School: Then & Now

When I was seventeen years old, about a month into my senior year, I dropped out of high school. This isn’t something I really hide, and it’s far from something I’m ashamed of. In fact, I think that dropping out is a major reason why I am the person I am today. It was the right choice for me. High school was, for lack of a better term, a living hell for my sad adolescent self. To make up for all the lost time I spent fucking off as a sophomore and junior, I would not have been able to graduate my senior year without taking on tremendous amounts of extra work . This was simply too much for me, and I elected to take the option that had always been in front of me, but suddenly felt like the only way out: I dropped out in October of 2015.

If you had told that freshly dropped-out me that I would be as happy and excited to continue my academic journey as I am now, I would never have believed you. Today, if you’d care to join me, I wish to take you on a journey through my history, from my high school struggles and working during my gap years, to now, a semester out from transferring to UMASS Amherst. This is a long one, so strap in folks.

Part 1: We don’t need no education.

It is important that I define exactly what about high school made it so increasingly difficult for me as I progressed through adolescence. As a child, I was “gifted” or whatever you want to call it. I got good grades without trying, and the adults around me liked to remind me frequently just how smart and capable I was. My main fault in elementary and middle school was, simply put, that I was a little shit. I raised hell in class, fought with other kids, didn’t do homework I found “useless” and my disciplinary record was far from clean. In middle school I was diagnosed with some depression & anxiety issues, but it wasn’t until I entered high school that this all began to come to a head and I could feel myself slowly deteriorating. It was also around this time that my parents separated and began the process of divorce. Being a teenager, I was completely caught up in a wide variety of now-irrelevant personal problems, so this was the backdrop to what became my horrid high school years.

With regard to my education, the biggest problem I faced was my complete and utter apathy towards the school system as a whole. I considered it stupid. I wanted to be creative and channel my passion into something I found productive, not something the world thought I had to do. It was around this time that I stopped caring about my classes and my grades. I would cry and scream and throw tantrums every morning, desperately trying to avoid going to school. When I did go, the only thing I cared about was seeing my friends in the few minutes before school began. As soon as the bell rang, I wouldn’t go to class. I would hide in a room no one ever went in just to get away from it all. I would camp myself on the floor of the art wing hallway and cry. No one ever noticed me there, or if they did, I was well-known enough as a lost cause that people didn’t bother to stop and help.

In general, people did try and help, though. Teachers reached out, but I never accepted their assistance. Nothing they said could get through to me. All the logic they could come up with was simply refuted by the thing I so vehemently believed: school was useless, and frankly, I believed that I was above it. I tried switching to the school’s night program for a trimester, but that didn’t work. My family considered homeschooling, but what was the point if I couldn’t see my friends? All of this was backed by a never-ending veil of deep-rooted depression– I was too depressed to care, yet I knew I wasn’t living up to my potential, and that made me even more depressed. It was that, at the heart of it all, that caused my depression to worsen and worsen until I simply couldn’t take it anymore, and dropped out of high school.

Part 2: Welcome to the machine.

The month or so following the decision to drop out was probably the most depressed I have ever been in my life. It wasn’t until my dad convinced me to get a job at the Dunkin’ Donuts by his office that I found a reason to live: work. I started off only working a couple nights a week, but by the end of my year and a half long stint there, I was working 30-40 hour weeks more often than not. Dunks had become a huge part of my identity. It was the only place I went. My coworkers were the only people I saw. For the first few months, I actually loved my job, but that love quickly faded into stress and anxiety. There was always drama at the store, customers could be cruel, and it was starting to hit me that I was now trapped in the capitalist machine.

It was in January of 2017 that I was told by an acquaintance of an opening at a TD bank branch. Interested in the idea of a pay raise, and a career in which I could move up instead of being stuck for life as a “crew member,” I decided to apply. I had extremely low expectations, so when my interview went well and I got the call saying I got the job, I was completely over the moon. I wasn’t as hopeless as I thought! A bank wanted me! That was way cooler than working at Dunks for the rest of my life, right? Wrong.

Somehow, against all odds, working at TD was exponentially more difficult on my mental health than working at Dunks was. Within days of starting there, I knew that the place was going to be an absolute storm of chaos, and it was. I loved almost all of my coworkers and became rather close friends with a couple of them, but the branch was always busy and understaffed, so there was nearly always tension between us. The year I worked there was a lonely one; the only people I hung out with outside of work were my platonic life partner Nico and the couple of coworkers who I got along well with. By the end of 2017 I was again exhausted, miserable with my position in life. I knew for certain by then that banking was not for me, and even though I was making far better money than I ever had at Dunks, I still felt just as trapped within the confines of the corporate machine. If anything, the banking industry was worse in that regard. Every corporate event was a tactical farce used to butter up the employees and convince them to make more sales. I was terrible at sales, and given that it was part of my job description, I was frequently being told to step up my game, but it went against every fiber of my being to do so.

These years, even despite the bitter sadness I often felt, were better than high school. Why? Two reasons: personal growth and circumstantial change. Let’s follow up on those.

Part 3: A hunger still unsatisfied.

It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve, the dawning of 2018, that my eyes were opened to the potential I still had. I met Laurie, Joe and Pen, the people I still live with today. They convinced me that the money I made suffering through my day job was not worth the emotional price I paid for it. Where I had formerly believed I was trapped in the corporate cycle, I went home able to visualize a future for myself that didn’t involve slaving away over things I didn’t care about for 40 hours a week. I enrolled in Northern Essex Community College as a Psychology major, which was… well, let’s just say I am no longer a psychology major.

Why did no one talk me out of that?

It wasn’t until I moved to central MA and attended an open house at the community college I currently attend that I began to latch onto my passion. I discovered an environmental science program and loved the idea of it. For a semester, I took classes dedicated to that before I switched to the school’s Natural Resources Degree (NRD), which I am currently a few credits away from completing.

It’s hard sometimes not to remember the past, and for the first couple years of college I struggled not to feel like I’d been marked with a scarlet D– for delinquent, dead-end, dropout. College, though, is nothing like high school for me. You make your own schedule, are in control of your own life, and are able to pick out the path you want to take of your own volition entirely. My mother was right, after all; she always said I would thrive in college, but I never believed her. For the first time in my life, I found in college the kind of intellectually stimulating environment high school could never be for me. Everyone in my major knows each other, and we all get along because we have common interests. After a few years in NRD, I realized that out of all the fascinating topics I studied, my favorite part was plant science. I loved everything about it; plant anatomy and physiology, ecology, pathology, horticulture. I suddenly realized that I had finally found something I love, something I could see myself happy doing for the rest of my life. That’s what I, to this day, plan on studying at UMASS when I transfer.

Now, that’s not to say that my success in college is completely circumstantial, that all along it was just the format of high school that doomed me. My evolution in character since I was a teenager plays just as much of a part in why I have taken to school better than I did then. A strong example of that is my Functions & Modeling math course from fall of 2018. The course was fucking hard. There’s no kinder way to put it. While I liked my professor and respected him as a person, he was relatively new to teaching and this came out in both his lecture style and the content of his exams. The semester was extremely rough on me, if only because of this course alone. Every day during class I had panic attacks and left. Every day after class I called my mom crying. I would tell her it feels like high school all over again. I felt so helpless, like it wasn’t even worth trying. Every time, she reminded me that this wasn’t high school, and I wasn’t the same as I once was. She was right. In the end, I busted my ass every day trying to learn the concepts and it paid off: I was one of only eight people out of the thirty that passed that course with a C.

Since high school I have matured past the idea that I either can do something or can’t, and that’s the end of it. In high school, I told myself I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t do it, and that was simply the truth of the matter. That, inevitably, is how I ended up so deep in a hole that I couldn’t pull myself out. The new me, this college me, knows that that’s bullshit: I can do it, I will do it, and my destiny is in my own hands.

I guess if there’s anything I want people to get out of this long, rambling post is that if you’re thinking of going back to school, it’s not too late. Whether it be getting your GED, getting an associates/bachelors for the first time in your 60s, or even returning to school for a graduate degree, it’s not too late. Your past doesn’t define you, and your future is waiting to be written. Go ahead and write it.

Welcome to the Island

I have been isolating as much as physically possible since March 23rd, 2020. As everyone knows, we are kind of in the middle of a global pandemic. Now, before you click off this post, know I’m not here to tell you how bad this is gonna be, or how much everyone’s overreacting, or what wild conspiracy theories to believe & not to believe. I’m not interested in any of that. For the sake of today’s post, I am only interested in the effects of social isolation.

Anyway, apart from a few trips out to get take-out food and two socially distanced outdoor meetups with one couple, I’ve been staying in my own little world. It’s a little tricky at times to manage my social need vs. my need for alone time. As some may know, I live in a household with 4 other people. This makes truly isolating, even in isolation, a little difficult. That being said, over the last few months, my household has had very little interpersonal drama. In general, we all know each other’s needs and desires for socialization and space, and we communicate when needed. In general, I find that I prefer to spend more time alone working on personal projects (see: this blog post) than I spend just hanging out with the fam. Nonetheless, I do spend time with them. After dinner we stick around the table, sipping wine and shooting the breeze. On “Mario Monday”, when possible, we gather in the living room to play Mario Party. I’ve found a balance between my personal projects and my social need.

There is a certain cultural emphasis I see on the concepts of “introversion” and “extraversion.” Often, you are said to be either one or the other–– an extravert who thrives and recharges off of social interaction and is lost without it, or an introvert, who lives for solitude and is drained by social activity. This dichotomy is, simply put, a myth. The reality behind human social tendency is far more complex than that. Carl Jung, credited with coining the terms, stated himself that extraversion and introversion are not, in any way, a continuum that implies having more of one must mean less of the other. In fact, originally, his intention was to show that there was an introverted and extraverted side to everyone–– one is simply, usually, more dominant.

I believe that this quarantine is bringing this to light for a lot of people. Many extraverts are realizing that being alone isn’t have bad. Many introverts are noticing that, despite their day-to-day schedules not changing much, they miss the social interaction they did have in the first place. It’s a shift in which side of them is dominant, spurred by the requirement to isolate.

Back to my own experience; I am fascinated by how quickly my hypersocial persona from over the fall and winter faded quickly away into isolative satisfaction in the spring (with the introduction of COVID-19 into the United States.) Despite my former desperation not to spend an evening alone and bored, and my avid socialization with various circles, I’ve found that living in isolation has been… wonderful. Frankly, I’m doing quite well. Now, to be fair, I do live with people; I am not in complete and utter isolation. However, as I briefly mentioned before, my tendency has been away from those I live with, and into my own cocoon. It’s gotten me thinking about why this change has happened to me, and how I will be able to re-adjust to society after I finally decide to emerge from said cocoon.

If I decide to emerge from it.

The real thing grinding the gears in the back of my mind might seem, at first, laughable–– what happens if I end up a hermit, after all of this? Sure, I’m quite confident that this won’t actually happen–– I do miss my friends, and I do want to see them. Still, he social distancing requirements are lifting slowly, day by day. More and more of my friends are reaching out to me to, when these restrictions are lifted, hang out and do some stuff. Yet, to everyone, I say, “not yet. I don’t think it’s safe yet.” And while this is true––I don’t––it’s almost irrelevant to the real reasons why I don’t want to go.

I am comfortable in my isolation.

There is a simple fact about the nature of human relationships: they are complicated. For a person and another person to interact and get along, they must learn each other. Know parts of each other. Allow each other to know those parts. There are things you shouldn’t say, couldn’t say, things you can only say to one person. Even if you love people for all their flaws, like I so deeply do, there is no denying the complexity and emotional strain of maintaining healthy relationships. Some are easier than others, but every relationship is different, and even the easiest ones have the quirks and intricacies. I think this is why, for me, this isolation has been so strangely liberating. As much as I adore my friends, and I miss that connection, I also have not connected so much with myself in a very long time. 

Many of us live disconnected from ourselves. We all do sometimes, I think, but some people more so than others. For me, this isolation has helped open my eyes to what my priorities are. I want to write more. I’ve been brainstorming my novel, writing for my friends, and overall focusing more on my personal projects than I have, quite literally, in years. In the end, I just hope that the social isolation of this pandemic can put things into perspective for more people than just me–– what do you want to do when it’s just you? Now is the time to do it.

Food: Friend or Foe?

Warning: This post touches upon eating disorders and food-related health problems. If this is a problem for you, please keep your mental health in mind and don’t read. ❤

As long as I can remember, I have loved food. The smell of it, the taste of it, the sheer variety of options. There are very few foods in my adulthood that I dislike enough not to eat them. Food, to me, has always been a source of joy and comfort. From the tex-mex delight that’s a burrito stuffed to the brim, to the warm, familiar classic mac and cheese, I love it all. It brings me immense joy to eat almost anything in the world, and I don’t want to lose that feeling. The problem, however, is that dopamine hits are a powerful motivator, and food, despite my unconditional love for it, has it out for me.

If you’re anything like me, which I imagine a fair number of you are, you love food too. It makes you happy when you’re sad, entertains you when you’re bored, and above all, feels good when the sweet taste of a delectable treat flows over your taste buds. Images in movies of heartbroken teenage girls, curled up on the couch eating ice cream to cope, rich nobles living lives of luxury surrounded by expensive delicacies– food is everywhere in media. It’s a quick and easy way to feel good and experience something nice, and if you’re fortunate enough to have access to it on the regular, you might know its siren song well.

Do you ever aimlessly open the fridge and cupboards, looking for something to eat when you’re not even hungry? Do you ever find yourself eating 4-5 meals or snacks a day just to ignore the thoughts in your brain? I do. When I’m eating, I feel, for a moment, that everything is okay. My problems, everyone else’s problems; it’s all far away. The reality of lazy, unproductive days is masked by the periodic eating I do, making it feel like I did more than nothing. When I’m not doing something, I want to be eating, and when I’m superfluously eating, it means there’s something I could be doing.

For years, I’d been eating more than I knew I was. I didn’t realize what a proper portion size looked like, how healthy food could taste good. Even just awareness of what you eat and when you eat it can go a long way to a healthier life and better mind frame. Since I was eighteen (I’m 22 now) I gained fifty pounds, just idly eating, not noticing day by day that I was feeling worse and worse. For six or so months in late 2019 and early 2020 I was starting to be painfully aware of my gastrointestinal problems. I was vomiting up my dinner near-daily. My heartburn was constant, relentless, and terrible. My stools were irregular, and when I did have to go, I was horribly constipated. Overall, it was a miserable affair. I ate until I couldn’t physically take it anymore, and suffered the consequences. I cried over toilets and slept curled up in agony from the seemingly never-ending stomach ache I had come to know as normal. Then, I got fed up.

I called a gastrointestinal doctor. I had a few meetings, and he told me about something that I had heard of before– intermittent fasting. Before you read on, please understand that I am not endorsing this as a fix-all solution to any person’s eating problems. I highly suggest that if you are suffering from anything similar, or a different eating disorder entirely, and you want to get help, contact a healthcare professional. I am not that. I am simply sharing my own story and reflecting on my experience.

Intermittent fasting is the practice of having two phases to your day: an 8-10 hour period in which you eat, and a 14-16 hour period in which you do not. The doctor told me that intermittent fasting was a good way, after a while of keeping the habit fairly regularly, to keep your bowel movements regular. That, at the time, was the main problem I wanted solved. This was intriguing to me, so much in fact, that I started on the regimen the same day. Give or take a few bad days every once in a while, I’ve been pretty consistently eating between the hours of 12 noon and 8PM for over three months. This, against all odds, has been working for me.

Not only have I managed to finally gain some control and regularity to my bowel movements, but I have reaped unexpected benefits. I have less heartburn, fewer stomachaches, and I’ve lost a few extra pounds slowly but surely. My chronic joint pain has even been reduced significantly, all because I’m not stuffing myself full to the brim with junk all the time. The biggest benefit of all, however, is not really a physical one. Intermittent fasting has helped me to begin picking at the part of my brain that relies on food as a coping mechanism, and start to lose that dependance. Intermittent fasting is changing the way I think about food.

Food is vital to human survival. We need key nutrients, and without them we suffer horrible consequences. In 2017, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 815 million people worldwide receive insufficient food to meet their nutritional needs. The fact that millions are starving and my problem is binge-eating food… well, I just don’t like it. I want to change that. Intermittent fasting, alongside helping me feel better physically, it helping me process food as a necessary thing, not a drug to take whenever I need a little hit of dopamine. Instead of shoving tons of it into my body and making it sick, I should cherish those snacks and meals I do eat, when I eat them.

Adopting the fasting mindset has not been easy. I love breakfast food, and not eating in the morning makes it a little harder to eat it. On days where my depression comes back to haunt me, I find myself eating again, and I fear how easily I slip back into bad habits when I’m sad. Still, I refuse to take it as a loss. This whole thing is a process, and I’m still processing all the information my body and my mind learn every day. Hopefully, someday, I will stop thinking of food as a coping mechanism for good, and I’ll be able to live my life healthier in a way that causes me minimal stress. For now, though, I can only work on getting there.

The Secular Pagan

Disclaimer: This essay is purely a work of introspection, observation, and personal opinion. Nothing stated within it should be taken as fact, but as one girl’s empirical analysis of her own beliefs and the behaviors of those around her.  My fascination with the width of human diversity runs very deep– here, I simply aim to explore it.

I believe, but I do not believe in “God.”

That is the mantra I currently stand by, but before any serious theists jump down my throat, I implore you to listen. I do, however, believe in the belief of God. Today, I will be diving into topics that may be sensitive to many people. At the end of the day, life is short, and whatever belief system means something to you is valid, as long as you yourself are not harming others. I am not trying to shame anyone, merely to shed some light on my thoughts on religion, spirituality, and atheism– and perhaps the links they all have with each other.

My Religious Backstory

Throughout my youth, I was vaguely involved in a multitude of Christian churches. My family’s piousness was dubious for sure, and I managed to garner a slight knowledge of the Bible at best, and several threats of damnation at worst. Baptized at seven years old Trinitarian and eventually turned somewhat Catholic, I never gave too much of a shit about religion. Young Elizabeth (as I was once called) had no feelings for or against the Church, or lack thereof. My in-depth philosophical analysis of Catholic values led to a few of the aforementioned damnation threats, and to a subsequent “suggested withdrawal” from CCD. Neither I nor my parents really minded. It was clear at this point that Christianity was not for me.

That being said, I was certainly not an atheist. An “atheist” as defined by Merriam-Webster English dictionary for simplicity, is “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.” I do not believe in God, nor Allah, nor Vishnu, Thor, Zeus, or Ra, yet without delving too deep into the etymology or use of the word, I could say with absolute certainty that “atheist” was not how I identified. As I emerged into adolescence, this identity slowly evolved. I eventually discovered agnosticism, and came to like the ideology.

For those unaware, agnosticism is defined (again by Merriam-Webster) as “a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.” Some people tend to lean in one direction or the other: agnostic atheist, or agnostic theist. These more specific identities portray a personal belief in either god/gods, or lack thereof, but an acknowledgement that their belief holds no scientific proof or foundation. Although all agnostics accept that this is an “unknown” reality, I find that for me, the “unknowable” part is key.

Trying to solve the answers to the universe is not only futile, but downright exhausting. I am by no means trying to demean the intellectual merit of philosophy– it’s fun, and certainly intriguing. That being said, I hold onto the belief that none of the questions philosophers spend so much time contemplating have any semblance of an answer. The meaning of life, ethical dilemmas, intrinsic “purpose”– it’s cool, but frankly, irrelevant. Sorry Plato, but philosophy is more of a hobby these days. At least for me, but I digress.

My mother is Catholic, albeit “recovering” as she would say from her Christian upbringing. My father, conversely, is a “Hindu-Christian” quasi-guru of a spiritually confounding nature. This wild juxtaposition paints a picture of how exactly I was raised, and how my views have morphed and evolved over time. While I am not religious by any means, I am spiritual to the core. This was less of a decision and more of a necessity for the sake of my mental clarity, but I’ll go into that more in a moment. Despite my belief that the existence of a “higher power” or lack thereof is inherently unknowable, there are certain phenomena I have witnessed, felt, or experienced, that simply feel right to me. “Powers,” perhaps from nature, perhaps from the depths of my weak human psyche, but energy flowing all around me. It could be God. It could be electricity. It could be a glitch in the Matrix.

It could be nothing. Nonetheless, it is something to me.

Crack Open a Corona: Dealing with Pandemic Stress

Everyone knows about it, without it needing to be said. On the street, in lines at stores, and essentially everywhere in the world, people keep their distance, trying not to make a big deal of the underlying feeling everyone seems to share: fear. Needless to say, we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Whether you’re one who believes in the severity of the disease, someone who believes it’s all a hoax for government control, or whatever else you might believe, there appears to be a universal concern for the state of our country, and even world. Fear of death. Fear of economic devastation. Fear of government control.

Personally, I am not a fan of living in fear. Despite a history of anxiety, I find myself rather unfazed by all the chaos in the world. I’m sticking to myself, trying to be productive, and somewhat succeeding; I’m writing this, aren’t I? It’s not that I don’t believe there will be harsh, life-altering consequences from this pandemic and the way the U.S. Government is handling it, I just don’t find it in my best interest to worry about things I can’t control. Somehow, over the years, I’ve taken control of my emotions for the most part. Nowadays, I very rarely throw myself into an emotional tailspin that ends in a deep depressive state. Surely medication helps with this fact, but a lot of it is my own mindset and how I’ve cultivated my thinking to be a little bit more positive.

In times like these, positivity is more important than ever. For a lot of people, a quick and effective source of positivity is consuming media. Whether it be a favorite TV show, a great album, or watching a YouTuber they enjoy, everyone has their choice of escapism, and I wholeheartedly stand by that. I personally consume a lot of YouTube, because, well, it’s free. That being said, I think that throwing yourself solely into distractive media is not a catch-all for handling coronavirus anxiety and stress. So, I’m going to share some of my own techniques for managing anxiety and cultivating positivity in these trying times.

Awareness

The single most key factor in maintaining my sanity has been awareness of my needs and unhealthy habits. By making sure I don’t bury anything, and keeping my reality on the surface, I concentrate my effort into good things while trying my best not to fall back into bad habits. This isn’t to say you won’t make mistakes, let yourself fall back into a negative mindset or into bad habits (overeating, oversleeping, not exercising, to share some of my own), but awareness is the first step to actually getting out of them in the first place. Then getting out of them again. And again.

Another thing to be aware of is your own resilience. Just like you’re damn capable of warding away or fighting off COVID-19, you’re damn capable of re-writing the rhetoric in your own head. Do you feel like you’ve failed? You haven’t. It’s important that you be aware of that.

Also be aware of how things WILL make you feel, not just how they make you feel in the moment. For me, I need to constantly remind myself of the inevitable nausea, constipation, heartburn, and acid reflux that will result when I decide it’s a good idea to binge eat for hours on end. While it may be cathartic in the moment, it’s going to catch up with me later. It’s important to be aware of that.

Creativity

I know better than anyone how difficult it can be to be creative. Despite being a “writer,” I very rarely actually get any work done on my projects. In times like these, it’s important to make time for yourself to be creative, or make small goals you believe you can meet. Maybe it’s doodling. Maybe it’s writing. For me, lately, it has been journalling. I’ve been bullet journalling lately, and it has been both a creative outlet for me and a helpful organizational tool.

If you don’t generally engage in any “creative” pursuits, use this time to focus on a hobby or interest that you don’t often make enough time for. It’s good to feel like you’ve done something good for yourself, especially when it feels like there’s very little good around.

Organization

I’m not a naturally organized person. I need to expend a lot of energy to get organized, and once I get there, I’m not amazing at keeping things that way. A lot of people, it seems, have decided to quarantine themselves (if they aren’t being forced to), and when you’re in your house for extended periods of time, this is even more important. A clean environment helps keep your mind clean. This is pretty basic, yet extremely difficult to maintain. I encourage anyone who is struggling to keep their thoughts straight to set aside time to make progress on cleaning or organizing. Not only that, but it’s a productive use of time spent indoors.

Also, if you’re a student like me, you may be worrying about managing online classes once they start up. I personally set up a bullet journal spread which I’m going to use to keep track of my classes, with a dedicated daily period where I will try and force myself to do work, as if I’m going to an actual class. I dedicated one weekday to each class, and once I get more information from my professors, I’m going to fill in each day with what I’ll try to get done. It was a cathartic exercise to create it, and it will hopefully be a productive one to use it.

quarantine

Self-Care

This one, really, is simple. Act like you’re leaving the house. Try to shower. Put on clothes. Brush your hair. Even put on makeup, if you want to. It’s a good idea to continue as if you were living your life normally. Of course, you can also treat yourself to a relaxing bath or face mask if those are things you partake in and happen to have available to you.

It’s also a good idea to stay out of your bed as much as possible. For me, at least, it’s a good way to keep myself from fall into lazy habits like sleeping, binging, or just, well, being unproductive.

Anyway, that’s really what I’ve been doing to try and stay sane. Remember, none of us are alone in this. Now is a more important time than ever to come together (from a distance) and support each other. It’s also important to help yourself, though. Don’t let this virus tear you down. In the end, the world will keep turning. Stay strong. Keep on. Sit back, and crack open a Corona. Sip it, inhale, exhale, and try to relax.

Reconciling Joy & Productivity

I sleep in late, another day
Oh what a wonder
Oh what a waste
It’s a Monday, it’s so mundane
What exciting things
Will happen today?

Avant Gardener – Courtney Barnett

Lately, I’ve been trying to work on my ever-looming novel concept. The seed for this concept was germinated in my head when I was probably 12 or 13, and having undergone severe change over the years, I’m finally in a place where I feel like I have a story. For a long time, it was more of a collection of characters, with deeply developed personalities and lives, but very little in the way of an actual plot. I’ve finally found that elusive plot, and slowly but surely, I am trying to plod along.

Writing, however, does not come as easily for me as it does for others. My roommate, Nico, is a very prolific writer. He produces hundreds to thousands of words per day, extremely consistently, and I often envy the way he manages it. How does he simply sit down and make the words happen? How does he do it without needing to nitpick every detail of his environment, mood, and physical state first? The answer is actually quite simple; we are extremely different people. These differences have caused problems over the years, but in the end, it’s why we are so close. We’re bonded like puzzle pieces– our different edges just fit together perfectly.

My current puzzle, however, is productivity. Sometimes I think Nico views productivity above everything, and that works for him, or at least seems to. He writes, people like what he writes, and it makes him happy to do it. Writing makes me happy too, so why is it that I struggle so often to sit down and do it? Before deciding to write this entry, I lay in bed for over an hour, wondering if I should grab my laptop and write, or just keep watching The Right Opinion. Somehow, despite the fact that I deeply enjoy both activities, the latter seems significantly less… productive. Why is that?

Obviously, “productivity” has to do with the end “product” of both activities. When I write, I (eventually) end up with a story, or a poem, or hey, a blog post! I put the effort in, and I always get what I put into it, out of it. When I just sit around watch YouTube, there’s nothing tangible to show for it. Sure, I enjoyed myself, but where’s the payoff? It’s in my head. I relaxed. I was happy for an hour. It’s a distinct, obvious difference between passive and active joy. To write, I need to put my brain into it, put my heart into it. That can be exhausting, and I’m already exhausted most of the time. However, getting over that hurdle ends up being the most exciting thing of all. Sitting and watching YouTube simply can’t compare. So why do I do so much more of that than writing?

It’s Newton’s law, frankly. An object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by a force, and unfortunately, I’m the only force that can truly act upon me. In the end, I still think that “productivity” doesn’t need to be the end goal of every activity, but it’s important to make sure I get some productive stuff in there. Otherwise, I think I’ll go insane. I enjoy being lazy, sitting around, napping, and I like watching the content that people out there create. I also enjoy writing… but it’s just a lot harder to get started doing that. Somewhere along the line, I hope to find a happy medium between passivity and activity, but until I do… well, I guess it’ll be a coin flip. Que será será. Whatever will be, will be.

Reflection on a Rainy Afternoon

In the first few months of 2019, had intended to post a nice “Year in Review,” chronicling how I spent 2018 and what it brought to me. For whatever reason, that review never came. Perhaps I was just too busy, or melancholy, treading the brambly path in the woods known as fading romance. Maybe I was trapped in my thoughts, too lost in them to rekindle the love that was in front of me. I started 2019 happy, only to quickly fall off the high beam, into depression.

In January and February, the end of winter proved as dark and dismal as it tends to be. Nonetheless, I started to find happiness come April. A new love came and went, as it so often does, and the drizzly, head-spinning spring came to an end as though it had just started. Then, came the sun.

This summer was one unlike any other. I sang, I danced. I made friends and lost some. I sobbed in despair and shed tears of joy, growing and changing along the way. People in my life went through things that are impossible to describe. Everyone burst, like flowers in bloom, into new versions of themselves… bigger versions. Better or worse versions? Only time will tell. But many have changed this year, including myself, and I believe it could be for the better.

I’ve spent the second half of 2019 single, and it has been nice to have some time and freedom to live as I please. Unfortunately, as the sky became darker again, my demeanor did too. Things started to seem worthless again. Futile. I was beginning to feel listless, lethargic, and unsure of my life path. Chronic pain had me in its grip, and it felt useless to try and escape.

One December day, I was starting to feel lower than I knew how to handle, so I left my house on impulse and went to the gym. The adrenaline shocked my system and got me out of my head for a little. Then, I kept going– every other day when I could manage. I started to feel genuinely better. The holidays came and went, I saw family, some near and some far. Overall, I’ve had holidays better and holidays worse. Then, came the new year, and I celebrated with friends the beginning of 2020 and my 22nd birthday.

Contrary to what many are saying about their year, I think 2019 was the best year I’ve had in a while. I managed my anxiety better, faced my depression and kept climbing my way out. I spent more time happy, rather than sad, than I have since early middle school. Sure, there were some rough points, but I refuse to let those define what was an overall amazing year full of growth and adventure. Now, I face the new horizons with a sense of strength and resilience, like I am better equipped than ever to face anything life throws at me.

Overall, the world seems to be struggling. Many are divided by their views, their actions, or their ideas about where the future will, or should, take us. I find this overarching outlook to be stressful, somewhat futile, and downright depressing. Do I care about what happens to the world? Of course. I do not, however, feel the need to contribute to the mass hysteria that has overtaken most everyone I know. The moment is now, and the future is inevitable. For me, in 2020 I will see my own future clearly, as it seems as though the world’s future is blurry and difficult to discern. No rose-colored glasses for me this year, but I won’t need them.

I’m better at sniffing out the roses now.

Summer’s End

As August comes to an end and the darker days and colder nights of autumn set in over New England, I find myself falling into a familiar sense of contentedness. I consider myself blessed to live in a place with four beautiful seasons, but the fall has always been my favorite. I’m not sure whether it’s the windy mornings, chilly nights, or the feel of warm apple cider on a cold day, but I always find myself at peace during this time of year. The year is finally winding towards its end, and I can comfortably reflect on the summer I’ve had.

I have always loved the start of a new school year. Even when I was struggling with academics and motivation to succeed, nothing got me more excited to go back to school than the feeling of getting new binders, folders, notebooks, pens… Nowadays, I genuinely just can’t wait to go back to school. I love my major (Natural Resources) and cannot wait to start classes this fall. I’m taking Plant Science, Forestry, and Environmental Chemistry. All three are lab classes… this should be fun. Typical school stress aside, I think I will have another successful year. Also, my dear friend Bri and I are co-presidents of the school’s Green Society. There’s a lot in store for me, including the long-awaited introduction to the composting system we petitioned the cafeteria for last semester. It’s cool to feel like, even on the smallest little levels, I’m making a positive change in the world.

The future, though always foreboding, is not actually what this post is about. It’s about the past few months of my life, how I’ve spent them, and how it’s made me feel. I feel that I’ve been on track to something decent despite all the horror in the world, and this summer in particular was a memorable one for me. The summer of 2019… my twenty-second orbit on this Earth… the first summer spent being old enough to drink.

My summer started off with a bang, and the end of a short, fatally passionate relationship with a very wonderful human being. Mere days after this abrupt, awkward breakup, some family issues came up that occupied a fair amount of my time and emotional energy. Both of these factors aside, I managed to have a wonderful early June visit with my mom and her husband in Florida, for their birthdays. My stepsisters were both there, and it was so amazing to see them after so long! Upon getting back, I went to a Red Sox game, which always makes me happy––we won, which makes me even happier.

Soon after, I was officially diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that affects 1 in 10,000 people. It contributes to my chronic pain, joint hyper-mobility, and bruise-prone skin, as well as a variety of other factors that affect my physical and mental health. To hear the words out of the mouth of a medical professional was… bittersweet. On one hand, it feels like somewhat of a condemnation– this is your life now, there’s no cure––it can only be managed. On the other, it feels amazing to know where my pain and struggles come from, and it has helped me to learn what’s good and bad for my body. It’s important to know your limits; I’m learning mine.

I went to a few concerts over the summer: Gaelic Storm with my roommates and their parents, and MisterWives with my friend Taylor. Both concerts were amazing, and not just because I could drink hahaha! If you like Irish music, Gaelic Storm is for you. If you like upbeat revolution-driven pop-punk, try MisterWives. If neither, well, that’s fine too!

On July 7th my cousin Tony married his college sweetheart Angela after many years, and they had a beautiful Hawaiian themed weekend wedding down in Connecticut with all our family. As they live on Hawaii, it’s not very often that we get to see them. It was a wonderful weekend and I was happy to be able to enjoy it with family. As my uncle, Teddy Larkin, said in his song “If The Walls Could Talk:”

We’re a comfortable, dysfunctional family
The only one I know
Something special, but nothing fancy
And I’m just your average Joe.

It was around this time that I started going to a divey little bar, usually for karaoke. I still go, and I’ve met a bunch of really cool people while hanging out there. It’s a dive, but its got character, and I love being able to sing my heart out and nothing makes me happier than being out and about with people. Well, maybe not nothing. But it’s up there, as long as I get to go home and sleep in my own bed when it all comes down to it. I’ve balanced my summer well, I think, between socializing and resting. Like I mentioned before, I know my limits.

At the end of July, my “family” (whom I live with, not my blood relatives) and I went on a vacation to Montreal and Quebec City. Oh, it was so amazing… I’ve always loved Quebec. I’d move to Montreal in a heartbeat. It was hot and muggy, but we saw the sights and had an amazing time. We visited the botanical gardens, watched fireworks, drank nice brews, ate nice chews, and I thoroughly enjoyed the nightlife. I miss it, but I know I’ll be back again someday.

Now, as summer winds down, I feel as though I’m satisfied with how it went for the first time in almost a decade. I met tons of nice people, reconnected with old friends, and made a plethora of amazing memories. My mental health is in a better place than its ever been, and I see it getting better. Overall, I’d chalk this one up as a win. Onwards, to the future, and upwards.

Hills and Valleys

It’s been thirty years since there had been any sign of life in Resonant Echo Valley. Out of a smoky, hidden grove, a young woman emerges with things to say. Here and now, she pens them down:

For years, I’ve been dabbling in the world of online blogging. From my first blog, a now defunct lilyk.net, to my current one, there has been a sequence of about seven. Frankly, a lot of my own online eras have blurred together in my memories. Every so often, younger me would start a blog and swear to write every day, every week. Inevitably, a slightly older younger me would grow bored of regularly blogging, give up, and shut the blog down. This cycle continued until January of 2018, when I founded Resonant Echo.

The biggest difference between Resonant Echo and its forefathers is the lack of a promise or goal. Never have I tried, or even stated that I would try, to update regularly and with any amount of topic consistency. If you’re reading this, it means that six months after my last post, I actually wrote another one! Wow! I’m proud of me. Needless to say, I’ve never been good at keeping to a schedule.

(I came back here of my own volition, so one would assume I came here for a reason. I’m not sure yet of my reasoning, although there always is one.)

Not much “eventful” has occurred in the last six months of my life. I’ve been singing karaoke and hanging out with friends. I am single and terrified to mingle. I saw MisterWives in concert, and I reunited with some long lost friends. A lack of “event” however does not mean nothing has happened. I think a lot has happened, both for better and for worse.

I am, again, at a stagnant phase of my life. The school year starts up again in September, and I’m hoping once it does, I can get out of my thoughts a little. Things are not bad, but they aren’t good either. They just are, and in the end, I’m okay with that. Lately I’ve been learning to take and process things as they come. It’s a sort of meditative practice involving a strong desire to change and… a lot of patience. Patience is something I inherently lack, but it has been an important skill to cultivate in my day-to-day life. Every day it gets a modicum easier to let the little things roll off my shoulder. That, like this blog post, is a win for Team Avery. A small win, but a win nonetheless.

The future of the world looks admittedly dim, but that does not mean my light has to fade with it. One spark can start the world, so I refuse to let mine die out. Even when things are hard, I am here on this planet and I may as well make the most out of it. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Living in the moment. Taking things day by day.

The moral of the story is that I wrote this today. It’s a simple, concise fact that none can dispute, and in doing so, I proved my younger self wrong. If you give up on blogging for months, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Pick up where you left off. Let your ideas take flight again. Be patient. Don’t worry.

It’ll all be just fine.

Writing for No One to Read

I am a writer. I write because I like to write. I don’t like writing what I don’t want to write. I don’t write for money; I can’t write for money. I don’t always write, but when I do write, I write what I want to write. Not what people want me to write. That’s alright… right?

At least I write.

To a lot of people, the idea of writing for no audience is ludicrous. What other reason is there to pen words onto paper, if not for someone to read them? Well, I don’t know, honestly. All that I know is that I like to write, and I write sometimes. Not often, these days. Not a lot. I certainly don’t write on this blog very often, but you must merely take my word for it: I do write. A good portion of the things I produce remain unseen by any eyes other than my own––at most a few friends. I don’t want people to see, and I don’t need people to see. It seems strange, but I don’t write for them– just for me.

There is something intrinsically personal in everything one writes. It doesn’t matter how similar or different my life is to the characters or worlds I’m creating. There’s always just that lingering essence of me in it, the nuance with which only I create. If I’m being honest, I’m not comfortable with people getting a glimpse into my mind’s eye. Maybe not everyone sees it that way, but some people pick up on minute details– the little things. Someone out there would see every hint of me in that piece I created, and I’m afraid of that. Everyone has insecurities, complexities, and secrets. I need these qualities for my writing. Without them, I hardly know where to begin. With them, I simply write for no one.

Often I wish I could produce a work of fiction, or even non-fiction, that didn’t ooze with my deepest philosophies and heart-decay. I have tried and failed. The mundane doesn’t spark my intrigue. Detaching myself from characters is easy enough, but detaching myself from the tone and emotion of my prose is impossible. To write something less personal would bore me, and if I don’t care who reads it anyway, why write it at all? So I write from my core. My dark side. My inner self. There’s good and bad in there, I suppose. Isn’t there a little of everything in all of us?

If you’re reading this, congratulations on being the lucky minority! You, my friend, are one of the few people looking into a rare spyglass– peering in on my life.