It was in those midnight hours that I unearthed the grit inside of me, the fuel and passion to pursue my dreams and the life I truly want to live - with or without Chiari Malformation symptoms. This deep realization that my struggles and fears do not define me as a person–nor do they construct my identity–has introduced me to a deeper level of confidence in who I am as a woman. I decided that my capabilities will be harnessed by my belief in myself, my willingness to be vulnerable with others and my desire to have fun along the way.

You may or may not have noticed it. Silence. It’s been sitting in a corner waiting to be called out. It’s large, and unsure, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re going to see it now. In December, I am having brain surgery because I have a congenital birth defect that is called Chiari Malformation. I’ve learned that silence serves a purpose and is very much a part of the journey to wholeness.

Rebecca is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and speaker, raising close to a million dollars for charities. An avid traveller, writer, and wellness ambassador, she also has access to a network of over 1500+ millennial professionals. She has been featured on such platforms as Forbes magazine, and is the founder of HER Summit (coming in May 2019), publisher of AMACON books (released in February 2019), CEO of Laramée Consulting, Social Entrepreneur for Changebowl and manager of TEDx Toronto.

Expression is such a beautiful way of connecting with your heart and with the world. In so many ways I “fell” into this journey of becoming an artist and a painter because I was just having fun with a friend. That’s the crazy part in all of this-- we can make plans and prepare, but sometimes there are beautiful surprises and adventures that come just because we’re having fun.

Amber Vittoria is an illustrator working in New York City; her work focuses on the accurate portrayal of women within art, and she has collaborated with like-minded brands, such as Gucci, The New York Times, and Instagram, on pieces that further said narrative. Her work has been recognized by Print Magazine‘s 2017 New Visual Artists – 15 Under 30, It’s Nice That, Computer Arts, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, and Man Repeller. 

Mariz Brown was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to California when she was 12 years old.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business of Administration Management, and has been an entrepreneur in Los Angeles area for over 10 years and in the corporate world for almost five years.  She is happily married to her high school sweetheart with four young boys ranging from five to 12 years old. She now lives permanently in the North State of California in a small town called Redding.

Sharlene is an inspirational speaker, spoken word artist, and social entrepreneur. She is a New York City native with a passion for community engagement, advocacy and youth development. Over the past decade, Sharlene has had the privilege of leading workshop presentations, keynote addresses and spoken word performances with thousands of people on platforms relating to business, art, and faith. Sharlene has also diversified her creative experience with radio and movie appearances, voice-over work and consulting. She is the founder of the Redeemed Art Collective and CEO of Write Speak Inspire, LLC.  

I once witnessed a conversation between a very blunt non-Westerner and an American millennial. “Are you afraid of weight?” asked the foreigner. I was caught off guard because even though the question pertained to their conversation about the body, I knew the two strangers had just met and such a personal question seemed intrusive. The American handled it with ease and the conversation flowed onward, but it left an impression on me. “Are you afraid of weight?”

See, the message of the body objectification culture is that your physical appearance is your most valuable asset. It becomes a game of sorts: the game board is comparison, bodies are the playing pieces, and self-worth is the object at stake. Dr. Lindsay Kite articulates this issue concisely when she remarks, "Girls and women aren't only suffering because of the unattainable ways beauty is being defined; they are suffering because they are being defined by beauty. They are bodies first and people second."

It took me making the time and mental space to reflect back to where I lost my sense of identity apart from anything that I do including my career. I realized that in high school I believed the lie that what I do and who I “become” will prove my significance, and that being and doing what I love is not enough. I felt like people were holding me to a standard that was never even set, and that’s where I welcomed the unnecessary pressure to strive for perfection, and focusing on perfecting my self image through what I accomplish.

Transition is nothing new to me. I have moved once a year for the last 10 years. I have lived in three different states and graduated from three different schools in the same amount of time. There is something exciting about transition - experiencing a new place, meeting new people and learning something new. But transition is also scary. It causes us to ask questions like: Will I be successful? Will I fit in? Will I enjoy this? Is this really what I want?

In almost every transition, for better or worse, there is an element of loss, and therefore an element of grief. And if there’s anything we know about grief, it’s that it demands to be acknowledged. Or as John Green put it, “Pain demands to be felt.” So, here’s what I’m proposing may be the most effective way to embrace and cope with transition—grieve. Grieve the loss of whatever is no more.