Rediscovered Passions

What I at first expected to just be a blog post promoting something I compiled online, I didn’t expect to take the conversation so deeply. But here I am, rambling away.

Thanks to my brother, I recently discovered a site I used to make a Top 40 Greatest Albums list by yours truly. Technically it’s just albums I love the most, not necessarily the critics favorites. You can see for yourself that I end up all over the place.

THIS BEAUTIFUL LINK. RIGHT HERE. CLICK AND ENJOY.

It was actually very difficult for me to rank music in a certain order. For me, I have just a grouping in my head of top tier albums, second tier, and whatever else I like. They don’t have this kind of order when I judge how good they are. But for the sake of a charted countdown, I have to play by the rules. If you know me at all, you should know that I can have a habit of rule-bending.

I hope to eventually gain a higher rank on the site by rating and commenting on others’ charts so I can make a larger chart.That also means I need to listen to more music. Not that I’m complaining.

In all honesty, I’ve kind of lost my way when it comes to music. I used to be listening to music nonstop, always downloading new albums and discovering more. I previously shared my usual methods for finding music in another blog post. But I’ve fallen off that bandwagon, only really listening when I’m tired of staring at a TV show or YouTube video. Maybe this new prospect will get me back into the swing of things, especially when I’ll have to start studying and doing schoolwork again (cringe).

A situation like this makes me excited to start school again rather than sitting at a desk job all day. I feel so much more refreshed and inspired when I’m just blogging that when I get into a rut of a regular routine of waking up, sitting in a cubicle for nine hours, and spending the night recovering, I never find myself even having the energy or motivation to really enjoy the things I love. While I’m thankful for the opportunities this current internship brings me, it just reminds me that I don’t want to be stuck in a job that starts to feel like a “job.” That I don’t wake up excited to go to work. I could care less about how much money I make, as long as I feel content, fulfilled and passionate. And I feel that when I’m just here in my own little world, typing away however I choose, whenever I feel inspired. I then feel uplifted and want to keep discovering new things in life (including music) so I have more to write about.

Another reason I think I’m getting back into music discovery is that I have more mental clarity as my overall well-being has improved over the summer. I feel energized, and it’s easier for me to focus on whatever I set my mind to. My therapist even said that when I first started seeing her, my rate of speech was almost lethargic, and now it is much more upbeat and normal. A random detail I never would have noticed on my own, which I think is very interesting. But now that I’m setting myself up to be more productive, I actually have the desire to research and explore. Getting back into the routine reminds me how much I’ve missed it, how all of my time and energy have been going into rebuilding my health. So now I can appreciate the world around me more and spend my time fully engaged in what I love. Rather than focusing on any physical changes (which now I actually have some muscle, which feels so weird), I like to motivate myself with changes a scale can’t measure.

Even when you’re in the midst of recovery, you only have one main priority: get better. Everything else tends to take a backseat in your mind. As you continue further on the journey, you realize how much your illness has taken from you. Moments spent thinking (and overthinking) details that never mattered when you could have been embracing life’s greatest treasures: the people you love and the activities you enjoy. When I first began realizing how consumed I was in the vicious cycle of calories and numbers and size, I was angry. For the first time. Never before had I took myself away from my eating disorder and wanted to punch it for the damage it has caused. The thing I always turned to for control and perfection was my enemy all along. I hate that it took so long for me to understand that, but I’m so thankful I did so I can spend the rest of my time on earth making the most of everything.

So this album countdown list seems very simple and straightforward. But after publishing it, I felt in shock of how long it had actually been since I’ve thought about music. Several months. Something I devote so much love and time to, I hadn’t even had the urge to do. It’s hard to fully wrap my brain around that. I want to make up for lost time, but I know I can’t go back. I needed to take the time away from everything to focus on what really mattered at the time. Now I can rely on a solid foundation of health to propel myself into any interest I choose. For those who have never experienced a similar recovery, let me to tell you, it is one of the most powerful, incredible feelings.

If you have any music suggestions for me as I search for my next favorite, I would love some direction. The chart should give you an idea of what I usually dabble into.I want to refill my life with as much artistry and beauty as I can. I deserve it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Treat Yo’ Self

When I end every post I write with “take care,” I truly mean it.

In the past years, I have really come to appreciate and stress the importance of self-care. I wish I had discovered it much earlier, especially in my times of deep depression or crippling anxiety. At least now I can look forward to more pleasant days ahead.

So if you have no clue what I’m talking about, self-care is your own way of going a step beyond just everyday, respectable functions. Sometimes even those are the best self-care, such as just simple acts of brushing your teeth, showering, eating good foods and moving your body in a loving way. But these basic functions are usually the ones we think about when taking care of ourselves. Sometimes, especially when life gets busy, we can neglect the mental aspects of our well-being.

It’s kind of weird explaining it as something we have to teach ourselves how to do. You might think, “Well, I have activities and hobbies I enjoy, that’s cool, right?” But how regularly do you do those things? We live in a society where things are constantly happening, and we have social media to constantly see it. It can get to a point where we feel like we need to be in our optimal performance levels at all times. But our wellness quickly suffers. We fill up our schedules with so much time to be productive, wanting to “make the most of our time,” but if we forget to leave time unscheduled, you’re bound to crash.

So as I’ve alluded to, if you’re someone who enjoys planning and you have plenty of activities on your plate, make the conscious effort to leave frequent times open where you will not do anything. Again, I refer back to mindfulness because that’s an important aspect of self-care. You are making the deliberate decision to attend to your own physical, mental and spiritual needs. At first glance, seeing time left open to do nothing seems pointless, a waste. But for you to achieve the highest quality of self, you need that time. No matter who you are or your personality or any other excuse you might throw out there, everybody can benefit from self-care.

Self-care would be much easier for us, especially Americans, if our capitalistic society supported self-care. Compared to other first-world countries, we fall way behind in the number of vacation days we get per year. We have a standard of producing top-notch product all the time, that we feel guilty about taking breaks. Even when we’re feeling physically ill, we still get ourselves to work. I know a couple times this summer I really wanted to take a mental health day to break up the dragging week and help my mood, but I always went in anyway because it felt so wrong. And I think THAT is so wrong. We are humans, not machines. Machines need to have their batteries replaced and charged, and so do we.

Once you have time set aside, start becoming more aware of yourself and how you’re feeling. Optimal wellness requires balance in physical, mental and spiritual areas. If one of these areas gets pushed aside, the other areas will feel the effects, too. The physical health is the most recognizable, as already mentioned with diet and exercise (and don’t forget sleep, too. Especially college students). I see mental as a combination of emotional and social health. I look at my stress levels and mood, and I look at my relationships with others. Spiritual is very dependent on the person, but even those who aren’t too spiritual or religious themselves, this can include mental clarity and the practice of seeking and desiring knowledge.

Self-care will look different for everybody in whatever they feel is best for them, but eventually it should become routine. Whatever helps you slow down and relieve the pressures of everyday life. I would suggest turning off social media for a length of time. Maybe you escape with your favorite TV show, take bubble baths, go on nature walks, take road trips, write in a journal (or blog), go out with friends, use coloring books, diffuse essential oils, read a great book…the possibilities are vast. Try different activities and see what you’re drawn to the most. Not only will these simple, relaxing activities be enjoyable, you’ll feel so much better and your productivity in all of your other tasks will be much higher.

Sometimes you’ll need time not originally set aside to practice self-care, more emergency, in the moment techniques you can rely on when you’re overwhelmed. A theoretical toolbox you can pull out whenever you need it most to keep you grounded. Deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations and mantras, and meditation aren’t just things “hippies do.” Depending on what you need, you could want to take time for yourself or resort to a friend’s comfort. Again, self-care is a very personal journey. You can’t just copy somebody else’s routine and expect to feel the most satisfied. You will likely discover new things about yourself along the way and perhaps try new things you never thought you would ever do or enjoy.I think that’s one of the really beautiful parts about self-care: we take a break from the external stimulation to listen to our internal voice that can get lost in the shuffle.

I encourage you to look more into self-care yourself and see what you find speaks to that internal voice. We might not even realize we need self-care until we start making an effort to do it. Think of self-care as just another task on your to-do list that deserves the same amount of attention as everything else. You deserve it.

Take care (I mean it), and keep the faith. -Allie

Hopelessly, Perpetually…

Update: this post is ironically going up the same day I’ve changed my Facebook status to be no longer single. But I wrote this anyways and is usually quite relevant to me, so hopefully others understand my struggles, too.

I’m not going to lie, the ideas of love, a relationship and romance have always been weak areas for me. They honestly freak me out a tad. So that’s why I feel like it’s important to share that anxiety and uncertainty about it and some main reasons why I am currently single and have been single 99% of the time.

Throwing it back to my younger days, in many aspects of life, I felt like I was always the person missing out. That life was happening and people were having these important human experiences and memories and I was falling behind. Especially in middle school (when at the time I didn’t know mental illness was a thing), I remember just dwelling on the depression and anxiety behind being “forever alone.” That I was a failure because up to that point, I had no romantic interest in me whatsoever. I really didn’t have the self-esteem myself to believe in my own self worth, so I felt like I needed romantic attention to find that. Little did I know, constantly thinking and complaining about wasn’t helping anyone.

I would say high school that discomfort definitely eased somewhat. It was definitely still in the back of mind, but I’ve already been so used to being single when it’s all I’ve known, I couldn’t visualize my life with someone in that role. I’m very grateful that I was on my own during these times because I wasn’t in the right place to truly commit and appreciate someone else in that capacity. But I definitely remembering praying and hoping and wishing for some epiphany to just magically occur.

I had my first relationship at the end of my junior year. For some people, that might seem ridiculously late, others might still say I’m pretty young. It could really go either way. I dread even calling it a relationship when it only lasted a couple of months. But they were my first times going out on a date, my first kiss, and in general just having someone in a position where you are each others’ best friends with even extra included. Like a buy one get one free deal. Although the time was short, and I really struggled handling that “breakup” (again, only a couple of months), I started to see possibility for myself. I wasn’t completely hopeless, but there is a potential that someone out there complements me and makes me a better person, someone I can share my life with.

When it comes to dating, I am probably considered old-fashioned. Because of my extended time alone and doing my own thing, I place a very high value in the concept of a romantic relationship. I am very serious about who I give and receive affection from. I could never see myself just dating as a casual activity. I choose to dedicate my time to someone very thoughtfully. If I choose you, that means I see a potential future with you. Which I know, it sounds really scary. I see people my age getting married, and I’m in awe. But I do really want to get married. Not necessarily right at this moment by any means, but I feel like if I know it’s “the one,” I’ll know, and if so, I don’t see a problem with getting the ball rolling.

And this point leads me to my time in college, where “hookup culture” is the norm. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Since my first romantic experience, I’ve had about four or five guys that we just talked or we actually went out on a date or two, and it just didn’t work out. These little bumps in the road are very important, no matter how annoying they are, because I know it’s helping me figure out what I really want in a significant other. And when that person comes, all of the frustration will be worth it. But when college students only utilize the physical parts of a relationship, throwing out anything without “instant gratification” and that might be difficult, I feel like that devalues the entire concept of love. Someone like me wondering in my head who I encounter might be my future husband is left to feel defensive and uneasy about everything. All I hear about are the hookups people have, and I’m left with cringing even at a couple just holding hands.

The things I love much about a relationship are the little tidbits. Like simply holding hands and a guy does that little thumb thing (I swear it’s a thing), or just being physically close to someone (I am a sucker for cuddling). Or having a guaranteed best friend, you can support each other and help each other grow into better people. Or just having long, rambling conversations about nonsense but just feeling so understood and appreciated. Someone who looks at me beyond my flaws and still chooses me. Obviously friends can also fulfill that and are so important, but for me, having both gives me such a boost of confidence. And I can only find that uplifting confidence when I’m with the right person. So I really don’t mind waiting. In that time, I can just grow and better myself so I support whoever this future man is at my utmost capacity. He deserves it, and I deserve it.

For those who are perpetually single like me, try not to compare yourself to others who may be more experienced in romance. It’s intimidating, but it’s your own journey. When the time is right for you, you’ll know. Give yourself that time to be single to really learn how to appreciate yourself and what you have to offer because you can’t fully invest yourself in a partner if you don’t have that solid foundation within. Allow yourself to experiment so you can learn what kind of person you’re truly looking for. Be clear about your intentions with any interested partner, whether that be just casual or something more. Most likely, you will be unlucky in your efforts. Those fairy tale, romantic comedy expectations don’t really add up. Open yourself up to what might come your way, accept that failure is inevitable, but maintain hope that your “someone special” is out there. Optimism can be unrealistic sometimes, but man, is it beautiful.

Long story short, I’m single. But if my future husband is possibly reading this…make good choices.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Wannabe Minimalist

I’m usually not one to follow trends. I kind of just go with the flow in life and see where it takes me. But one idea I’ve seen more and more recently really intrigues me. So much that I want to implement the mentality in my own life. Why does a life of simplicity seem so complicated?

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m talking about minimalism. Rather than owning and buying lots of possessions, minimalism focuses on only keeping things that you truly love and use. The lifestyle saves you money, time and space to focus on more important things. But coming from a conventional mindset of buying clothes and makeup whenever and writing lists of things you’d like to buy (even if you already have several of the same thing) is challenging. Definitely not something you can jump into overnight.

I first stumbled upon minimalism when I saw a post on Pinterest about capsule wardrobes. I was shocked to see people who only wore 30-40 pieces of clothing a season, rotating between different pieces. At which point I looked back at my own overflowing closet of clothes, some of which has been resting idly for months.

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I definitely just searched “minimalist wardrobe” and used the first picture I could find. But adopting more minimalism (even if you aren’t fully dedicated, which is completely fine) can feel like a breath of fresh air if you feel suffocated by having so much stuff around you and provide more freedom to really enjoy life.

It’s almost overwhelming at first to realize how many objects we truly own. I feel like that can easily be an aspect of life we are not so mindful of, especially when we place sentimental value in our possessions. When we think of typical image of success and wealth, we generally think of walk-in closets jam-packed, or drawers full of a vast makeup collection. All of which lives in a large, updated home. Can’t you just smell the commercialism in the air?

So when you consider the meaning and value behind owning lots of things, those objects become much less important in the scheme of life. Sure, going to the store and buying a bunch of new clothes gives a kind of rush (retail therapy, as they say), and it’s fun to browse through stores, but if you’re buying items just for the sake of buying them rather than out of necessity, you’re forming a strained relationship with consumerism. If we reward ourselves with spending money on things and get pleasure out of it, whenever we feel down, we know that that can help alleviate negative feelings. And the cycle begins. I’m not saying it’s a major shopping addiction, but in a way, it’s devaluing your purchases. It’s becoming less mindful of your actions.

In life, I want to travel. I don’t want to be grounded in one spot for the rest of my existence. This world is far too vast to not explore it. So the thought of keeping my possessions simple makes sense. I would much rather buy lifelong memories and experiences than temporary objects. And the less things you have, the more I can appreciate those and focus more on quality and less on quantity.

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Now I see all of these shows of people buying practically a shed on wheels to live. Kudos to them, but that’s a little too simple for me. I think there is definitely a healthy balance of living simply but realistically in a consumer society.

I’m not saying to just throw away all of your things and go live in a van. (I mean if you want to, I’m not judging.) But I want you to slowly go through your living space and the materials in it. If you have multiples of something for no solid reason, keep the highest quality or your favorite one and get rid of the rest. If you have something you don’t ever reach for to use or wear, get rid of it. If you’re like me, taking time to declutter and reevaluate your possessions is very relaxing. Only do one area at a time to not become too overwhelmed. For me, I’m looking through my clothes and makeup to see what is just taking up space and I’m just lugging around with me. It brings me joy knowing that anything I do keep truly makes me happy, that I appreciate its value.

This journey of minimalism is a long one. I may never reach a point where I am fully satisfied. I know I still have a habit of looking through clothing and makeup websites (guess who is a Sephora VIB Rouge member), but I’m learning. I notice myself seeing things of potential interest, but taking the time to consider how much I actually need them. Baby steps. Especially in a society where shopping is a common pastime, any progress toward finding ultimate fulfillment without closets and drawers full of stuff is huge. I was never a huge “hoarder” to begin with, but now I find simplifying my life very refreshing.

Obviously I don’t consider myself an expert by any means. I believe minimalism looks different for everyone, depending on how they choose to approach it. But I definitely notice my mindset changing. Maybe it’s just maturing in general, or trying to grow more spiritually, but either way, I think the changes I’m making have been very beneficial to my overall well-being and outlook on life. It’s not easy, but I am believe so strongly that my effort will be worth it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Remedy or Fallacy?

This topic will be all over the place. I already expect that. But I feel like I’ve noticed very similar things recently that require my attention.

It started when I saw a post on Facebook with people discussing Michael Phelps and his apparent use of “cupping.” Which I had to look up to find out it’s a Chinese alternative medicine that improves blood circulation and pain. In a culture that is so dependent on pharmaceuticals, alternative medicines and therapies are foreign. We don’t have the clear research and studies showing that these alternatives actually work, so there’s an air of uneasiness surrounding them. We’re so used to discovering athletes using steroids, that when someone is doing a natural therapy, the controversy spreads like wildfire.

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We certainly don’t see circle bruises on people every day. I’m certainly not qualified to judge whether or not it works for him. Our bodies can be very complex, strange contraptions.

Another “pseudoscience” I’ve noticed popping up are ASMR videos on YouTube. When you first click on them, they are very…in a way, disturbing. People whispering and filming themselves doing certain activities purely to produce certain sounds. Upon even more research, this autonomous sensory meridian response is supposed to give some people a sense of comfort and euphoria.

I even think of the time I’ve spent looking into alternative medicines myself, seeing what I can find out about chakras and reiki and crystals and all of that “hippie medicine.” It’s so hard to try and figure out what actually works and what doesn’t when people have such varying opinions about these methods. Some people just denounce them all together and others swear  by them. So as someone just casually wanting to see what all the hype is, it can feel a little overwhelming.

I am a big proponent of science. Vaccines work and evolution happened. There’s a reason we are living longer than ever before: we have better, more effective and hygienic resources to heal us. No matter how often I’m shunning the doctor’s because germs make me shudder, as do the outrageous prices of healthcare, I believe it is very valuable. But I also think the human body is much wiser than we sometimes give it credit for. That our minds can sometimes be our greatest sources of healing.

So you can see why methods to not stuff myself with chemicals is appealing. I think it’s so empowering to feel I like I can take care of myself simply through nature. Not having to worry about what my health insurance covers, or what side effects I’ll have. To an extent, it’s some placebo effect at work, but again, that just shows how much effect our mental state has on our overall well-being.

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Throwing this in here because it’s also important. If you don’t give you and your kids vaccinations or required medications…why? I’m shaking my head at my computer screen right now.

I think we also forget how powerful simply practicing healthy habits is. I believe it was Hippocrates that once said “Let food be thy medicine,” and I couldn’t agree more. (See me casually inserting in veganism where I can?) But let me tell you, focusing on plant-based whole foods is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. Even just moving your body more often can help fight against some of the most widespread diseases in our society.

Might I also sprinkle in the power of psychotherapy. I don’t care what mental state you’re in, I truly believe everybody can find value in going to talk to a therapist. And this is coming from someone who isn’t great at spoken communication. Someone who habitually bottles up her emotions to the point I’m numb. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had “eureka” moments with myself just spewing out words to a counselor. (Please note, counselors are not all created equal. You’ll probably have to try out a few before finding a good match). Whether I’m struggling or thriving, there’s always a topic my therapist and I can discuss. And this soothing sense of realization and clarity requires no prescription.

I think there’s a place for both medicine and natural alternatives. Personally, for my mental health, I need a wide mix of methods to help me feel sane. I take an antidepressant, but I also love using essential oils and practicing yoga and meditation. Sometimes other methods work better than others, so having a “health toolbox” equipped with several different “medicines” can offer solace. Genetically I realize I’m prone to certain diseases over others, so with that awareness, I can know how to best take care of myself.

So I’m not completely denouncing one method of medicine over another. They each have a place in our individual ways of wellness. We’re all different, and there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to our health problems. Don’t be afraid to try multiple methods out to see what works best for you (just be responsible, please). You want to try acupuncture? Go for it. Look more into reflexology? Knowledge is power. Listen to your body and listen to professionals (WebMD is not a professional) before doing anything drastic, but it never hurts to explore your options.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I know in the doctor’s office when they say, “Do you have any questions for me?” most of us clam up and just say no so we can skedaddle out, but these people didn’t pay for eight-plus years of education for nothing. They can probably offer a lot more insight than you’d expect.

As we see different people practicing alternative medicine alongside modern medicine, it leaves many of us immediately scoffing it or doubting its effectiveness. I say, keep an open mind. To each his or her own. Get your vaccines and use hand sanitizer. But don’t swear off alternatives completely. Long story short, complementary and integrative medicine is cool in my book. At least some alternatives. I must say, some make no sense at all. Numerology, where numbers somehow determine your health? Hard pass.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Fruits of My Labor

Today I’m sharing with you a feature story I wrote as a sort of end product of my summer internship. Check it out here.

In the span of almost six minutes, I ended up dedicating over two months of time and effort, but I couldn’t be prouder. When I first listened to the story myself, I got goosebumps because it was something I care so much about. Despite different obstacles, good days and bad days, it all came together.

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From interviews to pictures to production, making a feature story is no easy task. I’m not that devoted to most of the local-focused stories I cover, but this was so different. We all have those so-so required tasks, but ultimately hopefully we can find those fulfilling tasks.

Something I have always prided myself on is my strong work ethic, often to the point of perfectionism. I’m willing to point all of the time necessary to produce a product I am proud of. I definitely have my moments that I just do something to get it done with a little less thought behind it, but it’s rare.

And with all of the effort I typically put into my work, I notice a distinct difference depending on the subject, that the when I truly care about the topics I’m writing or covering, the work doesn’t feel like work. Which is probably obvious, but important to remember.

In today’s society we’re so driven by dollar signs that we can forget that a career and a job are two very different definitions. A job makes money. Very necessary to live. But a job doesn’t produce much beyond money. It’s not like you wake up every morning excited to your assigned tasks. The compensation is great, but in the moment of doing them, all you care about is that you’re there to make money. You have to be.

But a career is so different. A career is a passion. A career excites you. It sparks your interest. It allows for personal and professional growth. Rather than feeling drained after a long day, you feel inspired. You wake up in the money striving to do more. It provides a sense of fulfillment and confidence.

Even as kids, the idea of choosing jobs that make the most money is drilled into our heads. I remember in high school as we talked about our future plans, many hoping to attend medical school or law school openly admitted it was just to earn a six-figure salary. I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated. You only have one life, so why are you willingly choosing to spend it for a few extra dollars every month?

Despite never quite knowing where to go for a career, I never wanted a position solely for potential salary. That never crosses my mind. I think of how I want to spend my days. I want to travel to new places and write about things I care about and feel proud of my accomplishments. What that exact position and title that is, I still have to find out. But rather than ever wanting to be wealthy in monetary and material goods, I want to be wealthy in experiences. I want to count the number of countries I’ve visited, not the number of dollars in my checking account.

You’ll have jobs that are simply jobs. And it’s important to have those to know the difference between a job and career. You think I really found passion in food service? Never. It was my first job, first experience in that responsible role, a crucial part of becoming a functioning member of society. You have to make an income, and that might take having to work in those jobs that aren’t too thrilling. But ultimately, don’t settle for them. Don’t rest idly in a position that provides a high income to the point that you have no time to actually enjoy what you love. Be realistic, but also be ambitious.

If it takes you years to ever reach that optimal goal, it is worth every second to feel  truly alive. The process for some is very easy, that they just grow up knowing exactly where they should be. Some can visualize the end goal but face obstacles along the way. And some of us are still kind of floating, exploring and learning about ourselves until we can pinpoint our inner desire. I believe we are all placed on this earth for a reason, to serve in an ideal role tailored to our unique characters and skills. Money is never a factor in these “predestined” roles. Maybe you thrive as a heart surgeon, pursue it. Maybe you feel immense joy and fulfillment through garbage collecting, go for it. We need people who want to fill all of these different roles, but if we’re all striving toward jobs that we feel obligated to, you could be depriving somebody else of somewhere they truly belong.

So listen to yourself. Try many different positions and experiences. Don’t let outside voices override your own instincts (advice and wisdom is important, but when it becomes feeling forced into a certain mold, then it’s time to turn your ears inward). Allow yourself to make mistakes and change your mind and go in different directions. The process is overwhelming. It’s usually a lifelong journey. But it’s all about reaching that final destination.

I know I still have a long journey still ahead of me. This internship has just been a stepping stone along the way. I’ve learned I’m not made to sit in an office or write for broadcast. But I’ve also learned how far my spoken voice can reach and the indescribable pride I feel hearing a project I feel strongly about. I’m thankful for my growth, but I’m also a proponent for change, exploring other positions, never sitting still.

Put in the work, the effort, the passion, and you will be rewarded.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

A Different College Survival Guide

Even though I’m writing this two weeks in advance (I know, I’m a little crazy that way), this post is going up on my first day of college classes. Which at this point seems so far away to me. I have yet to fully realize that it’s time once again to put on my thinking cap and start studying.

With it being my second year on a college campus, I have a little more sense of what to expect. I’m not going in blind, walking by strangers that I’ll have to greet and probably never see again. I won’t be the newbie freaking out when I have a class on the third floor, not knowing where the stairs are so waiting for the elevator and worrying I’ll be late (yes, this definitely happened my first day last year. Not fun).

I’m also starting in a much different place than last year. The previous summer I was not in a good state of mind, and I held unrealistic expectations for my college experience. That it would be a completely fresh start to reinvent myself and become this brand new person, someone who made tons of friends in the first week and socialized every night. If you couldn’t tell already, that didn’t happen. And setting myself up for those “goals” ended up with me very disappointed and even more depressed than before.

That part of college I never heard about. Feeling out of place and lost. You hear all of those success stories, see the media examples of campus life, and expect to have the time of your life with no effort, the best memories and experiences somehow just falling into your lap. I didn’t enjoy high school ninety percent of the time, and all I heard about college was that it was very different. Well, to an extent.

Throughout all of my education, I had this frame of mind where I pictured myself as somebody who was extremely mature, that I had my life all put together and I was so ready to be an adult. Boy, was I wrong. Every day, I am constantly learning new things. I’m making mistakes. I’m proving to myself that all too often, I have no idea what I’m doing or what I want. I wanted to feel like someone unique and special, but I’m like every other college student who’s clueless and indecisive. And that’s okay. Life isn’t easy. No matter how high-functioning you feel, you will have moments where all you want to do is scream or cry or curl up into a ball. Let yourself feel, let yourself grow. Everyone is at the same place. We all look at each other thinking they’re accomplishing so much more than us, but this comparison just leads to unnecessary criticism toward ourselves. We’re all just doing our best. That looks different for all of us. But we’ll all survive and make it through. The more often we can empathize with each other and share those challenges and successes, the better outlook we’ll have and the more we can appreciate college life.

I go to a college that a lot of people from my hometown go to. Which is something I wanted to avoid, but it just ended up that way. There’s definite pros and cons in that. Most importantly, the people you don’t necessarily care for, you don’t have to see them all the time. College gives you the freedom who to choose see on a regular basis beyond your classes and activities. Choose people who uplift you. And if that means eating meals alone or sitting with a group of people one time and feeling very uncomfortable, do it. Try it all.

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I had one of my best birthdays ever this past year, all thanks to finding a great group of friends. It took me some solid time to find my way, but the effort was worth it.

Having this freedom also means you can too easily feel isolated. Or worrying that your friends at other schools are replacing you with new, “better” friends. You have a LOT more free time in college, which can allow those thoughts to flourish. For those of us who struggle in the socializing and making friends department, it might take the entire academic year (or even into the summer) to really find those people who “will be your greatest friends, future bridesmaids, etc.” Unlike being at home, I didn’t have parents around asking about my friends and urging me to get out when they know how comfortable and content I am alone. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but you just have to make that effort. It could even just be having a long conversation in the dorm hallway.

And your roommate won’t necessarily be one of those friends. But it might not be the worst experience ever. You only hear either success or horror stories, but for the most part, it’s pretty mediocre. I really can’t complain with my freshman experience, but turned out my roommates and I didn’t have much to talk about. It happens. I think I tried to hard to force that ideal friendship I craved, but it wasn’t meant to be. The experience will still teach you. For me, I learned how much my living situation affects my state of mind, that although I’ve proven to be able to live with any type of person, if it isn’t someone I truly love or just living alone, I feel mentally drained a lot. Find what makes you happy and roll with it.

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It took me the entire year to realize how awesome the newspaper staff are. Luckily I get to spend this next semester working with them.

College also provides opportunities you never even imagined possible. I never thought I’d become so engrossed in writing a weekly column, or that I’d land a great internship my second semester. Heck, I didn’t even think I would make much of a name for myself, but I still don’t think I fully realize how many people I may have left an impression on. So be open minded. If something sounds interesting, try it. Exploration is encouraged, changing your mind multiple times is normal.

So if you’re just starting college or are a returning student like me, we’re all in this awkward phase between childhood and adulthood. We want to be grown up and know exactly what direction to go, but we still have plenty of maturing left to do. College isn’t all blue skies and midnight road trips. It’s your first glimpse into what growing up really means. Embrace it, personalize it, and appreciate every moment.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

A Letter to Who I Once Was

Dear sixteen-year-old Allie,

Okay, it’s very weird using my own name to refer to myself. But that’s not the point here.

Hello, how are you? Hope all is well. You’re just a sophomore now, going into your junior year. And last year was rough. High school in general has been rough. I’m here to let you know a few things as you look forward to the next few years (and in your case, hoping they go by as quickly as possible).

High school thus far has not been all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, it’s definitely an improvement from middle school (thank goodness we survived that mess), but you’re still not satisfied. You’re trying to find happiness in some of the wrong places. I know you’ve just spent the entirety of your summer recovering from some very unhealthy habits. Sorry to say it won’t be the last time you face that demon. Even if that demon looks very attractive, promising you self-confidence and comfort, it’ll bring you nothing but trouble. Having a weight in the double digits or fitting into a certain pants size doesn’t bring you the happiness you’re seeking. It will take a few stumbles to finally realize that. Just know that despite long periods of darkness, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You’ve been silently questioning to yourself whether or not your feelings of anxiety and depression are real, or it’s just something normal, a part of life you have to suffer through. It took way too long, but you finally got a diagnosis, a validation that yes, there’s a reason you live many days feeling as if you’re surrounding by grey gauze. It’s so scary to ask for help and admit your pain, but trust me, it’s one of the greatest things you’ll ever do for yourself.

In general, you are very guarded. You feel like you can’t really trust anybody. You fear attaching yourself to people who soon walk away. But at the same time, you fear mediocrity, that you’re not special enough to be remembered. This is a battle without a victor. Vulnerability isn’t equivalent to failure. You don’t have to put up a front. The most treasured moments and connections with others will be when you let that guard down and open up about your hardships. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

High school feels like it lasts an eternity, but IT ENDS! -insert dance party here- All of those instances that feel so dramatic and stressful are passing memories. In the retrospect of life, they don’t matter. So what you got third chair in band? Or you got a B on that one test? Or you’ll never actually get a lead role in a play? You’re putting so much effort into things that, in reality, do not matter whatsoever. Just don’t get so worked up when something doesn’t go your way (again) because they’ll just keep happening, it’s your nature. But life has so much more to offer than dwelling on shortcomings.

Over these next three years, you will grow and mature so much as a person. You feel like you’re super mature and have your life all together right now, but you definitely don’t. There is still plenty of growing up to do. You can’t really imagine that we are the same human, that we came from the same origins. I’m sorry it’s taking so long to believe in yourself and your abilities. It’s always a work in progress.

Your trip to Europe this summer is still one of the best times of your life. You won’t get to travel as much as you like, but I hope to pack my bags and explore the world as soon as I can. Your next adventure: Canada. Okay, sounds a little lame right now, but get excited for a new environment, new people, and new discoveries ahead.

You’re going to the college that you refuse to even consider right now. It’s not as bad as you make it out to be. I know you can’t wait to completely leave this state behind and start fresh somewhere else, but that time will come, I promise. An affordable education is more important right now.

College doesn’t necessarily give you a dramatic life change. You definitely still only go out to socialize about once a month and watch way too much TV. Your birthday will be a heck of night, though. I’ll just keep it at that to keep you in suspense.

If you think I know what I’m doing with my life, I don’t. Sorry about that. I’m still very indecisive. Writing is part of the plan, I just have to figure out how to make that happen still.

Your relationships with others will be going on a bumpy roller coaster ride, full of challenges, times you feel like everyone is against you and are completely alone. In these past few months, they will improve dramatically. You can actually call your mom one of your best friends. You are surrounded by some amazing people who love and support you. Friends will come and go, but everybody will teach you something that you’ll always carry with you. It’s all part of growing up.

But hey, I know you think you’ll be single forever, but for a few months in your junior year, good things will happen! Super exciting! They don’t last long enough, but it gives you hope for future romantic prospects. Thus far, not much luck. A couple of potential interests, but no dice. I’m focusing on building our future right now, but if I stumble into someone special, I’ll let you know.

You don’t eat cheese anymore. And you don’t miss it.

And once you actually try coffee, you’ll be drinking it every day.

You can run a mile in 11 minutes now. Take that, PACER tests.

You’re slightly less awkward now. But not by much.

You now have a fantastic taste in music. You’re welcome.

Before I leave you, just remember to appreciate the simple moments. Don’t always wish for time to go by so quickly because it’ll soon all become blurry. Every day is a gift. Enjoy it while you can. Stay strong, keep on keeping on, and know that your future self is doing just fine.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Just Some Angry Hippies

I’ve already touched on this subject previously, but it never hurts to talk about it some more.

When I first started talking about veganism, I knew what I was getting myself into. Well, to an extent. I’ve only been vegan for a few months now, but I am still hesitant on ever bringing it up to others. This uneasiness doesn’t reflect how I actually feel, as I am very passionate about the lifestyle and stand firmly behind it. But knowing how I saw vegans before transitioning, I understand that the time and place to discuss veganism is rare.

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I think meat-eaters can be more offended than vegans when discussing their food. We take food-related discussions as personal attacks. But it’s just information.

Veganism is still fairly new and is still very dominant in bigger cities, especially on the west coast. So for someone living in a conservative, agriculture-heavy state, any attempts to “infiltrate” the general public is intimidating. I think it’s going in the right direction toward becoming a more everyday concept, but we have a long way to go.

When I first think of veganism, I immediately think of the stereotypes, which in some cases are accurate. I’m not going to deny that there aren’t some people with dreadlocks eating fruit and salad at every meal (technically considered “fully raw“), or people who are very angry and outspoken, constantly stuffing the vegan message down everybody’s throats (someone like Freelee the Banana Girl). Even just the people who occasionally stand along the sidewalk passing out fliers on the meat and dairy industries, I know my peers who walk by those people take the pamphlet and immediately throw it away or discredit it, even if the information and research is evident.

Veganism is by no means an easy mindset to adopt. Food is a very personal, traditional part of society. It brings people together and helps form connections. We form memories and emotional connections to certain dishes and recipes. And most likely those involve animal products. But most vegans did not grow up in the lifestyle. They too drank their recommended three glasses of cow’s milk a day and enjoyed turkey on Thanksgiving. A lot of vegans even enjoy the taste of dairy and meat. I can’t tell you how much I loved cheese growing up, and even yogurt was hard to give up. The difference now is that as vegans, we’re taking ourselves away from those universally accepted products and asking ourselves “why?”

When we eat those animal products, we see the food as food. We don’t necessarily consider how that food ended up on our plates. We grow up associating certain animals as pets and others as food sources. How we ended up choosing those, don’t ask me. We don’t look at a burger thinking of the cow it came from. Or wondering how happy the chicken is that provided your omelet. If you live on a farm or you specifically buy from local agriculture, those thoughts probably cross your mind more often. But they still don’t explain why cows, chickens and pigs now only live for our diets.

Which, might I add, we biologically aren’t designed to eat. No other species on the planet drinks another animal’s milk. And an animal that we aren’t even closely related to. If we wanted to drink milk better suited for humans, we might as well start impregnating monkeys and drinking that lactation. And when you see a cow or pig, you probably don’t get hungry. Your instinct isn’t to attack the animal and start eating it. We don’t even get hungry when seeing the raw flesh after an animal is slaughtered. But take a steak or pork chop and now we’re talking. But unlike carnivores or omnivores, our digestive tracts aren’t favorable for meat consumption. Rather than very short intestines that digest meat very quickly, our tract is lengthy. So when meat passes through that system, it isn’t healthy. Now in our early times when food sources were scarce, we had no choice but to eat meat, helping us evolve into the species we are today. But we now live in a society where that isn’t necessary or reasonable.

Look at me. I didn’t even mean to start rambling, but when you learn the information, you just want to share it. It’s a human instinct, and if they go about it the right way, vegans shouldn’t be punished for it. We’re not condemning and taunting you for eating a conventional diet, because we were there, too. We just want everyone to be as informed as possible, to know the effects of their actions. The food we eat has greater repercussions than we initially realize.

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Most vegans don’t think we’re better than anybody else. We live our lives, you live yours. Heck, a lot of the world already eats vegan. Once more people begin the journey, the more comfortable society will become.

And vegans don’t just look like hippies. Any gender, age, body type, ethnicity, or location can be vegan. Heck, there are vegan body builders.We aren’t weak because we don’t get protein, iron and calcium from animal products. And most of us don’t even care for salad that much. We can make any dessert without cow’s milk and eggs. We still love (veggie) burgers and pizza (without cheese). Even at any restaurant, we can find a vegan option. A lot of  the foods you already eat are probably vegan. We might have to get a little creative, but making those substitutions is becoming increasingly easier.

This movement is by no means slowing down. Even my own hometown, a place where most families hunt and fish on the weekends and love their bacon, is offering more vegan options and has even opened up a co-op full of great products. Somewhere I usually feel so out of place is starting to become more welcoming. More and more people are no longer seeing veganism as a foreign concept, but as a very approachable, reasonable lifestyle.

So my advice to vegans, the best way to spread the message is to simply lead a healthy, happy life. Show others how simple the changes can be, how easy it is to choose more vegan-friendly options. When people around you see the benefits you gain, they’ll naturally be curious. Don’t ridicule others for their meal choices. If you want to convince family and friends who may be uneasy about your transition, suggest watching a documentary together. But please don’t just throw bloody, beaten factory farm animals in their faces. The information we learn can feel so eye-opening that we want to shout it every chance we have, although it’s probably not that effective.

And for non-vegans, keep an open mind. Obviously veganism’s goal is to have everybody living a vegan lifestyle, but we don’t expect that overnight. Even just a simple change like switching cow’s milk for almond milk or practicing Meatless Monday can make a huge difference. Even if you’re not about to make major adjustments, just start learning more about what vegans stand for. That we aren’t just radical tree-huggers. Don’t make assumptions about our personalities. We aren’t just throwing out meaningless ideas. If you eat meat and dairy, learn about where it comes from. Greater awareness and less ignorance is key.

Who knows, maybe I too look like an angry hippie. But if that’s because I’m practicing the beliefs I stand so strongly behind, I’m okay with that. Because I’m certainly not stopping the vegan conversation any time soon.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

How are You Feeling?

I feel like a psychiatrist, notepad in hand, asking you that question as you lie on a couch. Very stereotypical. I have definitely never had the urge to lie down during therapy. The couch wouldn’t even be that comfy.

Today has been an interesting day for me. The day prior my dad and brother spent the night at my humble abode. I haven’t seen either of them since the Fourth of July, and my brother I won’t see again until Christmas, which I have yet to fully comprehend. We had Chinese food, drove with no destination in mind, took a random walk, watched The Big Lebowski, and spent a long time just talking about whatever. I loved every second. I even woke up early that morning, worked out right away, wrote up yesterday’s blog post, and started organizing my stuff for my upcoming dorm move-in day. I was in such an energized mood, full of life, and it was an amazing day.

After bidding the guys farewell early this morning, I felt myself definitely feeling drained. My overall focus and energy were low, with much less clarity and interest in today than yesterday. But in ways, I was expecting it. No matter who I am with, I tend to need time to myself to recharge with my own thoughts. I’m a poster child for the introverted personality type.  And I’ve learned more about myself, I can recognize the patterns of my moods and the time I need to be my best self, so when those awesome opportunities and days do arrive, I’m prepared to embrace them.

Now in most cases, and even often today, I want to just blame my depression for whenever I notice myself feeling lower because it’s the easy excuse to use. I don’t want to offend anybody in saying that being depressed is just an excuse because I experience this disease every day and know for a fact it is valid. My focus here is when I choose not confront any emotions when I have the option of calling everything a symptom of depression and not really embracing my feelings.

Admittedly, I’m someone that automatically bottles up my emotions. I’m someone that doesn’t handle confrontation well because I can’t digest and react to situations in that moment. I need time to myself to process everything before returning to them and acknowledging things in a calm, thoughtful manner. But because I handle emotions this way, I have a bad habit of walking away from something uncomfortable or upsetting and pushing it to the background of my mind. I even forget that something even bothered me until I have so many bent up feelings, I end up bursting, referencing issues that occurred a while back. I think with therapy I’ve gotten better at that, or at least going back to problems WAY in the past that I never openly thought about that much to avoid discomfort. Sometimes you have to dwell in those moments of uneasiness to then realize that those feelings happened, good or bad, so I know how to handle them in the future.

So in this day of feeling physically and mentally tired, over the course of the day, I’ve noticed myself really analyzing what I’m feeling, which even a few months ago, I probably would have ignored. I realize now that even though I do feel empty and melancholy today, I can make decisions that take care of myself. Often in life I have played the victim card when life is difficult and things don’t go my way. It’s no secret I can have bad luck, and that obstacles tend to cross my path on a regular basis. I think I was looking for pity, validation and approval from others that I was still capable of life and that my efforts were real and worthy.

Now I would much rather be recognized for my inner strength and resiliency in the face of hardship. That whatever life throws at me, I can figure out how to handle that, even it means admitting that I need help and relying on the support of others. Everybody’s lives are different, and we all experience difficulties. It’s inevitable. There’s no reason to isolate yourself under a dark cloud of dreariness when you don’t have to.

Even though I’m having a hard day, I’m trying to look at things from a different perspective. Instead of staring into nothingness for the day, I reached out to loved ones for words of wisdom. I made sure to feed myself plenty of awesome food. I took a shower. I prepared my week for the busyness of school that lies ahead. These may seem like very minuscule tasks, but they are a big deal to me. They show that I’m not willing to sit idly and wallow. They show that even though life feels hard today, I still have something to show for it. And some days that something might just be general functioning and self-care, and that’s amazing, too. Celebrate every accomplishment.

I have depression, but I am not depression. I now choose to not let depression define my life. I have a conscious mind and able body capable of remarkable things, and I want to use them to make the most of every day. Every day will look different and bring about a unique set of challenges. But I want to look back and know that I did my best. That I did not surrender to my instincts. That I’m a BA fighter who is no longer angry at life, but grateful.

From this rant, I hope you know that you are so much stronger than you realize. That when people compliment and encourage you, they truly mean it. Life is too precious to waste it away in a fog. Let yourself feel all of your emotions. Look forward for the best yet to come. Clear skies are just around the corner.

Take care, and keep the faith. (I mean it.) -Allie