I have these gut feelings in life that resonate inside me when I feel like I am where I’m meant to be. And I feel it right now talking to you. This is where God wants me to be right now.
My story begins before I was born. In college, my mom and dad were discerning if they were meant to go into religious life or married life. While praying at the replica of Saint Francis’ Porziuncola at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, my mom saw a vision of me as a baby. My parents soon moved to Florida, married, and had me.
I was the firstborn. Not just to my parents, but the firstborn niece, grandchild, and cousin to my family members from both sides. I was the center of attention and received A LOT of birthday presents. Four years later, I wanted a sister and my dad wanted a son, and God delivered both, my twin siblings.
For those of you who are the eldest sibling, you can understand some of the pressures that come with the job of being “number one.” We pave the way for our younger siblings, we take care of them, we experience everything first, we give them advice to not make the same mistakes we did, and we are somewhat forced to be a leader. Instead of shying away from the responsibility, I embraced it and enjoyed it, and tried to be the best big sister I could be.
Growing up, I’ve always felt all eyes were on me, whether I wanted it or not. Being the daughter of parent-teachers, and going to the schools they taught at, my parents’ coworkers and my fellow peers had high expectations for me. I tried not to fail these expectations, keeping high grades, extracurriculars, honor societies, you know, all the stuff that looks good on a college application. But if I ever made a mistake, forgot an assignment, swore, or anything “out of character,” people would audibly gasp and say something like, “Alyssa, I can’t believe you forgot the assignment!” or “Alyssa, wow I never expected to hear you say that, it’s so weird!”
I feel like these high expectations to be a model student, daughter, and Catholic left me conflicted and confused. What am I supposed to be like? Who am I supposed to appease? Is it wrong for me to do this thing I want to do? Who am I?
I put all my time, effort, heart and soul into everything I do. On the outside, it looks like I go above and beyond–-I’m so actively involved, I’m constantly told I’m doing so much, and people are so grateful and proud. But…on the inside, I never feel like I am doing enough, no matter how many times I’m told.
I try to combat this every day by growing more confident in myself. I aim to grow confident in the gifts God has given me. I have to remind myself: yes, you are doing enough, you are doing all you can do, and ask God to fill in the blanks. This wisdom didn’t come until recently, and only as a result of my past experiences and struggles.
Acting, creating, and storytelling were things I’ve always loved. As a little girl, I cast my siblings and cousins in my recreations of High School Musical, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Camp Rock. I told my little sister stories using our barbie dolls as the characters. And I had my own notebook of short stories I wrote in middle school.
I took up drama club in middle school. I was shy and didn’t want to put myself out there, but at the same time, I wanted the leading roles. I was able to play small characters and loved being someone else. The love grew to passion and I continued performing throughout high school at Monsignor Edward Pace in Miami Gardens, FL. I was participating in competitions and performing in our musicals and plays. From this, I learned how to handle criticism and rejection, how to speak to an audience, and how to act confidently.
Confidence was something I lacked. I was always conforming just to make friends, changing who I was to appease others. I was included but got hurt, used, became the butt of the jokes, and just took it all. It wasn’t until I attended my first overnight retreat that I learned I was hurting and my “friends” really weren’t friends at all. Finally, I spoke out and questioned their behavior. I got shunned for it and made fun of more, being told: “You just can’t take a joke.” I started to pray one verse every night:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”LK 23:34
This was the first time I can recall God answering my prayers. To me, it is such a gift when we are able to realize a moment our prayers were answered. All teasing stopped and I found true friendships, all while serving God. I was a peer minister and youth group leader devoted to serving and leading others. I led and attended every single retreat our school offered, all the while keeping high grades, honor societies, and still pursuing my acting passion.
During my senior year at Pace, I saw that all my peers had college acceptances, knew what they wanted to be, and knew how long it would take them to get there. I felt lost, not even knowing what college I was attending. During this time my one prayer was, “Jesus, I trust in you.” My dad went back to school to Saint Thomas University (literally right next to Pace) to get a master’s degree. He suggested we check it out. Not long after, I was accepted and found a work-study position as a campus ministry leader. I got that gut feeling and went for a double major in Religious Studies and English.
To help pay for school I landed a weekend job at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I spent my undergraduate college career working, taking classes, keeping good grades, maintaining a social life, leading as a peer minister, and maintaining a relationship. My love history is like a sad romance movie which I can share in another post later on. After a couple of failed relationships, I finally found the partner God made for me at work (a cliché, I know).
Approaching graduation and again, not knowing where I was going in life, I prayed the prayer of my patron Saint Francis of Assisi, the Peace Prayer, and was inspired by my Aunt Lisa (our Founder) to go into content creation. I found the most unique master’s program in a merger between Florida International University and Miami Ad School, which offered me a well-rounded study of graphic design, advertisements, social media, content creating and so much more.
Everything that I’ve learned and experienced has ALL come to help me on my current path. And I feel that gut feeling that I am here with Little with Great Love for a reason.
My motto right now is to live every day with a spirit of gratitude. Being grateful for the blessings, opportunities, failures, experiences, and relationships. Because without them, I wouldn’t be the young woman I am today. I have a gut feeling about that.