I suffer from SAD—social anxiety disorder. And while I'm self-diagnosed (I have anxiety about seeking medical help, because that would mean actually having to talk to someone about this. Not my strong suit), I've read up on SAD and I totally fit the profile: "Everyday social interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment."
I can go to a crowded club and be the life of the party if I really wanted to. But I will be the most socially awkward person at a game night of fifteen guests, some of which I know because, well, I'm not quite sure (see previous note about therapy above). My SAD manifests at different levels. Sometimes it's me stuttering to get out one simple sentence and, at my very worst, I've become paralyzed with fear sitting in someone's living room as if I were on stage at Madison Square Garden with no words at all.
This is a particularly debilitating diagnosis for me, not just because I spend most weekends in solitude or haven't been on a date in years, but because my career as a lifestyle/entertainment journalist requires me to mix and mingle, network and basically talk to people and get them to open up to me. Although I often put my big girl pants on and get the job done, I feel my work has definitely not lived up to its full potential due to my lack of ability to be more social. Recently, I've felt stuck in a rut and while going to therapy is on my long-term to-do list, in a jolt of inspiration, I decided to take more immediate action and booked my very first solo trip before I turn the big 3-0.
It would be my own little version of an Eat, Pray, Love journey, except I'm not a white, middle-aged woman leaving behind dreamy James Franco to eat pasta in Italy. I'm a millennial Nuyorican with no James Franco, looking to get my social mojo back. Now folks take solo trips for all sorts of reasons, but a solo trip to combat a phobia of socializing? How does that work? To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure either. But I flew out to Waikiki Beach, Hawaii on the morning of my 29th birthday by my lonesome for an entire week and from the very moment I landed, the mysteries behind my inner psyche began to unravel.
Here's how a solo trip to Hawaii helped break me out of my shell and nudged me to meet and interact with people, break away from my workaholic ways and content-driven anxiety (another "issue" of mine that comes with the job) and stop to smell the roses… or in this case, the Hawaiian Hibiscus.
I had activities for days.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
I had a list of activities and sight-seeing lined up that by society's conventions you'd normally do as a group or at least as a pair—hike Diamond Head Crater, visit the Honolulu Zoo, attend Germaine's Luau in Kapolei, spend the day at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, and hit Waikiki Beach. Then there were the more commonplace outings—dinners, bars and shopping trips. A lot of things felt forced at first and then they just flowed. For instance, while trying to plan out my itinerary I reached out for tips via Instagram to an old college classmate who had moved to Hawaii two years ago with her husband. I let her know that I'd be traveling solo and that it might be nice to see a familiar face. So, for my first full day in Waikiki, she and her husband took me to dinner at Tiki's Grill & Bar where we had the best time.
I forged a path and found my way on my own.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
Then there was my morning at Diamond Head. I love hikes and decided that I would do Diamond Head long before I arrived on Oahu. I flew out from Los Angeles since I was already there for work, so I cut costs there, but Hawaii is as expensive as everyone says it is so besides my big-ticket excursions like Disney and the luau, I wanted to keep everything else budget-friendly. Upon looking at the official state park website I learned it was only a $1 entry fee and a 15-minute local bus ride from where I was staying. I thought, "I could totally do this on my own!" My mom, however, wasn't having it so I complied and booked a tour at the last minute. Big mistake...or biggest blessing depending on how you look at it.
Long story short, my tour guide never came to pick me up like he said, so at 5:30AM still standing outside in the dark before sunrise, I decided to go with my original plan to do it without a stinkin' guide. I hopped on the bus, paid my $1 entry and hiked up the edge of that 300,000-year-old crater all by myself. When I got to the top, did I discover the missing link to my social gene? No. But I did get a pretty amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, and the way down I made friends.
I made new friends in unexpected places.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
While on Diamond Head, I saw a couple taking in the view on the hike downward, and I think because I appreciated the people that asked if I wanted a picture when they saw I was by myself, I decided to spread the love and offer to take theirs. Before I knew it, we were a trio talking, laughing, spilling travel stories and little did we know, making a new one. I learned they were not a couple at all, just life-long friends from San Francisco who shared wanderlust and a fun tongue-and-cheek dynamic. When we got to the bottom they treated me to some Dole Whip, a frozen dessert native to Hawaii, then we grabbed lunch and exchanged more travel tales. Now, I have two friends in The Bay to see whenever I make my way over there!
I channeled my inner Moana with a haku lei.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
Another highlight was a haku lei making class I took that was offered through my hotel, Shoreline Waikiki. A haku lei is what we on the mainland call a flower crown. I take arts and crafts very seriously and was on a mission to live out my Moana fantasies in an authentic haku. Little did I know the sweat and tears (on the inside) that went into making a perfectly crafted haku. Luckily, I had a tablemate who was on the same mission as me because as the rest of the tables cleared out, we wrapped, weaved and clipped away until roughly two hours later were Moana-fied. During our two hours in the struggle, being a native, she explained to me the even more complex process of making a traditional haku that had been passed down in her family. I cherish those two hours.
But perhaps, the most Julia Roberts-esque thing to happen to me during my solo travel was the very last day that I was there. I had stumbled upon a mostly deserted beach away from the swarms of tourists in Waikiki and was sitting atop a ledge that overlooked the sand when a James Earl Jones-looking character sporting dark shades and riding a trike motorcycle pulled up beside me to see if I was in need of any assistance. And I guess I was, but not in the conventional sense.
We got to talking and before I knew it, I had another buddy in Hawaii. He ended up giving me a ride on his trike to another part of the beach further down. If you're a Disney fan like me, this is where you cue "How Far I'll Go" off the Moana soundtrack. If you're my mom, this is where you cue the theme song to Law & Order: SVU. Thankfully, I lived to tell this tale and I'm able to share the words of wisdom he shared with me. Just as I hopped off his bike and thanked him for the ride, out of the clear blue he asked me, "What's your dream?"
Now this is a question that would normally make me freeze up and retreat into my SAD bubble but after seven days on island by myself, I had done a lot of thinking and knew the answer: "I don't have one."
Storytelling has always been my passion. I winded up going to school to become a journalist and was blessed enough to snag an internship which landed me my dream job. I'm currently living the dream I had, but never bothered to make a new one. I started explaining to him that I'm indecisive by nature and that eventually I'll figure it out, but as the words left my mouth they sounded like nothing but a lengthy excuse. He called bullshit on me right away and simply said, "Just make a decision." That's it.
And as I waved good-bye and walked the sand onto the most beautiful beach that I've ever seen, I realized that's how I got here. I decided to come. It really was that simple. I got so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable in social situations that I just decided to come to Hawaii and be more social. And I did.
I'm not saying that this is the case for everyone with SAD, or anyone dealing with any type of psychological disorder but for me it was. I'm also not saying I'm cured either. Since my return to the mainland, I'm trying to apply what I learned from my trip and it's not so easy when you're not operating on vacation brain, but I've decided to try.
It's a very peculiar thing what we let hold us back from reaching our full potential as if we are not in control of own lives. For me, the first step was as simple as deciding and I did that before I even got on the plane.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Originally published on July 23, 2019
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Jazmine A. Ortiz is a creative born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and currently living in Staten Island, NY. She started in the entertainment industry in 2012 and now works as a Lifestyle Editor where she explores everything from mental health to vegan foodie trends. For more on what she's doing in the digital space follow her on Instagram at @liddle_bitt.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Marsai Martin Gets Real About Her Decision To Undergo Surgery To Remove A 'Grapefruit-Sized' Ovarian Cyst
Actress Marsai Martin is showcasing the importance of advocating for one's health after recently opening up about her ovarian cyst surgery. For context, the 18-year-old revealed in a now-deleted Instagram story last December that she underwent a medical procedure to remove the large ovarian cyst that gave her "constant pain" for years, especially during her menstrual cycle.
According to Mayo Clinic, an ovarian cyst is described as a sac "usually filled with fluid" in an individual's ovary or near it. Although it is relatively common, with one in ten women diagnosed with a cyst, many experience little to no symptoms because it usually goes away. Those with pain and discomfort often have a large ovarian cyst, which was the case for Martin.
During a discussion with Women's Health magazine, Martin opened up about her menstrual cycle and when she started noticing the symptoms. The black-ish star told the publication she started her period at 11 but didn't experience any unusual pains until she was 14.
Coincidentally this event occurred a little after she was diagnosed by a medical professional with an ovarian cyst "the size of a small grapefruit."
Martin's Symptoms With A Large Ovarian Cyst:
In light of her diagnosis, Martin didn't think much of it because, at the time, her doctor told her that cysts usually disappear on their own. Over the years, as she got her menstrual cycle, Martin had extreme pain and severe nausea.
Even though she often combated the cramps with medication such as Aleve and naproxen, per doctor's orders, Martin shared that the pain would eventually progress so much that she couldn't keep "food or water" in her system.
Martin also revealed that these symptoms negatively impacted her daily routine, such as work and participating in social activities. The star further explained that she thought these signs were typical and didn't go to the hospital because of what her mother, Carol Martin, previously mentioned and warned her about while discussing the history of her own menstrual cycles.
Martin's Health Took a Toll At Age 17:
All this came to a head when Martin was 17 years old. The Little star decided to go to the hospital because the pain became unbearable.
"But one day, when I was 17, I just couldn't take it anymore. I had extreme cramps, and I was so nauseous, I wasn't able to eat or drink," she said. Martin added that the pain and nausea had limited her mobility.
"It felt like I couldn't move. The slightest sip of water would make me projectile vomit. I had lower back pain, dizziness, migraines, and tender breasts, and on top of that. The pain had been constant from the moment I woke up, and it was so unbearable that I finally went to the ER around 8 p.m.," the star stated.
During her hospitalization, Martin was informed that she was dehydrated and that the pain she was going through was because of the large cyst. Despite already being well aware of the ovarian cyst, which was "9.5 centimeters in diameter," due to her diagnosis years before, Martin shared she didn't know that it was the primary cause of her pain.
Following her stay, Martin's physician would refer her to a gynecologist, who gave her various options to resolve the issue. The list included taking birth control pills to shrink the cyst or having surgery to remove it completely. Martin disclosed after taking two weeks to weigh her options following her 18th birthday, she ultimately decided to undergo the procedure and scheduled it for December 2022.
Although Martin was initially afraid about the operation because she was uncertain how her body would react, all of that disappeared after the surgery. Martin would go on to express that it was one of her best decisions ever.
Following the procedure, even though Martin experienced some pain post-surgery, it ceased as the days passed, and she started moving around. Since the operation, Martin shared that her menstrual cycles have drastically improved.
Martin On Why She Shared Her Story:
Near the end of the interview, Martin explained that one of the main reasons she's been very vocal about her experience with her ovarian cyst by sharing it online is because she doesn't want others to remain silent about their health struggles and wants them to get a "second opinion."
"I hope my story will encourage other women to not accept a life of pain, to get a second opinion. Pain is not normal," she said. "I want other women to talk about their pain, and to keep speaking out until they're taken seriously. And to the women out there suffering silently right now: You owe it to yourself to speak up."
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Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Paramount+