• Melissa Lipari

A Pedacito Of Melissa Lipari

Updated: Jun 19

On a warm Tuesday morning in May, I was born to my parents, Joseph and Claudia Lipari. I was their first and only child, a baby they were praying for after years of fertility issues. At almost 10 pounds, I came into this world and demanded to be anything but typical.


I lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn with my parents until I was 3 years old. We lived in a two-family home that was owned by my late uncle- with my parents and me on the bottom floor and my aunt, cousins, and uncle on the top. You could say we didn't get much silence while living in that tiny apartment, but our family ties were incredibly strong.

Melissa at 6 months while she was living in Bensonhurst, Brooklyns
Melissa at 6 months while she was living in Bensonhurst, Brooklyns

Shortly after my 3rd birthday, my parents decided to uproot us to Burlington County, New Jersey. My dad's side of the family had already made the move to Burlington County from Brooklyn several years prior.


So they knew the area, and financially it made the most sense. My parents were and have always been extremely hard workers who were forced to be financially conscious for most of my life.


My mom immigrated to America from Colombia in her early 30s, and my dad was in the Navy for a few years before putting himself through college- while working full-time simultaneously.


Money was something that didn't always come easy, so the idea of paying for countless private schools due to the lacking school system in New York City proved to be too difficult. They also knew babysitters and daycare centers would cost a fortune, which led my mom to become a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, putting her career on hold for me.

Melissa and her parents at Niagara Falls, Canada on Family Vacation
Melissa and her parents at Niagara Falls, Canada on Family Vacation

I thoroughly enjoyed my upbringing in New Jersey, though I would have never admitted that 4 years ago. My town was peaceful, the schools were well-equipped, and I had a lot of friends to play with- I had in many ways, the typical suburban childhood experience. I would spend the summers going down the shore with my parents or visiting my extended family in the city. Life was pretty simple and I had no complaints regarding that simplicity.


But as I mentioned before, much like being an almost 10-pound baby, I was never projected to be "normal". When I was 13 or so, I started having panic attacks and anxiety. At first, I thought they were just allergies- in the way that my throat would kind of close up or I felt generally unwell.


It wasn't until my first real panic attack at that same age, where I realized anxiety was more than just a few mild symptoms. I would shake, cry, pace, and pretty much lose all sense of control.

Melissa at age 5 in her childhood home in Burlington County, New Jersey
Melissa at age 5 in her childhood home in Burlington County, New Jersey

My dad was going back to school at the time, and he had a psychology professor who recommended that I see a therapist. So, that's exactly what my parents encouraged me to do. I remembered being terrified to see a therapist. I barely like going to the doctor to get my teeth cleaned, now I was expected to pour my heart out to a stranger who also had a medical degree? No thanks.


Despite my skepticism, I actually loved (and still love) going to therapy. In many ways, I think seeing a therapist at an early age saved my life. I'm lucky enough to say that I've never suffered from depression or any form of extremely debilitating mental illness or behaviors, but my anxiety is pretty intense sometimes.


It took a toll on me many times throughout my life, sometimes for months on end. If I didn't go to therapy, I would have never developed important coping skills so early on, that gave me the drive to keep fighting. Like going to the nearest beach and sitting by the water or going for a walk around my neighborhood to cleanse my mind and spirit.

A sunflower field in Columbus, New Jersey where Melissa has gone for walks during times of anxiety
A sunflower field in Columbus, New Jersey where Melissa has gone for walks during times of anxiety

By age 18, I was ready to spread my metaphorical wings and go to college. I'm an only child, so this was a tough transition for both myself and my parents. But I knew the best thing to do was rip off the bandaid and go away. I originally started at Montclair State University, a somewhat small four-year college in Northern New Jersey.


It was less than 2 hours from my childhood home, give or take. It was a great compromise because I could pay in-state tuition, but get the experience of living in a different county. I met some great people while I was there, some that I still am close with to this day. But ultimately, Montclair State was not the school for me.

It took me a year to realize that the traditional college experience was not what I was looking for. I am and will always be a city girl. So after a year at MSU, I decided to transfer to LIM College in the heart of New York City.

Melissa during transfer student orientation at LIM College in New York City
Melissa during transfer student orientation at LIM College in New York City

From the age of 19 until COVID times, I lived in New York City with my extended family and pursued my ultimate dream of going to a fashion school in New York City. Not all of my family members or hometown friends understood why I went to school for fashion (everyone thought I should go to school to be a nurse or teacher- something "practical"), but I followed my instincts.


Ever since I was able to get dressed on my own, I was obsessed with clothes. My mom always set up fashion shows in the living room, and I would walk around with her heels and accessories on while my dad watched hockey.


I have a plethora of happy memories from my childhood because I was blessed with two incredible parents, but those moments are some of my favorites to look back on in particular.


As I reflect on my childhood dreams, I'm so proud to say that I graduated Magna Cum Laude from LIM College with a B.S. in Fashion Media. I turned an idea that a little girl from a small town in New Jersey had into a reality.


If I could have told myself 10 years ago that I would be working for industry professionals, attending New York Fashion Week, and being invited to a Vogue Magazine conference, I wouldn't have believed it (as cheesy as that sounds).

Melissa at New York Fashion Week in New York City
Melissa at New York Fashion Week in New York City

Presently, I'm still active in the fashion industry but broadened my reach towards freelance writing and social media management. Being a writer and social media manager for Pedacitos has been a breath of fresh air after searching for countless jobs during the Pandemic.


My major encompasses all job functions in media, which was my other passion aside from fashion. I've always loved travel and learning about new cultures too, which was the cherry on top in finding the perfect job within Pedacitos. The feeling is indescribable as I’m making my dreams a reality.

Maybe my life sounds a little typical to people who are reading this- that have accomplished more than I have at 23. But I guess what I'm trying to say is, your life is your own adventure and you're the one who creates the destination.


There isn't just one path for success or a guidebook on how to be a human. You simply exist and try to make the best life for yourself. So this is my story, about how I claimed my life and made it feel extraordinary on my own terms.

 

Want to know more? Are you interested in becoming a contributor for Pedacitos? We'd love to hear your stories! Send me a message and I will get back to you!

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