Look Up

In recent weeks, I’ve noticed myself forming a habit I don’t really care for. It’s actually I tend to critique others, especially when I see it regularly all around my college campus. This habit? Texting or checking my phone while walking between classes.

Okay, it certainly isn’t as bad as texting and driving. And if you have a busy schedule, that time in between activities may be the only chance to check for any notifications. The sheer fact it has become so normal to walk around with your face glued to a screen is the problem.

Admittedly, glancing at a phone is a great way to avoid potentially awkward situations. We’ve all done it. Not a fan of random eye contact with strangers? Here’s a valid reason to avoid it. But I have become a huge proponent of the phrase “it’s only awkward if you make it awkward.” Using your phone regularly is crutch for us to avoid growing as a person. Personally, yes, it’s great having a go-to way to escape unnecessary interaction, especially if I’m “peopled out,” but on just a regular basis, they take us away from potentially memorable moments. The countless time I spend on my phone all blurs together, but the moments I share with others will forever be ingrained in my memory. Social media can help me get to those moments and keep in touch with loved ones, but they by no means replace the real thing.

I have also found myself considering how using my phone between classes can make me feel more productive, making the most of every spare minute toward practical purposes (as if social media is a slightly practical purpose). I’m a workaholic as it is. Somehow I can rationalize that any moment I’m not looking at a screen to do something is a wasted opportunity. I forget how important it truly is to take a break, even if it’s just a few spare seconds. But I later regret those moments, thinking of the nature and people I passed by. What’s more productive here? Does having a tangible way to track how active I am, with posts or tweets, overshadow my own moments of appreciation for the world around me?

I try to think back to when I was younger and didn’t have a smart phone. It’s hard for me to recreate my satisfaction of resting my eyes upon anything beyond a screen or something to amuse myself. When at home, I’ve always felt awkward eating meals or sitting at the table without a TV on or reading material in front of me. I now realize I just like focusing on other things other than the deep realm of introspective thoughts that often go into ED thoughts and self-critique. But from an outside perspective, I’m choosing mediocre entertainment over devoting my attention to connecting with others. That’s a rash statement to make, especially when I place such a high value on the important people in my life, but from a passing glance, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

Even though I find myself checking my phone often when I’m alone, I hate doing it with other people because I know how annoying it is. If I’m choosing to spend my time with you, you better be all there. Phones make communication and productivity much easier, but they by no means our only or best resource.

While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself addicted to a smart phone and social media, some people are. They can’t go a second without knowing what is going on and what they might be missing. Maybe not every second, but pretty close. The few minutes walking around campus might not seem like a big deal, but perhaps this time can be spent in a more fulfilling way.

I’m not addicted, but my phone certainly plays a key role in my day. Every morning, the first thing I do is check my phone. And it’s also the last thing I do before going to bed and turning on a podcast to fall asleep to. I usually like myself tweeting daily or at least checking on all of my random profiles. Trust me, I have plenty of those. But I fear myself and others reaching a point where phones no longer accompany our lives, but are our lives. Some have already reached that point, but the reminder of how fulfilled I already am, how little I need a distraction to detract myself from everyday life, keeps me in balance. As if I didn’t have enough to balance and think about already. Got to love technology, right?

Although my thoughts on this broad topic seem to ramble, my main concern rings true: phones are no replacement for the changing foliage into fiery hues. They nowhere near compare to a shared laugh with others, especially a laugh that leaves you in tears and your belly aching later. Phones do not mimic the joy of traveling to a new place, even if that place is just around the corner.

Life is great as is. Technology is here to improve ourselves, not overpower. Our world will never become like the futuristic utopias overcome with constant technology and robots doing all of our bidding. (Well, as far I know, and hopefully not in my lifetime). You’re the one in control of your life, not a hard drive or glowing screen. So look up and see what the world has to offer.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Never Recovered?

I love the openness I have found in speaking out about difficult topics. It’s not easy. But they need to be said. Especially when they aren’t so hopeful.

You know I strive to be as optimistic as possible on here, to inspire struggling people to push forward for the light at the end of the tunnel. But I also need to be realistic and emphasize that just because you reach a good place doesn’t mean your work is done.

For some people with eating disorders, their condition is very situational and once they recover, they’re good to go. And kudos to those people. Your fight and challenges are just as worthy as anybody else’s, even if your ED told you that you “weren’t sick enough.”

But for other people, even after getting better, they might not ever feel “fully recovered.” I am one of those people. The characteristics of my ED are partially due to my personality traits I just can’t avoid. I’m still a perfectionist. I still strive to feel in control. I’m still fairly critical. I still like finding ways I can feel unique and individual. In therapy, often my counselor told me that all of those key traits were strictly from the ED and would go away once I recovered. Which for some, yes, that’s exactly how it works, but not for everybody.

I’ve struggled with ED thoughts long before I actually took action. My disorder is genetically based, so it’s just an ingrained part of myself therapy can magically cure. It’s not entirely who I am, but I can’t say it isn’t a part of me. I would be lying to you all and myself if I did. Especially when eating is a necessary function to live, it’s not like any other addiction where you can wean off of it and rarely have to face it. Food is always there. The thoughts are still there. They may seem quieter, and I can distinguish them from healthier thoughts, but they make their appearance nonetheless.

Especially when I’ve followed their suggestions for so long, it’s unrealistic to expect myself to just forget everything and start fresh. I’m still aware of the exact number of calories in certain foods, or wondering about numbers or how much energy I’m burning. It doesn’t consume me anymore, luckily, but if you’re anything like me, you need to approach your ED as an ongoing battle. Once you reach a healthy spot, the battles are not as overwhelming or scary as before. You even get used to it. But it’s a daily struggle to deal with, just like any other mental illness.

Please don’t let this deter you away from recovery. Your ED will probably convince you that if you can’t completely get rid of it, what’s the point in trying? Because once you regain control, life is fantastic. Because you are strong enough to take charge and are worthy of a healthy life. All of the effort put toward recovery is so worth it. You’ll be so thankful you made that choice for yourself. No matter how many people plead with you to change, not until you consciously make that decision for yourself will you ever regain wellness.

In the long-term, complete recovery might mean knowing what coping mechanisms work best for you and what triggers to be aware of. For me, veganism has been a tremendous benefit to every aspect of my life. Actively changing my perspective on my body and fashion has also helped, looking behind numbers and sizes. Most likely, you’ll still have moments of weakness. Some situations will still be difficult. Eating around others is still slightly intimidating. I still catch myself looking in the mirror or at my body longer than I should. The thought and act of gaining weight still freaks me out. But I can’t beat myself up for these instincts. I can’t expect my entire mentality to change in just a few months.

And I still have triggers, and those still scare the heck out of me. I’ve been through relapse, and it’s one of the worst feelings I can imagine. It’s painful knowing exactly what you’re doing is wrong and unhealthy, but you still do it. You still revert back to that false sense of comfort. But as I’ve gotten to know myself better, I can better identify moments where I start panicking from “losing control.”

But when you nourish your body and mind, when you take care of yourself, the fight is much easier. Yes, there are up’s and down’s, just like anything else. The difference now is that you have the knowledge and motivation to tackle any obstacle in your path. You have the healthy foundation to support you, and you have the tools to use. Life is never a stagnant point; it’s constantly changing and moving forward. Don’t expect the best moments to last forever, but also don’t expect to dwell in the bad moments. We have our weaknesses. Food and exercise might never be as effortless as you’d like. Any possible moment, you could fall into temptation. But now that you know what true health feels like, do you really want to? You know how proud your loved ones are of you for your progress, do you really want them worrying again?

If you’re in a difficult spot right now, remember how strong you are. Remember how far you’ve come. You have so much to be thankful for. You are so much more than the food on your plate and the number on the scale. Wellness comes from within. Even if ED holds a permanent residence in your  mind, you’re still in charge. (You’re basically your brain’s landlord. The true, healthy side of you.) You have the final say. Trust me, if you believe better days are ahead, they’ll soon arrive.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

 

What Election?

I’m disappointed in myself. But I don’t necessarily blame myself.

November is quickly approaching, as is the the next election. A presidential election, at that. Not only that, but this is the first election I’m voting for a president. I’m someone that usually gets way too excited about voting and how important it is, but right now? I’m a little indifferent right now. Mostly because the results are pretty self-explanatory and I honestly don’t care.

Since we’ve glorified the upcoming election and all of the colorful characters involved, it feels like this election cycle has lasted for years. But it’s not covering any important issues. It’s basically covering a reality TV show. The candidates might as well be the next Kardashians.

We all know how I feel about Bernie Sanders. The Sanders 2016 sticker is still in the back of my car. While in the back of my head, I knew he wasn’t going to be a final nominee, but he gave me hope that I have someone genuine to support, someone that is speaking for everybody. The two people we’re left with? Not so much.

So many people assume that Sanders was simply the cool choice for millennials to stand behind when they aren’t that knowledgeable about politics. Admittedly he does make a fair share of killer memes. But that’s beside the point. I am someone who supports Sanders for his beliefs and message. We need somebody who is down to earth, who is looking out for every single person, who isn’t afraid to push for very progressive policies because that’s what we need. We need forward thinking people who will lead us to a brighter future rather than a stand-in candidate that is either fairly stagnant or goes backwards.

I want to like Hillary, I really do. I dig Bill. But we all know how hard she tries to be hip and relatable. Did you know she started a podcast? Yeah, that’s a little too far. You can’t fake being relatable: you are or you aren’t. She’s a decent politician, but certainly not perfect with the email scandal. And I don’t want to feel like I should like her more since she’s a woman. Super admirable, but even as a feminist, that doesn’t change how I see her as a person. In my opinion, that what feminism is: not setting women to another level simply because she’s a person with more estrogen. I will view her as an equal to men, but even then, she doesn’t fit the bill for me.

Even with my hesitation, I’ll end up voting for her because we all know the alternative. Need I mention the name? He’s basically in the headlines every day for every random instance. I still can’t get over the fact he went on Dr. Oz’s show. One question: Why? I understand people who really don’t like Hillary don’t want to vote for her, but do these people realize she is the lesser of two evils here? Not necessarily evils, they’re all just people, but still.

What makes me the most frustrated about the whole situation is that people, especially younger generations, will probably not go to the polls in November with the choices we’re left with. We’re throwing our democratic rights and responsibilities away. We still need t go and vote for the most deserving candidate. The power is truly in our hands. It’s hard to use that power when we’re sitting at home wishing for better choices. We’ve been given these choices, and we have to work with them and do what’s right.

I also think it’s funny to add that I plan to be in Canada next semester which just so happens to begin before the new president assumes his or her office. I’m literally escaping to Canada for a few months. Which I’m perfectly okay with, especially with somebody like Justin Trudeau in charge. I cannot rave about that man enough. People joke of running off to Canada to avoid a potentially dreadful president, but you can’t just run away from your problems. You have to face them. Thanks, Mother Abbess.

So these next four years might not be the best few out there. Who knows, maybe the next president will blow America away with new insight and ideas. We have to give them a chance. We can’t pull another eight years of half of Americans hating Obama and everything he stands for to singing his praises months before leaving office. Whoever becomes the next president needs support every step of the way. I’m not putting their sticker in my car, but I’m not going to bash them every chance I get. They’ll have enough people from either side of the aisle doubting them from day one.

If anything, let’s take this year’s presidential election as a lesson, or at least a potential outlook for future elections. We can’t let the glorified drama get in the way of the important issues at hand.

And if you were wondering, yes, Michelle Obama should definitely run for president. That woman is a force to be reckoned with.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

How Super is Super Meat?

What? I’m talking about meat? What’s going on? No, I’m not out of my mind, I swear.

So I heard about this particular kickstarter a couple of months ago, but I figured I would give my take on the whole matter. For those unfamiliar with Super Meat, it’s a revolutionary new concept for how to produce meat. And by produce, it literally is a production. By using animal DNA, scientists can use fancy methods the genetic material to create meat. No joke. Check it out here.

Rather than taking up all of the geographical space for livestock, along with the ethical and environmental side effects, Super Meat is simple and smart. For people who just cannot give up meat in their diet, this method deserves some attention and consideration.

Now for people like me who already gave up animal products, I know I will personally never consume Super Meat. I wholeheartedly support it for those who still enjoy meat. They still get to see some of veganism’s widespread benefits without revamping their entire lifestyles. Sounds like a win-win, right?

To an extent, at least. The product is still meat. That means people are still subject to the health consequences involved with eating meat, including heart disease and diabetes. Eating Super Meat isn’t even truly necessary, as we can still receive all of our protein and nutrients from plant-based sources.

Also, Super Meat doesn’t help in the dairy and egg industries. We’ll still be mass-producing animals to make these products, still leading to ethical and environmental damage. Unless we come up with a fancy experiment for creating milk, that part is still iffy. Except plant-based milks are everywhere on the market. From soy, almond, rice and coconut, you should be covered. Personally, I started drinking soy milk long before I ever considered veganism.

Might I add that meat substitutes are continually improving. Sure, most started out as very…questionable in taste and texture. Brands like Boca and Gardein have stepped up their games dramatically to be almost scarily accurate to the real thing. These products are also expanding to more and more locations. Dare I say they taste better?

Personally, I was never someone who really enjoyed meat. I tolerated it. I grew up with it at every lunch and supper, and my family tended to use some leaner varieties like chicken and turkey. But once I started college, the overnight decision to try vegetarianism was probably the easiest change I’ve ever made. I know for others, especially living in the Midwest where hunting and fishing is a traditional popular pastime, giving up meat is more difficult. I didn’t just give up meat because I didn’t like the taste. Heck, sometimes it tasted really good (spaghetti and meatballs, anyone?). For the sake of other living organisms, the environment, and my own well-being, I had to give it up.

Also on the note of the Midwest, many families around my home support themselves primarily on ranching and farming. They make a pretty penny doing it, too. What happens to them if we somehow all convert over to Super Meat? Hopefully in response to Super Meat, we can create more jobs supporting the new industry along with jobs to expand green energy and diets. The kickstarter still has about $300,000 to go to meet their quota, so we probably won’t see anything about it soon, but if we do start the process, we need to plan and consider all of the areas and disciplines affected, which is virtually all of them. I’m actually in a class right now that is discussing food research, and you wouldn’t begin to believe the repercussions food has on every aspect of life, much beyond our personal health and daily living. Super Meat is a small decision bound to change the big picture of America and the world for years to come.

So do we really need Super Meat? In my opinion, yes. This is from an everyday consumer’s perspective, as I know absolutely nothing about science. There will always be those standouts who refuse to consider anything beyond the conventional American diet. Cultures who thrive on meat-based cuisine (I’m German, so it’s either beer, meat or dough) are difficult to recreate without the original products. I’m sure people will still be weary about eating meat made in a laboratory, especially older, skeptical generations. But I think the idea is a great step in the right direction. The research is out there about animal agriculture. I’m glad someone is taking the initiative to make a change. A small change, but a change nonetheless.

If meat eaters begin buying Super Meat, think of all the benefits the world will see. I don’t think we will ever all convert to veganism, no matter how hopeful the movement is, just knowing how the people around me think and live, it’s something that might never cross their minds. But the idea of Super Meat is different. It’s a project that probably wouldn’t change anything in their lifestyles. They’d still be eating burgers and steaks and jerky, no cruelty or extra land required.

Who knows what might be next in regards to innovating the food industry. We have been stuck in our ways for decades. But with the money already raised for Super Meat’s cause, I’m hopeful we will continue our forward thinking and innovation. Every change counts. I can’t wait to see what people come up with next to support not only our hungry bodies, but our futures.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Media “Hipster”

I’m always a tad annoyed when people pull the “hipster” card. And by that, I mean that they refuse to consume any popular media and claim to be the first ones to find everything exciting. We’ve all had those moments, but people who do it on a regular basis? That gets old very quickly.

Besides my distaste for the hipster mentality, I am guilty of having it. Not necessarily on purpose, I just wish I had more people to get excited with when it comes to music and TV. I’ve never been a huge movie critic, but the other two? I have high standards.

A previous post of mine went in depth about how I find new music and what I enjoy. Usually the same type of process goes with TV shows, as well. Except in this case, I use IMDB ratings. Or just recommendations from select individuals who know what I enjoy. But after I binge through a new artist or show, I struggle to find anybody else to discuss it with.

The example I’ll use here is Black Mirror. OH MY GOSH. I’m excited just writing about it. Highly recommend. 10/10. Basically a modern day Twilight Zone. While I tend to enjoy binging through shows alone so I can focus and avoid judgment if I make random comments to myself, I’m left dwelling on some high-quality content without any decent way to share it. Heck, I’m thinking about an amazing episode of Black Mirror right now whilst knowing I’m one of the few people I know who has discovered the magic.

I’ve always wondered what it might be like to be a critic of some sort. Constantly listening or watching new things and eloquently judging it. How cool would that be? Except I’m not great at articulating all of the technical details beyond “this is good” or “this is awful.” I wish I could write an 1,000-word post about a single album or show and have it make sense, but that sounds so intimidating. My tastes usually go all over the place, too. While I have high standards for my entertainment, some of the most critically acclaimed pieces don’t appeal to me whatsoever. Game of Thrones? The Velvet Underground? Not a fan.

And then we go to books. I love reading with a passion. I love English and literature. I spent several years of my life thinking I  would be an English major. I like to pretend I still am. Literary discussions about themes and symbolism and interesting motifs…sign me up. But alas, I rarely get a chance to read anymore. I’ve been keen on libraries either. Strange,  I know. During school, I usually just stick to the music and TV unless I have no classes actually reading novels. Last semester I actually craved reading so much, I picked up library books to read. I usually don’t hear as much discussion about books, so it’s harder for me to judge what’s good or not.

Why I put so much emphasis on the ratings, who knows. Everybody else I know just likes what they like and don’t really care, but for some reason, I cringe thinking about spending my time on something knowing that it’s necessarily up to par. I trust random individuals on how to spend my time constantly. Most of them probably don’t know any more than I do, but I still go to them for guidance. Subconsciously, it’s probably just a way to validate my tastes to know they are “worthy.” Which sounds a little messed up. Doesn’t mean I’m stopping any time soon. But that also means I’m avoiding the “hipster” claims when I stick to media that plenty of others already approve of. I make things way too complicated just for my enjoyment.

I never know whether or not to recommend new things to people unless they explicitly ask. Otherwise I’d probably spew out a bunch of random names people don’t particularly care about. Especially with TV shows, I go through them so quickly, the details blur together. Also, if a show doesn’t hook me in immediately, I usually give up. Probably not the best practice, but I’m too impatient to wait for good things to start happening. I’m already on to the next show or artist. And shows with more than 5 seasons? Unless it’s magic, sorry. Sometimes I take random breaks of time where I don’t watch or listen to anything. My cravings come in random spurts of motivation.

If I should make more recommendations in these areas, let me know. I would love to share some ideas, I just don’t know where to start. At least it might give me the motivation to taking my tastes to another level, plus it’d add a nice mix of serious posts and not-so serious. At least if I can figure out what to say besides “Yup, this is good.”

Hope you enjoyed my scattered Monday morning thoughts. I swear, I’ll make more organized and meaningful posts the rest of the time. I just needed to articulate my thoughts and minor frustrations. Take this post as a reminder to allow yourself to take mental breaks every once in awhile. We can’t operate at 100% on our work all the time. Walk away from the serious business and wind down with something fun. But I recommend that fun to be highly rated.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Make an Impression

The day this post is published, I will be preparing myself for an interesting weekend. I will be joining my boyfriend for a weekend in his hometown and attending a wedding. That means I’ll also be meeting his family. Which as wonderful as they may be, I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t intimidated.

Even knowing that I am in general a nice person, I always fear and wonder what impression I’m making on others. It’s human nature to desire wanting to project yourself in the best way possible. But sometimes that just isn’t possible. And herein lies the anxiety, especially when you’re someone who is hyperaware of other people’s emotions.

I feel like I’m a walking contradiction. I generally don’t particularly care what people think about me, but I simultaneously want validation that I’m living my life in a way that is respectable and admirable. I know how bad comparisons are, but it’s just how my mind works (thanks, ED). So when I see other people who are very well-liked and “popular,” admittedly I feel a little jealous of how effortless they make it seem. Obviously I’m disregarding that individual’s possible self-doubts despite having a magnetic or outgoing personality. But just because we have different personalities doesn’t mean one is superior.

There are fun phrases to describe the so-called phenomenon, but my neutral resting face isn’t exactly the friendliest. Especially when I concentrate on something, my expression turns into something reminiscent of an angry witch. I do make the effort of at least smiling at any person I pass by, but people respond differently: some actually smile back, others just give me a blank stare and continue on their way. At the same time, I rarely ever start a conversation with people passing by, which writing it out, that makes me sound not-so friendly. I definitely say hello more often than I used to, but I still avoid making mindless small talk or getting myself stuck in a conversation I wasn’t intending. I even make an effort to avoid seeing people I know just to not have to talk. I know, it’s ridiculous. Introvert instincts, activate. Introversion is too often misunderstood as being stuck-up, a mentality that “You’re not good enough to start a conversation with.” But this is definitely not the case. I just find any type of conversation draining; it has nothing to do with how I feel about you.

Last week, I actually had an amazing moment when I was working at my university’s Writing Center. I was helping a student in writing up an assignment, and she specifically made the comment that I was very happy. In an honesty, I’ve never really had a comment like that before. I have spent so long in a grey daze that often made living day-to-day very difficult. It’s enough energy to just function and show up to my responsibilities, let alone try and act cheerful. I was also very shy as a child and never enjoyed meeting new people or even just interacting with people I know, so my attitude was less than welcoming.

Obviously when I was younger, I didn’t necessarily think about how my attitude and energy I put toward life affected everything. That concept was just too vast and abstract to even comprehend. But when I wondered why I was constantly insecure over my friendships and relationships with others, I didn’t really try to look introspectively for an answer. But your mentality has a very significant impact on how you view the world, also known as good ol’ karma. If you put in the effort to think positively, you’ll receive it back. No matter how difficult it is to avoid tearing yourself down and criticizing yourself over little instances you feel weren’t up to par, you have to focus on the overall good. Chances are, whatever you feel was awkward or annoying or unfriendly, nobody else would notice. They’re too busy thinking about themselves to be concerned with every mishap you might experience. It’s just life.

So when I think of the four-hour drive this evening to spend over a day with people I really want to impress, I have to remind myself to simply take a deep breath and be myself. I have to remember that my own personality is enough and my own worst critic is me. The worst I could possibly do is withdraw in insecurity and keep myself guarded. By choosing to allow myself to possibly make mistakes or feel negative emotions from others, I am simultaneously allowing the world to see my real, genuine self. And that’s all I can do. Some people will like me, and others won’t. I can’t please everyone, and I won’t gain much from trying.

In light of my current situation, I remain optimistic. No matter what my boyfriend has maybe said about me, I create my own expectations. I’m not about to put up a front or pretend to be someone else. I’d much rather have the potential to form deep connections with others and maybe get hurt in the process than dwell in my comfort zone and let my anxiety run rampant.

Look out world, here I come, whether you like it or not. You’re about to meet someone who makes way too many puns, rambles on about nonsense, loves making TV and music recommendations, constantly twitches her feet, and uses lots of outdated phrases. But beyond my awkward and random traits, I know I am a kind, thoughtful, and caring individual. Like it or not, I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Time of the Season

I am so excited. The weather is finally starting to change. It’s getting chillier in the mornings, you have to wear a jacket all day, pumpkin spice lattes are back in season…what a time to be alive.

Changes in the seasons are some of my favorite times of the year. Of course, having the transition be toward the holiday season always helps, but I can’t imagine living in a location that only sees one temperature and type of weather year-round. That sounds so boring to me. What do you have to look forward to? Another sunny day? No matter where I end up in the future, I want to live somewhere that sees every season.

The weather isn’t the only thing that sees changes during this quarterly transition. I see these times as opportunities to revive yourself and start anew. I’m someone always looking for change and growth, so after a few months of certain weather, I’m ready for something different. It can even take a mental toll feeling like life is stagnant and stuck in a rut. The cooling temperatures remind me of the passing of time, the beauty of nature, and the temporary nature of life itself.

Although nature sees similar patterns every year that we all expect, life itself tends to become much more complicated than four major changes per year. Human changes tend to be more spontaneous and unpredictable. Those who fear change probably don’t mind of the long-term changes in weather because they’re simple to prepare for. Life, on the other hand, has its own ideas in mind. And when it starts to take control, we are left feeling scattered and overwhelmed. It happens to everybody.

But we can at least look to nature for inspiration on how to handle these changes. Obviously we are more complex than trees and other plants, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinating teachers. Through every change, their foundational roots are firmly planted. The tree might take on many different appearances over the year, some prettier than others, but it’s just part of being a tree. They bear the burdens of any passing storm. Those that are strong enough will overcome and still stand tall.

I know I’m prone to making life much more complicated than it needs to be. I just automatically overthink every little detail to the point of it ballooning into an unrealistic situation that doesn’t exist (thanks, anxiety). Trees don’t necessarily have much to worry about, but it’s a good reminder that we are another living organism on this planet with these other living organisms. We are all the products of a grand design. Some products just have different functions and capacities to serve our individual purposes.

For trees, this purpose is simply to provide oxygen, seeds, and fruits for others. Our purposes deviate in much different directions. But we still share a common thread. With human advancement and technology, it can easy to forget what nature already provides for us and the lessons it may teach us. We’re constantly looking for answers to our boundless questions. Perhaps the answer is right in our backyards the whole time. Sometimes we just need to step outside and take a breath of fresh air to realize it. Sometimes a quiet moment in nature is the best medicine we can get.

We overwhelm ourselves with the complicated changes in life, whether they be caused by nature, humanity or karma. Rather than a tree simply accepting and taking on any change it experiences, we try to manipulate situations or avoid conflict or any other means we conjure up to handle the daily stress. Trees don’t have minds that can make the conscious decision to “leaf it be” (pun fully intended), but they can inspire us to find our foundation and root system within ourselves and accept change has it comes, enduring through any storm that crosses our path. Does it mean you might have to create random metaphors to make the connection? Probably. That’s the fun part.

The fun part is also every change the passing season brings. Now it’s time for Halloween preparation, flannel Fridays and pumpkin spice flavored everything. Which all of these commercially based changes are fun to see, don’t forget all of the changes we’ll be experiencing in the coming months. How amazing is it that the leaves’ pigment turns into rich colors, that awakening feeling of a crisp autumn morning, that wonderful feeling of holding a warm beverage in your hands or putting on a cozy sweater to comfort in the chilly transition?

Life is so amazing and beautiful. Even the parts that aren’t as appealing. Maybe they’re changes we weren’t expecting or events happening differently than you had planned. It’s all for a purpose we ourselves cannot immediately fathom. But everything works out as it should. And if you are struggling to accept that, always know that the next season of life is just around the corner. The current moment might not be ideal, but this too shall pass. The coldest, dreariest days can still provide a little sunshine and warmth if you look for it.

But a pumpkin spice latte also helps in that regard. Did I mention the Halloween-themed Oreos, too? Those are also fantastic. Autumn is just exciting. Life is exciting. What a blessed world we live in.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Anything You Can Make, I Can Make Better

No, I’m not necessarily implying that I’m some amazing chef with a magic touch. I wish I was.

I’ve been inspired to make this post thanks to my boyfriend, who I’m lucky enough has been extremely understanding of my vegan lifestyle. That’s actually he started the ball rolling: as the kids say, he “slid into my DM’s” on Twitter asking me questions about veganism. Over the past weeks together, I’ve started teaching him about my typical days of eating and how to read food labels. But the most admirable part of this time has been not only his willingness to dabble in veganism, but the fact that he is so amazed by how easy it is.

My family has also been amazed by the ease of veganism. I’m a very flexible person, and when I first successfully transitioned, coming back home for meals was scary. I didn’t want to be a bother for my family, having to constantly go out of their way to make separate meals for me. But it was much easier than even I expected.

And when mentioning how easy veganism truly can be, this is even coming from a small Midwest community that doesn’t host specifically vegan restaurants or stores. This is simply choosing plant-based items already found in supermarkets like Walmart or Hy-Vee. These chain stores are really expanding their vegan options as the lifestyle becomes much more popular and recognized.

Not to mention the mind-blowing selection of vegan substitutions for traditionally non-vegan foods like meat, cheese, butter and yogurt. I have even found them better than the original (let me tell you, puppy chow made with dairy-free chocolate chips and vegan butter? Heaven in a bowl). Buying all of these fancy products isn’t going to keep you at a low budget, but they are very helpful when first transitioning or simply revamping classic dishes into healthier options.

So many of the basics you already enjoy are naturally vegan. Obviously the main food groups of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables are available, but many other products are, too. With a simple label check, you’d be surprised by how much is vegan. Or, in some cases, how much is not vegan. For example, my boyfriend and I went to store to pick up ingredients for some mushroom po’boys. Which were awesome, might I add. But we both forgot to read the label on the buns we picked out from the bakery. Turns out they had both milk AND eggs in them. We were both appalled that something as simple as bread, a food you by no means have to make with animal products, somehow managed to have dairy.

Depending the recipe you want to make, changing out a few ingredients can be very simple. I think the most challenging thing has been figuring out the best egg replacement in desserts. I’m someone that needs to end every single day with a treat, but we often don’t pay much attention to the egg mixed into the batter. There’s obviously several options worth trying, such as a flax egg, apple sauce or banana, but it might require some experimentation.

Another example coming your way. My family is one to try out every macaroni and cheese recipe we find. Obviously that isn’t an option anymore for me. But we’ve been trying out knockoffs with different substitutes for the cheese sauce until we find the magic combination. It’s a work in progress. A delicious work in progress.

And for people who aren’t vegan and have no interest in veganism, they would be amazed at how delicious vegan food can taste. Even with the “fake” products, which are constantly improving in taste and texture. Even if you have to trick a few people by not disclosing the vegan status of a recipe just to see their reaction…they’ll probably be quite surprised.

All in all, now is the perfect time to transition to veganism. It has never been easier, as if I haven’t said it enough today. Whatever your food preferences are, if you’re willing to try, it can become vegan. You can go to restaurants and cook your favorite dishes, all while being vegan. Have I ranted enough? Eh, probably not. Now I just have more things to get excited about: not only do I get to enjoy the benefits of veganism, but I get to help my boyfriend discover how great veganism is, too. I’m not even pushing him in a certain direction; he’s just open-minded enough to see the potential the lifestyle has. And I couldn’t ask for anything more. Veganism isn’t necessarily for all tastes, but maybe if you taste the right vegan foods, they’ll convince you otherwise.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Transitions in Style

Over the past few days, when I really should have focused my attention on schoolwork (just kidding, I’m still fairly ahead in my classes, but still), I have been on a mission. And that mission is finding some awesome vintage clothes.

I don’t know exactly what suddenly sparked my interest. But I feel like my eyes opened up and I fell in love with the hippie and bohemian style. Not saying that I haven’t ever eyed it in the past or already own a few pieces that dabble in that direction, but I think for a long time I found the style out of my range. You’ve probably had those thoughts before, too, especially with today’s fashion world: looking at your body shape/hair/eyes/whatever, maybe you should wear something else instead.

As a teenager, I have become increasingly fascinated by fashion. Except I’ve only had access to about two stores in my hometown and whatever is online. Even as I began caring more about what I wore and tried developing a personal style, I didn’t really have a specific idea in mind. I just chose whatever I liked and just went with it.And although I accumulated a multitude of clothes, I was never really satisfied.

In the past year, I mentally made a mission to start investing in higher qualities clothes I could keep for years, that were classic and timeless. Which in retrospect is very practical. Except I’ve really lost an inspiration in my wardrobe. Sure, having every color of neutral is nice, but I was missing my personal stamp. People have commented about how well I dress, especially compared to usual attire of a college student, but if I’m not excited about my outfit, does it really matter? Realistically, we’re not dressing to the nine’s every day. I’m certainly not. But I at least want to look at my wardrobe and get excited.

One particular aspect of clothing for a long time bothered me to no end: picking sizes. Or in my case, striving for certain insignificant numbers to find some sort of fulfillment and accomplishment. As for many other people, the pants and jeans shopping is always the most stressful. But even as my mindset has improved, for a long time I still had certain ideas about clothes in the back of my head that prevented me from really exploring my style. I still avoided buying new pants. I liked certain cuts and shapes that highlighted how small I might be. Or if I questioned how “big” I looked in certain clothes, I would spend my day looking in the mirror or at myself, making my self-conscious over essentially nothing.

Within this past week, I have come to realize how truly pointless these worries are. Different types of clothing are meant for us to express ourselves. And clothing sizes vary so much between items and stores that focusing on your attention on a number is absurd. If we could, it would be so nice to just rip off all of the tags and just find whatever fits us best and makes us feel comfortable, but alas, I’m no fashion god.

After all of this time simply sticking to the basics and not deviating much from standard outfits, I’m really craving experimentation. I want my clothes to feel like my own and not necessarily a remake of the same solid-colored tee and pants as everybody else goes for. I want to learn how to find some awesome items from thrift shops. I want to buy some vintage sweaters and flannel. I want to wear band tees and tie dye and bell bottoms. I want clothes drenched in color and patterns and textures.

I’ve come to understand that clothes should be a reflection of  your personality. And my personality is anything but basic. My style isn’t necessarily the “in” thing. But neither am I. Heck, I still use slang terms that aren’t relevant anymore and innately throw up the peace sign. If that means any thoughts I had about becoming a minimalist and starting a capsule wardrobe are thrown out the window, so be it.

Obviously I’m just one person. Style is a very personal thing. Whatever clothes make you happy, go for it. But if you’re looking at your clothes always feeling uninspired, don’t be afraid to change it up. We are much more than 20-or-so interchangeable items. We are diverse beings limitless in potential. Do I fear I’ll constantly be searching for an ideal goal I will never let myself reach? Sure, I always am. But I’ve learned that clothing goes so much further beyond the body wearing them. I’m not a model or fashion expert. I’m just me. And once I actually focus on that, I can start listening to myself for the first time in a long time, without a cloud of disorder blocking my way.

So if that means I’m spending hours on the hunt for particular pieces, that’s fine. I’ll still get my homework done. But I’m so excited to feel like I’m finally listening to my truest, rawest self, and I dig her vibes.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Ending it All

This post is an expansion on an editorial I wrote for my college newspaper about the same subject, so I suggest you give that puppy a read here.

Up to this point, I have covered many facets in regards to mental illness. It’s a study that interests me immensely as I continue to learn more about myself and others. When we take the time to go beneath the surface of the daily facade, the mindless activities and conversations, we’re bound to discover that life is ridiculously vast and complicated.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. A time where we make the point to acknowledge suicide’s effects on small and large scales, but beyond a few extra minutes or hours of our time, we just move on to the usual routine.

In one of my classes, my professor brought up the significance of September during the first five minutes. While her words were admirable and encouraging, as an often too-observant person, I felt the air in the room become much less comfortable. Almost as if the topic was taboo. Which in most cases, it is. We hear of a suicide and dare not mention it in a person’s obituary, even if the community already knows. Any discussion is hush-hush.

Growing up in a small conservative town, I learned early on that committing suicide was as sinful as murder. That it was a selfish decision. So I never knew how to react when kid after kid ended their own life throughout my education. Another suicide, another hour-long assembly addressing bullying and handing out random trinkets with a hotline number, and that was it.

Have I ever thought about suicide? Sure I have. Not necessarily planning things out; I was too timid for that. But I at least lacked a will to live. So many of us have gotten to that point where life seems too difficult and painful to bear. As Coldplay once sang, “Nobody said it was easy.”

Suicide, like mental illness, is very misunderstood. From the outside perspective, we see the tragic loss and the loved ones in pain. Even those with little personal connection feel guilt for not doing enough, for not knowing. We wonder how someone could ever think of resorting to death. But let’s take it from another perspective. The people who have hit rock bottom, and all they see is darkness. They either disregard any problems or want to avoid feeling weak or helpless from seeking help. And often times, help can be hard to find. Sure there are hotlines, but they are no replacement for therapy and medication. School counselors rarely go beyond the surface, and we overall lack enough psychologists and certified counselors, along with making these services affordable, to help everybody who needs it. So what choice is left? In that dilemma, what would you do? If you’ve been fighting your mind for so long, eventually you just give in. Virtually all survivors will say the instant they jumped or pulled the trigger, they regretted it. They wanted to live. But for too many, that thought came too late.

Obviously we can’t track the number of people who have had suicidal thoughts. All we can see are those who tried and/or succeeded in bringing those thoughts to life. Oh, the irony in that phrase. And even worse, we often cannot track the “telltale signs” of suicidal thoughts. So often we see people who seem like they have it all together with amazing lives who then shock us with an attempt to end it all. We see suicide as so shameful, we hide it at any cost. We too easily bottle up those feelings until they become unbearable.

While yes, bullying is an important issue, rarely do I see it as the actual cause of suicide. Bullying is usually the trigger for a much deeper problem. With societal ignorance and shame surrounding mental illness, we leave people either undiagnosed or not receiving enough of the right treatment. Mental illness takes on many forms. It sneaks into different places and feeds on different emotions and insecurities. That’s what makes mental illness so hard to distinguish correctly. But wouldn’t you think that would spark an initiative to learn more about it and spread awareness? We have certainly made progress, but work is left to be done.

Let’s go beyond a bullying assembly. We need mental health education. Knowledge is powerful. Empathy is powerful. We need to openly provide access for anybody who wants help. We need to dig deeper than an occasional “hi, how are you” conversation with loved ones. When you ask others how they are, be genuine with it. We’ve taken the phrase out of context to the point that we all just reply “good” and walk away. I want to see people actually curious about the well-being of others on a regular basis. Now that we have built up the barriers between each other, it’s time to tear them down.

And to end on important reminders to start off this week: you are worthy. You are loved. You are valuable. You’re here for a reason. If you ever need someone to confide in, I am genuinely here for you.  Mental illness is isolating and crippling enough as it is; we shouldn’t create a society already doing half the work in that regard.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie