The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 20 | Something I Love To Wear

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Something you love to wear.

unnamedI have no idea whether I’m supposed to describe an entire outfit or just one item of clothing that I love. Well, let’s go with the latter, because that’s all you can see in this picture anyway. I thought about attempting a flat lay – putting together an outfit, arranging it on the floor or another surface, and photographing it from above – but the lighting is weird in my dorm room and I’m not sure there’s actually enough floor space to try that anyway.

My favorite thing to wear – or one of them, at any rate, since I’m sure I’ll change my mind later – is this hoodie. It’s green and dark blue. Fairly lightweight, too, which is a change from my other, bulkier hoodies. It has one of those big front pockets that I’ve always called kangaroo pockets, although I’m not sure if that’s their actual name.

I wear this a lot. It’s comfortable and I like how it makes me look! I love stripes, especially on shirts, but don’t wear the shirts like that I own as often as I should because I’m worried that it makes me look fat. Stripes are supposed to make you seem wider, right? This is the only horizontally-striped shirt I wear often because I love the way I look in it so much that it negates any worry that it makes me look bigger. I hope that someday I can get over my discomfort about wearing my other striped shirts! Life is too short to wear boring clothes, et cetera.

Also, this shirt is just very ME. The colors and stripes are fun, which I think reflects my personality: I’m the weird friend, the one who’s always cracking jokes, whose mind is zipping around at a million miles a minute. So I feel very myself, and confident in myself, when I wear it.

This is a prescheduled post, so I have no idea whether or not I’ll be wearing this shirt today. But I just might.

Whether it’s a complete outfit or a single item of clothing, I’d love to know what your favorite thing to wear is. Why do you like it? How does it make you look/feel? Where did you buy it?

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The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 19 | Something I Feel Strongly About

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Something you feel strongly about.

pride flagIt should come as no surprise that I am very passionate about LGBTQ+ rights. It was probably even a predictable response from me.

This subject is even more important to me in the light of recent events, the new presidential administration, et cetera. It’s a bit of a terrifying time to live through, TBH, but I’m determined to make it through and not go back into the closet if I can help it, although of course my own safety comes first.

LGBTQ+ people deserve so much more than to be merely tolerated. We deserve to be accepted, respected, celebrated. Not denied access to healthcare and housing and job security. Not have our contributions to history, literature, and the arts downplayed or outright ignored in textbooks and in the classroom. Not made to feel guilty and doubtful about whether our love and our gender is somehow wrong according to someone else’s twisted view of morality.

We haven’t achieved this yet and I don’t know if we ever will in my lifetime, but I certainly hope that we do so one day. It may happen far, far off in the future, but as long as it happens eventually I’m good. I want everyone’s differences – of every sort, mind you, which includes things such as race and religion and ability – to be acknowledged, because glossing over what makes someone who they are isn’t right. I want those differences to be acknowledged without that interfering with how people treat one another. I want LGBTQ+ people to be loved.

What is something that you are very passionate about?

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The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 18 | Something That Feeds My Brain

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Something that feeds your brain.

I’m double majoring in English & creative writing and journalism. I love what I study… it feeds my brain. I could have easily chosen to write about this subject in response to another #LoveMe prompt, such as “something I have done right” (day 15) or “something I am proud of” (day 21) because both are equally true with regard to my majors. But I thought this topic would be best to discuss today.

Because of my majors, I am surrounded by words all day long. Reading and writing and editing.

I fall in love with books that, while perhaps not new to the rest of the world, are new to me and make me think.

I learn how to write like the authors of those books I love.

I practice analyzing texts in ways I had never before dreamed possible.

I practice reporting the news accurately, objectively, and in a timely manner.

And it can be stressful. Sometimes it’s so, so stressful. As my mom is fond of saying about raising my brother and I through toddlerhood, the days are long but the years are short. When I’m sitting in a boring lecture or stressing out about a huge paper that I’m writing at the last minute after procrastinating it for weeks, time seems to slow to a crawl.

And yet time seems to fly by, too. By the end of this semester, I will be halfway through my college years. THAT’S A REALLY WEIRD THOUGHT.

It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes I get so caught up in the little things, the reading responses and the midterms and the portion of my grade determined by my participation in class, that I forget why I’m really here. Why I came here in the first place.

I’m here to get an education. That may sound obvious but, as my English adviser is fond of reminding people, it’s the overall experience that’s important, not the individual classes. Of course, it’s a good idea to be deliberate in which courses you choose so you can tailor your studies to your interests, but the ultimate goal of an English degree is develop a set of skills that includes critical thinking, the ability to write coherently, how to read closely for analysis, and more. (The journalism major, while a little more specialized, has pretty much the same objectives.)

I won’t leave college as the same person I was when I entered it because I’ve been feeding my brain, introducing it to new thoughts and ideas.

What feeds your brain?

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The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 17 | Something That Feeds My Soul

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Something that feeds your soul.

I love where I live right now: Iowa City, IA. (Is that enough Iowa for you? No, wait, it gets even better, because the school I attend is the University of Iowa. IOWA INTENSIFIES.)

When I decided where to go to college, I had no idea just how much this town would feed my soul.

For a start, it’s an intensely literary place. As a UNESCO City of Literature, Iowa City always has something going on. Readings, open mic nights, lectures and book signings by acclaimed authors. There are quotes from famous books carved into the sidewalks, for heaven’s sake.

A sleepy cat at the Haunted Bookshop, one of the indie bookstores in Iowa City where I would probably live if they let me.

A sleepy cat at the Haunted Bookshop, one of the indie bookstores in Iowa City where I would probably live if they let me.

There are so many bookstores here that, for the first time in my life, I’ve put myself on a book-buying ban. (Which I’ve already broken… I think. Is it still cheating if I used a gift certificate to get a copy of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel?) NON-CHAIN BOOKSTORES, which means that curling up in a chair and reading for hours as though you live there is actually encouraged.

And the writing! Oh, the writing! There’s the lovely group that I’m a part of, the Iowa Writers’ House, and a bunch of little local publications (including some produced by students at the university), and tons of free or cheap workshops throughout the year.

Did you know that Iowa City was ranked the third gayest city in the US in 2010? Well, now you do.

Did you know that Iowa City was ranked the third gayest city in the US in 2010? Well, now you do.

Iowa City is a super accepting, activist-minded place, too, which is just perfect for me. Just about every week there’s some sort of rally or protest or social justice-oriented workshop. I may not feel comfortable in my extremely conservative home state of Indiana, but I definitely do here. (I realize that the rest of Iowa is not necessarily like this, but… I’m quite content in this nice little accepting bubble where I reside right now.)

I truly believe that deciding to attend school in this town is a major contributing factor to the blossoming of my LGBTQ+ identity. I can count the number of people I’m out to in my hometown who aren’t my immediate family on one hand, but I can be myself around others here. It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing there are so many people I feel safe around.

The Old Capitol, a historic landmark on campus that I see every day as I walk to class.

The Old Capitol, a historic landmark on campus that I see every day as I walk to class.

When people ask me what my plans are after college – where I’d like to go, what I’d like to do – I say that although I obviously don’t have all the details figured out yet, I’d be perfectly happy to stay here in Iowa City for at least a few years after graduation.

When I moved out and headed off to college in August 2015, I thought I would be homesick all the time. I’m not, though, and I wasn’t. I never was. Iowa City felt just right and it quickly became my home. In fact, I consider it more of a home to me than the town in which I was born and grew up.

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The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 16 | Something I Like About Myself

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Something you like about yourself.

I like how many ideas I have for things to write!

That’s the answer that immediately popped into my head, at least.

I have hundreds of ideas for blog posts. Dozens of ideas for short stories. And many novel ideas.

Coming up with ideas has never been the hardest part of writing for me. If anything, it’s the easiest! In fact, I have to remind myself fairly frequent of something I’ve seen repeated around the Internet quite a bit: Ideas are easy, execution is hard. Brainstorming is effortless, productive, and fun for me, but it’s much, much more difficult to put my butt in a chair and sit until I’ve seen a particular piece of writing through to its conclusion.

And that can be frustrating! Sometimes what I’m writing doesn’t go as well as I thought it would: Either my writing isn’t as good as I want it to be, or I’m not writing as quickly as I’d hoped to, or whatever. Other times my life is simply too busy to spend as many hours writing as I would like to.

So with that in mind, I would like to begin two habits that should hopefully help me to improve at this thing I like about myself. The last thing I want is for the next part of this post to come off as critical of this talent of mine – one of the few things I do like about myself – since that isn’t in the spirit of #LoveMe, so I’ll quickly add that I view these habits as things that will allow me to better myself. (Which is definitely in the spirit of #LoveMe!)

The first habit involves writing down my BRILLIANT IDEAS more often so that I don’t forget them! I can do this on my phone, or, when my phone is dead – as it often is, because I LOVE SPOTIFY but that app unfortunately drains my battery really really quickly – I can use a small notebook and a pen or pencil. I actually carry around the latter in my purse already but I don’t always bring my purse with me so when my phone is dead and I’m without paper to write on or even a pen with which to write on my hands, I have no way of recording my ideas!

The second thing I want to start doing is more abstract: I need to remember that it’s perfectly OK if I don’t have time right now to write everything that I’d like to! Sometimes it’s just not the right time… and that’s life for you.

Whether I’m dealing with page limits for college papers, time constraints regarding scholarship application essays, a lack of free time during which to blog, or any other situation, I sometimes feel that I spend more time wishing I had enough time to write than I actually do writing. And that’s annoying, but I have to learn to relax and let it go. I’ll get there eventually. I’ll write – what I want to write – soon enough. Just take a deep breath and work on whatever it is that you have to do now, I tell myself, because once that thing is finished you’re that much closer toward having time to write.

What is something you like about yourself or about me lmao?

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The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 15 | Something I Have Done Right

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Something you have done right.

Sometimes it feels as though nothing I do is right, that I can do nothing right. That I try my hardest and screw everything up no matter what. With my depression, there are long stretches of inactivity, where I do nothing, feel nothing, am nothing, and when they finally break and I am able to do things once again, the very first thing I do is wrong. Of course.

It’s very disheartening.

Because I’m a student, all the things I seem to get wrong are, at the moment, related to my studies. Missed scholarships, last-minute cramming.

One thing I’ve done right, though, is making the dean’s list each and every semester of college. This has happened three times so far and I’m working hard to make it happen a fourth time. Each time it happens I am genuinely surprised. And then pleased with my work.

To make the dean’s list, one has to earn at least a 3.50 GPA while taking twelve or more hours of credit per semester. It’s no small feat, and several times a semester I find myself doubting my ability to pull this off again. And yet I do.

Notes on journalism, from a solo review session last spring

Notes on journalism, from a solo review session last spring

I’m never totally satisfied with how the semester – any semester – turns out for me but making the dean’s list is definitely something I should be proud of. Sometimes I feel as though my depression stops me from doing everything I care about and I need to remind myself that it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t.

I show up to just about every single class. (I’ve missed, at most, two lectures out of all of my classes each semester.) I take thorough notes. I arrange review sessions or go to ones others have set up. I visit my professors during their office hours and ask a ton of anxious questions about the material, the tests, the essays. I attend tutoring sessions to help me improve my writing and get started on those huge papers early.

And even though I always stress about whether I will actually make the dean’s list, it always pays off. One of the goals I talked about in the bucket list post I published on my twentieth birthday was to make the president’s list at my school, which involves earning a solid 4.0 for two semesters. I’m not going to achieve that this school year because my GPA wasn’t high enough last semester, but I did make the dean’s list once again. And that’s enough. I don’t have to do everything perfectly. I just have to do something right.

What is something you have done right?

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The #LoveMe Challenge | Day 14 | A Fear I Overcame

header-image-for-lovemeThis February, I’m doing #LoveMe, a challenge designed to help you learn to love yourself! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be kinder and more gentle to myself, so I’m trying to be as positive as I can possibly be in 2017 and hope that doing this challenge will be good for my mental health and overall well-being. Check out my previous #LoveMe posts here!

Today’s prompt is:

Share a fear you overcame.

WOW OK SO I JUST REALIZED THAT THIS POST TIES IN VERY NICELY TO YESTERDAY’S POST. YAY ME. My task on the thirteenth was to share a quote and I chose the following words by Carrie Fisher:

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

I didn’t plan for that to happen, so this is cool! I mean, all of these posts were written and scheduled in advance because I knew there was no way I’d have this much time for blogging this semester, but when I scribbled down a list of ideas I didn’t even realize that the quote I’d selected was about the same subject as what I’d be talking about in the very next post.

Good job, me.

OK, now I’ve got that out of the way. (Except not really, because I’m going to return to that quote eventually.)

A fear I overcame? Well, how about I talk about a fear I’m still working on overcoming and have made a great deal of progress on? I’m afraid of the hard work that it takes to get better.

There, I said it. Achieving better mental health is a monumental task and it overwhelms me.

I almost said that I’m afraid of getting better… but that’s not quite true because A) my problem is more specific than that and B) I definitely do want to get better.

It’s just that, well, it takes a lot of work to get there.

Talking about my thoughts and problems with my therapist is hard work. Talking about those things in a group therapy setting is even harder because there are more people involved!

Remembering to take my meds every day is hard work. Visiting the psychiatrist again and again because what they prescribed didn’t work and I need to switch to something else in the hope that maybe that med will work is hard work. [Note, 2/12/17: As of today, I started the third antidepressant I’ve tried. Wish me luck!]

Practicing nurturing self care – stuff like getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and doing chores so that I have clean clothes to wear and clean dishes to eat off of – is hard work. Asking for help and support when I need it is hard work.

Making myself try new things and meet new people even though I’m anxious is hard work.

Making myself get out of bed and attend to my responsibilities even when I’m incredibly depressed, because I can’t afford to fall behind in school or not show up to work, is hard work.

Making myself face my OCD head on and really, truly deal with it is hard work. At the moment I feel this is probably the hardest thing I’m doing. My OCD makes me feel uncomfortable, causes me to feel like something feels “off,” and as a result I’ve developed all sorts of reassuring rituals over the years to soothe those feelings. Repeating certain words and phrases, checking things, counting things, you name it. The list goes on and on.

Lately I’ve taken to reminding myself, in those moments, to “stay afraid, but do it anyway.” Because it does make me afraid. It really does. It’s hard to resist the temptation to give into my OCD. When I ignore it, or try to, a part of my brain is screaming at me that I can’t do it, that I have to fix what feels wrong! When I ignore it I feel uncomfortable and… I think the best word to describe it might be “untethered,” actually? And that’s scary.

It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get better. It already has. It’s not going to get any better unless I put in all that hard work. I take a lot of comfort in the quote I posted yesterday, reminding myself daily that it’s perfectly fine to be afraid as long as I “do it anyway.”

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