Who You Gonna Call? …Women

Can I just applaud whoever first considered remaking Ghostbusters with an all-female cast? We are so used to these classic images in entertainment and don’t even consider what it might be like to switch things up.

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An exciting, fresh update to a classic movie like this one really gets me wondering what we might be seeing next.

As if you couldn’t tell already, I am a feminist. I believe in equality for every single person on this planet. So I will proudly support any effort that uplifts those who typically get the short end of the stick in society. And when these efforts are ones that are very visible, ones that we can all see and admire, that makes it even better.

As a young girl, I personally never really had strong females going against patriarchal norms. Most often, I’d actually choose to focus on male characters because they were portrayed as much stronger and more important than the minor female characters just present as an eventual love interest for somebody. Even if she did get involved in some action, the man would still seem to overshadow her.

I was probably too young to watch them, but I did watch James Bond movies (I swear, I never knew what they were doing in the bedroom), and again, he was a character who I thought was so cool. I didn’t necessarily focus on the fact that he was a man, but whenever I was pretending I was a cool spy, I never imagined any feminine qualities having a place in that imaginary role. Even watching all of the Indiana Jones movies further convinced me that leading epic adventures was a man’s job.

No matter how subtle these instances may be, they still play a huge impact on how kids grow up viewing the roles of gender in society. Many parents have stereotypes in their head of what to expect in their little boy or girl, what they might like and what is acceptable. When I look back on my own childhood, I feel like I was in an awkward middle ground of acknowledging that I was, in fact, a girl, but definitely exhibiting tomboy-like qualities. I never liked wearing dresses, the color pink, or makeup (and I would run away before anybody could braid my hair), I always preferred animals over baby dolls, and I could play with my brother for hours, even if it was just watching him play video games. Yet I still had a box of Barbies I occasionally touched and a dollhouse in my room. Femininity almost felt like something foreign, that embracing it meant I couldn’t enjoy my favorite things  or be who I wanted to be.

Obviously I am a proud, strong woman today who enjoys the feminine things in life, but it took it a long time for me to realize that there is not just one correct way to be feminine. That qualities of stronger and more demure nature could coexist. The books we read and the media we watch are crucial ways to demonstrate how this is in fact possible.

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This girl’s got spunk, no need for makeup or a lover’s embrace to take on anything. It’s not like it’s great to have companions like Finn by her side, but the movie represents them as equals.

I think it’s very interesting when we do break traditional molds because we often hold very low expectations of these “remakes,” that they will never live up to the original versions. But then every success is just that more noteworthy. Take for example the latest Star Wars saga. (Side note: when the first note of the theme rang out in that dark theatre, I definitely started crying. But anyway.) I, like so many others, was blown away by Rey. She embodies the ideal female character for me that I want other young girls to look up to: a woman who is strong, confident, doesn’t need a love interest to accomplish her goals, and doesn’t let her femininity slow her down in any way. Even the tough Katniss Everdeen still finds herself stuck in a love triangle, and Herminone Granger still tends to hold a lesser role to Harry Potter’s shenanigans.

And why limit challenging stereotypes to just women roles? Let’s see more various races and sexualities in major roles for society to admire, too. The entertainment industry, whether it means to or not, becomes a way for people to try to understand how to play our own roles and characters in everyday life. Fiction becomes inspiration.

I think it would be the coolest thing to see a female James Bond or Indiana Jones. We picture these certain images in our heads, whether we’re visualizing a book or just thinking of a movie, of what we expect from our favorite characters, and doubt ways of shifting those perspectives. When we connect with these imaginary people on emotional levels, letting go of that can be as tragic as abandoning your child. But once we give creators the necessary space to renovate our mindsets into ones more accustomed to embracing diversity. We’ve already made huge progress, but I see much more to come.

So when trouble is in our midst, we don’t always long for a typical white male to save the day. Strong figures, adventurers and superheroes can come in many different packages.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

It All Happened at Summer Camp…

Last week and this week I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to revisit one of my favorite places on earth. Strangely enough, as the title suggests, it’s a summer camp.

When I was younger, I never had an interest in attending summer camps. My first thoughts were of the stereotypical camps out in the woods, living with three other people in a cabin and doing outdoorsy activities. Honestly I imagined every summer camp being the one like the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap.

In seventh grade, I saw a brochure for a camp at the University of South Dakota (where I currently attend) for South Dakota Governor’s Camp for the Gifted. I don’t remember what exactly drew me to wanting to go, but that was the first time I ever considered it. Especially when the thought of leaving home for a week into the unknown conditions was completely outside of my comfort zone. I never even liked sleeping over at friends’ houses, so sleeping in a dorm room with a complete stranger? What was I getting myself into?

And boy, that week at camp was uncomfortable. My first-ever experience living with a roommate, I ended up with a girl a year younger than me but somehow already accumulated an entire box worth of high-end makeup. Very intimidating for awkward little ol’ me. I took some fun classes like musical theatre and caking decorating, but I really didn’t reach too far out of my shy personality. Until Thursday evening the entire camp saw the high school campers (the Ambassadors of Excellence) perform a show they have been working on for two weeks (similar to show choir, but not…anybody who attends either camp knows how hard it is to truly describe it to others) and I was completely hooked. I knew I had to be an Ambassador. I even skipped a year of Governor’s Camp in anticipation for my Ambassador years.

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Little did I know stepping into my first days of Governor’s Camp that my life would ultimately change for the better. That the hardest moment of my senior year of high school would be leaving this place.

Even my first day being an Ambassador, I was a little weary, again not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but I knew it would be worth it. A main message camp stresses is the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone and not being afraid to fail, two things I can still struggle with. When I’m in a place where I feel myself closing up and resorting back to my awkward tendencies, the camp director’s booming voice sounds in my head, “Change happens just outside your comfort zone.” And when I use “keep the faith” when I close every post? Also from camp, the entire quote going something like this: “Keep the faith; the best is yet to come.”

You wouldn’t expect the best to come from a camp where you take some classes, listen to some speakers, participate in some team-building exercises, and spend hours learning singing and/or dancing routines to ultimately put on a show, costumes and all. I have always loved singing and dancing, but for some of these kids, they have never danced a day in their life or seen a piece of sheet music. What draws these kids to a camp like this? The community it creates: many of these kids never meet people they can relate to their hometowns, but at camp, over one hundred like-minded individuals come together, and the mosaic it creates is breath-taking.

When I say the camp really opens you up, I’m not kidding. Late into the camp after a final dress rehearsal of the show, the entire camp grabs their pillows and blankets and sits down to hear the senior members of the group show their vulnerable sides and talk about what camp means to them. This experience is eye-opening as each person opens up about their personal demons and struggles and how a simple thing like camp became their safe haven. You really realize how every single person faces the worst of life’s challenges, but having the messages and people of camp saves them. When my senior year rolled around, even I ended up sharing my personal hardships, many things I have never spoken out loud until then. But I can’t tell you how many hugs I received, or people coming up to me later about how they could relate and how much I inspired them. I tear up just thinking about it. Nothing compares to that feeling. Nothing.

From this camp, the ultimate goal is to regain back funding for gifted programs in the region that are severely lacking. But I think the main takeaway from this camp is that being “gifted” comes in all areas, whether it’s academics, athletics, fine arts or leadership. Gifted kids don’t all look, act or think in the same ways. This small but important minority is as diverse as rest of the younger generation, but these kids possess a drive to think beyond what’s expected.

Lucky for me, I will be writing a feature story on camp and gifted education for my internship, and coming back to the place I love two years later is great but strange. I realize how much I’ve grown in such a short amount of time, but I look at these young people with in awe. The first-year campers I met my senior year are now seniors themselves, which is still hard for me to comprehend. But no matter if you’re an alumni camper or have never heard of it before, just spending an hour with these kids, you can tell they are special. They are driving the future forward. They are the ones who will do great things in this world. And I am so lucky to be a part of that.

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Within the first hour of walking around camp from an outside perspective, I am blown away by the spark of creativity and innovation I see in all of these people. I hope my work can do this place some justice.

Simply put, the Ambassadors of Excellence camp, especially my last year, was fantastic. The amazing people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had are irreplaceable. The connections I’ve made are truly of family quality. I don’t know who I would be today without it. It may sound like I’m being dramatic and exaggerating the impact this camp has made on my life, but I’m dead serious.

Have I ranted long enough? No; I will never be able to convey my emotions toward the Ambassadors of Excellence program well enough to fully describe them, but I’ll sure try. For anybody reading this, I hope you stumble upon people in your lifetime who you can relate to on a deep level, who make you think and grow, who support you in your darkest moments and help you celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how far geographically you may be. That is what makes this life truly worth living.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Less of Two Political Evils?

For many Americans, they would say that the country is stuck between a rock and a hard place looking ahead at November’s election. With the Republican National Convention last week and the Democratic counterpart this week, tensions are high regarding the best choice for president. Those from either side of the aisle are weary of choosing either major candidate, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

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Rather than learning about what these candidates stand for, I see way more people in my everyday life complaining about “how bad they each are.” But you can’t expect anything good to come out of not voting at all or not informing yourself on either person.

This year is the first chance I get for voting for president, which is very exciting for me. On my eighteenth birthday, I was impatient to shout my preferred party affiliation from every mountain top. Now that I am a part of the democratic process, seeing so many people doubting this year’s decision aggravates me.

I have been quite young for every other presidential election year, but this year’s process has been a glorified reality drama. So many people are talking about politics, but are focusing on the tabloid-style news updates rather than the issues that really matter. Either national convention is an event tailored to bashing the opponent with every nasty detail they can find.

One specific example I think of is Mrs. Trump’s speech at the RNC that apparently copied Michelle Obama. Yes, the resemblance is notable, but the headlines completely blew up. But in the retrospect of everything else going on in America and the world, how much does it really matter? Going back to my previous blog post about society practically skipping over the grieving process to digest the tragedies that have wreaked havoc on us, from my time looking through social media and what people are talking about, a headline like the RNC speech seems to trend higher than the constant instances of international violence. A bit backwards, if you ask me.

If you thought the parties pulling further apart from each other to their separate corners, you’re right, and at this point, that trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. As long as we’re dedicating our time to bashing each other, we’ll never be able to truly cross the aisle and settle our disputes. Opinions will always vary, but compromise is key.

Do I think a new third party may form for those moderate voters who find difficulties identifying with the polarized versions of our current parties? Absolutely. If Bernie Sanders’s campaign taught us anything, it’s that when citizens come together focused on a purpose, we will make change. Bernie may not be the nominee, but his philosophies are making their way to the DNC and helping people reconsider what has become unfair and corrupt. Every vote and person matters. That’s the definition of a democracy, so if we want it to function properly, we have to take our individual roles seriously.

Back to Trump and Clinton. I’m remaining loyal to my party, but that doesn’t mean I see serious flaws in both people. Nobody is going to be the perfect candidate. If I could vote for four more years under Obama, I would in a heartbeat. But with this hyper-awareness on Trump’s and Clinton’s every move, we’re forgetting that a great leader is nothing without the people backing them up, which in this case is Congress. These Congresspeople are elected to serve each distinct voice in our country, and collectively they make or break a presidency (like the numerous instances of disarray that slowed down many of Obama’s proposals). The president is the public image we think of representing national government, but so many other players are also involved. Take the time to learn about local candidates and choose people who you stand for, even if you don’t want to stand for either presidential nominee.

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Even when I wasn’t as knowledgeable, I always supported and contributed to the Obama administration. I mean, have you really appreciated how much we have accomplished ?

Let’s acknowledge how far we have come in the past eight years, stop blaming each other areas of concern, and focus on the task at hand: choosing the next world leader. This person isn’t someone who simply walks around with paparazzi behind their backs. He or she will make crucial decisions on the direction America will take moving forward. With only a few months left before the big decision, we can’t spend our time on superficial details. We must fill our roles as informed citizens, studying the values and proposals of each candidate and determining who we want sitting in the Oval Office. Educating ourselves is much more than reading the day’s catchy headlines, but delving deeper into their histories and statements.

America needs somebody smart, ready to tackle any obstacle in his or her path with poise and courage. Whoever the country ends up electing, I hope we can set aside our personal hesitations and back up that president. The longer we all spend hating on our commander in chief, the longer it will take to make any type of progress. Again, if you don’t like the either candidate, it’s time to vote for Congresspeople who can bring your unique voice to Washington. And if the president doesn’t perform adequately enough, be ready to take things a little more seriously in 2020.

I may be young, in a demographic that has less-than-satisfactory voting habits, but I take democracy very seriously, as I suggest you all do as well. Then we can potentially look beyond the sensational stories and internet memes to reemphasize the importance of the ballot.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

Lights, Camera, Live Action

With every new trend in social media comes another chance for companies to take advantage of it. Specifically, this new trend is live video streaming. Almost an expansion upon Twitter’s ability to send comments and messages in real time, live video allows users to

Video itself has become extremely popular recently. It’s hard to compete with such a dynamic form of storytelling. More than just a stagnant picture or status update, video gives companies the chance to speak from its unique voice, establish a desired brand, and shorten the social distance between the company and the consumers it serves.

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Periscope, an app from the creators of Twitter, is but one program in a growing list of new services that are rapidly increasing in popularity. Others include Meerkat, YouNow, and recently Facebook Live. 

These benefits are only amplified with new live video features. Consumers appreciate a company that feels real and human, that they can personally relate to. Video that is live is difficult to make overly produced and edited. For consumers, feeling like they are an insider, experiencing something in the moment is powerful. Seeing exactly how a product works in real time is very convincing. Even the chance to potentially see a mistake occur live, a feeling of “I saw it first,” draws increased engagement and interest. The emotion live video provokes is raw and organic. The service also strives from word of mouth attention (again, very organic in nature), which is probably the most powerful advertising possible.

Not to pull politics into this discussion, but we are living in an age where grassroots efforts are crucial. From Bernie Sanders’s political revolution, to the countless Kickstarter and GoFundMe pages, the public craves organic action, and live video streaming is the technological equivalent.I even think of the streaming website Twitch, where many video game players utilize live streaming and have viewers watch them simply play a game, real people in real time. Or when online video chatting like Skype first arrived and how revolutionary to was to talk to someone as if they were sitting in the same room, seeing every expression and hearing every tone in their voice. When modern technology first developed, it felt robotic. Live streaming helps technology become more like a personal connection between others rather than a cold barrier, a middle ground prone to miscommunication.

Since now, television has dominated all video services. With live video online, brands can reduce the pricey costs and save time associated with making, editing and producing videos and commercials. What’s more, once the live stream is finished, it still exists on a page as a regular video, so if a brand wants to download it, edit it and reuse it, it can. Many different social media platforms have been experimenting with live video, demonstrating how accessible the transition is as people crave it more.

Companies using the new live video services for marketing purposes is still a new concept. The technology is open to many various purposes for brands, as some have already shown. These include hosting question-and-answer sessions with customers, giving customers an “exclusive first look” at a new product or service, and showing live events and giving viewers a “behind-the-scenes” look into different aspects of a brand. Before companies should approach live streaming, they should keep in mind how to plan a strategy for attracting an audience without becoming too produced, take risks with increased participation and remain flexible, and convey to people the company’s pride and sincerity. Companies who prove they can successfully live stream content reflects on their adaptability and awareness of customers’ wants.

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Company GE is but one of many companies experimenting with new ways to reach audiences using live video streaming. Others include a live giveaway from Doritos, live summer-themed broadcasts from Nestle, and a real-time chat from Wendy’s.

Now that the capability of live video is within our grasp, we must utilize it. Accessing it unlocks a new world of opportunities for people and companies for dynamic storytelling. Rather than trying to read a few phrases or stare at a picture, a video can capture an audience within seconds and stay with them long after the screen goes dark. This is especially important when our attention spans desire the shortest, most visually engaging messages possible.

Personally, I have yet to really dip my toes into the world of live video streaming, but as someone working in the media, I know for those in business and even journalism, this is the direction we are going. It’s crucial to start taking advantage now of these services in their infancy and grow with them in the coming years.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Redefining Definitons

I feel like my blog post titles are always so vague. So if you thought I wanted to talk about chucking out on my dictionary, think again.

As humans, it’s instinct to want to investigate the world around us. When we discover something new, we want to give it a definition to distinguish it from other things. Heck, we all have a birth certificate with an assigned name when we enter this world. Labels are crucial for understanding life. But they can also be harmful.

Specifically I am referring to labels we place on ourselves and others. This could be anything from a bully calling someone mean names or simply referring to yourself as a certain sexuality, the context of these labels differ dramatically, but even labels that are established with good intentions could still be limiting.

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The world would be such an easier place to understand if we could stick a label on everything. Even emotions fall on a spectrum that we have found words to describe with characteristic patterns. But that doesn’t mean everyone feels emotions the same way.

Personally, I label myself often. I like having words to use that I can use to describe myself when I feel like I can’t explain it myself. They help me feel less like just a mediocre, average joe. I take personality tests to decipher my seemingly confusing personality. Somehow I hope to gain a sense of self-assurance, a way to stand out from thousands of others just like me.

I remember one day having a conversation with a friend about sexuality and how labels have extended so far beyond just straight or not. As research shows, sexuality is on a spectrum. But people still want to have a name to use, have a staple foundation to work from. When sexuality as so much grey area involved, however, trying to pinpoint exactly what you are could end up being a six-plus word long name that is probably more confusing than it needs to be.

That’s like any other part of life, too: we aren’t just a black-and-white jumble of letters and only that. We are grey and every color under the sun. When we remain strict to certain phrases, whether we gave them to ourselves or not, we are placing ourselves in a box. Boundaries stop us from going beyond certain characteristics associated with a label. We fear leaving the safety of that label into unknown territory.

Especially when coming of age and trying to figure out your identity, it’s too easy to identify with a certain term and think your work is done, that that is who you are. It’s a lot more work to just be because a label is a comfort zone. Trying new things unexpected of our personal definitions is scary, but you may depriving yourself from a new passion or trait. Once we choose a certain label and perhaps discovering a more accurate one later, trying to change it can be a task in of itself. For some, it can feel like starting from scratch.

When we define other people with labels, we are not only affecting their lives, but also our own. Someone who may not see themselves exhibiting certain traits of a given label but can easily fall into that role, which is good or bad depending on the word. Not only that, when we verbally or mentally refer to someone a certain way, we limit our expectations of them. We stop ourselves from diving deeper than the label. We may focus on the traits associated with the label and not think of the multitude of other qualities that person possesses.

Growing up, I was so annoyed with how people saw me. I had always enjoyed school and worked very hard to earn high grades, but that also led my classmates always seeing me as “smart.” Which sounds like a compliment and a simple observation, but I heard it so often, I felt like I couldn’t be anything except good at studying and academic work. I hoped people would see my hard work in other areas, too, like music and other fine arts. As someone with not much self-esteem and confidence at the time, that was quite a challenge for me to overcome that obstacle of cringing at references to my schoolwork, but in that challenge, I have realized how the people in my life don’t see me as so much more than “smart.”

As a wise person once told me at a summer camp I went to for five years, a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. Labels are crutches that prevent us from growing to our greatest potential. You are so much than a stagnant textbook definition. You are a soul with depth, rich with passions and interests and quirks. You have the ability to change and grow in whatever direction you choose.

And even as a writer, I now understand that the best things in life are the things no words can describe.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Big Brother is Watching You

Please tell me you get my reference. I’m assuming kids still have to read that book. I honestly never had to read it for a class but decided to read it online on my own, but that’s beside the point.

With the obsession I see with the new app “Pokemon Go,” while I am a classic Pokemon fan, I have not downloaded the app, and I don’t plan to. Sure it looks fun, and I slightly feel like I’m missing out on a this huge trend, but my main concern here, as with many other apps and programs, is the location feature.

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Let’s just say if I WAS playing the game, I’d definitely be Team Mystic. I was obsessed with Pokemon as a kid.

Call me paranoid all you want. I never have my location turned on my phone, nor do I have any of Windows 10 automatic features of data collection on, nor do I ever once use Siri and any other digital assistants knowing that Apple collects every exchange. When I use technology, I wish I didn’t have to feel like I’m figuratively always looking over my shoulder, wondering what information the media is taking from me. It’s not like I have anything bad to hide, but it still bothers me.

Especially if for some reason these systems of data collection are hacked into, which in today’s society could occur at any moment, think of everything they could discover. Some people save everything they have into cloud storage, always have location services on, use every feature available to them. With a few clicks, someone could know your entire life, from every place you’ve been to, every activity on your computer and phone

I enjoy my privacy. For everyday citizens, there is no valid reason to collect constant information detailing our lives. And technology has gotten much better with making disclaimers about their privacy policies, but let’s be honest: how many people actually read a page worth of legal information before agreeing? (“I have read the terms and conditions” is probably most common lie of them all).

So many different websites and apps require us to reveal private information just to use them properly. While some is completely understandable (it’s hard to find the nearest coffee shop without some general idea of location), but the notion of ethics comes into play when those collecting this information decide whether to use it properly or not. I just finished a class entirely focused on applying ethics to technology use, so this topic is fresh in my brain. When it comes to situations involving newer types of media, judging how to handle them is practically having to relearn modern morality.

How can people in this situation improve privacy and overall trust? Obviously for less paranoid people, always staying connected is no problem, but for those a little more hesitant, learn more about the technology you’re using. Learn what information programs and apps use and different security settings available, and stick to trustworthy places.Utilize privacy enhancing technology designed to give you peace of mind, whether that be encrypting passwords or hiding location services. Let the developers know your concerns: they’re designing new products with the customer’s needs and desires in mind, so if they see a large enough request, they have no choice but to fulfill it.

Also realize that technology is not going back to traditional standards. Instead, it’s become increasingly immersed into our lives. Methods that appear invasive is often simply be trying to personalize its interface to best serve consumers. If we expect technology to improve and become more user-friendly, sharing some information is necessary and unavoidable. Security measures and protection software are constantly evolving to fight against hackers, but hackers are simultaneously evolving and finding new ways to crack into the system. It’s finding that ideal balance of knowing where to let go and knowing where to hold firm in your intentions.

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I’m not saying digital assistant software isn’t very interesting. People who use it find it extremely valuable, many not knowing how to live without it. I’m just holding off on using it until improvements are made for me to feel secure.

And even little ol’ me, trying to always be conscious of what I share with the public online, is still constantly using social media and technology despite my inner hesitations. I find little issues in my everyday life keeping certain aspects of my life private. While it’s fine to have concerns like mine, there’s no reason they should hinder you from enjoying the benefits technology offers. If you’re not willing to be flexible, however, modern society will leave you behind in the dust.

The world of technology is full of opportunities as we all become more connected with information, the world and each other. Awareness and logic are the keys to understanding reasonable actions and concerns the public should take when it comes to technology.

I guess that means I’ll have to watch the “Pokemon Go” craze from a distance. And Siri won’t know my thoughts any time soon. At some point I fear I’ll have no choice but to take a chance and comply with a program’s requests. For now I’m not missing out anything too drastic (we could always bring back the classic versions of Pokemon and call it a vintage throwback, right?)

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

Mirroring Health Without Mirrors

I have had an interesting past few days. Nothing dramatic has happened; my routine is virtually the same as it’s always been, except for one minor detail that I hope makes a lasting impact.

As I have previously mentioned in my blog, I am currently in recovery after years of suffering from an eating disorder. Heck, I’ve made a whole separate tag on this blog to dedicate any thoughts or progress I feel like sharing, and today is one of those moments.

I have tried recovering multiple times in the past, but this time I refuse to look back. That means rather than changing dramatically overnight, I have made gradual changes over time as I develop a healthier mindset and relationship with food and my body. From transitioning to a vegan lifestyle to becoming more aware of my emotions, I see the pieces of the puzzle coming together toward a positive picture of well-being.Even becoming more consistent with my blog has been a step toward finding a healthier identity for myself beyond how I look.

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I really wish I could possess that self-love that says, “Screw everything, I look fine.” But when you are your worst critic, actually putting those words into action is so much harder.

That is where my most recent change comes into play, and that is how I use the mirror and “check” my body. For those unfamiliar with disordered behaviors, people with EDs usually fall under two categories: they completely avoid looking in mirrors or seeing their bodies, or they become obsessive with looking at their reflection and using different methods of determining their shape. I am in the latter group. I have gone through different phases of how severe my “habit” was, but any mode of checking my shape and size, chances are I’ve done it.

Before doing anything different, I simply became more aware of how often and how long I body checked. In the back of my mind, I always knew that what I was doing was excessive and unnecessary, but for me, doing those habits really became second nature to me, automatic and mindless. Just keeping track of my behavior really put myself into perspective the time I was wasting when I could focus my day on more meaningful activities.

It’s also important to note that the only person who actually pays attention to your body attentively is yourself. Nobody sees your body from angle of looking down your feet. Nobody studies every lump or bump or curve. Nobody is measuring the size of your thighs or pinching your soft spots (which if you look for fat on your body, you’ll find it. Having fat doesn’t make you fat; it provides you with insulation and life).

When you’re in a disordered mindset, usually logic doesn’t apply. The thought processes involved in devoting effort in maintaining a certain “ideal” size don’t consider your well-being. Saying I automatically notice my body in any form of reflection I pass (even making an effort to intentionally pass a reflection just to “check”) or could spend a solid chunk of time just studying every inch of my figure sounds ridiculous, but when you’re someone in my position in that frame of mind, it’s hard to question.

Especially when you suffer from body dysmorphia, actually understanding my own size is pointless. I am a very visual person, so I like to see everything to give myself peace of mind, but my vision is clouded. What I see as a huge problem or drastic change in my body, anybody else would never notice. Also, when I body check for too long, my sense of realism dissolves and every feature turns into something foreign, like a form of dissociation.

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Look at me, spewing in those self-love quotes! I hope someday I can really embrace what I preach.

It’s only been a couple of days so far, but I have not once body checked. I have only used the mirror to do my makeup, and any look at my full body has been a fleeting glance to check on outfit. For someone who has body checked for so long, you would think this would be a real challenge to me, but thus far, I really haven’t minded. In the back of my mind, that little ED voice is wondering if my shape has changed any, but at this point, I’m holding out strong.

For those who have never dealt with these thoughts (and I pray you haven’t and never will), I would compare an ED to an addiction, but instead of being able to quick cold turkey, you can’t just avoid the issues and never have to approach them again. I have to eat several times a day, and I have to use a mirror to know I look presentable. At any moment I could slip, but I’m finding the strength to realize relapsing is not an option anymore. I am the only person who can save me from myself, and I’m not about to let myself down.

If you need the reminder today, know that you are beautiful, just the way you are. Your body is a temple, a walking masterpiece. Every cell is working constantly to keep you alive, to allow you perform whatever challenges life throws at us, even the mindless ones we take for granted. But this outward appearance in way determines the appearance of your soul. Your relationship with earth’s gravitational pull has no effect on your relationship with the people on this earth.

I will keep you updated on my continued progress as I gain further insight into what right now feels mindless, eventually delving into how I perceive others, as well. It’s all part of the process into reaching a place of optimal wellness, and I look forward to see where it takes me.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

You (and Several Companies) Tube

I obviously really like to try and be clever with my titles. Just roll with it. You’ll get used to it eventually.

I had originally asked people for ideas for a potential podcast , but I think this idea might work best as a blog post, so here I am, about to discuss my love/hate relationship with YouTube.

So back to the very beginning (a very good place to start), I spent my preteen years and beyond immersed in YouTube. Originally my brother and I made videos of us playing Nancy Drew computer games. He has maintained the channel very well and has expanded into other game walkthroughs, but I’m now only an occasional guest.

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My brother and I have played through every single Nancy Drew game by this point. I think back to us, just wanting to produce creative content as a hobby, and wish the site still promoted that for others.

At one point I even started my own YouTube channel. The username to this day still makes me cringe: peacepup2397. Which later turned into peacepup23971 after I deleted the first channel and tried to restart it, but I was awful at consistency. Since I started out as a middle school student, I didn’t want to show my face, so I used Beanie Babies (yes, those 90’s little animals full of beads) as my “face.” I can see why people made fun of me.

But besides that, even when I wasn’t involved making videos, I was always watching them. YouTube has exposed me to so many different ideas and interests I don’t know if I’d really consider on my own. For example, I hated makeup for the longest time, so used to the dramatic dance recital looks, I had absolutely no interest on wearing it on a daily basis. At least until I stumbled upon the YouTube community of beauty gurus. Girls like me taught others how to nail makeup looks and where to find the best products. Now I find applying makeup therapeutic and consider Sephora one of my safe havens, and I can thank YouTube for that.

YouTube also led to me to become more comfortable with myself and recently developed my immense interest in veganism. If I ever feel lonely and none of my friends are nearby, I usually tend to rely on my favorite YouTubers just to see a familiar face.

I’m but one of millions of mostly young people who feel the same emotional attachment to YouTubers, but many would also agree with me, especially those who have been around since YouTube’s early days, that the website has changed dramatically. Very rarely do you find people who are just making videos with no interest in making money from it, whether it’s from AdSense or company deals. Never did my middle school mind think that one day my subscription box would be full of videos considered “ads” or have a “sponsored” disclaimer attached. So many of my subscriptions are to young people who see no value in college when they can move to Los Angeles and make a very generous income through YouTube.

One important I need to mention is that even though YouTube has created some recognizable faces, these people are by no means “famous” in terms of the entire population. Young people who watch YouTube regularly will know who they are, but anybody else is clueless because YouTube is still a very different sector of media. When companies put YouTube “stars” in commercials, in magazine spreads or on TV (remember that season of the Amazing Race?), people above the age of 30 have no idea who these people are, and I don’t think that’s changing any time soon. YouTube is just not translated well into other media for a majority of people. YouTube stars still make books, makeup lines or fragrances and see success, but those products still tend to target the fan base they already have rather than finding new fans.

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My family and I have always watched the show, but this season, my parents were completely clueless about who these people were. Even I only knew a couple of teams, and I think that disconnect is here to stay.

Even though yes, money is great, and being able to earn a living from a creative outlet is great, but that has led to YouTube losing that genuine quality of allowing anybody to sit down with a webcam and talk about anything. Now those wanting to start YouTube have to immediately buy the best cameras, microphones, lighting and editing software to even be considered, which really takes out the accessibility aspect of it. The videos themselves look so produced, they’re basically trying to be their own TV shows. Instead just producing content for fun, so many feel the need to sell themselves so they could maybe make a few extra bucks.

I have to realistic and realize that YouTube is not going back to those original days I know and appreciate, but hope the community can encourage those people who maybe have lower subscriber numbers and don’t have the best equipment, but they’re real. You know they aren’t about to sell you something. You know they aren’t trying to build a certain personality, but are just themselves.

That doesn’t mean I plan on leaving YouTube any time soon. Despite these changes in recent years, I still find myself on the site, but my guess is that it won’t be able to expand much further. The site is already trying to sell a paid service for exclusive content, but I’m not buying it. The audience base who watches specific people is still very young, and even content producers are also very young, and there’s not much enticing other groups of people to start. It’s difficult for me to picture where Google wants to try to take YouTube next. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong. I guess I’ll just continue reminiscing the down-to-earth days of the site as the industry it has become sees further commercialization.

And what am I going to do now? You guessed it: watch a YouTube video.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Becoming Comfortable With Pain

Reading the news recently has become so disheartening. Whether it’s the attack on Nice, France or the coup in Turkey, political and social unrest has become the norm.

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The world is changing before our eyes. But if we don’t notice how dramatic that change truly is, I’m scared to see where those changes might take us as a society. What we accept as “just another day,” just another mass shooting or terrorist attack or political coup.

I don’t plan on making today’s post very long, but I want to address a trend I feel like is forming. Now that terrorism and violence occurs so frequently around the world, every headline after the next slowly dissolves into mere phrases. We are so used to seeing a death count and pictures of angry people rioting or people crying in fear, seeing a day without it is almost weird.

I find this very unsettling. When we see these events happening so often, we become used to it. The gravity of these occurrences affect our daily lives less. One day we may make a comment about the tragedy, but the days after that? Not so much. I understand that we have to keep moving forward, but that also means we may not be giving these tragedies the time they deserve to truly grieve and comprehend what has happened and how it is affecting the world.

Especially when most of these tragedies occur overseas, faraway from our individual lives, it can be difficult to take that time to empathize. Rather than mainly residing in Middle Eastern countries, violence is spreading into our European neighbors’ borders. First world, stable countries. Places that many feel are secure and protected. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Nobody is truly safe, and yet a terrorist attack ends up becoming a trending hashtag for a day before moving on with perhaps a slight recollection in the following days.

Putting a stop to this deadly pattern is not a sign of unrealistic paranoia, but of compassion and proactivity. If we want these events to stop happening, we have to take action immediately. We cannot sit idle, allowing ourselves to lose our sense of reality of how terrible this abuse is. How many more lost lives will it take to finally do something? As the global community grows more interconnected, we have to take advantage of this.

I’m involved in the news and media every day, so I am very familiar with those headline stories. But studies show that large exposure to violence reduces the aid to people in pain. It’s one thing to draw in an audience, but it’s another to use tactics that desensitize us to the point that even a mass shooting in our own country results in a mere shrug from some. We have to end this harsh pattern. We’ve already let it endure for far too long. I don’t want to see a day where mass tragedy only evokes a strong reaction in a very small minority. Where nobody even bats an eye on violence close to home. Where we don’t hesitate to simply walk past those writhing in pain.

As I said, today I’m keeping things short and sweet. I myself need to snap out of my daily life and focus on regaining my own humanity. These people directly in terror’s path are people, just like me, caught in horrible circumstances.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Mid-Year Resolutions?

There’s something about me you should know: I enjoy challenging myself to commit to new healthy habits, but rarely do I ever stick with them. You know how research shows that if you do an activity twenty-something days in a row, it’ll become a habit and you’re good to go? I beg to differ.

The thing I’m probably most consistent with is making goals to begin with. I think some psychological reasoning behind that might be to fulfill my inner need to find happiness and overall wellness.

Some of my goals have been exercising consistently, meditating more, keeping up with a daily Bible study, drinking more water, etc. I even download apps to try and hold me accountable. Right now I use one called “Productive” where you swipe away tasks you’ve completed. Except what have I noticed myself doing? Just automatically swiping away tasks, even if I haven’t done them, just so I don’t receive any messages about leaving tasks undone. The app is only for my personal benefit, and I still try to bend the rules.

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A list of my habits I’ve had on this app since I first downloaded it. The app will tell you I haven’t missed a day of completing these tasks, but that’s just so I don’t feel inadequate with myself.

The main problem here is motivation. People always ask, “Where can I get more motivation?” but that’s something that is so internal and innate that trying to manufacture it rarely works. If I do not have a genuine desire to do something, especially if it doesn’t involve school or work, chances are I might make it a couple weeks, even a month or two, but ultimately will ebb and flow out of completing it. Telling myself “Hey, this is good for you, so you better do it!” or bribing myself somehow with rewards doesn’t result in anything long-lasting.

What things have I actually been able to stick with, you might ask? Today marks my 100th day learning German with DuoLingo. I wasn’t about to go out and buy some fancy computer software, but I took two years of German in high school and am studying French in college, but I really wanted to refresh my memory, especially since I’m so interested in international affairs and traveling. I don’t know how well I’ve actually been learning German (the true test would be trying to speak it on my own, a skill I’ve never been good at when it comes to foreign languages), but even just working my mind everyday in a way I feel is beneficial to me and my future has been great.

This next one is early to officially say I’m sticking to it, but I need to mention it: yoga. When in the mood, I do enjoy several kinds of fitness and exercise, and yoga has intrigued me for awhile. I’ve completed a yoga class in the past and have stumbled upon Yoga with Adriene’s YouTube videos several times, but I’ve never made it an everyday practice…until now. Well, it’s been 15 days now that I’ve stuck to Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Camp. Simply put, I’ve loved it so far. A couple days in there I even considered skipping it, but I just had the urge to continue, and I’m so glad. If you haven’t tried yoga already, it’s so therapeutic. I love doing it before bedtime, a time I used to devote to compulsive cardio, but now I can just relax.

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Still going strong. I think just the fact each day is number and conveniently in order for me helps. But I honestly would be very disappointed if I missed a day because it feels so great to stretch and disconnect from my busy day.

That’s the thing with German and yoga: they don’t feel like chores, and that’s the key. You can try all the things you want to potentially accomplish, but if it takes a decent amount of effort to convince yourself to do them, there’s no point. While kids need to learn how to discipline themselves to stick to an activity through its duration, especially if other people are depending on you, when you want to do things for your own personal sake, it’s ultimately all up to you. Unless you’ve asked someone to hold you accountable, nobody is forcing you to better yourself.

Recognize your intentions for setting a goal, and avoid making a commitment for the wrong reasons. If you’re in it just to please others, it’s not worth doing. Realize that you’re already fine just the way you are, at this very moment, and anything you find want to do can be an extension of that. You’re making goals to help yourself grow, learn more, explore further options, balance your well-being, and potentially find a new passion.

So even though the thing I’m most consistent with is not being consistent, I’ll always want to keep finding new habits to develop or skills to learn. I believe we were put on this earth to constantly grow, change, and experience as much of this life as possible. I’d still love to relearn how to play the piano, or try to complete a Sudoku puzzle everyday, or find myself at church every week. Whether I actually end up doing these tasks is unknown to me, but I’m not about to sit idle with nothing personal to work toward.

I’ll have to let you know if I end up making through 30 days of Yoga Camp, and if I end up continuing past that initial month. Or if I try anything new, or perhaps return to an old goal I’ve been swiping away but try again. It’s an endless process, and even if it’s a bumpy road of mental obstacles, I look forward to traveling on it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie