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What It’s Like To Be A “Boring” Teenager

Boring-Teenager-1

I recently posted a video on my YouTube channel called “Spring Break: Girls Gone Wild” which is my tongue and cheek exposé on the dangers of spring break culture. I very openly admit that I have never actually experienced what one might term a “normal” spring break because of a combination of highly over-protective parents and an obsession with academics so I usually spent my spring breaks holed up in my room writing papers and reading.

One of the first comments I received on this video, though something I expected, is still insulting, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick apart some of the nuances of the ignorance people express when they make comments like this:

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First, let’s define “boring.”

If, by “boring” you mean I was the type of teenager who didn’t spend every weekend out partying, drinking away my brain cells, and trying to seduce the hottest guys in school to sleep with me in hopes of gaining popularity, then yeah, I was a “boring teenager.” But looking back, that actually makes me quite happy to be one.

When I was in high school, I definitely felt like my life was boring. I went to school every day, I participated in all my clubs, I socialized at school but very little after school hours, and I worked hard on my homework. Most of the time I felt compelled to do these things because of my personal expectations of getting into a good college, and I promised myself that the “fun” would come once I was out of school.

But a few years later when I was in college and legally eligible to drink, I had little interest in going to beach week or spring break and getting smashed while being promiscuous. By that point in my life, I had realized that type of scene just wasn’t my thing. I didn’t enjoy it so why force myself to do it just so I wouldn’t be seen as boring? Or so that I could feel like I was experiencing “life to the fullest”? YOLO, you know?

Second, does this really make my life “boring”?

I would suggest that immaturity makes people mistake “different” for “boring” so that a life like mine appears grey and meaningless. But on the contrary, my life isn’t as boring and meaningless as one might think. There’s plenty of excitement, it just doesn’t involve outlandish spring break partying. I’m the type of person who gets excited at the prospect of a free weekend and stack of library books I’ve been itching to read. I intensely love traditions so that even the smallest holiday is a special day to me. I also really enjoy spending time with friends or alone in nature because it gives me a sense of Zen that I can’t accomplish anywhere else. My life may not be all parties and YOLO-craziness, but (shall I say it?) I guess I don’t need to get drunk to have fun. (Oh! I said it!)

Third, let’s talk about the tense.

            Besides the general insinuation that my life is somehow boring because I never went on a spring break, I’d also like to draw attention to the tense that the commenter chose to write in. Using the past tense, he/she seems to be suggesting that my life is over. That I “lived” this boring life and now I have nothing, apparently not even life left to live. I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that I had died and my life was over in the process of making this video. It seems quite odd since I feel very alive and capable of making my life “non-boring” or at least my own (very different from mainstream) form of interesting.

I’m sure this wasn’t the commenter’s intention, but I felt like being nitpicky. Also, I think it’s important to note that teenagers tend to view teenage-dom as the “END ALL BE ALL,” and if you don’t enjoy life while you’re in high school then you’ll never actually do so. First, let me say, that high school is not the best time of your life. For most people, that would actually be college, and it’s because it’s usually your first foray into the adult world with very few responsibilities except making grades good enough to remain enrolled in your institution. Teenagers, unfortunately, take themselves way to seriously so that kids are ridiculed for not living a YOLO lifestyle when they’re sixteen. If there is one thing I wish I could tell my teenage self it would be that my life was not boring, and I could enjoy what I had so much more if I just let go of feeling like I was missing out because I wasn’t desperately trying to be someone I’m not.

Finally, can life ever really be “boring”? 

So I’ve used “YOLO” a lot in the post (something I never thought I would dare do), but it’s because it fits the central theme. Yes, you do only live once (unless of course, you believe in reincarnation but that’s an entirely different blog post), but there is no right or wrong way to live (at least as defined by teenagers). The important part of life is that you get up every day and do something—ANYTHING—whether it’s something you love or something you hate or something you never thought you’d be doing in a million years. Not everyone needs to go on a crazy spring break to feel fulfilled—in fact, from the statistics I used in my video, spring break is much less fulfilling than it is empty, dangerous, and potentially life-ruining. (Can you say STIs, unplanned pregnancies, and a criminal record? Ew!)

Let’s just say that I like my life just the way it is—nerdy and all. It’s made me who I am today. If you want to go on a wild spring break, have at it! But don’t judge others and call them “boring” because they choose differently.

 

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Four Reasons We Want to Turn Back Time

Turning-Back-Time-1Time is a tricky thing. It just keeps moving forward now matter how much we may want to halt it completely or at least slow down a bit so we can revel in the moment a little longer. The real problem with time though, is that you only get one chance. Every decision has to go in one direction and that sets your life down a new path, quite potentially different than it would have been a few moments before. Sometimes those decisions are out of your control; the world acts upon you in ways you could not foresee or avoid, and you are left with the wreckage of “fate.” Most decisions that we contemplate though are those within our control. For example, if I had perhaps chosen to forgo the ice cream at a birthday party knowing that I was lactose-intolerant (but love ice cream, nonetheless) I might not have been sick that evening and would have gotten a better night’s sleep and therefore been more mentally prepared for my choir auditions the next day. Most of these decisions are relatively inconsequential, and we very rarely dwell on them or trace back a particular failure to something so simple as eating ice cream.

However, I like to imagine the world in multiple timelines. It gives me a sense of peace to imagine an alternate world in which I have made significantly different decisions that have led me to a different life. The imagined life itself need not be better than the one I’m leading now. (Although admittedly, when I’m feeling down my imaginary alternate realties do seem much more enticing than the current life I’m leading). I think that though the ability to change the past or turn back time is out of our human grasp (and more than likely ill-advised) we still would jump at the chance of being able to do so, and I’ve boiled down this theory into four main compulsions.

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1.) There is at least one moment in our past we think could have changed the course of our lives had we chosen differently.

For daydreamers like me, I think this is the biggest reason we would want to turn back time. I am a very reflective person, and I understand and agonize over moments in my life that I see as significant turning points. The first for me was in fifth grade when a rather popular boy asked me to be his girlfriend. This was the first time anyone had ever shown any romantic interest in me and would have launched my career in popularity within my school’s social hierarchy I suspect for the rest of my life. However, I had a crush on his best friend so I said no. Even though by the end of fifth grade and for the next four years I had a desperate school girl crush on this same boy who never again returned my affections. Instead, he went on to date another girl who would eventually become homecoming and prom queen in high school. I’m not saying that dating this particular boy and becoming popular are directly related, but I can imagine that being the first among my friends to have a boyfriend would have significantly increased my confidence and later my popularity. I like to wonder what it would have been like to be well-known in high school for something other than my impeccable grades and determined attitude.

This is, however, a shallow kind of turning-back-time desire, I would say. Also, it could very well change my essential being. (I can’t imagine myself as being someone who only cared about boys and clothes and popularity. I’m proud of my academic accomplishments even if they left me with few friends.) A better life-changing point would be when I first entered college. At the time I was burdened by an overprotective father who didn’t want to let me go and a paranoid, high-school boyfriend who felt that every new friend I made was a betrayal to our relationship. If I could do it over, I would go into college boyfriend-less and without my enabling demeanor that kept me on the phone every night with family rather than out meeting new people and developing meaningful relationships. I don’t believe that changing this would change my essential self, but I do think it would have made college (especially my first two years) much more enjoyable and formative for me.

2.) We believe that we could change something out of our control if we had the knowledge we do now.

This is the part of turning-back-time that is difficult because we would want to prevent people’s deaths and major catastrophes. It makes me think of Meg Menzies from Richmond, VA who was killed by a drunk driver while on a morning run with her husband. Something as simple as the school bus picking up their kids late put them later on the road so that her timeline collided with that of the driver resulting her death. It’s not a choice that she and her husband could have actively foresaw and changed. It happened in an instant and sent their lives spinning out of control. It’s situations like this that make me wonder, if her husband could turn back time would he ask her to sit out from running that morning? Would he take a different route? Or would she somehow have met her untimely end nonetheless?

These situations hurt my heart, but I do think we find comfort in believing that with the knowledge we can only possess as a result of the passing of time and experience we would have changed the past despite its impossibility.

3.) We could reevaluate situations that time and separation has clouded our memories on.

And by “situations” I mostly mean relationships. Whether it’s family or friendships or romantic partners, we all look back on “wrongs” done to us and destructive moments and misunderstandings. Time builds bridges, ravines, and vast canyons between us when we let these memories sit and fester. If we could turn back time, I think it would be beneficial for us to go back and re-experience the hurt that created the lasting pain. Of course, it’s something that I doubt anyone would willingly want to do—what a torturous idea to redo all one’s past heartbreaks—but I can certainly see the benefit in it. In the heat of the moment, we are all emotion and our decisions are many times not the wisest but rather what we feel we have a right to because of the pain. I do believe that with time we might be able to see the truth behind these painful situations and know better if it’s a relationship worth salvaging in the future.

4.) We would like to relive (and truly enjoy) the beautiful moments.

People are always telling me to live in the moment, and I try ever so hard; however, doing so remains one of the most impossible feats I’ve ever attempted. For me (and I imagine many others) truly “enjoying the moment” requires knowing that the moment is “THE MOMENT” in the moment. (Confusing, right?) I do have times when I realize without a doubt that I am experiencing a formative moment in my life, one that I will likely never experience again and should soak up with everything I have in me. Most moments though pass on by without a second thought. It is only months or years later that I remember fondly a past time and I understand that it was the only and last of its kind. And it is then that I regret not enjoying it to its fullest. Instead, I spend most of my moments wishing time away, always trying to get on to the next moment with its promise of being better. Living that way doesn’t give you satisfaction, unfortunately, and you find that all your time has been whisked away on a whim.

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

~Carl Sandburg

So I know for myself and I think for most everyone, if we could turn back time, we would do so in order to enjoy the beautiful moments in life. We may have reveled in them in the moment or completely overlooked them, but beautiful moments are made that way for a reason. We relive them in our minds and long to be back there if we had the power to turn back time. Time is painful and beautiful all at once, but if there is one thing we do know is that it’s ever moving forward. So for our best interest, maybe we should take a moment to truly enjoy the moment so that for once we might not want so desperately to go back in time.

 

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Happy Live in the Moment Day!

Live-In-the-Moment

It’s my birthday! It’s my birthday! Gonna party like it’s my birthday!

Okay, maybe not. If you know me, I’m not exactly the “partying type.”  But in celebration of my 24th birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to write a blog post about what we all have on our minds on our birthday.

Cake?

Nope! Aging.

Now, I will say that when you’re turning ten years old your biggest birthday concern is most definitely cake, but generally after you pass 18 or at latest 21, the nagging thought at the back of your mind on your birthday is not how many presents you’re going to get or how much cake you can eat, but rather, how much longer you have to live.

All right, maybe it’s not that drastic.

But for the last four or so years every birthday has decreased in its sweetness.  I’m reminded that it’s one more year slipping through the cracks, and when a lot hasn’t changed in the last year, it is somewhat disheartening.  So I end up being depressed on my birthday which just isn’t any fun.

As adults, sometimes I think we like to put up a great façade and hold elaborate parties and make it our “birthday week” or “birthday month” to distract ourselves from the inevitable feeling of dread associated with aging.  We don’t want our skin to sag and our muscles to weaken and wrinkles to form in all our creases.  Youth is highly valued in American society despite the fact that those who actually are young (i.e. teenagers) desire to grow up faster.

It’s a twisted age world we live in.

However, I don’t have elaborate parties for my birthday.  Celebrating with friends and family is about the best I can do being an introvert.  Instead, I think I draw my birthday insecurities from “missing out” and not so much “getting old.”  The two are connected, but differently in my brain than most people.  Sure, I would love to be young and beautiful forever.  It’s something I certainly enjoy right now, but when I imagine myself in the future, my main concern is not with how beautiful my skin is or if my hair has started graying.  No, it’s about what kind of job I have.  Where I’m living.  Am I able to support myself? Am I doing something I love? Have I traveled any?  Do I live somewhere I love?  Do I have a compassionate group of friends that I couldn’t live without?

I structure my life around the security I feel in it.  Right now as an aspirational twenty-something with my eggs in too many baskets but nothing I feel particularly passionate about (well, except YouTube), I feel very insecure about the state of my life.  Turning twenty-four seems old.  It feels like I should have already accomplished something grand by now.  Or at least, be on the verge of doing so.  But I’m not even in the beginning stages of a magnificent breakthrough right now.  So I distract myself with fashion and YA literature and fun television shows and movies.  My hope is that eventually I won’t need to distract myself, but that my life reality will be closer to my life fantasy right now.  But birthdays remind me of the passing of time, and encourage the fear that it will only ever be a fantasy to me.

So this has been a little bit depressing.  And I don’t mean it to be, but I supposed talking about “being old” just lends itself to a more somber tone.  I am excited for my birthday. I plan on eating ice cream cake and giving out cupcakes at work and maybe I’ll even get a few presents.  I can’t turn back time or stop its passing, but I can try to live in the moment more for the time being. Magnificence will come, right? As long as I keep working hard and being creative? But for today, Happy Live In the Moment For Kaitlyn Day!

NOTE: It is not, in fact, “Live in the Moment” Day. But for your curiosity I looked it up. Today is:

  1. National Baked Ham with Pineapple Day
  2. National Bookmobile Day
  3. National Eggs Benedict Day
  4. National Stress Awareness Day (maybe the only relevant holiday)
  5. Teach Your Daughter to Volunteer Day (that’s very specific)
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The Stigma of Depression: Drugs vs. No Drugs

Depression

When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  In the previous year I started developing an extreme fear of germs.  The only trigger that I can trace it to is when I had a very nasty stomach bug that was going around over the winter and for some reason, the vomiting and nausea and general awfulness of being sick made me terrified of ever having to do it again.  So I started washing my hands all the time and using hand sanitizer before I would touch my face or my food.  I would start hyperventilating if someone was coughing or sneezing around me.  If someone threw up, I would nearly pass out or implode.  I don’t know if I was ever actually sick or not.  I either mentally stopped my body from vomiting with sheer willpower or the times I felt nauseous it came from me worrying so much it made me feel sick.

Needless to say my parents soon realized something was incredibly wrong with me and so we visited a psychologist where I was diagnosed with OCD.  They talked about medication and therapy, but my parents balked at the idea of putting an 11 year old girl on medication for fear that I would be on it for the rest of my life.  So instead, I started therapy where I learned deep breathing techniques and talked out my unrealistic fears until I could function appropriately in every day life again, and bullies who touched my food in order for me to give it up, no longer bothered me (as much).  I’m still rather wary of illness, but it isn’t debilitating anymore, fortunately.

What I didn’t realize until a few years afterward was that my OCD hadn’t magically gone away, but rather, it had moved to a different obsession.  In high school, I became increasingly involved in academics in my pursuit of acceptance into an acclaimed college and finding a great career.  By the time I was a junior and attending a highly competitive and academic Governor’s school, my OCD bubbled over again and I started having daily panic attacks about my grades and project deadlines and who knows what else.  I was a perfectionist in crisis because life just kept getting harder.  When you can never let up, you run out of steam but not the drive to succeed.  Eventually, I ended up back in the psychologist’s office with the offer of medication again, but this time being a little older, I was allowed to make my own decision.  However, I had convinced myself that I could defeat anything with willpower.  So I approached my overwhelming perfectionism with an open mind and a desire to control it without the use of medication.  This worked…for a few years.  But by the time I was a sophomore in a highly academic college atmosphere, my OCD had really changed into depression.  I had accepted I couldn’t be perfect all the time, but somehow that cheapened my world.  It sucked out all the color and left me feeling useless.  I resented my past because I felt like I had wasted my time in high school only pursuing academic endeavors and not developing friendships and social skills so that I was severally lacking in those areas.  I had an ex-boyfriend who would blame this on me, saying that I simply didn’t try hard enough.  That I should just go out and meet people.  That I was just being stuck up.  Of course, this wasn’t actually the case.  I just happen to have the unfortunate collection personal traits including introversion, awkward social skills, and shyness which don’t translate well when meeting new people.

And that’s when I really started having feelings of suicide.  It wasn’t so serious that I would ever contemplate actually killing myself, but I just would fantasize about what it would be like if I was no longer around.  Would people feel sorry that I was gone?  Would anyone miss me?  Would they feel bad that they had so many expectations of me that had driven me to death?  At times dying looked like my only option for escape.  These dark feelings simmered at the surface of my psyche for the rest of college.  During my senior year, after a break up with my college boyfriend it reached a point of tension that he actually reported me to the mental health center, and I started a group therapy session weekly.  It was a different and enlightening experience because I had never been around other girls my age who would openly talk about their inner world of issues, but I’m also an incredible actress.  I know what to say and what not to say.  I can dig down to a certain level in these situations and distract the therapists with that.  I still felt in control of what people knew about me even though my ex-boyfriend had unnecessarily (though understandably) pushed the panic button on my suicidal inner monologue.

It wasn’t until after graduation, when the world looked bleakest of all that I finally decided that I should try medication.  That summer after graduation I would have hysterical fits about the most inconsequential things.  I didn’t want to apply to jobs because I didn’t want to be turned down.  And I also felt like I had studied hard for the last sixteen years so that I could be successful, not work at Walmart.  Eventually though my mother brought it to my attention that not all problems could be fixed by willpower.  Some problems were caused by a chemical imbalance like any other illness, and the only thing that could help with that would be medication.  I also learned that she had been on Prozac for a while after both my brother and I were born because of extreme post-partum depression.  It was so debilitating that she wouldn’t even get out bed some days.

With the encouragement of a wonderful friend who later became my boyfriend and my family who finally talked openly about their own secrets, I went to the doctor and I started down the anti-depressant road.  First Zoloft and later Prozac, and always on the minimum dose.  I can’t say that taking the medication made all my problems go away.  But it did help clear my head enough that I no longer wanted to die all the time.  It gave me the clarity to know that I needed to start seeing a therapist again and work out the many issues involving family and perfectionism and feelings of failure that I’ve been piling up over the years.

Some of my illness is chemical and that’s where the drugs are helping—something I just couldn’t accomplish without them despite my insistence for years on the power of my sheer will.  But deep down I know that most of it comes from deep rooted and twisted feelings and memories that I have such a hard time letting go—that’s something drugs will never be able to fix.

My refusal to consider anti-depressants for so long also stems from the stigma I found associated with mental illness in the first place.  If I didn’t take drugs, I was just a confused adolescent/young woman trying to work through my issues—something completely normal.  If I did use medication, then I was obviously irreparable broken and sick in the head so that no amount of therapy or drugs would ever be able to fully pull me out of the dark abyss I had descended into.  Some of this is my overactive imagination, but unfortunately, a large part of it is a direct result of my peers’ reactions—even well intentioned ones.

I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the times someone—completely well-meaning—has told me that I just need to “pray about” my depression.  And that “God has a plan for me that he just hasn’t revealed yet so there’s no point worrying about it.”  But I do worry about it.  And I do pray about it, but it doesn’t get better.  Does that make me a bad Christian?  Does it mean even God has given up on me?

When you have a “depressed brain” (I rather like that term), you think differently than your average, content person.  Everything is a struggle.  Every choice you make is meticulously combed through in your mind to determine if it was right or wrong.  If you failed or succeeded.  Throwing God into the mix and still meeting resistance in terms of “overcoming your depression” generally leads to more depression because you’re left feeling like an inadequate being in the universe.

No one likes feeling all alone in the universe.

In the end, I’ve found that it still all comes back to me and my own decisions and perspective.  I have to decide how I’m going to look at life.  At my depression.  At the use of medication.  At my past.

No one is going to wave his or her hand and magically fix my life.  It’s a long and hard road, but it’s still a path that I can choose to be on.  And that means I have an end goal.  And sometimes, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel—even if it is miles away—is all you need to stay afloat.

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Novel Writing: Month 3, Chapter 3

Novel-Writing-Month-3

Three chapters down!  That doesn’t seem like a lot in general, but when I think about all the other responsibilities and mandates I have governing my life right now, it really is quite an accomplishment for me.  What is important though is that I am moving forward. It’s a constant progress of which I’m consistently meeting my goals and can rejoice at the end of each month with a verifiable product in hand.  It’s a nice feeling in the midst of the chaos of twenty-something “figuring-out-where-I-want-to-be-and-what-I-want-to-do” life.

In writing the third chapter of my novel, I reached a high of twelve single space pages of writing.  I don’t know why this feels like such an accomplishment, but when I first began this journey, I was a little afraid I would spend each month writing the shortest chapters and end the year with a pathetic showing of progress in the narrative.  However, I think I’ve found my rhythm now.  I don’t need or want ridiculously long chapters just for the sake of pages and word count.  I just want to tell the story that’s in my head as best as possible.

I also found this chapter needing many more scenes than previous chapters (e.g. dreams, a heated late-night conversation, an short action scene, and blending of fantasy and reality by the end of the chapter).  It was hard to not just gloss over certain short by important dialogue scenes.  Some scenes are needed for continuity and believability even though they have little action or overall plot importance.  However, I believe that everything you write should somehow be important to the story as a whole.  So rather than shuffling through a seemingly meaningless conversation between my main character and her parents so she can get back to bed and therefore move on to the next scene, I tried to convey briefly the kind of relationship my main character has with her family.

I’m finding this is actually one of the most challenging parts of writing this novel.  I KNOW how my main character’s story will play out, and since it is a fantasy and coming-of-age novel, her parent’s roles are minimal as in many other similar stories.  However, she still has to have parents.  And one’s parents tend to shape who you grow up to be depending on their type of parenting dynamic and personalities.  Essentially, I don’t want my main character to seem like a detached alien.  She is human.  And she has a family that has influenced her beliefs about the world, and those beliefs are what helps and hurts her in her journey to self-discovery.

In the first draft of my novel written when I was in high school, as far as I can remember, there was not even a single scene with her parents.  My main character vaguely referred to them and a brother, but she was never even given a scene at her own house, only that of her grandparents.  It always bothered me that my original story was missing the parental component because I kept wondering how she would explain that she had disappeared for days, weeks, or months at a time into the magical land of Kamerell.  If you’ve read the Pendragon series by D.J. McHale, then you understand one option I took into consideration.  In that science-fiction series, the main character, Bobby Pendragon, finds out he’s a Traveler with the special ability to travel in portals between different “territories” or universes with the mission to protect each of them from destruction as guided by the demon Saint Dane.  Similar to my original writing, Bobby is whisked away to another territory somewhat by accident and under circumstances shrouded by mystery so that only when he returns home does he find out that his house and family don’t actually exist.  That they, in fact, only existed for a short period of time to raise Bobby as a human and help foster in him a love for Second Earth as his home territory.  To Bobby, they were very real, but to the rest of Earth, they simply disappear and no one remembers they existed.

I considered this option heavily since it would provide loopholes for some of my plot holes.  For example, why is Piper the chosen one even though she has an older brother? What makes her so special?  Why would her mother not have any kind of magical powers if the reason Piper has them comes from her magical ancestry (namely her grandmother and grandfather who “seem” human but were at one time quite magical).  Essentially, making my main character’s family simply disappear when they are no longer necessary would be convenient but sloppy.  Instead, I’m taking the time to characterize them in these beginning chapters, and I have a few good ideas as to how I can explain Piper’s absence and how they react to it later in the novel.  I think family is important, and it shouldn’t just be left out to be “convenient” if it could actually serve a valuable purpose in characterizing the main character’s motivations.

So for now, she has parents! But no brother. I can’t find a good enough reason to add siblings at this point, but it’s certainly something that I could go back and add in if necessary.  The main relationship of the novel will still remain that of the main character and her grandparents although it has changed a lot from my original storyline.  But changes are good!  And it’s making my novel-writing journey ever so exciting!