Cj and I met Merissa while traveling through Australia. We were on a 10 day G-adventure tour; camping, sailing, and sight-seeing our way up the coast. We were a small group of strangers, each at a different stage in our lives with a different story for why we were escaping to Australia; some to lose themselves, some to find themselves, and some just to be themselves. Each person gave something to the group, and we all walked away with something we needed. Merissa was one of those, that captured everyone's heart (and laughter) from the beginning. Lucky for us, she lives in Victoria, Canada! She recently spent the weekend with me in Seattle so that I could have the honor to share her amazing-ness with you all. This is Merissa's story:
At a young age Merissa became a victim of abuse. She spent the majority of her adolescent years being physically and emotionally broken down by a family member. With battered self worth, she began to grow into middle and high school unsure of who she was. "Imagine trying to find yourself when you don't know where you're supposed to be coming from." At the age of 17 she thought she was free from the abuse, but by then she was facing a new enemy: herself.
Struggling with confidence and negative body image, Merissa became blind to her own worth. She found it easier to love others, and hardest to love herself. Society's unloving nature towards curvy women at the time didn't make things any easier. Despite leading an active lifestyle with a healthy diet, she always felt judged for how she looked.
It wasn't long before Merissa and her family learned this same family member had cancer. Merissa struggled with allowing this person back into her life but she couldn't turn away from someone who needed help. The individual's 40 lbs tumor took over and they soon needed around-the-clock care. She was now forced to spend each day caring for the very person that spent years abusing her. Despite a callused heart, she used her tender hands to care for them up until their passing, and it wasn't until one of their final interactions that the family member finally apologized. The words "I'm sorry" sounding so foreign, yet genuine to her.
"No one tells you how to grieve an abuser," so Merissa booked a solo trip to Australia in the hopes to piece herself back together. She had years of mistreatment from this family member, society, and ex boyfriends to rewind. With this new adventure, her only rule was to say "Yes" to everything. "I wanted to give myself the power to finally say 'yes' because I'm plus size and society is always saying no."
From the moment we met Merissa to the moment we said our "see you later"'s in Australia, this girl moved us all to be better people. Her contagious laugh, witty remarks, and encouraging words would lead you to never believe that this girl could have been through all that she has. She's one of those people that invests themselves in making sure you know how valued you are, a trait so rare in society. When I asked her about it she said, "I want people to know how special they are. I want to leave them with a lasting impression of who they are, not who I am."
Merissa has since returned to Australia and is finally learning how to reflect how she looks at others back at how she looks at herself. Despite dealing with low self esteem growing up, this woman walks with her head high and knows how to work it. She's learned to empower herself and begin loving herself in the way she deserves. She currently works full time as a travel agent, lives in Victoria with her best friend: her mom, and lives each day bringing others joy and inspiration.
A few words from Merissa:
Q1: How was the “Spotlight” experience for you?
"I have absolutely no words. I received my first ever facial! Dani not only made my skin look and feel amazing, but she does some scrubbing and working on the inside too. I would've never thought I could pull off a jumpsuit, but Paisley styled me in a piece that gave me comfort and confidence. Jamae is so talented and my hair was on fleek! These are all amazingly kind girls who together create an incredible team."
Q2: What is your definition of success?
"When you take the time to enjoy the fruit of your labor. It's not about others telling you you did a good job. It's about you yourself and appreciating what you've done."
Q3: If you could give any word of advice for finding happiness, what would it be?
"Don't try to find it. Happiness is something you create."
Wearing: Lane Bryant Jumpsuit, Necklace, Sunglasses, & Bracelet / Macy's Headscarf
Styled by Paisley Noelle
(Shout out to the wonderful staff at Lane Bryant in the Alderwood Mall! You rock Mikayla!)
Hair by Jamae Wiederhold @ Elle Marie in Lynnwood, WA.
Facial by Dani Moe @ Cinnamon & Sugar Me Spa in Snohomish, WA.
Photos by Cj Pohrman