Behind Closed Doors

Never underestimate the power of change. Even simple change. Sometimes a mere change in your surroundings, life, or mindset can have immense benefits.

I have held off talking about this particular topic for a while now. My dad and brother are probably sick and tired of my constant updates about my situation, but admittedly, my mind is overly nit-picky. I have certain (probably unreasonable) standards for myself, and usually the most insignificant of details is what grinds my gears.

This school year, I’m living in an apartment off-campus with one roommate, a roommate who happens to be an ex. Which, right off the bat, people probably are already pointing out an obvious problem here, but that’s not even a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

I established early on that I wanted distinctly separate spaces for each of us. I see my home as a sanctuary away from the stress of the outside world (if that means I have some hermit tendencies, well, so be it). Only for certain people and in certain moods am I willing to sacrifice my space and standards of living (again, selfish? Probably. I’m just way too picky for my own good).

How the apartment is laid out, you walk into a living room/kitchen space, go down the hall to a bathroom and bedroom, and a large back room finishes it off. My roommate took the back room, and I had a desk set up in the living area. We each had a twin bed in the bedroom and we obviously both use the bathroom.

I never actually realized it as I went about my day, but I essentially was never truly alone. Since my desk (the spot I am at 98% of the time) is the living area, I was always subject to hearing whatever was going on in the back room as well as being around him if he was in the kitchen or going out the front door. This also meant I knew when the kitchen and front door were being used and essentially would need some cleaning, making me paranoid of whatever mess might be left over and being generally on edge 24/7.

In complete honesty, the last few weeks, I have been at one of my deepest depressions in a long time. Just really not in a good head space. Every single aspect of life left me overwhelmed and yet I had zero motivation to do anything. The bare minimum in class, even if that meant putting off my own health, was all I could muster.

And yes, I’m still working through that phase right now in hopes that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but last weekend, some magic happened. Magic in the form of a roommate’s idea and a mother’s words. First, when coming back between class and work on Friday, I was taken aback to see my roommate’s bed no longer in the bedroom. He then told me that he realized that I truly have never had any privacy in the apartment, figuring that moving himself completely to the back room might help. Also, when I was at work, my parents came down to the apartment to puppy-sit, and my mom (aka my savior) was really honest with my roommate in my fragile state and some of the little things I’ve confided in my family but haven’t explicitly detailed to the roommate (confrontation is not my strong suit).

After some serious self-care (which looked like washing my face and showering after not doing so all week), I walked into the bedroom, closed the door, and I don’t know what it was, but I immediately felt a difference. I relaxed for the first time in what felt like months. I hadn’t actually talked to my roommate since moving in, and we actually had conversations. I actually slept in later than 5 AM and felt more rested and not like a zombie. My creative mind felt like it was waking up from a long hibernation.

We introverts truly, desperately need alone time to fully recharge. Regardless of your temperament, we all need an environment that supports our well-being. In my case, that means having a room where I can close a door and be in my own space, a space where I’m not constantly spinning around worries about how clean the kitchen is or being aggravated by any minute behavior of my roommate differing from my own preferences.

Don’t underestimate how your environment affects you. If you’re in a space that drains you, constantly around others that don’t benefit your mind, it’s time to change things up. Maybe you’re somewhere that doesn’t allow for much dramatic change, but even simply adding some fun decor or going to a place away from home that can provide you with peace can really help. And, most importantly, self-care all the way. Do the little things that make you happy, in a space that supports your motivation and productivity. A change of scenery can be the push you need to reevaluate your attitude and mindset to better reflect how you truly want to feel.

Where is your “happy place”? What elements in that space make it your sanctuary to recharge and ground yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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The Stress Strikes Back

Yes, it’s only the second week of class. Yes, I am already feeling that inevitably feeling that comes when your schedule starts to fill up with responsibilities and days feel too long yet lack enough time.

While I do enjoy having a routine that keeps me accountable for being a functioning adult, I don’t know if there is a true indicator, a fine line of knowing when you’re happily occupied with what you have and realizing you’re in too deep. It can be quite difficult then to simultaneously want to get my hands in many various projects or fill many roles, and also fear losing any opportunity to simply do nothing or spend time with others for pure socializing.

So how does somebody who is easily flustered like me manage to stay afloat? How do I expect to meet all of my desires for a “balanced” life, or at the illusion of one? Well, my friends, beyond the fun times that high-functioning anxiety brings, I am here to not only dispel any wisdom I hopefully have and request some support from anybody else out there who might juggle life better than I can. I bow down to you, people.

This fall semester I have been trying something new out that is a step up from what I’ve always done when it comes to organization. Since probably the third grade, I have used some form of an agenda or planner. Obviously since venturing from elementary school, the usefulness of said agenda has expanded many-fold.

I haven’t always been the best at actually keeping up with writing everything I need to do down, but I am making the conscious effort this last year of college to use my agenda to its fullest potential. When it actually has times throughout the day listed, I put in my schedule. I make mini to-do lists for any school assignments or responsibilities for a certain group. I make sure to plan and write down any sort of socializing I want to partake in to actually hold myself accountable for building up my friendships and not just resorting to excuses the day of.

In my planner, I also decided to list out some goals I have the semester and school year. As someone who totes the importance of having some sort of goal to strive for that encourages regular personal growth, I’m not the best at actually writing them down and remembering what my specific goals are. I can now see what I want to prioritize short-term and long-term, including all relevant aspects of my life.

Within those goals, I’ve set priorities that reflect a need to maintain wellness. This includes the earlier mentioned time spent building relationships with loved ones and securing regular moments to recharge my batteries. It’s too easy for me to get caught up in a bunch of schoolwork and projects I want to tackle all at once, the last thing I remember to take care of ends up being myself. Hopefully I can become more mindful in preventing a major slump.

As a general rule, taking care of yourself means knowing your limits. It sucks having to say no to something you might really want to do, but if it’s adding unnecessary stress into your life, is it worth it? That’s for you to judge. Just remember, your health is infinitely more important than your grades. Your well-being and sanity should always come first.

And again, mindfulness is powerful. It’s far too easy to just run through the motions of a weekday routine without giving much thought to what we’re actually do and the purpose it might serve for us. Losing ourselves in the rush often ends up biting us in the butt, especially if it means overlooking things like eating nutritious food, drinking water, and sleeping. If you’re in the tizzy phase feeling like a headless chicken, return back to yourself in the present moment.

When you do end up with a spare moment, take advantage of it any way you see fit. The key takeaway message, if you don’t remember anything else, is self-care. You are actively engaging in life, but you shouldn’t sacrifice what truly uplifts and motivates you. If you spend free time scrolling on your phone, chances are you won’t feel satisfied and yes, the urgency might kick in. But if your free time is actually energizing, whether that means making art, working out, reading, taking walks or sitting in a bubble bath, then you might find more fulfillment where originally there was chaos.

Making this post today is a reminder not only to anybody else stressing out, but also to me when I inevitably panic over what is probably a reasonable situation. We all come across times when we wish the world would stop moving forward and we stumbled upon an imaginary month-long vacation from everything. However, we are capable of anything life throws at us. It wouldn’t end up in our visions in the first place if a certain task or opportunity would be too much. Our heads can get work ourselves up to the point of exhaustion, but we are the ones in control. Insert general encouragement here. Cliche, but we can do this.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

You Do You

I cannot tell you how often I use this phrase. Multiple times a day, I’m sure. Just one of those random things you pick up and end up using by habit. But especially this week when starting classes again for my senior year of undergraduate studies, it’s something I need to tell myself.

Whether I fully realize it or not, I’ve been stressed. Obviously with starting classes, moving into my first apartment, and having a puppy to take care of, the items on my list are already seeming to grow as activities pick up after the summer hiatus.

If I could pinpoint certain areas of stress for me, specifically in the school-related category, it would be the sheer anxiety of returning to my major. A major that I have innately taken a different direction with than I had previously. And in that anxiety, I fear tension from other students and faculty who might question my previous actions and my current intentions. I fear that they think I am throwing away what could have been a viable career option for me and venturing into the unknown.

Except in realizing that this is my concern, I am forgetting how far I have come in finding out who I am and what I am truly passionate about. In the matter of a few months, I have grown to learn that journalism isn’t for me. My department on campus really stresses the importance of having every duck in a row for the professional setting, of having as much experience and material as possible from interning in high-quality workplaces. They want students to be involved in department-led activities and really fit into that mold of being a journalist, whether that be print, radio or broadcast. Or if you’re into advertising and public relations, the same goes for that field, too.

And I started in that path. I worked on the newspaper, I had experience in work settings, I went through those motions. I started them all with excitement in knowing that I was moving ahead in that career path and doing what I was supposed to do, but how much did it truly fulfill my passions? Why was I writing a blog talking about humanitarian work, sustainability, mental health, and making a difference in the world when I was forcing myself to hand out resumes at media internship fairs and signing on to work in an office every weekday writing about topics I didn’t care about in a professional style that I wasn’t that great at.

Whether it was a conscious decision or not immediately, I left that path behind. I couldn’t go back. Whatever reputation was there vanished. And instead of making a huge fuss over it and feeling like my dreams were crushed, I felt…relieved. I was okay. Sure, getting rejected and “failing” and falling flat on my face felt terrible. But it didn’t shake me to my ultimate core. It actually opened up space for new opportunities, to new things that I had wanted to do but had never had the time for.

I have truly begun to feel like my work aligns with where my interests lie. Journalism is great for some, but it’s too political and cut-throat for me. I love helping people through non-profit organizations that do amazing work in this world. I love writing about those things and other topics that will hopefully inspire and help others. I love invigorating my spiritual side and immersing myself in my faith.

The people who are unconsciously stressing me out know the identity I created to work hard and accomplish huge career goals that would make them approve of me more. They know I love to write, but all they care about is the reporting I did and the news outlets I worked at. They see less value in these posts that have me writing out ideas moving too quickly in my head for me to keep up because I’m so fired up about them. Other assignments, work or school, are a struggle to write. It takes me so long to try and line up the words correctly so that it respects a certain style. I can tell it feels forced. I’ve always known it felt forced, but my “failure” helped me actually see that.

I use “failure” as the typical means of describing my past of making mistakes, large and small. Instead of failure, I see so much growth. So much clarity in what direction I want to take and where my true purpose lies. If those people stressing me out focus upon the negative connotation of the word, let them. Let them judge me and critique me.

I will do me. I will live my life exactly how I feel is right for me. Nobody else is walking in my exact shoes. What authority do they have to tell me I am wrong for going in a different direction and thriving in it? In what way does that affect their own lives and ambitions? None at all.

So if you’re ever in a similar boat as I am, wondering what people will think based on the choices your make for yourself and the path you take your life, you do you. Live how you desire, listening to those passions and aspirations that actually make you excited. Don’t feel forced into a mold of what you’re “supposed” to be. In reality, you’re supposed to be exactly as you come to see fit.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie