The Inner Critic, and The Inner Best Friend

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I’ve been listening to many, many podcasts as of late, and one of them recently hit very close to home. Rachel Brathen (From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl) finished a Yoga Teacher Training last month by interviewing all 52 of her trainees about what their Inner Critics and Inner Best Friends tell them. The interview is so long she actually split it into two episodes, and I cannot decide which half I adored more. It got me thinking, “What do my Inner Critic and Inner Best Friend tell me?”

 

My Inner Critic says – 

I am not prepared. I will never be prepared to make any kind of leap into the unknown, and if I leap, I will fail. It says that I will never work in freelancing, that I will never break into publishing.

I am not creative enough. I will never finish writing any of my books because I am not a good enough writer, that I don’t have a big enough imagination.

I will die alone. I will never find the love of my life or build the family I desire.

Others are more qualified. I will never get the job/internship of my dreams because I am not worthy of it. Others will always be chosen over me.

I am too intimidating, or not beautiful enough. I will never end up with that guy I’m crushing on because he will always choose someone else.

 

My Inner Best Friend says – 

I am more prepared than I know. I can see the truth of this every day when I talk to customers at work, or classmates in grad school and drop knowledge bombs that amaze and astound (My Inner Best Friend is pretty full of herself, for good reason. She has a lot to stand up to.)

I am so creative it’s painful sometimes. It’s no wonder I am always daydreaming and cannot stay focused on one story. I keep coming up with more! I dream vividly. After a lot of practice, I can even control what I do in my dreams, and sometimes if I’m woken up, I can return to the dream I left off in. I am creatively powerful, and I will succeed through pure force of will if nothing else.

I am never alone. I have my huge family (just going back two generations I already have over 40 close family members: Siblings, Parents, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Second Cousins, Grandparents, Great Aunts, Great Uncles.), and I have quite a few close friends whom I can call up at the drop of a hat whenever I need them, not to mention my internet friends, who I speak to nearly as much as everyone else and love just a dearly. I just need to have a bit more patience and faith, and God will lead me to my forever partner, my future husband.

I am just as qualified as others. And I have a lot of skills that I don’t know how to put on a resume, which probably means I’m actually overqualified for everything I’m applying to. The right position will present itself, and I’ll know it when I see it because it will be the one I don’t give up on so easily.

While I never doubt that I am beautiful, everyone has their own personal views on beauty. It’s completely possible that the guy I’m crushing on at any given moment doesn’t find me beautiful because his standard of beauty is completely different from mine. I always hear my Inner Best Friend start screaming at me when I think I am too intimidating, because **** that. If a guy can’t handle me on daily basis – my beautiful, smart, strong self – than he doesn’t deserve my best or worst. He’s not the guy for me, and I just dodged a bullet. I need a strong man who is not afraid of being matched in wits, and is also looking for an equal to share a life with.

 

 

Other Things My Inner Critic and Inner Best Friend have fought about:

In Elementary School, my Inner Critic told me I would never make real friends. This was in part because I moved when I was eight, and had a lot of trouble meeting new people with similar interests. My Inner Best Friend reminded me that I had built in best friends in my siblings and cousins, and we are all the closer for it, even now that I have close friendships with people who are not related to me by blood.

In Middle School, my Inner Critic told me I was terrible at sports. And it almost won. But Freshman year of high school I had one of the track coaches as my gym teacher, and he helped me find my athletically inclined side.

In High School, my Inner Critic continued to tell me I wasn’t good enough to succeed at athletics, as well as in theatre and in classes. My Inner Best Friend gave me the fortitude to keep running, making my success about beating my own records, not the records of others. I found the courage to go out for the play every year and even had a few line-solos senior year. I studied hard and took each setback as a challenge. I was nearly a straight-A student, even though I wasn’t in all AP classes like most of my friends.

During Undergraduate Studies, my Inner Critic told me I was stupid. That I had taken on too much. That the friends I made in high school weren’t going to be there for me always. That I was in way over my head, and that there was no way out. My Inner Best Friend fought back tooth and nail and finally convinced me to transfer schools and start over. My Inner Critic told me I would be letting everyone down. My Inner Best Friend said this had nothing to do with anyone but myself.

Just after graduation, my Inner Critic told me that I would never get a job I even remotely enjoyed, that I would be unemployed forever, that all of my friendships were terrible and falling apart, that I would disappear from existence, and that I would never amount to much. My Inner Best Friend immediately went into overdrive, found me a job, and made the most of it.

A year after graduation, my Inner Critic told me that I could never move out of New Jersey (where I loved living but didn’t have many job opportunities), and would work soul-sucking jobs while never reaching my dreams. My Inner Best Friend said, “Let’s move to Boston?”

18 months ago, my Inner Critic told me I would never get into graduate school or get the chance to pursue my dream career. My Inner Best Friend said “Hold My Beer.” and did it anyway.

Right now, my Inner Critic is still trying to hold me back, tell me I am afraid, and that I will never get any cool jobs I apply to, so why bother applying? My Inner Best Friend is already in full armor on her white horse, ready to beat my Inner Critic into submission.

Because what my Inner Critic will never be able to understand is that courage is impossible without first being afraid. I am not fearless, running blindly into things without a thought to their outcome. I live with fear every day. And every day I have to choose to put on my armor one piece at a time, saddle up my horse, and ride into battle. The prize? Everything I’ve ever wanted.

Maybe I’ve watched too many John Wayne movies, or maybe it was the steady diet of fantasy novels I read as a child, but I believe that with courage, goodness will always prevail.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (KJV)
“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” ~John Wayne

 

What do your Inner Critic and Inner Best Friend tell you?

 

Until next time,

~Amanda

TOTY – 26: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

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Today is a few days after my 26th birthday, and I am sitting in a Starbucks tearing up as I read my old TOTY posts. These yearly summaries serve as such a huge reminder of everything I’ve accomplished, and just how much has changed over the past four years. This will be my fifth consecutive year of blogging, and probably my fifteenth year since I started messing around with the idea of having a blog and playing with Blogger, WordPress, and Wix. I’ve loved long-form writing for a long time, and it amazes me that I have the freedom to do something like this every day. Of course, it’s been a bit of a struggle keeping up here over the last year, but there are some wonderful reasons for that.

 

I am attending Emerson College for graduate school in publishing and writing. You all helped me get here by reading this blog and encouraging me to follow my dreams. It’s a lot of work, but I am adoring every second of it! I have met wonderful, interesting, inspiring women who I might even go so far as to call bosom friends. I have had some spectacular professors who have helped shape my image of what the publishing world is and is not, and have pushed me to trust my instincts and pursue my passions. I have learned an incredible amount, and that was only the first year! I still have three semesters left to soak up as much as I can, and I am beyond grateful to be able to be here now.

Last September I moved out of my Uncle and Aunt’s house and into a rented room. It’s not my first time in an apartment – I lived in two apartments during undergrad – but it is the first apartment I’ve had where I have my own room and the first place I’ve paid for completely on my own. To pay for it, I took an assistant supervisor position at a large retail store, where I work 40+ hours a week in addition to going to 8 hours of class and doing 6+ hours of homework. I haven’t had a lot of time to look for a corporate job or an internship, but I haven’t given up. There are a couple very cool opportunities on the horizon that I am aiming for!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that school + work = not enough things to keep me motivated. This has led to me sleeping a lot, which has been necessary with my crazy work schedule, but not productive or overall healthy for my life. I’m hoping to hone my daily schedule this year to make room for what matters most – family, health, and writing.

 

Speaking of health, mine has been a roller coaster this year. Last June I started Accutane for my acne, and after almost nine months had clear skin for the first time in almost eight years. I had forgotten how good my skin looked when it was clear, and while the acne had never really hurt my image of myself, having clear skin definitely improved my confidence. It’s almost like I didn’t realize how awesome of a woman I had grown into until the acne cleared up. Like wiping off the grime of adolescence to see clearly the woman growing underneath. My acne didn’t make me feel bad, but it did keep me trapped in that ‘not a girl, not yet a woman’ stage of life that I was craving an escape from.

On my first day of work at my retail job in October, I sprained my foot at the bottom of my apartment stairs and ended up at the hospital for myself for the first time since I was born. I was bedridden for a week, had crutches for a month after that, and wasn’t allowed to run or do strenuous activities for six months after that.

I got off my crutches just in time for my first Black Friday in retail, and all of the new germs I was around 40 hours a week finally caught up with me. Thankfully, my store had a very quiet Black Friday, because the cold I caught robbed me of my voice for a week and it would have been a nightmare. I am beyond thankful for small miracles.

My six months without exercise ended just about the same time I was finally in the clear post-Accutane. My foot still aches occasionally, and my alcohol tolerance is crap because I wasn’t allowed to drink on the Accutane. It also took longer to finish the Accutane (about nine months vs six) because I had to stop taking it while I was on painkillers for my foot. Organs are precious, and I didn’t want to put mine at risk by pumping them full of chemicals.

 

Cut to about a month ago, when I traveled to Boise, Idaho to visit one of my best friends in the whole world, Jordan. This girl was my radio show co-host in college and has since become part of my family (seriously, we bring her on family-only trips because she blends in as one of us despite being the only redhead). She flew up to Boston last September to help me move into my apartment, and I cried when she moved across the country in January. I flew out there to spend the week between our birthdays together, and it was simply wonderful.

We spent most of the week in various pools, waterparks, and rivers because it was topping 100 degrees and we were super pale. For once, we were on our sunscreen game and avoided getting sunburn. I have my first tan in three years. I spent quiet mornings on her balcony reading and listening to podcasts (I’ll share my favorites soon!), and we explored the city with her local friends (who are just lovely and I miss them already!) late into the evening because the sun doesn’t set until 10:30pm in the treasure valley. We rounded off the week with my first hike since moving to Boston, climbing Table Rock  (follow the link for trail map!), which is 900ft above Boise’s already 2,600 ft elevation. My poor body is used to Boston’s whopping >50ft above sea level, and reaching the top of Table Rock (3,500 ft) was a struggle. It was worth it for the accomplishment and the views of the city and valley, ringed in rolling mountains, but oh boy did I feel it the next day.

 

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The cold I caught in Idaho was nearly but not quite gone when I flew back east a few days later, and I ended up with an ear infection and just two weeks remaining on my parent’s health insurance. Cue more little miracles. I tried to take it slow, which is why this post didn’t go up on my birthday like it usually does.

Just as I was recovering from the ear infection, I went home for my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal shower and wasn’t feeling too well. After yet another last-minute doctor’s appointment, I found out I also had strep, so now I’m on medication for that as well. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that all of this happened while I was on my parent’s health plan. To be fair though (in the long list of small miracles in my life) I was able to sign up for my graduate school’s student health care plan until I graduate. God is so, so good y’all.

 

I’m back from vacation and back at work, which right now is mostly training some new assistant supervisors, but I am trying to appreciate the methodicalness of it all as I prepare for my second year of graduate school to begin. Before classes start up again, I will be moving into a new apartment that includes a real kitchen and living room, and yet somehow costs less than what I am currently paying. How I found it beats me. (again, small miracles!)

I’ll be living with a few of my classmates, and I am beyond excited to be A – living with friends rather than strangers, and B – living with these friends who I can be completely myself with, whether that’s loud, quiet, happy, or sad. I think it is one of life’s biggest gifts to live somewhere you can relax and unwind and be your authentic self without having to monitor what you do or say or worry about offending someone just by living your life. These girls inspire me to do my best, but they also encourage me to take time to process life and be my true introverted self. I am so blessed to have them.

 

Starting my second year/third semester of graduate school means I finally know what’s coming and can build a schedule around it. I know my general work schedule, and my class schedule, so I can plan writing time around them, and even *gasp* make time for a bit of working out.

In June of this year, my co-worker/friend Patricia and I signed up for a month of Yoga classes, and I fell in love with it. Two weeks ago I met with one of the studio managers where we attend classes and signed up for their Seva program. I’ll be volunteering there a few hours a week to help keep the studio running smoothly! This particular program includes free access to a few classes in exchange for my volunteering, which is just beyond amazing, but I would probably do the program even without that carrot. I always have a craving to help ‘mother’ people and organizations, and I so rarely have the opportunity to feed that craving.

Yoga has been even more life-changing than I imagined. It is simultaneously harder and easier than I thought it would be, but the inner peace that I find in the practise is another one of those small miracles I’ve been experiencing all year.

 

This brings our total of ‘things Amanda does’ to three. Why stop there?

My theme for this year is Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise like the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I’ve had that quote taped to my childhood bedroom wall for years, but I noticed it for the first time in forever last time I was at my parents’ house. It’s been floating through my subconscious ever since, and it finally occurred to me last month that that’s what I’ve been searching for. During my vacation, I took some time to sit with my thoughts and see what bubbled to the surface, and I came up with a few truths about myself I haven’t been acknowledging lately.

I am a morning person. My days are best when I get up before 7am and go to bed around 10pm.

I thrive on having too much to do because it forces my brain into organization mode. I was at peak working ability when I was working 4-5 positions and attending undergraduate classes my senior year, and again when I had to schedule my writing time around my cousin’s nap schedule as a nanny. I thrive on slim-to-no time, and I am very good when I am down to the wire. When I don’t have enough to do I procrastinate, and things fall to the wayside and get forgotten easily.

I need to mother. Whether it’s a person or a company, I need to get into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on and fix it, whether physically or through advice. I’ve had a ton of people tell me over the last year that I give great advice, so I guess it’s about time I embrace the title of advice giver and own up to my need to fix things. I will continue to endeavor not to smother people, but also to help them be their best selves through self-care and organization.

 

These revelations led me to create a list of things I want to accomplish this year, each of which falls under healthy, wealthy, or wise.

Under the Healthy category, we have the following tasks:

#1 – Do Yoga Every Day.
I’ve been following Yogi Rachel Brathen for… Well, probably longer than this blog has existed, to be completely transparent, and I’ve always been fascinated by the practice of yoga. My mother has the cold, hard proof in the form of a VHS copy of Yoga for Dummies from probably 2002 that I used to use! It’s taken me sixteen long years, but I’ve finally caught the yoga bug and I don’t plan on letting go of it any time soon.

#2 – Get Eight Hours of Sleep Each Night.
Sleep is the most important thing you can do for yourself. My current job has my sleep schedule all over the place. Most recently in June, there was a fortnight where I fell asleep between 2am and 5am on any given day. It was trippy. As a morning person, working late night hours isn’t good for my creative side or my health, but until I find something 9-5, my sleep schedule is something I need to be proactive about and focused on if I want to avoid getting sick again.

#3 – Cook Three Nights a Week.
The new apartment I am moving into in September has a full kitchen, so I’ll actually have space to spread out and make a full meal – with side dishes – to fix my diet, which has been minor meal prepping and a lot of sandwiches over the last year. If I get a more normal job, I’ll be home for dinner most nights and can actually take advantage of the new kitchen!

 

For Wealthy, I came up with:

#4 – Shop Small.
I want to only shop in used and vintage clothing stores this year. Not only will this help confine my spending, but used and discount clothing hunting is a skill I think everyone should perfect at some point in their lives. By hunting for clothes that come from across multiple years, I think I’ll finally start to build a personal style rather than jumping on whatever the current trend is. I’m excited to see where this resolution takes me.

I also want to only shop indie and used bookstores this year. This is a goal every year but at some point, I end up in Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million spending money like water. Canceling my B&N membership card didn’t help, I just pay full price now. To combat my horrible book-buying habit, I am going to attempt to go on a 98% book ban this year. Meaning I will do everything in my power not to buy or acquire any new books and to solely use my library card. Unless there is something I am dying to the read and none of the local libraries will stock it for me.

#5 – Save Money.
As I continue my Master’s program, I can feel my loan payments creeping up on me, just waiting for graduation to pounce. I also have a million other things I want to be able to do over the next few years – weddings to attend, overseas trips I want to take, writing staycations, book conventions, etc. To combat all of this, I am going to attempt to curb my general spending (and my eat-out budget) so that I can save at least $400 each month.
– $100 for my emergency fund
– $100 for my loan fund
– $100 for my weddings fund
– $100 for my travel fund.
If this means I have to cut even my book budget and only get books from the library, I will suck it up. It’ll pay off in the end, right? The only things that make you richer by spending money are books and travel, so I’m just trading one for the other. Library cards let me have my cake and eat it too.

#6 – Pursue Passions.
This year I want to focus on what matters most. In the job sense, that means being aggressive and going after those competitive internships and positions that I’m afraid I won’t qualify for. I need to have courage like the Gryffindor I am and charge at my fears head on if I want to overcome them. I can’t just sit around and wait for fate to do its thing when I have the power to help it along in the direction I want so desperately to go. I can do this by grabbing every freelance opportunity I see and giving it 100%, allowing it to build up my writing resume for more permanent positions. This will also up my ‘things Amanda does’ count, which will help me be more productive overall.

 

And finally, for the Wise category:

#7 – Write more.
It probably won’t be every day, because I’ve never been able to keep that promise, but I want to write for myself more regularly than I do now. Blog posts, book reviews, short stories off the top of my head, work towards completing one of the numerous longer-form things I have in the works – I really want to have something I can show people and be able to say “Hey look what I can do!” or “Here’s how I write, take a look!”. I spend so much of my imagination in my head that it never makes it onto the page, and people only know I write at all when they read this site or ask me about my writing and I go down a rabbit hole of explaining my characters and their motivations.

I really want to attempt writing short stories this year. I have a habit of starting and not finishing novels, and I think it will be an interesting exercise in editing myself to try a short-form story. I need to learn how to describe things succinctly, instead of letting the world building run off with my plot. I feel like it’s time to start leaving my mark on the world, and this is how I want to start doing it.

#8 – Become more business literate.
Through podcasts, workshops, webinars, and online classes, I want to educate myself about how to run an actual business, so that I can manage my freelancing and my soon-to-be crushing debt in the best ways I can. This includes learning about advertising and marketing, finance, and SEO.

#9 – Pursue Peace, Grace, and Simplicity.
Through it all, I want to focus on cultivating grace, not perfection. I want and need to organize my life in little ways to make a big impact. I’m taking Emily Ley’s advice and running with it. After reading her book Grace, Not Perfection last year, I am inspired to read her A Simplified Life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect. All three promise to be inspiring.

 

This year, I want to learn to have patience and grace with myself and others. I want to focus less on what the world thinks of me and more on what I could be doing for the world while taking the best care of myself. I want to reach for the stars but in order to get there, I need to build a solid catapult, or a ladder, or a tower. Clearly, I am not an engineer, but you get it. I can’t get anywhere without a solid foundation, and that foundation has to be me.

 

Here’s to my fifth year of blogging. I am so looking forward to all of the cool things I will accomplish and experience this year, and I hope you will join me on this journey.

 

 

Sincerely,

Amanda

 

 

Previous Theme Of The Year (TOTY) Posts:
TOTY – 22: Why Soul Searching is Not my Theme of the Year
TOTY – 23: Wellness and Becoming my Best Self
TOTY – 24: Me Doing Me
TOTY – 25: Responsibility

 

 

My Thoughts on Depression

 

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It is often hypothesized that the Dementors in the Harry Potter series were meant to represent depression. The Patronus Charm, the manifestation in animal form of a witch or wizard’s happiest memories, was the only known spell capable of driving away and defeating them.

 

Depression is a weird thing. It comes and goes like a thief in the night. It can rob you of all happiness for no reason at all, and it can also pass in an instant. Worst of all it plays no favorites, yet it sneaks around, pretending it only has designs on your life. It makes you feel isolated. And afraid. Makes you doubt yourself, would have you believe you’re a burden on the people you hold most dear. It makes you feel unworthy. Of everything. It tries to lower your standards forcefully as if it knows better than you what you deserve, what you are capable of. It makes you feel as though, no matter what you do or who you are, everyone out there is better than you at everything you are phenomenal at. It takes your imagination and turns it on its head, shrouding it in a darkness so deep that your strongest hopes are only a ghost of a whisper.

Depression is the Devil’s strongest tool. When he can’t break up your relationships, when he can’t get you kicked out of school, when he can’t get that car to hit you as you jaywalk across that busy street, he sends depression and tries to convince you to destroy, and then eventually end, your life yourself.

I count those fighting depression amongst the strongest people I know. The Devil only sends depression to those who he can’t reach otherwise. Their faith, hope, love, grace, and will are too strong for him to beat down by normal means.

If you find yourself up against depression, keep fighting the good fight. I know you can’t see the end in sight because of the darkness, but believe when people remind you it is there. You know it is. You are stronger than you feel.

At this early point in my life, I already know people who have succumbed to what their depression asked of them. Please don’t become one of that number. You have a light in you, no matter how small, that is burning with a fierceness even depression cannot snuff out without your permission. Arm yourself with calmness, wisdom, patience, and courage, and keep defeating your darkness one battle at a time. The war will be long, but your army is stronger.

 

I wish you all peace, light, and blessings throughout this holiday season and the ensuing winter ahead that bears its own darkness we all must deal with.

Until Next Time,

Amanda

September Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

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It feels like it was yesterday that I was writing last month’s update. Boy, did that month fly by; I went up to Boston to babysit my cousin, I was in not one, but TWO of my best friends’ weddings and four more couples I love got married that month as well (I didn’t attend them all. I’m not that magical). It was a very long month. and yet, suddenly we’re halfway through September! I’ve been a literal zombie for the past week, recovery from my trips while trying to get back to work as usual. At least I haven’t gotten sick yet (fingers crossed that I won’t!).

This month isn’t too busy, but it is full of planning for the next year. So many exciting things are happening! I’ll tell you all about them soon, but first, let’s check in on my goals for the year.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This is day three! I wrote a book review each of the last two days, and I’m hoping to write another two over the next couple days, while I finish this post and hopefully get some time in on my novel during my day off on Friday. I tried to write last week, but my brain was so dead that only nonsense came out of it. It was painful.

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I HAVE NEWS!!! My aunt and uncle and I have been discussing a potential opportunity for me for nearly a year now, but I didn’t want to rely on it because it always seemed like it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. They had a baby in March, and up until now, my uncle has been a SAHD (Stay-At-Home-Dad). He’s due to start a new job in November though, and that’s where I come in. I’ll be taking care of my cousin for them all day while they are at work. For all intents and purposes, I’m a live-in nanny. If that isn’t a dream job at some point in the life of someone who is maternally inclined, I don’t know what is.

If all of that wasn’t exciting enough, they live in Boston! Which means I’m MOVING there. Like, I get to live in this city that I’ve been mildly obsessed with for ages. Which brings me to Goal number three for the year –

Apply to Grad School – My top grad school at the moment is Emerson College and their Masters in Writing and Publishing program. Being that Emerson is in Boston, I’ll finally being going on a tour of campus and trying to meet some of the professors to determine if it’s definitely where I want to go.

Also, this Friday I’m sitting down to plan out my studying strategies for the GRE. Woop Woop!

September Goals:
This month I decided to let y’all in on a secret. I don’t just have yearly goals! I also make up a set of goals for the month, which filters into my daily to-do list(s). This month I want to:

Read 5 books – So far I’ve only finished two, but I’m nearly halfway through my third, so it’s looking good!

Study for the GRE – As I mentioned earlier, this starts on Friday!

Walk 5 miles, 4 times – I originally had this read “walk 5 miles, once a week”, but after the double weddings I was down for the count. Hopefully, I can walk one of my 5-mile stints on Friday!

Ab workout, 4 times – Another one that read once a week and has since been amended.

Write 3 posts for TCSB – This is the first! I’ll probably fill you guys in on more details about Boston, and I’m visiting a Renaissance Faire on the 24th that should be pretty interesting as well!

Write 4 book reviews – Two down and two to go! Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and The Escape by Mary Balogh are up on CSR now!

Write 10,000 words towards your novel(s) – That’s right, I’m writing a book (or is it ~SeRiEs~?). I’ve been writing it for over 10 years actually. Very few people have read any of it, and those who have, haven’t read it in so long that they probably wouldn’t recognize it today. For one, the characters started out as 11 or 13-year-olds, and they’ve since evolved into 20-somethings. Not like they aged in the book, more like as I aged I found it harder and harder to write young characters. The universe(s) the book(s) take place in has expanded exponentially, to the point where I keep trying to populate parts of it and ending up with literally hundreds of characters. And I love every one of them so much that they all have a background and purpose and a future… And you wondered why I’ve been working on this for 10+ years. My goal for the year (TOTY 24, not 2016) with writing every day is to get at least half of my rough draft of the first book finished. Hoping to dive into this some more this month.

 

I think that’s all for now ,you guys! I hope you enjoyed this update, and I can’t wait to share more with you about my move to Boston, and my grad school apps, and my adventures in writing!

 

Until Next Time,

Amanda

TOTY – 24: Me Doing Me

Here we are again, the beginning of summer. This July I’ll turn 24, and we’ll mark the 2nd anniversary since I began writing here. I’m so proud of all the writing I’ve done here on Curio Street, over at Curio Street Reads (formerly Vinca Books) Highlights and Hot Chocolate, and elsewhere on the internet.

In my first year of writing here, I experienced everything I could. I traveled to Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Both were incredibly amazing. I also held a number of executive positions in the organizations I was a part of in college. I was the Program Director of my campus radio station, President of the newly revamped television production club, and Vice President of Public Relations in our chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. The icing on the cake, though, was graduating Magna Cum Laude last May after 5 years of higher education. I felt happy and fulfilled, ready for anything that was thrown my way.

In my second year, my plan was to step back a little and focus on myself. I had planned to get fit and work on my physical well-being. I did start seeing a dermatologist and addressing my acne problems, but otherwise, I could not have been more wrong about how the year would go. I had assumed I would get a grown-up job and the grown-up apartment and life that came with it. Instead, I am working part-time and living with one of my friends. I haven’t run over 6 times this year, and my posture is still terrible. Yet in not fulfilling the goals I set, I have discovered SO MUCH about myself.

I said that this year wasn’t going to be focused on self-discovery, but in a sense it was. I went out on a limb to apply for a job in retail that I really had no experience doing, and I got it. Now I’m working in a bridal shop with some of the loveliest people. Other highlights of the year included my parents and my aunt and uncle buying a lake house together in Maine, and that same aunt and uncle welcoming my newest baby cousin, 2 months old at the end of last month. I am in the midst of helping two of my closest friends prepare for their nuptials, and I am beyond proud to get to stand up with them on their special days. In the last month alone, I got my ears pierced for the first time and my first tattoo. Sure, I had some sad and frustrating moments over the course of the year, but I feel a sense of self now that I didn’t have before. I had the outward confidence and leadership skills, but I lacked the self-awareness and understanding to believe in myself and to have the courage to stand up for my dreams, however unattainable they seem to everyone else.

In my third year, I will surely continue applying to full-time jobs, but I will do so with a significantly larger amount of assuredness that I know what I’m getting myself into and that I am prepared for it. I will reach farther, for jobs that interest me and will challenge me. I will apply to something I know I can do even if I don’t have all of the outlined qualifications because I believe in myself and in my ability to learn.

In my third year, I want to focus on writing. I am going to write every day. Even if it is for 15 minutes in my diary, I am going to write. I am going to write posts and book reviews for Highlights and Hot Chocolate. I am going to write all of the books and worlds that are in my head, I am going to write about anything and everything that is affecting my life or just making a brief appearance in it. And I am going to attempt to publish at least some of those writings somewhere people will see them. Not just here on HHC, but out there in the expanse of space that is the internet and even print media.

In my third year, I am going to apply to graduate school. I want to get my master’s degree in publishing and writing. It’s something I’ve always felt I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to put it into words or go about it. I have my bachelor’s in communications, but the more I learn about society and how we communicate, the more I yearn for the simple days when long-form writing was the main form of communication. The more I read on the internet, the more I want to contribute to it. I don’t want to simply be a consumer. I want to be a part of the product. I am no longer happy as a bystander. I need to be a participant.

I have no way of knowing what the next year holds, but these are the things I think I need to do to be an even better version of myself. Never stop growing, never stop learning, never stop creating. This next year is about ME, doing ME. I am digging deep and letting my crazy writer flag fly for the world to see. Because only by doing so can I grow into the woman I know I am destined to become.

Here’s to year 24,

Amanda

 

Check out some of my other Theme Of The Year (TOTY) posts:
TOTY – 22: Why Soul Searching is Not my Theme of the Year
TOTY – 23: Wellness and Becoming my Best Self
TOTY – 25: Responsibility
TOTY – 26: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Piercings and Tattoos, Oh My!

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The last six months have simply flown by. We got little dustings of snow here and there, but the only blizzard we got was back in January or February, when Big Red and I got buried under 30″ of the stuff. It has rained a lot this spring, however, and maybe that makes up for it. I’ve been working pretty steadily, and helping Big Red and The Nurse plan their weddings. It’s a lot of fun, actually. The month of May, however, has been particularly interesting in the general course of my life.

For The Nurse’s wedding, all the bridesmaids are doing matching jewelry. She and I were discussing this at the end of April, and I bought up the point to her that I didn’t have pierced ears. I wasn’t opposed to them, I said, but I had never had a real reason to have them. Why should I pierce my ears unless I have a reason? I would simply be creating another reason for me to spend money. A wedding though, THAT is reason. So I told her that so long as she gave me about 2-3 months of notice, I would get them done so I could match the rest of the bridesmaids, etc. She let me know the last week of April, and I enlisted Big Red’s help to find a place to get them done. I don’t even notice I have them unless my hair or my shirt gets caught on them. So far they’re fine, and I haven’t had any issues. I do the whole alcohol swab thing every morning and night and today marks a month since I got them done.

My tattoo (seen above) is an entirely different story. Maybe it SEEMS as though I got the ear piercings and went crazy and decided to get a tattoo as well. Not true. I’ve always planned to get a tattoo, but I could never decide on one. there are many things I love, but almost none of them that I would put permanently on my body. About two years ago, one of my sisters asked my cousin to design a tattoo for her: a pine tree with a cross inside of it. My sister never ended up getting it, but my cousin decided that she really liked the pine tree as a symbol of our family (our last name is Woods after all), and got a small pine tree tattooed on her ankle. As soon as I saw it, I knew that was what I wanted. Still, I spent the last TWO YEARS mulling it over. My cousin was supposed to go with me to get it at the end of last summer, but she left for school in Montana before we could get to it. When I found out that she was home for Memorial Day weekend, I informed her that it was time, and we drove out to Silk City Tattoo in Hawthorne, NJ, where she got her first tattoo, to get my pine tree. Mine ended up being more intricate and larger than hers, but there is not a single thing I would change about it. The guys at the parlor were super nice to us, even after they found out it was my first tattoo. There was no teasing, and they made it as painless as possible (I would equate the pain level to scraping your foot on the concrete sidewalk, except for a prolonged period of time, so like a 2-3/10).

Sure, it’s in a place that can only be covered by pants, or tights, or knee socks, but besides being one of the least painful places to get a tattoo and the exact location of my cousin’s, I wanted it to to be somewhere where I could see it every day. I didn’t see the point in getting something meaningful if I was just going to forget it was there. I have no idea how having my tattoo will affect my future in terms of employment, but I do know that it hasn’t affected my current situation at the bridal shop (where many of my coworkers have multiple tattoos).

The effect on my family has been interesting. My siblings and my parents think it’s a little on the large side, being nearly 5″ tall from trunk to loftiest branches, but in proportion to my extra long legs, it doesn’t seem that big. My paternal grandparents, who aren’t surprised by anything anymore after raising 8 children and 20 grandchildren, really like it. My coworkers love it. Other reactions have been mixed, but it hasn’t fazed me so far. I expected many of the reactions I got, and the majority of them were pleasantly surprising.

Will I ever get another tattoo or piercing? Probably not. I have no reason to get any other piercings, and I’m not really interested in piercing anything else, like my lip, eyebrow, belly button, or cartilage, and see no reason to get multiple holes in my ears, either. Tattoo-wise, I can’t say. I may eventually find a quote or other symbol that I want, but I don’t see it as very likely.

Let me know your thoughts on piercings and tattoos on Twitter!

Until next time,

Amanda

Facing Some Fears

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So the last few days or so have been a little difficult. I’ve been contemplating life and what I want to do, and I finally sat down and discussed with my mom some of my fears and misgivings that I have moving forward.

“I’m scared to work in a big city,” I said. I’m worried that if I get a job there that I will have to move there in order to do my job effectively. It’s not the moving that scares me necessarily, but the fear of getting a roommate that I can’t trust and having to live in a city where I know no one, working a job that I don’t like to pay back my loans and eke out a meager existence. This fear is not completely irrational or unfounded. I have had bad roommates in the past. However if I let them, my parents, friends, and even my extended family would definitely help me vet any apartments or roommates I would be looking at. I just have to remind myself that I am not alone in this. Too often when thinking of the future, I think about me, regardless of everyone else in my life. But to live my life to my best ability, I really do have to take them all into account. Not in a ‘I can’t move to Oregon because how would they go on without me‘ kind of way, because they could, and would, go on without me if I moved away, but more in a ‘How can I live my best life by keeping my family in it so I don’t go insane with homesickness‘ kind of way. Because my family is my source of strength. Without a strong base, I can’t reach for my loftier goals.

Applying to jobs is incredibly disheartening. So many employers never send any kind of response to a resume or inquiry you send in. I have come to appreciate even the automated rejection notices, because at least they give a semblance of closure. To combat this, we did some investigating, and discovered that most of the big, credible companies I am interested in working for only hire through agencies. Now, locating these agencies is a whole other ballgame. Some businesses will have a ‘careers’ link right on the website. Perfect. Love it. But for some others, finding out about job openings there is like finding a needle in a haystack, or a needle in a cornfield, or something like that. Nearly impossible. So when we finally located some of those agency sites, I was ecstatic. Now I can find some jobs that I’ll actually be interested in, I told myself. Still, the pickings are slim.

I worry that I’m missing some qualification that will get me the job I want. I only did one internship during college because that’s all I had time for, but more and more job openings are screaming that internships are important and that companies won’t hire you without internship experience. Why? If I worked in the field at some other company then I’ll be aware of how that company works, and it will just confuse me when I try to learn your way. Without the in-field internship, I might not be familiar with the types of software and everyday jargon you use, sure, but as a highly teachable and quick learner, I can pick up those skills in about 3 months no matter what I’m doing. I can tell people all day every day that I am a quick learner, but they aren’t going to believe it until they see it because everyone puts that on a resume regardless of its validity. Sure, I only had one internship, but I learned as much as I physically could and then I turned that into a part-time position at the business. The skills I have learned during my life are incredibly varied and nuanced because of how I grew up, and if there’s anything I can’t do, I know someone who would be willing to teach me how to do it, if I only ask. There is really nothing for me to be afraid of.

So what is my plan? Apply, apply, apply. Look into businesses and agencies and send out an impeccable copy of my resume and a cover letter to all of the jobs I am interested in. Then, the waiting. But while I’m waiting I can be learning. There are a million ways to learn about a field. The simplest way is to do Google searches about it. Then, there are people in the industry that I could interview and ask about their work and what their day-to-day entails in order to get a better look at how it all works. There are always classes I could take, at local colleges or online, to get inside the industry. Or I could skip the classes and just read books written about the industry. See how the authors are interpreting the field they are a part of, and view how the field is growing and changing. These are all things I could do. These are all things I will do to varying extents.

Talking with my mom always reminds of two things. 1) I am not alone, in this or in anything. And 2) I am a lot stronger than I think. I have a lot of gumption, or nerve, or faith, depending on what you call it. And I am not afraid to use it.

Until next time,

Amanda