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I think it's easy to be thankful for things that are naturally in good spirits. Good health, a loving partner, a happy family, a good paying job. But real gratitude is when you can be grateful for the things that aren't so pretty. We all know life isn't always shits & giggles, so it's important to maintain a grateful heart even when shit hits the fan. Below is a list of my biggest struggles that I learned to look at in a positive light.

  • OVERTHINKING. If I had a dollar for every time I stressed myself out while overthinking, I’d be on a private jet headed to my bungalow mansion in the Maldives right now. Overthinking can cause you to miss out on a lot of great opportunities so i try my best to not let it dictate my actions even though i feel the need to go through all the motions mentally. I’m grateful for my overworked mind because it has also lead me to a lot of great successes. I like to think of all possible outcomes of a situation and in some cases this helps, like how to graduate college early, or how to lower my credit card debt, or how to travel around Europe for as cheap as possible. It’s probably why I always did well in school and excelled in any position I’ve held. 

  • GETTING MY HEART BROKEN. Nothing will break you down like love gone wrong. We are partially at fault for having such high hopes and expectations for people to fit this perfect image we have for our partner. But really what is love without hope? It would just be boring. So as much as it hurts, and as much as it makes you question yourself and what you did to deserve being done so dirty, once you come to terms with the fact that it was never YOU that was the issue you find peace. I never thought I’d be in the situations I was in in my last relationship. It got extremely toxic, from white lies to huge ones, cheating, manipulation, disrespect. I always swore I’d never be “that girl.” But let me tell you, it’s not as easy to get out of as you think. Too many times I felt hopeless and “stuck.” Im so grateful I found the strength to leave a toxic situation even though in my heart I wanted so badly to believe things would get better. Sometimes you can truly love a person but that doesn’t mean that they’re good for you. The challenges and pain i had to overcome from this situation made me better in so many ways. It humbled me, because of course i thought “I’d never get cheated on..I’m too good of a woman for that.” But truth is, it doesn’t matter how great you are, how many times you hold shit down emotionally or financially, how many massages you give your man, how bomb your sex is, how independent you are, if a person is going to cheat, they’re going to do it regardless. It also taught me the importance of self love. Never ever ever forget your worth, especially when you fall in love (because that is the easiest time to get lost in someone else and forget who tf you really are). Most importantly, never let a person who is bad for you make you colder, you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice. 

  • BEING A  MISFIT. I’ve never really “fit in” anywhere. I was kind of like a walking oxymoron. I was a “cool kid” in honors classes. Too cool for the nerds, and too nerdy for the cool kids. Being mixed, I was too white for the Spanish kids and too Spanish for the white kids. I went to a predominantly white elementary school because the schools in my neighborhoods weren’t as good. But of course i was too “ghetto” for most of the kids at school and too “proper” for the kids on my block.  I was head cheerleader in High School But i also played the clarinet in the school band and marching band. At pep rallies I’d have to play the National Anthem in my clarinet in my cheer uniform then run to lead my cheer team into our routine. I don’t click well with females, but a female can’t have guy friends or she’s a “hoe” or they just catch feelings and shit gets awkward. It goes a lot deeper than this but I think I’ll save that for its own post soon. Moral of the story is I never fit in anywhere and there was a time where it really took a toll on my confidence and happiness... but I’ve learned to embrace it and own my individuality. It means learning to truly enjoy my own company, and be at peace knowing that i may never connect with people on the level that I want to. 

  • BEING A PERFECTIONIST. OCD is an understatement. I’m an organization freak, a control freak, an over-achiever and so on.  It comes in handy when you’re in college and on e-board for two clubs, work two jobs, need to schedule naps between classes and turning up and you plan every hour of your day in your planner...BUT it has definitely caused me a few grey hairs and a lot of headaches. Through all the stress I’ve learned the importance of letting go and to just let things flow and be ok with the fact that I do not have control. 

  • BEING BULLIED. Oh boy. Middle school kids are so freaking mean. LET ME TELL YOU. Thankfully, social media was only just emerging when I was in middle school, i can’t imagine how hard it must be on the kids now with all these social networks. MySpace and AIM were the hottest things back then (GOD I’M OLD.) I was bullied A LOT in middle school. Both online and at school. Some of the most common thugs I was made fun of for (and this was every single day) were my short legs, my big forehead, my big head, having hairy arms, being a “slut”. I can’t even tell you the kind of rumors that we’re going around about me WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD. I couldn’t use the bathroom at school without being taunted by older or bigger girls calling me all kinds of names, trying to intimidate me, writings on the bathroom stalls about me and even boys would taunt me too. I dealt with a lot of ridicule from people I didn’t know as well as friends and family (although i don’t know that they’re really aware of how much the negatively contributed.) It definitely took a mental and emotional toll on me, even physical. I went into a depression in 7th grade, I never wanted to go to school, so I was absent a lot or late every day just so I can avoid the early morning crowds going into school and on the city bus. I just didn’t understand why my existence bothered people so much. I never talked about anyone, started any drama or gave anyone a reason to have a problem with me. I was just a girl who got good grades, played the clarinet, dressed weird and minded my business. I had like four best friends who i hung out with (2 of whom I’m still best friend with.)  Thankfully I could talk to my mom about what i was going through and she kept me grounded and reminded me constantly to not let other people’s personal issues hold me back from living my best life. This experience played a large part in the person i am today. It taught me not to care what other people think of me, and if they’re trying to bring me down it’s only because they have issues they need to deal with themselves. It taught me compassion and to never be mean to people. You have no idea what someone can be going through. 

  • BEING A FEMALE. We all know that unfortunately in this society, women have to work a lot harder to get what is so freely given to men. We have to do all this all the while bleeding for a week straight every month. We are held to higher standards but not given nearly the same rewards as men. Being a minority woman makes it even harder to get ahead. As much of a challenge it is, I’m grateful for it  because it made me go harder in every aspect of my life. I was raised by a strong, independent woman so I’ve seen first-hand how much a woman can accomplish on her own. And truly there’s nothing more powerful then empowered women coming together to support eachother and build eachother up. There’s such a rewarding feeling behind being the underdog and coming out on top, and i feel like that’s what it’s like being a woman in America today. 

  • BEING AN ADULT. You’re never prepared for the “real world” no matter how many lectures you hear on it or how many crash courses you take. It’s always gonna slap you in the face one way or another. My slap in the face was 6 months after I graduated college when my mom told me she was moving and cutting me off financially. I was focusing on building my brand at the time and really did not want to work a 9-5 if I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, that ended quickly and I was forced to “grow up” and get a job and support myself. It took me a reeeeaaaalllllyyyyy long time to get used to it and not be totally bitter about the situation. Anyone who knows me knows how unconventional I am. I hate routine. I hate authority. I hate the never ending cycle of normalcy most people succomb to in this society. I’m finally learning to see the bright side of my situation though. I landed a great job, some may even say career, in the field I went to school for, I’m working in the heart of the fashion district on 5th Ave in Manhattan, and I don’t receive support from anyone

  • BEING RAISED BY A SINGLE MOM. I had to learn at a young age that the world was not all sweet and dandy. I grew up in an abusive household, and my parents split when I was 4 years old. Growing up with a single mom who worked her ass off to support me and my older brother was definitely a challenge. As a child you don’t understand why relationships don’t work out and your just left wondering why someone who created you wouldn’t want to be in your life. My mom was always working to make ends meet so she wasn’t always able to come to my school book sales, band concerts, cheer performances, Parent-Teacher conferences and so on. I always felt left out when the other kids had their parents there for everything but hindsight is 20/20. I’m grateful because it taught me to be independent and I truly don’t know how my mom did such an amazing job on her own. I was aware of the damage that a toxic relationship can cause to both the people in it and surrounding it at a really young age. I learned a lot of lessons about love, respect, hard work and most of all perseverance from growing up with a single mom. 

  • BEING BROKE. All my life all I’ve known is struggle. Too many times we went without luxuries most people are used to like cable, junk food, AC, new clothes, the newest in technology, etc. It humbled me and taught me not to place value on trivial things. I learned to make the most of what little I had and worked harder so i wouldn’t have to struggle for the rest of my life. I learned to be frugal and strategic with my money. Most importantly, I was taught to give to people in need even if i don’t have much to offer. 
  • ANXIETY. I mention this one a lot. It was the biggest struggle I’ve ever faced. That’s probably because it was an internal battle rather than something external. I’m still fighting to find the words to explain how debilitating anxiety can be. Everyone experiences it differently and it sounds crazy to people who haven’t experienced it. At the bottom of it all anxiety taught me to appreciate the most basic aspects of life, especially life itself. Too many times when my anxiety swallowed me and dying sounded so much more appealing then living through it. Now, I appreciate breathing normally, and being around people I love without being jittery and my mind running wild, i appreciate when my heart beats at a normal pace and when my stomach isn’t turning. I appreciate falling asleep peacefully and not waking up to a racing heart and scary thoughts. I am so grateful for feeling normal. 
Photography by Elizabeth Malave

Thanks for reading!


Brittany Jade


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