I Learned How To Love Myself In California

By Alissa Jablonske

To the boys in high school who prank called and made fun of my acne, to the college roommate who gossiped about me any chance she could get, and to the unfaithful ex-boyfriend who loved to tell people that I was “a cry baby”, thank you for fueling my desire to live a great life.

I didn’t know how to stick up for myself at the time. I couldn’t find the courage to speak my mind or fight back. I’m quiet by nature, and when I was younger, I was especially timid. But, through every hurtful action, a fire grew in my belly. One day, they’ll see how great I am! They’ll regret treating me this way. Maybe fighting back wasn’t in my nature, but quiet resilience was.

By the time I was 22, all I wanted to do was escape my life in Minnesota and start fresh. Graduating college felt like my opportunity to finally live the life I’d always wanted. I vowed I’d live a cool life, one that people would be jealous of. To be happy and successful felt like the ultimate payback.

“One Day I’ll Be Livin’ In A Big Old City…”

Going off and living my “cool new life” didn’t happen immediately. I graduated from college without a solid plan in place and got a job selling denim at Nordstrom. In between shifts, I applied for corporate jobs and internships all over the country. I threw my resume out into the world like seeds into the wind. I didn’t care where I went, I just wanted to go.

And then, the opportunity for my cool new life finally came. I was offered an internship position with a big-time retailer in Southern California. I had two weeks to move. I packed up a giant suitcase and flew to California with my parents alongside to help me settle in.

As an adaptable Gemini, I thrive off of change and adventure. I quickly found a rhythm in my new home. I loved driving with my windows down in the middle of February. I loved the warm sun on my skin, the palm trees, the blue skies. I felt free.

Many, many miles stood between the people who once made me feel so miserable and me. I smiled to myself as I thought of those people hearing I’d moved to California. Taylor Swift’s song Mean would play in my head, “One day I’ll be livin’ in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean…”

Was my desire to prove people wrong a healthy motivator? Perhaps not. But, it was a motivator nonetheless. California was my opportunity for a new life. A new me.

As the weeks passed, I made friends with the other interns. We began spending most of our Friday nights in Newport Beach. Tipsy and giggly, we’d run down to the beach after a night at the bars. With my bare feet in the cool sand, I’d breathe in the salty air and marvel at how beautifully mysterious the ocean is at night.

It was amazing. I was living a life better than I’d ever imagined, yet I felt this heaviness in my heart. Being thousands of miles from the people I loved, I developed a new sense of loneliness. And the anxiety I thought I could leave behind in Minnesota, was still there. Sure, I’d escaped the mean people back home, but I couldn’t escape the mean voices that lived in my head. The voices were incessant and cruel.

‘You’re socially awkward.’

‘No guy in California is going to like you. There are way prettier girls here than you.’

‘You’ll never make enough money to afford living here. You’re going to go into debt!’

Happiness Is An Inside Job

After interning for ten weeks, I was hired full time! I was ecstatic and proud. It’s official! I live in California. The happiness lasted for a while, but as the normalcy of life started sinking in — paying bills, finding a new place to live, dating — I felt the emptiness return.

I’d thought my new life in California would bring me happiness. I considered sticking it to those “mean people” would satisfy me. From the outside, I had a “cool life” and a “cool job”, but inside, I was still anxious, lost, and insecure.

We often have to reach rock bottom before we can turn our lives around. While I didn’t have a significant turning point moment, achieving my goals and still feeling unhappy was a red flag. It wasn’t the way I wanted to live. I was in a beautiful place, and I wanted to enjoy it. So, I started reading self-help books.

As I devoured book after book, I began noticing a common theme. If I wanted to live a happy life, I needed to:

  1. Love and believe in myself
  2. Talk kindly to myself
  3. Exercise and take care of my body
  4. Eat healthy
  5. Take care of my mind

And so, I actually listened. I took action on what I was reading. I built a meditation practice into my life. I began writing five things I was grateful for every morning. I started working out and eating healthier. I traded Netflix binges for self-help podcast binges. Slowly but surely, the fog began to lift.

I rewrote the way I talked to myself. With the help of mindfulness meditation, I learned to separate from my thoughts. Every day that I followed through on improving myself, my confidence grew stronger. It felt good to be the type of person who sticks to her word and takes control of her life. I was loving the woman I was becoming, and that was a breakthrough.

What I learned from this experience is that it all starts inside. You can achieve the greatest dream of your life, make a ton of money, and go on the coolest trips but if you don’t deal with the stuff in your head, you’ll never be fulfilled.

Alissa is a spiritual blogger who believes “ease and flow” is the new “hustle and grind”. She shares tactical stories through a spiritual lens to inspire women to live, dream, and achieve with ease. For weekly self-reflection prompts, sign up for Alissa’s email series, Spiritual Growth Sundays! To read more of Alissa’s writing, check out lifebyalissa.com and follow her on Instagram @lifebyalissa.

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