I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it extremely challenging to talk about myself. Attempting to explain why I am the way I am is a conversation that seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. The people around me, those who know me best, could probably answer this question better than I can. Therefore, I figured it would be appropriate to begin by sharing a few positive characteristics other people use to describe me:
I very much hope I am all of these things and more.
How I got here, the person I am today, I can only speculate. What I am sure about, is the experiences each of us go through that help shape us into individuals. We all expereince different things, feel different emotions, and meet different people. I’m only in my early twenties and it already feels like I’ve lived a lifetime (as of recently). In an attempt to delve into my own foundations, I’ve chosen three greatest influences that (potentially) have helped shape who I am today:
First and foremost, the one thing that arguably played the largest role in my life (and still does!) was horseback riding. I absolutely love horses and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love them. I was just under 7 years-old when I rode my first horse (his name was Davy) and I haven’t looked back since.
So, you’re probably asking, “What? Horseback riding? How does that shape a persons life?” Well, fair readers, not only did I love it, but equestrian taught me a tremendous set of skills that I can apply outside the arena and into the real world. It seems unlikely, but it’s the truth. Problem solving, communication and even teamwork are only a few of the many skills I have acquired throughout my years of riding. In many cases, people view the sport as a one-person event and often forget that horse and rider are working as a team to reach a common goal. Communication is key. And because you’re working with a horse and not a talking person, finding ways to properly communicate with your non-human partner is an entirely new and refreshing adventure filled with several challenges and even more rewards.
Most of all, riding gave me confidence. I worked extremely hard to improve myself as a rider, but it seemed almost criminal how much fun I was having. Loving the sport only made it easier to spend an extra few minutes after class, ask questions and just practice. The results eventually spoke for themselves. It was incredibly rewarding to physically see my improvements, whether it was a faster pace, a higher jump or getting paired up with a new, more advanced horse for a partner. With each improvement came new-found confidence and it certainly helped with personal and professional aspects of my life as well.
Tex | Mex Missions Trip
Though I do believe in a higher being, I can’t go far enough to say that I’m a religious person. I don’t attend church on a very regular basis and I’m still self-conscious when I pray out loud. It’s probably surprising to find out that a huge life-changer for me was a missions trip I took during Summer of 2006 along the Texas/Mexico border. I met up with my cousin’s church youth group in Washington State before flying down to the town of Missions, Texas. For an entire week, we drove across the Mexico border and visited several neighborhoods performing plays, singing songs and holding Vacation Bible School programs for the local children (and it was all in Spanish!).
This trip was mind-numbing, gut-wrenching and heartwarming all rolled into one. It was such a physically and emotionally draining experience and somehow, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world. Meeting the families of these poor Mexican towns truly opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to be living a life I choose to live, not one that I’m forced to live. I have my family, my friends, and 22 years of life behind me filled with support, stability and love – most of which are never seen by the people living in these neighborhoods. I suddenly felt my heart open up and I had this burning desire to comfort each person, to reassure each parent and embrace each child. I wanted to let them know that love existed, and that there will always be someone who’d love them unconditionally. It was then that I really understood the meaning of the phrase “loving thy neighbor.”
When I returned home, I made a conscious decision to live each moment of my life to the fullest it can be. Though I always knew there were people less fortunate than others, seeing such misfortune first-hand shocked me into really seeing the realities of this world. I vowed I would not waste away the life opportunities my parents worked so hard to give to me. I promised myself I’d work hard, stay focused, and never take a single moment of my blessed life for granted.
Internship: Cannes International Film Festival
In May 2010, I landed what I thought would be the most amazing internship experience on Earth. I would attend the 63rd Annual Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France as an executive assistant. It would be my first glimpse into the glamorous world of entertainment and celebrities. It was a fabulous opportunity to pursue my interests in Entertainment Arts and to really find out what the industry looked like from the inside.
After 11 days, I was dead-tired. It was all work and minimal play, with four hours of sleep a night at maximum. While I was physically worn, nothing compared to the mental turmoil I forced myself to endure. Long story short, I was traumatized, exhausted and teetering on the brink of insanity. Truthfully, it was one of the most amazing, most educational experiences of my entire life and with it, came a few important lessons:
- Not everything in this world is as glamorous as one would imagine – and not everyone is who they say they are. Trust is a very valuable thing, and it’s not something one is given, but must be earned.
- Respect yourself. I can’t re-emphasize this enough. Never change or conduct yourself in a way you would later regret. Your true colors would be appreciated by those that matter. It’s the higher road, and you’ll be walking out with your head held high.
Yes, the going got tough. But I kept going. And I’m proud to say I survived with minimal damage and a story to last a lifetime.
Living through such a wide spectrum of experiences has allowed me to evaluate my life, appreciate the good and actively correct the bad. Each special event has influenced me in a way I’d never experienced before. Some things, like my passion for horse riding, not only helped build skills, but also my self-esteem and confidence as well. Not to mention the fact I’ve been told that a huge amount of my patience came from dealing with horses and their royal attitudes!
Other experiences, like the Tex | Mex Missions Trip and Internship in Cannes, gave me the motivation to work hard and get myself to where I want to be without complaint. Even when things are low, I always remind myself that things could be worse and it is never impossible to make it through. It’s all a part of living and learning. I’ve also felt the impact of unconditional love during my time in Mexico. Love, at least for those families, was the greatest gift they had ever received. Outwardly, they were such strong people, but their inner stories were hidden deeper and out of reach from outsiders. One smile, one wave, one hug was all it took to make a person’s day. And that to me, was life changing.
So let’s go back and recap what I have learned about myself through my experiences. Melissa is:
Not bad for a personal brand, right?