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

A Study of…Something

Today I’m just planning to ramble. Hopefully you can keep up. I just need to get my thoughts out of my head and onto something tangible.

So at this point in my college career, since I plan to graduate a year early (fingers crossed), and I am a member of my school’s honors program, I have to make a thesis project. Very similar to what you would find in graduate school. It’s basically a glorified research project of your choosing, judged by a committee of professors and experts, about a very specific topic.

I’ve known since the very beginning of college I would end up having to make a senior thesis. If you’re one of the (very) few people who stick with the entirety of the honors program, it’s a requirement. But as we all know, I am extremely indecisive.

My goal for the summer was to get a majority of my research done so I could whip out a research paper. Seems fairly easy and straightforward, right? I had tentatively started looking into social media’s impact on the 2016 presidential election, had even found a large array of sources, and had started into the topic further.

Except I had absolutely no motivation to do it. Just skimming through the articles felt like a chore. I may have gone through three articles tops. Obviously whatever I was planning to do with my summer to be ultra-productive, never reached fruition. I should have seen it coming a mile away. I mean, right after I finished binging my eleventh television series.

This fall I am taking a thesis prep course to get students in the mindset of starting their research projects, picking a topic and a committee. Students can actually finish the class early if they have a solid plan already in place before the end of the semester. Which despite only being one credit hour, is a very tempting offer. So I’ve been back at it again trying to conjure up a thesis idea.

A major reason why I’m rambling on today is because all involve my blog.  I mean, if I’m already here writing about 5000 words a week, I might as well put it good use, right?

If I went in a more research-heavy direction, it would probably be something about how blogging affects journalism, or what type of content engages followers most and draws more traffic in. I mean, that could probably be fairly interesting.

I think ideally I want to focus more on the content of what I post. More of a collection of personal essays revolving around one of the major topics I usually discuss, like eating disorder recovery or depression or veganism. Just my thoughts and words on these ideas I’m so passionate about. Like so many other bucket lists, I have always wanted to publish my work, preferably a book. While it’s not exactly tailored toward hard news journalism or anything, I know writing is my strong suit. And if I want to dedicate a year of my time toward a project, I want to do something that will keep my interest that long. I mean, I’m still here writing here, so I think that’s a good sign.

Everything comes back to the fact you have to listen to your passions and intuition. People will try and point in whatever direction they think is best, and they can provide valuable insight for you. But it’s ultimately up to you. Even if you decide to do something completely unexpected, if you have passion and ambition behind it, I see no reason why you shouldn’t. That’s what people and professionals should be interested in most. Sure, maybe you can whip out a great research paper without much effort. That looks great on a resume or in a portfolio. If people ask you to discuss your work, however, you’ll lack that spark of life and excitement you gain from something you really love.

This inner dilemma is inevitable when you want to put academic and professional interest toward an activity that others think is “just a hobby.” It’s not a typical path. It might not make the most money. Of course you should be realistic, but if you’re willing to work hard and fight for what you truly want, go for it. Those are the people I admire most. I could honestly care less about geniuses who can earn a fortune from developing some mind-blowing scientific theory or technology, but if it came easily to them, if they don’t find joy from it, if they’re just in it for the money, I find it hard to respect them. It’s the people who work hard every single day, who face those challenges and obstacles head on, who might stumble a few times, who make their dreams reality on their time frame, those are the people worthy of genuine praise.

With all of that said, I’m stuck at a crossroads right now deciding which path will be best for me. I have so many ideas and can get distracted easily from pinpointing a concise thesis to follow. But I know whatever I end up choosing, I want to be able to put my personal stamp on it and be beyond proud of my work. I want to reflect on this paper or book and know that I did something amazing. Something that filled me with passion. And hopefully that can help me find a career that fills me with that same passion on a daily basis. I’m thinking ahead of myself. The future is overwhelming. Just kidding, everyday work can be overwhelming enough. I know I’ll end up where I should be. But I’m thankful I have the loved ones and readers supporting me through this crazy thing called life.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Learning Human Nature

I’m currently in a very difficult position. I’m questioning whether to talk about it, but I feel like it could help others and perhaps the loved one I’m about to mention reads this post. Here goes nothing.

A loved one of mine is in a difficult spot. But I don’t think he actually realizes it, as the problem he faces is one that has developed over his entire life. And that problem is the important life skill of developing meaningful, deep relationships with others.

This is someone I always looked up to and was even angry and jealous at for his ability to small talk with anybody, being very likable and having opportunities simply handed to him. He has had the same one best friend since kindergarten, always there for each other, and I longed for something like that. I felt for a long time like I wasn’t worthy or able to form a friendship like that. I had tried for years to find that one ideal best friend, but they always seemed to move away and forget about me. I felt inadequate and very alone.

But now I feel like the tables may be turning. I’ve gone through my fair share of hardships, but I’ve come to a really great point where I have made connections with many different people. It’s not like I talk to every single one of these people everyday, but I can easily just send a quick message and catch up with them. Even when I’m in a lower mood and have thoughts of being “forever alone,” I realize how incredibly grateful I am for being surrounded by amazing people.

My loved one, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same support system. He knows a lot of different people and definitely surpasses me on number of Facebook friends, but the value of those relationships don’t add up as much. The one best friend he has had for his entire life is now a farther distance away for the first time ever. What was once a crutch to rely on is now far away, and it’s up to him to take this new opportunity in a new place to find more connections.

One main issue is the fear of getting hurt. When it comes to any relationship, this is inevitable. It’s actually important to go through the emotional process so you at least know what to expect. And even though yes, when you put yourself out there and step outside your comfort zone, you’ll get hurt. You’ll fall down a few times, and it won’t be fun. But when you find someone you click with, who makes you feel great, the hurt is worth it.

Sure, being alone all the time is easy for some of us. I can attest to that. I need alone time to feel sane. I could easily go to movies or fancy restaurants by myself just because. The ability to be comfortable in solitude is so important and usually underrated. It’s not good to be afraid of being alone either. But these skills and qualities are separate from the skills of being opening, welcoming and friendly. Even as someone as independent as myself, I know life is meant to be shared with others. I love living alone, but I also want to get married one day and share my life with someone else. It’s all about balance.

Relationships and social interaction are crucial components for overall wellness. Just as important as physical and mental health, sometimes the best medicine can simply be dropping everything to see somebody else and spill your guts. Research shows time and time again that socializing is beneficial to health, helping us live longer. It gives you confidence and provides support during difficult times. In work and school, you can concentrate better. You can also problem-solve and compromise better.

It’s all about learning to listen to your intuition and personal needs Some people need and want to socialize more than others, and that’s completely okay. But if you don’t have that foundation of meaningful people in your life, it’s virtually impossible to achieve optimal wellness. You can’t just rely on work or school to fill that void either. You’ll end up coming home every night with nothing to fall back on.

It’s very morbid, but I occasionally think about this situation by picturing my future funeral. I hope to have many people remember me and my best qualities and miss me. I can do all of the amazing achievements in life I want, earn advanced degrees and go to cool events and concerts and visit amazing places, but in the retrospect of life, if nobody cares or remembers…how much does that matter?

Socializing doesn’t come easily to everyone. It can be scary and uncomfortable. It might even make you anxious. It truly is a learned skill you have to practice if your routine is solitude. For college last year, that was forcing myself to go out and socializing at least once a month. It held myself accountable to make sure my life wasn’t strictly revolved around working and studying, that I was enjoying the other parts of college, too, like making memories driving to restaurants at midnight just because. Even just reaching out to others to see how life is going is important.

And I totally get meeting people online. Social media is a great tool capable of connecting people like never before. Some of my relationships have strengthened from simply interacting on social media. But people you meet strictly on social media and never meet, it’s much harder to form the same relationship you have with people physically in your life. I’m not undermining them, but you can’t rely completely on them to feel fulfilled.

Cliche as it is, just be yourself. There’s a reason why small talk is so cringe-worthy: nothing substantial comes from it. It takes no thought to pass by somebody and ask how the weather is. Somebody’s background and passions are so much more interesting. But you can’t reach that point of intimacy from surface-level interactions, letting down your guard and just being real and genuine.

Overall, admittedly, socializing isn’t always too fun. I can remember several times where I went out and all I wanted to do was go back home and not see anybody for a few days. But the end results, the friendships and relationships I have with so many people…I honestly never would have pictured for myself even six months ago. I didn’t just randomly find friends and automatically clicked: I had to work for it. I had to prioritize forming relationships and be open to potentially uncomfortable situations to stumble upon great people and lose some friends who no longer benefit my life. It’s all part of the process. You just have to deep your toes in and go for it.

Hopefully I could be of some help to somebody out there. Knowing how to socialize is not entirely innate. For loners like me, it can be very intimidating. But I am so grateful for how much progress I’ve made. If I can do it, you can, too. Live your life to the fullest and make some awesome memories with people you enjoy; you won’t regret it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Hopelessly, Perpetually…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

A Different College Survival Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

A Letter to Who I Once Was

Dear sixteen-year-old Allie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

What the Critics Say

Most of my posts are very spur-of-the-moment ideas and occurrences that I have no better way of comprehending than writing them out. So here I am. Grab some popcorn because we’re in for an interesting ride.

So I work for broadcast radio news. I’ve only had experience in print news, so since I began my internship in January, I have struggled trying to convert my writing style into one that is friendlier to the ears. (I have heard the phrase “don’t tell me a story, show it” too many times to count, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of storytelling? Ugh.) I’ve definitely made improvements from where I’ve first started, but I know in the depths of my being that writing for the eye, like this blog allows me to do, is where I thrive. Fitting into a broadcast mold isn’t for me. But that’s just the background information here.

For the past months, I have been putting together a feature story, I kind of “crown jewel” project for my time here to show off my skills. I decided to choose a topic I am particularly passionate about, which is gifted education in my state and how it is virtually nonexistent. I got to go back to the camp I love (and raved about last week) and have really deep conversations about how important it is to support these kids. As I’ve been putting together all of the pieces of my story, really writing from my heart, my emotional attachment to this story is undeniable.

As with most projects I take on, especially when it comes to my writing, I become very emotionally attached to it. I’m someone who works very hard, putting my best effort toward everything I do. It’s just not a perfectionist thing, but a thing involving my drive and passion. And every piece of writing, whether it be a blog post, essay, column or news report theoretically becomes one of my children.

So here comes my dilemma. I’m on the second draft of my feature article. Now if I was writing this for print, I probably would have published this last week. I’ve taken a few points of improvement and applied them. My writing is an area of my life that gives me great confidence. But that makes it so much harder to take criticism. I read my piece to the editor, which basically led to him telling me to rewrite everything. Luckily it was a phone conversation so I could fake enthusiasm well, but once I hung up, I was about ready to burst into tears and just walk out of the office.

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Don’t be a Simon Cowell to yourself. Cheer yourself on. If you know you’re doing your best, believe it.

I have always struggled with criticism. When you put so much effort into everything you do, when you receive feedback saying that what you’re doing isn’t enough is hard to swallow. I love encouragement and praise for my hard work. I like to be recognized when something I do is worthwhile. But if those words involve anything negative, it’s equivalent to a stranger scolding my children. I take that as a personal attack. I become defensive, and in those moments of fight or flight, I retreat from the uncomfortable.

I think it’s also hard to take others’ criticism because I am so hard on myself. As previously mentioned, I’m a perfectionist. If I feel like I’m not doing enough, that I’m disappointing anybody, I beat myself up for it. I work twenty times harder to make up for it. This mentality stems into every area, from my body and size to my schoolwork.

With all of this in mind, you’re probably wondering how to overcome this personal obstacle. Well, that’s a work in progress. In moments of distress, rather than overreacting, take a deep breath. Walk away from the situation if you have to. Take yourself away from that emotional defense mechanism and find your inner logic and understanding. If that piece of criticism is from a place of genuine improvement, to help you become even better, consider it. Rather than getting lost in your own thoughts, take that outside voice and see how you can apply it. Chances are doing so will just help you grow and achieve the higher caliber work you’re striving for. These people giving you criticism probably have the knowledge and skills to know how to be constructive with their feedback.

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I’m no Buddhist, but this guy had a point. When we attach ourselves to work, we allow criticism to unintentionally affect our self-worth. While you the one producing work, that work is not you.

I had another instance last year in my Honors English class, the first time I’ve seen true distaste for my writing. I immediately shook with anger and frustration when seeing a lower-than-normal grade for my first essay, and when I approached him about it, I was practically in tears (I don’t handle confrontation well, if you couldn’t tell already). When he gave vague reasons for the grade, I spent the entire semester working to produce writing he preferred. I was in his office every week to discuss how to improve. Now would I ever write essays the way I did in that situation ever again? No, definitely not. His advice basically disregarded everything I’ve learned in previous English classes or will ever use in the future. But in that experience, I learned how to adapt, to not take myself too seriously, and to jump through a few hoops to maintain a high GPA. In that example, I took my emotional side out of my work to think critically to try and perfect my work in an unfamiliar way. I showed my professor that I was open to anything, that I appreciated his input. Especially starting my first semester of college, learning that lesson early was important, and looking back, I am thankful for it now.

Now if this criticism, once you’ve analyzed it, is not helpful or out of a place of support, toss it aside. Some people criticize without anything solid backing it up. Once you analyze these kinds of critiques, you realize that they just don’t make sense. Ultimately, words are just words. They allow them to have power over you that ruins your mood. Accept any feedback with a thankful attitude, but if it isn’t anything worth considering, don’t worry about it. I understand that is much easier said than done, but in these moments, rely on yourself to know that you’re doing your best and that your work and effort is valued. It might take a lifetime to truly believe in those words. I know I have a long way to go in that regard, but I know I have come very far from where I used to be, and I’m so proud of myself for that. If anything, treat yourself like you would a best friend who may feel distraught from criticism, an outside voice of reason to both comfort and analyze the situation.

Life is too short to dwell on negativity. It’s just not worth it. But what might feel like punches to the gut could be opportunities to produce work you never thought possible. Sometimes we need that little push to get ourselves out of our own heads. Just don’t take things too seriously. Life is a bumpy enough road already. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie