I Hope You Found Wonderland, Gabs.

My best friend died yesterday.

Typing it out loud hurts. It feels like it makes it real and I don’t want it to be real. I want it to be a joke or a cruel prank or a dream because I don’t understand.

She was only eighteen.

I first met Gabi through Musical Theatre Workshops. We both liked Alice in Wonderland and Panic! At The Disco and horror movies. I couldn’t tell you our first conversation because I don’t remember all of the details. It kills me a little bit to know that I can’t even recall the first thing I said to her. But, honestly, the first day wasn’t what mattered. Gabi and I clicked from the second we talked. I remember that much. We ended up hanging out a few days later and roaming around bookstores and malls until our feet hurt from walking and our sides hurt from laughing.

Gabi was one of those people that just loved with her whole heart. Once she cared about you, she wouldn’t stop. She never gave up on people, even the ones she probably should have. She was convinced that she could turn the worst people good because she wanted to believe it. I think part of her needed to. I remember every time a boy broke my heart or hurt my feelings, she would be completely prepared to go beat him up or text him something that was sure to make him cry. She was the kind of person who would protect the people she loved with her life.

We had so many adventures, too many to count. From sitting in the parking lot at Lady A and just talking about life and drinking energy drinks to being camp counselors for MTW and bursting into tears when it was all over. From sleepovers and that time we dyed my hair bright red and made the bathroom look like a murder scene to watching the first three Saw movies because “Molly, they’re not even that bad.” Spoiler alert, they were that bad and I still have nightmares about Jigsaw. But it was worth it because Gabi was there to hold my hand and let me break her fingers on the scary parts, a.k.a. all of them. It didn’t matter that I was at college for the last half of our friendship or that we both got super busy. We still found time to talk and catch up. I remember that time we took dozens of photos at your birthday party and even though most of them were blurry and ridiculous, they’re still my favorites.

Gabi, I have enough memories with you to fill at least three scrapbooks, but right now all I can think about is that we can’t make anymore and it hurts. I keep racking my brain, trying to figure out what happened and what I could have done to help. I knew that you were sad and in a bad place, but I thought it was getting better. I just keep thinking that I talked to you the day before you did it and you were fine. Or, maybe you just said you were because you didn’t to be a bother. I don’t know.

You were never a bother, Gabs. Every time we talked, it made me unbelievably happy. You were always beautiful. You were kind and you were sweet and you were special. You deserved to be here and you deserved to be deliriously happy. I’m sorry that life got in the way and you felt that you had no other option. I know you felt like no one would care, but I had to leave class because I was crying so hard this morning, so I want you to know that you were wrong. I’m sorry that you didn’t realize how loved you really were. You’re forever my best friend and you were supposed to be the Maid of Honor at my wedding. I don’t know what to do because you’re just gone and this was never supposed to happen.

I snapchatted you today because for a few seconds I forgot. I waited for you to open it and then it all came crashing down again and I couldn’t breathe. I just sat there and tried to understand. I’m a planner. I always have been. But I never planned for this and now I don’t know how to act or what to do or what to say. All I know is that it hurts and I don’t like it.

I feel like part of my heart is missing now and I can’t find the words to say and that’s not normal because I’m a writing tutor and an English major and words are supposed to be my thing. But you’re not here and that’s not normal either, so I don’t know if I even know what normal is anymore.

I love you, Gabi. I’m sorry that wasn’t enough. And maybe it’s pointless to think about what-ifs and what-could-have-beens, but that’s really the only thing I can do right now.

I’m sorry.

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Of Mental Breakdowns and Time Management

Well.

It’s that time of year again. The point in the semester where everything feels like it’s building up and preparing to squash you like a bug. And, to be honest, it probably is.

Midterm.

Ugh.

Not only does this mark the point where you actually take your midterms, but it also means that you’re halfway through the semester. Halfway to finals, which can make or break you.

If you’re not careful, this time of year will drown you. It will eat you alive and then spit you back out with stresses that you didn’t even know you had. It’s that point during school where every professor seems to be assigning extra homework, papers, and projects at exactly that same time. Personally, I’m about ready to crawl under a rock and hibernate until Thanksgiving Break.

Realistically, however, that is not exactly an option. So, here are some tricks for surviving the semester without your mind spectacularly exploding.

Tip #1: Breathe.

Before you start any paper or assignment, take a deep breath. If you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a minute to just inhale and exhale until your heart rate goes back to normal and you feel some semblance of calm.

You’re not going to get anything productive done if you spend the entire time worrying and convincing yourself that whatever you come up with won’t be any good. You can do this. You just have to take it one step at a time.

Tip #2: Stay ahead.

Try to make time for your homework the day before it’s due. Finishing things early keeps a load of stress off your back and allows you a little bit of time to relax before class instead of hastily answering those last few questions.

Tip #3: Time Management is crucial.

College isn’t just about keeping up with your assignments. It’s about knowing when you have exams, quizzes, or papers due. It is about being able to plan your time in a way that you have a little bit of breathing room for if a commitment or activity goes longer than you thought it would. When you have everything you need to do laid out in front of you, whether in a calendar, planner, or online scheduling app, it takes a load off your shoulders because you can physically see what you need to do.

This allows you to stay on track much more easily than if you were just trying to remember everything.

Fun fact: Today in Psych, we talked about how the brain can actually only remember 4-7 bits of information at a time.

Tip #4: Take a break.

While it’s important to get everything done in a timely manner, it’s also just as important to give yourself a break when you need it. Don’t be afraid to plan out time for a Netflix episode or an hour of video games. It’s okay to do something completely pointless to get your mind to stop working so hard. Even the smartest of us need a break sometimes.

It doesn’t make you any less intelligent or any less capable because you took a few minutes between Math homework and your English essay to fangirl over the new Gilmore Girls trailer or to go on a short nature walk.

As long as the ratio of productivity to breaks leans more towards the former, it’s okay to take a breather. Your mind works a lot better when it has time to rest.

Tip #5: Get a good night’s sleep.

Yes, you’re in college, the time of adventuring and late nights. But adventures can happen during daylight too. Staying up til 3am seems like a great idea until your alarm goes off for class the following morning. Stay up on the weekends if you really want to, but try to get a decent amount of sleep on school nights. When you are awake and alert, your mind is more likely to retain information that you learn during class.

Bottom Line

College is tough. It will make you want to pull your hair out, especially during these midterm months. But if you stay focused, get enough sleep, and allow yourself some downtime, you should survive fully intact and no longer on the edge of a mental breakdown.

When you feel like crying, look up dumb puns on the internet or YouTube videos of cats. I promise that the semester isn’t as hard as you think it is. You aren’t actually drowning. It just feels like it right now.

You are smart and successful and you can do this. 🙂

What I Really Mean When I Say No

(Because there can never be enough blog posts about consent.)

When I say no, what am I really saying? Clearly there must be some hidden message for you to decode. Obviously I cannot actually mean no. Right?

Wrong.

There is an astounding number of people who don’t actually know what consent is. It’s one of those things that should be common knowledge, but, for some reason, isn’t. And, honestly, that is a terrifying thought.

Let’s look at how Merriam-Webster defines consent.

consent

noun | con·sent

Simple Definition of consent

  • : permission for something to happen or be done

  • : agreement about an opinion or about something that will happen or be done

As you can see, this definition really leaves no wiggle room. Consent is permission. It is the agreement that something will or will not happen.

That means that if you ask me something and I say no, you do not have my consent. For instance, let’s say my boyfriend asks if he can kiss me. I say no because I’m just not feeling it. Because I said no, he is not allowed to kiss me. Even if he really wants to, he has to keep his lips to himself until I give him consent.

Consent is an extremely simple concept, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

First of all, consent is not permanent. 

Just because someone has agreed to something once does not mean that they are agreeing to it forever. If I give you permission to hold my hand, that only applies in that one instance. You can’t just hold my hand whenever you want after that. You need to ask every time because my answer may change.

Second, consent is not implied. 

You cannot assume that you have someone’s consent. You have to ask them outright because the answer might be different than you think. This sort of goes along with the first point. You can’t assume that you don’t have to ask just because it’s happened before. People are allowed to change their minds.

Third, you are never entitled to someone else’s consent.

I cannot stress this point enough. There is such a thing as sexual assault by spouse or partner. You are not entitled to someone else’s body because you’re dating or married to them. Consent belongs to the individual and it is always required, no matter the circumstances.

Let’s go back to the example about my boyfriend asking for a kiss. Now, obviously, he doesn’t pause before he kisses me to ask every single time. We’re dating and I like to kiss him. However, if I tell him no, he respects that. He doesn’t get to kiss me anyway because we are dating or because we have kissed before. Consent doesn’t work like that.

Consent equals communication. You can’t assume consent, no matter what the situation is. You can be married to the person and that does not mean you get to decide what physical activity you get and when. That’s a joint decision that both parties have to agree with.

Consent is black and white; it is not gray. It is simple and people need to stop trying to change the definition of it. Consent is a verbal exchange in which two people agree to a certain action or activity.

There is a lovely little video that compares tea to consent. I highly suggest that everybody watches it because it is precious and cute and explains things very well.

Bottom line: Consent is a prerequisite, not an luxury.

Once Upon A Time…

I like fairy tales. I like them a lot. I’m a total sucker for happily-ever-afters and Prince Charming and glass slippers. And I like to think that everyone is living a fairy tale, whether they know or not.

I mean, think about it. Fairy tales aren’t just about the romance. They’re not just about kissing the right guy at midnight or turning frogs into princes. They’re about finding yourself and getting your happy ending because no one is going to go out and get it for you.

Look at Cinderella. Her life started out pretty horrible. She lost her dad and ended up with a stepmom who couldn’t care less about her. She was basically stuck in a life of abuse and neglect. She was in an absolutely horrible situation, but she refused to have a horrible attitude. She was kind and sweet and caring and never stopped dreaming. Obviously, having a fairy god-mother helped move things along, but Cinderella was the one that decided to go out there and make her dreams come true by attending the ball. She went out and danced her heart away until the clock struck midnight. She fell in love and fought with all of her heart to find her Prince Charming.

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How many of us have lost a family member? How many of us have had that friend that gives us the push we need in the right direction to fight for what we want?

And what about Elsa? One of the most recent Disney movies, taken from a tale by Hans Christian Anderson, Frozen tells the story of the Ice Queen. After gravely injuring her sister  Anna as a child, Elsa takes her powers over ice and hides them under gloves and layers until she becomes Queen after her parents pass away tragically. Though Elsa wraps herself in shields of aloofness and coldness, it is clear that she misses her sister just as much as Anna misses her. She hides herself in her room for years, terrified that she will cause hurt to someone she loves unconditionally.

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How many of us have had something that we are ashamed of that keeps us from relationships or even just friendships? So many people have done things that they regret and feel ashamed of that make them shy away from comfort and people. The fear of the past prevents an astounding number of individuals from moving on to the future.

This happened in the case of Elsa, though she eventually learned to “let it go” and just be herself. We can take the mistakes in our past and turn them into lessons. No one is perfect and we can’t expect to never mess up. The best we can do is apologize to the people we hurt and try to find a way to fix it.

My personal favorite fairy tale is the story of Alice in Wonderland. As most people know, this is not a typical fairy tale by any means. Some may not even call it one. I do, however. I love it because Alice is just a child driven by curiosity and wonder. She isn’t thinking about romance or love. She just sees a rabbit with a waistcoat and a pocket watch and wants to know where it is going. Obviously, she follows the rabbit and falls down the rabbit hole, finding herself in a new and strange world when she lands at the bottom. After experiencing a flood of her own tears, a tea party, and a trial, not to mention her almost execution, Alice is woken up by her sister, revealing that the entire story was a curious dream.

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Whether you look at the story as a dream or not, we can all relate to Alice’s struggles. Her curiosity leads to her to new friends and a new place, but also gets her into trouble when she isn’t careful. We should never stop being curious, but we should always be careful to appreciate what we already have.

Fairy tales are full of morals and lessons, but if you look closely enough, you might find more of yourself than you thought in Ariel, Aladdin, or the Mad Hatter. Our lives are already fairy tales. We just have to treat them as such.

 

How To Be Happy

Happiness is not the easiest thing to obtain. It is also not the easiest thing to hold on to. This makes for a difficult situation.

For me, one of the key factors getting in between me and happiness is other people. I am well aware that I put too much trust, faith, and pixie dust in the people around me. People that honestly don’t have a right to dictate my happiness.

It’s hard to not listen to what people say about you, whether it be behind your back or to your face. When someone calls you ugly or fat or stupid, you tend to listen. There is a quote that says, “Call a girl pretty, and she’ll forget it in an hour. Call a girl ugly, and she’ll remember it for the rest of her life.” When you compliment someone, it will make them smile, but if you insult them, they’ll hold onto that and think back to it whenever they get a compliment in the future.

You should never base your happiness off of someone else’s. Do what makes you happy. One of my biggest pet peeves is when parents try to force their kids to go into fields that they don’t find enjoyable. There is a difference between being concerned that your child will not earn enough money to sustain their lifestyle and making your child feel like their dreams and desires don’t matter.

If you want to be an artist, go for it. If it makes you happy, do it. But be practical when you do. The idea of a “starving artist” is romanticized when it definitely shouldn’t be. Embrace your inner artist and do what makes you smile, but find a way to support yourself at the same time. Whether it’s freelance jobs online or working part-time at a local restaurant, it doesn’t matter. Find a way to support yourself enough that you can become independent and then focus on making it as an artist or a musician or an actor or whatever you aspire to be.

Are you happy? If the answer is yes, then clearly you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, change something. Look for damaging people or stressful situations and remove them from your life. You can’t keep people that hurt you around because you feel guilty or obligated. You are entitled to your own health and happiness. If someone is compromising your goals, you are allowed to drop them. You are allowed to walk away. It does not make you a bad person. It does not make you mean or cruel or wrong in any way. If having someone in your life causes you stress or sadness or anger, why are they still present? Why are they still a part of your life? Clearly, they don’t deserve the privilege of being there. Being in your life is not a right. It is a privilege and you will meet people who don’t deserve it. You shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed because trying to please someone else is making you miserable and compromising your own happiness. You have the right to kick someone out for your own benefit.

There is not a magic formula for being happy. But I have come up with some tips that should aid in the process.

1. Never go to sleep angry. 

Figure out why you’re angry and solve it. If you go to sleep angry, you’ll wake up angrier. Work it out with yourself or someone else and then get a good night’s rest because emotions are exhausting.

2. Enjoy the little things. 

Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Count the stars every once in a while and see if you can pick out constellations, like Orion. Listen to your favorite song a few times. Smile at a friend. Stop to smell the roses.

3. Spend more time outside.

Nature is scientifically proven to improve moods and lessen stress. Find a trail and go hiking with someone you love. Walk through a tiny town. Go on a scavenger hunt to find different types of plants and animals.

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4. Fake it til you make it. 

I’m not saying fake a smile every time you’re upset. You don’t have to pretend to be happy. But, sometimes, the best plan is to put on a grin and act like you’re having the best day in the world. If you act like you’re miserable, chances are, you will be. You might miss out on having really great experiences and laughs by being too lost in your emotions.

5. Exercise. 

Do some push-ups. Go for a walk. Find something fun to do that will get your energy up and make you work. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.” I think Elle from Legally Blonde definitely had the right idea.

6. Stop worrying. 

I know that I’m guilty of this to the extreme. It’s something a lot of people do and it’s definitely not healthy. We worry so much about things that have no chance of happening. I worry about getting to class late, so I leave thirty minutes early, even though I live four minutes away. I worry about embarrassing myself so much that I keep my mouth shut in public because I’m too scared to talk. Worrying is an epidemic and it’s absolutely horrible. It makes people change their entire personalities and go to ridiculous extremes to avoid situations that may not even happen. Take a deep breath and stop trying to find the bad in everything.

7. Do things that make you happy every day. 

If you love drawing, draw. Even if it’s just a stick figure in the corner of your history notes. If you love singing, sing in the shower. If you love exercise, run around your neighborhood once or twice. If you love animals, YouTube some cute cat videos. It doesn’t have to be something huge that takes hours. Just do something that you genuinely enjoy every day.

8. Keep challenging yourself. 

Always be striving to be better, whether in skill or behavior. Never stop learning new things and perfecting things you already know.

9. Let yourself be happy. 

You deserve to be happy. Even if you’re not perfect. Even if you feel like you’re not worth it. You are and you deserve the world, darling. You are special and beautiful and you are something to be proud of. Smile, because happiness isn’t a privilege. It’s a basic human right. Repeat after me: I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be proud of myself. I deserve to smile.

Happiness isn’t black and white and it isn’t easy. You might not have it right now, but you will before you know it. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel like the world is against you. But it’s not. The only thing against you is yourself. Buck up, buttercup, you’ve got the world at your fingertips and you will find happiness.

 

 

12 Common Misconceptions About Dating

Most people think that once they hit sixteen or seventeen, Cupid is just going to shoot an arrow at their chest and boom! Love. But that’s not how it works. It’s actually a lot more complicated and a lot harder than it looks in romantic comedies.

I started dating when I was in middle school. Well, to be honest, I had a boyfriend in 4th grade. His name was Eric. And then he moved to Florida and conveniently forgot to inform me of this. Go figure. But anyways, I’m not going to count that.

And I’m going off topic. This post is not about my dating history, though there are some pretty entertaining stories about relationships I’ve had. Maybe next time. This post is about dating, love, and some common misconceptions of it that I’ve debunked in my 19 years. So here we go!

1) Love at first sight is not a thing. You can be attracted to someone at first sight and you can be interested at first sight. But love doesn’t happen instantaneously. Love at first sight doesn’t exist, as hard as that is to hear. Lust at first sight does not equal love.

2) Things don’t magically fall into place. There’s not some sort of change that happens after you turn sixteen that makes all the boys you know start asking you on dates. Sixteen is just a number. Yeah, sometimes you get lucky and a guy will ask you out and things will go great. But that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, you just have to be really really patient.

3) One date does not equal a relationship. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this. Most of my relationships started before an actual date was had. But that’s not how it should be. Dating is about finding out what you want in the person you’ll have a future with. It is about getting to know one another before slapping a label on it and calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend.

4) It’s okay to text the guy first or ask him out. My mom always told me that it was the guy’s job to make the first move. And, yeah, that’s chivalrous and everything…but guys can get shy too. Guys aren’t perfect and sometimes they’re going to get nervous and over analyze and convince themselves that you’re just not that into them, even though you totally are. And texting someone first all the time gets boring and kills your self-esteem.

5) On the same lines, don’t always make him pay. I mean, it’s great that they can support you and take you out to dinner, but I guarantee you that it’ll make him smile if you pay for a milkshake every once in a while. One of my favorite traditions with Brendan was going to Sheetz and buying a thing of fries and a smoothie for us to split. That was always my thing to pay for. And I loved it.

6) Dates don’t have to cost a huge amount of money. Go on a scavenger hunt. Have a picnic in the park. Go for a walk and take pictures. Find a movie on netflix and cuddle. Paint twister. Drive until you find something to explore. There are so many things that you can have a blast doing without spending a ton of cash.

7) Don’t take the other person for granted. Dating shouldn’t just be fun in the beginning. It doesn’t matter how long you date someone for, you should always be excited to find out something new about them. Don’t stop asking them their favorite color or song or movie because people change all the time. Part of being in a relationship is constantly getting to know the other person. One of my very favorite things to do when I’m starting to really like someone is play the question game. It’s a great way to learn about each other without the pressure.

8) Love isn’t perfect. And neither are relationships. You might meet someone who you think is perfect for you. And sometimes, it turns out that they aren’t. That is a really painful process, but you have to let go. It’s okay to say goodbye to people who don’t make you happy anymore. It’s okay to stop having feelings for someone. It doesn’t make you a bad person. We’re human and humans make mistakes and change their minds.

9) Fighting in relationships is healthy. I’m not talking about fighting over every little thing and screaming down each other’s throats. I’m talking about actually talking about your problems. If you want a real relationship, you have to deal with real problems. And they won’t just go away if you avoid them. Nothing kills relationships faster than problems that you didn’t know were there. You aren’t going to agree on everything. People aren’t the same. Eventually, your opinions or desires will clash and you’ll have to deal with that.

10) It’s not all about personality. You can’t have a healthy relationship if you aren’t physically attracted to the person you’re dating. The fact is, you don’t notice someone’s personality first most of the time. Your first impression is almost always physical. You like their smile or think they have pretty eyes or think they have achieved male model status. Physical attractiveness might not be the most important thing in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. I’m going to be perfectly honest here and embarrass myself (and probably Brendan). The first thing I noticed about him was his abs. The second thing I noticed was his sweet spirit. So, yes, physical attributes do make a difference. Just don’t base a relationship on the fact that someone is handsome or pretty.

11) Don’t be so picky. First impressions aren’t always right and your mom isn’t always wrong when she tells you to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Again, we’re human and humans make mistakes. You might meet someone and base your impression of them on a day where they just got horrible news or had a bad experience. If you go into dating expecting to find perfection, you’re going to be disappointed. Yes, you can find the perfect person for you. But they aren’t always perfect when you first meet them. And sometimes the person you are meant to be with is right in front of you and you just never realized it because you already labeled them as something else.

12) Stop stressing over every little thing. Dating is supposed to be fun. Healthy relationships aren’t about finding things to worry about. You shouldn’t look for something to fight over. You marry who you date and you should want to marry someone that makes you happy. Stop letting your fear control you and just feel what you feel. There will be problems; every relationship has them. But don’t let them destroy something beautiful. Don’t make up problems because you get scared. It’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to want something to work out with everything you have. But if you overthink and over analyze, you’ll end up destroying it before it even has a chance to turn into something real.