Those They Call “Hipster”

At this point, calling someone a hipster seems like an insult. It’s just ironic to me that people actively try to “go against the grain” and avoid anything considered “mainstream,” but they simultaneously make their own cliche that in of itself becomes mainstream. What a strange line to cross.

A line that very much confuses me. I certainly don’t consider myself falling into this category, and yet I still feel myself falling into stereotypes they might portray. Which isn’t my fault. But I still for some reason feel a sense of guilt for it.

I have a music taste that is what many call “eclectic.” I know the names of some current artists on the top charts and on the radio twenty times a day, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about what’s popular or not, what songs people are listening to. I generally find new music from lots of digging, and I’ve come to a point where I don’t even try anything that is not a high enough rating. Probably crazy and excessive, but I have a sense of confidence and individuality in having a diverse but specific type of music I gravitate toward.

Not only the music do I dwell upon as potentially not as unique as I might envision it as. I now only really go for thrift shopping for clothes whenever possible, avoiding any fast fashion. My style is generally more bohemian-esque and vintage-inspired. Which again, sounds hipster to me.

I now wear exclusively glasses on a regular basis. I could spend all day in a bookstore, especially a used bookstore. I am usually on Tumblr at least once a day. I read Edgar Allan Poe outside of an English classroom. I relish dreary rainy days. I support local businesses, especially when they happen to be coffee shops. I don’t keep up with popular TV shows or movies. Heck, some may even go as far as to say suffering from chronic mental illness is hipster (which, to burst that bubble, it’s not). The examples go on.

But the reason I want to stop myself before I completely denounce everything I enjoy, I want to make an important distinction. When saying someone is hipster, that means that they truly are a walking contradiction. Their attempt at being edgy and different is ultimately becoming one of the sheep in the flock. They embody just another stereotypical “genre” of young people trying to find their own identity and clinging to one that is clear and neatly laid out for them. That’s just a simple fact when coming of age.

But this is where I hope I deviate from that. I don’t mindlessly follow the trends of others and fit myself into that mold. I’m not trying to please anybody else but myself when I search out new books to read and podcasts to listen to. I have clear reasons that I enjoy certain artists and pastimes over others. I have no need to impress others or devalue others’ favorite things by toting how hard I try to not be “basic.”

Why can’t we just enjoy what we enjoy and not try to categorize it in certain social expectations? Yes, I’m guilty of seeing someone having an appearance or enjoying activities that I immediately jump to labeling. That was my entire spring semester living with roommates who listen to Spotify’s Top 40 radio station and talk about watching Shonda Rhimes dramas. They were people that I really struggled to relate to, but is it my right to judge them based on those observations? Not really.

I can’t help having a critical view of the world. I’m included in that mix, too. That’s what this entire post is about: the way I view myself and how others may or may not view me. I ask myself, why do I care so much? Why am I spending this whole post today as a stream of consciousness? Because when keeping this internal dialogue to myself, I could be holding myself back from relating to others. I know I’m the only one out there in this big wide world thinking similar thoughts. People who might be judging themselves to the point that it holds them back from living their best life and being their complete self. People who think that world fits into certain cookie-cutter traits, clean cuts distinguishing black from white.

But guess what? We’re human. Life is messy. We don’t go through life as if running in a rat maze, sticking on a clear path for the cheesy end-goal. We have the freedom to explore and learn something new about ourselves every day. We are always evolving. What we might hate one day we eventually enjoy, and vice versa.

Having labels and stereotypes can help us understand others, but they need to stop there because there is so much more to us. So much more than our iTunes libraries, our bookshelves, our closets, our lives viewed simply from face value.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Tragedy Strikes Again

When will this type of news ever cease?

This week, my thoughts are with Manchester and those affected by the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert on Monday. When I first heard the news, I was honestly in disbelief. I couldn’t picture a bomb going off in a large concert venue, a concert targeted toward a tween-teen audience. Why would someone go

Obviously the news continues to update the available information as we learn more about the event. That over 20 people have died due to this explosion, including the bomber. The bomb was placed in the arena’s main corridor. ISIS claims responsibility for the terrorist act. And yes, the police fully recognize this as terrorism, not just a random crime.

I think I along with many others have a similar question: Why? Before ISIS made its influence known, I could have seen the motive being something with no reason. A breach of probably lower levels of security in a public place. A grudge against Ariana Grande or even Brexit. But it always seem to come back to a similar cause. But the previous terrorism commited by ISIS has been in public areas, busy with all types of people. This felt like an attack on a very limited audience. It’s young people, people who we tell to not feel paranoid about going outside and enjoying events together. This attack doesn’t just bring about fear; it brings about a terrifying realization that, truly, nobody can feel safe.

I wish I could offer more wisdom, more hope and encouragement as observe the aftermath. I want to stay optimistic, no matter how difficult it seems, no matter how many times it feels like we go through the motions of violence and grief. But this the opportunity to decide what perspective we want to take.

I hope we focus not entirely on the violence, but the support that has risen to take care of those in need. I hope we hear the stories of those young people whose lives were cut too short. I hope we demonstrate humanity’s tenacity and empathy when we demand that connection the most. The more power and attention we give to terrorism, the more motivated these radical groups will be to continue wreaking havoc. It certainly gets their message across when every news outlet in the world is saying their name.

And I’m not saying to avoid the reality of the situation altogether. You can’t sugarcoat it. You can’t undermine the gravity of the loss, all the people affected. So many young people now have a traumatic experience they may never shake from their conscious. The damage inflicted at this moment is only the beginning. Letting this event pass by like a fading trend isn’t an option.

It’s one thing to empathize with Manchester. It’s another thing to actively reach out and help them. I’m not in the position to say what the best course of action to take is, but if we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that violence sees no borders, no ages, no religions, no ethnicities. Humanity’s shortfalls can also bring out our strengths. Whether we keep trying to keep with whatever strategy we’re using now for security and foreign relations or we try a different approach, this is one of many problems society faces. Whenever it feels like it can take a backseat to poverty or climate change or anything else, we are reminded again of the severity and its implications.

For those who may fear being out in public areas, in crowds, at events, I completely understand. Especially young people who often feel they’re invincible to life’s hardships, now who knows what may happen just by going to a pop concert or whatever else? But we have to keep living, keep moving forward. We cannot let fear dictate our existence. We must be smart about making decisions and our vulnerability in certain scenarios, but still go to concerts, activities, whatever else. Enjoy life. If anything, tragedies like this show how fragile we are, how just one moment can change everything.

Just like violence is blind to society’s boundaries, so is love and compassion, the emotions that tie everyone together with a common thread. The cracks created by terrorism and hate also allow the light to seep in and shine more prominently. We look toward the future not knowing what each day may bring, but all we can do is help each other and make the most of every moment we have.

I truly believe that when all is said and done, love will overcome every ounce of hate in the world, that vocal, radical minority trying to define our world and shape it into a dark place. I will always believe that we are innately good. I say that not as a naive testament against a global rise of terrorism, but as an observation from my short time here on this earth, the immense beauty I’ve seen in people. Our show will go on. We will not stop singing.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Devotion and Inspiration

Yes, I’m guilty of watching my fair share of cliche romantic comedies. We all know how those Hallmark TV movies are going to end. But generally, I’m not super mushy-gushy.

Today I just wanted to mention that it’s my parents’s wedding anniversary. Twenty-five years, in fact. Which, to me, is an incredible accomplishment.

I’ve discussed my thoughts before on marriage. It’s something I definitely want in my lifetime, but a simple desire doesn’t even begin to encompass every moment, every blessing and challenge, that comes along with it. Especially when I see so many people on my Facebook feed getting engaged, there is a sense of pressure that I’m somehow behind on the marriage bandwagon.

There is always that fear, though, of the dreaded d-word. Something that I still feared for my own family even when reassured that it isn’t something to worry about. It’s so common for families to be broken apart, for life to get more complicated when relationships come and go, but legal binding adds complication.

It’s not necessarily that people are less happy in marriages so they inevitably fail. I see the increasing divorce rates as people, especially women, feeling empowered enough to take a stand in situations where they may feel threatened or disrespected. However, I’m not going to ignore that when devalue the sacrament of marriage, we turn it into an easy decision to undo when couples cannot or are unwilling to work things out.

I’m not judging either way. Who am I to judge, an unmarried woman barely out of my teenage years? But with all of the controversy over whether marriage is worth it or not anymore, I turn to examples like my parents for inspiration. Two people who got married within a year of first meeting each other and have been together ever since. Two people who have had their fair share of obstacles and tension.

I look to them, their steadfast commitment to each other, and say that yes, marriage is something I desire. Not just because I’d love to drop my last name, or at least shorten it with a hyphenated version. I want to reach those annual milestones with someone. I want to share my life with someone and create memories to look back on. I want someone who will evolve with me, who will grow and learn with me as the years go by.

I’m getting gushy, aren’t I? Whoops.

This admiration of my parents’ union doesn’t change the fact that there’s a part of me still scared of it, a challenge I want to take on that simultaneously worries me. The practical side of me overlooks the romantic side of marriage to all of the responsibility it entails. The commitment it requires. Picking one person forever and hoping that you picked right. No pressure, it’s just (hopefully) the rest of your life.

I believe no amount of advice and words of affirmation is going to completely guide people with their lives, whatever their decisions might entail. There is a certain degree that makes life a little different for everybody. That uniqueness goes up even more if you bind two people in holy matrimony. That just makes me admire couples even more, whether they chose to put a ring on it or not, that can endure for years and work through the kinks that life brings. It’s beautiful to me, and it makes me appreciate anniversaries even more.

So I already look at marriage as something very real, very serious. A clear indicator that yes, I want to spend my life with someone and work through life’s challenges together. I’m too optimistic to dwell on anybody who has gone through divorce or separation negotiations, even if the statistics are clear as day. I’m still going to say that despite the odds, I can be in the population that does make it. Knowing me, I’m someone who will feel the inkling for something more and not even hesitate to take a relationship to the next step. It’s in my nature to move very quickly than dawdle.

This is the second time on my blog I’ve discussed marriage explicitly. Again, that’s probably odd to some people. But if I’m so adamant about planning out my professional ventures and goals, why not talk about my personal ones, too? They’re just as, if not more, important to prioritize. As much as I love independence and solitude, life is something that should be shared with others. And a significant other. The people are the blessings that keep us grounded every step of the way.

Once again, congratulations to my parents today for the example they lead, for the love they share, for the past twenty-five years and every day encompassed within that time. It’s about time you took a vacation, huh? You deserve it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Prescription for Chris Connell

Last week was certainly shocking. While I’m not a big fan of Soundgarden, I at least appreciate their impact on the Seattle music scene. So I was taken aback as everybody else finding out that the lead singer Chris Connell completed suicide.

It’s not like I’m jumping to conclusions and it’s a big mystery to solve. Unlike comparisons made to Kurt Cobain’s death, this one is cut and dried. I don’t see any room for conspiracy. The night before, he performed a concert in Detroit, the last song of the night being Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” That just gives me chills up my spine.

Connell was found in a hotel room, a band around his neck. The verdict was very quick after finding the evidence that he hanged himself. I’m sure people might question how upfront I’m talking about this story, but it’s necessary. We need to see this clearly. Yes, Connell was fifty-two years old, seemingly a late time to consider taking your own life, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The thing that is bothering me the most with this, however. Is the response from his family. That they say he wasn’t suicidal, wouldn’t do such a thing. They actually claim that the anxiety medication he was taking was the reason why is “judgment was impaired.” Ironically, the medication he was on, Ativan, is one I just recently prescribed myself for anxiety. Side effects for these types of drugs are inevitable and sometimes all over the place, but it makes me uneasy how quickly they made that statement.

Here’s how I see the family’s response. They’re willing to shift the “blame” away from themselves, that he might have been depressed and they didn’t do anything to help, and instead blame outside sources. This is a typical pattern with suicides. The fact that suicide is in fact something that requires placing blame or ownership on the tragic situation, that it was one main factor at the root of the fatal decision.

Why do we have to go through the same pattern over and over again? We are unwilling to accept that mental illness is the cause of suicide, just like other diseases killing people. People die from heart disease, cancer, a multitude of diseases out there, and never would we say to them, “It’s selfish of you to die from this. Even if you are treating your illness in any way you can, you aren’t doing enough, so try harder.”

Because I agree, there’s nothing so bad, so unmanageable in life that it requires escaping life completely. However, in a suicidal state, that’s not on the forefront of your logic. Otherwise you wouldn’t be suicidal.

Many medications, even antidepressants, list suicidal thoughts as a side effect. So if that IS the reason for Connell’s death, once we get back a toxicology report back, that’s one thing. But when you come from a past of depression and agoraphobia like Connell does, the family’s statement feels like a defense mechanism. Going through the emotions and grief of losing a loved one to suicide, the last thing you want to be thinking is that you’re at fault. That if did one thing differently, he would still be alive. This isn’t even solely based on Connell’s career. More local suicides still go from similar patterns that, once you notice them, can feel like society is just running around in circles to avoid discussing this serious topic.

It’s almost shameful itself to accept suicide for what it is. That if we close everybody off and not say a word, or completely deny that the suicide resulted from an individual’s mental health, we’re responding normally. I wish we would take an opportunity like this to be open and honest, utilize the tragedy as an example and lesson for others to understand the complexities of mental illness.

Even if mental illness truly wasn’t the key player here, this update to the Connell story demonstrates how the stigma surrounding mental health is an active force in reporting and responding to suicide. I should just be glad that we didn’t leave Connell’s cause of death up in the air. But the aftermath is just as important to address and be mindful of how we can about it.

Those of know the victim, family and loved ones, are emotional. Heartbroken. You cannot deny them that. But their role is crucial in how the rest of the world perceives suicide. They have tragic experience with it. Not everybody has to be a vocal advocate, but I think simple words and actions resonate the loudest of all.

So where do we go from here? Suicide is all too common. Inevitably, a situation like this will arise again. But how are we going to react to it? What will the aftermath look like? How will the conversation surrounding the suicide sound? We’ve made bad habits with suicide. Our public relationship with it is still a hazy line to jump across. Something common, and yet so shameful and secretive.

Obviously the news is writing up stories on a 24/7 news cycle, so who knows what the next headline will be about Chris Connell and really anybody else in this situation. Regardless, these thoughts still stand. And we cannot forget them.

Sending my thoughts to Chris Connell’s family. May he rest in peace.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

First Week Reflections

I’m writing this post on Monday, my first day of work at my summer internship. So perhaps my opinion will change as time progresses, but for the time being, I’ll reflect upon my first day and my impressions of what the next weeks might entail.

This is my first in a real, professional print news room. Obviously I’ve worked with the college newspaper, but it’s a tad different. So far I’ve been on the reporting end of things, taking on assignment and being the typical eager intern. But I still see a big difference from my past work experience.

I’ve mentioned this time and time again, but I’m not an office person. I don’t sit still ever. Even now I am bobbing my leg. My attention span, as often as people tote that they are “so ADD” without a clinical diagnosis, is really not that great. It comes in waves. I honestly don’t know how anybody is expected to be have robotic efficiency from for a full eight-hour shift.

On top of all of that, I get bored very easily. I’m someone who will come in early to work to finish a project I was working on the previous day and then sit around waiting for people to give me more assignments. I have a strong work ethic that craves an assignment to hold me over, otherwise the attention span will inevitably wane.

But with my first days here at the state’s largest newspaper, I am very glad about how things have started out. Last summer, I didn’t leave my building at all during the day. I was stuck in a felted cubicle desk, feeling like a caged animal, simply trying to call people and work on assignments regarding weather and agriculture that I simply had no interest in. And when they didn’t really have much to give me each day, I was just fine with that setup when I was also actively taking classes on campus, but full-time? That just drove me down, feeling exhausted and yet disgusted with how little I thought I completed.

This new internship is a much different experience. First off, no cubicles. My desk is right next to a big window overlooking the bustling downtown street below. The people here are very nice and have a great energy to them that I jive with well. Rather than confused by my needs to come in to work early and be done earlier in the day, they are very understanding of how I function. Heck, on my very first day, I got to run out to report on a story, photos and video and all. I love feeling like I’m on the move, that I’m not chained to my desk, disconnected from everything.

I never used to be one to want to speak up and voice my needs in fear of conflicting with others, but now I just feel empowered to do so. Why should I feel ashamed for working and thinking differently than others? I should not feel guilty for knowing what I want from a full-time position; it will only benefit myself and everyone else involved. It’s an interconnected system.

I still really want to work freelance, from home, on my own schedule. I’m really glad I am able to run the gamut of options and experiences out there, but I know where I ultimately want to end up. Again, when people ask me about my future plans, I’m hesitant about saying that desire because in a gung-ho, be-productive-as-possible-to-be-successful world, it’s ingrained in us to follow the path of climbing corporate ladders and fulfill those cliche life plans for the next however-many years.

Understandably, if it takes some time to make it to that end-goal, that’s okay. But if you don’t feel comfortable following that “all-American dream,” then don’t. Spend your life doing what you love. Search for those opportunities you envision for yourself. It’s your life, not anybody else’s. Settling for something just to make an income shouldn’t be the Plan-A option.

Obviously I feel very strong about this, about this notion that if you’re not making x-number of dollars each year, you’re not living up to some assumed potential. That you’re letting yourself and your loved ones down by following your gut. If you aren’t happy, you aren’t helping anybody. Life is too short and precious to just do what others tell you for every single decision, what people expect out of you.

There are so many options and paths in this big ol’ world, it’s insane. And if your dream career isn’t out there right now, create it. Make it happen for yourself. That in of itself takes ambition, motivation, guts. That’s the type of productivity we should be encouraging. Not just the monotonous duties, but the creativity and drive to turn a dream into a feasible plan.

And this motivation, something I’ve always had in the back of my mind but is reawakened by new professional experiences, is what guides me to my next chapter in life. Being a senior, leaving the comfort (and stress) of the education system behind to step out, diploma in hand, is terrifying. You wonder why I want to take a gap year to travel and volunteer? Going cold-turkey on what has been my “career” for fifteen years to somehow seamlessly transition into a 9-5 office job? No thanks.

But I digress. Simply put, I am really enjoying my new job. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and really hope to make the most out of it. Who knows where things will go from here?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Anti-Consumerism

With the speed that trends go through social media and YouTube, I’m probably late to game talking about this concept, but I love the idea nonetheless. If it’s not a thing anymore, I’m reviving it. Or at least the intentions behind it.

For those familiar with social media content, you’ve probably heard of and/or seen a fair share of hauls. People showcasing what they’ve recently purchased because for some reason, the random things other people buy is really interesting to find out. It’s easy to get sucked in. So much so that you forget that these “haulers” are spending lots of money on items they most likely don’t need.

On top of social media content creators going out on shopping sprees for some extra views and followers, now companies have hopped on the bandwagon. Turns out, social media personalities, once they develop enough of a follower, can be influential in what others will purchase. Although a YouTuber, blogger, or content creator is just an average person gutsy enough to put themselves out there, consumers really value others’ opinions. I mean, if we are reading the reviews of products online and choosing products based on others’ recommendations, the correlation makes sense.

So now companies are pulling all the stops when it comes to the products they send content creators. If you’ve ever typed into YouTube “PR unboxing,” you’ll be in for a surprise. Not only do these people receive lots of makeup, clothing, games, books, and whatever niche a person may focus upon, but the packages themselves are ridiculously intricate. The boxes are their own form of advertising. And with PR products often comes sponsored content, a new form of a commercial that is often less obvious to the audience.

I understand that making these sort of deals with companies is crucial for content creators to make any sort of living from what they enjoy doing. I know if I had the chance to be paid to write a blog post, I would certainly be enticed. However, from this reliance upon consumerism, we’re losing the essence of what social media originally was. YouTube alone was just a bunch of people using lousy webcams and talking about whatever interested them. That world has expanded to professional filming equipment, millions of dollars, and lots of unnecessary books.

When I heard about the concept of an “anti-haul,” I was intrigued. Basically, it’s the same setup as a normal haul, but people discuss what they don’t plan on buying and why. Which, in a way, is still a type of product review or critique, but I see the intentions very differently. It promotes people to analyze the messages they take in on a regular basis and actually gauge their ties to material belongings.

I’m not asking us all to become full-blown minimalists, nor am I insinuating to never buy anything ever again. But when we look at our collections of clothing, shoes, makeup, video games, etc., what are we personally gaining from that? From a past bargain that you’ve never touched since? Ten shades of lipstick in essentially the same color? A closet overflowing with fast fashion and pairs of shoes and handbags? A closet full of video games you’ve completed through once and will never play again?

There’s a distinct difference between investing in a hobby or passion project you’re especially passionate about, and cluttering up space with impulse purchases that may be unnecessary and impractical. The marketing ploys stores and companies use to lure us in lead us down vicious cycles of excitement, indifference, and sometimes regret.

So it’s refreshing to hear somebody say what they won’t be buying and why. Certain items and trends that just aren’t worth putting your money toward. Most likely, they’ll come and go anyways. Fueling a market always asking us to buy and spend keeps corporations (and piles of waste) growing. It’s just not a sustainable lifestyle to lead.

A dollar is essentially a vote. What we put it towards is reflection of what we value. Not to judge those who love some retail therapy (the thrift store is always calling my name), but the need of instant gratification blinds us from saving up funds toward purchases that add meaning to our lives. Not always needing the newest piece of technology. Not running out to Forever 21 every paycheck. Personally, I’d rather save up for products and experiences that I know I will love and benefit me. I’m willing to steer clear of major fast fashion and department stores and paying more for my small makeup collection if it means I’m supporting small local businesses and good causes. I’m aware of the impact of my choices and want to do my best to be wise and responsible about them.

An “anti-haul” is probably just another one of those passing trends we won’t remember in a few months, but let’s not forget how “consuming” consumerism is (bad word play, but still). It sucks you in. Advertising and PR know exactly what they’re doing. The strategies they use work. But once we can step away from possible spending instincts and look objectively at products, we might decide instead to choose the more sustainable option, or just save some money for something you might really care about. That simple but powerful decision is a step toward living more sustainably and consciously.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Communicate Love

There are so many different words of wisdom and advice for those in relationships, romantic or platonic. The right things to say to each other, how to handle conflict and compromise. Couples counseling can give you some tools and tricks to use, too.

Now I’m not all into the nitty-gritty details of what’s the best course of action because every relationship is different. It can be helpful to have some sort of example or guide to follow, yes. However, you cannot expect a blanket statement to apply to everybody’s unique situations. Especially when multiple people are involved, each person brings their own personality to the table.

Something that I’ve found that I really enjoy and find interesting is the concept of love languages. Okay, that in of itself sounds like the thing I was just criticizing, but hear me out. There is still a sense of fitting into some categories, but each person is still going to have a different result that can tell a lot about how they behave with a companion or partner.

If you enjoy taking quizzes, here is your lucky break. At this website, based on a book by Gary Chapman, you can answer a questionnaire that will explain how you show affection to others. The five most common forms are physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. I’ve found that my results have really made me take notice and realize how I do show my love to others.

The important element here is having the receiving party also figure out their own love language. Most likely, not everyone you communicate love to will receive it as you do. If you aren’t aware of that difference, you might feel unfulfilled and run into lots of misunderstanding. If you think a loved one is ungrateful and doesn’t appreciate or reciprocate your feelings, chances may be they just do so in a different way.

Here’s for my personal, real-life example. In case you were wondering what my love language(s) are, it’s heavily weighted toward words of affirmation and acts of service, gift giving in close third. Basically, when I care about you, I will tell you and speak to you kindly, I will do thoughtful things for you, and give you things that show that I’ve been thinking of you. Dead last on my list? Physical touch. It’s not that I don’t like being around other people, but it’s not a high priority to me. I like my space. My first instinct isn’t to always hug or sit intimately with others in conversation. I’m probably paying more attention to any deep topic we might be discussing instead.

Now my boyfriend is quite different from me. He craves physical touch. I assume that is often more associated with men, but I’m not drawing any conclusions. He’s often the one saying romantic words, but he is definitely the one who values touch. Without him knowing that I’m not drawn to much physical touch, he would have liked guessed that I wasn’t interested in him or was just a standoff-ish person, neither of which are true.

You don’t have to have a book or website tell you these details. Cliche but true, communication is key. But having a resource readily available can help start the conversation to best know how to reach one another. It bridges the potential divide of two people caring about each other but not expecting to receive love in a new way.

And that’s where the compromise comes in. I know now to become more comfortable with little moments of just being close to my significant other and reach out myself sometimes. My boyfriend knows that his immense thoughtfulness is one of my favorite things about him. We meet in the middle to suffice both of our needs.

Again, I don’t see this just as a romantic understanding, but one necessary for every relationship, including friends and family. A major root of conflict is a lack of fluid communication, feeling withdrawn from somebody because they don’t translate your words or actions as love. This communication may be different not just in love, but also apologies, appreciation, and anger.

There is no best way to love another person. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if, like me, you just don’t feel compelled to always let others into your personal bubble of space. Or you think words of affirmation are cheesy. Or you have no clue how to respond to gifts. As long as you aren’t hurting others and are acting out of the best intentions, once you know yourself well enough, you can clarify what you value most in others to establish that fulfilling sense of closeness and support. That’s joy of being surrounded by loved ones. But if you feel out of touch (no pun intended) with them, no matter how may people you consider a friend or how great your partner may be, you’ll still feel isolated, craving more.

And here’s another cliche thrown your way: be yourself. Stay true to your own personality and love language. You cannot successfully fake being somebody else. Loved ones won’t genuinely love you if they know a facade. Be vulnerable and honest. Yes, it’s scary. But the end result? The people who enter your life who value your presence and enjoy you despite your flaws? That’s what makes life worth living.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie