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LXVII: What I've Learned, Thus Far, From 2018?

Here we are! Another installment and another year of lessons!

I’ve changed things up this year and entered into it feeling a bit more liberated than I was in 2017. I had decided early on that I was going to do what I wanted, when I wanted and try things. But, with that, I also opened myself up to people which is something that I normally steer very clear of.

Whenever you open up your heart, mind, and ears to new people, you’ll definitely be learning new lessons, however. Trust me!

So, here are a couple of the lessons that I’ve learned, thus far, this year:

STEER CLEAR OF THOSE WHO WANT YOUR RHYTHM BUT NOT YOUR BLUES

Wanting my rhythm and not my blues simply means that someone wants to be around me when I am happy and having fun, but when stuff hits the fan of life, they want to hit the road.

I’ve had this type of person in my life plenty-a-time!

The bad thing about me, however, is that when it comes to people who I have allowed into my life, I genuinely try my best to keep them.

BUT, sometimes in life you go through things, not to learn to work through them, but to learn to walk away from bad situations

This year has been one big lesson on walking away for me. It gets so lonely sometimes, but walking away from people who want to be around when all is well but leave when things get difficult is a very necessary reality. 

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

The way you view a situation says a lot about the way you view the world and the way you view yourself.

Now, I generally look at situations from a very realistic standpoint. I also use facts from the past that have created a pattern to assist with the way in which I view those situations. So, in short, when a situation presents itself, I’m an absolute realist through and through.

Now, this year has been filled with ups and downs, and I’ve worked at keeping my outlook on things upbeat enough to allow myself the ability to continue on in whatever direction I am attempting to go in life without letting things get me too down.

Changing my perspective on a lot of the things that have happened to me lately has seriously helped. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been so necessary. A lot of times, perspective comes through in the form of a glass being half empty or a glass being half full. 2018 has taught me to look at things with the glass half full which has allowed me the opportunity to fill it the rest of the way on my own.

WHEN SOMETHING IS FOR YOU, IT WILL ALWAYS BECOME YOURS

This is super important for me to remember! 

I oftentimes work overtime to keep friendships and relationships with people who have never even deserved my time in the first place. It’s in my nature, however, to nurture those relationships...

BUT, when a relationship is for you, it will be yours without all of the tug-of-war! I forget this so much and it results in me making people feel way more needed than they actually are by trying to keep them in my life.

This is a habit, in me, that needs to be left in 2018. Because, trust me, you won’t be forcing the friendships and relationships that are meant to happen!  

BE REAL WITH EVERYONE AT ALL TIMES 

Now, first and foremost, you have to be real with yourself! But after that, you have to be real with everyone else.

I met someone this year who was such a gem! A beautiful soul inside and out. But, if you asked me, now, whether or not I still know this person, then my answer would honestly have to be ‘no’.

This person was so good at pretending to be the great person that I grew to very fondly enjoy, but [as you’ll read below] people can only pretend for so long (and sometimes for too long) before their true colors show.

It turns out that this person was a complete stranger to me when they showed me who they really were. What a shock!

I can see from that situation that it is, a lot of times, hard for some people to just be themselves which, to me, seems like it would be more work to pretend to be someone or something else. But, I digress, …

People usually teach me the biggest lessons and from this person, I’ve learned that you have to be super mindful of who and what you are. Remain true to yourself no matter the situation.

Real will attract real, but you have to weed through a lot of fake to get to it.

PEOPLE ARE GOOD AT PRETENDING — WATCH FOR SIGNS

I have made the mistake of underestimating the amount of time that people can live while being fake and, trust me, they can go the distance. 

But, I’ve learned that, eventually the real will always come out. 

I’ve had two friends while in school that people have completely warned me about but I ignored it and instead defended them because I wanted to base my reactions to them solely on my experiences. In hindsight, I completely wish that I would’ve listened to those people, but I didn’t, so I had to eat that loss.

I didn’t believe these things because people are so good at pretending to be things that they are not. They immitate the things that they see being attracted by others. They become so good at the facade that it’s undetectable to eyes that want to believe what they see.

But, I’ve seen that faking it gets exhaustive and they will eventually show their true colors. Some people don’t last a week, others take months, and one took years!  

 My advice to myself and others would simply be to jump ship as soon as the first sign becomes apparent. We’re so inclined to ignore the little signs because we’re enjoying the bigger moments, but trust me, cutting these people off early on is always best. 


So, there you have it! 2018 has taught me A LOT about people and how I should approach the next batch that I meet in life.

But, most of all, 2018 has taught me to look at situations from multiple angles: yes, losing a job will hurt, but there are so many benefits to it; yes, losing a ‘friend’ will hurt, but I’ve gained so many more who actually seem good; and, yes, loving someone is difficult, especially when you’re on completely different wavelengths as far as life is concerned, but opening your heart to someone has the never-ending benefit of showing you so much about yourself!

So for that, 2018, I thank you! 🎊🎊🎊

L: ... Too Fly To Be Depressed?

Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance which, in me, manifested itself in the form of: staring at blank walls for hours; filling my hot showers with tears; struggling to get out of bed; dreading human interaction (more so than usual); and an overall disconnect from everything and everyone.

My depression was a culmination of everything that I let build up over the years, and it hit me at the worst time (because when is the right time for it to hit?)

Let’s Address The Perception:

When I initially decided to reveal to a select few how I was feeling, the reactions were either very supportive or very expected.

The way that people would receive this information is one of the reasons that I kept this information quiet for so long. The supportive reactions were just that: very soft spoken words of encouragement. The very expected reactions were those of selfishness: the ‘but you’re still alive, why are you complaining’; the ‘let me send you links to streamed church sessions’; and the ‘well, we all got problems [insert their problems]’.

I know that the movies and the extreme cases on the news have hardened our hearts to the idea that those surrounding you may be capable of suffering such an ailment, but please remember that it is very possible. And, whether or not you believe in it, if someone else is going through it and chooses to open up to you about it (1) feel honored that they thought that you were human enough to understand that they are not feeling “okay”, (2) try to tear yourself away from YOU for at least 20 minutes and hear that person out, and (3) do not assume that you know what is going on or what it is like. Everyone’s experiences are different and someone else’s depression is not yours.

The Feels:

Let’s talk about what a depression felt like for me:

The Loneliness:

Even though I wasn’t always alone, I always felt alone. I felt like I did not have anyone and could not go to anyone. This is the fault of no one, it’s just an effect that I suffered.

The Sadness:

There was a build-up that lead to my depressed state and it had to do with: my level of activity, the amount of people who rely on me financially, the way that I treat those that I am close to and the fact that I expect similar treatment in return (a bad habit that I am trying to break), the uncertainty about my future, and the negative feelings associated with opening yourself up to others.

This resulted in a bunch of me blaming myself for this continuing pattern in my life where I give my best (and worst) self to people only for them to take it, give nothing in return, and reap the benefit with one foot out the door. These types of things happened to me with past boyfriends, friends, family, and then when it happened again on top of everything else that I was feeling, it was just too much…

This sadness doesn’t easily go away. Mix this with the loneliness that you’re already experiencing and you’ve got one sad drink!

I still haven’t figured out how to deal with or get past this sadness just yet, but I am working on it.

The Denial:

Let’s not forget the fact that we don’t want to be going through this in the first place, so my initial thought was to just deny it.

I did not want to believe that I could experience something like this. But, once I got to the point where I really did not want to have to experience this anymore and that I wanted to get out of it, I was more willing to accept that this was happening. Once I accept it, I can start working towards getting better, was my mindset and it worked. I am now working through this ugly battle.

The Fatigue:

When you are depressed, you literally wake up feeling tired (if you get sleep at all). You often need a nap or a break in your day.

Little things tire you out, your days seem impossibly long (but also not long enough), and your feet weigh a ton anytime you have to get up and move.

So much weighs you down when you are “down”, and the fatigue is just another thing that you have to combat on the road to recovery.  

The Sleepless Nights:

Now, I experienced a complete lack of sleep when I was experiencing my “down time”. I just couldn’t fall asleep. I would lay awake and think, or stare at the walls, or watch “It’s Complicated” or “Living Single” over and over and over. As if those things would “heal” me.

The part that I dreaded the most was that, when the sun would start to set, I would just get sad because I’d know that I would spend another night laying awake and wishing that I could just go to some other subconscious world. I never have dreams but you have no idea how much I prayed for any type of dream to take my mind off of whatever else it was on.

Add to that the fact that I literally could not sleep in my own bed! I would begin my night in my cozy king bed but lay awake for hours. Once I finally got tired of tossing and turning, I would finally give in and move to the couch — the only place that I even have a chance at falling asleep. Hence, the sleeplessness. 

The Loss of Appetite:

As hungry of a state that I constantly live in, it shocked me that I could not eat!

I would find it being 1p.m. or 2p.m. before realizing that I hadn’t eaten a thing. Not because I didn’t have things to eat, but because I literally could not eat. Food would make me sick, but, I guess, to add to the drama of it all, my stomach would growl. 

No clue what the loss of appetite was about, but I didn’t like it when I experienced it. 

The Healing:

I don’t know what other people’s healing is like, but I know that mine is a long process that involves me getting back to my very routine lifestyle.

It is the fact that I decided to leave my very routine bubble that led me to this depressed state, so I am literally backtracking in order to get back on track (which means going back to a completely closed off state, as bad as that sounds). Unfortunately, this is harder to do than it seems like it should be, so I find myself constantly straddling the line between “okay” and “back in”.

My circle is not big, at all, there are probably 3 people that genuinely care about me and my wellbeing apart from family, but there are also people around my campus that make it a point to check on me.

I have so much love for those of you who saw me around campus, noticed I was down and talked to me (Josh and Ron); and those of you who randomly check on me (Corina, Em, Jason and Alicia); and NATHAN thanks for just being there to hug me. You guys have no idea how much those things have meant. You have no idea how far those simple acts go.

In short, the healing is harder than actually going through the depression itself. It’s a process that requires patience. And, it’s not easy, but believe me when I say, IT HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. So, if this is happening to you, embrace it, because this too shall pass, and I promise you ain’t too fly to feel it (because I surely thought I was).

XVI: Living Life Through Our Screens — Is Social Media Harmful or Helpful?

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, and I’m often left wondering why I allow a little icon on my phone to be the bearer of so much anxiety, self-doubt, and information overload. How does one maintain sanity in the digital space?

Sometimes I’m glad to be on social media, but other times I just want to delete every form of it and live my life without the constant need for validation from followers on a phone screen. My emotions always teeter between these two extremes, and here’s why:

The Cons of Social Media:

1) Social Media is an Illusion

These days it’s all about ‘living your best life.’ The thing is, by doing so, our social media accounts become less about ‘living’ that life and more about ‘showing’ people that we’re doing it. We go to restaurants to eat and enjoy great company, but we can’t do it without posting a photo of our delicious dish. We go on vacation, but every time we see a fascinating new location we have to Instagram it. If we explore the newest bar in town, we have to update our story because everyone else just has to know we were there. If you went and no one saw it on Snapchat, did you even really go? It starts to feel like life is more about capturing moments than actually living them.

Also, by portraying only the good things, we fail to be authentic. We forget to be exactly what it means to be human. 

I’m guilty of this too, and that’s why I hate it. For example, last summer I went to Italy and took numerous beautiful photos, posting about each location and its wonderful history as the journey progressed. But what I didn’t mention on social media is the varying degree of health issues, hospital visits, and horrible jet lag that accompanied the trip. In one of my favorite profile photos, no one would have guessed that I was wearing a heart monitor with electrodes strapped to my chest under my scarf, because I had been experiencing crazy panic attacks to the point where I couldn’t breathe. Judging by all my photos, you could never tell that the trip was anything but butterflies and roses.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REALITY. Remember this the next time you feel down because you’re not living life like the rest of those online celebrities do.

2) It’s the New Way to Be Passive Aggressive

Want to give your friend the cold shoulder? Easy. Stop liking their photos. They’ll notice your passive aggressive stance and then you’ll feel satisfied, because boy did you show them! Seriously, when did we start resorting to memes and vague “It’s not about you” messages in order to solve our conflicts? Why do we avoid real conversations? If you and your friend had a fight and he or she starts posting ambiguous quotes, or if the person you’re interested in ignores you but suddenly starts liking all your best friend’s photos, is this the way to be a mature adult and approach personal conflicts? I don’t think so. We’ve apparently lost the ability to be grownups and solve our problems directly.

3) Opinions Are Like Assholes . . . and You Know the Rest

Social media has become an echo chamber. Everyone is an armchair warrior. Everyone becomes an expert in everything, and if you offer a contrary opinion you suddenly become the enemy. People start deleting or blocking anyone who provides an opposing viewpoint, and before you know it the newsfeed has become a happy place where the only opinions you see are the ones you agree with. By constantly reinforcing only one perspective, while blissfully ignoring all the other ways to look at the world, we confine ourselves to a state of willful ignorance—the very opposite of being informed.

4) There is a Fine Line Between Vanity and Narcissism

There is a time and place for a great selfie, but if the only things you post are photos of your nearly naked body in all its perfectly toned (sometimes surgically altered) glory, while including an inspiring caption to make it seem like it’s not all about your body, then I have no desire to keep that content on my feed. I just don’t see the point. Fake 'Instagram model' personalities and brand worshipping add absolutely no value to my life. I enjoy seeing photos of friends going fun places, I enjoy photos of their pets or their children, and I will totally support my friends if they post a great swimsuit shot or a picture where they’re rocking an amazing outfit. But if someone’s account is comprised of nothing but narcissistic self-importance, then . . . meh. I can do without it in my life. The hard part is sifting through all the bullshit to find the content you actually want to see or read.

You might be wondering, “So why don’t you just delete it all?” Well, that’s because there are also reasons why I love social media. It certainly has its benefits.

The Pros of Social Media:

1) It Can Be Powerful

Social media is FAST. When news breaks of a kidnapping victim or a missing person, people share content quickly. At times, this has led to the recovery of victims who might have otherwise been gone forever. Social media has been responsible for, or at least assisted with, the exposure of large-scale corruption and wrongdoing. Also, platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are the source of many laughs and interesting articles. I enjoy following pages that brighten my day with illuminating, mentally stimulating content. Additionally, building your personal brand in a digital space can be great way to network professionally and find like-minded people who can help you make connections in your field. Oddly enough, the same things that make social media annoying also make it successful.

2) You Can Connect With People From Around The World

Social media’s intended purpose was to connect people. This, in my opinion, is still the main reason why I keep it around. I have friends and family all over the world, and just recently I reconnected with a relative I met when I was 10 years old while visiting family in Latvia. I hadn’t seen this particular girl in 16 years, and suddenly I found her on Facebook. It was incredible to think that I could so easily get in touch with someone I thought I might never see again. During my adult life, I have also made wonderful friends from other parts of the world, and it’s so easy to keep tabs on them through Facebook or WhatsApp. Without social media, I wouldn’t have the ability to do that.

3) You Can Share Cool Hobbies and Things You’re Proud Of

Many of us move away during our adult years, and we become busy with our own lives and careers. Since we don’t see our friends in person anymore, it’s only natural to want to share news of our accomplishments and milestones on social media. I don’t fault anyone for that. If you just started a cool project, you just had a baby, you got married, or you graduated from a difficult program, it’s completely understandable that you would want to spread the great news to your social circle. No one wants to hear constant boasting, but there is nothing wrong with sharing accomplishments and moments of great pride. I actually enjoy seeing my friends doing well and reaching goals. It brings me happiness to know that their lives are going in a positive direction. Sometimes, our careers even call for some social media engagement, and that's perfectly OK. 

So what’s the solution to finding balance in the midst of this love/hate relationship? Taking a break? Deactivating? Here are the steps I’m taking.

How to Find the Happy Medium:

1)      I start my morning WITHOUT scrolling. I’ve noticed that my days are much happier when I don’t start off with the ol’ timeline scroll. I have less anxiety and I feel more productive. Sometimes I sit down and write instead, or I just relax, breathe, and focus on my surroundings.

2)      I limit myself to a few minutes of social media catch-up time, and then I return to real life. The truth is, I don’t want to be up in everyone else’s business all the time, and I don’t feel the need for everyone to be up in mine. It’s nice to just get out and enjoy life while keeping my random thoughts where they most often belong—in my own head and off the newsfeed.

3)      I delete any app that I feel has more negatives than positives for me. I already got rid of Snapchat a long time ago, considering that I never watched or posted stories anyway, and I might delete another app soon.

4)      Most importantly, I’m embracing the idea of depicting my life in a genuine way and living in the moment more often. When I asked my sister about her views on social media, she explained that she no longer uses apps like Snapchat as much as she used to. I asked her why, and she said, “Honestly, I am so busy having fun now that I worry less about what other people are doing." And THAT is exactly what I’m striving for.

“I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.”
— Charles R. Swindoll