Our caravan pulled into the LOCKN’ site on Wednesday, August 24th, the day before the festival kicked off. Once there, we made our way to the main showfield and beheld the 10 ft. x 20 ft. plot of dirt which would soon be the home of bYLL. We were thrilled to be positioned next to D’Angelico Guitars, and just steps away from the inspiring Participation Row, a strip of non-profit booths curated by our friends at HeadCount and sponsored by Qello.
Although the venue was still devoid of attendees, energy was already buzzing as vendors, staff and crew hustled about putting finishing touches on the LOCKN’ site.
Our incredible volunteer team erected our bYLL Lounge in record time – fully equipped with fans, fresh fruit-infused ice water, and last but not least, with Fatboy USA beanbags and inflatable Lamzac chairs. We also came fully stocked with bYLL headbands, wristbands, tattoos and stickers because you KNOW we love a good giveaway!
Backstage at The Hang
We were also stoked to have a major presence backstage at The Hang – an area set up just for industry folk, as well as artist’s family and friends. Throughout the weekend, we loved chilling with new friends on comfy Fatboy beanbag chairs and chatting them up about beYouLoveLife’s mission!
Ryan Dempsey From Twiddle
A major highlight of the festival for us was meeting Ryan Dempsey, the keyboardist for Twiddle, and his awesome girlfriend, Alex. We got to talking and it quickly became clear that bYLL’s mission resonated deeply with Ryan. He ultimately wound taking time from his busy festival schedule to record an interview with us, and vulnerably shared his story at the bYLL RV! That video is forthcoming and we don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was a very special moment of connection that reminded us how powerful the work of sharing can be.
The positive vibes from our encounter with Ryan only grew for the duration of the festival in ways we never could have predicted. The day after our interview, Ryan wore a bYLL shirt onstage for his set with Twiddle. And later that day, Ryan proposed to Alex! Lucky for us, the proposal was captured by legendary photographer, Jay Blakesberg. Congratulations Ryan and Alex, and welcome to the bYLL family!!!
bYLL Brand Awareness
Our main goal for LOCKN’ was to spread the word as far and wide as we could about who bYLL is and what we do. We are proud to say that we knocked these goals out of the park! It was truly delightful to meet so many people over the weekend who expressed a longing for something like bYLL in their lives but didn’t know it existed! To all 500+ of you whom we met at LOCKN’, we want to say “welcome home.” We are so honored to be that missing piece.
ROCKN’ at LOCKN’
Aside from all things bYLL-related, the music at LOCKN’ was a constant highlight as the bands wowed audiences time and time again. From Vulfpeck and Twiddle, to Gary Clark, Jr., Ween, My Morning Jacket, JRAD, Phil and Friends and Phish, it was a non-stop onslaught of musical fusion from start to finish and we were so excited to be a part of all of it!
Final shoutouts are due to the LOCKN’ festival coordinators and staff. We were beyond impressed with the super friendly crew from beginning to end and amazed at the caliber of the event LOCKN’ has become in just a few short years. We felt right at home and can’t wait for next year!
New Developments for bYLL
So bYll-ers, thus concludes summer festival season. We had one hell of a run this summer from Live from the Lot to Mayfest to LOCKN’, and of course in our digital home. If you’re reading this far, you’re a huge part of our continued success and we truly can’t thank you enough.
Although we are now personally resting our festy-feet and will be working behind the scenes on some exciting new developments for beYouLoveLife, we will be sending a small team with our Fatboy furniture to the Catskill Chill music festival this weekend, so if you’re there, look for our logo, take a seat, and grab some free gear from our crew.
Beyond that, your loyalty and encouragement are everything.
Mike, Ali & The bYLL crew
With LOCKN’ festival just one week away, beYouLoveLife is gearing up for our biggest activation event ever and we couldn’t be more excited! This year’s musical lineup is packed with an array of beloved acts including Phish, My Morning Jacket, Ween, Phil Lesh and Friends, Umphrey’s McGee, friends of beYouLoveLife, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and many more. If you know us, you can attest that this is basically our dream lineup!
LOCKN’ attendees can come hang with us at our beYouLoveLife Lounge smack in the middle of the main show field, the center hub of the festival. Our 10ft X 20ft space is situated right beside ENO hammocks, D’Angelico guitars and Reverb. Should attendees need some extra cash, the ATM machines border our lounge – yippee!
We’ve pulled together a crew of volunteers with some of the best people we’ve ever met, and we can’t wait for our “bYLL Crew” to help us spread the word about our work, as well as gather attendees’ stories for new inspirational content. We’ll be armed to the gills with an RV full of banners, tents, wristbands, towels, temporary tattoos, and this summer’s hottest new festival must-have, the Lamzac.
Fatboy, the makers of Lamzac, are bYLL’s first major festival activation sponsor to date, and we couldn’t be more stoked to partner with them for this amazing festival! Bringing one Lamzac would have been cool – we’re heading down with 25 of them!!!
Thanks to Fatboy, we’re also donating some funky Fatboy furniture to The Hang, the area behind the stage where industry folk, plus friends and family of artists can… hang! We couldn’t be more proud (or pumped!) to be included in such a major way at LOCKN’ and we know our efforts will help to bring a new dimension of positivity to the already-amazing fest!
If you’re heading down to Arrington, Virginia next week for LOCKN’, come hang with us and get a taste of the Lamzac life in the beYouLoveLife Lounge. We’ll be doing our best to cool everyone down with a spa-inspired environment, ice cold towels and blowing fans. We’ll be giving away one Lamzac each day, tons of bYLL gear and tickets to concerts all around the tri-state area.
Of course it wouldn’t be a bYLL event without one of our signature Mandala bYLLprints. Come show off your artistic skills and help color in one of three LOCKN’ Mandala bYLLprints we’ll have scattered around the fest.
We are super busy gearing up for what we know will be an amazing weekend! Special thanks to our other partners, the Ardmore Music Hall, the Catskill Chill music festival, and Qello concerts for their continued support! Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds as we document our LOCKN’ journey!
The Introduction: Netflix and No Chill
Sometimes clarity strikes in the least likely of places. The other night I was re-watching some episodes of Louie, comedian Louis C.K.’s semi-autobiographical comedy series, half paying attention as I guzzled curry and texted my boyfriend. In this episode I randomly chose from my Netflix queue, Louie gets a surprise visit from an old comic pal whose life since their last encounter has been a never-ending series of disappointments and failures. After an evening spent catching up, Louie realizes his friend is contemplating suicide and has resurfaced to say his goodbyes.
At this point in the episode I had put down both my phone and my food and found myself staring rapt at my computer screen. For a comedy show, I thought, this is some pretty heavy stuff. Louie, shaken by his friend’s admission of suicidal intent, launches into a bumbling and somewhat aggressive monologue befitting the grouchy New Yorker that he is, but which concludes with the following (pretty zen) statement – “Life isn’t something you possess. It’s something you take part in, and you witness.” This sentiment has been echoing in my head ever since.
The Exposition: Life – What’s The Deal With That Thing?
What is so compelling to me about Louie’s statement is that it points to a truth so few of us ever clearly comprehend; that our connection to life itself is terrifyingly tenuous. Anyone who has ever experienced a serious illness or lost a loved one suddenly knows this all too well, but many others simply go through the motions of their day-to-day lives without much examination or thought. Of course it’s easy enough to accept the abstract premise that life is short, that any given time we say goodbye to a friend or family member may be the last. These truths are repeated so often as to be trite platitudes, but to really stare these facts in the face is another matter entirely. It calls into question why so many of us get up in the morning and drag ourselves to jobs we only tolerate, engage in mindless rituals, hang on to relationships that add nothing in the way of true value to our existence.
I believe that we do this in order to cling to the notion that we can impose some kind of order on the world, can stave off death, can delay facing the real truth: that each of us are here for a fleeting moment in time, that the enormity of life beyond the fleshy boundaries of our body and the perceptive power of our brains will unravel onwards in infinite directions after we are no longer here to bear witness. It’s enough to make a person question the whole premise of existing in the first place. It feels at times like too much – like something our parents chose for us and that we didn’t sign up for, like youth soccer league or piano lessons. I’ve quit just about every sport my dad ever signed me up for because I either stunk at athletics or hated the coach or the premise of the game.
I’ve hated the premise of life too and there was a time when I wanted nothing more than to just stop the ride and get off. In college I experienced a severe and long-lasting bout of depression that had me struggling to make my way to the dining halls for meals, struggling to find the meaning in the endless assignments and club meetings, struggling even to leave my building without breaking down in a puddle of nerves and tears. In spite of all this internal strife, I did not consider myself to be having a mental health crisis. I believed that my objection to the academe was intellectual in nature, that I was simply reacting to the pressure of upper level coursework, that to avail myself of campus mental health resources would be taking space away from those who “really” needed it – kids who had suffered loss, were prescribed psych meds, or those who had learning disabilities. I was a straight A student involved in every campus club I could make time for with tons of friends, a boyfriend, a healthy grip on my diet and physical activity levels, an impressive list of internships and career-related experience. In short, I was the perfect college student. I was not depressed. I was just over it.
The Climax: In This Corner, Maggie! In That Corner, Preventable Disease, Global Poverty, Domestic Violence, SeaWorld, etc.
As a student of World Politics much of my studies focused on the myriad injustices, conflicts, and trials facing the world at large. Always a sensitive kid I grew up knowing that I wanted a career helping people and consumed news obsessively. I dreamed of working for the U.N., becoming a diplomat or an interpreter and of having a hand in fixing all of the world’s problems. But after nearly four years of collegiate study meant to prepare me for such a career, I was gripped with the unshakeable feeling that it was all just a bunch of talk, that despite all of the ideas I was learning about paradigms, international norms, case studies, et cetera, my eventual employment and life itself would be an uphill and eventually losing battle against an essentially cruel, sad and awful world. I wanted out. It was too much for me. I will never forget laying on the floor of my tiny bedroom one cold October night sobbing to my mother on the phone, telling her for the third or fourth time that week that I wanted to leave school, I wanted to just go away, couldn’t she put me in a medically induced coma of some kind for just like a month or so? “You’re depressed,” she told me. “Please let me get you help.”
After months of rejecting the label of “depressed person” outright, despite all evidence to the contrary, I acquiesced. We hung up the phone and I continued to stare at the ceiling with tears streaming down my face for several minutes trying to think of nothing but feeling everything. A few minutes later I heard a soft knock on my door. It was a Campus Safety Officer asking if they could come in and talk with me? Had I been drinking? I hadn’t. Taking drugs? No. Thinking of hurting myself? No, that was the whole point, I wanted to go away so that the hurting would stop. I was mortified. My mother had called the school and notified them, probably in somewhat alarmist terms, that I was not in a good way. That night, with my ego shattered and spirit broken, Campus Safety called the on-call counselor and gave me a ride to the health center where I had my first of many meetings with David Walden, a man who proves that not all heroes wear capes.
That night changed everything for me. Dave talked with me about everything I was feeling and helped me see that yes, I was depressed, no, being depressed doesn’t define me, and that everything I was thinking and feeling was normal. Maybe not healthy or ideal, but normal and treatable. He helped me see that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness and that a person can seemingly have it all together but be screaming on the inside. I found that far from being defined by my depression, having a label to attach to my feelings and thoughts empowered me at last to attack the problem of my depression like I would any other assignment I was given – armed with information and confident in my abilities. Most of all, I learned to cultivate more compassion for myself and examine why I felt a need to hold myself to such a high standard – essentially a perfect standard- without ever leaning on another.
The answers to that question could constitute a novel so I won’t delve too deeply into them here, but in the weeks and months that followed I set up meetings with Deans and professors to clue them in to what was going on with me. I had some tough conversations with my friends and family that ended up being some of the most healing and helpful of my life. I realized that far from having to solve the problem of my depression, much less the problems of the world, on my own, I had a huge team cheering me on. I wasn’t alone. Depression could not take away my grades, my friends, or any of my other external markers of success, but if I had let it, it may have permanently taken away my will to continue taking part in this big, beautiful, truly messed up mystery we call life.
The Denouement: I’m Sad But I’m Laughing, Baby
I wish I could tell you that I never felt depression again after that period of my life, but that would be false. Since graduating from college that spring (Magna Cum Laude, by the way) I have gone on to do battle with depression and painful life events several other times. I’ve lost close loved ones, been on and then went off antidepressants, even questioned whether I had a learning disability while employed in a job for which I was utterly unsuited. But each time since then when that familiar feeling of panic, desperation, and then hopelessness creeps in, I am able to go back to my toolbox and attack the problem with love and compassion for myself and those around me.
As I get older (I turned 24 earlier this month) I realize that life only gets more complex and rich, and at times is more terrifying than we can imagine. However, denying those shadowy parts does not make them go away. Instead, they are the foil by which we can come to appreciate all of the beauty life offers more deeply, and they must be faced. Life is not a possession to guard and keep safe like a football in play, or a car or a fine piece of jewelry. It is the occasion by which we are all invited to explore the self, the other, the in between. To be mystified and obliterated and brought to our knees. We are here to bear witness in our limited way and to glean whatever meaning we can from our short time on Earth. It is our blessing and yes, at times our curse, but the sheer fact of our existence defies all likelihood and never ceases to truly dazzle me.
The Epilogue: Grumpy Dudes and Me
A few weeks ago I was revisiting a work of art I cherished during my college years – David Foster Wallace’s immense masterwork Infinite Jest. For the uninitiated, Infinite Jest is a mind-bending meditation on the pursuit of happiness in America, set alternately between a tennis academy and an addicts’ halfway house. Despite its sports-heavy setting that might otherwise have repelled a younger me (although I always did like tennis more than the other sports I abandoned), I am time and again grabbed by Wallace’s words. I defer to him here and that will be that, for this post has gone on long enough:
“The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. You compete with your own limits to transcend the self in imagination and execution…junior athletics is but one facet of the real gem: life’s endless war against the self you cannot live without… And then but so what’s the difference between tennis and suicide, life and death, the game and its own end? Maybe no different… except the chance to play. The chance to play, yes?”
Maggie Whalen lives and works in Ridgewood, Queens. She graduated from Hamilton College in 2014 and will be pursuing a Master’s in Public Health at Columbia University beginning in 2017. She is a really awesome person with a million and one interests, especially when she isn’t beating herself up or gripped by fear about the outcome of election cycles. Some of her favorite things are mangoes, yoga, singing, and her parents.
Remember that time we launched beYouLoveLife? Unless you were one of seventy-five guests who attended our exclusive launch event at Vineapple Café in Brooklyn back on April 17th, you probably don’t! But fear not, we at beYouLoveLife are all about bringing everyone into the fold, so on this #ThrowbackThursday we are bringing it all back for you. It’ll be just like you were there!
Let us set the stage: A sunny spring day in Brooklyn Heights, a smattering of world-class musicians, seventy-five amazing humans, a catered lunch by Genuine Superette, and one mission: to bring beYouLoveLife into the public eye with a bang – and with the echoes of this bang, to send ripples of positivity and self-acceptance reverberating into every corner of the globe! Our good friend and photographer extraordinaire, Michael Jurick, was hard at work from start to finish capturing every angle of our event and we are thrilled to be able to share some of those photos with you below.
Click on any photo and it will enlarge and open into a carousel slide show.
Now that you can picture yourself there, imagine that while surrounded by friendly vibes, pleasant conversation, and clutching a cup of sangria and bowl of cucumber salad, you start to hear….music! But not just any old music. This music is… great. Like, really friggin great! Who is playing that music, you ask? Why, that would be George Porter, Jr. (The Meters), Joe Russo (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Bustle In Your Hedgerow, Further, The Benevento/Russo Duo), and Scott Metzger (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Bustle In Your Hedgerow, WOLF!, Rana). Talk about a power trio!
Despite having never played as a group, George, Joe and Scott regaled their captive audience for two intimate sets peppered with WOLF! covers, funk classics, and some inspired improvisation. It was clear to everyone present that we were a part of a very special musical moment. As the band played, one guest turned to Ali and said, “I love the energy in this room right now. It’s like…. feeding me.”
And well-fed, we were.
Before, between and after the music, guests mingled and gathered. We were delighted to be surrounded not only by friends and family who support everything we do, but also by major players from the music, entertainment, legal, financial and education industries. The room was buzzing with creative synergy as people’s wheels began to turn around the question of how beYouLoveLife can make an impact in ways beyond the obvious digital and entertainment sectors. We had great conversations with many of you about how beYouLoveLife can make a difference in schools, in professional organizations, and even in healthcare. It was an energizing vote of confidence from our friends and partners that let us know we are on the right track!
To drive the point of the evening home, between sets Mike and Ali spoke to the crowd about their own stories, the path that led them to creating beYouLoveLife, and the real reason for gathering that day. Beyond raising awareness, engaging influencers, or even enjoying some great live music, we had all gathered because each and every person there believed in the mission of beYouLoveLife: that each person has a story of triumph that can help another, and through self-love and self-acceptance we can begin to unlock the transformational potential of our stories together.
Guests were introduced to bYLLboard – our landmark social media tool which will be the hub of beYouLoveLife’s digital community. We previewed two pieces of original content, one featuring George Porter Jr. who discussed his battle with addiction and his wife Ara’s ongoing battle against pancreatic cancer, and one featuring Matthew Broad of the Catskill Chill team as he bravely disclosed his struggles with suicidal depression. It was a truly humbling moment not only to hear these two men of drastically different backgrounds bear their souls, but also to be in the room with them as they watched their videos on screen for the first time.
As the afternoon wound down it was clear that something truly special had just transpired inside of Vineapple. We were (and still are!) more inspired than ever to bring beYouLoveLife to the world in as many ways as possible. The spirit of love and support was overwhelming and none of it would have been possible without help from our sponsors: Amplifier, Ardmore Music Hall, Axios, Brooklyn Bowl, Catskill Chill Music Festival, CEG Presents, Dream Hotel, Fender, FIYA Fest, FlockU, Genuine Superette, Headcount, Junto Sounds, Live From The Lot, MAYFest, Michael Jurick, NYU Reynolds Program, Orcatex, Qello, Quietman, Relix, Scarborough & Tweed, Serafina, Type A Productions, Vineapple, and Wall Street Dead Ahead Networking Events.
Thanks to everyone who came out to support us in our launch. We look forward to many more events with each and every one of you as beYouLoveLife continues to expand. Next stop: LOCKN’ Music Festival! Be sure to find us if you’re there!
Mike, Ali & The bYLL Crew
Happy June, bYLLers! The warmer weather we’ve been enjoying in New York these past couple of weeks has been so energizing and we have had some fantastic opportunities to get the word out about beYouLoveLife!
Memorial Day Weekend was an amazing one for beYouLoveLife as the bYLLcrew converged upon MAYFest, a music, arts and yoga festival at Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring, New York for a weekend of community outreach and brand activation. Started by friends of beYouLoveLife, Dave and Melia Marzollo, the second annual MAYfest brought together renowned yoga teachers like Sadie Nardini and Elena Brower with beloved touring acts like Trevor Hall, Pink Talking Fish and Turkuaz – to which we all shook our asanas.
With MAYfest’s event production being handled by the same fabulous team that hosts the Catskill Chill, the festival at which beYouLoveLife made our first appearance last fall, we knew we would be in for an “all-love-all-the-time” type of weekend. Our dear bYLLcrew member Pam Esposito was sorely missed at our bYLL Activation Station (or BAScamp) as she was busy handling artist hospitality for the whole festival. Thanks to Pam’s efforts, bYLL’s presence was made plain to most every artist and presenter, which really made us feel like a key player in the weekend.
BAScamp itself was situated just down a hill beside the Vendor Village. The spot was beautiful, overlooking the lake and “Shakti Lawn” where yoga classes were held throughout the weekend. We were delighted by the outpouring of love and support we received from MAYfest attendees, many of whom came out of their way between classes and performances to check in with beYouLoveLife, ask questions, and hook themselves up with some free bYLL gear. MAYfest attendees were quick on the uptake of the bYLL mandala as their unofficial logo and the hot and humid weather made our free sweatbands the weekend’s must-have accessory.
Our goal for the weekend was simple – raise awareness, sign some folks up for our newsletter, and hand out wristbands and raffle tickets. What we got instead was something amazing – MAYfest attendees ready and willing to share stories of their trials and tribulations with total strangers – us! One minute we’d be introducing the concept of beYouLoveLife to someone and the next minute we would be in an in-depth, super-real conversation with them about anything from body image or aging, to domestic violence or parenting special needs children. It wasn’t all heavy though – we also met amazing folks who shared their passions for Tai Chi, massage, writing, tattoo and more! It was a clear reminder of why we do what we do – experiencing others being themselves, sharing themselves, loving life and growing from struggle! By celebrating our truth, we all left the weekend feeling a little more like ourselves, a little freer to embrace who we are.
One of the best parts of the weekend for the bYLLcrew was getting to spend time with a veritable Dream Team of volunteers who filled every slow moment with jokes, song and kind words. We were joined on site by Maggie Whalen (author of this very blog post and all those like it) and her father Tim Whalen, a musician and teacher hailing from Ulster County, New York. Also with us, our good friend Matthew Broad – whom you’ll remember from his moving video about suicide and depression recorded last year at the Catskill Chill – and his lovely girlfriend Janet, who became the unofficial pre-school teacher for our very own, Joey Love Voron. It was love at first site for those two. Our MAYfest neighbors, community art project Starfish Casters and their fearless leader, Scott, became honorary bYLLcrew members and we are indebted to them for their great company throughout the weekend.
Now we are gearing up for LOCKN’, a much larger event (think 40-50,000 people per day) from August 25-28 in Arrington, Virginia. LOCKN’ headliners, Phish, Ween, My Morning Jacket and JRAD have helped to make this festival the talk of the summer, and we’ll be setting up a bigger and better BAScamp 2.0 with even more exciting elements in the works. Stay tuned for future announcements from us on this.
Can’t wait for more? Don’t sweat! We’ll still be posting original content on our blog and at bYLLboard.com weekly in the intervening months to keep those good vibes rolling. Make sure you like our Facebook page so you can stay up-to-date on all of beYouLoveLife’s comings and goings! Thank you as always for reading and staying in touch.
An ominous weather forecast couldn’t keep this past weekend’s Live From The Lot festival in Ardmore, PA from radiating sunny vibes upon all in attendance. Originally slated to take place in the parking lot of the Ardmore Music Hall, the two-day event – featuring Snarky Puppy, The Revivalists, Foundations of Funk, Soulive & Friends, Marco Benevento, The Greyboy Allstars, Electron, Pink Talking Fish, and more! – was instead hosted at beloved Philly venue the Electric Factory on Saturday, and relocated back to its original intended home in Ardmore for Sunday’s festivities. Despite the last minute shake-up, both the AMH and EF crews pulled off an impressive feat readying a second venue in just a few days’ time.
When bYLL got wind of the sudden venue change we were somewhat concerned. Might this affect our ability to make our presence known throughout the weekend? Happily this did not pan out to be a problem once word got out about the bYLL-branded wristbands (complete with signature mandala) we were handing out at the bYLL Activation Station, and the free raffle drawings we employed several times throughout each day.
Soon, bYLLbands could be spotted all over the lot. Our concerns faded to the background as people flocked to our Station to chat with our volunteers and learn about beYouLoveLife. Thanks to Mike’s gregarious one-man marketing push (and a generous number of fist-bumps to fans, staff and artists alike), everyone got a little piece of beYouLoveLife to take home with them from the Lot.
In continuation of a new bYLL tradition, throughout the weekend guests at the bYLL Activation Station helped to fill our bYLLprint community mandala with vibrant colors and words of inspiration. By the end of the weekend it was a resplendent beauty – a Live From The Lot original!
What was great about this weekend for beYouLoveLife was both the opportunity to continue raising awareness for our brand and building our community, and the incredible level of enthusiasm we received from volunteers, artists and fans alike. We had six volunteers sign on to help us for several hours each day – just because they believed in what we were doing. It was humbling, to say the least, and our new friends did an incredible job for us.
A stand-out moment for all of us was when Karl Denson, the artist whose show at which Mike and Ali first met 12 years ago in New Orleans, connected with Mike and Ali about beYouLoveLife. Ali, Mike and Karl have met several times over the last decade, but this was the first time Karl got to meet the kids and see the family all together. Karl loved his bYLL wristbands so much he asked for extras to wear as accessories on tour this year with the Rolling Stones! It was an amazing moment wherein everything came full circle for the Vorons and beYouLoveLife.
Another big moment for the bYLL family came when Soulive & Lettuce guitarist, Eric Krasno, serenaded the youngest Voron, Rider, backstage with a funky rendition of the Grateful Dead favorite, “I Know You Rider”.
Krasno and his lovely partner-in-crime, Janice, were also kind enough to do an Instagram takeover for us on Sunday and got some unreal behind-the-scenes shots of artists repping bYLL swag! Check out her IG takeover here. Krasno might want to watch his back, as Rider seemed to have an instant, palpable connection with Janice.
We also got to catch up with our old friend George Porter, Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste, drummer for the Meters. Ziggy, George, Krasno and Neal Evans, aka the Foundations of Funk, were spotted rocking bYLL merch onstage during their set. The bYLL mandala was quickly becoming something of an unofficial logo for the weekend!
By Sunday afternoon it was clear that the spirit of beYouLoveLife had been thoroughly rubbed off upon the Lot. What was even more clear was that, as we’ve always known, the live music community is beYouLoveLife’s home. We feel so uplifted by the ongoing love and support we receive from everyone with whom we come in contact. Thank you to all Live From The Lot attendees who spent some time with us, to all the artists who wore our wristbands during their sets, to our fantastic volunteers, and to the crew at the Ardmore Music Hall for making this a truly special weekend for beYouLoveLife! We love you all.
Did you miss out on Live From The Lot but still want to get in a little bYLL face time? This weekend we have our sights set on yet another great festival! We hope you can join us for MAYfest: a three-day music, arts and yoga festival in Cold Spring, NY this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (May 27-29, 2016). We will be signing people up for our mailing list, collecting stories for our site, and raffling off great prizes including concert ticket packages from CEG Presents as well as yoga studio gift certificates. It’s going to be a great time!
Until then… much love,
Mike, Ali & The bYLL Crew
Over the past few weeks we’ve spoken a lot about the story of how beYouLoveLife came to be. We’ve shouted our name from every rooftop and at this point it’s safe to say that our horn is well tooted. This is partially due to the nature of starting a new business, or any major venture. How many times over the last weeks and months have we found ourselves explaining who we are and what we’re about? The answer: probably too many times to count.
This has been a positive thing for us: in being forced to declare ourselves, each of us has developed a clearer view of our mission, of what exactly it is we’re doing here and just why this work is so important to us.
As it turns out, it all comes back to stories. The stories we tell others, but more importantly, those we tell ourselves, and perhaps most importantly of all, those we tell ourselves about ourselves.
By now, you are probably familiar with our story, the story of beYouLoveLife. If not, the cliffnotes version: Mike and Ali, two normal Pennsylvanians, brought together by a mutual zest for life, faced disease, loss, and myriad other challenges with an indomitable spirit of positivity and gratitude. beYouLoveLife represents the culmination of their lifelong effort to leave a positive footprint and to use their stories for good; a multi-platform community for seekers and sharers of inspiration for facing all of life’s obstacles.
A single story can be incredibly powerful. But not even the best stories can speak to everyone. As long as beYouLoveLife exists we will continue to share our story with anyone who asks, but Mike and Ali’s is just that, one story. Our vision is of a world where everyone is able to share his or her story and inspire another.
To this end, this week we are debuting bYLLstories: a new section of our bYLLblog where we will present reader-authored content from members of the bYLL community. These are your stories – stories of hardship, hope, perseverance and inspiration. We hope that in time, this collection will grow into a mosaic of stories touching on all different realms of the human experience.
Our first bYLLstory deals with one of the most harrowing experiences a person can endure: the death of a child. You can read here about Lucy’s battle with leukemia and how her mom, Emily, has drawn strength and gratitude from their journey together even in the face of unbearable suffering. We want to thank Emily for being so beautifully willing to open up about an incredibly painful yet important part of her story. This week marks the first anniversary since Lucy’s passing, so we also want to extend our deepest wishes for comfort and healing toward her family.
Running Toward Vulnerability
Ultimately, sharing our story with another is an invitation to vulnerability, and in our world, vulnerability is a great big NO-NO. These days we monitor and control our public image meticulously; we photoshop our Instagram photos and highlight our accomplishments on social media in an effort to project a facade of perfect having-it-togetherness. Perfect happiness. Perfect Life. And yet life is so obviously anything but perfect that it begs asking why we feel such a need to strive for unattainable standards of perfection, to cover up what we perceive as our flaws, to shirk any opportunity to embrace vulnerability.
Too often, it is so that we can pretend these parts don’t exist. This is our mind’s attempt at self-preservation, a coping mechanism that many of us use during tough times – and sometimes it’s needed! But if this mindset becomes a habit we may never fully integrate those parts of our story that make us feel weak into the full story of ourselves. Embracing these parts of our story not only enables us to grow and learn but empowers others facing similar struggles to do the same.
Sharing our stories, shedding light on the darkest parts of ourselves, is not easy. However, bound up in the pain of exploring our vulnerabilities lies the true joy of empathy, connection and greater understanding.
Everyone Has a Story. What’s Yours?
We are scouting material for new bYLLstories and truly believe that if pressed, everyone could write one. As any good storyteller can tell you, a compelling story has little to do with the plot and everything to do with the telling itself.
If you or someone you love has a story to share that you feel could help inspire or comfort another, we hope you will reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We understand the risk inherent in embracing vulnerability and deciding to share your story. We also hope we can convince you that the reward is so worth it.
Ali, Mike and the bYLL crew
An original post for beYouLoveLife by Emily Garibaldi
The night my daughter died, the world went dark. My heart and soul shattered. Hope was gone. It was a long ride home from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after her nine month battle for a cure. We were evicted from what was ‘our home’ leaving the most precious part of our family behind. Two parents without their child…
Bruised. Battered. Numb. Crushed. Broken, but eternally grateful. A realization that happened long before the dust settled from her death or even diagnosis. It was gratitude that was born the moment I heard that sweet cry as she came barreling into this world. In the way that we bonded so beautifully, laid in the yard picking flowers, giggling in her crib and sleeping through the night. Also in the way she bravely handled the needles, the chemotherapy, the teams of strangers, IV tubes, and scans, despite her difficult diagnosis and failed treatment success. I am never ever grateful or accepting that she is gone, but grateful that if she was destined to leave this world, it would be without pain and in the arms of her parents, all while never knowing anything but the unconditional love of her family.
There is no love more fierce than that of a grieving mother. A love so genuine that it continues to thrive and grow, while being nourished solely on her tears and memories. A heaviness that becomes ingrained into your DNA and the weight of the grief will 150% crush you alive until you learn a way to carry it in your own authentic way.
It’s a beautifully tragic, but inspiring life. One that continues to change and mold everyday, as the pieces of my shattered heart finds its way back together. Forever cracked but bonded even tighter than before. A story, my story, featuring my special family rooted in what it means to love your life even if it is not the one I chose, because every moment is far too precious. My story unfortunately can’t have an alternate ending, but is far from over. I will continue to fill pages to inspire others, create awareness, and tell the world about a sweet little bright-eyed Lucy, living my life for the both of us, because she will always be loved and never forgotten.
To read another beautiful piece about Lucy written by Emily, check out the On Coming Alive Project. The On Coming Alive Project is a movement of people rising from the ashes and coming alive. The project features a diverse group of stories on the topics of abuse, addiction, death, depression/anxiety, divorce, domestic violence, illness, rape, and suicide. On Coming Alive was created as a platform for those who have suffered to share their stories of survival and their wisdom with the world.
This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and we at beYouLoveLife want to take a moment to acknowledge all educators who dedicate their careers to student empowerment and achievement. Most of us can think back on our school years and remember at least one teacher who changed our relationship to learning, our approach to problem solving, maybe even the way we think about ourselves. As many of us can personally attest, a good teacher can change everything.
Although many of us eagerly leave the academe behind after our high school or college graduations, in life none of us ever truly relinquish our status as students. To cultivate a lifelong thirst for learning, not just for facts and figures but more importantly for the lessons that propel us through our day-to-day lives with added resolve and perspective, this is our task. To do this we need to blow up our preconceived ideas about who among us bears the label “teacher”. We’d like to posit that while none of us ever truly stop being “students”, all of us can and do bear the distinction of being teachers at some point in our lives.
This week, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re checking in with five students from The Pleasantville Lab School at Pace University as they reflect on the challenges and opportunity that access to higher education is affording them. The Lab School is a mainstreaming program coordinated by none other than beYouLoveLife’s CEO Mike Voron, and is designed to bring educational, social, and vocational opportunities to college-aged students with intellectual and/or developmental challenges. “The goal of inclusive higher education,” Mike says, “is to create a paradigm shift in the way we approach individuals with disabilities to give everyone an opportunity to advance their education, continue their journey, and leave a positive footprint behind them.”
Lab School participants are the type of students whom many other educational programs may overlook or ignore completely. They might struggle with traditional academic environments or require a higher degree of guidance and support from their educational community than typical students would, but this added challenge is no deterrent for these young people. Lab School student Sammy recalls “I remember the time… I didn’t feel I was smart enough to be here… now, being at Pace means everything to me.”
Despite the added challenge of tackling college with an intellectual or developmental disability, Lab School Students are positive and enthusiastic about their prospects for the future. Program participant Danny looks forward to the added responsibility of becoming an adult and “finding lots of jobs out there”. While inclusive education is becoming more and more commonplace, many special needs students still lack access to the resources that help engender true independence and confidence in them as adults. This is where programs like the Lab School can make worlds of difference in the lives of students well beyond graduation day.
Thanks to the love and dedication of Mike and the other staff at The Pleasantville Lab School, these students are learning the tools they’ll need to share their unique gifts with the world. We can all take a page from their book!
Thank you for checking out our video and getting to know The Pleasantville Lab School. For more information about inclusive higher education, please visit thinkcollege.net and be sure to keep an eye out for more original content from beYouLoveLife.
Peace and Love,
Mike, Ali & The bYLL Crew
Greetings bYLLers far and wide! It feels like just yesterday (two weeks ago in reality) that we were all together at American Beauty Bar rocking out with George Porter, Jr. and raffling off concert ticket packages. Now that the dust has settled from our launch weekend, we need you to help us keep this train a-rollin’, and we wanted to take this opportunity to answer a few questions we’ve heard come up from those of you just familiarizing yourselves with beYouLoveLife.
What is beYouLoveLife?
beYouLoveLife is a groundbreaking social community for those seeking inspiration and support. We are a for-profit enterprise whose mission is to help every person love and accept themselves just as they are. We believe that the stories we carry with us can be the greatest gifts for others in need. What this means in practice is radical yet simple: that through sharing our struggles and triumphs, we can empower others to overcome adversity in their lives and create a more authentic, positive, supportive world.
beYouLoveLife (bYLL) combines digital, social, experiential and strategic commercial partnerships via various platforms, and redefines the way inspirational content is spread throughout the world.
What does beYouLoveLife do?
The advent of bYLLboard represents the convocation of the bYLL community – something we could not be more excited about, and yet this is just the beginning! Version 2.0 of bYLLboard, slated for launch in early 2017, will take things one step further, enabling users to steer the creation and dissemination of original content as they tackle present challenges and reflect on past ones. Each bYLLboard account will feature a customized feed of curated content based on users’ specified interests and needs. Through this customized interface, bYLLers can connect with other users facing similar obstacles, and will be given access to content from various sources around the internet most relevant to their needs. This represents a true innovation in how inspirational digital content travels. bYLLboard is the first truly flexible, central platform of its kind.
The Future Is bYLLiant
- bYLLboxes: Customized gift boxes (a la Birchbox or Barkbox) curated with beYouLoveLife branded gifts specifically designed for you or a loved one in need of inspiration.
- bYLLtalks: Educational workshops and programming in schools to promote bYLL’s mission of self-acceptance and the importance of leaving a positive footprint (bYLLprint) in the world
- bYLLisodes: Our web series which chronicles the ever-evolving presence of bYLL at live events; vignettes of personal stories of perseverance and inspiration submitted by bYLLers around the world.
- bYLLcasts: Podcasts and longform interviews with inspirational influencers.
- bYLLanthropy: In-kind sponsorship programs for businesses and organizations whose missions align with that of beYouLoveLife; financial and informational resources for individuals, families and communities who need additional support accessing formal and informal therapeutic services.
- bYLLfest: Our very own music, arts and inspiration festival.
Wait A Sec – Who Are Mike And Ali?
Mike Voron and Ali Lambert Voron are a husband and wife team from New York, by way of Pennsylvania. While they grew up in nearby towns with mutual friends and interests, Mike and Ali didn’t meet until much later, after life had already lobbed curveball after curveball their way. Their stories were different but their take on life and love was eerily similar for two souls who had never crossed paths. Over a decade after meeting, Mike and Ali founded beYouLoveLife – the culmination of their life’s work overcoming challenges through positivity and authentic personal expression.
How Do I Get Involved?
We’re so glad you asked!
Sign up for bYLLboard and check out our new home at beyoulovelife.com. It’s quick and easy to do. You’ll get access to our weekly newsletter bringing you the best of bYLL, our latest original inspirational content, and updates on our contests and giveaways.
Peace and Love,