Coming to terms with the mortality of success remains the harshest reality to strike me in the past two years.
The summer before I started college I won two national championships in the high jump and competed at the 2014 World Junior Championship. Since my junior year of high school I believed I was going nowhere but up, and my successes only reinforced the naïve belief.
I started jumping my freshman year of high school. I came from a family of volleyball players, but I never wanted to associate myself with my sisters’ interests. Essentially coached by a school priest and YouTube videos, I took to the event quickly and became passionate about every aspect of jumping. Freshman year was a season of constant improvement. I hit a slump in my sophomore year, which led me to make a series of influential changes, the greatest being the decision to devote myself to my faith.
I began devotional sessions every evening, reading the Bible and writing about how the message spoke to me. I attended church every Sunday with my parents, and rarely took a Sunday off, even when I was traveling. My junior season began with a personal record, and ended with a state championship after finishing first in every meet of the season. Through the entire season I made it a point to recognize my trusting relationship with God as the reason for all success. I continued this mentality into my senior season, and I continued to get better.
On the morning of the New Balance Outdoor National Championship, I attended church with my parents. I found a small Catholic church in Greensboro, NC, which is now one of the most memorable churches I have ever visited.
Not one part of me was nervous. I knew that I had prepared as much as I could, and it was now in God’s hands. Throughout the competition I remained in constant conversation with God. I never asked for a victory. I simply just asked for His presence. I went on to win the competition without a single miss and achieved a new personal record. I used my faith in the next championship two weeks later and the success continued. The great change came after the world championship.
I slowly began to believe my success was a result of my own work. My focus shifted from God to myself. I transitioned into an arrogant and ungrateful athlete. I can remember throwing fits at my parents when I did not get what I want, at one point exclaiming, “I did this all on my own. You had nothing to do with it.” I had truly let the success consume me. I broke promises I made to myself and to God. Going into college, I believed there was no way I could fall down. I convinced myself I would continue to progress the way I had been the past two years.
Boy, did I get slapped with humility! I never stopped working hard. I never missed a day of practice. I never gave up on my dreams. However, I did give up on the one thing that got me to where I am, my faith and humility. College has absolutely not gone as planned. I jump significantly lower than I did as a senior in high school. Some days it even feels as though I am continuing to fall down into a hole and there’s no way out. In all of this pain and struggle, I have matured and learned more about myself than I ever would have had everything gone as planned. You don’t truly realize what you are blessed with until you are knocked down scrambling to get back up.
Now, I make it my goal to find my faith again and remain humble, so when I get back up and find success again, I won’t allow the same arrogance to creep in. I no longer believe my success is inevitable. I understand nothing is a guarantee.
I have been taught more by failure than success could ever teach me. None of this means that I have accepted failure or that I am content with where I am, and I shouldn’t be! You are allowed to be upset by your failures.
To pull a quote from Meredith Grey, “Progress looks like a bunch of failures. And you can have feelings about that because it’s sad, but you can’t fall apart.” It isn’t always about how you feel about failure; it’s about what you do to keep yourself together so you can move forward. I choose to use my faith to hold me together.
Find what keeps you grounded, let that pull you to the top, and know that some things are greater than success. As I begin to focus more on humility, I try to keep a verse from Proverbs in mind: “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but before honor comes humility” (Proverbs 18:12).
Ever since I was a little kid my home life was not in the condition it should have been. From the time I was 9 until the summer before my 14th birthday I was abused. The only things I had were school, my baby brother, and music. School was my only safe place to be at, so I ended up spending a lot of my time there and my teachers tried to do everything that they could to help me to no avail for a long time, but when I moved back to Georgia everything changed.
When most people go home after school, they have some sort of mother figure around them to help them get through everything that life has to offer the best that she can. I however did not have that growing up at all. I did not know my mom and as far as I knew, she did not give a shit about me. My whole life I looked to my teachers trying to find that support system that I never had.
When I attended Unity Elementary School, all of my teachers looked out for me and truly cared even after my dad took me away from my nana which was the only happiness I had ever known. I remember my principal crying as she told my nana and aunt that they were not allowed to see me because my dad would not allow it. On the last day of third grade my teacher, Mrs. Moore held me as we both cried because I would not ever see her again and I believe that she sensed the trouble that was ahead for me.
After I finished the third grade, I moved to Delaware with my dad and stepmother and things started out okay for the most part. I went to school and my teachers always had my best interest at heart, but my home life was another story. My dad and stepmother started fighting all of the time and it got to the point that I would go to school crying all of the time. The support from my teachers during this time helped me learn that the fighting was not my fault, but the turmoil that was to ensue was soon to come.
During my sixth grade year, my STEM teacher, Mr. Fragile started to notice my missed absences and my changing behavior, so he dared to ask me the question that my teachers have been wanting to ask me since I moved to Smyrna, DE, “Kyasia, have your parents been hitting you?” This was the beginning of many steps taken to ensure my safety over the next two years. The next two years would be the worst in my life and yet I would learn so much about myself and the teachers that I looked up to.
While in middle school, my Honors Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Prairie was the most supporting teacher I had had at this point in time. Every day she would make sure that I was alright and that things were okay at home. Most of my teachers at this point began to notice that I was having issues at home, but none of them knew the extent of these problems. I clearly remember Mrs. Prairie giving all of her graduating 8th graders her cell number and telling us to use it at any time we needed her. This was the 3rd time that someone actually cared and supported me since I was a little girl and over the years I would call her numerous times for advice or to just catch up. That summer after I graduated middle school, my dad told me that I was going to go to Georgia for the summer and here is where everything changed.
The next couple of years would prove to be the most life changing for me because as I got to know my teachers and as I gained the courage to tell them my story, the more they began to support me and encourage me. During my junior year the biggest milestone of my entire life began to happen. After we came back from Christmas break, I finally got the opportunity to talk to my mother for the 1st time. The minute I told all of my teachers what had happened they were ecstatic for me and when I became nervous about meeting her my AP Language teacher told me not to worry because my mom would love me as I was and would be proud of me no matter what. The day I finally got to meet her was the happiest day of my life and I was able to share it with those teachers who supported me through it all.
Without the support that my teachers gave me throughout the years, I would not be here today. The support that I received from them is the exact same support that I want my students to receive from me when I become a teacher.
Since the summer before my freshman year of college, I have worked in football recruiting for an SEC school. When I first started I was somewhat awkward, extremely uncomfortable with public speaking, and was somewhat content with just being involved enough to have a full resume. Never all in.
As I became more involved and committed to my job, I developed a passion for what I was doing and why I was doing it. Through having to talk to so many types people over my time spent at UGA I began to develop a love for people in general.
I now love to get to know all types of people and really try to see life from their point of view. I also learned how to carry myself in a professional manner and demand respect no matter the situation, especially within a male dominated field. I value the opportunity to mentor younger women who have a goal to work in sports and train by example as to what they can do. I may sound like I know it all, but that’s definitely not the case.
I have a love of learning and using poor experiences and criticism to make myself a better person overall. I love learning from other people the most though. Other people’s lives just bring a perspective into my life that I would have never had any other way. Getting to know someone else opens your mind in an unexpected way and think about everyday situations in a new and inventive manner.
Other people are the best way to improve yourself.
Life is crazy. Life is weird. Life is unexpected. “Life” is all about how you choose to live it. As you get older, you start to ponder about your life and your future more often. You get scared, you get sad, you get worried, and you get anxious. In the midst of all these emotions, you are living your life, never stopping to think about the ending to it. But what if one day your life suddenly ended? What if an unexpected tragedy occurred and you lost someone? Even worse, someone close to you. Your world is all of a sudden shattered and you question why it happened and what you could’ve done to stop it.
UGA lost four beautiful souls on the night of April 27th. What happened was completely unexpected and completely devastating. How is it that they are they alive and laughing and physically there one second, and in the next, just gone forever? It doesn’t make sense to me, and doesn’t make sense to most people.
However, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe God needed them up in heaven and they had fulfilled their duties here on Earth. Maybe it was their time to go and be with Him. We don’t know; we will never know. No one saw it coming; no one could stop what happened.
But what about the families and the best friends of the victims? How do they possibly lessen the pain of their loss? How do they wake up everyday and not remember over and over again that their loved one isn’t there? My heart is aching for the families of Christina, Halle, Kayla, and Brittany. Knowing that all four of those best friends are in Heaven hand in hand is putting me at peace, and I hope everyone else mourning can think of that too.
I’ve lost very few people throughout my life and for that I’m thankful, because I don’t know how I would handle it. I am so incredibly blown away by the strength of humans, especially in the time of mourning a loved one. I’ve watched one of my good friends go through the loss of his little sister in this horrible car accident, and I am constantly amazed. How does he have the strength to even see people? Talk to people? Answer his texts and post on Facebook? But then I soon realized, life does go on.
They want us to be happy. All your loved one wanted when they were here was for you to be happy, and nothing’s changed even though they’re in a different place.
They aren’t suffering or in pain, they’re in a place full of happiness, love, and good people, and what makes them happier than anything is looking down knowing that you are happy.
So, for all of those out there suffering from the loss of a loved one, live your life not only for you, but for them. Finish out what they started, and live with them inside you every single day. Think about how they would have wanted you to live and carry out their lives. Let their beautiful souls shine through you. We only have one life, so choose to live it wisely. However that is you choose, just know that your loved ones are never actually gone. They’re woven throughout you and everything that you do. They radiate off of you and your strength. Take this life and make it the best it can be, for you, for your loved ones, and for the man upstairs that’s always there for you.
Culture has always been a big part of my life. As a youngster, my parents raised me to learn the importance of the Greek from which my family originated. In turn, I learned about other peoples’ cultures, too.
I wasn’t always surrounded by a sea of vibrant cultures and foreign languages, however. I lived a large portion of my early childhood in the rural suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky: the land of horses, bluegrass, and baseball bats. While it was a fine upbringing, I didn’t experience much cultural diversity other than familial Greek customs. I wouldn’t be exposed to the beauty that other cultures had to offer until I was at the ripe age of 7, when my Dad got relocated to Atlanta, Georgia for his job at UPS.
I didn’t expect much from moving to Georgia. In my head, it was just another city down south, akin to Kentucky in terms of diversity. One 6-hour car ride later, we were living in a town on the outskirts of Atlanta called Johns Creek, affectionately called “Johns Korea”. My family had moved to a massive cultural hub where there were people of all nations everywhere around me. Down the street, there was a massive Asian market (H-Mart). Russian and Persian groceries were also present, and there were plenty of middle-eastern bakeries and restaurants.
After school, especially in my younger days, I would often hang out at a friend’s house for a few hours before dinner. Many of my friends were Indian, Korean, Chinese, Scandinavian, Italian, Pakistani, or Iranian, and their cultures were vastly different than what I had been previously used to. Within their homes were sometimes entire rooms devoted to religious ornaments or other cultural amenities I had never seen before. It was a wonderland. I would walk through friends’ houses looking at all the unfamiliar statues, ornaments, pictures, and furniture, while wonderful wafts and scents floated from the kitchen, which eventually turned out to be an awesome snack.
I continued living like this, saturated by massive amounts of diverse cultures surrounding me. This saturation followed me through high school, but everything changed a bit after I graduated and went to college. Don’t get me wrong, UGA has a pretty wide degree of diversity, but it wasn’t what I was used to back home.
That craving followed me around until sophomore year, when I was in the market to join an organization and actually do something with myself. My friend Nisha (shout out!) almost immediately blurted out, “Hey, join AIESEC!” I had heard plenty about it from her, and it seemed like a good enough cause to be a part of, but I still wasn’t entirely sure, at least not until I met the people involved.
After I joined, I remember being at the first Local Committee Meeting, walking in and seeing all the members talking and laughing with each other. I can honestly say that I felt entirely at home at that moment. There were more cultures around me than I knew what to do with, and I couldn’t wait to soak it all in, and learn so much more. AIESEC provided a home for me, as well as some cultural respite that I desperately needed.
We all might be from entirely different backgrounds, and have our contrasts between each other, but I absolutely call these people my family.
Not only are they there for me through thick and thin, but through them, and all the other AIESECers I’ve met through them (believe me, there are a lot), they continue to give me the remainder of the cultural upbringing that I need, satisfying my hunger for knowledge about the many people of the world, and their ways of life.
I got on the plane wondering why I hadn’t just blown off the idea when it came to me in February. But, that’s not how I am. Of course I went. I flew from Atlanta to Reagan National on Aug. 19 to start a semester in Washington, D.C., with the UGA Washington Semester Program.
I applied on a whim, shortly after returning from a four-day trip to the city with PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) to visit public relations agencies. I got a spot – and a scholarship for it. But after a summer spent between my home in Wyoming and studying in Oxford, England, I was ready to spend my senior year in Athens (and I thought anyone who wasn’t crazy would want the same). When I walked up out of the Metro and into the streets of Washington that February night, I found an empty city, completely snow-covered and glowing in the late night streetlights. (I look back now and realize I flew in right in the midst of “Snowpocalypse,” or whatever we dubbed that latest storm that shut down the federal government for over 24 hours.)
It was peaceful and exhilarating and made me want more. After four months in Washington this fall, I still find the city exhilarating, but for new and more intimate reasons than that wintry night in February that – though I didn’t know at the time – would alter my senior year more than I could have ever dreamed.
When Don DeMaria, the program director, interviewed me and asked why I wanted to spend four months in Washington – half of my senior year for goodness’ sake – I told him I wanted to push my limits, that I needed to push myself further than I had done yet and knew an experience like the D.C. program offered just might do that. Washington is a city like no other, as anyone who has spent time there will tell.
I think everyone feels a little bit of ownership over the city after living there, and those who really love it seem to connect with it immediately. I saw that in some of my housemates, and occasionally I felt it myself. But regardless of how strongly the city tugs at your heart, my four months in Washington opened my eyes, and I’m so grateful. The program itself took up most of my time. I worked full-time as an intern at a boutique public relations and strategic communications agency on K Street (which, as I learned, is essentially the heart of lobbying and communications in Washington), and I took three classes a week after work.
As an athlete, I’m used to having most of my day taken up by class, practice, workouts, and mandatory appointments, but it was still a massive adjustment. For some absurd reason, sitting at a computer in a window-less office from 9am to 6pm every single day is completely exhausting. I’d come home drained, and the only thing that got me through class was the fact that I was doing it with the housemates who quickly became my best friends.
We lived in Delta Hall, a three-story colonial home just a stone’s throw from the Capitol building (okay, not really, but it was no more than a quarter mile). That’s still surreal to me. There were 23 students in the program, and a good number of those people became some of the closest friends I’ve made in my entire life. We jokingly called our group “The Real World: D.C.,” (not as funny now but we thought it was kinda good) but I don’t think we had any idea during that first week or so just how much we would come to know about each other, laugh with each other, roll hysterically on the floor with each other (I’m talking to you, Cydney), and love each other.
But it’s true. I’m so grateful for the time I spent with my housemates, because I’m pretty sure it was their influence and friendship that changed me the most of anything I experienced that semester. We found more adventures than I can summarize in a short blog.
We saw the Nats play, we went camping in Shenandoah National Park, we (a select and crazy few – that’s you, Rob) called the National Mall our “regular” run route and saluted Lincoln on the days we felt good enough to run six, we went to New York, and we felt like we belonged in the city after a just few weeks of exploring. In fact, it kind of felt like the adventure never ended – even in the house. I’m a social person, but at the end of the day, I like to be alone. Whether that’s as boring and lonely as it sounds or whether it’s the romanticized introvert’s paradise of nighttime reading and quiet meditation, it’s what I like. But living in close quarters with my housemates changed the way I spent my time. For four months, it didn’t matter if I went to bed at a decent hour or had two Monsters after 10 p.m. (gross, I know) and woke up totally ragged.
When I was angry or just tired of being around people after a long day at work, walking into the house to find those friends became the best part of my day. I have no doubt that luck played a role in it, but the group of people in the house that semester was the most unique, talented, dynamic, misfit collection of people in the world and we found a rhythm and bond that I really don’t think comes that often.
I’ve never met people so incredibly challenging and motivating yet effortlessly loving and fun and inviting. Without that group I know my semester would have been much less positive, and I probably wouldn’t look back at Washington with the warmth and love that I do now. They helped form the support from which I used my experiences there, both positive and negative, to evaluate who I am (to the extent that any 20-something can do that) and what I think I want.
I applied for the Peace Corps. I applied to graduate school. I almost applied for a job teaching English at a sustainable alternative high school in the Bahamas (and I would have, had its start date not conflicted with graduation). I called about working as a housekeeper on National Geographic’s Lindblad Expedition cruises.
I thought about a lot of different things, mostly because I quickly – very quickly – realized that I’m not going to be happy spending my life at a desk (unless it’s a writing desk that’s covered in coffee stains and books, in front of a window looking out on pines and mountains, but that’s another post).
So while I went to Washington to, essentially, “figure it out,” I left feeling completely lost, having abandoned any hopes I had had of following a traditional career path. But, at the same time, something changed for me personally, and I’m okay with that. I love not knowing what agency I’ll be at or how I want to use my degree, or if I’ll even “work” at all (ha! Isn’t that an idea?). Washington isn’t just full of productive politicians who want to change the world; it’s full of productive people.
That may sound like a trivial difference, but Washington is so much more than the people in suits and the big, white buildings that identify the city. What I saw when I lived there was thousands – millions – of people who were energized, determined, and living to do something important. But, most importantly, each of them had a different and very unique idea of what her purpose was and what was driving her as an individual.
I saw this in my housemates most strongly. Each person was so incredibly different from the next, and comparing one’s passions and successes to another’s was out of the question. Yet, we were all on paths toward what I believe will be overwhelming fulfillment in ways as unique and personal as we are. They showed me that what one person lives for may excite absolutely nothing in another, and that’s okay. It’s really great.
I realized, too, that what lights that fire in my life doesn’t have to be working at Edelman in New York City or starting the world’s greatest nonprofit in a developing country. My path can be (will be) totally unique, and there’s no timetable for creating it. In fact, there is no “creating” it nor is there even “finishing” it; there is only living it. I’m on my path now, and I’ll be on the same path in twenty years.
It may twist and turn and take me places I couldn’t even dream of at this moment, but one thing will remain: it will always be my own. Morgan Beavers is a senior at the University of Georgia studying public relations and English. She rides on the NCAA Women’s Equestrian team and calls Wyoming home. Morgan has a passion for horses, the mountains, words, and all things wild.
Imagine waking up every single day for the last 400+ days and having one thing ever-present in your mind. How are you going to build a business? How are you going to create something that can have a meaningful impact and support yourself and the others working for you?
At 23 years old, I wake up every day with the pressures of juggling 10 things at once, and then going to sleep having to do it all over again when I wake up.
Sometimes it feels as if there is a drill in my brain prying down as far down is it can go. The drill is me thinking and functioning to create more ideas and get more “juice” for the day or late into the night so we can execute our organization successfully. When the juice is gone, I’m exhausted. But, there is always that quenching thirst for more…
At the end of the day, sometimes it’s hard to measure whether I’m playing guesswork, succeeding, or falling flat on my face. This journey is truly a battle, one that tests you, exposes you, and tells you to quit. I’m not listening.
Our team at Wish Dish has taken an idea and turned it into a website that has had 300,000+ total visitors, 400+ content submissions, and now a monthly average of 15,000 – 30,000 views. We have shared stories at 13 different colleges. We have partnered with different businesses in Athens and Atlanta. We have also built a social following of over 6,000+ combined from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We’ve established an incredible foundation in little over a year.
In October 2014, my senior year of college, I was taking an entrepreneurship class with Chris Hanks. It was a fall day in October, and Professor Hanks was talking about going through the “dark night” meaning entrepreneurs go through a journey of ups and downs.
A classmate (stranger to me at the time), Michael Gargiulo, CEO of VPN.com, ended up raising his hand and giving an honest testimony of his struggles through the entrepreneurial journey.
It put a chill down my spine. While I didn’t know Michael I could point him out by his throwback Atlanta Hawks hat. I was working with the Hawks running a college program, so I decided to bring Michael a new Hawks shirt to let him know how much I appreciated his thoughts in class. Before I knew it, Michael and I became really good friends.
At the same time, I was also working on a blog called Influence (the infancy of the Wish Dish). The idea was to have people write something meaningful to “influence” others for the better. I shared these stories once a week on the blog. Michael then messaged me saying I should start my own website. Now that’s an idea…
After many late nights staying up messaging Michael from 10PM-2AM asking him how in the world to set up a website and finding a great friend named Aalok Patel, www.thewishdish.com was born.
I remember launching Wish Dish in the basement of my house in Virginia around early January of 2015. I went through my phone, asked all my friends to share the website on social media. What I remember most from that first day was all the people asking me, “What in the world is Wish Dish?” a question that lingered for months…
I soon realized that creating a successful website was so much more than setting up a domain name and inserting a design on WordPress.
I told a bunch of people in my classes to write for the site and they kept asking, what is Wish Dish?
Wish Dish soon evolved into a place where someone could express themselves, offer their story to the world and either embrace or walk away, closing a chapter.
I told these people the same prompt over and over again, “Write something meaningful to influence others for the better. No limits, no boundaries, it’s your story so make it you.” The open prompt and the willingness for us to hear various points of view is still a staple of our site.
It didn’t take long to realize that we were on to something. After reading the first few stories by Andrew Holleran, Chuck Blakeman, Dev Iyer, and Carden Wyckoff their posts received hundreds of likes on Facebook. They were given incredible support and feedback from their friends.
I was starting to resonate with people in such a deep way I never had before and learning things about my friends I never knew.
This was fun, we were making an impact, and building the start of something truly unique, memorable, and something that mattered
When I entered college I was on this mission to set myself apart from others due a low point in my life I won’t get into. By connecting my passion with sports early on in life with my business interests, I spent my freshman to senior years working relentlessly in the sports industry learning everything I could. If I chose a different path I would probably be working in the sports industry right now. But when I was approached to take a job up in New York, I hesitated. I knew that wasn’t my purpose.
But doubts still lingered.
I remember one conversation that was a real gut-check for me on whether I really wanted to continue with this site or to pack my bags and find what some might call a “real” job.
In the middle of February. I was leaving the gym on UGA’s campus and I called a mentor of mine named Chris Harris, CEO of Entrepreneur Hour & Lift It.
I told him, “Look Chris, I just don’t know if I can do this anymore. I should probably go to NYC and work.” His brevity was apparent, and he said, “Well, it’s your decision, do what you have to do.”
Chris built a multi-million dollar moving business bootstrapping every penny. There was a reason he was disappointed, especially after helping me for the past year and half.
Later that night I received a Facebook message from Chris basically saying to me, “Look Bryan, I can’t help you anymore if you are going to give up on your dream. Put on your armor, get tough, and be a man and continue on your journey.”
To simply put it. I had a tremendous amount of fear. I was thinking about giving up a huge job opportunity to risk it all for a vision that I had no idea would work.
I flew home to Virginia after spring break in mid-March. I had to have a serious talk with my parents about my plans post-graduation. It was not a conversation I was excited to have, but it was one that was necessary. I knew I would be facing an uphill climb.
Honestly, I felt deflated. My presentation to them was so lackluster. I was talking to my own parents, yet I was petrified the entire time. They had no idea why I wanted to pass up a great opportunity like a job in sports business. But I told them that I wanted to create something, not just view it as a hobby, but a gift I would offer up to the world and be remembered for.
Three hours later we walked away from our meeting place, both of them agreed to let me try and figure it out.
Now, I tell this story not to put down my parents (they have been the most supportive figures in my life from when I was a child. And that’s the truth), but because I believe this is a conversation that 90% of entrepreneurs face unless they were born into a family that just “gets it.” It’s just one you have to have.
A few months later, I graduated and the real world hit me hard.
I remember starting my first day working full-time for the site on Monday, May 18th. I was still in Athens and all my college friends had left. I stayed behind while everyone else seemed to be embarking on the next chapters of their lives.
I will never forget the feeling of being mentally paralyzed the first few days. I had no idea what in the world to do or where to start. But I knew three things, just put my head down, start, and pray that it will all work out in the end.
But, some people help you figure it out along the way.
Part of the process was understanding the business I was in so I tried to surround myself with resources who could help me succeed.
Richie Knight, founder of HW Creative was offering classes the spring semester of my senior year on Content Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. I started going to his classes and meeting with him for coffee to pick his brain. After several discussions, Richie offered to help us build a professional looking site (our second site).
It was one of those pick-me-ups that come out of nowhere, that really helped accelerate our journey. This is a common story that has continued where it seems like the right people continue to walk into our journey at the right time.
A special thank you to Richie, because we wouldn’t be where we are without you today!
While we set out to start a revolution of self-expression where people could dive into the deeper sides of their lives beyond what is seen normally in social media or everyday conversation, we didn’t realize what giving a voice would do for some of our community members. There are a few stories that really stick out in my mind and really show us we’re at the crossroads for something special.
One story to denote was by Josh Jones who wrote about overcoming his challenges with dyslexia. He had never written something like that before and it empathized with so many people. His story circulated through the entire Braves organization and now is working with the Brewers in the operations department pursuing his dream to be a General Manager.
Another really neat story came from Victoria Arnold when she submitted a piece about her rare sleeping disorder. How she could be so personal and open about such a hardship really shook me to the core.
Throughout this process people have approached me and said that I am making a difference in people’s lives. That I’m pulling back the layers we’ve used to isolate ourselves in a culture where information is available at the swipe of a tablet yet we couldn’t be further apart. They told me this mattered.
Special thank you to those who have reached out along the way. Now to the people behind the scenes, the ones in the trenches.
To build something extraordinary, I believe that you need to surround yourself with phenomenal people. To begin this process I asked one of my best friends, Shelby Novak, to come on board and help set social media strategy (Shelby has been a consistent force for us to this day). Her social media presence keeps us relevant and open to the world.
The next key addition was adding our editor to the team, Matt Gillick. Matt is a Providence college graduate, and has an incredible understanding of literature, writing, and the framework of a story. He started editing all of our posts and now manages all content for the site and has brought two more editors on board. Matt has worked steadily with us since March and feels that every story we put out can have the chance of touching a person at a human level. We at the site deeply care about your words and have an editing staff who value them.
Another key piece to our team is Sam Dickinson. I asked Sam to join us in August after coming off his summer internship with Southwest Airlines. Sam serves in setting our site framework, public relations, and content strategy. When it comes to a clear vision and implementing those ideas, Sam is second to none. With Sam, we have found new and better ways to present our content.
Without an internal team working toward the same end-goal and mission, we truly wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s these people who are doing all the hard work behind the scenes that no one accounts for when looking at the platform as a whole.
From Day 1, we have set out to build a community that connects people through the sharing their story, whatever it may be. We have set out to give people a means to express themselves in their authentic voice. We have done both of these in a small way and we plan to keep doing so.
We realize that we cannot rest on our laurels. We have to keep moving forward in creating a platform that evolves with the needs of our community. We envision a community worldwide where people use Wish Dish to share specific life chapters because they know it as their place to share their story.
As long as someone has a story to tell, a song to sing, a beat to stomp to, The Wish Dish will be there to put the microphone in your hand. Express yourself and join us.
Hello it’s me, hi, happy New Year ______! You don’t have to reply to this letter if you don’t want to, and I am SO sorry this is so late and incredibly overdue. I fully expect you to be annoyed and over the strain between us right now but, I just want you to know that I love you a lot and that you could never do anything at all to me or for me to not think the world of you, your character, and your heart for other people.
This is purely me, and I think sitting down to analyze it, I realize that I couldn’t talk to you about it because I respect your opinion and I know what you have to say is going to be true. Maybe, subconsciously I didn’t want to hear the truth I already knew but was denying myself. This might sound like a bunch of frustrating BS but please at least keep reading so I can best get across why I have been so panicky about talking to you. I feel so stupid and weak. I’m don’t remotely feel like myself saying all of this so its hard for me to explain, especially to someone who knows me as well as you do.
I just hope this comes across the way I mean/feel. I have spent months typing this out and throwing my letters away. I have a ton of envelopes addressed to you tucked in my bible because I just can’t seem to bring myself to tell you just what’s going on. (Partially, because I myself don’t know and I’m having a hard time fighting it.) I think the fact that I know I’m a strong person with a positive mindset is what makes it so difficult for me to accept something is wrong. This semester, I barely went to class, barely went out (believe it or not), didn’t participate in anything that I love, and stopped volunteering and praying entirely. Not because I didn’t want to though, that’s the part I struggle with.
I didn’t want to run or work out or even get up to shower because it was simply too much effort for the day. I would wake up and just wish I were asleep. Opening my eyes to realize it was day was only followed by a nagging pain in my heart, an annoyance that I had to get up and deal with the day. That’s not me. That’s NOT who I am and that’s NOT who I want to be. I can’t keep living this way.
You know I don’t believe in taking medicine everyday. I believe everything you do is mental. Your mind controls your perception and your mood and the amazing thing is, I fully believe that humans have the ability to alter that. Mind over matter, get over it, get your ass out of bed, follow your dreams, life you life, seek joy, love wholeheartedly, be the person you have been sculpting and refining for 2 decades. It sounds dramatic. I’m not crying yet, but my heart aches writing this as if I were. I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t know why I can’t shake it as easily as I want to. I know I WILL, but I think I needed a new approach and a supportive environment for this weird, foreign time my life.
I have been pushing this off for a long time and I think it is all finally catching up with me. Consequently, the anxiety is increasing exponentially. I’ve realized that I am a sensitive person, more so than I ever thought I was. I am sure I don’t need to be so much of that.
I knew I finally needed to get help when I stopped wanting to shower or be conscious. It really scared me that in my mind I thought of drinking as something I could use to ease my consciousness. I never acted on it, and that makes me feel a little more in control, but the thought still lived in my mind.
This is weird, not hard for me to say because I believe I would never act on it. It’s not who I am or what I believe in but thoughts of just ending it all fill my mind daily and that’s when I knew I couldn’t just sleep it off anymore. Something is wrong. My soul is dim and withering. Why can’t I just be me _____? I’m having really hard time attempting it with out thinking about something morbid. I can’t follow my heart; I can’t do basic things that I need to function. That’s bullshit. What is that? What the actual hell? What’s happening? I don’t like to say “I can’t”, I’d rather it be substituted with, “I’m not able to right now,” because I know I am going through this for a reason and that there is a plan in mind for me regardless if my shit is straightened out or in a complete, shambled, mess.
Whatever this has taken from me, it hasn’t taken my determination to get away from it as fast as I can. I think about death all the time wanting to or not, believing in hell or not. Myself or not Myself its there, and I need to get a handle on those thoughts. I went to my Dr., diagnosed with severe depression and high anxiety. Consequently, that’s why I was so nervous about talking to you. Freaking out over stupid stuff is a daily reminder that I’m not who I know myself to be. And, I don’t want anyone to know, because this isn’t who I am. This is not remotely who I am, and that eats at my core just like not talking to you was eating at me everyday.
I knew there would be a flood of emotion in explaining it all, and that I would have to reconcile with that. I’m so sorry _____. I am so sorry for how I have acted especially after you gave me the best birthday ever. I couldn’t even thank you for everything you did for me. I’m just so ashamed and weirded out by this phase and I just want it to be over. I’m taking medicine to appease my parents but I know this is a mental thing I must over come myself and that’s why I need to leave Athens for a little while. Sometimes I wonder if I have a brain tumor or something that’s altering my behavior unknowingly.
Please know I am doing better since being alone. I have been doing better at praying everyday and mostly because I want to pray for your Grandma Jo, and I hope everyday that she is doing better than the day before.
I love you so much and I honestly consider you my best friend. You get me and a lot of people just brush me off and think I’m weird. In all that I’m involved in, you’d think some people would notice like I know you would, but oddly enough, I’m safe in their indifference. Tired, is how I would relate the emotion in the simplest of terms. I’m tired of people who are too afraid to be themselves, the majority in my sorority; a “Top Tier!” group of “sisters forever”. Gag me. Sometimes It’s really just an avenue for rich little girls from the same area to take a power trip. Have some damn originality, and don’t refute others who dare to venture away form your safe identical pretty rose-colored bubbles you refuse to see the world without. I’ve never been a fan of people that only loved and gave people the time of day when it was convenient for them.
A lot to swallow, but you know how aggravated shams make me. Things that aren’t appear as they seem. Which, I guess that makes me a hypocrite since I’m the one I’m sure people see as perfectly fine. Robin Williams said something I feel I can really relate to, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” He also says, “The tragedy of life isn’t death, but what dies inside us while we are living”. I only hope that the part of me that dies and burns away, is this part. That’s my biggest fear right now. What if something good goes in its place? What if I loose my spirit and turn colder, they way you see so many adults have; changed from their youth, seasoned in darkness?
I only told ________ some of this because she would push it under the carpet in a way and not make me face the truth like I knew you would. I know that’s what I needed and what I am doing now by typing this all out. I would rather tell you this all in person but I feel like I would cry so much that I couldn’t get it all out and you know how I am about fully explaining myself lol.
My heart is breaking. I’m almost balling now, sitting on the beach typing this, listening to the waves crash. It’s a little chilly and I just spilt beer all over myself because a seagull scared me. You are my best friend and I have so much love for you. I’m filled with regret for ever making you feel bad and I can’t explain why I didn’t correct it sooner. I’m not a complete basket case yet. I know what I need to do. I just didn’t think the steps towards a different life would be this small. My parents think these magic pills I’m taking should already have “cured” me, but all I can do is ask God to help and to put my head down and get through this without hurting anyone I love in the process.
When ever I’ve thought about killing myself -don’t freak out I wouldn’t- I just know this is the sickness- I would’ve imagined that I would write long loving letters to the people I cared for, and buy them gifts, or end it quickly. Albeit now, when those thoughts creep into my daydreams they are impulsive and quick. No suicide note. No explanation, just a sunken car that lost control on a bridge or a body found hanging by a belt. It’s sick and disgusting and I’m ONLY telling you any of this because I don’t want you to think you weren’t a good friend to me because you, ______, were the best.
I think that’s part of the other reason I didn’t want to tell you. I’m not crazy. I’m not overwhelmingly sad. I just have had my passion and love for life almost sucked out of me. I can’t operate without loving fully and being the caring selfless person I want to be. It’s not easy for me to do that now, but it will be again. I can promise you that. So please don’t worry, I am relieved you know and I can talk to you, and I will send you lots of pictures and love from wherever life takes me. Well, I don’t know if I will be back in Athens, or If I will be overseas rekindling my love for life and people the only way I know how -by stripping myself of distractions and possessions and focusing just on selflessly serving others.
This thing comes in waves. I don’t feel like this all the time. I know I am going up from here. I feel so weird and out of place and dramatic saying all of this, but all I can say is that I know what it is and I am trying everyday to fix it. I love you a lot _____, and I will always! Please let me know if you ever need anything and I will drop what I am doing for you. Don’t feel like you need to reply/ I just wanted you to know the entirety of it. Good and bad. I’m sorry that this letter is just a jumbled bunch of unorganized thoughts and emotions, but I finally put it down on paper. Forever loving ya and will always be here, oxoxo- _____.
Ahh, so good to hear from my other Gandhi loving yogi, you would so appreciate the meditations I’ve been sending your way, I invite you to be open and welcome them in as they are sent! That is something new I’ve learned this break in yoga, learn to invite emotions, awareness of body, mind and soul to myself.
And also, Happy New Year beautiful! Get ready for a year full of adventure, challenges, new comings and happiness; iI know these all seem very unachievable, and I am here to tell you they are not. I am going to try to make this short, but I just know it’s not going to end up like that. So to begin, I want you to know I really am happy to hear from you. I ask pay for updates every so often just to ensure that my other lovie is surviving. First of all, I want you to know that I love you so incredibly much. I love the fun, yogi, self less, positive, rainbow living world you. But I also love the heart broken, confused, searching, and surviving you. This is where you get me wrong, I love you, not the way you make me feel or others, the way you look or act, I love the person you are and the person you are to become.
I will always love you as you are, whatever that might be. I will still be here, I will still be me, and I wont ever give up on you. Secondly, thank you for sharing all of that with me. It takes a lot to put everything on paper (or in our world computer screen), it causes a lot of emotions to unfold, I know that because I do that all the time. I also want you to know I won’t ever see you as weak-I know that’s one of the reasons you didn’t want to talk to me, and I apologize for that. The thing is, I’ve been so weak, so weak I didn’t know how to look straight, I didn’t know what I wanted or why I did the things I did. Quite frankly, 2015 brought on the worst year of my life.
And if you are thinking my weak isn’t very weak, think twice, one of my best skills is showing my straight bitch face and bad ass loving attitude, yet hiding my real struggles, because boy is that so much harder to face. I want you to know being weak, it’s not something that should come with a negative connotation.
I use to think showing weakness or fluctuations in feelings was a sign of being psychotic, but its actually just a sign that you finally are living life, not just experiencing it or going through the motions. This is living, and this is finding yourself. You aren’t suppose to have your life together right now, you aren’t suppose to have your story already written, its a journey, and along the way you will alter yourself, you will change, and most importantly you will grow. This is living, feeling, breathing, struggling, and fighting. Now there is something you need to face, this isn’t like a college friendship, this wasn’t one of those nice to meet ya see ya around friendships, you’re one of my people, you’re family, and that means ill be around to see wherever life takes you. Whether its in Athens, good ole Cumming, or Africa. Hell I don’t care where it is, ____, ______, and I will always be family, and I wanna know all about wherever it is that life takes you. Next step, I’m sorry you have had to go through this without us by your side, and I also understand that’s just how you might have to because that’s how you need to move on and grow, and I hope you know its ok if that’s how.
And yes, ending it right away will end all the problems you are currently facing, but no it will not bring you peace, it will not fix your problems, and you won’t get to look back and see how far you have come, and how proud of yourself you are for getting through it. There’s one thing that you can never let die in your heart, hope. It’s the one thing that’s keeping you here now, subconsciously our minds fault back into always believing what we were taught as a perfect world we will one day reach. And you will, if you hang there, fight for your life, fucking fight like you never have, and you’ll reach a state of peace one day, but that takes a lot of work, heartache, time, and hell of a lot of hope for the future. You are more than what you see, more than what you hear, you are more than what you think, and you are worthy of life, love, and happiness. You are worthy. This day, January 1, 2016, was brought to begin 365 days of life not yet lived, life not yet experienced, and the life unknown. Everything behind us has happened, all the shit we wish was just a memory and not a still feeling. But it is in the past. January 1, 2016 brought us a 365 blank page book, and this year is going to be a good one. I never said easy, I never said happy all the time, but its gonna be one you look back on, reading your book, and think “damn girl, you did it.” You can do this, and I wanna be your pen pal to wherever life takes you, whenever it takes you.
You have a blank book, write your story. Life isn’t about the title of job you hold, the family you have, the things you’ve experienced, its about finding and creating who you are and what you want to be in this life. It took me so long to finally learn that, but I finally did. Nothing in this world leaves this earth with you besides your soul, make it beautiful. Hold your head high darling, you are worth it. The light in me, sees the light in you, namaste bitch, and happy new year <3
Hi! We are Mackenzie and Isabelle and together we make MoonaLuna, a fashion blog that encourages others to express themselves through personal style.
Kenzie’s lifetime adventure of being a fashion-addict sparked at a very young age with creating fashion shows for her parents in their living room. While her living room fashion shows slowly came to an end, her infatuation with personal style has continuously grown throughout the years.
She enjoys incorporating many different styles into each outfit she designs and wears. She is inspired daily by artists (her sis Britt Bass, Andy Warhol, & Frida Kahlo), films/directors (Almost Famous, Wes Anderson, & Annie Hall), and people (Stevie Nicks, 90’s Drew Barrymore, & Jemima Kirke).
Isabelle’s obsession with fashion started at an early age due to an aversion to any physical activity (besides shopping). She was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and part-time in Brooklyn, NY. Her diverse family encouraged and inspired her unique sense of style and passion for expressing herself through fashion.
She draws inspiration from people (MiMi Elashiry is a current fave), places (anywhere from Paris to a coffee shop in Williamsburg) and the past (think 70’s).
MoonaLuna is the perfect combination of the two of us. We created this blog in order to have a creative outlet for ourselves in the fashion realm. Isabelle was about to move to New York and Kenzie was taking on Atlanta. We wanted to have a medium that would allow our shared love of fashion to eclipse distance while being able to showcase different perspectives of style in each city.
We also wanted to use MoonaLuna to inspire others to be creative, unique, bold, and confident through fashion. We want to encourage passion for all that you do whether it be fashion, singing, writing, etc.
We hope you follow along with us on this journey and feel inspired to be bold and fearless in all of your fashion choices. You can follow MoonaLuna on Instagram @_moonaluna and MoonaLuna.org.
If you asked me what I wanted to do after graduating from the University of Georgia just four years ago, I would have told you I wanted to be a physical therapist. Two years ago I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. As of six months ago, I wanted to have a fabulous job in the fashion industry. Today, I am not doing any of those things.
I always grew up thinking that if I didn’t have a plan for my life then it meant I didn’t have my life in order. I had so many friends that knew exactly what they wanted to do when they came to college. I thought I was one of them until I realized physical therapy wasn’t for me. This threw me for a loop. I was back at square one with no plan.
I’ve always had a love for children so I thought I would give teaching a shot. After multiple classes and volunteer hours in a precious kindergarten class, I decided that even though I love kids, I didn’t want to be a teacher. That revelation threw me into crisis mode. I was half way through college and still had no idea what I wanted to do.
That Christmas break, I had many heart to hearts with my mom. She knows me better than anyone else in this world. At times, I think she knows me better than I know myself. After countless tears and talks, we both came to the conclusion that I truly loved fashion. So that day, I changed my entire schedule of classes and officially became a Fashion Merchandising major.
When it came to fashion, everything just came so easy to me. I became more involved in class conversations and actually started envisioning my future in fashion even beyond college. I really thought this was it and that I finally found my path in life.
As graduation neared, I struggled to find a job. This was partially my fault as I decided that I wanted to stay in the Atlanta area. Anyone that knows anything about fashion will tell you that you need to be in New York or California to really make it. I just wasn’t ready to take that leap of faith and move so far from home. This greatly decreased the job opportunities available to me.
I couldn’t turn back now. Graduation came and went and I still didn’t have a job. This was hard on me especially since I had lots of friends starting great new jobs, moving to Atlanta together, and living life as an adult.
The weeks went by and so did many interviews. I found an opportunity in Roswell with and IT staffing firm. I fell in love with the company and prayed they would fall in love with me. A couple weeks later I finally got the call that I had been longing for. I GOT THE JOB! I felt like all my hard work finally paid off and I had made it!
Two weeks into the job and I absolutely hated my life. The technologies were not coming easy to me and I really didn’t have any interest in learning about them. I was basically cold calling individuals with great paying jobs close to home and trying to convince them why they should take a pay cut and make a longer commute to a new job.
The recruiting industry doesn’t get much respect. I spoke to many voicemails and got hung up on a number of times. Even though this was a good paying job, I decided I couldn’t live like this the rest of my life.
At the start of the third week, I decided to quit my 7am-7pm. I was living at home with no job and no prospects. I didn’t know where I wanted to go next. I went through another few rounds of tears and talks with my parents. After throwing around many ideas, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to own my own business.
In no way was this decision a cop out for not wanting to look for a new job. I grew up surrounded by family that owned very successful businesses. My parents were always calling their own shots, making critical decisions, and working hard to build a business that would allow for a comfortable lifestyle. I think it is only natural that I caught the entrepreneurial bug that they had.
One day my stepdad, Bob, ran the idea of teeth whitening by me. I really never thought about it before but was open to the idea. I had gotten my teeth whitened back in February and remembered how great I felt after I got it done. It’s crazy how a simple white smile can boost someone’s confidence.
To my surprise, the teeth whitening industry brings in about $25 billion a year. This number definitely shocked me and sparked my interest. I then came across SmileLabs based out of Arizona. With over 400 vendors in the United States and hundreds of reviews, I took the next step of having multiple phone calls and webinars on owning my own SmileLabs franchise.
After much deliberation, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for me. I would be able to own my own franchise and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Over the next few days I picked a name (SmileLabs of Georgia), made a website, and created all my social media accounts.
Before I knew it, I actually owned a real business. I started introducing myself as Megan, the owner of SmileLabs of Georgia, to other business owners. It truly felt surreal. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of a very hard, expensive journey.
Although I decided to start out mobile, after two months I took the plunge and signed a year lease for a storefront in Roswell, Georgia. This was the biggest financial decision I have made in my life. It was definitely scary putting my name on a one-year lease commitment, but it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
Now that I have my store, I am focusing on getting my name out there and letting people know that I am open. This has definitely been the hardest part of starting my business. For a while, I tried to create my own cards and fliers to hand out for “free” advertising.
That is not as easy as it sounds. For this reason, I decided to try out paid advertising on Yelp.com. Doing that gives me the opportunity to reach the crowd that is interested in getting their teeth whitened.
I’m sure that there will continue to be lots of trial and error, but eventually I will get the equation right. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for giving me this amazing opportunity. I am grateful for my wonderful family that has supported me emotionally, physically, and financially.
So at the end of all of this, the moral of the story is that it’s okay to not have a plan. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow and see what God has in store for you. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, coming from an obsessive planner like myself, but it is possible.
Chances are, you will end up in a situation ten times better than you could have planner for yourself. After all, how many 22 year olds can say that they own their own business and have a storefront?