My life changed when I made the conscious decision to start seriously considering any opportunity that presented itself before letting myself say no. I forced myself to dig beyond the initial feeling of fear and weigh the costs and benefits of any situation. I had realized that, at 25 years old, I thought I knew exactly who I was and what my likes and dislikes were (yeah, that wasn’t true…).
I realized that my gut reaction to most things was to assume I wouldn’t be interested in a new experience that didn’t fit in with my idea of myself, and say no because I was scared of doing the thing: of going outside of my comfort zone.
I received my BA in Psychology in 2012 and wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with my life once I was released into the real world. I took a year off from school, worked with children with autism, and applied to research-intensive neuroscience MA programs. Starting a graduate program in neuroscience was intimidating for me: I had always been drawn to the work, but I didn’t feel like I was the ‘type of person’ to pursue graduate studies in such an intensive field.
That feeling didn’t last. I was paired with an amazing set of mentors at San Diego State University who taught and challenged me as I became immersed in the fascinating world of brain imaging.
My master’s program built up my confidence and resilience. By my second year, I was asked to speak at the incoming graduate student orientation and on a student panel about balancing life and getting the most out of your time in graduate school.
I think part of my success during my program had to do with embracing the academic unknown. I was new to neuroscience and had so many questions- it wasn’t embarrassing not to know something because I knew nothing. That program taught me that my intense passion and curiosity can keep me motivated and can drive me to do things I thought were impossible.
I learned a lot about my strength and spirit as I navigated through my first graduate program and rose to academic challenges that were presented, but the difficult times in my personal life drove me to change my mindset and continue building my internal strength. The day that I defended my master’s thesis there was a catalyst (there always is), and I got my heart broken (via text message, isn’t that basic??). It was infuriating to me that even after this, the person still acted as though he knew who I was and what I was capable of. (You don’t know me.) Though I was hurt, I was strong, and I could do anything.
Changing my mindset changed my life.
I said yes to some spontaneous opportunities and what came in the following months dramatically challenged the person I was, and I grew because of it. I starting forcing myself to move past my gut reaction and think about what the opportunity could mean. What was the worst that could happen?
“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus
In the 6 months after receiving my Master’s degree, I got my first tattoo, I went on a backpacking trip to New Zealand with a girl in my program and we travelled with some amazing new friends, I snowboarded and skied for the first time, I made a last-minute decision to go skydiving, I camped at Joshua Tree Music Festival, I went to concerts alone because I wanted to, I started rock climbing regularly, and I went on my first solo backpacking trip to Croatia before I moved across the country from San Diego, CA to Birmingham, AL to pursue my PhD. Everything I did was scary to me, but the feeling of surviving the preceding anxiety and fear was empowering and made me feel invincible.
“You were never meant to destroy me, but rather give me new life. Because that same rock bottom, I hit fast and hard, would act as the most solid foundation to build on.” Kirsten Corley
I started finding beauty in everyone and everything.
I stopped straightening my hair, I ditched the eyeliner, and I started focusing my energy on loving living my life and encouraging others to do the same. I consumed nonfiction books about identity in your mid 20’s (The Defining Decade, Meg Jay), about the history of unmarried women and significant strides for feminism (All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister; Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solint) and further developed my worldview.
“Every [woman] is the sum total of her reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different woman, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.” Hunter S. Thompson
After one year in Birmingham, I picked up my blowtorch and started creating again.
I wanted to create a brand that is an extension of my vision and style, that challenges me as a designer and artist, and that would impact my local community. I love working with my hands, learning new techniques, and creating something beautiful. Moving into metal work has been especially rewarding- I’ve been able to use stones I found on my journeys in rings and pendants to create pieces that have immense sentimental value.
My line, ember&onyx (insta: @emberandonyx) is now featured at a trendy new shop in Crestwood, Bham, called Elements. You can also check out and purchase pieces online at geetsdeets.com/shopemberandonyx (or contact me for a custom piece!).
I am passionate about sharing our stories with one another– getting to know your fellow stranger- you can find beauty in everyone if you look for it. I met my best friend on the Amtrak going from Santa Barbara to San Diego over Thanksgiving.
We drank wine and talked for 5 hours straight about life and love and family. We have little in common except for the way we feel and communicate, and I have learned more about maintaining a healthy relationship with her than anyone else in my life.
Intentionally pushing my limits, expanding my comfort zone, and finding beauty in the people and world around me has made me a stronger and happier person.
“There’s something uniquely valuable in everyone, and we’ll be much happier and better off if we invest the time and energy it takes to find it.” Aziz Ansari
Taylor Loyd is the co-founder of Austin Crossfit Gym Iron Greenhouse with a super inspiring story of perseverance and self will to overcome drugs, abuse and a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles
On the Bus Podcast (Brandon + Daniel) is converting a bus into a mobile studio to travel South America to interview and engage with guests along the way
Alex Lewis started Car Window Poetry with the goal of spreading inspiration through encouraging notes on car windows. He’s been featured on ABC Nightly News and his movement is slowly spreading across the country.
My story comes with a lot of twists and turns. Ones that were extremely dark in the midst of unfolding. Fast forward a few months and I wouldn’t change those twists for anything. Why? Because they’ve made my story so much more meaningful and a hell of a lot more fruitful. Why keep your story to yourself?
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