Friday, August 26, 2016

THIS is why I blog

I will be the first to admit that I grew up extremely nerdy. I absolutely LOVED school! I woke up every morning eager to learn, and I couldn't get enough. In fact, I can still remember the days I would cry because I was forced to stay home because I was too sick. I was so proud of having perfect attendance, and I didn't realize there was even the option to not do your homework until I was in high school. I even asked my parents to enroll me in summer school programs, even when I was already excelling beyond my grade level and it wasn't required. I still highly value education and do my best to continue to learn in every aspect of my life. Hopefully this gives you enough background to where my story begins.

Learning HTML
When I was 11 years old, while other typical 6th grade girls were concerned about their acne, getting braces, & figuring out how to get their crush to notice them, I was busy teaching myself HTML. (Yes, you read that correctly. I taught myself HTML when I was 11 years old.

The first website I created and managed was titled "Neecie's Mystic Universe". (I know right? My eleven year old self was IN LOVE with that one! LOL) The layout was simple, and the font was adorable and rainbow colored. My content included a lengthy biography describing myself (hair color, eye color, my likes & dislikes, etc.), random fictional stories and poems I had written, and these digital dolls (pictured below) that I would create and/or customize by request. 



It was hosted by angelfire.com (now angelfire.lycos.com apparently?), and despite the constant, annoying pop up ads, I was so proud of it and myself! Everything my audience saw was coded by me. The website design and content was created and shared by me, and not many eleven year olds at the time could say that. I eagerly logged on every day to see numbers on my my guest counter go up and check for any new entries in my guest book. 

Keep in mind, at this time, my parents limited my computer usage. (As any good parent should with all the technology preventing kids from playing outside nowadays!) I was only allowed on the computer for 2 hour blocks of time according to a schedule that my dad had created. I was so obsessed with my website that I begged my siblings to give me their computer time slots. My younger brother always gave up his time willingly as he never wanted to use it anyway, but my older sister often said no just to spite me. (Mind you, she wouldn't even use her time on the computer. She just didn't want to let me have hers! Older sisters... So mean!)

Silly Little Girl
The summer before I started high school, I decided my website needed an upgrade. It had to grow and change, just as I was transitioning into a new school. This is when "Neecie's Mystic Universe" evolved into "Silly Little Girl". 

Also, around this time, I received an offer to be "hosted" by the owner of "iwontbeignored.net". I forget her actual name, but I do remember that she was a bit edgy and obsessed with Linkin Park. The only thing that mattered to me at the time was that she saw potential in me and my website. She wanted to give me free web space under her domain, and thus, I was officially pop-up ad free at "sillylittlegirl.iwontbeignored.net". 

My content was new (more short fictional stories, poems, etc.), and my layouts improved as I learned more HTML as well as simple Javascript. I was thrilled each time I updated my layout (Silly Little Girl version 2.0, 3.0, so on and so forth.) Whenever my closest friends were absent from school, I'd spend my entire lunch hour in the library coding away. 

As my focus turned to prepping for the SATs and applying to colleges in my Junior and Senior year of high school. Silly Little Girl began to be more and more neglected by me. I also became more active in Dance, Cheerleading, Drama, as well as other clubs. Updates in content became few and far in between, until I was forced by my host to relinquish my domain space due to inactivity. In the years following, I focused majority of my creativity into Dance. I didn't focus on coding or writing again until my first semester in college. 

Writing 101
One of my 1st memories in college was my first and last day in my Writing 101 class. After brief introductions, we were given a short story to read and were asked to write a brief in-class essay before leaving. I was the first to finish, and in the time it took me to walk back to my dorm room, my professor had emailed me to inform me that he was moving me into a more advanced Writing 10 class instead. 

I was ecstatic to be writing again, and even after getting my writing prerequisites for my major, I still took creative writing classes just for fun. I've always valued any way I could express my creativity. With so many thoughts constantly floating around in my head at any given moment, I felt an irrational need to express myself in any way that I could be it through writing, dance, and eventually vlogging and creating YouTube videos. 

Denise Joyce > MorganFreeman7
Most of you know the story behind my psuedonym "MorganFreeman7". For those of you who don't, when I initially launched my YouTube channel, I wanted a way to explore YouTube realm while remaining anonymous. This way, in the case that my videos and channel was a complete disaster, I could delete it without being embarrassed or anyone knowing. On the flip side, I fell in love with creating new video content and as my channel continued to grow, I knew that I wanted to re-brand. MorganFreeman7 was a mask I had been hiding behind. I wanted to be ME! And I wanted my audience to know the real me as well. 

I initially started this blog on June 8th in 2011, as a supplement to my YouTube channel, whenever I got too busy to film. It was meant to be a place for me to stay connected with you all. If I wasn't uploading videos, I was usually blogging and vice versa. 

I eventually revamped my blog and created the layout you see now, including the logo you see on my YouTube channel as well as in the lower right-hand corner of my videos. I want to grow my personal empire as ME! I want you all to think of "Denise", not Morgan Freeman when you view or interact with my content. 

Self-expression is a powerful tool, and I think it's the most effective when you're truly expressing who you are. MorganFreeman7 was a mask that represented my fear, my hesitation, and my self-doubt. Though it will forever be part of my story, I think this blog and me choosing to re-vamp, re-launch, and re-introduce myself proudly and fearlessly is the most important part of my story. 

XO,
Denise




Friday, August 19, 2016

Away from Home... in London, Paris, & Rome


The highlight of 2016 by far was my 10 Day Europe trip in London, Paris, & Rome this past January. I decided that I wanted to travel during my birthday month last Summer, which gave me plenty of time to save up money and allocate my PTO accordingly. Through my most recent travels, internationally (London, Paris, & Rome) and within the US(Seattle, WA, Austin, TX, & NYC), I've discovered that even though travel is definitely a luxury, the experiences I've gained from being out of my element and thrown into an unknown, unexplored city (at least to me) is PRICELESS!


MY HOME AWAY FROM HOME
After extensive research, I purchased a 10-Day Europe trip to London, Paris, & Rome through CONTIKI. As mentioned in a previous blog post, this was my first time traveling internationally without my parents, so choosing a group where I could easily make new friends seemed ideal. (Note: My sister, Danielle, was there with me too, but I'm definitely looking into doing more solo traveling!)

Before I get into the trip itself, I can't not recognize these amazing individuals. I didn't realize it then, but these wonderful ladies whom I met by chance would soon become my travel family. (We still keep in touch and make plans to hopefully travel together in the near future.) I've said before that I get awkward and painfully shy at the most inopportune moments, but that never happened during my trip, mainly because of these girls. With them, I became more confident approaching and interacting with strangers and felt free to ask an exuberant amount of questions. 



LONDON
The morning of my 1st full day in London, while I was eating my English Breakfast, my sister and I sat next to Marija, who soon after introduced us to Claudia, Marissa, and Michelle. (Pictured above clockwise from bottom: Claudia, Marija, my sister Danielle, Marissa, Me, & Michelle) Though we were from different parts of the globe (Austraila, Canada, Italy, Serbia, & the United States), we quickly bonded over our excitement of being in a foreign country and getting to see what London had to offer. We discussed our plans for the day then headed to the London Underground, making our way to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards.


In the days after, we saw Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the British Museum, Tate Modern, King's Cross (Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4). We even got to see a West End Musical! 






LONDON TO PARIS
Though the day from England to France was uneventful for the most part, we took a ferry followed by a coach ride into Paris. On the coach, we passed by the spot of the Paris attacks from the weeks prior. It was truly surreal. 


I also really wanted to share my experience seeing fields and fields of Syrian refugees camping along the French countryside. It was heartbreaking to see so many people with nowhere to go. We even had check points along our route to ensure that no one had tried to stow away on our coach to Paris. Our tour guide shared that though they're technically not allowed to be where they are, the French government understands that they cannot go home and there's no where else to send them until the EU makes a final decision. 


PARIS
Whenever someone asks me which of the three cities was my favorite, I always say Paris for many reasons. The first reason being the beauty of the city itself, followed by it's fascinating history, art, and architecture. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I had retained my basic "traveling" French from high school. I quickly became the translator for our group. Some of the girls had negative experiences dealing with Parisians, but once I intervened with a "Pourriez-vous me dire..." (Can you please tell me) attitudes immediately changed and Parisians who once claimed to not speak English could very clearly. I confidently asked for directions, ordered food, and translated between French and English for servers, bartenders, and taxi drivers.

I've been to Paris once before with my family, but returning as an adult was a completely different experience. Seeing the landmarks, taking the Metro, and roaming the streets without a map (because I knew how to ask for directions) was exhilarating!






ROME
Last but definitely not least, ROME! Though the city itself was not as architecturally beautiful as Paris, it was amazing to randomly come across ancient ruins around every corner. The city was abundant in art: sculptures, tapestries, & paintings. The buildings themselves were works of art in their architecture.





Being Catholic, I was really looking forward to Vatican City. I felt in complete awe within the Vatican Museum, St. Peter's Basilica, and staring up at Michaelangelo's ceiling and back wall in the Sistine Chapel. I felt a spiritual connection as I took it all in. (Note: Photography isn't allowed within the Sistine Chapel, so I do not have any photos to share of the ceiling or the back wall. Though there were others who blatantly ignored the rules and took photos regardless, I couldn't even fathom being so disrespectful in a holy place.)




The Colosseum was amazing! It was the highlight of Rome for my sister. I knew it was massive, but I didn't realize the intricate details of each level within as well as the underground labyrinth.




This city was my favorite place to eat for quite obvious reasons. I woke up every morning looking forward to a foamy cappuccino. (Cappuccinos here in the US can't even compare!) Rome practically ruined me for all Italian food. I can't eat bruschetta, pizza, pasta, or gelato without making a comparison.








I definitely want to return to all three cities one day, but I have a lot of other cities/countries to cross off my list first. The thing that I personally love most about travelling is your ability to completely immerse yourself in a different culture and lifestyle. The more time I spent in each city, the more I learned about each city's distinct identity. I could picture myself living in each one of these cities loving life. I have a much deeper appreciation of culture, history, art, and architecture. 

I've made a promise to myself to continue to explore the world. I want to go to places that I've never been to before, whether they're in the US or halfway around the world. I want to continue to get lost in new places and remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, there's so much more happening outside of my little bubble that I call home. 

XO,
Denise

Monday, August 15, 2016

29: Do things that scare you & embrace new beginnings!


I don't know what it is about the number 29 that irks me so much. I've never been one to be ashamed of getting older, but somehow when I turned 29 this past January, all I wanted to do is speed up time so I could already officially say I was 30.
It's the end of my twenties, and I'm honestly proud to say that I've changed tremendously in the past decade. In fact, I wouldn't even want to hang out with my early 20-something self at this point. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I wanted for majority of that time. If I could go back in time and slap myself and guide myself on the right track sooner, I wouldn't hesitate. But I digress, that's neither here nor there. 

It's mid-August, and I'm proudly reflecting on how this year has changed me thus far. Month after month, I've found myself doing things that scare me, which inevitably sparked a tremendous amount of personal growth and changed my outlook on new experiences.

TRAVEL
In January, as a birthday present to myself, I traveled to London, Paris, and Rome. This was my first time flying internationally without my parents or a friend who was familiar with the country, spoke the native language, etc. As an introvert, I was terrified and kept running through the worst-case scenarios in my head. But I threw caution into the wind, and being the kind, yet resourceful person that I am, I made a group of friends at breakfast during my first full day in London. We ended up becoming extremely close over the next days we spent together. (Also, don't worry - I'll get into the full details of my travels another day!)


TATTOOS
During my Euro trip, while in Paris, I was inspired by two of my new friends to get my very first tattoo. As I was heading to Rome, I was forced to say goodbye without heading with them to the tattoo parlor. 

Bear in mind, I've always considered myself as someone who would NEVER get a tattoo. I tend to change my mind often, and in the past, things that I've considered getting tattooed on my body I ended up deciding against days/weeks later. I was terrified of scarring my smooth, brown skin with something that I'd regret. 

In February, I got the quote "J'y suis jamais allé mais j'en rêve" tattooed down my back over my spine. This translates to "I've never been there but I dream". I love traveling and exploring the unknown, and I felt this quote truly encompasses that. Plus, as I was inspired to get it in Paris, getting it in French brought an additional personal element to it. (I took French in High School by the way. I'm pretty damn near fluent.)


In May, I got another two, small tattoos on a whim for my friend's birthday. Not only did I get them for a steal during a Friday the 13th Flash Sale ($13 + $7 included tip per tattoo), but I love them just as much as my first tattoo. 

I got a small semi colon on my right wrist and delicate, baby's breath flowers on my inner left wrist. The semi colon not only represents my personal identification as a "Grammar Nazi", but I also support the Semicolon Project. The flowers represent growth. 


ONLINE DATING
If you ask any of my friends or family, they'll tell you that I'm an extremely lazy dater. I've never been someone who actively desires to be in a relationship. The relationships that I've had in the past were never of my own personal efforts. I honestly don't need to be in a relationship to feel happy or complete, but if I find someone whom I admire that adds to my life in a positive way, I'm more than happy to open myself to them. Who doesn't want someone that can make them even happier than they already are? 

In the past, I considered my singleness like unemployment. If I'm not actively looking for a relationship, I'm not "technically" included in the single population, right? lol

This year, I joined Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, and happn. It was mostly because my best friend, Jessica, forced me, so she could live vicariously through my dating life. Most of the people I connected with were only because of her. I usually never accept last minute date requests, but she forced me to accept several dates with less than 24 hour notice. It drove me absolutely nuts to miss my usual Bikram yoga or Taekwondo classes! lol 

Dating is SCARY, especially when you're introverted like me. I found it very difficult to open up to complete strangers. I know I get really awkward and painfully shy at times. I do have pretty good instincts about how well I vibe with someone, and I absolutely hate small talk. I was also surprised to come across so many people that I knew in real life. (These people were immediately swiped left! If you already know me in real life, why do we need a Dating App to reconnect?!)

Actively dating again forced me to really put myself back out there. I missed having a more active social life. It also taught me more about what I want in a partner. Though I started dating with the expectation that I'd get a lot of free meals out of it, I'm happily more in tune with how I carry myself, and I fully trust my instincts when considering the character of the person sitting in front of me. 


FLYING TRAPEZE
A big part of my responsibilities as a leader is planning positive team engagement. In May, our team decided to learn how to fly trapeze together, and (surprise, surprise) I am scared of heights! 

I still remember struggling up the narrow, shaky ladder and holding on for dear life on the platform. I did my best to slow my breathing and kept telling myself "You can do this!" over and over in my head. 

I surprised myself the moment I placed my hands on the swinging bar and jumped from the platform. As I was soaring through the air, I felt fearless. I followed instructions well. I was hanging by my knees and even performed a flipping dismount in the air. 

It's true when they say that fear is all in your head. Not that I plan to go bungee jumping or sky diving anytime soon, but after flying trapeze, they've both definitely been confidently added to my long term goals list!


LEAVING MY COMFORT ZONE
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was born at the San Francisco Children's hospital and lived in the city until I was three. My parents bought a house in the suburbs soon afterward, where I lived for the remainder of my childhood. 

I did move to Merced, CA while I was attending college at UC Merced, but I moved back in with my parents once I graduated. Once I got my first salary job, I moved a little further south, but still in the peninsula. 

I officially moved to the South Bay last Wednesday. The commute to work has been a bit of a challenge to get used to, but overall, I'm happy with the change. I left my comfort zone behind. I know that true personal growth requires you to feel uncomfortable and awkward in the unknown. Every day since my move has been a new adventure. I'm completely unfamiliar with my surroundings. It almost feels as if I'm on vacation. I find myself thinking "This is your life now. This is your new home. Get used to it." every single day.


There's still four more months of 2016, and I'm ready and willing to take on whatever life throws in my direction. I encourage you to embrace anything that scares you. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover what you're capable of. 

XO,
Denise

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A grateful heart is a happy heart...


It's hard to believe that it's been over a year, since my last blog post. Looking back on the late Summer and Fall of 2015, I realize now that I inevitably reached a plateau. It happens to the best of us. The last time this happened to me was about four years ago. 

I had my quarter of a life crisis the week before my 26th birthday in December of 2012. It came as a huge shock to me, as reaching 25 hadn't been a big deal. But suddenly, as I was heading into my "late" twenties, it hit me that real changes needed to be made. I was nowhere near where I wanted to be in my life or my career. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreams of doing it BIG! In fact, I told my dad that I wanted to be the 1st female president of the United States before I had even started kindergarten. (You can ask him yourself if you don't believe me, though it looks like Hillary will beat me to the punch... /sigh

As I grew older, my interests changed, but I was always certain that I wanted my career and my passion to come together. Assuming you're not a stranger to my blog, you'll know that I started a Beauty & Fashion YouTube Channel in May of 2011. Though it was started out of boredom with my life and stagnant Banking career, my channel truly nurtured my creativity and sparked an unknown passion for Beauty, deep inside of me.

After two years of building my personal brand and increasing my audience, I won an Instagram contest sponsored by Benefit Cosmetics & ipsy. Claiming my prize on ipsy.com, I found myself clicking into the "Careers" page and deciding on a whim to apply for an entry-level customer care position. Somehow, the stars aligned for me. I received an email within 30 minutes to schedule a phone screen, and I received my verbal offer to join the ipsy team within the next few days.

I honestly still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a late Sunday afternoon as I was hiking up Mission Peak in Fremont, CA with my friend Dianna from college. I was so ecstatic to see the call appear on my phone, and despite the heat, sweat, and lack of shade, I knew that I had to take this call of destiny. lol

As of September 30th, it'll officially be 3 years that I've been with ipsy. Two promotions and several raises later... I can honestly say that I love my job. I'll be forever grateful for the opportunities given to me, as well as being able to work alongside such amazing, talented, & inspiring individuals. 

I recently read the book "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero, and it's really opened my eyes and put everything I've experienced so far in life into perspective. 

I'm an extremely goal-oriented person, and I love that about myself! Nothing excites me more than physically sitting down with a pen & paper and writing down exactly what I want to do and accomplish in the short and long term, along with the steps that I'm going to take to get me there. 

I was recently promoted into a leadership role and though I'm mildly terrified of being a bad boss, I've decided to flip on my "Badass" switch. A good leader doesn't wallow in complacency. I've spent too long reflecting on the plateau I hit at the end of last Summer. I need to do what I love and do best: "SET GOALS & CRUSH THEM!" I've never underestimated the returns of an investment in myself, and that's certainly not going to change anytime soon! 

XO,
Denise