Aim and Ignite

It’s back to school! (But not for me. Thank god.)

When I was in undergrad, so much of my time was spent stressing about what my major would be. First I tried English, making the decision based on nothing other than the fact that I enjoyed reading and writing. But I eventually came to the conclusion that literature wasn’t the right course of study for me, and instead, I wanted my time and energy to be spent on a subject that interested me, challenged me, and invigorated me. Based on my years of crossing things off my list and exploring new topics in college, I finally chose to major in Gender Studies.

There are plenty of people who don’t even know what that means. Or if they do, their first thought is likely “what do you do with that?” But I had never intended to go to college for the sole purpose of establishing my career (sorry, Mom and Dad). I was always so intimidated by my peers who knew the exact job they wanted, even though they were only 18 years old. I didn’t even know which Taylor Swift era I identified with the most – how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do for approximately the rest of my life? So instead of stressing myself out by trying to figure it out, I was simply going to learn as much as I could. And in my opinion, Gender Studies was the perfect way to do that.

Basically, Gender Studies explores the ways that gender significantly affects the different aspects of our lives. Though the premise is simple, the actual experience was one of the most challenging and rewarding I could have ever asked for. My curriculum consisted of classes in all kinds of subjects, like communications, English, politics, and even science. If you think there’s no way to consider gender in some of these subjects…that’s where the challenge of my major came in. Sure, there were a lot of times when I had to make a stretch or two to make a connection, but for the most part, I was forced to really think. I was forced to figure out new ways to think about the world around me. I was forced to think about possible answers to difficult questions. I was constantly questioning the dynamics I had been so familiar with my entire life. It was a really cool experience, and I totally encourage everyone in college to take at least one gender studies class if you can. It will challenge you in ways you never thought you even wanted to be challenged in the first place.

But despite the long rant, this isn’t me preaching that my major was the best major in the world. I don’t necessarily think everyone should study something in undergrad that simply sounds interesting and you hope will eventually turn into something more profound. But I do think it’s ultimately important to study what interests you. I think this idea of freeform thinking and exploration of difficult questions can be argued for any major you choose in college. You’re exposed to all of these new experiences in such a short period of time. It’s natural to constantly be questioning things and changing the way you view the world.

My major taught me how to think, how to appreciate and recognize my privileges, and how to always keep things interesting. But that wasn’t just because there was a magic spell put on me once I discovered the wonders of Gender Studies. It’s because I was able to fully immerse myself in the subject that was interesting to me, that I was personally invested in, and that I truly felt would help me learn what was most important to me. And after taking ownership of that, I felt like I left undergrad with the ability to make decisions for myself that I could be genuinely proud of, and truly happy about. From putting in the work and exposing myself to experiences that both scared and invigorated me, I learned to trust myself more and give in to the excitement of learning for the sake of learning. So whether you’re actually still in undergrad or you just love me enough to read all of my blog posts, I hope you can take away the inspiration of doing what drives you to be your best self. And keep learning.

(Whoa….wait….this entire post was SO Ravenclaw of me…….BRB taking a new sorting test)

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Ending the Stigma on Mental Illness

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? I’m particularly inclined to share about this for two reasons. One, mental health is one of those topics that has somehow become shameful and taboo – hence the need for a month dedicated to awareness. And two, like so many others, it’s something that I personally deal with every day of my life.

Not only has the stigma around mental illness made me hesitant to blog about it before, but there’s an entire other layer that feels odd to me. As I become more familiar with the conversation surrounding mental illness, I find that people tend to associate it with being weak, needy, and attention seeking. I think some of that comes from the blurry lines that exist between clinically diagnosed mental illnesses and very strong emotions. People get anxious and people get depressed, and these feelings are completely valid no matter where they fall in the scale of intensity.

So maybe people struggle with how to react with more serious cases because measuring one’s mental health is a very personal thing. It’s usually between you and a doctor, or therapist, or both. But these diagnosis are invisible to the human eye. And there are so many invisible illnesses that people are forced to personally validate everyday because of the assumed perceptions of what it means to be ill or differently abled. And that’s why having a month to shed light on mental illness is so important for us who struggle without outward signs of pain.

A lot of the time, we don’t see visible signs of mental illness the way we do with other health problems, but it took me a long time to realize that that doesn’t mean it don’t deserve the same amount of attention. In my personal experience, it took me a long time to accept that my anxiety and depression was indeed something to be diagnosed and treated. As anybody who has ever met me knows, I am an extremely passionate person. So when I started noticing particularly heightened feelings of anxiety, worry, sadness, and the like, I assumed it was all due to the fact that I very rarely experience “casual” emotions. I feel things very intensely, so I never assumed anything out of the ordinary when I would get chest pains during moments of uncertainty or lengthy periods of unhappiness after a bad day. Sure, these are symptoms that could happen to anybody – but when the triggers started becoming a little less predictable and a lot more frequent, I started wondering if there was anything I could do about it.

I am very open about my struggle with anxiety and depression, but for a while, it was hard for me to talk about. I live such a privileged life with amazing opportunities and am completely supported by incredible family and friends; for a while, all I could think about was how outsiders might not believe me when I said I had a mental illness. But then I thought about it this way: if I had a problem with my heart, or my leg, or my back, I would take medicine for it – so why wouldn’t I do the same thing for the chemical imbalances that were happening in my brain? Once that idea became clear, I decided to use it as an opportunity to speak out. I want people to know how comfortable I am with talking about my experiences with mental health because we all deserve to feel safe and comfortable about the things that make us who we are. I don’t think my mental illness defines me, but it’s definitely a big part of my life. You may not be able to see it, but plenty of people can certainly feel it, and that should be valid enough.

But remember, being comfortable with opening up takes time. If you’re struggling with figuring out your journey and aren’t sure where to go from here, hopefully one of these resources can point you on the right path ❤

Resources:

7 Cups of Tea – A website that allows you to speak anonymously with a trained active listener.

American Psychological Association – A resource for finding mental health care in your area.

Katie Morton – A licensed therapist YouTuber dedicated to discussing mental health and erasing stigma.

National Alliance on Mental Health – A resource guide for when you need help paying for medication

Revival

I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for over a year! Let’s chat about then vs. now.

There were a lot of reasons I finally decided to take the plunge and publish that first post January of 2016, but in all honesty, I had no idea what this blog was going to become over time. My only thoughts were I like to write, I like to share my opinions, and I liked participating in bigger conversations. And this has definitely been the perfect outlet for me to do all three of those things. I’ve written posts about my favorite pop culture topics, commentary on social discourse, given dubious advice, and shared genuine reflections on my life as a young adult. In trying to brainstorm some new ideas for a blog post – considering it’s been well over two months since my last post, yay for consistency! – I figured it might be worth it to take a step back and reevaluate my purpose for this platform. Am I still posting for the same reasons? If not, what are my new motivations and challenges? Is anyone really reading this stuff? Will I ever write that post about why Ben & Leslie are the greatest TV couple to ever exist in the history of network television?

I have a strong feeling that the last one is a solid yes.

One of my biggest hesitations to start my blog was the fact that I never wanted to restrict myself to a schedule. Writing posts was (and still is) the most enjoyable for me when the inspiration was fresh and I felt passionate enough to share my thoughts. Unfortunately, I don’t have very much control over when these moments of inspiration happen – as I’m sure most writers can attest to, harnessing this motivation and discipline to write is one of the most difficult parts of putting words on paper. And while I was able to maintain a semi-regular schedule of posts for a while, these last few months had me getting a little worried. Was it worth it to write something half-assed for the sake of adding content? Or should I wait even longer for the new idea to strike, even if it meant my blog would remain silent for a number of months? I couldn’t really decide, but I always leaned toward the latter. That’s just how I tended to operate. Either I was passionate about doing something or I had very little interest to do it at all.

If you look back to the last post that was published on my blog, you will see another aspect of why I’ve been silent on this platform. The frustrations of the world around me have taken a pretty big toll on my mental health, and over the past few months, I’ve been dealing with a nasty bout of depression. This doesn’t quite mean I’ve been having trouble getting out of bed or that I hate the world around me; mental illness is a lot more complex than that. With everything that has been going on with society as a whole, plus my own personal obstacles I was working through, I found very little interest in a lot of stuff that I would often rely on for support. Any time I had the tiniest speck of an idea for a blog post, the drive to run to my computer and open a new document quickly dissolved, leaving me with tons of unfinished ideas and half-hearted brainstorm sessions.

And while it might have been that nobody gave a shit that I hadn’t posted anything in a while, I gave a shit. And I still do.

So maybe my blog will continue to be a place for me to share stories and ideas with you all, and maybe I won’t post as frequently as I’d like. Or maybe this post will spark a resurgence in my passion for blogging and I’ll pump out a bunch of different posts in the next few weeks. I’ve decided that I’m up for any outcome. Like all of my social media platforms, I like to think of this blog as a more polished representation of me; these posts are the thoughts and ideas and feelings and other things I want to share but may not be able to put into words face-to-face. Instead, I take the time to type them out and organize them and put in some silly jokes or fancy words to get my point across. But that’s also the nature of who I am – I’m a planner, I’m a thinker, and sometimes, I can be a bit of an overachiever. And for now, that seems to be working out just fine, so I think I’ll keep it up. Until it’s time for a nap.

The Beauty of Bullet Journals

Here’s a list of things I love more than most people:

  • Dogs
  • Bread
  • Lists

SEE WHAT I DID THERE? 😉

I’m notorious for having multiple notebooks, post-its, written on hands, etc. to keep track of my life. But as you can probably guess, not having one go-to place for my lists made it even more difficult to stay organized, leading to dumb stress and somehow even more lists. Then I was introduced to the idea of bullet journals and, no exaggeration, my life was changed.

A bullet journal is a to do list, planner, and diary all in one. Rather than just simply writing down events, reminders, and random thoughts in a notebook, a bullet journal gives you the opportunity to be creative in an incredibly organized way. (I’m not going to take the time to explain the particulars about bullet journals because Buzzfeed already did that – it’s the most comprehensive look at bullet journals I could find and it definitely encouraged me to take the final plunge and start one. Thanks, Rachel!)

Some people may see a bullet journal and think “that looks like too much work” or “I’m not artistic enough for that”. Trust me, I would agree with if either of those things were true; the way to make your bullet journal work to its greatest potential is to throw away any expectations. At first, all I could think of were the pretty Instagram photos I would take and all the different colored pens I could carry around with me. But when I sat down to put everything together, I realized that all I wanted was to keep track of things in a productive way.

The aesthetic of a bullet journal is definitely appealing, but it doesn’t magically happen, and it’s not really necessary. You can find endless Pinterest pages of handwriting tips and decorative layouts, which actually do look really great, but I know that if I tried any of these things, I would get frustrated when it didn’t turn out how I expected. So my main advice with a bullet journal is to make it your own. If you start your journal and change your mind along the way and decide you want to spend more time making it look “Instagram-able”, GO FOR IT! There are so many choices for this journal, all with the same overall outcomes: organization and productivity.

Most bullet journals start with tracking monthly, weekly, or daily scheduling, including things that need to get done, events, birthdays, or notes that you want to jot down throughout the day. In addition to these daily to-do type lists, lots of people like to use their journals to keep track of other stuff, like what TV shows are on your binge radar, how many times you go to the gym, or even hobbies and moods. My personal choices are keeping track of my monthly finances, great quotes I come across, and daily gratitude. But as I said, there is no “correct” way to choose these lists, and they don’t need to be the same throughout the span of your journaling! Choices!!!!

Here are some cute photos of my journal! Are any of y’all planning on starting one? Let me know and we can share ideas!