I made it to three hundred followers

I started this blog in 2015, after I graduated from college. One of the many pieces of my writing journey. It really makes my day when people like my posts or leave comments. It can be nice knowing that my thoughts, poetry, art, or videos resonated with someone. The people blogging in the WordPress community are so creative, kind, and thoughtful (at least the ones I have come across). It is so nice to see so many people sharing their work, ideas, and stories.

Like many people, I find myself at times wanting to take a break from the internet. (I’m rarely successful at taking such breaks, but hey, I try.) But this blogging platform has been overall positive. I can go onto my feed and see poems, personal essays, and artwork at any time of day or night. Thank you to the people who make this corner of the internet so positive and inspiring. And thank you to the people who have followed my blog or interacted with my posts.

I don’t have a niche blog (I always get bored with trying to write those). I’m just here to be myself and post whatever comes to mind (it’s usually poems). This has been a space where I can say what is on my mind and I am thankful for that. Thank you everyone ❤

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New Chapter

It can be weird to embrace change. It can be hard not knowing what to expect from the future. I’m starting a new chapter of my life soon to pursue my master’s degree, moving to a new place. I have a lot of friends who traveled much farther than I did to study for their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. But this will be my first time living somewhere new with no family nearby.

I’m worried about a lot of things. I’m worried I won’t like school or my internships or my new apartment. The process of researching, saving money, writing essays, asking for recommendation letters, sending my applications, going on interviews, choosing a school, and securing a field placement has been going on for about a year now. I didn’t know going into it that grad school would be so much work before I even started. And there’s still much to do even though I start in just a couple of weeks.

I’m pursuing my master’s to create more opportunities for myself. I put lots of time into weighing my options, wanting to make the right decision. But I still can’t help but wonder, am I choosing the right thing? I know a master’s degree wasn’t my only option to create more career opportunities. I also could have gone for a shorter and more affordable certificate program, such as one in teaching English to speakers of other languages, or web design.

But I decided to pursue a master’s in social work for several reasons. One reason is that I knew a certificate would prepare me for something very specific, while a master’s degree gives me more flexibility in pursuing jobs. When I finish my master’s, I know I’ll have the opportunity to work in different settings, whether it’s teaching at community college, doing therapy at a mental health clinic, doing social work at a hospital or school, or doing policy work with the government. One of the reasons I studied theater and then English for my bachelor’s degree is because I never wanted to be pigeon-holed into a specific job.

Having done so much unpaid work as a writer, I think I have a higher appreciation for any job that offers a salary. It sounds kind of sad, but it’s the truth. A lot of people hear about social work and assume there’s “no money” in it. Clearly those people never spent years literally working for free.

I decided to continue my education because I realized, after three years of trying, that I wasn’t going to earn a living as a writer. I know that earning my master’s will open doors, yet I still feel very anxious about my future. The job application process can be the most disheartening thing in the world. I’m worried that I’ll graduate and still won’t know how to have a career.

I think I’m being true to myself in pursuing social work, the same way I was true to myself in pursuing acting and writing. If nothing else, I’m self-aware when it comes to my strengths and weakness, my likes and dislikes. I’ve always loved and needed my creative outlets. But I always had a desire to help others. Social work is something I feel I would have pursued sooner if I had known about the various career paths it could lead to.

Despite always being asked if I wanted to teach (I was a Theater and then English major after all), I always knew that teaching K-12 wasn’t a goal for me. I don’t think I’d last a day in the seemingly stressful, possibly pretentious environment of a law firm. I’m fascinated by science, engineering, and web development, but I think studying any of these subjects would feel a bit dry to me. I’ve developed a greater appreciation and confidence in math over the years, but I don’t think I’d be very happy as an accountant.

A lot what has led me to where I am today has stemmed from a process of elimination, along with the tenacity to never settle for a career that didn’t satisfy me. Choosing a path in education is a complex and expensive decision. I know nothing is set in stone, and that I can still pursue a certificate or two even after I get my master’s. All the same, I have a tendency to overthink my decisions, always afraid of choosing the wrong thing and making a mistake. I don’t want to be this neurotic about things. I want to enjoy my life. But it’s hard for me.

I also chose a master’s because I knew I could use federal loans to fund it. It’s possible that taking out a cheaper private loan for a certificate would have better in the short term (since I could have worked and then pursued a master’s after I saved money and paid off the private loan). But when I was making my decisions, I felt better about taking out federal loans only. I applied only to state schools to keep my costs as low as possible. And I realized that many certificate programs took two or three semesters. If I were going to be in school for that long, I figured I might as well take four semesters to earn a higher degree with more job options.

If nothing else, I know I thought this through. With all of the events and travels of summer, I feel like I haven’t been able to process everything that has happened, especially in the past month. I know I’m moving, but it’s hard to really grasp what that means or to have any idea of what my life will really look like.

I have a lot of help and support from my family. A lot of people believe that I will be successful and that I’m pursuing a career that will be perfect for me. That in itself is a good feeling and I know I couldn’t do all of these things without help.

It’s scary and unpredictable. I want to be successful. I want to have a career and an apartment and love. I want to live in a nice city and to doing things that I enjoy. I know this. So why do I so often feel like I have no idea what I want? Why do I so often feel like my future is shapeless?

It can be weird to embrace change. But I’m hopeful. And I know that I have people who are supporting me. All I can do is take things one day at a time and trust that things will work out.

I have to trust that my choices are good.

12 Lessons I’ve Learned by 25

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I turned 25 just over a month ago. It feels like an important age on some level. In a weird way it feels like I’m officially an adult. Like I can feel more empowered in my choices because, at this point, who really cares what anyone else thinks? I’m not saying that this age is the epitome of drinking from the fountain of wisdom. I think it’s far from it. Which is interesting, because I feel like I’ve experienced and learned a lot, especially in the past few years. But at the same time, there’s still so much left to experience and learn.

There’s a wealth of wisdom you gain when you reach 30, 40, 50, and so on. It really puts things into perspective. This (my twenties) is just one chapter in my life, one stage where all I can do is trust my intuition, try my best, and see where all of that takes me. Still, at this point in my life, I’ve learned a lot of things, many of which I’d probably pass down to my younger self if I could. Here’s 12 lessons I’ve learned by 25.

1 – Go at your own pace. They call your twenties your “defining decade” for a reason. In a way, they’re like the high school years of adulthood. You’re figuring out who you are, what you like, and the kind of life you see yourself living. It’s pretty huge! The people around you are all going to be at different stages in their careers, finances, romantic relationships, and family life. In the age of social media, it is especially tempting to compare your journey to another person’s. Don’t. Your path is yours alone. It is unique. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

2 – Milestones are optional. In some ways, birthdays bring expectations. You may feel like reaching a certain age means that you should already have your own place, a stable career, your own car, the love of your life, and even your firstborn child. I don’t think it’s emphasized enough that you are not REQUIRED to do anything at all by a certain age. There is no such thing as being a “late bloomer” in love, career, or any other aspect of life. When you reach retirement age, do you think anyone (including you) is going to look back on your life and judge you for things you didn’t accomplish in your twenties? Of course not. So just live. Take your time. Do things your way. Don’t worry about anything, just keep being better than you were yesterday. Keep growing.

3 – Foster meaningful relationships. My personal philosophy is that one meaningful friendship is better than ten acquaintances. The other side of that is that building a relationship takes time. Invest your time into good people. By the time you reach your thirties, your job, city, and romantic relationships may change a few times, but good, healthy friendships can last for life. (Sometimes friendships also run their course, and that is okay, too). But overall, investing in good friends/family members is a great thing to do for your future (and present) self.

4 – Passions can evolve. I’ve always been someone who is passionate about many things. Art, music, theater, animals, the environment, helping people, etc. People often say to “do what you love,” and many times this message suggests that you should love doing one thing for the rest of your life. While it’s important to find focus in your career, it’s okay to try different things and to change your mind. (In fact, most people do exactly that). I studied theater in college before I changed my major to English. I focused on writing for a few years before realizing it wasn’t an easy way to pay the bills, so now I’m pursuing social work. I still love theater, I still love writing, and now I can pursue a career that will allow me to help others, which is something I’ve always been passionate about as well.

5 – You don’t have to be good at something right away. This is something I feel needs to be emphasized more, especially in schools. You don’t have to be good at something the first, second, or even third time you try it. You can be terrible at something, but spend a few months or even years improving your skills. This goes for anything: math, writing, sports, and even other areas of life such as dating, interviewing, and communicating. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to fail. Most things you fail at in life are not going to have high stakes (i.e – it’s not brain surgery). So give yourself a break. Let yourself fail. Let yourself improve.

6 – Do things for personal enrichment. So much of our twenties revolve around “getting our lives together.” We go to school so we can have a career. We get a job so we can afford our own place, food, etc. We date so we can find “the one.” So many of the things we do are so serious, with long-term thinking in mind. And all of these things are good. Like I said before, your twenties are the foundation of your adult life. In the midst of all this, make time for things you do “just because.” Read good books, try a new sport, go for hikes, talk to strangers at happy hours, go to concerts. Do things just for fun. These are the things you’ll remember years from now, and these are the things that will keep you from being too stressed out.

7 – Don’t worry about what people think. This one is always easier said than done. But the truth is, there’s always going to be people judging you for something. More than that, people will expect you to live the way THEY are living. People who are married will expect you to get married, too. People who have kids will expect you to have kids, too. People who have good careers will expect you to have one, too, etc. But at the end of the day, no one is living your life for you. If people can’t respect the way you live, happily show them the door.

8 – Give yourself options. It’s easy to feel like you have to find one career, one life partner, one place to live, etc. But you don’t have to limit yourself, especially not in your twenties. Give yourself options for your career. Don’t settle down and get married just because others expect you to (do it because you genuinely want to). Exploring your options can save you from looking back years later, thinking, “I wish I knew I had another choice.”

9 – Be honest. Be honest with yourself and the people you care about. If you’re going through a hard time, talk to someone. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. The more authentic you are in the way you live, the easier it will be to find the right opportunities for you.

10 – Forgive, but don’t forget. By the time you reach twenty-five, you’ve already gathered your fair share of “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” and regrets. You may look back on your life and wish you had chosen a different college major, a different romantic partner, a different city to live in sooner, etc. The sooner you learn how to forgive yourself, the more inner peace you’ll have. There will also be other people who may have hurt you or betrayed you, sometimes in more extreme ways than others. Forgiving other people is a personal thing, and sometimes it’s too hard. But taking care of yourself and being patient with your journey is a good start. If something from the past is affecting you in the present, consider talking to a loved one or working through it with a therapist.

11 – Do activities you enjoy. When you’re trying to pursue your career goals, it can be easy to let other passions, like music or fitness, fall to the back burner. Try to make time for personal projects. Join groups that share your interest. Take an enrichment class or two. Nurturing your talents is a great way to boost your confidence and do things you can feel proud of.

12 – Help others. Whether you support your friends when they need someone to talk to or donate to a good cause, it’s important to give back. You have unique gifts you can use to help others or brighten someone’s day. Knowing you can make a difference, even a small one, can give you a sense of purpose and keeps you motivated. In addition, being there for others often means having people who will be there for you as well. You give love, you get love.

These are some of the lessons that I’ve learned by 25. Life is a journey, and we all pick up different nuggets of wisdom along the way. Learning new things means that you are growing and evolving, and that is always a reason to feel proud of how far you’ve come.

Laurel vs Yanny

[Note: this post gets political.]

Yesterday, a clip was trending on social media where some people heard the word “yanny,” others heard “laurel,” and some heard both. People have been comparing it to that dress that appeared to be a different color to different people.

It’s interesting that we can all have different perspectives and that we can perceive things differently, even though, in most cases, our experiences of our senses seem to be similar and somewhat universal. This whole thing has made me think about something that has permeated our (United States) culture much more over the past couple years–politics.

A lot of people say that, politically, the U.S is divided. For some, this division is about republicans and democrats. For me, this division is about racism. It’s about homophobia and transphobia. It’s about Black Lives Matter, affordable healthcare, affordable education, and affordable housing. It’s about policing and controlling women’s bodies. It’s about the fact that there are states that I am afraid to live in because there is a higher chance that I will experience discrimination in the workplace or other settings. It’s about the fact that people who claim to be nationalists are more outraged about political protests than they are about homeless veterans.

It’s about the fact that Nazis and the KKK STILL EXIST. It’s about the fact that there are people who care more about displaying confederate flags than they do about respecting and protecting minorities. It’s about the fact that brown people who commit acts of violence are terrorists or thugs while white Americans who commit mass shootings are “mentally ill,” “troubled,” “lone wolves,” “isolated,” and “bullied.” It’s about the fact that gay pride, Black Lives Matter, and DREAMers being supported by mainstream media (at times) does not mean most places in this country are safe for marginalized groups.

It’s about the fact that sex workers are shamed by the same politicians who watch porn, hire escorts, and cheat on their spouses. It’s about the fact that immigrants and people seeking a better quality of life are shamed by a country founded on genocide and built on the backs of Black slaves. It’s about the fact that people of color, LGBT people, and women are astronomically underrepresented in history textbooks.

There is a division between me and the people who are contributing to the above issues. There is a division between me and the people who turn my existence, and the existence of my friends, into a political battle daily.

This is my perspective. This is my “yanny.” But the fact is, not everyone is hearing what I’m hearing. Not everyone is seeing what I’m seeing. Not everyone is feeling what I’m feeling. My values are not the same as everyone else’s. Other people are hearing “laurel.” And maybe some of us can hear both at times, just like some of us can at least empathize with a perspective that is different from our own.

We all experience life in our own way and there are perspectives I will simply never understand. And there are people who will simply never understand me. Everyone is fighting for their own existence to be validated, heard, represented, and understood. We are seeing different stories unfold. We are seeing the same dress in a vastly different color.

I want to feel safe and respected. I want the people I love most to feel safe and respected. That will always be the force that drives my perspective. That will always dictate the color I see and the sound that I hear. I don’t think divisions can ever go away while anyone’s identity is be swept aside.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

 

How I perceive each zodiac sign

[Most lists go in order of the zodiac calendar, but I’m organizing mine by element.]

Taurus – Hard-working, loyal, and dedicated. Strong-minded and stubborn. If you’re a true friend, they will stand by you forever. Selective when it comes to love, they build slowly when entering a relationship, but once it’s real, they love hard. They are true builders and will take slow, steady steps toward their goals, not stopping until they reach them. Can be lazy and loves to relish in the pleasures of the senses.

Virgo – Neat freaks. They like things to be tidy, but they can also have secret messes. Good-hearted, kind, and reliable friends. They are tenacious and tend to stick to the things they’re comfortable with. Perfectionists; hard on themselves with a tendency to critique others. They will create a stable, comfortable, clean home life. May stick to bad habits if they fall into them.

Capricorn – No one works harder than this sign. They are kind, loyal, and determined. They may have some insecurities, but they’re usually a lot more amazing than they think they are. Career may come before relationships at times.

Pisces – A very sweet sign. A bit shy, but also incredibly charming when they want to be. They need time alone to think and recharge, but they also need social fun on occasion, maybe attending a dinner party or seeing a concert or sports event. They can be directionless at times, but they need stability, especially when it comes to the comforts of home. Sensitive people with lots of feelings. They like to help people.

Cancer – The most nurturing sign. They are very kind, loving, and loyal. They are incredibly emotional and will share or vent their feelings to anyone and everyone (at least to people they trust). They like time to themselves, but they like time to be social with friends as well. They’re relationship oriented and are the most likely to be in a long-term, romantic relationship.

Scorpio – An emotional, possessive, strong-minded sign. Filled with secrets. They only let a select few in, and they may find it hard to trust people. They like to keep to themselves, but they also like the occasional adventure. Relationships can be intense, but they are loyal. They like to be in control, and will low key manage everything around them.

Aries – A very impulsive sign, but when they find something they like, they are 100% into it, however long it may last. They are incredibly easy to start conversations with. They are fun, bold, and always down for an adventure.

Leo – These people are very strong-minded, have an unapologetic sense of humor, may be a bit stubborn, and make great leaders. They know who they are, what they want, and what they believe. They make passionate friends and lovers, but they can be impulsive as well.

Sagittarius – Such a fun sign! Optimistic, generous, and very upbeat. They want to have a good time and make other people happy. Constantly experiencing new people, places, and things. They may hide their sadness or struggles from the world, preferring to party, smile, and have a great time. So loving and exciting. They are walking, talking adventures.

Aquarius – Walks to the beat of their own drum. Very unique and individualistic. They have a lot to say and are very generous, especially when it comes to money. Free-spirited and spontaneous. Not likely to stick to a set plan for the future. Thinks outside the box.

Gemini – Creative, intelligent, and effective communicators. They are talented, especially in many creative areas, but they may be more go with the flow when it comes to career. Fun, spontaneous friends. Can be a bit moody.

Libra – Good communicators. Easygoing, easy to get along with. They create a beautiful aesthetic with everything: fashion, pictures on their phone, social media accounts, makeup, etc… Can be good leaders, unafraid to speak to or work in groups. They might not talk about their deepest feelings, but they feel a lot and will be very compassionate if you talk about your emotions.

Things I wish I knew in high school

Our high school peers can be a valuable network. 

I didn’t like high school much, I wouldn’t want to go back, and when I left I didn’t think I’d see most people again. Social media makes it easier to keep in touch, so I’m still in touch with people from both high school and college. The thing I never thought of as a teen is this: the people you know in school (whether it’s high school or university) are future professionals. The people you know will eventually work in a variety of different fields, and they’ll be the ones you can ask questions or learn more about an industry through.

Weigh your options.

When I went to college, I knew exactly what I wanted to study, but I never really weighed my options to see what else schools had to offer. I didn’t take the time to really look through all of the departments, and if I had, I probably would have found a balance sooner between following my passion and earning a living.

Know that things change.

As a teen, I felt so so so much pressure to figure out what I would do! For! The rest! Of my life! But honestly? Like the real honest truth? All of that is a myth. Lots of people, if not most, change careers at some point in their life. There are people who become accountants, teachers, doctors, or psychologists, only to leave the field and do something else.

That’s not a bad thing (even if it might sound like a waste of money from all the degrees). But it is a fact of life. People change and grow. What you want at 18 or 24 might not be what you want at 29 or 35. You don’t need to know what you want to do forever. But finding something you can see yourself doing for at least years is a good place to start. Once you have experience in one field, it’s easier to find ways to apply those skills to another.

Don’t take life too seriously. 

School and building a career is a lot of work. It’s important to work hard and study and try your best, but you want to make time for fun and good memories, too. The career path you choose in your studies might not last forever (or who knows, it just might!), but you’ll likely have relationships and friendships that last for many years. Those will be some of the most valuable things to take from your years in school.

Blaze a trail.

The truth is, there’s no “one size fits all” advice. You might have someone who chooses to study engineering and builds a career in that, or you might have another person who graduates with that same degree, only to decide, ‘This career is not right for me.’ You can have someone who studies Musical Theater and finds different jobs they like after college, then you’ll have others who study the arts and struggle to pay the bills for a while.

It can really go either way, regardless of what career path you try. You have to find the balance between doing something that makes you happy, and doing something that makes you money. For many people, this means experimenting, trying out different things, and learning more about themselves before finding a path to “settle” on. But the truth is, I don’t think we ever settle. I think we’re always evolving, and you just kind of have to be along for the ride.

Your 20s will be one big experiment. 

Very few people have their shit together in their 20s, regardless of how their lives may look on social media. People are figuring out their careers, and their love lives, and whether they want children, and where they want to live, and (for those in the U.S), making sure they still have health insurance after they turn 26. It’s a long road with a lot of (really) big decisions.

Overall, I think you just have to remember to breathe. Most decisions are not final (except, ya know, having children. That’s a bit more permanent than most things lol). But overall, you have a lifetime to learn, grow, and try new things. The time also goes by fast. It can be stressful, but try to make time for fun and to be happy. You’ll go through career highs and lows, honeymoon phases and heartbreaks, decisions you’re proud of and things you would do differently if you could. It’s quite a journey, but you learn a lot and become more You than you’ve ever been.

My Career Goals Over the Years

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We all get asked this question at various stages in our lives. What no one tells you is that adults still feel as though they are wandering, and they still ask themselves this question. I think the U.S has an especially career-centric culture, in some places more than others. I live in New York, and while I live in the suburbs, I feel like there’s still a very fast-paced atmosphere where “What do you do?” is the first thing someone asks you.

I definitely know of people who say they don’t need a career that defines them. They feel a job is just a job, and it allows them to put food on the table and that’s all that matters. I sort of envy people who genuinely feel this way. Having a career that I can be passionate about has always been important to me. And I want to surround myself with people who feel passionately about their work as well. I don’t think people who value their careers are necessarily happier, in fact I think people like this are never satisfied, but I do think they’re the ones who blaze trails. I want to blaze a trail and leave my mark on the world.

Still, I wasn’t one of the those people who’s always known what she wanted to be. When I was a kid, the first career I remember aspiring to was wanting to be a pastry chef. I told my mom that I would open a bakery and make cupcakes for her all the time.

When we played the game Life (ya know, that board game that takes a hellishly long time to complete), I always was excited when I was able to pick the artist card for my career. Instinctively I knew I just NEEDED to be some sort of artist. And in many ways, I’ve done that for the past few years. I’ve written a bunch of poetry and fiction, wrote for a magazine, made lots of art, and I’ve been very poor.

No one tells you how lonely and challenging being an artist can really be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But I realized that being able to support myself and having something to fall back on is super important. I can’t rely on getting a job by chance, like my parents many other Boomers did.

When I was a little older, I decided I wanted to be an interior designer. I thought that sounded like the funnest job ever (and I still do!), and I used to draw designs in my sketch pad.

Sometime around middle school, my aspirations became more social. I went through a phase where I wanted to be a massage therapist, and I would give massages to people in my family. By the time I reached high school, I’d decided that I wanted to be a pediatrician because I wanted to help kids.

Through all of these ideas, the arts were still very important to me. They were my passion. I still liked to draw and write poetry. I liked singing in my music classes. I didn’t always like high school, but my arts classes always kept me going. Things really changed for me in the tenth grade when I started acting.

I performed, took acting classes, did shows through my church, and took every opportunity I could to stay involved with theater. During my senior year, I attended an arts high school alongside my regular one and was a drama major there. I was surrounded by lot of other people who planned to study theater in college, so it inspired me to pursue theater in college as well.

By the time I’d taken my SAT’s and applied to college, I’d decided that I wanted to pursue a career as an actress. I went on auditions, and got accepted to a few theater programs. It was all really fun! But by the time I’d gotten to college, I felt really pressured to have a plan for my life, and I just didn’t have one.

I had way too many passions that I wanted to follow my career. I wanted to act, I wanted to write, I wanted to sing, I wanted to help people. I wanted too many things at once, and it gave me a lot of stress. By my sophomore year, I’d changed my major to English so I could focus on writing, but I still had a lot of ambition with no real plan.

It’s not that I thought a theater or English degree would get me a job. But I did think that, like most people I knew, I could get a job unrelated to what I studied. I imagined myself working in an office somewhere while I pursued my art on the side, or maybe working in advertising or publishing. I didn’t realize how hard it would really be to get a job in the communications field.

Now, I’m back to having goals in more social careers. I’m pursuing a master’s degree in social work, and I have a plan to be a mental health counselor, or to work in higher education as a career counselor, professor, or some sort of program director. It’s good, because it fulfills that desire I’ve always had to help others.

As for the artist in me, she’s still there, burning with lots of passion but not much direction unfortunately. I’ve done a lot of writing, but it’s not all I want to do, and it’s not all I want to be known for. I want to keep writing, but I also want to make visual art. I want to perform. I want to use the arts to address social issues as well. This is an area where I don’t have as concrete of a vision, probably because it’s much more self-motivated than other kinds of work, and it’s motivated by something other than money.

I learned a few years ago that my career types are artistic, social, and investigative. This makes a lot of sense, and it fits in with everything I’ve ever wanted to do. My personality type is also INFJ, and being an artist and social worker fits well with that as well. It feels good to know that there’s different types of work that can fit each of us.

I’m 24, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But I have more clarity than I did before, I’m more knowledgeable about my opportunities. I don’t want a job that’s just a job. I want something I can be passionate about. My ambitions have changed a bit over the years, but one thing hasn’t. I don’t want to settle. I want to find work that is right for me.