Inner Strength. Courage. Happiness.

Meet Ansley. She's almost 23, grew up as a Georgia Peach but flourished in SoCal. Currently in San Diego, CA. I grew up in Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia. Despite the school chants, my blood doesn’t bleed red and black as much as sparkle with flecks of sand and ocean salt ;) I’ve always had family out here and have wanted to live here for a long time. After I graduated college, I took a marketing internship in Atlanta. Two months in I was offered a social media marketing position at a digital agency in Solana Beach, CA so I packed up my bags and road tripped out West. It turned out to be a very negative environment and in no way was fulfilling my passion so after six months I decided to quit. I was very fortunate to have my parents here in order to help me out and support me especially going forward with my new venture; Braided Bliss. It’s a fashion blog featuring products from charitable businesses and causes to help raise awareness. I’ve had it for almost 2 months now and it’s something that has finally combined my passion for helping people and for utilizing social media’s capability to reach people you wouldn’t normally be able to. I have a few merchandise ideas I’m working on right now because I’d love to turn it into a sustainable business so I can help as many people as possible and, of course, spread bliss!

In one week, I'll be flying out to Los Angeles to visit an awesome friend, family, and to attend a two day conference called The Yellow Conference. I first heard about it through one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Hannah Brencher, who will be speaking at the conference (!!!) and signed up almost instantly. The top of their website says "ARE YOU A CREATIVE LADY WHO WANTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD? YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE." I mean, yes, let's go!

Since signing up, I've been connecting with other women who will be attending. The Facebook group for the conference has been exploding with ladies sharing their passions, their websites, their works, favorite quotes, inspiration, etc. It's been awesome. I can't wait to get everyone together in one room-- I feel like it might explode with all the fire I've already seen in everyone.

One of the girls I've connected with is Ansley. She followed me on Twitter and sent a tweet that she loved the storytelling idea on my site and thought it would make a great book someday. The first words I ever heard from this girl were pure encouragement and I knew I wanted to be friends with her.

We connected via email afterward and started swapping stories about our lives and following our passions and the things that make us feel alive and full of purpose. Everything Ansley says seems to shine with joy and light and life-- she's a breath of fresh air in a world that seems perpetually hopeless, she's a ray of sunshine and she's seriously on fire to change the world around her.

Hearing how she boldly followed her dreams to pursue her passions even when it meant taking huge leaps of faith gave me the push I needed to do the same, and I'm so thankful for that. Every time I started to feel unsure about the big choices I was about to make, I seemed to find the perfect email from Ansley in my inbox with words that reminded me that the best things come when we step out in faith into the unknown and follow where our hearts are being led.

She founded Braided Bliss, a fashion blog that features the most incredible causes and organizations, and she has the biggest and most beautiful heart for people all around the world and for supporting them any way she can. Her pictures on Instagram are the epitome of California-- beachy, full of sunshine, laid-back and carefree and fun, and that's exactly who she is, too. Her life is such a reflection of the things she cares about, and her unwavering passion for spreading bliss and changing the world makes her someone you feel so blessed to know and call a friend.

I've never met this girl, but I'm so thankful for her and so excited to finally meet and hug her in LA next week!

Here's Ansley's story.

“She took the leap and built her wings on the way down.”

There’s always going to be obstacles in life, but it’s how we handle them and how we perceive them that truly matters. We can either run from them or face them head on. We can look at them with hate or we can see them as opportunities; opportunities to harness our inner strength.

For me, my first test of inner strength happened during 5th grade. After being out sick for a week, I was more than ready to get back to assigned seats, plastic crate “lockers” supposedly preparing us for middle school, and walking into a classroom filled with friendly faces eager to move on to the 6th grade. But when I walked in, I realized that those friendly faces had rallied against me during my absence.

The silence I received from the girls who I thought were my friends hit me harder than the time when I flew off my neighbor’s trampoline and hit my head on a tree. I had never experienced such alienation in my entire life. My biggest dilemma prior to this was figuring out how to eat a sandwich with braces. By the 5th grade, you’re fully equipped to handle a fire alarm, but there were never any practice drills for this.

Instead of telling my parents about what happened, I kept everything bottled up until eventually it was eating away at me. After too many nights of feeling nauseous, my mom asked me if everything was OK at school. That question was all it took. Everything came spilling out.

It was the best I had felt in weeks.

My teachers were nice enough to sit everyone down to talk. It turned out that having my mom do Lizzie McGuire hairstyles on me and being nice to boys didn’t get me on the “friend” list. But I wasn’t going to change these things in order to be liked. I wasn’t going to be mean to people in order to win anyone’s approval. It was in that moment that I knew I’d rather stand up for people, and for myself, rather than stand by those who wouldn’t.

It was in that moment that I knew I had to be strong.

Seven years later, when I started college, I went through a handful of these situations, which my best friend dubbed “Braveheart” moments; sans the rad face painting which is the only thing I regret. Whether it was leaving behind negative people, a negative boyfriend, a negative job, or even just having an opportunity arise that would mean changing a lot of aspects of my life, each instance showed me more of my own strength. In each moment I never knew what would happen next. But I never let the unknown stop me from following my heart.

I realized that taking a leap of faith toward freedom from negativity far outweighed staying and enduring it. The tears, the stress, the frustration, and the physical and mental toll that it takes on you are never worth it. I’d rather have tears of laughter. I’d rather help others find their way out of negative situations.

The unknown may seem daunting, but it’s a doorway to opportunities. There are so many good people in the world and so much life to experience. Don’t ever sell yourself short and think you can’t find your happiness. Sure, there may be days where you think it would be easier to not rock the boat, but those are few and far between the days where you feel liberated, strong, and truly happy. It may take time and it may be hard, but it’s always worth it.

Always take the leap because you’ll find out that you can fly. 

Please feel free to comment or send me a message if you want to hear more, ask questions, give feedback, or are interested in connecting with Ansley. You can find Ansley on her site here. You can also read more about the Story Seeker project here.