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There is an age that every woman keeps in their mind; the age where all the jeans fit, we are able to see ourselves as beautiful, and our social lives were buzzing faster than a newly charged vibrator. We were satisfied inside and out. 

Mine was seventeen. I was dating the love of my life, I had just bought my sister's share of the '73 baby blue Volkswagen bug so it was all mine. It was also the year I was at the top of my ball game having received the First Team PIL (Portland Interscholastic League) Award for a successful softball season throwing people out at home from center field. I was also a scholar-athlete. I was the shit.

Most look to their former self for the wrong reasons; she was thinner than I am now, she was younger, she had no wrinkles: "I want that back" some would say. I've been guilty of exhibiting these behaviors as well. I'm no better.

A few years back I started to admire my seventeen-year-old self and starting asking questions of her, having become so far removed from my former self I became thought of in the third person: what did that girl have then that she doesn't have now that made her feel like she was the shit? I had taken to processing my life as being a witness to it instead of the owner of it, and I became disgusted with what I had seen.







That little girl had a lot of confidence. Through the cracks, I could start to see her in me again, and eventually, seventeen-year-old me just wouldn't stand for my bullshit any longer. I had been beating myself up so badly that it was high time to thrust a cease and desist order upon my sorry self.

What I saw in my stretch marks and under eyes was the weight of personal failure after failure. I didn't see the bad ass. Blinded by the physical signs of aging, I was unable to recognize that the wisdom I now possessed could only have been gained through struggle, instead, I saw only the wrinkles the process had unveiled. Wrinkles that come with a life having been lived. I had become a stranger to myself, barely recognizable. 

Exhausted, I decided to finally forgive myself. Watching myself struggle for so long in the third person had humanized and humbled me. What I started seeing was all the success I had achieved amidst all of that perceived failure. Adversity is required for growth, and growth comes with a cost. The weight of self-judgment had become such a burden that it blinded my ability to see the best parts of me: the confidence I knew I had in myself that was there all along. It was just buried under years of bullshit. Bad personal relationships had helped to weaken my strength. Once I forgave myself I stopped seeing a warn down middle-aged woman and instead started seeing someone who had become more empowered and confident by having conquered the struggles. I felt gratitude for having been sent the life lessons others wouldn't have a chance to experience.

My bats are longer, my balls are bigger, and now that all my personal shit has sorted itself out I've stretched myself so far that now I need a bigger life to fill it.

FILED UNDER: #EmotionalGangsta


PHOTOS BY JENNY JIMENEZ (the same woman that took most of my Palm Springs Branded photos.)


You see, I use to blog all the time, and then talk about it in person to my clients every day. I proudly stood at my hairstylist's chair pulpit and to every client deliver my daily monologue. I had a show to put on for my people! But now I'm alone. I sit at home clicking away on this wonderful thing Steve Jobs created living a life I've been trying to live ever since reading "On the Road". All because Jeff Bezos made it really easy for depressed people to get the things they need without requiring them to adhere to social norms (like putting on pants) to do so. 

Yeh. You thought I was going to say my life changed when I picked up Steve Jobs biography. (Read that.) Or The Alchemist. (Still haven't.) The Four Agreements is DEFINITELY up there. Maybe you thought I would mention Jen Sincero's 'Bad Ass' series as a source of inspiration (she is inspiring FOR SURE.) But no. It was Lindy and her taunting blue tongue. Challenging the notion that as a woman you can only be smart or funny. Certainly not both. There's something really compelling about a woman that can articulate both her vulnerability and strength through her word choice. It's empowering. It's inspiring. It literally made me think that anything was possible, and it blew my mind right back open.

The thing is, is that before when I wrote I just got the sense that people only loved to hear about all the antics "Crazy Mandy" got into. (Almost sinking your yacht while you are on it is admittedly riveting blog content). But I got really really really tired of being crazy Mandy. Then I met someone that couldn't get enough Mandy. And then I realized, he was the person I needed when I was younger. One that was not only patient with me, but praised the assets that made me unique. (Some call that special brand of uniqueness 'crazy'; some lovingly, some...not so much.) Instead of trying to bury myself so that I could make "them" feel more comfortable about themselves I decided to go back to being the person I knew and admired. And frankly, was ridiculously proud of.

It had already begun. Lindy had put me back on the path to owning my superpowers. There's a lot of freedom and power in being fierce and not giving a fuck. And the only way to be both smart and funny is to be just that. But this time I would do it with a renewed older and wiser confidence, just like Lindy had showed me.

Before I met and married a very wrong man I was vibrant. I created compelling provocative branding for the salon I owned. I was fierce and honestly, on most days I felt unstoppable. I was winning left and right. There's a lot of freedom and power in being fierce and not giving a fuck. You see Gary Vee? That was me. Masta Z. Totally unapologetic. But by the time I'd picked up Shrill most of the Mandy I had grown up with had been erased. It makes me cry just sitting down and writing that - not because of what I allowed to happen to me but because of what I very nearly almost lost. Myself.

But I found her again. And she's fucking rad dude, and she's still a total Troublemaker.

She's so rad you should really get to know her.  You know why?

She might just be the person you need now.



Want to listen to her podcast?



Mandy Zelinka is a writer and the CEO of The Zelinka Agency.

She currently resides in Seattle, Washington and is a full-time Digital Nomad and a 2019 Alt Summit Speaker.

But she's best known for tobogganing down the Great Wall of China as a United States Diplomat and First Lady of a City.


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