Category Archives: Unqualified Advice

I Don’t Know Sartre–– Does Life Really Begin on the Other Side of Despair?

I think a lot. Right hand raised, I am a chronic overthinker. & sometimes my emotions literally consume me. Paralyze me. Compounds my guilt or worries or doubts like a never ending game of Tetris.

But that doesn’t matter.

Everyone over thinks, and I am not unique in feeling this way. I am not unique in feeling the gnawing anxiety that blooms when I think about the future, of what I want to do, who I want to be. I’m not even unique in feeling I am simultaneously doing the best I can while also feeling I am failing in nearly every aspect of my life. 

Some days I can push that all aside though– all the self-doubt, disappointment in myself, in other people– and just live and trust in life, in the universe. & other days it feels like there’s an ocean in my chest, pushing against my ribs and making my entire body feel heavy. 

And sometimes I wish I could just collapse within myself and silently drown in that sea of feeling or go into hibernation until it dries up and can no longer consume me. Sometimes I wish I could bury myself beneath a garden and grow into the orchids my mom loves and waters every day. & sometimes I wish I could evaporate into mist and become the clouds that change their shape with the wind. That would feel like a more productive use of my body.

Let me stop here for a moment. I am not suicidal. This is not a cry for help. 

I think we’ve been taught to fear negative emotions, hard things, intangible mental challenges like worry and anxiety and overthinking, & we believe something is wrong with us when we feel these things. So we fear being authentic with our feelings–– with others, but mostly with ourselves.

But I don’t believe our less desirable emotions define us. Negative emotions don’t need to exist in opposition with forward action, progress, or growth–– with movement. I think, a lot of times, they exist hand in hand. 

& I think we can still be sad, or anxious, emotionally paralyzed, or consumed with worry and still be our best, do our best. I think contrasting emotions naturally live and exist together at the same time, more often than we wish them to. And I think that’s exactly where I am at this time in my life. I don’t really believe anything defines me, us, more than our own actions despite our feelings, whether positive or negative. 

So no, Sartre. 

I don’t believe life begins on the other side of despair. I think life begins in the midst of despair. I think life begins despite that despair & I think the best of us are still trying to figure that out. 

“Life begins on the other side of despair”

Jean- Paul Sartre

There is no reality except in action.

Jean- Paul Sartre

I’m Insecure

When I was in third grade, I got into a fight with a boy named Johnathan. He was a total dick. He’d always pick fights with me. Tell me I was ugly. Hog the swing forever and I’d tell the teacher and get him in trouble.

Anyways, one day we were really going at it and he called me dumb. It hit my fragile third grade ego and I responded by telling him that his mother, who died when he was a lot younger, was “probably looking down on him disappointed.” And you know what he said? 

He said, “I know.”

I know. 

Not a condescending I know or an I don’t care I know. It was an ‘I’m sad’ I know.

I don’t remember much about elementary. I remember little snapshots of sharing Hi-Chews, trading chocolate gold coins for dollars, red fists from playing tetherball too long, and coloring only with pink. Vignettes of childhood. Yet, that memory always stays with me. Maybe every detail in my mind may not be absolutely accurate, but the feeling that I felt in that moment–– I will never forget it. I felt like the worst person in the world. 

I got home that day and cried. 

I felt like I disappointed my parents who always taught me to be kind to others; that I disappointed my teachers who often took my side, even if I was wrong, even if I lied, because I was a teacher’s pet; that I disappointed myself who wanted to be the best I could be; and that I even disappointed my ancestors for no other reason than I’m dramatic. 

I wasn’t cognizant of it then, but this year, facing my insecurities forced me to look at how insecurity is often derived from our innermost, irrational feelings of inadequacies but can metastasis in ugly and subtle ways, ways that hurt others. That day, I hurt someone because he made me feel less than I was but who likely only acted that way because he also felt less than he actually was. 

I was 8 then. I’m 24 now. And I wish I could say I have no more insecurities or that I’ve learned to be better at hiding or dealing with them. But I still suck my stomach in when I wear tight dresses. I’m still careful with what I share on social media because I haven’t learned to live without other’s validations yet. I still hide my thumbs because when I get anxious, I pick at the skin there. I still cry at night when I feel ugly, or stupid, or unskilled. I still think my cheeks are too “fat,” my eyes too small, my fingers too stubby. And when someone hurts me, I still want to hurt them back. Like 16 years ago. Like that day on the swing set.

I’ll probably never see Johnathan again and I don’t know if any of the thousands of heartfelt apologies I’ve came up with over the years would mean anything to him. He might have even completely forgotten about that moment.

But if I could go back in time, I would hope to find myself in that same moment. I would let him have the shaded swing set and content myself with the metal slide that literally burned my ass because it was always under the sun. 

And if I could go forward in time, I would simply hope to have found myself.

FAQ: My Master’s Program Part I

A couple weeks ago, I asked my friends on Instagram if they’d be interested to hear about my experience in my master’s program. An overwhelming amount of them kindly said they did, so I went a step further and asked what they would like to know. Below are some of the questions I’ve received and my, hopefully, helpful responses. Some questions I reserved for Part II because they require more in-depth answers. I will be posting it soon though!

For context, I am a graduate student at the University of Guam pursuing a Master of Arts in English with a Literature track. I began my program in the Fall of 2018 and my projected graduation date is December 2020. As such, I can only give my experience and advice based on my specific program.

Here’s what I go over in Part I:

The Process and the Program
– What’s the process like?
– Why did you decide to go to UOG?
– In what cases is it beneficial to go straight for a PhD instead of a masters?
– Expectations vs Reality?
– Undergrad vs. Grad?
– Workload?

– Professor interaction compared to undergrad?

The Thesis Process:
– How do you choose a thesis?
– What is the process of completing that thesis?

– Best places for sources?
– How did you know who you wanted to work with? (e.g. thesis chair)
– For your thesis, would you consider doing that with other cultures’ stories?

My Personal Journey and Advice to You: 
– Fav moments?
– Fav things you’ve read?
– Is it worth it?
– Does your future career choice require a masters?
– What can you do with your degree?
– What inspired you to keep going when thesis research got bumpy?
– Thoughts on taking a gap year?

The Process and the Program

  • What’s the process like?
    • Pre-application: For my program, I was required to submit a graduate application with my undergraduate transcript and letters of recommendation. I applied a week before classes started. For other programs, you’ll definitely need to plan as several graduate programs require you to apply a semester before classes even start and might require other documents. Make sure to do your research!
    • Credits: Once you get accepted, the English Program requires that students take 9-12 credits or 3-4 courses before they apply for thesis credits. You’ll need a total of 36 credit hours with 6 of those hours being dedicated to thesis. Most of us opted for 2-3 classes a semester as 4 classes, along with our respective jobs and responsibilities, could prove challenging.
    • Thesis: For those who aren’t aware, a thesis is pretty much a final research project, often in the form of a 45-65 page essay. You can choose to go the traditional thesis writing route or the creative thesis route. I chose the latter. Here’s a snippet I stole from my university’s website:
    • Students who follow the traditional option are those who desire to increase their mastery of a given content area and might be contemplating doctoral work in the future. Students who select the creative option might be preparing to teach creative writing in the schools, to work as editors and publishers, or will be writing for personal accomplishment. (“Admission Requirements“)

    • Whatever you choose will have its own challenges, so choose a path that’s interesting and sustainable for you. The best part about your thesis is that it’s yours. While you get to choose what you want to write about, however, your thesis should still showcase the knowledge you accumulated in your courses, which can include a strong command of language and firm understanding and application of theory.
  • Why did you decide to go to UOG?
    • Everyone thinks of cost when choosing a school. Well, almost everyone. I remember going for a drive with two friends of mine. One of them was complaining about how he had spent over $70k for his degree in business and how his job was only paying him a little more than minimum wage. At this time, I also only had a B.A. and was about to pull out loans for my M.A. while only having a part time job.
    • My other friend, who doesn’t have her degree and who was also likely tired of listening to us complain said, “I don’t even have my degree and I’m still making more than both of you.”
    • That’s when I realized I didn’t want to drop $70k+ on a big, fancy school mistakenly thinking my inevitable success would be tied to its name. I knew I could receive just as good of an education at UOG. I already knew the professors, knew that I wanted to study indigenous and pacific Literature, and knew I could accomplish all I wanted with paying a fraction of the price.
  • In what cases is it beneficial to go straight for a PhD instead of a masters? and/or vice versa?
    • I wish I could answer this, but I can’t as I have no experience with it. I can, however, table this for a later post where I interview my professors or other graduate students.
  • Expectations vs Reality? Undergrad vs. Grad? Workload?
    • Expectation: The classes will be 10x harder. I’ll hate my life.
    • Reality: When I was taking course work, I was submitting 1-3 essays a week and reading 200+ pages of text along with it. The beginning of the semester usually starts slow, but once it hits midterms it felt like the rest of the semester was me trying to catch up. The rigor and expectation is definitely heightened, but I also had the freedom to choose what classes I wanted to take.  Because my program is relatively small, the professors are really accommodating with students. They always ask for our input and what classes we would like to take next semester. I was actually super interested in what I was learning. So while it was 10x harder, it was far more enjoyable than undergrad. 
    • Expectation: I wouldn’t have time to do anything other than school.
    • Reality: I had a part-time writing job, TA’d for my division, joined an outside league for basketball, and still hung out with friends. I just had to plan, prioritize, and recognize when I needed to buckle down and write that paper.
    • Expectation: I’ll finally have my life together and have it all figured out.
    • Reality: I don’t.
    • Expectation: I’ll be broke.
    • Reality: I mean, I’m nowhere where I want to be financially but I had more opportunities presented to me in graduate school. Because I narrowed my area of focus, it was easier for me to find the right place to network and the right people to work with.
  • In what ways did this program nurture and limit your growth as a writer?
    • Great question! I’ll save this for Part II. 😉
  • Professor interaction compared to undergrad?
    • Very good in my program! Some classes are hybrid, meaning it’s a mix of undergraduate students and graduate students (usually 1-2 other grads). In grad-only classes, the typical size is about 5 students, so not only did I form a close relationship with my professors, I also created a much needed bond with my cohort.

The Thesis Process:

  • How do you choose a thesis topic? 
    • Professors often advise students to have a potential thesis topic or area of interest in mind before they even enter the program. A lot of professors are very accommodating and will allow their students to tailor one or more essay assignments to their class and the student’s thesis. For instance, in my SciFi class, I drafted a story with the same theories I used in my thesis (post-colonialism and ecofeminism). What I learned from this essay was a valuable contribution to my actual thesis. So the sooner you know what you’re interested in, the better!
    • I learned, too, that the best way to choose a topic is to find something interesting AND important to me. Then interrogate the hell out of it.
      • Interesting: Mythology, Folklore
      • Important: My culture, my creative writing, valuable ways to create art, uplift voices from marginalized communities
      • My questions: How do Filipino myths shape the perception of women in the Philippines? How do they reflect the treatment of the environment? How can myths be adapted to reflect current times while also remaining a mirror of history/herstory? How can this be valuable and to what communities?
      • Theories: Eco-feminism, Post-colonialism, Abjection
  • What is the process of completing a thesis?
    • Before I decided to write my thesis, I first had to register for thesis credits. Before I registered for thesis credits, I first had to find an advisor or thesis chair (I’ll get into this more in another question).
    • Once I chose my advisor, I chose my committee (usually two to three other professors or scholars) to help me along in this journey. They didn’t need to be experts in my topic, although that certainly helps, but I chose them because they could offer valuable insight to my project.
    • Next, I spent roughly 6 credit hours dedicated to reading, researching, organizing and drafting my manuscript, which is now nearing 67 pages.
    • You can break up your 6 credits any way you want. Some only take 1 thesis credit a semester, others take 3-4. It’s up to you. For some areas of study, your final project might not even be in the form of a long essay. Some colleges have an oral exam. Be aware of your options!
  • Best places for sources?
    • I found a lot of valuable sources on JSTOR, but since my topic deals with indigenous narratives I had to move past the white-men-mostly databases and seek permission to access articles from universities in the Philippines. I also checked the bibliographies of the articles that related to my topic and tried to find the ones of interest to me. If it was a book, I often checked The Project Gutenberg for free texts. Otherwise, I just got really good at wording research topics and tacking ‘scholarly article’ at the end of the google search bar.
    • Before you pay for access to certain sources, check to see if your library or thesis chair is part of an affiliate program where they can retrieve articles from other universities for free. You’d be surprised how many expensive texts and articles I was able to gain access to for free.
  • How did you know who you wanted to work with? (e.g. thesis chair)
    • Before I chose my thesis chair, I had to think about the kind of student I was and the type of professors I needed. I knew I needed structure and too much freedom would be debilitating to my productivity. I also knew I wanted to work with someone who was knowledgeable about the theories I wanted to apply, but who was also open to learning about my own thesis topic and balanced that structure with freedom.
    • So I chose an awesome chair who required me to write up a 10 page proposal and have a working list of references before I even started writing. It. Sucked. But I needed it. This proposal helped me refine my topic in many ways. She also required me to create realistic deadlines and made sure I stuck to them.
    • Some professors won’t require a proposal or will give you all the freedom you need and some students thrive with this method. They have their own methods of structure and organization that, sadly, I lack. So choosing the right person to chair your thesis will be heavily informed by how aware you are of your own study and writing habits and how well you know your professors professor-ing habits (?? idk either).
  • For your thesis, would you consider doing that with other culture’s stories?
    • One of the purposes of my thesis is to illustrate one of the many ways indigenous writers can use creative writing to heal colonial wounds and rebuild their own identities unencumbered by the negative stigmas attached to their respective cultures and beliefs. My project seeks to carve a space, specifically, for Filipino narratives to converse with the wide array of stories already told in the corpus of western academia, young adult literature, and mythology. It’s so specific to my home that my hope wouldn’t be to tell the stories of other nations and cultures, but to hopefully encourage indigenous writers to tell their own stories in their own ways.

My Personal Journey and advice to you:

  • Fav moments?
    • My favorite moments all revolve around my cohort. There’s no specific moment, but there’s the specific feelings of struggling and despairing, doubting yourself and what you’re writing but ultimately pushing through and doing it with a supportive group of friends who are all going through the same thing. Sometimes we’d be so stress that our only response was to laugh like psychos over very real fears like what if we don’t finish in time or what if we can’t find a job after?
    • & to me, those are my favorite moments because they taught me that even in the midst of all this underlying fear and palpable stress, that we could still find the energy to laugh and have a good time. Those moments really convinced me that no matter what happens, it’ll all be okay.
  • Fav thing you’ve read?
    • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    • I read it in my EN680: Seminar in Contemporary Critical Theory class and wrote an essay applying my knowledge of environmental stylistics. I hated this paper so much that my love for it was inevitable.
  • Is it worth it? 
    • I’m always weary of answering this question: Is it worth it? It depends on what your goals are and what you make of your degree. I know everyone hates that answer, but it’s the most truthful one I have. I do think my degree was and is worth it because I learned so much about myself and my area of study. BUT I KNOW! We want to know about job opportunities. See the next question.
  • Does your future career choice require a masters? 
    • No. I would like to work in a publishing house, specifically in adult literature, or become a self-sustaining author. Both of which do not require a master’s degree but it does help in whatever profession I do choose to go into and it does entail a pay increase, soooooo.
    • Yes. I would also like to work as a librarian, which does require a master’s degree in Library Science.
  • What can you do with your degree?
    • Other careers I could pursue with my degree: Marketing, Advertisement, Public Relations, Freelance Writing, Media and Journalism, Law (e.g. paralegal, lawyer), Copyediting, Technical Writing, Teaching, etc.
    • You can basically do anything with an English degree if you’re driven enough to apply what you’ve learned and know the value and application of cross-disciplinary skills–– of which English has many. The most common and most valuable for almost all job markets are a strong command of language, exceptional writing, and strong communication skills.
  • What inspired you to keep going when thesis research got bumpy?
    • I didn’t want to be a little cry baby bitch. I thought about how many people would kill to be in my position, people who don’t have access to education, and who don’t have a supportive group of family and friends–– all people who deserve the right to an education. So I didn’t and don’t want to waste such a blessing. CORNY, I know, but that’s my honest answer.
    • When I first began this specific journey, I wanted to make my parents proud. As I near the end, I’ve come to realize that it’s just as important to make myself proud, which is arguably a lot harder.
  • Thoughts on taking a gap year?
    • I think for some people, it’s a great idea! I know fellow graduates who took a gap year, travelled, taught in other countries, accumulated “real world” experience and came back refreshed and even more ready for the school year. They dominated their course work.
    • In contrast, some people would rather just get straight into it, i.e. me. I was afraid that if I took a gap year, I would lose the motivation to go back to school. So, again, it depends on the person.

I’m all written out. Thank you for reading and I hope some of what I’ve shared has been useful in some way. Maybe it even convinced you to say, “Fuck a master’s degree!” To which I reply, “Do you, boo.” I don’t think a master’s degree is necessary (for the most part!) to be “successful” but I do believe knowledge and education are always an investment and you are worthy of that.

Some questions I’ll be covering in Part II:

  • How to deal with full time and school! Mix of online and in person classes? Gives and takes. 
  • In what ways did this program nurture and limit your growth as a writer?
  • What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
  • My tips for optimizing your reading and writing time

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Date A Girl Who Reads

I’ve read “You Should Date An Illiterate Girl,” and “Date a Girl Who Reads” and now I come to you, bold letters and hands to hip to say, “Don’t date a girl who reads.” 

Don’t date a girl who reads.

A girl who reads will know if you’ve really read Pride and Prejudice or if you’ve lazily googled the summary on SparkNotes. She won’t be impressed by the way you understand the symbolism in Animal farm because it’s already painfully obvious. She knows Romeo isn’t a figure of love and that Gatsby didn’t need Daisy, he needed a therapist. A girl who reads might love Heathcliff but she also understands that his deep and brooding nature is unactualized potential and that his codependence on Catherine hinders him from healing his own childhood trauma. 

Don’t date a girl who reads if she’s gone through all 585 pages of Moby Dick. She can tell when a climax is not worth the endless chapters of exposition and will not wait for you to take action. And if she’s versed in Morrison, well good luck, because she knows not to fall in love, but to rise in it. She’s read long books and short ones and knows when a story should’ve ended pages ago (Read: The Old Man and the Sea) so don’t draw out the tension if the resolution is mediocre. She will grow bored, steal the pen away and write her own ending. She’s read and reread the most divinely crafted proclamations of devotion, ones that have been dog-eared, wrapped in Hughes’ blue cloud-cloth and crafted to syntactic perfection. She’s read these passages so often that she’s ingrained them in her memories and houses red alarms in her heart that are triggered when someone comes close to reciting them. So don’t be discouraged when she’s unmoved by your “hey, u up?” text at 3 in the morning.

When Venus tells Adonis to “stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie,” a girl who reads knows Shakespeare is talking about oral sex. She is well versed in fuck boy rhetoric of all kind. She does not want the illusion of selflessness cast over the “you deserve better” cliché. She’d rather have the unconditional love between James Carstairs and Will Herondale.

A girl who reads will want a Luve that she can fold into a red, red rose or write into a sonnet and she wants a heartbreak that has her crumbling into oblivion or shouting into the void because she knows that a perfect love is boring to read. She craves dynamism, multiple climaxes in one story, oscillating periods of passion and discontent and knows that the initial wave of infatuation often gives way to a period of indifference held together by an implicit contract of loyalty and commitment, but that it’ll rise into another crescendo if both characters are patient and determined enough. A girl who reads doesn’t revel in stagnant waters, she rushes towards the waves, towards the other shore Márquez has promised. She knows that that real love isn’t just one or the other, it’s everything–– it is all of it.

You cannot offer the world to a girl who reads. She has gone beyond the white, male pages of the canon and travelled with Hosseini and Lispector, with Pavlova and Tan and Tolkien and knows when to romanticize the world and when to live in it. She’ll read Hurston, and Roy, and Allende and despair when she realizes that Kerouac’s fabulous yellow roman candle-lit night is not the same tainted midnight as Laurie Anderson’s. A girl who reads is not a coffee stained manuscript waiting for your eyes to rove over her at a cafe. She does not fill her shelves with de Beauvoir and Wild and Walker so that you can idealize her into an overdone trope. She does not want the responsibility of opening your eyes to a new world and is not filled with hidden messages waiting for you to annotate between the lines. A girl who reads couldn’t care less if you’re enchanted with the way she smells the pages of a book or runs her fingers through the deckled edges.

She is bold, sans serif font underlined and italicized to her own liking. 

But don’t date a girl who doesn’t read, either.

A girl who doesn’t read might choose to buy a dress or a new pair of shoes instead of a first edition Vonnegut. She’ll zone out at poetry readings or drift into a daydream at the first page of Hunger Games but come alive when you flip to the Western Conference. She might even use a paperback copy of King as a doorstop.

And you know what all this will tell you? Nothing.

It will tell you that it doesn’t matter if a girl would rather spend her Saturday nights drunk and celebrating the beauty of another woman she just met in the bathroom or if she can shotgun a beer faster than the post-nut clarity after your 7 minutes of mediocre performance can hit you. It doesn’t matter that she can’t stylistically analyze a single page of The Sound and the Fury and that she cannot be romanced with Neruda or Pound because she, too, will not be not swayed by your rehearsal of another man’s words and empty declarations of commitment without action.

Maybe she doesn’t read literature or critique the classics, but that doesn’t mean she lacks the intellectual capacity to have deep discussions on politics or existentialism, that she cannot color your life with more shades of cerulean than the Pacific Ocean. She won’t recognize Woolf or Dickinson but she’ll still demand passion and wonder and will see right through any shallow understanding of love and womanhood that many have painfully attempted to categorize under literate and illiterate. She, too, will despise the way others correlate her intellect with the number of books on her shelves and scoff at the way women have been grouped and pitted against one another in outdated binaries.

And in that moment, you’ll find that a girl who doesn’t read can be just as formidable as one that does, that there is no hidden value to be found in a girl that reads that cannot be found in one that doesn’t, that philosophies and values learned through text are not inherently superior to those formed by experience alone.
And when you realize this surface-level perception of literacy and of women is a fragile pairing wrought from a dirt stained lens, it will intimidate you and it will destroy you. 

So if this is how you view us, don’t date a girl who reads.
Don’t date a girl who doesn’t read.
In fact, don’t date a girl at all.
None of us want you.

Note: I actually really enjoyed reading “Date and Illiterate Girl.” I appreciate it’s purposeful diction and beautifully crafted syntax and understand the piece for what it is. “Date a Girl Who Reads” was kind of cringe-y at some parts, but there were passages I identified with. So consider my piece as not an attack to these respective authors but a response to all the boys who’ve labeled me and many other women as “coffee shop girls” or a “party girls” without understanding that these designations are empty labels devoid of any true substance, that it disregards the multitudinous identities a woman can adopt. 

Things I’ve Learned About Love at 22

We all know love requires trust and love is patient and love is kind blah blah blah. You guys can read all in another article or just watch A Walk to Remember. Below is my unfiltered and candid opinion of my own experiences.

I have to admit, I’ve been working on this piece for a while. And if you want full disclosure here, I’ll probably be revising this as I grow older and (hopefully) wiser. I’m not going to provide background on my love life in order to convince you I’m a credible source because let’s face it. I’m not. Hello!! I’m only 22!! I am not a love guru, nor do I wish to ever be one, and this post is most definitely not a “How To” guide for a successful relationship. But while I’ll be the first to admit there’s still a lot I need to learn, I also know that I’m not an idiot, so I have to have learned something. Here are some of my experiences and lessons learned and because I appreciate you all so much, I’ve compiled them in a list for easier reading.

  1. Love not a linear path– it goes up and down.
    It’s a lot of work to love someone and, admittedly, a lot of heartache.
    You often hear countless iterations of “love isn’t complicated. It’s people who make it complicated,” which I think is dumb. Granted, the sentiment is completely valid and has merit BUT you can’t remove an integral part of the equation– people! Without people, there is no love. So if love is an action, it requires someone to act on it; and unless you’re perfect and always make the right choices, love is going to be hard, dude.We’re going to mess up. Life might get in the way. Your partner is probably going to hurt you and you’re not always going to be the same starry-eyed lovers throughout the relationship. Yet, that’s also the best part of it all because the good times become great knowing you’ve both made it through the fire.
  2. Don’t idolize your partner
    When we first meet someone, it’s easy to cast an illusion over them. Infatuation blinds us to flaws. What happens when that illusion fades and we realize that the person we were so obsessed over is, in fact, human? Shocking! I’ve learned that we shouldn’t idolize our partners. The more we put them on a pedestal, the more strain they’ll be under to meet our expectations, which doesn’t leave room for mistakes in the relationship–– or growth. Just let them be human. The rest will work itself out with proper communication and understanding.On the flip side, it’s pointless to try an portray yourself as a “ideal” version of yourself because you’re afraid they’ll leave if they see the ‘real you.’ I’m not saying you should be a bum. But love requires us to be honest with who we are. We weren’t designed to be perfect. We were designed to be better. How can we improve if there’s nothing to work towards?
  3. If you’re not going to be vulnerable, there’s no point
    No one wants to be the first to open up. We never know how the other person is going to react to our flaws and insecurities, but that’s intimacy. That’s love. That’s what makes your person different from all the others– the trust and openness you build with them. Without being vulnerable, they might as well just be another person you pass by on the sidewalk.
  4. Love is the little things 
    My first love baked me a cake for my birthday, likely because he didn’t drive and didn’t have a job to buy me anything fancy, but it’s one of my favorite gifts to this day. In my last relationship, my partner dropped me dinner at midnight because she knew I’d been at school all day and hadn’t eaten and likely wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve always felt most loved when my partners reminded me to get off Twitter and finish my paper or when we’d go out to eat and they’d give me the lemon in their water without asking because I love lemons. Such small things but every tiny action was a substantial reminder that they were listening to me. The little things were the reassurances that they loved me.I think social media and viral videos of couples decorating their significant others’ bedrooms with a million balloons and obscene amounts of red roses and lavish gifts has misconstrued the purpose of grand gestures. It’s almost become a competition of “Look what MY partner did and what yours didn’t,” “My relationship is perfect,” or “Get you a man like mine!” Don’t get me wrong– it’s great to have someone go above and beyond for you. But that’s not love. That’s a performance. You can definitely have both, but you shouldn’t confuse the two.
  5. Love is scary, bro
    If you’re anything like me, you’ve subconsciously sabotaged one of your relationships at one point or another for no other reason than you’re afraid. You’ll pull away or push your partner away because you’re scared to fall in love. After all, it’s easier to move on when you didn’t invest any substantial part of yourself. But do it anyways.The worst heartbreak I experienced devastated me. I cried every night for almost a week. Worst of all, I couldn’t listen to music and I live for music. It’s the one thing I start and end my days with. But I’d physically want to throw up when I tried to listen to anything– even sad songs!! Imagine!! But that’s how I knew I had loved him because it hurt that much. Even now, I never want to feel that way again, but I also know that’s probably not going to be the case. Love is a risk. So take it. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll learn more about who you are, what you want, and what you need and perhaps fall in love with yourself instead in the process. Isn’t that nice?
  6. Testing your partner’s love for you gets you nowhere. 
    Don’t test someone’s love. It’s dishonest and if you have test them to prove they love you, then your relationship is lacking. If you have to push them away to see if they’ll come back and fight for you, that’s a lack of trust. It’s not love. If they love you, they’ll show you. They’ll listen to you. They’ll communicate. In the end, we all do what we want to do anyways.
  7. Love should never feel like it’s at the expense of your own happiness
    (My friend actually gave me this one. Thanks, D.)
    We romanticize the idea of someone taking care of us first–– of doing everything in the service of those we love most. Which, while noble, without any balance can be extremely burdensome and detrimental down the road. Love requires some sacrifice but love, itself, shouldn’t be one. If it hurts you more than it heals you, is it really worth it?
  8. Your partner shouldn’t be your everything.
    I understand that life is an endless obstacle course with breaks being few and far between and we need people to help us overcome our latest hurdles. We aren’t built to be solitary. We need people to live a life worth living, but we shouldn’t exclusively need one person. No one should be the end all, be all of your entire existence.Yes, spend time with who you love. Give them the best parts of yourself. But love requires space every now and then. Love yourself and your partner enough to recognize that you both need a life outside of each other. Be individuals.
  9. Soulmates aren’t real/ Love is a choice
    Look. I’m not jaded. I don’t think unconditional love is unachievable. I think there are a select few people who’ll fit you better than most, but I definitely don’t think there’s only one person out there for you. If love is a consistent choice you have to make everyday, then you choose a soulmate. You’re not given one by the universe.Here’s a quote that sums up my believe perfectly. A poetry book by Criss Jami once read, “To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.”
  10. Finally, Love is a mystery and no one has all the answers.
    Even having typed all this out, I know there’s still so much more I don’t know and so much more I need to learn, but life is for the learning inclined and dull without any mysteries. So I’m perfectly okay knowing I don’t have it all figured out.

I realize that a lot of this might come off preachy to some and someone is bound to disagree with me, so let’s have a conversation. What have you guys learned about love so far? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

My Struggles with Writing

Another month has passed in the year 2019 and with it came my usual bimonthly identity crises. Unlike my paychecks though, their due dates are grossly inconsistent and always unwelcome. Part of me is really hoping that we only get a limited amount of “episodes” so that by the time I turn 30, I will have already filled out that category of my life that I won’t have anymore identity crises to spare in the future.

BUT ANYWAYS!

So what inspired this month’s episode? Writing–– the one thing I used to love the most. Ironically. A month ago I realized that I hadn’t written for recreational purposes in such a long time. I’d been so consumed with my work–– critical essays, analyses, peer- reviews, book reviews, freelance articles–– that I hadn’t written any new poetry or stories or unqualified reflections on life. & whenever I sat down and made the time to do so, I felt nothing. No inspiration to write, no idea what even to write about. I actually felt like I didn’t even know how to write anymore, which was the oddest thing in the world because this year and the year previous has been the most I’ve written in my whole “career.” Still I felt like I was backsliding. Like I plateaued in my writing. I had to ask myself why this was and I realized that I had stopped writing for fun because the one thing I loved the most turned into a chore. It turned into something that I had to do to get an A or to get paid and when I didn’t have to do it to achieve a goal, I just didn’t have the energy to do it anymore. I started to resent writing.

Growing up, I’d constantly be told the same iteration of this phrase: “Find what you love and figure out how to make a profit/career out of it.” At the time that seemed like sound advice. Now? I’m so surrounded by what I love that I am suffocated by it. For a time, I felt like I had failed because if what I loved wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, what do I do then? Who will I be or become now? AND THAT’S when I told myself to stop being so dramatic and chill out. To stop and think.

I started to realize that my career and my passion don’t have to be directly connected. Sure, they can coincide, but they don’t have to be one in the same. And with that came a bunch of other realizations.

I’m not saying I’m giving up on writing. I’m not saying I no longer want to work for the New York Review of Books or write my own novel one day. I’m not saying that death by exegesis or critical analyses on existentialism will stop me from pursuing my PhD. All I’m saying is that 22 is way too young to be forcing myself into a career path or stagnant perception of identity when both are journeys and not destinations. BARF. Cheesy. I know. 22 is also a really young age and to be arrogant enough to assume that I should have it all figured out by now is really unrealistic and unhealthy.

I know that this post is all over the place. To be honest, I didn’t even want to write it, but I forced myself to because the other thing I realized–– and stick with me here because this is even cringier than the last paragraph–– is that my love for writing is a lot like a relationship.

Ya’ll know old couples are constantly saying that they weren’t always in love? That there were times they wanted to get a divorce or kill their partner or feel as if they didn’t even recognize the person they fell in love with. Well, this is a lot like that. Writing and I have left our honeymoon phase. We’re past all that infatuation and at that crucial juncture between staying together and strengthening our bond or going our separate ways and only meeting once in a while when I’ll have e-mails to my boss. What I’m really getting to is that I’m taking that step into a life long “partnership.” Because writing is a part of me. It has opened so many doors, helped me close some too; and it’s a part of my life that I never want to lose even if I may resent it at this moment. So. I’m forcing myself to write, to not give up. & Maybe I won’t rediscover my passion tomorrow or next week or even next month, but I’m confident that I will again. & You know? For now, at 22 with (hopefully) half a century left to live, that’s good enough for me.

(wo)menstruation: Trying a Menstrual Cup for the First Time

Word Count
Vagina: 8
Blood: 7
Insertion: 10

In an effort to be more cost efficient and environmentally conscious, I purchased a menstrual cup (MC) back in October. It had arrived at the perfect time as my period started the day after it came in the mail and, as any millennial would do, I documented my experience on my Instagram (which has been shamelessly plugged here).

Before giving my thoughts, I was curious to know how much my followers knew about the cup. The results weren’t all that shocking to me. Only 16 out of 108 voters had tried/used an MC and 3 out of the 16 were guy friends trying to screw up my data (Calling you out Russell, Francis, and Devonte).

As a preface, I want to first mention that my goal here isn’t to provide a thorough, informational guide on what cup to use and how to use it, although I will touch upon some details here. I’m in no way an expert, and I wouldn’t want to lead anyone astray! Nor is my aim to convince you to buy a one, but if you did that’d be great. My goal is simply to share my own experience. And should any questions arise from that, feel free to leave it in the comments down below. I’d be glad to share more!

What is a menstrual cup?
Simply put, it’s a cup you insert into the vagina during menstruation. When the cup reaches capacity or after 8-12 hours, you empty the cup into the toilet, sink, etc., clean it, and reinsert it.

Product Details?
After a lot of research I finally settled on an MC that I felt would fit me best. You can find this brand here on Amazon.
IMG_4096Brand: Intimina
Model: Lily Cup A
Capacity: 18ml
Dimensions: Size A: 3.07 x 1.57 x 1.57 in.

IMG_4100

Unlike popular cups like the Diva Cup, Lunette, or the Lena Cup, the opening of the Lily cup is slightly slanted. It also comes with a nice pouch to carry it around in. There are many different brands, so make sure to research which one would make your vagina most happy.

The stem is also quite long, so I trimmed off maybe half an inch of it. Many sites recommend you do this. The MC shouldn’t extend past your opening and if it does, you’re likely to experience chaffing.

Inserting?
I tried different folds to make insertion easier. My two favorites are the taco fold and the punch down fold. The former is basically rolling the cup like it were a burrito and the latter is pushing down on one end of the rim as shown in the picture down below.

Did it hurt? No. But the first time using it was uncomfortable. With practice, however, that feeling went away.

Did I feel it inside me? No. When inserted correctly, I sometimes forget it was even there.

USING AN MC IN A PUBLIC BATHROOM???
Let’s get to the question everyone has on their mind: okay but using an MC in a public restroom is gross?

My first time cleaning out my MC in a public restroom was definitely nerve-wracking, BUT this is mainly because I was worrying about it so much. It’s not as weird once you get accustomed to it.

Was it messy? No. If you’re concerned about blood splashing everywhere, that did not occur at all for me.

Did I get blood on my hands? YES. But only the tips of my fingers. I should also mention that I do bring wipes inside the stall. To prevent this, bear down on the cup using your vaginal muscles and the cup should lower enough for you to get in and get out with little to no damage done. This also depends on how low/high your cervix is. You could also cover your hands with toilet paper when pulling it out.

As for cleaning, since I couldn’t always mosey off to the sink and rinse out my cup, I used toilet paper/baby wipes to wipe the inside after I dumped the blood into the toilet. This should work fine and most users will tell you this as well. IT’S NOT AS GROSS AS YOU MAY THINK.

Pros:

  1. Durability and Security:
    MCs  supposedly lasts hella long–– 10 years. And because I am not the plan ahead/track your cycle typa girl having the security of an MC always on hand was golden.
  2. Safety:
    It’s more hygienic than pads and it’s a lot safer than tampons (as it lowers the risk for TSS*).

    *note: While Toxic Shock Syndrome is most commonly connected to tampons, it can be acquired from a variety of (non-period related) things. So using a menstrual cup does not mean you will never get TSS, though the risk is very rare.

  3. Eco-Friendly and Cost Efficient
    If you’re aware of our environmental crisis, you might have heard that pads and tampons are not necessarily recyclable, although there are efforts to combat this (Check out LOLA  for more details!). Because MCs last longer, the need to purchase non-recyclable menstrual products is hardly ever a factor.
  4. Less Time in Between Changes
    Because the MC hold your period blood instead of absorbing it, I didn’t need as many stops to the bathroom as I used it. An MC can be left inside for a longer amount of time as it holds anywhere between 18 ml to 30 ml of blood. To put that into perspective, the average period is between 10 ml – 35 ml of blood. If it’s inserted correctly, it shouldn’t leak, which is something that always occurred when I used a tampon for more than half an hour. BUT MAYBE I’M JUST INCOMPETENT.

    On lighter days, I’d go to the bathroom maybe twice every 10 hours and that’s just to check if I leaked–– which wasn’t usually the case.On my heavier day (usually the second day), it’s a different story. Using a pad/tampon I’d go to the bathroom maybe 5 times every 10 hours. Using an MC I’d go around 3-4, which really isn’t that big difference. Again, I’d like to share that I’m still relatively new to using one so this might lessen with time.

  5. Suited for active lifestyles
    I had no problems using it while I went for a run or for the one time I went swimming. I didn’t have to worry about hygiene (as much as I usually do) and changing it out right after a run as I would with a pad and I didn’t worry about leaking as I would with a tampon.

Cons:
I’m going to be real with you. As great as I believe MCs to be, there were a few cons I want to address here. It is also important to note that practice and consistent usage will definitely help or solve many of these issues.

  1. Hard to Open??
    Anyone who says an MC is easy to use IS A DAMN LIAR. While the benefits outweigh the cons, you really have to become intimate with your vagina and the cup when first using it.

    The Lily Cup material is extremely soft and very malleable. For some women, this might be ideal, but this made it difficult for me to open it up once inside my vagina because my pelvic floor muscles are relatively strong (weird flex, but ok?). And in order to prevent leakage, the cup literally has to suction onto your vaginal walls and the rim has to open up from the fold you used to insert it. That being said, it was especially challenging for me as I had been a first time user and was still learning the tips and tricks of using an MC.

    The second month was a lot easier. I spent a lot less time trying to get it to open as I had a better idea of what my vagina needed. I’d say the first month I’d spend 10 minutes on average in the bathroom trying to insert the damn thing correctly. The second month, I spent 3-5 minutes. Pretty good improvement, I’d say. I am still planning to buy a brand with firmer resistance to see if it really is just the cup or if I’M JUST INCOMPETENT.

  2. Leakage???
    One of the pros of a menstrual cup is that it does not leak. Caveat: it does not leak if it’s inserted correctly. Because learning to use the cup is the upward battle, I did experience leakage my first time using it. I will say, however, that when I did leak, it was not nearly as much as when I would use a tampon–– often times, it was just some minor spotting. I’d also like to note that I only leaked on my heavier days. The second month I used it I hardly leaked at all. Because of this, I do suggest wearing a liner on your heaviest day or the first time you try one–– at least until you get used to it.
  3. Cleaning
    Using a cup requires maintenance. You can’t just use it and throw it away like you would a tampon or pad. Before and after each cycle, you have to boil the cup in water for a good 5-8 minutes. So you will have to reserve 5-8 minutes of preparation after you discover you got your period. I could have avoided this wait time if I had some foresight and prepped my MC as I got nearer to my due date rather than waiting for the day my period actually came.

I’d like to conclude this section of my MC journey by letting y’all know I will have a part 2 to this post where I answer the questions others had sent to me and share some of the tips and tricks that helped me best. Before then, feel free to leave any questions you may have or share your experiences and insights down below.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

To All My Dramatic Dreamers (Myself Included)

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about superstitions and my experience with the paranormal. I forced myself to write it. After I finished, I decided to hold off on posting it and wait till the next day– today. This evening, as I sat in front of my computer ready to publish my piece I decided to write something different (which is this post that you’re reading right now). Why? I can’t really say. Perhaps it’s because what I had originally intended to post didn’t seem adequate enough. It felt rushed and forced and all it had to offer was mediocrity. I can’t deny that I’ve been in a stump these past few months. As you can tell from my lack of posting, I’ve lost enjoyment for my craft and have been feeling passionless, which is scary because I’ve convinced myself that writing and reading are my bread and butter. I’ve told myself that it’s all I have to offer the world.
Reading and WritingReading and Writing Reading and Writing
I’ve lived most of my life assuming that my career would center around these two words that have consumed me for most of my academic life.
 Then all of a sudden I lost any motivation and desire to continue reading and writing, and I was lost– am lost. I know this isn’t groundbreaking. Everyone is lost at 21. Boo hoo, Via. Welcome to the most inclusive club on Earth!

Despite this suffering being a communal affair, I still feel helpless. My world has tilted from 23º to 90º and I’ve been left with the one question that has paralyzed any forward movement in my life: Do I like reading and writing because I’m actually passionate about it or do I like it because I’ve been told that (relatively) I’m good at it? Thereby convincing me to love it? Because if I didn’t actually love it, where would that leave me? What would I do then? If I truly loved something, why did I give up on it for months? Why did I lose any desire to continue? Why did I dread reading and writing during my final semesters? Hello, existential crisis.

I thought back to my undergrad and realized how I fell out of love with reading and writing because I felt forced to do it. I needed to write that 10 page exegesis because I needed that grade to pass and ensure my parents’ sacrifices for my education weren’t in vain. I needed to work those hours at the Writing Center, reading and peer-reviewing other students’ papers to make money. I needed to complete my Literature degree because I had already come so far. I was so surrounded by what I thought I had loved that I felt suffocated by it.

And then I thought about the potential career I had planned for myself (publishing), which more or less, would be the same thing. Would my attitude towards reading and writing– my supposed passions– shift from adoration to resentment then? 

Then I wondered if anyone else has thought this. Do accountants become accountants because they love numbers or because they’re good with them? This question reminded me of an article I read claiming that we do ourselves and our community a disservice by building a career solely off of something we love. It argued that, more or less, following your dream is a waste of time if you’re not one of the lucky few. This post went against everything I’ve been taught. Not follow your dream? How… pessimistic– or perhaps, now, realistic? After all, it’s called a dream because not everyone has what it takes to make it tangible. Or maybe they do, but they’re perpetually screwed over by the injustice of a fickle world. I questioned constantly the validity of this statement. It had merit. There are countless artists– writers– out there who love an industry that doesn’t love them. There are hundreds of unrecognized talents who are overshadowed by those who were in the right place at the right time but are mediocre at best.

Then I considered the idea that I lost my love for reading and writing because I lost faith in my ability to actualize my goals– because I was afraid what I wanted to do wasn’t what I should do, that it wouldn’t be profitable or I wouldn’t “make it”. And then my mind went on a tirade bombarding me with questions of my quality of life if I were to pursue a career in publishing that has less than fruitful results for the majority. Then it bombed me with questions regarding my happiness were I to do something I could find security in but didn’t fulfill what I really wanted. Then I paralyzed myself even more from my inability to just decide. Then I attacked myself for being so consumed with needing money. I rationalized this desire by understanding that I obviously need money to survive. Then I thought about how broke I was and questioned how I could ever become independent. After I went through this– for lack of a better term– episode, every romantic notion claiming that we foster happiness by following our dream was folded in half and stored in the far off drawers of my mind. 

And then I went crazy.

When I calmed down enough, I then thought about the binate system we’re conditioned to follow: this or that but never both. Or or or or.  It always had to be one or the other. You either follow your passion and risk a less stable life or you choose a profitable job which you might be good at but have no real interest in. In the midst of this dimming thought, I realized I never asked myself why I couldn’t do both. More than that, why did the choices have to be either good or bad, or bad or worse? Why couldn’t the options be good or best? With such a dismal outlook, it was no wonder I “lost” passion. 

I thought back to Bukowski’s famous words: “Find what you love and let it kill you.” I had been consumed by this line when I first came across it. I remember reading it, letting it sink in and thinking they were the most profound words ever arranged in a 9 syllable sentence. Fuck yeah! I couldn’t wait to be killed by my passion. MURDER ME, CHARLES BUKOWSKI! MY BODY IS READY.

But here I am, years later, figuratively dying and wondering why does it have to be so dramatic? After all was thought and anguished over to an overwhelming amount, I thought about those who follow their dreams as a hobby while they pursue more profitable avenues; they continue to hone their art in some hope that one day they’ll find their big break. A practical and reasonable choice. I don’t think it’s giving up–more like… being wise. Why does following your dreams often equate to being impetuous and foolish? Why is there no smart way to accomplish your goals? Practicality isn’t romantic, sure, but that doesn’t make it a less viable option.

So here I am, slowly trying to figure out a smart way to be what I want to be. Do I love reading and writing again? I’m working on it. In fact, this is the first time I’ve been inspired to write all summer and I must say that I feel satisfied having completed something of value– at least to me. That’s a start. I’m also thinking that I’ll try the practical route and see what comes from that. I might also change my mind the next day and just wing it all, but I’m thinking that that’s okay too.

So while I’m often subjected to boughts of hopelessness and despair and all the dramatics of life in regards to the future, I’m quite eager to figure it out as I go along. I’m learning to trust myself and understand, that for all my mistakes and flaws, I know I’ll be okay in the end. Again, maybe that seems arrogant, but what I’ve also learned is that you need a little ego to be where you want to be in life.

 

What do you guys think? I’d love to hear your opinions below. Let’s have a discussion!

Inevitable Lessons of Being A Sad Girl

Life is crazy. No surprise there.
It’s unpredictable.
It’s hectic.
It’s all types of fucked up and all kinds of beautiful.

Most of all, it always moves forward. Luckily for me, much of the momentum that pushed me through this past year and a half had comprised of bouts of sadness so deep, it scared me. It felt inescapable and unmanageable. With my graduation date quickly approaching, I constantly worried about the future: where I would be, what I would do afterwards, where I would work, and mostly how I would pay for myself once I became independent? How could I make something of myself if I was too afraid to take the risk of following my passion for writing? I was stressed and sad and angry that I didn’t have the answers so all I did was remain stagnant in my position. And because of that I felt I had no purpose. I was pushing against a rock I couldn’t move.

Without going into too much detail, much of the depression that I experienced was also a product of internal issues (self-confidence, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, etc.) along with a few other moving and unpleasant events that were outside of my control, but manageable had I simply approached the situation better (failed and strained relationships with friends, family, and lovers). I had harbored and nurtured these problems with negativity and worry and this reflected in my work ethic, my social circles, and my daily interactions with other people. I was easy to anger, to irritate. I pulled away from many people, and procrastinated at every opportunity. Most damaging of all, I convinced myself that I deserved to feel this way– to hate myself for having no “real” excuse for being sad, but still being so anyway.

But I look back at those dark moments in time, even with the happy days in mind, and cannot think of anything I could be more grateful for. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

You may be wondering why I would be praising something many would consider a misfortune. Why would I be happy to have been sad? I realize that may seem odd and perhaps offensive to some who have been clinically diagnosed with depression or mental illness. That is not my intention at all. But it is because of that deep depression that I have come to learn more about growth and happiness, and most importantly, myself.

Now, I am not a guru of life. I don’t have all the secrets of the world nor do I wish to. These lessons I’ve learned have not automatically brought me to a realm of absolute happiness. But I have learned that “happiness” as a perpetual state of being is not possible, nor should it be. I don’t say this because I am a pessimist, but because I’ve come to understand that the goal of life isn’t about finding absolute bliss for the rest of our days.
It’s about living.
And to be alive is to know pain and hardship and heartbreak and love and laughter and moments of joy so profound it’s impossible not to believe in something greater. It’s about trying to understand world and coming to terms with the fact that we never truly will. To be alive is to live in a paradox.

This leads me to

Lesson One:  Let go of the need for happiness. 
I read a quote once and though I am unable to relay it verbatim, it went along these lines: If you forbid yourself to be sad because there are others who suffer more, then you cannot allow yourself to be happy because there are many who are happier than you.

I spent many months being upset– mostly at myself.There was so much guilt whenever I felt sad or angry, because every night I took a step back and thought to myself: What do I really have to be sad about when I have supportive family and friends, food on the table, shelter over my head, and a stable education? If I started to feel sad I’d instantly beat myself up for looking at the world so negatively. I forced myself to be positive and would get upset when I couldn’t be. How could I when I would constantly meet and interact with people who suffered more tangible worries than I could even imagine?

But I had to learn that feeling completely out of sorts with the world and with myself is an inevitable part of living. Feeling guilty for natural, valid, and uncontrollable emotions is unproductive and unreasonable.

IT’S OKAY TO BE SAD SOMETIMES.

To be in a spectrum of emotion is to be whole. No matter my economic circumstance, my personal situation, my work or school life– be it in a terrible state or a great one– I learned that it’s okay to feel. To live. It was time to stop being so hard on myself for being human.

Lesson Two: Only I am responsible.
My parents, my friends, and my environment have all shaped me. Yet my mold isn’t merely governed by these outside forces. It’s subject to internal movement: my thoughts, my goals, my emotions. Every inch of my mind. The world I live in and how I choose to perceive it is up to me and whatever comes of that is my responsibility.

I worry about what’s to come constantly. I have no idea what will become of my life in ten years or five or even two weeks. What if someone I love dies? What if something comes around and completely throws me off my path and sets me back? What if I can’t get a job after I graduate? This anxiety only fueled what had already been a chaotic mind.

What I had to understand is that outside forces beyond my control will always be there, but to place blame on the state of my life on anyone other than myself is to disregard my ability to rebuild myself and grow from hardship. If someone pushed me down and I stay there, that is my full and conscious decision. Instead of blaming the world for placing a rock in my path, I learned to break down that rock into fragments so fine it would be unrecognizable. Weather it down with water and knead it until it became clay. Then mold that obstacle into whatever I chose. Because only I am responsible for it.

Lesson Three: It’s all about balance.
I remember a time where the playgrounds I once frequented had thin metal beams that I would walk with precarious steps. And I remember the time my friends had dared me to run across the beam without falling down.

I failed.

That experience taught me two things.

1. Balance is crucial.
2. I have to walk before I can run.

This past year I had to relearn these lessons. I reached my capacity for stress, but continued to add things that only pushed me even further past my limit. I overloaded on classes, work, and extracurricular activities and let my work pile up. And when I would silently crumble under the pressure, I’d beat myself up for not being able to handle the stress. I expected so much from myself for no other reason than I wanted to be better and I wanted that now. But rather than benefit me, it only weakened my resolve. I placed my goals on the foreground and pushed my mental health in the background not knowing that there was space for both in the front. Here I was walking on a metaphorical beam of life, holding a feather in my left hand with a ton of bricks weighing down on my right. How could I have possibly stayed balanced?

What I learned from falling too far over the edge is that I didn’t have to carry a huge weight on my shoulder in order to make something of myself. Most of all, I didn’t need to do any of that now. I was trying to fly through the stages of life, but I had no idea what I was rushing for. Maybe I had been in a silent competition with those my age who already seemed to have it all figured out. Whatever the reason, I have come to determination that when I reach my goals, I will go into them with a clear and balanced mind.

Much of what I’ve presented so far may seem preachy coming from a young adult who still has so much left to experience. I have no idea if I’ll come back to this and find that all I’ve written contradicts what I will learn in the following years. Or maybe I won’t.

I don’t really know and that’s okay.
I can’t unpack the entire world in only 21 years.
And you know what?

That’s okay too.

2017 Was Dramatic AF: A watered down reflection of my year and maybe some insight (but probably not)

Hey! It’s me. Coming at ya with another grossly overdone post about making the new year one of dramatic transformation that’ll probably only last a month. I’ve always despised these types of posts because I usually found them to be overly pretentious. Self-improvement shouldn’t come at the beginning of a new year. We don’t have to wait for January 1st to start going to the gym. We don’t need to wait till Monday to start drinking 2L of water everyday. Becoming a better version of ourselves should be a continual process. But whatever. We’re already here, so just pile me in with all those other unoriginal posts. 

2017 has been a year full of growth and revelations. Which really doesn’t make it all that special because my dramatic ass has been “coming to realizations” every other month. My life is really just one existential crises after the other.

I’ve never been one to follow a routine. Most of my life, even up till now, has been me winging it and just making it to the deadline. Although that hasn’t done anything overly damaging to my social circles, my work life, or my academic career, this way of living isn’t all that fulfilling.

I noticed that by me procrastinating all the damn time, that I got so used to the stress and headache of deadlines that I didn’t feel normal without it. I convinced myself that that’s just how I am and that’s how I work best. But after years and years and years of living with this mentality, I finally just admitted to myself that I was only making excuses.

I felt lost and stuck because I didn’t know where to go or if I was even going anywhere. I didn’t challenge myself enough to actually work towards something. I simply followed my syllabi, centered my life around my work schedule and the agendas my professors created for me and realized other people were creating the ins and outs of my daily life.

One of my favorite authors once claimed: 

“The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

That’s what my life had come to. I followed the patterns others had set out for me because I was too lazy, too undisciplined, and too unbothered to come up with one my own. I became a passive participant in my own world.

To overcompensate for this, I began doing the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them and did the things I needed to do only when I had no other option. Almost all of my time was me playing catch-up with papers and readings and somehow still doing pretty well in the end. But the means to getting there was filled with stress and depression and an overall lack of satisfaction. I prioritized “fun” over work because I convinced myself that my “mental well-being” was just as important when in actuality, I was just using it as an excuse to mess around. In hindsight, if I had just prioritized what needed to be accomplished, I would’ve had a much better time doing the things I wanted to do because I wouldn’t have had anything in the back of my mind causing me to worry.

I’m graduating in 5months (fingers crossed) and I’ve been clouded by the shadow of impending adulthood and afraid of what’s to come. I ask myself constantly, “Well, what do you want to do and how are you going to achieve it?” This lead to me overanalyzing my process to success. I started to see that my stress and lack of happiness with school, work, and, ultimately, myself was due to my lack of discipline.

But that just so happens to be one of the hardest things to master.

Why would I want to write a critical analysis paper when I can just go on Twitter and laugh at things infinitely more enjoyable?

Why do I want to save money when I can buy a movie ticket instead?

Why would I wake up at 6 am if my class doesn’t start until 11?

If I cut out breakfast, I could have more time to sleep in.

I lacked discipline. And discipline, in my belief, is at the core of all achievements.

I know this.

But one of the oddest facets of my mentality, and perhaps many others, is that I know and understand certain truths but still fail to change my behavior and my ways. I inhibit myself. This begs the question: even if I know the truth, even if I understand what it takes to feel fulfilled and satisfied and successful (whatever my definition of that term may be) what does it really take to achieve these things I want in life?

The truth as I have come to learn is that I just have to do it. Because in the end, only I am responsible for what my life has come to. Someone can sabotage me or all my work could burn down in a fire and set me back, but if I choose to stay there, that is my own conscious decision. And I’ll be damned if I let anyone, most of all myself, screw me over.

All that to say that 2018– and the years following it– will be a time of just fucking doing it. Whatever it may be.

So carry me forwards, 2018. I’m (somewhat) ready.