8 Steps to Self-Love

Like I wrote in my last post, I’m no expert on self-love. But I’ve definitely been improving over the past 6 months or so, and I think it’s important to share how I’ve started working on it because let me tell you, it’s not an easy feat.

1. Decide to love yourself

Like the cliche goes, “acceptance is the first step.” For years in high school I kept saying I would work on turning negative thoughts around, I would exercise, I would try and get better. But I didn’t really mean it, because there’s such a safety in complacency; I understand that. So the first step is you have to choose not to be miserable and to start on a journey of self-acceptance.

2. Listen to your body

I love fulfilling my body’s cravings – if I want some soda, I’ll get some soda. I love dessert. I have a HUGE sweet tooth and I don’t mind giving my body what it wants most of the time; needless to say, for the most part, it’s at appropriate times and I eat fairly healthily the rest of my life. I have to snack a lot because if I don’t, I’ll start passing out (and no one wants that). I sleep 10+ hours a night because that’s what it takes for me to feel rested. But my best friend has a really hard time doing those kinds of things; she gets sluggish and doesn’t feel her best self if she eats too much junk food or oversleeps, so make sure you learn about what your body really needs and what you can use as fuel and what you can’t.

3. Meditate

I’ve written about how much I love the program Headspace in the past, and I still can’t get over it. I’ve been using Headspace for over a year now and I’m still obsessed. I feel like it really helps me get in touch with my emotions in a way that is controlled and safe, which is something that’s important for me with my anxiety. You don’t need to use Headspace (though I suggest you at least try it out), but try taking some time for yourself. It’ll help you stay calm in the face of stress and learn to ride out any unpleasant emotions you might come in contact with.

4. Move!

This is a really difficult one for me because in the past, I have loathed going to the gym. I competed in three sprint triathlons but I hated the training. I’ve discovered the key is finding things you enjoy. I hate doing one thing for a long time, so when I do cardio, I mix it up – 10 minutes on the erg, 10 minutes on the stairmaster, 20 minutes on a spinning machine, then do some lifting. But it also doesn’t have to be the gym – a walk can make you feel better. Yoga, jazzercise, pilates, boot camp, whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up helps your metabolic rate (which also helps with your ability to eat snacks – yesssss) and gets your mind focused on something else.

5. Take time for yourself

Go get a coffee. Read a book on your own. Listen to some podcasts. I like taking the bus somewhere and not telling anyone so I have alone time for a couple hours (the only problem being I live in a small college town and almost always run into people I know anyway… it’s the thought that counts). Light some candles and take a bath. Even the biggest extrovert can take some value in being by themselves for a while.

6. Help others

This is another one I’m still working on myself, but it’s helpful to take the pressure off you for a while. We often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to go out of our way to make others’ lives easier. Volunteer somewhere. Go out with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Listen to what people need and try and find a way to do that for them.

7. Accept yourself

I didn’t say “love” yet. You’ve got to get to a place where you can be comfortable with you first. Force yourself to list good things about you. Get friends to write notes about your good qualities if you have trouble coming up with them. If you don’t like your physical looks, get naked and look in the mirror (I started sleeping without clothes on because I was so uncomfortable with my body – really hard at first, but it gets easier. I promise). List things you like about yourself. Post selfies. Write reminders about how beautiful you are on your mirror, even if you don’t believe it.

8. Don’t forget that it’s hard

Especially for those of us with mental illnesses that get in our way, it’s a journey. Don’t forget that. Don’t beat yourself up because you trip and fall off the bandwagon. Don’t get mad if you mess up and you hurt yourself. Remember it’s important that you’re trying.

On Being Single & Okay With It

How many times in your life, do you think you’ve seen the idea of someone else “completing you” somewhere? In a quote? In a social media post? On a commercial? In a movie? How often is the concept of finding someone to make you happy reinforced in our everyday lives; that one person is out there, waiting until you fall into each other’s lives and grow old together?
hands-437968_640Listen, I’m not saying that (good) relationships aren’t great. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to be alone forever. But I think we need to abolish this idea that someone else exists in the world to “be your other half.”

Recently, I’ve seen a few of my good friends go through some pretty rough breakups because of fairly innocuous reasons: they grew apart, they aren’t at the same place in life, etc., etc. But one thing I’ve heard from multiple people on why they haven’t broken up with their significant other sooner is because they’re afraid of being single.

And that’s understandable, right? No one really wants to be alone – having that one person locked into a relationship with you pretty much guarantees that person cares about you, will be there for you, is always someone to do things with, etc. (Unless they’re not, and you seriously need to get out of that relationship ASAP).

But here’s the thing.

Just because you’re single, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. 

I think a lot of people forget this. You are your own independent person, and friends are just as important as significant others. You (hopefully) have surrounded yourself with people who make you happy and encourage you to be a better person. These are people to hang out with, to talk about problems with, to go places, to do things. People who care about you and will be there for you. If you don’t have people who you feel that way about, maybe re-evaluate your friendships. Maybe it’s time to make new ones. If your significant other was your only friend, reconsider why you were actually in the relationship with them.

Especially in your 20s, you need time to discover yourself.   

What I’ve heard from a lot of my friends is that they have a security blanket in the relationship. I can’t say I’m not a culprit of this myself cause sometimes it feels nice to have that guarantee. But I think before you get into a relationship, you need to learn how to be alone. You need to figure out how to define you before you know how to define yourself +1.  This is my major problem with people from high school trying to do LDRs when they get to university. There are so many growing pains that happen in college that you need to be able to stretch and breathe and do things on your own without having to question what your partner will think about it. Be you. Too many millennials don’t know how to, and we should change that.

You need to love yourself before you can truly love anyone else. 

Now, self-love is something I’m no expert on. And this is one of the main reasons why I’m not currently seeking out a relationship, because I’m not in a place where I feel like I’m the best partner I could be. And that is okay. Besides the fact that I’m graduating in a year and it just wouldn’t be realistic (because I’m a selfish person who wants to travel the world and I don’t expect anyone to follow me to the ends of the earth cause like, damn, do your own thing, worry about yourself), I enjoy learning about me and who I am when I’m on my own. And while I wouldn’t say I truly love myself yet, I’m learning to. And I think learning how to love the person who some people truly hate more than anyone else (hey mental illness!) makes loving another person so, so much easier and full.

And listen.

It’s okay to be bitter when you see friends getting married and engaged and falling in and out of love. Jealousy is a natural emotion. That happens, especially when it’s getting jealous of something you’ve been taught to value above almost anything else. That’s pretty much how life works, especially when we’ve been socialized to think that way.

But you’re not looking for your better half. You’re not looking for someone to complete you.

You’re already whole.

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A Semester’s Recap

Hey, so it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I kind of dropped the ball on this whole blogging game for a while, mostly because this semester was one of my most challenging academically and emotionally. Returning from London was a whirlwind and taking my two most difficult classes of my college career in addition to reintegrating myself into organizations, RAing and just university life in general again made it very complicated and was not a great choice in hindsight. But, hey, we’re on the other side now! And while this semester has definitely kept me in check with how imperfect I am, I’ve also learned a lot and made some really close friends in the process, and I am so excited to spend my last summer before becoming a college graduate in Ithaca. But since I don’t really want to write out an actual recap of my semester, here’s a list of things I have learned this semester.

1. It’s okay to say “no.”

As a perfectionistic overachiever, I always think I can do more than I can actually handle. Up until this semester, I’ve always said it’s okay to say no but I never really had to. This time around, I turned people down when they asked me to be in productions, make things for them, hang out, etc. As bad as I felt about it, I’m really glad I did as my mental health and my grades would have suffered (… more than they already did …)

2. People come and go in your life.

I lost some really close friends this past semester but I also gained some other awesomely close ones (many of whom are staying for the summer, which is phenomenal). But sometimes you have to let people go – and it’s often been hard for me to accept that everyone won’t necessarily like you all the time. Friends are like waves. You get really close to some people and then they fall out of your life, and that’s okay. Things change. People change. You change.

3. Work hard, play hard.

This also has been the first semester I’ve really allowed myself to let loose. I don’t know if it’s being able to drink legally, knowing more people who throw parties, nicer weather recently, forcing myself to make time to enjoy things, or what, but my weekends were often filled with hanging out with friends, playing League, going off-campus and just enjoying myself which really helped when the semester was so stressful.

4. Let yourself feel.

This is something that I’m still learning and started to learn last summer through meditation. But it’s something that was still so important this semester because I was messing around with medication levels and lots of other things and had an overwhelming amount of emotions regarding friendships, relationships, academics, missing London and so much more. And I have to consistently tell myself that it’s okay; it’s a journey.

5. You will make it through classes you hate.

You may not enjoy it, but you’ll survive.

6. Tindering in a college town is a bad idea.

You either run into biddies and bros, people from the rural outlying areas, and/or everyone you go to class with.

7. COMMUNICATE.

The various friend groups I’ve been in this past semester have often run into a lot of tension because people thing that passive-aggressively leaving notes or ignoring people is the way to solve problems. If you have something to say, for the love of all that is holy, just say it.

And we’re now at the start of what hopefully will be a wonderful Ithaca summer. Back home in June for two of my best friends’ weddings and to snuggle with my puppy again. Stay tuned!

Leadership Lessons Learned Abroad

Most likely surprising no one, being abroad taught me a lot of things. While I’m only required to write about one lesson I learned for one of my scholarships on campus, I’m notorious for wanting to overachieve and we all know how much I like lists, so I decided to compile a list of some of the leadership lessons I learned while I was abroad.

1. Let other people lead (sometimes)

This was probably the biggest lesson I learned, which is why I’m starting with it. I’m a pretty big control freak (to put it lightly) and have a really hard time delegating because I have a “if you want it done right, do it yourself” kind of attitude because I’m afraid of other people mucking it up. But an effective leader allows others to learn from their experiences – I was often the person in new places with the maps, the tickets, the saved lists of things to do, and I had to let some of my companions wander and learn about the cities for themselves without my dominating knowledge. Of course, I always had that information on backup, especially if we needed to get somewhere fast, but it was much more enjoyable to let others discover things on their own too.

2. Planning isn’t everything

As may be expected, I’m a huge planner. Before going to London, I had spreadsheets of places to see and go and what to do and when to do it. But something I quickly learned is you have to be much more flexible, because sometimes the best experiences happen on the fly and when you’re least expecting it.

3. Experience as much as you can

I found a lot of good leadership happens when the leader has a lot of experience in multitudes of situations – from new cities to how to deal with difficult people to navigating in an unfamiliar area. I got to see a lot of different parts of London, and of cities in Europe, and I found that I learned a lot by just seeing lots of things. My flatmates and I really tried to seize the opportunity we had of being abroad, and did lots of different things. Many of my classes also took us out into the city so we got to go to private art views, special exhibitions, theatre performances, small museums and more. Having a broad range of experiences to pull from and a large knowledge base makes it easier when you’re faced with decisions in leadership positions.

4. Respect others

This seems like kind of a “no, duh” kind of lesson, but I was honestly fairly shocked by some students’ lack of trying to immerse themselves in another culture. It’s important as a leader to respect others on an individual level as well as a cultural one, especially when dealing with international situations. I think especially as students, it was surprising to me that I knew some people who wouldn’t try to speak the language of the country we were in (even for small phrases like “please” and “thank you”) or would get annoyed at cultural differences like not handing the money directly to the vendor or how the public transport worked. It’s important as a leader to at least be respectful of others, even if you disagree or don’t understand them completely.

5.  Listen

Similar to the first lesson, I’ve previously had a really hard time not trying to interject my own opinions most of the time. This semester I learned (sometimes the hard way) that I often needed to simply shut up and listen to others because they have valid opinions and ideas too. This was a really hard one for me, and one I’m admittedly still working on, but something I’ve started to become more aware of in my own behaviors.

Things I Will Not Miss About London

As great a city as London is, it definitely had some drawbacks and things that made me miss the States a lot. Luckily, there were more things I loved about London (which you can see in the counterpart to this post) than disliked, but here ya go, my fellow glass-half-empty people.

1. Lack of public water fountains

 

2. Cramming onto the Central line

3. Not being able to find chocolate chips

4. Children on field trips on the tube

5. The excessive heating on the tube

6. Lack of specialty liqueurs

 

7. Commuting

 

8. Tiny showers

To be fair, this was definitely specific to our flat. But come on. I just want a real shower.

9. Getting talked-down to because you’re American

 

10. The transfer from Monument to Bank

Actually, just tube transfers in general.

11. Not having Michael’s or other craft stores

WHY CAN’T I JUST GO AND GET ALL MY CRAFT AND ART SUPPLIES IN ONE PLACE

12. No maple syrup

 

13. Lack of Target

 

14. Using an adaptor

So there’s really not that much.  London, I’ll miss ya.

Things I Will Miss About London

While I was in London, I fell in love with a lot of different things. This is a post that I wrote a while ago but forgot to post when I got back, so you get it as a Christmas present! It’s fairly obvious that London is a kick-ass city. It was been a pleasure to live there for a month, despite some downfalls (found in the counterpart to this list, Things I Will Not Miss About London), and there will be some things I will definitely miss while I’m back in the States. Here they are!

1. Mozzarella sticks at McDonald’s

2. “Driving” the bus and/or DLR

3. Coins instead of bills for dollars/pounds

4. The Cloud

Wifi is everything, all hail The Cloud

5. Cider on tap

6. Scones and clotted cream

7. Running down the escalators

8. Millionaire bars

9. Cadbury chocolate

10. Time Out day

11. Rush Hour Crush

12. Delores

Our friendly tube announcer lady.

13. The weather

14. Football games

15. The ICLC staff

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16. Automatic toilets that actually flush at the right time

17. “Cheers”

18. TfL

19. SO MANY AIRPORTS. SO MANY CHEAP FLIGHTS.

20. Off-Licences

21. Primark

22. Included tax

23. Falling in love with strangers on the tube

24. Free ATMs everywhere

25. The diversity of the city

26. Bus drivers who actually wait for you

27. Let’s be real, just about everything

Culture Clash

And now, for something completely different. Over the course of the semester, I have seen a variety of shows. We’ve gone to about one show per week, sometimes less, sometimes more. It’s been an amazing way to immerse in the theatrical environment of London and see a lot of different theatres and areas of the city as well. But one of the most interesting aspects of seeing all these different shows is how they reflect on British culture and how that juxtaposes with our culture as Americans.

The first show we saw after coming home from break was a very odd but enjoyable production called Teh Internet is Serious Business. This was, by far, the most temporary show we saw – it focuses on very modern-day scenarios and internet popularity, so in a few years’ time, it won’t make sense and/or be entertaining anymore. This is kind of an interesting concept for a show because, in theory, the dream is to have a production that can outlast the years – think of Phantom of the Opera, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This show did a really good job of bringing together the multi-dimensionality of the internet and the unique aspect the web has of bringing people from all over the world into a space together where they can communicate. The characters in Teh Internet is Serious Business were based in all different parts of the globe – UK, US, Asia, etc. – and I think this show highlighted the communal culture of the internet and how that culture can change based on your attitudes, the current events and where in the world wide web you are. It brought to attention how similar everyone can seem behind a screen and how culture and the ideology of someone’s location don’t always come through when talking to them on the internet; often, it is how you paint yourself and how easily you can morph your identity when it’s not real life.

Actors in “Teh Internet is Serious Business.” Credit to The Telegraph.

 

The next show we saw was King Charles III. This was a really engaging look at the royal family and the current dynamic of politics and the role of royals in contemporary United Kingdom life. This show is set in the future, after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died and Charles has assumed the throne; it was written in the same meter and style as many Shakespearean classics, using the iambic pentameter and rhyming verses. I was wary of this at first since it could have easily been very kitschy, but it turned out to be really brilliant. This performance was really interesting for me since I know about as much about the royal family and British politics as the average American citizen – which is not much at all. King Charles III examined the relationship between the queen or king and Parliament and how the king or queen is very much a figurehead and doesn’t exercise much or any power that s/he may have. This was really intriguing to see since while Americans often think of the President just being a figurehead, this is even more prevalent in the United Kingdom. The show also looked at the relationship between the royal family and the media, a very similar situation to celebrities and tabloids’ obsession with them in the States. This was one of the best-written shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing and I think it painted a picture of the future of Britain that has encouraged people to talk about their government and how it’s led.

Actors in “King Charles III.” Credit to The Times.

Next, we saw the Chekov classic The Cherry Orchard. I’ve never been a devoted Chekov lover but I did really enjoy reading Uncle Vanya in high school and was excited to see what this director had done with the production. Her intent may have been good, but unfortunately, I don’t think her ideas translated well to the stage. The show itself seemed flat and rather boring. It did a good job of making the viewer think about the importance of home and physical things like money or property, but that was much more due to the acting and Chekov’s writing than any of the staging or direction choices. Unfortunately, this was a show that didn’t give us a lot of insight into anything, really. One of my favourite things about seeing so much British theatre this semester is I appreciate how willing British actors and directors are to take risks – and while this show did something that was not classic Chekov (trying to strip away a lot of the over-the-top intense emotion), it didn’t take risks in the right ways.

Natalie Klamar as Varya in “The Cherry Orchard.” Credit to the Arts Desk.

This is unlike the next show I saw, which took all the right kinds of risks. I saw Henry IV outside of my Drama and the London Theatre class because the Shakespeare course had some extra tickets and I nabbed one. This production of Henry IV was special because it was set in a women’s prison and therefore performed entirely by a female cast. This was a really cool take on the show since it is so dominated by father/son and traditionally “masculine” roles such as kingships and war leaders. I think this did a phenomenal job of examining the dynamics between the genders (which, of course, interested me as you could tell by my last essay for this class) and brought the audience’s attention to the words and story itself since they had a very barren set. One thing I will say that was unsuccessful about this production was the fact that they set it up as a play-within-a-play (granted, a great idea), but in a way that was fairly confusing to some audience members. You were ushered in by “prison guards” through the back entrance of the theatre, and it was unclear in the beginning of the show that this was supposedly being performed in the prison. I picked up on this early in the show, but it went unreferenced until almost the end, and I know many of my peers were frustrated by the lack of attention drawn to the fact that it was a performance within a performance. Other than this, I think it was a brilliant revival of Shakespeare’s classic.

Harriet Walter as King Henry in “Henry IV” at the Donmar. Credit to the Arts Desk.

By the end of the semester, we starting to explore more of the major West End (the London version of Broadway) productions, and our last three shows were popular and widely-known shows. We first saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, based on the book more affectionately known in my household as “the upside down dog book.” I had read this in the past and really loved it, so I had high expectations for the performance. Luckily, it definitely lived up to the hype. This show was a great look into modern-day family dynamics in Britain and by far the most technically stunning production we saw this semester. They used every space in their theatre really well and did a great job using technology and lighting effects without being too overwhelming. This show was based around Christopher, a 15-year-old boy who lives with his divorced father and goes on an adventure to find his mother, who his father said was dead but he discovers over the course of the story that she is indeed alive. In this production, one of the biggest things about British culture that I took away was a look at the family dynamics and dealing with a child who can be difficult or has special needs. This prompted a great discussion in class of the differences between American and British school systems as well, which is always an intriguing – if heavily debated – topic. I think there are a lot of similarities in child-rearing between the countries and their attitudes toward educating kids who don’t learn the same way as everyone else.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” Credit to The Stage.

The penultimate show we saw was War Horse, which, in short, I was extremely disappointed by. This was a great look at World War I and I took a lot away from our research of the war and the dynamics of the different countries – especially France and Britain, since they had such a tumultuous relationship in the past. War Horse was wonderfully staged and the puppeteering was phenomenal, but the story itself fell flat and that was distracting to me. It seemed like the performance dragged for me since the only truly engaging part for me was the construction and operation of the horse puppets. This show highlighted a large difference I’ve observed between the UK and the US which is the focus on remembering and commemorating wars – we have much more influence on celebrating events and dates in history but not as much focus on things like Veteran’s Day or other days of remembrance, while in Britain they have the Poppy Appeal every single year which prompts discussions surrounding wars and the horror that comes with them.

“War Horse.” Credit to The Stage.

The final show we saw was Billy Elliot, which I had, of course, heard of before, but had never seen, so I was excited to be in the audience. One of the things that surprised me about this show was how Brit-centric it was. Definitely not in a bad way, just since I had heard of it so often in the States I was particularly interested in how a lot of the story focused on a majorly British event – the coal strikes while Margaret Thatcher was in power. Before coming to study here, I hadn’t heard much about Margaret Thatcher and the attitudes surrounding her role as PM. Adding the context of British attitudes towards her and her decisions, especially regarding the coal strikes, (which are fairly consistently negative) made this a much more interesting show to watch (especially the ‘Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher’ scene, which wouldn’t have made any sense to me before coming to Britain).

“Billy Elliot.” Credit to One Stop Arts.

Overall, this semester has been a great glimpse into British life. Sometimes, there are major differences between UK and US culture, and other times, there is barely any at all. I think many of the shows we saw gave us a good historical and contemporary context of living in Britain (such as The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, Billy Elliot, Little Revolution, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, King Charles III), while others, set in a more mystical landscape, still said a lot about the differences in British and American theatrical styles and staging – especially when examining the different theatres in London and how that can affect the technical aspects of shows (such as Pitcairn, Teh Internet is Serious Business, Medea, Antony and Cleopatra). It’s been a pleasure to be able to experience so much theatre in such a short period and I cannot wait to go back to the States and examine the differences and/or similarities between our cultures even further.