The world is an interesting place. We all live our lives the way we think is best and while we might say that we try to look at things through other peoples’ lenses, we’re lying. How can we truly ever know what’s going through another person’s head? We can’t read minds, at least I don’t think anyone can outside of a fantasy realm.
This goes for everything as small as the motives of your closest family and friends to understanding what it’s like to live as a black, queer, trans, poor, marginalized woman of color if you’re a white, straight, cis, upper-class white male. You can have sympathy and empathy for the “other” but you can’t ever begin to say that you know what their lived experiences have been.
When Blink-182 said, “Nobody likes you when you’re 23,” I thought that was a joke. When one of my best friends affirmed that, in fact, no one likes you when you’re 23, I brushed it off. In reality, 23 is a tough year for a lot of people, myself included, but 23 is a year that teaches you. At least it has for me.
For those of you that have followed this blog for a while or know me personally, you know that this past year has been eventful, to say the least. While I still have a little over two months left of 23, it pains me to say a 1999 pop punk band was prophetic. What they got wrong though was not that people don’t like you when you’re 23, but that you can actually see with clear eyes the reality of the world around you. In reality, it’s not that nobody likes you when you’re 23, but rather you’re now just aware of it. At this age, you’re probably graduated from college, still finding your way, with adulthood hitting you like a bullet train you didn’t see coming. No one is there to hold your hand anymore and you have to keep pushing yourself toward success and happiness.
But how do we define success and happiness? Typically our concept of success tends to mirror how our parents or guardians have raised us to define it. For my parents, success is measured by how close you are with your family, where you go to school, how well you do at said school, what job you get, and how much money you make. With this success comes happiness. And for a long time, I subscribed to that definition. Then I turned 23.
Right before my birthday last year, I was fresh out of Boston University. I was back home, applying for jobs in New York, Boston, SF and LA. I started to work at Lush Cosmetics in a mall and as a substitute teacher. I didn’t get any big job offers, although one at Burberry was so close at one point I could taste it. I felt like a failure, to my parents and to myself, but hopeful that something would big would happen. And boy did it ever.
Two days before my birthday, right as I started to get comfortable in this new limbo phase before I would start my career, I was involved in a car accident. After a serious panic attack and ultimately hitting rock bottom, I did the only thing I thought was left to do: tie up the loose ends and leave. Something needed to change. I didn’t belong back at home with my parents. I wasn’t meant to sell overpriced soap and substitute teach at my old elementary school. So I left.
Without droning on about the events of the last 10 months, know that they’ve been filled with highs and lows. A seemingly never-ending roller coaster. For every fight, there was an equal number of loving interactions. I learned who I wanted to be and who I wanted to be around. I also learned what my definition of success and happiness would be going forward.
I learned happiness is its own machine and only we can determine our own happiness. As for success, it’s nuanced. There are so many different types of success and we have to determine what kind is best for us.
For me, with happiness comes success. To succeed in finding true happiness and contentment in life allows for all the different kinds of success to fall into place. And that’s how I’ve been trying to live my life. And not to be naive, I understand that this process of happiness and success is an everyday occurrence. I believe we must work every single day to uphold these beliefs. We have to put in some elbow grease, some sweat equity.
My philosophy has evolved into one where I try to put kindest and respect at the top, but you can never expect kindest and respect in return. Always try to be the bigger person. Keep your head up. Strive to always be the best version of yourself, even when people try to tear you down every day. Try to excel in everything you do. Live in the present and look to the future. Innovate. Focus on being positive, kind, thoughtful, caring, helpful, aware, smart, funny, loving and every other good thing you can think to be.
You can’t change the way people are at their core, but you can change the people you choose to be around. I’ve learned that in life, we make our own families, whether it be by blood or by marriage or simply just connection of mind and soul.
In past posts, I’ve called my parents toxic. I said some things that didn’t come from a good place as I was going through one of the roughest parts of my life to date. While I don’t believe in regret, I recognize it was wrong of me to speak of those who have given me life in such a way on such a public forum. I have to live with the consequences of my actions, but by no means do I need to dwell on them. The past is over; the only thing to do is learn from it and move forward. Become the change you want to be in this world and slap a smile on your face, even when you know it’s difficult.
So what is the whole point of this? That’s up to you to determine. All I can say is that we get one life and we should live it the best way that we can. For me, that means putting my happiness at the top of the list. People can say whatever they want about me, they can believe that I’m whatever type of person they think I am, and people can choose to have me in their life or not. At the end of the day, we’re born alone and we die alone. What we do with the time in the middle is up to us. I choose to be the best version of myself surrounded by those whom I love, even if they don’t love me. And I’ll try to wake up every morning with a smile on my face.
What will you do?
P.S. I know I’ve been MIA for a bit and I hate to say I’ll be MIA for a little bit longer now. In a month, I’ll be starting a new chapter of my life in Paris where I will be an MBA candidate at the International Fashion Academy. I hope to add a Parisian touch to Not Vincenzo while being 100% focused on being successful in school. When I come back, expect to see a bigger, badder and better version of me as I go back to school, learn French, and navigate my way through Europe. I’m excited to share this next chapter of my life with you all!
P.P.S. Shoutout to one of my best friends and favorite humans, Kelsey, for another amazing shoot and knowing how to be the baddest of them all. Love you boo and I can’t wait for you to come on adventures with me in gay Par-ee.
Photography by Kelsey Quartuccio