I Was Lost In The Journey To Becoming My Dream Self​

How to find your way back and step into who you aspire to be.


At the forefront of my mind remains the image of my dream self---the ideal and successful version of me I long to grow into. In the humblest way, my dream self is pretty mind-blowing, or époustouflante, as we say in French. If you take a glance at my vision board, it won't take long for you to define the way I portray her: She has Leticia Gardner's looks and married life, blossoms through her career as beautifully as Necole Kane does, and writes pieces that touch people in such a deep way the world refers to her as "young Oprah".

She's a great leading woman, the kind whose main aspirations are to inspire and make a difference. She dreams of everything fancy and would break any wall that prevents her from reaching those dreams. Where some people hear "no", she hears "try harder". She's intelligent, constantly strives for self-accomplishment and fears nothing.

I came across a photo of Leticia Marie Gardener when I took my first trip to Los Angeles. Living up to its reputation, the City of Angels naturally didn't fail to work its magic on me. From visiting famous TV-show sets to grabbing coffee with Devious Maids actress Edy Ganem in Beverly Hills and being offered dinner by Eva Longoria at her restaurant Beso Hollywood, L.A. showed me that all the glitz and glamour I've always fantasized about are possible (because yeah, you can aim to make a difference but still be fancy AF). It showed me that I, too, could have a seat at the table. And by showing me just that, L.A. gifted me with the secret sauce I'd been missing to make something out of my dreams: a vision.

However, after 6 years of pursuing my vision and several spiritual awakenings, I learned that you're never safe from losing sight of who your dream self is. And there are a lot of setbacks and growth to experience before you can become her.

Image via Giphy

Reflecting on where I stood in my life last year, what comes to mind is "the Ordeal". In what's known as "the Hero's Journey", the Ordeal refers to the moment in the Hero's life where, after approaching "the Inmost Cave", a major crisis occurs. The Hero is therefore led to face his biggest fears and finds himself on the edge of death. His survival depends on whether or not he wins the fight against those fears. What triggered that crisis in my case were two defining decisions that I made a couple of years ago: Give up on a master's degree in mass communications/journalism to settle for a job that wasn't fulfilling but paid well, and move out of my mother's house whereas my goal was to stack enough money to participate in the UCLA Extension Writer's Program.

Although making those decisions seemed to be the right thing to do at the time, all it did was bring serious disorder into my life. It resulted in me turning into a miserable person---depressed, lost and trapped in a reality I never intended to make mine. My dream self and I were dying, and I was the one killing us both.

Last May, when the consequences of my choices became unbearable and I hit rock bottom, I started seeking help wherever I could.

I began seeing a therapist every two weeks, working on my relationship with God, hanging out with friends more often, and doing a lot more of the things that are probably on your usual self-care list. Had you told me that the most efficient help I'd find was going to be in writing a letter to myself, I wouldn't have believed you.

When it comes to writing a letter to ourselves, oftentimes we write about the things we would tell our younger self or the things we'd love to read when we turn a certain age. Either way, the words on paper aren't dedicated to our present self. Yet, what I needed was instant guidance. I needed someone to call me out on my bullsh*t. RIGHT. NOW. Someone who wouldn't give me the traditional "that's life" speech, but more the "you need to get your life together" one. And considering how misunderstood I felt, I knew that the only one who'd be able to get me back on my feet was my dream self. So, I grabbed my favorite pen and a piece of paper, stepped into her shoes, and asked myself: "What would my dream self say if she knew why she's so close to never existing?"

Stop ignoring what the voice within you is trying to tell you.

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Within each of us resides a voice that's purpose is to guide us through this thing called life. It's there to make sure that every step we take is in the direction of the life God---the Universe, whatever you want to call it---has uniquely designed for every one of us. She who decides to pay attention and listen to that voice will be provided with all the answers. She who decides to ignore it engages in a deadly fight against herself.

Three years ago, I made two decisions that didn't feel right in my heart but I still chose to ignore because I thought they were necessary. By not listening to what my heart was telling me, I created chaos in my life which, at some point, forced me to take huge steps back so I could save myself. I had to quit my job and move back in with my mom.

Sometimes, the only way for us to reroute toward the right direction is to destroy the foundation that we built around some important life decisions that we made---a foundation we, in most cases, became attached to and which somehow became part of our identity. Going back to square one was a painful way for me to learn that, no matter how aggressive its method, the voice within will always find a way to be heard.

​"Your life is a piece of art and art is never finished, only abandoned." 

Image via Giphy

To me, life's art, and human beings are all born artists. Indeed, we might not all be born painters, writers, dancers, or musicians, but we've all been given the ability to create something out of nothing---to create ourselves and our own reality. The beauty of art is that, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, it's never finished. It can always be refined. Colors can always be added, words can always be rewritten and sculptures can always be reshaped. So can life.

Again, going back to square one taught me an important lesson: The artist in me is allowed to create and recreate my current reality until it looks perfectly like the masterpiece I've always imagined my life to be, no matter what it takes.

Wherever you find yourself in life, if it doesn't feel right, then move. You're not stuck. Take a leap of faith and walk into the unknown where thousands of opportunities are waiting for you.

Focus on being the first you instead of the next someone else. 

Image via Giphy

Have you ever admired someone so much that you wished you were that person? And not only did you wish you were that person, but you actually started impersonating her and doing everything like her as though it would lead to living the same life? When people would ask me who I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to answer, "I want to be the next Oprah Winfrey." Truth be told, if I could've turned into any celebrity I was fangirling over, I definitely would have.

One of the reasons I got so lost in the journey to becoming my dream self was the fact that I was following someone else's path believing that, since we were reaching for the same destination, we could also head in the same direction. Wrong. The world doesn't need another Oprah Winfrey. It needs me and my gift.

As I've mentioned before, there's a path that's been uniquely designed for each and every one of us. It's paved with flowers only you can smell and mountains only you can climb. Its light is the only light that'll ever make you shine. Somewhere down this path is where your treasure is.

It's the only way for you to grow into the person God wants you to be--not the one you wish you could be. Walking down someone else's path will surely lead you to the destination you aim to reach, but it'll always keep you looking for the dream and the magic. Walking down your own path, however, allows the magic to operate. Then, you become the dream.

Every day is a good day to put in the work.

Image via Giphy

They say that dreams don't work unless you do. And as a pro procrastinator who only puts in the work when I feel like it, taking action tends to be a bit problematic at times, especially when it doesn't provide me with instant gratification. I eventually had to face the fact that becoming my dream self isn't an overnight success but the result of constant and vigorous efforts.

My dream self owes her success as a writer to the hours she spends writing every day, even when inspiration's hiding. She manages to write a bestseller because she won't let the time it would take to write discourage her from doing so. She's as fit as Leticia Gardner because the results she gets from hitting the gym daily are more important than the satisfaction she gets from snacking while binge-watching Netflix.

Accessing your dream life will require hard work and discipline from you. The more you give it your all, the closer you get to your breakthrough. You have to be responsible for how much you get done. Don't be the one standing in your own way. Push yourself to do the work. Every. Single. Day.

Here and now is still good. The journey matters more than the destination.

Image via Giphy

Human beings are unsatisfied creatures always yearning for more. I can't recall a time where I felt like my reality was enough. My mind has always teemed with all these big dreams and, before this intimate conversation with my dream self, all I was waiting for was the day they'd be fulfilled so I could feel fulfilled myself. The last thing she had to tell me, which is by far one of the most important, is to stop missing out on what's already in front of me by rushing to the next big thing.

No more "I'll be happy when". Bliss might be waiting for you at the finish line, but happiness lies in the here and the now. You just have to be willing to find it.

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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