Bloggers like Marlena Matute of Big City Curvy Girl Thin Wallet is writing about more than fashion. She is sharing her story in a way that inspires and motivates us all. Enjoy her story below!
I think it’s hard to explain why you keep pushing when you’re facing a situation in which no one would blame you if you quit. During the summer of 2014, I found myself homeless for the second time in my life. I was a 24 year old Master’s degree recipient from a prestigious private institution struggling to start my career in my chosen field while also working towards pulling my family out of poverty. I’ll spare the details as to how my family and I got to that point, but I will say that although this was the second time around, it was a bit worse than the first given the fact that I was a degree-holding adult.
It took a lot of work but in six months, with some major help, I was able to secure an apartment for my family. However, it wasn’t a “happily ever after” moment as with the new apartment came the real challenge - making sure to keep it and provide the basic necessities for my family. In the months that followed, I took every and any job I could get in order to make ends meet. At one point, I even had five different part-time positions all of which paid way below minimum wage. Working, job hunting and my personal finances became my sole focus. I felt shame every day for not being able to achieve more with my education like my friends and former classmates. I considered myself a failure, and spiraled into a deep depression to the point that I started to self-harm again, admittedly in more creative ways than I did as a teen.
The thing that got me out of that stupor was my 14-year old cousin. She was about to enter high school and unbeknownst to me had developed a very negative self-image because of bullying she experienced at school because of her high grades and body. Being ten years her senior, she always looked up to me so I do my best to be there for her as much as I can; it hurt to see that like me, she was experiencing the self-loathing which took me years to break from. So I began to look for any possible body positive role models for her in the blogosphere that I followed but couldn’t find one that quite matched what I was looking for. That’s when I got an idea. Why couldn’t I become that blogger? At first I scoffed at the idea, not believing that anyone would actually read anything I would write.
Then in the early fall of that year, I was encouraged by a friend to submit a paper I had written for a fashion elective I took during grad school on plus size fashion and Target designer capsule collections to be presented at the 2015 Popular Culture Association & American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) National Conference. I indulged her and submitted the paper though I strongly believed it would be rejected given my track record in getting any opening in the scholarly space. I told myself that if I was invited to the conference I would start my blog and keep working on my career. I received confirmation that my paper was accepted within 2 days. This laid the groundwork for what would become my blog a few months later. At the conference the following spring, I was the only one who presented work in the fashion category dealing with plus sizes. The feedback I received on that academic stage was the positive reinforcement I didn’t know I needed that demonstrated that my blog was a necessary outlet not only for me but for others that also sought affordable plus size fashion as they go along their body love journeys.
It should come as no surprise that what once was a distraction created for the sole purpose of inspiring and empowering my cousin as well as other young women like her, has since become my passion. I think it’s easy to lose yourself to your problems, and a lot harder to just use those problems as motivation to seek happiness on your own terms. For some people, your specific pursuit of happiness won’t make sense, and that’s ok; your goal is your own. As for me, my goals constantly change. Sometimes it’s just getting out of bed and making it downtown on time to work for the day or reaching for that bright outfit when I really just want to hide. And other times it's just this --sitting in front of a computer, typing up a message that may inspire someone to challenge themselves into doing something that scares them and hoping that they take that first of many steps like I did.
Life doesn’t just include our sunny days. There are days where you will struggle. Maybe you will know what you want to do…sometimes you will not. The point is to be kind to yourself as you work through your emotions and your journey. Thanks Marlena for sharing your story and encouraging us to share ours too!