Semi-Charmed Life

With the spurt of inspiration prevalent, I’ve picked up an old book idea and I’m running with that. I’m in the last month of my semester, and it’s running away with me. I have an interview at a coffee shop for a summer job, and that’s pretty cool (because you know how I feel about coffee)! And I have a friend date/meeting with my oldest friendship today-at a coffee house. I know I seem a little extreme with the coffee, but it’s delightful. It brings a smile to my face and it’s got caffeine. But anyway.

I woke up this morning and had to decide the order I needed to do things in. Take the dog out: number one. Shower, dress, breakfast, blog, wake up the husband (albeit, not necessarily in that order. It ended up being that my go to way to prepare myself for a coffee date was to, you guessed it, drink my morning cup of coffee. I know, it sounds a little redundant, and I guess that’s entirely fair, but if I’m going to show my inner Lorelai (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) then I might as well be proud of it.

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GILMORE GIRLS (Season 2) A – Tisket, A – Tasket (Episode #227463) Roll 51, Frame 15 Pictured: Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore Photo Credit: © The WB / Ron Batzdorff

I am not some wise guru, by any stretch of the imagination. I make mistakes, I change my mind, I buy the wrong kind of corn at the market (sorry, honey) but I live the best way that I can. I drink my coffee strong, I find ways to smile every day-even when I don’t feel like it, I try to be my absolute best. And you know what? Those simple ideas led me to the person I am today.

People are known by the things they hold on the inside. My oldest friend, for instance, I look at her and I see beauty and grace and faith. I look at my husband and see kindness, passion and love (I may be a little biased!). When people look at me, I hope that they see my burning desire to help people, my deep love of rainstorms and sunny mornings (the kind that you see in the “I love, I love, I love you…most ardently” scene from Pride and Prejudice) and a fierce warrior. Those are the things I aspire to, the things that make me who I am. But they are just one part. And that is true of everyone. I have a dorky side that laughs at silly jokes, watches Disney movies on repeat and is really insecure. But no matter how many facets you put together, you still only get to see a part. And I’ll tell you a secret.

That’s my favorite part.

I switched from being a biology major to an anthropology major because I love learning people’s stories. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it’s the knowing that no matter how much I know about a person, I’ll never really know them that fascinates me the most. I haven’t changed since that first time I did ethnographic research. I still love listening to stories. And that’s why I’m going to law school-because with a law degree I can take those stories and give them hope, justice. I am a story activist. Because everyone deserves the chance to be the hero(ine) in their own story, and I can help.

But apart from my personal mission statement, I think it’s positively beautiful that we’re all little snowflakes, little diamonds. Each one of us is so different, but we are all the same. I live for that. It wakes me up each morning and I think that’s how it should be.

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Thankfulness, Day 12

Today has been a struggle. I’ve been in class all day, there’ve been great expectations and I didn’t slep well last night. So when I remembered I had a blog to write about being thankful, I was quite the grumpus. Why should I be thankful for being exhausted and stressed and busy? What do I have to be thankful for today?

And the answer came in the form of homework: diversity.

I study it, as a major and also as a human. I love finding differences and similarities, especially in opinions. But what makes me even happier is the very existence of differences.

I’m a white girl, you can tell it’s me by my Starbucks and messy bun. I live in a college town, so what are you gonna do? But I am much more than my label. I’m a first gen college student (in direct family) and I got married young (which seemed to be a scandal for most people). I graduated as Salutatorian in my high school (with a GPA of 3.98) and the quickest way to my heart is kittens (or coffee. or good food.) But that is just my perspective.

What about the middle aged single mother from Korea whose father was a prisoner tho his own government? (My husband met her today.)

What about the young man who plays football for the college and shares the same major as me?

What about the family with six children, where both parents work?

What about the people who live in Siberia? Kenya? Spain? Australia?

What about people with physical impairments? Geniuses?

The poor? The rich? 

I am always humbled by the way my views seem so grand when I have them, but when I look at all the other possibilities, I am a single drop in the ocean. And that is wonderful.

One drop raises the sea. I hope I can be that drop. And I want to give that chance to other drops too!

I’ll Never Be

I’ll never be good enough, will I?

Excessive demands around every turn,

Lies that we all tell 

But noone believes.

I’ll never live up to the bar, will I?

The one I set so very high

All starry eyed, 

Looking for that hint of perfection.

I’ll never be perfect, will I?

The way you thought I should be,

The way I should look, or behave, or think

But I don’t.

I’ll never be that girl, will I?

The one with her life together, 

Making strategic moves to get ahead,

Even at the cost of others.

I’ll never be so lifeless, will I?

That when all is said and done,

You’ve lost the me that I’d always bee,

That I always wanted to be.

I’ll never be far away, will I?

Just below the surface of the one

Who was forcefed all the bullshit excuses

About why I could never fit in.

I’ll never be the winner, will I?

Making my way across a size zero, plastic stage

With crimson grimaces in place of 

Raw emotion.

I’ll never be a work of art, will I?

The pristine capture of a timeless tragedy,

Wraught in crisp jackets and perfect makeup

Like a mannequin.

I’ll never be like them, will I?

The ones who think that the only thing that matters

Is the size and color of the skin I wear

Like a toy in a skeeball game.

I’ll never actually care about those things, will I?

I’d neer forgive myself for being a carbon copy

Of the unnecessary lies told by everyone else

When all the world ever needed was someone who told the truth.

But that’s never been my strong point.

So maybe you were wrong.

And the truth was something you murdered a long time ago.

I never gave up.

You did.

You gave up listening, seeing, believing in the truth.

You gave up unconditional love for the immitation.

You gave up looking at the heart inside, didn’t you?

But don’t worry, so did they.

And when they buried me in artificial waste, 

They didn’t know:

I was a seed.

  

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.

You Got Me There

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Today is the day that I come out of my shell once more, and tell you all about a subject that I believe needs more sincere attention. It is National Bipolar Awareness Day. I have some helpful infographics here for you all, and I think that Ineed to be the change I want to see in the world, so I’m going to discuss why YOU and I and EVERYONE needs to start talking about mental health.

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5.7 million Americans. “There are 321,271,372 people in the United States of America.” according to howmanyofme.com and that means that there are roughly 2% of Americans (1.77%) living with this disease. Comparatively, there are  10 times as many people who simply live with some mental illness diagnosis. Since this day is dedicated to Bipolar Disorder, I will focus thusly. (These numbers all change depending on where your sources are and who actually did the research, so keep that in mind. These are “low” estimates.)

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So what IS Bipolar Disorder?

I can promise you that it is NOT a crutch. People who live with this disorder are not seeking attention because they have very little else to do-it is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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Sound like fun, right?

It isn’t. There are moments when you feel like you are invincible. You can go for days, live life freely. And then comes the crash-the moment when life isn’t your oyster, it’s your cage and you’re running out of oxygen. And there’s more than one kind. There are more than 2 kinds. But the 2 which everyone seems to be “familiar” with are:

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So what can we do to help?

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All in all, having a mental illness is not much different than having a physical one-because as a human, we are both the mental and the physical. You see, there are not too many people who would go to a cancer survivor and tell them to “get over themselves”, but there are plenty of people who passionately do that to someone with a mental illness. It’s time to change these stigmas and reclaim healthy lives.

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I Live Alone

Dawn breaks

And my heart with it.

I close the blinds

To keep harsh rays at bay.

Time passes

And yet my feelings remain.

The hands on my watch move

Without me.

I make a cup of tea,

But my tears leak into it

I can barely put it down

My hands shake so much.

My husband comes home

But I’m far away

He asks me what’s wrong

But there are too many right answers.

The sun sets

And my problems arise

Waiting for darkness

To persecute me.

I fall asleep

Wishing to be free

But the shell that is me

Keeps me caged and alone.

Passion Will Get You Places

The biggest change I’ve made this year is accepting and embracing the passion which makes me tick. And because I’m a passionate kind of person, here’s some things that I’m sure you all wanted to know I advocate for. This list isn’t complete, but I’m well on my way to changing the world.
Things (and people) that I advocate for:

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-Rape victims and domestic violence victims: they need help, not judgment
-Equality and Equal Rights: Treat people like people
-Feminism: As a woman, I am equal-not superior and not inferior
-Literacy and Reading: It’s the most powerful tool we have
-Mental Health and Care: End the stigmas
-The Right to Choose Your Life: Be an individual, don’t force others to live according to your beliefs
-Environmental Rights: we only get one earth
-Animal Conservation (but NOT holing them for entertainment purposes): each creature is vital to the cycle of life
-Eating Disorder Recovery: again, help not judgment
-Suicide Survivors (and those contemplating): These individuals need hope, as much as help
-Artists: they see the world as beautiful and share it
-STEAM not STEM: Art is a vital part of science, as science is of art
-Religious Rights (and not just Christian): your way isn’t the only way
-Herbalism and Nature Appreciation: the earth is our mother, she supplies loads of good stuff
-Vegetarians and Vegans who don’t hate on Omnivores and vice versa: this goes back to the “you don’t decide how I live my life”
-Well-Informed Decision Makers: because ignorance flatters no one
-Culture Diversity: Because each individual makes up a glorious place in the world, and we need these differences in order to thrive.
So now you know!