A New Challenge

As my mind was wandering around today, I stumbled upon a great idea. An idea that I using as a test for myself. A good test.

Since tomorrow we will be seeing the beginning of a new month, I wanted to mix things up a bit. Usually with my blog thus far, I think of something I write plenty of opinionated words about and roll with it, no exact rhyme or reason for it. I find inspiration from things happening in the world around me and whatever is going on in my head.

But November is no ordinary month. Well, technically it is, but I feel it’s specifically set aside as the beginning of the winter holiday season. (You have not yet seen my hyped-up behavior over Christmas. Just you wait.) But before Christmas comes another one that tends to be taken over by food and football: Thanksgiving.

This month I’m taking that name seriously. We aren’t making hand turkeys every day, but I wouldn’t judge you if you did. No, I’m using every weekday blog post to give my thanks to something in my life. It could really be anything. I have a few ideas in mind already, but so far, I don’t have much planned out.

In general, I’m a pretty gracious person. I really make sure I take the time to show everybody how much I appreciate them and the things they do. But if it’s something that almost becomes an automatic response, it loses its genuine touch. Why not use some time this month to really devote my energy toward crafting words that express everything I feel?

On the other end of things, there are so many things I feel like we easily take for granted. Life is busy and chaotic at times, so much that we forget to slow down and really observe those little details in the world around us. Time isn’t slowing down for everything, and things are constantly changing. This will be a chance for me to slow down and open my eyes beyond my own tunnel vision. The little details can be the ones that really make life worth living.

In a way, this is also me taking a crack at a gratitude journal. I see it on Pinterest enough and even other bloggers who set aside time every day to make note of things they are grateful for each day. That discipline and thoughtfulness is admirable, and I’m slightly jealous. I’ve tried in the past to be consistent with a gratitude journal, even iPhone apps that are a simple list of a couple items each evening to mention. Even though I’m only planning for a month, maybe this will be the extra boost I need to motivate myself toward making this a lasting habit. I’m a true believer that we are all capable of creating the lives we want whenever we choose. If you see yourself as someone who meditates on gratitude every day, what’s stopping you from becoming that person?

Whoever is reading this, I challenge you to join me. You don’t necessarily have to write a thousand word blog post every day, but at least take a few seconds to think of someone or something that deserves some recognition. It could be as simple as few extra seconds lingering on the beauty of nature or sending a quick text message to someone you love. It’s the thought that counts. And before everyone gets busy again with final tests and projects and preparing for the December holidays, we should make the most out of our time by dedicating it toward the people and things that matter most.

I think of those who may be endearing some seasonal depression looking ahead at this long winter months. Take this challenge as a daily reminder of the sources of light present even on the dreariest of days. Even if you love this time of year like I do, thoughts of depression or anxiety don’t just disappear when you want them to. Even a quick positive thought can make a drastic difference in our daily outlooks.

While everyone is probably hyping themselves up over Halloween today and everything spooky, I’m looking forward to what this next month entails. I always like to see the beginning of a new month as a fresh start and welcome change, but I see this month as a potentially even more exciting change. I have no expectations yet of how this month will all go, but I am looking forward to what every day might bring. Who knows, maybe I’ll start doing more themed ideas more often. We’ll see what happens.

Maybe I’m already outdoing myself, but before the month even begins, I want to thank each and every one of you who are reading this for joining me on this journey, and I hope you will stop in each day as this month unfolds.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


College Venting

No, not the ventilation system. I can see how my titles can be quite vague.

I know I have already talked about my troubles with test anxiety. That is very mental and even though it sounds like I’m just complaining on both of them, I swear I’m not. The previous post was bringing to light the constant juggling involved with managing mental health and education. This post, on the other hand, I can wholeheartedly say is complaining.

Let me set the scene: for one of my required Honors courses, a major aspect of the class is writing a “mini-thesis.” That is, a fifteen-page research paper about a random topic. So technically not short enough to keep it straightforward and to the point, and not long enough to go in depth on the subject matter. It’s a very awkward spot to be in.

But I’ve written research before. I actually did quite well on a research paper in high school about children’s educational television. Admittedly it’s been awhile. I picked a topic I am interested in–how veganism affects mental health–and got crackin’. If you’ve read my blog more than today, you would know that the matter is complicated enough to write about consistently every week, so having to make a cohesive paper in 15 pages and still get my point across isn’t exactly easy.

Another challenge is the fact that neither topic has much research to go from. Both are surrounded by plenty of stigma. So a lot of my paper is having to draw my own conclusions and make these connections with any information I can find. It’s not like I have a multitude of astounding statistics to share. I love writing, but that kind of writing isn’t my cup of tea. Hello, I’m here rambling on about my own opinions and perspectives. Having to incorporate research in isn’t second nature.

With any assignment, and especially essay, I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent on this. I would guess at least 24 hours expanding and writing and researching. That’s a low guess, too. I just know it was long enough for me to be sick of the whole thing and never wanting to look at that paper again. If only.

I received feedback last week for my latest draft. Side note, this “final” draft had approval from several very intelligent people, reassuring me that my argument makes sense and flows well. I knew coming into class that we would be receiving a mock grade and rubric for our essays, but I was certainly not expecting what I did.

If I had turned in my paper when I wanted to, I would have HOPEFULLY gotten a C. Translation: my professor was less than reasonable and I was about to have a mental breakdown. She told me my claims aren’t supported enough, that things don’t make sense, that I have to reorganize everything, that my writing has “significant flaws.” Even just thinking of it again, I want to curl up in a ball and just be done with everything.

Not to say I haven’t had some difficult professors. Going through school and striving for the best marks possible, you learn very quickly to pay attention to the teacher’s wishes and work accordingly. I had one of those last year. I went into his office every single week to have him look over my work and give me feedback. At least then I could figure out his style and by the end of the semester, I was his go-to student. Some people would probably say I’m a teacher’s pet. I would just say I know the value of building a relationship with the right people.

So even though my past professor’s wishes weren’t in my liking, I wrote to them anyways. And this is a very similar situation. Besides the fact that I have a week to turn everything around to respond to critiques that make very little sense. The assignment doesn’t lend itself to being easy as is, and my topic is one with very little research behind it. But I’ve never been one to shy away from an academic challenge.

In situations like these, I am disappointed in the education system. If you can get someone who loves learning and growing in the classroom setting to want to completely give up and lose all passion behind their work, I feel like that’s slightly counter-productive. Of course we always encounter those challenges in everyday life, when we work so hard on something just to receive a punch in the gut. And sometimes the response and solution to that just doesn’t make sense. They don’t have to make sense. That’s life. But in those cases, you don’t have to directly face the challenge. In similar cases, if I have to communicate with someone up front in a negative situation and I respect this person’s authority, admittedly, my first instinct is to cry. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. In this instance, however, I was just bitter and frustrated, and I certainly didn’t hide it.

Today I just needed to rant. It’s been a long week, as every week feels. But I know others can relate to feeling so confident about a project or assignment or really anything, just to have someone else completely tear it down. It’s not fun. It’s very stressful. In the past, this could have easily driven me into skipping a few meals to rewrite the whole thing. That isn’t happening this time. With a solid foundation and resiliency, I know I can handle this. I wasn’t expected it in the slightest, but if I know I deserve an A, you bet your bottom dollar I will get that A. I work way too hard not to.

If you learn anything today, it’s that you are capable of proving others wrong. If you think you deserve something, work for it. Will there be plenty of obstacles in the way? Of course. But the end result will be worth it, whether you’re in school or not. Sometimes the things we’re good at and assume will be easy throw curve balls at us. When we take care of ourselves first and know our worth, we can take them in stride. That doesn’t mean I can’t still complain about them.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Follow Me?

I’m not the typical picture of a leader figure. I don’t know how to raise my voice. People usually assume I’m still in high school. I’m not intimidating or authoritative in any way. I avoid conflict at all costs. And when I try to verbally communicate, I pray I make sense. So when I find myself in a leadership or mentor position, I find myself very confused as to how to best fill that role.

I remember in high school, the big goal I and other over-achievers strived for us to have some sort of leadership position in every activity we were involved in. Even if it wasn’t your immediate interest, simply filling up your resume for college and scholarship applications was basically the whole point of high school. Which is probably why I didn’t like it because I felt obligated to compete with everybody else to point of stressing myself out. Yeah, not a big fan. The college environment of simply going about my day, trying my personal best and getting my education. The GPA aspect isn’t as heavy as just getting to the end goal of a degree.

But that doesn’t mean the competitive-perfectionist mentality is thrown out the window. I still feel like I need to do more, do better. Just being involved in an activity or club isn’t enough. Not having a full resume is not good enough. Probably not healthy, but the education system lends itself to those thoughts. So I’m still facing the problem of how to achieve higher, leadership roles and how to fill them effectively.

My favorite leadership position I’ve been in was as my high school newspaper’s editor-in-chief. Even though I’m not the exact personality type for asserting myself and my authority, I still feel more comfortable with the work involved and issues (pun intended) at hand. When the topics are 0nes that I’m passionate about, it makes everything that much easier and more rewarding. If I’m sitting in a position that I don’t particularly care much about or feel qualified enough to do, that’s when things get awkward.

This semester I am the opinion editor of my college’s newspaper. Last week I gave a little presentation to prospective freshmen interested in the journalism program with my adviser. In my head I was picturing myself in my element and these kids somehow awed by my wisdom and experience. But I’m still just me. I’m certainly not a journalism expert. I don’t have all the answers. This is only my second in college, period. I again felt out of place, thinking that somebody else should be standing in front of these people rather than me. And in comes the self-doubts, the anxieties, the awkwardness.

Now that I look back on that little experience, I’m glad I’m not a typical leader. I don’t think I’m a godlike figure that knows everything and is always right. I know what it’s like to be completely clueless and uneasy. I’ve been around a fair share of dominating personalities that wants to bulldoze over everybody’s opinions. I think leaders who have a more quiet, peaceful force are underestimated because they aren’t as outspoken. But if you find your groove and are still effective, I think you can be a true force to be reckoned with. It’s not automatically taking the driver’s seat, but observing the situation and the people involved and knowing when to take the reins or step aside for other voices to chime in.

I am a strong believer that a situation is only awkward if you make it awkward. That one phrase “Fake it ’til you make it” can be quite useful. It’s okay to admit that you aren’t perfect. You’re just somebody to offer guidance and ideas for others. You can come in with some ideas, but sometimes just brainstorming with others and listening to their ideas can bring about great things. Introverts like me can see a leadership position and scurry away, but we can offer some amazing insight and a different perspective that could otherwise be overlooked. And when we perhaps go against our instincts to step up and take on that role, it gets easier and less terrifying.

Especially in situations you feel strongly about. If you feel confident and passionate, it shows. People respect that. Don’t doubt your knowledge or opinion because you are worth listening to and following. Before you can lead others, you have to, I guess, lead yourself, or at least be comfortable with your position and ideas. You can balance between being aware of the tasks and topics at hand whilst still being willingly to know when to back off or admit when you don’t know something or make a mistake. A leader is still a human. And a leader is just one face in a group or project; everybody has a role to fill.

I don’t look like a leader. I’m as threatening as a baby koala. But I know that if I feel the pull and ambition to step up to the plate, I can handle it. I have skills and knowledge to offer others. It might not be delivered in a way people are used to in leaders, but I can still get the job done. Just don’t expect me to think of clever ideas on the spot or raising a ruckus. Leadership is a two-way street. A leader is nothing without people who believe in them. Believe in yourself, and the rest will surely follow.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie