February 4, 2015

What being unique means to my life


Every week, nay, nearly every day, I receive emails from companies that are woefully ill suited to my blog (and often personal interests, too) suggesting that I write a promotional post on their behalf for my blog featuring one of more their products or promotions - usually things like trips to countries, wonderful though they may, that I'll likely never step foot in; home appliances I shalln't be buying anytime soon, or flower delivery services that don't even send order to my country. While part of me appreciates, from a business standpoint, why such companies send out these generally entirely boiler plate filled emails, I never act upon them.

Their impersonal requests, sent to hundreds, if not thousands of folks on all rungs of the blogger popularity ladder do to not speak to me. They don't stir my heart, cause me to stop in my tracks and get lost in a thunder storm of thoughts. They are not who I am and what my blog is about. Yet for every rule there is an exception and when said exception comes delivered with your name and a friendly note from someone you've already had pleasant correspondence with, that feeling shifts radically.

Earlier this week I received just such a (positive) email from the fine folks at Unique Vintage. The message, simple, polite, and earnest, merely wondered if I'd be interested in taking part in their recently launched #iamunique campaign which encourages people from around the world to use that hashtag for their photos, tweets, posts, what have you, anytime they want to convey the message that they are indeed unique.



{A handful of the awesome people that Unique Vintage has highlighted as part of their inspiring #Iamunique campaign.}



We've all heard the jaded axiom before: "You're unique, just like everyone else" or some variation (often with the world special used in lien of unique) before. And it's precisely that, an apathetic line delivered, more often than not with an air of smugness and and thumbing of the nose towards the notion that each of us is unique.

Sad really, because we are. Even those who, for better or worse, spend much of their time and energy emulating others are unique beings. No two people, not even identical twins are every truly, exactly the same.

It is our our differences, our similarities, and yes, even our specialties that make us unique. You could quickly trust your hand up in the air say, but wait, aren't they just using the word unique because it's in the name of their company. And if you do, my answer would be a kindly delivered, "So what?". If, as Marshall McLuhan wrote back in the 1960s, the medium is the message, than it's high time that the media of hashtags and social (fittingly) media itself, a rather cloistered and at times carbon copied segment of modern society, embraced and celebrated the concept of what being unique really means.

After all, I thought to myself, as I read what this campaign is aiming to do and how the word unique tied into Unique Vintage's very moniker, I too took a word from one part of my world and applied it to another when naming my blog.

Long time readers who have been with me for many a year now, bare with, as I know you've heard this tale before (I promise you though, you haven’t heard it quite like it). It warrants telling again, for it is part of what makes me and my very blog itself unique.

You see, once a while back, nearly six years ago to be precise, I was in my mid-twenties and incredibly ill. I mean, scary, kiss-the-ground-each-morning-because-you-woke-up ill. I'd already been a multiple chronic illness fighter for a few years and at that time I was was going through one of the worst spells of my life on the health front. It lasted for years. I was (physical) weak and incredibly exhausted. Pain alone would have been a welcome respite from the nightmarish agony I was living. Tears took more energy then I could muster most days. But I didn't feel sorry for myself or bemoan my lot in life - for I still had life and hope and the perpetually present thought that I was more than just the sum of my medical problems.

I began to focus, if only in my mind, on those very things. The elements that made me whole and interesting. Those that had walked with me since my earliest memories and others that hopped on an open box car somewhere along the way in this wild journey we call existence.

There was my immeasurable passion for animals. The way I could scent the world with the fragrance of vanilla tobacco smoke and never tire of it (I don't, and have never, smoked, I just madly adore that scent). There were the countless books, lapped up with more gusto than a kitten going at a saucer of milk. There was my camera, trusty companion, sometimes source of income, silent witness to things far too easily forgotten, buried beneath the weight of the daily grind.

There was the reams of research done in the name of my family's genealogy. Always searching, always wanting to know and understand more. To see not only branches but the very roots of my kin's own tree. There were dolls, some new, some old, and a few cherished childhood mementos of various sorts. Letters received and drafts waiting to be sent, all in cursive - the product of a refusal to extinguish an age old art.

In the closet of my mind's eye hung fashions both real and imagined, lingering alongside roses and honeysuckle and wisteria from backyard gardens long moved on from. A million memories like the grains of sands that clung to my young legs on the beaches - second homes, really - of my youth.

There were the scars from battles won and surrenders survived. Literal and metaphorical. Notebook upon notebook of poetry, often my one and only saving grace. There were songs, ballads from kindred spirits and rebel wordsmiths that highlighted and shadowed recollections more vividly than light ever could.

Faces and places, loves and hates. Failures and successes, both spectacular, both powerful, both invaluable in shaping my morals, my ethics, my beliefs, my politics, my compassion. Notes of romance from my husband, his gentle voice, sagely wisdom, twinkling eyes.

Losses and gains, and a hundred million pains and everything and nothing that made me who I was. That made me unique.

I turned to one interest, one passion that had shone like a lighthouse beckon since before I could even read the printed word on my own: history, and by extension this word and world we call vintage.

It was my in my closet, on my bookshelves. It woke me up to hand fistfuls of coins to strangers on sleepy, sun-kissed Saturday mornings. It gave me my first job and many along the road between then and now. It was what made me ask follow up questions to elderly people's stories about their early days. Humbled me in my tracks. Shone and gave and invited me to always return, no matter what.

It knew me as well, perhaps better even, than I knew myself, for it had seen all who came before me and will encompass all who follow. The words that appeared to me next, the very name I bestowed upon this blog - and myself from that point onward - were "chronically vintage".

This love, the beautiful, amazing, endless bank of knowledge was not a negative form of the word chronically, as it is so often implied or needed to be used (as in the case of ongoing health problems). It was a positive. An all encompassing, fantastical, joyful experience that comes from being so very blessed as to be tapped by the universe to preserve and celebrate that past each and every day.

In the midst of a nightmare, I carved out a tiny niche of beauty. My corner of the web, yes, but also a reclaiming of the fact that I was so very, very much more than my medical situation. I was unique, but at the same time united with others in a common interest, a shared adoration.

We are each as unique as our finger prints, our DNA, our souls - and yes, even our blogs and social media statements. That, my sweet dears, is part of the message behind Unique Vintage's campaign and why, unlike all those other emails, this one set my fingers ablaze and spurred today’s post to life. Not entirely unlike when my blog itself came into being late one April evening in 2009.



{#iamunique and wonderful, flawed and human, passionate and perpetually optimistic, and I wouldn't have it any other way.}


Here is to being unique. To walking proud and standing up for your right to be an individual. Brave, elegant, raw, gorgeous, troubled, sweet, hopeful, brilliant, and yes, even stylish. No matter what, no matter where, no matter the cards that life has dealt you. For in being unique, we triumph and we find the strength by which to pick ourselves up when the chips are down and the promise of tomorrow isn't always a given.

#Iamunique, and so too, thank the universe, are each and every one of of you. This is my story. What's yours?

40 comments:

  1. You are unique in what must be all of the best ways - or maybe I just know that because I know what a beautiful person you are <3 the fact that you've been through so much and still have such a positive outlook on life is definitely unique and one of the true testaments to your wonderful character. CC x

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  2. Dearest Jessica, there are times in life when we need something more, a hug, a touch, a smile or maybe just a beautiful collection of words that inspire us and remind us of what is good and lovely in this world. Thank you for this beautifully spoken blog post and for sharing your story. You are truly one and million. I think I need to go cry now, not because I am sad but because I hear you, no, I feel you. I shall return later but for now I just wanted to say thank you. Yes, you are unique and so very special to me. Gentle hugs, Beverly

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    1. My precious friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment - it in turn brought tears to my own eyes. I know exactly what you mean about "feeling" someone and how incredibly powerful and moving that sensation is. May we always be in one another's lives and able to connect and relate on such a profound level.

      Endless gentle hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  3. Such an important word: unique !!! And you, Jessica, are unique. In this Internet world, with no face, no heart, someone is real and you are one of them

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  4. wow, this was amazing to read. Like you said it, unique may be seen as pretentious and sometimes I have to deal with the negativity that comes with that without asking for it as some say. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story with me (us) it helped me to realised I shouldn't feel sorry for myself :)

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    1. Sweet dear, thank you very much for our wonderfully kind comment. It's human nature to feel sorry for ourselves sometimes - (ideally) it's how you move past those feelings though that should define your life, not the sorrow itself. (If there's ever anything at all that you need someone to talk to about, please know that I'm here for you.)

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  5. Jessica you are so sweet. Every post you make is a bright spot in my week. As someone who's often a complainer (just to complain, really, not to change things. Y'know, being useful ;-) ), it's so helpful to read your stories and hear your bright optimism. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

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    1. It is truly my honour and pleasure. Thank you in turn for reading my blog and being such a lovely online friend (who in our interactions, as never struck me as someone who was a complainer in the slightest), as well as for your truly lovely (and very touching) comment today.

      Tons of hugs coming your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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  6. This is an exceptionally lovely post, and I can't think of much to say except thank you for writing it. We are all unique, but I think it's safe to say, despite knowing you only via the internet, that you really are a special person. I always enjoy your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts, and I'm glad that UV reached out to you and inspired you to write this one.
    <3<3<3
    Jessica

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    1. You're incredibly sweet, my dear friend. Thank you you from the bottom of my heart. I think you're an awesome, inspiring, smart, stylish, truly lovely person, too, and am so delighted that the internet led our paths to cross and stay intertwined.

      Many hugs always,
      ♥ Jessica

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  7. I adored this post Jessica, thank you for sharing your personal thoughts. It's given me lots to think about and also to appreciate. Appreciating and accepting what makes us unique is really important and I think the message is definitely worthwhile to share. xxx

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    1. Thank you very much, dear Catherine. You so perfectly summed up the exact heart of this message. For while I did certainly talk about myself, it's ultimately even more about the bigger picture of how unique and fantastic we each are in our own beautiful ways.

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  8. Oh thats so wonderful that they contacted you Jessica. Its great that they are reaching out to the vintage community. I know how challenging your journey has been and still is. I am in the same boat. Its wonderful to be recognized for what you do and really joyful that you have been my dear. You are an example to us all to keep fighting for what you love no matter how hard it can get. Hugs to you-D

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    1. It truly is - and anyone who wants to can write a post, tag an Instagram photo, etc with that hashtag and take part in it, too. I really hope some of my readers here do, I would love to read and be inspired by their own amazing stories of uniqueness.

      Thank you deeply, sweet Daffny. It's always comforting to know that you get it, so to speak.

      Endless hugs coming your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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  9. This is an incredibly beautifully written post. And is so very inspiring. Today I had a bit of a rough day, and I just wanted to sulk. But this post was the kick the rear I needed! Your continued passion, drive, and optimism is such an astounding and awe inspiring quality about you that I see in too few individuals. Thank you for sharing such a story with us, and for continuing to be one of the most dazzling and inspiring stars in the blogosphere.

    xoxo
    -Janey

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    1. Sweet Janey, I am humbled and moved to the core of my soul by your incredibly thoughtful and touching words - and to know that you see me in such a positive light. Thank you beyond measure.

      The biggest of hugs always,
      ♥ Jessica

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  10. You are unique in another way too, your are so exceedingly kind, so genuine in an online world that often is not! You are chronically inspiring, chronically thoughtful, and I feel so lucky to have met you this past year.

    It is good to remember that being unique is a good thing, not something to be afraid of, as sometimes the world at large likes to paint it. Embracing what makes you unique is one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself! What a great message Unique Vintage is encouraging!

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    1. Sweet Bianca, I'm genuinely fighting off tears here. Thank you so very, very much for your humblingly touching compliment. I feel honoured to know that you see me in such a positive light.

      Very well said. I completely agree! It's awesome to be unique and to not fear that world or what it implies.

      Endless hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  11. So eloquently put my dear friend! You already know my story and have lived through it along side me and for that I am forever grateful to you. ­čîŞChristyByTheSea­čîŞ

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    1. Thank you deeply, dear Christy. I am forever grateful for the blessing of your friendship, your kindness, your understanding, and the shared interests with both delight in, too.

      Endless gentle hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  12. moving.
    i´d knew that you are a very unique person with a very personal blog from the first moment i found a post from you. it has a reason that i read all your writing and be exited about the photos since!
    maybe all humans are unique - but some are more unique then the most......
    btw - i love vanilla tabacco smell since childhood - sadly so few people still smoking that today! in my youth we made cigarettes with this pipe tabacco - mmhhh :-)
    big hugs!! xxxxxxx
    p.s.: that portrait of you is just awesome!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thank you so very much, my darling friend. How delightefully cool that we're both a fan of that smell. When I was little, there was a very elderly couple who lived down the street from us named Flo and Fern (I blogged about them a while back, so you may have heard this story already) and the husband (Fern) would spend his evenings, especially in the summer, smoking vanilla tobacco from a vintage pipe and filling the neighbourhood with that heady, sublime scent. I fell it love with it than and will adore it for all of time.

      Thank you! It's one of my very favourites taken in 2014 - and, objectively, of me ever. I don't usually do a lot of posing in my shots as I never look natural it seems when I do, but this time I lucked out and got this fun shot of me looking over the tops of my glasses. It's a cheeky, cute portrait and one I'm very glad to have of myself from that point in my life.

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  13. Jessica, it is your kind and beautiful soul that does indeed make you so unique. Your courage and honesty in handling the cards that you have been dealt never ceases to inspire. Your wonderful writing and your vintage inspirations are always a joy. Thank you .

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    1. That is immensely touching, sweet Jill. Thank you with all my heart.

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  14. It took a long time to let my uniqueness back out. Being a mom had me look for an easy lifestyle so lots of sweats and yoga pants,shorts and t-shirts. Had I thought more about it at the time lovely circle skirts would have been a staple in my wardrobe. You can't get much freer movement than a good skirt. Sometimes it saddens me that I let myself fall out of who I really am for so many years but everything has a place and time. I've noticed the more I'm myself the more people respect me and that's saying a lot if you knew the conservative people I know. Showing up in petticoats is not something they see often.. until now that is. :) I thought they'd deem me as "weird" and although I'm sure it's not necessarily the clothes I'm wearing my light shines differently these days. I know that I'm special and unique but mostly I know that I feel back to being me.
    Jeepers your posts always make me think. ;)

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    1. That's wonderful, dear Debra. It is never, ever too late to become an even more genuine and unique person and to embrace who you really are and who you really want to be at this point in your life. I'm truly happy that you've come to this point and that you feel more respected. That's an excellent point about the benefits of being unique. I find the truer you are to yourself, the more you are both respected and have confidence (at least I feel more confident).

      Always, always let that marvelous light shine, my sweet friend, and know that I'm here to help you fuel the fire, so to speak, if it ever grows dim again.

      Endless hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  15. This was a very lovely post. I truly enjoyed reading more of your background. It is life that forms us, and some of us dare to be more special and even feel an urge to be than most others. I never call myself unique or special, I always say I am different. I am very feminine (that's why I love fifties style so much I suppose), but I have a quite masculine taste. I love motorcycles, I adore vintage cars, I love action movies, etc. I have always considered your chronically vintage being a very positive thing. I do wish you all the good health in the world, dear. You are a brave figther that can concour it, I know. Wishing you a lovely day, dear. :)

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    1. Thank you immensely, dear Sanne, for your beautifully understanding comments and support. I know that you can relate and appreciate that immensely. You're so right about how our various interests shape and define us unique beings. I have so many interests and sides to whom I am and love that about myself. I'm the first to define myself as being eclectic and wouldn't change that for the world.

      Endless hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  16. Jessica, as many have already said you are truly a unique individual who always seems to have a positive outlook, no matter what you are faced with. I'm glad that you share you uniqueness with your readers in every blog post.

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  17. I just realised how very lucky I was to land in your blog (via Ally).
    Your posts, always insightful and thought provoking.
    There is no question how very unique you are.
    HUgs.

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  18. Great post! Being unique is so important. Ive always been drawn to oddballs, and i mean that in the best way possible, people with strong passions. I myself have always been a bit odd, which caused me massive problems in school when I was horribly unpopular, and for years i supprsed my uniqueness a bit out of fear of being too weird. Ive only recently been more ok with being an oddball and vintage clothing is a big part of that. Im nearly 37 now and when I turned 34 I decided to dress exactly as I wanted even if that meant full on vintage everyday. I had always loved vintage looks but been afraid of going full throttle and really embracing it. It was your blog and others that encouraged me to fully embrace the look every day. I now never wear "modern" clothes, i get some odd glances, but i couldn tbe happier. Thank you for being inspiringly unique

    retro rover

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    1. Thank you so much, lovely Kate! It's truly awesome, beyond words really, that you reached a point in your life when you were comfortable fully embracing who you are and what makes you the unique, special, beautiful, dynamic person that you are. 34 is not terribly old to do so at all and I think that for many people, they only really start to figure such things out around that point, as our teens and twenties are so often spent just getting a foot in the door in life and also feeling compelled to follow the status quo.

      I'm truly touched to have been able to inspire you on the vintage fashion front and love that you rock your beloved old school looks all the time now. Way to go on being true to yourself!

      Huge hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  19. this is such a fantastic post! i'm so sorry to hear how difficult things have been for you at times and how badly your health has effected your life, but it's wonderful that you've been able to find positives amongst all of it and haven't let your illnesses break your spirit. And especially that you've been able to reclaim the very word chronic and transform the meaning of it into something associated with your blog, which is your happy place full of beauty and inspiration - what an empowering thing! it really does make you unique for being able to find such joy and beauty in the world despite such difficult circumstances. xxx

    jessica - littlehenrylee.com

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    1. Sweet Jessica, your words are as lovely as your soul and heart are, thank you deeply.

      ♥ Jessica

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  20. A beautifully written, interesting and wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you deeply, my very dear friend. It certainly ranks high amongst the most soul baring and intimate I've penned to date and is one that without realizing it until I began writing it, I now see that I'd been wanting to share quite some time. I love that this challenge from Unique Vintage gave me the opportunity to do just that.

      ♥ Jessica

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  21. You, Jessica, are truly a beautifully unique person through and through. This was wonderfully written and I am always amazed and inspired by your journey. None of our lives are easy, nor was it meant to be, but not a lot of us handle it with as much grace and strength as you have. Lots of love! :) ~ Seanna

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    1. Excellently said, my sweet friend. While shouldn't be an unending uphill battle, it wasn't designed to be all sunshine, lollipops and baby bunnies 24/7 either. We need the bad, the rough, and the challenging to help us appreciate, savour and treasure the good and the happy all the more.

      Thank you deeply for your touchingly kind words.

      Hugs always,
      ♥ Jessica

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  22. Hear hear! I think it's important to regularly take stock of the things that make each of us special and valuable. When I run through the list of my talents and accomplishments it always brings a smile to my face. There was a time when I used to think that if I wasn't the best at something, then that skill wasn't worth noting among my achievements. Now I realise that I'm not the world's greatest blogger, there are plenty of people who can create yarn crafts much more polished than mine and I will never be the most stylish person to walk this earth. But that doesn't mean that my writing, my crafting and my personal style don't make me special and unique, or that those traits aren't valuable. This world is filled with interesting, talented people, and it's fantastic to think about those special things that sets each of us apart. Thank you for this gorgeous reminder to look for the uniqueness in ourselves and embrace it.

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    1. Absolutely! Even when you think of people, say Olympic atheletes, for example, who are truly the best in their respective fields in the world, there are tons of things they're average or below average at and whom you would be better at certain things than. We all have our strengths and weakness and at the end of the day, often, "best" in a hard to measure/define/quantity quality that doesn't have to stop you from enjoying anything, if you're not amazing at it, in the slightest. Case in point, back when I was able to dance (before I was chronically ill), I wasn't the best dancer in the slightest, but I loved it fiercely and danced my heart out, even becoming a member of my high school dance troupe. The love I felt for, and enjoyment I derived from, dancing far outweighed the fact that I wasn't exactly giving Ginger Rogers a run for her money.

      It's awesome that you've reached a point where you feel this way about a lot of things, too. Way to go! I think you've a very talented, inspiring, awesome person who is unique in the loveliest kinds of ways.

      Tons of hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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