HOW BLOGGING CHANGED MY LIFE: ONE VINA’S PERSONAL ESSAY ON THE POWER OF WRITING

Let me set the scene:

I’m in an aesthetic coffee shop as I type out my last passion-filled sentence and close my laptop. The first draft of an article I’m writing is complete, and I’m basking in the glow of the cleansing feeling I now have. My skin is clear, my crops are growing, the sun is shining, and it’s all thanks to blogging.  

Of course, this is the ideal scenario. Usually it’s more like I start with a half baked idea, play with it in my mind for a week or two until I finally put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) a couple days before my deadline and crank something out. This process isn’t one I’ve always had, but I am thankful I get to experience now.   

I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil (I’m not exaggerating). I was inspired by Lemony Snicket and Barbara Park’s stories that were gripping, sassy, and self-aware. I would spend recess on a bench writing pages and pages of stories in an attempt to replicate good dialogue and spunky characters. Any “quiet time” was used to ask my teachers how to spell big words like “unfortunate.”

As I grew older, I started struggling with mental health, and, before a therapist could tell me that writing was a good coping mechanism, I was pouring myself into stories. My darkest times spurred my interest in sharing my experiences. I was admittedly shy about my writing, mostly keeping it to myself, but what I did put out into the world made me feel good and in control of my life.

In college, I went through a phase where I wanted to do anything except what was expected of me, which meant that being known as “the writer” inspired me to enter college as a Business major, change to a Nursing major, and then finally coming back around to Communication when I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by not following my heart (as cheesy as that sounds). Letting myself really write led to me starting an online magazine where I got to interview amazing women and work with international companies and organizations. It didn’t last, however — I was only a Business major for a hot second — but I did use my final year of college to be the Editor-in-Chief of my school’s newspaper.

My goal in all of this? Making hard conversations possible and accessible. Conversations about Black Lives Matter or the systematic influences on mental health or ways that all genders can have good sex weren’t being had, but my staff and I made it happen.

For me, blogging and writing in general has always been cathartic. I can process and come to terms with my emotions, making me a better communicator and friend. I can talk about serious matters in a way that’s palatable to the everyday person and even, at times, fun! I can express myself in my most authentic voice and have my experiences be relatable to readers. I know I’m not alone, and someone else gets to know they aren’t alone either. Where’s the downside in that? That feeling you get when you read an article and wonder if the author spied on you to be able to write such similar experiences? It’s a two-way street. Though sometimes it feels like I’m shouting into the void, I often feel like I’m talking to a bunch of my favorite vinas.

Whether it’s been for needing to cope with the stresses of life, having the opportunity to meet amazingly inspiring people, or engaging with my vina community of the internet, writing has always been there for me. As I finish this blog post not in a coffee shop with a great aesthetic, I know that blogging really has changed my life and made me a better person.

Want to start blogging or writing for an online publication? VINAZINE is the place for you! Check out Hey! VINA to swipe and find your writing soulmates.

VINA SUCCESS STORY: HOW HEY! VINA HELPED TWO WOMEN FOLLOW THEIR ARTISTIC PASSIONS

We’re back with another amazing Hey! VINA success story! Lauren and Megan, two creatives who each run their own Etsy shops, connected through their love of art shows, craft fairs, and trying new foods by connecting through our app.

“The friends that I have, I’ve known since I was in kindergarten. But they don’t always like doing things that I’m interested in, or they don’t have time. You know, work, family, newly married life,” said Lauren when asked about what brought her to use the VINA app. “Time can go by so fast before you even notice how long it’s been since you’ve seen your girls. So I was super excited to discover the Hey! VINA app, which changed that for me.”

Megan and Lauren.

As for Megan, she “had just moved to Chicago, and I wanted to find new friends and grow a new support network in my new city!”

Making lasting friendships wasn’t always the easiest endeavor for Lauren before she discovered VINA. “Sometimes I would meet a girl that I liked and seemed cool, and it never ended up going anywhere. The connections were a miss.” This, however, changed once she met Megan!

“It was friendship at first bite. We met up at DMK Burger bar during the summer over a year ago, and Megan had a big, bright smile on her face and gave me a huge hug. It was over an hour, it was such a blast because the food was so good as well as the company, and the conversations we were having,” she recalled. “I remember it was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm and lots of laughs, which I love!”

Megan and Lauren discussed their love of blue cheese, being creatives, as well as being kindred spirits. “We just went back to DMK burger yesterday to celebrate Galentine’s Day and to the movies afterward and it was the best! We had so much fun,” Lauren shares.

Their friendship elevated to another level when they found out they both created their own products for their Etsy shops. Along with “talk[ing] shop, guys and everything and nothing every time [they] meet,” the two provide each other with advice “on customer problems, marketing ideas and even photo shoots of our products!”

Megan’s business is called Iris Atelier Couture. When asked about how Lauren has helped her, she said, “Lauren has such a vast about of knowledge from working in a creative company, that I can ask her anything, and I really value her opinion, she’s been selling a lot longer than me and she has her own goals and aspirations for her business that I admire.  I think having someone that is going through the same struggle of dealing with an online business has been such a huge help! She’s an amazing and supportive friend. I’ve grown so much, creatively, from having Lauren as one of my best friends!”

Conversely, Lauren weighs in on her business and how Megan has helped her.

“Pineapple Sundays Design Studio is all about celebrating and bringing more positive vibes into your everyday through our products and designs. I started this business back in 2017 after closing my old shop and rebranding.”

“Megan was a big help when I started my first line of products, she was so generous enough to lend me her camera so I could take pictures of my products. She also has modeled for me as well, so we are constantly helping each other out like that, and I love that we have that creative bond,” said Lauren.

“The first line are products that anyone can use in their self-care routine. For me, reading is a form of self-care and one of my favorite me time things to do. I created enamel-chained bookmarks and a metal bookmark in the shape of the golden snitch from Harry Potter, one of my fave reads! This year I’m planning on expanding my line more with additional products centered around self-care; all things I find important when navigating through life.”

Since both girls are “total foodies,” they enjoy checking out new places they find on Instagram.

“During the summer, we love to go to outdoor art fairs like the Renegade Craft fair, Jenny’s to get ice cream and the Lakeview Taco Fest. I was not a beer drinker until I met Megan—I drink it all the time now. She basically says I like beer that doesn’t taste like beer, which is so true,” Lauren said.

Sometimes, the girls vent out their frustrations over brunch and ice cream, while reflecting on how they’ve helped each other grow their creativity.

“Megan is actually the main reason why I took a leap of faith and started to develop my first line of products. Last year, she quit her job and decided to do her business full time. I told myself, ‘if Megan can do that, I can develop and produce my products’— and that’s exactly what I did! She inspired me to go after my dreams as well. When I am working on new designs, I always get her opinion, especially when I’m designing Harry Potter designs because she’s a Potter Head like me,” she added.

As for those who may be too nervous to reach out to other girls on VINA, Megan said, “A friend should like you for who you are! So just be yourself, find someone with similar interest or hobbies and start asking questions, and see if you too would be a good match as friends!”

Lauren chimed in to say, “Just go for it! If you’re afraid, just do it anyways. Since being on the Hey! VINA app, it’s given me more confidence when talking with strangers. Megan and I totally made friends with a girl working at Lush; her vibes were amazing, and we were like: ‘We should totally ask her to be our friend.’ We ended up going out to dinner the next week, so that was really cool. It all starts with a hello and a smiley face.”

Go on Instagram and follow both Megan’s business: @iris.atelier &
Lauren’s business: @pineapple.sundays! And while you’re at it, check out
Hey! VINA to find a bestie that will build you up just like Megan and Lauren did for each other.

 

VINA SUCCESS STORY: “OUR CHATS CONSIST OF FUNNY GIFS, MOTIVATIONAL MEMES, AND PICTURES OF SHOES AND NAILS”

We love a good friendship story—especially when it derives from the Hey! VINA app! If you’ve been following our VINA success stories, you know we’ve connected a diverse array of vinas who were missing their milk to their cookies, vinas Leandré and Ntse included. VINAZINE contributor Leandré writes about her VINA success story below!

I’m usually the one to reach out first, so I was excited when Ntse initiated the conversation on the app back in March. The first thing she said to me was: ‘I see you’re crazy, and I’m fun crazy, too!” I immediately thought, “This girl has got me!”

We immediately struck up a friendship and had so much in common. We spoke almost every day… mostly because we comment on every single status of each other! She works in the fashion industry (basically my dream job except I have no fashion sense), she works out, she has so much fun, her sense of humor is just on another level.

On WhatsApp, she is totally herself. Completely open and vulnerable and lets people into her life and her thoughts. I admired it. On Instagram, she is a dreamy beauty who regularly posts pics of those GORGEOUS nails. On Facebook, she is ridiculously funny AF with a meme every now and again … just as you think it’s gonna be a bad day… Ntse’s feed is locked and loaded to get you to do that ugly laugh!

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Leandré and Ntse 💕

We messaged each other for MOOONTHS before we finally set up that first meeting. We booked the day and as per usual, on the day of, we were both not feeling it. This is another thing we have in common. We are always the plan makers, then want to wiggle out because all of a sudden we’d rather be at home in bed, then go out anyway (because we suck at feeling guilty) and have a better time than EVERYONE there!!

So we met one night in a shady student bar … which I LOVE! Ntse’s friends were so awesome and she knows everyone. Her friends and I immediately took so well to each other. We laughed and talked about everything. We drank oddly named cocktails and shooters. We laughed at our foreheads and took a picture of them. (Side note—follow Ntse’s forehead on insta @headofthehouse_; it’s an account set up by her uber-cool sister in honor of her brilliance).

She also told me that she started writing a blog a couple of years ago about her experience as a black teenage girl in South Africa with a mental disorder. We had a surreal moment and I decided that I have to read it. Her writings are captivating, thought-provoking and honestly, some of the most heart-wrenching stuff I’ve read. One day, when she’s ready, I’ll share it with you.

Our chat history mostly consists of funny GIFs, motivational memes, pictures of our shoes and nails, billions and billions of ROTFL emojis, memojis and health advice….and the occasional “when are we hanging out again?” message.

I could tell you more, but the bottom line is she’s a really cool woman and I am so lucky to have her in my circles. She’s really beautiful inside and out and I am so happy that she is in my life.

Thanks for sharing, Leandre! Vinas, are you ready to meet your future best vina? Download the Hey! VINA app and start swiping today. If you have your own VINA success story you want to share, we can’t wait to hear it! Submit it here.

TIPS ON HOW TO OWN YOUR SEXUALITY FROM EV’YAN WHITNEY

Sex, love, liberation—the power of being a vina. It takes some courage to own those three areas. Many taboos surround the power of a vina owning her sexuality.

With regard to sex, society has led us to believe that looking or feeling sexy is our way of saying, “I’m asking for it,” while performing the act and being overly sexual labels us as a “slut.”

Then comes love—the fairytales, the vulnerability, the settling, the co-dependency. Women are thought to swoon over these thoughts, while men are known to take advantage of those desires.

Finally, we have liberation—the moment where we look ourselves, our desires, our needs in the eye and say, “Screw it. I deserve to feel, do, say, get loud, howl, orgasm as I please without being judged or ridiculed by it.” Liberation is knowing that society is the one that’s broken, not us. And while those belief patterns have brought us down in the past, we are now awakened with the passion, divine femininity and the remembering that we should tend to our roots and allow our power to rise.

Okay, okay. Maybe I am getting a little riled up here, but how can I not after so many courageous women took their voices to the public this past year and made a difference? Whether they spoke about their traumas, their healing, their journeys, their women-owned businesses, their success and their failures, they created a domino effect that empowered women to liberate themselves.

One of those women who did that for me was Ev’Yan Whitney, a writer, sensualist, sexuality doula—creator of the viral #sensualselfiechallenge & host of The Sexually Liberated Woman podcast. I had the pleasure to interview her on tips for our empowered and liberated vinas!

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Hi, Ev’Yan! Thank you so much for taking out the time to speak with VINAZINE. I know a lot of our vinas can or will relate to your unique work. I would love to ask what inspired your path to sexual freedom and with that, your desire to help other women in doing the same?

I started this work because, at the time, I wasn’t in a place of sexual freedom. I carried a lot of shame and fear about sex, and the relationship I had with my sexuality was disconnected and repressed. It really came to a head when I realized that my then-boyfriend and I were hardly having sex, and when we did have sex, I would kind of go through the motions with it. I wouldn’t be in my body, I wouldn’t even be able to access any pleasure. I was just numbed out.

So it was from that place that I decided to write about my sexual dysfunction and the process I was undergoing to heal myself. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go or what I was going to find, but I made a practice of using journaling to peel back the layers of my weirdness about sex and made them public. As I was doing that peeling and putting it all out there, I started to receive comments and emails from other women, telling me that they were exactly where I was—feeling sexually inhibited and desperately wanting to get free—and were grateful for my vulnerability and transparency about my process. They told me it made them feel less alone. I was floored hearing this because I literally thought I was the only person who was struggling in this way, so getting those messages made something click inside me.

From there, I began seeing the work I was doing around healing and reclaiming my sexuality not being just for me, but for other women like me. So I kept writing, I kept taking up space, I kept showing up to my own sexual liberation journey, and, since then, my work has deepened into a service I offer to other women and femmes who are wanting to un-shame their sexuality and be sexually-free.

Mind you, this whole journey of me having panic attacks after having sex to being a sexuality doula and having a successful practice where I educate and facilitate other women and femmes on their sexual liberation journeys took close to a decade. I mention that because I think it’s important for folks to know that this has taken a lot of growth, a lot of commitment to healing, a lot of studying, and a lot of therapy. I don’t want anyone thinking that sexual liberation is a one and done kind of thing; it’s an ongoing process that continues for the rest of your life. And even today, there’s still things to be healed and reclaimed and learned within my own sexuality.

What is the most common thing you witness women struggle with in their sexuality?

The thing I see my clients struggling with the most is having a sexual expression that belongs completely to them, one that doesn’t appease the male gaze or cater to the “should’s” society puts on us regarding what women’s sexuality is “supposed” to look like. That’s actually been the most liberating thing for me in my journey—releasing myself from those beliefs and giving myself permission to claim and embody a sexuality that is my own and not based on patriarchal norms or sexist standards. In a lot of ways, I’ve demystified my sexuality, my body, my pleasure, and orgasm because of choosing to divest from old beliefs and systems that were not in service of or advocating for those things.

I can truly say I was one of those who found it hard to break from the patriarchal belief system and even find myself clinging to them while trying to reclaim myself. It can be hard rewiring that part of ourselves that has such a long female lineage of belief patterns.

Your #sensualselfiechallenge came at the perfect time in 2018, the Year of the Woman. It seems as though most women resonated with the need for baring it all and sharing it all, and took confidence in being vulnerable. What has it meant for you to see such a huge feedback from women across the globe and what do you hope comes from this challenge?

The response of the #sensualselfiechallenge has thrilled me, delighted me, and shaken me to my core. When I created it, I had no idea that people would resonate so much with it. Actually, when I was in my kitchen dreaming it up last winter, I was fighting with this inner voice that was saying, “No one’s going to be into this; selfies aren’t revolutionary, they’re vain and vapid, which speaks to the way our culture has made me by into the belief that women need to be modest and other forms of respectability politics. So, to see the response people gave to it and to witness their own shifts through this practice was awe-inspiring.

As for what I hope comes from this challenge—I hope that the folks who do it are able to give themselves (and their bodies) space to be soft so that they can see it in a sensual, sexual light. I hope it helps them challenge some of the narratives they’ve been given about modesty, about keeping quiet and staying small. I also hope I’m able to do this again, because with the FOSTA/SESTA and the new sexual solicitation policy that Facebook (who owns Instagram) rolled out, it’s censoring the kind of space-taking and sensual celebration we all took part in with the challenge.

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Self love. Many women, especially coming from very traumatic situations, struggle with the concept needing to work through, self heal and break the cycles that seem to creep up again and again, mostly in our relationships. What advice would you give to the women who are settling for less than they are worth?

Get help. Having a professional help you heal through the traumatic experiences you’ve been through is major and helps self-love as a practice have more staying power for you. Affirmations and pep talks from your chosen family are awesome, but nothing’s going to help more than addressing the source of the problem. And I say this as someone who has been and is currently in therapy for her own issues with self-love and worth. It’s OK to ask for help, and your asking for that help in the form of therapy is one great gesture of self-love.

What can we can we expect from you in 2019?! The Year of the Woman Part 2 🙂

More space-taking as an act of resistance, more healing and decolonizing of sexuality, more unapologetic displays of sexual celebration, and more invitations from me to you so that you can do the same.

Allow yourself the space to remember your inner-fire, your power and inspire your favorite vinas in doing same! The more we empower one another, the stronger we become. Start swiping to find your liberating tribe on Hey! Vina.

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WHEN SUFFERING FROM A MENTAL OR CHRONIC ILLNESS

“We are all a little broken. But last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.” – Trent Shelton.

As someone who was diagnosed with several mental and chronic illnesses, I have felt myself to be alone, and I am alone still. I have spent most of my life hinting at things, foreshadowing that I was struggling to make friends because of my illnesses. Loneliness comes from the inability to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding views which others seem to find inadmissible.

I voyaged my way into forming friendships that felt right to me. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to form healthy friendships throughout the years, despite my health issues. Below are the steps I followed to form long-lasting friendships. 

ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, learn to accept your personality despite what you are going through. You may get caught up with your health, especially after your diagnosis, and that may make you neglect who you are or how you interact with people.

It is normal for someone who has recently been diagnosed with an illness to lose friends. You must understand that people deal with different challenges on a daily basis. Friends may not entirely comprehend what you are going through, affecting your self-esteem and causing you to critique yourself. Please don’t listen to that voice — the inner critic — in your head that says you aren’t good enough. You are here alive today because you have a purpose. Your diagnosis is just part of who you are, and it isn’t entirely you. Think of yourself as a gemstone; they are imperfect, but they absorb light and radiate color spectrums. Try to turn tragedy into a magical mystery. It isn’t easy but it is worth a try.

ACCEPT YOUR DIAGNOSIS

Before a person can accept a diagnosis, they initially may need to grieve. You must allow yourself to feel pain and disappointment about your life not being the same anymore. Cry and try to talk about it to the ones closest to you. Understand that some of these people may dismiss you or your feelings about your situation, but that doesn’t necessarily define the path your life is taking. Accept that, when you have to come into terms with your diagnosis, you will inevitably be vulnerable. People may say or insinuate things about you that aren’t true — try to trust your intuition about this.

CONSIDER ADOPTING A PET

Pets are noble companions. It may be a good idea to consider adopting a pet, especially if you have been struggling to form friendships with people. They are loyal, and you can always count on them during the good and bad times.

CONTRIBUTE IN SOCIETY + PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE

This is a time for you to consider volunteering in your community! This may expose you to different people and working environments outside of your comfort zone. Volunteering helped me meet different people and people with similar health issues and make new friends.

Volunteer work is not only done to improve your resume; you will learn skills that not only become vital in the workplace, but are also necessary for life. Exploring new places makes you become more self-aware about your surroundings and yourself. Your health issues are a part of your life, however, as previously stated, your health issues do not completely define who you are. 

JOIN MENTAL AND CHRONIC ILLNESS SUPPORT GROUPS

One of the hardest things that I had to deal with after being diagnosed with an illness was educating myself and understanding the emotional aspects of having to deal with such an ordeal. Joining mental and chronic illness support groups either online or in your community can help you process and grieve over your diagnosis. Support groups have always been my safe haven for asking all sorts of questions regarding the illnesses I have been diagnosed with. There are admins and moderators in certain online support groups to help control and manage the group and the tone in which people use to communicate with each other.

Unfortunately, trolls can be found anywhere online these days, but luckily most online support groups, especially Facebook support groups, are private. This means that whatever you decide to post in those groups is only seen by people who are within the group. 

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

If you have issues forming meaningful relationships or friendships, it may be difficult to express your feelings with people without feeling judged. Chances are, you might not be the only one who has had that issue. If you feel lonely and want to speak to someone, you could kindly request people to speak to you in private, which may easily help you make online friends. The same applies to support groups in your area. The only difference is, you get to meet with people on a weekly basis and discuss issues you might be facing.

Trust me, this acts as a form of talk therapy, and getting resources from such platforms helped me expand my knowledge about my illnesses. Most importantly, you’ll get to learn that you are not alone in your suffering. Feeling a sense of community is quite important. In fact, I consider it to be a basic human need.

It is imperative that a vina always remembers to take care of herself, especially when she is ill. If things feel wrong, learn to not pursue them. Learn to listen to your body and your intuition. If your body needs rest, then allow yourself to rest. Trust your own process and your body because nobody is you and that is your power. Articulate yourself in a respectful manner, and learn not to drown in other people’s opinions. Do not be a people-pleaser; learn to please yourself, because you come first. Never speak poorly about yourself, and do not listen to your inner critic, for it is your worst enemy.

Be more self-aware and kind to yourself. Let go of things you have no control over, and let your life unfold into the beauty and terror, and all that comes in between. Always learn from bad experiences, trust yourself, and most importantly, believe in yourself.  Love all the people in your life, and know when to walk away if a relationship fails. Some people will be toxic and narcissistic, others will love you for who you truly are. Unfortunately, meeting new people isn’t easy but if you know your own worth, no one can ever make you doubt yourself. Never lower your standards just so you can have people in your life. This is the hardest lesson I had to learn when I was forming new relationships. 

PEOPLE SKILLS: CONQUER YOUR FEARS

Start new conversations wherever you are. You would be amazed at how small talk or simple conversations with strangers can easily turn into intellectually-stimulating conversations. Approach life as a learning curve because there is not one specific way that people can go about meeting each other. I met all my friends in different ways. Some of my friends were my classmates in college, others were some that I met randomly by politely speaking to them in restaurants or other public places. Most of them I met in bookstores, because I love reading, and I very well consider myself a book lover.

You are still the same person before your diagnosis. Nothing has changed much about you, you just managed to get help from health professionals and that is what a diagnosis represents. It doesn’t symbolize your hopes and dreams, nor does it represent your personality. Go out there and learn more about this world and find people that make you happy.

SUICIDE IS NOT AN OPTION

There was a point in my life where I got so many diagnoses that I was self-harming and I eventually contemplated suicide. I had no friends about me, I was devastatingly lonely. I couldn’t articulate myself well, my speech was always hazy and my shoulders were constantly dropping. I not only considered my body as a burden, but I felt like a heavy burden to my own parents because of all the medical bills and my failure to form noble companionships with people. I didn’t know that this was far from the truth back then.

My acts of self-harm were an expression of my pain. I tried to use my own body as a container for my own rage because of my health issues. I felt lonely, and I sometimes do still feel lonely. What I failed to do was talk to someone that could hear me out. I failed to recognize that ruminating about death was simply me internally screaming for help and wanting the pain to end.

I wanted to live, I loved life, but I hated the responsibility that was posed upon me by my health issues. My health issues made it so difficult for me to function in society. I was constantly on the phone calling a counselor on a suicidal line, in the hopes of getting help. I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to meet people but I had no idea about how I should start meeting people.

My parents talked me out of it, and so did the counselors I spoke to on the phone. If you are in any way suicidal, remember that you are worth it. Find a safe haven or someone who can help you. The inner critic is just playing mind games with you; find people who can talk you out of it. You will get through this and you will have friends one day. 

If you are having these internal thoughts and are thinking of harming yourself, put your safety first and reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

TRY ONLINE WEBSITES AND APPS

If you have issues meeting new people in your area, or if you’ve been too ill to go out, it would be a wonderful idea to consider using online websites or apps like Hey! VINA to meet new people. When I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), I was constantly in a psychiatric ward and that resulted in me losing a lot of friends and struggling to form friendships. I used the Hey! VINA app to meet new women where I lived, and, using my gut instincts, I made new friends and overcame some of my social anxiety. Go ahead and try it!

Sending love, light, joy, and blessings your way. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind together by connecting on Hey! VINA. There, you are never alone in your mental health journey.

VINA STORY: HOW HEY! VINA HELPED INSPIRE TWO WOMEN TO CREATE BRUNCHITUPNYC

In a city of millions of people, it may seem rather frustrating to feel alone. But, the truth is, it’s not as abnormal as one might think! Searching for friends with the same interests and values as you is a tough task, but the girls at BrunchItUpNYC have made it a little bit easier for us vinas.

Molly and Leyssa are two 20-somethings who decided that they wanted to foster a girl gang for other vinas who may have felt alone in the sea of people in NYC.

“It’s so important to have a group of girls you can rely on,” they said. “Whether it’s for a much-needed girl talk, or a night out partying, we all need a solid support system!”

And they gave us just that! BrunchItUpNYC was created by these powerful vinas when they felt there was a genuine need for a consistent meet-up event where girls could feel comfortable coming alone to make friends.

Your 20s may feel like a strange period in your life; you might witness others your age getting married and starting to have kids while you’re popping Cheetos in your mouth and watching the season finale of The Bachelor. If you maybe feel as though you fit into the latter category, perhaps this brunch-bunch is made especially for you.

“A lot of us actually are not very new to NYC, but are looking for friends that want to travel, explore and live life to the fullest,” Molly and Leyssa said. “Most of us are in our mid 20s, and a lot of our friends are settling down or moving out of the city.”

Molly and Leyssa at their second BrunchItUpNYC event.

This makes BrunchItUpNYC so impactful and special for vinas. Their first brunch meet-up created on the Hey! VINA app consisted of nine other girls who instantly hit it off. “We talked about our interests, our lifestyle, our goals and somehow we all were just on the same page! We’ve already planned a girls trip to New Orleans next month. I think our group is going to stay close forever!”

No initial awkward silences took away from the fun. The girls played games like “Never Have I Ever” to get to know each other and loosen up, which made for exciting conversations!

The creators of BrunchItUpNYC were able to use Hey! VINA to invite more vinas to join them.

“We heard about VINA through a friend and decided to give it a try,” they said. “VINA provided an amazing platform to promote our brunch meetups on, and the girls on VINA are friendly & looking for fun activities, so it was easy to get a group of them together!”

As for making friends and meaningful connections online, Molly and Leyssa have some advice:

“Don’t be nervous!! Everyone on VINA is looking to meet friends, so everyone feels those nerves in the beginning, but you will end up with amazing new friends, and it will be so worth it!”

Join @BrunchItUpNYC on Saturday, February 16th from 1:45pm-3:30pm for their Galentine’s Day brunch in NYC! And if you’re interested in perusing more events such as this one, check out the Hey! VINA app to meet other like-minded vinas and to create that girl gang of a lifetime.

Q&A WITH MATCHMAKER SASHA SILBERBERG OF OKSASHA

In a world where Cupid can be found right at our fingertips, we swipe right hoping to find “Mister-or-Misses-Right.” However, while dating apps have made much success over the last decade, for some singles, the match just isn’t made as easily. That’s when we turn to a real-life Cupid: a matchmaker.

VINAZINE sat down with dating coach and matchmaker genius Sasha Silberberg, Founder of OkSasha—a dating website known to “spread love like butter”—to delve into what it takes to find people’s right matches and how to navigate the dating world!

Q: Thanks for talking to VINAZINE! What inspired you to become a professional matchmaker, and what is it like owning your own matchmaking business?
A: What inspired me to be a matchmaker was a slew of factors. The loneliness epidemic, our lack of community and online dating leave a lot to be desired. I noticed that a lot of people were tired of online dating, and there aren’t many great alternatives out there. I started working for a matchmaking company called Dating Ring back in the day, which propelled me into the world of matchmaking. After working there for about a year, I realized that I could have my own business and do matchmaking my own way. From there, I started working with clients one-on-one on my own while also driving for Lyft. I used Lyft as an opportunity to meet new people and get them into my “match book.”

Running your own matchmaking business is a lot of fun and work! Getting started by building a big network is certainly a task—you need to know a lot of people and earn trust. Then, there’s the business side of it: accounting, creating a website, marketing, etc. Living as an entrepreneur can be challenging because you must be self-motivated, waking up every day and pushing yourself to do the work.

Q: What type of clients do you normally find yourself working with?
A: I work with people in Silicon Valley between the ages of 25 and 40. Most of the people I work with work in tech and are at least tangentially part of the Burning Man scene. They’re all successful in their work and relatively busy.

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Q: What makes your matchmaking techniques different from other similar businesses?
A: My matchmaking technique is different from other matchmaking businesses in the sense that it is community-oriented. What that means is, whenever I take on a new client, I interview one or two of their close friends/family members so I can have an idea of who the client is in their community. Chatting with close friends and family also often unveils some of the clients’ blind spots in dating, which is clearly very helpful!

Q: Now for our single vinas who are craving that real-life connection, this one goes out to you! Do you have any dating advice for us?!
A: When you go on a first date, actively try to keep an open heart and mind. Just because you don’t feel an instant connection doesn’t mean that this person can’t be an important part of your life. You can learn something from everyone, and who knows, maybe they are best friends with the love of your life!

Also, try to be aware of the subtle nuances in communication. What I mean by this is that we often times put people into boxes without knowing it. We think that we are excellent at judging people by talking to them for five minutes, but we fail to acknowledge all of the other factors that are coming into play during a first date. For example, maybe they’re nervous, or maybe they’re hungry, or maybe they misheard or misunderstood what you said and therefore said something to you that wasn’t actually representative of their character. Just remember, you WILL fit someone into the box you create for them.

Q: Speaking of all this matchmaking, what do you think about the Hey! VINA app, the Tinder for finding your best (girl) friends?
A: I’m totally a fan—the loneliness epidemic is real, so anything that builds community is desperately needed!

Sasha reminds us that love is always in the air for those who are willing to keep their hearts held high and a true belief in real-life Cupids. Happy dating, vinas!

Featured image from getsetdate.com

Love, friendships and life-long connections can be created anywhere, but luckily you’re here at Hey! VINA so you might as well start swiping!

10 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR VINA: CONVO STARTERS FOR YOUR NEXT FRIEND DATE

Hey, vinas! If you’re like me and have a hard time starting a conversation with someone you just met, fear not! You’re totally not alone. To help break that ice (and award silence) with soon-to-be friends, check out these 10 conversation starters to put to use on your next vina date!

1. WHAT’S ONE THING YOU LOVE TO DO?

A hobby? Guilty pleasure? Simple passtime? This one can be anything!

2. WHAT DO YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT?

Let me guess, cell phone? Same.

3. COFFEE OR TEA?

A must know, obvi. Whatever the answer may be, you can use this one to plan a second date at your fav cafe!

4. WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO ACCESSORY?

Whether it’s your fav pair of fuzzy socks, or a gold plated CK watch, we’ve all got a little accessorize in us!

5. IF YOU COULD LEARN A SECOND LANGUAGE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Besides your native tongue, of course! French, Latin, Mandarin, Swahili…the possibilities are endless!

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6. WHAT IS THE CRAZIEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE?

Think hard, vinas. We all get a little crazy sometimes!

7. SECRET TALENTS?

What are you hiding form the world, you talented gal?!

8. WHO IS YOUR FAV ARTIST?

Art comes in all shapes and sizes, so this could mean a lot of things for you and your vina! A painter, musician, sculptor, poet, dancer, photographer…again, endless possibilities!

9. IF YOU COULD ONLY DO ONE THING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Dream big, vinas! You only get one life…or something like that 😉

10. HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED THE WORLD? IF NOT, DO YOU WANT TO?

How about the country? The continent? Find out just how much of this big, beautiful world you and your vina have seen! And maybe even learn a little bit about foreign cultures!

Swipe on over to the Hey! VINA app and find your perfect match to get chatting with! 

GASSING UP YOUR VINAS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

There is something electrifying about women having each other’s back. Women who stand by each other in the best of times AND the worst of times, that is an indescribable thing. When women stand together, we change the world. Statutes are amended, minds are changed, and the world just becomes a better place overall.

When I see pictures of the Suffrage Movement – women all over the world marching for a right to vote – or pictures from August 9th, 1956 when 20,000 South African women marched against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act, or the women in D.C. on January 21st, 2017 wearing pink #pussyhats, I see strength. I see power. I see what can happen when women do what women do best – love.

When I bawl my eyes out to my vinas and they say to me “you’ve got this” or “you can handle it” or “you’re doing great, just keep going!” Something in my soul shifts focus.  When you are so down that you can’t even help yourself up, there is something amazing about the strength of a sisterhood. Having the kind of girls who will either pull you up by any means necessary or go down there and get you themselves. It’s amazing when you can look at someone and genuinely say “you make my life better.”

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Photo from “Her Campus” on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/179440366389460429/

It’s SO important to surround yourself with empowering women who see your value and support your every move. It’s important to create and maintain bonds that will motivate you and be there when you can’t be there for yourself.

Here at Hey! VINA we believe that women are the glue that holds the world together. We are champions. We are warriors. We can do anything we set our minds to, and if we stand together and build each other up, we will do great things. It’s important to have that support system of ‘gassed up’ vinas around you because, as women, we can be so hard on ourselves that we forget what we can actually do. Can you imagine the change in the world if every single woman was as brave as a lion? Can you imagine how confident we would be if we all collectively decided to gas each other up? No more hatred, no more division, no more putting others down to lift yourself up. No more jealousy, or resentment, or judgment! Just imagine a world where every single woman you pass compliments you and you compliment her back. That’s a world I wanna live in!

Here’s a challenge for you, vinas. Today, as you’re going about your daily life, compliment as many women (known or unknown) as you can. Nice shoes. Lovely bag.  Gorgeous eyes. If you can get a little personal, do. You’re the strongest woman I know.  You are such a cheerful giver. You are doing so well, girl! Look at you go! You are the smartest person I know and if anybody can do this, it’s you. Think about how you feel when someone notices the work you’ve put into your life, and then go out and make them feel it too! Gas it up, vinas!

Still looking for your girl squad to gas up? No problem! Hit up the Hey! VINA app pronto and start spreading the good vibes!

FRIEND OR FAKE? HOW TO SPOT A FLAKE

So you’re looking to expand your trusted tribe, build a tribe from scratch, or maybe you’re feeling lonely after moving to a new city – officially making you the new kid in town. Whoever and wherever you are in the world, and whatever your friendship goals may be, differentiating between a genuine gal pal and a flaky fake can be a tough call to make. Sometimes, it even feels like a game which makes it even harder to keep your sanity in tact!

For some, the allure of a new friendship fizzles out when there’s no game to be played, or no chase to be had. And many fledgling friendships fizzle out after barely stumbling over the starting block. You got beyond the awkward “hello, how are ya doing” intro message? Kudos – you’re doing better than most!

But how can you find someone whose wavelength is a perfect match, and is your ideal friendship catch? How can you spot a friend from a fake? Heck, it’s hard enough to get the conversation flowing, never mind being on alert for the fiery red flags. So, to give you a heads up on spotting fakes and staying away from flakes, check out these tips to identify whether that new pal is a forever friend, or a total fake.

TRUST PATTERNS, NOT APOLOGIES

So, you’ve been trying to plan that get-together for like, forever. And the excuses have been coming in thick and fast, right? There’s a pattern emerging but you’d rather not admit it. Sure, in your mind this gal pal has so much potential, and you’ve got so much in common. You like all the same movies, drink the same Starbucks, even frequent the same salons and shopping malls. Sure, you tell yourself they’re just a bit manically busy, and you may even feel a bit sorry for their frenetically paced life. But remember, people make time for those they truly care about, and one is never too busy for something that’s important to them. Would you treat a potential love interest with an erratic pattern the same? Probably not. So now it’s time to admit to yourself that this gal pal is a no go! You deserve better!

SPOT THE RED FLAGS

Ever paid for lunch but never received an offer to reciprocate? You offered your time to help with something, and it wasn’t well received? You went out of your way to do something, but it went completely unnoticed? These are sure signs that your friendship isn’t a two-way street. Vina, it’s time to jump on that elevator and get yourself the hell outta there!

KEEP YOUR STANDARDS HIGH: NO COMPROMISE

You’re polite, honest, kind and thoughtful. You’re as punctual as you can be, and super accommodating (we all need a little extra time occasionally), but your new vina doesn’t quite match. Stay firm on your non-negotiables – your standards. Those are the intrinsic values that make you unique, wholly, and wonderfully you. You deserve a gal pal who makes you feel appreciated. You must stay sweet, and if she doesn’t reciprocate, it’s time to speak with your feet and WALK.

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DON’T QUESTION YOUR WORTH

The moment you start to question your own worth is the moment you run. Did I say the wrong thing? Was I too eager? Was I too kind? Have I given too much away? Chances are if your new friendship is triggering these anxieties in the early stages, it’s probably not going to go away. This friend might not be the one for you. Good friendships are solidly grounded on good communication – both ways. Never question your worth, vinas. And never let your worth be found in the hands of another person, or determined by their perception of you!

Friendship footnote: If the friendship is still fresh, it’s important to allow for some give and take – your gal friend may just need a little time to open up, and that’s totally fine. Some vinas need to take their time to truly sparkle and shine!

Head over to the Hey! VINA app and start swiping to find your true tribe!