What I’ve Learned in 2014

I have a lot to say about 2014.

In 2014, I graduated from college with two degrees and made the last-minute decision to pursue a Master of Social Work. I’ve been in school for six years now. I can’t always decide if I made a good choice to continue right away or not. It depends on the day, frankly. Right now, I think I made a good choice.

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I also made the decision to not get married. I almost took the plunge and almost dove head-first into what I knew would have been a frustrating and unhappy marriage. I no longer loved my ex-fiancé. The relationship was souring day after day and I found myself living in a state of unhappiness and exhaustion. Not getting married to him is the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.

On a positive note, I reconnected with my brothers and the family who adopted them, who are also my family. I could not be more grateful for all of the family I have.

It’s been a year full of ups and downs. Luckily, there’s been more ups than downs.

I’m now with someone who makes me feel happy and loved. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m being treated the way I deserve to be treated. I’m with someone that I’m not afraid to be myself around.

I do know that I’ve learned a lot in the past year.

I decided to compile a list of all of the nuggets of wisdom from 2014:

*If you aren’t happy with something in your life, change it.
*Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.
*Give yourself a break; you’re only human, you need rest and a mental recharge.
*You will never, ever be perfect.
*Only a few people in this world are worth suffering for.
*You don’t need to compare your life to the lives of your peers. What you see on social media is mostly smoke and mirrors.
*Admitting fault or that you are wrong is hard, but it’s the right thing to do.
*Listen to your inner voice, especially when it is loud.
*It is never too late to start planning for adventures you want to embark on.
*Every single moment is temporary. Enjoy the moments of joy and live through the moments of pain as best as you can.
*The best choice is usually the toughest choice.
*It’s okay to not know exactly what you are doing. We’re all faking it in one way or another.

I hope 2015 has a lot of good fortune in store. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. However, I do want to be a better person in 2015. I want to be kinder, smarter, more thoughtful, more confident, and take more (safe) and exciting risks. I can only do my best and be my best.

I am going into the new year with a little bit of uncertainty for financial reasons. It is highly difficult being a full-time graduate student living on a small income. I make it work, but it barely does.

All struggles make us much more aware and grateful of what we have. To me, this struggle, while stressful as hell, is a minor bump in the road.

It will all work out one way or another. It always does.

I’m nervous and excited for the upcoming year. I want to make more memories with family and friends. Spend money (when I can afford it) on memories, not materials. I want to learn new skills, do well in my first year graduate school, maybe even take up a full time job and go to school part-time.

If I could right now, I’d take what money I had and go on a road trip across the U.S. or take a plane over to a European country and stay in a hostel for a couple of weeks.

I would like to live in another state or even another country for a little while. Who says I can’t? Nobody. Only I can say whether I can or can not.

I have a lot of goals and dreams to fulfill before I decide to settle down one day. I came too close to settling for shit in the past year and I will never do that again. I don’t plan to, at least.

For the first time in my life, I can say and believe that I deserve the best and I deserve to be the best I can be.

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Finding peace within inner and outer chaos

Well, I’m nearly done with my first semester of graduate school in social work.

I haven’t had any time until now, as I take a break from homework, to update this.

Regarding graduate school, It’s been challenging, but it’s been eye-opening. Especially at my internship. I intern through an organization called Communities In Schools that gets the community involved in the local public schools to help out children with basic needs, academics, etc. I intern through them at a local elementary school. I’ve learned so much with participating in client intakes, conducting assessments, etc. I can not and will not go into detail about the nature of any of those due to ethics and confidentiality reasons.

I’ve learned so much and I love the experience I’m getting. Of course, I have my days where the stress seems to become too much to handle and I contemplate why I didn’t just look for a job after graduation to work for a year or two, then go back to school after saving up some money and gaining some workplace experience. I probably would have gone the route of Technical/Professional Communication/Journalism degree, since there aren’t many jobs someone with a BSW can get besides DHS (foster care/adoption), CPS (child protective services), assistance payments worker, etc. I am not interested in any of those jobs, to be frank.

Sometimes, I’m not entirely sure that I’m exactly where I want to be. I blame the stress, anxiety, and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) as a major factor for those feelings. I do have days where I wish I was working, making money, going home at the end of the day with no homework to do, no research proposals to write, no research papers, no essays, etc. Then again, I am not ready to start paying back the thousands of dollars in student loans I have. Plus, I know I’m not entirely ready for the “real” world.

I made the choice to jump into getting my Masters right away after finishing my undergrad, since I still possess the required knowledge from my undergrad social work courses and I’m still in “student” mode. Had I chosen to wait a year or two, it probably would have been very difficult for me to want to go back.

I do enjoy working for a student newspaper again, too. It’s also stressful at times, but it’s highly rewarding and I’m glad I can put my skills to use for something I have a passion for once again, in addition to continuing my education. I love my staff and my job.

To be honest, I do have days where I wish things were a little different. For example, sometimes I wish I had a full-time job and was just attending school part-time. But, I know that I’ll be done sooner in the full-time program and I’ll have a full-time job that (hopefully) pays well.

I suppose it’s “normal” to have these conflicting feelings every now and then.

Sometimes I wish I had it all figured out. By that, I mean I wish I had my entire life figured out. I sure as hell don’t. I don’t know where I want to live after I graduate from WMU, I don’t know if I’ll want to use my MSW right away and get a job within the social work field, preferably in a school or an agency working with children and teens, or if I’ll decide that I want a break from the human services field and go the route of technical writing. Of course, I plan to get licensed ASAP while the material is fresh in my mind. But, I don’t know. My future is a blank canvas that I have yet to take a paintbrush to. I miss being artistic. It’s a hobby of mine that got put on the back-burner because of my rigorous schedule.

I try to take life one day at a time. It’s difficult, but it’s much more peaceful. I find this quote to be true for me:

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Lao Tsu

I know that when I’m thinking of the past, wishing I had done something differently, such as made an effort to meet a lot more people at Ferris, put myself out there more, or had broken up with my ex-fiance’ much earlier, so I could feel happier about myself pursued a relationship with a longtime close friend now boyfriend sooner, I feel upset with myself and I do get depressed. I find that I am very anxious when I think about the future: Where I’m going to live, how I am going to afford my bills for the rest of the month, if I will get a job right after graduation, etc., I become highly anxious.

If I focus on the here and now, I am at peace. It is hard for me to be at peace, with all of the demands, homework, work, etc. piling up in front of me, but I am working on it. I am working on incorporating mindfulness and meditation into my life to quiet my thoughts down. As someone who lived a traumatic life for most of her childhood, and lives with depression/anxiety, it’s a great coping mechanism. I also need to and want to make time for Yoga. I love Yoga, it’s calming, relaxing, and it’s a great form of exercise.

I know I have a lot to figure out, a lot to plan, a lot to think about.

I know that all of this stress, this anxiety, and this frustration that I’ll endure the remainder of this semester, and the next three I have will be worth it in the end when I have my MSW. I just have to trudge through the muddy parts of the path before I get to clear ones that are pleasant to walk through. It’s all a learning and growing experience. It’s another way for me to improve myself and my future.

Mind your own damn business

I’m sure everyone has heard the news about some sick, cruel individual hacking the personal phones and computers of female celebrities and posting their private photos on 4chan. 

This is a despicable and disgusting act of whatever slimeball thought it was OK to invade someone’s privacy and share their intimate photos with the entire world.

Celebrities that were hacked include Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande and many more. 

Many are arguing, “Well, they should have known better because they’re celebrities and it’s their own fault!”

Stop talking. Just stop. They have every right to take whatever kind of photos they want, whether they be cute, silly or sexy. It’s their life and they should have a right to privacy.

Stop the slut shaming already. What if your private photos were posted on the internet for everyone to see? How would you feel? Imagine how a person that is in the public eye 24/7 feels. Everyone, famous or not, has the right to a private life. People don’t have a right to exploit their private life.

Not only is this guy a black hat hacker, but he is also a sex predator, because he sexually exploited these women by hacking into their personal electronic devices and posting these photos without their consent. It’s similar to revenge porn, which is becoming illegal in many states. I hope it becomes illegal in all 50 states. The privacy of these women was maliciously violated. It’s not okay.

Yes, I am aware that privacy in this day and age isn’t really “privacy” anymore with everything on the internet being traceable. However, that does not mean it’s okay to violate someone else’s right to privacy. It’s morally and ethically wrong. If a couple wants to take nude photos of one another to share with each other, then they have every right to do so. If someone wants to take sexy photos of themselves, they also have a right to do that. It’s their life, not yours.

It’s clear that the hacker who did this has the intention of exploiting and humiliating these celebrities. The act of exploiting and humiliating anyone is disgraceful. Jennifer Lawrence is a human being, Kate Upton is a human being, Kirsten Dunst is a human being. I am a human being, you are a human being. Since we are all humans, we should all have the right to a private life that only we share with one or a few people.

I believe this act is a form of abuse. I’m sure these women feel violated. I know I would. I would be angry, I would be upset. It is someone’s choice if they want to take intimate photos or not. If they do, they have every right and shouldn’t have to deal with the backlash and anguish of having their privacy violated.

No, these women did not ask for it. They are not at fault. They were having private moments, and should be allowed to do so. The person at fault is the hacker who did this. Anyone who releases intimate photos of women (and men) without his/her consent with the intent of humiliating them or attempting to destroy their reputation: You are a coward. You are a snake. You need to take a serious look at yourself and make some drastic changes in your life. You are what’s wrong with society, not the people who take nude photos of themselves.

Mind your own damn business. Stop victim blaming/shaming. It’s despicable. Leave these women alone.

You’ve got time

As I walked around the Western campus this past week on a beautiful afternoon, Nikon camera in hand in search of staff and students who would like to have their photo taken for a story in the paper, I glanced at all of the incoming freshmen and thought back to my time at Ferris as a freshman.

My, my. I have grown so much and times sure have changed.

Back then, I was very timid. I didn’t have a lot of confidence. Of course, the past year was a whirlwind of life changing, earth shattering events. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend a university. Neither of my parents attended a university, so I had no idea what to expect. It was all brand new to me. Fast forward five years, and things are vastly different, but they remain the same. I was working for the campus newspaper then, and I am now. The difference between then and now is I have a lot more confidence now.

Now, I don’t live in as much fear.

Now, I am more likely to speak up.

Now, I am not afraid to be myself.

On Tuesday, I will begin a new chapter in my life. In a way, I am starting all over again. It’s a clean slate.

The awesome thing about starting at a new school or a new career, is that you can reinvent yourself. I look back at my time as an undergrad and there are a lot of things I wish I would have done differently. For example, I wouldn’t have jumped into a relationship while feeling vulnerable and spent the remainder of my undergrad years living in a state of pretend happiness. I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone in my room. I would have taken more chances. I wouldn’t have taken life so seriously and would have pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone or leave the house when I didn’t feel like it.

It’s that old saying: “Live and learn.”

Although I’ll have a lot more responsibilities as a graduate student and only two years to enjoy life in Kalamazoo, (Unless I get a full-time job there, of course) I’m going to make the most of it. I’m not the person I was when I first began college. I’m still a college student, and I still have time. I even have time after I graduate from WMU. You always have time to do the things you want to do, and you always have time to start over.

This is part two, and I’m ready for it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Just like has been said time and time before: “Nothing worth having comes easy.” I can attest to that as being one of the truest
statements I’ve ever heard.

In the words of Regina Spektor from the opening theme song of Orange Is The New Black, “You’ve got time.” I’ve got time, we’ve all got time. Make the best of it.

About depression

The sudden and tragic death of Robin Williams has devastated many of us. This is the first time that the death of a celebrity has truly upset me. Many of Robin’s movies made me laugh, some made me cry. He seemed like a truly genuine, compassionate and kind human being. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

Even though it looked as if he had it all- fame, fortune, family, friends, fans – he was still hurting on the inside. Robin Williams suffered from depression and addiction. Both of which are merciless, cruel and real diseases.

He lost his battle to depression and completed suicide. It is heartbreaking, and many people are asking, “How could he do such a thing? He had such a wonderful life!” Well, let me tell those people something:

Depression doesn’t give a shit about who you are or where you come from. Neither does addiction. They are both a chemical imbalance triggered by a combination of genetics and environment. They are a disease of the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 10 adults report suffering from depression. According to the National Institute of Health, addiction affects 23.2 million Americans.

I’ve had depression since I was 13. I’ve been to a variety of therapists and on a variety of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. Today, I am in recovery. I spent a majority of my teen years in isolation, I made plans to complete suicide because the pain was too much. The pain of seeing my parents struggle with their own addictions and fight on a regular basis was getting to be too much. The physical, emotional and verbal abuse I endured from my ill father tore me down. I had low self esteem, I believed I was worthless and nobody could love me; I saw the world through a very dark and foggy view. I skipped school, slept almost all the time, lost myself in crappy reality TV shows or browsed the internet, trying to find a way to escape myself and my life.

One thing about depression is that not only does it cause mental anguish, it also causes physical anguish. Depression can cause headaches, stomachaches, joint pain, etc. It negatively affects sleep patterns and interferes with one’s day-to-day life. It sucks the joy out of life and replaces it with despair.

I was fortunate to have received as much help as I did when I lived with another family for awhile because my mother was struggling with alcoholism and my father struggled with addiction. My brothers and I went through some traumatic events.

I think Williams’ death upset me so much because my biological father completed suicide in the same way. Even though we had a dysfunctional, horrible relationship, it was still devastating. He also struggled with addiction and mental illness. His father, my grandfather, also completed suicide. He did it in the same way, too. Thankfully, my mother is sober and in recovery today. Williams’ battle was a battle that is all too familiar to so many people. It is familiar to me and my own family. I am so proud of my mother for finding recovery. I am proud of myself finding recovery. I am proud of anyone who finds recovery from mental illness and/or addiction.

It seems as if those who bring the most joy to people are the ones who suffer the most. They tend know what real pain is. As has been mentioned, many comedians, artists, those with a creative streak tend to struggle with mental illness and addiction. As one of those creative people who has suffered from a mental illness, I can attest to that claim as being true. At least it is for me and many other creative types.

I want to stress that depression, addiction and other mental illnesses are REAL illnesses. A mental illness is not a phase, a plea for attention or a pity party. Depression is a disease, addiction is a disease. There is help and treatment available for anyone suffering.

The stigma on mental illness and addiction have got to end. There is no shame in asking for help. Ever.

Also, if you or anyone you know is talking about ending their life or knows someone who is, please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Also, I am here for anyone who needs to talk. Do not hesitate to contact me. I will not judge you and I will do anything I can to get you help.

My heart goes out to the family of Robin Williams and to the families of anyone who has lost a loved one to mental illness and/or addiction.

If you are suffering, remember this: You are NOT alone. Help is available, and you ARE worthy of love and happiness.

From a lost child to a thoughtful adult

I have never been great at falling asleep.

Even as a small child, I struggled with taking naps and sleeping. My adverse sleeping habits have carried on into my young adult years. I’m not sure why I struggle with sleep. My best guess is a combination of genetics, habits and environment. It’s just another area of my life I need to improve.

I had one of those days where my pattern of thinking was deeper than usual. I am naturally a deep, pensive thinker to begin with, but today’s thoughts were deeper than usual.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my past. I reflected on my childhood, college years and past relationships extensively.

I’m going to open up a little bit: I experienced a lot of adversity and trauma in my childhood and teenage years. As a result, I started suffering from depression and anxiety at the fragile age of 13. Puberty is bad enough, but puberty for me was a nightmare.

The adversity and trauma derived from growing up in a home with parents who had serious substance abuse issues. The complex, destructive illness known as addiction consumed their lives and took hostage of their identities. All of us lived in hell and walked on eggs shells 24/7. My brothers and I witnessed events that nobody deserves to witness. We experienced too much “life” far too young. I do not want to go into too much detail at this time.

I think about how those experiences shaped me as a person. I look at the positive ways they did: I am very empathetic, I appreciate the small things in life, I am highly aware of my habits and surroundings, I don’t take people, places or things for granted, I am grateful for all that I have, I have a strong desire to help others

I also look at the negative ways my experiences shaped me as a person: I have a hell of a time trusting others, I struggle with letting people in, I’m highly sensitive and defensive, I dread making mistakes, I’ve struggled with maintaining friendships, I always fear the worst, I try to be perfect all the time, I struggle to relate to people who had a so-called “normal” life.

Thankfully, I am highly aware of these qualities I developed because I am the adult child of an alcoholic (thankfully now in recovery) mother and an addict (sadly now deceased) father. I strive to work on improving myself every day.

Today, I can say that I am happy for the first time ever in my life. I do have my bad days just like everyone else, but now I don’t let the bad overshadow my life like I used to. This year, I learned that I deserve better than what I had and I wanted to take on all that life has to offer me. I spent way too much time being unhappy because that’s all I knew. I only knew how to be unhappy due to unhappy circumstances. I spent three years of my life unhappy in a relationship that clearly was not healthy or right for me. I spent nearly all of my childhood and teenage years being unhappy, but that was due to circumstances far beyond my control. Too much of my young life was spent in misery, and I’m glad I finally did something about it. Don’t get me wrong, besides the relationship, my life improved drastically in the past five years, but I still wasn’t happy for three years. I spent three years pretending to be happy and going through the motions, just drifting through life, wishing things were different. I spent a lot of my young life wishing for things to be different.

Now, I don’t wish for many things to be different. I am content with where I am. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. We’re always looking for something more, something better, aren’t we?

For example, after I complete my Masters of Social Work, I would like to go spend a few weeks or a month in another country. I can only hope that I have some money saved up by then. That’s two years away, but I want to fulfill my desire to travel more, see more of the world, experience another culture, hopefully learn a new language. I want to get all that I can out of life while I’m still young. I have a lot of lost years to make up for.

If anyone else who reads this is also an adult child of an alcoholic or addict, I would love to hear your story and how your experiences shaped you. How did you cope and what are you doing today to make up for your “lost” years?

Searching for inspiration, but where’s the motivation?

I’ve always had a knack for reading, writing and drawing. However, in the last five years, my artistic skills became stagnant as I focused on my undergraduate studies. I was able to keep my writing skills sharp as I wrote and eventually became an editor for the campus newspaper.

This summer, I’ve been working on sharpening my artistic skills and re-introducing myself to the world of art. It’s a world I’ve missed dearly. It’s a part of who I’ve always been. As a child, I would sketch and doodle cartoons, specifically Scooby-Doo. My teachers were impressed by my artistic abilities. My reading and writing skills were also above average. In second grade, I was reading at a middle school level. I have my mom to thank for teaching me at such a young age the importance of reading.

As I prepare to enter graduate school to pursue my Masters of Social Work, I fear that the same thing will happen. I’ve decided that I need to keep my eyes and ears open for inspiration. I want to keep my passion for art and writing alive. Letting it fade just isn’t an option.

I find inspiration everywhere. I find it in my daily life. I find inspiration in my mom’s beautiful flower garden, I find it outside in my big backyard with the trees. I’ve always had a fascination with trees, actually. I couldn’t tell you why, I just do.

I find inspiration with music, conversations, books, animals, drawings, paintings, other forms of art.

I find it, but sometimes I don’t implement it. Why? A lack of motivation, a lack of drive. Sometimes it’s hard to find. Motivation comes and goes in spurts. Some days, I wake up and I’m ready to tackle all of the things I have to do and work on a project, take the dog for a walk, etc. Some days, I just want to sit on the couch or lie in bed and binge-watch a show on Netflix. Some days I have to push myself, other days I just go until I’m exhausted. I suppose I’m only human.

I’m in search of implementing the inspiration I find, but I can’t do that without motivation. If you have any tips or tricks on keeping yourself motivated, what are they? I would love to know. Feel free to comment below!