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I Watched It Begin Again - Written Interview with Charlene Gonzales

Questions by Sierra Zimmer

Here’s the original post.

S: Hi Charlene! I loved your newest blog post! It related strongly to Kennedy’s piece earlier this month on forgiving yourself but took a whole different narrative of it. What was your inspiration for writing about this topic?

C: Hello Sierra! Thank you so much for interviewing me and for taking the time to chat together. :) I felt like this monthly theme of forgiveness has taught each of us writers what forgiveness means to us, especially what it means to forgive yourself. My inspiration came from two ideas; Taylor Swift’s songs and how my friendship with my friend taught me the importance of loving and forgiving yourself. I’ve been wanting to share my personal story from the time where I really struggled with how to forgive myself. I really did not know how to forgive for being too hard on myself until I met one of my best friends. She was the one who taught me that being gentle and forgiving yourself can allow us to love and give ourselves the compassion we need. The song “Begin Again” by Taylor Swift fits perfectly for this theme of self -forgiveness. Learning to forgive ourselves allows us to begin again to learn and embrace ourselves.

S: Your friend seemed to help you a lot with building up your self-love. Do you think it’s important to have a friend like that? In your opinion, what are the traits of a good friend?

C: I believe having a friend who is a good listener, validates your feelings,provides words of affirmations, support, and shows unconditional love for you is important. I honestly never had a best friend who really understands what I was going through until I met my best friend at one of the student organizations we are currently a part of. Meeting her was one of the greatest gifts ever! She always knows what to say whenever I am having a rough day. Her words of affirmations always make my day. She is literally a bundle of sunshine in my life and I love her so much. What makes a good friend in my opinion is that they will love you just the way you are. They will never criticize, judge, or bring you down. A good friend is someone who brings you light and the love you deserve.

S: You talk about comments in the past that have hurt you. What do you suggest for people that also have those voices from the past haunting them?

C: I still remembered the negative comments and discouraging words from others when I was 16 and it still haunts me today. A traumatic experience like that is never easy to forget or let go. Most of the time, I am afraid to talk to people or share ideas whenever I am in a group meeting because I am afraid to get judged or get called names. Negative comments and words can hurt honestly, but I learned that these words never defined me. Whenever these words haunt me, I would surround myself with some of my good friends who know and love me the way I am. I believe surrounding yourself with good people who give you the love you need helps you to learn to love yourself. Also, try to give yourself the same words of affirmations as your friends give you. Words of affirmations can help us embrace ourselves.

S: You clearly like Taylor Swift. What’s your favorite album of hers? And explain a bit about the impact her music has had on you.

C: Yes I do! I grew up with Taylor Swift and her songs at a very young age!! I have all of her albums and I have tons of memories as a kid from listening to Taylor Swift. Whenever I’m listening to “Tim McGraw”, it brings back such great childhood memories! My favorite album of all time from her would be Speak Now! The reason why I love this album is because one, it is the very first Taylor Swift album I got from one of my old friends when I was a kid and two, she wrote the album by herself and every song from this album is from her journal entries. I fell in love with the messages behind all of these songs like “Long Live”. This song has always been so close to my heart because it speaks about celebrating your accomplishments and that the memories you made will stand by you forever. The fairytale vibe from Speak Now also reminds me of my childhood and I always remembered the days where I used to love playing dress up as a princess when I was a little girl. Growing up, Taylor Swift literally represents my childhood, teenage years, and to where I am now. What makes her unique and different from any other artist out there is her songs and how she makes it relatable, vulnerable, and personal. I think we all can relate to her in some aspects of her life where she dealt with hardships, being bullied, or being discouraged by others. To me, Taylor Swift truly knows what we've been through and her songs give us the strength that we do not have to deal with our struggles alone. I am really glad I got to grow up with her songs and see her grow as an amazing songwriter today.

S: I love how you tied her music into the piece. What was your inspiration for that? Did it come from your friendship’s mutual bond over her or just your love for her music?

C: I wanted my blog post to be something unique and different from other blogs and stories. I wanted to tie in how self - forgiveness can be visualized as an act of new beginning. I thought of Taylor Swift’s song “Begin Again” and after listening to it many times, the idea came into my head and I was like “Wait! Learning to forgive yourself can be like learning to “begin again” and let that love fill our hearts!” I put one of her lyrics as my blog title to express that learning to forgive yourself allows you to have new beginings and find that strength to embrace yourself. I also included a significant quote from Taylor Swift that goes “You Are What You Love.” This quote also fits perfectly to the theme of self - forgiveness because her song “Daylight” teaches us to let go of the past and learn to love and embrace ourselves. “Daylight” is my favorite track from Lover and having to incorporate this song reference fits well in the theme of self-forgiveness. When I jot these ideas down, I also thought about my best friend who is also a big Taylor Swift fan. When I remembered the things she told me about the importance of being gentle to yourself, I also tied this idea of friendship and how it helped me to find forgiveness in myself. Overall, both Taylor Swift’s songs and my friendship with my best friend became one unique idea of how I want to write about my story with learning how to forgive yourself!

S: So you intertwined this story of self-love with self-forgiveness. Forgiveness is definitely a tenant to being kind to yourself. Do you think you’ve struggled with forgiveness outside of yourself (forgiving others)? And what do you do to help yourself through that?

C: That is a good question! I would say forgiving others can be hard as forgiving yourself. I still struggle to learn how to forgive others because the pain that they caused was as deep as a wound. A lot of times I tend to be hard on myself because of the negative words and how I was badly treated still felt painful. My mom is one of the best advisors I have in my life and she always taught me that forgiving people for what they did brings peace not only to them, but to us as well. I did not want to feel angry or hold grudges because being angry does not make me happy. When I learned that I want to be happy again, little by little, I learned how to forgive the people who hurt me because I want to feel that peace and love within me. Learning to forgive does not happen in one night, but rather it takes time. Surrounding myself with uplifting people like my mom and my good friends helps me to learn how to forgive others and also forgive myself.

S: It was a pleasure interviewing with you, Charlene! Now before we end off, where can our audience find you?

C: Thank you so much Sierra! I have a lot of fun chatting with you and you brought up some amazing questions! Our audience can find my other recent blog on our website and also they can see me on instagram @sweeetcharlene! I look forward to writing more upcoming blogs for LYF in the future!!



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