Politics and morality

I could never in good conscious vote for a man who embodies everything my parents raised me not to be. They warned me not to lie, that cheating was immoral, that racism was wrong, that it is our duty to help people who need it, to stick up for those who can’t, and that love is the most important thing a person can give. And if we ever mentioned our junk as much as Donald Trump does they would have words.

Hillary isn’t perfect. No one is. But she is smarter, kinder, and more diplomatic than most. That is why #ImwithHer.

For other opinions on the matter:

A well-said piece by a favorite writer of mine: http://www.cestchristine.com/2016/07/notes-on-politics-and-why-im-with-her/

Points that illustrate my distrust for this man: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2016/07/dear-dad-please-dont-vote-for-donald-trump/

Or simply Google, “Donald Trump” and I’m sure you’ll find some new scandal.

 

Once I signed up for a half marathon. Then I cried. And ate a burger

This is the story about an overweight, out-of-shape, couch potato who momentarily lost her mind and signed up for a half marathon.

On January 1st, like everyone else I made some shitty resolutions that I promptly forgot on the 2nd. Blame it on the sheer amount of wine I consumed at my friend’s apartment while they talked about the “good ole days” (which I hate thinking about). No one liked high school. Also it was SIX YEARS AGO. LET IT GO.

So in my hungover state I decided to grab the bull by the horns and transform my life. Apparently this meant signing up for the Portland Half Marathon.

What the fuck?

I blame the hangover. It fucks with your head and inflates your ego until you think you can actually run a half marathon. Then it makes you cry.

I obviously had a death wish.

And I didn’t mention that the half marathon takes place on my 25th birthday. So the metaphors are plentiful.

Since then a lot of thoughts have gone through my head: Why am I doing this to myself? Why can’t I just start walking like the old ladies do and join Weight Watchers like Oprah? I need accountability. I need a deadline (emphasis on “dead”). Things that push me to my limits and make me cry.

I’m a gem like that.

So a few months ago I started the C25K with my cousin, who volunteered to be my wing woman. By the end of the second week she developed shin splints so bad it hurt her to jog, and I pulled a tendon in my knee. We cursed the Gods because literally, we couldn’t be going any slower! And we stopped running. Switching to walking was simple but held less accountability than the C25k program and some days we forgot to do it at all.

Gone are my hopes of running in the half marathon this year. Woe is me.

I feel like a failure, which seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life, but I am still trying. I think part of the problem is that there is just so much pressure and weight on my joints that it makes me fell ancient. I’ve started working on that. I purchased Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guides which are just strength training workouts, but the great thing is they appeal to planners like me. The entire workout is written down with nifty little pictures, and I have planned out my 12 week program with two week of pre-training (walking each day). I even entered all of the sessions into my planner already, like little appointments to make me healthier.

And to the two people out there who are going to read this, I have some really good stories to share with you already. You get to hear about the time I did some squats which kicked my ass. You will learn about my fucking PCOS (look it up) and how that affects my ability to lose weight. Joy. And you will hear about how I am teaching myself to feed my body good things and love it a little more.

This isn’t going to be a sad or sappy blog, like “woe is me, I’m fat.” Nope. I’m tired of shit like that. I got fat. I did it like everyone else out there, by eating bad food and sitting on my ass for too many hours a day. I don’t want to share my sob story, I’m saving that for my Oprah interview where she makes me cry under those weird trees (really though O, what’s up with the trees?). I’m simply going to share my experiences with you, using as much snark as one blog can handle.

THAT’S NOT SWEAT, IT’S TEARS.

Absence makes the heart grow…

Or something along those lines. I think about blogging consistently sometimes. When I see people who are able to make it a CAREER, or who have lovely words to share with the world. But then a new episode of Orphan Black comes on and those thoughts get pushed further back. Maybe someday I will have better priorities.

Oh who am I kidding, Orphan Black will always have priority.

What have I been up to you ask? That my friends, is a good question.

I’ve been working. I’ve been volunteering. I’ve been writing. I’ve been working out. I’ve been babysitting. I’ve been busy.

My job is starting to slow down again after a month and a half of madness. Working at a University is weird, because mid-April things get so busy and then June hits and it’s silence. It is nice because I can catch up on things I’ve been falling behind on. Creating and sending out 20 contracts on a Thursday you say? BAM. But other days it is so lonely and quiet that I talk to myself for conversation.

Back in February I started volunteering and that has made all the difference in my life. I needed a purpose, something that made me feel like I was doing some actual good in this world and that I had a plan. So I signed up as a volunteer for a local non-profit that works in humanitarian aid and international development and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve done some tabling at Farmer’s Markets (man, that took me back to my berry-peddlin’ days!) and helped at the office. It feels good. I love this organization and all they stand for. And I’m hoping that some day I will be able to work for them. I want to make this world a better place.

The writing aspect of my life has take a shift. For a while back in March I was completely overwhelmed with everything I had going on and had to drop out of the online writing academy I was taking part in. I was disheartened and upset because I really enjoy writing. I love it. But it was all to much so I was taking a little break. Then recently API asked me to take part in their week long salute (for lack of a better term) to Mental Health Awareness, and as someone who studied abroad with depression, I jumped at the chance. I wrote two articles for them, and was interviewed by the Director of Alumni Development. And now I am feeling so inspired to keep writing. I am now putting the finishing touches on an interview series which will come out later this summer.

The working out section of this little life update needs a longer explanation so I am going to set that aside for now.

Babysitting has been exhausting and fun. I love the kiddos and enjoy spending time with them, plus the extra money is nice, (#studentloandebt) but working 40 hours a week and then making sure they get to bed on time is T I R I N G. I don’t know how you parents out there do it.

Essentially life has been good. Busy, but good.

 

Life lately

  1. running and unintentionally twinning

 2. flowers at a farmers’ market

 2. our architectural skills are Bob-the-Builder-ready

4. I have officially discovered mind-blowing pizza in Hillsboro. My life is changed

 5. weekly shop

6. the only thing I’ve ever accomplished that isn’t a pinterest fail

7. girl talk with white wine #basicbetch

8. my favorite salad: corn, avocado chunks, cherry tomatoes, lime and cilantro dressing

9. exercising my right to VOTE

10. sunday basics: documentary on netflix, berries from the market, planning my week

11. coffee around the corner from my volunteering gig

12. Unger Farm’s Strawberries are LIFE

13. COFFEE. My cup overfloweth.

A new year, old me

I have always been a big fan of resolutions and reflection, yet this year I struggled to narrow down my list to a few key resolutions. It was almost as if I was bursting with all these new things and fresh goals that I wanted to accomplish this year. I am not quite sure how to share them all with you, so I have broken them up into a few categories.

As always I start with the theme of the year. Last year the theme had to do with my struggle with depression and trying to overcome that while looking for a new job. This year’s theme: Tenacity. Inspired by Lauren’s of  L Bee and The Money Tree‘s post I have adopted this word for all the areas of my life.

Writing

I thought I would start with the most important area for me, my writing. I know this blog has been quiet for a while and some of you may think that I’ve abandoned it. Au contraire mon frère! I have been busy working away on the behind the scenes aspects of my blog (hoping to roll out a revamp in the new month or two), as well as crafting pieces for sites I admire. You know from my earlier announcement that I am serving as one of this year’s API Alumni Specialists, the program I went to France with.

I have also be writing for GoAbroad.com, and just published my first guide for them! I have also been accepted into their Writers Academy which begins this month. We will be required to write 2 guides a month and will have the opportunity to work with other writers and have our pieces edited by some wonderful people. It has been a pleasure to work with both API and GoAbroad and I am so excited to see what we do this year.

Finally, I have another little announcement regarding my writing. This year I have been offered a mentorship with Amy Gigi Alexander, an adventurer and writer who I greatly admire. I still can’t believe it. If you haven’t checked out her work, you should. Here is the first piece I read by her that had be in tears (a rare thing).

 

Finances

The taboo subject for a lot of folks, money, is a real struggle at this point. I am one of the 1.3 million graduates who find themselves drowning in a mound of student loan debt. I am okay with having personal student debt, because I don’t regret going to college. I do have a problem with the fact that my parents have student loan debt on my behalf. This year will be about saving, saving, saving. It will be about working my side hustles. It will be about studying up on all the tips from sites like The Financial Diet, L Bee and the Money Tree, or my new hero: Blonde on a Budget.

I have financial goals this year that are lofty, but I will be tenacious about reaching them.

Health

Finally, it’s the resolution that everyone talks about. Oh health. Some of you may know that I loathe the gym.

Basically, this is me: adele

 

But really… I couldn’t tell you the last time I have been to the gym. I just hate going and feeling like there is no point (existentialist Jen strikes again). I have to have a purpose to things.

So what does one do?

Sign up for a half marathon, of course!

Yep, you read that right, this girl has signed herself up for the Portland half marathon! It is happening on October 9, which happens to be my 25th birthday (oh the metaphors…)!

I am training with my friend Sage with a plan I have designed myself. A plan to take me from couch to potato to one of those people who runs. I promise not to get all gross and become someone who talks about it every single second, but I will keep you updated. And I intend to share photos of me all sweaty and red-faced at the finish line!

So those are my goals…

What are your goals for 2016? Do you buy into “resolutions”?

A different kind of adventure

I am excited to finally announce that I am serving as a 2015 API Alumni Specialist!

I have been waiting for them to update the website before I send you all there, but I got the email this morning that it had been done and now I can’t wait to share it with everyone I know. This is something I am eager to be a part of because I firmly believe that International Education is the most important thing you can do as a college student, and I am pursuing a career in the field. I am also proud to be working with Academic Programs International, or API, the program that I studied abroad with who’s support system for it’s students is incredible.

This year as an Alumni Specialist I will be working with another API Alum, Dominique, who studied abroad in Italy (!) and our amazing coordinator Chelsea, who also studied abroad in Grenoble. Together we will be reaching out to the students who are studying abroad by email, newsletters and social media campaigns to answer questions they may have about studying abroad, and share our experience.

Since being this whole process at the beginning of October, I have already met the team on Google hangout (one of these days I am not going to make a fool of myself in front of people, but today is not that day), sat down with the Northwest Regional Representative where we just geeked out over studying abroad and travel and education, and had an interview with Taylor about her experience as a study abroad student of color. This interview is for a series of interviews that I am so excited to share with you when they are published. Since the Alumni Specialists are underrepresented student, I am a first-generation college student/first to leave the country and someone who studied abroad with a mental health disorder, I am working on some interviews with minority students, as well as writing a personal piece about studying abroad with depression. I am thrilled to be able to write these pieces and can’t wait for you to read them. I might even include some original illustrations…

For those of you interested, my API Alumni Specialist page can be found here:

API picture

I’ll be sure to share the pieces I have published here when they are available.

And thank you for all the support you have all given me, I am so blessed to have you all in my life.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.”

Brené Brown

Another year gone.

So I have turned 24.

It was a lovely day to have a birthday. I arrived at work to find my office filled with pink flamingos. Never have I mentioned liking pink flamingos, but my boss decided they were funny, which made it all the more hysterical. My morning was a flurry of birthday wishes and lovely cards. I had dinner with friends and family alike. Less and less are birthdays about the presents you get (although I am very excited about my massage, thanks Mom!) but about the people who make it a special day. I felt so blessed to have my people. It was a lovely day to have a birthday.

The next day was my existential crisis.

I woke up with a start that my life isn’t what it should be at 24. Why don’t I own my own car already? Why am I not living a fancy life in the city? Am I meant to be at the job I am in? Where is the boyfriend I wished for blowing out my candles? 

That’s the thing about aging, isn’t it? You are constantly aware of how much time has past you by. You are always wondering how your life is compared to this imaginary life plan that you feel you should have.

When I close my eyes and imagine my life it is filled with these people that I love and a job I love doing. I have both those things, and yet I still feel… unfulfilled. Like something isn’t what it should be. Everyone I talk to seems shocked that I have it figured out as much as I do but I still feel inadequate, try as I might to fight it.

So I have been trying to work toward the life I want, bit by bit.

Today I took my life by the horns. I cut off several inches of my hair, which may not seem related to creating this life I dream of, but it was a big deal. It was a statement by new 24-year-old-Jen.

Sporting my new ‘do I went to a meeting with the Northwest Region Representative for this program I am now working with (more on that later). We had a wonderful chat, where were talked about our love for travel and education and shared embarrassing stories that happened to us on the road. We talked about the opportunities in the field and about the program itself. I left feel so elated to be a part of this new team and working on projects that I firmly believe in.

Slowly but surely the life I imagined for myself is taking shape.

Maybe 24 isn’t so bad.

October 5th

I thought about not sharing this story, or only sharing it under a pen name. But this story has made me the person I am today. It broke me but I put myself back together again. And I hate that there is a stigma around mental illness and people don’t think depression is real. So here it goes. The story of my depression: 

October 5 is a hard day for me.

It’s the anniversary of the depressive episode that almost took my life.

I returned to the US from Europe this day last year. I had just quit the teaching program in France that I thought I wanted to be a part of, packed my bags and left that little town on the outskirts of Lille. I headed for Paris. I spent five days there and then headed north to London, a place I’d never been but was desperate to visit. It was enchanting and alive. I got swept up in the rush of traffic and the rhythm of the Tube. I visited Museums and shops and walked on the Millennium Bridge aka “The Harry Potter Bridge.” I drank beer at a pub where I wrote in my journal and made some plans.

Then I got on a plane and headed home, where all of it came crashing back down.

Locking myself in my bedroom at my parents’ house, I entered one of the darkest depressions I’ve ever been in (which is saying a lot). There were days when I barely got out of bed. I started eating my feelings again, gaining more weight than I care to admit. I wore sweats for weeks and went days without showering, because why bother? I filled voids left in me with endless seasons of Gilmore Girls. It was the first time I had really watched it and like any misplaced relationship, I felt this connection to the Gilmores. I watched Rory and Lorelai fuck up their lives and fix them again, like my own life depended on it. And at that point it did. I remember crying when it finished. I am not a crier and it was the first time I had cried since leaving the program. They were heavy tears, emptying me of all the loss I felt. I was so empty.

It was an emptiness that made me numb. But if you turn off your emotions like I did and ignore your hurt, you can do just about anything. So I got up and showered. I pretended I was alright.

I started helping my aunt at her daycare. It is hard, tiring work, caring for children. But their little faces and smiles made me so happy and I forgot my own problems. I loved how tired it made me because when you are that tired you don’t have any brainpower left to think about your life and how you got there. But changes unfold like they always do and I found myself looking for jobs in my spare time. I got a temp job that I hated, but it allowed the creativity to flow during work and I found myself writing more. Still, I was lost and unhappy.

So unhappy in fact that I found myself sitting in my car, outside the public library where I would go on the weekends to apply for jobs. I sat there. Too defeated to go anywhere, too tired to move. I sat there and considered suicide.

That’s the first time I’ve written that down. It’s the first time I’ve really shared it. I have told two people how low I was that day. Two people that I knew could help me. It was the second time I had thought about suicide but the first time I really thought about killing myself, really thought about it. Before I had always just known that I couldn’t do that, not to the people I loved. But this time I didn’t care. All I cared about was making this hurt and sadness go away.

I thought that it would be easier. It would get rid of the massive student loans I have to pay off. I wouldn’t feel like a failure anymore. I wouldn’t have to figure out why I still alone at 23.

I sat in my car and figured out how I would do it. I stopped crying and just let the thoughts take over. They were so strong and awful and I was too weak to fight them.

Then my phone buzzed with an email. I was still sitting in my car in the library parking lot when it can in. It was an email setting up an interview for a job I really wanted. It was a life raft. I try to avoid pointing out the clichés in my life but if there is one I truly believe, it’s even when you are at your most desperate there is still hope. It does get better. I turned the keys in the ignition and headed home.

I haven’t had a depressive episode since February and I count the days like someone in AA, grateful for every single one.

Sure there are some things in my life that I wish I could change. I wish I didn’t have student debt, that I had a steady boyfriend, that I worked the field I want to be in, that I didn’t live at home, that I was skinny. But these are all things that I can change. I am starting to tack my debt head-on, with help from sites like this. I am dating (more on that to come). I have started my internship. I am grateful I have family to take me in when I need to be taken in. I have joined a gym and now I cook almost all my meals at home. I am working hard on things.

If I had given into my depression and let it win I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t be working on building the future I want.

Life is hard work, especially for someone suffering from depression. How wonderful would it to be to be normal and not have to worry if today will be the day that an episode starts? But then again, normal is boring.

 

If you are suicidal, you are not alone. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and fight back. I am not a trained professional and don’t have any answers for people suffering from depression (I still struggle daily) but I am hear to listen if you need it. This site is and always will be a safe place to share the broken pieces of ourselves.