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. 🙂

To The Girl Who Saved Me

We all have regrets.

Some of them are small. Some of them are large. Some of them are significant. Some of them are not. Some of them we fight to remember. Others we wish we could forget.

Every single one of us has done something that we wish we hadn’t or said something we wish we could unsay. We all have things in our pasts that we wish would just go away.

Personally, I’ve had my fair share of regrets. Unfortunately, I’ve got one regret that stands out above all of the others.

I used to go to a private school. It was very Gossip Girl-esque in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t nearly as snooty. While, yes, there were some snobs, there were also great people. People that would hug you in the hall on the way to class and make you feel like you mattered.

There was a girl named Natalie. She was one of those people that didn’t talk much in public, but would always smile at you when she saw you. She was a sweetheart, to say the least. You could tell she was shy, but she had a big heart and it showed. For the life of me, I cannot remember what brought us together. It was probably a play or a class or something. It was years ago and honestly, that wasn’t what stood out to me. She would always say hi and I would wave back and that’s just how it was.

I remember one day when I was having a rough time. I have no idea why I was upset, but I was. I was sitting outside the middle school on a bench instead of going to the cafeteria for lunch with the rest of the school. I was kind of a nerd, so I spent my lunch period filling out the pages of my science workbooks and reading whatever stack of novels I’d managed to check out from the library that week. That day I was too upset to do any of that. I remember sitting on that stupid bench and crying my eyes out.

And then Natalie sat down next to me. She asked me if I was okay and I shook my head. She didn’t ask what was wrong or what had happened. She just sat next to me and waited. I eventually started talking and she just listened. When I was done with my awkward mixture of crying and rambling, she nodded and said it was going to be okay. And the funny thing was, I believed her. She smiled and said it like it was a fact. It didn’t sound like the empty platitudes that you give people all the time. It sounded real and I knew she meant it.

She had barely known me. I mean, we were friends. We saw each other in the halls. We could have a conversation. We could make small talk. We knew each other. But we didn’t hang out in the same social circles. We were complete opposites in a lot of ways. She didn’t have any obligation to stop and talk to me. And, yet, she did. She stopped and sat down and made sure I was okay. She listened to me vent and she didn’t make me feel stupid about it. That was just the kind of person she was. And she was the kind of person I needed that day.

I think about that day a lot now.

Natalie took her own life on January 27th of 2015.

I had left Augusta Prep about a year after that talk. I started homeschooling and only went back to Augusta Prep once to reconnect with some of my old friends. It was my second semester at college. I remember I was sitting in the game room with Brendan when I saw a post on my Facebook feed. I remember freezing and Brendan asking what was wrong. I remember crying because it couldn’t be true, right? It had to be a joke.

It wasn’t.

I couldn’t tell you how long I stared at her profile, reading all the posts and trying to understand. I’d like to say that I was surprised. I’d really, really, really like to. But, honestly, I can’t. Looking back, I had known she was struggling. I’d even wondered a few times if I should message her and see how she was. Every time she posted something on Facebook, I would get the urge to open up a chat and tell her I liked her hair or let her know that she was beautiful. But I never did. And I will always regret that.

I’ll always wonder if it would have helped. If it would have been that one thing that changed her mind. Logically, I know that’s stupid and selfish. But emotionally, I just feel guilty.

Natalie, you were always nice to me. You were always there to smile and wave. I wasn’t close with you and I wasn’t a big part of your life. But you were still there when I needed someone to talk to.

You don’t know it, but you saved me. In the beginning of 2015, I was having a really hard time. I was struggling and my anxiety was all over the place. I was having suicidal thoughts and my depression was eating me alive. Honestly, I was about to give up.

And then I heard about you. And I saw all of the posts from your friends and family. I saw how people were breaking and I just kept thinking that it could have been me.

You saved me without meaning to. You made me realize how much it would hurt the people around me. You showed me that life is worth living because people are worth caring about. You matter. And you will never know how much I appreciate your small, but significant part in my life. Thank you for the smiles. Thank you for that day.

I hope you’re happy up there in Heaven. If anyone deserves peace, it’s you. I’m sorry that I never sent you that message. I’m sorry that it’s too late now. I hope you can forgive me.

You’re a shooting star, Natalie. You always have been. So shine on.

 

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.

Image result for cinderella illustration

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.

Image result for elsa anna

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.

Image result for alice in wonderland novel

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.

 

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.