Friday, May 18, 2012

My Traveling Red Dress Experience

I don't know how many of you have heard of the Traveling Red Dress, but it is a movement that has spread all over the world. It started with a red dress that went on a journey to women that needed that "red dress moment," and now dresses are flying everywhere. The woman who started it all is one of my favorite bloggers. The Bloggess is such an amazing woman and so much fun to read; I have been reading her for some time, and that is how I first heard about the Traveling Dress. The first post you can read here, and there is a revisited one that you can read here. I swear this woman inspires me, and not just because I can kind of identify with her about a few things but because I know very few other people that would have a metal rooster named Beyonce or have a collection of stuffed animals wearing clothes (literally stuffed animals, not the cute little things you buy that are made of cloth). She's just so funny, brilliant, gorgeous, random, and so many other things I like.

In the lovely Blogess' words: I want, just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies.  I want to be shocking, and vivid and wear a dress as intensely amazing as the person I so want to be.  And the more I thought about it the more I realized how often we deny ourselves that red dress and all the other capricious, ridiculous, overindulgent and silly things that we desperately want but never let ourselves have because they are simply “not sensible”.  Things like flying lessons, and ballet shoes, and breaking into spontaneous song, and building a train set, and crawling onto the roof just to see the stars better.  Things like cartwheels and learning how to box and painting encouraging words on your body to remind yourself that you’re worth it.

That is how it all started. After reading the first red dress post, I wanted a red dress, but I hadn't gotten the nerve to think of trying to find one or anything. I felt like I could use one, that I wanted a little piece of the magic, but I guess it just wasn't time. Then, the second post was out there, and this time I couldn't ignore it. There was a facebook group where women were asking for and offering dresses or just sharing their stories. For a while, all I did was read the posts and comment on the pictures and stories. I was amazed at all of these wonderful women that were so supportive of one another and willing to be there for others that they didn't even know, and some of the stories that came out were just so amazing and lovely. 

Eventually, I got up the nerve to ask, and that's when I was sent one by a wonderful woman named Karen. I found a photographer named Kristina that was willing to take pictures of me and a friend. After the experience, I decided to start a new blog. The Traveling Red Dress and my upcoming graduation just seemed to signal that it was time for a new one for a new chapter. This is the beginning. Below are some pictures and the beginnings of my story. (These pictures were taken a while ago, but I didn't want to show them until I had settled on one to give to my mom as a surprise gift.)  

I think this is a good starter about me. I've almost always been the shy type, peeking around places and a bit unsure of myself. I was picked on as I was growing up for being adopted; it wasn't something I was ashamed of, but sometimes words can be a little harsh. When somebody says that your birth mom didn't love you, as a kid (at least for me) that hurts. However, I had my mom there to comfort me and make me feel special. There were also my siblings, and they helped me through elementary school. Besides, that's the time when nothing seems that bad, but as I grew up into middle school, things got a little more difficult. People started to pick on me for more things. Before I knew it, my self-confidence and self-esteem were gone. I was convinced that I was ugly and a bit worthless. It didn't seem to matter that my family was telling me the opposite; all I could see were the flaws.

Then, my uncle died of brain cancer when I was in 8th grade. That one even rocked my entire world. He had come to live with my family along with his wife, and the whole experience left me with so many painful memories. Watching somebody that you love so much just deteriorate before your eyes isn't something that I'd wish on anybody, and watching what it did to the rest of the family made things even worse. Once it was over, there were so many things I regretted about the way I handled things...about how weak I'd been, and that's when I turned in on myself and became a little more closed off, and I turned to unhealthy comforts which I won't go; if you'd really like to know message me, and I will share. Anyway, after that I was so depressed it was hard to actually care about anything at all. Everything reminded me of him, and even though I tried to hold onto the good things it didn't work for long. 

This kept on through high school where I experienced the usual heartbreaks, headaches and other growing up experiences. Some made it worse and some made it better. The big change was being in the marching band. That's where I met some of my best friends not to mention my future boyfriend. I felt like I was a part of something great. Music made me feel better, and that coupled with my family made days a lot better. That wasn't to say I wasn't still struggling with depression off and on, but there were longer stretches where I could be just fine. The one thing that still wasn't better though was my self-esteem. 

The thing was that I wasn't being told I was ugly; I had just internalized it from my middle school days, and I couldn't let go of that image. In college, that reared its head again when I started to show signs of anorexia, but my family and friends helped me through that as well. My family actually kept telling me positive things, but only a few things were getting through. Not there fault of course, mine entirely. They have always been big supporters of me, and I don't know how I'd get a long without them. They have made such a difference over the years; I love them so much, and it's because of them that I have been able to take on life even when I'm feeling down. 

The summer after sophomore, I got back in contact with a guy I had been friends with in high school. Before I knew what was happening, he had captured my heart and we were dating. I've been with him ever since. He's made me feel a lot more sure of myself as has my support system. I'm finally able to try and listen and believe the good things people say and not just the bad.

I still have times when I don't want to look in the mirror because it makes me want to burst out in tears, and yes sometimes depression hits me like two elephants racing, but I feel better in my skin. That's how I knew that I was ready to let myself have a red dress. Not just an actual dress, I'm also ready to let myself do and have things that I haven't because there always seemed to be some reason not to. I will talk about these in my next post.

Now to the actual Traveling Red Dress. My dress was sent to me by Karen. When it arrived, I was so nervous that it wasn't going to fit. Being in college, I wasn't sure if I was still the same dress size or not, but when it came my fears washed away. The dress fit me pretty much perfectly. I could not stop looking at myself in it, and for the first time in a long time, I felt beautiful without hearing it from anybody first. I liked what I saw; I wanted to skip and dance down the hallway. Instead, I started looking for a photographer. The Traveling Red Dress facebook page offered the answer I was looking for. A wonderful photographer named Kristina agreed to meet me and a friend at this wonderful park (Mayfield Park) in Austin where they have peacocks and other nice places for pictures. When I met her, she was exactly what I was hoping for. She was so nice and fun; I was nervous and a bit shy as usual, but this time I wasn't afraid of the camera. I had on my red dress, a necklace given to me by Liesel (another wonderful woman from Traveling Red Dress) when she sent a dress to my sister, and some silver heels that I've loved forever. I looked at the camera and felt so wonderful. I felt pretty and I felt happy. Things just flowed in my head. Kristina was wonderful to work with and being there with a friend was wonderful too. It just felt like the best way to start fresh.

 I had been waiting for this, and it was better than I could have ever expected. Thank you can't even cover what there is to say to The Bloggess, my family (mom, sister, brother), my boyfriend, friends, Liesel, Karen, Kristina and all the other wonderful women I have come to know through not only this experience but throughout my life. I know the road isn't going to be easy, but I feel a little more prepared for what is to come because of all of them. Yes, I will doubt myself; yes, I must continue to work on my self-confidence more, but yes, I have felt the magic and feel beautiful.

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