Twitter Updates

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back on the saddle

After a long hiatus, I'm returning to the blog... if only to exercise my writing skills... but if I'm honest, it's mostly because writing helps me process the current happenings in my world. And as a "processor" my time away from the blog has had me feeling disconnected, drifting and lonely.

So I'm back at it.

I think that one of the reasons that I've avoided writing for myself is that, like I said, with writing comes processing, and in this day and age, I've been quite content to run away from just about everything. Some things in my life have changed dramatically over the past few months, and other things have remained painfully stagnant.

I'm not good with change. I've made exactly 2 big decisions in my life. One was to go away to college (and I almost backed out). The other was to stay at college, and not end my gymnastics career with my best friends. Both decisions rocked my world, and in the end, led to a stream of events that brought me to the place I am now.

I have no regrets.

Aside from taking more risks.

I've always been a "play by the rules" kind of gal. Someone who doesn't challenge the status quo, flies under the radar, and operates under the rule that I will not ruffle any feathers. Controversy scares me, confrontation intimidates me, and the anticipation of upsetting people has been an underlying cause of just about every decision I've ever made. I'm a people pleaser. So I have made many, many friends, and very few enemies. I like it that way, but I won't lie that it has me feeling stuck.


The fear of taking risks, upsetting the apple cart and disappointing people has kept me in place for a long time. A long time. And I can't help but wonder what I've missed out on. Though, I am a firm believer in the "everything happens for a reason" mentality, and I don't believe in dwelling on the "what ifs"- Sometimes it's hard not to wonder if I'm doing what's best for myself, or if I'm doing what's best for everyone else. I like doing what's best for everyone else... I like taking care of people I love... I like being there for people who have depended on me... But I like feeling like I'm supporting myself too.

I believe these two things can coexist, but I also believe that I've prioritized one of them over the other for a vast number of years. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of who I am... but I also think that there are times when I tend to forget who I am at the expense of taking care of others.

Again, this is not something I consider to be a failure... this is something I value tremendously within myself. I just wish I could balance the two a little better.

So I am going to challenge myself to a self care routine. For 30 days. I plan to check in with myself. To journal, to exercise, to do one thing for me each day. This will begin tomorrow, September 11th, 2017... a day of incredible reflection... seems like the perfect place to start.

Will you join me? Will you check in with yourself, and make sure that you are prioritizing your own heart, your own needs and giving yourself a daily dose of self love??

I hope you will. Together, we can hold each other accountable, we can encourage self love while loving on each other.

Best of luck, my friends!
xoxo,

Al


Saturday, June 10, 2017

IATG day at 6 Flags

My world is spinning. Today was magical... I can't find the words right now. So until I can, here's a copy of the keynote speech I gave today at Great America...

Good Morning! My name is Allison Annala, and I am so excited to be here today to help celebrate an organization that has not only impacted my life, but the lives of nearly 1 million girls worldwide. If you haven’t already heard about I AM THAT GIRL, get excited, because if you are a girl, are the parent of a girl, or just happen to know a girl, I can guarantee that you are going to love this organization and what it’s already doing to help the women and girls in your life.

As women, we receive countless messages every single day reminding us of all the things we are not. They tell us to wear push up bras and slim fit jeans, buy designer brands, and keep up trendy fashion. Then they harp on our bodies by saying we should work out but don’t get too muscular, don’t be too fat but don’t be too skinny either. Don’t wear too much make up, but make sure you wear enough make up… and don’t forget the “anti-aging” creams, because God forbid you get a wrinkle before you turn 60…you name it, we feel the pressure. Whether its through advertising, feedback from our peers or the opposite sex, or messages in the media, we are constantly being reminded that we are not enough. It positively boggles my mind to think that we are all chasing after an unattainable ideal, that as a society, we’ve somehow manifested this image of perfection that every woman has been tasked to live up to.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think girls deserve better than this and thankfully, so does I AM THAT GIRL.

I AM THAT GIRL is a chapter-based 501c3 non-profit organization made up of almost 300 active Local Chapters in the US and a network of over 1 Million online followers! We provide leadership & social and personal development programming to young women in High School and College. Our mission is to cultivate self-worth, community engagement & action, so that together we can amplify the voices, stories, and potential of girls everywhere.

We are a for-girls-by-girls community, that is peer led. This means that every chapter is founded and maintained by the girls themselves - with the help and support of IATG staff. We provide the curriculum, but the girls provide their own unique experiences, concerns, and values. Though chapters discuss many of the same topics, every community is a little bit different and has different needs. We don't tell girls how to think, we empower them to speak their mind and listen actively to others to create an atmosphere that empowers each individual group. Every chapter is unique, but they are all connected in a robust community, allowing girls to make strong, lasting connections with each other and inspiring them to grow as leaders and mentors both at their school and on a global scale.

One example of this, is our curriculum topic “Your Future”- Obviously, it’s a really broad category with discussion prompts that include, “How do you picture your life in 5 years?” or “What are you doing now to set yourself up to reach your long term goals?” Even though these questions are pretty standard, they can solicit a myriad of different conversations across chapters. High school chapters will be looking more toward the excitement of the college experience, while our collegiate chapters may have conversations about their post college-life aspirations. While the discussions may be different from coast to coast, or across the age spectrum, the theme behind the meetings is always the same. Celebrate each other through open mindedness and lift others up with love and compassion.

While the conversations can vary tremendously, one thing remains incredibly consistent with our chapters, and that is our signature activity that kicks off every I AM THAT GIRL meeting, it’s called: “I am that girl because…”

At the start of each gathering, members take turns going around the circle telling each other what makes them “that girl” in this moment. They may have a success to celebrate, like a good grade on a test, or a scored goal in a soccer game. They may have overcome something to help gain perspective. Or, they may simply acknowledge that they are going through a tough time, and they are just trying to keep moving forward. Whatever it is, this activity works in many ways to help build understanding among members and cultivate lasting relationships by developing a circle of trust and support.

I’d love for you all to take a minute right now and think of what makes you “that girl” or “that guy” in this moment. What can you celebrate about yourself right now. It can be something totally small or something truly spectacular. It might be hard at first… because bragging about ourselves is something that most of us only do well until we’re about 6.

So, while you’re taking a minute to think of what makes you truly special right now, I’d like to share mine! Today, I am that girl because I’m doing something that scares me. I’m standing in front of a crowd of strangers challenging myself to be vulnerable, authentic and honest… and to not worry about what all of y’all think of me. Not an easy task, but I’m going for it, and I’m proud of myself.

This incredible organization is aimed at helping young women to become the best version of themselves. We want to empower, inspire and help women to express, love and BE who they are. One of my absolute favorite quotes, is “Comparison is the thief of Joy,” because it could not possibly be more true. In this day and age, it is so easy to compare our lives with the social media highlight reels that we are exposed to. You know, all of those people on Facebook and Instagram that appear to only go on vacation, eat fancy dinners or get married all the time?! That’s not necessarily their reality… it’s just what they choose to showcase to the world. But when that’s all we see, it’s hard to not compare ourselves to those seemingly lavish lifestyles. Our goal is to encourage collaboration among women instead of competition, to teach girls to lift while they climb, and to recognize that someone else’s achievements DO NOT diminish their own.

Part of our programming at I AM THAT GIRL, is to encourage each other to embrace vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. Like many people, this was not always easy for me. You see, I was a competitive gymnast for almost 20 years, and growing up as an athlete, I definitely embraced more of a “prove I’m a badass by concealing all emotions” kind of mentality. Learning to recognize my feelings, to allow them to exist and to appreciate them for what they were was not an easy task for me. It took a lot of practice, but I’m definitely getting better at it. So before I tell you my story, I’d like to ask your permission to get real with you, to be vulnerable, and to really share what’s on my heart.

Is that okay with y’all?

I stumbled upon the I AM THAT GIRL community when a celebrity I worshiped posted about it on Twitter. I was so enamored with what I found, that I immediately went out and purchased our founder’s book, coincidentally titled, I AM THAT GIRL. I as I was reading Alexis Jones’ inspiring words, I felt, for the first time in years, that someone truly understood what I was going through. Here’s a quick excerpt from her book,

“To be ‘that girl’ just means you’re going to give life your best shot, that you’re not going to make excuses or justifications, that you’re going to go for it, whatever that means for you. It also means you’re going to be an example of true beauty in the world and encourage the same for all the other women in your life. Being ‘that girl’ means you are a constant work in progress—you’re willing to be vulnerable, flawed and compassionate and are someone who stumbles and falls but isn’t afraid to admit her shortcomings in the midst of her magnificence.”

That’s when I started thinking about all of those girls I had admired for being ‘that girl’ in my life. You know, ‘that girl’ who is an amazing singer, ‘that girl’ who beats all the boys at sports, ‘that girl’ who has no idea how beautiful she is, ‘that girl’ who radiates confidence no matter what her circumstances, ‘that girl’ who is so smart, she’ll probably change the world …

I had never pictured myself in the same way. I felt less than those girls somehow, never assuming that I would be worthy of the same kind of admiration I felt for the girls I looked up to. But reading Alexis’ words about what truly defined ‘that girl’ changed me, and started me on a journey of self-discovery that completely transformed my world.

I devoured every word in that book. I felt as though she was speaking directly to me, like she knew what I was going through even though I was completely unable to express it to people I knew and trusted. I felt like I was carrying this really heavy secret, that if I actually told people how I felt, they would look at me differently. I had this perceived image of myself that was happy go lucky girl. I was a good friend, a doting daughter, a loving big sister and a hardworking, independent young woman. But that was only half of my story and I wanted desperately to connect with someone who could understand the deeper part of my heart.  

I AM THAT GIRL gave me the outlet I was looking for, and when I finally found the courage to share my story on the their website, the response I received was overwhelming. You see, I spent the better part of 10 years fighting feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, depression, and disordered eating habits. The worst part of it was that I couldn’t understand where it was coming from. I had a GREAT life… and in the back of my mind I couldn’t grasp why I was going through all of this internally when externally, everything around me indicated I had a perfect life. It just didn’t make sense. I mean, I knew that my friends and parents and other people I looked up to had their own insecurities, just like the next guy, but when I looked around, it seemed to me that I was the only one I knew who struggling the way I was. That is until I was brave enough to publish my article.

The response was immediate. It was shared hundreds, maybe thousands of times on Facebook. The comments came in from everywhere and I was gifted this incredible opportunity to embrace who I was and talk about my struggles openly both online, and in person. You would not believe the kind of doors that opened for me in my everyday life. My friends instantly began asking me more questions and opening up to me about their own inner struggles. Though our challenges weren’t necessarily the same, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt alone in my problems, and that was an incredibly comforting realization. You see, we live in this world that rarely provides space for us struggle. I had gone on for years, just convincing myself that I was “handling it” – and it wasn’t until I found this community of women who weren’t uncomfortable learning about my battle with anorexia that I finally understood what I had been missing. It was a space to be unapologetically me… exactly as I was then, and exactly as I am now. I’m always changing and growing and learning… and I don’t plan to be the same Allison in 5 years that I am today, kind of the same way I’m definitely not the girl I was 5 years ago. I truly believe that we GROW THROUGH what we GO THROUGH and I AM THAT GIRL provides girls the tools to embrace their own uniqueness and their vulnerability and to appreciate both of those beautiful parts of them.

I can’t even begin to tell you what leading a Chapter of I AM THAT GIRL has meant for me. It’s taught me to quit hiding behind perfection, and to be 100% my most authentic self. And guess what… people like that version of me! It’s crazy, right!

Our founder, Alexis Jones says that the two most powerful words in the English language are “Me Too.” I can say from experience, that it feels really good to know you’re not alone. But sometimes the only way we can discover that someone else is walking our same path is by being courageous enough to go first and to say what’s truly on our hearts.

My story is just that, it’s my story. But it’s one of a million stories that represent what this community is doing in the world. I could tell you stories of countless other amazing girls who have faced mountains of their own. Each one is unique, each story is different, but the one thing these girls all have in common is that they have found comfort, encouragement, support, love and resilience in the communities that I AM THAT GIRL helps to provide.

I AM THAT GIRL is not just a safe place for girls to express, love and be who they are. It’s a life style. It’s teaching these young women that it is okay to embrace who they are, to celebrate their differences and lift each other up, and these are skills that every young woman should possess. The effect that this organization has had on my life is profound. The magnitude of what I’ve learned has snowballed into every aspect of my life. I’d love to see a chapter pop up at every high school and college campus nationwide. Because to me, the greatest gift any girl can receive is permission to be herself, to love who she sees in the mirror, the voice in her head, the dreams in her mind and the spirit in her heart. It’s the gift of I AM THAT GIRL… and I’m so thankful I received it.







Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day

I’ve never considered myself a political person. Nor would I consider myself a confrontational person. I hate arguing. I usually bite my tongue when I don’t agree with something, particularly if my opposing opinion would result in ruffling someone’s feathers. Because I develop severe anxiety in situations where I would like to express my feelings but am too afraid to do so, I have spent a great deal of this election cycle refraining from engaging in any political conversation. It makes me uncomfortable. Not because I don’t have beliefs… believe me, I do, but because all of the hate that has occurred has had me doubting who I could feel safe sharing my thoughts with. Social media has been the worst. I have wrestled time and time again with “liking” comments, or commenting on things I do not “like.” I have cried over posts I’ve seen shared by people I love advocating for hate. And I have felt desperate for hope for so many people who feel persecuted and fearful of what their lives may become. Through it all, I have remained virtually silent.

Not today.

Today, I feel a sense of obligation to share what’s been weighing on my heart. I am not able to attend one of the many women’s marches being held tomorrow, but I can say with confidence that my interests and my beliefs will be well represented in every corner of this GREAT nation. Let me first say, that I am a true Patriot at heart. I 100% respect the office of the President of the United States of America, and I believe that “equality for all Americans” should actually include ALL AMERICANS.

I believe in kindness and compassion.
I believe that black lives matter.
I believe that sexual assault survivors deserve to be heard, believed and protected.
I believe that EVERYONE deserves to have an affordable, quality education.
I believe that EVERYONE deserves affordable, quality health care regardless of preexisting conditions.
I believe that transgendered human beings should be treated as human beings.
I believe in equal pay for women.
I believe that women’s rights are human rights.
I still believe that this truly is the Promised Land, and we should do what is within our means to welcome anyone who is seeking a better life the same way our founders did.
I believe that despite all of the disagreements and harsh feelings that we are still one people… we are all Americans, and if there is one line from Mr. Trump’s inauguration speech I will cling to it is that no matter the color of our skin, “we all bleed the same red blood of Patriotism.”
And I believe that LOVE is LOVE.

Yes, I am a feminist, and those of you reading this may brush me off as just another angry liberal disapproving of the Republican agenda. But just like the Conservatives didn’t like being associated with rape culture, racism and Trumps unkind words about the disabled, I need to make something quite clear.
My heart is breaking a little bit in fear of what is to come. But NO, I do not approve of the violent rioters that are protesting this Inauguration. I also do not appreciate being called a “liberal crybaby” because I didn’t get what I want. You know what I want?? I want the American people to feel safe. I want my friends who are gay to live without fear of their marriage licenses being revoked. I want the 14 year old girl I know who just beat cancer to be able to have health insurance when she’s 26 years old. I want myself, my friends and future college students to have the weight of student loans lifted off their shoulders. I want black men to feel safe at ALL TIMES. I want the pay gap eliminated. I want adults and children with disabilities to be afforded opportunities that will enhance their quality of life, and I want girls to grow up knowing they are JUST AS GOOD as their male counterparts.

Here’s the thing. I did not vote for President Trump. He was not my first choice to run our country. If I’m being totally honest, he probably wouldn’t have made my top 10 (or 100). But there he is… holding the most prestigious office in our nation. So with that, I will end this blog saying that I PRAY that President Trump does an impeccable job holding this office. I may not believe he belongs in the White House, but I can say with complete and total honesty that I would love, more than anything in the world, to look back in 4 years and say, “Thank you, Sir, for proving me wrong.”

Sincerely,
A slightly terrified liberal feminist who is clinging to hope




My sincerest gratitude to President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle for their dedicated and heartfelt service to our Nation over the past 8 years. You served with dignity and poise and I am so proud to have born witness to your leadership and service.





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sonder

Do you ever get a good look at a stranger and feel oddly connected to their life? I was driving today, and as I was making a left hand turn I caught a solid glimpse of a man in the left turn lane of the road I was joining. It was odd. I didn't recognize this man, and he didn't see me. There was just something about him that caught my attention. Immediately I found myself wondering how old he was, along with a myriad of other things:

Was he married? Did he have grandchildren? Was he a veteran? A business man? Did he make his living saving lives? Teaching piano lessons? Harvesting crops? Did he have a happy childhood? Did he love a lot? Does he feel loved? Where is he going? Why is he going there? Where is he coming from? What brought him to be in this tiny town of Whitewater, WI? Does he believe in God?

Nothing about this man was out of the ordinary. He was a white man, maybe mid 60s of age, driving a white SUV of some sort... I wasn't paying attention. What I did notice were his wrinkles. That's how I know there was a lot of life behind his eyes. And so, I wondered about his life. Because I think that by wondering about other's lives add a level of compassion to our own lives. If we are considerate enough to recognize that we are not the center of this universe... that each person we pass by is the lead character in their own story I think we gift ourselves the opportunity to deepen ourselves.

sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

I don't know the man in the white SUV. I may never cross paths with him again. But I can tell you, I'm grateful for his existence on this planet. His presence today gifted me with a sweet reminder that everyone has a story, if only you take the opportunity to uncover it.

To growth, gratitude and grace~

Allison


Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Year of Joy

Before adventuring to see the sea turtles. Such an
incredible day!
I've spent the past 19 days in the presence of some amazing people. People I love more than I could ever explain.

First there was the family vacation... four siblings, two parents, a handful of sea turtles, a dozen gourmet meals, 5 days in the sun and a [couple] of cocktails here and there... it was incredible.

Then, there was Christmas. Another week with the family full of wine, games and more time spent with my favorite humans on the planet.

Christmas Eve with my truest soul mates.
Finally, I had the privilege of standing next to one of my best friends as she said "I do," to her perfect match. It was a week full of love, laughs and so much joy. Congrats to Dani and Jeremy. I am so happy for you both!

I can't remember what life was like before these 4.
They are my brightest lights.
Naturally, I was flying high with all of these amazing experiences that were taking place in my life. It's always special spending this time of the year with people I love. Then, yesterday I started receiving messages wishing me a "Happy New Year!"

Wait a minute.

It's New Years Eve??

Shit.

Of course I was aware of the date on the calendar, but in all of the craziness, I had failed to give myself any time to process the start of the new year (If you know me well, you know that this caused my blood pressure to skyrocket... processing is kinda my jam). So naturally, I started to panic, because in this moment the introverted portion of my brain (approximately 65% of me) needed nothing but alone time. So, I gratefully said goodbye to the friends I was with and headed home to check in with myself.

I've never been a huge fan of resolutions. Until last year, I always made them and I always failed at them. it's not hard to fail at a resolution. As human beings, we're ambitious creatures. The promise of a new year can create big dreams and set high expectations. Excitement runs high on a holiday, and when we are feeling our best, it's easy to believe that we have what it takes to make some amazing change in our lives.

I'm going to lose 20lbs this year.

I'm going to save $10K this year.

I'm going to fall in love this year.

{Insert ridiculous hypothetical resolution here}

Last year, a dear friend of mine told me she hated resolutions, and instead of setting resolutions, she chooses an all encompassing theme for the upcoming year, one to keep at the forefront of her mind as the months go by. This theme, like an overall blanket of good intention is something that she focuses on, to keep her intentions and thoughts on track. I thought this was a brilliant idea. Instead of saying, "I will journal twice a week for 52 weeks," I could instead say, "I will write with intention when writing makes me happy."

With this concept in mind, I thought forward as to what may bring me joy in 2016. I had always been a very cautious person, cautious with my life and cautious with my heart. When looking forward at the upcoming year I decided to name 2016 the year of Bravery. I wanted to take risks, to open myself up to change, to make mistakes and to become someone I looked up to. For me, a lot of the people I look up to and admire seem carefree and open to new experiences... you know, brave. I wanted to be like that... so bravery it was.

This dream team has my whole heart. After 10 months of
working together online, sharing a space with them was
the definition of magical.
Last night, as I was looking back on 2016 I couldn't help but feel disappointed in myself. Bravery was not at the forefront of my year. Now, I'm not saying I failed completely, because I did grow in this department this year. I had several experiences that taught me how to face a problem head on, instead of just shutting down (something I would have done in the past), and I'm very thankful for that. I also made several decisions this year to do things for me. I advocated for myself, sought help when I needed it, and embraced some truly wonderful mentors to help me navigate through some terrifying unknowns. I did brave... and maybe it wasn't as intentional as I would have liked, but I did it.

My heart has never been as full as in this theater. I don't think
I've ever cried so hard, experienced so much joy, or felt so alive.
I think more than brave, this year was spent learning more about myself, acceptance and growth. I learned to turn every experience, positive or negative, into a growing experience. I would ask myself,
"what did this interaction teach me," "how could I have handled this better," "what do I need to do to move forward," and a myriad of other questions. I don't believe I failed in my year of brave, but that my year of brave may have transformed more to a year of understanding. Understanding myself, understanding my needs and being open to learning in every aspect of the word.

Strangers who became friends, friends who became family...
these women have inspired me beyond words.
This year I gave myself the opportunity to grow on multiple occasions. I stopped making excuses for not meeting my own needs and started taking my life seriously. I gave myself vacations, sick days and time with people who lifted me up. I flew to the west coast 3 times in 3 months because I wanted to show up for some important people in my life. Yes, I wanted to show up for them, but I NEEDED to show up for myself. These adventures gave me the opportunity to expand my heart and step out of my comfort zone and I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for those experiences.
2016 was hard. It was full of challenges, changes and uphill battles. I had inner struggles, outer struggles and fought alongside some special people who needed backup on their own front lines. Despite all of the ups and downs, I think there's promise in the turning of a page. 2017 is a blank canvas, for us to create whatever picture of our life we desire. The page we've turned is still there... we have the knowledge from it, the scars from it, and the joy from it, as we look toward the year ahead. And with that, I've decided to embrace the theme of Joy for 2017.

In 2017 I plan to make decisions based on what brings me joy. I will surround myself with people who bring me joy. I will do the things that make me the happiest. I will make time and space for joy on a daily basis. I will do my best to share joy with those around me, and I will make a conscious effort to remove the things from my life that do not. I know that I am the only person who can dictate my happiness... and this year, I plan to take that responsibility seriously.

My intention for 2017 has been set; The Year of Joy. It may only be January 1st, but I think that this is something I am capable of maintaining. However, should my journey lead me down another path, I will not consider it a tragedy, but merely a redirection of the path I'm on. Roadblocks occur everyday, but embracing gratitude and joy will help me to keep perspective in 2017. May you all experience boundless joy in 2017.

With growth, gratitude and grace,

Allison