The Power of the Mind

Our mind’s potential is underestimated. When we discuss aspirations, we tend to think about the things we need to do in order to get there. While our actions are essential and ultimately influence whether or not we achieve our goals, I strongly believe that everything begins with our thoughts. Former research has shown that actions can influence how we think, which is true. However, I also believe our thoughts and actions are clearly inextricably connected. So, which one comes first?

Based on personal experience, I believe it all begins with the mind. Moving to New York and not having a support system in the city was tough. I moved here from my hometown of Atlanta. While I love New York a million times better than Atlanta, it was hard not having my friends or family, so falling into a state of depression was easier than ever. A continuous cycle of rough patches. Mainly in the winter. Ha, seasonal depression is a thing. My life was the following: I would wake up, work for 9 to 10 hours, go back home and watch Netflix – that was my life. I stopped working out, which use to be one of my passions. I had no motivation to go out and make new friends. Literal depression. I would tell myself that I wanted to leave New York and blamed the city for my problems, as so do a lot of people.

I want to stress that your problems are nobody’s fault but your own. It’s not your boyfriends, your shitty friend’s fault or where you live . It’s yours. As simple as this is, it took me a while realize that. I knew I needed to make a change in my life and knew it started with my thoughts, which included not letting other people’s perception ruin my own. If I had friends that were having horrible experiences with the city, why let that ruin my thoughts or perceptions of my own life? If I was “depressed”, why make the decision to drop everything and leave? Was leaving going to solve my issues? Didn’t really think so. I had so many positive things to focus on and had no real reasons to be depressed. Going through a rough time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed. It just means you’re living life. Literally. Life is full of rough moments, but that’s where we grow and learn the most.

I’ve been learning to appreciate the difficult moments. In fact, I’m actually thankful for them. The rough patches continue to shape me. Life doesn’t have to be hard 100 percent of the time, but it’s also not rainbows and flowers. So heck yeah for those moments where I cried. Gracias Universo. Much appreciated.

Lately, I’ve constantly been working on my mind. Mind power is huge. I’m learning how to go with the flow and not let the negative opinions of others ruin my vibe. I’m living in the capital of the world and working for my dream firm. Why focus on the negative when you can also focus on the positive? I’m not here to brag, but just want to inspire you to do the same. When I started taking responsibility for myself, I’ve been a lot happier. I started changing my thoughts, which led me to change my actions, ultimately leading to different results. I started meditating and practicing yoga. I’ve been grounding with myself and the Earth and have never felt so connected.

While we all want instant gratification and immediate results, this isn’t a thing. Self-development is a constant process that never ends. Once you solve an issue, another one comes along. If you’re struggling and think you’re going through depression, don’t look for the easy fix. I don’t recommend going on antidepressants like most of America. Start with your thoughts and your actions will follow, and vice-versa. Your mind is crucial and more powerful than you think. I’ll give you the good news, you have control over it.

 
 

How to Help Reduce the Consumption of Plastic

Hello fellow friends. As I was reading the news this morning, I came across a story that truly broke my heart: the carcass of a pregnant sperm was found washed up on the Italian island of Sardinia. And hold up, because that’s not the worst part. The whale had 22 kilograms, equivalent to 49 pounds, of plastic in its stomach and was carrying a dead fetus. You may be thinking this is just another story out of the hundreds you’ve already seen in the media and while scientists are still investigating the whales cause of death, this is a huge problem.

 
Image acquired from the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

Image acquired from the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

 

According to EDN, each year over 100,000 marine animals and one million birds die from ingesting and choking on plastic. The influence of anthropogenic factors is now intruding every aspects of the environment, particularly in animals. Humans fail to realize that by not protecting the environment, they are posing a threat to the their own existence. Harming the environment doesn’t just affect the animals, it affects you too! We need plants, clean water and air to survive. Without those fundamental necessities, we are nothing. Just like we rely on the Earth for existence, animals are also responsible for keeping the balance of nature as well as making the ecosystem work. So, conserving and protecting wildlife is crucial.

After hearing about all these terrifying stories, it does make me happy that more individuals from our generation are coming together to increase environmental awareness, in hopes for a greener future. The European Parliament has also recently approved a law banning a wide-range of single-use plastic items, such as straws, cotton buds and cutlery, by 2021. MEPs also agreed a target to collect and recycle 90% of beverage bottles by 2029. I believe with the help of the general public, a similar legislation will soon be passed in the U.S. Wondering how you can help the environment and steps you can take to reduce the consumption of plastic? Read the tips listed below:

  • STOP using plastic straws – Who needs them anyways? None of us enjoy seeing those disturbing images and videos of turtles with straws up their noses. If you find straws so useful, even though they’re not (we’re just lazy), use reusable straws instead.

  • Use disposable shopping bags – This one’s huge. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a national law that banned the use of plastic bags in all grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience shops? Most reusable bags are extremely cheap – a small investment to help your planet.

  • Use reusable water bottles – I personally love my swell. I love it so much that I bought one for my boyfriend as a random present. Not only is great for the environment but it keeps your water so fresh and cold.

  • Recycle – Even though not all plastics are reusable, a lot of things are. Begin by learning what is and isn’t, and start recycling.

  • Don’t use plastic – So funny! When possible, choose items that are not made from plastic. For example, choose metal razors over plastic ones. Select that metal hanger over the plastic one. Also, quit using plastic-ware. Don’t be afraid to wash the dishes.

  • Buy from bulk bins – Not only is it better for the environment, but it saves you money. We all took an economics class or two in high school. The cost per unit is what matters, right? Lol but really, start putting this into practice.

  • Plastic containers are a No – Okay, I get it. You bring your food to work. Meal prepping is an important part of your life. Replace those plastic containers with glass, ceramic and stainless steel containers.

  • Buy fewer packaged foods – Replace this with fresh foods. It’s better for both the environment and your health.

With these simple practices, you can help the environment in millions of ways. Become an advocate for this and encourage your friends and peers to do so as well. Together, we can make mother nature a better place and more beautiful than what she already is. Picture those beautiful sights you see when traveling.

xoxo,

val

A Guide to the Big City

 
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I have to say that New York City is and always will be the best city in the world. With that comes smelly, hot summers and crowded streets but has an abundance of cultural diversity, the coolest jobs, excessive art and the best food. The good and bad make this city perfectly imperfect. A love-hate relationship for some, including me at times. 

New York City is full of things to do and see, which can leave us with the question of “what to do?” If you’re planning a trip to the city or simply a local in need of some recommendations, no need to feel overwhelmed anymore. Simply take a deep breathe, relax, and read up on some of my suggested places and things to do in the city.

Places to Eat. A big city screams food. I will say, I enjoy eating at home most of the time but going out to eat is also fun. If you’re craving Italian, go to UVA (Upper East Side), it’s literally the best. For a nice brunch, I recommend going to Carroll Place (West Village) or Balthazar (SoHo).  For the best arepas in the city, go to Arepa Factory (East Village), it’s a little pricey but the food is incredible and simply authentic. I also love City Vineyard, great food and drinks, has a great view of the Hudson River and a perfect place for a summer hangout. Lastly, you cant miss Westlight (Williamsburg); given that it’s in Brooklyn, it has spectacular views of the city and the venue is beautiful.

Drinks & Night Life. As if the gastronomic list wasn’t enough. Come on. It’s New York. Not only the food capital of the world but also the “city that never sleeps,” right? Though I like to spend my time doing things that add value to  my life which usually doesn’t involve going out all the time, every now and then, I do like to have a night. When it comes to going out, I recommend going to Mr. Purple, Fat Cat, Gold Bar, Pianos, and Hotel Chantelle just to name a few. For a chill night, Little Branch, Mothers Ruin, and Dear Irving are good options.

Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO. You can’t go to New York and not see the Brooklyn Bridge. While there, take advantage of the fact that you’ll be close to DUMBO, once-industrial neighborhood turned popular, artsy hot spot. 

Central Park. If it’s not a rainy day, take time and go to Central Park. It’s truly magical and beautiful. And just an FYI, the crowds tend to decrease in size as you go more north of the park. It’s also a great place to get your exercise in and go for a run.   

SoHo. Great bars, restaurants, and retail. Basically sums up SoHo in a nutshell. Looking to shop, then go to the SoHo area. It’s full of high end boutiques and your typical American retail stores as well. Not to mention, the architecture is stunning.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yes, gossip girl, yes. Not really. But really. The MET is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the largest in the world, presenting over 5,000 years of art spanning all cultures and time periods. It’s located on the eastern edge of Central Park in the Upper East Side. The area is a beauty and if you’re a New York resident, the amount you pay is up to you. A definite plus.

The High Line. Located in Chelsea and relatively new, the High line is an elevated freight rail line that was transformed into a public park. It has spectacular views, architecture and art. Only thing to keep in mind is that on warm, sunny days, specifically on Saturdays, it gets insanely crowded. Just like the Chelsea Market. 

Coney Island. You’ve probably heard a lot of disappointing comments relating to Coney Island. It’s dirty? Gross? I have to disagree here. It’s such a fun beach to visit in the summer time. Maybe not a place I would go to every weekend but definitely a sight one should see.

New York Public Library. Consisted of four major research libraries and 88 branch libraries located in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. However, if you plan to visit, go to the main campus, located in Midtown.

Riverside Park. Yes, Central Park wasn’t enough. Located in the Upper West Side, Riverside Park is one of my favorites. Less crowded for sure.

New York is a city that has it all. The list continues but these are just some of my favorites. Let my list be your guide as you’re exploring this remarkable place.  

That Inner Voice

 
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Hello there. I want to begin this post by stressing the importance of listening to your gut and filtering out negative energy. While we may not always know the best suited answer when faced with decisions, somewhere deep down, is a voice that literally talks to us and tells us what’s best.

I recently came across an unanticipated scenario, which involved whether or not accepting an amazing job offer, that came over my way by surprise. However, given that I was comfortable at my job, I found myself suffering from uncertainties and wasn’t able to come to a conclusion regarding my decision. Due to these insecurities, I was quick to gather advice from friends, peers, and family - And this is where I learned a key lesson, which I will talk about soon.

To me, living a happy life and living the life you want to live means relying on yourself and the people you truly trust. Before I finally made my decision, which was accepting, I remember some of the various comments made: “you’re making the worst decision”, “you’re going to regret it”, “I don’t’ think this is a smart career move”, etc. It was hard hearing those comments, it really was. However, this is when I realized that negative energy will always be there and if we don’t learn how to clear it, it can significantly impact our emotional state.

When faced with decisions, specifically life changing - be realistic, listen to your inner voice, and only ask those who truly believe in you. For me it was my family, boyfriend, and two to three friends. Unsolicited advice? Forget about it. You are responsible for your life and only have one chance to make it extraordinary. Negativity will always be there but that’s just life.

Seriously, keep your focus, and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way.

How to Approach Decisions & Trust the Process

 
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Hi there. It’s your girl with another random post. Like I’ve said in the past, my mind is constantly wandering from left to right, and sometimes in a good way. I often find my mind experiencing a tornado whenever I have to make decisions, specifically decisions that can influence the direction of my life. Decisions can vary from a new job, to a new city, to a permanent hair change, or to even a new apartment.

I like to think of myself as a futuristic individual. I’m constantly inspired by the future and what it could be, which is why I like to take my time and give thought to things when needed. This extremely important and relevant to decision-making.

Choices are everywhere. The decisions we make can literally shape our lives. Despite our parents making the most of our choices for a better future, we are in full control of the decisions that we make. Not only are we in full control, we are also the only ones who will face the consequences, good or bad, from the decisions that we make. It’s scary but that’s what life is about. It’s about making choices because life is a journey and without decisions, the journey cannot endure.  

As we get older, we face more decisions. Do we make better or poorer decisions as we age? That’s something I don’t know the answer to. However, I do know that there are stages in life and decisions are crucial to each transition in life. By transition I mean, jumping from one stage of life to the other. For me and for most, graduating college and entering the workforce was a huge transition. My life took a 360-degree spin and I kid you not. Suddenly, everything was different. I was interning in a new city and with no friends (at the time). My family was far and so was my boyfriend. It was hard, it still is, but I’ve only grown immensely. Moving to New York was a decision that I had to make and the fun continues because I still find myself with more decisions.

It’s easy to look back on your past and see how big decisions have changed your life. What’s harder is to decide what to do next. I regularly find myself stressing over decisions because I want to be sure I make the “right” ones. However, I want to stress that it’s impossible to know what the right decision is. That’s life. Tomorrow is not certain and we have no idea what the future will consist of. I cannot tell you how many times I planned for something in the future and things turned out completed different than I expected. So why stress if you never truly know what’s going to happen?

Trust the process. If you believe you are doing everything in your power to make the most out of your life, then trust the process. When faced with a decision, trust your gut and don’t look back. Let destiny decide the rest and filter out all negativity.

How to Be Happier ♡

 
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Hi loves! NYC has been crazy busy. Work, the gym, and friends take up most of my time, and I barely have time to do anything else. I finally moved to my new apartment in the Upper East Side. Moving, decorating, and buying furniture has been a complete hassle. I also live on a six-floor walkup, so, as you can imagine, that’s been a thrill. Not really, but hey - at least it’s a natural stair master. Am I right? Yep, I thought so too.

Let us move onto my next point: my lack of blogging disappoints me. I want to start publishing blogs on a bi-weekly basis. As mentioned before in my Instagram stories, I love being able to inspire others and help them realize the power of self-development and self-love. Believe it or not, most human beings lack self-appreciation and self-love and therefore end up looking for it in other places. Yes, life is hard, and the idea of loving yourself isn’t always easy, but I promise it’s a work-in-progress that we all go through. Even though humans were designed to undergo difficult situations, getting through hard times can be easier with the support from others, so please feel free to reach out if you’re seeking tips and advice. Happy to share with you all what has worked for me and how I’m continually working on getting what I want out of this life.

I’ve been having a hard time focusing this post on a single topic. My mind has been all over the place. I constantly find myself questioning life and decisions. I’ll be honest; I don’t even know. What I do know is that for now, I will do whatever it takes to become a better version of myself.

Therefore, let’s make this post about self-development and how to approach that scary thing. I want to make it clear: we should always work on self-development and growth. This is key to a happier and healthier life. The best way to navigate through life’s ups and downs is to remain true to yourself and not wobble away from that, which involves loving yourself.

I have been alone for the past seven months and this time has allowed me to get to know myself better and realize what really matters in this universe that we were put in. I’ve been able to see peoples true colors, which most of the times does not synchronize with what you had in mind. The realization is disappointing, but necessary. Some people will only keep you in their life when it’s convenient for them. Once they realize you no longer serve a purpose, they are easy to let you go. This is huge because as hurtful as the reality may be, it only means God has a better plan for you. We don’t need people in our lives that don’t appreciate us and see our brilliance, because that’s literally draining and self-degrading. 

So, as hurtful as letting people in your life go, it's often necessary if you want to become a better version of yourself. Being alone and only having myself to rely on has been extremely difficult. Yet, it’s a bittersweet feeling, and I haven’t felt this happy in a while. For once I am confident enough to proudly say that I am worth it and deserve the best. There is absolutely nothing better than focusing on yourself and letting go of toxic people in your life.

If you are struggling with this, start by removing negative people. Friendships and relationships should be sources of joy, not pain. I promise you; this is the most critical step in the process of self-development and love. Just remember: if you want a better life and want to succeed in every aspect - focus on your growth and development. That begins with your environment. Analyze it and decide what needs to change. Try it. Challenge yourself. And begin by doing just that.

with love,

Valerie

I Moved to New York City!

 
Photographer: Chang Moon

Photographer: Chang Moon

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Let’s be honest, moving is the worst. Leaving your friends and family behind is stressful. Any type of change can be difficult, but necessary.  Oftentimes the opportunities to grow and prosper come with change.

This might sound foolish, but after watching 13 going on 30 at age 12, I told myself I would someday become my version of Jenna Rink. I wanted to live in New York City and pursue my dreams of working in the editorial business. I’ve always had a passion for content creation, research, and editing, so I figured that would be me. After graduation in December, an opportunity came along to do so, and I went for it. Do I regret it? Not at all.

Living in the city is great. You don’t have to worry about having a vehicle and can take public transportation anywhere and in most instances, you can walk. Everything you could possibly need is within close proximity – which is nice.

I will say, New York can be a lonely place. It’s up to you to put yourself out there and meet people. Big cities in general can be lonely. Everyone is running and doing their own thing. Still, in my eyes, I think the opportunity of living in NYC and experiencing the work environment is unattainable anywhere else. It’s the center of he world. The capital for fashion, finance, media, and the list continues.

This leads me to my next thought. It’s important to take chances to achieve greatness. When we’re crossed with a decision that requires a lot of thought, we often focus on the things that could go wrong depending on the decision we decide to make.  By choosing to learn, you can transform your failure into an opportunity to reflect and grow. You can also alleviate that spark from within, and confidently say “I tried.” Cliché in my opinion, but it’s better to say you tried.

What’s next for me? Will I stay in NYC? Who knows but as of now I’m loving every second of it. Though I always thought I would be working in the fashion industry, I find myself doing PR work for the healthcare industry and all I can say is that I love it. I’m learning a lot and feel blessed to be surrounded by a talented group of individuals who inspire me to learn and grow even further. If you put effort in whatever you do, you’ll be successful – regardless of what that may be.  

I’m thankful for my experiences so far and I’m excited for what’s next.  

The Fashion Capital – Milan, Italy

After visiting nine different cities in Italy, Milan is by far my favorite city. Though you might have heard it's not one of Italy's top destination due to its unfriendly locals and polluted streets, it all comes down to a matter of preference. During my stay, I had an amazing experience and would go again any day.

A city full of glamour and history. Home to Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Versace, and many more high-end respectable brands. Via Monte Napoleone, one of the most luxurious streets in Milan and the rest of Italy, is a must. I couldn’t afford to buy a single thing so window shopping was the way to go. The beautiful courtyards, facades, historic tram, and distinct atmosphere all make this city unique. Anyways...

I love Milano and here is why:

1.     Tasting the local dishes. Milano cuisine is amaze. 

2.     Gelato in every corner but then again that's all of Italy. 

3.     It’s history and mystery.

4.     Beautifully designed buildings.

5.     Location.

6.     It's Fashion.  

7.     The balance between nature & urban city life.

8.     It's Live Culture.

9.     Diversity.

milan, italy
Duomo Di Milano valerie

Duomo Di Milano

 
Duomo Di Milano
 

A Day In Venice

Coming back to Italy and seeing Venice for the first time was remarkable. A city built on water. Literally no cars whatsoever. This floating city consists of 117 small islands, all separated by canals. How does one get around? By boat and bridges. We decided to stay on the mainland and take a bus to the city center – it’s way cheaper. However, if you plan on staying in one of the islands, then book your room with time due to high demand and prices. During your stay, you’ll have to take boats to get around, unless you want to walk everywhere using the connecting bridges. I like to think of the water boats as their “subway” system. If you go to Italy, Venice is a must. The Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Basilica, Murano & Burano Island, and Piazza San Marco are all great sights. I personally think Venice is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to due to its unusual design and artistic heritage. 

 
valerie cardenas in venice
valerie cardenas in venice italy
 
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DAD ❤️

DAD ❤️

venice italy

#Pray for Venezuela

Political chaos, dozens killed each day, hyperinflation, poverty, and shortages– this is Venezuela’s current situation. The country has faced endless amounts of protests over the past decade, and more specifically, within the last year. A nation rich in natural resources and home to one of the world’s largest crude oil reserves, surpassing Saudi Arabia. Yet, many have lost hope for a brighter future. Starvation and high levels of scarcity have forced hundreds of Venezuelans to flee the country each day.

So, what exactly is going on? This began when former president Hugo Chavez was elected in 1999. He promised an end to the party system of government, poverty, and a socialist revolution. He engraved equality for all and became a legacy to many. However, the crisis escalated during the time of his death in 2013. President Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver, was then appointed president. Maduro soon faced protests from all around the country. Even though the economy wasn’t at its best, it began declining even more. Consumer prices are soaring and its inflation rate is expected to jump 2,349.3% in 2018 (Bloomberg, 2018).

A country full of educated citizens that are now being forced to emigrate and pick up minimum waged jobs. Children are dying due to malnutrition. People are dying. Medicine shortages have also become severe in Venezuela.

I have faith the political situation in the country will improve. Being half Venezuelan and knowing I have family living there breaks my heart. Spread the word; share articles, videos, etc., and don’t apologize for speaking in behalf for those who can’t. 

 
Cata, Aragua, Venezuela - taken by me during my visit in 2011

Cata, Aragua, Venezuela - taken by me during my visit in 2011

El Avila National Park, Caracas

El Avila National Park, Caracas

 

Why I Love Argentina & Why You Should Visit

After traveling to multiple cities in Europe and some in Latin America, Buenos Aires, in the heart of Argentina, will always be one of my favorite cities. I love everything about it. Even though it was a collection of a young summer love experience combined with the location; it will forever be one of my top recommendations.

Buenos Aires. The city that looks, feels and tastes European. A mix of Italy, Spain, and France all in one. I adore the people, atmosphere and most of all - the food. A large country, that extends more than 2,295 miles from North to South, make it an ideal location for those wanting to experience it all. Ice, snow, sunshine? You got it.

Here is why I love Argentina & why you should too:

1.      The Food

If you’re a vegetarian then maybe this isn't the place for you. Unless you're willing to skip out on the meat. Nonetheless, going to Argentina and not trying their famous asado might be somewhat disappointing. The asado is the most popular social gathering in Argentina and the taste is unreal. If you happen to visit, make sure to try it homemade rather than at a restaurant. It always tastes better when it's homemade.

2.      The People

The people are great. Enough said.

3.      Dog Feces

Hmm.. let’s just say this is one of their faults. Be careful when walking down the streets of Buenos Aires, because there is literally dog shit everywhere. It’s worse than New York.

4.      Their coffee

Argentina has great coffee. Quality choices basically available in every corner.

5.      The City

Palermo: young and hip vibe consisted of artisanal coffee shops & bars.

Recoleta: my favorite area in all Buenos Aires. An upscale location with countless history.

Puerto Madero: a contemporary location comprised of businesses, shops & upscale restaurants.

La Boca: beautiful colored houses everywhere and home to the Boca Juniors soccer team (aka my boyfriend’s favorite).

Wondering where you should go next? Think about Argentina…   

 
Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Iguazu Falls Argentina

Iguazu Falls Argentina

 
 
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Not sure when you should visit? I personally think December and January are the best times, simply because of the fantastic weather! Ironic right? If you’re from the US, you’re probably curious as to why? Remember, they’re in the southern hemisphere, and their summers take place during our winters. Complete opposites. Can’t make it then? No worries, a trip to Argentina is a great idea at any time of the year. Check out the below graphic from my friends at BookMundi to learn more about Argentina’s weather and the best times to visit.

 

Best Time to visit Argentina Bookmundi

 
 
La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

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Live Happier By Doing What You Love

Discovering who you are and what you like can be a challenge. I am essentially still trying to figure it all out myself - it's truly a constant battle. However, I have learned living happier is a result of doing what you love. I am evidently not an expert, heck I’m only 22, but I will say I have been able to discover the bits and pieces to the meaning of life. One of those pieces is literally doing what you loveee! Since I’m going through an awkward transitional period in my life, (transition from an upcoming college graduate to adulthood) I figured I would share some of the things I have been doing to become more satisfied with my life. 

1.    Stop and think about what makes you happy and do just that.
If you enjoy playing sports, singing or traveling – then do it. It's possible we might have hidden hobbies. By this I mean, we know what we like to do, but we don’t practice it. We tend to get so caught up with everything else in our lives that we put ourselves last. Even if you have endless amounts of schoolwork or work, you must make time to practice the activities you enjoy.  

2.    Make time for those who care about you & make time for you. 
I cannot stress this enough. You are worth a lot, so spend your time with those who care about you and value you most – this could include your family, best friend(s) or significant other.  Let go of people who are negative, gossip and put you down. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to become better. People who genuinely care are the ones worth keeping in your life. 

3.    Reach out to people who inspire you. 
This is broad and can be done in all aspects. If you’re in an awkward transitional stage, just like myself, do your research and reach out to professionals who have more experience. Conducting your own research is a great way to start. Discover people who have the current positions you dream of having in the future. Talk to them. Ask for advice. Learn. 

4.    Don’t Live Unhappily.
If you aren’t happy with the way things are going for you then maybe it’s time to reevaluate and make some changes. 


Doing what you love, and more specifically figuring out what you love isn’t an easy task. It is a process that begins with investing in your time and energy.  

 
Photographer: Yovan ReyeS

Photographer: Yovan ReyeS

 

Why You Should Put Yourself First

 
 

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” - Jean Shinoda Bolen

Every day is a new day filled with distinctive learning experiences. As cliché as this may sound, life is a never-ending learning process. Each person or entity that crosses our path teaches us something new that we didn’t know before.

Learning to prioritize yourself can be tough at times, especially when we’re young and live in a society where being accepted and “fitting-in” is the norm. Why do we do this? Maybe it’s because we want to feel loved and accepted, and essentially think this makes us happy. If we truly want to be happy, then we should stop looking for it. In a series of new studies led by the psychologist Iris Mauss, the more value people placed on happiness, the less happy they became. When we place high importance on the value of happiness, we tend to look for it in other places. Nonetheless, I believe happiness starts with you.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing happy moments with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend. Good relationships make us feel more alive and therefore more engaged in all aspects of our lives. It is a great thing, and I do believe the energies of those around us make us happy. However, happiness truly begins with yourself. Everything else is merely a complement, which is why you should put yourself first.

The idea of putting yourself first can come off as selfish. This isn’t true. The thing is – to give love and be the best version of yourself, you must learn to put yourself first.

It’s self-full to be first, to keep yourself healthy, to take care of you, to be as good as possible to yourself – which doesn’t mean you disregard everything and everyone. But when you start sacrificing yourself for other people, you make them a thief because they are stealing from you what you need and they don’t necessarily know it. If you love yourself, you’ll know how to love other people.  

Just remember, you’ll always have yourself. You are your biggest asset – and no one can take that away from you. Love yourself; you come first. Everything else in life is a complement.

 

Photo Session with Yovan

I believe one of the best things about photography is traveling and meeting different faces. Everyone has their own story to tell and photography is the medium that communicates the story.

Yovan is a photographer from Atlanta, Georgia ( instagram.com/yovaaannn). We decided to meet up together and shoot for fun. He captured these images with a Canon 6D + Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 lens. Unfortunately, it was a quick shoot in Piedmont Park, so I only had one outfit. However, I’m super excited with how the pictures came out.

Yovan is truly amazing, and his photography encourages me to become better. Creative minds definitely inspire others!

How do you stay inspired? Leave the comments below. 

 
 

How I Edit My Photos

Hi Guys, so I want to start off by saying this is MY way of editing pictures. Like I have said before, I do not consider myself a photographer but rather a girl with a camera who likes to shoot and take cute pics occasionally, simply for fun. I take pictures with my iPhone 6s, which I am currently dying to switch over to the 7 but I might as well wait for the 8 AND my camera – a Canon M3. By the way, I highly recommend the Canon M3 for those of you who want a DSLR camera but dislike how heavy they all are. Essentially, the Canon M3 offers high DSLR quality photos but because it is mirrorless, it is a lot smaller and lighter than the average camera. Mirrorless cameras don’t have the complex mirror systems that DSLR cameras do, which makes them more compact and mechanically simpler. You can also change the lenses. Now, if you are trying to get into photography as a hobby or career, I do not recommend you get a mirrorless. Ok, I’m getting off topic here.

Lighting is one of the most important factors when creating an image. Your pictures will still come out blurred and grainy without proper lighting, regardless of your edits. Additionally, natural lighting is one the best sources you can use when taking pictures. I like to use an application called VSCOcam to edit my pictures, which is free to download. It is also a great tool to use to see how your images will look on your feed before publishing them. Lastly, Instagram filters are a no go.

Anyways, here is how I edit my pictures. Hope you enjoy it! 

xoxo,

val

Portraits

A6 filter +6.2 | Exposure -1.0 | Contrast -0.5 | Temperature 1.0 | Grain +3.5

A6 filter +7.0 | Exposure -0.4 | Contrast -1.0 | Temperature -0.4 | Grain +3.5

Selfie Fun 

A8 filter +6.5 | Exposure -0.5 | Contrast 0.0 | Temperature +0.8 | Grain +3.3

Landscape ~ Nature Shots

HB2 filter +8.4 | Exposure -2.7 | Contrast -1.9 | Temperature -1.0 | Grain +9.3

C1 filter +6.7 | Exposure -3.7 | Contrast +1.4 | Temperature -0.9 | Grain +8.5

Selfie Fun Part 2

A6 filter +6 | Exposure -0.3 | Contrast +0.4 | Grain +6.9

How to Ace Your Job Interview

Interviews can be one of the most overwhelming parts of any job search process. How can you sell yourself in a way that doesn’t come off as cocky? Finding that happy medium can be difficult. Evaluating whether the company is a good fit for you can also be a challenging aspect. Nonetheless, these processes can teach us a lot about ourselves that we didn’t know before. Stressed and need some advice on how to land the job YOU want and stand out from the rest? Then keep reading!

 
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1.     Do research on the company beforehand.

Research, Research, Research. To make that first impression make sure you have a general knowledge about the company. Go through their website, find out who their clients are, and understand what is happening in the industry. This says a lot about you and it shows interest. Nobody wants to hire a candidate that doesn’t seem intrigued by the industry and company.

2.     Know how to answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” question.

This can be referred to as the elevator pitch. Have a brief description about yourself prepared that highlights your experience and ends with a goal statement that falls into the position you’re applying for. It’s important to aim for uniqueness while also staying professional.

3.     Have a list of questions prepared.

I like to think of interviews as “conversations.” The best Interviews usually have a natural flow. Even though asking questions at the end is essential, it’s also important to ask questions as the interview progresses. This shows you’re engaging and paying attention.  

4.     Dress to impress.

Dress professionally. Show up clean and sharp.

5.     Stay positive & relax.

Its normal to be nervous. However, being overly stressed transmits to your interview. So, take a deep breath and relax. Be yourself. If you really want the job, it’ll show. You got this.

6.     Know your strengths & weaknesses.

These questions can be broad. Assure your strengths are relatable to the position. If you mention your weaknesses, share how you’re currently working to improve them.

7.     Know your interviewer.

LinkedIn is a great resource.  A portion of your pre-interview work should include researching everyone in the room. Know where they attended school and have a general understanding of their background.

8.     Be yourself.

Never be someone that you’re not. 

YAY, you’re now ready to ace your job interview and get that job! ❤️

 

Brunch with Open City

Pizza, fresh salads, all day breakfast, burgers, and more. Open City is a diner, coffeehouse, and bar situated in DC, just a few blocks away from Woodley Park. The perfect combination for those who enjoy a relaxing yet enjoyable location. 

Open City has a diverse menu at reasonable great prices. Being able to order breakfast until 1 AM on Fridays and Saturdays makes it a local spot for foodies craving late night breakfast, especially the young ones, after a long night out. Their diverse menu offers selections from sandwiches, pizza, salads, and like mentioned before; they serve breakfast all day. During my visit, I didn’t order from the breakfast menu, but it seemed most of their breakfast entrees included eggs, pancakes, and French toast dishes – the typical American breakfast.

Since I enjoy ordering from the healthier side when I go out to eat, I went ahead and ordered the Sesame - Quinoa Ginger Salad for the fair price of $13.00. It includes Golden quinoa mixed with red and yellow peppers and carrots. Topped with watermelon radish, avocado, toasted sesame seeds and sesame ginger dressing. My boyfriend, however, went all out and ordered the OC Burger, known as the “Open City” Burger, named after them. It is a half-pound of New York strip ground steak with white cheddar, and Applewood smoked bacon and a side of chipotle mayo. I would have to say, both of our dishes were amazing. My salad was excellent. I was happy it didn’t taste like a typical and boring iceberg salad. My boyfriend was pleased with his selection as well, he ordered it with a side of crispy, sweet potato fries, which made it even better.

However, excellent service? Not so much.

The food is unquestionably tasty, but the service is mediocre. Such a shame because the restaurant itself looks appealing and nice, but they do need to work with their customer service. I believe if they work on that, they’ll be booming. We can all agree; there is always room for improvement.

Open city is certainly flourishing off its famous location, but how long can they keep this up? It surely is, always full. Could it be the location or the food itself? Who knows. Even though I loved my salad, would I go out of my way to eat at Open City? Probably not. However, I would have to agree, if you happen to be in the area, go ahead and give it a try.

 
 

D.C. You are Beautiful

I would say Beautiful has a lot of definitions. Maybe that's why they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Before visiting DC, I wasn't expecting much; maybe just a few monuments, the white house, and museums. Nonetheless, I was wrong. It's so beautiful in so many ways and yes the monuments are a great sight. Washington D.C. is full of green parks, boutiques, open door restaurants, and wide tree-lined streets which give it that European vibe. It's spacious, cute, and you definitely don't feel that congestion you feel in New York. Not to mention, D.C.'s Metro is the number one system in the nation; you can pretty much get anywhere in D.C. using the subway. Just remember, you don’t have to be a politics nerd to enjoy the city. 

- Happy Tuesday.

Personal Recipe: Quinoa & Lentil Salad

 
 

Hello, beautiful people. I'm so excited to finally launch my blog. For my first official post, here is a quick, healthy, and easy recipe! I have to say I was so excited to try this one out and it was fantastic.

Prep time: 10 minutes + 20 min of cook time

Ingredients: 

4 oz chicken breast 

Olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

3 mini sweet peppers

1/2 cup of Lentils

1/2 cup of Quinoa

Preparation: Begin by seasoning the chicken breast with a teaspoon of salt. Once you are finished, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a preheated pan. Toss the chicken in the pan; make sure the stove is set to medium. 

While you are waiting on the chicken, boil one cup of water with a pinch of salt and olive oil. Then, add 1/2 a cup of lentils and 1/2 a cup of quinoa into the boiling waiter. After about 20 minutes everything should be ready and cooked. Lastly, dice up some sweet peppers. Mix it all together & Enjoy! ❤

For Vegan eaters - leave off the grilled chicken :)