt really freaking awkward. As expected, I didn’t know a soul, and I just kind of wandered around the room like a lost little kid. Like maybe this cement wall will strike up a conversation with me? I prayed.

But I remembered a simple piece of advice I’d read earlier in the week while prepping for the conference — act like a host, make other people feel welcome, instead of focusing on how weird you feel. So I found someone who wasn’t talk to anyone, and we had things and people in common.

(Funny thing about media conferences, you’re bound to have something in common — you know, like, everything?)

use1

Once that conversation ended, I picked up another, and another after that. And that’s really all it took. One conversation with one stranger to propel me to have more conversations with more strangers.

I learned a ton of stuff at ONA — including how to negotiate a salary, how to write more engaging content, how to effectively use Snapchat, what the HECK Yik Yak is…

use5

But the biggest thing I learned was how to face a really tangible fear in my life, a fear that has interfered with my success and growth as a person and a professional — a fear that manifested into a lie about myself that I started believing: That nobody cares or wants to know me.

But they do — and they did, and I want to know more of you in return.

So thanks to all of the people who made me feel welcome, and thanks to the Online News Association for forcing people like myself to face of some of their silliest hangups. It was worth every penny and every anxious thought.

I read and finished Into the Wild during my flights on this trip for the first time. I both admired and pitied Chris McCandless for his bravery, his brashness — and his fear and distaste for intimacy. But we have to assume near the end of the book, as his health deteriorated beyond repair, he began to crave human relationships. Days before his death, he wrote in the margins of a copy of Doctor Zhivago — “HAPPINESS ON REAL WHEN SHARED.”

Indeed.

use2

#DearMe: Be the heroine

Have you heard of this #DearMe thing?

According to YouTube: “In celebration of International Women’s Day, take part in YouTube’s global #DearMe initiative to inspire and empower young girls everywhere.”

Obviously, I loved this. I wish I could look my younger self in the face and tell her a few things. Like, don’t drink Vodka, ever. Am I right?

So I wanted to take part in this #DearMe thing. It sends you to a website to create a GIF with a pre-made quote or an option to make your own. I wanted to make my own.

So I sat there and stared at it for a long time. I’m usually good with this kinda stuff. I can whip out a solid piece of advice pretty easily most of the time. But I completely drew a blank. Everything I would tell my younger self, I haven’t even learned yet. Simple lessons, like, “everything will work out for the best.” Or, “you’re capable and you’ll figure out a way.”

Probably because recently, I came up against some good old fashioned failure.
image (5)

I didn’t get something I really, really wanted, and I tried like hell to get it.

And if I’m gonna be honest here, this doesn’t happen to me a whole lot. I have a really strong vision for my life and I’m generally extremely committed and driven to get there.

So when reality didn’t line up with “the vision” it was a brutal, brutal letdown. The stuff of nightmares, breakups — nasty disappointment in myself.

I haven’t been a good sport about it all.

And no amount of goodwill or encouragement has helped me. (You’re like, OMG you are so annoying. I KNOW.)

I’ve got all these people (friends, coworkers, parents) barking at me to get the heck over it and feel proud of myself.

As much as I want to listen to that, most of me just wants to say, “ehhh get out of my face.”

Rejection is one of the hardest human experiences to endure. Rejection from a person, a place or a thing. It just sucks. You become a victim to your extreme vulnerability.

Here I am! I can give you THIS, and THIS and I can be THAT, and do THAT, and contribute THESE things, and succeed at THAT and change THIS and BY THE WAY – I’m hardworking and funny AND! I’ll do anything for you. Even move my life across the country! WITH BELLS ON.

image (2)

Eh… no thanks.

BUT I WOULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING FOR YOU.

image (3)

How do you recover from that? Beats the hell out of me, honestly. I really don’t know. I guess like most things, you have to sweat it out. Work through it somehow and set your sights on something else.

I feel so behind, though. There are high school students out there writing apps, and songs and books. And here I am writing about failure on some blog I made a year ago. Who the heck am I?

I feel I’m in no position right now to tell my younger self anything at all. I wish she could tell ME a few things.

So I’m going to try to imagine myself a little bit older and a little bit wiser. What would she say? She would probably say something along the lines of, “suck it up, drama queen, you’re gonna make it. Have some faith, be courageous, and listen to yourself.”

Ugh.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. And I’m not even sure I’m ready to swallow it. But I know I’m gonna have to eventually. It’s unbelievably easy to feel sorry for yourself when stuff like this happens. But that’s not me, that’s not my personality. It’s not who I was raised to be, someone who becomes a victim to a situation instead of rising above it.

So, #DearMe – Past me, current me, future me:

image (7)

 

25

I turned 25 last week. Which is, by all accounts, not a big deal. But this particular year of my life involved a LOT of change. I’ve learned a few things, and I’ve grown up a bit. In fact, yesterday, I went to Target to buy hair conditioner and a mop. And I left with ONLY hair conditioner and a mop. I didn’t buy any clothes, shoes or wine. And that, is an accomplishment.

Life isn’t that serious.
I’m sort of a drama queen. Not in the sense of necessarily causing it, just in my reaction and overall delivery. I’ve got an arsenal of facial expressions and hand gestures to fire off in any given argument. And I have a tendency to go straight to “doomsday” mode when things go wrong. In middle school, I brought home a progress report littered with B’s and C’s. My parents went ballistic. I wasn’t allowed to bring home anything less than an A. They scheduled meetings with my teachers, suspended my dance classes and gave me about 25 lectures, a piece. I knew that day, that the world was over. I still haven’t mastered the art of “settling down.” But I AM beginning to recognize when I overreact, which is I think at least a step.

Not ready? It’s okay.
Not ready to get married yet? It’s okay. Not ready to make that big career move? It’s okay. Not ready to move out of your parents’ house? Eh, it’s still okay. Move at your own speed, because if you try to keep up with everyone else, you’ll exhaust yourself, and you’ll be miserable. Do what feels right. You have nothing to apologize for.

Your truest self arrives in the form of a gut feeling.
We’ve all got an inner voice. It pings us when someone seems fake, it encourages us to dream big and it generally steers us toward the greater good. We do one of two things with “the voice,” we follow it, or we ignore it. Too often, I think we ignore it because we doubt its legitimacy, or we convince ourselves that it’s impossible. Dreams and convictions don’t just surface out of nowhere. Could it be possible the voice leads you to your purpose in the world? I think so.

Be fiercely loyal to your loved ones. 
I keep my family and closest friends really close. I’ve only got a handful, and the older I get, the more I want to be totally loyal to them. The people that have clung to me at this point in my life are probably going to stay there. Be good to the people who care about you most. Listen to their boring stories and be available to them no matter how busy you are. They’re the ones who are will carry you when you can’t carry yourself.

Making decisions out of fear is a terrible idea.
How many times have you made a decision because you were scared of the alternative?
I don’t want to break up with him because I’ll never find anyone else.
I have to stick with this job because I won’t find a better one.
I can’t move far away because I’m scared of getting home sick.
These fears, for the most part, are irrational. But they’re unbelievably believable. Especially that first one. If you’re unhappy in any given situation, it requires change. And if the change scares you, it’s a good thing. You’ll be much better for it in the end, even if the light at the end of the tunnel is but a twinkle.

Believe in something higher than yourself.
Knowing there is a higher plan in place makes me have a lot of hope. At age 25, your entire life is one big unknown. Chances are, you haven’t found your dream job, or your soulmate. But chances also are, if you believe, you will.  If you’re finding yourself in a total rut — this is temporary. If you believe in the steadfast power of the universe to align with your deepest hopes and dreams, it will. You’ll find a way. You always will.

Be fiercely loyal to yourself.
Loyalty comes from a deep place of respect and often love. I think a key part of living successfully involves loving yourself. When your core beliefs and values reflect what you’re doing, and you’re succeeding — you start to like who you’re becoming. There’s nothing in the world more gratifying than exuding confidence because you know exactly who you are, and liking it. You become unapologetically genuine when you love yourself, and there’s nothing more likeable than authenticity. One of my absolute favorite compliments in the world, is when people tell me, “You’re so real.” That’s when I feel I’m my best self. So be loyal to the person welling up inside of you. If you love yourself, the world will love you back.

And that’s just fabulous.

I’m not watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

I won’t be watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In fact, I’ve never watched it.

It’s not because I think it’s degrading or inappropriate. I’m all for the glitz and glamour of a super female production. I love sparkles, beauty and fashion. Totally.

But I’d rather not subject myself to staring at rock solid abs and perfect boobs for two hours (or however long the thing is.)
The-Victoria-Secret-Fashion-show-2014-101

I’ve heard the “but, it motivates me!” argument. Which I guess I sorta understand. But what does it motivate you to do? Get in better shape to feel awesome in a bathing suit — That’s one thing. Aiming for a thigh gap? Or pretruding hip and collar bones? Buy better makeup to feel prettier?

I know what you’re thinking, that I’m mad and jealous I don’t look like that.

Well, yeah, I AM mad about it. Totally jealous. But I’ve accepted the fact that I wasn’t born with perfect cleavage, sitting on top of a pair of mile-long legs.

I’m not a super insecure person, I have my moments absolutely, but for the most part, I’m generally okay with how I look. But that doesn’t mean I don’t squirm with envy at times.

I think what could be damaging about watching stuff like this is our already extreme need to aim for perfection. There is an enormous amount of pressure to feel beautiful, all the time, even when we wake up. And we go through a lot of drama to look good.

Exhibit A: I woke up like THIS (see left.)

Being a girl is no effing joke. #ImActuallyALion

A post shared by Jamie K. White (@jamiekwhite) on

There’s no denying it. I color my hair and wax my eyebrows. I straighten my hair, JUST to curl it! I feel the pressure too. And it’s ridiculous enough. So nah, I’m not gonna tune in. I’m good.

What I will watch though, is this kid named Ava.

Have you seen this girl? She’s a Vine sensation, and also the funniest person ever. I unashamedly check every single day to see if her mom posted a new video of her. She’s a true champion of individuality.

She’s 4-years-old and she wears leggings with kittens on them. She does impressions, tells it like it is, and is nothing but herself.

Remember when we were like that? When were totally unafraid to be ourselves? When we were 4-years-old and thought we were beautiful? I used to parade around town wearing princess costumes and my mom’s 80’s blue eye shadow all over my face. I thought I looked great.

And then middle school arrived and I spent the majority of those years sporting orange hair and wearing two padded bras. I felt pretty gross about myself most of the time. The pressure was officially on.

Even though that awkward phase is thankfully over, there’s still always something about myself I’d be down with changing, or at the very least, tweaking.

I’m sure many of you have heard me complain about my nose. It takes up 50% of my face. Not really, but it feels that way sometimes. But I’m not going to change it, it makes me who I am. So does my lack of any SORT of chest.

If you live and die by the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, fine. But I’d rather try to make an effort to enjoy my imperfections than inevitably compare myself to seemingly perfect women.

Because really, “comparison is the theif of joy.” — Teddy Roosevelt

Happy Holidays.
o-LOVE-ACTUALLY-2-facebook