Inspiration & Advice

From Mid-Teens to Mid-Twenties, A True Story

When you are a child, People always ask the same question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. As you grow up the question seems to be oddly familiar. It goes something along the line of  “So what have you been doing?”. It just kind of hits you, you are “older”. This is it. And by the way – what exactly are you doing? Here’s my story of how I got from a very angry teenager but ends with hope for what I believe is success in my future.

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Totally couldn’t find a picture of me and my mom, sorry mom…This is my aunt and I at my high school graduation. Congratz Grad!


“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question has been somewhat shameful for me to answer for the past five years because I have never taken pride in what I do. I never finished college. I was overwhelmed with the amount of choices, none which were ever good enough. I ended up enrolling in the first that would take me – Humboldt State, which had an early acceptance day. So I went to the campus, toured it, applied, and got accepted. The colleges I could get into were never something “worth” anything – It wasn’t Cal or Cornell or Stanford like everyone else. I never had the grades my friends did, I didn’t have a lot of things my friends did.

Backstage waiting for our dance to start.

Backstage waiting for our dance to start. Can you find me? (I’m in the middle.)

Since I was little, I was kind of placed in a group of friends that I, myself, never really chose. And honestly, they never really chose me either. But here I was, with them for over ten years constantly never on their level. I wasn’t smart enough, or pretty enough, or naturally talented at dance as they were. Even if we were all in honors classes and AP classes, teachers were always like “Alexa really does not live up to her potential – she has so much.” In general, I was awkward and an introvert. My lack of effort stemmed in the fact that I just wanted to make it through the day – doing schoolwork wasn’t the priority. But then I would fall behind, which in turn, just made me feel even more like a failure.

After deciding to not pursue college, I decided to move back home. I felt overwhelmed at the lack of direction and guilty that it was costing my mom so much money. It felt it was as if she was funding my indecisiveness. Since college started I also developed a grudge against everyone I went to high school with. I saw pictures of them drinking and doing drugs, partying every day – what was the point to college anyways? It seemed like a total lack of responsibility that cost their parents thousands of dollars. I was so bitter. It stemmed from not being able to do what everyone else does – fitting in and having fun and get labeled as “successful” by every parent and job-provider.

When I started my job at Gap I was so lost, bitter, angry, and felt out of control. With that attitude I was basically on track to also failing my job, but instead working actually motivated me. I reveled in the fact that  I was bringing home more money than I had ever had before. Even though I didn’t know anyone that I worked with, we all shared the same experiences. “Wow, that customer was really demanding!” “Omg I tried those jeans on too, they are super tight!” Somehow I was finding my way to developing genuine relationships with people because profit was involved, my hard work was not unnoticed. Satisfaction came so much faster than it did in school. When I came up with new and more efficient procedures, I was recognized. If I went above and beyond the expectations for customer service,  my managers would be sure to praise me.

Got invited to go to a Giants game instead of wishing I was asked! Score!

Got invited to go to a Giants game instead of wishing I was asked.

In 2012, I left my job at Gap due to a complete emotional breakdown. While working full time (over 40 hours a week), I was spending around two hours a day commuting, and on top of that, I was also back enrolled in school with a full course load. You could say it was tress and exhaustion that caused it all, but you would only be half right. I couldn’t live with the embarrassment of working a “lowly” retail job and failing out of community college. The shame was unbearable.

I couldn’t live with the embarrassment…The shame was unbearable.”

Life is complicated. How can you feel so so proud of yourself at work but so ashamed at the same time? For a few months, after quitting Gap, I stayed home trying to make sense of it all.

Eventually I got another job, this time with Crossroads Trading Company. There no more was any long commute and no more attempts at school. As I settled into my new job, I also settled into the idea that “this is now my worth”. For awhile I was ok with that – I wasn’t excited or angry, but I was ok.

I worked hard at my company. This resulted in a promotion every year, which was not common. Once three years had passed, I has the second highest position in the store. I had trained a whole new round of “buyers”, I pushed for high standards in merchandising and organization, and I had help build and hire a whole new team.

I began my teens as a stubborn, impulsive, and angry and now in my twenties, I can calmly make quick and effective decisions under pressure, lead a store, support a functioning team, network, multitask with ease, and that’s just a taste of what I can do. I am a better me. I might have not have a degree from the best college, instead I have the experience and skills and also a track record for success.

Say hello to my pimple! Say hello to my co-worker turned one-of-my-closest friends Jade!

Say hello to my pimple! Say hello to my ex-Crossroads-co-worker turned one-of-my-closest friends Jade!

My high school classmates are now graduated and slowly finding their careers. Up until recently I’d joke that all the money spent on their degrees sand they still don’t know what they are going to do in the real world. These were the times where I let my insecurities talk for me. When my classmates came back home, they didn’t flaunt their experiences. What I had done all those years when they were in college was dehumanize them, in my head I had made them all the same – the became the idea of college. Now, standing before me plain as day,  they were so human – unapologetic flaws and all, naive to my harsh judgement It finally was so clear, we were the same.

“They were so human…”

Making this realization is what finally made me feel deserving. I was finally ready to see that I was worth more than my retail job. It was not because retail was some lowly job that I made it out to be in my head. How could I even think that! Retail was the sanctuary that developed me into the successful person I am today. No, I am worth enough to do what I find passion in. That just so happens to not be retail.

Once I felt deserving, I immediately made the decision to quit my job. Every day I revisit my feelings about the choice I made, but for once, I fell like I made the choice. I am no longer acting on behalf of a store, nor working in retail to just pay the bills, and I’m definitely not sitting in a classroom confused and lost. I am in control.

Alexa Alford is littlepinkmoto

Here’s ME now! I’m (more) confident, happy, and healthy!

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  • Marilyn Alford May 11 at 11:52 am

    So brave to be so open and honest. Thank you. I’m so proud of you and love you so much! We are all striving to grow, learn, cope, survive, live. It’s ongoing throughout life, from a single cell organism to us complex human beings, even Mei Mei, your pup!

    • Alexa Alford May 11 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks mom! Yeah, there never is a finish line, but that doesn’t mean we should not strive to push forward <3

  • Z May 11 at 12:57 pm

    Sounds like you found happiness on the road less traveled! Something not everyone is even aware is possible.We, as a society, have put so much emphasis on the four year college route that not going that way changes how people perceive your capabilities. You’ve proven that those judgments are unfounded. You are the up and coming outlier! Keep on doing you!

    • Alexa Alford May 11 at 3:00 pm

      Exactly! Our capabilities are our own, not something others can decide for us. Thank you so much :*

  • Roschelle May 11 at 4:43 pm

    This post is so beautiful. I’m in the exact place your early self was at. It’s really inspiring to see someone who has seen light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks so much. Especially today . I’ve had such a bad day today. Rahman for making it feel so much better.

    • Roschelle May 11 at 4:43 pm

      *thanks man! Not Rahman lol

    • Alexa Alford May 11 at 5:31 pm

      Rochelle, there totally is a light at the end of the tunnel!! It has just been so important for me to realize that I won’t get there just because “things ought to get better soon…”. The light comes sometimes when you’ve stopped looking for it as well. Just keep being you and finding out who “you” really are. Once you’ve done that, it’ll be a whole lot easier to do things that make you truly happy and healthy! I’m sorry you had a bad day, I hate those times! BUT! They will teach you so much and fuel your fire! You are awesome and you’re only gonna get better! <3

  • Marisa O'Dell May 11 at 4:53 pm

    Beauitful blog. Very honest. I have only been home 2 years and I have seen how much you have grown up. You are blooming into an amazing women. You are so smart, beautiful, and talented. I love you so much.

    “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life. The most intresting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most intresting intresting 40 year olds. I know still don’t

    The Sun Screen Song

    • Alexa Alford May 11 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you roo roo! You’re right, I was very focused on where am I gonna be, and now I’m enjoying where I’m at!

      • Marisa O'Dell May 11 at 7:49 pm

        I realized I messed up the lyrics at the end of the song. He he. You seem a lot happier. I can’t wait to see your journey unfold.

  • Chuck Horton May 14 at 2:19 pm

    Alexa,

    I don’t know you I found your story on my son’s Facebook page and I read it, you really touch me
    with your insights there are many young folks who are willing and able to take a real look at
    themselves let alone expose your soul to the universe you have grown more in the past five years
    than most of us will grow during a lifetime I applaud your wisdom, self reflection, bravery and
    willingness to step out of your comfort zone I have no doubt that you will flourish and succeed

    • Alexa Alford May 16 at 1:08 pm

      Chuck,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post! I’ve known your son since Madera. Since around freshman year of high school I suffered from horrible depression from all the things I explained in the article. For people to tell me that I’ve done amazing things makes me feel so successful, but at the same time I wonder if I really deserve it. I know that I had to spend a lot of time doing self-reflection and work hard on growing in order to survive through it all…Either way, I’m proud to share my experience with everyone. I’m so thankful for the hardships I went through, but mostly I’m so thankful for everyone’s support. I hope Andrew is doing well!

  • Liana May 15 at 5:40 pm

    I seriously can’t love this post enough, you are so beautiful and wise and I’m so glad to see you’ve come to find your own measure of happiness and success!

    I actually just re-read this to help myself out, as another group of friends, classmates, and even my brother-in-law who started after me at CSUN are graduating this weekend and I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “You may have been sick and you only have another semester to go, but you should be done by now! These kids don’t know how lucky they are!”, and other general feelings of envy….but then I thought back to this post and realized there’s no point thinking like that! Being happy is all that matters, and I thank you so much for helping to remind me of that ^_^

    I am so proud of you, and I’m so glad we were able to help each other out during some pretty dark times in high school (which, by the way, I can never thank you enough for giving me a place to stay when I didn’t have one and even giving me some of your old clothes! You were and are an angel! :D)

    I am so glad you’ve found happiness in what you do, you are so much wiser and more self-assured than a good deal of the college grads I know, and I know you will go far in anything and everything it takes for you to continue to achieve that happiness!! xoxo Liana <3

    • Alexa Alford May 16 at 1:17 pm

      Liana!!! I totally know where those feelings of envy come from and how they feel. I cried reading this thinking, I wish I would have helped you more and been a better friend…Thank you for understanding that I wasn’t in a good place and I couldn’t be a better friend. You are amazing. You’re a great friend, a constant source of positivity (even in the hardest of times), you never fail to make others laugh and want to have a good time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your support <3

  • The A.P. Magazine May 16 at 10:13 am

    is an amazing website you can talk about everything and the articles are interesting, layout simple but direct. Let me know what you think of my site, I will continue to follow you 🙂 Ah I saw like on instagram thank you:) I’m Italian

    • Alexa Alford May 16 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you so much! I will definitely check out your website as well 😀