Good-Bye Alan, Dave, Christina, Carrie, and Debbie!

We’ve lost a lot of celebrities in 2016. To the world of fandoms though, they weren’t just celebrities. They were people who touched our lives as much as, if not more than, those people we actually see and talk to every day. I’ve decided to write an obituary of sorts for each the celebrities that in one way or another have touched and affected my life. I’ll admit, I can’t claim to be a part of any of these celebrities’ fandoms, but I can say that I respected each of them in their own right and in that manner, have been a fan of them.

Alan Rickman: I have by no means been a fan of you directly, simply because I’ve only ever seen you in Harry Potter and I’m not exactly a fan of Professor Snape to begin with. That being said, the Harry Potter series wouldn’t be what it is without your portrayal of Professor Severus Snape. You did an excellent job of bringing him to life. Thank you for that. Thank you for being a part of a fandom that has given so many people a hopeful escape from the “real world.”

Dave Mirrar: I can’t say I was ever a deliberate fan of you either. Growing up, I was always a fan of the X Games though and that’s why I have a vague memory of who you are. Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a part of the X Games. While that dream died as my childhood turned into adolescence, my ability to dream never did. That came in large part with because I spent so many years watched the X Games and watching guys like you follow their dreams. Thank you for that.

Christina Grimmie: 22 years old. I devoted a whole blog post to you Miss Grimmie. I wasn’t a part of your fandom. I was a fan though. I was a fan your dedication and perseverance. I was a fan of your seemingly humble spirit. You are maybe one of the most popular stars to come from YouTube. You paved the way for girls like me. You showed us that with some work and dedication we might be able to make something of ourselves by posting videos of our music and covers of other people’s music. Thank you for being a shining light in a dark world. Even after your untimely death, you’ve shone so brightly. Thank you.

Carrie Fisher: To be honest, I didn’t watch Star Wars before I was fifteen and haven’t watched again until today. I was a fan of Star Wars though. My childhood best friend’s brother use to “train” us in the way of the force and we’d fight each other lightsabors. It was awesome! Thank you for being a part of the reason I have those childhood memories. Thank you for being one of the female leads, like Natalie Portman after you as your “mother”, who showed girls that we can kick ass just like the boys can.

Debbie Reynolds: I didn’t watch Halloweentown until this past summer as a part of my goal to “binge and blog” the 100 DCOM’s. Nonetheless, I am still beyond grateful that you took us all to Halloweentown. It was so much fun to watch. Thank you! Thank you for take me to Halloweentown! Even as a 22-year-old girl, it was a pleasure to go with you! Thank you further for reminding us that “being normal is vastly overrated.” I am a firm believer that being weird is just a side effect of being awesome and your role as Aggie Cromwell only further proved my belief! Thank you!

Finding Hope on 12/23/11 at 1:06 A.M. – Five Years Later

Five years ago, on Thursday, December 22, 2011—my eighteenth birthday—my life changed forever. When I went to bed that night, I started crying for one reason or another. I was super stressed for several reasons, but it boiled down to me deciding to write a letter to my future boyfriend after writing about why I wanted one. What I wrote doesn’t really matter though, because I didn’t finish it. Instead, I turned my sheet of paper over and started writing what I call a prayer contract. I poured my heart out to God and vowed to Him that I would stop worrying and “simply worry about being the best, most beautiful and most Godly me, Brittany Alexandria Willis, I can possibly be.” I wrote that at 1:06 a.m. on the 23rd (because it took me a few hours to gather my thoughts and stop crying) that’s why I’ve purposely posted this at 1:06 a.m. on the 23rd of December five years later. I proceeded to write a P.S. “Dear Lord, please fill me with love for myself, You and others, joy in the fact that I am single, peace with my single status, kindness to everyone around me, goodness so that I may succeed in the above goals, faithfulness so that I will remember everything happens in your timing, gentleness so that I won’t be snippy with my non single friends, self-control so I can accomplish these goals, and wisdom to make the right choices in every area of my life!”

Five years later, I’m still single (and that’s something I’ll be discussing with God when I’m done writing this—seriously, I need to write a follow up prayer contract), but that’s really the only thing that is the same about me. I was in very bad and dangerous—like potentially life-threatening—place in my life when I wrote my original prayer contract that I share about here. I was depressed, full of self-hatred, and in desperate need of a large dose of “in your face” love and acceptance. I was a “cutter,” I was always angry, and I wasn’t sure if I or anyone else wanted me to be alive. Then, while I was writing a letter to the prince whom I thought would save me, God spoke to my heart and told me to write a letter to the King who already saved me. I went from hating myself to genuinely loving myself, from resenting my singleness to feeling joy and peace in this walk God has left me in, from angry, frustrated, and resentful toward everyone to being told by several people how much my kindness and love means to them, from self-harm to self-control, from hopeless to reliant on faith, and from selfish to being called wise by some of the older people around me.

It’s been five years though and I am by no means perfect. In fact, in a fleeting moment of weakness brought on by an all too familiar situation, I recently wished I had something to use to harm myself. It was brief, but it was there, and I don’t think the temptation every truly goes away. Not fully. In fact, I still have my bad days (and weeks, sometimes months) when I fear I may slip into old habits. Now, I don’t stress about school; I stress about work. I have moments when I worry about wanting a family, instead of just a boyfriend. Instead of stressing about whether my parents will divorce or work things out, I now sometimes feel resentment toward them and anger toward God (that’s okay, by the way. God can handle our anger. It’s how we handle it that’s important) because they did divorce and that makes me feel some kind of way after I spent so many years crying myself to sleep praying they would stop fighting and fall in love. All those struggles are posts for another time though, because I’m not really writing this to broadcast my insecurities.

I’m writing this so that I can read it again in five years and think about how far God will have brought me then too. I’m also writing this for you, because I know you have struggles and insecurities too; I imagine that’s why you stumbled upon a blog called “D.A.R.E to HOPE” and decided to check it out.

You’re feeling hopeless, or at least you have in the past, and you want to see if you can find hope here. You can, I promise you can, but not necessarily from me. Though, I am here for you, whether you know me or not, and I will lend you a listening heart if you need someone. Even if you come to me for hope though, whatever you find through me, won’t be from me. It will be from God through me! I often find hope through writing, but (below what God reveals through His Word) the truest hope I know has been given to me by God through his daughters and my sisters in Christ. In my biological family, I am the oldest sister, but in the last four years, God has given me a big sister, Shelby Lilly, who has been a source of hope that I never thought I would ever have. Growing up, especially in high school, 98% of the time I didn’t believe in myself and I certainly didn’t love myself. In more ways than I have space to share, Shelby has taught me to believe in myself far more than I ever thought was possible. If it wasn’t for her, then I don’t know where I’d be right now. God might have led me to someone else who could have encouraged and inspired me, but I doubt they’d have done it as effortlessly and gracefully as Shelby does. Besides, if I hadn’t have met Shelby, then it would have been because I hadn’t have made a few other seemingly small moves in the right direction and my whole life really would be different. Other than Shelby, I have several other people who inspire and encourage me, primarily Allie and Holly (who, like Shelby, I’ve probably mentioned in nearly every post on this blog).

Anyway, the point is, I am here for you. I want you, whoever you are, to know that I am here. I’ve been in your position, or at least a very similar one, and it’s not a pretty place. Let me tell you here and now that you are not a burden and you are not a waste of space. The only pain you are to me (and I may not even know you) or anyone who knows you is the kind that we feel at the thought of you hating yourself, hurting yourself, or worse. Let me also tell you that you are not something I, or anyone who knows you, has to “deal with.” If we really felt that way, then we wouldn’t open our hearts to you and we wouldn’t ask you to open your heart to us. I started this blog for two people—me and you.

“You” is the lonely person on the other side of the computer screen reading my words. “You” is the girl who hates herself and wants to die. “You” is the girl stressed out about school papers, projects, finals, and graduation. “You” is the girl looking for a job, hating her job, and or not caring at all. “You” is the girl who feels like her dreams will never come true. “You” is the girl who hurts herself, doesn’t eat, overeats, works out too much, and or has tried to kill herself. “You” is the girl you think you are and the girl you really are. “You” is the teenage girl I used to be whom I wish I could say all this to right now. “You” is the girl who has read some or all of my other posts and relates to them. “You” is YOU! You are you and you are BE-YOU-TO-FULL, so Be You to the Fullest. That’s when you’ll be beautiful.

So, you, whoever you are and whoever you think you are. Let me tell you who you really are. You are beautiful. You are special. You are loved. You are enough. You are awesome. You are going to accomplish great things. You are going to be exactly who God wants you to be, because He knows what’s best for you and He will use your brokenness to help others. Heaven knows He’s used my brokenness to help others. I know of some of the people He’s used to me to help heal, but I doubt I know all of the people He’s worked through me for. All I know is that even if you don’t know it yet. You are healed. You are powerful. You are strong. You are brave. You are a Woman of Valor (my little sister by choice told me about that, so I’m borrowing it–hope that’s okay?).

Just in case you don’t know what valor is, it’s courage, bravery, fearlessness, boldness, and heroism. You may not feel courageous, brave, fearless, bold, or heroic right now, but trust me. YOU ARE. You’re here right now, aren’t you? You’re reading this post. You’re living and breathing. You’ve lived to fight another day, another hour, another minute, another second. Do you know why? God’s using you. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but He is. He is a timeless God, so even if you’re still struggling in this very moment, you are healed, powerful, strong, brave, and a woman of valor. You’re also being used by God. Someone, somewhere is looking up to you and thinking about how strong and happy you seem to be despite whatever obstacles may be in your way. In fact, I’m inspired by you right now. I may not know who you are, but I know I’m inspired by you, because you are still alive and you’re reading this, which means some part of you is fighting to win and I sincerely hope and pray that you will let that part of you take control and grab hold of God so that you can win!

I know it’s hard. Trust me. I know and I’ve got the scars to prove it. I’ve also got posts and messages to people I’m close with to prove it. It’s not impossible though. You will overcome. You have already. That’s why you’re here reading this now. Believe you are enough of whatever it is you think you’re not enough of and that will be half the battle won. If you think it’s been a long journey so far, take heart, there’s a longer journey ahead of you, but this journey is brighter. It’s no easier than the journey you’ve taken so far, but it sure is worth it! Please believe that! I don’t want to see a world without you, whoever you are, because every time someone dies, whatever the cause, the world gets a little darker. So please, shine bright and believe in yourself!

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and Body Shaming

Why are women always body shaming other women? It’s common knowledge that we have a bad habit of body shaming women who are overweight. What isn’t talked about as much is that we also have a bad habit of body shaming women who are skinny–women like those who are models for Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Angels just presented themselves on the catwalk for Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Naturally, people are all over the spectrum on how they feel about the Show. Generally, there are four types of women in the world while Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is on. The comedic women watch it for fun while eating junk food and cracking jokes about how “this is why I’ll never be a supermodel.” The insecure women watch it and judge themselves in comparison to the models. The cynical women watch it, or don’t, and bash the models based on preconceived notions that all models starve themselves. Then there are women like me, the indifferent women who don’t watch the show at all for one reason or another. I want to take a moment to talk to each of these four groups of women.

Comedic Women: Thank you for being so confident in yourself that you can eat junk food and crack jokes about yourself while watching Victoria’s Angels strut and pose on the runway. You are the kind of women other women need as friends. You are the kind of women who show the rest of us that confidence really is the key to true beauty.

Cynical Women: Shut up! Didn’t anyone ever tell you that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all? Just because a woman is a model, that doesn’t mean she starves herself. Yes, it is possible and unfortunately probable that at least some of the Victoria’s Secret Angels have or have had eating disorders, but that’s not because they’re models. That’s because they’re women just like you who have insecurities and wars with themselves. I have had at least three friends who are models and two of them were actually very close friends of mine. One of them was Miss El Paso in Texas and another–who was one of my best friends in high schoool–has modeled for and been featured on Instagram by Neiman Marcus. I share that to say they are successful in their work and as far as I’m aware they do eat all the time or at least they did when we were in school and talked more frequently. From what I know about models, they can almost be looked at the same way one would look at an athlete. Most of them have incredibly quick metabolism and they’re constantly working out to keep their bodies in tip top shape. I mean, have you seen the shoes they wear? Those alone probably give them fab legs. I know my muscles are worked out when I wear my heels. Anyway, it’s really none of your business if someone is super thin or not. The only time you should care is if you genuinely believe someone has an eating disorder, in which case it is your responsibility to lovingly speak with that person whom you know and try to love and care for them so that they know they don’t have to turn to such drastic measures.

Insecure Women: Believe me when I say you are beautiful! You don’t have to look like Gigi, Bella, Kendall, or any of the other models on your TV screen to be beautiful! Yes, Gigi, Bella, and Kendall are beautiful! I won’t take away from that, because that’s one of the biggest problems we have as women in today’s society. We tear down the thin girls to make the average and heavier set girls feel better. We don’t have to do that. We’re all beautiful. I can say that because in high school, I was on the thinner side of my height to weight range and now I’m a little heavier than what my height to weight range should be. That’s okay though, because I know I’m beautiful no matter what. So are you! Whoever you are! Whether you’re the tween girl who’s just now facing body image challenges or you’re the middle aged mom who is still carrying baby weight even though her baby is the tween girl facing body image challenges for the first time. Know that you are beautiful! I know how tempting it is to compare yourself to the models you’re watching on TV. Like I said earlier, I know a few models and I’d be lying if I said I’ve never compared myself to any of them, but here’s the thing, models are human just you and me and every one is different. Look at all the Victoria’s Secret Angels, none of them look exactly the same. Even sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid don’t look the exact same. So don’t stress. If you’re thin, then don’t be afraid strut your stuff like it’s nobody’s business. If you’re more on the heavy side, then be like Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect and take pride in who you are even though you’re not the thinnest person in the room and just like the thin girl, don’t be afraid to strut your stuff like nobody’s business.

Indifferent Women: I am one of you. I am indifferent toward Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I don’t watch it. Half the time I don’t even know it’s happening until it’s happening and then there’s no point in watching it anyway. It’s okay not to care. You don’t have to care. I do want you to know though that if you’re like me, and you’ve suffered in the past from insecurities so that is a small part of the reason why you don’t watch the show, that’s okay too! If you know yourself well enough to know that watching something like that could potentially set you off into your insecure tendencies, then don’t watch it. The world won’t stop if you don’t watch it. On the other hand, if you don’t watch the show because you feel it’s degrading to women (a small part of me feels this way too) that’s also okay. As long as you’re not hating on the women in the show or hating on those who watch the show, it’s okay not to watch the show. If you do feel it’s degrading to women, then maybe try looking at it this way—these women are walking these runways in next to nothing and many of them are very confident in their bodies while they do it. While I do wish they would wear more clothes (that’s another discussion entirely), I also really respect them for getting up there and confidently strutting around in front of millions of viewers. It’s both empowering and inspiring to see women who appear to be that confident.

All four groups of women need to remember though, these models may seem to be very confident, but that doesn’t mean they are. Even the most confident women face moments, days, weeks, months, and or years of insecurity. They may be models who have bodies that much of the female population strives for but they are still ordinary women just like you and me. Despite how they are often presented to us, they are not perfect. Gigi even had a wardrobe malfunction during the show. As embarrassing as that may be for her, it’s also a good reminder for us that she’s human. She isn’t perfect. She has flaws and things don’t always go as planned for her either. I’m sure that she and the other models probably have days when they don’t want to do anything but sit at home all day and eat junk food. I’m sure that they sometimes miss their workouts just like the rest of us. Granted, it’s a part of their job to work out, so they probably don’t miss it as much as we tend to miss ours, but that’s the thing. It is a part of their job. Just like if we miss something in our own jobs, then it looks bad for us, if these models miss something in their jobs—like working out and eating right—then it looks bad for them. We’re all human though. We all miss work sometimes and you know what? That is okay. Who wants to be perfect anyway? Then we’d just be robotic and unrelatable.

If, by some chance, you’re reading this and you are an Angel or any other kind of model, I want you to know that I do think you’re pretty awesome. Not because you’re thin and look perfect to the public eye pretty much all the time, but because you are human and you still let people dress you up and take your pictures day in and day out while appearing to be confident 24/7. I admire you for presenting yourself as confident and put together. I hope and pray that you are as confident and put together as you appear to be. I also hope that you know you are beautiful, not because of how you look physically, but because you’re you! I bet you have an awesome laugh and that you’re super interesting and great to talk to! Rock who you are inside and out and remember to have fun!

P.S. In case I didn’t make my point clear, body shaming someone is bashing any kind of body type not just overweight women! How can we expect men to treat us like equals when don’t even treat us like equals?