This post is a little delayed due to a much-needed summer vacation camping with family (more to come on that in an upcoming post, I promise)! By now I’m sure you have all had the pleasure of seeing the incredible impact of the I Live It, I Blog It campaign started by John. Taking the blogging community by storm, this campaign focused on the need for diversity and acceptance.
When John sent a message inviting me to join in on the campaign I was more than excited to take part. I have long said that I felt the blogging community needed to open up to those of us who don’t fit the stereotypical ‘blogger’ that brands are often searching for. When I started Alternatively Speaking I knew that I wouldn’t ‘fit in,’ but at the time that was just further reason to get my voice out there. I proudly talk about tattoos, unnatural hair colours and alternative style because I know that I am far from alone!
The campaign calls for us to tell our story, share who we are. While I pride myself in being pretty true to ‘me’ both on my blog and social media I realized that I had never really shared who I was or what brought me to this point in my life.
I grew up a total country girl, over a 30-min drive from even the small town that I lived near. My bus ride to school was over an hour. Country living suited me – I always loved playing outdoors, camping and other similar activities. Our country home held my mother, my father, my two younger siblings – my sister Ashley and my brother Jason, myself and the countless pets that we considered part of the family over the years.
At a young age, I was very interested in music – starting with vocal music and eventually moving onto instrumental. I was also heavily involved with my martial arts earning my black belt at the age of 15. I was a good student and always enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new.
When I was 15 my life took a significant turn. One day my father left for work like always, but this day wouldn’t be like every other. I remember the morning clearly. I had made a coffee in a travel mug to take to school which was the first time my father had seen me drinking coffee. He was poking fun at me about drinking coffee and carrying a school bag that looked like a briefcase. That day my father experienced a stroke and a brain aneurysm. He was taken to the hospital where he was on life-support until late that night when we said goodbye.
I had always been a daddy’s girl, and this was a life changing moment for me.
I completed high school, largely motivated by my involvement with the school’s music department. During those years, I was a member of every band and ensemble that I could be. It was during high school that I worked my first few jobs, including as a counselor at a karate summer day camp and working for Galaxy Cinemas where I learned to work the projection booth.
Throughout my high school career, I battled with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. For those that aren’t necessarily familiar with these terms, it means that not only did I have disordered eating habits (fasting, purging, over exercising) but I actually viewed my body in a skewed way. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see what anyone else saw, I saw a larger, warped version that my head had created. This, along with other triggers, further fueled my poor eating habits. I did seek help, but I wasn’t mentally ready to take the steps to actually get better at the time, and so I didn’t stick with anything long.
Following high school, I accepted an offer to attend the University of Windsor for Music. While attending my first year of University I ended up discovering the Windsor Regiment Band – a local military band. I started playing with them as a volunteer (thanks to some ‘persuasion’ by a new friend that I had met at the University’s Wind Ensemble rehearsals). In time, I decided to make the shift, and so I joined the military and completed basic training. The great part about this was that I was making money not only when doing military training like range weekends and courses, but also by playing with the band, doing something I genuinely enjoyed!
Throughout University I continued to struggle significantly with my eating habits. This was further aided by the fact I was now living on my own, which meant that I suddenly had the freedom to make whatever choices I wanted with no one watching over my shoulder. Entering into the military challenged that a bit, as I now had both a job where I had to maintain some ability of physical fitness (so I couldn’t be passing out/struggling all the time) as well as a group of people that I allowed past the walls I had built, who knew what was going on and challenged me to work through it. I will forever be grateful for the effort they made, as that kept me from spiraling to a point FAR worse than where I went during those years.
It was during University that I really began to discover who I was on a deeper level. I learned to embrace some of the things that made me ‘different’ and unique.
Learning to Adult
As I moved into my adult life I began working in the world of insurance. I was dealing with some serious health issues (a post for another time) and needed something stable, reliable and not too physically draining.
This was my first office type job after a string of retail and retail management roles, so it was quite a shift. I spent a total of 7 years in the industry between two different brokerages and then returned to college. While there were a lot of rewarding aspects to the job, don’t get me wrong, but I quickly realized that the high-stress level involved with the industry was not helping my stress level in the slightest. Even more concerning, higher stress led me further down the dark hole of my eating issues.
It was while I was working at the brokerages that I found my way back to music once again. When I was going through my health struggles I had stopped playing and fallen away from it all. Friends drew me back in, first playing with a local community band and then getting me involved with our local marching band where I now work as a music instructor.
While I was going through my health struggles I met Jano, the man who is now my husband. He was incredibly supportive, never leaving my side regardless of what life was throwing at us. We married back up where I grew at a beautiful resort on the lake. While we have not been blessed with children at this point in our lives, we have built our own special little family with our pets, and LOVE being ‘that Aunt and Uncle’ that enjoy spending time with/spoiling our nieces/nephews – both biological and those that we’ve ‘adopted.’
Returning to school has been an interesting shift. I am currently finishing up my Business – Marketing diploma which I am loving. Returning at 30 was an interesting choice, you really do view the school thing much differently at this stage of your life. I have been working a social media marketer with a number of smaller businesses and organizations (I do hold a number of industry specific certifications) but am now taking the steps to branch out and look at something even bigger.
I’ve had a lot more judgment in my adult years than I ever did as a child/teen for my style choices. For some reason having tattoos and bright coloured hair in your 30’s reflects on who you are fundamentally as a person in a negative way. Personally – I don’t buy it.
I hope that by continuing to ‘be me,’ blogging, working towards success in the local business community and staying involved in the community here that I live in that I can help to turn this stereotype around. I hope to demonstrate first hand that you can embrace and alternative style and still be successful in business. That you can be a hard, dedicated worker, and you can create a successful life. I hope to show brands that my tattoos and *insert colour here depending on how I am currently feeling* hair doesn’t change the blogger that I am, and my ability to work with them.
I know that it’s not all going to happen overnight – I have a long road ahead of me. I thank each and every one of you that has shown me love and support along the way… By encouraging me, sharing my content, reading this blog and engaging with me across social media.
One step at a time – One foot in front of the other. It’s a long journey but I am sure that it is the right one for me.
I Live It, I Blog It.
** Share your story using the hashtag #ILiveItIBlogIt to join in on this powerful campaign! **
Have you heard of the ‘I Live It, I Blog It’ campaign? Have you participated?