growing up

Grace for Growing

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It’s time we talked about failure. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a bit sporadic with my posts lately, falling into a trap of excuses that, if I were more put together, I wouldn’t have. I’d have scheduled blog posts, prewritten content, woken up early, worked for every hour of the day. But I am not that person, and while perhaps I dream about one day being her, I have to accept who I am here and now. I must allow myself the grace to fail, to admit defeat, and begin again.

Let’s look at the last round of goals. September’s action list:

-Wake/get out of bed on first alarm

Keep apartment relatively clean; do dishes immediately, pick up after myself, scoop litter boxes

Continue Couch to 5K program

-Do at least three adult tasks (appointments, phone calls, emails) a week

Write/research for 2 hours every weekday

Continue blogging every weekday

-At least three job applications out every weekday

-At least one long-lost phone call a week

Five hours of reading a week

-At least one short story/poetry submission out this month

Say yes

Limits:

-Two spoken/written complaints a week

So, I didn’t do terribly. Last Wednesday I actually finished Couch to 5K, and I’ve now started on 5k to 10k. I’ve blogged pretty consistently (up until the last few weeks), and I’ve done well at maintaining a clean apartment, and I’ve been reading pretty much nonstop (everyone should read Cinder!). After a few set backs I’ve been fighting an uphill battle on the job front (jobs I’m qualified for are flooded with applications, and jobs I’m under-qualified for write me off quickly), but I’m attempting to turn that around and follow leads, get some temping in. Plus, I’m well into 14,000 words for NaNoWriMo (today’s word count goal is 10,000), so I’m definitely doing something with my days. Surprisingly, I haven’t been watching that much TV. Having daily goals (that can’t be procrastinated–no one wants to write 3,334 words in one day) has really helped me to prioritize. All in all, despite still being unemployed, I’m going to call this round a success. While I didn’t achieve all of my goals, I’m some big leaps past who I was a few months ago. I’m learning about myself, my limits, my abilities, my talents. We’re calling it a win.

Now for November’s action list:

-Win NaNoWriMo (and complete novel even if it runs past the the 30th)

-Continue 5k to 10k training

-Complete at least one adult task (appointments, etc) a week

-Wake up on first alarm

-At least one long lost phone call a week

-Short story submission out

-Get a source of income (temping, freelance)

-Get outside every day

Limit:

-Don’t throw away any produce

I always buy so much produce (vegetarian), and almost every week I throw a decent portion of it out. Even if I don’t feel like eating it, time to get over it! No more throwing away food.

How have your goals been going? Are you getting any closer to your Future Self?

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5 Secrets to Living in a Terrible Apartment

It’s no secret to most people that know me, but I live in what I lovingly call a hellhole. I’m lucky enough to not have to fork over my entire paycheck each month, but the discounted living situation means there are some cut corners. For example, we don’t pay the heating bill, but since our landlord controls it, we practically freeze to death in the subzero Minnesota winters. And the old wiring means that running more than one high-voltage appliance at a time causes our entire apartment to lose power. It’s lots of fun. It builds character. I think.

After living in this disaster of an apartment now for a year and a half, I’ve discovered some secrets to making it a touch less awful.

1. Know where your breaker box is.

One of the first phone calls I made to my landlord was “HELP! MY POWER WENT OUT WHEN I WAS MAKING MY SOY BURGERS!” This, it quickly became apparent, would be a continuous problem in our old building. I’m not quite sure why cooking anything for more than two minutes shuts off all power, but it is something I always prepare for whenever I hit COOK. I grab my cellphone, put on my flip flops, and wait. If the lights go off, I turn on the iPhone flashlight, curse a bit about living in a low-budget horror film, and walk down the hall to flip the switches. Thankfully, the breaker box is on my floor, but I’m a little more familiar with the electrical room than I’d like to be. I even had to reset the power in the laundry room once. You’ll be much happier if you know where to go when the old wiring in your miserable apartment picks on you for eating too many Morning Star burgers.

2. Learn to use natural ingredients to unclog your drains.

The pipes in this apartment are old. I’m fairly certain they have never been replaced. And it is usually once a month I find myself standing in the shower (under a fine mist some call “extremely poor water pressure”) ankle-deep in soapy water. Which is always surprising, because the tiny gutter stream from my shower head could never fill the tub that quickly. For a while I bought Drain-O and called my landlord every time it happened. Now I’ve discovered the wonderful secret of vinegar and baking soda, from the lovely Crunchy Betty. First, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain, to begin to dislodge any gunk. Then dump a 1/2 cup of baking soda down that bad boy. Let it sit a bit. Follow up with mix of 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup hot hot water. Let it sit for a bit more (5-10 minutes). Pour another pot of boiling water down that drain, and voila! Clear drain with no trip to Target.

3. Invest in equipment to help regulate temperatures.

Old apartments are notoriously terrible at maintaining temperatures. In the winter, those darling original windows (which gave it so much character!) will leak in cold air like body odor at the crowded state fair. If you’re lucky enough to control your own temperature, consider taking the super nerdy route and sealing your windows with plastic come cold weather. Your friends may laugh at you, but at least you’ll stay warm and have a cheaper heating bill. If you can’t control your thermostat, it might be time to break down and get a space heater. Sure, you’ll have a pretty high electric bill, but at least it doesn’t feel like you’re crawling out of your grave when you wake up in the morning. I invested in a smart space heater with a shut-off timer, so it runs for a few hours before turning off once I’m asleep.

There is likely no such thing as AC in your old apartment, and if you’re trying to stay cheap, box fans are the best investment. I found mine for around $10-$15 at Target. If you just can’t stand the heat, window air conditioning units are worth exploring. Keep in mind, like a space heater, this bad boy sucks up energy. Consider getting one with a timer.

4. Sign up to track you deliveries.

Maybe you’re luckier than I am, and this secret doesn’t apply to you. But the doorbell for our apartment has never worked (something we probably should have looked into before signing the lease). Since moving in, my Amazon Prime account has become all-but-useless. Ordering things online is now a hassle, from miscommunication via door tags to driving twenty minutes to pick up packages they couldn’t leave at the door to having packages stolen—the doorbell fiasco is a mess. But over the course of these mishaps I’ve discovered that both FedEx and UPS offer free delivery notifications if something is coming your way. With UPS My Choice and FedEx personal tracking you can receive text messages or emails when packages are headed to you (for free!). You can also put your account on vacation holds, and set up instructions for where drivers should leave a package. It might not make up for the $79 that Amazon Prime costs, but at least it’ll make deliveries a little less stressful.

5. Roll with the punches.

It’s unavoidable—something absolutely ludicrous will happen to you in your terrible apartment. You’ll find five millipedes on your bathroom floor one morning, accidentally break your single pane glass window while trying to kill a box elder bug, discover the joys of having to change ceiling fan lights for the first time at night. The power will go out for no reason, maybe they’ll even shut off your water. Whatever happens, keep in mind that it isn’t the end of the world. It may feel like it, as your stare at the shards of glass now spread out across your pillows and comforter, but it’s not. Ridiculous things will happen, and they are not a reflection of you, or your day, or your choices, or your lifestyle. They just happen sometimes. So grab your keys, and head out for a walk. The millipedes will probably crawl back into the drain by the time you get back.

Pep Talk

A while ago, my brother sent my family a text message with a link to a video. I don’t quite remember if he told us to save it, but I did. After watching the video, I added the video link under the contact “Pep Talk.” Occasionally, I’ll stumble upon it, but being in the grocery store, on the bus, out with friends, I will put off watching it. I’ve seen the video, so I know what it’s about. Anyway, I don’t feel like I need a pep talk.

The truth is, sometimes you don’t know you need a pep talk until you’re getting one.

With the general changes that come with fall (the start of school, the cooling weather, the impending holidays), it’s sometimes hard to see just how easy it is to get down. We roll our eyes in crowded parking lots, frown up at the grey clouds threatening rain, grumble as we pull the coats from storage. When the sun is shining, it’s easy to smile. When the mist hangs like dust, it’s hard to escape the deep chill.

Today I offer you a pep talk—something to watch and save and watch again. Think about it when you shuffle through the long bank line, when you are stopped at every red light, when you trip up the stairs. Because there is no harm in a pep talk. And if it keeps away the grey thoughts and nasty tones, then you should always have it in your arsenal. Even when you don’t think you need it, it’s good to know it’s there.

When You Run Out of Synonyms for Messing Up

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit in terms of posting. My “on the road” blogging skills appear to be somewhat lacking. Half-vacations are rarely valuable, but I needed to get out the Twin Cities, and my bank account couldn’t take two weeks off. And while I applied to a few jobs, I didn’t exactly stick to my daily routine. Which means it’s time to check in on last month’s goals.

August action list:

-Wake/get out of bed on first alarm

-Complete couch to 5K program

-Do at least one responsible/adult task each weekday (this does not include job applications)

-At least two job applications/inquiries out each weekday

-Blog every weekday

-Write/research at least 1 full hour each weekday

-Say yes to every safe offer to hang out/meet people

Limit:

-NO TV

I would like to say that I attempted all of these tasks, but the three seasons of Suits I have under my belt argue against that. For a good while I did quit TV. But the sad truth is that rationing isn’t my forte (that and my two-month wait for Game of Thrones from the library finally came through).

For the most part, I did succeed at my goals for the month. I’ve definitely fallen off at the end, but for much of August I blogged every weekday, I have worked through the Couch to 5K program (today I ran for 25 minutes, and felt like vomiting! YAY PROGRESS!), I’ve applied to over 40 jobs, I’ve worked on my writing pretty consistently (owing much to my wonderful alpha readers), I’ve said yes to quite a few new things. I don’t know if we can call August a rousing success, but, well, I’m not counting it as a loss.

The key, for me, to achieving my goals is to accept my pitfalls. I am far from perfect (last night it took me almost ten minutes to change the lightbulb in my bedroom), but seeing my imperfections as failures is detrimental to my success. Just because I skip a day writing, doesn’t mean I abandon the novel. We make mistakes, this is inevitable. What we control is the grace we give ourselves after the fact. I am not yet the woman I want to be, but that doesn’t mean who I am now isn’t wonderful too.

September action list:

-Wake/get out of bed on first alarm

-Keep apartment relatively clean; do dishes immediately, pick up after myself, scoop litter boxes

-Continue Couch to 5K program

-Do at least three adult tasks (appointments, phone calls, emails) a week

-Write/research for 2 hours every weekday

-Continue blogging every weekday

-At least three job applications out every weekday

-At least one long-lost phone call a week

-Five hours of reading a week

-At least one short story/poetry submission out this month

-Say yes

Limits:

-Two spoken/written complaints a week

Here’s to having a more positive outlook, and a more successful day. If we fall off the wagon, if we screw up royally, if we watch 17 episodes of House of Cards in one sitting, we are not failures. We have made mistakes. And we are not defined by our mistakes, but rather, how we overcome them.

The Fine Art of Screwing Up

A few years ago a therapist suggested I buy myself a day planner. She argued that having a calendar filled with a list of things I needed to do would help control some anxiety I was having. And for a few years, she was right—I was best friends with my day planner. It was always in my purse, I had tabs on important dates, page-long to-do lists, even a $20 reward if I ever lost it. I wrote down important phone numbers and addresses (in case my phone ever got lost—a wonderful foresight when I left my phone in a NYC cab once), and had every friend’s birthday decorated on a page. College was a breeze with this thing—I knew exactly when assignments were due (which, as a life-long procrastinator, often crept up on me), and I had countdowns to finals. Life made sense with a planner.

And then disaster struck when I got a smartphone.

At first, I expected my life to get easier. I started with an iPhone 4s, and Siri was supposed to be my personal assistant—she’d help me stay organized just by talking to her. A dream of Steve Jobs, I’m sure, but harder to execute in reality. I rarely opened the calendar app (a clunky, annoying piece of technology—adding daily shifts was difficult), and I almost never used any of the reminders (plus, talking to Siri always feels silly). I stuck with my planner, and things stayed strong for a while. Until my old technology and my new technology butted heads. A smartphone made it easier to access data, so I didn’t really need my friend’s birthday’s handwritten anymore. Most of my contacts could save addresses, so the address book at the back of the planner was all but useless (and as my peers moved and married, out-of-date quickly). More and more I’d leave my shifts on post-it notes hidden in my wallet or stuck to the week’s page in my planner, and I’d stick important dates (lunch dates, parties, events) in my head rather than in writing. The whole thing got confusing fast.

When I finally found a great smartphone calendar app (Sunrise) I thought my life would look up again. Finally, everything would be in one place—Facebook birthdays, events, my work schedule, my bills, Gmail invites, Mac Calendars—easy to access and easy to maneuver.

Perhaps I can’t really blame my smartphone. It did its thing well, and for a good while I had my life together. As soon as someone invited me somewhere, I added it to my phone: it’s a date, set in stone, or I guess, set in 1s and 0s. I had all of my work shifts ready on the first day of the week, and I could make plans with just a few clicks. But now that I’ve quit my job, now that I don’t technically need a planner every day, well, it’s a pretty useless piece of technology.

On a whim I am visiting my sister in Cincinnati this week, and already I’ve missed two important dates—two concerts I was really excited to see (Owen Pallett, I’m SO SO SO SO SO SORRY). Because I don’t need to open Sunrise every day, there isn’t any real reason why I would have known about these things. If we’re keeping score, it’s Me-0, Life-All.

I can’t decide what will make me happier. Is having a tight schedule, writing out my hourly to-do lists helpful or cumbersome? Is parsing out my life into chunks ultimately going to give me a sense of control? And how will I find that balance? Should I have it all stuffed into my smartphone, available from anywhere on a moment’s notice? Or is there something true to the idea that writing stuff down really does make it click better? If that’s the case, how does this pocket-sized Moleskine compare to the full-sized one I’ve used in years past?

When I’m organized, I feel great. I feel like I have my life together, there are no big surprises (“we were supposed to hang out, tonight??”). But paying attention to that really does take effort. Perhaps its time I start doing that again, even without a job. I’m pretty sure the anxiety will come down, that’s for sure.

Whatever the answer, I think the key is having everything in one place. Straddling the old and the new has caused me more grief than I care to say. It’s time to either devote to the handwritten planner (and thus a giant purse to carry it in), or to ditch it altogether and accept the changing times.

How do you stay organized? Are you a technology person, or do you stand by the pen and paper method? Let me know!

Thursday Three: Much Needed Color

Welcome to another rousing edition of Thursday Three. This week has been strange and stressful, but I’m trying to look at the positives.

1. Nail polish is easy to take for granted. Working in a food service industry, I wasn’t allowed to wear nail polish. I don’t get my nails done, and I rarely buy expensive polishes (unless we’re talking topcoat, in which case, take all my money), but when I read in the code of conduct that I could not longer paint my nails, a little part of me died. Initially, I didn’t think it would be a big deal, thinking I could paint my nails on my days off. A fantasy world really—I’d never have more than one day in a row off. And the idea of putting myself together enough to put on nail polish for less than 24 hours seemed useless. But one of the little joys in quitting my job is realizing I can wear it all I want. So tonight I treated myself to a personal manicure. Because their must be tiny victories.

2. Optimism is difficult. This morning things were going great. I baked brownies from scratch, I made some veggies patties, I even cooked some tomato sauce. I wanted to use up my produce before it went bad, and it was a great track—I was the kitchen master. But just as quickly, things went downhill. I missed the final delivery of a prescription cat food because a (well-meaning) neighbor brought my signed door tag inside. While on the phone with FedEx I burned (and ruined) my tomato sauce. After finished a load of laundry, I walked in on one of the cats licking the top of my homemade brownies! The positive attitude of the morning quickly fell off. I no longer had everything together—I was barely holding on. I don’t have a job, I’ve gotten three rejections today alone, I can’t make my resume look good: I’m USELESS. I had to remind myself, repeatedly, that a few bad things in my day would not color the rest of it. Bad things happen, but I don’t have to let them control me.

3. Stir crazy is real. I’ve been in this apartment (for 24 straight hours a day) for well over a month. I don’t have any expendable money, so I rarely go out with friends. Any trip outside is to the grocery store or for a run—I don’t interact with people. And the emails from potential employers that begin “We regret to inform you…” are starting to make me nuts. So I’m giving myself a leave of absence. I can apply to jobs and write from anywhere (the magic of the internet). I’m running away. I’m going to spend a little while with my sister in Cincinnati because a change of scenery will do me good. Sometimes you just have to take a chance on your well-being. Hopefully the field trip helps.

What have you learned this week? Can a bit of color change your outlook?

How to Feel Classy When You Have No Money

Are you unemployed? Do you have a limited (or no) income? Do you reject the idea that people should know that you have no money? Well, you’re in luck, because I’m here to tell you how to feel special as your bank account dwindles.

First of all, put a bra on. No one takes a woman seriously if she hasn’t even put a bra on today. Change out of your pajamas—maybe even put on a skirt. As part of the “fake it ’til you make it” regiment, dressing the part has a huge impact on your point of view. You may no longer have direct deposit, but you’ve got a pencil skirt. Wear it.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to drink. You may not have enough money anymore to buy $20 bottles of wine on a weekly basis, but you can’t afford to look cheap. That’s why you’ve got the white wine spritzer.

Trader Joe’s sells boxes of cheap (and not horrible) Chardonnay at $10.99 a pop. Buy yourself one. Not only are you getting over three bottles of wine for the price of one low-end wine, you’re going to water it down anyway, so the taste doesn’t really matter. From Target (or any other chain grocery store) purchase a 10-pack of La Croix seltzer water (preferably a complimentary flavor—I chose mango, but I’ve noticed passion fruit and even lime work well). Most white wine spritzers call for club soda or even ginger ale, but we’re cheap, so we’re taking a step down. Add half a glass of chardonnay, half La Croix, a handful of ice, and a few berries (if you’re extra cheap, frozen berries work just as well—I used fresh blueberries), and call it a day. Voila—class in a cup.

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After you’ve made your white wine spritzer, set the mood. You’re wearing a pencil skirt after all, you can’t listen to just anything. Billie Holiday radio is a wonderful start, and most sites offer it for free if you don’t mind the ads. iTunes has a pretty good catalogue, Spotify is weak, and Pandora is fairly consistent. If you’re struggling with Billie (which, who are you? GET OUT) other choices include Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, or Mildred Anderson (if you’re feeling particularly melodramatic, “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” is wonderful). More contemporary artists are Jamie Cullum, Madeleine Peyroux, or (the classics) Michael Bublé and Norah Jones. The one things to keep in mind when you’re classing it up? Jazz is not an option. You cannot replace it with Mumford and Sons or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It is a nonnegotiable. (Unless, of course, you’re replacing it with Nicki Minaj, which I probably couldn’t argue.) 

Next, make yourself a meal. BudgetBytes is a great place to start (last night I made the Southwest Mac ‘N Cheese), but Pinterest is also full of classy recipes on the cheap. In fact, for the most part, cooking for yourself is pretty cheap. Is eating homemade truffle butter every night cheap? Not so much. But canned foods are hidden well in pantries, and if you want to class it up a bit, the lovely gentlemen at Sorted Foods make high end cooking easy and impressive. It’s all in the presentation. Work hard in the kitchen, feel classy.

Finally, spend the rest of your evening reading. Best way to read extensively? The library (argue that you’re supporting local nonprofits—without you, we’d lose all of our libraries!). Almost every county library has an online catalogue that makes it easy to search and request almost any book, usually available at your local library within a week. Not so big on reading? Many big cities (Minneapolis included) are part of an audiobook sharing program that makes downloading an audiobook for free to your iPhone or Android easy and painless. Just enter your library number, download the OverDrive app, and start listening. If your library isn’t quite with the times, podcasts are a great way to keep learning while you’re cleaning, or driving or riding the bus (shhhhh—we don’t do that! We have Uber!). Some of my favorites include This American Life, RadioLab, The Moth, The TED Radio Hour and The New Yorker Fiction podcast. Remember, you want to exude a sense of intelligence and cultural prowess, and getting in touch with NPR never hurt anybody.

And remember, class is a state of mind. Exude it enough, people have to believe you sooner or later. Good luck!

The Love Affair I Can’t Give Up

I don’t know how it happened. I used to be responsible, put together, smart about these things. I used to know where the line was, used to know my limits. But now? Now I’ve crossed over. Now I can snooze for two hours before realizing how detrimental it is to my day. That’s right, I’m obsessed with my snooze button.

Back when I had a job I would set my alarm not for the time I needed to get out of bed, but for the time I thought I should get out of bed. It’s innocent enough–having lofty goals for the morning. I’ll wake up, have breakfast, shower, maybe even get some writing done, get to work early, have a coffee. It was worse when I worked evenings. I’d set my alarm for the morning, hoping that I would get a few things done before catching the bus around 1, but the inevitable would always descend. My alarm would go off around 8 in the morning, I’d reset it a few times, maybe even for an hour, before I just reset the whole alarm for two hours later, and then snooze for another hour before getting out of bed.

How terrible, right? Everyone knows that snoozing only makes you more tired. That the sleep you get in those 9 minute increments is mostly useless. That you aren’t really sleeping. Why not just reset the entire alarm for an hour later rather than snoozing for an hour? Because that’s the smart thing to do. Haven’t you learned by now that we don’t identify me as “smart?”

It feels like I’ve tried everything. I set the alarm across the room, only to get out of bed, turn it off, and crawl back into bed. For a while I had the app that would sense your REM cycles and wake you up when you were least asleep. You could knock on the back of your iPhone for the snooze, and I’d do that until the last possible minute. Or, more likely, I’d turn it off, with a backup alarm set for the “GET YOUR BUTT OUT OF BED OR YOU WILL LOSE YOU JOB BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE” alarm. I’ve tried certain music (giant power chords intros), the radio, the obnoxious alarm noises. All of these things only make me want to shut the stupid thing up faster.

I don’t particularly like the snooze button. I don’t feel good after hitting it for a while, and I certainly feel a bit like a failure every time I get out of bed at 11AM instead of 8AM. But like a bad friend, I can’t let the snooze button go. Sure it makes me tired, ornery, and cranky, it makes me feel like a failure every time it speaks, makes me wonder just how useless I really am. But it’s so nice to have around. It’s so nice to hit that button, curl back up into the comforter, and know that for, almost 10 more minutes, I don’t have to face the world. I can stay in bed, and maybe keep sleeping. What a lovely present the snooze button has given me–procrastination.

I’m working on quitting my love affair with this beast, but I’m finding it difficult. How do you get out of bed in the morning? Are you just smarter than me, does it come easier to some people? You think you’re so successful because you can get out of bed in the morning, and go to your awesome job and–

Sorry.

I’m a little cranky. I didn’t get much sleep this morning.

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

Around Christmas of 2010 I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Many outside factors contributed to this–my mother’s cancer diagnosis, the impending end of college, our recent family move. But the fact remained that my hours in bed (going to bed early, sleeping in late, never feeling awake), my self-perceived worthlessness, my minor bouts with self-harm (I’d clench my fists often, digging my nails into my palms, and occasionally punched my thighs to relieve tension) could no longer go untreated. I worried that soon the depression would get worse, and I would no longer see the point of treatment. I asked my mother to take me to the doctor, where I was diagnosed and encouraged to start a regiment of meds and therapy. I was afraid of meds so I asked to start exclusively with therapy.

I went to my first therapist with deliberate skepticism. This woman can’t help you, I told myself. If you want to get better, just get better. Feel better. Stop being so sad. Just be happy. I labored under the belief that depression was mere unhappiness, and that I was letting myself be unhappy, and that I could choose to be happy. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Stop feeling sad.

In my journey through to depression, I tend to write off this therapist. While I didn’t necessarily feel that strongly about our time together, she gave me something for which I will be eternally grateful–the opportunity to begin a dialogue about my feelings without the pressure of judgment or guilt. I have been extremely blessed with a vast community of friends and family that I have always felt open with, but this network of friends can (and should) only go so far. With a therapist I discovered the importance of naming my feelings, recognizing them as real and needing to be felt, and, perhaps most importantly, not inherently bad. Very slowly I began to shed the belief that there was something wrong with me because of my depression, that I had let myself feel these things, that I could save myself. There were actual physical changes that had happened in my brain, pathways that had been rewired by my constant negative thoughts that couldn’t be changed by simply “feeling better.”

I also discovered another vital truth about depression around this time–for most people (myself included) it is a lifelong struggle. There would be no cure-all for me, I wouldn’t suddenly hit thirty therapy visits and feel elated all the time. Depression is a constant in my life. I make a conscious effort many days to combat it–to avoid situations where I can feed it. Fortunately my depression is currently quiet, but I am aware that if I don’t take care of myself it can and will rear its ugly head. I make sure to get enough sleep, to eat healthy foods that make me feel good, to get exercise, and most importantly to me, to avoid feeling shame my emotions. I will not be happy all the time, I shouldn’t be happy all the time, and I am no less because of that fact. I embrace my emotions more than I ever have in the past–recognizing that shame about them is more toxic than actually feeling them.

My point in telling you all of this is two-fold. One, depression affects a vast array of people, 1 in 10 Americans will suffer from it at some point in their lives. The stigma that you should just “feel better” is dangerous, and shuts down the dialogue about mental health. It is why I felt so responsible for my own depression, that I had somehow done it to myself, that I was broken. The more we stigmatize depression the more people suffer its terrible consequences–convinced as I was that they can fix themselves, or worse that there is something wrong with them. Depression likes to be fed, and the idea that you are broken only brings you closer to your depression.

Two, an awareness of your emotions is vital to your mental health. I am extremely fortunate to be at a place where I can manage my depression (many, many people are not). I am aware of what feeds it, and I try to take care of myself. Having dealt with depression, I can see some paths like road maps–too many hours of TV, sleeping too long, staying inside all day, avoiding contact with friends and family, long sad music sessions, not eating properly–these all feed my depression. These are by no means universal, but they are some of my indicators, like flashing lights on the highway: danger ahead.

Depression is a terribly easy thing for many people to fall into–and it might not even be apparent to those you love. I imagine this post will come as a shock to some of my friends. Depression likes to get you alone, make you feel alienated, make your emotions feel unsharable. Outwardly you can be bubbly and friendly, putting on a face to keep your negative emotions quiet, feeding the alienation you feel, feeding your depression. Take care of yourself. Name your emotions. Talk about them. Recognize that life is hard. Don’t compare your emotions, life, struggles with other people’s. If you think you need to, talk to a therapist or doctor–even if you aren’t depressed, therapy is a great way to tap into your emotional health. Be in touch with all of your feelings, not just happiness.

Please, please, please take care of yourselves. There are many people that love you.

If you feel you need immediate attention, the National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255.

I love you. Be good to yourself.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

There is a deep level of self-consciousness that comes with job hunting. Not only must you compete with other candidates, but often you’re competing with the cyclical wheel of experience–you must have experience to gain experience (I’ve found several internships that require “internship experience” to apply). You buff your odd jobs into shining lessons of achievement, finding it difficult to express just how much making fancy coffee beverage taught you about leadership, or content writing, or people skills. You know you can do any of these jobs you apply to, but on paper–well on paper you look like a thirteen year old.

Over the past month I’ve applied to almost twenty different jobs. While not necessarily a feat, I have heard back from only one of these applications–a rejection. I know that hiring is a difficult job, and I am not asking for anyone to coddle me, I mostly don’t expect any replies. But I have certainly found it hard to keep throwing my resume and cover letter into the void, hearing nothing. I know this is how it works, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’m not here to complain about the job industry, or to moan about how hard this economy is for our generation. Honestly, there are people out there who would say it better than me anyway. But I do want to acknowledge something that I don’t think enough people pause on–job hunting is hard. It doesn’t feel good, it beats you down, kills your confidence, makes you question your abilities, stresses you out.

People always want to talk about the ways to get a job, but few people talk about just how difficult that actually is. How difficult it is to lay in bed, far too awake for your own good, wondering just what you could be doing differently to stand out, to grab their attention, to not be such a unemployed sad sack.

A few days ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a writer and playwright, Monica Byrne, who’d recently signed a book deal and crowd-funded a performance at the New York International Fringe Festival. Byrne mentions that other artists now approach her, asking “how she did it.” As though she followed a magical formula for success.

In the article Byrne posts what she calls her “anti-resume” a complete list of her inquiries–almost 600 of them. “The data were revealing. First and foremost, of all the things I’d ever submitted to or applied for, I’d gotten only 3 percent of them. That’s a 97 percent rejection rate. That means I got 32 rejections for every acceptance.”

When I’m feeling particularly melodramatic about the job hunt, I open Byrne’s “anti-resume.” I skim through the hundreds of red lines (indicating rejection), and focus on how they swallow nearly every page. Byrne’s anti-resume reminds me that rejection is part of life. That I must continue shouting into the void, because sooner or later, the void has to shout back.

Job hunting is hard. Some days (my sad sack days), it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I am valuable. I am a hard worker. I am talented. I am skilled. I am smart. I am caring. I am passionate. I am worth the investment.

So let’s stomp on the face of rejection, and keep going. We are valuable. We are worth it.