Feminist Friday! Ashley Layden

I love my fellow ladies. Women are amazing. I had an amazing experience last year on my birthday and had boudoir photos taken. I mostly did it for myself but my husband also benefited from it. I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences ever. I had such a great time and I cannot tell you what it has done for my confidence.

First let me tell you why it was such an amazing experience. Ashley Layden. She was the photographer and I could not have felt more comfortable with her. She is a gem. She told me exactly how to pose, she gave me great tips on how to prepare for my shoot, she had a great makeup artist who was so sweet. The whole experience made me feel like a model, and the photos afterward were even better than I thought. It was seriously the best birthday gift I have ever given myself.

I love how Ashley made me feel. I have seen photos she’s done for some of her other clients and I have just seen all the wonderful comments and encouragement for the ladies in her group. I thought Ashley was a great candidate for my first Feminist Friday post. Here’s an interview I had with her.

1. How did you get started?

I was in college and I played basketball while in college, well I got hurt and had to figure out something to occupy my time with so I started doing photography. I really had a passion for it and I knew it was what I wanted my career to be. I didn’t really have a whole lot of support when I started out but I decided I was going to do it anyway. I started in 2009 and I did wedding and engagement photos and I’ve been doing boudoir shoots exclusively since 2018.

2. How many boudoir shoots have you done?

About 300.

3. What is the best part of your job?

I love having the opportunity to help women to see themselves like they never do, the way that other people see them. I get to give that to them, I get the chance to build their confidence and have them feeling better about themselves when they leave my studio.

4. Have you ever had a disastrous shoot?

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had a disastrous shoot, maybe an unexpected one. I had one where a client began to cry during the shoot. I think there are a lot of women who still feel like they are not allowed to be confident about their bodies, I think society still shames them into thinking it’s bad to be sexy. And when you have a woman who has experienced sexual trauma it’s that much more difficult for them to love their bodies and feel good about it.

5. What is the hardest part of your job?

When clients get scared or nervous and back out. There’s always someone who has some excuse and can’t do the shoot and I worry if it’s a legitimate thing or if they’re just nervous and self conscience. I also wish I didn’t have to deal with the business side so much, if I could just take photos and not have to worry about the business part that would be great.

6. What’s the best way to prepare for a boudoir shoot?

Hydrate, eat, try stuff on. You want to hydrate because it’s really good for your skin and it flushes you out so you don’t feel so bloated and yucky. You should definitely eat, especially the day of the shoot because my clients are usually with me for four or five hours and you burn some calories. Also, try the lingerie on before the shoot. Make sure it’s something you like and feel good in. You don’t want to show up to the shoot and then find out you absolutely hate the outfit.

7. To what do you attribute your success?

I would really have to say just my life experiences: as a woman, as a mom. We women need to be there for each other. I also just keep working hard and trying to improve what I’m doing.

8. What tips do you have for someone who is wanting to start their own photography business?

Practice! Photograph everything. Don’t be afraid to just try every niche because you don’t really know what your niche will be until you’ve tried them all. Learn how to price your work, know the quality of it. Create your ideal client in your head. You have to know who you’re marketing to. You have to know everything you can about your ideal client. Word of mouth is also a very important marketing tool that you don’t have to pay for. I didn’t take any business or marketing classes in college, I actually got my degree in sports medicine and I don’t use it. So if I can do it, you can do it.

9. Why do you think women should have a boudoir shoot done?

Every woman should. It’s a major confidence boost. We don’t ever really take the time to really look at ourselves and see what others see. When my clients look at their photos and see how beautiful they are it’s just amazing. Every woman should have that feeling.

10. What is your next step?

I am always trying to find creative ways to do things differently or adding new things. I have a shower photo session going on now and it has been amazing. I always want to grow as an artist and keep learning.

The ability to make your fellow woman fell good about herself is priceless, it’s irreplaceable. I’m so happy to know Ashley and I’m so thankful for what she has given me. Here are some photos from my shoot.

If you’re in Oklahoma I highly recommend you check out her website!

The Importance of Shared Values in a Marriage

Being married is easy. When you’re with the right person. One thing that we all have to think about when we get into a marriage is, are we on the same page? Meaning: do we both want the same things? Now it is true that people change. That’s why it’s better to get married later in life, after you and your partner have done most of your changing. A person’s core beliefs and aspirations in life don’t really change a lot. There are basically three things you should iron out before you get married. Do you both want the same things in life? Can you live together? And last, but certainly not least, are you sexually compatible? 

When I say do you want the same things in life I mean, where do you want to live? Do you want to have children? Where do you want to retire? How do you want to spend your time together? If you don’t know the answers to those questions you need to talk to your partner. Having the same goals in life is important because you need to be a team, working together. If you both have interests that you’re each pursuing or one person wants something the other doesn’t it’s hard to maintain the oneness that is marriage. You can’t be truly happy if you aren’t both getting what you want, so it makes things a lot easier on both of you if the things want are the same.

Living together beforehand is a really good way to judge if you’re compatible enough to stand being around each other. You see everything when you move in together: how they unwind after work, how they brush their teeth, how they keep house. There are many things you don’t witness when you aren’t living together. 

And of course being sexually compatible is a big one. Sex is a huge part of a marriage because it’s how you bond with your partner physically. The intimacy you share with your partner can go a long way in making you feel loved, desired, and just secure in your marriage. You have to be willing to let your partner know what you want but you also have to hear what they want and be willing to try to do those things. If you aren’t enjoying sex odds are they aren’t either. 

There are of course a lot of other things that go into making a marriage work. The biggest things to me are communication and respect. If you have those two things then the things I mentioned above will be a lot easier to navigate. Don’t be afraid to say if something bothers you. Your partner may even respect you more for it. Like I said, marriage is easy when you’re with the right person.

It’s Not a Good Time

It’s been really hard lately. I know in one of my last posts I talked about how excited I am for my future but the country that I live in just has to keep sucking. I couldn’t write a single blog post until I wrote this. I can’t think about anything else.

It’s been really hard to be excited about anything with what has been going on lately. It is so freaking heartbreaking and infuriating that Black people in the US are still having to deal with racism. It literally hurts my chest. It makes me cry. It makes me want to do something.

But what can I do?? I don’t even know what to say or how to say it. I grew up in a racist environment. I grew up hearing racist things my whole life. I’m having to unlearn all of those things. I’m learning so much as well. Racism just goes so deep into our country. All the way to the top. It’s mind blowing how blind I’ve been to it. It’s infuriating how well the leaders in this country have been able to hide it in our history books. It’s unbelievable how much the Black community has had to put up with in this country. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I don’t know where to start but I want to be a part of the change. I have signed petitions, I have donated to causes that help the Black Lives Matter movement, I post things on my Instagram. I just want to speak up and do my part. I want to use my white privilege to give a voice to speak out in this injustice. I want things to change because seeing these people dying and being bullied and put down just because of the color of their skin is the most horrendous thing I have ever seen in my life and it has to stop.

If you can, please help. Please donate, talk to the people in your life who need to hear that Black lives do matter. Protest, sign petitions, stand up for your brother and sisters of color. We are all people. We need to remember that.

Here are some links to organizations that you can donate to:

George Floyd Memorial Fund

Justice For Breonna Taylor

Black Lives Matter Global Network

Black Voters Matter Fund

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

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Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

Surviving Quarantine With Children

It has been a roller coaster of feelings here in Cadie’s corner of the world. (See what I did there?) These kids are driving me crazy.

I knew that it would get overwhelming for all of us, and I knew we would all get sick of each other, but it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, there is a lot of frustration, screaming, yelling, fighting and annoyance. These boys fight like cats and dogs. I cannot tell you how many fights I have to break up in a day, I get tired of hearing my own voice.

I’ve been able to take them to their grandmother’s house to play in her backyard, just to get their energy out. I’m not ready to take them to the playground just yet, even though they are now open here in the Oklahoma City area. A lot of businesses are opening back up and places where large groups are being used again. We’re taking the ‘wait and see’ approach. I would love to take my kids out and do more stuff with them but I just want to be careful.

As all parents know, you survive extended time with your children because you just have to do it. I the end I know I’ll look back on this time and miss it. It’s frustrating now but there are bigger problems going on and my kids are safe and healthy. That’s all I can ask for. Just keep your heads up, parents. We’re all in this together.

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I Feel Excited About the Future

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now you know that this does not happen very often. I have spoken candidly about my depression and anxiety but I can finally say that I actually see a light at the end of the tunnel! Also, happy 200 blog post to me!

Even though this pandemic has changed a lot of things for a lot of people, it has done a lot of good for us financially. We have been able to get caught up on a lot of things and pay off quite a few things as well. As it stands, if we’re smart with our money, we could potentially have all our debt paid off by the end of next year. Which is perfect because we want to buy a house. We are so ready to move out of our apartment and it feels that much closer. Our credit scores have gone up, we’re nearing the end of our educations so new jobs are on the horizon, and we are almost out of the toddler stage with our kids. Things are just looking up.

Now that our boys are getting older we can start doing more hings with them, like camping, fishing or just vacationing in general There are so many good times ahead. I am just really happy and I haven’t felt this hopeful or excited in a long time and it feels good.

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Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

My First Labor and Delivery Did Not Go as Planned

One thing you are told when you’re pregnant is to have a birth plan. I didn’t really think about mine. I was going to deliver in a hospital, I wanted an epidural, and I wanted to push my baby out. It seemed simple enough, I knew the baby had to come out eventually and I was ready for labor and birth. The labor and birth I had was not what I expected it to be.

I went into labor around 2:30 in the morning. I was woken up by contractions and I was 38 weeks along. I was having contractions every 20 minutes. I got up to go to the bathroom and I felt a tiny gush. I looked down and I saw what I thought was blood tinged amniotic fluid. I woke my husband up and we finished packing my bag. We drove up to the hospital and they tested the fluid to make sure it was amniotic. When it was confirmed they put me in a room, hooked me up to monitors and started the pitocin. I was at two centimeters dilated when I got my epidural. My contractions were intense and they were coming regularly. I was in pain. Every time I had a contraction the baby’s heart rate would drop. He was in distress. They had to do an emergency cesarean. I was terrified. I was about to be cut open. I only had had an epidural, I couldn’t feel the pain but I could feel the pressure of the knife, I could feel the tugging and the pulling. I felt like they had put a plunger to my stomach and suctioned my insides out when they pulled my baby from my body. It took them so long to sew me back up when all I wanted was to hold my baby.

The next two weeks I had to take pain meds. I was in a lot of pain and my middle section look horrific. I spent the next 9 months absolutely hating my body because it couldn’t do the one thing it was supposed to do.

Looking back now I realize my mistakes. I don’t blame myself, though, because that was the first time I had ever gone into labor. Labor can be very scary for first time moms. I should have waited longer before going to the hospital. I should have waited until my contractions were closer together before going up there, I would have been a lot more comfortable at home. I also should not have let them put me on pitocin. I should have let my contractions naturally do what they were doing to do. I also should have waited longer to get an epidural. I’m not a doctor, nor a scientist, but I do believe that the combination of the pitocin making my contractions more intense and the epidural slowing down the labor is what caused my baby to become distressed. I feel as if the nurses and staff did this intentionally so that the doctor could just do a cesarean on me and be done with me. I feel as if this happens to a lot of women. I feel like certain doctors don’t want to wait for the hours and hours that labor can take. I think they just want to deliver the baby and be done.

I wish I could go back and do thing differently. I know it probably sounds crazy but I feel like I was robbed. I was ready to push that baby out, I wanted to. I wanted that experience. Instead I felt resentment towards my body and I had to take more time to heal and I was terrified. It was very traumatizing. It’s no wonder I had postpartum depression and anxiety.

This is just my opinion, I don’t have actual facts that this is what doctors and hospitals do, but the way they handled it had lasting repercussions on my mental health. I feel like they took advantage of the moment to make my body do something before it was ready just because they were ready. I’m glad that my baby is here and healthy and is about to be five years old, but I wish that moment hadn’t been taken from me.

I say this because I never got to push a baby out. Because I had had a c-section I had to deliver that way the second time. I changed doctors with my second baby because I didn’t like the last doctor. My new doctor was willing to do a vaginal birth but he wasn’t sure if my uterus could handle it since he did not do my first c-section. It’s a good thing I did do a planned c-section with him because when he delivered my second baby he told me that the first doctor had sewed my uterus so tightly that it was so thin he could see through it to my baby. If I had tried to push him out my uterus could have ruptured and it could have killed us both.

My advice to first time moms is trust your gut. Surround yourself with a good medical team. Have a partner who is going to be with you during the labor and delivery who knows what you want and will fight for you if you can’t. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, you may not get the chance again.

Some of My Better Posts

Every once in a while I look back at stuff I wrote in the past on this blog and I’m proud of myself. I have shared some things with you all that I never thought I could share with complete strangers. I thought I’d save you the trouble of searching through all my old posts and I’d list the ones I like the most. I hope you read them and I hope you like them.

What’s With Wicca?

Who I Am Without Medication

5 Things Women Should Be Proud Of

My Struggle With Codependency

I Am No One’s Pawn

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My Semester in a Pandemic

No one ever expects to see a pandemic in their lifetime. I feel very lucky to be healthy and thriving through this time. I cannot imagine how the people who are dealing with this illness first hand are doing. 

My challenges this semester were simple at first, maybe because I anticipated what was going to come with the busyness of work, school and raising a family. I was stressed, don’t get me wrong. This was my first semester of law classes and I was very nervous to start them. I waited until I was 30 to finally decide what I wanted to do with my life, what if I failed? What if it proved to be too difficult? What if I had to go back to the drawing board? I wouldn’t know until I tried.

So I started the semester anyway and did the work. I was slowly getting the hang of it. I was learning so much and feeling good about the choice I made to become a paralegal. Then the Coronavirus came. My husband became furloughed, I became furloughed. We didn’t know what was going to happen. I immediately started freaking out. 

The one constant thing that kept going was school. Yes, it was online, but it was still there. I didn’t feel completely stuck. I could still continue on my journey. At least I wasn’t standing still. Having my husband home to help with the kids when I needed to attend class was a huge help. He kept those youngin’s in line. Thank goodness for the mute button on my end.

I think one of the hardest things for me this semester, though, was finding the motivation to do my homework and assignments. Mostly because when the world is shut down and you can’t leave your house and you can’t see your friends and family, it’s enough to make anybody feel down. Add that to my clinical depression and you have a potato. Potatoes can’t do homework. At least that’s what I would tell myself. I couldn’t let this keep me down. I had to tell myself that school is one of the few things I have right now that I can use to keep my mind off of all the bad stuff. I reminded myself that potatoes are the most versatile of all vegetables. 

I didn’t mind the zoom classes either. It was nice to have extra time before and after class to do whatever instead of sitting in a car for thirty minutes. I saved a ton of money in gas not having to drive to class. I also started reading books for fun again with all this free time. I am also glad that I got to spend more time with my husband and sons, especially since my boys are little. One day they’re going to grow up and not want to spend time with me at all so I have to soak it all up now, even if we’re all driving each other crazy. 

If I had any advice for a future student who may go through a tough semester I would say this: don’t stop. Even when it’s hard and you have no motivation and it seems tough, don’t stop. You’re not wasting your time. You are moving toward something, not taking away from anything. You can do it. It’s only temporary, just don’t stop. 

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Some Book Reviews

As some of you may know I read. A lot. I like to set a goal for myself each year to read as many books as I can. Normally that number is 60-70 books a year but since I have been in school I have had to lower that number quite a bit. This year I have lowered my goal to 30. So far I have only accomplished 6 books, but with the semester finally coming to a close I plan to catch up quickly. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

The thing I love about Kent Haruf’s books is that they’re so human. I really enjoyed this book, it really gives you some faith in humanity. It is the first in a series, which I was grateful for because when this book ended I remember thinking, “that can’t be it.” There are a few story lines going on and it’s all happening in a small Colorado town. You have a father who is trying to raise his two sons alone because his wife is sick but also wanting out of the marriage. You have a teenage girl who gets kicked out of her mother’s house because she becomes pregnant. You have an old lady who lives alone who becomes very special to the two boys who are learning to live life with their parents apart. It’s very much full of the things we all experience and it makes you feel connected to these characters.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This is the series that the show True Blood is based off of. Now, I will say I read this book because of a recommendation of a friend. I’m not really one for vampires, I think I’ve said this before. This book really gave me Twilight vibes. I know it’s a little grittier and more southern but it was basically Twilight for me. I enjoyed the book but I don’t plan on reading the rest of the series.

The Alienst by Caleb Carr

I got this book as a gift from a friend, someone who really knows my heart. She knows I can’t resist a good murder mystery. This book reminded me a lot of the series Midhunter on Netflix. It’s very similar in the way that Dr. Kreizler tries to figure out what makes a person kill for pleasure. It also reminded me of Silence of the Lambs, just set in Victorian New York. I really enjoyed this one.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson

I really love a good survival story. Man or woman against nature, using their wits to make it through a dangerous terrain. I love how they come out the other side stronger and knowing more about themselves. When I took this one on I thought that’s what I was getting. It started out promising enough, a woman kills her husband then flees the wrath of her brother in laws. She then finds herself on a journey to survive and to find a new life. I was pretty disappointed with this one. After about halfway through it just lost me and I had to struggle to finish it.

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

This is a new favorite. I absolutely loved this book. It’s very different from what I remember the movie being. Nonetheless, one of the best books I’ve ever read. I will say, I hated the character Melody. I wanted so badly for her to just die off. She is horrible! The old doctor was my favorite character. Wilbur Larch, in my opinion, is one the most noble characters in all of literature.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

WOW. Just wow. Such an amazing continuation of this series. This is number 5 in the Throne of Glass series and it just. keeps. getting. better. I already have the next book, we are going to find out what happens next, and I think I’m gonna lose my freaking mind over it. There’s so much to this story that it can’t be explained, you just have to read it. I haven’t loved a series like this since the Razorland Trilogy.

Those are all the books I’ve read so far this year. What books have you read lately?

How and Why Moms Should Make Self Care a Priority

The thing about being a mom is you are everything. You are the one who feeds the kids, bathes the kids, gets them dressed, puts them to bed, brushes their teeth, disciplines them, takes them to school. The list goes on. Yes there are dads out there who do these things too, but it mostly falls on the mom to take care of these things. On top of being a mom you have other obligations. You have a job, you have a house to maintain, you have friends, you have a spouse. All of these other things need your attention too. What do you do for yourself? Do you have something that you like to do that’s just for you? You should.

When you take care of others all the time it’s hard to remember to take care of yourself sometimes. Self care isn’t just a dream, it can be a reality. You’re not just a mom, you’re a human being. All humans have needs. One of those needs is time to ourselves. Another need is to relax and do things that make us happy. Yes, taking care of our family makes us happy, but it is not always easy and is really hard sometimes.

You are the rock of the family, whether you want to be or not. You hold everything together. It’s all on you, baby. Society has put so much on moms and we’re just supposed to accept it and go along. I don’t know about you, but I feel crazy sometimes. I need my space, I need peace and quiet, I need to do something without being interrupted 10 times. I can only take so much.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. So here’s what we all need to do:

  1. Take a 20 minute bubble bath.
  2. Go for a walk ALONE.
  3. Leave the kids with your spouse for a couple hours.
  4. Put a movie on for the kids and read a book.
  5. Put the kids to bed early and watch a movie with your partner.
  6. Get your nails/hair/massage/facial done.
  7. Have a glass of wine after the kids go to bed.
  8. Take the kids to grandparents/aunts house then go home and take a nap.
  9. Have “quiet time”.
  10. Don’t feel guilty about doing any of those things.

Moms need to do things for themselves. They need to get away for a little bit. If you don’t take care of yourself, your kids and spouse will suffer for it. You cannot take care of someone else if you are not okay. You have to make yourself a priority sometimes so that you can completely take care of them.

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5 Study Habits That Work For Procrastinators

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I know the semester is coming to an end but I noticed a change in my study habits this semester. I am a horrible procrastinator and I needed to make a structured plan on how to get my work done, especially since we had to go to online classes. I was home schooled for most of my childhood so I’m familiar with the whole watch an hour lecture then do all the book work myself. That part isn’t difficult. In college, though, I’m in charge of making sure my assignments get done, not my mother and certainly not my professor. Here are a few things I tried out this semester that really worked and help me get my assignments done on time.

1. Set your assignment due date to a day early.

If you tell yourself your assignment is due a day before it actually is you give yourself a little wiggle room. I like to always turn my assignments in the day before it’s due so that I get it done sooner rather than later. I tell myself that the due date is too late and it gives me more of a sense of urgency.

2. Cut up your chapters.

If you have to read from your textbook break up the chapters. I always look through the chapter that’s assigned for the week, count how many pages I have to read and break it up by how many days I have to read it so I’m not trying to cram the whole chapter in one day. This way I don’t feel information overload and I absorb it better if I’m just reading for 20 minutes versus an hour.

3. Cut up your assignment.

Just as you break up your chapters, break up your assignments. Look at the instructions, see how many days you have to complete it and do a little bit of it each day, that way you feel like you’ve done something. It also helps because you aren’t thinking about it too much, you’re focusing on one part at a time. I get bored real quick so working in small parts helps me stay focused. I tell myself, “Just do this part and then you can watch tv.” It works for me, Okay?

4. Do you school work before doing anything else.

If you’re really good at doing anything and everything except your work then just get it out of the way first. Make it a point to do your little piece of homework before you do anything else. Think of it as your job. You get up and go to work then when you get off you get to do whatever you want.

5. Take it a week at a time.

Just plan it a week at a time. Usually semesters last 16 weeks. If you go just a week at a time it helps. If you know you have a test coming up or an assignment due on a certain date, make a plan a week before to do what needs to be done before those days are up.

Next week is the last week of my semester and I am ready for summer vacation. Mine will be shorter this year since I am taking a 4 week class in July before the fall semester starts, but that’s okay. Just two more semesters until graduation!

Why It’s Okay to Not Have Everything Figured Out

I wasted so much time in my early twenties trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. When you’re a kid, adults always ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer is I don’t know.

I didn’t know. There were a lot of things I liked to do, a lot of things I’m good at. But are those the things that I will do with my life? To make a living?

When I was 13 I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I love studying English and grammar and literature, I thought I could turn that love into a career. When I got older and realized that no one cares about those things like I do and the living wage of a teacher reflects that notion. People in this country just do not care about academics. They only care if they have to. What I mean by that is people who have to get a degree or certification in the field they want to go into.

That was the most discouraging thing about my deciding to give up the dream of being a teacher. Yes, it is a noble profession and I am so grateful for those who take it on. I cannot believe how poorly teachers are paid in this country. I just didn’t see it being a worthwhile career for me.

Without my dream of becoming a teacher I felt lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a long time. I would go back and forth on ideas for possible careers. There’s so much pressure to know what you want to do right out of high school. There’s so much pressure to make a good living, to be viewed as a successful human being. There’s not enough encouragement to young people to find what makes them happy, what makes them feel fulfilled.

I will be 30 in November and I am just now figuring out what I want to do. Yes, I beat myself up about not figuring it out sooner, but in your early twenties you don’t know what you want. You’re still young, you’re still discovering who you are. How are you supposed to know what to do with the rest of your life in the first 20 years? And who’s to say I’m right? What if I decide to change career paths in my forties?

I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. I think we should say it’s okay to not have it all figured out. We grow, we change, we want to do something new every now and again. And that’s okay.

“‘Finding yourself’ is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. ‘Finding yourself’ is actually returning to yourself. A remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” -Emily McDowell

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