Working out in its many forms has tons of benefits; it boosts your mood, it keeps you in shape, and it keeps your body healthy. Getting moving is a great way to help you cope with anxiety and depression, and it certainly helps to get your mind off of what ever may be troubling you, especially if the workout is intense and fun. It gives you an outlet to relieve stress and so I can see why people believe working out is their therapy.
There’s a saying that the head instructor at my martial arts school likes to say, “come in, train, leave your problems at the door-when you head out, they’ll still be there waiting for you.” And what he has always meant by that is to come to class, have a good time and focus, and enjoy being in the moment so you can train and better yourself.
But the saying actually means a little more in a way he may not have intended. If you work out to forget your problems, then just like my instructor says, they’ll still be waiting at the door for you. Working out is an outlet, and its mental health benefits are proven-but working out is not a substitute for doing the inner work and emotional regulation.
Working out and avoiding the inner work is like having a leaking roof and thinking that because you have a bucket to put under the leak for the water to drip into, that you have everything solved. It may seem like a fix, but it’s a temporary fix.
You can avoid it and pretend you have a solution for as long as you want, but eventually you will need to hire someone to look at your roof and fix what is causing the leak in the first place.
And what always happens when you hire someone to fix a “small” leak or some home repair? The professional looks into it, and not only do you need a whole new roof, but there’s squirrels living in the attic, and there’s a wall that needs to be fixed, too. And after you get a price quote then you wish you never looked into it and just kept the damn bucket for when it rains. What was so bad about a little bucket here and there? You knew there was a problem, but you pretended there wasn’t and you didn’t have to deal with it. But- after you sort through it all, get the repairs, set up a payment plan, and enjoy a nice, safe, home with no leaky roof or pesky squirrels, then you realize it was all worth it.
This is literally what its like to do the inner work, with a therapist, or reading books, learning your patterns, triggers, behaviors, and emotionally regulate. It is hard work, it isn’t always fun- healing is a lifelong journey, and just when you think you’ve reached a mountaintop in your self-journey, you realize it was just a resting spot and get another hurdle to navigate.
Working out is not therapy-punching bags don’t teach you why you got triggered by an off-hand comment someone made, the elliptical won’t help you to learn why you sabotage relationships and push people away, and the weights won’t help you to realize that you internalized the emotional neglect growing up and that’s why you people-please, can’t ask for what you want, say yes to things you hate, or get into codependent relationships. Avoiding this is just putting the bucket under the leak-it works in the meantime, it seems easier, but eventually you have to face what’s really causing your inner turmoil.
What do you think? Are you ready to put away that rusty bucket and really do the work to find yourself and your own peace? What are some books that have helped you? What kind of therapy are you trying or have completed? Leave your thoughts below.
I’ve written about loneliness and coping skills before, but let’s face it; even when we know what to do, sometimes we just struggle with certain feelings when they come around. As humans, we want to feel love, belonging, and comfort and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel connected to others. But- when you feel lonely it can be difficult to see a situation clearly or notice how we may be making our loneliness worse in the moment.
Here are some ways you may be making your loneliness linger
Counting other people’s “blessings”
When I feel dissatisfied with the state of all my relationships or lack thereof, I have a tendency to start thinking of other people I know and begin comparing whose life may be more magical based on my own assumptions of the perceived quantity of their family, friendships, and love life while conveniently glossing over the fact that I have no idea of the quality of these perceived relationships. The truth is, regardless of how many people we think someone might have in their life, in many instances, we really don’t know what the relationship is truly like or if the relationships they have with these perceived people are even satisfying, meaningful, or if these same relationship dynamics that they have are even what we would want for our life.
2. If you are on your own on Friday or Saturday night and you don’t feel good about it- do yourself a favor and stay off social media
Loneliness has a few different outfits-one of them is FOMO. The “feeling of missing out” or the fear of it happens when we are dissatisfied with our current company, especially when that company is ourselves. Remember, being alone and being lonely are two different things, but I’m sure you know that there are tons of times when you were alone and having the time of your life and basking in the moment, and then there are those times where you feel despair, left out, and wondering why is it that everyone seems to have their social life on max, meanwhile your last text was from CVS reminding you to pick up your prescription. What I know is-anytime I am alone and feeling lonely about it I can promise you what added a sting was watching Instagram stories of friends and acquaintances, looking at what they are up to, and comparing it to my current pity party for one. If you know that watching what others are up to is going to make you feel bad, then do yourself a favor and set your social media aside for the evening. This intertwines with point one and it does nothing but turn what could be a period of loneliness into a night of wallowing in despair and it simply doesn’t have to be so.
3. Wishing for things to be different and feeling helpless
There’s a difference between your hopes and dreams being rooted in your own abilities and musing that if only you had more friends, more invites, a committed relationship, THEN you would feel happy. You may not think this in this exact wording, but its certainly underlying in times of loneliness. It’s normal to want human connection- but you need to make sure you are choosing the right people for your life. This is a game of patience and you need to know what your standards are and only accept quality, reciprocal friendships and relationships. You need to feel good enough with yourself that if these relationships are not meeting the mark, you are able to gracefully walk away. I wish I could keep count of all the times in the past where my loneliness mixed in with low self-worth, and a desperation to belong got me into trouble by choosing unhealthy friendships and relationships. It is now the reason why I would rather choose a season of loneliness than pick the wrong people just to fill voids. If you let this desire make you feel desperate for company you will throw your standards out the window.
4. Isolating yourself and expecting other people to magically know you want connection
This step usually comes about after we’ve spent enough time dwelling on the first three points I just wrote about. You can thank your inner critic for convincing you the reason you are lonely is because you aren’t good enough, amongst other unhelpful, negative thinking. We feel alone and then we feel resentful of the people who aren’t reaching out to us because we spent the time convincing OURSELVES that it is correlated to our worth and then project these feelings onto others. None of us can read another person’s mind and know what it is that they want and need especially if they aren’t asking for anything. Sometimes when someone seems to be going it alone people can assume they want space and this can especially ring true if you are known for being independent. It would be like going to a buffet with your friends and sitting at the table with an empty plate while they are going up and getting their food. Your friends notice you not getting food and ask if everything is okay and you say “sure I’m fine,” while in fact not being fine and at the end of the meal feel upset and offended that your friends didn’t “just know” that you wanted food or that they should of got up and brought you a plate while you sat there being hungry and sad. Do you see how insane that thinking is-yet that is what we do when we want company and say nothing. You cannot make your phone ring no matter how long you sit there and hope for it to. We also have to know the difference between wanting connection and wanting validation from others because of not feeling good enough due to our own thoughts and worries that made us think that way about ourselves in the first place.
What are some things you do to get yourself out of feeling lonely? What has worked really well for you? Share your advice in the comments-
How meditation taught me to find peace instead of searching for happiness
By Jessica Militello
Every morning as soon as I wake up I open up my Lumosity Mind app and meditate for 10 minutes. The app has tons of guided meditations and there is one that I revisit called “noticing the ups and downs.”
As humans, our brains are always thinking- part of the art of meditation is not necessarily to have complete calm and silence in your thoughts, but simply noticing yourself getting distracted by a thought or feeling. That in itself is training your mind to notice when it is getting caught up with things that aren’t necessarily important in the moment, or if you are revisiting a situation from the past that is over and done with, or rehearsing for something in the future that hasn’t and may not even happen.
You don’t have to follow every thought that pops up; and you also don’t necessarily have to do anything about what thoughts or feelings are coming up. One of the best things I’ve learned is the delicate art of noticing feelings or thoughts that arise without shame or judgement, simply letting it come and pass. It is normally when we judge ourselves for what we are feeling that we add to it and let it linger. This is how a bad mood can turn into a bad day. Pushing your feelings down only saves them for later and trying to constantly be busy or distracted so that feelings won’t come up will only work for so long; this is still just storing it for another day and time. There are certain feelings that are always harder to digest-loneliness, sadness, anger, anxiety, and grief always seem to carry the most shame. But it has been when I softened my approach toward my feelings and had compassion for what I feel instead of judgement that they come and go more easily. It has also made me learn to appreciate happiness, because like all feelings, they come and go. The search for happiness will always come up short because happiness is a feeling. I am learning that it is better to find peace; peace that when sadness or grief comes to visit that it will go, and peace to enjoy happiness in the moment knowing that it also will come and go. Learning to flow with my emotions is one of the most important lessons that meditation has taught me.
If you don’t meditate or gave up on it because you found yourself still having tons of thoughts and getting distracted, it’s worth it to give it another shot. Trying something new is like trying a new sport or hobby that you’ve never done before. Everything takes time and after a while of being consistent with it, you will definitely notice improvement.
Is there a meditation app you like to use? Is there any music or a place in nature that you seek when you meditate? Leave your comments below-
Some simple pieces of advice that can make a big difference in your healing
By Jessica Militello
When I think about mistakes I made after getting my heartbroken, I was in too much pain to think clearly or make decisions that were healthy for me. And that’s okay. At the time I was too focused on how to soothe my pain, but I tried to make my pain go away by staying near to what caused it in the first place. I wanted to make an article like this for a while but I felt hesitant to be so vulnerable. These are things I learned the hard way after many mistakes. I’m grateful for the lessons and the growth that came from it and I hope this helps whoever needs it.
Find one or two trusted people to share your feelings with
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made right after one breakup in particular was explaining the story to a lot of close friends and acquaintances-it was mostly because the breakup itself was surprising, and it was extremely confusing and painful to me to try to make sense of it. I ended up getting a ton of different opinions-mostly from people who barely even knew him. I ended up hearing things like, “he didn’t really appreciate me, he didn’t think I was “worth” fighting for, his reasons for breaking up weren’t in fact the actual reason and he was just bullshitting me,” things that they had absolutely no way to possibly know unless they were fucking mind-readers or fortune tellers and trust me, these people weren’t experts in anything. In retrospect, thinking of these gem “words of advice” that they decided to share with me sound absolutely ridiculous for anyone to try to guess or assume, but when I was going through the raw pain of this heartbreak and confused, I didn’t know what to believe. It’s important to note that when you are in deep emotional pain, your brain perceives this pain the same as physical pain, your IQ is lower, and the feeling of rejection itself causes pain. It’s also important to note that during a heartbreak you are in the feeling part of your brain-logic does not exist at this point. So let’s add up all of this stuff that’s going on in your mind and heart plus getting shitty opinions from well-meaning people-are you picturing this? Yeah it’s a fucking disaster. The last thing you need when you’re sitting on the floor trying to pick up a million pieces of your heart are people idly standing around telling you that the reason you are in pain is because the person that you just lost didn’t really give a fuck about you and that there’s some “top secret” reason that he broke up with you. To be fair, I truly believe these people were trying*** to be well-meaning. It is hard for us to see other people in pain. We want to make their pain go away, but if you don’t know how, telling someone something that you think will make them magically move on seems like the quick fix in the situation. All it did for me was make me feel ashamed and stupid on top of heartbroken and confused. But thanks to all of the bad advice I got, I can now share a golden piece of advice here. Please- do not do what I did. Part of this was a boundary issue as well, which I did not set at the time, with people insisting I talk about it or pushing me to share my pain by telling their friend/spouse/relative what happened for them to chime in. Your life and pain are not a soap opera to entertain and amuse others and give them the chance to play armchair detective and therapist. Find one person, two people max who you trust, who is a great listener, loving, caring, and validating. State your boundary right away in whether you want to simply vent or if you want advice. You are also allowed to tell someone that what they are saying is hurtful if it is. This time in your grieving is about feeling your loss and simply being where you are. I know-especially if the breakup was surprising in any way that you want answers. Part of this is also that when you are in deep emotional pain, it is your brain that is trying to make sense of why you are in pain so that it can protect you from future threats. But this is not the time to think of and question all of the why’s-this will only hold off your healing. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Stop pretending and performing to yourself, your ex, and your social media followers
For some reason, unbeknownst to my soul, there seems to be some stupid contest right after a breakup of who can appear as if they do not give a fuck. There is no prize for the winner of this contest and yet, we love to play. Unless you are both actors vying for an academy award at the end of the year-do yourself a favor and cut the show and theatrics, especially via social media. How many romance stories have you heard that sounded like, “he broke up with me but once he saw my selfies and how fun, hot, and interesting I was from my IG stories, he came back and now the wedding is next spring in Tuscany.?” Oh wait that’s because things don’t work that way and if someone only changed their mind because of the way you look and how entertaining you are on social media, then good luck trying to keep up that show so that they’ll want to be with you. It would be best at this time to remove him as a follower, stop following him, and make your page private. If he truly wants to reach out-he will call you or text you, he will have a good reason explaining why he is reaching out and be understanding if you are cautious about it because he cares about your feelings instead of playing games and being ambiguous via passive Instagram ‘likes’ and random texts for an ego boost or attention. You will know the difference if that happens. If you feel the need to explain why you are doing this social media removing in order to focus on properly healing then use your own judgement on that. In general, your healing should be the most important thing and going no contact is the best way to begin this process.
3. Don’t try to be friends right away
I get it, you are in pain, trying to accept a loss that you didn’t want, and now you are desperate for some way to be in this person’s life. See point one again about your IQ being lower while you are in pain and being in the feeling part of your mind with logic thrown out the window. I once felt that I was going to be in pain anyway, so the pain of keeping him in my life as a friend immediately after the breakup was better than the pain of letting go. LOL- how wrong I was. Sometimes we just want to find a way to lessen the pain and the loss, it’s our mind again trying to find comfort and not wanting to be in pain. Of course you still want the person in your life, regardless of who ended it-but you can’t keep someone in your life as a friend when you- still have feelings for them, are still attracted to them, still hope to be with them, are actively mourning the loss of them. Do you see why this is not good for you? Any time I thought the pain of holding on was better than the pain of letting go, the universe found ways to slap me back into reality. Hard. Do you really want to find out what they are up to? How would you feel if you saw them hanging out with a girl who might be a friend, but maybe they are hooking up, and going through their social media to compare and assume and put yourself through more pain? I know you don’t want to hear it but no contact is the only way to begin moving on. But I had to learn this the hard way so I’ll let you figure it out after many mistakes, confusion, and more pain. I refused to listen to logic and had to fall on my face more than once before I realized what was good for me.
4. Be where you are
I made this list short and simple on purpose- you’re going through a lot and don’t need to be inundated with tons of advice. Feel what you are feeling-it is normal, it is human. It is not weak or stupid to miss and still care for someone who was a big part of your life. It means the relationship meant something to you, it means that despite all of the heart aches, struggles, and losses throughout your life that you can still feel, you have the ability to love, you trusted yourself enough to let your guard down and be vulnerable enough to risk getting your heart broken in the first place. Understand in a world of apathy and indifference that loving someone and letting them in is the bravest act of all. Take care of yourself, stop judging yourself, blaming yourself, or wondering if you weren’t good enough. Your worth and your happiness is never in anyone else’s hands but your own. Find things that make you happy and small moments that put joy in your heart. You are enough and so worthy and when you are ready, your pain will only help you to grow and become stronger. Please love yourself and be around those who love you and spark joy in your soul. Those moments of joy and laughter will help to soothe you and slowly, over time heal the broken parts of your heart.
Feeling overwhelmed lately? Here’s how to get out of that feeling
By Jessica Militello
There was something about this week; maybe the week starting with a massive snowstorm, the cold, dull winter sky, the never-ending pandemic, and the general sense of not wanting to deal with any of it. By mid-week I started feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, stuck, and hopeless. By the time I allowed this barrage of thoughts to get me feeling stuck in a corner with no way out, I realized I had way too much damn clutter going on. When we start to have one bad feeling, we can tend to let it get the best of us and let it multiply, and we end up with a list of all the things we don’t have, the people who aren’t there, and the things we haven’t accomplished, and start to attach these external things to why we feel unhappy in the moment when it’s ourselves who are doing that for us. No wonder I felt so helpless. I knew this feeling of frustration was definitely not something I wanted to sit with for too long.
So I thought of my conversation the other day with Mary Cornetta from Sort and Sweet and something she mentioned; “Start with one corner.” I decided to take her amazing advice and break things down into smaller steps; mentally I was standing in a proverbial version of the cluttered garage that she mentioned, not even knowing where to start. So instead of thinking of everything at once, I simplified it to one thing at a time so I could start moving. What is one thing I can do today? Make myself breakfast-check. Do my laundry-okay done. Compile a list of article ideas for the guest blogging I’m doing for a martial arts site-complete.; you get the idea here. And gradually, the feeling of frustration lessened. I may not be exactly where I want to be- but I think I need to first make myself something to eat and get my laundry finished so I have something to wear, right? After that, I realized I needed to make a list of what it is that I truly want, because I never want to feel like my happiness is with anyone else or anywhere else but right where I am.
What are simple things you can start doing for yourself to get out of your own clutter? Break it down into smaller steps. Make a list of what you can do, save the rest for later. Have you had any similar feelings lately? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Sort and Sweet’s founder Mary Cornetta tells us how to get organized
By Jessica Militello
Since part of my niche is getting past doubts and unhealthy thought patterns in order to achieve peace within yourself and pursue what truly makes you happy, I knew I wanted to have a chat with Mary Cornetta, the founder of Sort and Sweet, a professional organizing and decluttering brand. While the brand is focused on home and office space, I had a feeling the process of decluttering your mind in order to start out on a dream or new habits would be similar. We talked about clearing out those unnecessary doubts, getting organized, and breaking down goals into smaller steps in order to achieve the life you truly want and deserve.
JM: Tell me about your brand Sort and Sweet and the art of organizing.
MC: I started Sort and Sweet in 2017 after about a decade of wanting to be a professional organizer. I graduated college in 2007 and I went to a NAPO meeting, (National Association of Professional organizers.), so at 20-something years old, I decided I wanted to be an organizer. I thought that it was something I could make a career out of, and interestingly enough, I talked myself out of it. I had a lot of mental clutter; I decided I was too young, I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t have the startup funds to start my own business, I wouldn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t go to business school, all of that. So I waited, I worked a ton of other different types of jobs, and then in 2017, finally I decided, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to be an organizer. I had worked for other organizers, I dabbled in it, I did it for myself, for friends, and family, so I finally just ripped the band-aid off and decided I was good enough, I was smart enough, and I can absolutely do this on my own. About a year later, I met my now business partner Margaret, who I met working for another organizer years prior, we lost touch, and long story short, she became co-owner of Sort and Sweet and we’ve evolved since she officially came on board in January 2019. Primarily we work with the physical side of things, I know you and I are going to talk about the mental side a little bit here, but it’s all tied together.
JM: I really like that you mentioned when you first thought of starting your own business, all those initial doubts came up. And for a lot of people, I think that’s kind of like the start and end sometimes, like they’ll get a really great idea and then all of a sudden, get hit with an avalanche of doubts. How can someone sort through that to get started?
MC: That’s a great question. So it obviously took me a decade to get to that point, and I think when it boiled down to it, the situation that I was in, which was-working for somebody else, not being happy, not being paid my worth, feeling like I was just not living my purpose. And my soul was kind of getting crushed a little bit more every day making the same exact commute every day, it really started to kill me. So my fear became smaller than my pain of being in the situation that I was in, and my frustration and all that. So maybe a better way to put it is my desire to get out of my situation and to work for myself and to live my passion overcame my fear of, “what if I’m not good enough, what if I fail?” That was the changing point for me, when I decided that life is too short and that I needed to go after what made me happy. I knew I had a gift to give to people and when you start thinking about the person that you can help with your gift, versus how scared you are, that also shifts the focus too. It helps you to start to get the confidence to move forward because it absolutely is overwhelming.
JM: And one thing I remember that you’ve told me which was really helpful was getting a part-time job in the beginning while you started your business-so how did you transition from corporate life to self-employed?
MC: I didn’t rush into things, I did leave my corporate 9 to 5 job, but instead of just leaving that with no other means of income, I was able to find, fortunately, a part time job that was very flexible, so I worked it around the business as it was growing. And then when the time came, where I had replaced my income with my business, that’s when I left the part time job, and I’ve been doing it full time ever since. I worked in pharmaceuticals, absolutely unrelated to what I was doing, but it didn’t matter because it paid my bills. And as long as I got my numbers in at the end of the week, my manager didn’t care what days or hours I worked. It was something that I manifested, and I have to point that out. I wrote it down, like everything else in my life. I wrote that I wanted a part time job that pays me X amount of money that is flexible. But you have to be organized to do that. Mentally, you have to be able to switch hats, especially if you’re in a completely different field, like pharmaceuticals and organizing. And because this is leading into the time aspect of things, you have less time. So the more organized you are, in order to physically tackle having less time, that’s super important.
JM: What was a useful first step in getting organized and approaching something like starting a business?
MC: When I decided to start the business, I did things very slow and very meticulous. I made a list of everything I needed. I sort of reverse engineered it, where I thought okay, what is my end result? How do I get one paying client? I need to have a bank account set up, so I have to get a DBA or an EIN number, something that I can give to the bank to open up the account. I need to have a website in order to market [the brand], so I just back pedaled and I wrote down every single thing that I needed to do to get this business up and running. I didn’t have any help, I essentially just googled everything and I asked around, I got referrals, so I did have help in that sense. I wrote down the steps so I could see them, which I think helps a lot of people whenever you have mental clutter, to see in black and white exactly what you need.
JM: When we’re thinking of the whole picture, and we’re already six steps ahead of ourselves, writing it out is such a small and easy thing. And I like how before you were mentioning, like breaking it down into simple steps, like getting one paying client, that makes it so much less overwhelming.
MC: Physical organizing and mental organizing are different, in a sense, but it is the same process. So when I walk into a home that has a ton of clutter and I go into the garage and it’s a hot mess, I could very easily be like, hell no, I don’t even know where to start. Back in the day, I used to be like that, and I’ve trained myself and now my clients work on this too, where we start with one corner, and when that’s done, then we move on to the next one. It’s very similar with our brains, rather than looking at, okay, I have zero business to I want a successful booming business, there’s a ton of things that are super overwhelming in between, so let’s just break it down into one thing that we need to focus on. I write a lot down, I also just get rid of things when I’m done with them, like when I’m done with a notebook, unless there’s something in there that I absolutely need to refer back to, I will most likely either take a picture of it, or I will transcribe it into my Google Drive, and get rid of the notebooks. From a mental standpoint, it’s just acknowledging when we have mental clutter. I worked with a life coach before I started the business, because I realized how much mental clutter I had. I needed somebody to help me get rid of it and to put the positive thoughts in my head, because negative thoughts are mental clutter, so I had to acknowledge first that I had a lot of it, and I was lacking confidence to start this business. There are ways that you can do it yourself, by acknowledging that you have the mental clutter to begin with, catching yourself saying things. Once you start recognizing that pattern of negative thoughts and catching yourself, there’s a lot of different ways [to work on it], but once you acknowledge it, it becomes so much easier to get rid of, but you have to admit it first.
JM: I think even with the act of having clutter in your room or office, that’s like a mental process in itself and that’s why I think it’s similar to the mental clutter and what you were saying about stopping it in its tracks so it doesn’t become a habit.
MC: Yeah- you want to stop it at its source. I’m going to say a couple of things now that hopefully will be big light bulbs. Number one, physical clutter is an external representation of internal clutter. So a lot of times when we have chaos internally, it shows- the sink is filled with dishes, the laundry is piled up, countertops get piled up, because we’ve got a lot going on. And another very important component of clutter; it’s not just physical, it’s not just mental-we clutter up our calendars by over scheduling ourselves. And I think, post-COVID it’s a little bit different. I definitely know for myself, I slowed down despite going back to work full time. Once quarantine was over, it just wasn’t the same as it was before, and that’s not a bad thing. But a lot of times we let clutter pile up because we’re just go-go-go all the time and we overstuff our calendar. The clutter is basically unnecessary shit; the physical is unnecessary stuff in your house that you don’t need, and the mental is unnecessary thoughts and emotions that are taking over your brain and body that you do not need.
JM: Sometimes people will say they don’t have time or it’s too late, but do you think that is just like clutter and what advice could you give to those people?
MC: When it comes to not having enough time, or someone feeling like it’s too late for them to go ahead and to start living their dream life, I’m going to be blunt, it’s just an excuse. Everybody has the same exact 24 hours and it really only means that you don’t want it bad enough. But some people don’t necessarily realize how badly they want something because they’re so crowded with the clutter of their day to day lives and they don’t know their “why.” It’s hard for them to get out of their every day, clutter and stressful schedules to actually sit back and picture what their lives would be like on the other side. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t want something bad enough. But you have to stop saying you want something and not do anything about it because that means you don’t want it. So by writing down your “why” and really scheduling time out to picture what you want and why you want it, it’ll help you realize how badly you want it.
To find out more about Sort and Sweet go to- sortandsweetny.com or find them on Instagram- Instagram.com/sortandsweet
“There’s always going to be a reason to create [..] Just because the world stopped in the way it has for now, it doesn’t mean that our creativity has to stop as well.”- Rick Quintana
By Jessica Militello
Ricky Quintana who fittingly goes by the artist name MENYU is an English teacher, father, and husband by day, while at night, he delves into his creative mind to form another piece of expression through his mediums as DJ, singer, songwriter, producer, poet, and beatboxer. He is constantly creating and putting out new projects and I was interested in learning more about his mindset in how he comes up with ideas and what keeps him inspired. He recently released the Dali Moon, which he considers some of his most honest and vulnerable songs yet. I spoke to Quintana about the inspiration behind his work as well as what inspires him and what keeps him creating no matter what.
JM: What is the Dali Moon?
RQ: So normally, when I do any facet of art, I go by MENYU, but Dali Moon is a totally different representation of another side of me. It’s the vulnerable side that deals with my personal issues stemming from my childhood, to present day life, to my worry of the future. So it’s kind of my true other personality that I have never shown to anyone else outside of my own personal realm, which is the reason why it’s called Dali Moon. It consists of two characters known as Salvador soul and Moon Sin.
JM: And were other musicians also involved for this project?
RQ: It’s originally just me; I composed and created everything, the vocals, I wrote all the songs, the original song lyrics are mine. But when I create the music, it is no longer me, it’s these two, different personalities that have existed inside of me that were created by trauma, disorder, anxiety, hurt, betrayal, depression, and anger. These characters that we create subconsciously, are the ones who are coming out through my music. As a poet we have a tendency to write how we feel, some people have a diary. This is, in a sense, my diary, but it’s hard for me to talk about it so these personas that exist inside of me are the ones who are speaking my past, present and my reality.
JM: Do you feel with the pandemic creating more time to sit with ourselves, that it inspired this kind of really honest writing?
RQ: Yes, it was definitely a huge inspiration for me. I can’t function unless I am artistically productive. But being in this pandemic, it’s hard for us to really function the way we normally have, and the nighttime has always been the worst for me, ever since I was a little kid. So because of that, I was always in my thoughts and my anxiety kicks in. And there were times where I would write poetry, or come up with music, I’d produce a song here and there. Some of my best songs that I’ve produced throughout the years have been done at 2, 3 in the morning. But this is an entirely different mindset for me where I’m thinking about my future, relationships of the past, my present relationship, insecurities, my age, and health. I started thinking about my past with my family, I lost both my parents and I had a really tough childhood. That sounds cliche, I think everybody has suffered a severe childhood in one way or another. And with all of that, I started feeling like an overpoured glass of milk, you don’t know when to stop, and it just overflows and now it’s just this huge ass mess all over the table. So I knew I wanted to create music, I wanted to do something different. Instead of writing about my problems and my vulnerabilities, I’d rather just do it in a different way that expresses who I really am.
JM: Do you think when people hear these songs it could be cathartic for them to hear someone else being really honest about what they’re going through?
RQ: That’s a very good question, so the album doesn’t have a title. The title is just two eyes, like when we used to type emojis on a Blackberry back in the day, and the reason why I named it that is because I want the music to be a reflection of whatever way you take it. The title can say so much, but sometimes symbols say so much more. Even with the logo, it’s a crescent moon and Salvador Dali’s mustache. I’m a huge Dali fan and he’s so out there, but his stuff is so surreal. So that’s my music, it may sound confusing, it may seem a little uncomfortable with some parts, especially with the first song, “OCD,” but it’s open to interpretation. People can ask me what the song was about, or they can just take it in and interpret it in their own way and absorb it in a way that might relate to them. Which is the reason why it’s titled the way it is, so it’s your perception of the album.
JM: For artists who may be newer or unsure of what to do with the stuff they are creating or how to even begin to get some sort of following of their work, what advice can you give?
RQ: So there’s always a following and that’s one thing that artists should understand, not to feel hopeless, because there’s always going to be a group of people who are looking for your exact expression. Nowadays, we’re so drowned by this ocean of simplicity and repetition, but if you put a hashtag that is representative and reflective of your craft, that’s who is going to appreciate your artistry. Tik Tok obviously is one of the top three most popular social media platforms now. Also, if you really want to boost your platform, look up artists that are in the same category. I consider myself to be like new wave or new wave experimental, electro, so what I’ll do is, I will look for people who follow that hashtag, who might have a large following and believe it or not, with little comments, you know, people pay attention. And last is the consistency, we have to be consistent.
JM: When it comes to releasing new work, how do you make decisions of what you put out and the order in which you release new projects?
RQ: I’m very goal oriented and it’s also the experience that I have, so I start off wherever I’m starting, you know. Even when I wrote my second book of poetry, it was not an intention. My goal was not to write a second book, but I started posting poems. And without even realizing it, I had about 25 poems, so I decided to write another book. But while I was creating the album, I was writing some other songs that I really enjoyed, but I didn’t want to rush to post them because they didn’t sound good just as instrumentals, they needed the vocals. And I think with real artists, and I’m writing ‘real’ in bold letters, real artists don’t rush anything. That’s why there’s no relevance to Soulja Boy or [Tekashi] 69, because everything is rushed. That’s why you haven’t heard Kendrick Lamar drop anything recently because artists take their time, because they’re going for greatness. So once I started recording the songs, and they were longer, and I needed vocals, I already had a plan to release an album.
JM: What about those who feel frustrated or hindered by the pandemic and its restrictions?
RQ: My advice is that there’s always a way to create and there’s always going to be a reason to create. This pandemic should not be a reason why you have to stop. Just because the world stopped in the way it has for now, it doesn’t mean that our creativity has to stop as well. We’re still going to be thinking about the obstacles in our lives and inspirations, and just because we might not be playing shows the way we used to, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still cater to our audience. So the pandemic is, you know, obviously, everybody’s struggling; I lost a lot of gigs. I was supposed to DJ a gig in the Dominican Republic, and the week we were shut down was the week I was supposed to leave, so I lost thousands of dollars from DJing alone. It’s a struggle, but it shouldn’t stop us from creating and finding a new platform.
JM: Where is Dali Moon available to listen to?
RQ: It’s on Spotify, Amazon music, YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, Apple Music, Tik Tok, and Instagram.
JM: Is there anything else that you want to mention that I didn’t ask?
RQ: I will say one more thing; I think that it’s important to be original. Just because you want to get some sort of notoriety or fan base, you follow what you think is poppin’ right now, but that’s not going to last and I guarantee you’re not going to last. It’s just artificially flavored fake sugar as art, so you always have to be sugar in the raw.
Follow MENYU at Instagram.com/DJMENYU and find more of his work at Instagram.com/thedalimoon and DJMENYU.com
His new album Dali Moon is available on all listening platforms
Q&A with Ashlyn Coco, the owner and creator of AshLash
By Jessica Militello
AshLash is an online lash company based in California that was started in 2017 by entrepreneur, model, creative, and ultimate Hollywood glamour queen, Ashlyn Coco. I first discovered her lashes via Instagram at some point in 2018. I remember scrolling through the feed and seeing images of the golden era of Hollywood and its glamorous women, the color pink, Lana Del Rey quotes scattered throughout many of the captions, and lashes that seemed to perfectly compliment its wearers each and every time. I was always fascinated and inspired by how someone would even go about starting their own line. Ashlyn was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions via email on what inspired her and how she used her dreams, passion, hard work, and tons of research in order to create her dream lash brand.
JM: Where did you first get the inspiration to start a lash brand?
AC: I got the inspiration to develop a lash brand based on the fact that what I truly wanted in a lash was not available on the current market. In the many years of wearing lashes I felt that they were either too heavy, too itchy, or not quite cut how I would want them – or a combination of all! I also felt packaging was really lacking. Like most, I’m a sucker for presentation, and thought how wonderful it would be to create a box that evoked my style, and something I could carry my lashes in. I was always losing my lashes, forcing me to buy them more often. Any of the ones I was using, I usually wore about three times, then discarded. This was another thing that made me wonder if I could create a brand with all the things I really wanted for myself, and probably many others!
JM: Do you own AshLash by yourself?
AC: I began as a sole proprietor. To my surprise, there was interest from a few people to invest in my idea. I was fortunate to get to work with others who I still think of as my close friends, and mentors, who helped me really bring my brand into the public eye! I currently own AshLash.
JM: I love how your aesthetic combines old Hollywood glamour, pin-up girls, movie stars, and current singers who’ve subscribed to that vibe like Lana Del Rey- what inspired you to market your brand this way?
AC: I had no idea that there were so many people like me, and that there was such a community based on a certain “aesthetic.” I noticed this style was gaining traction on Instagram throughout different subcultures/fandoms. I just sort of created my brand based on an amalgam of all things I loved personally, and it seemed to capture so many different people, coming from different interests!
JM: When did you first become interested in the old films, movie stars, etc.-and how has it shaped your opinions on beauty?
AC: I love this because the memories are so vivid. I spent a lot of time growing up in upstate New York, around my traditional Italian family. All of the houses I spent time in were built in the early 20th century, and the old music was always playing. My uncles had old Playboys, pin-up magazines, and just about any vintage memorabilia in the basements. I loved that nostalgic feeling, even before I really knew what that was. I think my family just kept it “old school” automatically, as if nothing had changed, so it was all I knew!
JM: What is your background before AshLash?
AC: Anything artistic! I went to cosmetology school as a teen, but realized I wanted to do a little bit more. I also loved fashion, creating, and designing new ideas/products. I began my own swimwear line with my Dad many moons ago!
JM: How do you choose the names and styles of your lashes?
AC: For some, I thought of people who inspired me, and tried to tie it to a modern take on a lash that they would wear today. For others, I thought of “looks” I would want to create and based the names on vibes/ matching aesthetics I wanted the lash to imbue.
JM: Why was it important for your lashes to be vegan faux mink?
AC: When I began all my research and sampling process, I really learned a lot about the materials and where things come from, if not synthetic. Personally, the mink lashes on the market were beautiful yes, but very heavy and not so comfortable, which went against what I had originally set out to create – a comfortable lash. I had done more research on the confusing “cruelty-free, mink lashes,” and realized that there was indeed cruelty behind it. Of course, I didn’t think it was ethical to use animal products for vanity. I understood why people wanted mink based on the natural curl, and appearance, but it inspired me to find that with a synthetic lash.
JM: How much research and networking are involved in starting a beauty brand?
AC: SO much. The process is very hard, but if you learn from the ground up on your own, through trial and error, nothing is more valuable! Being self-taught is very important, and things will continue to happen if you find the right people and mentors.
JM: How did you know where to get started or what the first step was to begin a lash company?
AC: I did have a little experience from creating brands before. Dreaming up the branding is the fun part but taking it to paper is another thing. Sourcing was an important first step, because moving forward with a superior product is first and foremost!
JM: What are your memories of when you first started promoting the brand and trying to build a client base?
AC: I think that because I already had a little Instagram community of people with similar interests, it was definitely a head start on targeting my client base. I remember being nervous, but also very excited that I could finally give someone a new glamorous option for their beauty routine. I knew our packaging was unique, and I remember having fun photographing the little powder boxes (we have patented!)
JM: How did you know which lash manufacturer was best for you and what was that process in finding one like?
AC: This was extremely hard. The US currently does not have any infrastructure or factories to create lashes, making all false lashes imported. I began by testing, testing, testing. A lot of lashes are very bad quality. They may look beautiful, but the durability and feel in real life is crucial for quality. My manufacturer is wonderful because they have really taken my sketches to life and created what I had hoped for in not only the lash itself, but also the packaging. I went through hundreds of samples, different materials, making methods, and sketches back and forth, with many different companies.
JM: Did you have any doubts or worries about starting a brand and having success-what inspiration did you go to in order to overcome it?
AC: Always! I worry constantly, haha. Mainly because I get overwhelmed with ideas, and have a hard time figuring out what to move forward with, and failing. There is never a crystal ball, so you have to take the chance and see how it goes. Starting small is a good thing, and if it’s a small investment with your time or money – then start! Ensconce yourself in learning on your own, every single day. In this case, I would definitely say my Dad inspired me to overcome any obstacle, or excuse not to start.
JM: Do you think social media has been your most effective method for spreading the word and building a client base?
AC: Yes! This was how the brand probably captured most of its fanbase, over anything else.
JM: Has the pandemic had an effect on your business in any way, if yes-what ideas have you come up with in adaptation to it?
AC: In a way, but not how you would think. People might want to be more frugal in these uncertain times, or some may want to create from home, and want to splurge on beauty products. My idea might seem very odd in response, but with the state of the world, I have felt it a little difficult to promote products as often. We are always around and running though!
JM: For 2021, are there already some new lash styles and other accessories in the works to come out?
AC: So glad you asked, as we’re quietly working on a collaboration due in time for V-day. Can’t wait for you to see what it is! ❤
Check out AshLash on Instagram at @Ashlashofficial or go to the website to add some glamour in your life at www.ash-lash.com