I, Brittany Bigley, am a Writer.

My poem written to my childhood dog, Gizmo, that now hangs on my mom’s refrigerator 26 years after its creation.

As a child, I wrote a poem about love.
My poem had rhyme, but I also included meter ( for you non-English majors, meter is the rhythm and emphasis of a line of poetry based on syllabic beats). I wrote it on a big, red heart I cut from construction paper. It was a school art project for Valentine’s Day.


I gave the poem to my grandparents. My mom upon seeing it and reading it, responded, “Brittany, I think your talent is writing.” I was 7.
Playing off the compliment, I didn’t consider myself worthy, a belief I carried long into adulthood.


My Grandparents kept that poem on their refrigerator, and my mom, who now owns their house, never touched the poem. It still hangs on the refrigerator as it did 26 years ago.


I distinctly remember when my mom acknowledged my talent, I too acknowledged it. It rang true to my soul, my little 7 year old soul. Feeling the intensity of the truth that had just been spoken, understanding the value of that truth, and how it made me feel, I buried it, deep within me, like a pirate burying treasure. My 7 year old self understood the hurt and pain my soul would feel had I tried to unveil my talent in a harsh world.


Recently, as I’ve neared the end of my contract with a job, I’ve thought more and more about writing. The Universe has sent signs, a “download” about a children’s book a few weeks ago, a quote , “to not follow your passion is to die a slow death by suicide.”
Yes, I buried my truth long ago about being a writer, to avoid the pain of criticism. But I can’t deny my truth any longer, because it hurts more to bury my truth out of fear, than to live it and face critics.


I, Brittany Bigley, am a writer.

There were times where I lived my truth wholeheartedly. In college, I pursued writing because college was a safe bubble to put myself and my writing out into the world, with very few consequences or critics. When I wrote my first article for my college newspaper, The Text, as a freshman, a scathing review of George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, there was a very deep sense of satisfaction and contentment, like, “yea, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” My sophomore year I became the Editor in Chief, which I think happened more out of luck and demonstrating passion than from talent.


Writing my column as Editor in Chief was nerve wracking, sure. I demanded perfection of myself, I desired to give the readers my best. Increasing readership and engagement with The Text became my passion project, that is, until it was time to create a senior thesis to graduate with my Graphic Design Communications degree.


I switched my focus to my senior thesis, and I handed over the reigns of Editor, while I studied abroad in London during my Junior year.
While studying abroad, I ruminated over ideas for a senior thesis, a whole year earlier than I needed to. It was while I was in London I got inspired by social activism, calls to action, philosophers of the Enlightenment period, like John Locke and his Social Contract Theory. I knew I wanted to combine social activism, and theory, while also displaying my writing, photography and design skills. After talking with my Serbian and German roommates for hours in our common room of our flat near Elephant and Castle station in South London, “Citizen” was born.


“Citizen” became my senior thesis, a philanthropic magazine about local citizens in Philadelphia who were going out and bettering their communities. Knowing the magnitude of my work ahead of me, I started working on Citizen in the beginning of my senior year, long before most seniors even nailed down their project ideas. I wrote articles, took photos and designed mastheads. I created featured column names, as well as loose ideas for branding. The last semester of my senior year, I took a newspaper/magazine studio course in addition to my capstone thesis studio class to ensure my passion project would get finished.


By the end of my senior year I had a fully functional magazine. Had I handed it to someone on the street, they would have believed it to be a real magazine. My hard work earned me the Writing for Graphic Design award at the Senior Graphic Design Banquet. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully let the significance of that award sink in (at this time, I still couldn’t take a compliment). At the end of my senior year, I was exhausted, and couldn’t stand to look at the magazine any longer. I had ate, slept and breathed Citizen, for more than an entire year. It was the embodiment of all of my talents, from conception to final product through my sweat, stress and tears.


After college, I worked independently as a screen printer and graphic designer while trying to figure out ways to take Citizen to the next level, a real, functioning magazine. But the exhaustion after completing design school coupled with zero start up capital, made it truly difficult to jump start my dream. I found safety in getting a job in education. It was a stable job, steady income, good benefits and hours, plus I knew I could go anywhere and find a teaching job. I switched fields and that’s where I’ve been for over 10 years, up until this week.


Although I have a teaching job lined up for August, I will be currently unemployed for a month and a half. The lack of income during this uncertain time definitely has me on edge, but when I spoke to my mom, she again referred back to her acknowledgement those 26 years ago, “Brittany, you’re a writer, take this time to focus on your writing.” She put into words what I had been inherently feeling, the need to take this time to dive back into my passion.


At 2:15 early this morning, after waking up to a stroke of genius, a fluid stream of consciousness, I’m writing this…

I, Brittany Bigley, am a writer, and from here on out, I’m going to start acting like one.

Monday Motivation: Speak, Visualize, Then Manifest

At the last TEDx COS event, I went to the after party and met one of the speaker coaches, Bob. I confessed to him that I aspire to be a public speaker and to give a TEDx talk.

He asked me very poignantly, “Did you make it to the stage tonight?”

I paused and looked at him with confusion.

“You know, to visualize yourself on stage,” he continued.

This past weekend, when I attended the second TEDx COS event, I made sure to take Bob’s advice and get on stage, to look out at the sea of seats and envision what it would be like to tell my story to a large audience.

It was a tad intimidating, AND embarrassing, walking past the TEDx production crew, speakers and volunteers to get to the red dot where the speakers stand and look out at the empty auditorium. Cue my self-doubt : you’re intimidated now, the seats are empty, just wait until they are filled with people watching you! My heart beat faster.

I took a deep breath and told my negative committee to sit down and shut up. I’ll ensure I’m more than prepared to give a talk about my story, I thought. After all, shouldn’t I be the expert of my own story?!

For an introvert, the possibility of speaking in front of hundreds of strangers does continue to make my heart palpitate abnormally fast, yet at the same time, I’m intrigued with the idea. Mainly, I want to overcome my fear of public speaking and I feel that my story is worthy of sharing.

I’m going to apply for the next round of speakers for the spring of 2020, and I’ll see what transpires. But for now I’m keeping that vision of speaking on a TEDx stage in focus, bringing my story to life and speaking my truth to inspire others.

Special thanks to the staff, speakers and volunteers at the September 2019 TEDx COS event who put on a wonderful event. I’ll be seeing you next year!

And to those of you reading who have a dream: speak it into words, tell someone trusted and safe, then tell strangers. Visualize your dream happening. Feel like it has already happened. That’s when the universe will reward you with what you’ve been speaking and visualizing, bringing it to life!

Tapping Out

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu 

For the last few years I have been on an inadvertent journey of self-discovery and reflection. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of years avoiding those topics out of fear of what I might find. What little I did know about myself, I didn’t really like because it would mean confronting some hard truths that my insecure sense of self and pride might not be able to weather.

I can write that now with the spark of clarity that comes from two years of various forms of therapy: licensed therapists, self-help books, Youtube videos, journal writing, and most surprisingly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). 

BJJ is a martial art that focuses on grappling maneuvers and the magic of physics and human anatomy to apply joint locks and strangulation to subdue sometimes larger opponents. When a person concedes the roll (sparring session), they will tap. 

I started training a little over two years ago, when a friend, who was a competitive purple belt, and who taught and trained BJJ, suggested I check it out. I was immediately hooked. The physical demands were challenging but what kept me coming back was how BJJ reflected my personality back to me in ways I couldn’t ignore. I learned more about myself in training than every personality quiz, test and assessment I had ever taken combined (and I’ve taken them all). Seeing how I reacted when I felt cornered, what I resorted to when I got desperate, and most importantly what I was willing to put my body through just so I could win was truly eye-opening. 

From my first fight in my first ever tournament at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Houston Open 2018. I’ve competed in five tournaments earning one gold, two silver and two bronze and in all of those fights I’ve only tapped once. (I’m in the white.)

I realized that I had lived many years of my life not knowing what I wanted. I approached my rolls with no plan. I just spazzed (technical term) and grabbed whatever I could and tried to hold on for dear life. Unfortunately, that didn’t work against anyone but the least experienced opponents. BJJ taught me that if I wanted to win, I needed to know what I wanted first so I could develop a plan to get there. 

This was the first of many lessons BJJ had to teach me. BJJ became an outlet for me to prove to myself and others that I was tough. I harnessed my emotions, and used them as fuel for my training. I pushed myself, increased my pain threshold and my ability to withstand and adapt to all kinds of situations.  I learned to breathe, and to approach my training with plans and goals in mind. And I learned that sometimes to gain a better position, you have to let go. 

Even though BJJ is an individual sport, you can’t train alone. You need partners, ideally a community of people who push each other to work hard, support each other and improve. The people I trained with became my community. These people have helped me through some tough times and for that, I will forever be grateful. It’s a strange sport where the same people who tried to break my arms and strangle me with my own clothing were also my teammates and teachers, who helped me grow both mentally and physically. Though it might hurt for a while afterward, each injury taught me a valuable lesson and I’ve accumulated a few. 

Sadly, my body doesn’t bounce back the way that it used to when I was younger. As I write this, I’m still nursing an injury from a dislocated finger from several months ago and a reverse cervical lordosis diagnosis. Training now would mean pushing past the limits of my body and mind only to satisfy my pride. Of all the injuries I’ve sustained or gotten since starting BJJ, my ego is the one that takes the longest to heal, and it’s been the hardest lesson for me to learn. 

In addition to the physical limitations I’m confronting the fact that the anger I used to feed my training is now scarce. When I first started in the sport I was working through a lot of personal challenges and trying to figure out what I wanted. As I learned to spazz out less on the mats I have learned to spazz out less in life too. I’m identifying more of what I want, which has led to a less angry version of myself.Brazilian jiu-jitsu taught me about myself in ways I never would have imagined. I learned  many hard lessons along the way, not least of which is that progress is rarely linear. Sometimes moving forward means taking a step back. In my journey to better understand myself and keep myself in balance, I need to respect where my body and mind are at right now. Which means that for now at least, I’m tapping out.

Fearless Friday: Do Not Shame Me

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Photo by Chris Parish

Do not shame me for talking too long with you at the bar. Just because I enjoy a good conversation does not mean I’m interested.

Do not shame me for dancing enthusiastically with my friends at the club. Just because I love to express myself doesn’t give you permission to dance up on me, or touch me inappropriately.

Do not shame me for expressing my emotions, calling me “too emotional” or “you’re overreacting” just because you’re too insecure and uncomfortable, and not in touch with your emotions.

Do not shame me for listening to my intuition. Do not call me “crazy”, when deep down I know that something isn’t right, that you’re cheating, that you’re pulling away.

Do not shame me for dressing up and feeling sexy. Do not shame me and cover me up because you cannot handle your sexual impulses.

Do not shame me for sending nude photos to my, then, boyfriend. You know who should be shamed? Him, for leaking the nudes.

Do not shame me for setting strict boundaries at work, stating I’m too difficult to work with because I won’t freely give my time and energy. Both my time and energy are precious resources, and I’m very discerning as to how I give them away.

Do not shame me for setting strict boundaries in my relationships. I’m selective of how and with whom I spend my time.

Do not shame me for standing up against my abuser, my assailant, the person who violated my trust, my boundaries, my safety. I will not be shamed into staying quiet and compliant; I won’t stay a victim any longer. My voice, my story will be heard!

Do not shame me because I chose my career over having a family. I am following my path, not yours.

Do not shame me because I chose a family over a career. I am following my path, not yours.

Do not shame me for putting happiness, wholeness and self-love above all else. I cannot give my talents and strengths if my “cup” is empty.

Do not shame me into becoming your salvation, your life raft, your caretaker. Just because you’re searching for completeness doesn’t mean I’ll allow you to become co-dependent.

I have a right to express myself, verbally, physically and emotionally. I have a right to body autonomy. I have a right to have my story, my voice, be heard. I have a right feel safe. I have a right to be loved, without expectations. I have a right to walk down the street, to be in a conversation, to be in any interaction where my body is not made mention, verbally, non-verbally or physically implied.

For all of this, I WILL NOT BE SHAMED.

 

 

Monday Motivation: Leaving; It’s Not Failing, It’s Knowing Your Worth

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Today’s post transports me back to a time when I was still living in Philadelphia, working in Camden, New Jersey as a special education teacher, hating my life, feeling stuck. I worked a job that had little regard for a work-life balance, working ten hour days, 50 hour work weeks and bi-weekly Saturday schools. I’d come home with little to no energy to take on any personal projects of my own. My. Soul. Felt. Empty.

It was a time when I was searching for something, anything, as a sign for what was next. I got that sign in the form of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was the second and third pages of the Introduction that became my “sign”. Here Paulo writes about a personal calling  (what you were put on earth to do, igniting enthusiasm within you) and the obstacles that one has to face in order to achieve it.  But what really stood out to me was this:

“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the later goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness…”

Upon reading this, I wept uncontrollably. I was living the bearable suffering, too scared to chase my personal calling. I felt my soul being eaten away by my job and by my place in the world. Bitterness had started to creep in.

I read that on a Sunday. By Thursday of that same week, I walked into my job and resigned. It was such a quick decision I hadn’t even called my mom for fear of her talking me out of it. After I had given my letter of resignation, I called her to state my plan.

My plan: I move home for two months, backpack Australia for a few months and then head off to Colorado to start a new life. As much as I was adamant about this plan (deep down I knew it needed to be done), somehow I felt like a failure. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a special ed teacher? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be successful at that school? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to continue with the life I was living?

NOPE. N-O, shit naw. Wanna know what ACTUALLY happened?

I FINALLY FIGURED OUT MY WORTH!

I was worthy of so much more than what I was getting out of my job and my life back in Philadelphia. That was no longer my path and I sensed it. Kudos to me, because as Paulo stated in his introduction some people never figure it out.  And I’m so very thankful for the friends, family and my therapist at the time who helped me to remember my worth.

Two years after moving home for two months, backpacking Australia for four months and then moving to Colorado I can tell you I am that much closer to realizing my personal calling. I still have a few hurdles to jump, some decisions to make but I know it’ll be worth it AND that I AM WORTH IT.

So if you are living your life thinking that this current path just doesn’t feel right, but you think you’d be a failure for quitting, please know, please deeply understand and feel that you aren’t a failure. You’re coming to realize your worth. You’re starting to understand your path, your next steps in your journey, following your own personal legend.

Coelho ends the introduction of The Alchemist with this:

“But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become and instrument of God, you help the soul of the world, and you understand why you are here.”

 

Help the world by following your personal calling, by knowing your worth, by knowing when to walk away.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

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Photo by Chris Parish

“Are you okay!?” It’s the question I’ve been hearing for the past three to four weeks now from friends, coworkers and administrators. My inability to hold a poker face let the world know that internally, no, I wasn’t okay.  Recently I’ve felt on edge, trying to prevent myself from jumping off the proverbial cliff. My mood fluctuated between subtle frustration to down right pissed, sometimes veering off into sad and emotional. For that stretch of time, I was doing everything I could to not feel those emotions, because let’s face it, those emotions aren’t fun to deal with. The more I tried to suppress the emotions, not talk about them or deal with them the stronger they became.

This past week, after a few intimate conversations with friends and one intense yoga workout designed to break down the ego, I couldn’t hide from the emotions and their triggers any longer.

Turns out, after a deep reflection on the yoga mat, I had legitimate reasons for being angry, sad, upset.

My first reason I identified is that I wasn’t being true to myself and setting boundaries. I said yes when I meant no. I was giving my time and energy (my most precious resources) freely when I needed to conserve it. My job was emotionally draining, I over booked my schedule and didn’t properly plan times to emotionally recharge.

With Father’s Day coming up, I realized this also contributed to my anger and sadness. Although I believed I’d fully grieved my father’s death, seeing  Father’s Day cards in the stores made me upset as I no longer had a reason to buy one. In that moment, seeing those cards, life felt really unfair.

Lastly, in general I’ve wanted to make changes to a few different areas in my life, but since I hadn’t properly conserved my time and energy, I had neither to make progress on personal goals. I felt stagnant, stuck, no hope because nothing was changing.

After identifying my underlying reasons for my anger, frustration and sadness, I allowed myself to feel the emotions which ultimate led to me releasing them. 

When I was asked “Are you okay!?” I felt the need to smile, nod and pretend everything was okay, when in fact it wasn’t, far from it. But I’m thankful for my close friends who saw through my bullshit and pressed on with more questions, because clearly they saw something(s) I was trying to ignore.

And that’s the lesson I’ve learned, that emotions, especially the unpleasant ones, are there for a reason. Anger was present because I ignored my boundaries. Sadness existed because I was reminded that someone I love so deeply is no longer here with me. Frustration found its way into my life because I wasn’t making  progress on personal goals. And in a world where I feel forced to smile and nod when asked “are you okay?!” I’ll remember to be brave and authentically say “No, I’m not okay, but that’s okay”.

 

Thankful Thursday: Losing Hope That Life Would Have Been Different

IMG_8397Sunday was my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I’ve ever attended. I felt honored when a good friend asked me to accompany him to a meeting celebrating his six month milestone. I expected to sit back and be a fly on the wall, supporting my friend, instead I was brought to tears by one woman’s story.

The topic of the meeting, forgiveness. The young woman helping to run the meeting was one of the last to share, but what she shared resonated with me long after I left the meeting.She said a patient she worked with at a recovery house (the patient now deceased) had created a painting for her with the words:
“Forgiveness is losing the hope that your life would have been different.”
That quote hit me like a punch to the gut. I teared up because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

For too long I’ve been wondering how my life would have been different without the difficulties of my childhood. What if my parents didn’t get divorced, what if my dad wasn’t affected by a mental illness, what if I didn’t go through a crippling stint of depression. I’ve expended extensive amounts of my mental energy supporting the what if’s, the dreams that my life could have and should have been different.

Losing the hope that life would have been different -It’s detaching yourself from the what if’s, from the blame, from the judgement, from the shame, guilt, and ultimate hurt that’s been a heavy burden to carry for 20+ years.

Losing the hope that life would have been different- it’s the acceptance that I’m exactly where I need to be and couldn’t have ended up here without experiencing all that I had, the good, the bad and the down right gut-wrenching.

I can say without a doubt my experiences have allowed me to develop and employ empathy. I can now look into the eyes of another soul and acknowledge their suffering, saying with a just look “I’ve been there too.” It allows me to acknowledge but more importantly, validate feelings. I’m able to sit with someone in their most uncomfortable moments, because I too have been forced to make peace with my darkest shadows.

Losing the hope that life would have been different – it’s offering forgiveness, not just to my parents but to myself. Truly understanding I did the best I could, given the circumstances and my cumulative knowledge at the time.

Losing the hope that life would have been different – It’s living life with an unburdened soul- the ultimate freedom.

I’m grateful to have been asked to attend that meeting. My friend, conspiring and working in conjunction with the universe, lead me to the medicine that I needed to taste.

Thankful Thursday: Remember When You Prayed To Get Where You Are?

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Today I read a post on IG that said “remember when you prayed to get to where you are now?” 
WOAH! When I had a moment to myself, (let’s be honest, in the bathroom), I stopped to reflect, remembering exactly where I was the multiple times I had dreamt of living in Colorado.

I knew at 15 I wanted to move to Colorado after visiting family friends in Breckinridge. I wanted to move for the outdoor, active lifestyle, and to be in the presence of majestic mountains.

After college I was living in my parents’ basement. One day, I took a moment to think about moving to Colorado. I bawled, ugly cried, thinking that I could never make that move. How could I afford it? Fuck affording it! Could I even muster the courage to move? 

Three years into my professional career, I was feeling stuck. One day I decided to read “The Alchemist” and three pages in, I again bawled uncontrollably. The next day I decided to quit my job, back pack Australia then head out to Colorado, to start a new life. Was I scared?? I was fucking terrified! But I knew that the hardships of leaving was going to be less than the pain of staying.

Fast forward to my first night in Colorado, I told myself I’d give it a year and then buy a house. Buy a house!? For a pickup and go when ever where ever commitment-phobe it was a huge decision. But almost a year later, I signed papers and bought my house. Was I scared?? I was terrified! (See a theme?) What if I couldn’t afford it!? (See another theme!?) Point is, where I am now, I dreamt about years ago, and here I am. What I am currently pipe dreaming about, well, I can make it happen too. I Just need a bit of persistence, hard work and the undying belief in myself and my abilities.

This past year I’ve forgotten how far I’ve come. It was great to look back today, to help motivate me for my future!

#awoke #consciousliving #trusttheuniverse #trusttheprocess #awakening#mountains #getoutside
#livelife #livefully #consciousness #vibehigher #highervibes #thankful#grateful #thanks #awaken #adventure #the_adventuress #sheexplores#adventures #travel #travelblogger #sheadventures #wanderlust

Real Talk Tuesday: Fear of Intimacy

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Photo By Ryan Lundbohm, @the_bearded_kite

 

“So Why Are You Afraid of Intimate Relationships?”
Those were the words a friend asked on Sunday that have still stuck with me since spoken. The question hit me like a punch to the gut. I broke down immediately.
It was a topic my therapist had also sneakily asked when I was separating my fears, a visualization exercise to help me separate my own fears and my mother’s fears that she instilled in me growing up. I was taking stock of my fears and packing up ones that no longer served their purpose.
“Fear of intimacy?” She asked. It took a second for me process, as it wasn’t a fear I had identified on my own prior to the sorting exercise.
“Keep,” I responded, my therapist glancing at me with a smile, both of us knowing it was a short term protective measure I’d be revisiting soon.
Why the fear of intimacy? Intimacy requires a high degree of vulnerability and trust. It requires Opening myself up, all of myself, the light and the dark, to be seen and deeply understood.
Maybe my fear stems from opening up and being hurt in the past. Maybe I’m afraid because my models for intimate relationships were completely dysfunctional, whereas instead of equating intimacy to trust, compassion and respect, I equate it to abandonment, loss and rejection. Maybe I’ve felt safest keeping those I love at a distance. Maybe in order to be intimate with another I must first love and illuminate the darkest parts within me, to make peace with them.
Since Sunday I’ve been ruminating on this. Since Sunday I’ve known this is the next fear I need to tackle. Since Sunday I’ve been an emotional wreck, waiting with anticipation to unpack and process this fear in therapy.